Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Thomas Clarkson Manuscript, 1789-1790

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, July 1993

Summary Information
Title: Thomas Clarkson manuscript
Creator: Clarkson, Thomas, 1760-1846
Inclusive dates: 1789-1790
Extent: 162 pages
Abstract:
The Thomas Clarkson manuscript, arranged in 13 letters, addresses various aspects of the slave trade in the region that lies between the Gambia and Senegal Rivers.

Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1992. M-2872; P-1647.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Thomas Clarkson manuscript, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Biography

Thomas Clarkson began his lifelong crusade against slavery and the slave-trade shortly after receiving his B.A. from St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1783. In 1784 and 1785, he won the members' prizes for Latin essays at Cambridge, and his winning essay of 1785 was published the following year as An essay on the slavery and commerce of the human species, particularly the African (J. Phillips: London, 1786). In the course of locating a publisher for this essay, Clarkson formed working relationships with several of the most important emerging figures of the anti-slavery movements in Britain, including James Phillips, Granville Sharp, and William Dillwyn, and Clarkson is credited with bringing M.P. William Wilberforce into the movement at the formation of the Quaker-influenced Committee for Abolition (1787). The continued efforts of the Committee to lobby Parliament and raise the consciousness of the British people to the cruelties of the slave trade resulted, in 1788, in the introduction of legislation before Parliament to curb the harshest forms of treatment, though it was not until 1807 that a bill to end the slave trade managed to pass both houses.

Responding to the egalitarian rhetoric of the French Revolution, Clarkson traveled in Paris in August, 1789, to agitate for anti-slavery legislation before the Assemblé Nationale. While he was moderately successful at attracting political allies, including Lafayette and Brissot de Warville, no legislative action resulted. As part of his efforts, in December, 1789, and January, 1790, Clarkson wrote a series of 13 long, informational letters to the poet Mirabeau, then at the peak of his political influence, to "bring the entire facts of the case [for abolition] before him" (DNB). These letters were never published in French, however, when Clarkson returned to England in February, 1790, they were translated, much compressed and published as Letters on the slave-trade, and the state of the natives in those parts of Africa, which are contiguous to Fort St. Louis and Goree (James Phillips: London, 1791).


Collection Scope and Content Note

The manuscript, arranged in 13 letters, addresses various aspects of the slave trade in the region that lies between the Gambia and Senegal Rivers, the region that historically comprised the three "Kingdoms" of Cayor, Sin and Sallum, and bordered by the "Kingdoms" of the Wolof (Oualo) and Bambara. From this region, Clarkson estimated an annual trade of 2,240 slaves, of whom approximately 1,790 passed through the French Fort St. Louis and 450 through Gorée. Like Mungo Park, Clarkson found that the most common method employed to capture slaves is "pillage," or the organization of forces by the King of a region for secret raids on neighboring villages from which men and women are kidnapped.

Clarkson's letters include geographic and, to a degree, ethnographic notes on the region, plus detailed information on the means of acquisition, transport, and handling of enslaved individuals in Africa and on the Middle Passage. While Clarkson is strongly concerned with the moral issues raised by the slave-trade, the manuscript is designed partially to sway the opinion of politicians and often assumes an informational tone. He constructs his narrative so that the moral issues arise "naturally" from a consideration of the "facts" presented.

The manuscript contains nine illustrations, including a map of the region under study, several illustrations of implements used to restrain captives, two hand colored copper-plate engravings of African scenes, and a printed version of Clarkson's well-known diagrammatic cross section of a slave ship. There is at least one reference in the text to an illustration no longer present.

The association of this manuscript with Mirabeau is primarily circumstantial, and there are a number of differences between this version and the loose translation published in 1791. On the supporting side, however, a slip of paper in contemporary hand notes "title and table of contents in the hand of Mentelle," referring to Edmé Mentelle, close associate of Mirabeau. Secondly, one page of notes (p. 1) appears to indicate "cet oeuvrage appartient au Citoyen Mentelle," though Mentelle is strongly effaced, and makes reference to comments on the text by Geoffroy de Villeneuve. In the published English language version of his letters to Mirabeau, Clarkson cites Villeneuve, aide-de-camp to the Governor of Gorée, as his source of information for the African sections.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Antislavery movements.
    • Slave trade--Africa.
    • Slavery.
    • Slavery--Great Britain.
    Genre Terms:
    • Copper engravings.
    • Maps.
    • Ship plans.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Volume   1  
    Thomas Clarkson manuscript Lettres nouvelles sur le commerce de la Côte de Guinée [series]:
    Page   1  
    Introduction
    Page   5  
    Lettre 1:
     
    Questions quit font l'objet de cet oeuvrage.
     
    Possessions françaises en Afrique; leur description, etablissements, description de la culte depuis
     
    l'embouchure de la riviere de Gambie, jusqu'a celle du Sénégal: elle comprend les trois Royaume de Sallum, de Sin, et de Cayor.
     
    Esclaves retirés de la Royaume, leur quantité
     
    Maniere de les rendre Esclaves.
    Page   23  
    Lettre 2:
     
    Description Geographique du Royaume d'Oualo, de l'isle de Bisseche, et d'une partie du territoire des
     
    Poules independants Esclaves qu'on retire annuelement de ces pays Maniere de faire cette extaction
    Page   37  
    Lettre 3:
     
    Suite de la Description jusqu'a Pador. Le distance de fort St. Louis.
     
    Nombre d'esclaves ... par les pays.
     
    Maniere de se les procurer
     
    Moeurs de ces peuples
    Page   43  
    Lettre 4:
     
    Pays de Poules dependents
     
    Pourquoi ils sont ainsi nommés
     
    Nom de leur Roi
     
    Conduite sage & généreuse de la prince
     
    Efforts qu'il a fait pour abolir la traite des noirs, elle n'a point lieu dans ses etats
     
    Maniere dont les escalves sont amménés de Bambara à Galam.
     
    Longeur de la Route
     
    Fin de la 1re question
    Page   53  
    Lettre 5:
     
    Reflexions preliminaires sur le 2e question
    Page   63  
    Lettre 6:
     
    2e question. Des moeurs & ces agendes
     
    Royaumes de Sallum, Sin & Cayor rangs et conditions
     
    Leur gouvernement, etablissement militaire; en temps de paix; en temps de guerre.
     
    Les habitants sont divisée en trois classes
     
    Leur religion
    Page   75  
    Lettre 7:
     
    Maniere dont les peuples vivent rassemblés
     
    Leurs villages, leurs maisons, leurs terres, la propriétés
    Page   87  
    Lettre 8:
     
    Des occupations des habitents de ces pays
     
    Divisées en sedentaires
     
    Quels les ambulants
     
    Fin de la 2e question.
    Page   99  
    Lettre 9:
     
    Observation sur le question précédente, adressée principalement aux colons
    Page   115  
    Lettre 10:
     
    3e question. Vente et embraquement des esclaves
     
    Division de la troupe en trois parties
     
    maniere dont les negres sont enchainés
     
    Leur situation malheureuse
    Page   131  
    Lettre 11:
     
    Effets terribles qui sont le resultat des souffrences de les malheureux: le folie
     
    Maniere dont ils se donnent la mort
    Page   139  
    Lettre 12:
     
    Suite des effets de la suffrance de les malheureux
     
    La revolte... de toute nourriture
    Page   149  
    Lettre 13:
     
    Perte immense de negres dans la traverssée. Causes de cette perte.
     
    Reflexion sur le commerce des negres
    Additional Descriptive Data

    List of graphic material and maps.

    • 1. Manuscript map of western Senegal-Gambia. Located in Map Division.
    • 2. "A view of Joal on the coast of Guinea in Africa"; Hand-colored engraving. Located in Graphics Division.
    • 3. "A view taken near Bain, on the coast of Guinea, in Africa"; Hand-coloured engraving. Located in Graphics Division.
    • 4. Collars for restraining captives. Page 48.
    • 5. Collars for restraining captives. Page 48.
    • 6. Plan and sections of a slave ship; Engraving. Page 114.
    • 7. Manacles and handcuffs. Page 116.
    • 8. Leg restraints. Page 136.
    • 9. Hand restraints. Page 148.
    Alternate Locations

    Located in Graphics Division:

    A view of Joal on the coast of Guinea in Africa; Hand-colored engraving

    A view taken near Bain, on the coast of Guinea, in Africa ; Hand-coloured engraving

    Located in Map Division:

    [Coast of Senegal]. Map of the coast from the Senegal River to the Saloum River, c. 1789.

    Related Materials

    The William L. Clements Library also owns a number of books by or related to Thomas Clarkson:

    Anti-slavery reporter. A periodical … (New York, 1833, see nos. 1 and 3)

    British opinions of the American colonization society … (Boston: Printed by Garrison & Knapp, at the office of ’The Liberator,’ no. 10, Merchants’ Hall. 1833)

    Clarkson, Thomas. Abolition of the African slave-trade, by the British parliament. Abridged from Clarkson… (Augusta [Maine]: Published by P.A. Brinsmade, at the depository of Kennebec Co. S.S. union, 1830)

    Clarkson, Thomas. An essay on the comparative efficiency of regulation or abolition, as applied to the slave trade. Shewing that the latter only can remove the evils to be found in that commerce (London: Printed by J. Phillips ... 1789)

    Clarkson, Thomas. An essay on the impolicy of the African slave trade … (London: Printed and sold by J. Phillips, George-Yard, Lombard-Street, [1788])

    Clarkson, Thomas. An essay on the impolicy of the African slave trade … (London: Printed and sold by J. Phillips, George-Yard, Lombard-Street, [1788])

    Clarkson, Thomas. An essay on the impolicy of the African slave trade… To which is added, An oration, upon the necessity of establishing at Paris, a society to promote the abolition of the trade and slavery of the Negroes. By J.P. Brissot de Warville (Philadelphia: Printed by Francis Bailey, at Yorick’s-Head, in Market-Street, [1788])

    Clarkson, Thomas. An essay on the slavery and commerce of the human species, particularly the African … (Georgetown, K., Published by the Rev. David Barrow. J.N. Lyle - Printer. 1816)

    Clarkson, Thomas. An essay on the slavery and commerce of the human species, particularly the African … (London, printed: Philadelphia: Re-printed by J. Crukshank, 1786)

    Clarkson, Thomas. An essay on the slavery and commerce of the human species, particularly the African … (London: Printed by J. Phillips, 1786)

    Clarkson, Thomas. The cries of Africa, to the inhabitants of Europe; or, A survey of that bloody commerce called the slave-trade (London: Sold by Harvey and Darton, Gracechurch-Street; and W. Phillips, George-Yard, Lombard-Street, [ca. 1822])

    Clarkson, Thomas. Le cri des Africains contre les Européens leurs oppresseurs, ou Coup d’œil sur le commerce homicide appelé traité des noirs … (Paris, de l’imprimerie de L.-T. Cellot, 1822)

    Clarkson, Thomas. The history of the rise, progress, & accomplishment of the abolition of the African slave-trade by the British Parliament … (London: Printed by R. Taylor and co., Shoe-Lane, for Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, Paternoster-Row, 1808)

    Clarkson, Thomas. The history of the rise, progress, & accomplishment of the abolition of the African slave-trade by the British Parliament … (Philadelphia : J.P. Parke, 1808)

    Clarkson, Thomas. The history of the rise, progress and accomplishment of the abolition of the African slave-trade, by the British Parliament ... Abridged by Evan Lewis (Wilmington, Printed by R. Porter, 1816)

    Clarkson, Thomas. Memoirs of the private and public life of William Penn; who settled the state of Pennsylvania, and founded the city of Philadelphia (Dover, N.H., S.C. Stevens, 1827)

    Clarkson, Thomas. Memoirs of the private and public life of William Penn... (London: C. Gilpin ; New York : J. Wiley, 1849)

    Clarkson, Thomas. Résumé du témoignage donné devant la Grande-Bretagne et de l’Irlande, touchant la trite des nègres... (Paris, Adrien Egron, imprimeur de son altesse royale monseigneur le duc d’Angoulème, rue des Noyers, no. 37. Delaunay, libraire, au Palais-royal, 1814)

    Cropper, James. A letter to Thomas Clarkson, by James Cropper: and Prejudice vincible; or The practicability of conquering prejudice by better means than by slavery and exile; in relation to the American colonization society (New-York: Re-printed from an English edition, 1833)