Thompson, George (DNB00)

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THOMPSON, GEORGE (1804–1878), anti-slavery advocate, born at Liverpool on 18 June 1804, was the third son of Henry Thompson of Leicester. He first became widely known as an advocate of the abolition of slavery in the British colonies. In October 1833 a series of lectures by him led to the formation of ‘the Edinburgh Society for the abolition of slavery throughout the world.’ He also lectured and took part in public discussions in Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Bath, and other places. In September 1834 he undertook a mission to the United States. He engaged with William Lloyd Garrison, Whittier, and the members of the American Anti-Slavery Society in the movement for the abolition of slavery, and was instrumental in forming upwards of three hundred branch associations for that object. He is said to have caused by his speeches the failure of Thomas Jefferson Randolph's so-called ‘Port Natal’ plan of negro emancipation in Virginia. He was denounced by General Jackson in a presidential message. His life was frequently in danger. At the end of 1835 he had to escape from Boston in an open boat to an English vessel bound for New Brunswick, whence he sailed for England. On his return he was received with enthusiasm at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and other large towns. He revisited America in 1851, and again during the civil war, when a public reception was given to him in the house of representatives, in the presence of President Lincoln and the majority of the cabinet.

Thompson was associated with Joseph Hume [q. v.], Sir Joshua Walmsley, and other public men in the National Parliamentary Reform Association. He was a member of the Anti-Cornlaw League, and took part in forming the British India Association, visiting India in order to acquire a knowledge of Indian government. In 1846 he was presented with the freedom of the city of Edinburgh; on 31 July 1847 he was returned to parliament for the Tower Hamlets, retaining his seat till 1852, and about 1870 a testimonial was raised for him by his friends in England and the United States. He died at Leeds on 7 Oct. 1878. In 1831 he married Anne Erskine, daughter of Richard Spry, a minister in the connection of the Countess of Huntingdon. By her he had six children.

Thompson was an admirable speaker, and of attractive manner in society (W. L. Garrison). John Bright ‘always considered him the liberator of the slaves in the English colonies.’

[Howitt's Journal, 1847, ii. 257–60 (with portrait); Ann. Register, 1878, ii. 175, 176; Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biogr. iv. 760, v. 173, vi. 90; Garrison's Lectures by George Thompson, with … a brief Hist. of his Connection with the Anti-Slavery Cause in England; Life and Times of William Lloyd Garrison, New York, 1885; Burleigh's Reception of George Thompson in Great Britain; Grimké's Slavery in America; Holyoake's Sixty years of an Agitator's Life, 1892, i. 98.]

W. A. S. H.