.The true scale of Britain's involvement in the slave trade has been laid bare in documents revealing how the country's wealthiest families received the modern equivalent of billions of pounds in compensation after slavery was abolished.
Campaigning against slavery began in the late 18th century as revulsion against the trade spread. This led, first, to the abolition of the trade in slaves, which came into law in 1808, and then, some 26 years later, to the Act of Parliament that would emancipate slaves. This legislation made provision for the staggering levels of compensation for slave-owners, but gave the former slaves not a penny in reparation.
The Tobago Estates in the West Indies established by Joseph Robley. the son of the Revd. Isaac Robley of St. John's in the Vale and latterly owned and managed by Joseph's nephew, John Robley, were both extensive and profitable. Among the main slaveowners identified are Caroline Robley (wife and heir to John Robley), 1139 slaves on eight estates. Caroline received over 26,000 pounds in compensation, at todays valuation being in the order of 2.2 million pounds.
Also compensated were Lookey and Peggy Robley whom I suspect are the mulatto and negro women referred to in the Will of Joseph Robley and who became minor slave owners following their being set free.
I do hereby ---- enfranchise and set free my mulatto woman named Betty and my negro woman named Peggy and will and bequeath to my said mulatto woman and the said negro woman Peggy four negro girls to care of them by my executors as soon as possible after my decease and I also give and bequeath to care of the said women Betty and Peggy an annuity of twenty pounds sterling to be paid to them half yearly by my executors to commence from the day of my decease and that the said women Betty and Peggy be respectively permitted to live in the houses in which they reside on Golden Grove and Studly Park Estates in Tobago.
Lookey received 31 pounds for one slave and Peggy 52 pounds for two valued at about 4,400 and 2,600 pounds respectively. I am assuming that Lookey is probably Betsey, who has suffered during the transcription process.
The generosity of the compensation is most likely a reflection of the status of the owners and their potential political influence.
Caroline Robley (née Blake)
Lookey Robley (Could this be Betsey?)
John Robley. July 2015