History | 1970 | Sound | Colour
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The story of the abolition of slavery and the fight by William Wilberforce, William Pitt and Thomas Clarkson. Dramatised historical reconstruction.
" To be sold " poster for slaves - male and female, 1829. Close up of manacled wrists with chains. Engraving of recently captured slaves in a line tied together with wooden clefted sticks around their necks. Close up of manacled ankles. Evan Jones stands in front of old warehouses of the Bristol docks. Old eighteenth century houses in Bristol and country houses in the neo-classical style.
Re-enactment of Thomas Clarkson on a horse though the countryside, he wears a three corned hat and long black cloak. Engraving of Bristol panorama. Re-enactment from now on in this film. All costumed quite accurately with powdered wigs and frock coats, nice old docks locations and fine eighteenth century houses, interiors and exteriors. Inside of a church and a church service sermon with the vicar talking about the bible justifying slavery with several quotations from the old testament, and the congregation nodding in agreement. "This trade is sanctioned by God". Men roll barrels across the cobbles and street scene generally of men and women. Clarkson approaches a public house. Drunk people inside generally rowdy scenes with bawdy wenches being cuddled. Clarkson talks to a sailor who drinks heavily and relates a voyage on a slave ship, where the sailors didn't like the slaves treatment either. But his main complaint was the sailors suffering. The bad Captain Kimber who flogged to death a cabin boy.
Big country house and parkland. William Pitt and William Wilberforce walk across the grass and sit under a tree and discuss their agreements and disagreements. Then they discuss Wilberforce's planned bill and he asks for Pitt's government to support the bill. Pitt won't agree even through personal he does support the abolition of slavery. Wilberforce is mild and self effacing.
Clarkson walks up an old shopping street and looks in the windows at chains and manacles. He goes into the shop. Clarkson sits and writes at a desk. Alexander Falconbridge sits next to him and puts a pistol on the table. Clarkson examines a thumb screw. Falconbridge demonstrates the use of a gadget to force mouths open for force-feeding. F. offers to sell his evidence. The two men row a boat up to a slave ship side. They climb up the side of the ship onto the deck. F. describes exercise at sea where they were chained to the deck and flogged to move. They descend into the hold. They look at the empty bunks. The slaves then appear, groaning and sweating. Falconbridge then describes the full horrors of life aboard for four months.
Clarkson on his own, makes notes while standing on some stone steps. A gang of thugs chase him to the waters edge, cornered he dives through them, he loses them through the arches and passages of the dockside. The gang look very like a press gang or press-gang.
Clarkson arrives at Wilberforce's office. He climbs some ornate stairs and arrives at a Adams style library. W. greets him and C. presents him with the evidence he has discovered so far which W. examines. He introduces him to Mr Quiarno, a black man but dressed as a rich man, who has written his memoirs as a slave. He will tour Britain to spread the word. The question of losing out economically to the French is raised as a major issue. Besides says C. a profitable trade of other goods with Africa is possible. W. sits in a chair and looks ill.
Pitt and Clarkson discuss the issues again. C. is more direct and gets angry. 50,000 slaves a year are sold when palm oil could be traded. Two horse carriage drives along a cobbled street, Pitt has been told that Wilberforce is very ill. Wilberforce and Pitt, W. gets P. to promise to carry the bill against slavery if W. should die.
(Film Breaks off)
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