Steps Toward Emancipation

From 1797 the British Government introduced new laws to improve the treatment of slaves. Most of the new laws did not change very much, and mainly protected the rights of slave owners.

Slavery was abolished in Britain in 1808, but the government did not want to abolish it in the Caribbean. The government was worried that without slaves they would not be able to produce sugar, cotton and other products needed to support British Industry.

When it became clear that slavery would have to be abolished, the government needed to know how many slaves were in British territories. Registers were made of all slaves held in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The table above shows the number of slaves
in each holding from 1822 to 1834

In 1833 the British government passed an Act to abolish slavery in all British territories. Each country had to approve this Act. On 1st August 1834 all slavery was abolished in British territories, including the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Slave owners were given money in return for freeing their slaves.

Unfortunately freedom did not come straight away. The freed slaves had to work as apprentices to their former masters for a further 4 years. Some argued this was essential to teach the slaves how to be free people, but really it allowed the former slave owners 4 years to find alternatives to slaves, and to earn the money to pay wages.