The William Smeal Collection

Minute books and cash books of the Glasgow Emancipation Society from its institution in 1833 until 1876.

About William Smeal

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Portrait of William Smeal, c1865

William Smeal (1792–1877) was a prosperous grocer and tea merchant from Glasgow. He was an abolitionist and an active member of the Society of Friends (the Quakers). He had an interest in many causes including the temperance movement, the abolition of capital punishment, national education and criminal reform. He was an active Liberal and was associated with the “Peace Party”, which attempted to keep the country out of the Crimean War.

His main interest was the anti-slavery movement. His interest extended beyond the freeing of slaves to helping them take their place in society as free men. He was joint secretary of the Glasgow Anti-Slavery Society which was founded by him in 1822. It was succeeded by the Glasgow Emancipation Society which was constituted in 1833. Smeal was joint secretary of this body also.

Until his death in 1877 in Glasgow, Smeal had been associated with the anti-slavery movement for 55 years. His daughter Jane was secretary of the Glasgow Anti-Slavery Society.

About the collection

The Smeal Collection was donated by William Smeal's nephew in 1915. It consists of the minute books and cash books of the Glasgow Emancipation Society from 1833 to 1876 together with a number of books and pamphlets on anti-slavery. Also included are letters and papers relating to the anti-slavery movement in Glasgow.

Finding aid

Online catalogue

William Smeal Collection, microfilm holdings (PDF, 163KB)

Further reading

The Glasgow Story


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