Ship's Manifest From 1833 Shows 83 People Caught in the Domestic Slave Trade

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Sept. 30 2013 11:15 AM

Ship's Manifest From 1833 Shows 83 People Caught in the Domestic Slave Trade

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

This manifest documents the names, heights, ages, and “complexions” of 83 enslaved people shipped on the schooner LaFayette from Alexandria, Va., to Natchez, Miss., in 1833.

The Smithsonian included this item in its new book, Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection, because the document shows how the 1807 laws outlawing the import of slaves did nothing to stop a thriving internal slave trade. The firm Franklin and Armfield, which operated out of Alexandria and shipped the people documented on this manifest, profited greatly from this market.

Advertisement

Franklin and Armfield bought people in the upper South—Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee—and shipped them “down the river” to sugar and cotton planters in Louisiana and Mississippi, where they often worked in much harsher conditions. Slave owners would threaten recalcitrant workers with such a transfer. (This is where the idiom “sold down the river,” used to indicate betrayal, comes from.)

The manifest emphasizes how squarely the passengers’ histories and futures lay in the hands of the traders. The columns “By whom shipped,” “Residence shipped,” “To whom consigned,” and “Residence of consignee” are filled out in blanket form, with Franklin and Armfield’s names written sideways up and down the column.

Most of the enslaved passengers were in their teens or 20s—the age at which it could be expected that they might be able to labor in the fields of the Southern plantations. Only two of the 83 are more than 6 feet tall. Two infants, on lines 23 and 52, are listed solely as “Child.”

Click on the image below to arrive at a larger zoomable version.

ManifestFinal

Manifest for the schooner LaFayette. From Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection (edited by Neil Kagan).

Rebecca Onion Rebecca Onion

Rebecca Onion, who runs Slate’s history blog The Vault, is a writer and academic living in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Amazon Is Launching a Serious Run at Apple and Samsung

Television

Slim Pickings at the Network TV Bazaar

Three talented actresses in three terrible shows.

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

We Could Fix Climate Change for Free. Now There’s Just One Thing Holding Us Back.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 7:03 PM Once Again, a Climate Policy Hearing Descends Into Absurdity
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Jurisprudence
Sept. 17 2014 4:49 PM Schooling the Supreme Court on Rap Music Is it art or a true threat of violence?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?