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Impact of Thomas Clarkson on Literature

Contribution to Antislavery

Thomas Clarkson was a white-European abolitionist born on March 28, 1760 (BBC Inc). Thoma’s history in the Abolition of the slave trade contains a list of bibliography of imaginative literature which helped in the cause of Abolition. The modern studies by a wide range of authors, such as Hoxie Neal Fairchild, Wylie Sypher, and Richard M. Kain, have unearthed and studied all the imaginative literature from the 18th and 19th centuries (Greenblatt et al., 139). In addition, he was a brilliant writer who wrote his first paper, “is it right to make men slaves against their will?” which opened a forum on his quest to start a campaign to end the slave trade. After joining hands with several committee members, Clarkson was tasked to interview 20,000 sailors at the British ports on their types of equipment and how the instruments were used in forcing the slave trade in the country (Harter). Later that year, Clarkson published a pamphlet summarizing his view on the slave trade and other possible consequences of its Abolition after collecting facts. From the evidence gathered, an anti-slavery campaign was launched by Wilberforce in parliament.

Furthermore, Clarkson distributed his evidence on African trade to the broad public and the parliament, as his writing was not limited to Britain. He would travel to France to persuade the government to abolish the slave trade, presenting many books and pamphlets (Reed). His travel to Manchester was mainly based on religion. He argued that slavery violated most of the fundamental principles of Christianity, and there was no moral justice in forcing and transporting human beings from their homes to become the property of other men. Most of the travels had little success, leading to his physical breakdown.

Clarkson devoted all his efforts to fighting slavery as he was a vital driving force from his collection of evidence, pamphleteering, addressing congregations, and raising funds for the cause. He was instrumental for 50 years with other individuals, hence being credited for the Abolition of the slave trade (Harter). Lastly, he inspired most people, such as Samuel Taylor, who described him as the campaigns’ moral steam engine. Having been a Christian, his association with the Quakers affected his religion which contributed to him renouncing Anglican orders but did not become a Quaker but resulted in published “Portraiture of Quakerism,” which was successful in 1813 (Reed). The Quakers believed that every human being had an element of the divine (that of God) within them, and slavery inevitably was unacceptable hence the need for equality. Moreover, violence and injustices experienced during enslavement were contradicting the Quaker’s peace testimony.

Contribution to Literature

Being a brilliant writer, he published a book on the “History of the Abolition of the African slave” trade after the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807 (Harter). During this era, he was recognized as a public figure and a founder of philanthropy. In 1808 he published another book on History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade that provided historians with many details on the abolition campaign and vital records of the movement (BBC Inc ). Moreover, recent historians also recognize the excellent tone of the work used to foster the myth of virtuous philanthropy of the anti-slavery saints. Clarkson’s dedication to the abolition cause is undoubted.

As a result of Clarkson’s unrelenting efforts, Viscount Castlereagh managed to secure the condemnation of the trade by other European powers in 1815, which later led to Clarkson’s appointment as the vice president of the Anti-Slavery Society in 1823 (Reed). After being unsatisfied with the procedures passed by parliament, he joined forces with Fowell Buxton. He formed the Society for Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of slavery since the English government was not efficient in abolishing the slave trade. Despite his persistence in fighting the slave trade, Clarkson had to wait until 1833 for parliament to pass the Slave Abolition Act that granted freedom to all enslaved people in the British Empire (Greenblatt et al., 141). The formed society was used politically to sponsor the First World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840, succeeded by the British and other Anti-slavery societies (BBC Inc). He established a relationship between travel literature and the slave trade by making self-records.


Clarkson’s dedication to the abolition cause is undoubted despite his physical condition. He was devoted to abolishing the slave trade at all costs by forming Anti-slavery societies, which were utilized politically in granting Africans their freedom. Moreover, he would travel to France and Manchester to address different congregations with the aim of ending slavery. He was joining forces with Wilberforce, who pushed the motion in parliament. He helped in the Abolition of slavery in Britain despite the difficulties encountered while dealing with the English government. In addition, Clarkson contributed to the literature by providing a wide range of books and pamphlets that laid a solid foundation for modern historians. Through his records and gathered evidence, the current historians have a strong foundation while addressing contemporary issues in society.

Works Cited

BBC Inc. “Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846).” BBC, 18 Feb. 2011,

Greenblatt, Stephen, and Carol T. Christ, eds. The Norton Anthology of English literature. Vol. 1. WW Norton & Company, 2012.

Harter, Christopher. “Clarkson, Thomas (1760-1846).” Amistad Research Center, 2012,

Reed, Lawrence W. “Main Essay: Thomas Clarkson.” Mackinac Center, 2005,


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