Petition to lords over slavery

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On this day in 1826 a ‘numerous and respectable meeting of the inhabitants of the Borough of Portsmouth’ took place at the Beneficial Society’s Hall in Kent Street, Portsea.

Built in 1784 as a free school for boys, the building was also used for meetings, social functions and entertainment.

The meeting, with mayor David Spice in the chair, resolved to petition the House of Lords and Commons with an issue that troubled many people across the country.

‘Slavery,’ the meeting decided, ‘under any form or circumstance, however mild or plausible, is contrary to the dictates of justice, as well as repugnant to sound and enlightened policy and that the principles and benign spirit of Christianity are equally opposed to its inhumanity’.

Though slave trading had been abolished in 1807, ‘a state of the most rigorous and cruel slavery’ still continued in the British colonies in the West Indies. The condition of the slave population, the meeting heard, ‘remains as wretched and merciless as ever’.

The meeting added to its petition that ‘free labour is more productive and advantageous than slave cultivation’ – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.