Few slaving agreements contracted between African sellers and American purchasers appear to have survived. They were rarely committed to paper, were destroyed after commitments were fulfilled, or were removed from business records kept by slave traders. The contract discussed here is of considerable interest as a document which, although brief, records important information and offers intriguing insights concerning African-European and African-African relationships in Guinea-Conakry at the turn of the nineteenth century.
The slaving contract is dated 15 November 1804, and apparently was negotiated aboard the merchant ship Charlotte of Bristol, Rhode Island, Jonathan Sabens, master, anchored at the Iles de Los archipelago.
Nov. th[ursday] 15-1804
fortay days after date I Promas to pay Jno. Sabens or orde[r] nin[e] hundard and ni[ne]ty five Bars to be Pade in Rice and Slave Say fore tun of Rice at nity Bars par tun the Remandr in Slaves at one hundard and Twenty Bars par Slave.
[signed in Arabic] Fadmod [Fendan Modu Dumbuya]
[signed in Arabic] Muhammad Sa'ab shokr Mohammed Sakib Fana/Ta/ Mohammed Shabaan
(the month before Ramadan)
Respecting the American traders involved, the Charlotte was jointly owned by George D'Wolf and Jonathan Sabens of Bristol, Rhode Island. Captain Jonathan Sabens was an experienced mariner, involved in at least three previous slaving voyages, including one as master of the Charlotte. Members of the D'Wolf family were associated with numerous slaving voyages to west Africa and continued to invest in slaving ventures long after Rhode Island made the trade illegal in 1787.