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Willam Allen (1770-1843): The Scientist

William Allen

By the time the Slave Trade was abolished in 1807, William Allen had been involved in the movement for 20 years. He stayed involved for the rest of his life.

William Allen was an English Quaker, born to a wealthy family in Spitalfields, England. He was a philanthropist and a leading scientist (co-founding the Pharmaceutical Society). He opened a 'soup society' and carried out agricultural experiments aimed at improving the nutrition and diet of ordinary people. He also ran a Quaker school for girls, where they were taught sciences as well as conventional lessons. He was also deeply involved in the campaign to end slavery in the British colonies.

He was horrified by the idea of slavery from an early age and was one of the first to stop eating sugar in protest.  In 1805, after some years of assisting the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, he was elected a 'Committee Member'.   He was also a founder member and a Director of the African Institution. This body had succeeded the Sierra Leone Company, which was sponsored by philanthropists to create a colony in West Africa for slaves who had been freed through the abolitionists efforts.

William Allen lived to see the Slavery Abolition Act passed on August 23, 1833. However, under the act, the enslaved were not to be freed immediately but were to become "apprentices" for 6 years before being completely freed. Compensation of 20 million was to be paid to the planters. William Allen thought this very unjust, he felt the apprentice clause was wrong and he received reports from a friend, Joseph Sturge, who travelled to the West Indies, providing evidence that planters abused it.

He continued to campaign to achieve the complete freedom of African-Caribbean people. He held interviews with ministers and other officials.  Protests finally forced the apprenticeship system to be abolished on 1st August, 1838.  William Allen died in September 1843.

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