Friday Lore Post: Slavery Abolition Movements

For as long as slavery has existed as an institution, people have been opposed to it. At various points in history there have been formal movements to limit or abolish slavery, including the famous Poreanel civil war between Queen Elle Hardtusk III and her sister Emelia, who believed slavery to be wrong and attempted to seize the throne in a coup in the year SC 1202 in order to end the institution. The war ended with Emelia Hardtusk’s defeat in the Battle of Ice River, after which she and her generals were enslaved for the remainder of their lives.

A number of other such movements, most not as violent, have arisen and fallen over the centuries, never making a serious dent in the institution of slavery, at least in Dolovai’s north. In southern Kyaine, a collective of slavery abolition movements have existed for about two hundreds years, most of which are focused on eventually ending the practice entirely, but which have tended to focus on incremental change in the short term. It is for this reason that Kyainese slavery has been on the decline over the last century and is expected to disappear soon. Movements like these are also the reason why slaves have so many rights in the south, including the right to protest unjust treatment and the right to pay off their own value in labour. Though most people forecast Kyainese slavery ending in the next two generations, these movements, which are civilian run, are focused on making that happen sooner, and are currently engaged in lobbying local lords and nobles to align themselves with the right side of history and outlaw the practice sooner rather than later.

In Dolovai’s north, the situation is vastly different. Slavery abolition movements have had little success, and what victories they have won have been won with the help of Dolovin law being imposed on the region to limit who can be taken as a slave and how. This undermines the legitimacy of these groups, as they are easily cast as bowing to outside influences aiming to erase northern culture, which tends to rapidly strip their support. As a result, abolitionist groups in northern Dolovai walk a very narrow road of trying to end an embedded cultural practice while not appearing too aligned with Dolovin ideology broadly.

Abolitionist groups do exist in the north, many of them made up of freed slaves. The creation and operation of an abolitionist group is perfectly legal, but such organizations tend to find themselves subject to very strict observation by law enforcement, their members often arrested on false charges and held and interrogated for several days before being released. Their bases of organization tend to be raided frequently on the suspicion of illegal activity, and any public demonstrations or events they put on tend to be shut down by authorities for disturbing public peace. Any former slave who works in such a movement will carry their manumission papers with them at all times, as many incidents have been reported of former slaves being accused of being escaped slaves, which has led to heinous incidents of re-enslavement of people who were legally freed—a large-scale fear among abolitionists, as criminals are often made into slaves as punishment.

The two largest slavery abolition movements in the north at present are the Northern Freedom Movement and the Children of Armand. The Northern Freedom Movement is a public organization run by a committee of ex-slaves that seeks formal legal intervention to end slavery. Like many southern movements, they have a series of short-term goals aimed to limit the practice, and their current focus is to outlaw the execution of slaves without trial. The Northern Freedom Movement is subject to a great deal of harassment and even violence, often with the justification that they are associated with the Children of Armand.

Named after a rich mine owner who spent his entire fortune on slaves immediately before his death, only to stipulate in his will that all four thousand of them be freed, the Children of Armand are, on the surface, a group dedicated to freeing slaves in the immediate short term. They raise funds by putting on events and use those funds to buy slaves at markets, often in bulk, and free them all. It is however also an open secret that the Children of Armand has a secret arm that illegally frees slaves and smuggles them out of the north. No proof has ever been found of this activity and it is therefore hard to stop it, but whenever leaders of the secret arm of the Children are discovered, they tend to turn up dead not long after. A number of leaders of the public arm of the Children have been assassinated as well. The Children of Armand and the Northern Freedom Movement do not openly work together, but it has long been rumoured that the secret arm of the Children has members on the Movement’s ruling committee. Again, no proof of this has ever been found.

There is always fear among the ruling class of an armed slave rebellion, which there have been four of in the last five hundred years of northern history, none successful. This is often the justification given for violent treatment of abolitionist groups, though both major organizations publicly disavow violence as a solution to the problem of slavery. Plans to end slavery through violent means do happen and there are always at least one or two in progress, even the most successful ones have very rarely gotten to the point of actually causing widespread violence, nevermind widespread change.

Most observers are not optimistic of the abolition movements’ chances at effecting major social change in the next hundred years. Members of the groups themselves remain committed and believe that something will change, because a system that hurts people can only continue to exist for so long, and as long as they eventually get public perception on their side, they will emerge victorious. Public perception has remained very strongly not on their side in the north, but there is no telling what might happen in the future.

Elsewhere in the world, slavery abolition movements have had less success. Some hundreds of years ago, slavery was outlawed across Djyekkan, due largely to a slavery abolition movement that led to a wide-scale revolt and twenty years of civil war. On Yavhore, where the only slavery is that of indentured criminals, attempts to put a stop to the practice have been met with public safety fears and shut down. In slave-owning Aergyre, slavery abolition movements are illegal and anyone found to be working with or for one is immediately enslaved and sold into hard labour. There are no widespread abolition movements in Enjon, and there are in fact small pockets of people who believe that human slavery should be increased as a practice, which is often dismissed as Imperial influence weighing on the native culture, but which is also a desire for a return to an imagined slave-owning past.

There is a widespread abolition movement amongst goblin clans in Yavhore. One of the only non-human species to practice slavery in a widespread way, goblin slaves are typically canon fodder in wars. They tend to be captured enemies and are generally put on the front lines and killed to protect real soldiers. Seven Yavhorel goblin clans have chosen to cease this practice and instead only take slaves for domestic and sexual purposes, breeding instead of capturing new ones, all of which is seen as more ethical. The clans that have done this are typically more peaceful and successful than those who don’t, leading to more and more clans arguing for the practice’s adoption.  No other form of non-human slavery shows signs of changing any time in the near future.

Ultimately, whether or not any slavery abolition movement will be successful depends on how far it is willing to go to achieve its goals, and whether it is successful at convincing people and governments its their premise that slavery is fundamentally wrong. Because most such groups are made up of former slaves, there are many immediate barriers in place that prevent people taking the message seriously. But they continue trying, and will continue trying until every living thing on the planet is free.

From “The Definitive Atlas of the World, Vol. 3: Institutions and Organizations,” by Pascal Tiberius Naoton Quimbell Haeverine anNatalie, published in White Cape in DN 1997. 

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