Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Volz, Stephen

Second Advisor

Kinzer, Bruce L., 1948-


Early nineteenth century British abolitionist Thomas Fowell Buxton was an influential figure in early Victorian British history. He led the abolitionists' parliamentary efforts to emancipate British colonial slaves in the early 1830s. In 1837, Buxton turned his attention to the slave trade and concluded that Britain's existing suppression policy could be improved. Buxton argued that West Africa should be exposed to Christian moral values, and to practical, commercial and agricultural education through an active commercial and missionary presence. He thought that this would help convince African rulers that the slave trade should be abandoned for both moral and economic reasons. A reluctant British government eventually agreed to sponsor an exploratory expedition to the Niger River that was supposed to evaluate the feasibility and possible implementation of Buxton's plan. The Whig government's politically tenuous situation and reliance on the support of humanitarian members of parliament, who were loyal to Buxton, led to the government's decision. The cabinet thought there was a possibility that humanitarians would desert their alliance with the government, and thereby bring it down. Buxton ardently lobbied for his plan, which he believed would allow Britain to meet its moral duty of suppressing the slave trade. However, an outbreak of malaria on the Niger Expedition led to its failure to implement Buxton's plan and suppress the slave trade. Still, Buxton's proposals and the Niger Expedition contributed to other significant developments, such as effective malaria treatment, the reform of the British West Africa Squadron, the development of "legitimate commerce," and the foundation of the Niger Mission.


Includes bibliographical references: pages 136-141

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