Deposition of the Two Friends first mate Osmon Gage, 1793

The deposition refers to a Customs violation case that involves the ship Two Friends and illegal off-loading of sugar in Beverly. Special note should be taken of the section where Osmon states, “I did not know how Strict the Spanish would be, who would not allow any more cargo that what the Proceeds of the Slaves would produce…” – this was the clue that allowed us to know that the ship carried slaves at one point. Without this sentence, the NARA documents do not show that the ship was involved in the slave trade.

The Two Friends and Slavery

A deposition connected with a customs violation case revealed that the ship’s captain was instructed to buy only as much sugar as the worth of the human chattel he sold in Havana. A quick query to the Beverly Historical Society gave light to Captain’s orders and an “account of slaves” bought and sold between the island of Haiti and Cuba. While the ship brought back to the US only sugar and molasses at the end of its journey, it held enslaved people through the Caribbean. Read the documents linked below to learn more about this relationship between maritime trade in Essex County and slavery. Although slavery had been abolished in Massachusetts by 1791, local merchants continued to operate slave ships outside of the United States.

I, Osmon Gage, of lawful age, testify & say, that I was Mate on board the Schooner, Two Friends, owned by Messrs. Brown & Thorndike, & commanded by Nicholas Thorndike on her last Voyage: that we sailed from the Havanna on or about the twentieth of April last & arrived at Beverly on the eleventh day of May the next following, and that I attended to the Loading of the Vessel, & that we had on board for the Cargo & Adventures by my Account one hundred & twelve or one hundred and thirteen Casks of Molasses forty two of which were Tierces1 & Barrels, besides twelve Boxes of Sugar, fifty Hides, & fifty jays of Honey & a Parcel of Logwood2; and when all the Molasses was stowed except the upper Tierce, I counted them, but I counted the upper tierce as I stowed it & I made 113, but the Captain made 112 Casks in all & what is above mentioned is all the goods we had on board when we sailed. We hoisted out seventy Hogsheads3, forty two Tierces & Barrels of Molasses, twelve Boxes of Sugar, fifty Hides & fifty Jars of Honey & a parcel of Logwood on the Wharf at Beverly on the 15th or 16th Day of May last, as nigh as I could judge.

Osmon Gage

1 Tierces = A measure of liquid capacity, equal to 42 gallons
2 Logwood = material used to dye cloth
3 Hogshead = large barrel, typically holding 63 gallons

Questions by Mr. Gore, Attorney to the United States
1 QuestionHow do you know that the Articles above mentioned were delivered from the Vessel –
Ans.Because I counted them before we sailed & I sent them out
2nd Qu.Were the Articles mentioned by you and the Articles that were on board at the same Time of the Two Friends Sailing from Havanna, on her Voyage on her Arrival at Beverly?
Ans.Yes, they were.
3rd Qu.To whom did the Cargo belong
Ans.I suppose it belonged to Messr. Brown & Thorndike except some Casks which belonged to the Captain, the Mate & the Crew.
4th Qu.How many Casks belonged to the Captain, how many to yourself, and how many to the Crew
Ans.Four or Five Hogshead to the Captain, as nigh as I can tell, two Hogshead to me, and two Hogshead to Davis, one Hogshead to Standley, & one Barrel to the Boy, no other person was on board
5th Qu.Who entered the Articles belonging to the Captain & the Crew at the Customs House
Ans.I know not who entered.
6th Qu.To whom did you pay or account with for Duties on your two Hogsheads of Molasses
Ans.I have not paid any yet, but I shall when I Settle with the Captain
7th Qu.Did you deliver nothing from on board without a Permit from the Collector of the Port of Salem & Beverly
Ans.I do not know of any Thing delivered without a permit.
8th Qu.Was nothing taken out of the Vessel except in the Day Time
Ans.Not to my knowledge
9th Qu.Did not Captain Nicholas Thorndike ever confess to you that goods were taken out of the Two Friends on her last Voyage without a Permit.
Ans.He never told me that there was anything taken out without any
10th Qu.Did you keep a Log Book or Journal, & who has Possession of it
Ans.I kept a Journal & a Log Book both & I have the Journal at home, but the Log Book I left on board.
11th Qu.Did you put in the Journal or Log Book the Cargo as it came on board & is the above Account comformable4 thereto
Ans.I kept it on a Piece of Paper. I gave it to the Captain.
12th Qu.How do you know the Articles mentioned above to be all the Cargo on board the Two Friends
Ans.Because I counted them as they came on board & as I stowed them. I have not seen any account since. I gave it to the Captain at Havanna.
Questions by Mr. Thorndike
1 QuestionDo you know positively that the Cargo all belonged to the Owners of the Vessel, or how do you know that the Captain or some other Person did not own the whole of it
Ans.I do not positively know, but I concluded Brown & Thorndike to have been the Owners of the Cargo only from their being owners of the Vessel.
2nd Qu.Why did you keep the Account of the Cargo on a Piece of Paper & not in the Log Book
Ans.Because the Captain desired me not to keep it in the Log Book, as we had been ordered out of the Port I did not know how Strict the Spanish would be, who would not allow any more cargo that what the Proceeds of the Slaves would produce
3rd Qu.How did you get this information
Ans.From the Captain
4th Qu.Are you positive that the Number of Casks & Boxes mentioned in your Deposition agree with the Account you rendered to the Captain at the Havanna
Ans.I am positive that they do agree.
5th Qu.Was Patch the Cooper5 of the Vessel at Work on Shore the last three or four Days of your taking in the Cargo & at the Time the Hold was blocked off
6th Qu.Did the said Cooper make all the Hogsheads in which you brought home Molasses
Ans.He did not make the whole, particularly he did not make the two Iron bound water Casks & part of the Teirces
7th Qu.Do you Suppose the Cooper kept an exact Account of the Casks which he made from Day to Day
Ans.I do not think he did: for he commonly at Evening mentioned to the Captain who usually asked him when he came on board more than he had coopered off in the Day
8th Qu.Do you Suppose that the Cooper counted off the Casks either in the Morning or the Evening that had been stowed the Day before, while he was at Work on Shore
Ans.I’m pretty certain that he did not, for it was always pretty late when he came off & very early in the Morning that he went on Shore before the Hatches were opened
9th Qu.Was not the Vessel so full in the Midships where the Molasses was stowed, that a Person could not have gotten fore or aft6 over the Molasses so as to have counted the Cargo
Ans.It was so full in the Midships where Molasses was stowed that it was impossible for anybody to go fore & aft over the Molasses to count the Casks.
10th Qu.After the Molasses was all on board, was it possible for any body to count the Casks without going over the Molasses to do it
Ans.It was impossible
11th Qu.How much deeper have you known the Vessel to go to Lea7 when she came home her last Voyage
Ans.She has been to the Lea nigh two Streaks deeper than She came home the last Voyage
12th Qu.How many more Hogsheads do you suppose the Vessel would have held had she been stowed at both Ends & under the half Deck
Ans.Between twenty & thirty, I suppose over thirty.
13th Qu.Was the Cooper at Work so far from the Vessel any of the Time while he was on Shore that any Part of the Molasses could have been taken out without his knowing it
Ans.After the Cargo was principally taken in, within three or four Days of our taking in the last of the Cargo, he was at Work at the opposite Side of the Town on a Neck of Land & there was a rising Ground between him & the Vessel so that he could not see her Mast Head & he worked there a Day & a half, & the other part of the Time near the Vessel & in full Sight of her
14th Qu.Were the Hatches laid over & caulked down8 the same Day that you finished filling off the Hole & before the Cooper came on board
15th Qu.Were they ever after taken off until you arrived at Beverly
16th Qu.Did the Cooper work on board the Day you opened the Hatches in Beverly or was he on board that Day
Ans.No, not till sometime the next Day
17th Qu.While in the Havanna did you hear the Captain say to or tell the Cooper that he wanted to know how many Casks he had made in all that he might determine how many he could spare
Ans.He did ask the Cooper how many he had made & he told him, but when we came to count the Numbers it fell short of what the Cooper had said he made considerably
18th Qu.Do you think there were so many Casks stowed in the upper Teiz *** of the Days the Cooper worked on shore that the Cooper could not have counted them when he came on board
Ans.One day we filled five or six hangers in the upper Teiz & choked them off with Beds & Wood & so that they could not be counted afterwards without breaking them out which may not be done or attempted to be done by the Cooper or any body else
19th Qu.Was there not a Hogshead of Molasses which leaked out on the Voyage & a Survey taken of it at Beverly & did it not Say at the Time that either you or the Cooper should pay for it; & do you not recollect one or more of the Surveyors saying that it had been properly stowed & so exonerating9 you & that thereupon & said then that the Cooper shall or must pay it
Ans.I do perfectly recollect the whole & written a Day or two after I heard the Cooper express great Resentment at Capt Israel Thorndike & say that if he did make him pay for it, it should cost him more than two or three Hogsheads either
Questions by Mr. Prescot

Why did you not appear, when before Summoned to depose on the Subject of your present Deposition

I did then expect to be at home when the Court should be held & to appear there in Person

Osmon Gage

District of Massachusetts

Suffolk 28 June 1792

Then & there Osman Gage after being carefully examined & duly cautioned to testify the Whole Truth made Oath that the aforegoing Deposition10 by

him subscribed with the answers to the Questions subsequent thereto by him all subscribed contain the Truth, the whole Truth & nothing but the Truth on the Subject to which they relate – the same are taken at the Request of Joseph Hiller, Collector of the Customs for the Port of Salem & Beverly & on behalf of the United States to be used at the District Court to be holden at Salem for said District on the first Tuesday of September next on a Trial to be then & there had of a Libel filed by the said Collector in said Court against the Schooner, two Friends, Nicholas Thorndike, the late Master, which Schooner was found in the Possession of Moses Brown & Israel Thorndike of Beverly aforesaid, Merchants.

The Deponent having bound to Sea is the Reason for taking his Deposition – And the Said Brown & Thorndike were duly notified to Attend & did attend by Israel Thorndike, Esq. at the Time & Place of Caption before me

Samuel Barrett, one of the Judges of
the Court of Common Pleas in & for the
County of Suffolk

4 Conformable = ”the same as”
5 Cooper = person who makes barrels
6 Fore or aft = to the front or the back of the ship
7 Lee = side of the ship away from the wind
8 Laid over & caulked down = sealed
9 Exonerating = saying it wasn’t your fault
10 Deposition = statement of a witness


Samuel Barrett, “Deposition of Osmon Gage, Customs Violation Case, Schooner, Two Friends” (October 11, 1793). National Archives, Waltham, MA.