Chapter

The Lords and the Profits – West Indian Commerce and the Scottish Enlightenment

Iain Whyte

in Scotland and the Abolition of Black Slavery, 1756-1838

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9780748624324
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748672196 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748624324.003.0003
The Lords and the Profits – West Indian Commerce and the Scottish Enlightenment

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Almost every major figure in the Scottish Enlightenment condemned slavery on moral, philosophical and economic grounds. Yet Scotland's involvement in the slave trade and plantation slavery was far more considerable than historians until very recently have recognised. Edward Long, the Jamaican planter, politician, and historian wrote in 1776 that one third of the (white) population of Jamaica, the largest slave island in the Caribbean, were from ‘Northern Britain.’ Robert Burns, author of ‘The Slave's Lament’ was within an ace of joining other young Scots who fled poverty or their past and became slave drivers on a plantation. Others profitably pursued medical, legal or commercial careers on the slave islands and many owners of sugar estates returned home to Scotland and built a significant houses or endowed schools. Slave ships left Scottish ports and many Scots crewed the much more numerous ones from Liverpool and Bristol. Richard Oswald, son of a Caithness manse, formed a consortium to buy a slave station on the Sierra Leone river and made £500,000 in exporting slaves to the Carolinas and the West Indies.

Keywords: Enlightenment; Plantations; Slave Trade; Property; Commerce

Chapter.  12351 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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