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Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. and the Atlantic World

Slave Trader, Plantation Owner, Emancipator

Daniel L. Schafer

Publication Year: 2013

Zephaniah Kingsley is best known for his Fort George Island plantation in Duval County, Florida, now a National Park Service site, and for his 1828 pamphlet, A Treatise on the Patriarchal System of Society, that advocated just and human treatment of slaves, liberal emancipation policies, and granting rights to free persons of color. Paradoxically, his fortune came from the purchase, sale, and labor of enslaved Africans.

In this penetrating biography, Daniel Schafer vividly chronicles Kingsley's evolving thoughts on race and slavery, exploring his business practices and his private life. Kingsley fathered children by several enslaved women, then freed and lived with them in a unique mixed-race family. One of the women--the only one he acknowledged as his "wife" though they were never formally married--was Anta Madgigine Ndiaye (Anna Kingsley), a member of the Senegalese royal family, who was captured in a slave raid and purchased by Kingsley in Havana, Cuba.

A ship captain, Caribbean merchant, and Atlantic slave trader during the perilous years of international warfare following the French Revolution, Kingsley sought protection under neutral flags, changing allegiance from Britain to the United States, Denmark, and Spain. Later, when the American acquisition of Florida brought rigid race and slavery policies that endangered the freedom of Kingsley's mixed-race family, he responded by moving his "wives" and children to a settlement in Haiti he established for free persons of color.

Kingsley's assertion that color should not be a "badge of degradation" made him unusual in the early Republic; his unique life is revealed in this fascinating reminder of the deep connections between Europe, the Caribbean, and the young United States.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. 6-7

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xiv

Zephaniah Kingsley Jr., 1765–1843, was born in England, reared in colonial South Carolina, and became British Canadian, American, Danish, Spanish, and again American. He was a ship captain, maritime merchant, Caribbean coffee trader, Atlantic trader in enslaved Africans, slave plantation owner in Florida, and patriarch of a large mixed-race extended family that functioned...

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pp. 1-6

Zephaniah Kingsley Jr., 1765–1843, was born in England, was reared in Charleston, South Carolina, and resided in New Brunswick in Canada after his father’s exile at the end of the American Revolution. He became a West Indies merchant, African slave trader, ship captain, plantation owner, slave master, polygamist, father of mixed-race children, and, late in life, the...

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1. The Kingsley Family, Charleston, and the American Revolution

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pp. 7-23

After eight weeks crossing the Atlantic from England, Zephaniah and Isabella Johnston Kingsley arrived at a wharf on the Cooper River in Charleston Harbor in late December 1770. Standing at the ship’s rail with them were their children: Mary, age six, Zephaniah Jr., five, George, two, and Catherine, four months. Charleston would be home to the Kingsley children...

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2. New Brunswick Years: Becoming an Atlantic Trader

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pp. 24-34

The British naval vessel that carried Zephaniah Kingsley Sr. into exile departed Charleston on December 14, 1782, and joined a flotilla of British vessels anchored offshore. Stymied by inclement weather, the fleet stayed at anchor until December 19, when it broke into convoys of fifty ships headed for New York, fifty for Jamaica, and twenty for England. Elias Vanderhorst, a former...

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3. "My Saddle Bags Loaded with Specie": Caribbean Commerce in the Age of Revolution

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pp. 35-52

On October 3, 1793, Zephaniah Kingsley secured the Argo, a British-registered brigantine, to a wharf jutting into the Cooper River at Charleston. It was a homecoming of sorts for the twenty-eight-year-old ship captain, but it was not to be a happy occasion. Charleston had been his home between 1770 and 1783, but that ended when his father was banished for supporting...

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4. Shifting Loyalties: St. Thomas and the Transit Trade in African Slaves

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pp. 53-67

On October 9, 1798, Zephaniah Kingsley stood before a magistrate at the Danish port of Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas to pledge loyalty to the king of Denmark. This was the second time in five years he had switched national allegiance. He had been a British citizen who resided in England and the British colonies of South Carolina and New Brunswick...

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5. "Fortune Is Neither to Be Won by Prudence nor Industry": A Slaving Voyage to East Africa

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pp. 68-85

Zephaniah Kingsley’s decision to “change the ground” from St. Thomas to East Florida was driven by Denmark’s decision to outlaw the slave trade in its overseas colonies. His time as a Danish colonial had been challenging, with Britain and France fighting an overseas war in the Caribbean and privateers seizing ships, but Kingsley reaped financial rewards in the face of these...

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6. Family Ties: Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley

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pp. 86-100

The Gustavia arrived in the United States on April 21, 1806, dropping anchor first at the quarantine station on Tybee Island off Savannah, Georgia. After sixteen months away from Charleston, Kingsley wrote to a merchant there to inquire about the current market for Africans: “We anchored this day for orders with 240 Negroes. . . . We are entire strangers to who is doing...

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7. Laurel Grove Plantation, Slavery, and East Florida's Booming Economy

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pp. 101-120

When Kingsley’s ship was secured to the wharf at Laurel Grove in March 1808, the total number of slaves he imported for his plantation was seventyfour. Four years later the number of “fully taskable hands” (healthy men and women capable of a full day of labor) had increased to one hundred, in addition to the children. Nearly all the adults were “new Africans” who...

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8. "Left by the Patriots a Perfect Desert": The Patriot War in East Florida

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pp. 121-137

After a decade of economic growth and prosperity, the so-called Patriot War initiated a calamitous downward spiral for the planters of Spanish East Florida. “Everything was thrown into disorder,” Kingsley testified, “the houses all burned, the inhabitants flying or keeping up a feeble warfare against the Indians; fields were ravished; the cattle destroyed or driven...

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9. "Like a Turtle without a Shell": Spain's Final Years in East Florida

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pp. 138-155

In August 1814, Governor Sebastián Kindelán informed Juan Ruiz de Apodaca, captain general for Cuba and the Floridas, that the “province is at peace,” a pronouncement more hopeful than realistic for East Florida. American troops had withdrawn from the province in May 1813, and most of the Patriot insurgents either petitioned for pardons and returned to their...

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10. "Discreetly Restrained under the Patriarchal System": Life and Labor at Kingsley's Plantations

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pp. 156-176

In early 1815, Zephaniah Kingsley moved to Fort George Island, his primary residence for the next twenty years. In the previous decade he had been an absentee owner and intermittent resident at Laurel Grove Plantation, observing and directing, but his attention was primarily focused on maritime enterprise. Beginning in 1815, he became involved in the day-to-day operations...

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11. "The Door of Liberty Is Open to Every Slave Who Can Find the Means of Purchasing Himself ": From Spanish to American Race Relations

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pp. 177-190

Zephaniah Kingsley had been a slaveholder in Florida for nearly two decades when the American flag was raised over St. Augustine on July 10, 1821. During those years he became convinced that white men became sickly and perished when they labored in the heat of Florida’s weather. In a pro-slavery tract written in 1828, Kingsley asserted that the semitropical...

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12. "In Trust for Flora Hanahan Kingsley and Her Son Charles": Kingsley as Patriarch

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pp. 191-209

It is difficult to imagine that a man who never married but fathered numerous children by several different women, all of whom were his teenage slaves when the initial sexual relations occurred, would consider himself a family man. Yet, Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. thought of himself as the patriarch of a very large family encompassing the slaves he owned, his own mixed-race...

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13. The "Island of Liberty" and Kingsley's Final Journeys

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pp. 210-229

During the summer of 1835, Kingsley traveled to Haiti to determine the truth of President Jean-Pierre Boyer’s boast that the former French colony synonymous with sugar and slavery had become an “Island of Liberty.” Reports in the abolitionist literature had been positive, but Kingsley knew that the slave rebellion which drove away the French and transformed...

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14. "To Do Good in This World We Must Have Money": The Kingsley Legacy

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pp. 230-246

In 1842, journalist and abolitionist Lydia Child urged Kingsley to liberate his slaves before he died to avoid the potentially “dreadful risk” and “cruel chances of slavery” they might be subjected to under a less benevolent owner. Kingsley acknowledged that he was troubled by the thought but said his desire to “do great things for Haiti” could only be accomplished “by...

Appendix A: Forty-five Slaves Lost, July 1812, at Laurel Grove and Drayton Island

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pp. 247-248

Appendix B: Inventory of Zephaniah Kingsley's Estate at San Jose Plantation, March 13, 1844

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pp. 249-250

Appendix C: Slaves Claimed by George Kingsley from the Estate of Zephaniah Kingsley Jr.

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p. 251-251

Appendix D: Slaves Recovered by Anna Kingsley from the Estate of Zephaniah Kingsley Jr.

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p. 252-252

Appendix E: Account of Sales of Property, Sold at Auction, January 1, 1847

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p. 253-253

Appendix F: Inventory of the Real and Personal Estate of George Kingsley

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p. 254-254

Appendix G: Account of the Sale of the Personal Estate of George Kingsley, February 1, 1848

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pp. 255-256


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pp. 257-296


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pp. 297-324


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pp. 325-336

About the Author

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p. 337-337

E-ISBN-13: 9780813048529
E-ISBN-10: 0813048524
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813044620

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: 3 maps, 10 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2013

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Subject Headings

  • Kingsley, Z. (Zephaniah), 1765-1843.
  • Slavery -- Florida.
  • Slave trade -- United States -- History.
  • Kingsley family.
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