Coming Out of Sin – the Road from Mitigation to the Call for Immediate Abolition

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:
Coming Out of Sin – the Road from Mitigation to the Call for Immediate Abolition

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The campaign against slavery itself began cautiously in 1823 seeking ‘mitigation and eventual abolition.’ Throughout the 1820s there were fewer petitions from Scotland than those against the trade in 1788 and 1792. The Glasgow Abolition Society was cautious in its approach, in view of the city's commercial interests. Planters in the West Indies took full advantage of this, feigning reforms and delaying the eventual end of slavery. A meeting attended by thousands in Edinburgh in 1830 was addressed by one of Scotland's leading churchmen, Dr. Andrew Thomson of St. Georges Church. Thomson disdained ‘gradual abolition,’ proclaimed slavery as sin that must be immediately ended, and provided moral, theological and practical arguments for emancipation without delay. Spurning the dangers of revolution he opted for ‘the hurricane’ rather than the ‘noisesome pestilence’ and declared slavery to be the poisonous ‘Upas’ tree that should be immediately destroyed. Thomson was vigorously opposed by many but one historian asserts that his speech caused the British anti-slavery movement to adopt an immediate approach toward emancipation and even influenced anti-slavery activity in America.

Keywords: Glasgow; Planters; Thomson; Sin; Gradualism; Immediatism

Chapter.  14266 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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