‘Panama Papers’ conceals original source of Cameron family wealth: slavery

Cameron: ‘A grandson of the Jamaican soil who has been privileged and enriched by your forebears’ sins of the enslavement of our ancestors’ | TONY SEED

The Grange sugar estate in Jamiaca was a golden goose for its part-owner General Sir James Duff, an MP for Banffshire and Mr Cameron’s first cousin six times removed.

The Grange sugar estate in western Jamaica was a golden goose for its part-owner General Sir James Duff, an MP for Banffshire and David Cameron’s first cousin six times removed. Some 202 people, who had been bought like livestock for up to £300, remained in bondage there by the time of abolition, forced to rise at dawn and work days of back-breaking labour for the privilege.

The one British millionaire identified by the diversionary “Panama Papers” is the stockbroker father of prime minister David Cameron. He is deceased. Or rumoured to be.

The Guardian newspaper broke the story in the UK and led with the headline: “The secret $2bn trail of deals that lead all the way to Putin,” complete with a picture of the Russian president, whose name nowhere appears in the massive data leak.

The Guardian put a story on David Cameron’s crusade against tax havens right next to the article on Vladimir Putin, without even mentioning the fact that the leak revealed information about the PM’s father. The BBC likewise did not mention Cameron. Cameron’s father and some disposible, has-been senior Tories had offshore accounts to hide their wealth. Cameron’s spokeswoman refused to comment on whether the prime minister’s family had invested money in offshore funds, which had been set up by his father, adding that this was a “private matter.”

Left unsaid in the lurid reporting is the real story of one of the principal sources of the wealth of the Cameron family.

Britain’s wealthiest families received millions of pounds in compensation after slavery was abolished in Britain’s colonies in 1833.  Their descendants include British Prime Minister David Cameron.

David Cameron’s ancestors were among the wealthy families who received generous reparation payments that would be worth millions of pounds in today’s money

Dr Nick Draper of University College London compiled a database of 46,000 records of compensation given to British slave-owners, Legacies of British Slave-ownership, which was launched online on February 27, 2013


He found that as many as one-fifth of wealthy Victorian Britons derived their fortunes from the slave trade and the records show exactly who received what in payouts from the British Government when it was abolished – to the potential embarrassment of their descendants who still indirectly enjoy the proceeds. Among them are Prime Minister David Cameron, former government minister Douglas Hogg, and the chairman of the Arts Council Peter Bazalgette.

About £4 trillion was extracted from the region in unpaid labour alone, according to researchers at the University of Birmingham, and the vast profits went to financing the construction of modern Britain.

The British Government paid out £20 million to around 3,000 families for loss of their ‘property’ when slave-ownership was abolished.  This represented a staggering 40 per cent of the Treasury’s annual spending budget and equates to around £16.5 billion in today’s terms.

Dr Draper said: “There was a feeding frenzy around the compensation.” Recipients included:

  • John Gladstone, father of 19th-century prime minister William Gladstone, received £106,769 (equal to £83 million) for the 2,508 slaves he owned across 9 plantations.
  • Charles Blair, great-grandfather of the author George Orwell (real name Eric Blair), received £4,442, equal to over £3 million today, for the 218 slaves he owned.
  • General Sir James Duff, who was David Cameron’s first cousin six times removed, was awarded a similar amount for the 202 slaves he forfeited in Jamaica.  Mr Cameron has declined to comment on the revelation.
  • One of the biggest payouts went to Charles McGarel – one of Douglas Hogg’s ancestors – who received £129,464 (about £101 million today) for the 2,489 slaves on his plantations in British Guyana.  Mr Hogg has also refused to comment, saying he “didn’t know anything about it”.
  • Evelyn Bazalgette, ancestor of Peter Bazalgette, was paid £7,352 (£5.7 million today) for 420 slaves on his two estates in Jamaica.

Peter Bazalgette characterized his ancestor as an idle investor, saying: “It had always been rumoured that his father had some interests in the Caribbean and I suspect Evelyn inherited that. So I heard rumours but this confirms it, and guess it’s the sort of thing wealthy people on the make did in the 1800s. He could have put his money elsewhere but regrettably he put it in the Caribbean.”

Last fall, Prime Minister Cameron visited Jamaica, one of the oldest colonies of the British Empire, where aristocrats and entrepreneurs made fortunes from slave plantations, and where the subject of reparations for the enslavement of tens of thousands of Africans is back on the table.

Cameron has said on many occasions that he wants to tackle money laundering and make sure no dirty money enters the UK.

“I want Britain to be the most open country in the world for investment. But I want to ensure that all this money is clean money,” he said in July.

READ MORE: Tory vow to tackle money laundering in UK rubbished by experts

“There is no place for dirty money in Britain. Indeed, there should be no place for dirty money anywhere.”

But Cameron does not believe in reparations or apologising for the rapacious aspects of Britain’s imperial past because they are allegedly issues from hundreds of years ago. But he is under pressure from the Jamaican establishment to do what some descendants of slaves say will right historic wrongs.

The Cameron family wealth is founded on “dirty money”


The Cameron family wealth is founded on “dirty money.” Sir Hilary Beckles, chairman of Caricom’s Reparations Commission and vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies, wrote in an open letter to the Jamaica Observatory that Cameron is “a grandson of the Jamaican soil who has been privileged and enriched by your forebears’ sins of the enslavement of our ancestors.”

By which he is referring to General Sir James Duff, a Georgian-era military man and inheritor of a sugar plantation in Jamaica – and a relation of Cameron’s. Specifically, Duff is his cousin six times removed.


Born in 1753, Duff, a Scot, was the first illegitimate son of Lord Fife. He studied at Aberdeen University, where he left with an MA in 1771. He served in the 1st Foot Guards, which would later become the Grenadier Guards, where he quickly rose to the position of captain – a career helped by the financial interventions of his father. By 1794, he had been made a major-general and by the time of his death in 1839 he was the highest-ranking general in the whole of the British Army.

He fought in France and Ireland, where in Limerick he helped suppress the Irish rebellion against British rule in 1798. He was also the MP for Banffshire from 1784 to 1789 after his father gave up his seat in the House of Commons. But it was not his father who gifted him a Jamaican sugar plantation – it was his father-in-law.

In 1785, Duff married Basilia Dawes, the heiress to the fortune of James Dawes, who had made his fortune in the West Indies. Along with the marriage came the sugar plantation – the Grange Sugar Estate in Rockwell, Jamaica – and the hundreds of African slaves who were forced to work on it.

Duff derived part of his income from slavery. When slavery was abolished in 1833, he profited further. He was compensated with £4,101 for his 202 slaves and the plantation, according to University College London research. In today’s cash, that’s worth about £3.1m.

While Cameron is not a direct ancestor of Duff, it sets an awkward context to the position of his government (which is not different to previous administrations, it should be noted) that reparations and apologies are not appropriate – and one his opponents are keen to draw attention to.

The prime minister is far from the only public figure whose forebears benefited from the trade. He has another personal family connection. On nearby St Lucia, William Jolliffe, a West Sussex businessman and ancestor of Mr Cameron’s wife, Samantha, made money from the Ballenbouche sugar plantation.

Jamaica and the slave trade

A view of Montego Bay from Reading Hill A Duperly photograph showing rebel slaves destroying the road and the burning of the Reading Wharf during the the 1831-32 slave rebellion in Jamaica, led by Sam Sharpe. Creator Duperly, Adolphe 1833 National Library of Jamaica

A view of Montego Bay from Reading Hill. A Duperly photograph showing rebel slaves destroying the road and the burning of the Reading Wharf during the the 1831-32 slave rebellion in Jamaica, led by Sam Sharpe | Creator Duperly, Adolphe, 1833. National Library of Jamaica

Jamaica was colonised by the British in the mid-1600s when the Spanish, the island’s original colonisers, were ousted by forces sent by OIiver Cromwell, who was Britain’s head of state during its brief period as a republic following a bloody civil war.

From then on, tens of thousands slaves were imported to Jamaica from west Africa to work on Jamaican plantations. And the sugar industry exploded on the back of this slave labour. In 1673, there were 57 sugar estates in Jamaica. By 1739, there was 430. British rule was genocidal: while more than a million people were imported from Africa to Jamaica, at the time of emancipation in the 1830s the enslaved population was just over 300,000.

There were often rebellions by the enslaved Africans against the British, though they were swiftly and brutally put down.

The 1831 slave rebellion in Jamaica, led by Sam Sharpe, was one such action; it drew its inspiration from the Haitian Revolution. Prof Isaac Saney points out: “The rebellion was the death knell for slavery in the British Empire. The rebellion began on 27 December 1831 and lasted well into January 1832. It was not suppressed until serious physical and economic damage had been wreaked on the island’s best plantations. Two hundred and twenty-six plantations were affected. More than 60,000 slaves –  almost one fifth of the enslaved population – participated in the uprising encompassing 750 square miles. As Richard Hart, in his seminal work on slave rebellions in the Caribbean notes, the slaves ‘had destroyed an appreciable part of the material basis of their enslavement. They had succeeded in making slavery an insupportably expensive system to maintain.’

“The uprising was the accelerant for the abolition of slavery throughout the British dominion. Hart observes that in the years leading up to the rebellion, the prevailing attitude among British ruling circles was ‘that the abolition of slavery, though ultimately to be desired was not to be contemplated in the near future.’ The insurrection in Jamaica transformed this stance, placing the emancipation of the slaves at the forefront of the agenda.”

The destruction of Roehamton Estate. A print depicting the destruction of the Roehamton Estate, property of J. Baillie, Esq. in the parish of St. James in January 1832 | Creator Duperly, Adolphe, 1832, National Library of Jamaica

The destruction of Roehamton Estate. A print depicting the destruction of the Roehamton Estate, property of J. Baillie, Esq. in the parish of St. James in January 1832 | Creator Duperly, Adolphe, 1832, National Library of Jamaica

The abolition of slavery by the British in the early 19th century brought hope, though black Jamaicans continued to be blighted by poverty. Political progress was slow. By 1962, as the British Empire was dismantled, Jamaica declared its independence, a society in which 80 per cent of the people were functionally illiterate. Male literacy remains more than four points below the international average.

But many Jamaicans want reparations for what happened in the past. The central argument is this: that much of today’s poverty is a consequence of Jamaica’s colonial history, and the inequality between it and the old colonial powers is because of ill-gotten, slavery-generated wealth. So reparations would address this unfair, immoral imbalance. But those opposed to reparations argue pathetically that too much time has passed, and that the rich of today are not responsible for the actions of their colonialist ancestors.

Canada and the slave trade

Much of the wealth plundered from Jamaica and the British West Indies and the compensation paid by the British Crown was reinvested in the British Canadian colonies and the expansion of the United States, especially in the financing of railways. The capital formation and enrichment of the Anglo-Canadian bourgeoisie historically by the Atlantic Slave Trade – originating with the Grand Banks fishery up to the building of slave ships in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec – has been kept under wraps by generations of bourgeois historians with the notable exception of Harold Innis.

Legacies of British Slave-ownership, a project based at University College of London, links the first Canadian prime minister, John Alexander MacDonald, to enslavement in the West Indies. His second wife, Susan Agnes Bernard, was the daughter of Thomas James Bernard, a planter connected to Lambs River Estate, Westmoreland, Jamaica. Legacies of British Slave-ownership has a searchable database. In the Imperial Legacies section, thirty-two names are listed that are connected to Canada.

This presentation makes extensive use of Legacies of British Slave-ownership – University College of London CL Department of History 2015

Jamaica Hanover 455 (Grange Sugar Estate)

25th Jan 1836 | 202 Enslaved | £4101 0S 1D


Claim Notes

Parliamentary Papers p. 68.

T71/915 p. 48: claim from Sir James Duff Knt., of Great Britain, as trustee.

T71/872: ‘Deed of trust 21st Feb 1826, second 6 Feb 1827 to Sir James Duff and Edward Bullock Douglas upon certain trusts produced, E. B. Douglas dead’.

General Sir James Duff [1753-1839] m. 12/8/1785 Basilia, dau. and heir of James Dawes of Rockspring Jamaica [DNB]. 1811JA shows J.W.Dawes, Rockspring; James Sholto Douglas had Grange 1811-1833.

James Sholto Douglas = 1757-1830, m. Sarah Dawes, heir of James Dawes 13/3/1784. Son General Sir James Dawes Douglas m. Marianne Bullock 7/8/1815;  Edward Bullock Douglas was son of Charles James Sholto Douglas, and half brother of James Sholto Douglas.

Jamaica Almanac (1811-1833): Grange estate registered to James Sholto Douglas.

See also Hanover claim no. 460 for Rock Spring estate.

Further Information

Claim No.
Grange Sugar Estate
Collected by
Cundell, Geo.

Associated Individuals (1)

Awardee (Trustee)

General Sir James Duff

1753 – 5th Dec 1839



Army officer.
Born Keith, Aberdeenshire. Eldest illegitimate son of James Duff, second Earl Fife (1729–1809), and Margaret Adam, of Keith. His mother, ‘of humble status’, had 3 children with Fife. They were put with William Rose, Fife’s factor. “Fife paid for James’s education, army promotions, and for his small Aberdeenshire estate of Kinstair, and made him his constant companion.”

Commissioned into the army, April 1769. Rose to become General (1809). The most notable, arguably notorious, moment of his army career was his role in crushing the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

Knighted April 1779.

Married Basilia (?-1849), daughter and heir of James Dawes of Rockspring, Jamaica, 12 August 1785. “Marriage brought him financial independence and a sugar plantation.”

MP for Banffshire (dominated by the Duff family electoral influence) 1784-1788.

Died at home, Funtington House, near Chichester, Sussex; buried Funtington parish churchyard.


Further Information

Name in compensation records
Sir James Duff
Basilia Dawes
3 daughters, 1 son
Keith Academy
King’s College, Aberdeen [MA 1771 ]
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Claims (1)

£4,101 0S 1D
Awardee (Trustee)

Legacies Summary

Political (1)

election →
Banffshire Banffshire
1784 – 1788

Addresses (2)

Kinstair, Aberdeen, North-east Scotland, Scotland
Funtington House, Funtington, Chichester, Sussex, South-east England, England


Filed under Africa, Americas, History

2 responses to “‘Panama Papers’ conceals original source of Cameron family wealth: slavery

  1. Pingback: Cuba backs Caribbean nations in demand for slavery compensation | Tony Seed's Weblog

  2. This is so tiresome. If you go back far enough everyone is your relative. I wonder who Tony Seeds relatives are? Should we start shaking up his family tree and see who falls out?


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