Katie Donington
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Defending slavery
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In 1812 George Hibbert quit Parliament to become Agent for Jamaica – the most powerful representative of Britain’s largest Caribbean colony. During his tenure the campaign to end slavery began in earnest. George used every means at his disposal to block and delay the dismantling of the system. He was politically astute enough to recognise that reform and eventual abolition were inevitable. This chapter explores George’s handling of some of the key moments in the political struggle over slavery. As a metropolitan merchant George was attuned to the political culture of the imperial centre. He advocated a strategy of compromise and conciliation in order to buy time and wring concessions from the government. His approach was not always supported by planters in the colonies, demonstrating deep divisions within the West India interest over how best to defend the institution. Having positioned himself as a leading proslavery figure, George’s family became a target for the abolitionists. The chapter documents the public scandal which emerged following the publication of an account of one of the Hibberts’ plantations in the 1820s. It also highlights the instrumental role that George played in securing slavery compensation as the price for acquiescence in emancipation.

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The bonds of family

Slavery, commerce and culture in the British Atlantic world

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