Robert Cruikshank’s political cartoon, titled “John Bull taking a Clear View of the Negro Slavery in Question,” leads to a critique outside the realm of the slavery and anti-slavery binary in that, he highlights the greed of abolitionist’s who have an economic interest in upholding slavery. Ironically, this is emphasized through the sign that states, “Buy only East India Sugar, ‘Tis Sinful to buy any other True East India Sugar.” Superficially, the sign would make one believe that the sugar coming from East India isn’t produced by slaves. Although, if we take a look at the abolitionist’s back-pocket, we can clearly read the paper: “Invoice, I.E. Sugar.” This immediately shifts the intention of the sign as well as the morality of the so-called abolitionist; he is secretly in favor of slavery due to his economic interest and investment.
Taking a look at Equiano’s Narrative, he also identifies the economic ramifications of the abolition of slavery as well as the abolitionist’s ties to trade:
“If I am not misinformed, the manufacturing interest is equal, if not superior, to the landed interest, as to the value, for reasons which will soon appear. The abolition of slavery, so diabolical, will give a most rapid extension of manufactures, which is totally and diametrically opposite to what some interested people assert.” (212)
This is not to say Equiano was wholly moral in his critique of abolitionist’s, though his identification of problematic slavery extends beyond the question of human rights. Slavery was an extensive network of labor that supported the economy of the colonies and parts of Africa.
Thus, Cruikshank not only critiques these specific types of abolitionist’s, but he also brings to light the deep economic roots of the slave system; the economy runs and profits from slavery. Without it, it would collapse along with many people’s source of income and labor. Then, the question is asked: What will happen when slavery is abolished?