Captain Samuel Packard’s illegal slave-trading and the cost of a $2,000 fine

ca. 1794, painting by James Earle, at the RISD Museum. “Seated casually in a Windsor chair, Samuel Packard signals his social and professional role in the new republic. The plush drapery, the decorative column, Packard’s fashionable bright-hued waistcoat all suggest that is a man of wealth. The ship in the distance and the spyglass refer to his interests in maritime trade. A merchant and talented mariner, Packard owned 39 vessels that sailed from Providence. Around the time of this portrait, Packard had completed missions abroad for George Washington, so the ships may also allude to Packard’s diplomatic travels.” His role as a slave trader is NOT mentioned in this description, although I’m not sure why.

Building on my post in late September, I’d like to focus on how much my third cousin seven times removed, Captain Samuel Packard, who I first wrote about back in July 2021 would have paid had he been convicted of the anti-slave trade law of 1797, which has a fine of 100 Rhode Island pounds per violation, equivalent of one pound per dollar, and the Slave Trade Act of 1794 which carried with it a fee of $2,000. He was not convicted, even though the Providence Abolition Society had petitioned the Attorney General of Rhode Island, Charles Lee, in March 1797, charging that a ship, owned by Cyprian Sterry and Samuel, named the Ann, traveled to the African coast for enslaved people in violation of Rhode Island Law. Pressure from those invested in the slave trade prevented most convictions. While Samuel supposedly signed a pledge saying he would leave the slave trade forever, as I noted in my aforementioned post in July 2021, he retained his wealth and privilege.

In that post, I said that Samuel would have paid a total fine of $2,400 if he had been tried and convicted of his crimes in 1797. I stated that he would be paying $47,900.00, “in terms of real price/real wealth, one of the most accurate measures, tied to CPI, according to Measuring Worth“. I’m not sure that is the most accurate measurement. Clearly the fine is not a commodity (consumer goods and services) nor a project (an investment or government expenditure). However, it is closest to income (flow of earnings). As such, the best would be real wage/real wealth, which measures the purchasing power of an income or wealth by its relative ability to by goods and services, as noted by Measuring Worth. That value is $61,100.00 in 2021 values. Still, this would have been probably a small price to pay for Samuel.

If Samuel had continued his slave trading activities, his ships could have been seized by U.S. authorities per a law in 1800. More fundamentally, he was unique in the sense that plantation owners were the main ones who substantially profited from enslaved peoples. The slave trade was relatively profitable, with at least 6% return, although there were maritime and commercial risks. According to Guillame Daudin’s analysis of profitability of long-distance trading and slave trading for eighteenth century France,  some investors bought small shares in many ships, spreading out their risks, and between voyages, shares in slips could be bought and sold freely. Others calculated that even if slave trading companies didn’t profit from a specific voyage, it still led to “extra activities such as shipbuilding or the production of trade goods”. Even The Economist stated that slavery was profitable for slaveowners but not for few others. Colonial Williamsburg explained a little more on their website:

A slave voyage was always a risky financial venture for the owners and investors…Also, the nature of trade along the African coast was ever changing, as the desirability and value of particular textile designs and colors, for example, varied month by month and from region to region…The ship captains drafted both experienced and inexperienced sailors, which created risks for the ship owners and investors. Slave ships were, then, dangerous, violent, and disease-ridden. Despite the risks, slave voyages proved to be greatly profitable for their investors. The ship captain faced a paradox, because it was in the crew’s interest to ensure that as many African captives survived as possible in order to be sold to the highest bidder in the Americas. The slavers’ and their investors’ aim was to sell the men, women, and children for the best prices, not to kill or disable them, but the crew often resorted to violence to control and demoralize the captives…Sighting land in the Americas was a relief for the captain and crew but must have brought new uncertainty and fear to those who had survived the Middle Passage. After the captain landed the ship in a port, African survivors were inventoried, fed, scrubbed, and oiled to create a healthier appearance…At every point of this horrific journey, the business of the slave trade and the enslaved individual’s role as commodity was present. Exchange, trade, and profits were the engines of the transatlantic slave trade”

Simply put, Samuel profited off the trade of human beings. As I noted in my previous post, he is equivalent to what we would call a human trafficker today, but was called a slaver or slave trader during the time he was alive.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


Sneering at “sickly sentimentality”: John Hooker Packard’s advocacy for gas chambers

Going a complete different direction from my last post, I’m focusing on John Hooker Packard, my ancestor, herein called Dr. Packard, as today is the World Day Against the Death Penalty. As a warning, this article goes down a dark road, discussing death, suicide, and injury. Dr. Packard was more than a person who had a “large practice as a physician” and died from heart disease at the Hotel Chalfont, Atlantic City at age 75 in May 22, 1907, as noted in an obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer at the time. He was well-known for his medical practice, as was his son Frederick. He was even described in the 1920 A Cyclopedia of American Medical Biography [1]:

“He was also one of the original members of the American Surgical Association…In 1886, in a paper read before the Medico-Legal Society of New York, he suggested the use of a lethal chamber for the infliction of the death penalty, death to be caused by the abstraction of oxygen from the atmosphere and the introduction of carbonic acid gas. Dr. Packard was a profoundly religious man, an Episcopalian…his belief was a vital part of his existence and colored all the important actions of his life. He had very considerable artistic ability and much of his work was illustrated with his own pencil…His culture, geniality and sense of humor endeared him to many, both contemporaries and also many of a younger generation, with all he maintained a pleasant social intercourse.”

When reading that, I looked more into the anecdote about the use of a lethal chamber for the death penalty within this biography. While some repeated it without giving any more details, others excluded it entirely from their biographies. This is despite the fact that some even declare he was one of the “most prominent surgeons” of the latter 9th century and a “pioneer of modern American surgery”. [2] In contrast to Volume 2 of University of Pennsylvania: Its History, Influence, Equipment and Characteristics; with Biographical Sketches and Portraits of Founders, Benefactors, Officers and Alumni stated he was president of Medico-Legal Society of New York.

At first, it did not seem that this page survived, as it is not within the National Library of Medicine, but after digging a little, I found the paper, which is entitled “The Mode for Inflicting the Death Penalty” and it was actually read before the society on April 1, 1878 not in 1886 as the biography had stated. At first he gives a background and talks about the “humanitarian side” of the equation, noted that many human societies have murderers of people killed. He pushes back against those who view law and order as “oppressive shackles” and claims that the death penalty is calm and dispassionate, not a “physical terror”. He does say that executions are public, even if they are claimed to be private, and suggests that instead of other forms of execution (he cites lynching of a Black man as an example, something which he doesn’t seem to approve of), people are, instead put in an airtight room and killed by carbonic oxide. He defends this method of killing as painless and not causing suffering. He then sneers at those opposed to such capital punishment, writing:

“Between the sickly sentimentality which wold spare merciless murderers and the brutal ferocity which would exult over their dying agonies, there seems to be a just and wise medium, where the law can take its stand…and yet inflicting no needless torture on the unhappy criminal”

If I understand this correctly, Dr. Packard is saying that death by carbonic oxide does not cause needless suffering and that the form of death he is proposing is more humane. These deaths would also be private.

Carbonic oxide is another name for carbon monoxide (CO). During the Texas power crisis last year, people were poisoned by turning on cars in garages, bringing grills into houses, etc. in an attempt to stay warm. Are those deaths humane? The Consumer Product Safety Commission describes CO as a “deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas”which is undetectable to human sense, and notes that initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu but without the fever, such as headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness. What Dr. Packard is talking about falls more into the higher level of CO poisoning which has more severe symptoms, like mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscular coordination, loss of consciousness, and untimely death. The page goes onto say that those with higher level exposures to CO can “rapidly become mentally confused…[and] lose muscle control without having first experienced milder symptoms”. This is echoed by New Health Advisor which states that those who attempt to kill themselves by poisoning themselves with CO suffer a lot, causing their head to get clouded, vomiting and fainting, and are likely to fail.

CO can come from exhaust of internal combustion engines or combustion of various other fuels like wood, coal, charcoal, trash, and so on. It is even more problematic that Dr. Packard is supporting this considering that the Nazis used CO for genocide during the Holocaust, either with gas vans, in so-called euthanasia programs, or in infamous gas chambers. Specifically, it was used to murder over 700,000 people, as gas was fed into tubes at medical hospitals and concentration camps, using exhaust fumes from engines of tanks and other CO. [3] He wants there to be gas chambers to kill murderers. Others who support CO as a way to execute people include an aide of the notorious Jack Kevorkian who claimed it is “extremely painless” and replace lethal injections. It is much more painful than many think it is and is not environmentally friendly, even though it may be a quick death. [4]

Lethal gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison in 1938. Luckily, it is no longer operational.

At the time that Dr. Packard presented that article, there had been the extermination of stray dogs by a CO gas chamber a few years before (he references it in the article) in 1874. It would be followed, in 1884, by a carbon monoxide gas chamber in a slaughterhouse as described in Scientific American. There have been, more recently, CO gas chambers used to kill prisoners at San Quentin State Prison in California, [5] and only closed after public pressure. Currently, the last person to die in the U.S. with a gas chamber was Walter LaGrand, who the state of Arizona executed in 1999. Gas chambers have been rarely used since 1976 for executions.

If Dr. Packard wrote a similar article today, it would likely receive much more criticism. A September 2021 poll said that 54% of U.S. adults favor the death penalty, a five decade low. Additionally, of the over 8,700 executions between 1890 and 2010 carried out by gas chamber, 5.4% were botched, making the “gas chamber the second most unreliable execution method…used in that period”. [6] It was, as I noted earlier, prominently used by General Rochambeau against Haitians during the Haitian Revolution, the Nazis, and the U.S., [7] It involves use of CO or hydrogen cyanide.

More recently, in the 18th and 19th century, scientists “suggested a therapeutic application of CO” and it is even seen as a “viable pharmaceutical candidate”. Hopefully, Dr. Packard would not be seen as a person of “culture, geniality and sense of humor” for favoring gas chambers, said to be one of the cruelest methods of death, since a majority of Americans believe that life imprisonment with no possibility of parole is a “better punishment for murder than the death penalty is.”

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] Howard Atwood Kelly, A Cyclopedia of American Medical Biography: Comprising the Lives of Eminent Deceased Physicians and Surgeons from 1610 to 1910, Vol. 1 (W.B. Saunders Company, 1920), pp. 873874. His son, Frederick is described on pages 872873 in a biography by Francis R. Packard. The latter also wrote his biography. Francis is Dr. Packard’s son.

[2] See page lviii of the Transactions of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. In contrast, the Encyclopedia of Civil War Biography which has a biography on him, Charles Packard (Lancaster, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Abolition Society, Manager, 1842-44), Alpheus Spring Packard, Jasper Packard, and Theodore Packard (Shelburn, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, Vice-President, 1836-40), does not mention this. The last sentence is quoting from the biography of him on the American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques website.

[3] This is said to be stated on page 323 of A History of Modern Germany 1800 – 2000. More specifically it is described in horrifying detail on page 156 of Dictionary of Genocide [2 volumes] by Paul R. Bartrop and Samuel Totten.

[4] “Jack Kevorkian’s Aide Pushed Carbon Monoxide for Executions,” NBC News, Jun. 2, 2014. Also see “Why not use carbon monoxide for executions?” (Quora), “Why do states not use carbon monoxide for legal executions?” (Quora), “Is carbon monoxide poisoning the fastest and least painful way to die?” (Quora), “Why is carbon monoxide poisoning the easiest and least painful way to die?” (Quora), “What is it like to get carbon monoxide poisoning?” (Quora), “Why do people not know they are being poisoned by carbon monoxide? What would it feel like? Surely they notice they start to feel different?” (Quora), “Why Don’t We Use Carbon Monoxide for Capital Punishment?” (Reddit), “Recommendation: A Death Penalty with a Carbon Monoxide Gas Chamber“.

[5] The prison’s official site says “The state’s only gas chamber and death row for all male condemned inmates are located at San Quentin.”

[6] Austin Sarat, “Arizona’s Horrifying Plan to Bring Back the Gas Chamber.” Slate, Jun. 4, 2021. Also see “Firing Squad to Gas Chamber: How Long Do Executions Take?” in NBC News, “Gas chamber ‘ready’ for Thanos execution but prison officials say little else” in Baltimore Sun, The Last Gasp: The rise and fall of the American gas chamber, and Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America’s Death Penalty.

[7] It was also claimed to be used in Lithuania (before Soviet occupation in 1940), North Korea, and the Soviet Union. However, for North Korea, claims are reliant on defectors and claimed genuine documents, while for the Soviet Union it relies upon somewhat questionable Russian sources.

Limits of Inflation Calculators and Reassessing Samuel Packard’s Wealth

A recent article in Smithsonian magazine by Sarah Karuta examined online inflation calculators, noting that many use data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI) which has tracked “price changes in the U.S. since 1913,” an index which measures prices urban customers pay for “common items…as well as services”. The article noted that these calculators are only as good as the CPI, and noted that for inflation before 1913, calculators have to rely on estimates pieced together from various assorted records, only giving “a rough indication of price changes.” That means that information becomes “a little sketchier”. The article goes onto say that many online inflation calculators aren’t equipped to explain “what’s really going on behind the numbers” but they can help ordinary people “better understand the economy”. The article concludes that while online inflation calculators are useful for getting a “general idea of how the purchasing power of money” has changed, they don’t tell the whole story, only serving as a “fun, insightful exercise for learning about the past” and only act as the “tip of the iceberg.”

Samuel Packard, said to be the progenitor of most Packards in U.S., was a local town official, specifically a highway surveyor, a constable, tavern keeper, and tax collector while he lived in Bridgewater and the nearby area. [1] He died on or near November 7, 1684, while his will was dated on October 29, with his name spelled “Samuell Packer” in his will, which he signed with an X, meaning that someone else misspelled the name. After all, on the manifest of the ship he had arrived on England from, his last name was also spelled as “Packer”. [2] After his will, his total personal property was listed:

This property, listed throughout his will and in his inventory, was 190 pounds, 21 shillings, and 6 pence. It is equivalent of £21,360, in 1970, in the relative income value, as this is a form of wealth, i.e. stock of assets like land, bank deposits, or stock portfolio. This value measures the “amount of income or wealth per capita GDP” via Measuring Worth. When converted again from 1970 to 2021, due to changes in British currency in 1971, you get £729,700 in relative income value. In terms of land value, we could say that each acres of land he owned at the time of his death was worth 1 pound, 6 shillings, and 85 pence.

Considering that Samuel owned 339 acres when he died, that comes to 2518 pounds, 4 shillings, and 8 pence, which I determined thanks to sites like this one. That is equivalent of £281,500 in relative income value in 1970. When converted again from 1970 to 2021, this increases to £9,617,000.00 in relative income value! That has to be some valuable land. He was no yeoman as was claimed in his will. Far from it. That wealth seems to have been lost over the years however, as no else had wealth anywhere near that. Even if we exclude the land from the equation, he still had a sizable wealth and was no yeoman by any stretch.

More specifically, his wealth, which would be a total of £10,346,700 in 2021 values. While those in the 1 percent in the UK, “need to have £120,000 a year coming in”, we don’t know the income of Samuel. However, current statistics note that the wealth of the richest 1 percent of households in the UK was “more than £3.6 million, compared with £15,400 or less for the least wealthy 10%”.

I originally broached this subject when writing about it in 2018, concluding that if Samuel was a small-scale farmer, he was a strange one because “he owned 339 acres of land at his death” but noted that since his mind was faltering he “may have misstated the acreage he owned in some cases”. I also noted what his inventory said about his lifestyle, and noted he was a well-off farmer. This article series as an update on that analysis, keeping in mind different ways of measuring financial worth, calculators, purchasing power today and compared to the past, and five ways to compute the relative value of a UK pound amount from 1270 to present.

As to not distort amounts too much, I’m not going to convert pounds into U.S. dollars or any other currency.In the end, although this article is short, I think it increases understanding of wealth, especially of Samuel, my 9th great-grandfather.

© 2022 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] See Karle S. Packard, “Samuel Packard of Bridgewater, Massachusetts and His Family,” Packard’s Progress Vol. 17, Feb. 1991, p. 9-12.

[2] See pages 191-194 of Charles Edward Banks’ The Planters of the Commonwealth (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, Inc., 1997, Reprint) for the passenger list of people on the Diligent. On that list is listed Samuel Packer, Mrs. Elizabeth Packer, and …. Packer, with the latter a presumed child.

Approaching Packard family history with a more critical eye

Christine E. Sleeter, an educational reformer, speaker, and researcher who focuses on “anti-racist multicultural education and multicultural teacher education,” coined the term “critical family history.” In an article for Genealogy journal in June 2020, she noted that Black genealogists regarded history, like the history of slavery, as part of their family story, since “everyone is located within society’s racial structure,” while White genealogists didn’t see race as relevant, not looking into “how it might have been strongly impactful, leaving intact the narrative of families achieving solely through their own hard work.” Sleeter then defined critical family history as something which “draws attention to the impact of racism and other social structures on families’ experiences.” She went further to sat that critical family history uses genealogy’s draw on primary sources to construct a lineage or family tree, and explaining or describing what a family did in specific context, and why the context mattered, by delving into said contexts, “particularly into the power relationships they embody,” adding that critical family history generally “reaches back multiple generations in order to understand the interplay between past and present,” entailing possibly an analysis of one’s self and “a critical analysis of ongoing power relations without direct application to the self.” She goes onto say that this concept challenges historians, and presumably genealogists to answer and ask these questions about their ancestors:

Who else (what other groups) was around, what were the power relationships among groups, how were these relationships maintained or challenged over time, and what does all this have to do with our lives now? Whose records were kept, whose were not, and what difference does this make regarding whose stories are told?

Sleeter noted that critical theory suggests that family historians ask how their ancestors “came to be located where they were within the class structure,” how class-based ideologies and identifications impacted them, an critical race theory suggests family historians examine how colonialism, racism, and race were “at work in the lives of their ancestors,” and where their ancestors were within the racial structure and the effects of this, while critical feminist theories suggest that family historians consider “how women were situated within the economy, and how families reflected broader social gendered relationships.” She goes onto say that some use these to analyze their own family’s history while others shy away from these questions, and opens a special issue of the journal about the topic. Sleeter suggests that some potential questions taken up in the special issue of the journal include:

  • How did a family over two or more generations experience white supremacy, and how did that experience impact on the family’s social position today?
  • How did a family navigate the social class structure over one or more generations, and what does their experience imply about social class?
  • How do dominant national narratives hide or silence family stories that do not fit those narratives?
  • How might a family historian tease out clues of LGBTQ family members in the past?
  • What do family records of property ownership and transfer of wealth through inheritance reveal about social class, race, gender, and/or colonization?
  • What can digitized newspapers from the past reveal about the context of power relationships in which one’s ancestors lived?
  • What does family history reveal about how racially mixed people navigated racism historically?
  • What might we infer about patriarchy over time from the lives of female ancestors?

The issue itself has articles using the “lens of structural violence,” a critical personal narrative and decolonization theory, answering how our “own cultural-historical experiences in geographic spaces like the border(s) we occupy shape our identities, consciousness, positionality, and power,” compassion for social justice, and more. [1] On her website, Sleeter defined the term more particularly as:

…a conceptual framework that situates one’s family and its history within a wider analysis of social power relationships and culture….a framework that would illuminate the social contexts of family lives, and that would help to unearth memories we have lost… challenges historians to ask about their ancestors: Who else (what other groups) was around, what were the power relationships among groups, how were these relationships maintained or challenged over time, and what does all this have to do with our lives now?…America’s “presentism,” constructed mainly by white people, erases memory of the violent foundations of white supremacy. Critical family history, as memory work, disrupts that erasure…family history should involve not just unearthing details about one’s family, but also constructing a larger story of the past and its links with the present…Critical family history as memory work interrogates the interaction between family and historical context. The most powerful place to begin is to ask: For any family unit in one’s own history, given specific times and places, who else was around? Who else could have been around but wasn’t, and why? What were the relationships among socio-cultural groups in specific contexts where one’s ancestors lived?

While I have done some of this before, with posts like the one about the Rhode Island slaver Samuel Packard, or the one about the Irish servants Mary, Ellen, and Bridget, to give two recent examples. I suppose I can do more to answer these questions and a better job of it, and fulfill all that critical family history entails, even if it is tough and takes longer to tell these stories on this blog and others like my other active blog, Milling ’round Ireland. My other blogs are basically dormant at this present time, but the same analysis will have to apply to them as well, inevitably.

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] This includes engaging in “anti-colonial and/or decolonial processes of composting colonial distortions,” cultural community wealth, stories through photos, dual citizenship, narrative inquiry and analysis, mixed-family privilege, “unequal relations between white settler colonizers and indigenous communities,” fraught research journeys, flipping scripts on undocumented immigration, creative writing, narrative inquiries, and how DNA analysis has “enabled a much deeper interrogation of our surnames…than was possible via traditional genealogical research.”

“A man of wealth”: Samuel Packard, the Rhode Island slaver

In March 2018, I first wrote about Samuel Packard, my great-great-great-great-great grand uncle, and his role in the transatlantic slave trade as a slaver, otherwise known as a slave trader. [1] Thanks to a new database, Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade, I found that Samuel’s role as a slaver was much more extensive than I had originally believed. His acts helped reinforce what Isabel Wilkerson describes as a racial caste system that uses rigid, arbitrary boundaries to keep groupings of people apart. [2] Such a system reinforces a social order supported by culture and passes through the generations, with the signal of one’s rank in the hierarchical system as determined by race, with terms like “black” and “white” applied to people’s appearance. However, Wilkerson argues that caste is rigid and fixed, while race is superficial and subject to change to meet the needs of the dominant caste within the United States. Ultimately, inherited physical characteristics are used to differentiate “inner abilities and group value” and maintain and manage the caste system within the United States. In the case of Samuel, he was part of this system, reinforcing it with his actions time and time again, like some of my other ancestors. [3] However, as I noted in the past, that he was not a slaveowner. This article aims to pull away the false narrative used to cover up the history of enslavement and how offensive the institution of slavery was itself, noting the part Samuel played in this history, recognizing who he is as a person, following the advice of Beth Wylie, a White female genealogist. This article also aims to not make White people comfortable with the past or sugarcoat anything, but challenge existing notions, as suggested by Black genealogist Adrienne Fikes in early June.

Of the 402 ships which sailed from Rhode Island to Africa from 1784 and 1807, 55 of them came from Providence, accounting for 14 percent of the state’s slave trade. [4] One of those ships was a  sloop named General Greene, registered in Providence. On November 16, 1793, it began sailing from Rhode Island. The ship was owned by Samuel Packard, Cyprian Sterry, Philip Allen, and Zachary Allen.  [5] Helmed by a captain named “Ross,” the General Greene arrived in Gorée, Senegambia sometime in 1793, with 101 souls loaded onto the ship by force. By the time the ship had reached the Dutch colony of Suriname, sometime in April 1794, only 84 enslaved Black people, who had been trafficked across the Atlantic Ocean, were remaining. This meant that 17%, or 17 people, died during the Middle Passage. In Suriname, enslaved Black people were needed, as were Indigenous people, to make the colony viable, even though enslaved Black people were treated terribly, and many escaped their plantations. [6] The Zachary Allen noted here was undoubtedly the father of the textile manufacturer born in 1795, who was born in 1739. He has been described as a “successful merchant” who amassed a great quantity of capital. It is not known who the “Philip Allen”  was and whether the said person was related to the manufacturer born in 1785.

On July 12, 1794, the General Greene returned to its home port somewhere in Rhode Island. The owners had been paid, the ship was not captured, and the enslaved Black people disembarked. In this trip and for all slave ships, the captain was completely in charge, with the duty to “navigate an efficient course, maintain authority over the crew, fill the vessel to capacity with enslaved peoples, and negotiate a high sale price for the enslaved cargo at port markets.” [7] Sadly, we do not know the names of the 101 people who were aboard the General Greene in bondage at the beginning of the journey, nor those at the end, we only know the number of those aboard the vessel.

A slave trader of Gorée, engraving of c. 1797, by Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, via Wikimedia, but in public domain

Gorée is infamous for being the House of Slaves, which was built between 1780 and 1784 by an Afro-French family, the Métis. It has been described as having “one of the slave warehouses through which Africans passed on their way to the Americas,” symbolic no matter how many Africans passed through, especially when it comes to its “door of no return.” In the case of Senegambia (present-day Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau, portions of Mauritania, Mali, and Guinea), in 1794, it was partitioned between the French and British. This journey may also be the one the Philadelphia Inquirer referred to in September 1794 when it talked about a Captain Samuel Packard traveling from Barbados, which was then part of the British West Indies. [8] As for Cyprian, he was one of the biggest slave traders in Providence, he “financed at least 18 voyages that transported more than 1,500 enslaved persons to the southern United States and the Caribbean during the 1790s.”

Later that year, on November 28, 1794, the General Greene departed once more from Rhode Island, this time with John Stanton as the captain. [9] It would go on a 196 day voyage. The ship reached Iles de Los sometime in 1795, with 99 souls forced aboard. When it reached Savannah, Georgia in May of that year, only 88 remained, meaning 11% had died when trafficked across the Atlantic. The General Greene returned back to Rhode Island sometime after June of the same year. Iles de Los is a set of Islands off Conakry, Guinea. At the time, there was a trading post employing workers who repaired ships, and pilots for rivers, on the island. It would be controlled by the British beginning in 1818 and ending in 1904, later to be part of French Guinea from 1904 to 1958. Those on the islands were the Baga people and spoke the Baga language, specifically a Kaloum or Kalum dialect. That same year as the General Greene left the state, the African Union Society of African descendants in Rhode Island was organized in Providence to serve the needs of Black people in the state itself. [10] In Georgia, slavers from Rhode Island, especially in the early 1790s, dominated the slave trade to the state. Samuel and Cyprian were integral to this trade, with the latter described as the “wealthiest ship owner and most active slave trader” in the state. Again, the names of those on the ship were not listed, so we only know the number of those on the ship.

Sometime in 1795, James Earl, a Massachusetts-born artist, released his unsigned 35 x 29 oil painting, on canvas, of Samuel, then 45 years old. RISD described this painting as signaling his “social and professional role in the new republic,” as he sits in a Windsor Chair, noting his waistcoat indicates he is “a man of wealth,” with the background referring to his “interests in maritime trade.” The museum also calls him a “merchant and talented mariner,” who owned 39 vessels that sailed from Providence itself. Of course, his role in the slave trade is never mentioned. This is not a surprise, as the 1942 profile of Samuel in the Rhode Island History notes the same. [11] Furthermore, the absence of the slave trade from Earl’s painting is not unique. As Edna Gabler points out, Black people in paintings by Charles Wilson Peale, John Trumbull, and others, “occupy subordinate positions, are rarely identified by name, and are most often used as props, background accessories, or foils,” or, in this case, not mentioned at all.

The following year, on October 24, 1795, the Ann, a ship registered in Providence, and owned by Samuel and Cyprian, departed from Rhode Island. [12] Unlike the other journeys, Samuel was the captain. The ship would land somewhere on the African continent, with 133 people forced aboard. 70% of these African captives were men, about 26% were boys, and around 4% were women. Almost 26% of those aboard were children. 13 of these souls, 10% to be exact, would die during the Middle Passage. When the ship arrived at Spanish-controlled city of Havana, in Cuba, sometime in August 1796, only 120 remained, and all those in bondage disembarked there, with Samuel and the ship returning to Rhode Island. At the time, Havana was one of “the largest slave markets in the world,” with over 600,000 Africans taken from West Africa and shipped to Cuba over three centuries. The Ann would later be sold in Havana, seemingly in September 1796. [13] Like with the other ships noted in this article, those in bondage aboard the Ann are not named, a clear form of dehumanization.

An enslaved Afro-Cuban in the 19th century, via Wikimedia Commons

At the time, landowners were beginning to win concessions that would change how land would be owned in Cuba, a process that would continue until 1820. [14] Values of land were rising and Cuban planters were consolidating their power on the island, importing machines from other European colonies, like those in the British West Indies, to strengthen the sugar industry. When Samuel landed in Cuba, he would have seen the beginning of changes in Cuban society, with population numbers beginning to rise, as did profits and agricultural production, with new position for the class of Cuban Creoles. The number of enslaved Black people on the island increased as demand for more workers continued to grow, especially after the import of White workers wasn’t successful. An average of 1,143 enslaved Black folks in chains were brought into Cuba each year, between 1763 and 1789. The plantations in the British West Indies, including Barbados, the Leeward Islands, Jamaica, Ceded Islands, Trinidad, and British Guiana, were very profitable, with the average rate of profit being 6.1% between 1792 and 1798, based on the plantations studied. [15] Even so, the end of a sugar boom in the 1790s led politicians and planters to demand that the slave trade be ended once and for all.

On January 9, 1796, the James, a schooner registered in Providence, owned by Samuel and Cyprian (my paternal 1st cousin of wife of 2nd cousin 8x removed), with Albert Fuller as the captain, departed from Rhode Island. [16] It went on a 216-day voyage. Once in Africa, 119 souls were forced aboard the ship in bondage. By the time it arrived in Savannah, Georgia, in mid-August 1796, only 98 enslaved Black people were remaining. As a result, 17.5%, or 21 people, had died along the way. The ship returned to Rhode Island by late October 1796. The ship later had Nathan Sterry as its captain when registered in January 1797, with Samuel as its owner. Sterry would also be the captain of a ship, the Mary, upon which three enslaved Black people attempted a mutiny to escape their conditions by taking control of the ship, even though this was, unfortunately, not successful. In this last illegal slave trading expedition which Samuel was involved in, those in chains, aboard the James, were again only listed as a number, but no names were provided.

Painting of Moses Brown via NPS

On March 11, 1797, the Providence Abolition Society petitioned then-Attorney General Charles Lee, charging that the Ann, a ship of Cyprian and Samuel, had sailed under Samuel’s command to travel to the African coast for enslaved people, even though this violated Rhode Island law. [17] A law had been passed in 1774 which made it illegal for citizens of the state to bring enslaved people into the state unless they had a bond to “bring them out again within one year” and those people brought to the state in defiance of the law would be “set free.” However, the law caused slavers to sell captives in other ports while bringing their capital back to Rhode Island with them. The later was followed in later years, in 1787, by a measure which “banned participation by Rhode Islanders in the African slave trade.” [18] Some argued that the state’s involvement in the slave trade was “part of a scramble by merchants to find something to trade and to market”with those involved earning a sizable profit. Following the enactment of the law in Rhode Island,  similar laws passed in Connecticut and Massachusetts after being pressured by Quaker merchant merchant Moses Brown  and Samuel Hopkins, a minister. The critical factor, according to I. Eliot Wentworth of University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Special Collections & University Archives, of these laws was enforcing them, and when that did not happen, it lead to the creation of the Providence Society for Abolishing the Slave Trade. [19] It was mostly comprised of Quakers and had a membership of about 180 members. The society would face resistance from those invested in the trade, but still “played a valued role in supporting individuals of African descent in defending their rights in court.” It won a judgement against Caleb Gardner, a merchant, in 1791, for “carrying out a slaving voyage in his brigantine Hope.”

Cyprian, who owned half of the ships involved in the illegal slave trade, left it behind in order to avoid a crippling fine, signing a pledge to leave the slave trade forever, as did Samuel, from what I have read. [20] These efforts, like those of the Providence Abolition Society, were important since legislation against slave-trading in Rhode Island was hard to enforce, as noted earlier. For instance, a merchant and influential slaveowner named John Brown, a person who was instrumental in founding Brown University, tried in 1796 for violating the Slave Trade Act of 1794, prohibiting ships in American ports from bringing in enslaved people from any foreign country. At first he was convicted and his ship, the Hope, was confiscated for violation of federal law. However, as the case went through the legal system, he was ultimately acquitted, in a jury trial, “emerging with an acquittal and a judgment for costs against the Providence Abolition Society.” [21] He even cited the arrangement the society made with Cyprian as part of a plea to stop prosecution against him. As it turned out, the judge who presided over the case (Benjamin Bourn) and the federal prosecutor (Ray Greene) were allies of Brown, and the trial itself had a “devastating effect on the Providence Abolition Society, which went into a rapid decline.” This was because, while by 1793, the Providence Society’s activity had shifted to pushing for federal legislation, it remained dormant from February 1793 to November 1821. The Society was revived  by David Howell and its name changed to the Providence Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, continuing to meet until 1827. John later beat another prosecution in 1798, and in 1799, Samuel Bosworth, Surveyor of the Port of Bristol, was kidnapped by eight men dressed by Indigenous people, intimidating officials and putting a “halt to local enforcement of the Slave Trade Act” within Rhode Island.

Via RISD, also painted by James Earl, and in the public domain

Samuel went onto become a wealthy shipowner and merchant who lived in a three-story-high lavish mansion in Providence with his wife Abigail Congdon. [22] He had married Abigail on December 13, 1789 at n 1798, Abigail inherited a portion of the Congdon homestead farm on Boston Neck. Samuel and Abigail had a number a children in later years, clearly living in Providence in 1800, just as he had in 1790. Their children included Abigail in 1802, Samuel in 1804, and Susan in 1806. By 1804, Samuel would work for the Providence Insurance Company, which ensured products like sugar, lived at Westminster Street in Providence (a property he bought in 1797). [23] The Providence Insurance Company was founded on the initiative “of the Browns,” including John, the arrogant slaver, in 1799. Other prominent shopping merchants, like Thomas Poynton Ives, John Innes Clarke, and Moses Lippitt, were on its board of directors. Samuel would be a member of the Providence Marine Society (PMS) and part of the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery after March 1803. [26] The latter group, founded in 1801 by PMS members, was a “private mutual aid society for sea captains,” and while it later became part of the Rhode Island militia, the group itself “never served in active combat.” The PMS, on the other hand, was a “mutual aid society for sea captains” founded in 1798.

Samuel also, reportedly, remembered George Washington fondly. This was not a surprise. In 1788, Olney Winsor, son of Samuel Windsor, a pastor of the Baptist Church of Providence, traveled to Alexandria on a sloop of which Samuel was the captain: the Susan. Both landed in Alexandria, went to a plantation at Col. Mason’s Neck, seeing the control of slavemasters over those they enslaved firsthand, and met with George Washington himself.

By 1798, Cyprian was still living in Providence, owning a house, with a tenant: Brown & Ives, said to be a leader “in American commerce and industry for many years,” and part of the Brown family which financed Brown University. [24] The company had been formed in a partnership between Nicholas Brown and Thomas Poynton Ives in 1791. The same year, Samuel is reported as having to have a summer house, house and barn, and perhaps another barn elsewhere in the city.

This wealth would not be possible without his involvement in the illegal slave trade which trafficked human beings from Africa back to the Americas in bondage. Let us be clear. Samuel, like Cyprian, might be called a human trafficker in today’s language, if what he did happened today, although the comparison of present-day human trafficking and the transatlantic slave trade is not exact due to the differences between these oppressive systems of exploitation. [25] When they were alive, however, Samuel and Cyprian would likely be called slavers or slave traders. We don’t know if Abigail had any role or say in Samuel’s involvement in the trade, as we have no written records from her that I am aware of at this time. Even so, she still benefited from it, as she lived a life of luxury with Samuel until his death in 1820.

Samuel would also reportedly own land in Cranston, Rhode Island and in Illinois, along with a home in North Kingston, while building a house on the land his wife inherited on the death of her father, John Congdon, in 1798. [27] Items from his houses are currently in RISD. John’s grandfather, Benjamin, was reputed to be a huge slaveowner, while John, who had ten children with his wife, Abigail Rose. He received a tract of land of unknown acreage in Boston Neck, on his father’s death, and then in October 1, 1803, Thomas R. Congdon sold one hundred and fifty acres of the farm to Samuel Packard, later known as the “Packard Farm,” later reaching 500 acres. John’s father, according to a 1765 listing, had seven enslaved people, one man (Coff), two young boys (Roshad and Tom), one woman (Tent), and three others (Cato, Fortune, and Jimie), working for him, which he manumitted at the time. [28]

In 1811, Samuel was aboard a ship when it French privateers raided the vessel, and how he tried to take back the ship, but was captured. [29] He would be at sea for eight days, then in a French prison for another eight days. They remained in France for another three months until they were allowed to go home. 17 years earlier, on February 4, 1794, France had abolished slavery, declaring that “all men irrespective of color living in the colonies are French citizens” but it was not reinforced, and Napoleon re-instituted it on July 16, 1802. He still remained in Providence, as he had in years prior, specifically in the city’s West District. [30]

Screenshot of the cemetery where Samuel and Abigail are buried with a close-up of the cemetery taken from Google Earth

He died in July 1820, [31] while Abigail died in May 1854. Before her death, she established the Providence Female Charitable Society, which aided “indigent women and children.” Both Samuel and Abigail are buried at Historic New England’s Casey Farm. While no wills or probates are available from them, both were of a higher class than others in Rhode Island and more broadly in New England. For Samuel, land ownership remained an important marker of civic identity and a measure of independence, as it was for other Americans, as historian Nancy Isenberg points out. This was based on the idea that people were not free unless they had “the economic wherewithal” to control their destiny, which comes from land ownership, deriving from an old English idea that the “quality of the soil determines the quality of the people.”

Coming back to Samuel, his wealth derived, in part, as noted earlier, from trafficking enslaved Black people who were taken from their homelands by force. What he did was illegal, since the passage of a Rhode Island law in 1787 prohibiting it, and the Slave Trade Act of 1794, the latter with possible seizure of ships and a $2,000 fine, a law amended many times over the years until the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves passed in 1807. Even so, he still engaged in the trade despite the illegality, meaning, if he had been charged for his crimes, and convicted, he would have paid a total of $2,400, in, let’s say, 1797. [32] This would likely have been a drop in the bucket for him. If assessed today, he would be paying $47,900.00, in terms of real price/real wealth, one of the most accurate measures, tied to CPI, according to Measuring Worth.  In any case, what Samuel did went against “justice, integrity, and uprightness among people,” in the words of the Quakers, who petitioned the Rhode Island legislature to abolish the slave trade in June 1787, participating in what they called an “unrighteous and inhuman trade to Africa for Slaves,” complete with “cruel bondage.”

Hopefully this article is a step in reworking and reframing narratives, as Adrienne Fikes pointed in June of this year. It is part of, what she talks about, in understanding who you are, who are in relation to others, who you come from, who your ancestors are, while looking at harm of past and its impact today. She also points out the value of  sharing what you find with descendants of future generations, as does Donya Williams and Brian Sheffey of Genealogy Adventures (those who interviewed Fikes), noting the importance of think of microaggressions and pain involved in Black genealogy. Fikes also argues, rightly, that understanding structural racism, and noting the evolution of slavery, not seeing it in past tense. Furthermore, she says recognizing the humanity of people is important as is the current reality of dignity and humanity stolen from Black people, as is generational wealth. With this all being said, I look forward to hearing from you all as I continue to research my enslaved ancestors, as part of actively doing something to dismantle a system which privileges White people, uncovering more stories of my ancestors, even if it is difficult and disturbing at times to confront. [33]

© 2021 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] Merriam-Webster defines a slaver as someone involved in the slave trade while the Cambridge English Dictionary says it is a person who sold slaves, Wikitionary it is “a person engaged in the slave trade” and Collins English Dictionary defines the word as “an owner of or dealer in slaves.” No matter the definition we chose, it is another word for someone who is a slave trader.

[2] Wilkerson, Isabel. Caste: The Origins of our Discontents (New York: Random House, 2020), 17-20.

[3] This includes Zachariah Packard, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grand uncle (see “Zachariah Packard: the slaveowner” along with mentions within “Chapter III: The Packards in Bridgewater,” “Massachusetts tax inventory and two Packards“; “The story of Nathan Packard“) and his children, Charles Chilion Packard, my great-great-great-great-great grand uncle who “had the ten slaves from the estate of his wife’s deceased first husband” in 1820, the Packards that lived in New England who were involved in that the region depended on a “trading system that serviced the wealthier slave-based economy of the West Indies,” which constituted an interconnected trade network. Contrasting this is my great-great-great-great-great grand uncle, William Packard organizing “a petition asking the United States Congress to abolish slavery and the slave trade in DC,”  Rev. Theophilus Packard who is my great-great-great-great-great grand uncle, a dedicated anti-slavery crusader, Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard, who is my great-great-great-great aunt in-law, seemed to scowl at her sentiments that slavery was a sin, along with William Henry Packard (my great-great-great grandfather) who fought in Louisiana during the Civil War and my great-great-great grandfather Lawrence Weber (not a Packard) who fought in a gunboat to stop Confederate blockade runners. Furthermore, Reverend E. N. Packard (Edward Newman Packard  of in Dorchester, MA), my great-great-great uncle, and Alpheus Spring Packard (my great-great-great-great uncle), a professor of Bowdoin College, both opposed slavery, while two Packards in Topeka, Kansas (Cyrus and Sarah Barrows) sheltered “runaway slaves” time and time again.

[4] Davis, Paul. “Buying and Selling Human Beings: Newport and the Slave Trade,” Providence Journal, Sept. 2006, accessed July 12, 2021. Jay Coughty, as noted in the Journal of the American Revolution, noted that there were “no slave voyages departing from a Rhode Island port after December 1, 1774 and before 1784.”

[5] Voyage 36601, General Greene (1794) via Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade – Database, accessed July 11, 2021; “Packard, Sam” via Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade database, accessed July 11, 2021; Jay Coughtry, The Notorious Triangle: Rhode Island and the African Slave Trade, 1700-1807 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981), 266; Ship Registers and Enrollments of Providence, Rhode Island, 1773-1939, Vol. 1, Issue 1 (Providence, RI: The National Archives Project, 1941), 390-391. See page 240 of The Notorious Triangle for the guide to the chart. I was unable to find an online copy of The Dutch in the Caribbean and the Guianas by Cornelis Goslinga, but I did find, with some searching, the Zachary Macaulay papers, 1793-1888, with possibly something here.

[6] Streissguth, Tom (2009). Suriname in Pictures. Twenty-First Century Books. pp. 23–. ISBN 978-1-57505-964-8; C.R. Boxer (1990). The Dutch Seaborne Empire. Penguin. pp. 271–272. ISBN 9780140136180; Thompson, Alvin O. “Amerindian-European Relations in Dutch Guyana” within Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 26; Greenwood, Richard. “Zachariah Allen and the Architecture of Paternalism,” Rhode Island History, Vol. 46, No. 4, November 1988, p. 118.

[7] “Ships of Bondage and the Fight for Freedom,” Center for the Study of Slave & Justice,Brown University, accessed July 12, 2021.

[8] Gazette of the United States and daily evening advertiser. [volume], September 05, 1794, Image 3, accessed July 14, 2021.

[9] Voyage 36612, General Greene (1795) via Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade – Database, accessed July 11, 2021; “Packard, Samuel” via Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade database, accessed July 11, 2021; Coughtry, The Notorious Triangle, 267.

[10] Stewart, Robert, “A Heritage Discovered: Blacks in Rhode Island,” Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, 1976, p. 20. Also see here.

[11] White Jr., George Wylie. “A Rhode Islander Goes West to Indiana (1817-1818),” Rhode Island History, Vol I, No. 1, January 1942, p. 21-23. He owned the sloop Sally, schooners James, Enterprise, and Flying Fish, and Brigantines Betsey, Eliza, Louisa, and Dolphin. Ship registers indicate he was the owner of the Enterprise from 1794-1797, a schooner named the Federal from 1791-1792, the Betsey in 1800 with Nathaniel Packard, Jr. as captain, Eliza in 1803, Minerva in 1794, Juno in 1805, and Dolphin in 1792 (see Ship Registers and Enrollments, 136, 264, 297, 319, 348, 615, 745). Nathaniel Packard was recorded in 1777 to be captain of a privateer from Providence named the America.

[12] “Voyage 36628, Ann (1796)” via Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade – Database, accessed July 11, 2021; “Packard, Sam” via Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade database, accessed July 11, 2021; Coughtry, The Notorious Triangle, 268; “Packard, Sam” via Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade database, accessed July 11, 2021.

[13] Ship Registers and Enrollments, 72.

[14] Knight, Franklin. “The Transformation of Cuban Agriculture, 1763-1838,” within Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 75-78; Williams, Eric. “Capitalism and Slavery” within Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 125.

[15] Ward, J.R. “The Transformation of Cuban Agriculture, 1763-1838,” within Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 85-87; Sheridan, Richard D. “Morality and the Medical Treatment of Slaves in the British West Indies” within Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 198.

[16] Voyage 36658, James (1796) via Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade – Database, accessed July 11, 2021; Coughtry, The Notorious Triangle, 270; Packard, Samuel” via Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade database, accessed July 11, 2021; Donnan, Elizabeth, ed., Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade to the America, vol. IV (Washington, DC, 1934), 633; Ship Registers and Enrollments, 545. I was not able to find a digital version of James A. McMillin’s The Final Victims: The Foreign Slave Trade to North America, 1783-1810 or the edition of the Georgia Gazette in 1796 on the Georgia Historical Newspapers site.

[17] Robert A. Geake, “The Age of Ships and Their Masters” within A History of the Providence River: With the Moshassuck, Woonasquatucket & Seekonk Tributaries (Arcadia Publishing, 2013), 39; Jay Coughtry and Martin Paul Schipper, Papers of the American Slave Trade (University Publications of America, 1996), vi.

[18] Lemons, J. Stanley, “Rhode Island and the Slave Trade,” Rhode Island History Vol. 60, No. 4, Fall 2002, 98-100.  Reprinted on the Gaspee Virtual Archives website. Jay Coughtry even says that the “American slave trade from 1727 to 1807 might be better called the Rhode Island slave trade” because merchants from Rhode Island “controlled between 60 and 90 percent of American trade in African slaves.” The same year this law passed, the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was founded in Britain by Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson, as noted by Reuters.

[19] The full name was “The Providence Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, for the Relief of Persons Unlawfully Held in Bondage, and for Improving the condition of the African Race.”

[20] Davis, Paul. “Brown vs. Brown: Brothers go head to head,” Providence Journal, Sept. 2006, accessed July 12, 2021; Coughtry, Jay, “Introduction” within Papers of the American Slave Trade, Series A: Selections from the Rhode Island Historical Society, Part 1: Brown Family Collections (Bethesda, MD: University Publications of America, 1998), v-vi; Coughtry, The Notorious Triangle, 213214. Coughtry cites the Bristol Rhode Island Papers (presumably the Bristol Town Records Collection not Records of the U.S. Custom House, Bristol-Warren, Rhode Island), the Moses Brown Papers, specifically the Old volume IX: Correspondence, 1796-1799, no. 20, 29, 31, 43, 44, with letters between Moses and John Brown on March 15, 1797, July 29, 1797, and July 31, 1797, and one between William Roch, Jr. and Moses Brown on March 21, 1797 as a source for the petition which implicated Samuel and Cyprian, and other matters.

[21] “Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Brown University” within Report of the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice, 2006, updated in 2020, accessed July 14, 2021; “Brown, John to Brown, Moses: November 17, 1797,” Brown University Library, Brown Digital Repository, accessed July 14, 2021.

[22] “Rhode Island Marriages, 1724-1916“, database, FamilySearch, 22 January 2020, Samuel Packard, 1789, p 345, image 569 of 690, within the section entitled “St. Paul’s Church–Marriages,”; of Vital record of Rhode Island, 1636-1850, Vol 10, p. 345 within the section “St. Paul’s Church marriages”; M.R.N., “James Earl (1761 – 1796),” AMERICAN GALLERY – 18th Century, Aug. 12, 2014, accessed July 12, 2021; “James Earl: Portrait of Abigail Congdon Packard, ca. 1795,” RISD Museum, accessed July 12, 2021; Korr, Mary. “Dr. Throop exemplifies new RISD Museum show: Making It in America,” Rhode Island Medical Journal, Nov. 2013, p. 76; “United States Census, 1800,” database with images, FamilySearch, accessed 15 July 2021), Samuel Packard, Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States; citing p. 197, NARA microfilm publication M32, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 45; FHL microfilm 218,680; “United States Census, 1790,” database with images, FamilySearch, accessed 15 July 2021), Samuel Packard, Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States; citing p. 187, NARA microfilm publication M637, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 10; FHL microfilm 568,150.

[23] “Clipped From Weekly Raleigh Register,” Weekly Raleigh Register, Raleigh, North Carolina, 30 Apr 1804, Page 3;Fraud on Underwriters,”  The Evening Post, New York, New York, 13 Apr 1804, p. 3; Jones, George Farquar, Family Record of the Jones Family of Milford, Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island: With Its Connections and Descendants, Together with the Ancestry and Family of Lorania Carrington Jones, Wife of George F. Jones (George Farquar Jones: Philadelphia, 1884), 43; John Marshall Varnum, A Sketch of the Life and Public Services of Joseph Bradley Varnum of Massachusetts (US: David Clapp & Son, 1906), 19; “A Voyage from Providence to Alexandria, VA. in 1788,” Book Notes, Vol. 5, no. 17, Aug. 18, 1888, 117. Also, in 1785, some “dogs were accompanied from France to New York by young John Quincy Adams and were shipped from New York to Mount Vernon in Capt. S. Packard’s sloop Dove,” according to letters in August (also see here) and September 1785.

[24] P and S sections of “Owners and Occupants of the Lots, Houses and Shops in the Town of Providence Rhode Island in 1798,” RIGenWeb Project, accessed July 14, 2021, transcribed by Henry R. Chace’s book of the same name. Also see this comparison of residents in 1759 and 1798.

[25] The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, otherwise known as the Trafficking Protocol defines human trafficking, in article 3(a) as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.” I’m not the first person to note this, as Karen Bravo in Open Democracy compared transatlantic slavery and contemporary human trafficking, as has Stevie J. Swanson in the Florida A & M University Law Review, UN Office on Drugs & Crime, UN Secretary General in 2008. Some, however, have rejected the comparison between the two, saying they are distinct, with Emily Smith, Curator of Contemporary Forms of Slavery, International Slavery Museum, writing that “the transporting of African people to be enslaved reflects similarities with human trafficking seen today, particularly when borders are crossed. The act of shipping African people, through means of abduction and force, for the purpose of exploitation was seen in the transatlantic slave trade. In cases of cross-border human trafficking, some harrowing similarities exist between transatlantic and modern slavery…This isolation and control the trafficker or slave master then has over the person can keep someone trapped in slavery…The crossing of borders seen in many cases of human trafficking can also highlight a key difference between the transatlantic slave trade and modern slavery, particularly when we consider the developments in technology…Now, traffickers often recruit people through fraudulent job promises and can deceive people to travel willingly and legally across borders, then exploitation starts upon arrival or during the journey. In this way, human trafficking can be different to that seen in the transatlantic slave trade as the traffickers do not always need to travel with their victim, to exploit them in another country or continent…Another difference between transatlantic and modern slavery is related to profitability and disposability. In the transatlantic slave trade, the focus of slave traders was on Africa and the high cost of transporting these people meant that once they were enslaved they were often maintained and reproduced. Today, trafficking and enslaving adults and children is deemed a low cost and high profit crime…While slavery may have emerged or adapted to exploit a wider range of adults and children, perpetrated through the aid of new technology and modes of transport, the exploitation, degradation, physical and psychological harms remain across time and space. Ultimately, both the transatlantic slave trade and modern slavery are crimes of human rights abuses and violations. Both are horrific, traumatic and outlawed, yet modern slavery remains on a significant scale.”

[26] “Accessions and Gifts: June 15, 1923 to March 14, 1924,” Bulletin of the Rhode Island School of Design, Vol. XII, April 1924, p. 19; Robert Grandchamp, Jane Lancaster, and Cynthia Ferguson, “Original Members of PMCA” within “Rhody Redlegs”: A History of the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery and the 103d Field Artillery, Rhode Island Army National Guard, 1801-2010 (US: McFarland, 2011), 214.

[27] White Jr., “A Rhode Islander Goes West to Indiana (1817-1818),” 22-23; Cole, J. R. History of Washington and Kent Counties, Rhode Island (New York: W.W.Preston & Co., 1889), 392-393.

[28]; Rhode Island, Wills and Probate Records, 1582-1932;
Probate and Town Council Records, Vol 9-13, 1756-1795; image 231, transcribed by Ben Costantino of the Rhode Island Manumissions Project. Also listed is Frances Congdon who had a Black girl “named Desire” and two older Black people, Tenny and Tom.

[29] “Part 1 of Packard’s statement” within The Washingtonian, Windsor, Vermont, 07 Oct 1811, page 3; “Part 2 of Packard’s statementwithin The Washingtonian, Windsor, Vermont, 07 Oct 1811, page 3.

[30] “United States Census, 1810,” database with images, FamilySearch, accessed 15 July 2021), Samuel Packard, West District, Providence, Rhode Island, United States; citing p. 69, NARA microfilm publication M252 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 58; FHL microfilm 281,232.

[31] Vital record of Rhode Island, 1636-1850, Vol 10, page 382.

[32] “An Act to Prevent the Slave Trade and the Encourage the Abolition of Slavery,” October 31, 1787, pages 6-7 of 8, via Rhode Island State Archives Digital Archive page “Quaker petition for abolition of slave trade, June 1787.” The fine for violating the law is 100 pounds (and he violated it four times), while the fee for violating Slave Trade Act of 1794 was $2,000. The conversion of Rhode Island pounds to dollars was one pound to one dollar, according to information compiled here. This is assuming that the fines assessed would be equal to those set out in the law.

[33] Fikes also notes that “family history shapes who we and where we come from and what we have access to, today.” She also criticizes White historians for sitting on information and only releasing it when they are comfortable to do so.