Thomas Clarkson – Compensation for Slavery

Despite some 25 years of researching I have never managed to figure out how to file bits and pieces of interesting but ‘unconnected’ information. So, searching for something else, I came across my notes from this truly remarkable letter from Thomas Clarkson, in the collection of his papers at Wisbeach Museum. The letter, addressed to Sir Henry Bunbury, MP for Suffolk, is dated 27 March 1831 and refers to the forthcoming debate on compensation for slave owners:

‘…evidence before Parliament in 1789, 1790 and 1791, proved that the slaves from Africa, were to the amount probably of 99 in a 100, stolen from their Relatives and their Country. They, therefore, who bought these could have no title to them but as the Purchasers of the Rights of the Robbers; and they, who detained the children of those in Slavery, could have no title to them because they were the children of Persons stolen. The poor Slave is the only one of the two Parties, who has a just Right to Compensation and Compensation for all the Injuries done to himself and heaped upon the heads of his Forefathers for more than a hundred and fifty years…. Charitable attention perhaps to the West Indians…who invested their property in these unhappy Beings….

Of course, no-one listened to Clarkson then – and those of African descent have still not received any compensation.

As I knew nothing about Sir Henry (1778 – 1860), I searched for his name in all my books on abolitionists but found nothing. So I googled him.  His father, Henry William Bunbury (1750 – 1811) is listed among the subscribers to the Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, published 1782. On 18 November 1830 and again on7 December 1830 Sir Henry was among those presenting a petition in the House of Commons for the immediate abolition of ‘Negro Slavery’.

(There is much correspondence by Bunbury in the manuscripts division of the British Library.)

I then looked for the Henry Bunbury mentioned in the article on Mary Seacole by Audrey Dewjee in Newsletter #57 and found an Irish Bunbury family with connections to the West Indian colonies. General Thomas Bunbury (1783 – 1857 or 1862) served as Governor of St.Lucia 1837 – 1838 and ‘retired as a Major-General and settled down in Kingston, Jamaica’. [www.turtlebunbury.com/…/bunburyfamily_bunburys/bunbury_family_bunburys_cranovonane.html]

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