GEORGE III PROVIDES FUNDS
TO SEND FREED BLACK SLAVES IN BRITAIN TO WEST AFRICA
GEORGE III. King of England. Document Signed, one page, oblong quarto, undated [between July and November 1791]. With two tax revenue stamps, in blind, in the left margin. The document, canceled with an “X,” is complete in its text and its thought (except for the last word) though the lower half of the folio sheet is lacking.
King George III gives financial support from his own Privy Purse for an abolitionist scheme (under the Sierra Leone Company which was incorporated by Parliament in July 1791) to send back freed blacks in Britain to West Africa, resettling them in Sierra Leone.
“Whereas Our House of Commons did on the 6th of July last present an humble address to Us that We would be graciously pleased to give such Directions as We in Our great Wisdom should think proper for the relief of a Number of distressed black Persons and Persons of Color now in this Country and for sending them to such Place beyond Seas as should by Us be thought best adapted for that Purpose: and to assure Us that whatever Expence We should incur upon this Account Our said House would make good the same Our Will and Pleasure is that by Virtue of Our General Letters of Privy Seal bearing date the 5th of Novem[ber] 1760 You do issue and pay or cause to be issued and paid out of any [of] Our Treasure of Revenue in the receipt of the Exchequer applicable to the Use of Our Civil Government unto Thomas Cotton Esqr: or to his Assigns the Sum of Two hundred Pounds six shillings and eight [pence].”
The growth of the black population in Great Britain in the eighteenth century eventually led to the abolitionist movement spearheaded by Granville and his repatriation scheme, as reflected in this document. These Blacks had come to England as slaves with their planter owners (and were freed or ran away), or as servants to their Loyalist masters who fled to England during the American Revolution, or as black troops recruited into Black Pioneer regiments in 1776 (on the side of Great Britain) with the promise of freedom and disembarkation in England. By 1789, there may have been as many as 40,000 Blacks in London, or about 5% of the total population of 800,000.
Sharp’s repatriation efforts led to the founding of Freetown (in Sierra Leone) in 1787 as a private venture for freed and runaway slaves. Those who volunteered to go were promised a homestead, building materials, and £12 upon application. While over 700 Blacks signed up, only 351 passengers showed up when the HM Nautilus sailed in the spring of 1787. A year later, only 130 of the original 351 settlers remained in Freetown. Many had died and others had left on visiting ships. After an altercation with a local chief, at least half of those were killed or driven into the jungle.
In July 1791, an Act of Parliament incorporated (or endorsed) Sharp’s Sierra Leone Company. He immediately began organizing a second group of settlers (referenced in this document). The fleet sailed from England in November; after stops in Nova Scotia and Canada, it reached Freetown on March 8th of the following year. One year later (in 1793), war broke out between Britain and France and the French burned Freetown.
This document is a poignant reminder of the early abolitionist efforts and their futile, and often dangerous, remedies.
This item is associated with these categories in our inventory:
- Black History