The slaver Wildfire was intercepted off Cuba by the American Navy in 1860, freeing 519 starving survivors. It was well-documented by Harper’s Weekly, which published this engraving from a daguerreotype. Many countries south of the U.S. banned slavery before our Civil War, notably Mexico, 1810, although slave trade went on in Cuba until 1886 and in Brazil until 1888.
My novel, 1836, has a lot to say about slavery, as it happens to be set in the year when slave traffic in the U.S. peaked. One of the awful details about that traffic is in the last paragraph of this post, along with a clue about why I am posting about this subject today. By 1836, almost all of the U.S. slave traffic was internal, since the importation of slaves into the U.S. had been banned by Congress under Thomas Jefferson in 1808, and declared punishable by death in 1820. Smuggling continued, especially in New Orleans, where the pirate Lafitte brothers built a slave-smuggling empire with the help of the city and the notoriously corrupt New Orleans Customs House. The last documented slave ship to bring slaves into the U.S. landed in Mobile Bay, Alabama, in 1859, just two years before the Civil War, but others may have eluded detection. In the early 1800s, most of the demand was moving south and west, to new cotton, sugar and rice plantations, breaking up families by selling off children as young as five. Eight, the age my grandson turns today, was considered optimum. In 1836, more than 120,000 slaves from Virginia alone were "sold down the river" into the Deep South.