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West Calder Slave Trade Petition

Abolition of the Slave Trade

The Parishioners of West Calder played a small part in the abolitionist movement of the late eighteenth century, as reported in the Edinburghshire log of 1792- West Calder Parish posted a petition in advocating in the strongest terms that abolition of slavery was essential. Within 9 days of the publication of the document, April 2, 1792 Wilberforce moved that the trade ought to be abolished; an amendment in favour of gradual abolition was carried, and it was finally resolved that the trade should cease on Jan 1, 1796. When a similar motion was brought forward to the House of Lords the consideration of it was postponed to the following year, in order to give time for the examination of witnesses by a committee of the House.

West Calder March 15, 1792

This day, the IHABITANTS of this PARISH, of all denominations, being assembled, for the purpose of declaring their sentiments on the AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE-the following were there unanimous resolutions:

I. That no state necessity, or political advantage, however great, can justify a single act; far less an established system of antiquity.

2. That the African Slave Trade, with any information they have received with respect to it (particularly from the abstract of the evidence before the house of commons), appears to them to be the most criminal; and for a considerable time bypast, a wanton violation of the plainest principle of morality and religion-the present stock of slaves in the West Indies being fully sufficient, if humanely treated, for the cultivation of our islands.

3. That this trade, unjust and barbarous in itself, also appears to be loaded with the accumulated guilt of all those wars, massacres, and other nefarious practices which are made use of in Africa to procure slaves-with all those unusual severities, and greater temptations to licentiousness, to which British sailors are most exposed in this, than any other branch of national commerce, which prove so very pernicious to their morals, and to their lives; and with all those refinements in cruelty, which, both on shipboard, and in the West Indies, are inflicted on the miserable, unpitied, devoted victims of European avarice and luxury-all which, of necessity, must cease with the Abolition of this most inhumane trade.

4. That the criminality of this trade is greatly aggravated, by being in the hands of a civilized people; and more especially in the hands of Britons, who themselves having experienced so long, and in such an unequaled degree, the inestimable blessings of liberty, should be the most tender of the liberties of other men, and the last to invade them-......of a nation which enjoys as we do, the light of the Gospel; and who thereby should see it to be our duty, our honour, and our happiness, in all our social intercourse, to be actuated by the divine love, which, finding in every man (whatever be his climate or his complexion) a neighbour and a brother; not only “worketh no all to him” but “is kind,” and, as opportunity and ability are given, does him good.

5. Therefore, from regard to justice, with which they are convinced this trade is altogether inconsistent-from sympathy with their much injured brethren the Africans, whose dearest rights they cannot, without emotion, see outraged from concern for the honour and interest of the British nation, both which, they apprehend, are deeply affected by this most disgraceful and ruinous commerce; and chiefly from reverence to the common father of spirits of all flesh, who of one blood hath made all the nations which are upon the face of the earth; whose judgments are to be dreaded, if, after the the enormous guilt of the bloody trade has been so fully laid open, it be any longer persisted in-they feel themselves called upon to express their abhorrence of the African Slave Trade. It gives them the greatest pleasure, to find that it is so universally reprobated by the disinterested part of the community; and they will most cordially join with their fellow citizens, in their laudable endeavour to obtain the Abolition of it, by addressing a petition for that purpose to the House of Commons, and by bearing a proportionable part of the expence which may be thereby incurred.-And farther, if a gradual emancipation of the Slaves in the West Indies cannot with safety be attempted at present (till that be found practicable, and with a view to prepare for it), their earnest prayer is, that their circumstances, in the mean time, may be rendered more tolerable by being brought to fully under the equal and vigilant eye of public justice, as that they shall be protected from lawless violence; and by providing means for their religious instruction, that, if it must be their hard lot in this world to suffer bodily bondage, their minds being emancipated from spiritual slavery, by the knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ, they may be blessed with that glorious freedom, with which, whatever be the outward situation of his servants, whether bound or free, he makes them “free indeed”

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