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Intra-American and Caribbean

Destinations and Transit Points

for the Slave Trade

This essay investigates the factors that were involved in the development of an
intra-regional trade in enslaved Africans throughout the Americas. It traces the
beginnings of this intra-regional trade from the establishment of the Spanish
New World empire and its expansion, consequent the emergence of the plan
tation system in the British West Indies. It notes that even after the abolition
of the British slave trade in 1807, several thousands of enslaved persons were
traded between the various anglophone Caribbean territories. The trade created
multiple middle-passage' experiences for many of the enslaved and consider
ably increased the trauma of enslavement. The essay also notes the involvement
of Danish, Dutch and Swedish traders in the trade.

The commemoration of the two-hundredth centennial of the abolition
of the British slave trade in 2007 has provided an opportunity for histo
rians to revisit the nature and scope of the African holocaust. For many,
the fact that for over three hundred years there were in excess of 25,000
voyages, disembarking more than eleven million persons (some esti
mates go as high as twenty million or more) in the New World, illus
trates the large-scale, involuntary migration of Africans.1 The numbers,
however, do little to illustrate the horror and sheer brutality of the trade,
except when juxtaposed with statistics on mortality and eyewitness
descriptions of the treatment of the enslaved.
The Journal of Caribbean History 42, 1 (2008): 46-66

Intra-American and Caribbean Destinations for the Slave Trade 47

In general, the tendency has been to focus almost exclusively on the

transatlantic slave trade itself and offer only cursory examinations of the
transportation of enslaved Africans in an intra-regional, New World
trade. This paper attempts to uncover some aspects of that trade and
widen the scope of the discussion on the mass movement of peoples of
African descent by their enslavers. The fact is, for several thousands of
these people ripped from kin and country with little hope of return, the
Middle Passage (that is, the transatlantic crossing) was to be expanded,
in turn, into other middle passages, as slave ships plied the trade from
island to island, from island to mainland and from mainland to island
via various regional transit points.
A review of the historiography on the slave trade reveals very sparse
treatment on the various transit points from which the enslaved were
moved across the New World. We are indebted to Elizabeth Donnan's
extensive sampling of documents on the slave trade, which has pro
vided important data for this paper.21 have relied heavily on this data
base for some of the discussions in the paper. Philip Curtin's analyses
of slave trade data have also been particularly useful. He observes that
inter-island (for which we might read intra-regional) migration has
implications for the calculations of slave imports by region or colony. He
informs us that "Slaves were re-exported regularly from colonies of the
major shipping nations, such as Portugal, Britain, or the Netherlands. In
addition, planters often moved with their slaves from one colony to
another.... In the early nineteenth century, after the British slave trade
had legally ended . .. British planters moved slaves to the new planting
frontiers of Trinidad and British Guiana.3 Curtin s comments above
serve to introduce us to the pioneering work of Eric Williams, and the
later discussion by David Eltis,4 on the question of the intra-Caribbean
trade in enslaved Africans, which took place after the abolition of the
British slave trade in 1807.
Williams's 1942 article was one of the first to identify the intraregional slave trade as an important aspect of the wider discussion on
abolition. The title of the article, "The British West Indian Slave Trade
after its Abolition in 1807", was intended to draw attention to the fact
that, after abolition of that trade, considerable numbers of enslaved per
sons were still being traded between Caribbean territories. He estimates
that in the five years from 1807 to 1812, British Guiana imported over
7,500 enslaved persons from other Caribbean territories. Also, in the
case of TVinidad, that territory imported more than 3,800 enslaved per
sons, the majority from Dominica and Grenada.5 Given this picture of

48 Pedro L. V. Welch

a post-1807 trade, it is not surprising that he could come to the conclu

sion that "the virtuous page in the history of Britain, represented by the
Act of 1807, was not so virtuous after all, unless it was that the aboli
tionists reserved their humanity and their invective for the slave trad
ing on the Gold Coast and the horrors of the Middle Passage".6
Eltis's discussion on the intra-Caribbean slave trade in the period
after 1807 sought to rectify what he felt were some deficiencies in
Williams's treatment, especially his treatment of the laws governing the
intra rgional trade and his 'incomplete estimate" of the volume of the
trade.7 These issues apart, Eltis, like Williams, correctly recognized that
the implications for the enslaved people went far beyond the question
of statistics. Noting that almost 15,000 enslaved persons were exported
to Trinidad and Demerara after 1807, he interpreted this to mean a "con
siderable amount of human suffering". For many of the enslaved, this
movement served to prolong their misery that might, in some cases,
have represented a psychological return to the trauma of the Middle
These comments provide a useful backdrop to a wider survey of the
intra-regional slave trade. We may bear in mind that the post-abolition
trade represented a continuation of a practice that had been going on
since the beginnings of the slave system in the Caribbean. It is in this
context, therefore, that we will survey the facts on the formative years
of the re-export trade in enslaved persons up to the late eighteenth cen
tury. After this survey, we will return to the question of the post-1807
intra-Caribbean trade.

The Beginnings of the Re-Export Trade: Identifying

the First Transit Points
We shall begin with a brief look at the Spanish, since they were the pio
neers in the trade of enslaved Africans to the New World. For the period
up to 1640, we might also include Portugal, since under the terms of the
papal intervention in the conflict between those two states after the
conquest of the New World, Portugal had control of the African trade.
Moreover, between 1580 and 1640 both Spain and Portugal were united
under one crown. Up to 1600, the Spanish were the biggest importers
of enslaved Africans to the New World, accounting for some 75,000 of
them. However, the bulk of their imports went to the mainland colonies
rather than to the islands. Indeed, it was not until the middle decades
of the late eighteenth century that Cuba, and, to a much lesser extent,

Intra-American and Caribbean Destinations for the Slave Trade 49

Puerto Rico experienced their own sugar revolutions". With that came
a major surge in the importation of enslaved labourers.
For Spanish America, it appears that the major transit points, in order
of importance, were Cartagena in Colombia, Vera Cruz in Mexico,
Caracas in Venezuela, Porto Bello in the Isthmus and Callao in Peru.
Once trade with the Dutch expanded after 1640, Curaao became an
important transit point which fed into the trade of these Spanish ports.
Thus, we are informed that Slaves by the thousands over the centuries
entered the New World at Cartagena, sometimes having been
'refreshed' in the Caribbean.. .. Cartagena became the principal entre
pt of Spanish America. Crossroads of empire, it held the famous
Cartagena fair which drew buyers in great numbers from the
provinces.8 Yet, we must also note that some of the enslaved shipped
through Cartagena to other Spanish centres might have begun their mis
erable New World existence in other locations such as Curaao and, as
we shall discover when we look later at Spanish-English collaboration
in the intra-regional slave trade, from English ports such as Kingston in
Jamaica and Bridgetown in Barbados.
Notwithstanding the importance of the Spanish trade in enslaved
Africans during the formative years of European conquest and settle
ment, the major expansion of the slave trade is associated primarily
with the British colonies in the New World. After all, Barbados was the
first territory to experience the 'sugar revolution', and by the 1660s it
became the premier centre for a re-export trade in enslaved Africans.
Our attention, therefore, turns to the experience of the English-speak
ing New World.
The early years of the transatlantic slave trade in the English-speak
ing New World are associated with a struggle between the Royal African
Company (RAC) and those who clearly recognized the considerable prof
its that might accrue from involvement in the trade. The RAC began its
life in 1660 as the Company of Royal Adventurers TVading to Africa.
This earlier, joint-stock company received a charter to trade in Africa in
that year and a revised charter in 1663. Its early capitalization was
assured by investment from persons drawn from the upper echelons of
English society and even from the king himself.
In the first period of its existence, the company began to farm out
some of its trade by licensing so-called private or separate traders. Thus,
by the time that its name changed to the RAC, it had a long practice of
farming out some of its trade to others. Quite apart from its licensing of
private traders, the RAC was faced with tremendous competition from

50 * Pedro L. V. Welch

illegal traders known, in the trade jargon of the time, as "interlopers".

Moreover, during the course of its monopoly, it faced a barrage of com
plaints and criticisms from planters and merchants in the Caribbean,
who felt that free trade should be allowed if their estates were to be ade
quately supplied.
It is important to note that the development of an intra-regional trade
in enslaved Africans in the anglophone New World was spurred, in part,
by this competition between the RAC and its licensed traders on the
one hand, and interlopers on the other. To get away from the constant
inspection of the company's agents, backed up by the customs and naval
agencies of the Crown, many of the other traders went in search of
other markets, particularly those where the reach of the RAC was not
immediately apparent. Moreover, as other plantation economies in the
Americas developed and the demand for enslaved persons grew, the
costs of labour increased. This was a factor that profit-seeking enslavers
were quick to exploit. On this issue, Davies observes that "monopoly,
imperfect as it was, resulted in adequate supplies at low prices, while
free trade was followed by much larger supplies at higher prices; and as
the eighteenth century proceeded and competition in the slave-trade
was intensified, prices rose to still greater heights'.9
Given this scenario, it is not surprising that in the colonies, of which
Barbados is a prime example, investors would look closely at the possi-

Intra-American and Caribbean Destinations for the Slave Trade 51

bilities of transhipping enslaved persons once the domestic market had

been satisfied. This is clear from several pieces of correspondence that
appear during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
On 21 September 1719, Richard Harris, a "separate trader", wrote to
the secretary of the Board of Trade, describing the New World trading
Sir, in answer to yours of the 17th inst. touching the information their Lordships
have received, of a considerable trade for Negroes being carried on by the Dutch,
from Eustatia to the Leeward Islands, and Barbados etc. ... I must beg leave to
acquaint you, that I believe there is, and always was, a clandestine trade carried
on, between our islands and the Dutch, as well as the French islands, for linens,
spice, brandy, wine and many other commodities, and in former times for great
numbers of Negroes also, but for some years past, and particularly the two or
three last, Barbados has been over-supplied, and the price so low, that very great
Negroes have been carried out from thence, both to Martinique, Virginia and all
the Leward Islands.10

Harris's observations are those of a person intimately involved in

the trade and therefore qualified to offer such an overview. Indeed, he
goes on to tell us that he had sent two ships to Barbados in 1719, and
the market was so glutted that he was forced to send his ships on to
Jamaica. It is in this context that he offers the following advice: [When
ever Barbados [was] over-supplied, the Leeward Islands [could] never
want, there being a great trade always carried on from thence to
Leeward, for Negroes, Provisions, and many other goods by many sloops
daily employed therein.11
Barbados had become a main centre for the re-export of enslaved
persons in the anglophone Caribbean, and even to English North
America, partly due to the pioneering status of the island as the first to
experience the "sugar revolution".12 Once the optimum complement of
enslaved labour for the island had been determined, with due respect
to mortality rates and other such issues, any surplus labour could be
marketed to labour-scarce territories further north. Other factors under
line Barbados's position in the intra-regional slave trade nexus, and we
will note some of these now.

Bridgetown as an Entrepot in the Intra-Colonial

There is considerable evidence of Barbados's growing importance as a
central node in regional trading systems. This centrality derived, in part,

52 Pedro L. V. Welch

from the island's position as a major hub for market intelligence and
from its geographical position as the easternmost island in the
Caribbean chain. Shipping data for 1680-1738 records an average of
forty-one vessels per year docking at the various ports (Bridgetown,
Holetown, Oistins and Speightstown) and an outward-bound traffic
averaging eighty-one vessels per year to the other islands (roughly
twenty-five per cent of the total outward-bound shipping). George
Pinckard, a doctor attached to the British Caribbean fleet in the 1790s,
noted that another aspect of Bridgetown's growth as a port lay in the
excellent victualling services it offered. He observed that "most of the
West India trading ships recruit(ed) their stock at Barbados". Bridgetown
was both the "busy Thames" and the "London" of the West Indies.13
The British Naval Office shipping lists show that, of ninety-seven
vessels arriving at Barbados between 27 April and 3 July 1733, at least
seventy-five of them traded between that island and other Caribbean
and North American ports. Fifteen of these vessels were registered in
Barbados and thirty-eight in North America. Twenty-six of some ninetyone outward-bound vessels in this same period headed for Caribbean
and North American destinations.14 When one realizes that a consider
able smuggling trade existed between Barbados and these islands, as
well as with the French and Spanish Caribbean, it becomes possible
that these official statistics may well represent only a small proportion
of the real volume of trade between Barbados and the rest of the
It seems that much of the trade was carried on in small vessels
owned by local merchants and mariners. For example, in a petition of
30 October 1772, Bridgetown merchants complained that the imposition
of a duty, 2s 6d per ton on all vessels entering the port, was inimical to
their interests. They referred to an act of 30 May of that same year, enti
tled "An Act to Encourage the Inhabitants of this Island to Become the
Owners of Small Vessels", and observed that there was a considerable
number of small vessels (schooners) "commonly commanded by the
good Inhabitants and Natives of this island and employed in trading
with the neighbouring colonies. . . . [T]he said vessels generally make
from twelve to fifteen voyages within a month.'15
Our review of the shipping returns for the eighteenth century does
not indicate an inter-colonial shipping trade of the frequency reported
here by the Bridgetown merchants. It is quite probable that the petition
ers were revealing a lot more of their activities than they had intended.
The small vessels used in the local trade were also involved in a clan-

Intra-American and Caribbean Destinations for the Slave Trade 53

destine contraband trade. This trade made use of a class of vessel which
could slip far inland along the rivers and creeks under the cover of dark
ness to offload and load their illegal ware. Their owners could not be
expected always to comply with naval and shipping regulations, and, as
a result, these vessels did not often show up in the official returns.
Perhaps this was the experience that Olaudah Equiano, an enslaved
African, reported as he traversed the Caribbean waters in a sloop which
discharged its cargo several times up rivers and creeks. Notwithstanding
the evidence of illegal trade, the petitioners' complaint also indicates a
vigorous official trade.
The intra-regional trade played a major role in the expansion of the
Bridgetown port. Moreover, the position of the island, at the hub of a
regional trading system, is an underlying factor in the self-consciousness
of an indigenous mercantile class. In 1807, the merchants petitioned
the Colonial Office in London for the extension of free-port status to
Bridgetown. It was not the first time that this had been suggested, but
the impetus at that time appears to have been the granting of free-port
status to Dominica, Jamaica and Grenada. This threatened to draw away
considerable trade from Barbados, and the merchants felt constrained
to remind His Majesty's Board of TYade" that Bridgetown was hitherto
the Chief Mart of TYade". Moreover, they argued that Barbados, 'being
placed to the Windward of all the other Islands under your Majesty's
Dominion in the West Indies affords it an opportunity of drawing to
itself full benefits of such a Free Port".16 It might well have been the
possibility of making substantial profits from the slave trade that
prompted these responses. Barbadian investors might also have noted
that a considerable trade in enslaved Africans took place between
Dominica and the nearby French islands, particularly at a time when the
British had occupied these territories.
Ian Steele's path-breaking study of communications in the Atlantic
World has identified other advantages that facilitated Bridgetown's dom
inance in the inter-colonial and metropolitan-colonial trade. Steele notes
that, in the late seventeenth century, Bridgetown and Boston were "usu
ally first to be favoured with news from Stuart England, and the volume
and seasons of their shipping connections with each other further
enhanced their advantage as sources of news". He states further that
"Whether it was news concerning market prices of sugar, merchant or
naval shipping that had entered the Caribbean . . . Barbadians were
well placed to be among the first to know the westbound news. . . .
English colonial shipmasters, anxious to maximize the safety and yield

54 Pedro L. V. Welch

on their ventures could learn

much at this island drawing 300
ships a year in all seasons from
England's Atlantic empire."17
It is therefore clear that the
Bridgetown port was an impor
tant centre for the reception and
dissemination of news on slave
prices throughout the region.
Indeed, the company's agents in
Swan Street, Bridgetown, recom
mended in 1708 that it would
be in ye Company's best interest
to order the ships bound to
Jamaica or the Leeward Islands
to touch at Barbados in their
way hither and make tryall of ye
Africans slowed on board the slave ship
Markett".18 Despite the problems
Wildfire hltp:llwww.sono(thesouth. net/
caused by the occasional glut in
the Barbados market, the attrac
tiveness of the growing regional market underlies the place of the
Bridgetown port in the transhipment of enslaved Africans. In addition,
the port offered a haven for sailing ships after the rigours of the Middle
Passage and facilities for "refreshing" those slaves not sold on the island
in preparation for their journey further north, west and, sometimes,
The fluctuations in the market throughout the 1720s to the 1770s do
not appear to have deterred would-be investors in the slave trade. North
American merchants, such as Nicholas Brown of Providence and Aaron
and Abraham Lopez of Newport, continued to invest in the trade, using
the Bridgetown port as the leading edge of their slave sales in the New
World. In 1764, Nicholas Brown fitted out a brig, which he named Sally,
for the Guinea trade. The captain, Esek Hopkins, was left with full
discretion to proceed to any port in the West Indies that would offer
maximum profit to Brown. He was, however, instructed to try Barbados
first. The voyage was unsuccessful, partly due to the effects of a slave
uprising on board the ship. Hopkins's arrival at Bridgetown, in October
1765, apparently found the market depressed. Moreover, a high mortal
ity rate (109 slaves died out of the 187 secured on the Guinea coast)
removed any hope of the owners making a profit. What his instructions

Intra-American and Caribbean Destinations for the Slave Trade 55

illustrated, nevertheless, is the prominent place that the Bridgetown

port held in his owners' scheme of operations.19
The case of the Lopez ventures in the slave trade reveals a similar
picture. Between 1764 and 1773, Aaron and Abraham Lopez despatched
several vessels to the West Indies. Most of these stopped in Barbados
first, either selling all of the slave cargoes there or using the port as a
staging place for sales further north in the Caribbean and, finally, into
North America. In 1766, for example, the sloop Spry followed the route
Barbados-Jamaica-New York on its slave trading run.20
By the early nineteenth century, the price situation in the rest of
the Caribbean, coupled with the abolition of the slave trade in 1807,
would lead to changes in the investment pattern for shipping in the
Guinea-New World run. However, the demand for slaves in the expand
ing sugar industries of other Caribbean colonies would facilitate an
intra-Caribbean trade. In this new phase thousands of slaves were
taken from the long-settled islands such as Barbados . . . and shipped to
the newly acquired and much less developed colonies" where prices
were double that obtained on the island.21

Expanding the Trade

With Barbados setting the pace for the re-export trade in enslaved
Africans that was transiting the region during the late seventeenth cen
tury and well into the eighteenth century, it was not long before other
territories became transit points in their own right. In the following
tables, we see the spread of the transit trade to North America, as slaves
were transhipped via various Caribbean ports to the mainland. In all of
this, we should bear in mind that the figures represent reported trade.
There was, as we have noted earlier, a considerable illegal trade that
never found its way into the official ledgers.

Eyewitness Accounts of the Intra-Regional Trade

While the statistics presented might pale in comparison with the sheer
volume of the trade from Africa to the Americas, it is important to
remember that each number represented a person. Indeed, at this point
we might do well to take on board the comments by at least two
enslaved persons who were victims of this trade. I refer to the testi
monies of Olaudah Equiano and Jeffrey Brace, both of whom were
shipped from Africa to Barbados before being transhipped to North

Table 1: TYade in Enslaved Africans to Southern US States by Selected Caribbean Countries for Selected Years, 1710-1787
Caribbean Countries
Years Antigua
South Carolina














St Kitts
















Source: Adapted from Elizabeth Donnan, Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade to America (New York: Octagon Books, 1969),
4:175-234, 301-14, 375-413, 428-90.


Table 2:


Trade in Enslaved Africans to New York by Selected Caribbean

Countries,* for Selected Years, 1715-1765
















































































Source: Adapted from Elizabeth Donnan, Documents Illustrative of the History of

the Slave Trade to America (New York: Octagon Books, 1969), 4:462-510.
Other countries listed in this trade were Martinique, St Kitts, St Martin,
Suriname, St Lucia, the Virgin Islands and so on. The general picture is that
of a vigorous annual intra-regional trade that involved several Caribbean

58 Pedro L. V. Welch

America. Equiano's experience is the

more telling, since he was later sold to
the owner of a vessel involved in the
intra rgional slave trade. Perhaps his
words will convey something of the hor
ror of the trade. He tells us the following:




Olaudah Equiano

kind, which were exercised on my unhappy
fellow slaves. I used frequently to have differ
ent cargoes of new Negroes in my care for
sale; and it was almost a constant practice
with our clerks, and other whites, to commit
violent depredations on the chastity of the
female slaves. . . . When we have had some of
these slaves on board my master's vessels to
carry them off tQ other islands or to Africa,

I have known our mates to commit these acts.

... I have even known them gratify their brutal passion with females not ten
years old; and these abominations some of them practiced to such scandalous

Equiano's anguish was compounded by his apparent helplessness. As if

things were not bad enough, on one occasion the boat in which he was
travelling sprung a leak through contact with a reef. Because the ship's
boat only had a capacity of ten persons, the captain ordered that the
hatch be nailed down over twenty enslaved persons who were being
transported from St Eustatius for Georgia. It was only with great diffi
culty that the captain was dissuaded from this action, which would
almost certainly have led to the death of the Africans.23 From Equiano's
accounts, we learn that the sloop on which he worked generally made
the rounds from Montserrat to St Eustatius. It then travelled to ports
ranging from the eastern seaboard of the British North American
colonies and down to the southern colonies, trading in rum, molasses
and enslaved persons, among other commodities.
In the second narrative, drawn also from the testimony of an
enslaved African, we learn, from Jeffrey Brace, the circumstances of
his capture in Africa and his subsequent imprisonment, in Barbados, in
the house of a slave trader called Welch.
Brace was so ill on his arrival in Barbados, that he was not sold for about three
months. After his sale to a captain of the British Navy, he was sent to Welch's
house, presumably to take him through the period of seasoning. For such an
offence as puking, after eating some tainted food, Welch beat him into insensi-

Intra-American and Caribbean Destinations for the Slave Trade 59

bility. Later, after his recovery, Brace was handed over to his purchaser and
served with him on his ship, until he was sold later to another purchaser in
Boston. After several changes in ownership, he became the property of a family
called Stiles and, eventually, because of his action in the American Revolution,
he received his freedom. His narrative, dictated to a white American, Benjamin
Prentiss, reveals a story of violence and paints a vivid picture of the plight which
awaited the African enslaved person in the New World. The Middle Passage
experience was repeated several times in his life as he was traded from enslaver
to enslaver.24

The Development of an Anglo-Hispanic

Slave Trade Nexus
Our attention now shifts to other aspects of the growing intra rgional
trade. Given the circumstances of the Spanish conquest of the New
World and the subsequent papal demarcation of the so-called newly dis
covered lands, the supply of enslaved Africans was at first placed under
a licence (the asiento) contracted with the Portuguese. By the late sev
enteenth century, after the Portuguese had broken away from the
Spanish yoke, the asiento for the supply of enslaved Africans to the
Spanish New World colonies had passed to the Dutch and then to
Genoese merchants. It is at this point that English colonies in the
Caribbean emerged as transit points in the regional trade in enslaved
persons to the Spanish territories. As Donnan informs us, in signing
contracts with the Genoese, the Spanish had come to accept that its
labourers must be obtained from foreigners and heretics".25 Moreover,
'While Spain herself would not traffic with English heretics, the
Genoese had no such scruples."26 In any case, it was not long before
the Spanish were entering into direct negotiations with the English for
the supply of enslaved Africans.
In 1660, the Earl of Marlborough made approaches to have Jamaica
become the base for the supply of enslaved Africans to the Spanish
colonies by the Company of Royal Adventurers. These approaches had
the sanction of the company, which was quick to see the possibility of
substantial profit. In 1663, the company wrote in a memorandum that
"if the Spanish subjects of the West Indies [were] licensed to trade . . .
[with the English territories], the whole trade and commerce [might] be
appropriated to the said Company".27 In fact, the company had already
received a sub-contract with the Genoese holders of the asiento by
which they were to deliver 3,500 Africans annually to ports in Barbados

60 Pedro L. V. Welch

and Jamaica, where they would then be transhipped to the Spanish

Grillo, the Spanish agent who negotiated this arrangement, faced
some obstacles from the Spanish Crown, who was reluctant to sanction
a trade that would benefit the English competitors. However, the need
for labourers overrode such reluctance and the Crown sought, through
the Duke of York, to have the British government permit Spanish agents
to reside in Jamaica and Barbados, so as to facilitate the safe conduct of
vessels transporting enslaved Africans.29 Whatever the attempts to
obtain official sanction on the part of the British and Spanish govern
ments for the trade, Spanish merchants took the initiative and visited
Barbados to negotiate the trade.
The proposals of the Spanish to Henry Walrond, President of the
Barbados Council, illustrate the potential for substantial economic ben
efit to the English Caribbean territories if they took part in the transac
tion. The Spaniards informed the representatives from Barbados that
the market price for enslaved Africans in such New World territories as
Peru was as high, in some cases, as 1,000 pieces-of-eight (about
200-250 per person). Apart from this price that the Spanish them
selves might get for these individuals in the Peruvian and other markets,
it appears that they were willing to pay up to 140 pieces-of-eight for
each person and, additionally, ten per cent duty.30 It is surprising that
they would have let on that the prices in the Peruvian market were so
high and, equally, that their Barbadian hosts did not immediately seize
the opportunity to bargain for much higher rates. Perhaps, in the case
of the host's expectations, the roughly 31 per person that the Spanish
were offering was almost twice what these slave traders would have
received in the local Barbadian market.31
The Spaniards also indicated that they were ready to invest about
100,000 at once. This suggested an immediate market requirement of
about 3,225 enslaved persons. In addition to these estimates, they dan
gled the carrot of a trade worth five million pieces-of-eight yearly.
While this trade did not necessarily consist only of enslaved Africans,
the trade between Barbados and the Spanish colonies, to the tune of
25,000 enslaved persons annually, seems to have been a major part of
this proposed expenditure. Given the fact that the transportation of
enslaved Africans throughout the region also involved a vigorous smug
gling trade, the projections for the traffic between the English
and Spanish colonies might have understated the potential for human

Intra-American and Caribbean Destinations for the Slave Trade 61

The Barbados Council was reluctant to enter into a formal arrange

ment which would clearly run afoul of the Navigation Acts, but the
President had no such misgivings and gave the Spanish permission to
purchase 400 enslaved Africans. The official figures indicate that the
price the Spanish were willing to pay might not represent the reality of
the trade. Graft and outright misappropriation of funds were factors
that tended to inflate the price. It may be noted, also, that some of the
enslaved Africans shipped in this intra-regional trade were looked upon
as refuse, that is, enslaved persons that merchants and planters had
not purchased at the first stop in the English islands. Instead, specula
tors often purchased them, paying anything from one to five pounds
per person, hoping to nurse the individuals back to some degree of
health. Often, the enslaved Africans were shaved to hide evidence of
advancing years, and their skin was oiled to hide defects. This was done
to induce the purchaser to pay more than the going rate. Certainly, this
might explain why, just a few months after the Spanish purchased the
first enslaved Africans from Barbados at 140 pieces-of-eight each, they
were purchasing others at 220 pieces-of-eight (44) per head.32
The profits that accrued to Barbadian speculators in this trade
offered a strong temptation to officials to defraud the royal treasury. On
8 April 1663, according to the Minutes of the Barbados Council, the
President reported a receipt of 1,000 from the last Spanish ship that
had been permitted to trade. However, just a few months later, the
Provost-Marshall issued a warrant to take Henry Walrond into custody
until he accounted for payments received from the Spanish. In 1683,
Governor Dutton of Barbados was accused of receiving a payment of
24s per head for permitting the sale of 1,000 enslaved Africans to
Spanish agents.
The potential for considerable benefits to the royal treasury was not
lost on the king himself. As early as 1663, following the first overtures
of the Spanish to the Barbados Council, he wrote to the governor, con
firming that he had decided *[t]hereby [to] grant license to Spanish
agents in America, to purchase from the Caribee islands and Jamaica,
supplies of negro slaves and such other European commodities as their
own plantations [might] want on payment of customs for the same, for
every Negro five pieces of eight at the rate of four shillings sterling for
every piece of eight'.33 It is quite likely that the favourable response of
the Crown was a factor in the constant agitation of various Jamaican
governors for free trade. Philip Curtin's estimate that Jamaica was
responsible for the re-export of some 206,200 enslaved Africans, over

62 Pedro L. V. Welch

the period 1701 to 1807, indicates that the intra-regional trade in

enslaved persons represented a significant aspect of the slave trade from
Africa. It is more than likely that the statistics for the Barbados re-export
trade exceeded these estimates.
The foregoing discussion on the Anglo-Spanish trade serves to illus
trate the necessity of considering the intra-New World trade, if a clearer
picture is to be derived of the trauma of the slave trade experience. At
each stop, misery was multiplied as the enslaved persons lost contact
with kin and shipmates - all were swallowed up in the regional dias
pora. Perhaps Herbert Klein's observations come closest to identifying
the activity in this trade. He notes the possibility of local intraCaribbean shipping distributing to several islands the newly arrived
African slaves from one entrept island'. He also informs us that "sev
eral of the British islands seemed to have served this purpose, and in the
1790s even Jamaica reported intra-Caribbean shipping to Havana which
sometimes carried 100 slaves per voyage".34

Other Connections in the Intra-Regional Slave Trade

There were other elements of the intra-regional trade that must also be
taken into consideration. We have already noted Jamaica's agitation for
free trade, but we might also note that, in Britain, some persons looked
with favour on such requests, and others looked with favour on the pos
sibility of granting free-port status to various regional ports. In this way,
the British colonizers hoped to counter the mercantilist aims of their
competitors by siphoning off some of their trade. The apogee of the free
port system came in the 1760s when the British, Danish, Dutch and
French enacted legislation opening up selected ports to foreign traders.
The British Free Port Act of 1766 opened four ports in Jamaica and two
in Dominica. Later, Grenada would also be granted free-port status.35 In
the case of Dominica, Donnan notes that "the greater part of the slaves
. . . were purchased by the French and Spaniards".36 A 1770 comment
by a local merchant expands this picture, to the effect that Dominica's
free-port status had facilitated the trade between that colony on the one
hand, and Martinique and Guadeloupe on the other.37
Quite apart from the Anglo-Spanish and Anglo-French trades that
have been identified, we might bear in mind that there were other play
ers, such as the Danish, the Dutch, and Swedish, who participated in the
intra-regional trade. We have already noted the place of the Dutch
colony of Curaao in the supply of slave labour to the Spanish colonies.

Intra-American and Caribbean Destinations for the Slave Trade 63

In the case of the Danes, Sven Green-Pedersen has estimated that about
43,000 enslaved persons were re-exported from St Croix and St Thomas
over the period 1733 to 1802. Moreover, with the granting of free-port
status to St Thomas, a not-inconsequential transit trade developed. His
estimate, that over 26,000 enslaved persons were traded from St Thomas
over the period 1785 to 1807, reveals something of the scale of the trans
portation of enslaved persons.38
Neville Hall's research on the slave society of the Danish West Indies
also indicates that the free-port status of St Thomas stimulated a tran
sit trade in enslaved persons. It also indicates that other free ports at
Kingston, St Georges, Grenada, Bridgetown and Nassau participated in
such a trade.39 However, as we have pointed out earlier, the existence of
a vigorous contraband trade suggests that the scale of human suffering
far surpassed anything that the raw statistics might indicate. In addition
to these observations on the transit trade in the Danish West Indies, we
might note that some North American ports functioned as transit points
in an intra state trade. As a result of a growing market for enslaved
persons in North America after the 1740s, New Jersey became an impor
tant transit centre for other states. As the governor of New Jersey
wrote in 1762, large numbers of enslaved persons were landed in New
Jersey, 'to be run into New York and Pennsylvania".40 Indeed, a New
Jersey-West Indies nexus may also be identified, in which traders in
the anglophone Caribbean were advised to use New Jersey as a trading
centre to avoid the duties paid on enslaved persons elsewhere in the
North American market.41
Our survey, therefore, has identified some of the major transit points
and routes along which enslaved persons were transported over the
period between the first entry of Europeans and the early nineteenth
century. We will end our discussion by returning to the question of the
intra-regional trade in the British Caribbean territories after 1807, par
ticularly since our discussion is set in the context of a commemoration
of the abolition of the British slave trade in 1807.

The Post-1807 Intra-Colonial Slave Trade

The period between 1807 and 1834 was one of dynamic activism on
the part of anti-slavery forces. The Danes had abolished the slave trade
in 1803. They were followed by the British, who passed an act in 1807
(that came into effect in 1808) to abolish the trade and then launched an
international effort to persuade other European countries to abolish

64 Pedro L. V. Welch

their own trade in enslaved Africans. The Americans also passed legis
lation to abolish the trade. For our purposes, however, the task is to
assess the course of the intra-colonial trade in this period of abolition
ism. In each case, the passage of legislation was one thing; the issue of
policing the system was another. In the case of the Danes, Hugh Thomas
informs us that, even after 1808, ships continued to conduct the slave
trade under Danish flags, and, in the case of the Americans, no special
machinery was set up to enforce the abolition of the trade.42 In short, for
all the legislative statements of the various authorities, the misery of
the intra-colonial trade continued for some time.
British abolition, likewise, did not mean an immediate end to the
sufferings, under the British hand, of newly enslaved Africans. In this
context, we might note Professor Hilary Beckles's discussion on the
post-1807, intra-Caribbean slave trade. In his examination of the contri
butions that Williams and Eltis made to this area of historical enquiry,
he observes that neither of them included in their calculations the thou
sands of 'liberated Africans', persons captured on the seas from illegal
slavers by the British Navy and employed as apprentices in labor-starved
colonies".43 Beckles's observations remind us that, the statistical argu
ment apart, what was represented in the trade was continued despair
for countless thousands of persons who had been separated from loved
ones either from their place of origin in Africa or, in the case of enslaved
Creoles, from their colonial residences.
Barry Higman has also paid some attention to the post-1807, intraCaribbean slave trade, noting that Eltis's statistics do not cover the
period after 1830, and that some transit points were not included in the
latter's examination of the trade. Thus, he identifies the Virgin Islands,
Montserrat, Nevis and Anguilla as missing from Eltis's statistical survey,
with the Virgin Islands emerging as significant suppliers" to TVinidad.44
Higman's estimate of 13,500 enslaved Africans being shipped to
Trinidad and Demerara-Essequibo from other Caribbean transit points,
in the period between 1808 and 1825, provides some additional basis for
considering the cost in human suffering. When we take the various esti
mates that first Williams, and later Eltis and Higman, provided, and
link them with the "thousands of liberated Africans" that Beckles iden
tified as requiring inclusion in such estimates, it is clear that the post
abolition situation for the intra-Caribbean slave trade requires closer
examination of what exactly was achieved by abolition in 1807.

Intra-American and Caribbean Destinations for the Slave Trade 65




See David Eltis et al., The Transatlantic Slave Trade: A Database on CD-ROM
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 5-6. They refer to higher
estimates of about fifteen million, although they suggest that the data tend
towards downward revision. However, whether the lower or higher esti
mates are used, the acknowledgement of fairly large mortalities in Africa,
on the march towards the coast and on the Middle Passage, as well as the
fact that much of the trade was simply not reported, might support consid
erable upward revision.
Elizabeth Donnan, Documents Illustrative of the Slave Trade, 3 vols. (New
York: Octagon Books, 1969).
Philip Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (London: University of
Wisconsin Press, 1969), 57.
See Eric Williams, The British West Indian Slave Trade after its Abolition
in 1807', Journal of Negro History 27, no. 2. (1942): 175-91; David Eltis,
"The TVaffic in Slaves between the British West Indian Colonies,
1807-1833', Economic History Review 25, no. 1 (1972): 55-64.
Wiliams, 'British West Indian Slave Trade", 178.
Ibid., 191.
Eltis, "lYaffic in Slaves', 56.
James A. Rawley, The Transatlantic Slave Trade (New York: Norton, 1981),
K.G. Davies, The Royal African Company (London: Longmans, 1960), 144.
Donnan, Documents, 2:241.1 have modernized the spellings in the passage
in the interest of consistency.
Ibid., 241.
George Pinckard, Notes on the West Indies (London: Longmans, 1806), 1:443.
Barbados National Archives: Data extracted from the Naval Office Shipping
Lists for 1733.
Barbados National Archives: Petition of Bridgetown merchants to the
Barbados Council, Minutes of the Council, 20 October 1772.
British National Archives: Colonial Office (CO) 28/61/120, Bridgetown
Merchants' Petition to the Board of TVade, 18 December 1787.
Ian K. Steele, The English Atlantic 1655-1806 (London: Oxford University
Press, 1986), 27-28.
David Galenson, Traders, Merchants, and Slaves: Market Behaviour in Early
English America (London: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 36.
See Jeunes B. Hedges, The Browns of Providence Plantations (Providence:
Brown University Press, 1968), 74-80.
See Virginia B. Platt, 'And Don't Forget the Guinea Voyage: The Slave TVade
of Aaron Lopez of Newport*, William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 2, no. 4
(1975): 601-18.

66 Pedro L.V. Welch






Eltis, 'The TVaffic in Slaves", 59-64.

Joanna Brooks, ed., The Life of Olaudah Equiano (Chicago: Lakeside Press,
2004), 151.
Ibid., 236.
"The Blind African Slave, or Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nick-named
accessed on 31 March 2008).
Donnan, Documents, 1:107.
Ibid., 108.
Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, 122, note 414.
Donnan, Documents, 1:108-9.
Ibid., 109.
W. Noel Sainsbury, ed., Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series: America and
the West Indies, 1661-1678, note 123; see also Donnan, Documents, 1:110).
Figures provided by K.G. Davies (in The Royal African Company, 364), show
that the prices in Barbados for the 1670s averaged just over 14 per
enslaved person. Prices in Jamaica were a little higher, averaging about
Sainsbury, Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, note 122.
See Herbert S. Klein, 'The Cuban Slave Trade, 1790-1843", La Traite des
Noirs par IAtlantique: Nouvelles Approches (Paris: Socit Franaise
D'Histori D'Outre-Mer et Librarie Orientaliste Paul Geunthnder S.A,
1976), 67-89.
Rawley, Transatlantic Slave Trade, 250.
Donnan, Documents, 2:524.
Rawley, Transatlantic Slave Trade, 121.
See Svend Erik Green-Pedersen, "The History of the Danish Negro Slave
TVade, 1733-1807", in Klein, 'Cuban Slave TVade", 196-220.
Neville Hall, Slave Society in the Danish West Indies (Kingston: University of
the West Indies Press, 1992), 22-23.
Quoted in Rawley, Transatlantic Slave Trade, 391.
Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade
1440-1870 (London: Picador, 1997), 526, 551.
Hilary Mc.D Beckles, ' 'An Unfeeling TVaffick': The Intercolonial
Movement of Slaves in the British Caribbean, 1807-1833, in The Chattel
Principle: Internal Slave Trades in the Americas, ed. Walter Johnson (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 256-275.
B.W. Higman, Slave Populations of the British Caribbean 1807-1834
(Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, University of the West
Indies, 1995), 81.

Notes on Contributors
Heather Cateau is Lecturer in History at the University of the West
Indies, St Augustine Campus, lYinidad and Tobago.
Alan Cobley is Professor of History at the University of the West
Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.
Claudius Fergus is Lecturer in History at the University of the West
Indies, St Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago.
Richard Goodridge is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of
the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.
Verene A. Shepherd is Professor of History at the University of the
West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica.
Alvin O. Thompson is Emeritus Professor of History at the
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.
Pedro Welch is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of the
West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.