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Freebooters and Smugglers

The Foreign Slave Trade in the United States after 1808

Ernest Obadele-Starks

Publication Year: 2007

Freebooters and Smugglers examines the tactics and strategies that the adherents of the foreign slave trade used to challenge the law. It reassesses the role that Americans played in the continuation of foreign slave transshipments into the country right up to the Civil War, shedding light on an important topic that has been largely overlooked in the historiography of the slave trade.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press


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pp. c-c

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-v


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pp. vi-vii

Photographs and Illustrations

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pp. viii-viii


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pp. ix-2

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pp. 3-14

In the winter of 1819 the infamous Jim Bowie and his two brothers, Rezin and John, transported a coffle (a group of slaves chained together) of bewildered Africans from Texas into Louisiana and stashed them in the wilderness not too far from a federal marshal’s office. Once again the Bowies had avoided arrest for their part in smuggling slaves into the country in violation of an...

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1. “A View of Opening a Trade”

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pp. 15-45

As William C.C. Claiborne, the American governor assigned to the Louisiana Territory, stood along the banks of the Mississippi River in New Orleans in 1809 observing what he believed to be slave ships entering the port, he was convinced that Louisianans were determined to maintain a steady supply of slaves to help bolster their economy. Claiborne faced a litany of legal questions...

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2. “A Particular Kind of Force”

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pp. 46-74

When Beverly Chew reported for duty as collector of customs at New Orleans in 1817, he brought with him some issues from his own past that made many in the community skeptical about his ability to conduct fair, impartial, and honest administration of the Abolition Act. Born in Virginia in 1773, Chew settled in New Orleans during Spanish rule and nurtured business relations...

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3. “Turbulent and Bad Men”

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pp. 75-108

On January 1, 1830, Jim Bowie left Thibodaux, Louisiana, and headed for Mexico with a close companion.They stopped in Nacogdoches, at the farm of Jared E. Groce on the Brazos River near San Felipe.There, Bowie presented a letter of introduction to Stephen F. Austin from Thomas F. McKinney. By February Bowie and his friend Isaac Donoho had taken an oath of allegiance...

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4. “Difficult to Repress”

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pp. 109-143

On December 29, 1845,Texas was officially annexed into the United States. The incorporation of the former republic altered the dynamics of the foreign slave trade in many ways.American jurisdiction meant that the introduction of slaves would be legally limited to the domestic trade.The Abolition Act of 1808 would no longer be an abstract issue but rather a law that placed the...

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5. “A Great Frontier Movement”

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pp. 144-166

Several factors helped sustain the foreign slave trade in the United States during the 1850s. One was the highly organized filibuster communities.These expeditions of conquest overcame legal and political attacks and penetrated foreign borders with the intention of toppling governments and reintroducing the foreign slave trade through law, policy, and practice.Using filibusters,...

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6. “No Argument Could Be Made”

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pp. 167-191

From his prison cell in New Orleans a convicted slave smuggler, prior to being pardoned for his offense, boasted that New York City had the reputation among slave smugglers and traffickers of being a “chief port” for the foreign slave trade, and that foreign consuls and federal agents were well served to begin directing their attention there as well as the Western Gulf South....

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pp. 192-194

Although this study discusses a finite number of foreign slave trading incidents, it nevertheless demonstrates that freebooters established traceable patterns that outline the history of their efforts to maintain the practice from 1808 until the Civil War. Research into customs records, foreign office records, court cases, newspapers, and contemporary observations helps reconstruct...


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pp. 195-228


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pp. 229-250


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pp. 251-270

Back Cover

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pp. bc-bc

E-ISBN-13: 9781610751643
E-ISBN-10: 1610751647
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557288585
Print-ISBN-10: 1557288585

Page Count: 230
Illustrations: 11 illustrations and maps
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 654395022
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Freebooters and Smugglers

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Slave trade -- United States -- History -- 19th century
  • Slave trade -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Pirates -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Smugglers -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Slave trade -- Africa -- History -- 19th century.
  • Slavery -- Law and legislation -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Slavery -- Southern States -- History -- 19th century.
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