Source 12 - A Planter's letter

In the late 1780s, a fiery debate raged in the letter pages of newspapers and magazines on the topic of slavery. Just as the abolitionists were gaining more support, the powerful West Indies lobby hit back. The lobby was made up of individuals owned plantations in the West Indies and those who profited from the slave trade in some other way, whether directly or indirectly.

The lobby had variable success. They were able tactically to outmanoeuvre abolitionist bills in parliament, as many MPs owned property connected with the slave trade. However, the West Indies lobby were motivated by financial self gain whereas the abolitionists had a strong moral cause which gradually turned into a popular movement. Often the abolitionists had such strong evidence against slavery (e.g. the Brookes diagram) that it was hard to counter them.

This is a letter, dated April 1789, published in Gentleman's Magazine , a journal of news and gossip that did not support the abolitionist cause. It is from an anonymous planter. He compares slavery in the Caribbean to working class 'slavery' in Britain. He also describes slaves as 'assistant planters'.

  • What does the writer think about the abolitionist campaign?
  • What is his view of slavery?
  • How does writer comment on Africa?

Taken from: The Gentleman's Magazine Vol 59 Jan-June
Author / Creator: unknown
Date: April 1789
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: RAR 052