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Last Updated 05/21/01


Slavery and Servitude


The Seaborne Slave Trade of North Carolina

WALTER E. MINCHINTON*

[Vol. 71 (1994), 1-61]

Whereas the slave trade of most of the North American colonies has been investigated, that of North Carolina has been largely neglected because of the dearth of evidence.1 John Spencer Bassett, the state’s first historian of slavery, wrote that “the story of the negro in the colony of North Carolina must be reconstructed out of very unsatisfactory materials,” while documentary historian Elizabeth Donnan, who also commented on the paucity of records, did not find enough material to enable her to devote a section to the colony as was her custom in her volumes on the history of the slave trade.2 Of the more recent general histories of the Atlantic slave trade, only James Rawley paid any attention to the slave trade of North Carolina; Philip Curtin made only a passing reference; and Roger Anstey ignored North Carolina.3 Even in studies devoted specifically to North Carolina, the importation of slaves by sea has received cursory treatment. In his discussion of the import trade of North Carolina, 1763-1775, Christopher Crittenden merely stated that “a few Negro slaves came from the British West Indies,” while Harry Roy Merrens wrote that “very few Negroes were actually imported into the colony during the eighteenth century.”4

Though perhaps exaggerated, the obstacles to the development of a seaborne slave trade with North Carolina are familiar.5 Like other branches of seaborne commerce, the maritime slave trade suffered because of North Carolina’s notoriously hostile coast. Shallow sounds and rivers further restricted the draft of vessels and impeded communications inland. As a result, North Carolina ports proved inadequate centers of trade. The comparatively sparse population of the coastal areas also provided only limited markets for imports. North Carolina had no Charleston, Philadelphia, or New York. Until the modest trade in rice and indigo developed to supplement the export of naval stores and animal skins, North Carolina ports furnished few commodities for return cargoes.

This article is an attempt to reconstruct the number of slave importations by sea before the state of North Carolina began restricting the trade in the mid-1790s. To overcome the paucity of materials on North Carolina’s slave trade, a number of sources have been consulted. Few North Carolina newspapers survive before the last years of the eighteenth century, and those that do provide only sketchy information on the slave trade.6 Similarly, although the colonial assembly established “ports” or customs districts before the Revolution, few records of the earlier years exist. Currituck, with no fixed collecting point, and Roanoke, with a collector of customs established eventually at Edenton, were the oldest ports. Bath became a port in 1716, and the assembly created Port Beaufort, with two centers at Beaufort and New Bern, in 1722.7 Finally, Brunswick became a customs district in 1731, with ports at Brunswick and later Wilmington. Registers for two ports, Brunswick and Roanoke, survive for some years in the late colonial period, and registers for all five ports, as well as some duty books that include imports of Negroes from 1787, exist for the late 1780s.8 For the years 1768 to 1772 summary figures for all the North Carolina ports appear in the returns of the Board of Customs and Excise, America.9

To supplement the North Carolina records, this study has made use of the naval office shipping lists for other colonial ports, both on the American mainland and in the West Indies.10 As a scrutiny of tables 1, 2, and 6 reveals, there are considerable gaps in those records. Information is particularly scarce before 1752. (For details, see appendix 5.) It should be noted, moreover, that the data given in the detailed listing in appendix 1 signify clearances from American and West Indian ports and not arrivals in North Carolina, though there is no reason to suppose that the records are incomplete or that slaves failed to arrive at their intended destinations. While the surviving lists provide information about the transport of Negroes to North Carolina, it should not be concluded that where returns are not available, trade in slaves did not take place. A further defect of the extant records is that no information relating to exports from West Africa exists so that evidence of that branch of the trade can be derived only from records relating to North Carolina. Despite those limitations, the details printed here increase substantially previously available figures of slaves imported into North Carolina. Finally, some additional information about the trade has been derived from mercantile correspondence and other miscellaneous records.11

The political history of North Carolina further complicates any discussion of the slave trade. After the Lords Proprietors received a grant for Carolina from Charles II in 1663, the southern part of the province grew much more rapidly than the northern part. By 1708 one-half of the population of South Carolina was black as slaves poured into the port of Charleston.12 Although the two parts of the province always had separate governments, it was not until the appointment of Edward Hyde as governor of North Carolina in 1711 that the division of the colony into two separate spheres became more formalized. In 1719 the people of South Carolina seized the government of that colony and urged the Crown to assume jurisdiction. The arrival of Robert Johnson in 1730 as royal governor restored stability to South Carolina’s government. Meanwhile, seven of the eight Lords Proprietors sold their shares of what remained of the colony to the Crown in 1729, and North Carolina too became a royal colony. Consequently, the distinction between North Carolina and South Carolina was not always stated in the records of the early decades of the eighteenth century. But references to “Carolina” usually meant South Carolina.13

For North Carolina, like other American mainland colonies, Negroes could be obtained by sea from three sources: Africa, the West Indies, and other mainland colonies. The story of the seaborne slave trade to North Carolina falls into three periods: first, the years to 1748, when a small number of blacks were brought in for domestic purposes; second, the period from 1749 to the American Revolution, when a growing number of slaves were imported, particularly to cultivate rice in the moist lowlands of North Carolina from the lower Cape Fear River south; then, after the Revolution interrupted imports, the final years of the trade until 1790, when slaves were brought in for plantation cultivation.

The earliest importation of slaves into North Carolina by sea is not known for certain. Writing from Bermuda in 1708, Lieutenant Governor Benjamin Bennett reported that about twenty-five years previously—sometime in the mid-1680s—a vessel had delivered about ninety slaves from Calabar on the west coast of Africa to North Carolina and Virginia. How many were landed in North Carolina is not known.14 Similarly, as early as 1670 settlers in the Albemarle region began claiming headrights for Negroes they brought into the colony. It is not clear, however, whether the slaves arrived by sea or overland.15 The first definitive references concern a Negro woman brought from Virginia to Port Roanoke on June 6, 1702, in the North Carolina sloop Ann and one Negro carried from Patuxent, Maryland, to Port Roanoke in the Speedwell in 1704.16 Thereafter the available official records are silent for twenty years.

Surviving merchants’ papers suggest, however, that blacks were conveyed to North Carolina by sea in some of those years. The letter book of Thomas Pollock, a prominent planter and politician, shows that he sought to obtain slaves from merchants in Boston in 1711, 1714, 1716, 1717, and 1718.17 As table 1 indicates, the naval office shipping lists for the years between 1723 and 1746 provide evidence of the export of slaves to North Carolina for most years (with the exception of 1731, 1736, 1742-1743, and 1745). Before 1746, apart from one vessel in 1738 that cleared for Cape Fear, all the vessels were bound not for a specific destination but more generally for North Carolina.

TABLE 1

Virtually all the slaves came from other mainland colonies. The great majority came from the neighboring colony of South Carolina (224 out of 315), but 29 came from New York and 24 from Virginia.18 There were three small consignments from New Jersey, two from Jamaica, and one from the Bahamas. Whether any came from other West Indian islands is not known. Further, as Governor George Burrington complained in 1733, no Negroes were brought “directly from Affrica” to North Carolina.19

During the 1740s the slave trade to both the Carolinas came to a virtual halt. Tensions among Britain, France, and Spain increased during the decade as war spread from Europe to colonial possessions in the New World. Spanish privateers raided the coast, preying on colonial shipping and attacking at various times Ocracoke, Beaufort, and Brunswick. Meanwhile, Spanish-held St. Augustine, Florida, became a refuge for runaway slaves. The Spanish monarch offered freedom to any slaves who deserted the British colonies, and the Spanish governor at St. Augustine refused to allow Carolina slaveholders to recover fugitive slaves. The chief reason for the hiatus in the slave trade, however, may have been the Stono Rebellion in South Carolina. In 1739 a band of slave insurgents gathered along the Stono River within twenty miles of Charleston and began a murderous rampage. At least twenty whites died before the insurrection was quashed. Frightened by the signs of slave rebelliousness all around, both South Carolina and North Carolina passed stringent new laws governing slaves in 1740 and 1741 respectively. In South Carolina a prohibitive duty was placed on new slaves arriving from Africa and the West Indies. During the 1740s slave importations to South Carolina dropped to one-tenth the level at which they had been the previous decade.20 Only two consignments of slaves were shipped from Jamaica to North Carolina, in 1744 (four Negroes) and 1746 (twenty-five Negroes). Between September 29, 1744, and March 25, 1745, an unknown number of Negroes were brought up the coast from Charleston.21

As the disorders of the 1740s subsided, however, the importation of slaves into North Carolina resumed. With the exception of four years—1750, 1751, 1760, and 1761—the annual figures for 1749 to 1767 are set out in table 2. Except for a period of conflict (1757-1761) occasioned by the French and Indian War, the volume of the slave trade rose markedly. Moreover, between 1749 and 1756 and between 1763 and 1775, according to the available records, slave imports came mainly from the West Indies rather than from the mainland colonies. Between 1749 and 1756, ninety-nine came from Jamaica, twenty-six from Barbados, and two from the Bahamas. In addition, slaves arrived from Boston in 1753 and, according to the South Carolina duty books, from Charleston, 1751-1754. The Seven Years’ War, as it was known in Europe, appears to have cut off imports from the West Indies, and so between 1757 and 1762 (there were no imports in 1760 and 1761) imports came from other mainland ports—New Hampshire, Boston, and Charleston. The one exception to that pattern—and it was an enormous one—revealed the importation of 258 Negroes directly from Africa in 1759.22 Then in the late 1760s commerce with the West Indies revived, while coastal trade with Charleston continued.23

TABLE 2

In the years immediately preceding the Revolution, the importation of slaves remained strong. As table 3 for 1768-1772 (based on information from Board of Customs and Excise returns) shows, some 79 percent of imported slaves came from the West Indies, 15 percent from other mainland colonies, and a small number in 1769 and 1771 from Africa. Further information about a few of those imports in 1768 and 1769 can be seen in appendix 1.

The Board of Customs and Excise returns also provide figures on the importation of slaves into North Carolina by customs districts for 1768-1772 (see table 4). No Negroes were brought to Port Currituck, and only two were carried from the West Indies to Port Bath. The slave trade of the other three ports—Brunswick, Beaufort, and Roanoke—was fairly evenly distributed, with more slaves arriving coastwise in Port Brunswick, probably because it was nearer Charleston than the other two ports.24 In 1772 royal governor Josiah Martin stated in a letter to Lord Hillsborough, secretary of state for the colonies, that although he could not report “with precision the number of Negroes that have been imported since my arrival here [in 1771],” he estimated the figure at two hundred.25 That appears to have been uncannily accurate.

The Board of Customs and Excise returns also reveal the relative position of the North Carolina slave trade within the total trade in Negroes of the mainland colonies. Of the major slave importing colonies, as table 5 shows, North Carolina was the least important.

TABLE 3

For the 1770s two shipping registers survive for Brunswick (1773-1775) and Roanoke (1771-1775) that, like the naval office shipping lists, contain detailed information for individual vessels, as set out in appendix 2. Between 1771 and 1775 a total of 203 Negroes arrived in Edenton in eighteen vessels, all from the West Indies with Antigua and Jamaica being the main sources. More than 302 Negroes were imported through Port Brunswick.26 Most of them came from the West Indies, some from Charleston (13 percent), and for some the origin has been obliterated from the records. Of the eighteen vessels that came from the West Indies, eight carried slaves from Jamaica, five from Grenada, and one each from Barbados, Dominica, St. Croix, St. Eustatius, and Tobago. For the other three North Carolina ports, virtually no information is available, save that at New Bern some slaves arrived from Jamaica in 1772 aboard the George, owned by Rhode Island merchant Aaron Lopez.27 Moreover, “a Parcel of likely healthy slaves” from Africa arrived in New Bern on the schooner Hope in 1774.28 The latter shipment may have reflected an emerging interest in trade with Africa.29 Taken together, the extant registers plus a few other records show that imports of slaves into North Carolina were at least 112 in 1772 and exceeded 117 in 1773 and 258 in 1774, with smaller imports in 1771 and 1775 (see table 6). The small size of consignments of slaves shipped from the islands of the West Indies suggests that they were sent as partial payment for the cargoes of lumber, provisions, and livestock carried thence. The exports from North Carolina rather than the demand for slaves provided the impetus for that trade.

How accurate were the returns? For much of the period between 1748 and 1775 only the clearances to North Carolina from ports elsewhere exist. Nonetheless, for two vessels trading in the 1770s, returns are available for both their clearances from the West Indies and entrances into North Carolina ports. On April 21, 1772, the forty-five-ton sloop Nancy, master Alexander Valentine, cleared Antigua with twelve seasoned Negroes; it arrived in Roanoke on May 1 with twelve Negroes. The only difference between the two statements is that the sloop cleared with a crew of six and arrived with five, which may well have been true. The forty-ton sloop Francis, master James Robinson, sailed from Bridgetown, Barbados, on November 10, 1774, with ten new Negroes and arrived in Roanoke on December 15 with the same cargo. Again the only difference between the two records relates to the number of crew. In the case of the Francis, the sloop left Barbados with a crew of six but arrived at Roanoke with a crew of seven. Records for particular vessels appear likely to be correct.

TABLE 4

TABLE 5

For 1771 and 1772 a comparison can be made between the extant shipping registers for the port of Roanoke and the summary figures given in the return of the Board of Customs and Excise.30 Such a comparison reveals that for 1772 the 106 slaves listed in the customs return as having entered at Roanoke agrees with the total number of entries (106) derived from the port register (see table 6). For 1771 the detailed port entries total thirty Negroes, whereas the Board of Customs return gives thirty-one (see table 6).

Other comparisons are relevant. According to a report by royal governor Arthur Dobbs on February 8, 1755, an annual average of 17 slaves had entered through Port Beaufort or New Bern in the previous seven years (between January 5, 1748, and January 5, 1755), whereas 19 slaves had arrived at Port Bath in the previous year.31 The figures obtained from the surviving naval office shipping lists reveal an average of 9.4 Negroes imported annually from 1748 to 1754. However, they also show that at least 36 were imported from Jamaica in 1754 (see table 2). In 1764 the North Carolina Magazine (September 28-October 5, 1764) of New Bern reported that 179 slaves had been imported through Port Beaufort between October 1, 1763, and October 1, 1764. That statement compares with a figure of about 41 for which definite shipping records exist (it is not possible to be precise because the dates indicate departures from the originating port rather than arrivals in North Carolina). Finally, the totals of the separate returns from the naval office shipping lists and the colonial shipping registers mostly fall short of the consolidated returns from the Board of Customs and Excise, sometimes by wide margins: in 1768, 34 compared with 198;32 in 1769, 13 compared with 169; in 1770, none compared with 115; in 1771, 68 compared with 82; and in 1772, 112 compared with 155.

Earlier historians have argued that customs officials did not record every vessel that carried slaves. John Spencer Bassett wrote: “it is likely that an additional number [of slaves] were brought in without paying duty.” But no duty was required. Bassett went on: “the custom houses were very loosely kept.” That theme was taken up by Marvin L. Michael Kay and Lorin Lee Cary, who, after studying newspaper notices of imported slaves, posited “lax record-keeping practices by officials at North Carolina ports of entry.”33 Christopher Crittenden took another point of view. He noted that Governors George Burrington and Arthur Dobbs often urged the establishment of a port of entry at Ocracoke and the abolition of the ports of New Bern (Beaufort), Bath, and Edenton (Roanoke) so as to ease record keeping. But the change was never made. Crittenden concluded that “this was probably due mainly to the fact that, even with the customs officers located where they were, illegal trade diminished almost to the vanishing point.” An alteration of the existing customs houses became unnecessary. Governor Dobbs believed that there was less illicit trade in North Carolina than in any other continental colony, while Governor William Tryon insisted that few violations of commercial regulations occurred in the province.34 The real problem in assessing the seaborne trade of North Carolina results from missing records. Where they exist, they provide a reasonably accurate account; unfortunately, too many records have been lost.

Historians also disagree about the impact of imported slaves on the colony’s black population. Harry Roy Merrens asserted that “during the third quarter of the eighteenth century, the Negro population of North Carolina...must have increased almost entirely as a result of natural increase, since very few Negroes were actually imported into the colony during the eighteenth century.” He further noted that “on the basis of a few scattered references to the numbers of Negroes that were imported into the colony, it would be reasonable to assume that even in the busiest years no more than one or two hundred [slaves] were imported.”35 In contrast Kay and Cary argued: “There appears to be little doubt, therefore, that the large increase in the number of slaves in North Carolina during the second third of the eighteenth century can be explained in part by immigration to the colony. Indeed, probably more than half the increase in black population for the years 1755 to 1767 [the years for which taxable returns are available] can be so explained.”36 But Kay and Cary may well have exaggerated the volume of imports in two ways. First, they imply that they can extrapolate on the basis of two months’ newspaper advertisements for imported slaves to obtain a figure for the year. Though there was no marked periodicity to the trade, such a procedure may well inflate the volume of imports. Secondly, their procedure does not take into account the possible effect of the Seven Years’ War. Affected by the absence of returns for Jamaica, as table 2 suggests, apparently few imports occurred in 1757 and 1758 and no imports in 1760 and 1761. The high figure for 1759 has been influenced by a probably exceptional cargo from Africa. Thus, the effect of slave imports by sea on population growth in North Carolina must have been limited and largely concentrated in two areas—north of Albemarle Sound and the lower Cape Fear region.37

North Carolina was not insulated from political developments. During the Stamp Act controversy, 1765-1766, the colonists forced the resignation of several officials, including the comptroller of Port Brunswick, which was closed for several months. That action may have affected the trade in slaves. But the agreement of North Carolinians, like other colonists, to boycott slave imports starting November 1, 1765, seems to have had little effect on the trade in slaves (see table 2). By the end of April 1766 Governor Tryon could declare that the Cape Fear was again open to shipping.38 In the fall of 1769 an extralegal meeting of the colonial assembly adopted a “nonimportation association,” but its impact was negligible. Merchants no doubt continued their usual trade.39 In February 1771 Governor Tryon reported that “notwithstanding the boasted associations of people who never were in trade, and the sham patriotism of a few merchants to the southward of the province, the several ports of this province have been open ever since the repeal of the Stamp Act for every kind of British manufactures to the full extent of the credit of the country.”40

By the summer of 1774 discussion of nonimportation had renewed. Whereas the planters had supported the nonimportation movement in 1769 and the merchants had not, in 1774 nonimportation gained wider support. On August 8, 1774, the freeholders of Rowan County resolved “That the African Trade is injurious to this Colony, obstructs the Population of it by freemen, prevents manufacturers, and other Useful Emigrants from Europe from settling among us, and occasions an annual increase of the Balance of Trade against the Colonies.” Accordingly, the First Provincial Congress resolved three weeks later “that we will not import any slave or slaves, nor purchase any slave or slaves imported or brought into this province by others from any part of the world after the first day of November next.”41

Enforcement of the resolution proved to be politically delicate. On December 14, 1774, Harold Blackmore reported to the Wilmington Safety Committee that since December 1 he had imported five Negro slaves aboard the sloop Mary and an unnamed brig.42 On December 17 the Safety Committee considered the case of Arthur Mabson, who had “imported in his schooner from the West Indies some slaves which were now at his plantation near Wilmington.” Similarly, George and Thomas Hooper and Peter Mallet also stated on January 21, 1775, that they had imported “sundry negroes” since December 1, 1774. The Safety Committee ordered the reshipment of all those slaves at “the first opportunity.”43

Despite that action, the importation of slaves still did not cease completely. On January 13, 1775, for example, an advertisement in the North-Carolina Gazette (New Bern) announced that late the previous year the schooner Hope had arrived from Africa with a number of healthy slaves “consisting of Men, Women, and Children.”44 On March 6, 1775, Cornelius Harnett, a leading revolutionary in Wilmington and the colony, was allowed to retain a Negro that he had imported from Rhode Island in October 1774, but Captain John Oldfield, who also reported in March that two Negroes had been shipped to his address, was required to reship them and did so. Later that spring the Safety Committee at first refused a Mr. Elliott permission to import house servants from Jamaica but then rescinded the resolution. A similar application from a Mr. Elliston was rejected.45

The political and military tumult of the revolutionary war effectively ended the slave trade to North Carolina, except for two unusual cases. In the first instance the privateer Fortunate captured a vessel with thirty-six slaves and sold them at Brunswick in 1780. In the second instance, reported in January 1781, several Rhode Island mariners made a dramatic escape from a prison ship in Charleston harbor by seizing a schooner “with sundry negroes on board” and sailing it to Wilmington. There “they sold the negroes, and with the money purchased a cargo of naval stores, with which they arrived safe at Newport.”46 Clearly, those episodes represented isolated opportunities to turn the war’s misfortunes into accidental profits and not purposeful trading in slaves. Thus, those two shipments are not included in the appendixes.

But the state did not escape entirely unscathed from the war. In 1776 Brunswick was sacked by the British and thus its existence as a port and settlement came to an end. No attempt was made to reinstate it, and the ruins can still be seen. From that time on Wilmington served as the port for the Cape Fear region.

Unlike most of the new American states that outlawed the slave trade in Negroes after the Revolution,47 the import of slaves by sea was resumed in North Carolina, as the shipping registers that survive for all five customs ports for most of the 1780s reveal. The details of imports are set out in table 7, which shows that Wilmington in the customs port of Brunswick was the most active port, frequented by 56.5 percent of the vessels involved. Sizable numbers of Negroes were also brought into New Bern (Beaufort) and Edenton (Roanoke)—in the latter 297 out of 323 in four consignments—but only a handful arrived in Bath and Currituck.

TABLE 6

TABLE 7

As table 8 shows, a total of 993 blacks are known to have been brought to North Carolina between 1784 and 1790.48 The largest single source of supply was Charleston, from whence came 261 slaves (26.3 percent); 212 (21.3 percent) came from the West Indies, mainly from Jamaica; three large consignments totaling 231 (23.3 percent) came from Africa;49 and 273 (27.5 percent) came from other mainland states—153 from Maryland, 44 from Georgia, and the remainder from other states on the eastern seaboard. Surprisingly, only 20 came from Virginia by sea. Eight came from Nova Scotia and within North Carolina, 7 Negroes were transferred from Wilmington to Beaufort by sea in 1786, and 1 came from Swansboro to New Bern in 1789.

An exceptional import of slaves took place in the mid-1780s as the result of the formation of the Lake Company, which intended to dig a canal from what is now Lake Phelps to the Scuppernong River.50 One of the three partners, Josiah Collins, went to Boston “in the latter part of 1784 or early 1785” to fit out a ship for the purpose of bringing slaves from Africa to dig the canal. In the Roanoke register for 1786 appears an entry on June 10 for the brig Camden, master Richard Grinald, with eighty Negroes from Africa. The vessel appears to have made a second voyage to Africa, for in a waste book of the Lake Company an entry headed Edenton, March 12, 1787, records the payment of seven thousand pounds for seventy slaves imported from Africa.51 On September 11, 1786, sixty-six American slaves were brought into Roanoke from Charleston on the sloop Polly, Thomas Newbold master, and on June 1, 1787, eighty-one Negroes from Africa were entered into Roanoke on the Jennett, James Brattell master. It is possible that those Negroes were also destined for the Lake Company since they were unusually large consignments. The slaves were set to work on the canal, which was completed in 1788. Finished to a width of twenty feet and a depth ranging between four and six feet, it was dug on a straight course of six miles linking the lake with the river. In the 1790 census 113 Negroes are listed for the Lake Company.

With the support of interests in the western part of the state, the General Assembly of 1786 passed an act imposing a duty on “all Slaves Brought Into This State by Land or Water.” The lawmakers termed “the importation of slaves into this State” as “productive of evil consequences, and highly impolitic.”52 A tax of five pounds each was to be levied upon slaves between the ages of seven and twelve, and thirty and forty; of ten pounds on those between the ages of twelve and thirty; and of fifty shillings on those under seven and over forty. The law assessed a head tax of five pounds on all slaves brought directly from the coast of Africa. Opposed by the merchants, the act did not prove to be prohibitive, and slaves continued to be brought—though in declining numbers—into the state. The General Assembly repealed the act in 1790.53

TABLE 8

Prompted no doubt by fear of slave revolts following the insurrection in Saint-Domingue in 1791, the General Assembly made the importation of slaves “by land or water” liable to a fine of one hundred pounds in 1794. An exception was made for any slaveholder who took an oath that he was importing slaves only for his “own service.” The law, meant to end the “sale or traffic” in slaves, was defective in that no particular officer was authorized to prosecute those who violated the act. In 1795 the General Assembly felt compelled to pass another law prohibiting the importation of slaves from the West Indies “or the French, Dutch or Spanish settlements on the southern coast of America.”54 Thus, even before the federal Constitution ended the slave trade in 1808, North Carolina had taken steps to halt the commerce in African slaves.

Although the preponderance of blacks involved in the North Carolina slave trade were imported, occasionally they were exported to other mainland colonies and the West Indies. Scattered information is available for 1718, 1729, 1736, 1750, 1752, 1756, and 1764.55 In those years eighteen slaves are known to have been exported, of whom eleven were dispatched to Charleston. As the return of the Board of Customs and Excise reveals, the trade was more active between 1768 and 1772 (see table 9). Thirteen Negroes were carried coastwise from Beaufort in 1768, five in 1770, and five in 1772. The exports to the West Indies all originated from Roanoke.

During the Revolution in September 1782, Mathew Emanuel of Havana asked North Carolina merchants John Gray Blount and William Blount to purchase “six good stout Black Men slaves & two Black Women,” but it is not known whether that transaction took place. A further attempt to develop trade with Cuba occurred in 1793, when John Gray Blount received a letter from Beloix Freres and Company of Havana stating that the “Trade of Negroes is at present very Lucrative here.” The Blounts did not make slave trading a business in itself. They bought and sold for their personal needs or when it was incidental to some other commercial transaction.56

After the Revolution a small number of slaves were exported each year between 1785 and 1789. Altogether three were exported from Beaufort in 1785 and 1786, fifty-one from Wilmington between 1787 and 1789, and eleven from Currituck in 1789. Of those, twenty-one went to the West Indies, principally New Providence in the Bahamas, the destination of one is unknown, and the remainder went to other southern states—eighteen to Savannah and twenty-five to Charleston.57 Most of the vessels involved in exporting slaves were American owned. The largest ship sailed out of Glasgow, Scotland. Evidently the only North Carolina vessel engaged in the trade was the schooner William. Owned by Luke Swain of Charleston, it was registered in Wilmington in 1787.

To discuss the shipping that brought slaves to North Carolina is not to analyze the components of a slave fleet but rather to examine the composition, by and large, of two regional fleets. The slave trade with North Carolina was not a triangular trade. The traffic was mainly bilateral—those vessels that plied the coastal waters of the eastern seaboard of North America and those that traded between the West Indies and the mainland British American colonies. A motley group of vessels, they were employed in the transport of a mixed cargo. In nearly all cases the commerce in Negroes was incidental to the vessels’ activities and not a regular trade. Thus, of the forty-two voyages for which records exist between 1723 and 1746, twenty-six vessels carried Negroes only once while five vessels carried Negroes on more than one occasion.58 Similarly, most of the seventy-four vessels that transported Negroes between 1749 and 1769 did so only one time. The exceptions were the brig Wilmington (fifty tons) of Brunswick, which carried slaves on seven occasions, the sloop Nancy (fifty tons) also of Brunswick, which brought slaves from Jamaica on five occasions, and six other vessels that each bore slaves on two voyages during that period.59 In the early 1770s only four vessels—one carrying Negroes on three occasions and the other three carrying Negroes twice each—out of a total of forty-three made more than one voyage.60 Finally, of the ninety-three vessels that conveyed blacks to North Carolina between 1784 and 1790, fourteen made more than one voyage.61

Before 1746 New England sloops predominated among the vessels that brought slaves to North Carolina. Only 1 of the 31 vessels evidently was built in North Carolina, the sloop Thomas & Tryal (twenty tons), constructed in 1738.62 Among the other vessels 1 was built in the West Indies and 3 in Britain; 1 vessel was a French prize. Between 1749 and 1775, 19 of the 117 vessels that transported slaves to North Carolina had been built there. Most of them had been laid down since 1760, by which time schooners as a type of vessel built in North Carolina had begun to outnumber sloops.63 For the 1780s no similar statements can be made because information about the place of construction is not available.

TABLE 9

Taking into account the volume of the trade and the nature of the water approaches to the ports of North Carolina, most of the vessels were small. Between 1723 and 1746 the majority of the vessels (19 out of 31) were 20 tons or under. The only vessel over 35 tons was the 70-ton brig Tryal of Boston. Between 1749 and 1775 the size of vessels had grown appreciably. Of the 117, only 11 were 20 tons or under; the most common tonnage was 40 to 50 tons, with 38 vessels in that category. Six vessels were 100 tons or more. Finally, between 1784 and 1790, more than half of the vessels (49 of 93) were 50 tons or under. Fourteen of the vessels were 100 tons or more, with the largest vessel carrying slaves to North Carolina being 360 tons.

Only the largest vessels—ships—were British owned; in the main, vessels belonged to owners in the American mainland colonies or in the West Indies. It was unusual for an owner to possess more than one vessel, although, for example, in the third quarter of the eighteenth century Richard Quince owned six vessels, Samuel Cornell, George Blair, and Harold Blackmore owned three each, and Muscoe Livingstone owned two, while in the 1780s John Spicer owned two and James Hankinson and John Barrow jointly owned two. It was more common for masters to own vessels. Of the vessels belonging to North Carolinians, the majority were the property of Wilmington ship-owners. Most of the vessels were trading at a venture, and there were few if any constant traders. Nor were there many merchants regularly involved in the trade, which appears to have been casual rather than systematic. Luke Swain of Charleston is one of the few (being both master and shipowner) who participated more regularly. Most of the New York shippers similarly were involved in only a single voyage. Early in the century, the exceptions were Tunis Vangelder, who engaged in three voyages in 1723-1725, and John Vanpelt, senior and junior, who were involved in twelve voyages between 1725 and 1734.

The organization of the slave trade to North Carolina followed familiar patterns. Merchants from other American mainland colonies shipped slaves to North Carolina for sale. Early in the eighteenth century New England merchants played an active part in that trade.64 Charleston merchants also transported slaves to North Carolina, particularly Brunswick. In addition, North Carolinians sought to purchase slaves. The Reverend John Urmston, an Anglican missionary, and Thomas Pollock sedulously tried to find slaves during the early eighteenth century. For example, Urmston, writing in 1716, proposed to buy “3 or 4 Negroes in Guinea” through the customs collector in Boston. Urmston desired “3 Negroes men of middle stature about 20 years old and a Girl of about 16 years.”65 Similarly, in 1715 Thomas Pollock required “hands” to work “a considerable quantity of pine land” in order to make “Tarre or pitch.” He sought “young likely Sound Negroes Male or female No under 12 or 14 years of age and not above 22 or 23 years old.” Pollock carefully calculated how and when he would use his slaves. He explained to Boston merchants that he preferred to import Negroes during the summer so that they could be “seasoned” and employed productively during the winter months. Generally, he emphasized the purchase of male slaves. Pollock wanted black women between the ages of thirteen and twenty to fulfill the role of “breeder.”66 Later in the century merchants offered Negroes for sale for cash, country produce, ready money, or short credit. North Carolina newspapers regularly carried notices of slaves for sale.67

One method of sale in North Carolina was by auction or vendue. In 1772 Peleg Greene, master of the George out of Rhode Island, brought a number of slaves from the West Indies to New Bern. Greene reported that none of them fetched as much as he expected “by reason of many cuntry born Negros was sold at Vandue and at Six months Credit which makes a great ods.” Even so he “sold four of them named as follows—Jack at 70 [pounds], Cudjo at 70, Homer [who had “two bad Places on one of his Thighs which wood not heal up”] at 50, Newbuary Boy at 57:10.”68 As already noted, the Roanoke customs register recorded the entry of eighty Negroes from Africa in 1786 aboard the brig Camden. The total cost of that special consignment for the Lake Company came to £2,844, or only around £35 per slave, but may not have reflected the level of prices on the open market. The second consignment for the company in 1787 cost £7,000, or £100 per slave.69

Early in the century John Brickell reported that the planters in North Carolina carefully preserved “the Gold and Silver Coin of all Nations,” which circulated in the colony “to buy Negroes with in the Islands and other Places.”70 But a chronic shortage of currency, despite the issuance of paper currency in 1729, 1735, 1748, 1754, 1760, and 1761, hampered development in North Carolina and inhibited planters from buying slaves at reasonable rates.71 To ease the situation, West Indian slave traders offered six- to nine-month credits to potential buyers.72

With the imposition of duties according to age in 1787, the duty registers included the ages of the Negroes imported as well as the names of owners of individual slaves who entered but were not for sale. A few Negroes, for example, had been sent to Charleston to learn trades. A note to the entry of the sloop Charlotte to Roanoke on June 17, 1788, stated: “4 Negroes for sale, 5 Negroes for exportation.” Interestingly, a note attached to the entry of the schooner Kitty & Comfort into Beaufort on August 9, 1788, referred to “5 Negroes” with “sundry household furniture” who “moved with their familys to become citizens of this state.” It did not indicate how many persons comprised the party.73

The slave trade was too small to support the existence of specialized slave merchants, so those who imported slaves into North Carolina were general merchants.74 Among the prominent merchants at Wilmington who engaged in the slave trade in the third quarter of the eighteenth century were Frederick Gregg, John Burgwin, and Cornelius Harnett,75 while at New Bern Samuel Cornell and Edward Batchelor were “of particular prominence.”76 Some of the importers of slaves also owned the vessels in which blacks were carried and acted as masters of those vessels. They included William Bull, Yelverton Fowkes, Daniel Robins, and Robert Spears in the 1770s and John Forster in the 1780s.77

The record of the number of slaves imported into North Carolina is still incomplete but, fragmentary as the information remains, it nevertheless reveals a small but steady flow of trade during the eighteenth century. Apart from the periods of war in the 1740s and 1757-1761, slaves arrived almost every year between 1720 and 1775. After the Revolution the trade revived and continued until 1790, when it appears to have ceased. Slaves were brought from both other mainland colonies and the West Indies, but few came directly from West Africa.

TABLE 10

The initiative for the dispatch of Negroes to North Carolina lay in the hands of merchants in New England, New York, Charleston, and the West Indies, notably Barbados and Jamaica, rather than in North Carolina. Slaves came as part of mixed cargoes, which were sent to North Carolina in payment for the naval stores that found a market in the mainland colonies and the West Indies. Those imports provided a relatively minor component of the increase in the black population of North Carolina in the course of the eighteenth century.

In sum, this article offers evidence for the import of 3,236 Negroes by sea, with almost half coming from the West Indies (see table 10). In addition, imports included a number of “parcels” the sizes of which are unknown. Because of the considerable gaps in the data, table 10 presents only a minimum figure, which is nonetheless higher than that previously available; the true figure may be substantially higher. Nor does table 10 necessarily represent the relative importance of the other American mainland colonies and the West Indies as sources of slaves, though it is unlikely that the direct imports from West Africa were much higher. In that respect the experience of North Carolina in the Atlantic slave trade differs from that of the neighboring colonies. The import of slaves from West Africa was much smaller than that into South Carolina and Virginia. In consequence British merchants did not play as conspicuous a part in North Carolina’s slave trade as they did in other colonies’. North Carolina merchants lacked sufficient capital, suitable shipping, and appropriate expertise to engage in the direct slave trade with West Africa. Although North Carolina imported fewer slaves than other mainland colonies, future discussions of the American slave trade will need nonetheless to take into account the seaborne transport of Negroes to North Carolina.

APPENDIX 1















APPENDIX 2






APPENDIX 3















APPENDIX 4





APPENDIX 5





Footnotes

* Mr. Minchinton is professor emeritus, University of Exeter, Exeter, England. He wishes to acknowledge the assistance and counsel of Dr. Wilson Angley, Dr. Robert J. Cain, and Susan M. Trimble of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History in the preparation of this article.

1 For surveys of the literature, see Paul E. Lovejoy, “The Volume of the Atlantic Slave Trade: A Synthesis,” Journal of African History 23, no. 4 (1982): 473-501, and Paul E. Lovejoy, “The Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on Africa: A Review of the Literature,” Journal of African History 30, no. 3 (1989): 365-394. For individual colonies, see Jay Coughtry, The Notorious Triangle: Rhode Island and the African Slave Trade, 1700-1807 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981); James G. Lydon, “New York and the Slave Trade, 1700 to 1774,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 35 (April 1978): 375-394; Darold D. Wax, “Negro Imports into Pennsylvania, 1720-1766,” Pennsylvania History 32 (July 1965): 254-287; Darold D. Wax, “Black Immigrants: The Slave Trade in Colonial Maryland,” Maryland Historical Magazine 73 (Spring 1978): 30-45; Walter E. Minchinton, Celia King, and Peter Waite, eds., Virginia Slave-Trade Statistics, 1698-1775 (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1984); W. Robert Higgins, “The Geographical Origins of Negro Slaves in Colonial South Carolina,” South Atlantic Quarterly 70 (Winter 1971): 34-47; and Darold D. Wax, “‘New Negroes Are Always in Demand’: The Slave Trade in Eighteenth-Century Georgia,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 68 (April 1984): 193-220.

2 John Spencer Bassett, Slavery and Servitude in the Colony of North Carolina (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1896), 7; Elizabeth Donnan, ed., Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade to America, 4 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution, 1930-1935), 4:235-239.

3 James A. Rawley, The Transatlantic Slave Trade (New York: W. W. Norton, 1981), esp. pp. 408-410; Philip D. Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969), 145; Roger Anstey, The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition, 1760-1810 (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1975).

4 Charles Christopher Crittenden, The Commerce of North Carolina, 1763-1789 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1936), 81; Harry Roy Merrens, Colonial North Carolina in the Eighteenth Century: A Study in Historical Geography (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1964), 79.

5 Crittenden, Commerce of North Carolina, chap. 1, “Treacherous Waters.”

6 See Roger C. Jones, comp., Guide to North Carolina Newspapers on Microfilm, 6th ed. (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources, 1984), 62-64. In addition nine previously unknown issues from the 1780s were copied for the British Records Collection, State Archives, Division of Archives and History, Raleigh.

7 Crittenden, Commerce of North Carolina, 41-42. New Bern was included in the Port Bath district until about 1730.

8 See Ports, broken series, Port Bath (1761-1794), Port Beaufort (1760-1790), Port Brunswick (1765-1790), Port Currituck (1783-1789), and Port Roanoke (1682-1806), Treasurer’s and Comptroller’s Papers, State Archives; Port of Roanoke Records, 1771-1776, James Iredell Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill.

9 For a discussion of Board of Customs and Excise, America, 1768-1773 (CUST 16/1), Public Record Office, London, see James F. Shepherd and Gary M. Walton, Shipping, Maritime Trade, and the Economic Development of Colonial North America (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1972).

10 For a discussion of the naval office shipping lists for the West Indies, see Walter E. Minchinton, Naval Office Shipping Lists for Jamaica, 1683-1818 (Wakefield, Yorkshire, England: Microform Academic Publishers, 1977), and Walter E. Minchinton and Peter Waite, The Naval Office Shipping Lists for the West Indies, 1678-1825 (excluding Jamaica) (Wakefield, Yorkshire, England: Microform Academic Publishers, 1981).

11 The South Carolina duty books (Journals A and B, Records of the Public Treasurers, 1725-1776, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia) include references to slaves exported to (and imported from) North Carolina. The records, however, only note the duty paid, and it is not possible from that information to list accurately the number of Negroes involved nor the vessels on which they were carried.

12 Peter H. Wood, Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974), table 1, p. 144; Jeffrey J. Crow, The Black Experience in Revolutionary North Carolina (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources, 1977), 4.

13 Hugh T. Lefler and Albert Ray Newsome, North Carolina: The History of a Southern State, 3d ed. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1973), 61, 73-75. Before the Revolution, North Carolina was one of four colonies—the others being New Hampshire, Delaware, and Connecticut—that did not impose duties on the import of slaves. Rawley, Transatlantic Slave Trade, 316.

14 Donnan, Documents Illustrative of the Slave Trade 2:48. Earlier in the same document Bennett stated that about thirty-six years previously a ship had brought approximately 125 slaves from Calabar, nearly half of whom were disposed of at Bermuda and the rest reshipped for Carolina and Virginia, but where in Carolina is not stated.

15 See, for example, records of 311 Negroes listed as headrights between 1670 and 1697 in the Albemarle Book of Warrants and Surveys, 1681-1706, Secretary of State Records, State Archives. Caroline Whitley and Susan Trimble have compiled a list of 651 Negro headrights from various sources between 1663 and 1744. The list is in the files of the Colonial Records Branch, Historical Publications Section, Division of Archives and History.

16 Colonial Office (CO) 5/1441, fol. 262, Public Record Office; Certificate of Clearance, Ports, Treasurer’s and Comptroller’s Papers.

17 Pollock Letter Book (1707-1761), Thomas Pollock Papers, Private Collections, State Archives. Still other references to slaves arriving in North Carolina in that period, including at least one slave shipped from Bermuda, appear in Mattie Erma Edwards Parker, William S. Price, Jr., and Robert J. Cain, eds., The Colonial Records of North Carolina [Second Series], 8 vols. to date (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources, 1963—), 4:359, 364-365, 5:82, 6:209, 260-261, 381, 7:26, 89, 269, 482.

18 Table 1 indicates that Negroes were shipped to North Carolina from Charleston at least as early as 1724, whereas W. Robert Higgins states that “blacks were first transshipped to North Carolina through Charleston in 1742.” Higgins, “Geographical Origins of Negro Slaves,” 47.

19 William L. Saunders, ed., The Colonial Records of North Carolina, 10 vols. (Raleigh: State of North Carolina, 1886-1890), 3:430. Burrington added that as a result, North Carolinians had “to buy...the refuse refractory and distemper’d Negroes, Brought from other Governments.”

20 Wood, Black Majority, 308-326; Crow, Black Experience in Revolutionary North Carolina, 22-23; Lefler and Newsome, North Carolina, 166.

21 Journals A and B, Records of the Public Treasurers, 1725-1776, South Carolina.

22 English Manuscript 517, fol. 1, John Rylands University Library, Manchester, England.

23 In 1765 Richard Scott of New Bern wrote to Bernard Parkinson asking him to settle various accounts for him in St. Kitts and to purchase slaves, rum, and sugar with the money collected. Barbara T. Cain, Ellen Z. McGrew, and Charles E. Morris, eds., Guide to Private Manuscript Collections in the North Carolina State Archives, 3d ed. (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources, 1981), 245.

24 The distance from Charleston bar to Cape Fear was sixty leagues, which was frequently run in twenty hours.

25 Saunders, Colonial Records 9:279.

26 The statement in Crittenden, Commerce of North Carolina, 81, that 125 Negroes were brought to Port Brunswick during the year ending April 24, 1775, appears to be incorrect.

27 Commerce of Rhode Island, 1726-1800, 2 vols. (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 7th ser., 9-10, 1914), 1:414. For a discussion of Lopez’s role in North Carolina trade, see Virginia Bever Platt, “Tar, Staves, and New England Rum: The Trade of Aaron Lopez of Newport, Rhode Island, with Colonial North Carolina,” North Carolina Historical Review 48 (January 1971): 1-22.

28 North-Carolina Gazette (New Bern), January 13, 1775.

29 Earlier in 1768 a twenty-five-ton sloop had entered Beaufort from Africa; in 1769 a twenty-ton sloop had cleared Beaufort for Africa and returned with thirty-six Negroes; and in 1772 two vessels, a sloop and a topsail schooner totaling 120 tons, had cleared Brunswick for Africa, and a twenty-five-ton sloop had entered there from Africa. CUST 16/1.

30 For Maryland, Darold Wax concluded that the differences between the Board of Customs and Excise (CUST 16/1) returns and the information obtained from other sources were not serious. Wax, “Slave Trade in Colonial Maryland,” 44.

31 “An Abstract of the Shipping & Tonnage & number of negroes Enter’d in North Carolina at a medium of 7 years ending ye 1 Janry 1755,” Saunders, Colonial Records 5:314.

32 The consolidated figure of 198 is further corroborated by the following sources: Add. MSS 15485, fol. 25, British Library, London, which showed 28 Negroes imported into North Carolina between January 5, 1768, and January 5, 1769; and Admiralty (ADM) 7/492, Public Record Office, which for the same period reported 14 Negroes imported into Port Roanoke, 96 into Port Beaufort, and 60 into Brunswick—a total of 198. Copies of those documents are in the British Records Collection in the State Archives.

33 Bassett, Slavery and Servitude, 24; Marvin L. Michael Kay and Lorin Lee Cary, “A Demographic Analysis of Colonial North Carolina with Special Emphasis upon the Slave and Black Populations,” in Black Americans in North Carolina and the South, ed. Jeffrey J. Crow and Flora J. Hatley (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984), 81.

34 Crittenden, Commerce of North Carolina, 42-44.

35 Merrens, Colonial North Carolina, 79, 226n.

36 Kay and Cary, “Demographic Analysis of Colonial North Carolina,” 81.

37 See Merrens’s map of Negro taxables in 1767, Colonial North Carolina, 79, which shows that Negroes made up 61 to 80 percent of the taxables in Chowan and Perquimans counties and more than 81 percent of the taxables in Brunswick County. Kay and Cary estimate the total population of North Carolina in 1767 at 165,000, of whom 41,000 were blacks. Kay and Cary, “Demographic Analysis of North Carolina,” 73. The 1790 census reported a total population of 393,751 in North Carolina, including 100,572 slaves. Evarts B. Greene and Virginia D. Harrington, American Population before the Federal Census of 1790 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1932), 160.

38 Saunders, Colonial Records 7:199; Crittenden, Commerce of North Carolina, 117.

39 South Carolina Gazette (Charleston), May 31, 1770. See Arthur M. Schlesinger, The Colonial Merchants and the American Revolution, 1763-1776 (1918; reprint, New York: Facsimile Library, 1939), 208-209; Leila Sellers, Charleston Business on the Eve of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1934), 218; and Lefler and Newsome, North Carolina, 199.

40 Saunders, Colonial Records 8:496; Crittenden, Commerce of North Carolina, 117.

41 Saunders, Colonial Records 9:1026, 1046.

42 According to the Port Brunswick register, five Negroes were imported from Grenada in the sloop Three Marys, owned by Harold Blackmore, in 1774 (see appendix 2); Saunders, Colonial Records 9:1098.

43 Saunders, Colonial Records 9:1099, 1113.

44 North-Carolina Gazette, January 13, 1775. According to the registers for Port Brunswick and Port Roanoke, nine Negroes were imported from Charleston on March 2, two from Hispaniola on March 31, and one from Dominica on April 12, 1775. See appendix 2.

45 Saunders, Colonial Records 9:1150-1151, 1171, 1222, 1266, 10:24; Donnan, Documents Illustrative of the Slave Trade 4:239.

46 Young v. Walker, Mixed Case Files, box 43, Civil Cases, 1790-1860, United States Circuit Court, Raleigh Division, North Carolina Eastern District, Records of District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21, National Archives Atlanta Branch, East Point, Ga. (microfilm, State Archives); Norwich (Conn.) Packet, January 23, 1781.

47 Virginia made slave importations illegal in 1778, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania in 1780, Maryland in 1783, New Jersey in 1786, and South Carolina in 1787.

48 A member of the South Carolina Senate was reported in the Charleston Morning Post, March 23, 1787, as stating that “a vessel had recently arrived at North Carolina, with 100 slaves, who were intended to be sent here [South Carolina].” The final destination of that consignment has not been traced. Donnan, Documents Illustrative of the Slave Trade 4:492.

49 In May or June 1787 a cargo of slaves was imported into Roanoke by Henry Hill and Thomas Fitt. Walter Clark, ed., The State Records of North Carolina, 16 vols. (11-26) (Raleigh: State of North Carolina, 1895-1906), 21:82. That vessel may have been the Jennett that entered Roanoke on June 1, 1787, with eighty-one Negroes from Africa. See appendix 3.

50 William S. Tarlton, Somerset Place and Its Restoration (Raleigh: Division of State Parks, Department of Conservation and Development, 1954), 6-7.

51 Account book of Josiah Collins, Nathaniel Allen, and Samuel Dickinson, equal copartners in sundry tracts of land in Tyrrell County, 1786-1790, Anne S. Graham Collection (microfilm), Private Collections. Donnan notes that Josiah Collins sent a vessel to Africa for slaves in 1785 and adds “but they probably were not intended for North Carolina,” which is not correct. Donnan, Documents Illustrative of the Slave Trade 4:240n.

52 Clark, State Records 24:792-794.

53 Clark, State Records 25:80. James Rawley’s statement in Transatlantic Slave Trade, 410, that North Carolina prohibited the importation of slaves in 1786, reopened the trade in 1790, and brought the legal trade to an end in 1794 appears to be in error.

54 Laws of North Carolina, 1794, c. 2; N.C. Laws, 1795, c. 444. In 1795 settlers from the West Indies, the Bahamas, or any of the French, Dutch, or Spanish plantations were forbidden to bring Negroes into the state under penalty of a one-hundred-pound fine for every imported Negro over fifteen years of age. See Donnan, Documents Illustrative of the Slave Trade 4:240n. In 1798 when a shipload of Saint-Domingue Negroes arrived in Charleston and was refused admittance, Governor Samuel Ashe of North Carolina “issued a proclamation in alarm calling upon the people and the officers of the State to prevent a clandestine entry at some North Carolina seaport or inlet where a landing might easily have been affected.” Guion Griffis Johnson, Ante-bellum North Carolina: A Social History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1937), 471. For the action taken by the people of Wilmington in 1803 when a vessel bearing Negroes from Guadeloupe arrived, see Raleigh Register, February 15, 1803.

55 For details see appendix 4. Recalcitrant slaves were also banished. See, for example, Parker, Price, and Cain, Colonial Records [Second Series] 2:364, 412. In 1759 an act was passed in Virginia providing for a duty to be levied on all slaves imported into the colony from Maryland, North Carolina, or any other place in America. Effective until April 20, 1767, the act was renewed in 1766 for three years and in 1768 again for three years. Donnan, Documents Illustrative of the Slave Trade 4:144.

56 Alice Barnwell Keith, William H. Masterson, and David T. Morgan, eds., The John Gray Blount Papers, 4 vols. (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources, 1952-1982), 1:31, 2:253.

57 Details of those exports are set out in appendix 4.

58 The Adventure of New York (ten tons) made successive voyages in 1723, 1724, and 1725; the John & Mary of New York (ten tons) made four voyages in 1726, 1727, and 1728 (twice), and a fifteen-ton vessel of the same name carried slaves from New York to North Carolina in 1732, 1733 (twice), and 1734; the sloop Mary of New York (ten tons) made one voyage in 1729 and two in 1730; and the twenty-ton sloop Thomas & Tryal of North Carolina made two voyages, in 1739 and 1741.

59 The schooner Charming Peggy (fifty tons), 1766, 1768; brigantine Orton (forty-five tons), 1754 twice; schooner Polly (seventy tons), 1764 twice; brig Tryon (seventy tons), 1765 twice; and sloop Two Friends (fifty tons), 1764 twice, all of Brunswick and coming from Jamaica; and the sloop William (thirty-five tons), 1754 and 1755, of Kingston, Jamaica, and coming from thence. In addition, the schooner Sally & Betsey and the brig Sally & Betty (both forty-five tons, built in North Carolina in 1763), which made voyages from Kingston in 1765 and 1767, were probably the same vessel.

60 The sloop Nancy (forty-five tons) from Antigua in 1772 (twice) and 1773 and the sloop Francis (forty tons) in 1773 and 1774, both to Roanoke; and the sloop Three Marys (forty tons) and brig Ranger (fifty tons) from Jamaica, both of which made two voyages to Brunswick in 1774.

61 The schooner Wilmington Packet (30 tons) of Charleston made seven voyages from Charleston in 1784, 1785 (twice), 1787, and 1788 (three times); the schooner William (75/15 tons), also of Charleston, brought Negroes from thence on seven occasions (1786, 1787, and five voyages in 1788); the sloop Little Peggy (55 tons) of Jamaica brought slaves, usually from Jamaica, on five voyages (twice in 1788 and three times in 1789); and the sloop Polly (104 tons) of Montego Bay, Jamaica, brought Negroes from thence in 1787 and twice in 1788. The schooner Hope (70 tons) of Wilmington brought slaves from Jamaica in 1786 and 1787 and was then replaced by the schooner New Hope (130 tons), registered in Montego Bay, which carried Negroes to Brunswick in 1788 and twice in 1789. Eight other vessels made two voyages each during those years: as already mentioned, the brig Camden (80 tons) from Africa to Roanoke in 1786 and 1787; brigantine Friendship (30/60 tons) of Turtola, twice in 1785 to Brunswick, once from the Bahamas and once from New York; ship Jane (150 tons) of Kingston, 1786 and 1787 from the West Indies to Brunswick; sloop Kitty & Comfort (28 tons) in 1788 and 1789 and schooner Quash Platter (45 tons) twice in 1787, both from Maryland to Beaufort; the sloop Polly (30 tons) twice in 1787 from Indian River, Del., to Roanoke; the brig Robert (85 tons) twice in 1787 from Jamaica to Brunswick; and the sloop Sally (20 tons) in 1786 and 1787 from Delaware to Beaufort and to Currituck.

62 Of the 229 vessels built between 1710 and 1739 that conducted trade with North Carolina, only 38 had been built there. Joseph A. Goldenberg, Shipbuilding in Colonial America (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1975), 52. See also Charles Christopher Crittenden, “Ships and Shipping in North Carolina, 1763-1789,” North Carolina Historical Review 8 (January 1931): 1-13.

63 Goldenberg, Shipbuilding in Colonial America, 79.

64 See, for example, Jonathan Mountfort to Capt. John Worley, May 5, 1713, North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register 2 (January 1901): 160, regarding the price of Negroes in Boston.

65 Saunders, Colonial Records 2:260-261, 288, 310. Urmston continued: “here is no living without servants there are none to be hired of any colour and none of the black kind to be sold good for anything under 50 or 60£.” In 1717 and 1718 he again wrote, insisting that he could not remain in North Carolina without two field workers and a domestic servant.

66 See, for example, entries for July 15, 1715, May 28, 1717, and March 7, 1718/9, Pollock Letter Book, Pollock Papers.

67 See, for example, North Carolina Magazine (New Bern), August 3-September 14, 1764; Cape-Fear Mercury (Wilmington), May 18, 1774; North-Carolina Gazette January 13, 1775. For references to notices of slaves’ being imported during the 1780s, see Alan D. Watson, An Index to North Carolina Newspapers, 1784-1789 (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources, 1992).

68 Commerce of Rhode Island 1:414.

69 See appendix 3 and above, p. 17.

70 John Brickell, The Natural History of North-Carolina (Dublin: printed by James Carson, 1737), 45, 272.

71 A. Roger Ekirch, “Poor Carolina”: Politics and Society in Colonial North Carolina, 1729-1776 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981), 11, 14. Ekirch stated that the issuance of paper currency prevented North Carolina merchants from engaging directly in the Atlantic slave trade, but that assertion is doubtful. Virginia merchants were also unable to participate directly in the slave trade with West Africa. See Susan Westbury, “Analyzing a Regional Slave Trade: The West Indies and Virginia, 1698-1775,” Slavery and Abolition 7, no. 3 (1986): 241-256.

72 Jacob M. Price, “Credit in the Slave Trade and Plantation Economies,” in Slavery and the Rise of the Atlantic System, ed. Barbara L. Solow (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1991).

73 See appendix 3.

74 Crittenden, Commerce of North Carolina, 98-99.

75 Crittenden, Commerce of North Carolina, 96n. Frederick Gregg possessed town lots, residences, stores, stocks of goods, and wharves, all in Wilmington; a house and lots in Campbellton; and plantations, sawmills, a gristmill, periaugers (small canoelike vessels), canoes, and several oceangoing vessels. He was a Loyalist who left North Carolina in 1777. Cornelius Harnett (1723-1781) was a whig leader. Crittenden, Commerce of North Carolina, 110, 142. See also Robert D. W. Connor, Cornelius Harnett: An Essay in North Carolina History (Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1909).

76 Crittenden, Commerce of North Carolina, 97. Samuel Cornell was a Loyalist (p. 142).

77 See appendix 2.



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