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Manuscript of James Ramsay concerning the abolition of the slave trade

 Single Item
MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 2
Held at the Weston Library

  • Request

Manuscript written by James Ramsay primarily concerning the evils of the slave trade and the methods employed by traders and plantation owners. It contains drafts of several of his publications, including his address on a proposed bill for the abolition of the slave trade, and copies of letters to William Wilberforce, Lord Sydney, Lord Hawkesbury and others. Additionally there is a series of questions and answers 'concerning the state of slaves in the sugar colonies' which Ramsay used when giving evidence to the Parliamentary commission of enquiry in 1788.

The manuscript also contains notes on other subjects including parochial returns, poor relief, a memorial on supplying the Navy with seamen and the printed Case of the Episcopal Clergy in Scotland, [1789]. [


  • Creation: 1787-1789


1 volume

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 2, page 1].

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MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 2

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 3837


Manuscript of James Ramsay concerning the abolition of the slave trade.

Biographical / Historical

James Ramsay was born in 1733 in Aberdeenshire and after training as a surgeon joined the Royal Navy, serving aboard HMS Arundel in the West Indies. In November 1759 HMS Arundel intercepted a slave-trade ship and Ramsay was horrified by the condition of the enslaved people on board. He subsequently left the Navy, was ordained as an Anglican cleryman and worked for nineteen years on St Kitts where he visited plantations and tried to improve the welfare of the enslaved.

Ramsay described the conditions on the West Indian plantations in An Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies, published in 1784, which attracted great public interest as well as earning him the criticism of the planters. He provided William Wilberforce and other abolitionists with evidence and arguments for debates in Parliament and gave testimony to the Parliamentary commission of enquiry into the slave trade. Ramsay died in 1789.

For further information see the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Bernard Quaritch Limited in 1937 with the support of the Rhodes Trustees.

Catalogue of a Manuscript of James Ramsay concerning the abolition of the slave trade
Lucy McCann
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
First edition.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom