of Thomas Clarkson.
Clarkson (1760-1846) was
one of the early British abolitionists. He
interested William Wilberforce in the issue. He
was a leading
member of each of the three early Anti-Slavery
Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade
(later, the Society for the Abolition of the Slave
Trade) founded in 1787;
Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of
Slavery throughout the British Dominions, founded in
British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, founded in
worked tirelessly, gathering evidence for
Wilberforce. His most famous work is his drawing
of the hold of 'The Crookes', a slave ship, showing how
slaves were tightly packed together for the Middle
Passage. You can see a reproduction of his drawing
in almost every child's history book.
survived an assassination attempt by slavers.
the Slave Trade Bill 1807 was passed, the great English
poet, William Wordsworth, wrote his poem about Clarkson,
which starts with the words:
"CLARKSON! it was an obstinate hill to climb".
next task was the abolition of slavery itself, which was
finally achieved by the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.
painting above by Benjamin Robert Haydon, a major portrait
painter of his day, shows Thomas Clarkson addressing the
World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840.
Haydon describes the scene:
aged Clarkson came in, grey and bent, leaning on
Joseph Sturge for support, and approached with feeble
and tottering steps the middle of the
Convention. Many had never seen the old man
before, and all bent forward eagerly to observe
him. In a tender, feeble voice [he] appealed to
the assembly for a few minutes' meditation."
uttered a short prayer and the World Convention
responded: "Amen, Amen", most of whom were
apparently in tears. Haydon felt that the
"Amen" seemed to be the "death-warrant of
slavery all over the earth."
can see the painting, which is a large canvas with
portraits of the leading American and British
abolitionists of the day (as well as delegates from
France, Jamaica, Haiti and other countries), in the
National Portrait Gallery in London.
Clarkson died in 1846. There is a memorial to him in Westminster
Abbey in London.
brother, John Clarkson, was in charge of the original
colony in Sierra Leone established for freed slaves.
Reverend Canon John Clarkson — a
direct descendant of Thomas Clarkson — is a
Member of the Society's Board of Trustees.
Society wishes to express its appreciation to Hilda
McDonnell, Harry Finley, Mrs Wendyann
and David Keeling for their valuable assistance in
making corrections to
errors on this page.
to other pages dealing with the abolition of slavery in
the British Empire:
campaign against slavery
Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786-1846)
Trade Act 1807
Trade Act 1824
Trade Act 1843
Abolition Act 1833
to pages dealing with the abolition of slavery in the
Amendment to the Bill of Rights
to pages dealing with the abolition of slavery in other
to other pages dealing with slavery:
slavery still exist?