Mar 29, 2018 - Sale 2471

Sale 2471 - Lot 20

Price Realized: $ 4,500
Show Hammer Price?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,000 - $ 1,500
"HAVE A PLATFORM LAYED . . . TO SEPARATE THE MALE FROM THE FEMALE SLAVES" (SLAVERY AND ABOLITION.) Shepherd, Rezin D. Letter ordering a ship captain to procure slaves in Virginia and bring them to New Orleans. Autograph Letter Signed to Captain Elisha Cobb in Baltimore, MD. 2 pages on one sheet, 8 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches to sight, with integral address panel and no postal markings on second page; worn with separations at folds. Not examined out of double-sided frame. Boston, 3 April 1827

Additional Details

Rezin Davis Shepherd (1784-1865) was a wealthy merchant and landowner from Shepherdstown, WV with extensive plantation holdings in Louisiana. During a trip to Boston, he wrote this letter to one of his ship captains, ordering him to dispose of his regular cargo in Baltimore, sail to Norfolk, VA to gather a cargo of slaves, and bring them to New Orleans for use on the family plantations there. The international slave trade was banned by this point, but the slave trade still flourished between the states, with a steady flow of slaves heading to the booming cotton fields of the deep south. The trip was not as long as the Middle Passage across the Atlantic, but had its horrors. This letter seems to suggest the use of a ship not built specifically for the slave trade, and offers instructions to a captain who apparently had no experience whatsoever in transporting slaves.
"Return to New Orleans in the Mexican as she must go to Norfolk for the purpose of taking on board a number of slaves for our estates in Louisiana and, as this kind of property requires care and attention and is besides very valuable, on which insurance cannot be effected, I wish you to return in the brig as there is no possibility of providing you with you with a proper vessell before next fall. . . . After you discharge your cargo at Baltimore, you will ballast your brig with brick or stone, have a platform layed fore and aft, and partitioned off so as to separate the male from the female slaves and make every arrangement to carry them conveniently and safely. At Norfolk, you will call on Capt. Jno. C. Saunders and Mssrs. Rudder & Turner . . . who are to procure your slaves." We don't know how the captain, Elisha Cobb (1795-1830) of Cape Cod, handled this assignment; he died in France just three years later.