- Ronald M. Gifford
Thompson, George (18 June 1804–07 October 1878), antislavery orator/activist and member of Parliament, was born George Donisthorpe Thompson in Liverpool, England, the third son of Thomas Thompson, a Wesleyan clerk, and Elizabeth Donisthorpe. Although Thompson received no formal preparation for his life as a professional activist, as a young man he began a course of self-improvement and self-education. At eighteen, he helped form a mutual improvement society and at twenty began attending public meetings concerning political and historical subjects. As a member of several prominent debating societies, Thompson quickly gained a reputation as an able orator. With the help of an elocution teacher, Thompson sought to hone the skills that would help him escape the counting house and the relative poverty he had experienced throughout his childhood. It is unclear when Thompson took note of slavery, but later in life he remembered listening to his father's stories concerning the horrors of the slave trade. As a captain's clerk aboard a slave trading vessel, the elder Thompson remembered and told his son of the "pestiferous hold in which the stolen Africans were stowed; the manacles and fetters with which they were confined[,] … the fearful mortality that ensued, and the troops of hungry sharks that followed the wake of the ship, waiting for their daily supply of human carcasses" ( ...