The West India planter-master became the most vilified figure in British literature as a result of the abolitionist campaign to end the slave trade. The abolitionist primarily responsible for this shift in perception is James Ramsay, specifically in the controversy around his Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies (1784). He argues that the tyranny of absolute mastery is inherent in African slavery. This essay re-examines the rhetoric of Ramsay's publication and the ensuing pamphlet war for the “definitional rupture” in the term “master.” This new planter-master, configured as wholly corrupt, shifted the paradigm and created a powerful trope for abolitionists. Srividhya Swaminathan, Long Island University Brooklyn, [email protected].

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