Source 1 - Notes from the first abolitionist committee meeting

This extract shows what happened at the very first abolitionist committee meeting on May 22 1787. A group of twelve met in London to lay plans for their campaign. They were taking an unusual step - outside of Parliament, committees were not as common in eighteenth century Britain as they are today.

However, the members - nine Quakers and three Anglicans , realised they needed some formal organisation if their cause and their campaign were to be taken seriously. The Quakers, in particular, were often dismissed as a radical sect and needed the support of mainstream society if they were to succeed in their campaign.

Once the committee was established, they chose a treasurer, a solicitor, opened a bank account and rented meeting rooms. These things may seem obvious to any lobbying organisation today but in the 18th century, the idea of ordinary people forming a lobby group was unusual.

  • What do you think the precise aim of the committee was? Why do you think the abolition of slavery was not their aim?
  • What actions did the committee plan to take in their campaign?
  • In a campaign why is it useful to: a) Form a committee? b) Keep records of your decisions at meetings?

Taken from: Minute-Book of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade
Publisher: none
Date: May 22 1787
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: Add 21254 (152f)