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Zachary, son of John Macaulay and Margaret Campbell, was born in Inveraray in 1768. He went to Jamaica at the age of 16 to work on a plantation, becoming manager before his return to England in 1792. The following year he went to Sierra Leone and was Governor there until 1799.
Having witnessed in Jamaica the way slaves were treated, he became active in the attempts to abolish slavery. In 1823 he joined with others to form the Anti-Slavery Society. There is a memorial to Zachary in Westminster Abbey although he is not buried there. The bust displays a figure of a slave kneeling, along with an inscription " Am I not a Man and a Brother? "
He married Selina Mills, the daughter of a Bristol merchant, and had a family of nine, including Thomas Babington Macaulay, the poet, essayist and politician.