Captain’s Orders for the Two Friends, 1791

Orders were often given to ship captains from the owners or the merchants selling cargo. This document directs the captain of the Two Friends to go to certain ports to obtain the best prices for the goods he carries. He is also instructed to take on a cargo of human chattel to sell in Cuba and to state that he has bought the maximum number, even if he is actually unable to. The number of slaves to be traded dictated the amount of sugar and molasses that a ship could then buy and transport back to the home port of Beverly. Even though the manifests dealing with cargo leaving and returning to the United States would not show any slave-trading activity – this document makes clear that Cape Ann ships carried enslaved people, if only between ports in the Caribbean.

Related Documents:

Account of Sale of Slaves, Two Friends, 1791

Deposition of the Two Friends first mate Osmon Gage, 1793

Drawing of the Schooner Two Friends, Beverly

Outward Manifest of the Two Friends, Beverly 1791

Capt. Nicholas Thorndike, Beverly 4th October, 1791 Sir

You being master of our Schooner Two Friends, now loaded for the west Indies, our Orders are that you proceed to sea without loss of time, & go first off Point Peter in Guadaloupe, where you (may) go in with your Boat & if your Cargo1 Can be Sold for Twenty four livre2 or upwards, cash down (clear of duty3) you’ll sell it, if not you’ll proceed to St. Pierre in Martinique, & if it can’t be sold there to Port Royal, & if the above Terms Cannot be had you’ll proceed to Basseterre, in Guadaloupe, & if your Cargo cannot be sold at either of those places, you’ll proceed to St Batholomew, St Eustasis or St Thomas & if you should be so unfortunate as not to sell your Cargo, so as to leave a freight at either of those places, you’ll proceed off Cape Francis4, where you’ll send in your mate in your boat, and see if anything can be done, if not you’ll Inquire how it is on the South Side & go there. Let your Cargo be sold wherever it may be, your Ballast5, your Vessel6, & purchase from Five to Fourteen good Negroes, as the price may be, & lay in such food for them as is best suited to preserve their Health & proceed to Havanna in the island of Cuba. You’ll be Very Carefull to keep them well Secured at all times, & on your arrival you’ll sell them for the most that can be Obtained & purchase as much Molasses as your Vessel will stow7, leaving Room Only Sufficient to Stow the goods you may purchase with your Surplus Cash, which you’ll invest in Sugar, Cotton or Hides8, which Ever you suppose will yield the most profit here, you’ll make all possible Dispatch & write us by Every Opportunity, you may Reckon West Indies Goods to be worth here on your arrival (Clear)

Clear of Duty; molasses 2/l9, Good Brown Sugar 63/l, Havanna White best kind, & of Good Salted or Dried Hides/6d10 per pound, & if you should get dried Hides, you be careful to get them that are free from bugs, & to keep them aired & beat on as Often as possible to keep the Vermin11 from taking them, you’ll be Sure to Carry no merchandise of any kind to the Havanna, Except the Negroes, & you’ll likewise be Sure to Inform no person of your Destination, neither before your Sale nor in the West Indies, in order to be Satisfied of the profit on Sugar, you’ll weigh some of the Boxes, by which means you’ll be able to Compare their weight with Ours, & allow for the Draining (?) you Can See the profit notwithstanding the foregoing Orders, if it

1 Cargo = goods to be sold
2 Livre = form of French money
3 “clear of duty” = without having to pay a tax
4 Cape Francis = Cape Francois, a city in Haiti, known as a place to buy & sell slaves
5 Ballast = goods of little value put on board to help keep the boat from tipping over
6 Vessel = ship
7 Stow = put on the ship
8 Hides = leather
9 2/l = 2 livres (?)
10 6d/ =6 dollars (?)
11 Vermin = mice & rats

should do happen that you Cannot Sell your cargo for Cash & Can for Produce so as to make a Dispatch & a Good Voyage you have Liberty to do it & proceed home from the Islands, but if you Should go to the Havanna & Cannot Obtain permission to Trade you must then proceed to Such port in Hispaniola12, or Otherwheres, where you think Sugar & molasses Can be had on the best Terms & load for home, your Privilege13 to be the Same that it was the last Voyage, & your mates & peoples as affixed14 to their names, you are to receive 5 percent on the Sales & 2 1⁄2 percent on the Returns Unless you pay any Other Commission15 to a merchant in which Case it must be deducted16 from your Commission, the Spermaceti17 candles you are about to Receive, no commission on the sales of, but 2 1⁄2 percent for laying out the money, —– good clean Cotton may be worth, 1⁄4 & good Proof & good Flavored Rum,3⁄4, it would be best to get Rum of about 18 or 19 percent above proof, if where to bring any – if you Should take a less number of Negroes than 14, (you’ll)


You’ll Enter that or a larger number in your log Book as being purchased, & Enter their Deaths in the same at different times so as to Comport18 – with the numbers you Carry in —
You’ll Hoist you Insign at your (?) peak, & burgee(?) at the main Topmast head as a Signal, when you appear at Cape Ann —

Wishing you a Safe & prosperous Voyage. We are you your friends & Owners Brown & Thorndike

N.B. In Case you should die or be by any means Rendered incapable of Commanding the Vessel, Our Orders – are that your mate takes Charge of the Vessel & see these Orders Executed, notwithstanding – what is mentioned in the foregoing you may proceed to Martinique first & afterwards proceed as before directed, if it is profitable to make a Continent (?) to Carry a Cargo to Havanna We wish you to do it Even if it should afford but a Small profit, but you’ll give the Government the preference, —If you should find Capt. Samuel Ingersoll at Guadaloupe & can lay out five hundred dollars in good Cocoa @ 45. To 50 percent per Hundred, you’ll send home to that amt. in him, or if it Cannot be laid out in molasses without detention at not Exceeding 110 percent Tierces you may send home to that amt. ——–

Brown & Thorndike

12 Hispanola = Haiti
13 Privilege = payment
14 Affixed their names = signed on as a crew
15 Commission = money paid to the captain as a seller of the goods
16 Deducted = take off
17 Spermaceti = whale oil
18 Comport = agree with


Brown and Thorndike to Captain Nicholas Thorndike, “Ship’s Orders” (October 4, 1791). Letter. Beverly Historical Society, Beverly, MA. *

* now Historic Beverly