Abraham Rawlinson came from a prosperous 18th century family of ironmasters. Their commercial interests initially had been confined to outfitting ships in the rapidly developing markets of the West Indies, but had later become all embracing, including the supplying of mahogany to the renowned cabinet-makers, Gillows of Lancaster.
It was however the Slave Trade which gave the Rawlinson family its vast fortunes. Judicious marriages with other slave-trading families; several Liverpool slave-trading partnerships contracted by Abraham's father, Thomas Hutton Rawlinson; the ownership of the Goyave Plantation in Grenada; and, not least, the business acumen and drive of Abraham, who succeeded his father in the company in 1756. All of these contributed towards making the name of Rawlinson pre-eminent in the slave-trade.
Abraham, as M.P. for Lancaster 1780-90, consistently opposed any moves towards the Abolition of the Slave Trade. In his words, written in his letter-book for 1792 "the people in England want to lower the prices of sugar and yet continue presenting petitions from all quarters to Parliament to procure the abolition of the slave trade. Many have left off the use of sugar, for the purpose of putting a stop to the slave trade. If the custom become prevalent of eating and using nothing that has been touched by slaves, we may soon expect to see people in the state of their first nature, naked in the field, feeding like Nebuchadnezzar upon grass. What wonders their philanthropy or Enthusiasm will produce is unknown."
Abraham Rawlinson died in 1803, four years before the Abolition of the Slave Trade in Britain.