Although this miniature portrait is unsigned, it has been attributed to Thomas Hargreaves (1774-1846). It may be signed on the reverse, but the case is too difficult to open. The reasons for attributing it to Thomas Hargreaves are that he was working in Liverpool where the sitter worked and according to Daphne Foskett his wife's maiden name was Quaile. A sister of the sitter's husband, Ellen Tobin (also Elinore Tobin), married Basil Quayle and hence it seems likely Hargreaves would be asked to paint this miniature.
The miniature is set into a gold brooch with bracelet fittings on either side and so would have been worn as a bracelet. The sitter is identified on an attached tag as Esther Tobin, along with the dates, b 1779, m 1806, and d 1857. This has enabled her identification as Esther Watson (1779-1857) who married Thomas Tobin on 5 Jun 1806 at St Thomas, Liverpool. Esther's parents were Richard Watson and Jane Robinson. Thomas Tobin's father seems to have been Patrick Tobin (1723-1781) and his mother is recorded with various spellings from Helen Breckle to Eleanor Breakhill, with their marriage 7 Dec 1758 at Braddan, Isle of Man. (As a guess, she may have been Ellen Breakel, daughter of John Breakel and Jane Oard, and christened at St Nicholas, Liverpool on 29 Jun 1733.) Patrick and Ellen Tobin seem to have had around 12 children, with Thomas Tobin himself born on the Isle of Man on 18 Sep 1775 and died in 1862. Mary Tobin, who was one of Patrick's daughters on 28 Sep 1813 married Sir William Hillary, the founder of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute. See Sir William Hillary
Thomas and Esther Tobin had several children including; Thomas Tobin (b 22 Mar 1807) (later Sir Thomas Tobin), Rose Tobin (10 Feb 1818) (later Rose Sutton), James Aspinall Tobin (b 2 Jan 1819) (later Mayor of Liverpool), Ellen Hesther Tobin (b 5 Apr 1820), and Frances Maria Tobin (b 10 Feb 1826).
(The research of this miniature has been absorbing and has led to this essay which it is hoped visitors will find interesting. Sitters in several miniatures from within the collection are shown. They also have connections to the slave trade, which illustrate how the effects of the slave trade permeated the whole of society.)
The Liverpool Tobins, Smuggling, and the Slave Trade
The Tobin family, and particularly Esther's husband Thomas Tobin, are mentioned in several reference books including "The Slave Trade" by Hugh Thomas and "Commerce and Economic Change in West Africa" by Martin Lynn. There are also numerous Internet references to the Tobin family, with many of the hyperlinks included below.
In the middle 1600's Liverpool was a fishing hamlet, but some limited trade to North America had developed. The first recorded slave voyage from Liverpool was undertaken in 1700 by the "Liverpool Merchant", with the trade growing rapidly throughout the 18C. However, even in the mid 18C Liverpool was not large as shown in the accompanying picture of Liverpool. Some people believe it was the slave trade that led to the rapid growth of Liverpool as a port, with the suggestion the reason being that Liverpool was further away from the risk of ships being intercepted by France or Spain in time of war.
In 1689 on the outbreak of war with France, the British government imposed duties on many imported goods, especially wine and brandy from France, but also rum, tobacco, tea, silk, and other goods from the China trade. The imposition of Customs duty came to affect most trading routes to Britain, of which rum and sugar imported from the West Indies was only part. There was smuggling near London, but it tended to be limited by the lack of suitable ports for unloading the contraband cargoes from large vessels for onward distribution in smaller vessels and also a more active presence of Revenue Officers who could call on the army for assistance.
In seeking more secluded sites to operate, the smugglers set their eyes on the Scilly Isles and the Isle of Man. Here it was possible to unload overseas ships without paying duty, warehouse the goods until they were sold, and then furtively land the contraband at multiple coastal points in a fleet of small coasting vessels. Thus the prime reason for the 18C growth of the ports at Bristol and Liverpool is seen as smuggling via the Scilly Isles and the Isle of Man, with servicing of the slaving trading ships being a by-product of this. Without the influence of smuggling, there would have been little reason for slave trading ships to move away from the port of London.
Figures quoted below indicate that estimates of duty avoided through the Isle of Man alone could have been as high as GBP 700,000 per year by 1755. This at a time when the total duty collected on all similar products for the whole of England was less than GBP 4,000,000 per year. Thus smuggling was a far more profitable business than serving slave trade vessels. As Bristol and Liverpool were the closest large ports to the two smuggling centres, they became the associated ports that handled non-dutiable cargoes with ships nominally calling Bristol or Liverpool their home port.
This led to the development of Bristol as a major "slave trading" port, even though no slaves passed through the port. Initially, the smugglers in the Scilly Isles worked with impunity, but later in the 18C there was a clamp down on smuggling via the Scilly Isles. This was so successful, that it drastically reduced job opportunities and incomes on the Scilly Isles to such an extent the population faced starvation, see Maritime Archives & Library | Smuggling
As smuggling became increasingly risky via the Scilly Isles, the importance of Bristol declined and the smugglers relocated more of their business to the Isle of Man, thereby boosting the local Manx economy, and with their ships nominally based in Liverpool. The Isle of Man had the added advantages of very low legal duty rates and being centrally situated for the distribution of smuggled goods to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Thus Liverpool replaced Bristol as the major "slave trading" port. See Book 3 chap 2 part 3 - History of Isle of Man, 1900
At a much later stage when customs prevention was more successful on the Isle of Man, some of the smugglers even moved on to the Faroe Islands to escape the revenue. (It is interesting to compare the 18C smuggling (i.e. tax avoidance/evasion) which had a major positive economic and employment impact on the local communities where smuggling became established, with 20C tax loop holes leading to the 20C flight of corporations to remote tax havens, where their local employees then boost the local economy purely through their employment as tax avoiders!!)
The Duke of Athol controlled the Isle of Man and collected trifling rates of duty on good shipped through Douglas until the British Government took over collection of Customs Duties in 1765. However by landing their homeward goods in Castletown at the southern tip of the Isle of Man, duty could still be minimised, if not avoided after this date and the island was a vast warehouse of smuggled goods until merchants like the Tobins later moved their business to Liverpool, partly because of improved customs controls, but also to avoid the cost of trans-shipping cargoes. The activities of the Tobins serve to illustrate the history of this.
It appears the Tobin family originally came from Dublin, Ireland, with Sir(?) Thomas Tobin settling in the Isle of Man around 1700, at the time of the first recorded slaving voyage. The family is descended from the St Albino family, with Tobin being derived from that name, see Early Tobin (St. Aubyn) Family History in Kilkenny Sir Thomas Tobin was probably already a slave trader when he arrived in the Isle of Man and moved there to take advantage of the opportunity for smuggling, which would have been risky if he had remained in Ireland.
The southern end of the Isle of Man, around Braddan and Castletown, on the trade routes and between Dublin and Liverpool, was precisely where the Tobin family established themselves. So far the earliest Isle of Man parish record reference found is the marriage of one of Sir Thomas Tobin's sons, John Tobin (1701-1739) to Mary Greenwood in 1726 in Douglas, presumably where Mary's family lived. John had given his place of birth as Dublin. John and Mary had a daughter Mary Tobin born 10 Jan 1728 in Braddan and there are many Isle of Man records after that date.
It is possible that on the Isle of Man, the Patrick Tobin family lived at a house called Oak Hill in Braddan, as pictured here. The house was later owned by Captain Edward Forbes. See Oakhill The reason for suggesting this house as being the home of Sir John Tobin, is that when Sir John Tobin moved to Liverpool he lived in a house called Oak Hill Park in Old Swan, and it seems entirely likely he would use the name of the old family home for the new one. Dorothy Wordsworth seems to have become friendly with one of Patrick Tobin's daughters while visiting the Isle of Man in 1828. see Dorothy Wordsworth, 'Journal of a Tour in the Isle of Man' 1828
The following extract from a letter by John Mackay written in 1722 indicates the smuggling situation; "(The Isle of Man) is not only a Sanctuary for men, but for goods; for nothing pays Custom here. I have seen several ships unloaded here with wine and brandy from France, Rum from the West Indies, and Callicoes, and other East India. Goods from Holland, which Were put into Warehouses, and afterwards run in small boats into Ireland, Scotland, and the Western Parts of England; here are no Custom House officers, and if England should send any spies, it would signify nothing; for none knows the particular places these small boats are designed to." see Text of Douglas 100 Years Ago - A W Moore, 1904
The amount of duty avoided in the Isle of Man was not small as the following quote from 1759 notes; "the loss to the Treasury continued to grow, some were quoting it as at least GBP 200,000 pa, in particular the illicit importation of tea was noted". Some estimates of the duty avoided were as high as GBP 700,000 per annum - see Smuggling in relation to the Isle of Man, 1755 A quote from this 1755 report gives an indication of the volumes; "True it is, no less than eight ships arrived in the Isle of Man in the compass of 14 days in July last from foreign parts with brandy, rum, geneva, tobacco, arrac, teas, silks, &c. At one town called Douglas, the streets of which were scarce passable for several weeks, on account of the hogsheads. All the warehouses in the town not being able to contain their cargoes, till room was made by running off the stock then in cellar." Even so, there was concern about the quality of the rum being smuggled; "No Leeward Island rum is now imported into the Isle of Man, but coarse stinking North American rum, drawn from molasses" !
It was not only goods from outside Europe that were smuggled, as the Isle of Man also acted as a transshipment point for goods from Sweden, Holland and other European countries. "The goods imported into the Isle of Man in the greatest quantities, are coarse teas from Holland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway; brandy, wine and tobacco from France, rum from the West Indies; and debentured tobacco from Great Britain. Beside these, are imported there in smaller quantities, China silk, arrack and other East India goods, coffee, geneva and juniper berries. The Liverpool merchants also import from Holland to the Isle of Man and lodge in stores which they have provided there, gunpowder, fire arms, toys, and East India goods for their African trade." See
Atholl Papers - AP_40B-16 - Reply from Dublin re smuggling from ...
For 1752-1754 the official import statistics for England show an average total value for total imports of all products of GBP 8.2m for the whole country and representing 97% of the value of total exports, whereas for 1772-1774 the average total value of all imports had risen to GBP 12.7m or 129% of the value of total exports. See State Revenues and Overseas Trade in Great Britain, 1700-1800 The apparent rise in imports by 1772-1774 being more due to reduced smuggling, than a physical growth in cargo.
For 1788-92, average annual customs duties collected in England for imports of tropical goods including sugar, rum, brandy, wine, tobacco, tea, and silk were GBP 4.3m. Nevertheless, smuggling via the Isle of Man continued at a very high level as the 1792 estimation of duty evasion via the Isle of Man was still GBP 300,000 per annum, equivalent to 7% of total imports of all these commodities into England.
The massive impact of such smuggled trade on employment and the economy of the Isle of Man is also obvious when compared with the official exports to Great Britain from the Isle of Man for 1790. Aside from some exports of fish, livestock, and linen, the main exports were; 1743 bushels potatoes, 1313 crocks butter, 201 boxes and baskets of eggs, 7 barrels pork, 1½ ditto, beef, 195 cow and ox hides in hair, 57 dozen calf-skins, 4½ cwt. leather, 1400 cow and ox horns, 26 cwt. cow and ox hail, 4 cwt. honey, 1335 cwt. kelp, 2 cwt. wax, 17 cwt. wool and woollen yarn, 159 cwt. linen yarn, 69 tons lead ore, and 258 dozen rabbit-skins. The total of all this appears to amount to only enough cargo for a single ship. See Woods,
This was at a time when the total annual value of exports, not just the duty, exported from Manchester was GBP 100,000 in 1759 and GBP 300,000 in 1779. As the smuggled goods were secretly on-distributed by small boats to various ports in Ireland, England, and Scotland, it can be seen that official Liverpool trade statistics would have been well understated and vast profits made by the Manx traders such as the Tobins.
That smuggling continued post 1765 is obvious from the many depositions taken by the 1792 Commission of Inquiry where it was reported the estimated amount of duty avoided had risen back to GBP 300,000. It is interesting to note in the report of this enquiry that one of the three Customs Collectors based in Castletown, only five miles from where the Tobins lived, was a Mr John Quayle who was also Clerk of the Rolls, see Examinations of Mr. Quayle In 1794 Elinore Tobin, a sister of both Sir John and Thomas Tobin married Basil Quayle (1765-1816) who was a son of Mr John Quayle. Mr Quayle testified in 1792 that the annual salary for the Collectors was twenty pounds which they divided amongst themselves equally. In addition he also acted as Comptroller for which he received a further thirty-one pounds. He also testified that the merchants would come to the Customs Office and file their own customs entries. Thus it seems there was a very "friendly" and casual atmosphere in the Customs Office, with merchants under declaring actual quantities and declaring only sufficient of their goods to ensure the continued employment of their tame Customs Collectors.
On 30 Sep 1763, the above John Quayle wrote in a letter to Basil Cochrane, then Governor of the Isle of Man "I spent the first ten days of this month in Ireland where I purchased for £900 Irish Balla Whetstone & the Whitestone which is 85 acres & joins Balla Curry along the river and joins the high road from Castletown side of the Great meadow to above KK Malew church, this is brother Radcliffes scheme and he is even fonder of it, as it opens a communication between the two roads, makes me a farm of above 260 acres within one boundary, and in a little time will let for £40 a year. But in the mean time this and the tyrthe purchase have made me the poorest man in the parish." See Atholl Papers - AP_X17-25 - Copy of letter from John Quayle to ...It is interesting to observe that his Customs Collectors salary would not have gone far towards this! By 1825 a George Quayle was a prominent Liverpool merchant and further signs of the probable collusion over customs duties in the 18C.
It is also highly probable there was collusion over customs duties well into the 19C, for on 9 Feb 1836, Sir John Tobin's son, Rev John Tobin married Emily Ann Arnaud. Elias Arnaud, thought to be Emily's father, was Collector of H M Customs for Liverpool from 1821 or earlier. Elias Arnaud is thought to have lived in Onchan, Douglas, Isle of Man from around 1800, but had been born in 1786 at Titchfield, near Portsmouth, Hampshire, where his father, Elias and grandfather (Elias ARNAUD born on 9 Sep 1705 in London, married Sarah Hoppes (1705-1778) on 11 Oct 1731, and died on 24 Sep 1772 in Gosport, Hants), appear to have been grocers and distillers between 1751-1800, the family having immigrated from Saintonge, France as Huguenot refugees in the late 17C, see Genealogy Quest - English Denization Records, 1693 and THE ARNOLD FAMILY ASSOCIATION OF THE SOUTH Volume V Summer 1975 ... and DISTINGUISHED HUGUENOT REFUGEES AND THEIR DESCENDANTS .
It is pertinent to observe that as the elder Elias Arnaud was a distiller at Gosport, it would be an excellent cover for anyone involved in smuggling and distributing liquor! The Arnold Family reference also refers to a cousin of another Elias Arnaud, named Andrew Arnaud, who in his will dated April 29, 1699 commented that it was made just before his ship "Warrington" sailed for Guinea and named Elias as the sole heir. Andrew Arnaud must therefore have been involved in the slave trade and presumably as a consequence also smuggling of rum from the West Indies. Further in 1785 Elias Arnaud was the Portsmouth Agent for the Pheonix Assurance Company.
In addition, it seems that another daughter of Elias Arnaud, Catherine Arnaud in 1845 married Captain Mark Wilks who was later in Command of the Manx Police.
In any event, Elias Arnaud of Liverpool was no doubt an old friend of Sir John Tobin and so his daughter-in-law, Emily Arnaud also came from a family of slavers and smugglers. In 1836 Arnaud leased a site at 13 Abercromby Square, Liverpool and there built a home that he lived in until his death in 1860 with some style, as in 1851 he and his wife Margaret had six servants. After the death of Elias, Margaret Arnaud moved to live with her brother John Marriott, a cotton broker, but the family was obviously still wealthy as in the 1861 census they had ten servants.
Thus Tobin family members were married to Customs officers on the Isle of Man and in Liverpool. It therefore seems there was likely to be continuing collusion over customs entries, with the most likely method of collusion being under declaring of quantities and values. The main piece in the Tobin family puzzle that seems a little hard to fit, is why did Sir John Tobin's son become a Minister of the Church? Perhaps because Sir John, being an entreponeur, was a man used to getting his own way and he directed his son to join the Church, just to enhance his own personal respectability after the abolition of slavery.
Shown here is a miniature from the collection representing the respectable side of the smuggling and slavery fence. It is of Henrietta Araminata Monck Browne, whose grandfather was Vice Admiral Sir Charles Paget of the Royal Navy and thus required to act against smuggling and slaving. Sir Charles was a younger brother of the Earl of Uxbridge of Waterloo fame. Also interestingly, the miniature of Henrietta was painted by her great-niece, Henrietta Agnes Schenley, a daughter of Captain Edward Schenley, who was cast as a major villain when he eloped in 1842 from the United States with Mary Croghan, an American heiress aged 15 and only a third of his age. After this in the 1840's Schenley was sent by the Foreign Office to Suranim, in South America, as a Slave Trade Commissioner to ensure that British ships were not participating in the slave trade. When Mary Croghan Schenley died around 1900, she was regarded as perhaps the wealthiest woman in the world. See also Oakland: People: Mary Croghan Schenley
As both slavers and smugglers, the Tobin family must have preferred to keep a low profile during the middle and latter part of the 18C. After the death of Patrick Tobin, the nominal head of the family was Sir John Tobin (23 Oct 1763 - 27 Feb 1851) a brother of Thomas Tobin. Sir John is recorded as a privateer and slave captain, see - pp160-184 (chap 8) Manx Worthies and he married Sarah Aspinall (30 Apr 1770 - 11 Sep 1853) on 17 Jan 1798. The Aspinalls were another slaving family. Sir John had one son, who became a clergyman and three daughters, one of whom married the Governor of the Isle of Man.
Thomas Tobin himself later admitted to ten slaving voyages, at a time when each voyage took 15 to 18 months. Thus he was involved for a long time and could himself have carried 3000 to 4000 slaves across the Atlantic. This was a lot of voyages for one man as few experienced captains went to Africa more than three or four times, although in his earlier voyages, presumably Thomas Tobin went as a crew member.
There were a number of Tobin sons and cousins and no doubt many of them were involved in the slave trade. In addition, they employed other captains to undertake slaving voyages on their behalf. The family fortune was thus founded on slave trading and smuggling, with the family being an influence in the rapid growth of Liverpool as a base for slave trading, as seen in the following statistics.
Between 1650 and 1675 it has been estimated that as a total for all nations, 15,000 slaves were shipped across the Atlantic each year, with the number rising to 24,000 a year between 1675 and 1700. By 1710 it is estimated that Britain alone was shipping over 10,000 slaves per year, with many of the independent traders working out of Bristol. In the 1720's there were as many as 150 British ships engaged in the slave trade, with London averaging 56 voyages a year, Bristol 34, and Liverpool 11. By the 1730's this mix had changed to Bristol 50 per year, London 40, and Liverpool 44 and the average number of slaves carried per year in British ships had increased to 17,000.
In 1749 there were 70 ships from Liverpool, 50 from Bristol, and only 30 from the rest of England including London. In the late 1750's it was Liverpool 65, Bristol 25, and London 10. Between 1798 and 1802, Liverpool ships alone carried 37,000 slaves per year, nearly double the number of 15,000 carried by ships of ALL countries, 125 years earlier.
Thus Liverpool had grown from nothing, to nearly two-thirds of the trade carried in British ships in the space of fifty years. In the 1780's at the peak, it is estimated that British ships were carrying 35,000 captives a year in very cramped conditions, as shown in this layout plan. Liverpool also benefited by being the port for the growing industrial north. Shown here is a miniature portrait from the collection of Samuel Richard Guy, a slave owner and farmer in the United States.
British slaving captains were paid GBP5 per month and their experienced crew GBP2, although the captains did receive bonuses, such as 3 or 4 slaves out of every 100 landed safely. There were high mortality rates for both slaves and crew, with crew losses rarely less than 20%. Actually a much higher rate than the death rate of their slave cargoes, which has been estimated at 9%. This is a surprising comparison and mainly due to the susceptibility of the European crew to malaria and yellow fever, but also because the crew were on board for three legs of the voyage, i.e. much longer than the slaves.
In the 1780's there were large French shipments of slaves to the sugar plantations in Santa Domingue. So much so, that by 1792, it is estimated that there were 450,000 slaves in that colony, compared to 40,000 whites and 50,000 mulattoes. This imbalance empowered the slaves and on 22 August 1792 there was a massive slave revolt on the island, with many French plantation families fled the country. The Tessieire family was one of these families and they fled to New York. The Santa Domingue slave revolt is the only completely successful slave revolution in history.
Anthony Tessieire of this family later married Eliza Caroline Morgan, the older lady depicted here in a miniature by John Henry Brown. Also shown is their daughter, Antoinette Tessieire who married John Ringgold Wilmer. He was probably related to the Ringgold family of Maryland, who were major slave traders in the United States. Thomas Ringgold and his colleagues had sold 100,000 slaves by the end of the 18C. They bought many from slave captains hailing from Liverpool and thus may well have purchased slaves from the Tobin family.
Values of slaves varied considerably. Depending upon supply and demand, in the 1760's an average purchase price in Africa was GBP 40 each and remained about this until prices fell after the Napoleonic Wars. Slaves might be sold for twice their cost on arrival in America. Thus it could be said that a slave was "worth" more than a crew member. The cargo was so valuable that slave ships carried surgeons who inspected the individuals offered for purchase and advised the captain which ones to reject. At later dates slaves were inoculated against smallpox, the importance of which is shown in this advertisement. The life expectancy of a slave on arrival varied by the destination, in Brazil being only eight years, so there was always a need for replacements. The ships used also had a limited life. The owners would not expect a ship to make more than six round voyages, nor last more than ten years. Between 1713 and 1775, 800 ships sailed from Nantes and only one made six voyages and lasted ten years.
No doubt as a whole, the Tobin family, (perhaps with the exception of the Rev John Tobin) was privately pro-slavery. Some Tobins were very publicly opposed to the abolition of the slave trade and a miniature portrait of James Tobin can be seen at PortCities Bristol He was a plantation owner in Nevis with 175 slaves and associated with the Bristol slave traders. He gave evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee where he said ‘I have no doubt but that the situation of the West Indian slaves is preferable to that of the labouring poor in Europe.’ This was a common argument used by supporters of the slave trade. It stated that the slaves were cared for by their owners and supplied with housing, food and clothing in return for their work. The poor in Britain had to pay for all their needs out of low wages. Tobin even made reference to the better weather in the Caribbean, as a plus for the slaves.
James Tobin and his partner, John Pinney (1740-1818) set up a company which acted as agent for other plantation owners in the Caribbean and handled their sugar crops. This included selling sugar on the owners’ behalf to sugar processors in Bristol. The company also arranged for supplies, such as machinery, building materials and food, to be sent to their clients on the sugar plantations. They lent money to plantation owners who might need money to cover bad harvests or pay debts. Pinney and Tobin would take over the plantations and their slaves if the debts were not repaid. Then the slaves might be resold at auction as shown here. It seems likely James Tobin was related to the Liverpool Tobins, but to date the family relationship has not been established.
Although there were many slave captains, the Tobins seem to have been amongst the few who survived multiple voyages as captains and then also became successful merchants. Many Liverpool merchants made large fortunes from the slave trade, but most of them had not actually been slave captains. No complete list of ships operated by the Tobin family has been found, but references to the the following names of sailing ships have been seen; "Gipsy", "Molly", "John Tobin", "Liverpool", "William Heathcote".
In addition there are references to Sir John Tobin building and owning the largest steamer built on the Mersey before 1851. This is was the paddle-wheeler "Liverpool" of 1140 tons, built in 1837 but sold by Sir John in 1838 and later transferred to P&O in 1840 when it was renamed "Great Liverpool". It then traded between Liverpool and Egypt until it was wrecked in 1846 near Cape Finisterre. See Encyclopaedia Peninsular
It took many years for the anti-slavery lobby within Britain to get the numbers to pass the anti-slavery legislation. William Wilberforce was a driving force at the forefront of the lobby. William Pitt the Younger, who was Prime Minister was also instrumental in finally passing the legislation. Pitt appears here in a miniature from within the collection.
When the slave trade was abolished from 1 Jan 1808, Sir John Tobin sought to become respectable. In 1819 he was Mayor of Liverpool and was knighted in 1820 by George IV, see Walrus - Liscard Hall History In 1835 he built a home called Liscard Hall, the grounds now being Central Park, Wallasey. Presumably to improve his own image, Sir John also built the adjacent St John's church for his only son, the Reverend John Tobin (19 Apr 1809-?) who was a clergyman. However, his duties were not onerous as there were few services, the pews in St.John's Church were sold and all seats not let were kept locked. (In 2005 approval was given to convert the church into apartments!)
Even being a Reverend, John Tobin lived very well on his share of the family fortune and was a very corpulent man. On one occasion he crossed the Mersey on a ferryboat, which was crowded with trippers from Lancashire. As they boarded the rickety gangplanks one of the trippers was heard to say, "Wait a minute and let that fat chap go first. If it bears him, it will be safe for us". See Walrus - Liscard Hall History Later, in the 1871 census, Rev John Tobin was living with his wife Emily Ann (1816-1881) and two children in Caversham, Oxfordshire with four servants and describing himself as "Clergyman of the Church of England, without care of souls".
Although he obviously craved respectability, Sir John Tobin's name was associated with a bribery at elections case in 1833, where the large number of close family connections giving rise to self-election of Liverpool Councillors were noted, see Liverpool Council 1833
Thomas Tobin, the husband of Esther, seems to have been the merchant brain of the Liverpool Tobin family, but been less inclined to seek publicity, although his name is prominent in the historical record. After 1 Jan 1808 when it became illegal to carry slaves, the Tobin family switched its ships to the Palm Oil trade between West Africa and Liverpool. Although there were large profits in this trade there were also risks, as shown in the following account of the loss of the ship "Liverpool" owned by the Tobin family, see Loss of the Ship Liverpool 1820
Even before the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the tightening of customs duty after 1765 had an adverse effect on employment opportunities on the Isle of Man, causing a wave of emigration to the United States, although as noted above, smuggling continued particularly in the south of the Island. However, from the abolition of slavery in 1808 ships returning to Liverpool direct from Africa with palm oil were not carrying highly dutiable goods such as rum to the Island from the West Indies. Thus there was not the same financial "necessity" for these merchants to be involved in smuggling via the Isle of Man. Additionally, the collection regime had further improved on the Island, leading to even fewer ship calls there and a consequent downward spiral in demand for ship provisioning and warehousing on the Isle of Man. Reduced smuggling distribution in small vessels onward to Britain and Ireland also reduced employment opportunities on the Isle of Man.
Further, the change to a two way Liverpool-Africa trade, rather than the triangular trade across the Atlantic, required fewer ships to service the Africa trade. However, even at this stage one ship's captain spoke of losing 25 % of his crew by death every voyage. The combination of all these factors led to sharply reduced employment opportunities on the Island and a second surge in emigration to North America from the Isle of Man took place in the early 19C. See Genealogy Pages Isle of Man - Emigration
The palm oil imported from Africa via Liverpool was required for the Industrial Revolution, where it was used as an industrial lubricant for machinery and locomotives, as well as for soap and candles. After abolition, Thomas Tobin immediately became the largest importer in the more publicly visible palm oil trade, which tends to indicate he had the ships suddenly available from his being a major player in the less publicly visible slave trade in the years prior to 1807. British imports of palm oil rose from 100 tons in 1807, to 20,000 tons a year in the 1840's, with most imported through Liverpool.
The slave trade did continue and shown here is a miniature from the collection, of Commodore Matthew Perry, who early in his career was involved in United States efforts to stop the slave trade. By 1820, Great Britain, Portugal, Spain, and the United States had all outlawed the international slave trade, but it persisted until the middle of the nineteenth century.
In 1807 Congress had passed the Slave Importation Act which declared further importation of slaves into the United States to be illegal. Despite this the trade continued. United States or British naval interceptions were often futile, with captains of loaded Spanish or Portuguese slavers sometimes throwing their live human cargo overboard to avoid capture.
In the United States, President Monroe ordered the navy "to seize all vessels navigated under our flag engaged in that trade." To that end, five navy vessels headed for Africa between January 1820 and August 1821, beginning with the frigate USS Cyane which had been captured as a prize from the Royal Navy in 1815. Second in command of the Cyane was Lieutenant Perry, then 24 and who would become commander of the African Squadron in 1843.
Perry's family had been associated with the founders of the American Colonization Society, a movement established in 1816 to resettle freed slaves in Africa. Perry requested duty on the Cyane, with the primary mission of escorting the first group of freed slaves from America to the new country of Liberia. The Cyane continued on to intercept slavers, on 10 April 1820 bagging nine vessels suspected of slaving. The Cyane's captain bitterly noted that, although the vessels were evidently owned by Americans, they were so completely covered by Spanish documentation that is was impossible to condemn them. He also estimated that "There are probably no less than three hundred vessels engaged in the slave trade." See Lane. U S Navy and Slave Trade
Another opponent of the slave trade was Ann Tuttle Jones Bullard, shown here in another miniature from the collection. Ann's husband was Rev Artemas Bullard. They lived in St Louis, Missouri and were both involved in the Underground Railroad assisting slaves to escape to Canada. Ann was closely related by marriage to Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Ann was a published author of several works of fiction before Harriet was a published and could well have been part of the inspiration for Uncle Tom's Cabin. Much later, Abraham Lincoln is said to have joked to Harriet in connection with the American Civil War. "So you're the little lady who wrote the book that started this great war".
From around 1800 Thomas Tobin had lived in Liverpool, possibly with a country home at Eastham House, Eastham which was later occupied by his son James Aspinall Tobin. The palm oil trade was very profitable and in 1834 Thomas Tobin and his business partner Charles Horsefall purchased a gunpowder mill in Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland which had been disused since the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Gunpowder became one of their major exports to Africa, with the mill employing 500 men and boys. For more about the gunpowder mill see Places to visit and Gunpowder Mills « Ballincollig Heritage His eldest son, Sir Thomas Tobin (22 Mar 1807-?) was Managing Director of the site from 1834-1888 and while there lived in Oriel House see Oriel House History - Oriel House Hotel & Spa, Ballincollig, Co. Cork The mill was not immune from accidents, as five men were killed in one explosion, see Ireland Newspaper Abstracts
Despite the 1808 abolition, the slave trade continued and forty years later, the Tobin family still had an indirect involvement in the trade. It was reported in 1840 "one of the main exporters of gunpowder from Liverpool was John Tobin, son of a prominent slave trader and married to the daughter of yet another slaver family, the Aspinalls". This was a reference to Sir John who at this time was 79 years old and had married Sarah Aspinall. See Britain, the slave trade and slavery, 1808-1843. Industry ... The reference is stating that his father Patrick Tobin, was also a prominent slave trader. The report also stated that 90% of the gunpowder, some 1,700,000 pounds total weight, shipped in 1839 from Liverpool to Africa was for use "to a great extent in internal wars which are fomented for the purpose by the slave traders." Much of this was Tobin gunpowder.
The "purpose" of the internal wars, being for one African tribe to attack another African tribe and take prisoners, which they then sold to land-based slave traders, who in turn on sold them to the ship captains.
Interestingly, around 10% of slaves were adulterers, thieves, or other criminals within African tribes, who were found guilty by their native courts and then sentenced to be sold as slaves.
Thus, one can see quite a degree of similarity with British citizens still being found guilty, at similar dates, and of similar crimes which were punished by transportation to a penal colony such as Tasmania for life. Shown here is another miniature in the collection. It is of Mary Patricia Reze Booth (1775-1868), the mother of Charles O'Hara Booth who was Commandant of the Port Arthur penal settlement in Tasmania, Australia from 1833 to 1844.
Some African kings became very wealthy from selling slaves. For example, as early as 1750, King Tegesibu of Dahomey made GBP 250,000 a year from selling slaves, which was far greater than the income of any English duke.
In the mid 19C muskets from Birmingham were being sold to Africa and ships were still being built in Britain, which by their layout, showed they were specifically designed for the slave trade. No doubt the Tobins were shipping guns, shackles and chains, and Manchester cloth, along with gunpowder to Africa at this time, all of which were used to pay for slaves. Then returning with palm oil, "teeth" i.e. ivory tusks, and timber. Thus there was still a heavy British connection to the slave trade and this was behind the Hutt Committee inquiry.
In 1832 Thomas and Esther Tobin were living in Bold Street, but then between 1841 to 1861 Thomas and Esther lived at 80 Rodney Street, Liverpool and shown here is a present day picture of their home. In 1841 there were six servants. In 1851 Thomas described himself as "Shipowner and Merchant - Palm Oil and Gunpowder" and Esther Tobin described herself as "Merchant's Wife". This was probably their city address, with another Tobin son, James Aspinall Tobin (1819-1891) living as a magistrate and merchant at a country home, Eastham House, Eastham, Cheshire where, at the 1881 census, there were eighteen in the household, including seven servants. This sandstone property built in 1691, is thought to have been bought either by Sir John or by Thomas Tobin in 1801.
Thomas Tobin's elder son who managed the gunpowder mills became a knight, perhaps inheriting from Sir John Tobin, on the death of his son Rev John Tobin, see Sir Thomas Tobin and he was married to Lady Catherine Tobin, the Irish author, artist and traveller who wrote "Land of Inheritance" as pictured here.
By the later 19C the family described itself as involved in merchant banking, cotton, and shipping; instead of slavery, smuggling and gunpowder!
James Aspinall Tobin became Mayor of Liverpool in 1854 - see Sketch of James Aspinall Tobin, palm oil family and Photo of James Aspinall Tobin. Palm oil trading family Further family respectability came with James's son, Sir Alfred Aspinall Tobin (1855-1939) being appointed a judge. There are four portraits of him in the National Portrait Gallery. In 1901, he still lived with his widowed mother, the wife of James, Olivia Maria Aspinall Tobin at Eastham House, however in 2007, Eastham House is an old people's home.
Thomas Tobin's role as a slave trader did not really become a matter of public record until 1848 when he appeared before the Hutt Committee. Thomas admitted having been a slave captain himself for 10 voyages in the 1790's and testified before the committee. As this was 40 years after the abolition of slavery in Britain, it seems likely his answers were a little tongue in cheek. Apart from anything else, his wife was still alive and he would have wanted to protect his family honour by understating his activities. In answer to a question as to whether any Negro went voluntarily on board, Tobin replied "there was no objection on the part of the females and the boys; the stout able men might appear not to wish to go; but if they were not taken by the captain of the ship, they knew they would not be at liberty because (for a distance of 100 0r 200 miles around) they would....still be slaves. Besides they could not know of the advantages.......until they had been sometime on board, and then they became reconciled." Tobin also said he "had known the young ones get hold of you by the knees and beg you to take them to your country" and "Whether it was my ship or any other ship the whole of the officers and crew were employed altogether in endeavouring to keep the slaves in a healthy state and in good spirits". Further he said if the slaves whom he was transporting "had been in a nursery in any private family, they could not have been treated any more (kindly)".
However, there may be doubt about the truth of Tobin's testimony. For example he said he only needed ten to fifteen thousand yams to feed the slaves on a voyage whereas Barbot had said in 1700 that 100,000 yams were necessary to feed a ship carrying 500 slaves. Also an early description of a slave voyage was that "once off the coast, the ship became half bedlam and half brothel" and in 1694 a Captain Phillips wrote "some commanders have cut off the arms or legs of the most wilful, to terrify the rest". Tobin also claimed that the mortality rate on his ships was only 3%, whereas the norm for British ships was closer to 9%. Nevertheless, more care was taken with slaves in the later 18C and 19C.
Both Sir John Tobin and Sir Thomas Tobin appear to have been avid antiquarian collectors and items collected by them are now in found in a number of museums.
The most recent reference found to the family of Thomas and Esther, is to Frances Maria Tobin (1827-1901) their daughter. She had lived with her father in the 1851 and 1861 census. It seems she never married and as recently as 1901 was living as a wealthy spinster in Torquay, Devon. By this time slavery was long gone and presumably Frances did not tell her neighbours her father had been a slave trader a hundred years previously.
The previous owner purchased this miniature of Esther Tobin at an auction in Torquay only recently, but given the bracelet fitting, it seems highly likely it had been worn on her wrist by Frances Tobin as a memento of her mother. Then remained in the Torquay area when Frances died, shortly after the 1901 census. 1201