Sir Fortunatus William Lilley Dwarris

23rd Oct 1786 - 20th May 1860

Claimant or beneficiary

Biography

The compensation for the enslaved people on the Golden Grove estate in St George Jamaica was paid into a suit in Chancery of Sarah Dwarris v Fortunas [sic] William Liley [sic] Dwarris.

  1. Eldest son of William Dwarris of Warwick and Golden Grove Jamaica and Sarah, daughter of W. Smith of Southam Warwickshire. Born Jamaica 23/10/1786. 'He inherited considerable property there [in Jamaica], but left the island in infancy.' Rugby School 1801, University College Oxford 1804, BA 1808. Called to the bar at the Middle Temple 28/06/1811. Married Alicia, daughter of Robert Brereton, a Captain in the Army 28/02/1811. Treasurer of Middle Temple 1859; author of General Treatise on Statutes (2 vols. 1830-31). FRS, FSA, vice-president of the Archaelogical Society; member of the Archaeological Institute. Died 75 Eccelston Square 20/05/1860 [leaving £7000].

  2. The original ODNB entry said of of Dwarris: 'Through his connection with Jamaica, Dwarris was appointed in 1822 as one of the commissioners to inquire into the state of the law in the colonies in the West Indies. On the passing of an act based on his report (he being the only surviving commissioner), his services were acknowledged by knighthood, which he received at St James's Palace on 2 May 1838. He was an opponent of slavery, arguing in The West India Question Plainly Stated (1828) for an improvement in the condition of the slaves and for the gradual abolition of slavery. His views on these subjects were also set out in a long letter written from Barbados in January 1823 to Samuel Parr (Works of Samuel Parr, 25–8).' This entry did not acknowledge the hostility of the Antislavery Register to Dwarris' 1828 pamphlet, which the Antislavery Register construed as hostile to abolition and as a betrayal of his earlier work as a legal commissioner; nor did the ODNB acknowledge Dwarris's own continued slave-owning and receipt of slave-compensation beyond its allusion to him inheriting 'considerable property' in Jamaica.

  3. The revised entry for Dwarris in the ODNB, however, says instead: 'Through his connection with Jamaica, and the patronage of the politician and plantation owner Henry Goulburn, Dwarris was appointed in 1822 as one of the commissioners to inquire into the state of the law in the colonies in the West Indies. The colonial secretary Henry Bathurst later stated that he would not have made the appointment had he known that Dwarris owned slave property (The Times, 18 April 1826). Dwarris arrived in Barbados at the end of 1822, and in a letter to Dr Parr discussed the question of the circumstances in which the evidence of a slave could be admissible as being the most important question for the commissioners to consider (Works of Samuel Parr, 8, 25–8). Dwarris and his fellow commissioner Henry Maddock took evidence on the legal systems and their operation in Barbados, Tobago, Grenada, St Vincent, Dominica, Antigua, Montserrat, Nevis, St Christopher, and the Virgin Islands during 1823 before proceeding to Trinidad, where Dwarris was taken ill and from where he returned to England. Maddock died shortly afterwards, and Dwarris was sole signatory of the commission's three reports, published in 1825 and 1826. He criticized the irregularity of legal proceedings on the islands, recommended reforms in the administration of justice including greater legal protections for slaves, making them subject to the same form of trial as free persons in criminal cases, while also contending that they were well treated by the planters. In his final report he defended both his qualification to conduct the inquiry and his own impartiality despite his ownership of an estate, which he claimed never to have visited. His pamphlet The West India Question Plainly Stated (1828) attacked the abolitionists. Dwarris asserted both the legitimacy of the owners' property right in slaves and their own impoverishment, while claiming an improvement in the condition of the enslaved people in the British colonies in the West Indies over the previous generation. He proposed only a very gradual process of emancipation, over a quarter of a century and with full compensation for the owners, while reiterating the importance of independent courts of justice and equal treatment under the law. In 1836, following emancipation, he was an awardee of compensation for the 175 enslaved people on the Golden Grove estate. He was knighted at St James's Palace on 2 May 1838.'


Sources

T71/869 St George no. 330.

  1. Courtney, W. P., and Jonathan Harris. 2004 "Dwarris, Sir Fortunatus William Lilley." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 7 Jul. 2019. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-8337/version/0.

  2. Courtney, W. P., and Jonathan Harris. 2004 "Dwarris, Sir Fortunatus William Lilley." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 7 Jul. 2019. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-8337/version/0; Nicholas Draper, The Price of Emancipation (Cambridge, 2009), p. 29.

  3. Courtney, W. P., and Jonathan Harris. 2016 "Dwarris, Sir Fortunatus William Lilley (1786–1860), lawyer and writer." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 7 Jul. 2019. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-8337.


Further Information

Absentee?
British/Irish
Name in compensation records
Fortunatus William Liley Dwarris
Spouse
Alicia Brereton
Children
4 sons, 2 daughters
Wealth at death
£7,000
School
Rugby [1801 ]
University
Oxford (University College) [1804-1808 ]
Legal Education
Middle Temple [1811 ]
Occupation
Lawyer
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Claims (1)

£3,277 18s 3d
Awardee

Associated Estates (1)

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
1815 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Owner

Relationships (3)

Grandson → Grandfather
Great-nephew → Great-uncle
Son → Father

Addresses (2)

75 Eccleston Square, London, Middlesex, London, England
James Street, Westminster, London, Middlesex, London, England