Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Norris, Robert

NORRIS, ROBERT (d. 1791), African traveller, son of John Norris of Nonsuch, Wiltshire, and brother of William Norris, secretary to the Society of Antiquaries [q. v.], was a Guinea trader, whose personal knowledge of the African coast appears to have reached back at least to 1755 (Memoir, p. 120). In February 1772 he visited the king of Dahomey. He was well received, and gives a curious account of the country and its murderous ‘customs.’ He revisited it in December of the same year. In 1788, when, owing to the vigorous action of the advocates of abolition, a committee of the privy council was appointed to inquire into the slave question, Norris was delegated to lay before it the views of the Liverpool trade, a circumstance which probably led to the publication of his ‘Memoir of the Reign of Bossa Ahadée, King of Dahomey … with an Account of the Author's Visit to Abomey, the Capital, and a Short Account [2nd edition] of the African Slave Trade’ (London, 1789). His account of the slave trade is a defence of slavery. A map of the African coast between Capes Verga and Formosa is indexed under the same name and date in the British Museum maps. Norris died in Liverpool (from the effects of a damp bed on his journey from London) on 27 Nov. 1791.

[Brit. Mus. Catalogues; Gent. Mag. 1789 pt. i. p. 433 (review of book), 1791 pt. ii. p. 1161, 1792 pt. i. p. 88; Brydges's Censura Literaria, v. 222.]

H. M. C.