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Birmingham City Council

Section 1 - Traders

The following pages are all examples from the collections inArchives and Heritage. They chiefly relate to the following three individuals:

William Douglas
William was an officer in the garrison at Cape Coast castle on the coast of west Africa (see cover map) in 1799. His correspondence with his sister Isabella and her husband, the Derby businessman Joseph Strutt, survives in the Galton collection (Joseph and Isabella's daughter, also Isabella, married into the Galton family of Birmingham.)

William had been disowned by his father following an unknown misdemeanour. He was keen to make his fortune and retire to Scotland. He confided his ambitions to his sister, and his precious savings to his brother-in-law to buy goods to send to him in Africa to sell. They were helped by William's commander Archibald Dalzel, Governor of the Cape Coast Forts, on leave in England at the time, whose letters reveal that he had an interest in a slave ship.

William had contact with Africans in his trading, but does not mention slaves directly. However, it is clear that his trading was part of the Britain to Africa "leg" of the triangular trade.


James Watt senior
James Watt senior, the father of the famous James Watt, was a merchant in Greenock in Scotland. The documents surviving among his papers include mention of the buying and selling of slaves in 1740-41 and 1762.

In most of these records the slaves appear mainly as commodities like the wood and the sugar that were also traded, but there are some hints of details such as the account of clothes bought for Frederick "The Black Boy" which survives with other receipts.


John Woodward
John Woodward was a correspondent of the firm of Boulton and Watt, and one of their London agents. One of his letters to Boulton and Watt is also included as document 2/3 in this pack. He was a clerk working for Charlotte Matthews, who was Matthew Boulton's London banker and agent, and when she died in 1802, he and John Mosley continued the business as agents for M and R Boulton, and J and G Watt and company and Company. He fell off his horse in 1810 and died from his injuries.

List of documents in section 1


1.1

"Expences attending the Ship Perseverance on a Voyage from Liverpool to Africa, thence to the West Indies, and from the West Indies Back to England." The costings include the cost of provisions for the crew and slaves, commission on the sale of the slaves, and an estimate of profits.

See document 1.1


See a transcrition of document 1.1


1.2

See document 1.2 part 1

See document 1.2 part 2

See document 1.2 part 3

See document 1.2 part 4

Intend or order for goods to be sent from England to Africa for resale by William Douglas 1799.

See a transcription of document 1.2



1.3

Letter from William Douglas to his brother in law amending the indent in 1/2 above, in which he records his dealings with Africans, 1799.

See document 1.3

See a transcription of document 1.3



1.4

See document 1.4 part 1

See document 1.4 part 2

See document 1.4 part 3

Letter from Archibald Dalzel, Governor of the Cape Coast forts to Joseph Strutt, 1799. After explaining that he is ready to help William Douglas by conveying his goods free of charge, he writes A Ship in which I am deeply interested is shortly expected from the W. Indies, and, if all go well, will sail for Cape Coast about the end of the year. This ship was evidently part of the triangular trade.

See a transcription of document 1.4



1.5

See document 1.5 part 1

See document 1.5 part 2

Letter to James Watt senior, July 2 1740, from James Hunter. Hunter discusses what he had bought and sold, noting: "As Negores turns out dear Bought Six three men and three Women"

See a transcription of document 1.5



1.6

Receipts of James Watt senior for a slave, and for clothes bought for a slave.

See document 1.6
See a transcription of document 1.6



1.7

Letter to James Watt senior, from James Castellan, 1741, discussing the sale of a slave.

See document 1.7

See a transcription of document 1.7



1.8

List of "Produce arrived & sold for the late John Woodward Esqre in the year 1809". it shows the type of gods imported from the plantations into Britain, and gives the names of the ships used.

See document 1.8


See a transcription of document 1.8



1.9

Extract from the local newspaper Aris's Birmingham Gazette 11 November 1771, advertising the sale of slaves.
Local newspapers are available in the Local Studies & History section.


See document 1.9