- In this
source, Mr Falconbridge is giving evidence to a Select Committee of
the Privy Council which had been appointed by William Pitt (who was
Prime Minister) to look at the slave trade and the arguments for and
Falconbridge was a surgeon (doctor) from Bristol who had sailed on at
least four slaving voyages to and from Africa. His experiences were
enough to convince him that slavery should be abolished and he became
an activist in the anti-slave trade campaign. Eventually, Falconbridge
was made a governor of Sierra Leone at the time when attempts were being
made to establish it as a colony for freed slaves.
Committees are set up by Government to look at specific subjects and
are still used today. They normally sit (take place) in London and call
witnesses to give evidence. Supporters and opponents of particular causes
often lobby hard to get the witnesses of their choice to appear before
the Select Committee. At the end of the investigation, the Select Committee
publishes a report of its findings and these are sometimes used as a
basis for new legislation.
- Pitt established
the Select Committee on the Slave Trade as a result of the efforts of
the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. This had been set
up in 1787 by Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp to campaign for the
end of slavery. Their spokesman in the House of Commons was William
Wilberforce, the MP for Hull.
- The Society
for the Abolition of the Slave Trade mounted huge campaigns but their
efforts did not meet with any success until 1807 when the slave trade
was banned. Clarkson and Sharp then formed the Society for the Mitigation
and Abolition of Slavery to campaign for the end of slavery itself.
Their work eventually paid off in 1833 when a law was passed banning
slavery in the British empire.
aboard the slave ships were horrendous. Men, women and children were
crowded in with no room to move. Disease could spread quickly and many
slaves died on the Middle Passage. Indeed, it has been estimated that
between 10 and 20% of all slaves died whilst making the voyage across