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By family tradition, the seal was presented to William Earle, whose brother had a shipping business in Liverpool, by William Wilberforce, when the company ceased to trade in slaves.
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The kneeling figure of the slave was the first identifiable image of the abolitionist movement. In 1787 three of its members were given the task of designing an image for a seal that represented the sentiments of the society. Josiah Wedgewood who was himself a member of the society produced a cameo depicting the same emblem.