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Lincoln’s Army of Emancipation

Northern Colonel [later brevet Major General] Charles E. Hovey was born in Vermont, graduated from Dartmouth and studied law in Massachusetts. He moved to Illinois where he became superintendent of schools in Peoria, and helped in the organization of Illinois State University where a building is named in his honor. Hovey was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Hovey’s early exposure to New England abolitionism did not dissuade him from trading the black men within his lines back to their owners for cotton bales for personal profit.

Lincoln’s Army of Emancipation

“For years the Abolitionist politicians have been rocking the cradle of liberty, and singing the lullaby of freedom, and the idea of buying and selling of “human flesh” as “chattels” was most terribly shocking to them. The following, from a publication during the summer of 1863, will speak for itself.

The matter was hushed up because Gen. [Samuel R.] Curtis was a political General, but “when this cruel war is over” many facts blacker than the following will appear in the great record book of recorded facts:

“A commission is now in session at the West with Maj. Gen. [Irvin] McDowell at its head, investigating the conduct of Maj. Gen. Curtis and other Republican officials, in conducting their military operations so as to secure the largest amount of cotton possible for their own private benefit.

One of the richest revelations is in reference to the trading off of Negroes for cotton. The specification alleges that Negro slaves had been taken from the plantations upon the pretense of giving them freedom under the President’s “emancipation edict,” and thus used as a substitute for coin. It has been fully proven before the investigation court.

The officer charged with this lucrative speculation was Col. Hovey of Illinois, formerly the principal of the State Normal School at Bloomington. The following is the testimony upon the subject, “Brice Suffield being called and sworn, testified as follows:

“In due time [was brought] twenty-six bales of cotton [with the plantation overseer, and] After the cotton was delivered, the boatmen, by order of the captain, put on shore fifteen Negroes that had been used as [our] boat hands. After getting them ashore, they tied them after considerable struggling on the part of the Negroes . . . this was about the 24th of September [1863].

Q: After these fifteen Negroes were put ashore, did any other Negroes come back with you as deck hands in the service of the [US] boat?

A: No sir. These Negroes were taken on an expedition to the same place some weeks before from the same place.

Q: Under whose charge was that expedition?

A: Col. Hovey.”

It would crowd the dimensions of our volume to unreasonable proportions to continue this chapter to the full . . .”

(Logic of History: Five Hundred Political Texts, Being Concentrated Extracts of Abolitionism; Also, Results of Slavery Agitation and Emancipation; Together with Sundry Chapters on Despotism, Usurpations and Frauds. Stephen D. Carpenter, S.D. Carpenter, Publisher, 1864, excerpts pg. 263)

Fears of Negro Immigration

The suppressed fear in the North was that blacks would flock to their cities and work for lower wages than white laborers. This would have pleased Northern capital’s understanding of free labor as workers were paid wages, but were responsible for themselves, for food, housing and medical care, when not in the factory. Northern capitalists were assured by abolitionists that the new black farmers would have much disposable income with which to purchase products from Northern manufacturers. It should be kept in mind that after their plantation homes and crops were burned by Northern troops, the black family had no alternative but to follow the invader for scraps of food and menial work. Also, as black men were taken into the US Colored Troops organization, they served under white officers, while Southern units were integrated.

Fears of Negro Immigration

“History will record,” William Bickham wrote from the Peninsula, “the only friends of the Union found by this army in Eastern Virginia [were] Negro slaves.” So eager were the fugitives to do their bit, according to a New York Post correspondent in Louisiana, that when a thousand of them were asked, at one camp, if they would work their old plantations for pay, the show of hands was unanimous.

A good number of conservative orators were frightening laboring audiences [in the North] with the warning that the Negroes were all too willing to work. If set free, the argument ran, they would drift northward and crowd white men out of jobs.

An army correspondent of the Chicago Tribune stepped into the breach with the answer to that . . . [and] assured his readers that the Negroes “did not wish to remove to the cold frigid North. This climate is more genial, and here is their home. Only give them a fair remuneration for their labor, and strike off their shackles, and the good people of Illinois need not trouble themselves at the prospect of Negro immigration.

As a matter of fact, many [Northern] officers and men were genuinely opposed to releasing “contrabands” from camp on practical as well as political or sentimental grounds. Three war correspondents, sweating through the siege of Corinth, Mississippi, in mid-1862, had domestic arrangements typical of many members of the expedition.

They shared the services of Bob and Johnny, two black youths who blacked boots, pressed clothes, cooked, ran errands and more or less gentled their employers’ condition for monthly wages totaling six and twelve dollars.

Charles Coffin and Albert Richardson [of the Boston Journal], at the same locale, made joint use of a tent an “African factotum” who awoke them . . . each morning with a call of “Breakfast ready.” Newspapermen at Ben Butler’s headquarters [were under] the care of a black chef.”

(Reporters for the Union, Bernard Weisberger, Little, Brown and Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 242-244)

Lincoln’s Counterrevolution to the Revolution

In truth, New England led the secession movement from Britain with its revolt against British Navigation Acts. In contrast, the Southern colonies were exporters and did well as British Americans, though they had formed a provincial identity of independence, or, “States’ Rights.” This of course preceded the Articles of Confederation and 1787 Constitution.

Regarding the counterrevolution of the 1860’s and its result, the author quoted below writes: “the revolution of the 1860’s ended up devastating New England almost as much as it did the South. What emerged in the late 19th century, as John Quincy’s grandson Henry described it, was a country ruled by speculators, stockjobbers and imperialists. Boston rule would have been infinitely preferable to rule by the set of gangsters who engineered the election of Grant, Arthur, McKinley, and Harding and their spiritual descendants who control both parties today.”

Lincoln’s Counterrevolution to the Revolution

“Lincoln did not initiate the political revolution that destroyed the American republic. The bandwagon was hurtling along in its course long before he leaped aboard and seized the reins. The effect of his presidency and of the war he either brought on deliberately or blundered into was to annul the American Revolution, which might be more accurately described as a counterrevolution. But if we are going to stick to conventional language, we can say that Mr. Lincoln’s project in national democracy as the counterrevolution to the revolution of 1776.

To understand why some Americans – and not just in the South – opposed the Lincolnian counterrevolution, we have to first understand why so many Americans had been willing to go to war in the 1770’s.

In Massachusetts, of course, one can find sound economic reasons. The British government was eager to find ways to make the colonies pay for the wars that had been undertaken on their behalf, and taxation and regulation of industry and commerce seemed to be – and indeed was – a solution that was both reasonable and just. New Englanders, feeling the pinch of mercantilist policies, were understandably annoyed, and when the insult of constitutional innovation (the suspension of charters and the so-called Intolerable Acts) was added to the injury inflicted on their economic life, they were ripe for revolution.

The planters and merchants of Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry, by contrast, were making out rather well within the [British] empire. In the 1770’s, Charelston was one of the wealthiest and by far the most civilized city in North America. By the outbreak of the Revolution, Charleston merchants and Lowcountry planters formed an American aristocracy.

While most historians and political ideologues have claimed, over and over, that the American rebels were devotees of John Locke’s theory of natural rights and the social contract, there is very little evidence of this. Every important statement and virtually all the little manifestos of church parishes and small townships stake their claim on the Common Law rights of Englishmen.

A key word was equality, not of all human beings, but the equality of Americans in possessing the rights of the English. Patrick Henry put it succinctly: The colonists are entitled “to all the liberties, privileges, franchises that have at any time been held, enjoyed, and possessed by the people of Great Britain.” Provincials resented the fact that Parliament denied them the benefits of several significant statutes, such as the Habeas Corpus Act, the Act of Settlement, and the Bill of Rights.”

(Why They Fought, Thomas Fleming, Chronicles, April 2015, excerpts pp. 8-9) www.chroniclesmagazine.org

Money Versus Morality Up North

In his “Lords of the Loom” study of the years preceding the war, author Thomas H. O’Conner asserts that “Throughout much of traditional historical literature, the conservative Northern Whigs in the decades before the Civil War have either been completely overlooked, or else dismissed out of hand with vague generalizations.” He further credits fellow author Vernon Parrington with cautioning his readers that “the Puritan and the Yankee were two halves of the New England whole.” Conner’s book is the story of what happened “when the Puritan conscience collided head-on with the Yankee zeal for profit – when the moral desire to uproot the evils of slavery reached the point where it had to be weighed against the economic demands for more slave-grown cotton” – for New England mills.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Money Versus Morality Up North

“In 1941, Philip Foner, in his “Business and Slavery,” made an appeal for a more detailed study of the Northern businessman and his reaction to the coming of the Civil War. Countering the popular interpretation that the war was a product of two conflicting economic systems, Professor Foner presented his own observations regarding the concerted efforts of the New York financial interests to check any and all movements which tended to precipitate an intersectional struggle.

Foner’s challenge has failed to arouse very much historical enthusiasm, apparently, for many recent historical treatments of the critical years before the Civil War continue to generalize upon the essential economic antagonisms of the North and the South, and still look upon the Northern industrialist as the catalytic agent which propelled the sections into bloody warfare.

One of the most distinctive presentations of this economic point of view came into the twentieth century with the writings of Charles Beard. The South, according to Beard, was an area of “planters operating in a limited territory with incompetent labor on soil of diminishing fertility,” in contrast to the industrial men of the North who “swept forward . . . exulting in the approaching triumph of machine industry, [and who] warned the planters of their ultimate subjection.”

The economic interpretation was carried into the twenties by the work of Vernon Parrington . . . enthusiastic about the “agrarian democracy” of the West, sympathetic at times toward the interest of the South, Parrington had little regard for the ideals of a middle class which was busily engaged in “creating a plutocracy.” In the decades before the war, claimed Parrington, the major parties of the United States chose to follow the economic interests of “master groups, heedless of all humanitarian issues”; and once the war was over, the “slave economy could never again thwart the ambitions of the capitalist economy.”

[Despite considerable evidence to the contrary], Writers continue to generalize upon New England’s “hatred of Southerners and their institutions” and often describe this hatred so intense that New England would “do everything possible to destroy slavery.”

(Lords of the Loom: The Cotton Whigs and the Coming of the Civil War, Thomas H. O’Conner, Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1968, excerpts pp. 1- 6)

A Superior Race of Yankee Employers

The land seized, sold and leased in occupied South Carolina by the North’s Direct Tax Commission was dominated by Northern philanthropists and others who had acquired their wealth by exploiting free labor. They developed Northern support for the “Port Royal Experiment” by convincing manufacturers that successful black farmers would become ravenous purchasers of Yankee goods. In a June 15, 1864 letter to the Edward S. Philbrick mentioned below, Northern General Rufus Saxon wrote: “What chance has [the Negro] to get land out of the clutches of the human vulture, who care for him only as they can gorge themselves upon his flesh? If you had seen the hungry swarms gathered here at the land sales in February . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Superior Race of Yankee Employers

“[In the occupied South Carolina’s Sea Islands], the first purchasers were principally the New England wing of the planter-missionaries [who] welcomed more favorable circumstances in which to prove their theory that free labor could grow more cotton, more cheaply, than slave labor. The largest buyer [of land] was Edward S. Philbrick, backed by wealthy Northern philanthropists . . .

Federal authorities were reluctant to lease or sell subdivided plantation tracts to the freedmen [though some] managed to purchase several thousand acres . . . but the acreage they acquired was always well below that purchased by Northern immigrants, and this result was intended by a majority of the tax commissioners.

The truth is, not many of the liberators had boundless faith in the freedmen’s capacity for “self-directed” labor so soon after their emancipation. When in January 1865 General William T. Sherman set aside a strip of land along the southeastern seaboard for the exclusive occupancy of the thousands of slaves who followed his army to the sea, the news was generally greeted in the North with lamentation and deep foreboding.

It was a great mistake in statesmanship, the New York Times said, for what the ex-slaves needed was not isolation and complete independence, but “all the advantages which the neighborhood of a superior race . . . would bring to them. And what they needed even more was the good example and friendly guidance such as Yankee employers could largely provide. Few doubted, after emancipation, that the freedmen had some promise, provided that Yankee paternalism was allowed full scope.

When the old masters talked of free labor, they really meant slave labor, “only hired, not bought.” And how could men whose habits and customs were shaped by the old order readily grasp the requirements of the new order? The case seemed plain to all who had eyes to see. If the freedmen were ever to be transformed into productive free laborers within the South, the New York Times argued with unintended irony, “it must be done by giving them new masters.”

(New Masters: Northern Planters During the Civil War and Reconstruction, Lawrence N. Powell, Yale University Press, 1980, excerpts, pp. 4-5)

Profiteering in Arkansas

With Lincoln’s approval, former Illinois Congressman William Kellogg advanced a cotton-trading scheme at Northern occupied Helena, Arkansas, which would reap millions for himself and provide slave-produced cotton for hungry Northern mills. Though Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase opposed the idea, Kellogg was later appointed chief justice of the Nebraska Territory in early 1865 for his patriotic efforts.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Profiteering in Arkansas

“Upon occupying Helena, Arkansas, in mid-July 1862, Union General Samuel Curtis complained that his camp was “infested with Jews, secessionists and spies.” By issuing orders that restricted trade to a few people he could control under military law as sutlers, Curtis adopted a policy that made him vulnerable to charges of improper monopolization.

Shortly, a steady stream of rumored abuses percolated up to Chicago and the department headquarters for Curtis’s army at St. Louis. Illinois Senator Orville Browning’s diary records Chicago rumors that Curtis deposited $150,000 with a Chicago financier less than three months after occupying Helena. By October 1862, [an] officer said, Curtis had already seized several million dollars worth of [cotton] and “converted it to his own use.”

Later, Curtis wrote Lincoln directly to explain that the complaints originated out of envy from unsavory characters who were unworthy of trade privileges. Nonetheless, within a few months, the general was transferred to St. Louis to become the new department commander, and rumors of his possible fraud trailed along.

An investigating Treasury agent concluded that Helena’s trade “diverted soldiers to become agents and brokers of cotton buying [and had] thrown thousands of dollars into the hands of our enemies.” Corruption flourished at Helena, where the army had little to do during twelve months of idle occupation before invading central Arkansas in late summer of 1863.

Federal soldiers even purchased cotton from slaves with counterfeit Confederate money.

Lincoln’s military governor of Arkansas complained late in 1862 that the idle troops at Helena were principally engaged in profiting from cotton trade. They raided neighboring plantations to confiscate whatever cotton they could get. As an afterthought, they would often destroy the plantation homestead.

Helena’s steady occupation led to deplorable sanitary conditions, particularly among the freed slaves . . . [and] disease, malnutrition, and lack of clothes and shelter took a toll on the blacks who sought refuge in the town.

Before the end of 1862, the inland navy began to get involved. [Admiral David Dixon Porter’s] crews became covetous of cotton as a prize of war . . . [and] 50 percent of a captured cargo was subject to a reward for the crew of the ship making the capture. By the end of the war, Porter had become so aggressive at stealing cotton . . . [he was dubbed] “Thief of the Mississippi.”

His sailors would seize bales and stencil “C.S.A” on them, thereby falsely representing the cotton as property of the Confederate government and therefore subject to prize law.”

(Trading With the Enemy: The Covert Economy During the American Civil War, Philip Leigh, Westholme Publishing, 2014, excerpts pp. 65-66)

New England Sets the Example for the South

Lord Acton writes that “secession is not a theory of the Constitution, but a remedy against a vicious theory of the Constitution” — the right of a minority to withdraw from a political agreement which they no longer wish to be part of, and to escape the tyranny of the majority. Even a nationalist like Hamilton saw the balance necessary between national and State governments, and that both will be prevented from trespassing on each one’s constitutional limitations. The States would be further protected by the strictly delegated, and few, powers of the general government.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

New England Sets the Example for the South

As a consequence of troubles between Napoleon’s Berlin decree and the British response, President Jefferson determined to lay an embargo on all American vessels – with a subsequent Bill passed December 22, 1807.

“The embargo was a heavy blow to the ship-owning States of New England . . . the others were less affected by it. “The natural situation of this country,” says Hamilton, is to divide it interests into . . . navigating and non-navigating States. This difference in situation naturally produces a dissimilarity of interests and views respecting foreign commerce.”

Accordingly the law was received in those States with a storm of indignation. Quincy, of Massachusetts, declared in the House: “It would be as unreasonable to undertake to stop the rivers from running into the sea, as to keep the people of New England from the ocean . . .”

The doctrine of State-rights, or nullification, which afterwards became so prominent in the hands of the Southern party, was distinctly enunciated on behalf of the North on this occasion.

Governor Trumbull, of Connecticut, summoned the legislature to meet, and in his opening address to them he took the ground that, in great emergencies, when the national legislature had been led to overstep its constitutional power, it became the right and the duty of the State legislatures “to interpose their protecting shield between the rights and the liberties of the people, and the assumed power of the general government.”

They went farther and prepared to secede from the Union, and thus gave the example which has been followed, on exactly analogous grounds, by the opposite party.

John Quincy Adams declared in Congress that there was a determination to secede. “He urged that a continuance of the embargo much longer would certainly be met by forcible resistance, supported by the legislature, and probably by the judiciary of the State . . . Their object was, and had been for years, a dissolution of the Union, and the establishment of a separate confederation.”

Twenty years later, when Adams was President, the truth of this statement was impugned. At that time the tables had been turned, and the South was denying the right of Congress to legislate for the exclusive benefit of the North Eastern States, whilst these were vigorously and profitably supporting the Federal authorities.

It was important that they should not be convicted out of their own mouths, and that the doctrine they were opposing should not be shown to have been inaugurated by themselves.

(The Civil War in America: Its Place in History; Selected Writings of Lord Acton, Volume I, Essays in the History of Liberty, J. Rufus Fears, editor, Liberty Fund, 1985, excerpts pp. 231-234)

 

The True Result of Appomattox

Lincoln’s war administration and deficit financing ushered in the modern American state which remains in existence today. The various Bureaus, Departments and revolutionary measures created for the purpose of increasing federal power were all linked to his total war-effort, including the restructuring of currency and banking. Author Bruce D. Porter (War and the Rise of the State, Free Press, 2002) wrote that “Appomattox thus represented not just the defeat of the South, but the defeat of the whole Southern economic and political system, and the triumph of a state-fostered industrial and financial complex in the North.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The True Result of Appomattox

“[in Herman Melville’s postwar] poems he recognized the tremendous costs, especially through the loss of freedom and the end of the founders’ dream for America as a result of the North’s victory. He viewed the construction of the new iron dome on the Capitol in Washington, DC, which replaced the wooden one, as a symbol of America’s future.

Bruce Porter’s well-documented study [of the war] relates some of the economic costs of the Civil War:

In connection with the war the Lincoln administration attempted to intervene in areas of the national life that the federal government had never touched before . . . Prior to 1861, the national government had been a minor purchaser in the American economy. During the war, it became the largest single purchaser in the country, a catalyst of rapid growth in key industries such as iron, textiles, shoe manufacturing, and meat packing . . .

The Civil War spawned a revolution in taxation that permanently altered the structure of American federalism and the relationship of the central government to the national economy. Prior to the war, over 80 percent of federal revenue had come from customs duties, but despite several upward revisions of the tariffs during the war, those could provide only a fraction of what was needed to sustain the union armies.

On August 5, 1861, the first income tax in US history came into effect, followed by the Internal Revenue Act of 1862, which levied a whole series of new taxes: stamp taxes, excise taxes, luxury taxes, gross receipt taxes, and inheritance tax, and value-added taxes on manufactured goods. The latter Act created the Bureau of Internal Revenue, perhaps the single most effective vehicle of federal power ever created . . .

Neither taxes nor paper dollars, however, came close to covering the enormous costs of the war. Dire fiscal straits forced the federal government to borrow over 80 percent of its cost, or more than $2.6 billion. [The] Lincoln administration created a captive source of credit by granting a monopoly on issuance of the new national currency to banks that agreed to purchase large quantities of federal bonds . . . [and] agree to accept federal regulation and federal charters. Thus, almost overnight, a national banking system came into being.

[Author] Eric Foner writes that the fiscal measures represented in their “unprecedented expansion of federal power . . . what might be called the birth of the modern American state . . .”

(The Costs of War, America’s Pyrrhic Victories, John V. Denson, Transaction Publishers, 1999, excerpts pp. 28-29)

New England’s Perpetuation of Slavery

There is little question that the origins of the American Revolution, and the later War Between the States, are rooted in New England’s illicit trade in slaves and molasses, and England’s efforts to stop the maritime competition with the mother country. By 1750, Rhode Island had become the center of the transatlantic slave trade, surpassing Liverpool for the dubious honor.

The author below writes: “nine-tenths of the colonial merchants and skippers had become smugglers as the break with England neared. Such men as John Hancock, a prince of contraband traders, on the eve of Paul Revere’s ride had for counsel before the Admiralty Court in Boston none other than John Adams, answering for him a half-million dollar suit in penalties as a smuggler.” He went on that “One-quarter of all the signers of the Declaration of Independence were bred to commerce, to the command of ships and to contraband trade.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

New England’s Perpetuation of Slavery

“In accord with the spirit of the times the British Parliament passed a series of statutes in 1633 providing, among other things, that nothing could be brought into the colonies that wasn’t carried there in British ships, “whereof the master and three-fourths of the crew are English.”

[Concerned about the rise of illicit maritime trade of New England] the shipbuilders of the Thames district met in London in the winter of 1724-1725 and formally complained to the Lords of Trade:

“In the eight years ending in 1720 we are informed that seven hundred sail of ships were built in New England, and that in years since, as may if not more; and that the New England trade, by the tender of extraordinary inducements, has drawn over so many working shipwrights that there are not enough left to carry on the work [in England].”

Linked inseparably with the venture south to the [West] Indies the colonists’ brisk trade in rum and what they were in the habit of calling “Black Ivory.” For the Indies trade was a three-cornered affair hinging on rum, slaves and molasses. Together they comprised the foundation for more ships and hence more trouble than all the politicians ashore put together.

The New Englanders had Indian slaves as early as 1637 . . . and more or less formal business developed, with traders nabbing Indians along the banks of the Kennebec River in Maine and selling them into slavery up and down the coast. It was the black ivory from Africa, however, that turned the trick in the West Indies trade and established Southern slavery on a solid and enduring footing.

The mechanics of this all-important trade worked like this: molasses was brought to New England and made into rum; the rum, highly prized among Negroes on the west coast of Africa, brought its own price among the drinkers, a price that included any of their relatives or friends who might have the bad judgment to be lying about, and the resultant human cargoes were disposed of profitably in Boston, Newport [Rhode Island] and on south.

Not all the West Indies rum was drunk by Negroes. A flourishing local trade in fur was conducted with the Indians by the extremely profitable exchange of a few bottles of cheap rum or whiskey for the entire season’s catch of its drunken owner. The tribal chiefs . . . in 1726, begged without avail to have the sale of firewater to the young braves stopped.

It is hardly surprising, then, that among the first real troublemakers of all the British efforts to raise money [to support the colonies] was a new Molasses Act, for it was molasses brought in from the French West Indies from which New England rum was made. To put teeth into the effort Parliament authorized the use of writs of assistance, a sort of search warrant covering an entire community that gave British customs officials the right to search any ship, warehouse or even private home for smuggled goods.

When the harried Board of Trade and Plantations finally decided to act, its attempt to enforce the Navigation Acts [to restrict New England’s rum and slave triangle] was the spark in the touchhole that set the guns to booming.”

(Yankee Ships, an Informal History of the American Merchant Marine, Reese Wolfe, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 39; 43-44; 49-51)

Jul 14, 2018 - Antebellum Economics, Economics, New England History, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Race and the North, Sharp Yankees, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on Illicit Trade in Slaves and Opium

Illicit Trade in Slaves and Opium

The Fells Point shipyard of Baltimore builder William and George Gardner built many fast merchantmen during the 1830s, as well as for the slave and opium trade. One Fell’s Point free black carpenters was Fred Bailey (later Fred Douglass) who helped build the slavers Delorez, Teayer, Eagle at Price’s Shipyard, plus the Laura at Butler & Lamdin yard in the same city. In 1844, Bostonians George and John Dixwell of Augustine Heard & Co. ordered fast clippers built by the Gardner’s to carry Bombay opium to China, where it was outlawed. One of their most notorious opium clippers built for the Dixwell’s was the “Frolic,” despite an 1844 treaty forbidding American ships carrying in into China.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Illicit Trade in Slaves and Opium

“Probably the most notorious slave ship ever built in the United States, the Venus, was widely discussed in the newspapers at the time. On July 4, 1838, the Venus reached completion at Fells Point . . . the Venus was neither a warship nor a merchantman, but a slave ship in disguise. Indeed, like the merchant traders of New England, Baltimore shipbuilders had a long tradition of employing ruses to conduct their craft in defiance of the law.

The Gardner’s were careful; to protect themselves by selling the slave ships they built to foreign buyers. These transactions through intermediaries, though contrived and transparent, sufficed to enable the Gardners and other Baltimore builders to construct the world’s most profitable slavers while remaining officially and legally ignorant.

As soon as the Venus was ready to be launched, [owner] Lambert Giddings [transferred] the vessel to Jose Mazorra, a notorious [Cuban] slave trader. As the Venus left Havana “with equipment for the slave trade,” we may assume that during her nineteen-day layover in Cuba carpenters were busy fitting her out with platforms in her hold and tons of iron shackles and chains.

On November 5, the Venus, still under the American flag, arrived at Lagos on the West African coast . . . and departed Lagos with a cargo of about 1,150 slaves. The American flag and papers had provided protection for the vessel until the slaves were driven aboard, whereupon the vessel was given over to an agent of Jose Mazzora who carried . . . fraudulent papers . . . disguised as a wholly different vessel.

Continued “foreign” orders for slavers during 1838 and 1839 helped the Gardners’ business survive the financial panic of 1837. [The slaver Venus] would bring international recognition to the Gardners – and ultimately an order for two opium clippers from John and George Dixwell of Augustine Heard & Co. [of Canton, China and Ipswich, Massachusetts].”

(The Voyage of the Frolic: New England Merchants and the Opium Trade, Thomas N. Layton, Stanford University Press, 1997, excerpts pp. 41-43)

 

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