William’s paternal grandfather was Captain Peter Pegus, born in Granada in 1786 to a wealthy cotton plantation owner of the same name. In 1806 Peter served as Lieutenant with the Royal Tyrone Militia. In the following year he transferred to the Connaught Rangers regiment, where he fought against Napoleon in the Peninsular War. Later Peter was one of forty officers chosen by the Duke of Wellington to perform Commissariat duties. It is most likely Pegus and the Duke of Wellington were acquainted with one another having met around 1812.
In 1830, several years after retiring from the military, Peter moved to Western Australia where he secured 18,000 acres of land near the Swan River. He then moved his family to Tasmania where he became the first Governor of the Oatlands Gaol. He died there in 1853.
As noted previously, Peter’s father was a wealthy plantation owner on a Caribbean Island called Granada. After his father’s death, Peter and his siblings continued the cotton plantation as an ongoing entity.
In the lead up to the abolition of slavery in 1834, the British Government established a Compensation Commission, which paid out 20 million pounds to 46,000 slave owners. This is an equivalent of 17 billion pounds in today’s currency, the largest payout in British history. Many of these slave owners, who came from all walks of life such as the aristocrats, middle and lower middle class British citizens, both men and women, and the clergy, had never seen a slave let alone visited the West Indies, yet they were paid compensation in a Government effort to end slavery.
Compensation was presented by slave owners as a non negotiable pre-condition for emancipation, which in other words was the ultimate cost of having to relinquish their rights to human property. The Pegus family received a compensation of 3,679 pounds for loss of 153 slaves, which is the equivalent of around three million pounds in today’s currency.
The 900,000 plus enslaved people of the West Indies received no compensation. It is noted Peter was a man of wealth that he was able to afford 18,000 acres of land in Western Australia.
Among other Tasmanians with ties to slavery in the West Indies include Julia Pearl Grant, wife of Lewis Francis Shepperd of Somerset. Julia can trace her ancestry to mariner Peter Lemonde Lette, who was probably one of the more colourful colonist in Tasmania. A lieutenant with the East India Company, Peter arrived from Bengal with his wife and a family of six children.  It is said that he had previously been engaged in the slave trade. Could it be possible that he was one of the few British subjects who continued to trade under the cover of Spanish and Portuguese flags after slave trading was abolished in England in 1807. Despite the abolition of slave trade, slave trading continued within the British Empire until well into the 1830s.
 Days and Ways in Old Evandale compiled by K R Von Stieglitz 1946
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