William Smeal

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William Smeal
William Smeal.jpg
Smeal in 1865
Died1877 (aged 84–85)
Known forfounding the Glasgow Emancipation Society
FamilyJane Smeal

William Smeal (1792–1877) was a grocer and an abolitionist Quaker from Glasgow.


William Smeal was born in 1792. He and his brother James were both grocers and were active in the anti-slavery movement in Scotland.[1] He is credited with founding the Glasgow Anti-Slavery Society, forerunner of the Glasgow Emancipation Society, in 1822.[2] He was noted as a tea merchant,[3] and his sister Jane Smeal was also a leading abolitionist.[2]

Smeal attended the week-long World Anti-Slavery conference in 1840. His presence there was captured in a portrait, where he appears alongside other Quakers such as Josiah Forster, businessmen such as Tapper Cadbury and Samuel Fox, bankers such as George Head Head, and other prominent abolitionists from a number of countries including America, South Africa and Jamaica. The meeting had been organised by Joseph Sturge from Birmingham.

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 Augustus CoxAbraham BeaumontSamuel Fox, Nottingham grocerLouis Celeste LecesneJonathan BackhouseSamuel BowlyWilliam Dawes - Ohio fund raiserRobert Kaye Greville - BotanistJoseph Pease - reformer in India)W.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 - AmericanJean-Baptiste Symphor Linstant de Pradine 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)
Smeal is on the right at the back in this painting which is of the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention.[4] Move your cursor to identify him or click icon to enlarge


William Smeal's family were unusual in Scotland for being Quakers. In 1851 a census found that there were fewer than 400 practising Quakers in Scotland.[5]

Smeal died in 1877, and his obituary recorded his interests in opposing injustice throughout his life. He opposed the corn laws, alcohol, stamp duties, capital punishment, war and slavery. He has been considered a model of a Quaker's contribution to public life.[5] His sister Jane was a leader of the anti-slavery movement, and her stepdaughter Eliza Wigham was a noted campaigner for abolitionism and women's rights.[3]


  1. ^ Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914, The Glasgow Story, accessed September 2012
  2. ^ a b Women on the Platform, DRBs Scottish Women’s History Group, retrieved 3 June 2015
  3. ^ a b Emancipation and the American Civil War, National Library of Scotland, accessed 16 January 2010
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ a b Pickering, Paul A; Alex Tyrrell (2000). The people's bread: a history of the Anti-Corn Law League p 55. Leicester University Press. p. 304. ISBN 978-0-7185-0218-8. Retrieved 16 January 2010.