The Sierra Leone Bicentenary Trust

Registered Charity No: 700447 England

Governor Clarkson's Prayer for Sierra Leone
(1787 - 1987)


O LORD, I beseech Thee favourably to hear the prayer of him who wishes to be Thy servant, and pardon him from presuming to address Thee from this Sacred Place. O God, I know my own infirmity and unworthiness, and I know Thine abundant mercies to those who wish to be guided by Thy will. Support me, O Lord, with Thy heavenly grace, and so enable me to conduct myself through this earthly life, that my actions may be consistent with the words I have uttered this day. Thou knowest that I am now about to depart from this place, and to leave the people whom it has pleased Thee to entrust to my care. Guide them O merciful God, in the paths of truth and let not a few wicked men among us draw down Thy vengeance upon this Colony.

Ingraft into their hearts a proper sense of duty, and enable them through Thy grace to conduct themselves as Christians, that they may not come to Thy house without that pleasing emotion which every grateful man must feel when paying adoration to the AUTHOR OF LIFE. But I have great reason to fear, O Lord, that many who frequent Thy Church do not approach Thy presence as becomes them, and they may partly be compared to the Scribes, Pharisees and Hypocrites. Pardon, O God, their infirmities; and as Thou knowest their weakness from the manner in which they have formerly been treated and the little opportunity they have had of knowing THY WILL and getting acquainted with the merits of THY SON, OUR SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST, look down upon them with an eye of mercy and suffer them not to incur THY displeasure, after they have had an opportunity of being instructed in the ways of Thy commandments.

BLESS, O LORD, the inhabitants of this vast Continent, and incline their hearts towards us that they may readily listen to our advice and doctrines, and that we may conduct ourselves towards them so as to convince them of the happiness we enjoy under THY ALMIGHTY protection. Banish from this COLONY, O LORD, all heathenish superstition, and let the inhabitants know that Thou art the ONLY TRUE GOD in whom we live and move and have our being. If these people who profess Thy religion will not be assured of Thy superior power, convince them, O GOD, of Thine anger for their profession without their practice; for Thou knowest I have brought them here in hopes of making them and their families happy, both in this world and all to eternity.

But I fear they may not be governed by my advice, and that they may ruin themselves and their children forever by their perverse and ignorant behavior. I entreat Thee not to let their evil example affect the great cause in which we have embarked, but I would rather see this place in ashes and every wicked person destroyed than that the millions we have now an opportunity of bringing to the light and knowledge of Thy holy religion should, from the wickedness of a few individuals, still continue in their accustomed darkness and barbarism.

Thou knowest that I have universally talked of Thine apparent virtue and goodness, and have praised Thy name for having permitted me to be the servant employed in so great and glorious a cause. If I have been deceived, I am sorry for it, and may Thy will be done; but I implore Thee to accept the sincerity of my intentions and my best endeavours to improve the talent committed to my care. Only pardon the infirmity of my nature, and I will trust to Thy mercy.

Should any person have a wicked thought in his heart or do anything knowingly to disturb the peace and comfort of this our Colony, let him be rooted out, O GOD, from off the face of the earth; but have mercy upon him hereafter.

Were I to utter all that my heart now indicates, no time would be sufficient for my praise and thanksgiving for all the mercies THOU has vouchsafed to show me, but as Thou art acquainted with every secret of my heart accept my thoughts for thanks. I have no words left to express my gratitude and resignation to THY WILL. I entreat Thee O GOD, if nothing I can say will convince these people of Thy power and goodness, make use of me in anyway Thou pleasest, to make an attonement for their guilt. This is an awful, and I fear too presumptuous a request; yet if it should be Thy will that I should lay down my life for the cause I have embarked in, assist me, O Lord, with Thy support, that I may resign it in such a manner as to convince these unbelieving people that Thou art GOD indeed.

May the heart of this COLONY O LORD, imbibe the spirit of meekness, gentleness and truth; and may they henceforth live in unity and godly love, following as far as the weakness of their mortal natures will admit that most excellent and faultless pattern, which Thou hast given us in Thy Son our Saviour, JESUS CHRIST, to whom with Thee and the HOLY SPIRIT, be all honour and glory, now and forever. - AMEN.

Governor John Clarkson - committed abolitionist and promoter of the Sierra Leone Colony.

John Clarkson began serving in the British navy at the age of eleven. He was concerned with the plight of people less fortunate than himself. Through his brother Thomas Clarkson, he became involved with the English Abolitionists. This included the famed Granville Sharp, who had brought to court the case which ended slavery in England. Sharp needed somebody to travel to Nova Scotia to promote the Sierra Leone Colony to the free blacks. As a navy man, a committed abolitionist, and a shareholder in the Company, Clarkson was perfect for the job.

Charged with this responsibility, Clarkson traveled from England to Halifax in 1791 to recruit Blacks for Sierra Leone. Thomas Peters has arrived before Clarkson and had began telling blacks about this opportunity. Dundas, the Colonial Secretary of State, had written to Governor Parr urging that he assist Clarkson in his efforts, but privately, neither Parr nor Dundas were very enthusiastic about the scheme.

Clarkson was a naturally enthusiastic and emotional character. Although he vowed (and was told) to lay out the company's proposal impartially, Clarkson's enthusiasm and sympathy for the plight of the Black Loyalists soon got the better of him. Clarkson began promoting the colony wholeheartedly instead of merely laying out the proposal and signing up those who wished to leave. Clarkson also made some unwise promises, particularly in suggesting that there would be no land taxes (quitrents) in the colony.

Upon his arrival he spoke to Blacks in many areas of the province including Preston, Birchtown and Shelburne. So many people signed up with the company, that Clarkson was unable to deal with all the issues and disputes. He appointed Thomas Peters, John Ball and David George to deal with any problems on his behalf. The amount of people who signed up exceeded the number the company was prepared for, so after a while Clarkson had to accept people on the condition that there would be room for them. He planned a second trip later, but of course, that never happened.

While preparing for the embarkation Clarkson was involved in all aspects of planning. He supervised the refitting of the vessels, the cleaning and drying of the sleeping areas, the completion of the contracts and preparations of the provisions. Clarkson even took the time to ensure that the captains of the boats had instructions to treat the passengers well.

Clarkson became very ill before departure and nearly died; he had to be hoisted onto the ship before leaving. The flotilla left for Sierra Leone on 15 Jan 1792. The boats carried 1190 free Black emigrants. There was a great amount of sickness during the voyage that resulted in sixty-seven deaths, Clarkson himself did not die, but was very feeble upon arrival.

When he rowed ashore he was greeted with the news that he had been appointed as the new governor of the colony. Clarkson was exhausted, but he tried to do his best. He had the difficult task of meeting the high expectations of the Black Loyalists. Many saw Sierra Leone as a promised land of freedom, and were disappointed when the old problems of corruption and land distribution re-emerged.

Clarkson soon had a confrontation with Thomas Peters, but most of the settlers sided with Clarkson. Peters' discrediting and death soon after helped end that dispute. Still, there were constant problems to deal with. The land distribution was slow and the government was not what the settlers had been led to believe. Clarkson constantly encouraged patience and tried to mediate the disputes. His health had been poor since he had left Nova Scotia, and the constant demands exhausted him. Clarkson left for England in December of 1783 to rest and recover, only 8 months after he had arrived.

Once Clarkson had somewhat recovered, he was summoned to a meeting of the directors of the company. They offered him a generous pension if he would resign the post of Governor. Clarkson refused, and they promptly fired him.

Clarkson continued to donate money to the colony. He tried to get a fair hearing for some petitioners from the colony when they travelled to England seeking a change in government, but the experience had disillusioned him. Clarkson remained active among the abolitionists, even donating money to the colony, and died in the 1850's.