Although the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1807, slavery still existed elsewhere in the world.When the war with France came to an end in 1814, a campaign began to insert a clause in the treaty with France to make France abolish their slave trade, which had been reintroduced by Napoleon.
The Friends of the Abolition of the Slave Trade held meetings in the coffee houses of London and placed advertisements in the Times newspaper for the meetings and location of draft petitions. From June 29 to 30 July 1814 some 864 petitions with 755, 000 signatures on had been received by the House of Commons. Lee was one of those places to submit a petition.
Several other places locally submitted a petition only, including Deptford, Deptford [Prot. District], Blackheath, Camberwell, Greenwich Woolwich, Foots Cray, St Mary Cray, Croydon.
In the Lewisham archives a copy of the Lee petition survives with the signatures of 40 Residents of Lee. This document is interesting because the people who signed came from vastly different backgrounds.
On the petition are the signatures of everyone from the Rector George Lock, Sir and Lady Palliser, Lydia, daughter of Lord Edgcumbe, to the local baker, inn keeper, builder, gardener, bricklayer and hairdresser. Also J R Williams a fellow member of the Friends of the Abolition of the Slave Trade with William Wilberforce.
Unfortunately these petitions did not result in a clause being introduced into the treaty with France, because Napoleon returned from Elba and the treaty was never signed.
It is also interesting to see who did not sign the petition. For example Benjamin Aislabie. He was living locally at the time but did not sign. Aislabie was a wine merchant with interests in Caribbean plantations. He was also well-known for being Secretary and later President of the MCC [Middlesex Cricket Club].
Some local Residents of Lee who did not sign the Petition:
This document is held at the Local History and Archives Centre, Lewisham. [Archive Ref A99/4/1]