had been a Lieutenant-Colonel of the British Legion during the time
of the Revolutionary Wars in America. He was a successful military commander
who had the respect and loyalty of the men who served under him. When
he returned home from America he was treated as a hero and became very
well-known in London society.
Tarleton has a very different reputation in America where he is known
as 'The Bloody Ban' or 'The Butcher' for his ruthless pursuit of the
enemy. (The character of William Tavington - played by Jason Isaacs
- in the film The Patriot is reportedly based on Tarleton.)
- Upon his
return home to England, Tarleton found himself with little to do and
embarked on what today would be called a playboy lifestyle. His mother
and friends were often called upon to rescue him from debt.
- In 1790
he successfully stood as MP for his home town of Liverpool. Although
a Whig (traditionally the anti-slavery party), Tarleton developed a
reputation as a defender of the slave trade. This was probably for personal
reasons. Liverpool, the city he represented, was a busy port and many
of his constituents would have dependent upon the slave trade for their
livelihood. In addition, Tarleton's grandfather had been involved in
the slave trade and his father had possessed land in the West Indies.
was re-elected to Parliament a further six times but real success evaded
him. He died in 1833.
- The debate
that took place in 1791 had been pushed for by William Wilberforce for
nearly two years. Although public support for the anti-slave trade cause
had been strong iin 1789 by 1791 interest had begun to wane. When the
House divided to vote on the motion only half the MPs were present and
the Abolition Bill was defeated.
- The arguments
used by Tarleton as justification for the slave trade were reasonably
common. It was often stated that the African slaves were far better
suited to working on the plantations in the West Indies than Europeans.
However, other contemporary sources reported that over a quarter of
newly arrived slaves died within the first few months of arrival in
what was known as the 'seasoning' period.
also used the argument that slaves were property and that Parliament
should not legislate to take away people's property without giving them
compensation. In the end this is what happened. One of the provisions
of the 1833 Abolition Act was that slave owners were to be given £20million