Bryan Edwards the elder

1743 - 1800


Historian of Jamaica, son of Bryan Edwards of Westbury and Elizabeth Bayly (the sister of Zachary Bayly and Nathaniel Bayly (each of whom q.v.), and father of Zachary Hume Edwards (q.v.).

  1. MP for Grampound 1796-1800. In Jamaica 1760-c. 1780 and 1787-1792. Succeeded to 6 estates in Jamaica in 1769. Partner in Simpson and Maddison banking firm in Southampton. He was also partner in a mercantile firm in Mark Lane London which traded as Edwards, Cuthbert, Simpson and Wilder.

  2. Hon. Bryan Edwards contributed £70 to the University of Pennsylvania following Dr John Morgan's fundraising tour of the West Indies in 1772-1773.

  3. Bryan Edwards left over 600 enslaved people and personalty of £73,328 in Jamaica, according to his probate inventory.

  4. Edwards has an entry in the ODNB as 'planter and politician', which says: 'He was a man of the enlightenment who looked to plantation slavery as the basis of his livelihood. He spoke and wrote from a colonial point of view and realized that Jamaica's survival as a sugar colony depended on the successful defence of the slave trade. Yet it must be said that he possessed great independence of mind and was not the mere mouthpiece of his interest group. He moved from the colonial assembly to a position of some power in parliament and played an important role in the slavery controversy.' It also says: 'Edwards was a zealous defender of the Creole planters against Wilberforce's attacks on the slave trade and slavery' but omits the comment from Wilberforce included in the original DNB entry that Edwards was ‘a powerful opponent of slave trade abolition.’


  1. History of Parliament online: R.G. Thorne, 'Edwards, Bryan (1743-1800) of The Polygon, Southampton' London Gazette 13582 15/10/1793 p. 918 shows Bryan Edwards becoming a partner with Samuel Harrison, John Simpson and Martin Maddison in a banking firm of which he was the first-named partner, although Simpson and Maddison had previously been in partnership in the Southampton Bank, which is also the heading of the entry concerning the formation of the new firm involving Bryan Edwards; London Gazette 15470 10/04/1802 p. 377.

  2. C. S. Graubard, 'Documenting the University of Pennsylvania's Connection to Slavery (2018) via [accessed 16/01/2019].

  3. Christer Petley (2014) 'Plantations and Homes: The Material Culture of the Early Nineteenth-Century Jamaican Elite', Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, 35:3, 437-457 at p. 440.

  4. Richard B. Sheridan, ‘Edwards, Bryan (1743–1800)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [, accessed 27 Aug 2017].

We are grateful to Paul Hitchings for his assistance with compiling this entry.

Further Information

Martha Phipps
Zacchary Hume
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Estates (14)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1776 [EA] - 1798 [LA] → Owner
1803 [EA] - 1803 [LA] → Previous owner
1770 [EA] - 1770 [LA] → Owner
1776 [EA] - 1798 [LA] → Owner
1803 [EA] - 1803 [LA] → Previous owner
1809 [EA] - → Previous owner
1778 [EA] - 1780 [LA] → Owner
1770 [EA] - 1770 [LA] → Owner

Refers only to Shoreditch Pen

1770 [EA] - 1800 [LA] → Owner
1799 [EA] - 1799 [LA] → Assignee

In 1799 Bryan Edwards and his London partners agreed to accept 5 bills of exchange drawn on them by Sir William Young 2nd bart. over the next 5 years to repay the mortgage held by the Boddington firm. Edwards however died in 1802 and his firm was dissolved: the fate of the mortgage has not yet been traced by LBS.

1768 [EA] - 1773 [LA] → Trustee and Executor

Trustee and executor of John Spencer

1770 [EA] - 1770 [LA] → Owner
1770 [EA] - 1770 [LA] → Owner
1770 [EA] - 1800 [LA] → Owner

Legacies Summary

Commercial (2)

Lead Name partner
notes →
Partner from 1793 until his...
Name partner

Cultural (1)

University of Pennsylvania...... 

Historical (5)

Thoughts on the late Proceedings of Government respecting the Trade of the West India Islands with the United States of North... 1784 
A Speech delivered at a free Conference between the Honourable the Council and Assembly of Jamaica, held the 19th November, 1789, on the subject of Mr. Wilberforce's... 1789 
notes →
A Speech delivered at a free Conference between the Honourable the Council and Assembly of Jamaica, held the 19th November, 1789, on the subject of Mr. Wilberforce's Propositions in the House of...
The history, civil and commercial, of the British colonies in the West... 1793 
notes →
Subsequent editions included the 5th edition in 5 volumes,...
Observations on ... the Maroons, and a detail ... of the late war between those people and the white... 1796 
notes →
In Assembly of Jamaica The proceedings of the Governor and Assembly of Jamaica, in regard to the Maroon Negroes, etc....
An historical survey of the French Colony in the Island of St... 1801 
notes →
An historical survey of the French Colony in the Island of St Domingo: comprehending a short account of its ancient government ... a narrative of the calamities ... since ... 1789 ... and a detail of...

Political (1)

West India interest 
election →
Grampound Cornwall
1796 - 1800

Relationships (6)

Nephew → Uncle
Nephew → Uncle
Uncle → Nephew
Father → Son
Other relatives
Notes →
William Edwards of Bruges is Identified in genealogical material as a cousin of Bryan...