I recently got some very interesting and exciting information which means that I have to rewrite a part of Vaucluse. Ambassador Bobby Morris, who has been very generous to share some of his discoveries with me, dropped a real nugget on me and the date convinced me that I’m onto something significant.
I say that because in my manuscript I had written a scene dated May 26, 1817 in which Henry Peter was in Barbados and he had just completed writing up his first slave register. What is amazing about that date is that according to research which Bobby Morris shared with me, HP was actually in Liverpool at the time and he had, on that exact date, signed manumission papers for two slaves, a Mary Joseph and a Mary Simmons. And it was actually his attorney who prepared the first slave register. Planters often chose Liverpool to manumit their slaves as it was cheaper to manumit there than in Barbados.
That took me to the Archives to do my own digging and saw for myself that not only did he free those two but he also freed an Eliza, a 10 year old coloured house slave and a coloured male slave named William Richards. These last two were from Vaucluse and I had even written about Eliza in the book!
So of course my curiosity is now aroused. Why did he free these four particular slaves? Could this Mary Simmons be his coloured daughter that he freed and could Mary Joseph be her mother? This is speculation, but I do know that they were not listed among the Vaucluse slaves as Eliza and William were, so I’m trying to find out where they lived.
John Simmons also manumitted a slave named Joe Goddard just before he and HP set sail for England in 1819. That is another great find by Bobby Morris because I was just writing about that trip to England when he shared the information with me so now I can build that historical information into the story.
Meanwhile the information about HP being in Liverpool in May 1817 means that I will have to do some rewriting, which is a bit of a pain, but I prefer to be historically accurate.
So I’ve removed my tight deadline to complete the book this year and I’ve put off that self-imposed stress, so that I can take my time and dig for treasures to include in the book which I will, of course, continue to share with you.
He was certainly a complex character! I must admit that I’m having a great time discovering who he was.
This is amazing, Donna. I so admire the depths of your research. What a conflicted man HP was — to put it mildly! It shows up a mind-boggling ability to keep his eyes closed to the ethical and moral depravity of what he was doing.