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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 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)
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 gave a great impetus to the women's suffrage movement in the United States.[4]


Engraving depicting the exterior of Exeter Hall, reproduced on a 1909 postcard.

The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade (officially Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade) was principally a Quaker society founded in 1787 by 12 men, nine of whom were Quakers and three Anglicans, one of whom was Thomas Clarkson. Due to their efforts, the international slave trade was abolished throughout the British Empire with the passing of the Slave Trade Act 1807. The Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions, in existence from 1823 to 1838, helped to bring about the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, 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]

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 Wm. 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.[6]

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 organise the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840: "Our expectations, we confess, were high, and the reality did not disappoint them."[7][page needed] 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]

Benjamin Robert Haydon painted The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, a year after the event[6] that today is in the National Portrait Gallery. This very large and detailed work shows Alexander as Treasurer of the new Society.[8][failed verification] 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."[8][9]

The question of women's participation[edit]

The circular message, distributed in 1839, provoked a controversial response from some 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".[2]

Despite the 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. The American Anti-Slavery Society, the Garrisonian faction, made a point to include a woman, Lucretia Mott, and an African American, Charles Lenox Remond, in their delegation.[10] Both the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Societies sent women members as their delegates, including Abigail Kimber, Elizabeth Neall, Mary Grew, and Sarah Pugh.[10] Cady Stanton was not herself a delegate; she was in England on her honeymoon, accompanying her husband Henry Brewster Stanton, who was a delegate. (Notably, he was aligned with the American faction that opposed women's equality.)[10] 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] 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 abolitionists from the United States." The women were allowed to watch and listen from the spectators gallery but could not take part.[6]

In sympathy with the excluded women, the Americans William Garrison, Charles Lenox Remond, Nathaniel P. Rogers, and William Adams refused to take their seat as delegates as well, and joined the women in the spectators' gallery.

Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who eight years later organized the Seneca Falls Convention, met at this convention.

Proceedings (incomplete)[edit]

The convention's organising committee had asked the Reverend Benjamin Godwin to prepare a paper on the ethics of slavery.[11] 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 practice. The convention resolved to write to every religious leader to share this view. The convention called on all religious communities to eject any supporters of slavery from their midst.[12]

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.[7]

Joseph Pease spoke and accused the British government of being complicit in the continuing existence of slavery in India.[13]


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, [and] 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 hosted the Seneca Falls Convention in Seneca Falls, New York.[9]

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]

The official list of delegates has 493 names.[14]

Delegate Country In painting? Comments
AdamProf William Adam UK very top right Professor
AdeyEdward Adey UK very far right Baptist Minister
AlexaGeorge William Alexander UK left Financier
Allen RichRichard Allen Ireland right Philanthropist
Allen StaffStafford Allen UK left mid Philanthropist
Allen WiWilliam Allen UK front mid left Scientist
BainesSir Edward Baines UK left Member of Parliament
BaldwEdward Baldwin UK right front Former Attorney-General of New South Wales
BanniSaxe Bannister UK right Pamphleteer
Barrett EdEdward (Jonas) Barrett US far right Former Slave
Barrett RiRichard Barrett Jamaica very far right
BassIsaac Bass UK far right
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
BenneGeorge Bennett UK right front
BinneRev. Dr. Thomas Binney UK far right Minister
BirneyJames Gillespie Birney US left Attorney
Birt JoJohn Birt US back far right
BlackhoJonathan Backhouse UK left Banker
BlairW. T. Blair UK mid
BoultWilliam Boulbee UK far right
BowlySamuel Bowly UK far left back Advocate
BradbGeorge Bradburn US left Minister
BrockWilliam Brock UK right of centre Minister
BurneJohn Burnet UK mid Minister
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 Speaker
ColvNathaniel Colver US right Minister
CondJosiah Conder UK ? Author
ConnDaniel O'Connell Ireland far left Member of Parliament
Cox FFrancis Augustus Cox UK left Minister
CrewIsaac Crewdson UK back row Minister
CroppeJohn Cropper UK right front Philanthropist
Dawes WWilliam Dawes US far left education
DeanJames Dean US? ? Professor
Eardley WSir John Eardley-Wilmot, 1st Baronet UK mid left Member of Parliament
EatoJoseph Eaton UK ?
Ellis JJohn Ellis UK far right Member of Parliament
Forster WWilliam Forster UK front Minister
Forster JJosiah Forster UK front mid right Philanthropist
GarrisonWm. Lloyd Garrison US no Journalist, publisher. Voluntarily sat with the women.
GurneSamuel Gurney UK under speaker Banker
HeadGeorge Head Head UK Front right Banker
IsamFrançois-André Isambert France mid Lawyer
KeepRev. John Keep US ? Minister; trustee of Oberlin College
KnibbWilliam Knibb Jamaica front mid right Minister
PrescodSamuel Jackman Prescod Barbados front middle Journalist
MorganWilliam Morgan UK middle front Lawyer
MorganWilliam Harris Murch UK yes Minister
ScobJohn Scoble Canada front right Lawyer
KetlJoseph Ketley Guyana front right Minister
StaceyGeorge Stacey UK front Minister
ThompsGeorge Thompson UK & US front mid right Member of Parliament
TredgJ. Harfield Tredgold South Africa under speaker Chemist
LushiStephen Lushington UK left Member of Parliament
Fowell BSir Thomas Fowell Buxton, 1st Baronet UK left Member of Parliament
GodwBenjamin Godwin UK mid Minister
MoorsVice Admiral Constantine Richard Moorsom UK left Royal Navy Officer
TaylorWilliam Taylor UK mid
MorriJohn Morrison UK mid
PrincDr George Prince UK ?
SoulJoseph Soul UK ??? Reformer
SturgJoseph Sturge UK left front Minister
WhitehJames Whitehorne Jamaica ?
MarriJoseph Marriage UK left front
LeathWilliam Leatham UK left Banker
Lucas SSamuel Lucas UK left Journalist
Fox SSamuel Fox UK left back
LecesLouis Celeste Lecesne UK left back
GreviRobert Greville UK far left Botanist
Pease JoJoseph Pease UK left Minister
TatumWilliam Tatum UK right
WebbRichard D. Webb Ireland right Publisher
ScalesRev. Thomas Scales UK right front Minister
James WWilliam James UK right Minister
WilsonWilliam Wilson UK right
Swan TRev. Thomas Swan UK right Baptist Minister
SteaneRev. Edward Steane UK right Minister
Miller JColonel Jonathon Miller US right front United States Army Officer
StuartCaptain Charles Stuart Jamaica right Royal Navy Officer
JeremSir John Jeremie Colonies right of centre Judge
StowCharles Stovel UK far right front Minister
PeekRichard Peek UK far right front Sheriff of London
SturgeJohn Sturge UK far right Organiser's brother
Forster RRobert Forster UK very far right Philanthropist
GalushElon Galusha US right Lawyer
GrosvCyrus Pitt Grosvenor US far right Minister
SterrHenry Sterry (committee) UK far right
ClarPeter Clare UK far right
Johnson JRev. J.H. Johnson UK far right
PriceDr. Thomas Price UK far right
ReynoJoseph Reynolds UK far right
WheeleSamuel Wheeler UK far right
Johnson JWiliam Fairbank UK far right
PriceRev. John Woodmark UK far right
ReynoWilliam Smeal UK far right Minister
Carlile JJames Carlile Ireland far right Minister
Hinton JJohn Howard Hinton UK far right Minister
James JJohn Angell James Ireland far right Minister
Cooper JJoseph Cooper UK far right
MaddenDr. Richard Robert Madden Ireland/ Jamaica far right Doctor
BulleyAlderman Thomas Bulley UK far right
HodgeIsaac Hodgson UK far right
Smith EEdward Smith UK far right
BowringSir John Bowring UK far right Member of Parliament
KnightAnne Knight UK bonneted far right Wright
LesterC. Edwards Lester US far right Writer
PinchThomas Pinches ? far right
TurnbDavid Turnbull UK far right Author
SteerJohn Steer UK very far right
TuckeHenry Tuckett UK very far right
Mott JJames Mott[15] US very far right Merchant
Rathbone RRichard Rathbone UK very far right Businessman
Phillips WWendell Phillips US very far right Attorney
L'InsM. L'Instant Haiti front far right
Stanton HHenry Stanton US front far right Attorney
Thredgold EliMrs Elizabeth Tredgold South African back row right
McDonnT.M. McDonnell UK very far right Minister
Rawson MMary Anne Rawson UK far right
PeaseElizabeth Pease UK very far right Suffragist
PostJacob Post UK very far right Minister
Opie AAmelia Opie UK front far right Novelist
Morgan ThRev. Thomas Morgan UK mid right Minister
StantonElizabeth Cady Stanton[16] US No married to Henry Stanton
Reid, Elizabeth JesserElizabeth Jesser Reid ?? No UK philanthropist
Townshend, Norton Strange Norton Strange Townshend US No Doctor
Harvey, A Rev. A Harvey[17] UK No Minister
Grew MMary Grew[15] US No US delegate (refused a main seat)
Mott LLucretia Mott[15] US No (refused a main seat)
Wigham EEliza Wigham UK No Scottish leader (refused a main seat)
South AAbby Southwick[15] US No (refused a main seat)
Grew HHenry Grew[15] US No Teacher
Ashurst EElizabeth Ann Ashurst Bardonneau[18] UK No
Ashurst WWilliam H. Ashurst[19] UK No Solicitor
Strickland GeoSir George Strickland, 7th Baronet[20] UK No Member of Parliament
Hodgkin ThomaThomas Hodgkin[21] UK No Doctor
Busfield WillWilliam Busfield[21] UK No Member of Parliament
Lister Ellis CunliEllis Cunliffe Lister[21] UK No Member of Parliament
Smith GerrGerrit Smith[21] UK No Philanthropist
Fuller James CJames Canning Fuller[21] US No
May Samuel JSamuel Joseph May[21] US No Minister
Whittier John GJohn Greenleaf Whittier[21] US No Poet
Hanbury CornCornelius Manning[21] UK No Philanthropist
Villiers ChCharles Pelham Villiers[21] UK No Member of Parliament
Biggs MatMatilda Ashurst Biggs[22] UK No
Townsend LucyLucy Townsend[23] UK No
NeallElizabeth Neall[15] US No
Phillips AAnn Greene Phillips[15] US No
Remond CharCharles Lenox Remond[24] US No Free man
Rogers NatNathaniel Peabody Rogers[24] US No Publisher
Wiffen BBBenjamin Barron Wiffen[25] UK No Businessman
Winslow EEmily Winslow[15] US No
Winslow IIsaac Winslow[15] US No Politician


  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 (eds.). Encyclopedia of Antislavery and Abolition. Vol. 2. Greenwood. pp. 760–762. ISBN 978-0-313-33144-2.
  3. ^ Maynard 1960, p. 452.
  4. ^ Sklar 1990, p. 453.
  5. ^ Slavery and Abolition, ODNB, retrieved 10 July 2008 [dead link – needs investigation]
  6. ^ a b c "Women and the American Story: 1840 London Anti-Slavery Convention" (PDF). New York Historical Society. 2017.
  7. ^ a b "The Anti-Slavery Convention". The Citizen (Dublin). 2 (10): 213–222. August 1840.
  8. ^ a b The baptist Magazine. 1854. p. 786. Retrieved 23 March 2023.
  9. ^ a b "1840 London Anti-Slavery Convention" (PDF). New York Historical Society Museum & Library. 2017.
  10. ^ a b c Sinha, Manisha (January 2016). The slave's cause: a history of abolition. New Haven. p. 289. ISBN 978-0-300-18137-1. OCLC 920017303.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  11. ^ Paper presented to the General Anti-Slavery Convention, Rev. Benjamin Godwin, 1840
  12. ^ The Baptist Magazine, page 374, retrieved 24 July 2014
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Society, British Foreign Anti-Slavery (1840). British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society: Convention, June 12th, 1840. No publisher name given. JSTOR 60228328.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mary Grew, Abolitionist and Feminist, 1813–1896, retrieved 19 July 2008
  16. ^ "Women's Rights". americaslibrary.gov. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  17. ^ DOCUMENT 4 (1: 53–62): World's Anti-Slavery Convention, London, England, June 1840, accessed February 2013
  18. ^ Jonathan Spain, 'Ashurst, Elizabeth Ann [Eliza] (c.1814–1850)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 retrieved 30 July 2015
  19. ^ Matthew Lee, 'Ashurst, William Henry (bap. 1791?, d. 1855)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 retrieved 30 July 2015
  20. ^ BFASS Convention 1840, List of delegates, retrieved 2 August 2015
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i BFASS Convention 1840, List of delegates, retrieved 27 August 2015
  22. ^ Jonathan Spain, 'Biggs, Matilda Ashurst (1816/17–1866)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2011 retrieved 30 July 2015
  23. ^ Clare Midgley, 'Townsend, Lucy (1781–1847)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 retrieved 30 July 2015
  24. ^ a b [A Collection from the Miscellaneous Writings of Nathaniel Peabody Rogers], N.P.Rogers, 1949, p106, accessed April 2009
  25. ^ 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. doi:10.2307/1888877. 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]

External links[edit]