The Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa, commonly referred to as the African Association, grew out of an informal dining society known as the Saturday’s Club. Its 1788 Plan of the Association asserted that the Association’s members were “desirous of rescuing the age from a charge of ignorance, which in other respects, belongs so little to its character,” and thus “formed the plan of an Association for promoting the discovery of the interior parts of Africa.” Among their various exploits were the sponsorship of multiple explorers, including Mungo Park, and a failed attempt to establish a British consul in Bambuk (Senegambia.)
The African Association was made up of wealthy and influential men, which substantially contributed to the achievement of the Association’s goals, and the power and influence wielded by members was integral to smoothing the path for the Association’s operations. The identity of these zealous proponents of knowledge shows that they represented a choice selection of some of society’s most prominent members, and indeed of many who were involved more or less directly with the processes of the British government. Of the twelve founding members of the African Association, ten had political experience, ranging from Sir John Sinclair and Lord Rawdon, both active politicians at the time of the Association’s foundation, to Sir Adam Ferguson and Andrew Stuart, Scotsmen who had formerly served on the board of trade. The Association’s first Secretary, Henry Beaufoy, was a distinguished politician who had spoken out against the slave trade in Parliament and was a member of the radical Revolution society. And of the two non-politicians, one was Sir Joseph Banks, whose extensive array of political contacts and influence as President of the Royal Society made him more of an influential figure in British government than many career politicians.
The Association was not only founded by men of an almost uniformly political persuasion, but it continued to attract the membership of many of the prominent politicians of the day, including renowned abolitionist William Wilberforce, Earl Spencer (who had held office as both Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty), and the Duke of Grafton, a former Prime Minister. A spectrum of political views could be found in these members; for while Henry Beaufoy, William Wilberforce, and like-minded members argued against the African slave trade in Parliament, others such as Bryan Edwards, a Jamaican plantation owner turned scholar and parliamentarian, argued against the them. Membership did not thus preclude contemporaneous political activity; indeed, several members of the Association’s innermost Committee stepped down after political appointments abroad made their continued role in the Association impossible, arguing that they continued to engage in political activity while members of the Association.
 Records of the African Association: 1788-1831, edited by Robin Hallett (New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1964), 45.
 Robin Hallett, introduction to Records of the African Association: 1788-1831, ed. Robin Hallett (New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1964), 14.
 Nicholas Rogers, Crowds, Culture, and Politics in Georgian Britain (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 182 ; G.M. Ditchfield, “Beaufoy, Henry Hanbury (1750-1795),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/1865?docPos=1.
 Hallett, introduction to Records of the African Association: 1788-1831, 20,22,23.
 Richard B. Sheridan, “Edwards, Bryan (1743-1800),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/8531.
 Sir William Young, Secretary of the Association from 1800 to 1807, gave up his position upon being appointed governor of Tobago, and in 1813 Lord Rawdon (by this point Earl of Moira upon his father’s death) was named Governor-General of India. The Association resolved to name him President and give him the power of admission of members, but after leaving Britain it appears Rawdon effectively ceased participation in the work of the Association. Hallett, introduction to Records of the African Association: 1788-1831, 16, 19-20.