Great Britain: Slave Trade Abolished within British Empire

Great Britain: Slave Trade Abolished within British EmpireGreat Britain: Slave Trade Abolished within British Empire
Form: Circular
By: G.F. Pidgeon (obv) & J. Phillip (rev) / Macauley and Babington
Date: c 1814
Ref:  Eimer: 984; Laidlaw: 0243;
36.0 mmBronze17.2 gm$135

Edge: Plain

Obverse: British official (left) and African chief (right) approaching each other shaking hands. In the background, four huts and palm trees (left), two Africans with hand ploughs (middle), five Africans dancing round a tree (right). Legend: “WE ARE ALL BRETHEREN”. In the exergue: “SLAVE TRADE ABOLISHED / BY GREAT BRITAIN / 1807”. Signed: “G.F.P.” at the foot.

Reverse: Arabic across: “(translated) Sale of slaves prohibited in 1807, Christian era, in the reign of George the Third; verily we are all brothers”. Signed: “J.P FECIT.” at the foot.

Notes: The first striking in about 1814 was not as a medal but as a penny trade token issued by Macauley and Babington for use in Sierra Leone. Subsequently, true medal re-strikes were produced (c 1835-50) often with thicker flans and contained within a metallic shell-like case.

The Slave Trade Act was passed by the British parliament in 1807 abolishing the slave trade within the British Empire. The act did not prohibit the ownership of saves, but made it illegal for slaves to be exported from, or imported into, British Colonies; for slaves to be transported on British ships; and prohibited slave ships of other nations from using ports and territorial waters under British control. The Act did not halt the slave trade but changed its nature, and more slave ships came to operate from the east cost of Africa. The voyage to the Americas was much longer and the ships had to round the Cape of Good Hope. The British Navy in South Africa was charged with the task of enforcing the Act which could be diplomatically difficult when foreign vessels were challenged, and often had horrific consequences when captains of British slave ships would chose to jettison their cargo rather than face the penalties of £100 per slave.

In the early days of the slave trade, Sierra Leone had been a major source of supply, but by the end of the eighteenth century a reverse process of repatriation had begun. Several hundred “poor blacks” from London were settled in Freetown to be joined by about 2,000 “Black Loyalists” from Canada who had been granted their freedom for volunteering to fight for the British in the American War of Independence.