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Marie Paul


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The Marie Paul, under the command of Charles de Bonnay, was the first ship brought before the British Vice Admiralty Court in Freetown, Sierra Leone. It had sailed from Senegal on 20 August 1808 “with a cargo of slaves bound to Cayenne in South America.” In total there were 35 men, 10 boys, 12 women and 3 girls found on board or 60 people.

This French schooner, owned by three Frenchmen resident at Senegal, was captured by HMS Derwent on 23 August 1808 and escorted to Goree, where sworn affidavits were taken from the captain and one of the owners, Jacques Laboure, on 30 August 1808. By the time the Marie Paul was “condemned as good & lawful prize” on 10 November 1808, the enslaved Africans had spent over two and a half months in the process of enforced migration between Senegal and Sierra Leone. On 10 November, the British Vice Admiralty Court condemned this ship and emancipated 60 people.

Summary paragraphs quoted from: Suzanne Schwarz, "Reconstructing the Life Histories of Liberated Africans: Sierra Leone in the Early Nineteenth Century," History in Africa, 39 (2012): 175-207.

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Most adult males from the Marie Paul enlisted in the colonial militia and were used in “the service of Government in cutting a road to their place of settlement.”They were each given two acres of land and were paid “the lowest wages in the Colony (9d per day & Rice...).” It was noted that they “live with their wives in a temporary settlement in the neighbourhood of their employment.” Tracing the movements of these men in the “Annual Report of Natives of Africa” compiled by Thomas Perronet Thompson in December 1808 shortly after their release, indicates that all were still present in the colony with the exception of Siab Yot who had been “killed by the fall of a tree” on 17 December 1808. This pattern is consistent with the report submitted by Thompson in which he noted: "That no instance of misconduct or of any attempt to leave the Colony has occurred among the Natives of Africa from the time of their liberation from slavery; but that from the time when portions of waste lands were assigned to them & arms were put into their hands as part of the militia of the Colony, they have applied themselves to procure wives & to settle themselves contentedly as subjects of the King of England."

Only 23 of the 35 men were still evident in an 1812 listing of the residents in the colony. Of those identifiable as remaining in the colony, this “List of Captured Negroes” identifies the type of occupation practised by the individual as well as aspects of family relationships. Macha, recaptive number 1, was described as John Maca in the “List of Captured Negroes” and it was recorded that he “works as a sawyer in the colony.” Fatima, aged twenty two, was “living in the colony with John Maca.” This is consistent with the “Annual Report of the Natives of Africa” compiled by Thompson in December 1808, which indicated that she was “married to one of her countrymen.” The “List of Captured Negroes” indicates that Birum, recaptive number 2, was entered as John Birum and that he worked “as a mason in the colony.” Saree, aged twenty six, was entered as John Serry in the later listing and he was described as “a labourer living in the colony.” Mahomet, recaptive number 6, was entered as Mahomet Dunbar in the listing of 1812 and he was described as a “labourer living in the colony.”

Primary sources not yet available online include collections from:

Hull History Center (HHC), Proceedings Relating to Slaves in Various Ships (Marie Paul, Sao Joaquim, Sao Domingo, Two Cousins, Rapid, Africaan, Penel), seized by HMS Derwent, Commander Frederick Parker, 17 September 1808-11 August 1809.

HHC, U DTH/1/23, Annual Report of Natives of Africa received, enlisted, entered, apprenticed, or otherwise disposed of by the Governor of His Majesty’s Colony of Sierra Leone, with Observations thereupon, in pursuance of His Majesty’s Order in Council of March 16th, 1808 in: Drafts of despatches to Lord Castlereagh from Thomas Perronet Thompson 27 July 1808-4 February 1810.