Zachary Macaulay 1768-1838: The Steadfast Scot in the British Anti-Slavery Movement

Zachary Macaulay 1768-1838: The Steadfast Scot in the British Anti-Slavery Movement

Zachary Macaulay 1768-1838: The Steadfast Scot in the British Anti-Slavery Movement

Zachary Macaulay 1768-1838: The Steadfast Scot in the British Anti-Slavery Movement

Excerpt

On a cold February afternoon in 2009 mourners gathered in the graveyard of Holy Cross Episcopal Church in the village of Appin, Argyll, to lay to rest in her ninety-first year Lady Errington of St Mary’s in Glen Crerran. Further up the village on the road to Oban, a century and a half earlier there would have been many similar gatherings to attend burials officiated at by Rev. John Macaulay, the parish minister of Appin and Lismore. John Macaulay’s grandson was the celebrated historian and colonial administrator Thomas Babington Macaulay But the family member who most interested Reine Errington and of whom she was most proud was his son Zachary, her great great grandfather. He was born in 1768 in another part of Argyll, Inverary, to which his father had been ‘translated’—in the idiom of the Church of Scotland-from Appin.

Zachary Macaulay was, therefore, a Highland Scot who, in common with so many of his countrymen, was to travel far from his native land. As a young man he became an overseer on a slave plantation in the West Indies. His was the responsibility to ensure that the maximum production was wrought from forced labour, with the threat and reality of barbaric retribution exacted on those who failed to fulfil this quota. He was at first horrified by the system, on which much of Britain’s burgeoning prosperity depended. But he became inured to it as the months and years went on and he had to develop a life for himself in colonial Jamaica.

Ties to Scotland were loosened after the death of both his parents. When he returned from the West Indies, Macaulay found a home with his sister Jean at the Leicestershire estate in Rothley owned by her husband, Thomas Babington, who was a friend and collaborator of William Wilberforce in the movement for the abolition of the slave trade. At their instigation he journeyed to the new settlement of Sierra Leone in West Africa, a fledgling colony dedicated to providing freedom for former American slaves. It stood isolated in the midst of one of the most profitable arms of the transatlantic slave trade, that three-centuries-old crime against humanity which was to decimate and destroy a continent, and whose effects are far from erased . . .

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