Eyes on the Prize – Focus, Faith and Fervour

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:
Eyes on the Prize – Focus, Faith and Fervour

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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The strong revulsion to injustice and a basic sense of right informed the Scottish abolition movement. The perception that Scotland was a ‘land of freedom’ was fuelled by enlightenment thinkers and poets such as Robert Burns. But there was much opposition to encounter. Hostile press coverage, relatives in the colonies, and the fear from the powerful of any disturbance to the status quo, worked against the supporters of abolition. It has been suggested by a leading slavery historian, Duncan Rice that the issue was an anvil on which Scottish churchmen hammered out their theological concerns. This argument is unsubstantiated by a closer look at the writings and speeches of churchmen in the campaign. Certainly they had these concerns, but in fact theology was used as an effective tool in a nation that was awash with religious ideas in order to counter cruelty and inhumanity rather than the reverse. A leading American historian, David Brion Davis judged that abolitionism in Britain fused enlightenment thought with evangelical passion in the cause of emancipation. In no part of Britain was that more true than in Scotland.

Keywords: Theology; Injustice; Anvil; Opposition

Chapter.  4228 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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