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Abraham Elton

Life                                1801 - 1830
Matriculation year     1819
Place connected          Jamaica

Abraham was educated at Eton, before matriculating at Queen's College, Oxford, in 1772. He obtained a B.A. there in 1775, and appears to have obtained an M.A. in 1778. It is unclear for how long he studied at Christ's: he may have obtained his M.A. in Cambridge, rather than Oxford. He succeeded his father, becoming the 5th Baronet Elton of Bristol, in 1790. He also worked as a minister in Staffordshire.

Connection to enslavement

Abraham was the great grandson of Sir Abraham Elton, a merchant who had become 'one of the greatest commercial magnates in 18th century Bristol' and was made the 1st Baronet Elton of Bristol.¹ ² ³


His Clevedon estate produced salt, which was apparently used 'to barter with African chiefs for slaves'.⁴ It was most likely this Abraham, or his son of the same name, who was recorded as 'directly investing in the slave ship the Jason Galley in 1711'.⁴ The 1st Baronet's three sons - Abraham (the Younger), Isaac and Jacob - 'invested directly in slave ships'.⁴ Indeed, in 1731 and 1738, the brothers submitted petitions to Parliament opposing proposed duties on enslaved people, identifying themselves as South Carolina and then West India traders.⁴


The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database confirms that Isaac was the sole vessel owner for the voyage of the Westmoreland in 1755, on which 116 enslaved people were carried, and that Jacob was the vessel owner for the Townshend in 1741, carrying 271 enslaved people. Furthermore, Abraham (the Younger, the grandfather of the Abraham who attended Christ's) was the vessel owner for the voyages of the Amazonn in 1713, and the Success in 1717, on which 243 and 200 enslaved people were embarked, respectively.⁵ Members of the family were also involved in financing some other voyages, either as partial owners or where their status is otherwise unclear.⁵


The historian Madge Dresser further claims that 'the Elton family reportedly owned estates in Jamaica which they held throughout the 18th century', and that 'by the late 18th century, the Eltons were still receiving monies from plantations'.⁴ The Eltons do not appear in compensation records from 1835-37, as Dresser notes, and the Legacies of British slavery project is yet to identify any of their members as owning plantations or enslaved people in Jamaica.


Evidently, members of the Elton family had directly financed ships carrying enslaved people across the Atlantic as late as 1755, the year in which Abraham (the Christ's alumnus) was born. Moreover, if Dresser's suggestion is correct, Abraham's family owned estates in Jamaica during and after Abraham's time at university. Abraham's grandfather and great-uncles were direct investors in the slave trade, and the family may have benefitted directly from owning plantations and enslaved people in Jamaica. In how his family's fortune was made, and how his education was financed, it is highly likely that Abraham benefitted considerably from enslavement.


¹ Venn, J.A., ed. (1944) "Elton, Abraham". Alumni Cantabrigienses (Part 2). Vol.2, Cambridge University Press - via Internet Archive. ² Matthews, Shirley, 'ELTON, Sir Abraham, 1st Bt. (1654-1728), of Clevedon Court and Whitestaunton, Som.' published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, edited by R. Sedgwick (London: Boydell and Brewer, 1970). [accessed 17th September 2022]. ³ For Abraham, the 5th Baronet Elton, Geni, 'Rev. Sir Abraham Elton, 5th Bt.', 2022 [accessed 17th September]. ⁴ Dresser, Madge, 'Slavery and West Country houses' in Slavery and the British Country House, edited by M. Dresser, and A. Hann (Swindon: English Heritage, 2013), p. 33. ⁵ SlaveVoyages, 'Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade - Database', 2018 . Refine using 'Elton' as vessel owner, and browse the corresponding entries.

More information about our research, including searchable databases, can be found here.

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