In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a movement took root to end the practice of slavery in the United Kingdom, as well as the British empire, including putting an end to the Atlantic slave trade. Western Europe and the Americas were already in the middle of their own movements at the time.
Buying and selling slaves was made illegal across the British Empire in 1807, but this law did not address the ownership of slaves, which was a practice not made illegal until 1833. The act was partly enforced by the West Africa Squadron of the Royal Navy. The Act imposed a fine of £100 for every slave found aboard a British ship. Despite the end of slavery in Great Britain did not end the practice of other parts of the British Empire. British banks continued to finance the commodities and shipping industries in the colonies, which they had previously establish, especially in the West Indian colonies.
In 1785, the English poet William Cowper, a reported favorite of Jane Austen, wrote . ..
We have no slaves at home.—Then why abroad?Cowper, William, The task: a poem, in six books. By William Cowper (London: printed for J. Johnson, 1785), p. 47
And they themselves once ferried o’er the wave
That parts us, are emancipate and loos’d.
Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
Receive our air, that moment they are free,
They touch our country and their shackles fall.
That’s noble, and bespeaks a nation proud
And jealous of the blessing. Spread it then,
And let it circulate through ev’ry vein
Of all your empire. That where Britain’s power
Is felt, mankind may feel her mercy too.
After the formation of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1787, William Wilberforce led the cause of abolition through the parliamentary campaign. After the 1807 Slave Trade Act, Wilberforce continued his campaign to see the practice abolished throughout the British Empire.
If you have never seen the 2007 movie entitled “Amazing Grace,” I highly recommend it. The film opened in the U. S. on 23 February 2007, which coincided with the 200th anniversary of the date the British parliament voted to ban the slave trade. You will find some period drama favorites (as well as Austen ones) in this film, including Ioan Gruffudd as William Wilberforce, Romola Garai as Barbara Spooner (Wilberforce’s eventual wife), Ciarán Hinds as Lord Tarleton, Rufus Sewell as Thomas Clarkson, Youssuu N’ Dour as Olaudah Equiano (one of the most prominent Africans involved in the debate involving slavery), Michael Gambon as Lord Charles Fox, Albert Finney as John Newton (the author of the poem upon which the hymn “Amazing Grace” comes), Benedict Cumberbatch as William Pitt, Sylvestra Le Touzel as Marianne Thornton, and Toby Jones as the Duke of Clarence.
As I mentioned above, the buying and selling of slaves was made illegal across the British Empire in 1807, but owning slaves was permitted until it was outlawed completely in 1833, beginning a process where from 1834 slaves became indentured “apprentices” to their former owners until emancipation was achieved for the majority by 1840 and for remaining exceptions by 1843. Former slave owners received formal compensation for their losses from the British government, known as compensated emancipation.
The 1807 act’s intention was to outlaw the slave trade within the British Empire, but the lucrative trade continued despite the law. Captains knowing they were about to be set upon by the British Royal Navy would throw slaves into the sea to mitigate the fines they would incur. Abolitionist Henry Brougham realized the slave trade would continue, so, in 1811, as a new Member of Parliament, Brougham introduced the Slave Trade Felony Act. This law made slave trading a criminal felony throughout the British empire, meaning British subjects worldwide. The law permitted the Royal Navy to pursue slave traders without hesitation. In 1827, the British defined slave trade as a form of piracy and made the action punishable by death.
Obviously, this subject is much more complex than the overview I have provided, and it is often a sore point for many. The abolitionist movement proves to be a backdrop for the story going on between Miss Georgiana Darcy and Mr. Chadwick Harrison in Darcy’s Temptation. Harrison has inherited an estate not far from Pemberley. He has arrived in England, fresh from the Americas, where he has become a strong supporter of being rid of slavery in the British Empire. Fitzwilliam Darcy does not disagree with the man’s principles, but he also does not approve of Harrison’s possible courtship of his sister Georgiana. Darcy means to keep Georgiana safely tucked away from the violence which sometimes surrounds the issue and the man.
In this excerpt, Darcy has escorted Georgiana to London for her Come Out. He means to introduce her to other possible suitors, but Harrison has followed, and Georgiana responds in a “bold” manner. Please remember this romance began at the end of Darcy’s Passions, meaning it has been nearly a year since the couple has taken each other’s acquaintance and about two-thirds the way through Darcy’s Temptation.
Going down the line on Darcy’s arm, Georgiana’s eyes surveyed the room. Out of the shadows stepped a familiar figure, and she felt her heart skip a beat. He motioned with his eyes to the balcony, and she nodded slightly in agreement. A blush overspread her body, and Georgiana suddenly felt warmth spread through each of her limbs. Darcy, thankfully, dropped into his usual silence and did not take note of the changes in his sister. When the set concluded, Georgiana excused herself, saying she required some fresh air, and headed toward the main entrance. She wanted her brother to think she exited the way they came into the hall, but once out of his sight lines, she circled inconspicuously until she slipped through the barely opened door to the small balcony.
“Miss Darcy,” she heard his voice before she could make out his features.
“Mr. Harrison,” she gasped, unable to control her excitement. They made quick bows to each another before she boldly stepped forward to face him. “You were missed, sir,” she whispered.
“As were you, Miss Darcy.” His voice suddenly became hoarse.
“I did not expect to see you in London,” she whispered again, thinking her voice betrayed her delight at seeing him.
“I am being courted by some members of Parliament,” he told her quickly, “to accept a seat recently vacated in the House of Commons.”
She asked hopefully, “Then you will be in London for some time?”
Harrison’s countenance fell, and Georgiana saw how her words bothered him. “My time in London is short—only a few days, but I could not permit my time in the City to pass without seeing you, Miss Darcy.”
“Say my name,” she said suddenly and moved closer still.
Harrison caressed her jaw line, allowing his thumb to massage her temple. “Georgiana,” he whispered, earnestly filled with desire.
“Chadwick.” Georgiana snaked her arms around his neck as he pulled her closer to him.
“You are the most unpredictable woman I have ever seen,” he declared.
“Do I shock you?” She buried her face into his chest, not believing her boldness.
Harrison lifted her chin and looked deeply into Georgiana’s eyes. “I am a man who requires your assurances; if I am shocked, it is of the most pleasant kind.” He bent to kiss her lips, willing Georgiana to respond to him.
The kiss built in intensity. His tongue parted her lips and searched the inside of her mouth. At first, she held back her passion, but then Georgiana followed suit, allowing herself to taste his lips and mouth fully.
Breathing heavily, they parted reluctantly, and Georgiana stepped away from him to settle her composure. “I must return before my brother misses me,” she said at last.
Harrison moved up behind her. “Like at Matlock, the set before we go in to supper is mine, Georgiana.” He laced his fingers through hers.
Georgiana rested her head upon his shoulder to feel his closeness once more. “I will be waiting for you.” Her heart fluttered with excitement as she touched his face briefly and then slipped back through the door to the ballroom.
Harrison waited ten minutes before he, too, returned to the room, partly because he wanted to make certain no signs of impropriety followed her and partly because it took nearly so long for him to recover from his desire to hold Georgiana Darcy in his arms.
Returning to the room, Georgiana danced with several other partners and once more with Henry Dorchester, thankful it would be the last time she must tolerate his attentions on this evening. Throughout the set, she searched for Chadwick Harrison’s face, nearly believing she had dreamed him into existence, and he was not really here in this same arena as she. Distractedly, she mumbled her responses to Dorchester’s silly observations. At last, the dance ended, and she found herself by Darcy’s side once again.
Nervously, she waited Harrison’s approach, finally feeling his presence before he actually stood behind her. “Miss Darcy,” his voice recovered its resonant qualities, “if you are not otherwise engaged, may I request the honor of the next dance?”
Georgiana shot a quick glance at her brother, who betrayed nothing in his countenance, before answering him. “Mr. Harrison,” she feigned surprise, “I was unaware you were in London, sir.”
“I only arrived this afternoon,” he bowed to Darcy, and then he extended his hand to Georgiana.
She smiled brightly at him and accepted his arm as he led her to the dance floor. For thirty minutes he would be able to drink in her beauty and goodness; heaven enveloped him. Georgiana felt very much the same; for the next half hour her life would be perfect.
Darcy’s Temptation: A Sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
The day Fitzwilliam Darcy marries Elizabeth Bennet, he thinks his life is complete at last. Four months later, even greater joy appears on the horizon when Elizabeth finds out she is pregnant. But it is not long before outside forces intrude on their happiness. When the unthinkable happens, Elizabeth and Darcy must discover their love for each other all over again.
Romantic and insightful, Darcy’s Temptation captures the original style and sardonic wit of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice while weaving its beloved characters into an exciting new tale. In a story set against the backdrop of the British abolitionist movement, family difficulties and social affairs weigh heavily on the newlyweds, and a dramatic turn of events forces Elizabeth to try to recapture Darcy’s love before the manipulative Cecelia McFarland succeeds in luring him away.