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Hopkins, Esek

Account for outfitting of the brig Sally; August, 1764

This document is an account, apparently from August, 1764, from Esek Hopkins to Moses Brown listing all that he had paid for goods and services associated with fitting out the Sally for Africa.

Brig Sally's account book; 1765

In addition to his duties as the Sally's captain, Esek Hopkins served as the ship's "supercargo," the officer in charge of the cargo. During the long voyage, he kept a detailed account book, recording every trade and transaction. The book included a page for each crewmember, showing advances on wages, purchases of clothing and rum from the ship's stores, and so forth. Transactions on the African coast, where the Sally arrived in early November, 1764, begin on page 17 and continue for the next seventy pages. The accounts specify the date on which each enslaved African was acquired and what was traded for him or her. Most of the transactions were recorded in "barrs," a unit frequently used in the slave trade. A "barr" was literally an iron bar, but it was also a monetary equivalent - thus a yard of cloth was accounted at once bar, a barrel of rum at ten bars, and so forth.Throughout the long voyage, Hopkins kept a running tally of the total number of Africans he had purchased. By the time the Sally left Africa in August, 1765, he had acquired 196 Africans, at least twenty one of whom he sold to other traders before leaving the coast. Another nineteen had died, and a twentieth was left for dead on the day the ship sailed. Dozens more would die on the transatlantic passage or in the days after the Sally's arrival at the West Indian island of Antigua. In all, the account book records the loss of 109 enslaved Africans, as well as three of the Sally's crew.

Manifest of the brig Sally; September 11, 1764

Manifest of the Sally on its departure for Africa. The document, dated September 11, 1764, includes the name of the ship's captain (Esek Hopkins), owner (Nicholas Brown and Company, the name under which the four Brown brothers then did business), and a brief description of the ship's cargo. The primary commodity on the ship was New England rum, some 17, 274 gallons, but the cargo also included thirty boxes of spermaceti candles, 1800 bunches of onions, forty barrels of flour, 51 loaves of sugar, and various other trade goods and supplies.

Nicholas Brown & Co to Esek Hopkins

Once a ship was fully loaded, owners delivered a formal letter of instructions to the captain, specifying his destination, outlining his responsibilities, and making provision for various contingencies, including the loss of cargo, captain, or crew. This document, dated September 10, 1764, is a copy of the letter of instructions that the Brown brothers delivered to Esek Hopkins on the eve of the Sally's departure for Africa. The letter orders Hopkins to sail to the Windward Coast of Africa, to "Dispose of your Cargo for Slaves," and to proceed to Barbados or to any other American port where the captives could be sold to best advantage. The letter also instructs Hopkins to return to Providence with "four likely young slaves," aged about fifteen years, for the family's own use. For his services, the captain was offered a "privilege" of ten slaves to sell on his own account, as well as the standard captain's commission of four slaves for every one hundred and four he delivered alive.

Nicholas Brown & Co. to Hopkins, Esek; December 30, 1764

Copy of a letter sent by the Brown brothers to Esek Hopkins, dated December 30, 1764, offering news of other local ship captains, as well as a few observations about the political protests unleashed in the colonies by the British Parliament's decision to begin collecting a duty on imported sugar -- protests that would issue, twelve years later, in American independence. Enclosed "for your Amusement" was a copy of a pamphlet, "The Rights of the Colonies Examined," written by the captain's older brother, Stephen Hopkins, colonial governor of Rhode Island and a leading spokesman for the colonial cause. Published at the very moment that the Sally arrived on the African coast, this influential pamphlet not only denied Parliament's right to assess "internal" taxes on the colonies but also insisted that to compel people to pay taxes that had not been levied by their own representatives was to reduce them "to the miserable condition of slaves." It is unclear whether Hopkins ever received the letter, which was presumably forwarded to Africa on some other outbound ship.

Nicholas Brown & Co. to Hopkins, Esek; July 15, 1765

By mid-July, 1765, ten months after the Sally's departure, the Brown brothers had still had no word from Esek Hopkins. Their anxiety was increased by conflicting reports from Africa. In May, word arrived from another Rhode Island slave ship captain who had seen Hopkins near the Gambia River and reported "all well on board." A month later, however, another report arrived, suggesting that Hopkins had lost all his hands on the Bassa River. On July 15, the Brown brothers wrote another letter to Hopkins, which they expected would be his first port of call in the Americas. The letter included updated information about market conditions in different plantation colonies. Having previously suggested that Hopkins might most profitably sell his slaves in South Carolina, the Browns now offered Jamaica as the best destination for the ship and cargo. Two days after penning this letter, the Browns finally received a letter from Hopkins.

Nicholas Brown & Co. to Hopkins, Esek; July 17, 1765

On July 17, 1765, ten months after the departure of the Sally, the Brown brothers finally received a letter from Esek Hopkins. The letter, which Hopkins had dispatched from Africa in May, disconfirmed recent reports that the Sally had been lost or that its crew had perished. (A second letter from Hopkins, written in March, arrived subsequently.) Moses Brown, who had come to Newport to organize the family's affairs in light of the reported loss of the Sally, was elated. "Such favourable Accts of your Circumstance from what we had heard Quite alleviates our Misfortune," he wrote. In this letter, dated July 17, Brown went on to offer advice about where Hopkins might most profitably dispose of his cargo. The letter was sent to Barbados, Hopkins's expected destination in the Caribbean. Like other letters posted by the Browns, it appears not to have reached the captain.

Nicholas Brown & Co. to Hopkins, Esek; July 19, 1765

On July 17, 1765, the Brown brothers finally received a letter from Esek Hopkins, sent from Africa in May, describing his progress in acquiring a cargo of captives. (A second letter, written in March, arrived subsequently.) The news revived the hopes of the financially overextended brothers, who had feared that the Sally was lost. On July 19, they wrote two letters to Hopkins, one of which they directed to Africa and this letter, which they sent to Barbados in the hands of a Rhode Island ship's captain named Joseph Tillinghast. In both letters, the Browns offered information about market conditions in different colonies and reiterated their request that he return to Providence with "five likely boys for our use at 13 or 15 years old." In this letter, they also asked Hopkins to forward up to half the proceeds realized from the sale of his cargo immediately to them in Providence, as "we shall be much in want of Cash." The letter appears never to have reached Hopkins.

Nicholas Brown & Co. to Hopkins, Esek; July 19, 1765

On July 17, 1765, the Brown brothers finally received a letter from Esek Hopkins, sent from Africa two months before. The news revived the hopes of the financially overextended brothers, who feared that the Sally had been lost. On July 19, they wrote two letters to Hopkins, one of which they sent to Barbados and this letter, which they directed to Africa. In the letter, the Browns suggested Jamaica as the colony offering the best prices for enslaved Africans and reiterated their request that he return to Providence with "Five Likely boys" for the family's own use.

Nicholas Brown & Co. to Hopkins, Esek; June 4, 1765

By early June, 1765, the Brown brothers were growing anxious about the fate of Esek Hopkins and the Sally, having received no word of either since the ship's departure nearly nine months before. On June 4, they sent a letter to the island of Barbados, where they hoped Hopkins might soon arrive with a cargo of slaves. The letter, sent via a ship's captain named Daniel Bushlin, included the latest intelligence on market conditions in different plantation colonies, touting in particular the advantages of South Carolina, where slaves were apparently fetching high prices. The Sally did eventually reach Barbados but only in late November, nearly six months later. Hopkins appears never to have received this letter, nor any of the others that the Browns directed to Barbados.

Nicholas Brown & Co. to Hopkins, Esek; November 16, 1765

The Brown brothers only learned the full scope of the Sally disaster in mid-November, when they received a letter from Hopkins, dated October 9, 1765 announcing his arrival in Antigua. In this November 16 letter, written in Moses Brown's hand, they acknowledge the "Disagreeable" news of "yr Losing 3 of yr Hands and 88 Slaves" but add that "your Self Continuing in Helth is so grate Satisfaction to us, that we Remain Contented under the Heavy Loss of our Int[erest]s." The balance of the letter offers information on Caribbean markets and suggestions on the commodities Hopkins that might purchase for his return journey to Rhode Island.

Nicholas Brown & Co. to Hopkins, Esek; November 9, 1765

Esek Hopkins and the Sally finally reached the West Indies in October, 1765, thirteen months after departing from Rhode Island. Of some two hundred enslaved Africans purchased by Hopkins, fewer than ninety ultimately survived, and most of them were in extremely poor health. Still unaware of the scope of the disaster, the Brown brothers drafted this letter, which was carried to the Caribbean by Nicholas Power, captain of another Brown-owned ship. The letter offered elaborate instructions on the disposal of the Sally's enslaved cargo and what Hopkins might purchase with the proceeds.

Sales record for the brig Sally in Antigua; January 8, 1766

The returning Sally's first port of call on entering the Caribbean was Barbados. The Browns had posted several letters to the island offering Hopkins advice on where he might most profitably sell the enslaved Africans in his hold, but none of the letters seems to have reached him. Hopkins proceeded to Antigua where he sold what remained of his cargo. This document, which records some of Hopkins's transactions during his first month in Antigua, includes information about the sale of 35 survivors from the ship. Most are identified as "sick" and fetched extremely low prices, in some cases as little as £5 apiece. Only two of the captives are described as "primes slaves." They sold for £50 each.