Benjamin Vaughan

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Benjamin Vaughan

Dr Benjamin Vaughan MD FRSE LLD (19 April 1751 – 8 December 1835)[1] was a British political radical. He was a commissioner in the negotiations between Britain and the United States at the drafting of the Treaty of Paris.


Vaughan was born in Jamaica to Samuel Vaughan, a British banker and West India merchant planter of Irish descent, and his Anglo-American wife, Sarah Hallowell, daughter of shipbuilder, Benjamin Hallowell.[2]

He was educated at Newcome's School and Warrington Academy and attended Trinity Hall, Cambridge, without graduating.[3] He then studied Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. In 1785, during his stay in Edinburgh, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Allan Maconochie, Lord Meadowbank, Dugald Stewart, and James Hutton.[4]

His broader long-term interest was in politics and sciences: the latter leading to his friendship with Benjamin Franklin.[5]

Vaughan was a political economist, merchant and medical doctor. Through Benjamin Horne, brother of John Horne, he met the politician Lord Shelburne.[6] Shelburne then used Vaughan in a diplomatic role, to try to bring peace between Great Britain and the United States, towards the end of the American War of Independence. He was also a middleman in reconciling Franklin and Shelburne.

He was elected at a by-election in 1792 as a Member of Parliament (MP) for the borough of Calne in Wiltshire, and held the seat until the 1796 general election (however was absent from 1794). He spoke in parliament in strong defence of slavery in Jamaica, in his maiden speech. Allegations that by 1794 he was in favour of the abolition of the slave trade are unlikely.[3] During his period in London he lived in Finsbury Square. He was arrested in 1794 on grounds of treason, regarding the supposed invasion of England by the French.[7]

After 1794, Vaughan left France for Switzerland and later to America. His interest in republicanism lead to his permanent departure from Britain. He settled in Boston and then on a farm in Hallowell, Maine in 1797.

In 1802 he inherited further sugar and coffee plantations in the West Indies (and several 100 slaves) following the death of his father. A codicil in the will instructed the estates to be liquidated within 7 years and the funds invested in government stock. He did not meet this requirement. Benjamin was also instructed that the sums paid would deduct sums "owed" due to losses on the slave ships "Europa" and "Bella Juditta".[8]

He is thought to be the builder (or related to the builder) of Hallowell House in Boston and possible his Jamaican links give rise to the ditrict being called Jamaica Plain.[9]

In 1805, Vaughan was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,[10] and in 1813, he was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society.[11]

In the Jamaican slave uprising of 1831 the huge family sugar estate of Flamstead, which he still co-owned with his siblings, was burnt to the ground and 407 slaves escaped. The smaller coffee estate of Vaughan's Field with 64 slaves was also destroyed. At its peak Flamstead had around 450 slaves, and Vaughansfield 79. Following destruction of the estates the Vaughan family sold the estates. Vaughansfield was then rebuilt by Knott & Hamilton.[12][13] The Flamstead estate grew the world famous Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee as well as sugar. The former estate now forms part of the Holywell National Park. The name Holywell appears a corruption of the family name Hallowell.[14]

He died in Hallowell in 1835.


Vaughan married Sarah Manning in 1781 and had several children:

  • William Oliver Vaughan
  • Petty Vaughan

The family and their descendents remained in Maine after Vaughan settled in Hallowell in 1797[15] and continue to reside in the town today.[16]

John Vaughan and William Vaughan were his brothers.


Several places are named after Vaughan:


  1. ^ Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "C" (part 1)
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Vaughan, Benjamin (1751-1835), of Finsbury Square, London.
  4. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Edmond George Petty-Fitzmaurice, Baron Fitzmaurice, Life of William, Earl of Shelburne, afterwards first Marquess of Lansdowne vol. 2 (1912), p. 165 note 3;
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  11. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Vaughan Family Papers. Massachusetts Historical Society
  16. ^ Historic Homestead.
  17. ^ Historic Hallowell.
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
John Morris
Joseph Jekyll
Member of Parliament for Calne
1792 – 1796
With: Joseph Jekyll
Succeeded by
Sir Francis Baring, Bt
Joseph Jekyll