Critiques of the practice of slavery and the slave trade were printed as early as the late seventeenth century. Notable Scottish intellectuals such as Adam Smith, George Wallace, and Adam Ferguson offered legal and philosophical justification for ending the slave trade, as did English jurist William Blackstone and American physician Benjamin Rush. Official efforts to abolish the slave trade began with the 1787 formation of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, led by the popular campaigning of Thomas Clarkson and the parliamentary action of William Wilberforce. The Committee’s efforts took twenty years to come to fruition and resulted in the 1807 Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. While the Act eliminated the trade, it did not illegalize slavery or emancipate those held as slaves; complete British emancipation came with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.
The Edinburgh Review published letters from those in favor and those opposed to the abolition of the slave trade from 1802 until the 1807 Act. Franciswas in favor of abolition and the April 1804 volume of the Review carried his article “Considerations on the Abolition of the Slave Trade.” In July 1808, Samuel Taylor Coleridge reviewed Thomas Clarkson’s The History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade.