Previously unseen documents reveal how Britain’s wealthiest families received millions of pounds in compensation after slavery was abolished in Britain’s colonies in 1833. Their descendants include Prime Minister David Cameron.
Historian Dr Nick Draper of University College London has spent 3 years compiling a database of 46,000 records of compensation given to British slave-owners, which will be launched online tomorrow.
He found that as many as one-fifth of wealthy Victorian Britons derived their fortunes from the slave trade and the records show exactly who received what in payouts from the British Government when it was abolished – to the potential embarrassment of their descendants who still indirectly enjoy the proceeds. Among them are Prime Minister David Cameron, former government minister Douglas Hogg, and the chairman of the Arts Council Peter Bazalgette.
The British Government paid out £20 million to around 3,000 families for loss of their ‘property’ when slave-ownership was abolished. This represented a staggering 40% of the Treasury’s annual spending budget and equates to around £16.5 billion in today’s terms.
Dr Draper said: “There was a feeding frenzy around the compensation.”
– John Gladstone, father of 19th-century prime minister William Gladstone, received £106,769 (equal to £83 million) for the 2,508 slaves he owned across 9 plantations.
– Charles Blair, great-grandfather of the author George Orwell (real name Eric Blair), received £4,442, equal to over £3 million today, for the 218 slaves he owned.
– General Sir James Duff, who was David Cameron’s first cousin six times removed, was awarded a similar amount for the 202 slaves he forfeited in Jamaica. Mr Cameron has declined to comment on the revelation.
– One of the biggest payouts went to Charles McGarel – one of Douglas Hogg’s ancestors – who received £129,464 (about £101 million today) for the 2,489 slaves on his plantations in British Guyana. Mr Hogg has also refused to comment, saying he “didn’t know anything about it”.
– Evelyn Bazalgette, ancestor of Peter Bazalgette, was paid £7,352 (£5.7 million today) for 420 slaves on his two estates in Jamaica. Peter Bazalgette said yesterday: “It had always been rumoured that his father had some interests in the Caribbean and I suspect Evelyn inherited that. So I heard rumours but this confirms it, and guess it’s the sort of thing wealthy people on the make did in the 1800s. He could have put his money elsewhere but regrettably he put it in the Caribbean.”
Source: the Independent