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24 September 2014

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Historian, Douglas Grounds, with Plymley's diaries
A historian with Plymley's diaries

The Plymley Diaries

Archdeacon Joseph Plymley was the most prominent abolitionist in Shropshire. He campaigned for years to gain local support to end the transatlantic slave trade and his efforts were documented in the diaries of his sister Katherine.

Katherine Plymley, sister of Archdeadon Joseph Plymley, wrote around 150 diaries noting the activities of her brother and his increasing involvement with the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The first entry is made in October 1791, when the esteemed Thomas Clarkson visited the Plymleys at their home in Longnor...

"I had the honour of seeing Mr Clarkson. My brother went to Shrewsbury with the expectation of meeting him and they arrived here together about 10 o'clock at night...

Plymley's diaries
Plymley's diaries

"I was prepared to see with admiration a man who had now for some years given up all his secular interests and everything the world calls pleasure, and that too at a time of life when many think of little else, that he may dedicate his whole time to the glorious object of abolishing the African Slave Trade."

Joseph Plymley grew friendly with Thomas Clarkson because it was Plymley's role to go around the country finding information on the slave trade and arousing public interest and concern for the issue.

Plymley became Clarkson's advocate in Shropshire and chairman of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. For his contributions, he was elected as a corresponding member of the London committee of the abolition of the slavery movement in 1791.

So, Joseph Plymley was the pivotal local figure for the abolition, travelling all over the county gaining signatures for petitions, distributing literature, and arguing and discussing the cause.

"...the Reverend Joseph Plymley... a most zealous and indefatigable fellow labourer in the great cause of the abolition of the slave trade..."
Thomas Clarkson

Many people said that he worked in this area as enthusiastically and tirelessly as Clarkson, who was covering the length and breadth of the land.

Besides collecting petitions, Plymley actively worked to stop Salopians eating sugar. He believed that if there was no demand for sugar, there would be no need for slaves to be taken from Africa to work on sugar plantations, and the slave trade would be eradicated.

It was 16 years of hard work before Plymley's work reaped rewards, with the act of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade coming in to force in 1807. And whilst he wasn't of national stature like Clarkson, it was the local footslogging by Plymley and others like him that was crucial to the ultimate success of the campaign.

Thomas Clarkson in fact, paid a touching tribute to Plymley, when he posted him a copy of his book the year following the abolition. These words were written on the fly leaf of the book...

"To the Reverend Joseph Plymley Corbett, Archdeacon of Salop, a most zealous and indefatigable fellow labourer in the great cause of the abolition of the slave trade and to whose active exertions that sacred cause is peculiarly indebted, this work is most gratefully and affectionately presented by the author."

last updated: 20/03/07
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Abolition - 1807

Abolition - 1807

History: Abolition 1807 »

Religion: Ethics of Slavery »

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