The Slavery Act of 1807

by Ellen Chai

The American Dream...on a piece of paper

The Slavery Act of 1807 is not just another dull document that seemed to do nothing for this country. It was the first of several movements that removed slavery from the colonies. With this simple piece of paper, slave trade was on its way to being outlawed throughout the country, and the future of the colonies grew brighter with every act that followed. Without it, we probably would still be fighting for the Africans' freedom right this moment, not to mention that millions of us wouldn't be on this continent if America still hadn't formed by this time.

Huh? The what?

Slavery and slave trade is the buying, selling, and owning of another person. The Slavery Act of 1807 is a document that first declared slave trade through the middle passage (the trade route from Africa to North America) illegal. Although it did not solve all the problems that slavery created, it paved the way for almost every abolitionist movement after that.

What did slavery do?

Slavery affected people by...

  • separating families by selling them apart
  • sending human beings to work until death
  • letting people think that we could own one another
  • causing years of civil unrest and war with ourselves

Why was this act made? I want servants!

That is wrong. Utterly and completely wrong. We should learn from history so that we don't repeat such mistakes as slavery. If the positions of slave and master were reversed, you would want that act to be made because of the following reasons:

  • You would be a slave if it was reversed, forced in terrible conditions to live and work.
  • They would OWN you. Do you think that they would give slaves video games and cold drinks? More likely they would whip you for laziness if you so much as sat down.
  • You would never see your family again. Ever. Being sold apart is pretty much the last time you would ever see your parents or siblings for the rest of you lives.
  • It is not pleasant to be waiting hand and foot on someone you probably would despise. They get a life of comfort while you, well, don't.
  • Life actually could kill you. One wrong move and it's a possibility that you would be "hanged by the neck until dead".

Who was involved?

William Wilberforce led the parliamentary campaign against British slave trade and was a major leader in the abolitionist movement for over 26 years. Early in his life, he served in the Parliament and was a lead voice in the cause of abolition. He was the one who repeatedly introduced bills about the banishment of slave trade (starting around 1789), but it took about 20 years until it was finally approved in 1807.