Benjamin Vaughan

1751 - 1835

Claimant or beneficiary


Son of Samuel Vaughan (1720-1802) (q.v.) and Sarah, daughter of Benjamin Hallowell of Boston, and brother of William Vaughan (q.v.). Born in Jamaica, Benjamin Vaughan was educated in Britain at Warrington Academy under Joseph Priestley (see his entry in the ODNB as 'diplomatist and political reformer'), and then at Cambridge. His religion meant he was unable to graduate from university and instead he began studying law and medicine in Edinburgh in preparation for marriage in 1781 to Sarah, daughter of William Coventry Manning. Benjamin Vaughan subsequently joined his brother-in-law William Manning (father of Cardinal Henry Manning) as a partner in his West Indian merchant house. Benjamin did not remain in the business for long, instead turning to politics in the 1780s. He was a member of the Society for Constitutional Information and a keen supporter of the American cause. Close association with Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Horne gained him an introduction to Lord Shelburne, who dispatched him as an unofficial emissary to the Paris peace negotiations in 1782. In 1790 he was in Paris for the 14th July celebrations and was an active supporter of the French Revolution in London.

Benjamin Vaughan was elected to Parliament as MP for Calne in 1792 and held the seat until 1796. In 1792, when Wilberforce’s petition-backed speech called for ending the slave trade, Vaughan used his maiden speech ‘to vindicate the Planters.’ He introduced himself as 'connected with the West Indies by birth, profession and private fortune' and--having visited Jamaica--as an eyewitness. His long pro-slavery speech ‘was listened to with the greatest attention by all sides.’ He claimed to have witnessed ‘tenderness’ from the planters, not cruelty. Vaughan argued enslaved people were uncivilised and ‘not in a state to embrace perfect liberty’: ‘civilization was progressive, and should precede the grant of freedom.’ The enslaved, he continued, ‘were not impatient of bondage’; they enjoyed better comfort than Britain’s poor, and were perfectly resigned, he claimed, to their situation, and looked for nothing beyond it. Instead of ‘impolitic and impracticable’ emancipation of the enslaved, ‘he most earnestly recommended schools for teaching the Christian Religion’: ‘where RELIGION was once instilled, there would be less punishment – more work done – and better done – more marriages – more issue – and more attachment to their Masters and to the Government.’ Abolition would destroy the colonies and diminish Britain’s National Revenue. In Parliament ,Vaughan continued a fierce defender of the West India interest.

Throughout his time in Parliament, Benjamin Vaughan was also a champion of the French revolution. His revolutionary sympathies led to him being formally questioned over a plot to support a French invasion and he subsequently fled London for Paris. After being imprisoned on suspicion of being an English spy, he moved to Geneva before sailing to the US in 1795, reportedly in possession of a fortune estimated at £100,000. He remained in the United States for the rest of his life, settling in Hallowell, Maine, where he pursued interests in science, agriculture and philosophy.

Benjamin Vaughan's marriage to Sarah Manning produced seven children: Harriet (1782-1798); William Oliver (1783-1826); Sarah (1784-1847); Henry (1786-1806); Petty (1788-1854); Lucy (1790-1869); and Elizabeth Frances (1793-1855). Petty Vaughan (q.v.) became a London based West India merchant, whilst Benjamin's brothers William and Charles were also West India merchants. Another brother John was a Philadelphia based merchant who collaborated closely with the London firm of Samuel Vaughan and Sons, and the brother Samuel Vaughan Junior was a Jamaica planter (all q.v.). Along with his brothers and mother he was appointed trustee and executor to his father's will.

We are grateful to Michael Baron for his assistance with compiling this entry, and to Steven Carter for additional information on Vaughan’s maiden speech.


Vaughan, Benjamin (1751-1835), of Finsbury Square, London, History of Parliament,; Michael T. Davis, ‘Vaughan, Benjamin (1751–1835)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2014 [, accessed 28 Oct 2015].

An Appeal to the Candour and Justice of the People of England in Behalf of the West India Merchants and Planters: Founded on Plain Facts and Incontrovertible Arguments. J. Debrett, 1792, pp. 44-60.

See also Ian John Barrett, The culture of pro-slavery: the political defence of the slave trade in Britain c. 1787 to 1807 (Unpublished PhD thesis, King's College London, 2010).

Further Information

Sarah Manning
Politician and merchant
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Claims (1)

£4,870 2s 7d
Awardee (Executor or executrix)

Associated Estates (2)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1802 [SY] - 1835 [EY] → Trustee and Executor
1802 [SY] - 1829 [EY] → Trustee and Executor

Legacies Summary

Commercial (1)

Name partner
Manning & Anderdon
West India merchant  

Political (1)

election →
Calne Wiltshire
1782 - 1796

Relationships (10)

Trustee → Testator
Father → Son
Son → Father
Executor → Testator
Trustee → Testator

Addresses (1)

Hallowell, Maine, USA - United States of America