Benjamin Vaughan was a British diplomat and merchant. He was a highly educated man, having earned degrees in medicine and law, thus earning the designations MD and LLD. He was a British by descent, he was philosopher of politics, and some consider him a radical in that realm. He was commissioned to negotiate peace between the United States of America and Great Britain, which resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Paris between the two nations. Vaughan was born to Benjamin Vaughan, a merchant planter, and Sarah Hallowell, his American mother who lived together in Jamaica while his father was stationed there by the British West India Company. Benjamin was educated at Warrington Academy and Newcome’s School. He studied at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, however did not graduate. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, but his interest was in politics and sciences. It was his interest in sciences which led to his friendship with American revolutionist Benjamin Franklin.
Vaughan was a political economist, merchant and medical doctor. Through Benjamin Horne, he was introduced to politician Lord Shelburne, who used Vaughan in a diplomatic role, to bring peace between Great Britain and the United States, towards the end of the American War of Independence. He also brokered a reconciliation between Franklin and Shelburne.
He married Sarah Manning in 1781 and together they had several children. Benjamin Vaughan was elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) for the borough of Calne in Wiltshire, in a by-election in 1792. He held the seat until the 1796 general election. After 1794, Vaughan moved to Switzerland, and then later moved to America, settling first in Boston, Massachusetts and then to a farm in Hallowell, Maine in 1797, his mother’s family estate. In 1805, Vaughan was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, devoted to the advancement of societal, intellectual and scientific issues. In 1813, he was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society, the oldest historical society in the United States. He died in Hallowell in 1835. The family of Benjamin Vaughan and their descendants remained in Maine and continue to reside in the town today.
Benjamin Vaughan’s legacy continues both in Maine and in Ontario. Though he never set foot in Canada, because of the prominent diplomatic role he played, Vaughan Township in Ontario was named in his honour by the colonial government representing the British Crown in Upper Canada. Through the years, the name Vaughan has persisted as the township developed and ultimately became its own city. Presently, the City of Vaughan, Ontario is named in his honour. Vaughan Road is indirectly linked to him as it connected Vaughan Township with what was then York, and now the City of Toronto. Due its location on the street of the same name, Vaughan Road Academy in Toronto is also linked to Benjamin Vaughan.
In Hallowell, Maine, Vaughan Stream and Vaughan Field are both named after him. His Hallowell estate, Vaughan Woods & Historic Homestead is now a non-profit nature preserve and non-traditional house museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places of the United States of America.