The ten largest bank holding companies in the United States are firmly in the hands of certain banking houses, all of which have branches in London. They are J.P. Morgan Company, Brown Brothers Harriman, Warburg, Kuhn Loeb and J. Henry Schroder. All of them maintain close relationships with the House of Rothschild, principally through the Rothschild control of international money markets through its manipulation of the price of gold. Each day, the world price of gold is set in the London office of N.M. Rothschild and Company.
Although these firms are ostensibly American firms, which merely maintain branches in London, the fact is that these banking houses actually take their direction from London. Their history is a fascinating one, and unknown to the American public, originating as it did in the international traffic in gold, slaves, diamonds, and other contraband. There are no moral considerations in any business decision made by these firms. They are interested solely in money and power.
Tourists today gape at the magnificent mansions of the very rich in Newport, Rhode Island, without realizing that not only do these “cottages” stand as a memorial to the baronial desires of our Victorian millionaires, but that their erection in Newport represented a nostalgic memorialization of the great American fortunes, which had their beginnings in Newport when it was the capital of the slave trade.
The slave trade for centuries had its headquarters in Venice, until Seventeenth Century Britain, the new master of the seas, used its control of the oceans to gain a monopoly. As the American colonies were settled, its fiercely independent people, most of whom did not want slaves, found to their surprise that slaves were being sent to our ports in great numbers.
For many years, Newport was the capital of this unsavory trade. William Ellery, the Collector of the Port of Newport, said in 1791:
“…an Ethiopian could as soon change his skin as a Newport merchant could be induced to change so lucrative a trade…. for the slow profits of any manufactory.”
John Quincy Adams remarked in his Diary, page 459, “Newport’s former prosperity was chiefly owing to its extensive employment in the African slave trade.”
The pre-eminence of J.P. Morgan and the Brown firm in American finance can be dated to the development of Baltimore as the nineteenth century capital of the slave trade. Both of these firms originated in Baltimore, opened branches in London, came under the aegis of the House of Rothschild, and returned to the United States to open branches in New York and to become the dominant power, not only in finance, but also in government. In recent years, key posts such as Secretary of Defense have been held by Robert Lovett, partner of Brown Brothers Harriman, and Thomas S. Gates, partner of Drexel and Company, a J.P. Morgan subsidiary firm. The present Vice President, George Bush, is the son of Prescott Bush, a partner of Brown Brothers Harriman, for many years the senator from Connecticut, and the financial organizer of Columbia Broadcasting System of which he also was a director for many years.
Two of the biggest names in the City of London had previously undisclosed links to slavery in the British colonies, documents seen by the Financial Times have revealed.
Nathan Mayer Rothschild, the banking family’s 19th-century patriarch, and James William Freshfield, founder of Freshfields, the top City law firm, benefited financially from slavery, records from the National Archives show, even though both have often been portrayed as opponents of slavery.
Far from being a matter of distant history, slavery remains a highly contentious issue in the US, where Rothschild and Freshfields are both active.
Companies alleged to have links to past slave injustices have come under pressure to make restitution.
The archival documents have already prompted one of the banks named in the records to take action in the US.
When the FT approached Royal Bank of Scotland with information about its predecessor’s links with slavery, the bank researched the claim, updated its own archives and amended the disclosures of past slave connections that it had previously lodged with the Chicago authorities.
But it is the disclosures about Mr Rothschild and Mr Freshfield that are likely to prompt the biggest stir.
In the case of Mr Rothschild, the documents reveal for the first time that he made personal gains by using slaves as collateral in banking dealings with a slave owner.
This will surprise those familiar with his role in organising the loan that funded the UK government’s bail-out of British slave owners when colonial slavery was abolished in the 1830s. It was the biggest bail-out of an industry as a percentage of annual government expenditure – dwarfing last year’s rescue of the banking sector.
The chief archivist of the Rothschild family papers, Melanie Aspey, reacted with disbelief when first told of the contents of the records, saying she had never seen such links before.
Niall Ferguson, Laurence A.Tisch professor of history at Harvard and author ofThe World’s Banker: A History of the House of Rothschild, said the documents showed “how pervasive slavery was in the structure of British wealth in 1830”.
In Mr Freshfield’s case, the records reveal that he and his sons had several slave-owner clients, mostly based in the Caribbean. The lawyers acted as trustees of the owners’ estates and in one case tried to claim unpaid legal fees for the firm through the government scheme set up to compensate owners after abolition.
Nick Draper, a University College London academic who examined the documents, which will now form the basis of a comprehensive British slavery database at UCL, said the records would hopefully promote a better understanding of of the significance of slavery in Britain.
“We need to fill the gaps between those who deny slavery’s role and those who believe Britain was built entirely on the blood of slaves,” he said.
Both Rothschild, the bank, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer were quick to point to their predecessors’ anti-slavery credentials.
Rothschild said Nathan Mayer Rothschild had been a prominent civil liberties campaigner with many like-minded associates and “against this background, these allegations appear inconsistent and misrepresent the ethos of the man and his business”.
Freshfields said James William Freshfield was an active member of the Church Missionary Society, “which was committed to … the abolition of the slave trade”.
Apologies and acknowledgements
Several institutions have apologised for, or acknowledged, their links to slavery including:
●In March 2002, Deadria C. Farmer-Paellmann, a lawyer and activist, launched an unsuccessful legal action against Aetna , a healthcare benefits company, and others for unjust enrichment through slavery. Legislation in California and Illinois prompted several companies to research their past and some to apologise and make atonement gestures.
●In mid-2000 Aetna, prompted by Ms Farmer-Paellmann, was one of the first to apologise for insurance policies written on slaves 140 years earlier.
●In 2002, New York Life, the insurer, donated documents about the insurance it sold to slave owners in the 1840s to a New York library. It also backed educational efforts.
●In 2005 JPMorgan, the investment bank, apologised that two of its predecessors in Louisiana – Citizens Bank and Canal Bank – had mortgaged slaves. The bank made its research public and set up a $5m scholarship fund for African- American pupils.
● Lehman Brothers apologised in 2005 for its predecessors’ links to slavery, while Bank of America said it regretted any actions its predecessors might have taken to support or tolerate slavery.
Wachovia Bank, since acquired by Wells Fargo, also apologised for its predecessors having owned and profited from slaves. It set up a programme offering $1bn in loans for black car dealerships.
●In October 2001 students at Yale University pointed out its past links with slavery. The university noted it had already founded the Gilder-Lehrman centre for the study of slavery.
Brown University has set up a commission to look into links with slavery and how it should make amends.
●In 2006 Tony Blair, prime minister, expressed “deep sorrow” for the UK’s role in the slave trade.
●Last week the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution apologising for slavery and segregation.
In the modern era, when the abolitionist movement sought to outlaw slavery, supporters of slavery used the Jewish laws to provide religious justification for the practice of slavery.
Slaves were seen as an essential part of a Hebrew household. In fact, there were cases in which, from a slave’s point of view, the stability of servitude under a family in which the slave was well-treated would have been preferable to economic freedom. It is impossible for scholars to quantify the number of slaves that were owned by Hebrews in ancient Israelite society, or what percentage of households owned slaves, but it is possible to analyze social, legal, and economic impacts of slavery.
The Hebrew Bible contains two sets of rules governing slaves: one set for Hebrew slaves (Lev 25:39-43) and a second set for Canaanite slaves (Lev 25:45-46). The main source of non-Hebrew slaves were prisoners of war. Hebrew slaves, in contrast to non-Hebrew slaves, became slaves either because of extreme poverty (in which case they could sell themselves to an Israelite owner) or because of inability to pay a debt. According to the Hebrew Bible, non-Hebrew slaves were drawn primarily from the neighboring Canaanite nations, and religious justification was provided for the enslavement of these neighbors: the rules governing Canaanites was based on a curse aimed at Canaan, a son of Ham. But in later eras the Canaanite slavery laws were stretched to apply to all non-Hebrew slaves.
the Talmud (circa 200–500 CE) contains an extensive set of laws governing slavery, which is more detailed, and different from the original laws found in the Jewish Bible.
The major change found in the Talmud’s slavery laws is that a single set of rules, with a few exceptions, governs both Jewish slaves and non-Jewish slaves. Another change was that the automatic release of Jewish slaves after 7 years is replaced by indefinite slavery, in conjunction with a process whereby the owner could—under certain situations—release the slave by a written document (a manumission).
One of the few rules that distinguished between Jewish and non-Jewish slaves regarded found property: items found by Jewish slaves were owned by the slave, but items found by a non-Jewish slave belonged to the slave owner. Another change was that the Talmud explicitly prohibits the freeing of a non-Jewish slave, which was stricter that the biblical law which was silent on the issue, and simply permitted slaves to be owned indefinitely. However, non-Jewish slaves could be freed and thus fully converted to Judaism, in some circumstances.
It is apparent that Jews still owned Jewish slaves in the Talmudic era, because Talmudic authorities tried to denounce the biblical permission that Jews could sell themselves into slavery if they were poverty-stricken. In particular, the Talmud said that Jews should not sell themselves to non-Jews, and if they did, the Jewish community was urged to ransom or redeem the slave.
Some scholars have asserted that the Curse of Ham described in Judaism’s religious texts was a justification for slavery – citing the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) verses Genesis 9:20-27 and the Talmud.
Sexual relations between a slave owner and engaged slaves is prohibited in the Torah (Lev. 19:20-22). However, the Torah allows sex with non-engaged slaves, by clarifying that if she is engaged when the master has sex with her, “they are not to be put to death, since she was not freed” (which implies that a woman’s slave status has direct bearing on whether she can be used for sex).
In the 19th century, Jewish scholars such as Moses Mielziner and Samuel Krauss studied slave-ownership by ancient Jews, and generally concluded that Jewish slaves were treated as merely temporary bondsman, and that Jewish owners treated slaves with special compassion. However, 20th century scholars such as Solomon Zeitlin and Ephraim Urbach, examined Jewish slave-ownership practices more critically, and their historical accounts generally conclude that Jews did permanently own Jewish slaves, and that Jewish slave-owners were no more compassionate than other slave owners of antiquity.
The first prohibition of Jews owning Christian slaves was made by Constantine I in the 4th century. The prohibition was repeated by subsequent councils – Fourth Council of Orléans (541), Paris (633), Fourth Council of Toledo (633), the Synod of Szabolcs (1092) extended the prohibition to Hungary, Ghent (1112), Narbonne (1227), Béziers (1246). It was part of Saint Benedict’s rule that Christian slaves were not to serve Jews.
Despite the prohibition Jewish participation in slave trading during the Middle Ages existed to some extent. Jews were the chief traders in the segment of Christian slaves at some epochs and played a significant role in the slave trade in some regions.
During the Middle Ages, Jews acted as slave-traders in Slavonia North Africa, Baltic States, Central and Eastern Europe, Spain and Portugal, and Mallorca.
The most significant Jewish involvement in the slave-trade was in Spain and Portugal during the 10th to 15th centuries.
Jewish participation in the slave trade was recorded as beginning in the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius permitted Jews to introduce slaves from Gaul into Italy, on the condition that they were non-Christian. In the 8th century, Charlemagne (ƒ 768-814) explicitly allowed Jews to act as intermediaries in the slave trade. In the 10th century, Spanish Jews traded in Slavonian slaves, whom the Caliphs of Andalusia purchased to form their bodyguards. In Bohemia, Jews purchased these Slavonian slaves for exportation to Spain and the west of Europe. William the Conqueror brought Jewish slave-traders with him from Rouen to England in 1066. At Marseilles in the 13th century, there were two Jewish slave-traders, as opposed to seven Christians.
Middle Ages historical records from the 9th century describe two routes by which Jewish slave-dealers carried slaves from west to east and from east to west. According to Abraham ibn Yakub, Byzantine Jewish merchants bought Slavs from Prague to be sold as slaves. Similarly, the Jews of Verdun, around the year 949, purchased slaves in their neighborhood and sold them in Spain.
Jews continued to own slaves during the 16th through 18th centuries, and ownership practices were still governed by Biblical and Talmudic laws. Myriad Hebrew and other sources indicate that owning slaves—particularly women of Slavic origin—was uniquely prevalent during this period among the Jewish households of the urban centres of the Ottoman Empire.
Jewish laws governing treatment of slaves were restated in the 12th century by noted rabbi Maimonides in his book Mishneh Torah, and again in the 16th century by Rabbi Yosef Karo in his book Shulchan Aruch.
The Atlantic slave trade transferred African slaves from Africa to colonies in the New World. Much of the slave trade followed a triangular route: slaves were transported from Africa to the Caribbean, sugar from there to North America or Europe, and manufactured goods from there to Africa. Jews and descendants of Jews participated in the slave trade on both sides of the Atlantic, in the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal on the eastern side, and in Brazil, Caribbean, and North America on the west side.
After Spain and Portugal expelled many of their Jewish residents in the 1490s, many Jews from Spain and Portugal migrated to the Americas and to the Netherlands. Jewish participation in the Atlantic slave trade increased through the 17th century because Spain and Portugal maintained a dominant role in the Atlantic trade and peaked in the early 18th century, but started to decline after the Peace of Utrecht in 1713 when Britain obtained the right to sell slaves in Spanish colonies, and Britain and France started to compete with Spain and Portugal.
The New World location where Jews played the largest role in the slave-trade was in the Caribbean and Suriname, most notably in possessions of the Netherlands, that were serviced by the Dutch West India Company. The slave trade was one of the most important occupations of Jews living in Suriname and the Caribbean. The Jews of Suriname were the largest slave-holders in the region.
According to Austen, “the only places where Jews came close to dominating the New World plantation systems were Curaçao and Suriname.” Slave auctions in the Dutch colonies were postponed if they fell on a Jewish holiday. Jewish merchants in the Dutch colonies acted as middlemen, buying slaves from the Dutch West India Company, and reselling them to plantation owners. The majority of buyers at slave auctions in the Brazil and the Dutch colonies were Jews. Jews allegedly played a “major role” in the slave trade in Barbados and Jamaica, and Jewish plantation owners in Suriname helped suppress several slave revolts between 1690 to 1722.
In 1991, the Nation of Islam (NOI) published The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, which alleged that Jews had dominated the Atlantic slave trade.
Historian Ralph A. Austen heavily criticized the book and said that although the book may seem fairly accurate, it is an anti-Semitic book. However, he added that before the publication of The Secret Relationship, some scholars were reluctant to discuss Jewish involvement in slavery because of fear of damaging the “shared liberal agenda” of Jews and African Americans. Historian Ralph Austen, however, acknowledges “Sephardi Jews in the New World had been heavily involved in the African slave trade.”
Jewish slave owners included Aaron Lopez, Francis Salvador, Judah Touro, and Haym Salomon.
Rabbi Morris Jacob Raphall defended slavery as it was practiced in the South because slavery was endorsed by the Bible. In 1861, Raphall published his views in a treatise called “The Bible View of Slavery”. Raphall, and other pro-slavery rabbis such as Isaac Leeser and J. M. Michelbacher (both of Virginia), used the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) to support their arguments.
America’s largest Jewish community, New York’s Jews were overwhelmingly pro-southern, pro-slavery, and anti-Lincoln in the early years of the war.”
The first Jew elected to the U.S. Senate, Florida’s David Yulee, was one of the most strident haters of Indians and defenders of slavery in American history. The distressing reality is that nearly all the Jewish slave dealers enjoyed prominent and honored places among their co-religionists. The profits from their slavery-based enterprises helped finance Jewish community development, built synagogues, homes, schools, businesses, and institutions, and in many untold ways enriched their lives and communities. Actually, one is hard-pressed to name a single prominent American Jew in the slavery era who did not own slaves or profit directly from Black African slavery.
In his 1983 book Jews and Judaism in the United States, Rabbi Dr. Marc Lee Raphael, the longtime editor of the most prestigious Jewish historical journal wrote in two paragraphs (p. 14) one of the more definitive statements on Jewish involvement in the Black Holocaust: “… Jewish merchants played a major role in the slave trade. In fact, in all the American colonies, whether French (Martinique), British, or Dutch, Jewish merchants frequently dominated. This was no less true on the North American mainland, where during the eighteenth century Jews participated in the “triangular trade” that brought slaves from Africa to the West Indies and there exchanged them for molasses, which in turn was taken to New England and converted into rum for sale in Africa …”
The commerce of the Maranos served an important function in the development of trade between Europe, America, and the Levant. Manasseh ben Israel, in his “Declaration” to the English Parliament, gives an interesting account of the wide extent of Jewish trade due to their family connections and common language (ed. Wolf, pp. 2, 3). The precious metals mined in America were transported to Spain and Portugal, and thence, in exchange for Oriental goods, were passed on to Antwerp, which thereby became the financial center of Europe. Jewish Marano families were especially active in all these countries. The Caceres family had members in Hamburg, England, Austria, the West Indies, Barbados, and Surinam in the middle of the seventeenth century. Similarly extended connections are found with the Conegliano and Alḥadib families. The Mendez family was connected at first with Antwerp, then with Constantinople, while a branch, the Gradis family, settled at Bordeaux, dominated French colonial trade. Benjamin Gradis sent out wine, alcohol, meal, and pickled meats to Cayenne, Martinique, and San Domingo, getting sugar and indigo in return. The Maranos were especially active in the American interstate trade.
From Curaçao Joshua Mordecai Henriquez shipped to New Netherland in 1568 Venetian pearls and pendants, thimbles, scissors, knives, and bells. The Jewish trade from Jamaica became so extensive that the English traders of that island petitioned against Jews being allowed to trade from it unless they became endenizened. By 1753 the greater part of the British trade with the Spanish West Indies was in the hands of the Jews, especially the trade of Jamaica with the Spanish main (“Consideration onthe Act of 1753,” p. 40). Aaron Lopez of Newport had no less than thirty ships engaged in this trade (see M. J. Kohler, in “Pub. Am. Jew. Hist. Soc.” x. 62). This trade was naturally fostered by the Jews of New York, who were not allowed to engage in retail trade from 1683 (ib. v.). From Marseilles an extensive trade with the Levant was maintained by Spanish Jews.
In the ten years 1670-79 the firm of Joseph Vaez Villarreal & Company insured ships to the amount of 866,400 livres (“Rev. Et. Juives,” xi. 142). In 1693 merchants of Marseilles petitioned the intendant of Provence not to allow French subjects to lend their names to Jews bringing silk from the Levant, especially from Smyrna (ib. xii. 270). The Gorneyim of Algiers practically monopolized the trade between that port and Leghorn in the seventeenth century. (Gränwald, “Juden als Seefahrer,” 1902, p. 48).
Meanwhile in Central Europe a special Jewish commerce was being developed in connection with the great fairs, especially during the Thirty Years’ war. They purchased the soldiers’ loot and thus acquired capital. The position of Jews as pawnbrokers led naturally to pedling. These pedlers often developed into traveling traders, purchasing the products of the villages, especially furs and leather, which they sold at the Fairs, especially at the great fair at Leipsic, which, after the close of the Thirty Years’ war, became a clearing-house for the wares of North Germany. During the last quarter of the seventeenth century, 15,620 Jews, with 2,362 dependents, visited the three annual fairs at Leipsic, making an average of nearly 240 Jews at each fair. These came from all quarters of Europe; not less than 321 places are mentioned by M. Freudenthal (“Die Jüdischen Besucher der Leipziger Messen,” Frankfort, 1902). Chief among these were Prague, Hamburg, Halberstadt, Berlin, Dessau, Frankfort, and, beyond Germany, Amsterdam and Venice. As early as 1590 Jews used to import fur, leather, lumber, and grain from Moscow to Gnesen. The memoirs of Glückl von Hameln show that these visits to the fairs were of social as well as of commercial importance. The Frankfort fair became the center of the Hebrew book trade in the seventeenth century (“Rev. Et. Juives,” viii. 75).
By this means new connections were made with different parts of Europe by the rising Jewish merchants, and the international trade of the continent became concentrated for a time in their hands. The fur trade in particular was monopolized by Jews, owing to their wide connections, ranging from Novgorod to Nantes (“Rev. Et. Juives,” xxxiii. 97). Similarly the Jews of Avignon, in the seventeenth century, used to travel as far as Nimes and Montpellier (ib. xxxiv. 280), where they sold mules on credit, and thus took the business out of the hands of the Christian merchants of Languedoc. In 1738 the latter obtained a decree from the intendant of Provence prohibiting the sale of mules by Jews, though this decree was afterward withdrawn. In like manner German and Polish Jews, toward the end of the eighteenth century, settled in the chief English ports of the south and west as small pawnbrokers and shopkeepers, sending out agents from Monday to Friday to the neighboring villages (L. Wolf, “Family of Yates and Samuel,” p. 2, London, 1901).
The amount of trade conducted by the Jews depended in a large measure on the municipal or other authorities. In 1603 Henry IV. granted to Jews of Metz the right to trade, which was confirmed by Louis XIV. in 1657 (Jost, “Geschichte,” ix. 31). So, too, the Jews of Leghorn were permitted to trade from 1668 (Bedarride, “Les Juifs,” p. 364); on the other hand, the Jews of Rome and Ancona were only permitted to deal in secondhand clothing (Vogelstein and Rieger, ii. 198). As a rule, however, the right to trade was one of the municipal rights, and these were not granted the Jews till well on toward the middle of the nineteenth century. They were therefore generally confined to pawnbroking, pedling, and second-hand clothing, in which for a considerable time they had a monopoly. With the spread of colonization Jewish merchants found new spheres, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, where there was little opposition to them.
The firms of Montefiore in Australia, of Mosenthal and of Bergtheil in South Africa, were among the pioneers of those colonies, and a large proportion of the English colonial shipping trade was for a considerable time in the hands of Jews.
On the continent of Europe Jews performed a special function in mediating between the domestic industries of the villages and the markets and manufactories of the chief towns. Thus in Vienna the woolen manufacturers obtained their raw material from Jewish traders who traveled round to Iglau, Reichenberg, and Brünn. Before the emancipation many expedients had to be resorted to before this centralization of the wool industry could be effected. Thus the firm of Tuchowsky used to have a Christian agent at Vienna to represent its interests. When he died one of the firm had to submit to baptism in order to reside in Vienna (S. Mayer, in Bloch’s “Wochenschrift,” Nov. 14, 1902).
Owing to a variety of circumstances the number of Jews applying themselves to commerce is heavily in excess of their proportion to the general population. Thus in Prussia in 1861 among adult workers 58 per cent of Jews were engaged in commerce as against 6 per cent of the rest of the population (Legoyt, “Immunités,” p. 34), while in Italy the proportion was as 55 to 5. These figures are somewhat misleading, as most Jews live in cities; but, after allowing for this factor, a large discrepancy still remains. At Berlin, e.g., in 1871 61.4 per cent of Jews were in commerce against 15.4 of the rest of the population (H. Schwabe, “Berlin in 1871,” p. 100); in Vienna, 33.1 per cent against 11.5 per cent (Jeitteles, “Israeliten zu Wien”). Altogether it may be said that thrice as many Jews adopt commercial pursuits. The particular branch of commerce in which Jews appear to excel is mainly the “commerce of intangibles”—that is, dealing with money per se—and they excel as factors and shippers. The clothing trades seem to be largely in the hands of Jews, both as regards manufacture and the wholesale and retail trade. This may have developed out of the restriction to the sale of second-hand clothing, but is probably due more to the economic pressure brought to bear in the Russian ghettos. The trade in furs and feathers is also largely in Jewish hands as a relic of the old peregrinations of the Jewish peddlers in East Europe, and can be traced back to the time of the Chazars. The fancy-goods trade is almost invariably a trade in imports, and here the cosmopolitan connections of the Jews have helped them to achieve conspicuous success. In England the fruit trade is wholly in the hands of Jews, because fruit can be sold on Sunday, and therefore the keeping of the Sabbath is not an obstacle to Jewish fruit-traders.
Most historians agree that the beginning of the slave trade in the New World took place in 1517. The Spanish Bishop, Bartholomew de Las Casas took steps to encourage the importation of Blacks to the New World. In so doing he persuaded Charles V to encourage immigration to the New World by permitting Spaniards to import twelve slaves each.
It is a well-known fact that slavery was a very profitable business. The Spanish and later the Portuguese were the first major slave traders. Later the Dutch, French and English came to dominate the slave trade.”
In the 16th century a transatlantic triangular trade route developed. Europeans shipped goods, alcohol and arms to Africa, purchased slaves and took them to the island colonies in the Caribbean. Slaves were transported through the Atlantic from Africa in appalling conditions on cargo ships roughly converted to carry as many slaves as possible.
At Jamestown in 1619 Blacks were first introduced to slavery in North America. At least ten million Blacks were brought to the New World as slaves. And many historians note that millions of Blacks died during slavery. The number ranges from one million to 10 million Blacks that died during the slave period. Some died from starvation and disease. Also many Blacks chose to take their lives rather than suffer the abuse placed on them by the demented and perverted crews that sailed on slave ships. Therefore, many Blacks died during the infamous middle-passage (the voyage to America) and many died at the hands of their captors.”
In the 18th century the African slave trade became an important economic institution. The English soon came to dominate the slave trade. In time the major slave traders became the English, French, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese.”
All the ships that sailed with a human cargo of slaves were not sponsored by crown governments, but by banks of Europe. “The greatest money lenders and bankers in Europe during the time of the slave trade were the Jews.” “Most of the first Jewish immigrants to the U.S. were Spanish and Portuguese.
In fact, Jews had so much money that a Polish Jew named Haym Salomon loaned money to te distressed Continental Government of America. Salomon and another prominent Jew, Philip Minis frequently advanced money to pay the bills for the Continental Army.”
“So Jews in the New World just like Jews in the Old World were the big money lenders. They even helped finance the American Revolution. And later, they helped the southern slave masters finance the purchase of slaves to maintain the plantation system in the South.”
Unhygienic conditions, dehydration, dysentery and scurvy led to a high mortality rate, on average 15% and up to a third of captives died on the passage. Conditions aboard the slave ships were wretched. Men, women and children crammed into every available space, denied adequate room, food or breathing space.
The transportation of slaves from Africa to America was known as the Middle Passage. The most important routes of the slave ships led from the northern and middle coasts of Africa to South America and the south coast of what is today the Caribbean and the United States of America. The captains and sailors of the boats were allowed to do whatever they wanted with the slaves. This included rape, murder, and torture because the slaves were considered their property.
As many as 20 million Africans were transported by ship.
On the morning of May 22, 1829, a suspected slaver was sighted and the naval vessel gave chase. The next day, a favorable wind allowed the interceptor to gain on its quarry and approach close enough to fire two shots across her bow. The slaver heaved to and an armed party from the interceptor scrambled aboard her.
She had taken in, on the coast of Africa, 336 males and 226 females, making in all 562, and had been out seventeen days, during which she had thrown overboard 55.
The slaves were all enclosed under grated hatchways between decks. The space was so low that they sat between each other’s legs and were stowed so close together that there was no possibility of their lying down or at all changing their position by night or day. As they belonged to and were shipped on account of different individuals, they were all branded like sheep with the owner’s marks of different forms.
But the circumstance which struck us most forcibly was how it was possible for such a number of human beings to exist, packed up and wedged together as tight as they could cram, in low cells three feet high, the greater part of which, except that immediately under the grated hatchways, was shut out from light or air, and this when the thermometer, exposed to the open sky, was standing in the shade, on our deck, at 89′. The space between decks was divided into two compartments 3 feet 3 inches high; the size of one was 16 feet by 18 and of the other 40 by 21; into the first were crammed the women and girls, into the second the men and boys: 226 fellow creatures were thus thrust into one space 288 feet square and 336 into another space 800 feet square, giving to the whole an average Of 23 inches and to each of the women not more than 13 inches.
The officers, however, persisted, and the poor beings were all turned up together. It is impossible to conceive the effect of this eruption – 517 fellow creatures of all ages and sexes, some children, some adults, some old men and women, all in a state of total nudity, scrambling out together to taste the luxury of a little fresh air and water.
The African slave trade was outlawed in 1807, by a law passed jointly in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, the applicable UK Act was the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act and outlawed slavery throughout the British Empire. The US law took effect on January 1, 1808. After that date all US and English slave ships leaving Africa were legally pirate vessels subject to capture by the American and British navies. In 1815, at the Council of Vienna, Spain, Portugal, France and The Netherlands also agreed to abolish their slave trade.
Adelaide, French slave ship, sank 1714 near Cuba.
The Adelaide perished off the Cuban coast in 1714, and was discovered and then excavated by Franck Goddio and his team. The French frigate weighing 400 tons left France from the port of Lorient in Brittany to pick up 360 slaves in Guinea. After disembarking the slaves in Leogane, Haiti, fate caught up with the Adelaide. During the night of 10th October, she was thrown onto a reef by a hurricane and sank within an hour. The frigate broke in two parts: its bow was washed ashore with some survivors and its stern sank. Only 45 men were able to escape, with the wreck causing 106 fatalities. Among the survivors was the Captain, M. Champmorot, who was later held responsible for the disaster before a French court – but found not guilty. Because the Adelaide sank during a hurricane, much of the ship was destroyed. The remains of the stern were scattered due to heavy currents and only heavy artefacts stayed on the spot of the wreck. As well as two anchors, parts of the ship’s rigging, broken ceramics, navigation instruments, and objects of daily life were recovered during the excavations.
Antelope, was a slave ship captured near Florida in 1820, with 283 slaves aboard.
The Antelope was a ship of a little more than 112 tons burthen built in Freeport, Maine in 1802. In 1809 it was sold to a foreign owner, and in 1819 it passed to a Spanish owner in Cadiz, who renamed it the Fenix.
The Antelope case was set in motion when the ship Columbia left Baltimore in 1819, flying a Venezuelian flag, with an American crew. Shortly after leaving the US, it hoisted a flag of an obscure Latin American republic, changed its name to Arrganta, and set a course for the east coast of Africa. While there it attacked several ships carrying slaves — one was a US ship, several were Portuguese, and a final one was a Spanish ship, the Antelope. The Arraganta and the newly captured Antelope then together headed to South America. Off the coast of Brazil the Arraganta wrecked and the surviving crew and slaves were then consolidated on The Antelope. The Antelope sailed around the Caribbean trying to sell its human cargo. It stopped at Surinam — hence the image of John Greenwood’s Sea Captains Carousing in Surinam from the St. Louis Museum of Art — and it eventually was captured off the coast of Florida, where it was getting ready to unload its human cargo — in violation of US law. Thus was set up a question about which of the people (if any) on The Antelope was a slave and why?
The short version of what Marshall decided was this: The Antelope had human cargo from ships of three different countries — the US, Spain, and Portugal. The slaves from the US ship were free because the US had prohibited its ships from engaging in the slave international trade; Spain and Portugal, however, still permitted the international slave trade — so the slaves who came off their ships might need to be returned to their “owners.” No one from Portugal showed up to claim the slaves, which led Marshall to believe that the true “owners” were not from Portugal but from some country that had prohibited the slave trade. Hence the slaves attributed to Portugal were also freed.
Another version: In 1819 a privateer named “Columbia” sailed from Baltimore to the coast of Africa. The Columbia flew the flag of Uruguayan revolutionary leader Jose Artigas. The ship turned to piracy on the high seas, and was renamed several times in order to hide its identity. While sailing under the name “General Ramirez,” the crew commandeered an American slave ship named Antelope. The two ships sailed together to Brazil to sell their human cargo, where the General Ramirez was wrecked.
Both the commandeering of the boat, as well as the ensuing trial, are the subject of the book Dark Places of the Earth, by Jonathan M. Bryant.
On June 29, 1820, the United States Revenue-Marine cutter Dallas captured the slave ship Antelope, carrying some 280 Africans, off the coast of Florida (which was still Spanish at the time) on suspicion that it intended to illegally import slaves into the United States.
The ship had been built in the U.S. It was later sold to a Spanish owner, renamed Fenix, and licensed by the Spanish government to carry slaves from Africa to Cuba. The Antelope had been captured by a privateer at Cabinda, renamed General Ramirez, and used to transport slaves already on board, as well as slaves taken from other ships flying the Portuguese flag, and from an American ship. The Antelope, its crew, and the Africans aboard were taken to Savannah, Georgia.
Captain John Jackson of the Dallas filed a claim (called a “libel” in admiralty law) in federal court in admiralty in Savannah to be paid either $25 a head for the Africans on the Antelope under the provisions of the 1819 Act in Addition to the acts prohibiting the slave trade, if they were free, or the salvage value as property lost at sea, if they were slaves of Spanish and Portuguese owners.
In early August, libels were filed in federal court in admiralty that 150 or more of the Africans aboard the Antelope belonged to the King of Spain, and that 130 belonged to the King of Portugal. Later in August Richard W. Habersham, the United States District Attorney for Georgia, filed a libel in court that under the Act in Addition, the Africans on the Antelope were free, on the grounds that they had been removed from Africa by persons intending to sell them in the United States.
- Out of 331 people originally captured and put aboard the Antelope,
only 258 remained alive – a 22% loss of life.
- 83% of the captives were under the age of 20.
- The average age of all the captives was 14.
- 106 were between the ages of 5 and 10.
- 8 were between the ages of 2 and 5.
One of the most telling scenes is when the Antelope case finally arrives at the Supreme Court of the United States in 1825, five years after the captives set foot in Georgia. The legendary John Marshall was Chief Justice and four of the justices were slave owners. The attorney for the supposed owners of the captives, Spanish and Portuguese citizens, was a slave owner as well. Enter the attorney for the government of United States trying to free the captives, Francis Scott Key. The same F.S. Key of the Star-Spangled Banner fame had slaves of his own.
Aurore, along with the Duc du Maine, the first French slave ships that brought the first slaves to Louisiana.
La Amistad, cargo ship that sometimes carried slaves (see note below).
La Amistad became a symbol in the movement to abolish slavery after a group of African captives aboard revolted in July 1839. Its recapture resulted in a legal battle over their status.
Braunfisch, a Brandenburgian slave ship lost in 1688 in a revolt.
Brookes, sailing in the 1780s.
City of Norfolk, fitted out in New York City by Albert Horn.
Clotilde, burned and sunk at Mobile, in autumn 1859.
- Cora, captured by the USS Constellation in 1860.
- Creole, involved in the United States coastwise slave trade and the scene of a slave rebellion in 1841, leading to the Creole case.
- Desire, first American slave ship.
- Elisabeth, sailing from Jamaica for West Africa.
- Duc du Maine, along with the Aurore, the first French slave ships that brought the first slaves to Louisiana.
- Fredensborg, Danish slave ship, sank in 1768 off Tromøy in Norway, after a journey in the triangular trade. Leif Svalesen has written a book about the journey.
- Guerrero, Spanish slave ship wrecked in the Florida Keys in 1827 carrying 561 Africans.
- Hannibal. An English slaver of the Atlantic slave trade.
- Henrietta Marie. Sank 1700 near Marquesas Keys, Florida, excavated in 1980s.
- Hope, American brig that brought slaves to Rhode Island
- Jesus of Lübeck 700-ton ship used on the second voyage of John Hawkins to transport 400 captured Africans in 1564. Queen Elizabeth I was his partner and rented him the vessel.
- Kron-Printzen, Danish slave ship, sank in 1706 with 820 slaves on board.
- La Concord. Slave ship captured by the pirate Blackbeard (Edward Teach), used as his flagship and renamed the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Run aground in June of 1718.
- Lord Ligonier. See Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley.
- Don Francisco. Slave ship captured in 1837. Sold as a colonial trader renamed James Matthews. Excavated by Western Australian Museum in 1974
- Madre de Deus (Mother of God), 1567. John Hawkins captured this ship and transported 400 Africans.
- Manuela, built as clipper ship Sunny South, captured by HMS Brisk in Mozambique Channel with over 800 slaves aboard.
- Margaret Scott confiscated and sunk as part of the Stone fleet in 1862
- Meermin, a Dutch East India Company ship active between southern Africa and Madagascar, whose final voyage in 1766 ended in mutiny by the slaves: around half the crew and nearly 30 Malagasy died, and the ship was destroyed.
- Nightingale, clipper ship captured by Saratoga near Cabinda, Angola in 1861 with 961 slaves aboard.
- Pons, American-built barque captured by the USS Yorktown 1 December 1845 with 850–900 slaves.
- Salamander, Brandenburgian slave ship.
- São José Paquete Africa, Portuguese slave ship which sank off the coast of South Africa in 1794 killing over 200 of the enslaved men and women.
- Sally, of Newport, Rhode Island – reviewed in the Report of the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice.
- Tecora, Portuguese slave ship that transported the slaves who would later revolt aboard La Amistad.
- Triton captured by the USS Constellation 1861.
- Trouvadore, wrecked in Turks and Caicos 1841. 193 slaves survived. Project commenced in 2004 to locate the ship.
- Wanderer, formerly last slave ship to the U.S. (November 1858) until Clotilde reported in 1859 or 1860.
- Wildfire, a barque, arrested off the Florida coast by the US Navy in 1860; carrying 450 slaves.
- Whydah Gally, slave ship turned into pirate ship. Captured by the pirate Captain Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy, grounded during a Nor’easter and sunk in April of 1717.
- Zong, a British slave ship infamous for the 1781 massacre of 132 sick and dying slaves who were thrown overboard in an attempt to guarantee that the ship’s owners could collect on their cargo insurance.
In 1991, the Nation of Islam, a branch of the Black Nationalist Movement, published a copiously footnoted book intriguingly titled The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews. The Nation of Islam won’t say who wrote the book, though in one sermon, Minister Farrakhan attributes it to an individual by the name of “Alan Hamet.” It is published by “The Historical Research Department of the Nation of Islam,” which has three titles to its credit: The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, vol. 1, The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, vol. 2, and a third book simply titled Jews Selling Blacks. “This is a scholarly work, not put together by nincompoops!” Farrakhan exclaimed about The Secret Relationship during a sermon. The book claimed to provide “irrefutable evidence that the most prominent of the Jewish pilgrim fathers [sic] used kidnapped Black Africans disproportionately more than any other ethnic or religious group in New World history.”
“The history books appear to have confused the word Jews for the word jewel,” the anonymous author states. “Queen Isabella’s jewels had no part in the finance of Columbus’ expedition, but her Jews did.”
For example, the book’s anonymous author cites the fact that in 1774, the Jews of Jamaica owned 310 slaves, which, horrific as it is, is only 4 percent of the total slave population in Jamaica at that time (7,424). A grand total of 12 Jews owned plantations, and yet this doesn’t stop the author from concluding that Jews dominated the trade.
Dr. Raphael’s book Jews and Judaism in the United States: A Documentary History (New York: Behrman House, Inc., Pub, 1983), pp. 14, 23-25.
“Jews also took an active part in the Dutch colonial slave trade; indeed, the by-laws of the Recife and Mauricia congregations (1648) included an imposta (Jewish tax) of five soldos for each Negro slave a Brazilian Jew purchased from the West Indies Company.
Slave auctions were postponed if they fell on a Jewish holiday.
In Curacao in the seventeenth century, as well as in the British colonies of Barbados and Jamaica in the eighteenth century, Jewish merchants played a major role in the slave trade. In fact, in all the American colonies, whether French (Martinique), British, or Dutch, Jewish merchants frequently dominated.
“This was no less true on the North American mainland, where during the eighteenth century Jews participated in the ‘triangular trade’ that brought slaves from Africa to the West Indies and there exchanged them for molasses, which in turn was taken to New England and converted into rum for sale in Africa.
Isaac Da Costa of Charleston in the 1750’s, David Franks of Philadelphia in the 1760’s, and Aaron Lopez of Newport in the late 1760’s and early 1770’s dominated Jewish slave trading on the American continent.”
Dr. Raphael discusses the central role of the Jews in the New World commerce and the African slave trade (pp. 23-25):
SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES JEWISH INTER-ISLAND TRADE: CURACAO, 1656
During the sixteenth century, exiled from their Spanish homeland and hard-pressed to escape the clutches of the Inquisition, Spanish and Portuguese Jews fled to the Netherlands; the Dutch enthusiastically welcomed these talented, skilled businessmen.
While thriving in Amsterdam – where they became the hub of a unique urban Jewish universe and attained status that anticipated Jewish emancipation in the West by over a century – they began in the 1500’s and 1600’s to establish themselves in the Dutch and English colonies in the New World. These included Curacao, Surinam, Recife, and New Amsterdam (Dutch) as well as Barbados, Jamaica, Newport, and Savannah (English).
In these European outposts the Jews, with their years of mercantile experience and networks of friends and family providing market reports of great use, played a significant role in the merchant capitalism, commercial revolution, and territorial expansion that developed the New World and established the colonial economies. The Jewish-Caribbean nexus provided Jews with the opportunity to claim a disproportionate influence in seventeenth and eighteenth century New World commerce, and enabled West Indian Jewry-far outnumbering its coreligionists further north-to enjoy a centrality which North American Jewry would not achieve for a long time to come.
Groups of Jews began to arrive in Surinam in the middle of the seven-teenth century, after the Portuguese regained control of northern Brazil. By 1694, twenty-seven years after the British had surrendered Surinam to the Dutch, there were about 100 Jewish families and fifty single Jews there, or about 570 persons. They possessed more than forty estates and 9,000 slaves, contributed 25,905 pounds of sugar as a gift for the building of a hospital, and carried on an active trade with Newport and other colonial ports. By 1730, Jews owned 115 plantations and were a large part of a sugar export business which sent out 21,680,000 pounds of sugar to European and New World markets in 1730 alone.
Slave trading was a major feature of Jewish economic life in Surinam which as a major stopping-off point in the triangular trade. Both North American and Caribbean Jews played a key role in this commerce: records of a slave sale in 1707 reveal that the ten largest Jewish purchasers (10,400 guilders) spent more than 25 percent of the total funds (38,605 guilders) exchanged.
Jewish economic life in the Dutch West Indies, as in the North American colonies, consisted primarily of mercantile communities, with large inequities in the distribution of wealth. Most Jews were shopkeepers, middlemen, or petty merchants who received encouragement and support from Dutch authorities. In Curacao, for example, Jewish communal life began after the Portuguese victory in 1654.
In 1656, the community founded a congregation, and in the early 1670’s brought its first rabbi to the island. Curacao, with its large natural harbor, was the stepping-stone to the other Caribbean islands and thus ideally suited geographically for commerce.
The Jews were the recipients of favorable charters containing generous economic privileges granted by the Dutch West Indies Company in Amsterdam. The economic life of the Jewish community of Curacao revolved around ownership of sugar plantations and marketing of sugar, the importing of manufactured goods, and a heavy involvement in the slave trade, within a decade of their arrival, Jews owned 80 percent of the Curacao plantations. The strength of the Jewish trade lay in connections in Western Europe as well as ownership of the ships used in commerce. While Jews carried on an active trade with French and English colonies in the Caribbean, their principal market was the Spanish Main (today Venezuela and Colombia).
Extant tax lists give us a glimpse of their dominance.
Of the eighteen wealthiest Jews in the 1702 and 1707 tax lists, nine either owned a ship or had at least a share in a vessel. By 1721 a letter to the Amsterdam Jewish community claimed that “nearly all the navigation…was in the hands of the Jews.”‘
Yet another indication of the economic success of Curacao’s Jews is the fact that in 1707 the island’s 377 residents were assessed by the Governor and his Council a total of 4,002 pesos; 104 Jews, or 27.6 percent of the taxpayers, contributed 1,380 pesos, or 34.5 percent of the entire amount assessed.
In the British West Indies, two 1680 tax lists survive, both from Barbados; they, too, provide useful information about Jewish economic life. In Bridgetown itself, out of a total of 404 households, 54 households or 300 persons were Jewish, 240 of them living in “ye Towne of S. Michael ye Bridge Town.” Contrary to most impressions, “many, indeed, most of them, were very poor.” There were only a few planters, and most Jews were not naturalized or endenizened (and thus could not import goods or pursue debtors in court). But for merchants holding letters of endenization, opportunities were not lacking. Barbados sugar-and its by-products rum and molasses-were in great demand, and in addition to playing a role in its export, Jewish merchants were active in the import trade.
Forty-five Jewish households were taxed in Barbados in 1680, and more than half of them contributed only 11.7 percent of the total sum raised. While the richest five gave almost half the Jewish total, they were but 11.1 percent of the taxable population. The tax list of 1679-80 shows a similar picture; of fifty-one householders, nineteen (37.2 percent) gave less than one-tenth of the total, while the four richest merchants gave almost one-third of the total.
An interesting record of inter-island trade involving a Jewish merchant and the islands of Barbados and Curacao comes from correspondence of 1656. It reminds us that sometimes the commercial trips were not well planned and that Jewish captains – who frequently acted as commercial agents as well – would decide where to sell their cargo, at what price, and what goods to bring back on the return trip.
Name Of Slave Ships And Their Owners:
The ‘Abigail-Caracoa’ – Aaron Lopez, Moses Levy, Jacob Crown
Isaac Levy and Nathan Simpson
The’Nassau’ – Moses Levy
The ‘Four Sisters’ – Moses Levy
The ‘Anne’ & The ‘Eliza’ – Justus Bosch and John Abrams
The ‘Prudent Betty’ – Henry Cruger and Jacob Phoenix
The ‘Hester’ – Mordecai and David Gomez
The ‘Elizabeth’ – Mordecai and David Gomez
The ‘Antigua’ – Nathan Marston and Abram Lyell
The ‘Betsy’ – Wm. De Woolf
The ‘Polly’ – James De Woolf
The ‘White Horse’ – Jan de Sweevts
The ‘Expedition’ – John and Jacob Roosevelt
The ‘Charlotte’ – Moses and Sam Levy and Jacob Franks
The ‘Franks’ – Moses and Sam Levy