The Abolition of the Slave Trade (caricature)

Hand-coloured graphic print relating to the notorious case of Captain John Kimber of the merchant ship Recovery. In the House of Commons on 2 April 1792, William Wilberforce accused Kimber of brutally assaulting and murdering a teenage slave girl, who refused to dance on deck. The incident took place on 22 September 1791, when the ship was bound for Grenada. The girl died following convulsions on the 27 September. The Admiralty Court tried Kimber in June 1792. While Wilberforce persisted in his belief that Kimber was essentially guilty, the case was poorly handled and he was honourably acquitted. Once released, Kimber demanded compensation and a public apology. Cruikshank produced this print only eight days after Wilberforce’s statement in Parliament. The original caption read: ‘The abolition of the slave trade. Or the inhumanity of dealers in human flesh exemplified in Capt’n Kimber’s treatment of a young Negro girl of 15 for her virgin modesty.’ The two prints in the Museum collection have an amended sub-title with Kimber’s name erased and substituted by hand to read ‘exemplified in the cruel treatment’. This was presumably undertaken after the trial to prevent any legal action by Kimber – particularly as Cruikshank’s overtly sexualised version of events was at odds with the official evidence – and thus to allow the remaining stock of prints to be sold.

Toward the end of the 18th century issues of religious humanity, radical political agendas and questions of economics came together to encourage attempts to end the slave trade. By using graphic illustrations of the cruelty inflicted by slave merchants upon their captives the abolitionists also hoped to reach a wider audience than just the educated middle class. This cartoon is typical of the images used by abolitionists to make their case.

See also ZBA2503.

Object Details

ID: PAF3932
Collection: Fine art
Type: Print
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Fores, S. W.; Cruikshank, Isaac S. W. Fores, S.W. Fores
Date made: 10 Apr 1792
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Sheet: 250 mm x 350 mm; Image: 222 mm x 335 mm; Mount: 403 mm x 558 mm

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