World Anti-Slavery Convention

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Isaac Crewdson (Beaconite) writer Samuel Jackman Prescod - Barbadian Journalist William Morgan from Birmingham William Forster - Quaker leader George Stacey - Quaker leader William Forster - Anti-Slavery ambassador John Burnet -Abolitionist Speaker William Knibb -Missionary to Jamaica Joseph Ketley from Guyana George Thompson - UK & US abolitionist J. Harfield Tredgold - British South African (secretary) Josiah Forster - Quaker leader Samuel Gurney - the Banker's Banker Sir John Eardley-Wilmot Dr Stephen Lushington - MP and Judge Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton James Gillespie Birney - American John Beaumont George Bradburn - Massachusetts politician George William Alexander - Banker and Treasurer Benjamin Godwin - Baptist activist Vice Admiral Moorson William Taylor William Taylor John Morrison GK Prince Josiah Conder Joseph Soul James Dean (abolitionist) John Keep - Ohio fund raiser Joseph Eaton Joseph Sturge - Organiser from Birmingham James Whitehorne Joseph Marriage George Bennett Richard Allen Stafford Allen William Leatham, banker William Beaumont Sir Edward Baines - Journalist Samuel Lucas Francis August Cox Abraham Beaumont Samuel Fox, Nottingham grocer Louis Celeste Lecesne Jonathan Backhouse Samuel Bowly William Dawes - Ohio fund raiser Robert Kaye Greville - Botanist Joseph Pease, railway pioneer W.T.Blair M.M. Isambert (sic) Mary Clarkson -Thomas Clarkson's daughter in law William Tatum Saxe Bannister - Pamphleteer Richard Davis Webb - Irish Nathaniel Colver - American not known John Cropper - Most generous Liverpudlian Thomas Scales William James William Wilson Thomas Swan Edward Steane from Camberwell William Brock Edward Baldwin Jonathon Miller Capt. Charles Stuart from Jamaica Sir John Jeremie - Judge Charles Stovel - Baptist Richard Peek, ex-Sheriff of London John Sturge Elon Galusha Cyrus Pitt Grosvenor Rev. Isaac Bass Henry Sterry Peter Clare -; sec. of Literary & Phil. Soc. Manchester J.H. Johnson Thomas Price Joseph Reynolds Samuel Wheeler William Boultbee Daniel O'Connell - "The Liberator" William Fairbank John Woodmark William Smeal from Glasgow James Carlile - Irish Minister and educationalist Rev. Dr. Thomas Binney Edward Barrett - Freed slave John Howard Hinton - Baptist minister John Angell James - clergyman Joseph Cooper Dr. Richard Robert Madden - Irish Thomas Bulley Isaac Hodgson Edward Smith Sir John Bowring - diplomat and linguist John Ellis C. Edwards Lester - American writer Tapper Cadbury - Businessman not known Thomas Pinches David Turnbull - Cuban link Edward Adey Richard Barrett John Steer Henry Tuckett James Mott - American on honeymoon Robert Forster (brother of William and Josiah) Richard Rathbone John Birt Wendell Phillips - American M. L'Instant from Haiti Henry Stanton - American Prof William Adam Mrs Elizabeth Tredgold - British South African T.M. McDonnell Mrs John Beaumont Anne Knight - Feminist Elizabeth Pease - Suffragist Jacob Post - Religious writer Anne Isabella, Lady Byron - mathematician and estranged wife Amelia Opie - Novelist and poet Mrs Rawson - Sheffield campaigner Thomas Clarkson's grandson Thomas Clarkson Thomas Morgan Thomas Clarkson - main speaker George Head Head - Banker from Carlisle William Allen John Scoble Henry Beckford - emancipated slave and abolitionist Use your cursor to explore (or Click "i" to enlarge)
1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention.[1] Move your cursor to identify delegates or click the icon to enlarge

The World Anti-Slavery Convention met for the first time at Exeter Hall in London, on 12–23 June 1840.[2] It was organised by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, largely on the initiative of the English Quaker Joseph Sturge.[2][3] The exclusion of women from the convention had important ramifications for the women's suffrage movement in the United States.[4]


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.[5]

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.[2] 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."[6] The preparations for this event had begun in 1839, when the Society circulated an advertisement inviting delegates to participate in the convention.[2] 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.[2]

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 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".[2]

Despite an earlier statement that women would not be admitted, seven female abolitionists, including Lucretia Mott 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.[2]

A painting of the proceedings was commissioned that today is in the National Portrait Gallery. This very large and detailed work shows Alexander as Treasurer of the new Society.[7] The painting portrays the 1840 meeting and was completed the next year.[1] 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."[7]

Proceedings (incomplete)[edit]

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.[6]

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


Ten years later the National Women's Rights Convention was held in America as a result of women, namely Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who had met here and been denied full access to the proceedings.

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)[edit]

Delegate Country In painting? Comments
AdamProf William Adam US very top right from Massachusetts
AdeyEdward Adey UK very far right from Leighton Buzzard
AlexaGeorge William Alexander UK left Treasurer
Allen RichRichard Allen UK right from Dublin
Allen StaffStafford Allen UK left mid committee
Allen WiWilliam Allen UK front mid left Committee member
BainesSir Edward Baines M.P. UK left News
BaldwEdward Baldwin UK right front from Dublin
BanniSaxe Bannister UK right Pamphleteer
Barrett EdEdward Barrett Freed slave far right former slave
Barrett RiRichard Barrett US very far right
BassIsaac Bass UK far right from Brighton
BeckHenry Beckford Jamaica front centre former slave
Beaumont AbAbraham Beaumont UK left
Beaumont JMrs John Beaumont UK front far right
Beaumont WWilliam Beaumont UK left from Newcastle on Tyne
BenneGeorge Bennett UK right front
BinneRev. Dr. Thomas Binney UK far right from Isle of Wight
BirneyJames Gillespie Birney US left
Birt JoJohn Birt US back far right from New York
BlackhoJonathan Backhouse UK left from Darlington
BlairW.T.Blair UK mid from Bath
BoultWilliam Boulbee UK far right from Birmingham
BowSamuel Bowly UK far left back of Gloucester
BradbGeorge Bradburn US left Massachusetts politician
BrockWilliam Brock UK rbbb from Norwich
BurneJohn Burnet UK mid Abolitionist Speaker
ByronAnne Isabella, Lady Byron UK bonneted far right
CadbuTapper Cadbury UK right back row Businessman
Clarkson MMary Clarkson UK bonnet left Speaker's daughter in law
Clarkson ThThomas Clarkson UK main speaker Abolitionist leader
ColvNathaniel Colver US right
CondJosiah Conder UK  ? Committee
ConnDaniel O'Connell Ireland far left "The Liberator"
Cox FFrancis Augustus Cox UK left
CrewIsaac Crewdson UK back row Beaconite writer
CroppeJohn Cropper UK right front from Liverpool
Dawes WWilliam Dawes UK far left from Ohio
DeanProf. James Dean US?  ? from Vermont
Eardley WSir John Eardley-Wilmot UK mid left MP
EatoJoseph Eaton UK  ? from Bristol
Ellis JJohn Ellis UK far right from Leicester
Forster WWilliam Forster UK front Quaker leader
Forster 2William Forster – UK front Anti-Slavery ambassador
Forster JJosiah Forster UK front mid right Quaker leader
GurneSamuel Gurney UK under speaker the Banker's Banker
HeadGeorge Head Head UK Front right Banker from Carlisle
IsamM.M. Isambert France mid from Paris
KeepRev. John Keep US  ? from Ohio
KnibbWilliam Knibb Jamaica front mid right Missionary
PrescodSamuel Jackman Prescod Barbados front middle Journalist
MorganWilliam Morgan UK middle front from Birmingham
MorganDr. Murch UK yes Baptist Union
ScobJohn Scoble Canada front right
KetlJoseph Ketley Guyana front right
StaceyGeorge Stacey UK front Quaker leader
ThompsGeorge Thompson UK & US front mid right Edinburgh
TredgJ. Harfield Tredgold South Africa under speaker secretary
LushiDr Stephen Lushington UK left MP and Judge
Fowell BSir Thomas Fowell Buxton UK left
GodwRev. B.Godwin UK mid from Oxford
MoorsVice Admiral Moorsom UK left
TaylorWilliam Taylor UK mid
MorriJohn Morrison UK mid
PrincDr George Prince UK  ? from Chesterfield
SoulJoseph Soul  ???  ???
SturgJoseph Sturge UK left front Organiser from Birmingham
WhitehJames Whitehorne Jamaica  ? of Bristol and Jamaica
MarriJoseph Marriage UK left front from Chelmsford
LeathWilliam Leatham UK left
Lucas SSamuel Lucas UK left
Fox SSamuel Fox UK left back
LecesLouis Celeste Lecesne UK left back
GreviRobert Greville UK far left botanist
Pease JoJoseph Pease UK mid right
TatumWilliam Tatum UK right from Rochester and Chatham
WebbRichard D. Webb UK right from Dublin
ScalesRev. Thomas Scales UK right front from Leeds
James WRev. William James UK right from Bridgewater
WilsonWilliam Wilson UK right from Nottingham
Swan TRev. Thomas Swan UK right from Birmingham
SteaneRev. Edward Steane UK right Baptist Union
Miller JCol. Jonathon Miller US right front from Vermont
StuartCapt. Charles Stuart Jamaica right
JeremSir John Jeremie – Judge Colonies rbbb
StowCharles Stovel UK far right front Baptist Union
PeekRichard Peek UK far right front ex Sheriff of London
SturgeJohn Sturge UK far right .
Forster RRobert Forster UK very far right
GaleshElon Galusha US right
GrosvCyrus Pitt Grosvenor US far right
SterrHenry Sterry (committee) UK far right
ClarPeter Clare UK far right sec. of Society in Manchester
Johnson JRev. J.H. Johnson UK far right from Devizes
PriceDr. Thomas Price UK far right committee
ReynoJoseph Reynolds UK far right from Bristol
WheeleSamuel Wheeler UK far right from Rochester
Johnson JWiliam Fairbank UK far right from Sheffield
PriceRev. John Woodmark UK far right committee
ReynoWilliam Smeal UK far right fromGlasgow
Carlile JJames Carlile Ireland far right minister
Hinton JJohn Howard Hinton UK far right Baptist minister
James JJohn Angell James Ireland far right clergyman
Cooper JJoseph Cooper UK far right
MaddenDr. Richard Robert Madden Ireland/ Jamaica far right
BulleyAlderman Thomas Bulley UK far right from Liverpool
HodgeIsaac Hodgson UK far right from Leicester
Smith EEdward Smith UK far right from Sheffield
HodgeSir John Bowring UK far right
KnightAnne Knight – Feminist UK bonneted far right
LesterC. Edwards Lester US far right American writer
PinchThomas Pinches  ? far right from Birmingham
TurnbDavid Turnbull UK far right
SteerJohn Steer UK very far right
TuckeHenry Tuckett UK very far right committee
Mott JJames Mott[11] US very far right
Rathbone RRichard Rathbone UK very far right
Phillips WWendell Phillips US very far right
L'InsM. L'Instant Haiti front far right from Haiti
Stanton HHenry Stanton US front far right
Thredgold EliMrs Elizabeth Tredgold South African back row right
McDonnRev. T.M. McDonnell  ? very far right from Birmingham
Rawson MMary Anne Rawson UK far right from Sheffield
PeaseElizabeth Pease UK very far right Suffragist
PostJacob Post UK very far right Quaker
Opie AAmelia Opie UK front far right Novelist and poet
Morgan ThRev. Thomas Morgan UK mid right from Birmingham
Elizabeth Cady Stanton[12] US No married to Henry Stanton
Reid, Elizabeth JesserElizabeth Jesser Reid  ?? No
Townshend, Norton Strange Norton Strange Townshend US No
Harvey, A Rev A Harvey[13]  ?? No from Glasgow
Grew MMary Grew[11] US No
Mott LLucretia Mott[11] US No
Wigham EEliza Wigham UK No Edinburgh
South AAbby Southwick[11] US No
Grew HHenry Grew[11] US No
Ashurst EElizabeth Ann Ashurst Bardonneau[14] UK No
Ashurst WWilliam H. Ashurst[15] UK No from Darlington..and women's rights
Strickland GeoSir George Strickland, bart[16] UK No
Hodgkin ThomaThomas Hodgkin[17] UK No Dr. representing Aborigines' Protection Society
Busfield WillWilliam Busfield[17] UK No M.P. for Bradford
Lister Ellis CunliEllis Cunliffe Lister[17] UK No M.P. for Bradford
Smith GerrGerrit Smith[17] UK No
Fuller James CJames Canning Fuller[17] US No
May Samuel JSamuel Joseph May[17] US No from Massachusetts
Whittier John GJohn Greenleaf Whittier[17] US No poet from Pennsylvania
Hanbury CornCornelius Manning[17] UK No from Stoke Newington
Villiers ChCharles Pelham Villiers[17] UK No
Biggs MatMatilda Ashurst Biggs[18] UK No
Townsend LucyLucy Townsend[19] UK No
NeallElizabeth Neall[11] US No
Phillips AAnn Greene Phillips[11] US No
Remond CharCharles Lenox Remond[20] US No ex slave
Rogers NatNathaniel Peabody Rogers[20] US No
Wiffen BBBenjamin Barron Wiffen[21] UK No knew about Spain
Winslow EEmily Winslow[11] US No
Winslow IIsaac Winslow[11] US No


  1. ^ a b 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
  2. ^ a b c d e f g 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. 
  3. ^ Maynard 1960, p. 452.
  4. ^ Sklar 1990, p. 453.
  5. ^ Slavery and Abolition, ODNB, accessed 10 July 2008
  6. ^ a b The Dublin Magazine, 1840 accessed 13 July 2008
  7. ^ a b "> The Baptist Magazine, 786, 1854, accessed 10 July 2008
  8. ^ Paper presented to the General Anti-Slavery Convention, Rev. Benjamin Godwin, 1840
  9. ^ The Baptist Magazine, page 374, retrieved 24 July 2014
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mary Grew, Abolitionist and Feminist, 1813–1896, accessed 19 July 2008
  12. ^ "Women's Rights". Retrieved 2015-10-02. 
  13. ^ DOCUMENT 4 (1: 53–62): World's Anti-Slavery Convention, London, England, June 1840, accessed February 2013
  14. ^ Jonathan Spain, ‘Ashurst, Elizabeth Ann [Eliza] (c.1814–1850)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 30 July 2015
  15. ^ Matthew Lee, ‘Ashurst, William Henry (bap. 1791?, d. 1855)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 30 July 2015
  16. ^ BFASS Convention 1840, List of delegates, Retrieved 2 August 2015
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i BFASS Convention 1840, List of delegates, Retrieved 27 August 2015
  18. ^ 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
  19. ^ Clare Midgley, ‘Townsend , Lucy (1781–1847)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 30 July 2015
  20. ^ a b [A Collection from the Miscellaneous Writings of Nathaniel Peabody Rogers], N.P.Rogers, 1949, p106, accessed April 2009
  21. ^ 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.)


  • Maynard, Douglas H. (1960). "The World's Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840". The Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 47 (3): 452–471. JSTOR 1888877. 
  • Sklar, Kathryn Kish (1990). ""Women Who Speak for an Entire Nation": American and British Women Compared at the World Anti-Slavery Convention, London, 1840". Pacific Historical Review. 59 (4): 453–499. doi:10.2307/3640236. JSTOR 3640236. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Kennon, D. R. (1984). "'An apple of discord': The woman question at the world's anti‐slavery convention of 1840". Slavery & Abolition. 5 (3): 244–266. doi:10.1080/01440398408574876. 

External links[edit]