Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IX. - The History of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade, vol. 1
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CHAPTER IX. - Thomas Clarkson, The History of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade, vol. 1 
The History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade by the British Parliament, 2 vols. (London: L. Taylor, 1808). Vol. 1.
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Continuation of the fourth class of forerunners and coadjutors up to 1787—Author resolves upon the distribution of his Book—Mr. Sheldon—Sir Herbert Mackworth—Lord Newhaven—Lord Balgonie (now Leven)—Lord Hawke—Bishop Porteus—Author visits African vessels in the Thames—and various persons for further information—Visits also Members of Parliament—Sir Richard Hill—Mr. Powys (late Lord Lilford) Mr. Wilberforce and others—Conduct of the latter on this occasion.
On my return to London, I called upon William Dillwyn, to inform him of the resolution I had made at Tescon, and found him at his town lodgings in the Poultry. I informed him also, that I had a letter of introduction in my pocket from Sir Charles Middleton to Samuel Hoare, with whom I was to converse on the subject. The latter gentleman had interested himself the year before as one of the committee for the Black poor in London, whom Mr. Sharp was sending under the auspices of government to Sierra Leone. He was also, as the reader may see by looking back, a member of the second class of coadjutors, or of the little committee which had branched out of the Quakers in England as before described. William Dillwyn said he would go with me and introduce me himself. On our arrival in Lombard-street, I saw my new friend, with whom we conversed for some time. From thence I proceeded, accompanied by both, to the house of James Phillips in George-yard, to whom I was desirous of communicating my resolution also. We found him at home, conversing with a friend of the same religious society, whose name was Joseph Gurney Bevan. I then repeated my resolution before them all. We had much friendly and satisfactory conversation together. I received much encouragement on every side, and I fixed to meet them again at the place where we then were in three days.
On the evening of the same day I waited upon Granville Sharp to make the same communication to him. He received it with great pleasure, and he hoped I should have strength to proceed. From thence I went to the Baptist-head coffee-house, in Chancerylane, and having engaged with the master of the house, that I should always have one private room to myself when I wanted it, I took up my abode there, in order to be near my friend Richard Phillips of Lincoln’s Inn, from whose advice and assistance I had formed considerable expectations.
The first matter for our deliberation, after we had thus become neighbours, was, what plan I ought to pursue to give effect to the resolution I had taken.
After having discussed the matter two or three times at his chambers, it seemed to be our opinion, That, as members of the legislature could do more to the purpose in this question than any other persons, it would be proper to circulate all the remaining copies of my work among these, in order that they might thus obtain information upon the subject. Secondly, That it would be proper that I should wait personally upon several of these also. And thirdly, That I should be endeavouring in the interim to enlarge my own knowledge, that I might thus be enabled to answer the various objections, which might be advanced on the other side of the question, as well as become qualified to be a manager of the cause.
On the third day, or at the time appointed, I went with Richard Phillips to Georgeyard, Lombard-street, where I met all my friends as before. I communicated to them the opinion we had formed at Lincoln’s Inn, relative to my future proceedings in the three different branches as now detailed. They approved the plan. On desiring a number of my books to be sent to me at my new lodgings for the purpose of distribution, Joseph Gurney Bevan, who was stated to have been present at the former interview, seemed uneasy, and at length asked me if I was going to distribute these at my own expense. I replied, I was. He appealed immediately to those present whether it ought to be allowed. He asked whether, when a young man was giving up his time from morning till night, they, who applauded his pursuit and seemed desirous of cooperating with him, should allow him to make such a sacrifice, or whether they should not at least secure him from loss; and he proposed directly that the remaining part of the edition should be taken off by subscription, and, in order that my feelings might not be hurt from any supposed stain arising from the thought of gaining any thing by such a proposal, they should be paid for only at the prime cost. I felt myself much obliged to him for this tender consideration about me, and particularly for the latter part of it, under which alone I accepted the offer. Samuel Hoare was charged with the management of the subscription, and the books were to be distributed as I had proposed, and in any way which I myself might prescribe.
This matter having been determined upon, my first care was that the books should be put into proper hands. Accordingly I went round among my friends from day to day, wishing to secure this before I attended to any of the other objects. In this I was much assisted by my friend Richard Phillips. Mr. Langton began the distribution of them. He made a point either of writing to or of calling upon those, to whom he sent them. Dr. Baker took the charge of several for the same purpose. Lord and Lady Scarsdale of others. Sir Charles and Lady Middleton of others. Mr. Sheldon, at the request of Richard Phillips, introduced me by letter to several members of parliament, to whom I wished to deliver them myself. Sir Herbert Mackworth, when spoken to by the latter, offered his services also. He seemed to be particularly interested in the cause. He went about to many of his friends in the House of Commons, and this from day to day, to procure their favour towards it. Lord Newhaven was applied to, and distributed some. Lord Balgonie (now Leven) took a similar charge. The late Lord Hawke, who told me that he had long felt for the sufferings of the injured Africans, desired to be permitted to take his share of the distribution among members of the House of Lords, and Dr. Porteus, now bishop of London, became another coadjutor in the same work.
This distribution of my books having been consigned to proper hands, I began to qualify myself, by obtaining further knowledge, for the management of this great cause. As I had obtained the principal part of it from reading, I thought I ought now to see what could be seen, and to know from living persons what could be known, on the subject. With respect to the first of these points, the river Thames presented itself as at hand. Ships were going occasionally from the port of London to Africa, and why could I not get on board them and examine for myself? After diligent inquiry, I heard of one which had just arrived. I found her to be a little wood-vessel, called the Lively, captain Williamson, or one which traded to Africa in the natural productions of the country, such as ivory, beeswax, Malaguetta pepper, palm-oil, and dyewoods. I obtained specimens of some of these, so that I now became possessed of some of those things of which I had only read before. On conversing with the mate, he showed me one or two pieces of the cloth made by the natives, and from their own cotton. I prevailed upon him to sell me a piece of each. Here new feelings arose, and particularly when I considered that persons of so much apparent ingenuity, and capable of such beautiful work as the Africans, should be made slaves, and reduced to a level with the brute creation. My reflections here on the better use which might be made of Africa by the substitution of another trade, and on the better use which might be made of her inhabitants, served greatly to animate, and to sustain me amidst the labour of my pursuits.
The next vessel I boarded was the Fly, captain Colley:—Here I found myself for the first time on the deck of a slave-vessel.—The sight of the rooms below and of the gratings above, and of the barricado across the deck, and the explanation of the uses of all these, filled me both with melancholy and horror. I found soon afterwards a fire of indignation kindling within me. I had now scarce patience to talk with those on board. I had not the coolness this first time to go leisurely over the places that were open to me.—I got away quickly.—But that which I thought I saw horrible in this vessel had the same effect upon me as that which I thought I had seen agreeable in the other, namely, to animate and to invigorate me in my pursuit.
But I will not trouble the reader with any further account of my water-expeditions, while attempting to perfect my knowledge on this subject. I was equally assiduous in obtaining intelligence wherever it could be had; and being now always on the watch, I was frequently falling in with individuals, from whom I gained something. My object was to see all who been in Africa, but more particularly those who had never been interested, or who at any rate were not then interested, in the trade. I gained accordingly access very early to General Rooke; to Lieutenant Dalrymple, of the army; to Captain Fiddes, of the engineers; to the reverend Mr. Newton; to Mr. Nisbett, a surgeon in the Minories; to Mr. Devaynes, who was then in parliament, and to many others; and I made it a rule to put down in writing, after every conversation, what had taken place in the course of it. By these means things began to unfold themselves to me more and more, and I found my stock of knowledge almost daily on the increase.
While, however, I was forwarding this, I was not inattentive to the other objects of my pursuit, which was that of waiting upon members personally. The first I called upon was Sir Richard Hill.—At the first interview he espoused the cause. I waited then upon others, and they professed themselves friendly; but they seemed to make this profession more from the emotion of good hearts, revolting at the bare mention of the Slave-trade, than from any knowledge concerning it. One, however, whom I visited, Mr. Powys (the late Lord Lilford), with whom I had been before acquainted in Northamptonshire, seemed to doubt some of the facts in my book, from a belief that human nature was not capable of proceeding to such a pitch of wickedness. I asked him to name his facts. He selected the case of the hundred-and-thirty-two slaves who were thrown alive into the sea to defraud the underwriters. I promised to satisfy him fully upon this point, and went immediately to Granville Sharp, who lent me his account of the trial, as reported at large from the notes of the short-hand writer, whom he had employed on the occasion. Mr. Powys read the account.—He became, in consequence of it, convinced, as, indeed, he could not otherwise be, of the truth of what I had asserted, and he declared at the same time that, if this were true, there was nothing so horrible related of this trade, which might not immediately be believed. Mr. Powys had been always friendly to this question, but now he took a part in the distribution of my books.
Among those, whom I visited, was Mr. Wilberforce. On my first interview with him, he stated frankly, that the subject had often employed his thoughts, and that it was near his heart. He seemed earnest about it, and also very desirous of taking the trouble of inquiring further into it. Having read my book, which I had delivered to him in person, he sent for me. He expressed a wish that I would make him acquainted with some of my authorities for the assertions in it, which I did afterwards to his satisfaction. He asked me if I could support it by any other evidence. I told him I could.—I mentioned Mr. Newton, Mr. Nisbett, and several others to him. He took the trouble of sending for all these. He made memorandums of their conversation, and, sending for me afterwards, showed them to me. On learning my intention to devote myself to the cause, he paid me many handsome compliments. He then desired me to call upon him often, and to acquaint him with my progress from time to time. He expressed also his willingness to afford me any assistance in his power in the prosecution of my pursuits.
The carrying on of these different objects, together with the writing which was connected with them, proved very laborious, and occupied almost all my time. I was seldom engaged less than sixteen hours in the day. When I left Teston to begin the pursuit as an object of my life, I promised my friend Mr. Ramsay a weekly account of my progress. At the end of the first week my letter to him contained little more than a sheet of paper. At the end of the second it contained three; at the end of the third six; and at the end of the fourth I found it would be so voluminous, that I was obliged to decline writing it.