Another Seizure of American Slaves in Bermuda


This is an article I came across while researching my family. In Bermuda, the slave trade was outlawed in 1807, and all slaves were freed in 1834. The following article is about a shipment of slaves, destined for North Carolina, which was diverted to Bermuda due to weather.

The Salem Gazette
Salem, Mass
Friday, 20 Mar 1835

“From the N. York Jour. of Commerce.

Considerable excitement was created in the Southern states a year or two ago, by the seizure and emancipation of a cargo of American slaves which had been driven into Bermuda by stress of weather.

At the last session of the North Carolina Legislature, strong resolutions were passed in reprobation of the act, which was considered nothing less than legalized robbery. However, the same act has since been repeated, and will doubtless be repeated as often as American slaves shall be by accident or otherwise, be found in British ports. If any of our readers need be informed how it comes to pass that cargoes of American slaves are every now and then driven into Bermuda, we can only tell them that a brisk trade in human flesh is carried on by sea, between the Northernmost slave-holding states and the Southernmost, slave-labor being in much greater demand, and the price of slaves much higher in the latter than in the former. The principal mart for the collection and shipment of these slaves is the District of Columbia; the government of which is vested exclusively in Congress.

One of the last cargoes shipped from that District, consisting of 78 individuals, was taken on board the brig Enterprise, of this part, Elliot Smith master, bound for Charleston. But either on account of the Jonah on board or for some other reason, the brig would not go to Charleston, and after being tossed about by winds and waves a sufficient length of time, put into Bermuda about the 20th nit. in distress.

It immediately became known to the inhabitants that there were slaves on board, and accordingly on the following day, at the instance of the “Friendly Society” of colored people of Bermuda, a writ of Habeus Corpus was served upon all the slaves, commanding them to be bro’t before the Chief Justice and answer for themselves whether they would proceed with the vessel to her destined port and continue slaves, or remain at Bermuda and be free. The rest of the proceedings in the case we give in the language of the Bermuda Royal Gazette, received at this office.

The Constable with the Writ went off to the vessel, (then lying about 300 yards from the shore) and requested to see the master, into whose hands the Writ was delivered. He passed to a gentleman on the deck to read it, who when he had done so, observed that the document was not served in the proper form, and on the Constable declining to take it back, it was dropped into the bottom of the boat. The Constable immediately returned to shore to report proceedings.

In the interim the master, having landed, a merchant in the town of Hamilton, who had witnessed the transaction, very kindly intimated to Smith the necessity of his regaining possession of the Writ, which he fortunately succeeded in doing. The master then came to Court, and pleaded very hard, that the compliance which the writ might be deferred till the following morning, but under existing and somewhat suspicious circumstances, the Court was peremptory; accordingly at 9 o’clock PM the whole of the Slaves were marshalled into Court; there were children without a single connexion with them, who had no doubt been torn from the very arms of their parents to gratify man, who is ever inventing means to gain filthy lucre, there were women too, with infants at the breast; and altogether, they presented a scene most degrading and revolting to Christianity.

It has been asserted and we place implicit confidence in our informant, that an attempt was made to tamper with these unfortunate creatures before they left the brigantine, by promising them money if they would but say when questioned that they would rather proceed with the vessel. But how little did the tempter reckon with human feeling (though his anticipations were very great) where such strong interest was concerned; he little thought that the heart of the poor and oppressed colored mortal could, with freedom in prospect, beat with an anxious joy, as that of a white person for any other cause; the result proved how groundless were his expectations. The first man called upon was desired to stand up and turn himself towards his Honor and Chief Justice, who plainly, kindly, and very appropriately addressed him to the Effect;–“…

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