Elizabeth Martha (b. 1721) Maynard Peter (1726-1760) and Mary (b. 1728) were the children of
Maynard and Elizabeth Guerin and played a notable role in the life of Gustavus Vassa.)
Maynard Guerin was an attorney who acted as an agent for naval and army officers, including his maternal cousin, Captain Michael Henry Pascal, who was an influential naval sailor and the slave master of Vassa from 1754 to 1763. Maynard handled Pascal’s accounts while Pascal served with the Royal Navy. He was authorized to receive his pay in London while Pascal was abroad.
The Guerin family name is common in France. The family represents one of the many families of the same name who were Huguenots, a sect of French Protestants who, due to religious persecution, were forced to flee from France to various parts of Europe, North America, and Africa. Pascal and the mother of Maynard, Elizabeth Martha and Mary Guerin were likely descendants of Benjamin Pascal, who settled in Ireland after he fought alongside Salomon De Guérin. The Guerins’s mother may have been born Elizabeth Pascal and may have been married in Dublin. It has been suggested that the Guerin family is related to a family of the same name in Guernsey who were merchants; however, there is no evidence of this connection.
Salomon De Guérin was born in Normandy in 1657. He was a cavalry captain in the Galway Regiment, led by Henri de Massue, 2nd Marquis de Ruvigny. It is likely that de Guérin came into some wealth. He was listed as an original investor in the Bank of England in 1694. He made an investment of £500 in the bank, a considerable sum of money for this period. It is plausible that Pascal and the Guerins may have been first cousins and grandchildren of army officers in Ireland. Following the end of the war in Ireland in 1691, some Huguenots stayed in the army, while others fought in Flanders. Records show that de Guérin and his family resided in Westminster in 1693 at which time his eldest son was baptized. His son was likely named after his godfather, Meinhard von Schomberg; however, the name was anglicized to Maynard. Thereafter, the family went by “Guerin.” Salomon died in 1708.
The Guerins had strong Calvinist views, which contributed to their decision to educate Maynard and his brother at Trinity College in Dublin, as Oxford and Cambridge required their students to follow the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican Church. Upon graduation, in 1721, Maynard subsequently married a woman named Elizabeth (surname unknown). The couple had several children. Elizabeth Martha was baptized on April 30, 1721, Grace Magdelaine in 1725, Maynard Peter in 1726, and Mary in 1728. Their other son, John, was likely born in 1723. In 1734, Maynard Senior was an agent for Colonel William Cosby, the governor of New York. When he died in 1748, Maynard Junior inherited his father’s land in the Mohawk River valley north of New York. As an accountant, his business increased with the outbreak of the Seven Years War.
Gustavus Vassa was formally introduced to Elizabeth and Mary Guerin by Pascal on a visit to Westminster in March 1754. It is likely that Pascal intended to gift Vassa to the Guerin family but later decided to keep him. Shortly after meeting the family, Vassa fell ill with infected chilblains and then smallpox. He was treated for several months at St. George’s Hospital at Hyde Park Corner in London. It is suggested that Maynard arranged for Vassa’s treatment in the hospital, possibly saving his life. After meeting the Guerin sisters, Vassa noted that “they were very amiable ladies, who took much notice and great care of me.” He apparently stayed with the Guerin sisters between the years 1755 to 1770 when Pascal traveled outside of London. In 1757, Vassa was sent ashore with his friend, Dick Baker at Deal. From there they made their way to London, where they stayed with the Guerin family. In 1758, when the HMS Namur entered Portsmouth harbor for a refit, Vassa once again lodged with the Guerins.
The Guerin sisters taught Vassa to read and write and were his main source of religious instruction during the Seven Years War from 1757 to 1763. Vassa was drawn to the narrative quality of the Old Testament and drew many comparisons between Jewish and African societies. When he learned that he “could not go to heaven, unless […] baptized,” Vassa was left with a feeling of unease, and sought to convert to Christianity. Elizabeth Martha brought the idea of baptizing Vassa to Pascal, which he initially opposed – likely out of fear that his claim to Vassa might be questioned due to the widespread belief that Christians could not legally enslave other Christians. Nonetheless, Pascal later agreed “out of obligation” to Maynard, and on February 27, 1759, Vassa was baptized in St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, as “a Black, born in Carolina, 12 years old.” Elizabeth Martha and Maynard stood in as Vassa’s godparents. Vassa left the Guerins a few months after his baptism.
Following his sale by Pascal, Vassa stayed in contact with the Guerin sisters. In September of 1767, he returned to London on the HMS Andromache, docking at the Cherry-Garden Stairs, just four miles downriver from Westminster Palace. He visited the Guerin sisters who had moved from Westminster to Mary’s Hill in Greenwich, following the death of their brother in 1760. The sisters helped Vassa secure a new employer, a hairdresser in Coventry Court, who was willing to train him in his craft. A large part of his job as a hairdresser would have involved styling, cleaning, powdering, and repairing wigs for men and women.
Later in his life, Pascal relocated to Southampton, where his aunt Frédérique’s brother-in-law, Isaac Jean Barnouin, was minister of St. Julien’s Church, the “French church” where French Protestants worshipped. His cousin Mary Guerin resided with her husband. Pascal died in Southampton in 1786 and left a portion of his wealth to the Guerin family. On May 1, 1774, Mary became the second wife of Arthur Baynes, surgeon-general to the Garrison at Gibraltar, who died on March 25, 1789. Elizabeth Martha apparently never married and was referred to as “Miss Guerin” throughout her lifetime.
In 1792,Vassa listed Mary Guerin in a letter to “the reader” in the 9th edition of his biography. He indicated she was one of six individuals who could testify to him having been born in Africa, as she knew him when he first arrived in England when he spoke very little English. The letter was in response to the defamatory claim made by the Oracle and the Star that he was a native of the Danish Island of Santa Cruz in the West Indies and was not born in Africa. The inclusion of Mary’s name in the letter suggests that the two had stayed in contact following Pascal’s death. Maynard, John, and Elizabeth Guerin all died before 1789. Mary and the Guerins’s cousins, Anne and Margaret Baudouin, were the sole family members who would have lived long enough to witness Vassa’s success. Mary died in 1793.
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on 16-Apr-2020 Kartikay Chadha