Newburyport, Massachusetts: 1802. Unbound. This partially printed shipping document dated “June 8th, 1802” measures 8” x 6¼”. It is illustrated with a large capital ‘S’ that depicts an oceangoing ship in the background. In it, Moses Brown of Newburyport, commits to transporting rum and sugar to Amsterdam via the Brig Respect, captained by John March. In nice shape with some toning and storage folds.
Of note, the document is franked with a colorless, embossed, two-part 20-cent revenue stamp (Scott # RM261a) from the Second Federal Revenue Issue, which was in use from 1 March 1801 until 30 June 1802. The first part of the stamp shows an eagle and shield and is denominated 10 cents. The second part, known as a counter stamp, shows a wreath with 13 stars; it is labeled “COM. REV. C.S.” (Commissioner of Revenue Counter Stamp) and bears the denomination “X CENTS”. Both parts appear along the left margin, under the S/Ship illustration.
The document reads in part:
“Shipped, in good order, and well conditioned, by Moses Brown in and upon the good Brig called the Respect whereof is Master for this present voyage, John March and now riding at anchor in the Port of Newbury port and bound for Amsterdam To say,
Fifty five hogsheads, Seven Tierces & Eighteen barrels of Brownd Sugar Nett weight six hundred thirty six hundred three quarter & 20 bound
Twenty Hogsheads N England Rum cont & Twenty to hundred & Sixty four Gallons. . ..
Freight for the said goods, viz, One hundred forty two pound eighteen Shillings & one penny ½ British Sterling. . ..”. Very good. Item #010091
Moses Brown was one of the wealthiest merchants in the United States and the second wealthiest person in Newburyport. He was a prominent landowner, shipbuilder, distiller, and owned a series of wharfs. He was also a notorious participant in the Triangle Trade that brought African slaves to the Americas. Although Brown neither traded nor shipped slaves, his huge business was an integral part of the other two-thirds of the Triangle Trade (sugar/molasses and rum). A plaque in the city’s public square, Brown Square, in the city reads,
“Brown became wealthy and helped the development of Newburyport based on his profits from the ‘Triangle Trade,’ the economic engine that drove much of the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries.”
Ironically, a statue of one of the most important American abolitionists, William Lloyd Garrison, stands in Brown Square, and Brown’s former residence, located along the square, has been converted into a hotel, the Garrison Inn.
Much of New England’s economy was built upon the slave trade, and Newburyport was a significant beneficiary. Prior to emancipation numerous families in the relatively small community owned slaves of their own. Many prominent families, besides Brown built or invested in ships that supplied the slave trade, knowing full-well the vessels were used to transport slaves purchased from rich and powerful African kings and merchants along the continents coast. Between 1734 and 1858, Newburyport citizens (mariners, merchants, ship owners, ship builders, carpenters, rum makers, innkeepers, etc.) profited mightily from the trade. Between 1734 and 1858, the 47 slave ships built in Newburyport were used to transport over 22,600 Africans over the brutal Middle Passage; more than 3,500 hundred of them died during before reaching the slave pens of the Caribbean, South America, and the United States.
(For more information, see Hendrickson’s “The economics of slavery” online at the Newburyport Daily News, “Your Ancestors Stayed with Us” at the Garrison Inn website, and “Brown Square” at the Newburyport Clipper Heritage Trail website.)
One of the nicest and most definitive Triangle Trade shipping documents we have seen documenting New England’s prominent role in the African Slave Trade. Collections of Moses Brown papers are held at several institutions including the Harvard Business School, University of California-Davis, and the University of South Carolina..