Augustus Hardin Beaumont

29th Aug 1798 - 28th Jan 1838

Claimant or beneficiary

Biography

Radical, journalist and former slave-owner.

Born in New York to an Irish mother (Miss McGowan) and a British father, Dr Beaumont, who had been on the medical staff of the British army during the American War. A. H.'s mother died when he was 5.

Augustus was one of three sons - Arthur James (eldest) and Edmund Hardin (youngest) were his brothers. Their father died not long after their mother: in c.1806 the children were sent to live in Jamaica with their maternal aunt.

At 18, he was put to work on a sugar plantation then as book-keeper and surveyor of the enslaved. But within two years had become clerk to a lawyer in Kingston, Jamaica. During that time he attempted to save the life of a black woman condemned to death for allegedly flogging a child to death. He was, however, unsuccessful.

Between 1823 and 1835, Beaumont worked as both a journalist and in politics in Jamaica. He frequently antagonised local notables, such as in his alleged libel against William Anglin Scarlett, Chief Justice, in 1823. He also occupied a contradictory position: he showed sympathy for the enslaved while arguing for compensation for the owners, helped to organise military resistance to the Jamaican uprising of 1831-32 while also putting forward a Bill in Jamaica for complete emancipation; and subsequently becoming a prominent radical in England, especially in the north east, where he helped to pave the way for Chartism.

March 1823: he established a weekly paper, The Trifler (which closed after a few issues on 21 June 1823).

September 1823: started another paper, the Public Advertiser, which combined with The Courant in October 1826 to become the Jamaica Courant and Public Advertiser. Continued until 31 December 1831.

1826: travelled to England where Joseph Hume presented a petition on his behalf asking for both the protection of planters’ property and compensation in the event of abolition. See House of Commons Debates, 25 April 1826, XV, cc. 577-87.

This pre-dated the publication of  his pamphlet Compensation to Slave Owners Fairly Considered, in an Appeal to the Common Sense of the People of England (London, Effingham Wilson, 1826).  When this was published he was presented with ‘a very splendid silver vase’ from people in Jamaica in the parishes of Manchester, Clarendon and Vere while the Commissioners of Correspondence in Britain ordered 1,000 copies to be printed at their expense.

31 July 1827: elected Common Councilman of Kingston, Jamaica.

1829: as a magistrate he granted a licence to preach to James Killick, a black man.

8 August 1829: became member of the House of Assembly for the parish of Westmoreland.

1829-1830: he supported the removal of Jewish disabilities (and paid the necessary legal fees himself).

1830: to England again where he was immediately elected a member of the standing committee of the West India Association.

The memorialist in the Northern Liberator (21 April 1838) claims that Beaumont’s alliance with the Tories of the West India Association was because ‘he entertained a strong opinion on the impolicy of suddenly striking off the chains of the slaves, brutalized as they were by slavery, and frenzied and misled as they were known to be by the itinerant firebrands in England, and in the very soil of the Western Indies.’

1830: travelled to Belgium where he took part in the revolution. (See his pamphlet, Adventures of two Americans (1830).)

1831: returned to Jamaica: re-elected as member for Westmoreland in the General Assembly.

1831-32: during Sharpe’s Rebellion (the Baptist War), Beaumont raised a corps at the request of Sir Willoughby Cotton, the commander of forces in Jamaica and helped to suppress the revolt. The author of the memoir (28 April 1838) claims that Beaumont’s stance was  based believing that the revolt could not succeed and that worse bloodshed would follow if it were allowed to continue.

But Beaumont was also to be accused by planters of having ‘excited the negroes to rebellion’; he was certainly in a tiny minority (of 2) in the Assembly in proposing a bill for Compensation Manumission (to allow the enslaved to purchase their own freedom) as he was also to propose, in 1833, a bill for immediate emancipation instead of the apprenticeship scheme.

Between 1829 and 1835 Beaumont had also helped to free a number of people illegally held as slaves: the writer in the Liberator claims it was more than 100.

When his bill for immediate emancipation failed he resigned his seat and began another paper, The Isonomist, though this lasted only from October 1833 to 31 January 1834.

These activities all aroused the ire of many of the planters in Jamaica.

5 May 1835: he finally left Jamaica and sailed to England with his wife, (whom he had married, 23 August 1832).

1836: established in England the Radical, which lasted only from 12 March – 30 June 1836.

Became active in Working Men’s Associations (including the London one).

Then active in Newcastle where he was invited by the Newcastle Working Men’s Association to stand for election in the 1837 General Election and where he established the Northern Liberator in September 1837. As a candidate he advocated not only universal manhood suffrage but also full employment at decent wages by nationalizing railways, canals and other large public works. He was elected on a show of hands but defeated in the poll itself.

The Liberator, which continued after Beaumont’s death, was very prominent in local, working-class, radicalism, giving voice, for example, to protests against the New Poor Law, in support of the Canadian rebels of 1837, and to opposition to the continuing international slave trade. [See for example, ‘Negro Slavery’, Northern Liberator, 5 May 1838.]

In the compensation process, Beaumont filed many claims: his strategy was to identify incomplete claims and those where he could secure judgements in Jamaica and then hold them up for settlement. The strategy appears to have been dictated, according to Beaumont himself, by the political circumstances he was in during 1833-1835.

Evidently not a popular man in Jamaica, the Royal Gazette carried the following notice shortly after his death: "It is said, upon what authority we know not, that at the time Mr Beaumont lay on his death bed, a warrant had been issued from the Secretary of State, on a charge of high treason, and that the state he then lay, prevented the enforement of its execution. If this is true, and we have no reason to doubt it, the day on which Augustus Hardin Beaumont would have been carried to the Tower, would have been the proudest day of his life. Sie transit gloria mundi. Beaumont is dead and will quickly be forgotten. His ambition had not get enabled him to ascend that pinacle for which he thirsted, his vitrues nor his vices had not attained that magnitude to herald his fame, so as to cause it to descend, and be the theme of story in after ages--but we beleive no man laboured more to acquire it."

Sources

For Beaumont's life see 'Memoir of the late Augustus H. Beaumont, esq', Northern Liberator, 21 and 28 April, 5 May 1838; William H. Maehl jr., 'Augustus Hardin Beaumont: Anglo-American Radical (1798-1838)', International Review of Social History, 14 (2) (1969), pp. 237-50.

There is also a short biography in Joseph O. Baylen and Norbert J. Grossman (eds.) Biographical Dictionary of Modern British Radicals since 1770, vol. 2: 1830-1870, (Brighton, 1984), pp. 46-8.

For his petition to the House of Commons in 1826, House of Commons Debates, 25 April 1826, XV, cc. 577-87.

He also gave lengthy testimony to the Select Committee on Negro Apprenticeship in the Colonies, PP1836 (560) XV, pp. 352-407.

See Nicholas Draper, The Price of Emancipation. Slave-Ownership, Compensation and British Society at the End of Slavery (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 215-16.

 

 


Further Information

Absentee?
British/Irish
Spouse
Elizabeth Silvera
Occupation
Journalist

Associated Claims (25)

£176 3S 6D
Awardee (Assignee)
£270 7S 7D
Awardee
£20 11S 5D
Awardee (Assignee)
£20 11S 5D
Awardee
£19 10S 10D
Awardee
£30 19S 2D
Awardee
£29 3S 1D
Awardee
£636 15S 1D
Awardee
£19 10S 10D
Awardee
£245 15S 11D
Awardee
£128 4S 11D
Awardee
£216 12S 9D
Unsuccessful claimant
£30 5S 5D
Awardee
£124 15S 0D
Awardee
£19 10S 10D
Awardee
£636 3S 0D
Awardee (Assignee)
£428 7S 7D
Awardee
£388 15S 8D
Awardee
£103 4S 2D
Awardee
£11 15S 1D
Awardee
£29 3S 1D
Awardee
£325 10S 9D
Awardee
£1,168 19S 3D
Awardee
£30 18S 2D
Awardee
£625 4S 3D
Unsuccessful claimant

Legacies Summary

Historical (8)

PamphletsAuthor?
Compensation to Slave Owners Fairly Considered, in an Appeal to the Common Sense of the People of... 1826 
notes →
A pro-slavery tract. Urges full compensation. 4 edns. Published in 1826. Copies in BL and Goldsmiths...
PamphletsAuthor?
The Consolidated Slave Law, Passed the 22nd December, 1826 . . . with a Commentary, Shewing the Difference between the new law and the repealed enactments, marginal notes . .... 1827 
notes →
A pro-slavery tract. Includes extracts from the Code Rural of Hayti. Copy in...
BooksAuthor?
Slave Laws of Jamaica; with Proceedings and Documents relative... 1828 
notes →
xiii + 263 pp. A pro-slavery tract. Title information includes: 'Contains the complete slave codes of 1816 and 1826, the adoption of which was virtually forced upon the Jamaican...
PamphletsAuthor?
Adventures of two Americans [i.e. Arthur and Augustus Hardin Beaumont] in the siege of Brussels, September, 1830. By one of them [i.e. A. H.... 1830 
notes →
pp. 47. Copy in...
PamphletsAuthor?
The Jamaica Petition for Representation in the British House of Commons or for... 1831 
notes →
24 pp. A pro-slavery tract. Urges independence if Parliament interferes in Jamaican affairs. Copy in the Library of Congress. No copies in British Library or Goldsmiths...
PamphletsAuthor?
Compensation, Manumission, and Abolition of Flogging Females... 1831 
notes →
A pro-slavery tract. Proposes reform as a desperate measure to prevent abolition of slavery. Exceptionally scarce. No copy in the British Library or the Goldsmiths collection, University of...
PamphletsAuthor?
Ambassadors: what do we pay them for? A question for the... 1836 
notes →
52pp. Copy in...
PamphletsAuthor?
Whig Nullities: or, A Review of a Pamphlet attributed to The Right Hon. John Cam... 1837 
notes →
Full title: Whig Nullities: or, A Review of a Pamphlet attributed to The Right Hon. John Cam Hobhouse, M.P. for Nottingham, Privy Councillor, &c. &c. Entitled, “Domestic Policy of...

Relationships (1)

Husband → Wife

Addresses (2)

London, Middlesex, London, England
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland, Northern England, England
Notes →

Beaumont certainly living in Newcastle during these years; possibly earlier: see biographical notes.