Believing that Britain's wealth rested on slavery, James Tobin, plantation owner and sugar merchant, was an active campaigner on behalf of the slave trade. He worked with both the Bristol and London branches of the West India Committee, and was a national spokesman for the pro-slavery campaign. As the owner of a plantation and enslaved Africans, he felt that he had a better understanding of the issues than the Abolitionists, few of whom had been to the Caribbean. He accused them of being either naïve or liars.
By the 1780s and '90s, the slave trade out of Bristol was past its peak, but still an important part of the trade of the city. Of equal or more importance was the West India trade, whereby the local manufacturers supplied the needs of the islands and the islands supplied sugar to the growing refining industry of Bristol. Plantation owners saw enslaved labour as necessary to produce the sugar. The Bristol West India Association was founded in 1789 to counter the local Abolition committee formed the previous year. The West India Committee, organised by the Society of Merchant Venturers, organised petitions in support of the slave trade. These were all men with a direct interest, for whom the end of the slave trade would have brought financial difficulties. They argued that the slave trade was of vital importance to the trade and wealth of Britain, not just Bristol, and worked with Committees of merchants in other cities to campaign against Abolition.