David Barclay

1729 - 1809


Biography

Second son of Quaker merchant David Barclay and his second wife, Priscilla, daughter of John Freame, banker, of Lombard Street. Along with his brother John Barclay (q.v.), David became a partner in his father's linen and merchant house in Cheapside. The business had strong links with the North American trade during the mid-18th century but David and John began to reduce these as political tensions grew in the 1760s. By the 1780s the brothers had moved away from the linen trade and into banking and brewing. Upon the death of this mother Barclay inherited a share in the Freame bank, the oldest Quaker bank in London. This became Barclay, Bevan and Bening of Lombard Street a 'node of a network of Quaker country bankers, financing bridges and canals as well as trading enterprises' [Price, ODNB], which in 1896 was part of the merger that formed Barclays Bank. In 1781 Barclay purchased with his nephews, Robert Barclay and Silvanus Bevan, the Anchor Brewery in Southwark, which became one of the largest London breweries of the 19th century.

David Barclay was a committed Quaker and pacifist. He cultivated close links with Quaker communities in Pennsylvania and was a good friend of Benjamin Franklin. An active philanthropist, he was a keen and committed advocate for abolition of the slave trade and called for the gradual end of slavery in the Caribbean. Nonetheless, his bank had close links to the West India trade and financed plantation mortgages, a connection that created a moral dilemma for Barclay. The brothers were mortgagees of an estate called Vaucluse and the enslaved people attached to it on Barbados c. 1780. Sometime around 1785 John and David Barclay took possession in lieu of debts of a 2000 acre cattle pen named Unity Valley in St Ann, Jamaica. David Barclay determined to manumit all the enslaved living and working on the estate. He wrote an account of this process in 1801 (referenced below), which opened: 'Having been a Slave Owner, and much dissatisfied in being so, I determined to try the experiment of liberating my Slaves; firmly convinced, that the retaining of my fellow creatures in bondage was not only irreconcilable with the precepts of Christianity, but subversive to the rights of human nature...'

Barclay instructed his attorney in Jamaica, Alexander Macleod of Spanish Town, to carry out the manumission but he refused, stating that such a measure although to be applauded would be very unpopular on the island. Instead, he manumitted two - Hamlet and Prudence - and employed them on the pen at wages of 17l. per annum. A year later Macleod wrote to Barclay lamenting the failure of the experiment, claiming that both were 'so relaxed in their labour', that he 'thought their example would be very disadvantageous to the owners of the estate. He therefore discharged them, and agreed to allow to each, 5l. currency per annum for life'. Hamlet set up in business as a horse breaker and Prudence, as a laundress. Upon the death of his brother in 1787 David Barclay took full possession of the estate and determined to emancipate the remaining 32 enslaved people still on Unity Valley. In 1795 he dispatched his agent William Holden to Jamaica with instructions to enact the manumission and then remove all freed persons to Philadelphia, where they would be delivered into the care of the Society for Improving the Condition of Free Blacks, run by Quaker acquaintances.

Despite initial suspicions amongst the enslaved that they were to be sold to the Spanish, 30 did embark for Philadelphia in June 1795, with the remaining two being too ill to leave the estate. Holden reported to Barclay that the group arrived in Philadelphia on the 22nd July 1795 'all in high spirits'. The group were then apprenticed out by the Society to gain trades, although for some of the children this period lasted for as long as 12 years.

Those moved to Philadelphia were: London (aged 42), Sabina (40), Clarissa (35), Bathsheba (35), Mintas (34), John (32), Patience (32), Amelia (26), Kingston (25), Simon (25), Dido (24), Nanny (24), Bacchus (23), Phillis (22), Juba (14), Prince (14), Charles (14), Yawo alias David Barclay (14), Toby (12), Wiltshire (12), Sancho (10), Mingo (10), October alias Robert Barclay (8), Quashie alias George Barclay, Caesar (6), Charlotte (5), Sukey alias Susannah (4) (all q.v.). All were apprenticed or placed in indentured service, clothed and given 'freedom dues' ranging from $10-40. Barclay instructed that as well as learning a trade the children be taught to read and write. He included a summary of what had become of the group four years on and how they had fared in Philadelphia. Dido, Bacchus, Patience and Phillis all died in 1798 but he praised the success achieved by the rest.

In 1814 The Monthly Magazine wrote a lengthy report comprised of large extracts from Barclay's original account. It indicated that David Barclay had made clear that had he not been so advanced in age 'he would have inclined to have made a trial of employing on the Pen white labourers from Britain'. Ultimately, this did not happen with Barclay electing to sell the estate and stock for £5,500. Macleod estimated that had he sold the estate along with the enslaved he would have gained an extra £800, although The Monthly Magazine placed this figure at £2,500. The cost of moving the group to Philadelphia and establishing them in positions was around £500. The magazine excused these costs as being far outweighed by 'the satisfaction which resulted to the minds of David Barclay and his family', something Barclay also made very clear in his account.

Barclay married twice. First, in 1749 to Martha, daughter of John Hudson, of Thames Street, London, hop merchant. Their only daughter Agatha, married Richard Gurney, a Quaker banker of Norwich. Their son Hudson Gurney was David Barclay's principal heir. In 1767 Barclay married his secondly Rachel, daughter of Sampson Lloyd (1699–1779), banker. He died at Walthamstow, Essex, on 30 May 1809.

Sources

Jacob M. Price, rev. Leslie Hannah, 'Barclay, David (1729–1809), banker and brewer', http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37150?docPos=3

David Barclay, An account of the emancipation of the slaves of Unity Valley Pen Jamaica (London, 1801). Available through Googlebooks: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=FuRbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA6&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

Monthly Magazine, Vol.38 (1814), pp. 133-37. Available through Googlebooks: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ek8oAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA134&lpg=PA134&dq=JOHN+BARCLAY+JAMAICA&source=bl&ots=6AaCZPvB2d&sig=FIgyoNDLirTB318mh_brHst-vxA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CD0Q6AEwCWoVChMI_dTb5Pb6xgIVybMUCh3W9QH1#v=onepage&q=JOHN%20BARCLAY%20JAMAICA&f=false

David Barclay was described as an example of "gratuitous manumission" in the Jamaica Gleaner 24/02/2008 by Verene Shepherd, see http://old.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20080224/news/news3.html [accessed 15/01/2018].

We are grateful to Rob Alexander and Roberta Wedge for their help compiling this entry.


Further Information

Absentee?
British/Irish
Spouse
1. Martha Hudson Gurney; 2. Rachel Lloyd
Will
A will but no further details
Occupation
Merchant and banker
Religion
Quaker
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Estates (4)

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
1783 [EA] - → Mortgagee-in-Possession
1785 [EA] - 1787 [LA] → Joint owner
1787 [SY] - 1795 [LA] → Owner
1780 [EA] - 1785 [LA] → Mortgage Holder

Legacies Summary

Commercial (1)

 

Historical (1)

PamphletsAuthor?
An Account of the Emancipation of the Slaves of Unity Valley Pen, in... 1801 
notes →
20...

Relationships (31)

Brothers
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay order manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay order manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay order manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission late...
Previous owner → Enslaved-manumitted
Notes →
David Barclay ordered manumission late...
Principal → Attorney

Addresses (2)

Walthamstow, Middlesex, London, England
Youngsbury House, Wadesmill, Herts, South East, England