Who resisted and campaigned for abolition?

Friends' Meeting House, Mount Street, Manchester


The Religious Society of Friends or Quakers were one of the most prominent groups in the campaigns against slavery on both sides of the Atlantic. Their beliefs led them to make some of the earliest public condemnations of slavery. In 1774, two years after the ruling by Lord Chief Justice Mansfield that slavery was not supported by English law, they voted to exclude dealers in slavery from membership of their church. The Quakers were only a small group compared to most religious sects but their beliefs in a practical Christianity led them to take an active part in the social questions of the time.

Manchester activism

Manchester Quakers helped to make the town one of the key centres of agitation outside London. They were active in petitioning parliament, in raising money for the national society, in publishing anti-slavery literature, and in encouraging other communities to take up the moral crusade. Manchester Quakers such as Isaac Moss and Joseph Atkinson, a hat manufacturer, were prominent in the local campaign in 1787, the year that saw the establishment of the National Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

Women and consumer boycotts

Female Quakers were also involved in the campaign, promoting and supporting consumer boycotts against goods such as rum and sugar grown by enslaved workers. It was argued that the refusal to purchase such goods would ultimately weaken the economies based on slavery. In Manchester women supported the anti-slavery society in far greater numbers than in most other towns.

Meeting place

In Manchester their main place of worship was in Mount Street. The present building dates from the early 1830s and was designed by the Manchester architect, Richard Lane. The Quakers remained active after 1833 in ensuring that slavery was stamped out in British colonies in reality not just in law. They also campaigned for an end to slavery in other countries including Brazil, Cuba, Africa and, of course, the southern states of the USA.

This information was provided by Terry Wyke.

Watch and listen to Washington Alcott talking about the Friends' Meeting House.