The Extended Roots of Slavery

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?

-Daniel Corral


17 thoughts on “The Extended Roots of Slavery

  1. Pingback: In-class student blog comments | English Literature of the Long Eighteenth Century (1660-1837) Gone Global

  2. Hi Daniel, its me Sara, I think the most original idea proposed in your blog post was that Equiano :identifies the economic ramifications of the abolition of slavery as well as the abolitionist’s ties to trade”. It is interesting to suggest that Equiano might have even been against the abolitionist movement. If I would change this post or add to it, I might bring in other examples of Equiano critiquing the abolitionists, indirectly through his role-reversal. Of course, I didn’t write this blog post, and I think it’s very good otherwise without my suggestions. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Most interesting claim: “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”

    This makes me think about the reasons why Equiano might have used slavery himself. Was it internalized views on race or monetary interest? If the claim was made that he too did it for economic reasons, it would make your blog post more provacative..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I liked how you correlated the imagery of the cartoon with the text, and even made a point on how one becomes “misinformed” by the slave trade, and how in actuality the picture is not for the East India Sugar because the abolitionists’ pocket has printed “I.E. Sugar” which contradicts the conscience of the so-called abolitionist as you mentioned. I thought this was interesting because it reveals the economic manipulation of the slave trade and how it corrupts anyone involved-Jessica Mijares


  5. The most original idea I found in this post was the analyzation of the sugar signs and what they actually meant, which indeed was a form of hypocrisy based on the invoice. You can add more info to that because it is great analyzation but it can be expanded more, for example who is that sign supposed to convince and why. Great post overall !

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The most original idea in this post is when you delve into the fears of the British. “What will happen once slavery is abolished?” I think every Brit was thinking the same thing, whether they knew it or not. You could improve this idea by citing what the abolitionist were specifically saying to back up you point.
    -Maya Gonzales


  7. The idea that I thought was good and original was how you brought up the economic roots of slavery. How it’s so crucial to have slaves to produce sugar for these companies to profit and excel– slaves are the very backbone for many people’s income and that if it was to all go away everything would collapse. However, I believe you could also talk more about the petition on the left side of the cartoon.

    – Christopher Luong


  8. I thought this analysis of the image was very interesting and original by focusing on the economy of slavery and what it meant to abolish it. The idea that abolitionist had hidden intentions concerning their own economic interest is an interesting original idea. I believe this post can be improved upon by elaborating more on the image at the end of the first paragraph as it is not entirely clearly what the I.E sugar means and how it demonstrates the abolitionist as a fake.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I believe you could have went more into depth with Equiano’s perspective. I think his view is a bit more complex than you depict it. Also, distinguishing the difference of opinion and the views of abolition and slavery could have empowered your position. I feel that approaching the topic at multiple angles may have made the reader more engaged.


  10. The most original idea would be the question “what will happen if slavery is abolished”? It’s an important question because it depends not on “If” but rather “When” it becomes abolished, in my perspective, since society as a whole whether economically or politically would also become affected. What’s to say the way our society is now, where no slavery exists the way it did in the 18th century, would have gotten to this point if abolistionists were successful prior? Would we, as a society, have progressed more as a society or would we still be the same? Another unthinkable thing could be if slavery was never abolished, what would society be like now?

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I like how you escape the dialectic trap of the slavery/anti-slavery binary. In doing so, you are able to explore how the various rammifications–social, moral, and economical–are revealed to be the underlying problems of the question of slavery. Your statement that acknowledges that the question of slavery extends beyond human rights is a salient one, and our modern reference of this text, with our post-slavery frame of reference, must contend with the holistic entrenchment of slavery and the web of problems which made it hard to address and harder to abolish. Daniel could expand on Equiano’s capitalist fervor, which leads him so far as to purchase slaves of his own.


  12. Reblogged this on enriqueramoswri1portofolio and commented:

    I think the fact that slavery is the economic structure of the place is an interesting point to make. Not to mention, the fact that if slavery were to be abolished overnight, the whole economy was to crash. If this is so, I think that if you look into the way that politicians such as the abolitionist were opposed to slavery, then what was the purpose of them being anti-slavery but at the same time being hypocritical? Did they have other intentions? Does this speak in which political movements take the time to create change in order to work on the ways in which the economy is not affected?


    • Maybe Equiano knew the way in which economic worked so he knew that in order to set up this abolition movement he needed to begin the way in which people had to go about the movement without disrupting the economy.


  13. Eye-catching with the contrasting text box to emphasize the message. Would be nice to see more explanation of morality from Equiano.

    EC 23/25


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