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We all agree that slavery was appalling (and that we in Britain were heavily involved). But here are some FACTS about slavery and the slave trade that seem to get forgotten.

1 Britain led the world in abolishing both.

2 In 1772 Lord Mansfield, Lord Chief Justice, ruled in the case of Somerset v Stewart that slavery was (and always had been) illegal under English common law. The former slave Somerset was immediately released.

3 In 1787 the British set up a settlement in Sierra Leone, called the Province of Freedom, for freed slaves. Its capital was and is Freetown.

4 In 1793 the Scotsman, Zachary Macaulay, went to Sierra Leone as Governor, resolved to stamp out the slave trade.

5 Zachary Macaulay worked with William Wilberforce and other members of the Clapham Sect to promote the abolitionist cause in Parliament.

6 In 1807 the British parliament passed the Act to abolish the slave trade.

7 The British set up the West Africa Squadron for the Royal Navy to patrol the West African coast to enforce the abolition. 1,587 servicemen died. A bounty was offered to any naval officer for each slave intercepted and freed.

8 The Spanish, Portuguese and French were forced reluctantly to accept this. (The United States did not.) The French complained that “the British were interested only in preventing other countries profiting from what they had been foolish enough to prohibit”.

9 The Africans who were involved in the trade were astonished. King Gezo of the Dahomey (now in Benin), who supplied 9,000 slaves a year, said: “The slave trade has been the ruling principle of my people. It is the source of their glory and wealth”.

10 In 1833 Britain abolished slavery throughout the British Empire.

11 As a result of British pressure, Portugal outlawed the slave trade in 1836, but it continued in Portuguese colonies. The French outlawed slavery in the French Caribbean in 1848.

12 It is thought that, even after the British abolition of the trade, around

two million Africans were shipped as slaves to Latin America, particularly Brazil.

13 According to the Global Slavery Index, there are about 40 million slaves today. The leading countries are North Korea, Eritrea and Burundi.

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