Iain Whyte - Author Insights

Posted on December 04, 2015 by Heather Gallagher

Here are the author insights behind our current #FreeReadFriday title, Zachary Macaulay 1768-1838 The Steadfast Scot in the British Anti-Slavery Movement straight from author, Rev Dr Iain Whyte. 

1. What prompted you to write this book?

During my research for my earlier book Scotland and the Abolition of Black Slavery 1756-1838  I came across Zachary Macaulay, who rates a mention in few accounts of abolition, despite his bust in Westminster Abbey. Through a friend I was introduced to the late Sir Lance Errington and Lady Reine Errington ( Zachary Macaulay's great great grandaughter) who gave me access to some of his diaries that were in their small home in Argyll. In 2006 I researched the Macaulay papers in the Huntington Library in California with a Fellowship from the British Academy and, having checked that there was no biography of him apart from two books by the family in 1900 and 1934, I decided to attempt to fill the gap.

2. Why do you think Zachary Macauley is such a neglected figure?

Undoubtedly because he was a shy and unassuming man who allowed himself to be dwarfed by his friends William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, and other giants of the British abolition movement. Uniquely amongst the 'Clapham Saints' and other leaders in the anti-slavery campaign, Zachary Macaulay never made a public speech. His son Thomas (Lord Macaulay the historian,  administrator, and politician) became far better known) Some modern historians have written him off with the sterotype of a 'narrow Presbyterian Scot' and apart from a shallow judgement based on  his shy reticence and rather fierce demeanour, have portrayed him as uncaring - one even accused him of not being interested in freedom.

3. Did anything in your research surprise you?

I think above all his contradictions and his single mindedness. In company with many evangelical Protestants in his time he deplored Roman Catholicism and in company with political  Conservatives of the time he had a horror of even the mildest hint of revolution or even legislation to permit Trades Unions.  Yet he hailed slave revolutions in Demerara, Jamaica and Haiti as liberation movements. On a trip to France he wrote to his wife that the Abbe Gregoire, former bishop and member of the French revolutionary assembly, was one of the most 'spiritual' men he knew - Gregoire had a substantial record of opposing slavery, and that was the litmus test for him. 

4. What, in your opinion, is Macauley’s legacy?

His most significant work was undoubtedly to edit The Anti-Slavery Monthly Reporter which had the dual role of providing factual information on slavery for the Parliamentary campaign and news of anti-slavery activity throughout Britain (a modern parallel would be the Anti-Apartheid News) These were the silent weapons against slavery. Macaulay's research was meticulous, culled from numerous government reports, documents and Caribbean newspapers. His encyclopedic knowledge was acknowledged by Wilberforce who said to his colleagues 'let us look it up in Macaulay.' This made him hated by the defenders of slavery both in Britain and the West Indies. THey could not contradict his evidence. His silent background work provided a vital platform for those who were more visible in the cause.


You can download Zachary Macaulay 1768-1838 free on 4th of December here.

If you'd like some instructions you can also download following this guide

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