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William Archibald Douglas





William Archibald Douglas was the son of Archibald Douglas, of Stoke Damerell, Devon, an officer in the company of merchants trading to Africa in the 1790s.

William Douglas, who was stationed at Cape Coast Castle(1) (in modern day Ghana) as secretary to Archibald Dalzel, governor in chief of the settlements on the west coast of Africa (1792-1799), seems to have been involved in importing goods to Africa to sell on, probably as part of the slave trade. He had business interests in shipping sailing between England, Africa and the West Indies.

One such ship was the Perserverance for which expenses, for a voyage from Liverpool to Africa, thence to the West Indies, and from the West Indies back to England, include the cost of provisions for the crew and slaves, commission on the sale of the slaves, estimate of the price to be paid per slave and an estimate of profits.

It seems likely that he was involved in the gun trade. His niece, Isabella Strutt, daughter of Isabella, married into the Galton family. A report to Parliament in 1788 found that Birmingham had over 4,000 gun makers, with 100,000 guns a year going to slave traders. Although Quakers were later leaders in the cause of abolition, one of the leading gun manufacturers in Birmingham was the Quaker firm of Farmer and Galton. It is known that that firm also sent the Perseverance to the West Indies with 527 slaves on board.

Douglas, intending to return to England for a few months to improve his health in 1799, left with £12,000 worth of gold dust and elephants’ teeth and a favourite slave. At Madeira however, Douglas was persuaded to go ashore, but overnight, he disappeared, with the gold and his slave, and was reported dead.

The will of William Archibald Douglas, 'late of London but now of Cape Coast Castle, Africa' details monetary bequests to Douglas's uncle Samuel Pett and to his executors, as well as a bequest to his nephew John Douglas Cooper of a gold watch and seal. The remainder of his fortune was to be shared among his sisters Susannah Cooper, Isabella Strutt and Charlotte Fox.


1. Cape Coast Castle is a fortification in Ghana built by Swedish traders. The first timber construction on the site was erected in 1653 for the Swedish Africa Company and named Carolusborg after King Charles X of Sweden. It was later rebuilt in stone.
In April 1663 the whole Swedish Gold Coast was seized by the Danes, and integrated in the Danish Gold Coast. In 1664 the Castle was conquered by the English and was extensively rebuilt by the Committee of Merchants (whose Governors administered the entire British colony) in the late 18th century. In 1844, it became the seat of the colonial Government of the British Gold Coast. It was a destination for pardoned convicts, many taken from the hulks. Conditions were hard, and only about 24 of the original 200 survived.
The Castle was built for the trade in timber and gold. Later the structure was used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Castle, or Castle and Dungeon, to give it its official name, was first restored in the 1920s by the British Public Works Department.
The Cape Coast Castle, and other forts and castles in Ghana, are included on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List. This historic site was visited by the US President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama and family on July 11, 2009.

2. Archibald Douglas's (William Archibald's father) business interests included a privateer ship called the 'Fox', which he part-owned, commanded by James Verco.


See also:

  • The Slave Trade

  • Douglas slave trade letters


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