Slave trading

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On this day in 1816 the naval ship Tyne, commanded by Captain Curran, arrived in Portsmouth Harbour.

Until 1807, when slave trading was abolished, Britain had been the leading slave trader in Europe.

Abolition came after a long campaign by Quakers and evangelists like William Wilberforce, whose son Samuel was made Rector of Alverstoke in 1840.

But, at the time of Tyne’s return, Britain’s navy was working to close down both British and foreign slave traders, the latter largely because it represented unfair competition. Slavery itself was still legal and continued in the British colonies.

The Tyne had returned from Ceylon via Mauritius, capturing several English and French slave vessels and their human cargo of 359 slaves, as well as seizing several empty schooners which were clearly equipped for slave trading.

When transferred to the ship, the slaves ‘presented a scene of debility and emaciation scarcely describable’.

A typical extract of the ship’s log reads: ‘Fresh breezes, the sea rising, put on the hatches: found four of the slaves dead for want of air’ – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.