Reference Number: L1181
Date: c.1739
Provenance: The document was gifted in 1941 by J W Oliver, an associate of Lloyd’s. He found it in the papers of his late father.

Description: This Bill of Lading, referred to here as a ‘Bill Loading’, is for a slaving ship known as the Sa[nta] Clara bound from Kingston, Jamaica to Havana, Cuba on 6 March 1738. It records the shipping of 100 enslaved people who are only described according to whether they were men, women, boys or girls and as being marked with an ‘A’ on their right shoulder. The enslaved were branded to signify they were the property of the Royal British Asiento Company, and the bill of lading was made out to its ‘account and risque’. The Royal British Asiento Company is believed to be the South Sea Company (this could also be a mistranslation from the Spanish) and the ship was captained by John Wyllys, or Willis. This represents an example of an intercolonial slave trade across the Americas, although there is no record of this voyage on the Slave Voyages database. The Bill of Lading records ‘Merewether and Manning’ as the slave traders who delivered the enslaved to the ship in Jamaica. Edward Manning (d.1756) and James (or possibly his father John d.1739) Merewether were the South Sea Company agents for Jamaica. The 100 enslaved people were to be delivered to Anthony Welden, who was the South Sea Company’s agent in Havana. South Sea Company employees, such as Edward Manning, played a key role in developing extensive transnational slave-trading networks. Manning’s work, under the Asiento, saw him acquire a small fortune by the end of the 1730s, as well as the ownership of three Jamaican sugar estates. In his probate inventory 609 enslaved people were listed under his ownership. The merchant-cum-planter integrated into planter society through his marriage to Elizabeth Moore, the daughter of a prominent planter family. Unusually, according to Anne M Powers, ‘In 1739 Edward Manning divorced his wife Elizabeth Moore citing her adultery with Ballard Beckford. Manning then followed the traditional Jamaican planter pattern of setting up house with a free ‘mulatto’ woman, Elizabeth Pinnock, [who he had children with and] who outlived him and to whom he left property and slaves.’ [Ref.:Anne M Powers, A Parcel of Ribbons website:]. The precise date of this item is unknown.The Bill of Lading is dated 6 March 1738 which indicates the time of the voyage. This document is a duplicate of the one received in Jamaica on 28 March 1738 and is dated 4 June 1739. There is a watermark of Britannia, on the handmade blue laid paper. Britannia was commonly used as a watermark and it has not been determined whether this record was created in Jamaica or London. A bill of lading is a document that has developed in maritime trade over several hundred years. It is issued by the carrier (or their agent) to acknowledge receipt of cargo for shipment, in this case from John Wyllys [or Willis] the master of the ship, Sa. Clara. ‘Lading’ specifically refers to the loading of cargo aboard a ship. Bills of lading are still used and one of three crucial documents used in international trade, the other two being an insurance policy and an invoice. The South Sea Company was set up as a joint-stock company to assist the restructuring of National Debt, based on slave trading. After the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, as part of the provisions of the Treaty of Utrecht. 1713, the Asiento was granted to the South Sea Company for a period of 30 years. The Spanish, thereby granted the lucrative monopoly contract to supply Spanish America with enslaved Africans. Revisionist histories have shown that far from folding in 1720, when a finincial collapse known as the South Sea Bubble occurred, the South Sea Company continued to successfully trade in enslaved people, especially after the South Sea Bubble burst. This document demonstrates the Bubble was not as destructive to the economy as sometimes thought and that the company were sufficiently organised to maintain its trade. Helen Julia Paul has shown that the company’s slave-trading increased after 1720, peaking in 1725 and thereafter decreasing. [Ref.: Helen Julia Paul, The South Sea Company’s Slaving Activities, Discussion Papers in Economics and Econometrics, Southampton University,].

Notes: For a deeper engagement with this document see the Underwriting Souls Exhibit “A Brief History of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade”.