1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

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    R.I.H.S. Library page

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 James Card Family Papers

 Merchant, of Newport, R.I.

 Family papers, 1756-1798

 Size: .25 ft.

 Catalog number: MSS 1140

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, March 2004

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            James Card (1730-1772) was a mariner from Newport, R.I., the son of James Card (1703-1778); he sometimes used "Junior" after his name. He served as master of the following vessels: sloop Nonesuch to Pennsylvania (1760); Charming Molly (1763); King of Bonney from London to Bonney, Africa (1763); sloop Rising Sun from Newport to Honduras (1764); sloop Tryall (1766); sloop Swordfish from Cape Fear to Jamaica (1769); sloop Betsey (1770); and sloop Phoenix (1771). Many of his voyages were to the Bay of Honduras, where mahogany was cut using slave labor; his brother Jonathan Card (b.1726) settled in the Bay of Honduras and was living there in 1772. James Card died in the Bay of Honduras in May of 1772 after a short illness.

            In 1762, James was serving as a mate aboard the schooner Adventure on a slaving voyage from Antigua to Senegal, when his ship was attacked and was forced to retreat to the Isle of Goree. There, the ship's Capt. Williamson was left, presumably wounded, while Card assumed temporary command as captain and agreed to load a cargo of slaves. Williamson resumed command the next month, refused to honor Card's agreement, and placed Card under arrest. This and a less eventful voyage on the King of Bonney the following year were apparently the only slaving voyages that James took to Africa, but he was frequently involved in buying and transporting slaves between the Caribbean and Rhode Island.

            James married Sarah Rouse (1735-1813), and they had two children: John/Jonathan R. Card (1766-1805) and James Card (b.1768). Son John R. Card (1766-1805) followed his father into the sea captain's life, apparently never married, lived in Philadelphia and Newport, and is thought to have died in Baltimore. His younger brother James (b.1768) settled in Norfolk, Va., where he is thought to have had three children after 1805: John, Sarah, and William.


Card, Charles H. Richard Card and Descendants, 14. Carrabelle, Fla., 1996.

Rouse Family Papers at the Rhode Island Historical Society. Genealogical notes in Folder 14 as cited in New England Historical and Genealogical Register, volume 69, page 381.

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Scope and content:

            This collection is one of the more explicit collections relating to the slave trade in the RIHS Manuscripts Collection, and probably the most explicit that was not included in the microfilm set, Papers of the American Slave Trade. It includes a 1762 agreement with an African slave merchant to load a cargo of slaves aboard the schooner Adventure, along with several supporting documents. It includes two documents regarding the sale of named slaves (two slaves in 1763, and six in 1771). It includes extended correspondence regarding an escaped slave in the Bay of Honduras in 1770. It also includes several other documents that explicitly mention slave labor.

            The collection is otherwise a typical late eighteenth-century mercantile collection, including cargo documents and pay records for a variety of vessels in the West Indies trade. Two receipts for furniture made by the famous Townsend family of Newport are noteworthy, as is a lengthy series of documents relating to Card's efforts to settle debts owed to Newport merchant Oliver Ring Warner in the Bay of Honduras. Jonathan Card's 1772 letter to his brother's widow Sarah (Rouse) Card is unusual in its sense of mystery and urgency, although few useful details regarding James Card's death are divulged. While most of the papers relate directly to James Card, the last five folders consist of his son John's West Indies mercantile accounts dated 1788 to 1798.

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            As of 1915, some or all of these papers were on deposit at the Newport Historical Society, when four related Rouse family documents were published in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register by G. Andrews Moriarty, Jr. (volume 69, page 381). This collection was donated by Moriarty to the R.I.H.S. in 1929 along with Rouse family papers, and was at one point pasted into a scrapbook. Circa 1985, the collection was removed, with Rouse Family Papers separated out (see MSS 954) and the remaining Card family material placed into folders in the Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection. In 2004, the Card material was gathered together as a collection again, and reorganized.

            One item, 1788 testimony in the case of Martino vs. John Card, was found in the RIHSM collection, volume 14, page 109. It was transferred to the Card Papers, as a very similar testimony page was already there. It may have also arrived in the same gift as the other Card Papers in 1929, as other items in that portion of RIHSM were donated circa 1900 to 1940.

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James Card (1730-1772)

Folder 1.        1756-1760

1756/06/03, promissary note from Benjamin Cahoon for logwood, dated Bay of Honduras

                                    1758/03/04, receipt from Sarah Bull for ship labor of her "negor man."

1760/01/29, receipt for payment to Howard Pool for making 2 pairs of shoes for Card's "negroes."

                                    1760/05/21, short letter from Robert Wheatley of Newport

1760/06/12, deposition of mate David Shiverick re losses in gale aboard the sloop Nonesuch

                                    1760/06/24, receipt from William & Samuel Vernon for rum and molasses

                                    1760/06/26, short letter from Otis & Russell of Newport

                                    1760/11/17, short letter from W. Stevens of Newport

                                    Other receipts for lobsters, tailor work, sailor's pay, etc.


Folder 2.        1761-1762

1761/02/02, receipt from Edmund Townsend for a mahogany desk and a tea board

1761/02/20, receipt for payment from Jonathan Paine to whom Card delivered a "neagor boy" from Boston.

                                    1762/02/15, inventory of goods delivered for David Williamson in Senegal

1762/03/26, certificate that Card had "behaved like a careful, honest man" in the Isle of Goree, signed by Robert Gresley

                                    1762/03/27, testimony by Card re refusal to serve under Capt. Williamson

[1762] An undated receipt for paying for a "Black man going with a letter to Senegal" and other expenses with 4 ½ gallons of brandy, re schooner Adventure.

                                    Other receipts for molasses, bread, cloth, etc.


Oversized folder.        1762/02/18, detailed account of sea battle with French ship Neptune off coast of Senegal

                                    1762/02/22, testimony of Card re battle with Neptune

1762/03/23, agreement with Barnaby Burnet of Goree to trade all goods aboard the schooner Adventure in exchange for Burnet "to put on board the said schooner by the middle of July next, merchantable slaves to the amount of cargo delivered."


Folder 3.         1763

                                    1763/04/06, power of attorney from John Powell of England

                                    1763/04/20, receipts for wages from crew of King of Bonney

1763/10/16, receipt dated Bay of Honduras for two slaves (a boy named Nicholaw and a girl named Present) from Oliver Ring Warner, a merchant, who buys and sells slaves through Card.

Other receipts, mostly re cargo of ships Charming Molly and King of Bonney


Oversized folder.        1763/04/16, articles of agreement for seamen of the snow King of Bonney, sailing from London to Bonney (coast of Africa)


Folder 4.         1764-1769

1764/04/24, letter from William Cahoon to Oliver Ring Warner re logwood plantation on Irish Creek in the Bay of Honduras, including attached certificate re slave named Newport, aged 25, who has been working on Cahoon's plantation since 1756.

                                    1764/05/10, receipt from Aaron Lopez for one cask

1764/11/28, sailing orders from Aaron and Daniel Chafee for sloop Rising Sun from Newport to Bay of Honduras to obtain mahogany

1765/05/08, receipt from William Pearce for damages paid by Card for beating Pearce in Honduras and at sea.

1766/03/06, letter from Sarah Winter of Musquito Cove to Oliver Ring Warner of Newport (early copy)

                                    1768/03/30, receipt from Aaron Lopez for leather and textiles

1768/09/28, receipt from David Huntington for mahogany and maple furniture (torn)

1768/10/01, receipt from Thomas Townsend for four mahogany tables, a maple table, and a coffin for Card's "negro girl"

1769/09/04, testimony of Card and crew re the loss of sloop Swordfish

                                    Other receipts for bread, etc.


Folder 5.         1770-1771

1770/02/23, power of attorney from Oliver Ring Warner to Card, with attached list of accounts including mentions of Negros Newport, Nicholaw, and Present

1770/02/23, letter from Warner, in part re orders to recapture Ring's slave "Newport" who appears to have escaped in Honduras.

                                    1770/04/04, letter from Card to Warner re failure to capture Newport

                                    1770/05/01, letter from Card to Warner re failure to capture Newport

                                    1770/07/29, letter from Card to Warner re failure to settle debts

                                    1770/07/29, order from Samuel Thurston

                                    1770/08/15, letter from Card to Warner re problems with ship

1770/12/18, letter from John Stiles re mahogany logs; "please to let my Negroes take them."

                                    1771/04/02, receipt from Owen Nash of "No. Bay" for six slaves:

                                                "Primrose, a seasoned man

                                                Jack, a seasoned boy

                                                Betty, a seasoned girl

                                                Phillis, a seasoned woman girl

                                                March, a new negro man

                                                Jenny, a new negro woman girl"

1771/09/18, order from John Lawrie to "deliver my Negro Hercules to Capt. James McCauley."

                                    Other receipts for ship stores, mahogany, etc.


Oversized folder.        1770/02/26, copy of account between Oliver Ring Warner and estate of Richard Burrill re Richard Burrill Jr. dating back to 1764

                                    1771/04/29, account between sloop Phoenix and Card for bills paid

1771/08/14, letter from Lawrie, Hewlett & Co. re slave tried for theft, who is to be delivered to Bay of Honduras (attached to 1771/04/29 account)


Folder 6.         1763-1771, packet of receipts re tailoring, ship expenses, logwood, rum, etc.


Folder 7.         Undated:

                                    Instructions from John Christopher for finding hidden stores

                                    Also, three memoranda of no obvious importance.

Sarah (Rouse) Card (1735-1813)

Folder 8.         1772-1775, mostly re James Card estate (inventories, receipts, etc.)

                                    1772/07/07, receipt from Lucianna Tucker to Sarah for schooling two sons

1772/07/22, letter from Jonathan Card (brother of James) of the Bay of Honduras, to Sarah Card re death of James and issues re his estate.

John R. Card (1766-1805)

Folder 9.         1788-1792, mostly re sloop Alert between Philadelphia and Bahama Islands, 1792. Also two 1788 depositions re assault charges of Card against Mathew Martino, who allegedly struck Card on a wharf in Newport for calling him a "damn'd eternal cheating French son of a bitch."


Folder 10.       1793-1794, mostly re sloop Venus between Philadelphia and Bahama Islands.


Folder 11.       1795-1796, mostly re schooner Paragon between Philadelphia and Martinique.

                        Also last will and testament, 1796, naming mother, brother, cousin Jane Wilson.


Folder 12.       1797-1798, mostly re brig Virginia between Virginia and Antigua, 1797

                        Also 1798 bill and certificate from Dr. Isaac Senter of Newport re broken leg


Oversized folder.        1798/09/27, order re repairs necessary to sloop Speedwell, Bahama Islands

                                    1798/10/01, deposition re sloop Speedwell, Bahama Islands


Folder 13.       Undated genealogical note re John R. Card and his brother James

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Adventure (Schooner)

Africa - Commerce.

Card, John R., 1766-1805.

Card, Jonathan, 1726-.

Card, Sarah (Rouse), 1735-1813.

Christopher, John.

Honduras - Commerce.

King of Bonney (Ship)

Logwood industry - Honduras.

Lopez, Aaron, 1731-1782.


Martino, Mathew.

Merchants - Rhode Island - Newport.

Newport (R.I.) - Commerce.

Senter, Isaac, 1753-1799.

Slave trade - Rhode Island - Newport.

Townsend, Edmund.

Townsend, Thomas.

Tucker, Lucianna.

United States - History - French and Indian War, 1755-1763.

Warner, Oliver Ring.

West Indies - Commerce.

Winter, Sarah.

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