ABOLITION AND THE CORTS
Campaign for abolition
The campaign of the slave trade is most associated with the Evangelical movement: one of the main centres is Holy Trinity Church, Clapham.† In the 1750s, when the local patron is John Thornton, Rev Henry Venn serves as curate.† Venn moves to a living in Huddersfield, later to Yelling near Cambridge, where his evangelism becomes a powerful force.
I have very sensibly felt the loss of my old affectionate friend, John Thornton, after an intimacy of thirty-six years, from his first receiving Christ, till he took his departure with a convoy of angels, to see Him who so long had been all his salvation and all his desire.† Few of the followers of the Lamb, it may be truly said, have ever done more to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and help all that suffer adversity, and to spread the savour of the knowledge of Christ Crucified!
From letter of Rev Henry Venn, November 1790.
In 1792 Venn's son John becomes rector of Clapham.† By this time local patronage has passed to Thornton's son Henry, a guiding force in the movement for abolition.† As a banker he is able to provide much of the finance for the movement.† Amongst others involved, the most notable are Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce.† Clarkson's main contribution is to collect masses of evidence of the evil effects of the slave trade, while Wilberforce persistently pursues the matter in Parliament, succeeding in February 1807 in passing a motion to end British participation in the trade.† Wilberforce's uncle (also named William Wilberforce) was married to John Thornton's sister Hannah.
Henry Cort's opinions
Although the slave trade stirs up strong feelings throughout the country in the 1780s, there is no sign that Henry Cort has strong feelings either for or against abolition.† The 1789 inventory of Cort's books names none of the anti-trade tracts published at the time, although one named item is Holt's Reports, which may well include Sir John Holt's famous 1701 judgment: "as soon as a negro comes to England, he becomes free".
Cortís children in Guiana
One Guianan feature which attracts William and Frederick must be the advantages of slave-owning.† William is proprietor of a plantation in Berbice by 1804.† Although the trade is abolished by Parliament in 1807, the plantations continue to use slaves until August 1834.
The Goree connection
From its capture by the British in 1758 until the French regain it in 1783, Goree forms part of "Senegambia", which is governed as one colony.† Goree is effectively Africa's nearest point to America, and is notorious as a staging point for the slave trade.† The British merchants who finance the 1758 expedition obviously benefit from Goree's capture from the French.† The expedition involves John Becher's elder brother Michael, while Anthony Bacon becomes one of the main suppliers of provisions for garrisons in Senegambia.
The Thorntons and James Watson
Richard Crawshay's banker is John Thornton's brother Godfrey.† The firm "Thorntons & Smalley" (in which John's sons Samuel and Robert, both MPs, are partners) is a corporate signature on the 1791 petition.† Since Samuel (who has a small interest in iron manufacture) corresponds with him, Crawshay may have secured their support for the petition: more likely the effort comes from their fellow MP James Watson.† Watson is recorded as speaking in Parliament once in favour of abolition.
Rev Moses Porter
Moses Porter serves as lecturer, then curate, at Holy Trinity Clapham from 1768 until his death in 1791, under a succession of ministers.† He just misses the appointment of John Venn as rector.† His connections with Gosport and murderer James Hackman are covered elsewhere.
We can assume he is familiar with John and Henry Thornton, but his impact on the evangelical and anti-slavery movements is unknown.† A new church building is erected during his time at Clapham.
The Bury St Edmunds link
In his later days Thomas Clarkson moves to Bury St Edmunds.† His son Thomas attends the local grammar school, probably starting there while Michael Thomas Becher is still headmaster.† No information has emerged about Becher's opinions on abolition.