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Clarkson, Thomas (1760–1846)

Srividhya Swaminathan


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Thomas Clarkson was one of only a few men who actively participated in both British campaigns for abolition: abolition of the slave trade and abolition of slavery. Born in Cambridgeshire, Clarkson attended the grammar school where his father was headmaster and later attended St. John's College in Cambridge. Though he was a good student, Clarkson's real academic accomplishment came when he won his second Latin essay prize for his Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, Particularly the African (1785). In researching this work, Clarkson studied the writing of earlier anti-slavery writers like Anthony Benezet , and he conceived a genuine horror for the practice of slavery. After completing his studies at Cambridge, Clarkson moved to London in order to pursue the anti-slavery cause . He became involved with the circle of Quaker abolitionists who had already submitted one petition for abolition of the slave trade in 1783. He also developed a strong friendship with Granville Sharp and through him would later become involved in the Sierra Leone project . The Quaker publisher James Phillips published his translated essay in 1786 and copies were distributed throughout London to sympathetic audiences. In 1787 he made the acquaintance of a dynamic MP named William Wilberforce and enlisted his aid in bringing the idea of abolition before Parliament. In 1788 Clarkson ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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