Our Men in Brazil: The Hesketh brothers
Written by Ian Sargen, published 2009

 

Hidden away in the United Kingdom's National Archives are hundreds of leather-bound volumes containing every letter sent home to London by every consul and diplomat for the last two hundred years. There are hundreds of volumes from Brazil alone, and it is these, together with some material from Brazil and Portugal, that Ian Sargen has used to tell the story of three brothers from Liverpool who served as British Consuls in Brazil from 1812 until 1852.

Born in Portugal, where their father John Hesketh (1750-1815) was a successful port wine exporter, the three brothers set off to Brazil to work as merchants, but it was not long before the eldest, Robert Hesketh (1789-1868), became British Consul in Maranhão. His brother William (1794-1856) deputised for him on several occasions until he resisted the Foreign Office's attempts to lower his salary, and was not reappointed. In 1832, Robert was appointed Consul in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian capital. Their brother John Hesketh (1791-1838) set up as a merchant in  Belem on the Amazon, but soon became British Vice-Consul and then Consul there.

All three had to deal with the many problems created by seafarers - mutiny, shipwreck, piracy - but they also had to protect British residents amidst the many rebellions that broke out after Brazil declared its independence in 1822. Robert had to deal with the devious Lord Cochrane, and John had to deal with the quarrelsome British community in Belém, and especially with his disgraced predecessor, Henry Dickenson. An even greater challenge was the Cabanagem Rebellion in 1835-6, when a bloodthirsty army invaded Belém, and John, his family, and the rest of the British community had to flee up the river in HMS Racehorse.

The most abiding problem, however, was the Slave Trade, which Brazil had agreed to abolish but which continued to flourish until 1850. Robert in particular had to deal daily with the problems created by the local slavers in Rio, who imported thousands of young Africans, and then sold them to the highest bidder. The British Navy cruised off the Brazilian coast, sometimes capturing the slave-ships, but that too created its problems, because Robert and his colleagues had to ensure the safety and welfare of the slaves on the captured ships.

Robert married Georgiana Raynsford, thirty years his junior, in Rio, and John married Margarida (de Mattos?) soon after his arrival in Belem. Between them, they had twenty-one children, but whilst Robert retired to Southampton with his family after forty years' service in Brazil, John died suddenly in Belém in 1838. His young wife died only three weeks later, and they left eight orphaned children. .

"Our Men in Brazil" also introduces us to the Foreign Secretaries of the day: Castlereagh, Canning, Palmerston, and Aberdeen. Perhaps the most interesting is Palmerston, who combined enormous complacency with a sometimes surprising compassion.

In this unusual book, the brothers' humanity and courage emerge from the old records, and remind us that great causes like the abolition of slavery need the everyday faithfulness of men like the Hesketh brothers of Liverpool.

'Our Men in Brazil' is a beautiful and well-produced book. It costs £10.99 from all British booksellers, or contact the author on ourmeninbrazil@live.co.uk

 

Persons who figure significantly in "Our Men in Brazil - the Hesketh Brothers Abroad".

 

1.John Hesketh (1790-1771), merchant in Warrington

2.Robert Hesketh (1719-1793), wine merchant in Liverpool

3.John Hesketh (1750-1815), port wine exporter in Porto, Portugal

4.Louisa Anne Beete (? - 1799), wife of (3) above 

5.Robert Hesketh (1789-1868), merchant and British Consul in São Luis and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

6.Georgiana Raynsford (1819-1910). wife of (5) above

7.Robert Raynsford Hesketh (1837-1856), son of (5) and (6) above

8.William Crosbie Hesketh (1839-?), son of (5) and (6) above

9.George Hesketh (1840-1878), son of (5) and (6) above

10.Eliza Jane Hesketh (1842-1869), daughter of (5) and (6) above

11.Henry John Hesketh (1843-1871), son of (5) and (6) above

12.Hamilton Maria Hesketh (1845-1895), daughter of (5) and (6) above

13.Georgiana Sarah (1847-1921), daughter of (5) and (6) above

14.Hanbury Bold Hesketh (1848-1852), son of (5) and (6) above

15.Spenser Bold Hesketh (!853-?), son of (5) and (6) above, and twin brother of (16) above

16.Mary Sophie Hesketh (1853-1954), daughter of (5) and (6), and twin sister of (15) above

17.Harriet Lucy Hesketh (1855-1840), daughter of (5) and (6) above

18.Ernest Johnston Hesketh (1856-?), son of (5) and (6) above

19.Harold Owen Johnstone (1857-1876), youngest son of (5) and (6) above

20.John Hesketh (1791-1838), merchant and British Vice-Consul and then Consul in Belém, Brazil

21.Margarida (de Mattos?), wife of (6) above

22.William Hesketh (1794-1856), merchant and Deputy Consul in São Luis, Brazil

23.Louisa Hesketh (1789-1845), twin sister of (5) above

24.Mary Ann Hesketh (1793-1856), sister of (5-8) above

25.Henry Hesketh (1796- 1856), brother of (5-9) above

26.Harriet Hesketh (1797-1833), sister of (5-10) above

27.Thomas Hesketh (1798-1840), brother of (5-11) above

28.Viscount Castlereagh (1769-1822), British Foreign Secreatary

29.George Canning (1770-1827), British Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister

30.Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865), British Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister

31.Lord Aberdeen (1784-1860), British Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister

32.John Backhouse, Under-Secretary, Foreign Office

33.John Bidwell, Head of the Consular Department, Foreign Office

34.Henry Dickenson (?- 1857), merchant and British Vice-Consul in Belém, Brazil

35.Thomas Lord Cochrane (1775-1860), Captain, Royal Navy, then Admiral of Navies of Peru, Chile, and Brazil

36.James Campbell (1800-1858), merchant in Belém, Brazil

37.Archibald Campbell (1802-1858), merchant in Belém, Brazil

38.Henry Lister Maw, R.N., author of "Journal of a Passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic...". 1829

39.Edward Holland, merchant in Cametá, Brazil

40.John Hislop, Captain, merchant in Santarém, Brazil

41.Hugh Goodair, merchant in Belém, Brazil

42.Robert Falconer Corbett, merchant in Belém, Brazil, and later Consul in São Luis

43.Augustus Henry Cowper, British Consul in Belém, Brazil, 1839-1841

44.Richard Ryan, British Consul in Belém, Brazil, 1842-1850

45.Samuel Vines, British Consul in Belém, Brazil, 1852-1856

46.Felix Antonio Clemente Malcher (died 1835), infantry officer and first revolutionary president of Pará

47.Francisco Pedro Vinagre (died 1873),  second revolutionary president of Pará

48.Eduardo Nogueira "Angelim" (died 1882), third revolutionary president of Pará

49.Captain Daniell, Commander of HMS "Despatch" in 1835

50.Captain Sir James Everard Home, Commander of HMS "Racehorse" in 1835

51.Henry S. Fox (1791-1846), British Envoy Extraordinary to Brazil, 1833-6

52.Hamilton Charles James Hamilton, British Envoy Extraordinary to Brazil, 1836-1845

53.W. Gore Ouseley (1797-1866), British Chargé d'Affaires in Rio de Janeiro,, 1833-46

54.John Priest (died 1836), carpenter, involved in murder of crew of "Clio", 1835

55.Manoel Maria Montero, Juiz de Paz in Salinas, involved in murder of crew of "Clio", 1835

56.Dona Francisca Leonarda de Mattos, mother of (21) above

57.John Hesketh (born c.1822), son of (20) and (21) above

58.Mariano Hesketh (born c. 1826), son of (20) and (21) above

59.Robert Hesketh (born c. 1828), son of (20) and (21) above

60.Henry Hesketh (1831-1901), son of (20) and (21) above, returned to Liverpool, 1841

61.Sophia Tamberlane (1837-1912), wife of (59) above

62.Thomas Hesketh (1834-1857), son of (20 and (21) above

63.James Hesketh (c. 1837-1848), youngest son of (20) and (21) above

64.Henry Hesketh (1855-1928) son of (59) and (60) above

65.James Hesketh(1857-?), son of (59) and (60) above

66.John Hesketh (1859-?), son of (59) and (60) above

67.Thomas Hesketh (1860-?), son of (59) and (60) above

68.Alfred Mariano Hesketh (born and died 1865), son of (59) and (60) above

69.Sophia Alice Maud Hesketh (1866-?), daughter of (59) and (60) above

70.Reginald Hesketh (1870-?), son of (59) and (60) above

71.Peter Hesketh (1871-?), son of (59) and (60) above

72.Edwin Hesketh (1874-?), son of (59) and (60) above

73.Gertrude Hesketh (c.1875-?), daughter of (59) and (60) above

 

 

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