By Iain Whyte
This is the third in a series of posts by researchers drawing on the archive of the Anti-Slavery Society, part of the Bodleian’s We Are Our History project.
In the various commemorative items produced in 2008 to mark the bi-centenary of Britain’s abolition of the slave trade, the names and portraits of Wilberforce, Clarkson, and Buxton appeared frequently and less so those of the formerly enslaved such as Olaudah Equiano and Ignatius Sancho. But one name almost universally absent was that of Zachary Macaulay. Better known as the father of Lord Thomas Macaulay, the historian and politician, Zachary played an invaluable role both in the Parliamentary campaign against the trade, and later plantation slavery in the British Empire, and in galvanising public opinion through local committees. A shy and in many ways inhibited man, he never made a speech, but his first hand experience in Jamaica and along the Sierra Leone river enabled those in Parliament to speak with authority, and above all the research and writing he did in the 1820s to expose the reality of slavery, provided ammunition against the powerful attempts to shore up the profitable system. This was most marked in his founding in 1825, and editorship throughout the vital campaigning years, of the Anti-Slavery Monthly Reporter, a magazine that survives to this day under the auspices of the charity and campaigning group Anti-Slavery International.