In 1762, on this day Robert Wedderburn was born in Jamaica, the son of a slave Rosanna. His father James Wedderburn was a respected member of Edinburgh society who made a very handsome fortune from the Jamaican slavery trade. Never acknowledged by his father, Robert is rarely spoken of in relation to the famous Scottish Wedderburn family.
The Axe Laid To The RootBorn a free man due to a concession his mother sought whilst pregnant, Robert was well educated in Jamaica. There he was also witness to the terrible atrocities that slavery inflicted and began to battle against the injustices of the slave trade. Later, in the Horrors of Slavery, Wedderburn would write "I thank my God, that through a long life of hardship and adversity, I have ever been free in both mind and body: and have always raised my voice on behalf of my enslaved countrymen".
Setting off for London in 1779, he hoped to establish a relationship with his father who he had previously only met once in his life. However, on his arrival in London, he was disowned by his father, who claimed that Robert was lying and simply trying to get hold of the family fortune.
"The earth cannot be justly the private property of individuals, because it was never manufactured by man; therefore whoever sold it, sold that which was not his own".Rejected, Robert found a new identity as a leading activist against slavery. Calling for slave uprisings in Britain and the Caribbean, the Home Secretary called him a "notorious firebrand" and he was put on the Government's secret list of thirty-three leading reformers.
Wedderburn's revolutionary manifesto The Axe Laid to the Root would spur a widespread revolt across British North America that would terminate the slave trade throughout the Empire. And that event would precipiate a quite unexpected reaction, the secession of slave states from the British Colonies, into a new Confederate State of America.