Slave Shipper “francis Todd” Signed Letter
Slave Shipper “Francis Todd” of Newburyport Massachusetts Signed Letter with Integral Envelope Leaf
November 21, 1811-Dated, Autographed Letter Signed, “Francis Todd,” of Newburyport (MA), addressed to "Capt. Wm. Graves Brig Abigail Alexandria," with Circular Postmark and “25” Postage Rate Integral Mailing Envelope Leaf, Very Fine.
This rare early, three page, shipping letter is postmarked at Newburyport, November 21, 1811 and is addressed to "Capt. Wm. Graves Brig Abigail Alexandria". The three page letter was written and signed by Francis Todd of Newburyport. The brig “Abigail” was Captain William Graves lived in Newburyport. He had this first command at only 26 years old. Capt. William Graves (1785-1852), was a Sea captain of distinction. He was captured in the War of 1812, was held prisoner until the close of the war, and was shipwrecked on the way back to America!
Francis Todd was a shipper based out of Newburyport, Massachusetts during the early 19th century. In 1829, the ship that Todd owned, the Francis, carried a group of captive Slaves, recently bought by the Louisiana Slaver George B. Milligan, from Maryland down to New Orleans. Todd was criticized by the Abolitionist journalist William Lloyd Garrison, then writing for the “Genius of Universal Emancipation,” for his collaboration in the internal Slave trade. Garrison’s article appeared under the heading of "Black List," calling it "no worse to fit out piratical cruisers, or to engage in the foreign Slave trade, than to pursue a similar trade along our coasts."
Garrison alleged that the Slaves were kept in irons between decks, and suggesting that Todd was frequently involved in the internal Slave trade to New Orleans. Todd had Garrison prosecuted for libel in Baltimore. He did not dispute that his ship had carried Slaves to Louisiana, but claimed that the agreement to carry the Slaves was made by his captain and agents, without his prior knowledge, but was only informed of it later when the ship was about to sale. He claimed also that the Slaves on board the ship were not chained and received the same accommodations as free passengers.
The jury of Southern “Whites” quickly convicted Garrison of libel, and ordered him to pay a $30 fine. Garrison refused to pay and was sentenced to Baltimore jail instead. Todd then filed a private suit in Baltimore against Garrison, also winning a Civil judgment with damages of $1,000. Those judgments have been widely condemned as vindictive, and as having more to do with punishing Garrison for his Abolitionist views than with the requirements for a legal charge.
This Letter is written entirely in the hand of Francis Todd. In this letter, Todd is asking Captain Graves of his business prospects for the brig Abigail, and is making suggestions as well as informing him of some of the trouble other ships in the area were having. He mentions a ship called the "Ocean," that he wanted Graves to oversee until he could find a Captain for her. Todd also mentions a “Mr. John Brown” who may be owner or part owner of the "Ocean" and also mentions a Captain Adams. The letter has a tear from the original wax seal otherwise it is in very good condition! An important figure is the history of the American Slave Trade Shipping and heated legal controversy over the Abolition movement.