William Dillwyn was born in Philadelphia, USA. In 1774 William came to England to start a campaign against slavery. He quickly made friends and decided to settle here.
In 1777, William Dillwyn married Sally Weston at Tottenham Meeting House. They lived at Higham Lodge, Walthamstow. Sally gave birth to eight children.
“In procuring slaves from the coast of Africa, many children are stolen privately; wars are also encouraged…, but all is at a great distance.
“Many groans arise from dying men, which we hear not. Many cries are uttered by women and fatherless children, which reach not our ears.
“Many cheeks are wet with tears and faces with unutterable grief, which we see not. Cruel tyranny is encouraged. The hands of robbers are strengthened and thousands reduced to the most abject slavery, who never injured us.”
From The Case of our fellow creatures, the oppressed Africans, respectfully recommended to the serious considerations of the Legislature of Great Britain by the people called Quakers, written by John Lloyd and William Dillwyn.
William went on to campaign for the rights of slaves in the West Indies. He died aged 81 and is buried in the Friends Burial Ground at Tottenham.
Abolition of slavery
As early as 1761, British Friends had declared “that the slave trade is a practice repugnant to our Christian profession.” William Dillwyn helped to set up an anti-slavery committee in London in 1787. All but three of the members were Quakers.
The work of the Anti-Slavery Movement continued beyond the ending of the English slave trade in 1807. Slavery still existed in other countries. The movement actually grew substantially after the passing of the Emancipation Act which came into force in 1834. The focus of the movement was on ending slavery in America. This was eventually achieved in 1865
Quakers were the driving force of the anti-slavery movement in the very early days. After the ending of the English slave trade in 1807, the focus shifted to remedying the evil effects that slavery had produced. To this end, a group of Quakers, including William Allen and Luke Howard, formed the African Institution. Recognising that slavery had destroyed the whole basis of African society, the Institution sought to improve the lives of African people both with Christianity and education. The African Institution also campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade in other countries and pressed for legitimate trade with Africa as well as strict reinforcement of the law against the English slave trade. The Institution survived until 1827.