A FOREIGN POLICY OF ABOLITIONISM: GREAT BRITAIN’S USE OF FOREIGN POLICY TO END THE ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE
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In January 1808, the United States and Great Britain officially abolished their slave trades. However, Britain took the lead in policing the Atlantic slave trade by developing a “foreign policy of abolitionism.” This foreign policy led to almost six decades of tension over enforcing anti-slaving laws and policing the trade, but if the foreign policy of abolitionism threatened Whitehall’s primary foreign policy objectives of extending British influence and markets, or, jeopardized its preexisting diplomatic relationships, abolition of the trade would be relegated to an auxiliary position. By 1842, Great Britain successfully achieved a “right of search” clause with the Texas Republic in an attempt to end Texas’ involvement in the slave trade. British officials, however, appeared unbothered by the “other slavery” in Texas, which included the intricate process of enslaving individuals among Native American groups. Instead, they focused on ending the African slave trade. During the late 1830s and early 1840s, due to continued evasion of Anglo-Spanish anti-slaving treaties, Whitehall sent David Turnbull—and ardent abolitionist—to Cuba. It was there that the foreign policy of abolitionism reached its limit when Turnbull’s abolitionist actions threatened Britain’s larger foreign policy objectives. Therefore, Turnbull lost his position as Consul. Although the United States abolished its slave trade in 1808, it did not initially sanction the deployment of an official naval squadron to hunt slavers off the coast of Africa. More importantly, the U.S. government refused to allow the British Navy the right to search American ships suspected of slave trading. Because of this, slavers used iii American colors to avoid British search, but by 1839 Whitehall had grown tired of these abuses. Several international incidents led to the 1842 Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which, officially committed the United States to policing the slave trade. Because scholars have neglected the ways in which abolitionists projected their values abroad through foreign policy, this dissertation reexamines debates between Whitehall and those countries Great Britain successfully or unsuccessfully compelled into signing anti-slave-trading treaties, along with conversations from Britons and citizens in those nations. These communications illustrate the priority Britain placed on ending the slave trade during the nineteenth century.
Mccoy, Charles Robert (2017). A FOREIGN POLICY OF ABOLITIONISM: GREAT BRITAIN’S USE OF FOREIGN POLICY TO END THE ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from