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William Wilberforce 'allowed slavery to continue'

4th August 2010

A new book will allege that anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce compromised on his principles.

Stephen Tomkins, author of The Clapham Sect, which is published on August 20th, told the Guardian that it was 'deeply disappointing' to find evidence suggesting Wilberforce had connections to the slave trade after the practice was abolished.

He uncovered Colonial Office papers that appear to show slavery continued in Sierra Leone, the free colony created by Wilberforce's social reformers, after the 1807 Slave Trade Act came into force.

Tomkins revealed that the Royal Navy handed confiscated slaves over to the colony, where its directors sold them to landowners as 'apprentices' who were not paid and were expected to perform 14 years of servitude.

'The facts are all there. There is no getting round them. [Wilberforce's] hands were not as clean as we assume,' he told the newspaper.

However, the author admitted that the social reformer had a genuine hatred of slavery and only agreed to the practice as he believed it was the 'lesser of two evils' and helped the Slave Trade Act to pass through the House of Lords.

Tomkins, who holds a PhD in church history, has written a number of other books, including A Short History of Christianity and Paul and His World.
 

© W&G Foyle Ltd
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