[SLAVE TRADE]. FOOTE, Andrew Hull (1806-1863), Admiral, U.S.N. Manuscript letterbook kept by Lt. Commander Foote as captain of the U.S. Sloop of War Perry, charged with the suppression of the African slave trade. Titled on page 1: "Part of a Correspondence on the Southern Coast of Africa...in relation to the slave trade and nationality. Also The Instructions of the American and British Governments...under the Treaty of Washington, for the Suppression of the Slave Trade." [At sea, 21 March 1850--26 December 1851]. 173 pp. (letters 118pp., treaty text 24pp., blank 31pp.), very neatly written in a ledgerbook, 9¼ x 7 3/8 in., bound in original black morocco and marbled paper boards, modern protective slipcase.
THE U.S. NAVY ON AFRICAN STATION "FOR THE FINAL SUPPRESSION OF THE AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE
A fascinating record of the efforts by the U.S. and Britain, under articles of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1842), which prescribed that armed naval squadrons of the two nations would cooperate "for the final suppression of the African Slave Trade" (see treaty text herein). The text of both the British crown and the U.S. government instructions to officers carefully detail rules for the interception of suspected slave trade vessels. The U.S. instructions, under proxy signature of Sec. of the Navy John Y. Mason, alert commanders to certain indicators that a vessel may be engaged in the slave trade (double sets of papers, "an unusual number of water casks," forged consular certificates, etc.) and cautions that "while the U. States sincerely desire the suppression of the slave trade...they do not regard the success of their efforts as their paramount duty" and "they are not prepared to sacrifice any of their rights as an independant nation..."
The main text comprises the text of 142 letters of Foote (later an Admiral in the Union navy who assisted in the taking of Forts Donelson and Henry), most addressed to the local commander and other officials. They contain a wealth of details on the U.S. Navy's vigorous efforts to identify, chase, intercept and confiscate American vessels engaged in the slave trade, and also details clashes with British naval vessels, who often overstepped their authority and detained legitimate American traders. Foote notes visits to Luanda, Kabenda and other "notorious slave stations north of the Congo River"; his letter of 1 Sept. 1850 records a shore visit to a local Queen, to explain U.S. policies, and notes his intention to visit "the most powerful King in this region."
There are numerous first-hand accounts of slavers intercepted at sea. On 26 March a suspect vessel was boarded; Foote discovered her "papers were false," and, when inspecting the vessel, that she was a Brazilian ship "fully fitted for the slave trade," including "slave decks" (half height decks), and "slave shackles." A few days later, on 7 June off Ambriz, they intercepted the Martha, flying American colors; when that ship perceived an American warship approaching, it "hoisted Brazilian colors." When boarded, the ship's Captain had the vessel's papers and log thrown overboard; when recovered these revealed that the Martha was based in Topham, Maine and partially owned by one Joshua Clapp, an American resident in Rio de Janeiro. It "was fully equipped for the slave trade," with "iron bars...for securing slaves to the deck...wooden spoons for feeding slaves" and other articles. The Martha was seized under armed guard.
A unique record of the increasingly international efforts to end the slave trade between nations, though, ironically, the institution of slavery itself was still protected in the United States and would endure until the nation fought a bloody civil war.