Bryan Edwards (politician)

Bryan Edwards, FRS (21 May 1743 – 15/16 July 1800) was an English politician and historian born in Westbury, Wiltshire. Edwards supported the slave trade, and was described by abolitionist William Wilberforce as a powerful opponent.[1]

Bryan Edwards

Portrait painting
Member of Parliament
for Grampound
In office
28 May 1796 – 16 July 1800
Preceded byThomas Wallace, 1st Baron Wallace
Succeeded bySir Christopher Hawkins, 1st Baronet
Personal details
Born(1743-05-21)21 May 1743
Westbury, Wiltshire
Died16 July 1800(1800-07-16) (aged 57)
Spouse(s)Martha Phipps
  • Bryan Edwards (died 1756)
  • Elizabeth Bayly


He was the eldest son of Bryan Edwards (died 1756) and his wife, Elizabeth Bayly, sister of Zachary Bayly, a slave-owner in Jamaica.[2][3] After his father's death he was supported for a time by Nathaniel Bayly, another uncle, but they fell out.[4] His maintenance and education were then undertaken by Zachary Bayly. About 1759, Edwards joined Zachary in Jamaica, and Bayly engaged a private tutor to complete the boy's education.[1]

When Bayly died Edwards inherited his wealth, including six Jamaican plantations.[4] In 1773 he also succeeded to the estate of another Jamaica resident, named Hume.[1]

Edwards married Martha Phipps, daughter of Thomas Phipps of Leighton House, Westbury;[5] they had one surviving son and a daughter. He left the bulk of his estates to the son, Zacchary Hume Edwards, when he died in Southampton in 1800.[1][4]



Edwards became a leading member of the colonial assembly of Jamaica, but in a few years returned to England.[1]

In 1782 Edwards tried and failed to secure a seat in Parliament as member for Chichester. He was in Jamaica again from 1787 to 1792. He then settled in England as a West India merchant, making another failed attempt to enter Parliament in 1795, this time standing in Southampton.

On 28 May 1796, he became Member of Parliament for Grampound, a notoriously corrupt Cornish borough, along with Robert Sewell,[6] another pro-slavery politician with interests in Jamaica. Edwards retained this seat until his death.[1]


Voyage of the Sable Venus from Angola to the West Indies in Edwards' The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies V.2 (1801)

In 1784 Edwards wrote Thoughts on the late Proceedings of Government respecting the Trade of the West India Islands with the United States of America, in which he attacked the restrictions placed by the government upon trade with the United States. In 1793 he published in two volumes the History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies, and in 1797 published his Historical Survey of the French Colony in the Island of St Domingo.[1] The latter two titles were later republished, with some additional material, as the History of the British Colonies in the West Indies, in three volumes. This has been translated into German and, in part, into French and Spanish. A fifth edition was issued in 1819.[1]

When Mungo Park returned in 1796 from his celebrated journey in Africa, Edwards drew up from Park's narrative an account of his travels. Edwards was secretary of the Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa, which published this piece in their Proceedings. When Park wrote his own account of his journeys he availed himself of Edwards' assistance.[1]

Edwards also wrote poems and some other works relating to the history of the West Indies.[1]


Edwards was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1794.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Edwards, Bryan". Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 2.
  2. ^ Sheridan, Richard B. "Edwards, Bryan". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8531. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ "Summary of Individual Zachary Bayly ????-1769, Legacies of British Slave-ownership". Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Edwards, Bryan (1743–1800), of The Polygon, Southampton". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  5. ^ "Victoria County History: Wiltshire: Vol 8 pp 148-163 – Westbury: Manors". British History Online. University of London. 1965. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  6. ^ "Grampound | History of Parliament Online". Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  7. ^ "Fellows Details". Royal Society. Retrieved 19 May 2016.

External linksEdit

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Thomas Wallace
Jeremiah Crutchley
Member for Grampound
With: Robert Sewell
Succeeded by
Robert Sewell,
Sir Christopher Hawkins, Bt