By Robert C. Woosnam-Savage, Glasgow Museums, National Army Museum
1745: Charles Edward Stuart and the Jacobites
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Additional info for 1745: Charles Edward Stuart and the Jacobites
Even closer to home than Ireland, the growing anti-slavery lobby threatened the continued use of slave labour at much the same time that a new generation of economic theorists – spearheaded by Adam Smith – attacked the restrictive practices of mercantilism and preached, to considerable effect, the doctrine of free trade. Although hindsight gives us the benefit of knowing that none of these potential and actual crises would bring down the Empire, and that the practice of colonialism would prove flexible enough to incorporate the major ideological changes ushered in by the free trade and anti-slavery lobbyists, those living through these changes must have wondered not if, but when, the Empire would collapse.
A common argument wielded by the anti-slavery movement, not dissimilar to Smith’s concern about unfreedom, was that slavery degraded and brutalised those who suffered under its yoke. Typical of this SLAVES, MERCHANTS AND TRADE sentiment was the dramatic speech William Wilberforce delivered in the House of Commons in 1789 in which he claimed that ‘all improvement in Africa has been defeated by her intercourse with Britain’. 5 Many abolitionists saw their role as creating an environment in which Africans could be raised to civilisation, a state they believed fully lacking in their life of enslavement and realisable only through the redemption of Christianity.
This factory-style production, seen in Figure 1, was already operating in the colonies at a time when many workers in Britain were still tied to the land. Sugar was not, however, fully processed and refined in the West Indies. Strict laws governed the degree of processing that could be done prior to the cane reaching Britain. The bulk of refining was still done in Britain but the perishable nature of the crop made the colonies sites of early industrial production. The work was hard and unrelenting, though highly profitable for the plantation owners.
1745: Charles Edward Stuart and the Jacobites by Robert C. Woosnam-Savage, Glasgow Museums, National Army Museum