Newport, [Rhode Island]: October 15, 1767. Unbound. This manuscript receipt from James Tanner to Ann Rhodes (received in her behalf by Edward Rhodes) measures 7.5” x 3”. Minor edgewear including two small chips that do not affect any text. The receipt reads in part: “For 4 Days work my Negro Primus on Board . . . £10..0..0 / Newport October 15-1767 / Received the above in full (Sugar) . . . .” It is docketed on the reverse: “Ann Rhodes / Negro hire £10 - / Ann Rhodes, her Bill for Negro Labor”. Very good. Item #009284
The work that Primus performed was, no doubt, to ready the ship for its captain’s (Captain Wilding) departure later that month for a slave trading “factory” (i.e., outpost) on the Congo River. There Wilding purchased fifty slaves from the King of Cape Benda and brought them aboard. Unfortunately for Wilding, he had offended the king by “intriguing [with] two or three other free traders.” The king demanded that Wilding either “give up his cargo and ship, or lose his life.” Wilding’s attempt to assuage the king’s pride by presenting him with twenty slaves and some other goods was rejected, and the king reiterated his offer; the ship and its cargo or Wilding’s “head.” Seeing no other choice, Wilding surrendered his vessel. After Wilding had done so, he was released and secured passage out of the Congo on another ship. As that ship departed, the king’s men mistakenly blew up the Venus while attempting to fire a salute from its swivel guns. (For more information see The London Magazine, March 1768.) A unique document testifying to a New England slave’s forced labor to prepare a Rhode Island slave ship for a trading mission to the Congo, during which it was captured by a slave-trading African despot and inadvertently blown up by his crew.