Origin: English Period: George III Provenance: Property of a Kent Collector Date: c.1803 Height: 6 cms Weight: 16 grams
The plain cross pendant with arched top limb pierced for suspension and with crude `FREE ALL SLAVES 1803` chiselled inscription, being a reference to the campaign for the abolition of slavery.
In extremely fine condition and ready for suspension, the pendant does not suffer from loss or damage and remains un-cleaned presently with a gentle patination to the copper.
1803 is significant in the history of the slave trade as it saw the first successful slave revolution for freedom in Haiti when the slaves rose up in 1791 and by 1803 had driven the whites out of Saint-Domingue, (the colonial name of Haiti) declaring the independent Republic of Haiti. It could therefore be surmised that this inscription may have been a direct and heartfelt reaction from a British slave having heard of the revolution abroad in Haiti.
Then, two years after this pendant was inscribed in 1805 Great Britain saw a bill for Abolition of slavery passed in Commons but rejected in the House of Lords. A member of the House of Commons and a supporter of the Tory government, William Wilberforce became intrictly involved in the abolition of the slave trade in Britain. His conversion to Evangelical Christianity in 1784 played a key role in interesting him in this social reform and in 1807 it was his Abolition of the Slave Trade Act that abolished slave trading in the British Empire with Captains being fined £120 per slave transported. Then, in 1811, slave trading was made a felony in the British Empire punishable by transportation for British subjects and foreigners. Exactly thirty years after this inscription, slavery was finally abolished throughout the British Empire by the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, with the exceptions the East India Company, Ceylon, and Saint Helena.
Elsewhere in England in 1803 saw Colonel Edward Despard, a radical Anglo-Irish former British Army officer and colonial official, and six others are hanged for their part in the previous year's Despard Plot which was the last time anyone has been sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered in England. The year also saw the U.K. re-declaring war on France after their refusal to withdraw from Dutch territory in the Napoleonic Wars whilst abortion is made a crime by Lord Ellenborough's Act in this year.
Cross symbols predate Christianity, and ancient objects bearing crosses have been found in most parts of the world and the cross is the most well-known symbol of the Christian faith. It represents the death and resurrection of Jesus and serves as a reminder of our own sins and our need for redemption. This representation along with the inscribed message of ‘free all slaves’ proves a potent mix of powerful emotion and of the human condition.
Quite simply put this is an excessively rare, hugely evocative, poignantly powerful and tremendously emotive piece of social history that shines a torchlight on an individuals fight for survival and freedom. This man, in his inscription, represented the feelings of a huge, angry collective swarm. Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions. This one did.