Family Lessons 16: The Slave Trader

A fine-looking chap, no? A nicely matching suit, nothing too flash; a pleasant enough face, a thoughtful expression. This is Abraham Rawlinson (1738-1803), and he is my 2nd cousin seven generations back ('removed').

He is quite a distant relative, but I’ll be frank, I’m pleased he isn’t all that close. Although he was the MP for Lancaster, my home town, he achieved that by abandoning the family’s Quakerism. That sect forbade its adherents to swear oaths, including the oath of allegiance required of all MPs. Now Quakerism had no monopoly on spiritual truth, and in our own days, it acknowledges little truth at all. Yet Mr Rawlinson, the respectable Anglican convert, used his time in the Commons to oppose William Wilberforce’s abolition bills. He would sooner enslave, and keep enslaved, millions of Africans so that he, his wealthy constituents and fellow merchants might retain their riches. Living and dying at Ellel Hall, he left several bequests of thousands of pounds to his nephews and nieces. As well as defending the heinous trade’s activities, he dabbled in it himself. He partly owned the Molly, which arrived in Jamaica in 1776, with 300 enslaved people disembarking, having 'lost' 28 before journey’s end. There were no generous legacies for those people, just a watery grave for the 28 and a hellish existence for the 300 survivors of Cousin Rawlinson's hospitality.

Last year, the woke brigade graffitied the family tomb by Lancaster Priory. Frankly, that is the least of Rawlinson’s worries. For his crimes he will be summoned before the great God to give account. His Quaker upbringing and his Anglican respectability will do him no good; only the shed blood of Christ Jesus is powerful enough to cleanse his filthy soul from the guilt of exploiting and murdering Africans.

 “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn…for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls…and bodies and souls of men.”

-Rev 18

Photo Credit: Lancaster Guardian