Skip to main content

Petitioning Parliament

In 1788, a number of petitions in favour of the abolition of the slave trade were received by Parliament.

However, the powerful federation of planters, merchants, manufacturers and ship owners - all central to the slave trade - put up a dogged rearguard action against abolition in both the Commons and Lords.

Both sides presented petitions to both Houses of Parliament.

Those petitioning against the trade were encouraged by Thomas Clarkson. One of the purposes of Clarkson's tours of Britain between 1788 and 1794 was to organise and encourage a new public petitioning campaign.

Both sides were using a means of communicating with Parliament that had a long history, but was now on a scale not seen before.

The petitions show that a time when the right to vote was very restricted, the petitioning movement gave many excluded from the electoral process an opportunity to communicate with Parliament.


You can access biographiesfrom the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for free, online, using your local library card number (includes nine out of ten public libraries in the UK) or from within academic library and other subscribing networks.

The Parliamentary Archives

The Parliamentary Archives

Access details of millions of records from both Houses and other historical material relating to Parliament.

Find out more