Thomas Clarkson

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Thomas Clarkson in 1788

Thomas Clarkson (28 March 1760 – 26 September 1846) was an English abolitionist, and a leading campaigner against the slave trade in the British Empire. He helped found The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade (also known as the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade) and helped achieve passage of the Slave Trade Act 1807, which ended British trade in slaves.


  • About this time two others, men of great talents and learning, promoted the cause of the injured Africans, by the manner in which they introduced them to notice in their respective works.
    Dr. Adam Smith, in his Theory of Moral Sentiments, had, so early as the year 1759, held them up in an honourable, and their tyrants in a degrading light. "There is not a Negro from the coast of Africa, who does not, in this respect, possess a degree of magnanimity which the soul of his sordid master is too often scarce capable of conceiving. Fortune never exerted more cruelly her empire over mankind, than when she subjected those nations of heroes to the refuse of the gaols of Europe, to wretches who possess the virtue neither of the countries they came from, nor of those they go to, and whose levity, brutality, and baseness so justly expose them to the contempt of the vanquished." And now, in 1776, in his Wealth of Nations he showed in a forcible manner (for he appealed to the interest of those concerned,) the dearness of African labour; or the impolicy of employing slaves.
    • The History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade by the British Parliament, p. 75 (1808) [1][2]
  • "It appears first, that liberty is a natural, and government an adventitious right, because all men were originally free."
    • An essay on the slavery and commerce of the human species, particularly the African, translated from a Latin Dissertation, p. 54 (1788) [3]

Quotes about Thomas Clarkson

  • Slaveholders, the world over, have sung the praises of their tender mercies towards their slaves. Even the wretches that plied the African slave trade, tried to rebut Clarkson's proofs of their cruelties, by speeches, affidavits, and published pamphlets, setting forth the accommodations of the "middle passage," and their kind attentions to the comfort of those whom they had stolen from their homes, and kept stowed away under hatches, during a voyage of four thousand miles.
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