Item #010202 1849 – “Bill of Health” certificate for a California schooner built to transport gold hunters that had picked up cargo destined for Boston at the Dutch Slave Island of Bonaire located in Caribbean

1849 – “Bill of Health” certificate for a California schooner built to transport gold hunters that had picked up cargo destined for Boston at the Dutch Slave Island of Bonaire located in Caribbean

Bonaire (Dutch Slave Islan in the Caribbeaan): 1849. Unbound.

This partially printed certificate measures approximately 8” x 11”. It is titled, “Bill of Health / Vice Consulate of the United States of America. / Bonaire 29th of July 1849”. In nice shape with splits starting along its storage folds.

The certificate reads in part:

“I, William Ernst Boye, Vice- Consul of the United States of America for the port of Bonaire, do hereby certify, that the Schooner . . . called the Sylvan of Stockton, of the registered burden of 137 tons, whereof B. E. Young is Master, . . . being in all Seven persons on board, cleared this day at port for Boston. I further certify, that in this port and its vicinity, good health prevails, without any suspicion of plague or contagious distemper whatso ever. . ..”

. Very good. Item #010202

In an effort to stop the spread of serious diseases, ship Bills of Health were issued by government officials to certify ships, cargo, passengers, and crew were likely free of contagious disease;. This was especially important when ships stopped at ports of call known for health problems or during times of epidemics. Despite possessing a Bill of Health, ships would likely be inspected by health or customs officers before being allowed to dock at their destinations. If any trace of disease was found onboard, the ships, cargo, passengers, and crew would be quarantined for periods of time before being allowed to land.

Salt was the only export from Bonaire, an official Dutch government Caribbean slave plantation. In 1633, it along with the islands of Curacao and Aruba were seized by the Dutch navy from Spain. Curacao became the center of the North American slave trade, and Bonaire was established as an official slave plantation. Rather than use African slaves for agriculture, these Katibu di Rey (Slaves of the King) were forced to harvest salt. Their work was unbearably grueling and painful (to exposed bare feet and hands) in the hot and blinding tropical sun. Bonaire salt formed in basins, known as pans, and the enslaved workers chopped away chunks, which they transported by head baskets or, if fortunate, by wheel barrows to small boats that then carried the cargo to seagoing vessels anchored off shore.

The Sylvan was built in 1849 to bring gold hunters to California by the German sea captain and founder of Stockton, Charles Weber, who had previously received a grant of 50,000 acres from the Spanish government.

(For more information, see “Slave Huts” at the Beautiful Bonaire website and “Slave Huts - The Dark Past of Bonaire's Salt Industry” at the Blue Oceans website.)

An exceptionally scarce document linking public health, the California Gold Rush, African Slave Trade, and a draconian Dutch slave plantation, while testifying to abolitionist New England’s hypocritical willingness to turn a blind eye to slave-produced goods. Apparently the only surviving example. No others are for sale in the trade. None have appeared for auction per the Rare Book Hub, and none held in institutional collections per OCLC.

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Price: $1,500.00