This article explores the way in which abolition rhetoric was used in the Yorkshire elections of 1806 and 1807 to discredit candidates who supported the mechanization of the local wool industry. The 1807 election was held some two months after the bill abolishing the slave-trade became law. Amongst the candidates were William Wilberforce, already widely associated with the cause of abolition, and Henry Lascelles, whose fortune derived from West Indian slave economies. The way in which anti-slavery sentiment invoked ideas of liberty sheds light on the relationship between regional, national and imperial identities in constructing ideas of Britishness. Voters identified with rhetoric which evoked the empire, but they did so in ways that were highly localized and which gave slavery meanings more pertinent to circumstances within Yorkshire than in slave societies themselves. While powerful analogies were made between slavery and industrialization, they were cast in abstract moral terms which blunted the potential edge of class conflict, attacked alleged parvenus and endorsed concerns for a stable social hierarchy. The Yorkshire elections testify to the plasticity of public emotion about ending the slave trade in 1807 and suggest that we need to re-evaluate interpretations of abolition sentiment that regard it as either as a radicalizing force or as a distraction that muted political dissent in an industrializing economy.