World Anti-Slavery Convention

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Isaac Crewdson (Beaconite) writerSamuel Jackman Prescod - Barbadian JournalistWilliam Morgan from BirminghamWilliam Forster - Quaker leaderGeorge Stacey - Quaker leaderWilliam Forster - Anti-Slavery ambassadorJohn Burnet -Abolitionist SpeakerWilliam Knibb -Missionary to JamaicaJoseph Ketley from GuyanaGeorge Thompson - UK & US abolitionistJ. Harfield Tredgold - British South African (secretary)Josiah Forster - Quaker leaderSamuel Gurney - the Banker's BankerSir John Eardley-WilmotDr Stephen Lushington - MP and JudgeSir Thomas Fowell BuxtonJames Gillespie Birney - AmericanJohn BeaumontGeorge Bradburn - Massachusetts politicianGeorge William Alexander - Banker and TreasurerBenjamin Godwin - Baptist activistVice Admiral MoorsonWilliam TaylorWilliam TaylorJohn MorrisonGK PrinceJosiah ConderJoseph SoulJames Dean (abolitionist)John Keep - Ohio fund raiserJoseph EatonJoseph Sturge - Organiser from BirminghamJames WhitehorneJoseph MarriageGeorge BennettRichard AllenStafford AllenWilliam Leatham, bankerWilliam BeaumontSir Edward Baines - JournalistSamuel LucasFrancis August CoxAbraham BeaumontSamuel Fox, Nottingham grocerLouis Celeste LecesneJonathan BackhouseSamuel BowlyWilliam Dawes - Ohio fund raiserRobert Kaye Greville - BotanistJoseph Pease, railway pioneerW.T.BlairM.M. Isambert (sic)Mary Clarkson -Thomas Clarkson's daughter in lawWilliam TatumSaxe Bannister - PamphleteerRichard Davis Webb - IrishNathaniel Colver - Americannot knownJohn Cropper - Most generous LiverpudlianThomas ScalesWilliam JamesWilliam WilsonThomas SwanEdward Steane from CamberwellWilliam BrockEdward BaldwinJonathon MillerCapt. Charles Stuart from JamaicaSir John Jeremie - JudgeCharles Stovel - BaptistRichard Peek, ex-Sheriff of LondonJohn SturgeElon GalushaCyrus Pitt GrosvenorRev. Isaac BassHenry SterryPeter Clare -; sec. of Literary & Phil. Soc. ManchesterJ.H. JohnsonThomas PriceJoseph ReynoldsSamuel WheelerWilliam BoultbeeDaniel O'Connell - "The Liberator"William FairbankJohn WoodmarkWilliam Smeal from GlasgowJames Carlile - Irish Minister and educationalistRev. Dr. Thomas BinneyEdward Barrett - Freed slaveJohn Howard Hinton - Baptist ministerJohn Angell James - clergymanJoseph CooperDr. Richard Robert Madden - IrishThomas BulleyIsaac HodgsonEdward SmithSir John Bowring - diplomat and linguistJohn EllisC. Edwards Lester - American writerTapper Cadbury - Businessmannot knownThomas PinchesDavid Turnbull - Cuban linkEdward AdeyRichard BarrettJohn SteerHenry TuckettJames Mott - American on honeymoonRobert Forster (brother of William and Josiah)Richard RathboneJohn BirtWendell Phillips - AmericanM. L'Instant from HaitiHenry Stanton - AmericanProf William AdamMrs Elizabeth Tredgold - British South AfricanT.M. McDonnellMrs John BeaumontAnne Knight - FeministElizabeth Pease - SuffragistJacob Post - Religious writerAnne Isabella, Lady Byron - mathematician and estranged wifeAmelia Opie - Novelist and poetMrs Rawson - Sheffield campaignerThomas Clarkson's grandson Thomas ClarksonThomas MorganThomas Clarkson - main speakerGeorge Head Head - Banker from CarlisleWilliam AllenJohn ScobleHenry Beckford - emancipated slave and abolitionistUse your cursor to explore (or Click "i" to enlarge)World Anti-Slavery Convention
1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention. [1] Move your cursor to identify delegates or click the icon to enlarge
  1. ^ The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1841, National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG599, Given by British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1880

The World Anti-Slavery Convention met for the first time at Exeter Hall in London, on 12–23 June 1840. [1] It was organised by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, largely on the initiative of the English Quaker Joseph Sturge. [1] [2] The exclusion of women from the convention had important ramifications for the women's suffrage movement in the United States. [3]



Engraving depicting the exterior of Exeter Hall, reproduced on a 1905 postcard. Exeter Hall.jpg
Engraving depicting the exterior of Exeter Hall, reproduced on a 1905 postcard.

The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was principally a Quaker society founded in the eighteenth century by Thomas Clarkson. The slave trade had been abolished throughout the British Empire in 1807. In August 1833 the British government passed the Slavery Abolition Act, advocated by William Wilberforce, which abolished slavery in the British Empire from August 1834, when some 800,000 people in the British empire became free. [4]

Similarly, in the 1830s many women and men in America acted on their religious convictions and moral outrage to become a part of the abolitionist movement. Many women in particular responded to William Lloyd Garrison's invitation to become involved in the American Anti-Slavery Society. They were heavily involved, attending meetings and writing petitions. Arthur Tappan and other conservative members of the society objected to women engaging in politics publicly.

Given the perceived need for a society to campaign for anti-slavery worldwide, the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (BFASS) was accordingly founded in 1839. [1] One of its first significant deeds was to organize the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840: "Our expectations, we confess, were high, and the reality did not disappoint them." [5] The preparations for this event had begun in 1839, when the Society circulated an advertisement inviting delegates to participate in the convention. [1] Over 200 of the official delegates were British. The next largest group was the Americans, with around 50 delegates. Only small numbers of delegates from other nations attended. [1]

The circular message, distributed in 1839 provoked a controversial response from American opponents of slavery. The Garrisonian faction supported the participation of women in the anti-slavery movement. They were opposed by the supporters of Arthur and Lewis Tappan. When the latter group sent a message to the BFASS opposing the inclusion of women, a second circular was issued in February 1840 which explicitly stated that the meeting was limited to "gentlemen". [1]

Despite an earlier statement that women would not be admitted, many American and British female abolitionists, including Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lady Byron, appeared at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. Wendell Phillips proposed that female delegates should be admitted, and much of the first day of the convention was devoted to discussing whether they should be allowed to participate. [1] Published reports from the convention noted "The upper end and one side of the room were appropriated to ladies, of whom a considerable number were present, including several female abolitionist from the United States." The women were allowed to watch and listen from the spectators gallery but could not take part.

Benjamin Robert Haydon painted The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840 a year after the event that today is in the National Portrait Gallery. This very large and detailed work shows Alexander as Treasurer of the new Society. [6] The painting portrays the 1840 meeting and was completed the next year. [7] The new society's mission was "The universal extinction of slavery and the slave trade and the protection of the rights and interests of the enfranchised population in the British possessions and of all persons captured as slaves." [6]

Proceedings (incomplete)

The convention's organising committee had asked the Reverend Benjamin Godwin to prepare a paper on the ethics of slavery. [8] The convention unanimously accepted his paper which condemned not just slavery but also the world's religious leaders and every community who had failed to condemn the practise. The convention resolved to write to every religious leader to share this view. The convention called on every religious communities to eject any supporters of slavery from their midst. [9]

George William Alexander reported on his visits in 1839, with James Whitehorn, to Sweden and the Netherlands to discuss the conditions of slaves in the Dutch colonies and in Suriname. In Suriname, he reported, there were over 100,000 slaves with an annual attrition rate of twenty per cent. The convention prepared open letters of protest to the respective sovereigns. [5]

Joseph Pease spoke and accused the British government of being complicit in the continuing existence of slavery in India. [10]


After leaving the convention on the first day, being denied full access to the proceedings, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, " walked home arm in arm, commenting on the incidents of the day, we resolved to hold a convention as soon as we returned home, and form a society to advocate the rights of women." Eight years later they did, hosting the Seneca Falls Convention in Seneca Falls, New York.

One hundred years later the Women's Centennial Congress was held in America to celebrate the progress that women had made since they were prevented from speaking at this conference.

Incomplete list of delegates (and women who attended)

DelegateCountryIn painting?Comments
Prof William Adam UKvery top rightProfessor
Edward Adey UKvery far rightBaptist Minister
George William Alexander UKleftFinancier
Richard Allen UKrightPhilanthropist
Stafford Allen UKleft midPhilanthropist
William Allen UKfront mid leftScientist
Sir Edward Baines UKleftMember of Parliament
Edward Baldwin UKright frontFormer Attorney-General of New South Wales
Saxe Bannister UKrightPamphleteer
Edward (Jonas) Barrett USfar rightFormer Slave
Richard Barrett Jamaicavery far right
Isaac Bass UKfar right
Henry Beckford Jamaicafront centreFormer Slave
Abraham Beaumont UKleft
Mrs John Beaumont UKfront far right
William Beaumont UKleft
George Bennett UKright front
Rev. Dr. Thomas Binney UKfar rightMinister
James Gillespie Birney USleftAttorney
John Birt USback far right
Jonathan Backhouse UKleftBanker
W. T. Blair UKmid
William Boulbee UKfar right
Samuel Bowly UKfar left backAdvocate
George Bradburn USleftMinister
William Brock UKrbbbMinister
John Burnet UKmidMinister
Anne Isabella, Lady Byron UKbonneted far right
Tapper Cadbury UKright back rowBusinessman
Mary Clarkson UKbonnet leftSpeaker's daughter in law
Thomas Clarkson UKmain speakerAbolitionist Speaker
Nathaniel Colver USrightMinister
Josiah Conder UK?Author
Daniel O'Connell Irelandfar leftMember of Parliament
Francis Augustus Cox UKleftMinister
Isaac Crewdson UKback rowMinister
John Cropper UKright frontPhilanthropist
William Dawes UKfar leftRoyal Marine Officer
James Dean US??Professor
Sir John Eardley-Wilmot, 1st Baronet UKmid leftMember of Parliament
Joseph Eaton UK?
John Ellis UKfar rightMember of Parliament
William Forster UKfrontMinister
Josiah Forster UKfront mid rightPhilanthropist
Samuel Gurney UKunder speakerBanker
George Head Head UKFront rightBanker
François-André Isambert FrancemidLawyer
Rev. John Keep US?Minister
William Knibb Jamaicafront mid rightMinister
Samuel Jackman Prescod Barbadosfront middleJournalist
William Morgan UKmiddle frontLawyer
William Harris Murch UKyesMinister
John Scoble Canadafront rightLawyer
Joseph Ketley Guyanafront rightMinister
George Stacey UKfrontMinister
George Thompson UK & USfront mid rightMember of Parliament
J. Harfield Tredgold South Africaunder speakerChemist
Stephen Lushington UKleftMember of Parliament
Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, 1st Baronet UKleftMember of Parliament
Benjamin Godwin UKmidMinister
Vice Admiral Constantine Richard Moorsom UKleftRoyal Navy Officer
William Taylor UKmid
John Morrison UKmid
Dr George Prince UK?
Joseph Soul UK???Reformer
Joseph Sturge UKleft frontMinister
James Whitehorne Jamaica?
Joseph Marriage UKleft front
William Leatham UKleftBanker
Samuel Lucas UKleftJournalist
Samuel Fox UKleft back
Louis Celeste Lecesne UKleft back
Robert Greville UKfar leftBotanist
Joseph Pease UKmid rightMinister
William Tatum UKright
Richard D. Webb UKrightPublisher
Rev. Thomas Scales UKright frontMinister
William James UKrightMinister
William Wilson UKright
Rev. Thomas Swan UKrightBaptist Minister
Rev. Edward Steane UKrightMinister
Colonel Jonathon Miller USright frontUnited States Army Officer
Captain Charles Stuart JamaicarightRoyal Navy Officer
Sir John Jeremie ColoniesrbbbJudge
Charles Stovel UKfar right frontMinister
Richard Peek UKfar right frontSheriff of London
John Sturge UKfar right
Robert Forster UKvery far rightPhilanthropist
Elon Galusha USrightLawyer
Cyrus Pitt Grosvenor USfar rightMinister
Henry Sterry (committee) UKfar right
Peter Clare UKfar right
Rev. J.H. Johnson UKfar right
Dr. Thomas Price UKfar right
Joseph ReynoldsUKfar right
Samuel Wheeler UKfar right
Wiliam Fairbank UKfar right
Rev. John Woodmark UKfar right
William Smeal UKfar rightMinister
James Carlile Irelandfar rightMinister
John Howard Hinton UKfar rightMinister
John Angell James Irelandfar rightMinister
Joseph Cooper UKfar right
Dr. Richard Robert Madden Ireland/ Jamaicafar rightDoctor
Alderman Thomas Bulley UKfar right
Isaac Hodgson UKfar right
Edward Smith UKfar right
Sir John Bowring UKfar rightMember of Parliament
Anne Knight UKbonneted far rightWright
C. Edwards Lester USfar rightWriter
Thomas Pinches ?far right
David Turnbull UKfar rightAuthor
John Steer UKvery far right
Henry Tuckett UKvery far right
James Mott [11] USvery far rightMerchant
Richard Rathbone UKvery far rightBusinessman
Wendell Phillips USvery far rightAttorney
M. L'Instant Haitifront far right
Henry Stanton USfront far rightAttorney
Mrs Elizabeth Tredgold South Africanback row right
T.M. McDonnell UKvery far rightMinister
Mary Anne Rawson UKfar right
Elizabeth Pease UKvery far rightSuffragist
Jacob Post UKvery far rightMinister
Amelia Opie UKfront far rightNovelist
Rev. Thomas Morgan UKmid rightMinister
Elizabeth Cady Stanton [12] USNomarried to Henry Stanton
Elizabeth Jesser Reid ??No
Norton Strange Townshend USNoDoctor
Rev. A Harvey [13] UKNoMinister
Mary Grew [11] USNo
Lucretia Mott [11] USNo
Eliza Wigham UKNo
Abby Southwick [11] USNo
Henry Grew [11] USNoTeacher
Elizabeth Ann Ashurst Bardonneau [14] UKNo
William H. Ashurst [15] UKNoSolicitor
Sir George Strickland, 7th Baronet [16] UKNoMember of Parliament
Thomas Hodgkin [17] UKNoDoctor
William Busfield [17] UKNoMember of Parliament
Ellis Cunliffe Lister [17] UKNoMember of Parliament
Gerrit Smith [17] UKNoPhilanthropist
James Canning Fuller [17] USNo
Samuel Joseph May [17] USNoMinister
John Greenleaf Whittier [17] USNoPoet
Cornelius Manning [17] UKNoPhilanthropist
Charles Pelham Villiers [17] UKNoMember of Parliament
Matilda Ashurst Biggs [18] UKNo
Lucy Townsend [19] UKNo
Elizabeth Neall [11] USNo
Ann Greene Phillips [11] USNo
Charles Lenox Remond [20] USNoFreeman
Nathaniel Peabody Rogers [20] USNoPublisher
Benjamin Barron Wiffen [21] UKNoBusinessman
Emily Winslow [11] USNo
Isaac Winslow [11] USNoPolitician


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 McDaniel, W. Caleb (2007). "World's Anti-Slavery Convention". In Peter P. Hinks; John R. McKivigan; R. Owen Williams. Encyclopedia of Antislavery and Abolition. 2. Greenwood. pp. 760–762. ISBN   0313331448.
  2. Maynard 1960, p. 452.
  3. Sklar 2057, p. 453.
  4. Slavery and Abolition, ODNB, accessed 10 July 2008
  5. 1 2 The Dublin Magazine, 1840 accessed 13 July 2008
  6. 1 2 "> The Baptist Magazine, 786, 1854, accessed 10 July 2008
  7. Paper presented to the General Anti-Slavery Convention, Rev. Benjamin Godwin, 1840
  8. The Baptist Magazine, page 374, retrieved 24 July 2014
  9. Madhavi Kale (1 January 1998). Fragments of Empire: Capital, Slavery, and Indian Indentured Labor Migration in the British Caribbean. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 120. ISBN   0-8122-3467-7.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Mary Grew, Abolitionist and Feminist, 1813–1896, accessed 19 July 2008
  11. "Women's Rights". Retrieved 2015-10-02.
  12. DOCUMENT 4 (1: 53–62): World's Anti-Slavery Convention, London, England, June 1840, accessed February 2013
  13. Jonathan Spain, ‘Ashurst, Elizabeth Ann [Eliza] (c.1814–1850)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 30 July 2015
  14. Matthew Lee, ‘Ashurst, William Henry (bap. 1791?, d. 1855)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 30 July 2015
  15. BFASS Convention 1840, List of delegates, Retrieved 2 August 2015
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 BFASS Convention 1840, List of delegates, Retrieved 27 August 2015
  17. Jonathan Spain, ‘Biggs, Matilda Ashurst (1816/17–1866)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2011 accessed 30 July 2015
  18. Clare Midgley, ‘Townsend , Lucy (1781–1847)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 30 July 2015
  19. 1 2 [A Collection from the Miscellaneous Writings of Nathaniel Peabody Rogers], N.P.Rogers, 1949, p106, accessed April 2009
  20. Truman, R. W. "Wiffen, Benjamin Barron". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/29361.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)


Further reading