RCC Honors History Project

Genius of Universal Emancipation

Posted by elsiegonzalez on November 17, 2009

The following article appeared in a newspaper “edited and published by Benjamin Lundy and William Lloyd Garrison,” called “Genius of Universal Emancipation.”
This is the supposed article William Lloyd Garrison went to prison for after not paying the libel fine.

Black List.

Horrible news–domestic and foreign.
The Ship Francis.

This ship, as I mentioned in our last number, sailed a few weeks since from this port with a cargo of slaves for the New Orleans market. I do not repeat the fact because it is a rare instance of domestic piracy, or because the case was attended with extraordinary circumstances; for the horrible traffic is briskly carried on, and the transaction was effected in the ordinary manner. I merely wish to illustrate New England humanity and morality. I am determined to cover with thick infamy all who are concerned in this nefarious business.

I have stated that the ship Francis hails from my native place, Newburyport (Massachusetts) is commanded by a yankee captain, and owned by a townsman named

Francis Todd.

Of Captain Nicholas Brown I should have expected better conduct. It is no worse to fit out piratical cruisers, or to engage in the foreign slave trade, than to pursue a similar trade along our coasts; and the men who have the wickedness to participate therein, for the purpose of heaping up wealth, should be ☞sentenced to solitary confinement for life;☜ they are the enemies of their own species–highway robbers and murderers; and their final doom will be, unless they speedily repent, to occupy the lower depths of perdition. I know that our laws make a distinction in this matter. I know that the man who is allowed to freight his vessel with slaves at home, for a distant market, would be thought worthy of death if he should take a similar freight on the coast of Africa, but I know, too, that this distinction is absurd, at at war with the common sense of mankind, and that God and good men regard it with abhorrence.

I recollect that it was always a mystery in Newburyport how Mr. Todd contrived to make profitable voyages to New Orleans and other places, when other merchants with as fair an opportunity to make money, and sending at the same ports at the same time, invariably made fewer successful speculations. The mystery seems to be unravelled. Any man can gather up riches, if he does not care by what means they are obtained.

The Francis carried off seventy-five slaves, chained in a narrow place between decks. Captain Brown originally intended to take one hundred and fifty of these unfortunate creatures; but another hard-hearted shipmaster underbid him in the price of passage for the remaining moiety. Captain B, we believe, is a mason. Where was his charity or brotherly kindness?

I regretfully request the editor of the Newburyport Herald to copy this article, or publish a statement of the facts contained herein–not for the purpose of giving information to Mr. Todd, for I shall send him a copy of this number, but in order to enlighten the public mind in that quarter –G.

At the succeeding February term of Baltimore City Court, the Grand Jury presented this publication as a “gross and malicious libel.” They afterwards found an Indictment against both the Editors, which was at the same term tried against Garrison alone–Lundy being out of the State. The Jury, without hesitation, found a verdict of guilty; and after an ineffectual attempt to arrest the judgment, upon technical objections, the Court imposed a fine of $30. This the Defendant was either unable or unwilling to pay, and he was therefore committed, and remained in jail for some time, till it was satisfied.

A private action for this libel had been instituted by Mr. Todd against both the Editors; but in consequence of Lundy’s absence, the process was served only on Garrison, who was in fact the writer of the article. After his conviction in the City Court, he was distinctly informed through his Counsel, that as Mr. Todd had no vindictive feelings to gratify, the suit would be withdrawn, if a proper apology, and recantation of the calumny were put upon record. This offer Mr. Garrison not only refused, but while in confinement, published a pamphlet containing, with his report of the trial, a republication of the libel, and a number of gross insinuations against the Chief Judge of the Court.

At the trial of the civil suit, the publication having been proved, Mr. Jones, the Pilot of the Francis, testified that the negroes were taken on board at Herring Bay, and that the ship then proceeded to Annapolis to obtain the necessary Custom House papers:–that they came on board cheerfully and willingly–and that while he remained with them, which was until he left the Capes, they appeared to be contented and happy. That unusual attention seemed to have been given to their comfort and accommodation;–their berths were commodious, the women and children being separated from the men;–their provisions abundant and of good quality;–extra stores provided for them, which were distributed daily to them by Captain Brown, and that the clothing which had been furnished by Mr. Milligan, was amply sufficient for their wants. He further deposed that they were treated with kindness by Captain Brown;–that they were under no restraint, but were permitted to go about the ship by day and night, as other passengers, and that no chains, hand-cuffs, or other fetters, were used in any instance, nor did he believe that there were any on board the vessel.

The deposition of Captain Nicholas Brown was then read by consent, in which he stated–

That about the middle of the month of September, 1829, he came on to Baltimore, to take charge of the ship Francis, of Newburyport, belonging to Francis Todd, merchant of that place, the said ship being consigned for freight or otherwise to Henry Thompson, merchant of this city–That in the month of October following, Mr. Thompson and himself engaged to carry to New Orleans on board the ship Francis, from seventy-five to one hundred black people, for account of Mr. Milligan, a very respectable planter on the banks of the Mississippi; and that they made this engagement without consulting the owner of the ship, neither could he have known it, until about the time of her sailing from Baltimore–That Mr. Thompson and himself were the Agents of the Francis in Baltimore–That he sailed from the port of Baltimore with the said ship about the 20th of October, having no slaves on board, and proceeded down the Chesapeak Bay as far as Herring Cove, where he received on board the Francis eighty-eight black passengers in families, all brought up together on two estates in Calvert County; and that they were all perfectly willing to come on board the ship–nor was any one required to compel them, they having a perfect understanding with their new master, Milligan, who was present at the time of their embarkation, that they were not to be sold again at New Orleans–but that he intended them all for his own estate. That Mr. Thompson and Deponent provided for them on board the ship, previous to her departure from Baltimore, the best provisions; in addition to which, by request of Mr. Milligan, Mr. Thompson put on board, expressly for their use, tea, coffee, sugar, molasses, whiskey, tobacco, &c. &c. with every kind of convenience for using the same, and clothing of every description to make them comfortable, which was dealt out to them day after day, while on the passage, at my discretion; that they all expressed much satisfaction at their treatment while on board the ship; that they had their perfect liberty on board; that their conduct was good at all times; that they needed not chains nor confinement, nor was any one of them put in chains or confined during the whole passage. That after Deponent took them on board, he returned up the Bay as far as Annapolis, where they were all examined by an officer of the Customs, and regularly cleared from that port for New-Orleans. That about the middle of November he landed them all in good health and spirits, on the plantation for which they were intended, belonging to Mr. Milligan, 17 or 20 miles below the city of New Orleans. That their quarters on board the ship Francis were large and not narrow, that all of them had good comfortable sleeping places or berths, and that they were well provided with a plenty of blankets, &c. &c.–That the ship’s hatches were never closed on them during the whole passage for any other purpose than to protect them from rough and wet weather, and make them comfortable. Finally, from the very high opinion Deponent has of the honor and integrity of Mr. Milligan, their owner, he considers his act in carrying these people away as one of the best of his life.

Let it be remembered, that he was not the cause of their bondage, but that he has actually relieved their condition in some degree, by carrying them to a climate much more congenial to their nature. Mr. Francis Todd and Deponent were brought up together at Newburyport, from children, and he has known both him and his business up to this time, and never knew him to carry slaves in any of his vessels; and he verily and conscientiously believes he never had a slave or slaves carried in any vessel of his to any part of the world, except in the solitary instance of the ship Francis aforesaid; and he knows he never owned a slave in his life.

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2 Responses to “Genius of Universal Emancipation”

  1. sethrd23 said

    I noticed that the article mentions the number of slave on the ship as 75. This seems like a much lower number than the number brought in by ships earlier in the African slave trade. Even the target goal of 150 seems like it could be managed on a ship in 1831, but maybe I am overestimating the size of vessels at that time. it looked like the diagrams from the early 1700 slave ships packed in a lot more than 150.

    • elsiegonzalez said

      Seth, your question regarding the number of slaves aboard the ship made me curious. I found an article (http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/slaveship.htm) describing a ship that carried slaves in 1829, it said “[the ship] had taken in, on the coast of Africa, 336 males and 226 females, making in all 562.” I think this specific ship parallels more the conditions of early slave carrying ships in the 1700’s. Garrisons document says “The Francis carried off seventy-five slaves, chained in a narrow place between decks.” This makes me assume that the ship was smaller if the slaves were still “chained in a narrow place between decks”.

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