John Stewart

1789 - 14th Mar 1860

Claimant or beneficiary

Biography

MP, awarded the compensation for Plantation Annandale British Guiana as owner and Hope Vale estate in Grenada as trustee.

  1. John Stewart was the illegitimate son of John Stewart (?1755-21/07/1826) who owned sugar plantations in the Berbice, Demerara, Grenada, Trinidad and 'elsewhere in the West Indies'. Stewart senior was living, by 1818, in The Albany, London. He was briefly MP for Camelford 17 April-16 June 1819 but was unseated and disqualified from sitting in that Parliament for bribery and corruption. "In his will he provided handsomely for his natural children and for numerous Scots friends and dependants, directing that his Caribbean estates should be sold for this purpose: his heir was however still in possession of the sugar plantations of Annandale and Stewartville in British Guiana at his death in 1860."

  2. John Stewart junior was elected for Lymington in 1832. It seems that he may have been the first Member of Parliament from an ethnic minority background. When his father made his will in June 1826, Stewart was described as ‘my natural son John Stewart by Mary Duncan, now residing in Demerary’. It is possible that his mother was black or of mixed race. According to the History of Parliament, although his ethnicity was not mentioned while he was an MP, there were subsequent references to him as ‘a man of colour’ and the first ‘coloured’ Member of Parliament “It was said that ‘the bigoted anti-colour party in the West Indies could never get over his election by an English borough, but he was extremely popular with his constituents’.” (citing Dundee Courier & Argus, 23 June 1888). When his father died, Stewart took possession of estates in Grenada and Demerara and his father’s house in the Albany, London. By 1835 workers from Madeira had been imported to the Annandale plantation, and in 1847-8 the plantation employed ‘Creoles from the villages’, ‘resident Creole laborers’ and ‘a few Coolies’. In 1839 Stewart bought the Vries en Hoop plantation in British Guiana. By the 1840s he was an established figure in the City of London: see Commercial legacies for details. His political affiliations wavered: sometimes characterised as a ‘Radical’ he was generally Conservative. What is striking was his defence of slavery, of apprenticeship, and of the sugar duties, albeit with some inconsistency: see Political legacies for further details. In 1848 he married Phoebe Rossiter, nearly 40 years his junior. She was the daughter of Joseph Rossiter, of Paulton, Somerset. Phoebe died in 1870, aged 52. Stewart died at home, 2 Burwood Place, Hyde Park and was succeeded by his son, William Duncan Stewart, who died at Georgetown, British Guiana, in 1869 at the age of 40. The Annandale plantation passed out of the family’s hands shortly thereafter.

  3. Left £25,000, re-sworn March 1863 at £30,000.

Sources

T71/880 Grenada claim no. 449 (Hope Vale Estate); T71/885 British Guiana claim no. 563 (Pln Annandale).

  1. Thorne (ed.), House of Commons, 1790-1820, vol. 5, available at the History of Parliament online

  2. Stephen Lees, forthcoming entry on Stewart in The History of Parliament, 1832-1868; we are grateful to the History of Parliament for access to this before publication.

  3. The Times, 19 March 1860; National Probate Calendar 1860, which gives him as of Burwood Place and of Annandale and Stewart Ville in British Guiana.


Further Information

Absentee?
British/Irish
Spouse
(1) name not known; (2) Phoebe Rossiter
Children
By (1) William Duncan
Will

Probate was originally set at £25,000, 11 April 1860. Resworn March 1863 at £30,000.

Wealth at death
£30,000
Occupation
Lawyer and politician

Associated Claims (2)

£22,485 18S 11D
Awardee (Owner-in-fee)
£3,013 12S 7D
Awardee (Trustee)

Legacies Summary

Commercial (7)

Railway Investment
Irish Great Western [1846242]  
£8000 
Railway Investment
East and West of England Junction [1846123]  
£5000 
Railway Investment
Irish North Midland [1846243]  
£3750 
Director
British West India Company
West India merchant  
 
Firm Investment
 
notes →
Stewart a member of the provisional committee for the Company by...
Director
 
Deputy Chairman
 
notes →
Stephen Lees, forthcoming entry on Stewart in The History of Parliament, 1832-1868; we are grateful to the History of Parliament for access to this before...

Political (1)

MP
Conservative 
election →
Lymington Hampshire
1832 - 1847

Addresses (3)

Annandale, Demerara
2 Burwood Place, Hyde Park, London, Middlesex, London, England
3D Albany, Piccadilly, London, Middlesex, London, England