American Slave Trade (1850s)


Figure 1.-- The U.S. Navy steamer 'Mohawk'commanded by Lieutenant Craven seized the slaver 'Wildfire' off Cuba (April 1860). The Lt. Craven anchored in the harbor of Key West, Florida with the 'Wildfire' which it had captured. Lieutenant Craven seized the vessel within sight of the northern coast of Cuba. Even though it was in or near Cuban waters, Lt. Craven had the authority to seize 'Wildfire' because it was an American-registered vessel participating in the slavve trade in violation of Fedderal law prohibiting the slave-trade. On the deck of the vessel there were about 450 naked Africans, in a sitting or squatting posture. About 50 of them were adult young men, and about 400 were boys aged from 10 to 16 years. 'Harper's Weekly' perhaps the most influentisl publication in the United states, covered the seizure in some detail. An elaborate article and illustration was published (June 2, 1860).

The United States abolished the slave trade (1807). That did not mean that the slave trade ended. American Navy and especially the Royal Navy as discussed above did gradually reduce the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Slave ships we know did continue to arrive in America, both directly from Africa and from the Caribbean, especiallt from Cuba after the British abolished first the slave trade (1807) and then slavery itself (1833-34). Most scholars believe that from the aboliton of the slave trade (1807) that American slavery was primarily continued through an internal slave trade. There were some illegal slaves brought in from overseas. Some slavers eluded the Royal Navy and American patrols. And authorities in the South often did not enfortce the Federal slave trade laws. (The same officials complained when northern officials did not enforce the Federal fugative slave laws.) We think that the numbers of slaves imported was relatively small, especially by the 1950s. The decline in imports was not because the Federal Government strictly enforced the laws, but because the mere existence of the laws, American and Royal Navy patrols, and the covert sales made Trans-Atlantic operations expensive and thus unprofitable. Another factor was that America's substantial maritime fleet was largely operated by northeasterners and not southeners. The actual numbers are not, however, known with any certainty because of the covert nature of the enterprise. In the 1850s, the seizures of the slavers by the U.S. Navy became increasingly politicized as the country spiraled toward Civil War. The U.S. Navy seized the slaver Wildfire off Key West (April 1860). The last known Trans-Atlantic slave trip to the United States occurred just before the Civil War--the Clotilda. It brought 110 children and young adults (5-23 years of age) to Alabama (July 1860). [Diouf] The voyage is of special interest because detailed documentation exists on both the voyage and the subsequent lives of the Africans in America.

Slave Trade

The United States abolished the slave trade (1807). That did not mean that the slave trade ended. American Navy and especially the Royal Navy as discussed above did gradually reduce the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Slave ships we know did continue to arrive in America, both directly from Africa and from the Caribbean, especiallt from Cuba after the British abolished first the slave trade (1807) and then slavery itself (1833-34).

Donestic Slave Trade

Most scholars believe that from the aboliton of the slave trade (1807) that American slavery was primarily continued through an internal slave trade.

Continued Slave Trade (1850s)

There were some illegal slaves brought in from overseas. Some slavers eluded the Royal Navy abd American patrols. And authorities in the South often did not enfortce the Federal slave trade laws. (The same officials complained when northern officials did not enforce the Federal fugative slave laws.) We think that the numbers of slaves imported was relatively small, especially by the 1950s. The decline in imports was not because the Federal Government strictly enforced the laws, but because the mere existence of the laws, American and Royal Navy patrols, and the covert sales made Trans-Atlantic operations expensive and thus unprofitable. Another factor was that America's substantial maritime fleet was largely operated by northeasterners and not southeners. The actual numbers are not, however, known with any certainty because of the covert nature of the enterprise. In the 1850s, the seizures of the slavers by the U.S. Navy became increasingly politicized as the country spiraled toward Civil War.

Wildfire (April 1860)

The U.S. Navy steamer Mohawk commanded by Lieutenant Craven seized the slaver Wildfire off Cuba (April 1860). Lt. Craven anchored in the harbor of Key West, Florida with the Wildfire which it had captured. Lieutenant Craven seized the vessel within sight of the northern coast of Cuba. Even though it was in or near Cuban waters, Lt. Craven had authority to seize Wildfire because it was an American-registered vessel participating in the slavve trade in violation of Fedderal law prohibiting the slave-trade. On the deck of the vessel there were about 450 naked Africans, in a sitting or squatting posture. About 50 of them were adult young men, and about 400 were boys aged from 10 to 16 years. Harper's Weekly perhaps the most influentisl publication in the United states, covered the seizure in some detail. An elaborate article and illustration was published (June 2, 1860).

Clotilda (July 1860)

The last known Trans-Atlantic slave trip to the United States occurred just before the Civil War--the Clotilda. It brought 110 children and young adults (5-23 years of age) to Alabama (July 1860). [Diouf] The voyage is of special interest because detailed documentation exists on both the voyage and the subsequent lives of the Africans in America.






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Created: 10:51 AM 10/26/2010
Last updated: 10:51 AM 10/26/2010