Slave Compensation Act 1837

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The Slave Compensation Act 1837 (1 & 2 Vict. c. 3) was an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom, signed into law on 23 December 1837.

After decades of campaigning, the Slavery Abolition Act had been passed in 1833. The plantation owners in the Caribbean, represented by the London Society of West India Planters and Merchants (now the West India Committee), had opposed abolition. This Act paid substantial money to the former slave owners, but nothing to the newly liberated people.

The Act empowered the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, under the direction of the Treasury, to either pay the compensation that was still owing to slave owners out of the West India Compensation Account, or to transfer a proportionate amount of 3½% government annuities. The various acts of William IV relating to slave compensation were to be considered, as far as applicable, to apply to this act.

Slave owners were paid approximately £20 million in compensation in over 40,000 awards for enslaved people freed in the colonies of the Caribbean, Mauritius and the Cape of Good Hope according to a government census that named all owners as of 1 August 1834.[1]

University College London has set up a project Legacies of British Slave-ownership which aims to list the individuals who received compensation. They estimate that somewhere between 10-20% of Britain's wealthy can be identified as having had significant links to slavery.[2]


  1. ^ BBC History magazine. Bristol Magazines Ltd. June 2010. ISSN 1469-8552. 
  2. ^ "Project Context". University College London. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • The British almanac of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, for the year 1839. The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, London, 1839.
  • Legacies of British slave-ownership, the UCL database