Why did the apprentice system fail in 1838?

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samson98 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Great Britain abolished slavery in 1833 with the Slavery Abolition Act. However, in practical terms, British slavery did not end until 1838. Many British colonies were structured around chattel slavery, so Parliament instituted the "Apprenticeship System" to prevent the collapse of the colonies. All slaves over the age of six were termed "apprentices" and were supposed to essentially remain slaves for a set period of time, after which they would be set free (The colony of Antigua elected to forgo the the Apprenticeship System and set its slaves free immediately). Neither the apprentices nor the plantation owners were satisfied with this compromise. Many apprentices refused to work, and the plantation owners retaliated by abusing them. These abuses eventually became public, and popular opinion turned against the Apprenticeship System. The Apprenticeship System was formally abandoned on August 1, 1838, and all the apprentices received their freedom.

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