The City of London & The Slave Trade Part 2

Back in June when we began our look at the huge overlap between the slave trading Royal Africa Company and the City of London council we quoted Historic England on this entanglement. We chose this particular source because it emphasised that the Guildhall (the City of London council offices) was a centre of the slave trade. That said we could see that the numbers used were drawn from the book The Royal African Company by K. G. Davies (Longmans Green, 1957), since on pages 67/68 Davies states: “Fifteen of the Lord Mayors of London, between the Restoration and the Revolution, and twenty-five of the Sheriffs were shareholders in the company, as were thirty-eight of the men elected or appointed aldermen between 1672 and 1690.” Historic England use the same figures and time frame in what we quoted from them.

It’s important to understand that these numbers do not cover the overlaps between the City of London council and the Royal Africa Society during the entire history of this slave trading operation, just its earlier phase. The citation we used contained a sentence that emphasised this: “These connections to the slave trade increased during the 18th century.” Despite only being a part of the full picture the numbers are striking and we were not surprised to see them being deployed in a misleading way by current City of London Councillor Tijs Broeke just two days after our post including them appeared online.
Broeke tweeted on 19 June 2020: “#RoyalAfricanCompany shareholders incl. 15 Lord Mayors, 25 Sherffs, & 38 Aldermen.” This tweet contained a link that we didn’t look at back in June because we were already familiar with the source for the numbers. When we did check the link, the page it led us to displayed a short message about Guildhall Library resources being integrated with those of the London Metropolitan Archives, there was no information on it about the Royal Africa Company or City of London council officials. We don’t know whether or not this page was modified to what we saw before or after Broeke tweeted it, it is nonetheless probable that some of those who viewed Broeke’s tweet were unaware of the source of these figures – and the crucial framing that should accompany them – and that they either didn’t click on the link or did but didn’t see any contextualising information.

It is therefore likely that at least some of those who saw Broeke’s tweet were left with the impression that there were only ever 15 City of London lord mayors etc. who were shareholders of the slave trading Royal Africa Company (RAC). In fact there are more than just 15 lord mayors who fall into this category and they weren’t just shareholders, they belonged to the company’s Court of Assistants (today we would call them company directors). We think Davies’ figures would have been higher if he’d been listing top City of London councillors who were shareholders rather than directors (although those who held this position were often* also shareholders, they were NOT just shareholders) in the period of the company’s history being invoked. Taking just one example for now, Sir Humphrey Edwin was elected an alderman in 1687, became sheriff in 1688 and Lord Mayor of London in 1697. Woodhead (see below) records Edwin as holding original Royal Africa Company shares but there seems to be no record of him serving as an RAC director. It is clear that Davies does not include Edwin in his figures as quoted with and without proper sourcing above – this alderman is NOT initialled as an RAC director in Davies’ index (the means by which all directors of the firm identified by the author during his research are ‘listed’ in this 1957 work) and where this alderman is mentioned on page 69 it is as solely as a RAC investor.

We haven’t done archival research but by using among other things the same source Davies cites in his 1957 book on the Royal Africa Company – The Aldermen of the City of London by Alfred P Beaven (Corporation of London 1913 – digitised version online here) – and comparing that to readily accessible information about the RAC, we can identify more than 15 Lord Mayors of London (the top City of London council post) who were directors of this slave trading enterprise – this is achieved by counting in those who held such posts after the period Davies addresses in his attention grabbing quote. As will be evident from our comment on Humphrey Edwin above, we are not including those lord mayors who invested in the the Royal Africa Company but are not known to have been on its Court of Assistants (board of directors).

In the previous part of this post we mentioned the following lord mayors of London as also being Royal Africa Company directors: Sir William Turner, Sir Robert Vyner, Sir John Moore, Sir Robert Clayton, Sir William Withers, Sir Robert Geffrye, Sir William Prichard and Sir Samuel Dashwood. To these can be added the following who will be dealt with below: Sir John Robinson, Sir John Lawrence, Sir Thomas Bludworth, Sir Richard Ford, Sir James Edwards, Sir James Smyth, Sir Henry Tulse, Sir Peter Delmé, Sir John Fleete, Sir Samuel Stanier and possibly also Sir Thomas Alleyn, Sir John Thompson, Sir James Bateman and Sir William Gore. There may well be more we have yet to identify.

Tijs Broeke’s misleading tweet is typical of the type of propaganda the City of London council and its representatives indulge in. Broeke’s downplaying of the council’s role in the slave trade is no more convincing than the way it and its representatives inflate the finance industry’s ‘contributions’ to the UK economy. It should also be noted that Broeke was elected on undemocratic business votes in the UK’s last rotten borough but that doesn’t stop him and others like him unconvincingly attempting to present themselves as somehow ‘progressive’. Since Broeke claims to be interested in history we’d hope that he is capable of checking readily available secondary sources on the Royal Africa Society and making critical evaluations of their likely factual accuracy. Regardless of how incompetent he is or is not as both a historian and a local authority official, we still think it unlikely that a City of London councillor wouldn’t know the difference between a company director and a shareholder, which is another reason why it looks to us like Broeke is disingenuously and very deliberately attempting to downplay his seventeenth and eighteenth-century predecessors responsibility for the black holocaust.

There is a plethora of primary material on the Royal Africa Company held at places such as the National Archives, The British Library and the Parliamentary Archives. To date we haven’t had time to examine these and instead we’ve drawn upon what are widely considered to be reliable scholarly sources that are based on primary archival research. Davies in his 1957 book The Royal African Company names a number top of City of London council officials and explicitly links some of them to their civic roles in footnotes on pages 159 and 160; an appendix provides a list entitled ‘The Separate Traders, 1702-1712’ (pages 372/3).

A more recent book covering similar ground is Freedom’s Debt: The Royal African Company and the Politics of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1672-1752 by William A. Pettigrew (University of North Carolina, 2013 – online download available here). Among the appendixes this includes ‘A Directory of Independent Slave Traders, 1672–1712’ (pages 227-234) and ‘A Directory of Royal African Company Directors, 1672–1750’ (pages 237-239). One way that we have been identifying slave traders active in the square mile’s civic apparatus is by comparing these two lists with Beaven’s The Aldermen of the City of London mentioned above. For the present we are not engaging with Pettigrew’s arguments, although we are aware that as well as being widely praised, he has been criticised for – among other things – over emphasising political factors at the expense of economic ones.

In deploying Pettigrew to explore the relationship between the City of London council and the slave trade we came across some omissions and discrepancies in his book; we don’t think these small slippages undermine his overall argument, although that isn’t to say there aren’t any other reasons for disagreement with at least parts of it. Our focus is on Pettigrew for a number of reasons including the fact that his book is in print and readily available, whereas with libraries closed due to the Covid 19 pandemic and used copies of Davies’ out-of-print work being very expensive, Freedom’s Debt is currently the ‘go to’ source for information about the Royal Africa Company. This is particularly the case among those who are primarily activists rather than academics. Pettigrew’s list is also far easier to use than the annotations in the index that Davies deploys. In creating his director list, Pettigrew drew on Davies’ earlier work and two other sources. We will also note that as someone who has lectured at Gresham College, Pettigrew is associated with one of the many organisations – ranging from the livery companies to the Barbican Centre – that are inextricably entwined with the City of London council. That said, this is not Pettigrew’s main employment and he may or may not have thought deeply about contradictions of someone with his research interests lecturing at Gresham College.

Pettigrew is more interested in the overlaps between Royal Africa Company directors and the British parliament than the former and City of London council officials. The involvement of MPs and members of the House of Lords in slave trading is an important area of research but it is not the focus of this blog. This and its consequences have also been taken up by parts of the media, for example Catherine Bennett wrote a piece for The Guardian on 14 June 2020 entitled As Statues of Slave Traders Are Torn Down, Their Heirs Sit Untouched in the Lords. While contemporary British peers are not to blame for the crimes of their ancestors, those whose privileges stem from the enslavement of others should still be stripped of the benefits they’ve derived from such inhumanity. Many of the City merchants engaged in the slave trade – including top City of London council officials and their immediate heirs – were ennobled at least in part due to the wealth they accrued from their role in the black holocaust.

There is a substantial overlap between top City of London council officials who were slave traders and British MPs in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. While the House of Commons and the way MPs are elected to it has undergone substantial reform over the past several hundred years, both the City of London council and the House of Lords preserve old privileges that continue to undermine democracy. To this day the City of London council retains its three medieval chambers – Common Hall, Court of Common Council and Court of Aldermen – and its top officials in the form of the lord mayor and sheriffs are still chosen from among the councillors in blatantly rigged elections whose ‘voters’ are unelected and largely non-resident livery company members (while the overwhelming majority of this local authority’s residents are excluded from the process).

As with all areas of enquiry into the slave trade, research into the overlaps between it and City of London council officials is ongoing and should be revised in the light of evidence. We would stress that what’s presented here is based on what are widely regarded as reputable secondary sources and we hope that at some point this will be followed up – not necessarily by us – by further research and archival checks against primary material. Likewise the list of names we have assembled is inevitably incomplete and we hope that in due course it can be added to. Information about the individuals in question is taken from Beaven’s The Aldermen of the City of London and then supplemented with material from elsewhere. Also included in each aldermanic slave trader portrait is an assessment of how Wikipedia has covered the individual in question because in ongoing discussions with a variety of people we have noticed that many of them use that platform as their first port of call for information this topic; and also that some of those who claim to be ‘defending history’ by fighting to keep memorials to slave traders as and where they are, have been blatantly falsifying history in Wiki edit wars as part of an attempt to forestall criticism of this one-sided and inhuman ‘history’ (see in particular our entry on Sir Henry Tulse coming in the next post in this series).

Research into slave traders among members of the City of London Court of Common Council who didn’t go on to become aldermen has largely been left aside for now. Note the dates of (first) election to the Court of Aldermen here are taken from Beaven, these don’t always exactly match other sources such as Wikipedia. Due to amount of material under review we will be spreading the cross-referencing we have done between Beavan, Pettigrew and others, across several different posts.

Samuel Moyer (c. 1609–1683). Elected to Court of Aldermen 1653. Father of Sir Samuel Moyer, Bart. Moyer appears to have had an uncle and a son also called Samuel Moyer. Pettigrew’s RAC director list entry is not prefixed with Sir making it more likely this is the father than the son, although Freedom’s Debt is not always consistent in its use of titles. Pettigrew’s list also includes William Moyer and the alderman Samuel Moyer had brothers including one called William. This Moyer’s will as found online does not include RAC holdings but does show a substantial investment in the East India Company which was also involved in slave trading. The alderman Moyer listed here requires further investigation but may be the man of that name found on Pettigrew’s list of RAC directors. He is in the Davies index again without an honorific and his dates as an RAC director are given there as between 1672 and 1681 (not continuous), thus while this Moyer was alive making him a possible fit the name. Regardless of whether or not Moyer was a director of the Royal Africa Company, he is an example of a City of London councillor who invested in slave trading. Moyer was an alderman for the Ward of Cheap. He was a member of the Mercer’s Company and its master in 1653. At the time of writing his Wikipedia entry does not mention his involvement in the slave trade. The Rulers of London 1660-1689 A Biographical Record of the Aldermen and Common Councilmen of the City of London by J R Woodhead (London & Middlesex Archaeological Society, London, 1966) is not helpful in this instance since its entries go from Robert Moulins to Thomas Murthwaite without including any Moyers. Incidentally, Murthwaite was a common councillor for Aldgate and is listed as holding RAC stock, which illustrates how Rulers is a helpful source for research into City of London common councillors who were involved in the slave trade (albeit a source covering less than three decades). Rulers is online here, there appear to be some scanning errors in the digitised version and while these are unlikely to make any difference to what we’ve taken from it, we will nonetheless be checking this information against a print copy in due course (we haven’t done this yet).

Sir Thomas Alleyn AKA Aleyn (c. 1633–1690). Elected to the Court of Aldermen in 1653. Son of William Alleyn (Alderman 1651). He was Lord Mayor at the time of the Restoration, which he took part in furthering, but he was not regarded as a whole-hearted royalist and he was one of the Aldermen superseded in 1683, when the Charter was suspended. The account of the Aldermen in 1672 (printed in The Gentleman’s Magazine for 1769), says of him that ‘the ill principles he had before that happie time, it is to be feared he retains still; in the late times he was no great enemy to the renouncing the familie of Stuarts.’ Note that Pettigrew’s RAC director list has no Sir and only one l in this lord mayor’s surname. Wikipedia notes variant spellings of the name. Alleyn was at various times an alderman for Cheap Ward, Aldgate Ward and Bridge Without. He was appointed Sheriff of London in 1654 and Lord Mayor of London in 1659. He was the Lord Mayor who welcomed King Charles II of England into the City of London on 29 May 1660 after his exile. Allen was knighted during this visit and two weeks later, on 14 June, he was created a baronet. He was admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1673. He belonged to the Worshipful Company of Grocers and became its master in 1676. At the time of writing his Wikipedia entry does not mention an involvement with the slave trade but this Alleyn seems a likely fit for the name on Pettigrew’s RAC director list.

Sir John Robinson (1615–1680). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1655. Son of Archdeacon Robinson who was half-brother of Archbishop Laud and nephew of Sir William Webbe (Lord Mayor 1591–2). The MS. account of the Aldermen in 1672 says of him that ‘he hath been most industrious in the civill government of the cittie, watchfull to prevent anything that might reflect any prejudice or dishonour upon the King’s government, happy in dispatch of businesse, to the great contentment of the people.’ Pepys writes very contemptuously of him as ‘a talking bragging bufflehead . . . . as very a coxcomb as I would have thought had been in the City . . . . nor hath he brains to outwit any ordinary tradesman’ (March 17, 1662-3): again, after recording ‘a very great noble dinner’ at which he (Pepys) was a guest during Robinson’s Mayoralty, he adds ‘this Mayor is good for nothing else’ (October 20, 1663), and in another place he says of him that ‘he makes it his work to praise himself, and all he says and do, like a heavy-headed coxcomb.’ Robinson sat in the House of Commons and was Lord Mayor of London in 1662. He was Sheriff of London in 1657 and an alderman for Dowgate, Cripplegate and Tower wards. Robinson belonged to the Clothworkers’ Company and was its master in 1656. He was knighted on 26 May 1660 and made a baronet on 22 June 1660. Wikipedia notes Robinson’s positions at the Levant Company, East India Company and Hudson’s Bay Company but at the time of writing doesn’t mention that he was a RAC director. Likewise Robinson is not in Pettigrew’s RAC director list, which is clearly an oversight because Freedom’s Debt lists Davies as one of the sources from which this list was compiled and it is lord mayor Robinson who is footnoted as an RAC director on page 159 of that 1957 book; this City of London council boss is also annotated as an RAC director in Davies’ index.

This is said to be a portrait of Sir John Robinson after Godfrey Kneller (1646–1723). However we’re left wondering why the words ‘Sir James Robinson’ appear on the painting when the sitter is identified as Sir John Robinson on the Art UK website (there is no explanation there). Sir John Robinson was the first baronet of this London baronetcy, Sir James Robinson was the third but it would appear that all those belonging to this peerage – up to and including the current 11th baronet Sir John James Michael Laud Robinson – are beneficiaries of the slave trade, even if most of them were not directly engaged in running it (since it was a slave trading ancestor who got them raised to the peerage). The Art UK website featuring this picture currently has no labelling or tagging to inform visitors that if this is Sir John Robinson (and not Sir James Robinson) it depicts a slave trader. The work is currently housed in the Tower of London, although in our view (if it is Sir John Robinson) it would be better to display it in a museum dedicated to exposing the horrors of slavery. Another portrait labelled as being of Sir John Robinson on the Art UK website, this time by John Michael Wright (1617–1694) – and belonging to the Royal Armouries at the Tower of London collection – also fails to identify its sitter as a slave trader. The Art UK website highlights works held in public collections.

Sir John Lawrence (died 1692). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1658. The leader of the party in opposition to the Court in civic affairs. The writer of the MS. account of the Aldermen in 1672, says that ‘he hath put all the affronts and indignities imaginable upon all those persons that have been willing to venture their lives and estates in any military employment for His Majesty,’ and that he ‘hath always had three or four busie turbulent followers to crye him up in all parts of the cittie, and to assist him in all popular elections.’ He goes on to say of Lawrence and Sir William Turner, who had co-operated with him in favouring the Dissenters, that ‘what they gained by their treacherous complieing with that party, that they have lost by their impious and insolent behaviour towards almost all persons they have had to doe with.’ One daughter married Sir George Vyner, Bart., son of Sir Thomas Vyner (Lord Mayor 1653–4), and another Charles Chamberlain (Alderman 1687–8). Lawrence was an alderman for Queenhithe, Sheriff of London in 1658 and Lord Mayor in 1664. He belonged to the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers and served as its master. Lawrence was also governor of the colonialist Irish Society. Wikipedia currently notes that he was a director of the East India Company (also involved in slave trading) but at the time of writing had failed to note his role at the RAC despite all the obvious academic sources from Davies through Woodhead to Pettigrew listing him as a director of the Royal Africa Company. Woodhead also notes that Lawrence held £1,600 of original RAC stock, which is considerably more than most of his fellow City merchants invested in this slave trading venture.

Memorial inscription on the southern post of the main City Road gate for Bunhill Fields burial ground for slave traders and Lord Mayors of London John Lawrence and Thomas Bludworth. This and the many other memorials to slave traders in and around the City should either be removed or amended.

Francis Dashwood (1603-1683). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1658. He married a sister of Edmund Sleigh (Alderman, Sheriff 1654–5). His eldest son Sir Samuel was Lord Mayor 1702–3; the second, Francis, was created a Baronet and was father of Lord le Despencer, well known as the head of the ‘monks’ of Medmenham Abbey and as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Lord Bute’s ministry. His daughter married the 5th Lord Brooke, from which marriage the Earls of Warwick of the present creation are descended. Both the Davies and Pettigrew RAC directors list contains both Francis Dashwood and Sir Francis Dashwood, so it would appear both father and the son who took his name (an MP but not a City alderman) were involved in this slave trading operation. Davies states Francis Dashwood without the honorific was an RAC director in 1675-6, so while this alderman was alive. He was an alderman for Walbrook. Beaven lists him as belonging to the Saddlers’ Company, his son’s Francis and Samuel (the latter also an alderman and RAC director) were both members of the more prestigious Vintners’ Company. The History of the Ward of Walbrook in the City of London by James George White, page 244 (privately printed, London, 1904) provides an explanation of the elevation of this family through the ranks of livery companies, saying of the father: “When required, according to the custom of the time, on becoming an alderman, to take up his Livery in one of the twelve principal companies, he selected the Vintners.” Obviously once their father was a Vintner it would have been straightforward and even expected that his sons join this livery. White also notes the father was master of the Saddlers’ in 1653 before he became an alderman. At the time of writing there wasn’t a Wikipedia entry for this Francis Dashwood.

Sir Thomas Bludworth AKA Bloodworth (1620– 1682). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1658. Lord Mayor at the time of the Great Fire of 1666. His daughter married Lord Jeffreys, James II.’s Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor, and was ancestress of the Earls of Pomfret. Pepys writes of him as ‘a silly man, I think’ (June 30, 1666) and ‘a very weak man he seems to be’ (December 1, 1666). The MS. account of the Aldermen of 1672 credits him with being ‘a zealous person in the King’s concernments; willing though it may be not very able, to doe great things.’ In his funeral sermon by Dr. Scott it is said that ‘he had a mighty affection and zeal for the King and for the Church of England.’ Bludworth was alderman for Dowgate, Aldersgate and Portsoken. He was sheriff in 1663. He belonged to the Vintners Company and served as its master. A footnote on page 159 of Davies’ book makes it clear that it is this Lord Mayor who was an RAC director and who is invoked in his index. It is worth noting that even now this livery on its website boasts of displaying Bludworth’s coat of arms in its Court Room (‘one of the oldest continuously used meeting rooms in the City of London’). Our view is this slaver insignia should be removed from the Vintners’ Hall for a number of reasons including the fact the Vintners Company are now a ‘charity’ and the room is available for public hire. Bludworth was MP for Southwark. Wikipedia notes his involvement with the Levant Company and East India Company but at the time of writing doesn’t mention that Bludworth was a director of the RAC – although it does contain a link to his History of Parliament Online entry that notes this (as of course does Pettigrew).

Sir William Turner (1615–1693). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1660. The MS. account of the Aldermen of 1672 says that he was ‘esteemed zealous for the church untill the yeare of his Maioraltie; then he espouzed the interests of the Nonconformists’; it adds that towards the end of his year of office ‘there were frequent consultations at his house with the heads of the Nonconformists about continuing him Lord Mayor another yeare.’ He appears to have recovered favour with the Court party as he was not superseded with the Whig Aldermen in 1680. He was one of the few bachelor Lord Mayors. There are more details about him in part one of this series of posts. A footnote on page 159 of Davies’ book makes it clear that it is this Lord Mayor who was an RAC director and who is invoked in his index. At the time of writing Wikipedia doesn’t note that Turner was a director of the RAC and the East India Company. There are a number of place and building names in the North Riding of Yorkshire that memorialise him – such as Sir William Turner’s Hospital and Sir William Turners Court – and these should be changed given his involvement in slave trading.

Sir Richard Ford (c.1614-78). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1661. Pepys (Diary, March 17, 1663) describes him as ‘a very able man of his brains and tongue, and a scholar,’ but in a later entry (October 18, 1664) he records on the authority of a ‘Mr. Gray’ that ‘among other faults, Sir Richard Ford cannot keep a secret.’ The MS. account of the Aldermen in 1672 says that he is ‘ a man of excellent parts, and may doe his majestie excellent service in the citty,’ but notes that he suspended the execution of the laws against Nonconformists when Lord Mayor, ‘by which he gained the applause of all that partie.’ Ford was alderman for Farringdon Within, Bread Street and Lime Street. He was knighted in 1660, elected Sheriff of London in 1663 and Lord Mayor of London in 1671. Ford belonged to the Mercers Company and served as its master. He was also an MP. At the time of writing Wikipedia notes that he was a governor of the Merchant Adventurers, a commissioner of the East India Company and a Deputy Governor of the Royal Adventurers into Africa (without mentioning the significant fact this was in the year it won its slaving charter, or explicitly drawing out his involvement in the slave trade through other organisations). Wikipedia – which on many pages treats the Royal Adventurers and Africa Company as a single entity – doesn’t note Ford was also a director of the RAC as recorded in his History of Parliament online profile, the latter also contains this assertion: “As the leading merchant in the Africa company he was chiefly responsible for the second Dutch war.” Davies and Pettigrew both include him in their list of RAC directors but have nothing more to say about him. Woodhead lists him as holding RAC and East India Company stock as well as being a director of both companies.

Ford’s name, alongside those of the slave trade connected lord mayors George Waterman (see below part 5) and Robert Vyner AKA Viner (see below) can be found in latin on the eastern panel inscription above the door of The Monument, this should be removed just as the words falsely blaming the fire on a Catholic conspiracy were removed from this column in 1830. For information on this see here – note also that at the time of writing the website promoting The Monument boosts the profile of its architect Sir Christopher Wren (see our entry on him here) but makes no mention of his personal and institutional investments in the slave trade. While we’re on the subject of The Monument, the latin inscription emblazoned on a south panel at the base to Charles II also requires removal since it was this monarch who first provided royal and official approval for the transatlantic slave trade within the English (later British) empire via the charters he granted to the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading into Africa. Charles II, like many other English monarchs, also profited personally from the slave trade.

John Jeffreys AKA Jefferies (c1614-1688). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1661. Alderman for Bread Street. He belonged to the Grocers’ company and acted as their master. Rulers of London lists him as a Royal Africa Company director, so he appears to be the man of the same name on Pettigrew’s list. He was also an MP, something Pettigrew sees as worthy of mention in a footnote on page 46 of Freedom’s Debt, although as we will see below it is possible that Pettigrew is invoking another John Jeffreys who was an MP and can be found listed elsewhere as an RAC director. The John Jeffreys invoked in bold at the start of this entry has variant birthdates in his History of Parliament online entry, which are given there as c1623-1689; other details in the History of Parliament and the Rulers entries (we use the latter for his birthdates above) match sufficiently to indicate this is the same person and that he is also one of the two RAC directors of this name invoked by Davies. This individual’s History of Parliament entry doesn’t mention his election as a City alderman, possibly because he chose to pay a fine rather than serve in office, it also doesn’t list him as an RAC director, we will address that below. This John Jeffreys’ History of Parliament entry flags up his role in the colonial exploitation of Ireland: “the Duke of Ormonde… gave him a commission in the Irish army. It was said on his arrival in Ireland that ‘his estate in Wales was so encumbered by his loyalty to the crown that he had to remove hither in hopes to redeem it’. Abercynrig had to be sold in 1664, but in the following year Jeffreys was made joint registrar to the commissioners appointed under the Act of Explanation, a post believed to be worth at least £8,000. He sat in the Irish Parliament and his fortunes probably improved, although he was still not clear of debt in 1672.” There is now a point to be cleared up here as regards discrepancies between Pettigrew’s RAC directors list and that of Davies, since the latter clearly identifies two different individuals called John Jeffreys as RAC directors whereas Pettigrew includes only one. On the basis of cross-referencing with Rulers, we can see Davies (like Woodhead) lists alderman-for-a-day John Jeffreys as being an Africa Company director in 1672-3 and 1675, and this is the individual who we are most concerned with here. However, immediately beneath this John Jeffreys entry in his index, Davies lists “John Jeffreys (another)”, who he indicates was an RAC director after alderman-for-a-day John Jeffreys’ death at the end of the 1680s. The History of Parliament online might be read as suggesting this second John Jeffreys is the nephew and heir of the alderman-for-a-day we’ve been discussing, the younger man being an MP in the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries. However, while giving Davies as its source, at the time of writing the History of Parliament online entry for John Jeffreys (c.1659-1715) provides different dates for him acting as a director of the RAC to the 1957 book it invokes as the authority it consulted on this matter (assuming this is Davies’ ‘another’) – viz, Davies records 1690-1 and 1693, whereas History of Parliament online gives 1684–6 and 1692–8. Given that the younger John Jeffreys’ brother Jeffrey Jeffreys (see below part 5) and his nephew Edward Jeffreys (1680-1740, Jeffrey Jeffreys’ son) – as well as his uncle and namesake – all appear to have been RAC directors (see Edward Jeffreys’ History of Parliament entry for a reputable secondary source on his RAC directorship), the MP (c.1659-1715) does seem the most likely candidate for Davies’ second John Jeffreys. However, since we know from Woodhead of around 30 individuals (there are probably more) who were either RAC directors and/or investors and City of London common councillors who didn’t attain the senior councilperson status of alderman, there is also an outside possibility that rather than there being two John Jeffreys who served as RAC directors, there were three or more. Woodhead in Rulers lists two John Jeffreys, the alderman-for-a-day and another man of that name who was a common councillor for Langbourn in the early 1660s but NOT an alderman – note that John Jeffreys (c.1659-1715) MP was not a City of London common councillor although he did serve in that capacity in Brecon, as well as being an alderman and sheriff in Wales. Woodhead provides very few details about the City of London common councillor John Jeffreys who isn’t alderman-for-a-day John Jeffreys, he doesn’t even give a birth or death date, but this individual would seem to be a possible candidate for ‘another’ RAC director called John Jeffreys, since he belonged to the civic apparatus from which so many directors of the slave trading company were drawn. Given Davies’ careful recording of the matter in hand with service dates and very strong signalling of two individuals of this name (although there being more than two remains a possibility), it would appear that here we find one of several instances of Pettigrew being careless when using Davies (and the same archive material as Davies) as sources to compile his own RAC director list (his third and only other credited source being the History of Parliament). Ultimately the matter of who the second John Jeffreys was (or ‘were’ if there were several) is most likely to be resolved by consulting archival sources since there seem to be mistakes and omissions in all the secondary sources we are using for this name. The slightly variant material in the History of Parliament online as regards the John Jeffreys MPs invoked here and the RAC simply makes the whole matter even more puzzling and indicates a need for more archival research. The History of Parliament appears to have mixed up the probable RAC directorship of the younger John Jeffreys with that of his brother Jeffrey Jeffreys – since the dates they give for both are identical (but only tally with the dates Davies gives for Jeffrey Jeffreys and fail to match those of either of the John Jeffreys listed by Davies). It is also possible The History of Parliament has mixed up the older and younger John Jeffreys and this may account for their failure to record the uncle’s RAC directorship – on the basis of other secondary sources it seems much more certain that the older man was an RAC director than the younger (the relevant History of Parliament entries discussed here were authored/co-authored by three different biographers). All said, it does seem likely that John Jeffreys (c.1659-1715) was – as his History of Parliament entry indicates – an RAC director, but further research IS required on this. At the time of writing alderman-for-a-day John Jeffreys doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry.

Sir Arthur Ingram (1617-1681). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1661. He was alderman for Bishopsgate, a member of the Haberdashers’ Company and served as its master. He was a director of the East India Company. Knighted November 5, 1664. The are a number of individuals of this name who are perhaps better known than the alderman listed here. However, The Rulers of London 1660-1689 states under this Arthur Ingram’s name: “£24,915 RAC stock £1,500 stock assigned to him.” He is also listed there as a Royal African Company director and by Davies in his index of RAC directors. The later in a footnote on page 159 of his book The Royal African Company (1957) also makes it clear that it is the alderman entered here who was an RAC director, Davies also notes Ingram was a director of the East India Company. At the time of writing this Sir Arthur Ingram didn’t have a Wikipedia entry.

Sir William Warren (c. 1624-c1695). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1662. He was alderman for Farringdon Without. Pepys records (June 3, 1662) that his fine (£420) on discharge from his Aldermanry was used to defray the cost of the Aldermen’s present to the Queen (Catharine of Braganza). Warren belonged to the Drapers Company and became its master in 1668. A post from 2004 on the Diary of Samuel Pepys website attributes the following to the The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Vol. 10: Companion edited by Robert Latham and William Matthews (authors whose names are often contracted to L&M by those writing about Pepys), it isn’t clear which edition of the book is being invoked but what follows appears to have been extracted and edited together from across this tome: “..knighted 1661 (1624-?). Timber merchant, of Wapping and Rotherhithe; Master of the Drapers’ Company 1668-9. The greatest of comtemporary timber merchants, dealing in home supplies but prinicpally with the Baltic, and also (for masts) with New England. He was Pepys’s mentor in the ’60s in business matters generally as well as in the timber trade. The ‘firm league’ they made over contracts was one of the main sources of Pepys’s prosperity, though he claimed to have held Warren strictly to the public interest. Its effect was to give Warren a virtual monopoly in supplies to the Navy Board from about 1664. To that charge, made first by his rivals and later by the Brooke House Committee, Pepys’s reply was that Warren gave the best bargain and that it was no part of the Board’s duties to spread its favours. His accounts with the Board for the war of 1665-7 were not settled for some years. In 1675 an official investigation under the auspices of the Lord Treasurer revealed that Warren owed the government over L44,000, mostly in unpaid freight charges, insurance premiums and uncleared imprests. The account was dischareged in 1679 when L6,500, the last instalment of his debt, was paid to the Duke of Monmouth and Visount Latimer to whom the government had granted it. He suffered some reverses in the later part of his career from trading losses and two fires in his timber yard, and in Aug. 1688 appealed to Pepys to have him made a Navy Commissioner. But he was still trading in 1689-90. He had married Joan Mortimer in 1652 in St Olave’s parish, and his son William (d.1699) married into the great trading dynasty of the Ingrams. He had houses attached to his timber yards at Wapping and, after 1665, at Rotherhithe, and country property at Albridge, Essex. He appears to have been a prominent Anabaptist.” Davies in his index provides RAC director dates between 1676 and 1693 for William Warren that as far as we can tell might plausibly refer either to the alderman father or his son William. Davies does not use the honorific ‘Sir’ for William Warren but has a passage about him on page 177 of his book: ” Of the perpetuanas bought (by the RAC to exchange for slaves and other goods in west Africa) in London, a large number was supplied by William Warren, himself a shareholder and for ten years a member of the Court of Assistants; in nine years he sold the company more than 25,000 pieces, receiving on average £1 apiece.” Perpetuanas were a a durable usually wool or worsted fabric made in England from the late 16th through the 18th centuries. Again either the father or son might have been engaged in such trade, although according to Davies these were made in Devon which is where the father was born, but it is possible the son maintained business – as well as family – connections there. The William Warren who Davies is invoking had his years as an Africa Company director punctuated by years in which he didn’t occupy this role, so there is no real discrepancy between what Davies says about this and the years in which he lists his Warren as an RAC director in his index. Likewise Pettigrew’s RAC director list – in any case partly drawn from Davies – records a William Warren rather than a Sir William. However, The Rulers of London 1660-1689 states under Sir William Warren’s name: “RAC stock £900 of original stock, 1671” but doesn’t list him as an RAC director. It is possible the son William Warren was an RAC director rather than his father, or that both were directors. To know for sure who Davies is invoking with the name William Warren requires further research, probably among primary sources. Regardless it is clear that Sir William Warren alderman profited from the slave trade. Pettigrew also includes a William Warren in his list of independent slave traders. At the time of writing Wikipedia didn’t have an entry for this Sir William Warren.

John Bence (1622–1688). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1664. Son of Alexander Bence (Alderman 1653), and father-in-law of Vere, 4th Earl of Westmorland. He was alderman for Bishopsgate. Bence belonged to the Grocers’ Company and served as its warden and master. He is listed as a RAC director by Davies, Pettigrew and Woodhead. Wikipedia says that he invested £1,500 in the Royal Africa Company and became its secretary by 1665; here Wikipedia, which often treats the Royal Adventurers and the RAC as single entity, seems to be confusing the Royal Adventurers and the RAC. Woodhead records Bence as investing £1,500 in the RAC, although it is possible he had £1,500 in both ventures. Wikipedia’s information is partially lifted from the History of Parliament Online profile of Bence which also notes this alderman’s involvement in colonial exploitation in England’s first colony: “Together with his brother, Sir Alexander Bence of Dublin, he was appointed to receive on behalf of the crown a year’s rent from all lands in Ireland returned to Roman Catholic proprietors or in which the Adventurers were concerned. In this capacity, as the King wrote to Ormonde in 1666, they were ‘serviceable to us, and have increased our revenue’… He and his brother also joined the syndicate formed by Lord Ranelagh (Richard Jones) to farm the whole of the Irish revenue for five years, a contract that was particularly attractive to the Bences because they were heavily in debt to the crown on their previous farms.” The penultimate sentence of Bence’s History of Parliament profile is this: “He died on 4 Mar. 1688, leaving £2,000 in East India stock among other assets in excess of £40,000 which went to his daughter.” Given that this money has kept the family in the style to which it doesn’t deserve to be accustomed perhaps his descendent Eton educated Anthony Fane (the so-called 16th Earl of Westmorland) would like to show that he is a sportsperson as well as an ‘outdoorsman’ by contributing from the family pot to reparations for both slavery and colonialism in Ireland. It is possibly superfluous to add that Bence’s History of Parliament entry notes he was a director of the Royal Adventurers into Africa throughout the period in which it held a royal charter explicitly giving it a monopoly on the transatlantic slave trade, a monopoly subsequently granted to the RAC where he also worked as a director.

Sir Robert Vyner (1631–1688). Elected to the Court of Aldermen 1666. Nephew of Sir Thomas Vyner (Lord Mayor 1653–4). He and Edward Backwell (Alderman 1660–1) were the leading Goldsmiths of Charles II.’s time. He lost over £400,000 by the closing of the Exchequer in January, 1672, and became bankrupt towards the end of the reign. He is frequently mentioned by Pepys. Grammont’s story of his fetching back the King to drink another bottle at his Mayoral dinner is well known. The writer of the account of the Aldermen of 1672 (at which time he was Sheriff and ‘contracted an extraordinary friendship’ with his colleague, Sir Joseph Sheldon), says that he ‘hath as large a soule, and hath done and did design as great and charitable acts in London, as any person, if the necessary shutting up of the Exchequer had not restrained him.’ Vyner was alderman for Broad Street and Langbourn. He was sheriff in 1666 and Lord Mayor in 1674. He belonged to the Goldsmiths Company and served as its Prime Warden. At the time of writing the Wikipedia entry on Vyner is strangely equivocal about whether or not he was involved in the Royal Africa Society. However, The Rulers of London 1660-1689 states under Robert Vyner’s name: “RAC stock £5,000 of original stock”. Vyner is also listed by this source as a director of the Royal Africa Company, he is included on Pettigrew’s RAC list and Davies names him as a RAC director in a footnote on page 159 of his book. A quick look at the Wikipedia revision history of the Vyner page suggests it may have been the subject of an edit war between parties who are critical of human trafficking and apologists who claim that slavery should be understood in the context of its time. We have looked more closely at a short edit war of this type on the Wikipedia entry for another Lord Mayor of London who was also a Royal Africa Company director, Sir Henry Tulse (see our next post). There is more on Vyner in our first post in this series here.

Portrait of Sir Robert Vyner from the School of Godfrey Kneller (1646–1723). This is featured on the Art UK website where there is currently no labelling or tagging to inform visitors that it depicts a slave trader. The work is currently housed in the Wycombe Museum, although in our view it would be better to display it in a museum dedicated to exposing the horrors of slavery. The Art UK website highlights works held in public collections.

It is also worth noting that the National Portrait Gallery website has pages dedicated to a painting of Sir Robert Vyner with his family (The Family of Sir Robert Vyner by John Michael Wright, 1673) and two engravings of Vyner (by William Faithorne circa 1665 and after William Faithorne, published 1796 by E. & S. Harding) without any indication that this is a slave trader. The NPG are also selling prints of Wright’s family portrait of this human trafficker without suitable critical or historical framing. This should be corrected and if the original items are displayed at the NPG in London then they also require proper historical labelling, although we think it would be better if these pictures were donated to a museum dedicated to exposing the horrors of slavery. The Art UK website also features this work without suitable labelling. See the entry on Sir Richard Ford (above) for details about the latin inscription on The Monument to Vyner and other slave trade connected lord mayors.

Continued in part 3.

Return to part 1.


*While there are extant records showing the value of the shares many of those known to be Royal Africa Company directors held in the firm, we are aware that Rulers of London (see above) lists some councillors – elected to both the Court of Common Council and the Court of Aldermen – as being RAC directors but but without listing any shares held in the firm. This may simply be because there are no extant records or if there were it was not possible for Woodhead to access them. Here we will give the first but not the only example we have come across, William Fazackerly a common councillor for Coleman Street ward 1688-1703, deputy there from 1693, also Chamberlain of City.


20 thoughts on “The City of London & The Slave Trade Part 2

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