Who resisted and campaigned for abolition?

Thomas Walker abolitionist

Thomas Walker (1749-1817) played an important role in the abolition movement in Manchester during the eighteenth century.

Cotton merchant and social issues

Walker was a cotton merchant as well as a political reformer. He was active in Manchester's commerce and politics in the 1770s and 1780s. He was also a member of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society founded in 1781 to promote improvements in local health and sanitary issues. He led the campaign in the cotton industry for the repeal of the unpopular fustian tax in 1784.

Walker appeared on the Lancashire list of 'persons to be approached to take the abolition campaign forward in the regions', compiled in 1787 by the Society to Effect the Abolition of the Slave Trade (SEAST) in London.

Manchester anti-slavery activities

Walker became the organiser of the Manchester anti-slavery group. He chaired the first Manchester committee of 31 people in December 1787. His wife, Hannah, was listed as one of the female subscribers to the committee. Walker helped organise the 1788 petition to parliament for the abolition of the slave trade, which contained 10,639 signatures. The petition in March 1792 contained around 20,000 signatures. Walker was one of the early subscribers to Olaudah Equiano's book 'The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, The African', and was acknowledged by Equiano in a letter published in the Manchester Mercury in the summer of 1790.

Advocate of parliamentary reform

Walker helped found the Manchester Constitutional Society which advocated parliamentary reform and equality for dissenters. This was not seen favourably by the supporters of 'church and king' and Walker's house was besieged in December 1792. He was accused of conspiring to overthrow the king, constitution and government. A trial was held at the Lancaster Assizes in June 1794 but Walker was acquitted because the key witness, Thomas Dunn, was shown to have lied under oath.

However, Walker retired from public life, and lived the remainder of his life on a farm at Longford in Manchester. He died in 1817 and is buried in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester.