John Clarkson was born at Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, England, the son of Rev. John Clarkson and his wife Anne Ward. At the age of eleven, he joined the Royal Navy and fought in several sea battles during the American Revolution before receiving his commission as a lieutenant in 1782. He served in nine Royal Navy ships before returning to England in 1783. During the post war years, John Clarkson was drawn into the small group of reformers who were behind the growing opposition to the slave trade, and in 1789 he became a member of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. His older brother, Rev. Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846), was a well known advocate for the abolition of the slave trade and both brothers were closely associated with William Wilberforce, although Thomas Clarkson assumed a much more prominent role than did his younger brother. In 1791/1792, John Clarkson, working with prominent Black Loyalist leader, Thomas Peters, organized the historic migration of 1190 Black Loyalists from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Sierra Leone. He accompanied them on their journey and remained in Sierra Leone as Governor, and representative of the Sierra Leone Company, until 31 December 1792 when he returned to England on leave. In 1793, he was informed by the Company that his services were no longer required, and although the Loyalists held him in high esteem and wished for his return, he did not go back to the Colony.
After 1793, John Clarkson became a banker in East Anglia, and married Susan Lee (1759-1837), on 25 April 1793. Throughout the rest of his life he continued to work toward the abolition of the slave trade and the end of slavery, and when Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807 part of his dream was realized. However, he did not live to see the end of slavery in the British Empire, which came in 1838. John Clarkson died on 9 April 1828, and his wife Susan died on 25 April 1837.
Rev. Thomas Clarkson published several works on the evils of the slave trade, and throughout his life he was actively involved in attempts to legalize the abolition of slavery in Great Britain and in the Colonies. At the age of eighty, he presided over the Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840, which was an international meeting held in London on the issue of slavery. He died in 1846. In January 1796, Thomas Clarkson married Catherine Buck (1773-1856), who shared his views, and who survived him by ten years.
These are the correspondence and papers of Thomas Clarkson and his brother John, commonly known as the Clarkson Papers, and relate to the plight of unsatisfied black persons in Nova Scotia and their emigration to Sierra Leone in Africa (1792), and the development of that colony under the Sierra Leone Company and its first governor, John. Also includes official correspondence of Sir Robert Farquhar, Governor of Mauritius (islands in the Indian Ocean) relating to the suppression of the slave trade; and papers of Thomas and his family, chiefly relating to the movement for the abolition of the slave trade. Topics for research include slavery and abolitionism, black loyalists, diaspora, health and medicine, Quakers, philanthropy, and family.
Arrangement: The Clarkson Papers are arranged in eight volumes; The Loyalist Collection contains Volumes 1 - 5 and Volume 7.
Detailed Contents: (See Finding Aid section for even more detail)
Volume I (Add. Mss. 41262A; 17 June 1785-29 Dec. 1792): Material relating to the emigration of 1190 Black Loyalists who sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Sierra Leone in 1791/1792 (112 died en route or shortly thereafter), and the founding of the colony under Governor John Clarkson as agent for the Sierra Leone Company. Significant items include: correspondence with his brother Rev. Thomas Clarkson, Granville Sharp (abolitionist), Henry Thornton (Chairman of the Sierra Leone Co.), William Wilberforce (philanthropist and abolitionist), Richard Bulkeley (governor of Nova Scotia), and Nova Scotia black Loyalist Thomas Peters (1791 #13,24); petitions; tickets for land grants in Sierra Leone, 1791; an advertisement seeking immigrants at Shelburne, Nova Scotia, from John Clarkson, 1791; a letter from Birch Town residents regarding emigration (1791, #23); letters concerning the state of the black persons in Nova Scotia; material on the abolition of slavery; reports from the Sierra Leone Company; and letters from Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Volume II (Add. Mss. 41262B; 29 Oct.-29 Dec. 1791): A small notebook belonging to John Clarkson entitled, Remarks Halifax.
Volume III (Add. Mss. 41283; 31 Dec 1792-Sept. 1828): Papers chiefly concerning the dispute between John Clarkson and the Sierra Leone Company which led to Clarkson's being relieved of his position as Governor, and correspondence with members of the colony (mostly letters to Clarkson); also contains one partial issue of the periodical, Herald of the Peace, 1828, which contains the memoir of the late John Clarkson (obituary); the Journal of Isaac Du Bois on the state of the colony of Sierra Leone, 1792 - 1793; correspondence with Thomas Clarkson, 1793; a memorial of British merchants on the River Gambia, c.1820 to the Sierra Leone Company citing grievances; petitions from colonists regarding their hardships; and other petitions and memorials. Some correspondents include William Wilberforce, Isaac Du Bois, Thomas M. Winterbottom (abolitionist and physician), Henry Thornton (chairman of Sierra Leone Company), Lt. William Dawes (Royal Navy and former governor of Sierra Leone), and black loyalists previously from Nova Scotia - Cato Perkins and Isaac Anderson.
Volume IV (Add. Mss. 41264; 26 Nov. 1791-25 April 1792): Notes aspects of health and medicine among the Black Loyalist in Sierra Leone, focusing on those sick/ill/diseased. Contains a register of medical cases among the Black Loyalists of Sierra Leone, 1791 - 1792 (pp 1-5); a private journal, 7 March to around the end of April,unsigned, which appears to have been owned by the surgeon to the Colony, Mr. Taylor, 1791 - 1792 (pp 6-33); a list of sick (pp 36-41), which is in reverse order on the film, and contains person's name, disease and symptoms, and medicines prescribed.
Volume V (Add. Mss. 41265; 31 March 1819-18 Feb. 1823): Official correspondence of Sir Robert Farquhar, Governor of Mauritius, regarding the suppression of the slave trade; and two letters from Farquhar to Thomas Clarkson. Chief contents are despatches from Farquhar to the Governor-General of Bengal; Capt. Fairfax Moresby, senior naval officer at Mauritius; Governor of Bourbon; Imaum of Muscat; and the King of Madagascar.
Volume VII (Add. Mss. 41267A; 13 Nov. 1787-17 May 1853): Papers of Thomas Clarkson and his family, concerning the movement for the abolition of the slave trade; correspondence with William and Mary Wordsworth, and Dorothy Wordsworth; and correspondence and other papers relating to the Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840. Types of documents, aside from correspondence, includes pedigrees, sonnets, deed and land grant, European passports, pamphlet; speeches; sketch; and address. Some of the correspondents include William Penn (Quaker), Catherine Clarkson (wife of T. Clarkson), Prince Louis Marie Francois de Saint-Mauris, James Cropper (philanthropist), Richard Phillips (Quaker of Swansea), Mary Dickinson (daughter of J. Clarkson), and Benjamin Robert Haydon (historical painter). Also of note, contains an appeal by the Female Anti-Slavery Society of Bangor, Maine (1840).