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Envoys of abolitionBritish Naval Officers and the Campaign Against the Slave Trade in West Africa$
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Mary Wills

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620788

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620788.001.0001

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Officers’ commitment to the anti-slavery cause

Officers’ commitment to the anti-slavery cause

(p.69) 3 Officers’ commitment to the anti-slavery cause
Envoys of abolition

Mary Wills

Liverpool University Press

The chapter examines how naval officers engaged with the cornerstones of the British abolitionist agenda: religion, humanitarianism, morality and concepts of national identity. As most nineteenth-century naval officers came from the middle or upper-middle classes, they were exposed to a culture of anti-slavery sentiment in popular politics, literature and the press. These ideas had a significant impact on how they conceived the nature of their duty as naval personnel and their identity as Britons. Many testimonies of naval suppression offer emotion, insight and conviction regarding the anti-slavery cause, often driven by religious belief, and particularly the rise of evangelicalism in the navy. Yet there was no obligation for naval officers serving on the West Africa squadron to be committed abolitionists. Others held more ambiguous views, particularly as attitudes regarding slavery and race evolved and hardened as the century progressed.

Keywords:   Abolition, Abolitionists, Religion, Evangelicalism, National identity, Anti-slavery, Race, Naval officers

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