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International Abolition and Anti-Slavery Timeline
The Pennsylvania Colony prohibits enslavement for more than
10 years or after the age of 24. The
Rhode Island Colonial Assembly declares slavery illegal. This legislation is reversed in 1700 and
slavery survives in Rhode Island for more than 150 years.
In England, Chief Justice Holt rules against the legal
basis for slavery. He writes, “As soon
as a Negro comes into England, he becomes free.”
Portugal declares that any African entering Portugal will
be considered free (except for the Portuguese colony of Brazil).
Pope Benedict XIV issues a papal bull declaring the
Catholic Church’s opposition to slavery in Brazil.
In Russia, Czar Peter III declares that one aspect of
slavery is abolished.
Catherine the Great of Russia frees 900,000 peasants who
reside on Church owned property.
Individuals in the Virginia House of Burgesses begin a
boycott of the British slave trade. They
resolve that “they will not import any Slaves or purchase any imported, after
the First day of November next, until
the said [Tax] Acts of Parliament are repealed.” Additional boycotts are started in South
Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.
Serfdom is abolished in the Kingdom of Savoy.
King Louis XV of France orders that individuals of African
ancestry in the French colonies will be given the same rights as White
King Carlos III of Spain announces opposition to
slavery. Fugitive slaves seeking refuge
in Spanish possessions will be given their freedom. This does not, however, apply to the Spanish
possessions in Latin and South America.
The Virginia House of Burgesses enacts a high tariff on
slaves imported into the Colony, to limit slavery. It writes King George II of England that “the
importation of slaves into the colonies from the coast of Africa hath long been
considered a trade of great inhumanity, and under its present encouragement, we
have too much reason to fear will endanger the very existence of your Majesty’s
American dominions.” The proposed action
is rejected by the Crown Government.
Chief Justice, Lord Mansfield, rules against slavery in the “Sommersett
Case.” “The state of slavery is of such
a nature, that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or
political, but only by positive law, which preserves its force long after the
reasons, occasion, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from
memory. It is so odious that nothing can
be suffered to support it, but positive law.
Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from the decision, I
cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and
therefore the black must be discharged.” Slavery, however, remains legal in the North
Portugal abolishes slavery within Portugal.
First Continental Congress is held. Delegates Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin
Franklin call for action of the delegates to end the importation of slaves by
December 1, 1776. This provision is put
in the Articles of Association of the Continental Congress.
The Second Continental Congress passes resolution calling
for end of the importation of slaves to America. The resolution states that “no slaves be
imported into any of the thirteen United Colonies.”
The United States Congress passes the Northwest Ordinance
of 1787. It outlaws slavery in the
Northwest Territories, north of the Ohio River.
The French National Assembly orders the abolition of
slavery in French colonial possessions.
In 1802, Napoleon reinstates slavery in the French colonies.
In England, the House of Commons approves resolution to
abolish African slave trade, but House of Lords rejects it.
United States Congress passes law forbidding the slave
trade to foreign ports.
Denmark becomes the first modern state to abolish the slave
British Parliament approves resolution calling for the
abolition of the slave trade.
Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio and Vermont
submit resolutions to the U.S. Congress for an amendment to the constitution to
end the slave trade. Bills are presented
in both houses calling for the end to the importation of slaves after December
Thomas Jefferson, in a message to the Congress, calls for a law criminalizing
the international slave trade. He asked
Congress “to withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further
participation in those violations of human rights…which the morality, the
reputation, and the best of our country have long been eager to proscribe.”
United States Congress enacts law for the general abolition
of slavery to take effect January 1, 1808.
Slave trade is declared illegal for British subjects. The Act goes into effect in 1808 as the
General Abolition Act.
President Jefferson signs the Act Prohibiting Importation
of Slaves into law. It takes effect on
January 1, 1808.
The U.S. Congressional Act Prohibiting Importation of
Slaves takes effect. There are one
million slaves residing in the United States.
British Colonial Government in India passes Abolition Act
of 1811, which outlaws further importation of slaves to India. Slavery will continue in India until it is
prohibited in 1838.
British Parliament passes law making it a felony crime to
participate in African slave trading.
Sweden abolishes its involvement in the African slave
The Netherlands officially abolishes its involvement in the
African slave trade.
European maritime nations attending Congress of Vienna issue
proclamation condemning the African slave trade.
On return from exile, Napoleon Bonaparte, former emperor of
France, announces abolition of the African slave trade.
France officially abolishes its involvement in the African
The Spanish government abolishes its participation in the
African slave trade in areas south of the Equator.
The Republic of Gran Columbia adopts policy of gradual
abolition of slavery.
General José de San Martín outlaws African slave trade in Peru. The government of Peru further enacts a law
to begin abolition.
Britain signs treaty with Zanzibar to limit slave exports.
Chile outlaws slavery.
Gradual abolition of slavery begins in Argentina, Bolivia,
Chile, Paraguay, and Peru.
Simón Bolívar drafts Constitution for Bolivia. It officially abolishes slavery.
The government of Mexico abolishes slavery on September 15,
1829. In December, however, it exempts
Texas from the ban on slavery.
French and British diplomats negotiate a joint treaty to
end African slave trade in international waters.
France bans French citizens from participating in the
African slave trade.
British Parliament passes the Emancipation Act, which
abolishes slavery in all its colonies. By
1838, all slaves in the British colonies are freed. The government provides slave owners in the
West Indies with £20,000,000 in compensation for the abolition of slavery.
The Kingdom of Sardinia ends its participation in the
African slave trade.
Jamaica and British Guyana abolish slavery.
calling for gradual, compensated abolition of slavery in the colonies is passed
in the British Parliament. United States
anti-slavery groups are encouraged and highly motivated by this action. American and English abolitionist groups will
increasingly work together.
Mexico announces it will ban slavery in Texas, overturning
an exemption made in 1829.
Portugal makes it illegal to export slaves from its
Hanseatic League of the Baltic Region outlaws its
participation in the African slave trade.
The Kingdom of Tuscany outlaws its participation in the
African slave trade.
Importation of slaves into Uruguay is banned.
Mexico passes new legislation abolishing slavery. It calls for compensated emancipation.
By this date, slavery has been officially abolished in the
India (Hindustan) officially abolishes slavery.
The Kingdom of Naples abolishes its participation in
Slavery is abolished in British Honduras (Belize).
British Parliament passes Palmerston Act, which authorizes
British Naval vessels to inspect and intercept ships suspected of carrying
slaves to the Americas.
Venezuela abolishes slave trade.
Pope Gregory XVI issues Papal Bull in Supremo, in which the
Catholic Church condemns slavery and the slave trade.
Programs of gradual abolition are adopted in Colombia,
Ecuador, and Venezuela.
The World Anti-Slavery Convention is held in London. It refuses to admit women as delegates. Numerous American abolitionists attend and
many protest the exclusion of women.
Austria signs treaty with Great Britain, Prussia, France
and Russia that outlaws its participation in the African slave trade.
Czar Nicholas I of Russia enacts law abolishing
slavery. Millions of Russians remain as
Paraguay begins process of abolishing slavery.
Indian government passes Act of 1843, abolishing legal
status of slavery.
Great Britain and the United States enter into agreement to
send Naval patrols to the west coast of Africa to prevent shipment of slaves.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish The Communist Manifesto, a call to workers to fight to end wage
France abolishes slavery in its colonies.
Ecuador and Columbia pass laws freeing all their slaves.
Argentina, Venezuela, and Uruguay complete program of
gradual abolition that began earlier.
Peru abolishes slavery under a policy of compensated
Mexico adopts new Constitution. It guarantees freedom for fugitive slaves
arriving in Mexico. Many U.S. slaves
escape to Mexico until 1865.
The Dutch East Indies Colonial Administration abolishes
Start of the Civil War in the United States.
United Kingdom issues Proclamation of Neutrality in the
American Civil War.
Czar Alexander II of Russia issues degree freeing serfs.
Treaty signed between United States and Great Britain for
the suppression of the slave trade (African Slave Trade Treaty Act).
Paraguay completes program of gradual emancipation that was
started in 1825.
Abraham Lincoln sends message to the U.S. Congress
proposing a plan of gradual, compensated emancipation.
Law is passed by United States Congress providing for
compensated emancipation of slaves in the District of Columbia.
United States Congress announces it will cooperate with any
state in the gradual emancipation of its slaves.
United States President Abraham Lincoln issues preliminary
The Netherlands abolishes slavery in its colonies.
United States President Abraham Lincoln signs Emancipation
Proclamation and it goes into effect, freeing slaves in states that have
seceded and are part of the Confederacy.
The United States Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment
to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in the U.S. By December 18, it becomes official.
American Civil War ends.
Four million slaves are freed.
In the recently conquered region of Bukhara in Central
Asia, the Russian government imposes abolition of slavery.
Spain enacts legislation to gradually abolish slavery in
Slavery is ended in Puerto Rico.
Government of Siam (Thailand) begins reforms that begin the
process of the abolition of slavery.
Government of Cambodia begins abolishing practice of
slavery. It officially ends slavery in
All slaves in Mozambique are liberated by order of Queen
Victoria of England.
Spanish government passes Law of Patronato, which will
eventually provide for gradual emancipation of slaves in Spanish possessions.
Korean government enacts policy to limit slavery to only
one generation. It abolishes hereditary
Pope Leo XIII issues Encyclical in support of enslaved
Slavery is ended in Brazil.
The Korean Choson (Yi) government abolishes slavery in
French government abolishes slavery in Madagascar.
The Ching (Quin) Imperial rulers in China decree the
abolition of slavery in China.
Colonial administration of Malaya enacts law abolishing
Colonial administration of Burma enacts law abolishing slavery,
beginning the process of compensated emancipation.
Dumond, Dwight Lowell. Antislavery: The
Crusade for Freedom in America. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan
Press, 1961, p. 5.
Dumond, p. 5.
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