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Lewis Cuthbert 1737-1802

Attorney and Slave Trader

Of Castlehill in Scotland, later of Jamaica, and also of Bath and Bristol

What did Lewis look like?

Lewis Cuthbert was baptized 29 January 1737 in Inverness, Scotland.  Died 29 October 1802 in Jamacia.  His will was proved 26 July 1803 in England.

Son of: George Cuthbert (1700-1748), Baron of Castlehill and Mary McIntosh.

Grandson of: John Cuthbert (1688-17??) of Castlehill, Inverness .

Brother of:
1. Rachel Cuthbert (1727-?).  Probably died young.
2. Jean Cuthbert (1728-?).
3. Lt John Cuthbert of Castlehill (1729-1758).  78th Regiment of Foot, 'Fraser's Highlanders'. Killed at Louisburg, Nova Scotia, Canada on 8 June 1758.
4. Magdalen Cuthbert (1731-?).
5. Abbe Seignalai Cuthbert/Colbert (1731-18??), Bishop of Rhodez, France.
6. Rachel Cuthbert (1739-?).  Married Simon Fraser of Daltullich.
7. Lachlan Cuthbert (1742-?).  Probably died young.
8. Lachlan Cuthbert (1743-1763?).  Army officer in the artillery died in France around 1763. 
9. George Cuthbert (1745-?). Died young.
10. George Cuthbert (1748-1789). Provost Marshal General of Jamaica1785-1788.

Lewis married: Jane Pinnock (1744?-1830), 31 May 1766 in Kingston, Jamiaca.  She was the daughter of Thomas Pinnock (1710?-1768?).

Lewis and Jane had issue:
1. George Cuthbert (born around 1770 in Jamaica and alive in 1803 when he was an executor of his father's will). Became President of the Jamaica Council.  Lived in Spanishtown.
2. Mary Hay Cuthbert (1774-1819). Died at Clifton, Bristol (memorial inside Bristol Cathedral).
3. Seignelay Thomas Cuthbert (born 1786, died after 1844?). Born in Walcot, Bath, 4 Jan 1786 (British Library J/1/19 f.216). Later married Frances Harriet and had 4 children.
4. Ann Murray Cuthbert (1778-1855). Died at Clifton, Bristol (memorial inside Bristol Cathedral).
5. Elizabeth Pinnock Cuthbert (1781-1855). Died at Clifton, Bristol (memorial inside Bristol Cathedral). 

We know about Lewis from the following sources:
1. The record of his birth at Inverness.
2. The record of his examination by the House of Lords in 1792.  Many thanks to Dr Oliver Harris who brought this to my attention.  See extract below.
3. The court case of Walker verse Witter.
4. His will which is in the Public Record Office, Kew, London (proved 26 July 1803).
5. Family memorials in Bristol Cathedral.
6. Information from Richard Brown and Heather Sharpe listed on their excellent family history website
7. 'The Cuthberts, Barons of Castle Hill and Their Descendants in South Carolina and Georgia', by Dr. J.G.B. Bulloch, MD, Washington, DC, April 1908.
8. Information given to me by Jim Brennan.

The records of births in Inverness note: '29 January 1737, George Cuthbert of Castlehill and Mrs Mary McIntosh his spouse had a child baptized by Mr Alexander McBean called Lewis.  Witnessed Mr Evan Baillie of Abriachan and Mr William Duff of Moortown'.

In 1760, at the age of about 23, Lewis went to Jamaica to seek his fortune.  He went under the patronage of Mr Dawkins, who was well established in Jamaica.  This is probably Henry Dawkins, MP for Southampton from 1760, who had, according to the History of Parliament, 20,000 acres in Jamaica, where he had been born, and had lived for most of the 1750s.  Initially Lewis worked as an attorney for Mr Dawkins helping to administer his property. 

By 1763 Lewis had entered into a partnership of a 'very large and extensive commerce house' in Kingston and this was probably called Beam & Cuthbert, the other partners presumably being David and Samuel Bean. Certainly by 1766 this company was trading in slaves and had a number of Liverpool associates including a Mr Witter.  The company ran into difficulties and as a result Lewis Cuthbert, David Bean and Samuel Bean were declared bankrupt in Jamacia.  Some of the details of this bankruptcy are known because of a later court case in the 1770s 'Walker verse Witter'.   In 1769 the partnership of Beam & Cuthbert was discontinued and Lewis purchased a sugar plantation. 

On the 31st of May 1766 Lewis married Jane Pinnock who was related to Mr Dawkin (Dakin?).  Marriage to Jane also brought Lewis some much needed money as it was around this time, or shortly afterwards, that he had become bankrupt. 

From 1772 to 1774 Lewis had returned to England to recover from ill health.

After returning to Jamaica it would appear that Lewis ran into financial problems and as a result sold his estate.  He then started working as an Attorney administering estates for absentee Jamaican land owners.

Lewis was back in England from 1777 to 1778 on a 'particular business' and then once more returned to Jamaica. 

In December 1779 he became deputy to Mr Neville, the Patentee of the Provost Marshal General's office in Jamaica.  Lewis held this position until September of the following year but being very ill he then appointed his brother George who held the position from 1785-1788 (died in 1789).  Lewis then once more returned to England to recover from his illness and this time stayed for the next 8 years.  It is likely that during part of this stay he took up residence in Walcot in Bath as his son was born there in 1786.

On the 20th of January 1785 Lewis was appointed by his brother George to be the attorney regarding the Cuthbert family estate of Castlehill in Inverness. 

During the period 1786-1792 Lewis is noted as helping to raise money in Jamaica for the Inverness Royal Academy.

On the 21st of July 1787, Lewis witnessed a codicil to the will of Arthur Cuthbert (1734?-1788).  The witnesses were noted as W Percival, H George, both of Bath, and Lewis Cuthbert.  From this we can assume that Lewis is probably related to Arthur Cuthbert but we cannot be certain.  It might be that Lewis was acting as an attorney in Bath and that Arthur Cuthbert used his services because they shared the same family name?  However there is a second connection in that Lewis was also doing business with Arthur's brother Alexander Cuthbert and in 1793 when Lewis was writing his will he made Alexander an executor.

In February 1788 Lewis returned to Jamaica and once more took up his job at the Provost Marshal General's office from his brother George who died shortly afterwards.  During this time Lewis was again much involved in taking care of the planting concerns of some of the land owners, up until September 1791 when he again returned to England suffering from ill health.

In 1792 Lewis was examined by a House of Lords enquiry into the possibility of abolishing the slave trade.  There is a 60 page published document that records his answers to the house and at the same time gives us a lot of information about Lewis (see below).  He was certainly very much for keeping slavery.  He felt that most slave owners did a very good job of looking after their slaves simply for good commercial reasons.  He did however also admit that there were a small number of slave owners who were not very good at running a business and as a result the slaves could suffer terribly.  Sometime after this Lewis once again returned to Jamaica.

In a seperate note, a reply to Alan Jackson, the Earl of Harewood said the attorneys in charge of the Harewood plantations (and the slaves working there) on Jamaica were Lewis Cuthbert & Alexander MacLeod (1790s), Francis Graeme (c.1799-1817) and George William Hamilton (c.1817-).

There is also a record of a Lewis Cuthbert of Bath, subscribing for a book 'The History of Dahomy, an inland kingdom of Africa; compiled from Authentic Memoirs; with an introduction and notes'. By Archibald Dalzel, Esq. Governor at Cape-Coast castle., 1793, published in London.

In September 1801 Lady Nugent recorded a visit which she and her husband General Nugent made to Lewis Cuthbert's Jamaican estate called 'Clifton'.  This was located at Liguania on a small mountain with distant views of Port Royal and Port Hobson.  Presumably he had named it after Clifton in Bristol.  She spent much time talking to Lewis about the cultivation of sugar cane and the population of the negroes.  He told her that he paid 2 dollars to every woman negroe who produced a child.  Lady Nugent was concerned that nothing was mentioned of the negroes being married! She felt that Lewis was an intelligent man but he was prejudiced and he had a hard heart.  In her journal it is noted that about this time George Cuthbert bought the neighbouring estate of 'Constant Spring'. Ref: 'Lady Nugent's Journal of her Residence in Jamacia from 1801-1805'.

The will of Lewis Cuthbert is in the National Record Office and was proved 26 July 1803.

After his death his widow Jane and their daughters returned to the UK and lived the rest of their lives at Clifton in Bristol.  They are buried in Bristol Cathedral and have memorial inscriptions inside the Cathedral (see below). 


General References

In 1792 Lewis Cuthbert was examined by a House of Lord enquiry into the possiblity of abolishing the slave trade. He gave 60 pages of evidence part of which reads as follows:
I went to Jamaica in the 1760, under the patronage of Mr Dawkins, a very great proprietor in Jamaica; I was employed and appointed by him one of his attornies for conducting his property in the 1761; and in the 1763 I entered into a very large extensive commerce in a house in Kingston as a partner, which partnership continued till the year 1769. I then purchased a sugar estate. In the year 1772, I was obliged to come to England for ill health. I returned in the year 1774. A number of adverse circumstances and misfortunes obliged me to sell my estate, after having brought it forward very much. After this I was principally employed as an attorney for conducting the property of a absentees in Jamaica. In the year 1777 I returned to England upon particular business, and went to Jamaica in the year 1778. In that year Mr Neville, the patentee of the provost marshal general's office in Jamaica, was pleased to appoint me his deputy, to act and officiate in that office, which I entered upon in December 1779. In the year 1780 [September] very ill health obliged me to return to England, and I put my brother into the office to execute it in my room. I continued in England until January 1788, and arrived in Jamacia in February of that year. I resumed the execution of the office, and continued to execute it until the 16th of September last [1791], when ill health again obliged me to quit the island. During my last residence in Jamaica I was very much engaged in planting concerns for gentlemen of this country, who were so good to appoint me to take care of their property.

Inside the Bristol Cathedral there are a number of memorials to the family of Lewis Cuthbert. These are located in the South aisle towards the front. These are the wife and daughters of Lewis Cuthbert but I was not able to find one for Lewis (because he is presumably buried in Jamaica). The tablets read:
Sacred to the memory of Jane widow of Lewis Cuthbert Esquire of Castle Hill in the county of Inverness and of the island of Jamaica. She departed this life on the 28th of September 1830. Also to the memory of their daughter Mary Hay Cuthbert who departed this life on the 22 of February 1819. Their remains are interred in a vault near this spot.
Also to the memory of Elizabeth Pinnock Cuthbert daughter of the aforesaid Lewis and Jane Cuthbert who died at Clifton on the 9th day of February 1855. Also to the memory of Ann Murray Cuthbert, daughter of the aforesaid Lewis and Jane Cuthbert who died at Clifton on the 29th day of May 1855. Her remains are interred in a vault in Clifton Churchyard.
Mary Cuthbert departed this life at Clifton February ?? 1819. Daughter of Lewis Cuthbert of Castle Hill in the county of Inverness and of Jane his wife.
Jane reliec of the above Lewis Cuthbert departed this life September 28, 1830, aged 86.

There is a Lewis Cuthbert noted as a Bengal Writer in India in 1805 but this is presumably a different Lewis Cuthbert.