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Lt-Col Banastre Tarleton

1754 - 1833

This person is the subject of ongoing research. We have started by researching their relationship to the enslavement of people.

Biographical notes

MP for Liverpool and soldier.

Summary of activity

Banastre Tarleton was the son of John Tarleton (1719–1773) (UCL Department of History, ‘John Tarleton IV’, in UCL Department of History (ed.), Legacies of British Slave-ownership [online], London 2020, <> accessed 30 July 2021), a Liverpool slave trader and slave-owner. In 1782 Banastre was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, portrayed in action as commandant of the British Legion cavalry in the War of American Independence. The portrait was commissioned by one of Colonel Tarleton’s brothers on behalf of their mother. It was bequeathed to the Gallery in 1951 by Mrs Henrietta Charlotte Tarleton.

Banastre’s father John Tarleton part-owned and managed several ships, and at his death owned enslaved people at the Belfield Estate in Dominica, as well as several other estates there, in Carriacou and in Grenada. He was mayor of Liverpool in 1764. Banastre was one of five brothers, three of whom, Clayton, John and Thomas, joined the family firm, amongst the most prominent operating in Liverpool at that time.

In 1773 Banastre inherited £5000 from his father but went on to squander it. In 1775 he went to America and fought in the American War of Independence. In January 1782, he returned to Britain, remaining in the army to become a full general in 1812. In 1784 he stood as member of parliament for Liverpool, and was defeated, but was successful in 1790.

Promoting and supporting the interests of both the port of Liverpool and presumably his own family’s business, he was a prominent supporter of the slave trade, and known for his verbal attacks on abolitionists.

Slavery connections

Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet (1754–1833) MP for Liverpool and soldier, opposed abolition. His brothers Clayton, Thomas (UCL Department of History, ‘Thomas Tarleton’, in UCL Department of History (ed.), Legacies of British Slave-ownership [online], London 2020, <> and ‘John Tarleton V’, <> accessed 30 July 2021) were slave traders.

Abolition connections

No known connections with abolition.

National Gallery painting connections

Sitter: Banastre Tarleton is the subject of a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds (NG5985), which was bequeathed by Mrs Henrietta Charlotte Tarleton in 1951.


S. Conway, 'Tarleton, Sir Banastre, baronet', in C. Matthew et al. (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford 1992-,
Checked and foundItem on publisher's website

M. H. Port and R. G. Thorne, 'TARLETON, Banastre (1754-1833), of St. James's Place, Mdx', in History of Parliament Trust (ed.), The History of Parliament: British Political, Social & Local History, London 1964-, 1790-1820,
Checked and foundItem on publisher's website

J. Turner et al. (eds), Grove Art Online, Oxford 1998-,
Checked and not foundItem on publisher's website

UCL Department of History (ed.), Legacies of British Slave-ownership, London 2020,
Checked and not foundItem on publisher's website