The plan of a slave ship, symbol of the abolitionist movement

The plan of a slave ship, symbol of the abolitionist movement

Home ›Studies› The plan of a slave ship, symbol of the abolitionist movement

  • Plan and Section of a Slave Ship, the Brooks, of Liverpool.

  • Model of slave ship.

  • Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce.

    ANONYMOUS

To close

Title: Plan and Section of a Slave Ship, the Brooks, of Liverpool.

Author :

Creation date : 1789

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 49 - Width 38

Technique and other indications: Anti-slavery propaganda print circulated by the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, London.

Storage place: Aquitaine Museum website

Contact copyright: © Bordeaux City Hall - Photo JM Arnaud

Picture reference: inv. 2003.4.309

Plan and Section of a Slave Ship, the Brooks, of Liverpool.

© Bordeaux City Hall - Photo JM Arnaud

To close

Title: Model of slave ship.

Author :

Creation date : 1789

Date shown: 1789

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Wooden model ordered by Mirabeau and given by him to the Société des Amis des Noirs. Recovered by Abbé Grégoire, curator of the Arsenal Library, when the company disappeared.

Storage place: National Library of France (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo National Library of France

Picture reference: Arsenal Library, RES NF-1199

Model of slave ship.

© Photo National Library of France

To close

Title: Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Engraving on paper.

Storage place: National Library of France (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo National Library of France

Picture reference: Prints. N2 Clarkson D 114428

Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce.

© Photo National Library of France

Publication date: October 2006

Video

The plan of a slave ship, symbol of the abolitionist movement

Video

Historical context

Abolitionist propaganda

Around 1770, abolitionism appeared in England and the United States, a movement of radical novelty that challenged slavery in the colonies. They join the universal message of the Enlightenment.

In England, a large-scale movement crystallized. The movement gained the clubs and the popular echelon and reorganized in 1787 in Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade : the abolition of trafficking is the concrete objective chosen to destabilize the practice of slavery.

From the outset, the movement is meant to be international, as is the trafficking itself. Founded on a broad popular base, it seeks to disseminate strong images capable of mobilizing people's minds.

Image Analysis

A striking "geometric horror"

This famous 1789 engraving brutally puts before the eyes of England and other countries practicing the slave trade the conditions of transport of black captives in a slave ship, during the crossing from Africa to America. This is the exact plan of an existing ship, the Brooks, built in Liverpool in 1781, which traded between the Gold Coast and the West Indies, but at the time all slave ships, regardless of either their nationality, transport the captives according to the same arrangements across the Atlantic

454 blacks are represented here; the number conforms to the directives of the Dolben’s Act of 1788, which regulates in England the maximum number of captives to embark, according to the tonnage of the vessel. But at the time, the Brooks was already known to have ferried over 600 captives per crossing. The men are penned from the bow to the center, the women in the bottom third, and the children finally in the stern. All have their hands tied, moreover the men are tied to the ankles two by two.

The vessel is ventilated through hatches fitted with slatted floors, which are closed with solid hatches in bad weather; on the high seas, the situation of the captives becomes even more atrocious. Plans and sections accurately reflect the minimum individual space, on the two bridges and the two between decks. Between two planks, the 83 cm height allowed a short man to sit down and a tall one to stand on his elbows. But the width allowed to each, between 40 and 43 cm, required most to stand on the side, rather than on the back as shown in shots 4 and 5.

It was Thomas Clarkson, one of the founders of the Abolitionist Society of London, who discovered this technical drawing in Liverpool in 1788, drawn up by Captain Parrey, officially responsible for measuring the ships in the port. At the end of the 18th century, Liverpool was building its commercial power on the slave trade; it arms 130 slave ships per year, a trading activity much higher than that of Nantes, the main French slave port, which shipped 46 ships there in 1789.

Model of slave ship

Men like Wilberforce who champion the cause in parliament are aware of the economic implications: England will only abolish the slave trade if France renounces it at the same time. The Brooks engraving was distributed in Paris in 1789 for this purpose. In May, the company sends a large number of copies from London to the Society of Friends of Blacks. In August, she dispatched Thomas Clarkson to Paris, who tried to mobilize the deputies and especially Mirabeau. He hopes that the eloquence of the tribune will be able to obtain from the Constituent Assembly the abolition of the slave trade, in a moment of enthusiasm analogous to the historic votes of August 4 - the end of privileges - or of August 26 - the declaration of rights. of Man.

In November, Clarkson once again brought a thousand of these shots to Paris with explanations in French and actively disseminated them: the effect was prodigious. But for fear of moving Louis XVI too much, Clarkson gave up presenting it to him at the audience he granted him in 1790.

Impressed, Mirabeau claims that he will expose the issue of trafficking to the Constituent Assembly to obtain its abolition. He used the skills of Clarkson on trafficking and those of Clavière on economics, to compose, from November 89 to March 90, a long and pathetic speech describing "The floating beers of the slave traders ”. Clarkson tells in his Memoirs [1] that he even had a model of the boat made, which opened in the middle, in order to show the monstrous interior layout and the reclining figures. The model has been preserved to the present day thanks to Abbé Grégoire, who had recovered it during the dispersal of the Society of Friends of Blacks.

But in Paris, the colonists of the islands, gathered in a powerful lobby, take care to prevent any discussion in the Assembly, and obtain that it hand over to the colonial assemblies the management of the colonies, on March 8, 1790. The compromise is probable between these and Mirabeau, who distances himself from the Friends of the Blacks. His much-announced speech will never be delivered in the Assembly, nor published under the Revolution.

Interpretation

Convince to get banned

One of the most gripping political posters ever composed is the coldly calculated and rationalized crowd of blacks in this slave ship. The impact is considerable because the slave trade, little represented, has never before been realistically. This image of confinement, a true "geometric horror" leaves no one indifferent because it poses the fundamental question: If blacks are human beings, do slavers have the right to act in this way? The English abolitionists deliberately rely on a purely technical document, to confront the conscience of each with the question of the humanity of blacks; this is the necessary prerequisite to be able to ban trafficking.

Thanks to this highly impactful engraving, the abolitionist movement quickly gained control of the moral ground in the eyes of public opinion. The impact of this image will continue for decades. It is from outside and under the pressure of this innovative abolitionist propaganda that the colonial and African societies which depend so heavily on the slave trade and slavery will find themselves forced to abolish them.

  • abolition of slavery
  • colonial history
  • slavery
  • Mirabeau (Honoré Gabriel Riqueti de)
  • propaganda
  • boat

Bibliography

Olivier PETRE-GRENOUILLEAUThe slave trade, an essay on global historyParis, Gallimard, 2004. Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti de MIRABEAUThe floating beers of the slave traderspresented by Marcel DORIGNY, (ed.) Publications of the University of Saint-Etienne, 2000.Guide to the sources of the slave trade, slavery and their abolitionDirectorate of Archives de France, La documentation française, Paris, 2007.

To cite this article

Luce-Marie ALBIGÈS, "The plan of a slave ship, symbol of the abolitionist movement"


Video: Anti-Slavery Patrols - The West Africa Squadron