The Macksey Journal


In the eighteenth century, the British Quaker community faced a dilemma regarding their morals to pioneer the abolition movement and their economic interests to facilitate the slave trade. Members of the Society of Friends were expected to be established bankers, and many of them gave out loans to slave traders. At the same time, they were pacifist pioneers of the abolition movement in Britain. However, Friends who did not meet these expectations were disowned. This research analyzes how British Quakers of this time upheld both positions of this paradox through a case study of David Barclay, founder of Barclays Bank as well as a well-respected member of the Society of Friends. Lending out loans to slave traders, Barclay implicitly facilitated the slave trade. When Barclay became a slave owner through family inheritance, however, he chose to free the enslaved people from Jamaica to Pennsylvania and oversaw their wellbeing until everyone was fully integrated into the American society. The study consisted of letter exchanges, Barclay’s personal statements on freeing those who were enslaved, and other publishing of the Quaker Friends. Through these documents, Barclay’s humanitarian intentions were made clear and overcame his indirect and insidious contribution to the slave trade. Though Barclay played multiple roles in the banking and abolition fields, the primary document records suggest Barclay as a benevolent Quaker rather than a malevolent banker. The scope of the research was general, and the study has potential for further research on the life of David Barclay specifically as well as the Quaker abolition movement generally.