Notable Antebellum Slave Traders

WJC

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As we have seen, the Slave Trade was seen by many as a reputable business in the antebellum period. Some have referred to well known- some might say 'celebrity'- Americans who were slave traders in other threads.
Let's discuss some of those notable Slave Traders.
 

Bruce Vail

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I read a bio of President James K. Polk a number of years back. It said that Polk was believed by some to have been an active slave trader, but that this was covered up when he became prominent in politics. Being an owner was considered to be reputable, but being a trader was not.
 

byron ed

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Just wanted to clarify that in the U.S. the thing known as "the African slave trade" had legally ended by 1808. No more African slaves were systematically imported into the U.S., just some illegal smuggling incidents.

From there, the profits on the Internal slave trade increased greatly. There was a bit of a "boom" in the businesss that lasted until the middle of the Civil War. In short U.S. slave traders were no longer cutting their deals on the African coast, and they didn't operate slave ships. This is the period that more of our "celebrity" traders came into it. Some of those only invested in the slave trade, not handling the flesh personally. Upright and respected businessmen.
 
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1950lemans

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Just an FYI. The numero uno slave traders par excellance were the Portuguesa. With the Canary Islands and the Azores as jumping points they far outdid any other European country hands down. The African slave trade, east and west coast, is now considered a "Holocaust" of the first magnitude. The Portuguese were major players.

American slave traders were also famous American "heroes" like Jim Bowie, Lafite (the pirate & helper at the Battle of NO) and Alexander Hamilton of $10 fame whose. mama was not "white".

Patty Canon intrigues me the most. Trying to find more info on her. Operated on the Mason-Dixon line. Any human who wasn't white and got in her sites was bound for slavery.
 

James N.

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... Jim Bowie, with Pierre Lafitte
... American slave traders were also famous American "heroes" like Jim Bowie, Lafite (the pirate & helper at the Battle of NO) and Alexander Hamilton of $10 fame whose. mama was not "white"...
Since our moderator doesn't want to discuss Bowie on the similar N. B. Forrest thread, I'm glad to see this one opened up! According to William C. Davis' Three Roads to the Alamo, Bowie and the Lafitte brothers (Jean and Pierre) made a fortune by bypassing the naval blockade (of sorts) that prevented importation of slaves into the U. S. by sea. Instead, they were taken from Lafitte's holdings around Galveston Bay (Then a province of New Spain) to the vicinity of Sabine Pass where they were handed over to the Bowies (there were several of them too!) who brought them across the Sabine River into Louisiana where they were sold freely!
 
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1950lemans

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This bunch of Rhode Island boys made their fortunes in slaves. They're not nationally known but are pretty famous in RI. You can Google them and find a lot of info about them. One of them was involved in founding Brown Univ. for example.

The "other" John Brown (of Rhode Island), d. 1803
James DeWolf, d. 1837
Aaron Lopez, d. 1782

Lots of times posters remind us of New Englanders making their fortunes in slaves sent to the South. These characters are the poster boys for such endeavors.
 

1950lemans

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Lastly, slave trading was big, big business. Here's some of the top firms - dealers in thousands of heads.....

The Franklin & Armfield Slave Trading Company

Franklin & Armfield Co.

The House of Austin & Laurens, Charleston, SC


You can Google the names of the owners, just add "slave trader" after the name.

It's amazing how famous these characters were but it's kept at a "local" level so to speak. Lots of history awash in wealth, finery, mansions, gentry but a real dark side running in tandem.
 

Dedej

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Slave traders were also called "speculators" -- some were just "planters/farmers" who enslaved of all size plantations and farms.

I know way more about the Interregional slave trade/traders/breeders -- than the trader/traders before the abolition of Transatlantic slave trade in 1809.

I have ran across many - but here are some notable ones:

Isaac Franklin and John Armfield: Franklin and Armfield Office was started in 1828 by Isaac Franklin and John Armfield. The office was known to have been the largest slave trading firm in the antebellum south. At its height in the 1830s, the firm transported between 1,000 and 1,200 slaves from Alexandria to New Orleans each year. Source

Nathan Bedford Forrest: He made his pre and post Civil War fortunes off of Black bodies.
Slave trading was not for the morally sensitive, but Forrest stood out even among slave-traders in his oppression of his human property. In January of 1860 his “Slave Mart” collapsed in a heavy rain, “burying beneath its ruins six valuable slaves,” killing at least two. He was also certainly the source of an article published in January of 1859 claiming that he was in possession of a daughter of “Fred Douglass.” Emphasizing that she was “of the class known among the dealers as a ‘likely girl,’” Forrest cruelly noted her vulnerability to rape. The article called out Douglass for hypocrisy in failing to purchase her. We can assume that she was not actually a daughter of Douglass. Chronicling America is in the Home Journal (Winchester, Tennessee), on January 20, 1859, “Fred Douglass’ Daughter for Sale.” Source

Austin Woolfolk: One of the most prominent of these controversial figures was a Georgian named Austin Woolfolk who dominated the border state trade from his headquarters in Baltimore during the 1820's and 1830's. Source He became notorious for selling Frederick Douglass's aunt, and for assaulting Benjamin Lundy after the latter had criticized him.

Joseph Bruin of Bruin & Hill/Bruin's Jail: Bruin, along with his partner Henry P. Hill, operated Bruin & Hill in Alexandria with a slave jail located on Duke Street that still stands today. Bruin gained his notoriety in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin because of his involvement in incidents following the attempted slave escape aboard the Pearl in April 1848. Read more here: http://www.virginiamemory.com/blogs/out_of_the_box/2013/12/04/12-years-a-slave/

Bernard Kindig: was known for selling disease and wounded aka "defective"slaves. Bernard Kendig, a slave trader in New Orleans, landed in court thirteen times in ten years. Four times there was no verdict in the case, once he was found not guilty, three times he was found guilty of fraud, three times he was found to have sold defective slaves, and twice he sold stolen slaves. Source: Slavery and Medicine: Enslavement and Medical Practices in Antebellum Louisiana

Hope Hull Slatter/Shadrach F. Slatter: native of Clinton, Georgia, became a leading slave dealers in Baltimore after the era of Woolfolk. With a building centrally located on Pratt Street, Slatter used trains to transport slaves to Georgia and boats to transport others to New Orleans. Baltimore was a large slave trading location. Source

John Brown (Rhode Island) and his brothers: Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution

Nathaniel Gordon: was the first and only slave trader in the U.S. to be tried, convicted, and executed "for being engaged in the Slave Trade," under the Piracy Law of 1820.

Hector Davis: One of Richmond’s large-scale traders, selling people from the 1840s until just before his death in 1863. Source

Thomas Ryan and James Marsh of Charleston: Ryan's Mart originally consisted of a closed lot with three structures— a four-story barracoon or slave jail, a kitchen, and a morgue or "dead house."

James Bowie
Hatcher & McGehee Slave Depot. Slave trading in Columbus, Georgia
John Montmollin and Alexander Bryan of Savannah's Montmollin Building
Lafitte Barthe & Co.
T. C. Weatherly
Austin Moses
Pickett & Williamson

If you want to see who the more successful and well-known traders in the South were - I would recommend looking at Slave Ship Port Manifest like U.S., Southeast Coastwise Inward and Outward Slave Manifests, 1790-1860 and the Port of Savannah Slave Manifests, 1790–1860 and Mobile.


Some resourceful books on the topic are:

Speculators and Slaves: Masters, Traders, and Slaves in the Old South
The Chattel Principle: Internal Slave Trades in the Americas
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0300103557/?tag=civilwartalkc-20
The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation
Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market
Sold Down the River: Slavery in the Lower Chattahoochee. Valley of Alabama and Georgia
A Troublesome Commerce: The Transformation of the Interstate Slave Trade
 
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This bunch of Rhode Island boys made their fortunes in slaves. They're not nationally known but are pretty famous in RI. You can Google them and find a lot of info about them. One of them was involved in founding Brown Univ. for example.

The "other" John Brown (of Rhode Island), d. 1803
James DeWolf, d. 1837
Aaron Lopez, d. 1782

Lots of times posters remind us of New Englanders making their fortunes in slaves sent to the South. These characters are the poster boys for such endeavors.
Does he, by any chance, have anything to do with the founding of Brown University? Most of the Ivies had major patrons who were involved in the slave trade.
 

WJC

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Just wanted to clarify that in the U.S. the thing known as "the African slave trade" had legally ended by 1808. No more African slaves were systematically imported into the U.S., just some illegal smuggling incidents.

From there, the profits on the Internal slave trade increased greatly. There was a bit of a "boom" in the businesss that lasted until the middle of the Civil War. In short U.S. slave traders were no longer cutting their deals on the African coast, and they didn't operate slave ships. This is the period that more of our "celebrity" traders came into it. Some of those only invested in the slave trade, not handling the flesh personally. Upright and respected businessmen.
Thanks for the reminder!
I've edited my introduction.
 

WJC

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Brown University founder Nicholas Brown (1729-1791) was the nephew of John Brown (1736– 1803) and, like him, a slave trader. His son, Nicholas Brown, Jr. (1769-1841) was a major benefactor of the school, which was named for him. Though he continued his father's other businesses, I do not believe he engaged in trading slaves.
 

WJC

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But was he "kinder and gentler," or is that just part of the mythology that has grown up around him?
Thanks for your response.
I personally see very little difference. I have used the analogy before of a farmer who treats his cattle kindly, but in the end, slaughters and eats them.
 

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