Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What Is the "U.S., Definitive List of Slaves and Property, 1827-1828" Database Just Released on Ancestry?

I just noticed that Ancestry released a new database originating from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), "U.S., Definitive List of Slaves and Property, 1827-1828".

It took me a while to actually figure out what this database was covering.  I had to start by looking up what "indemnify" meant.  According to Merriam-Webster:

1  to secure against hurt, loss, or damage2  to make compensation to for incurred hurt, loss, or damage 
a) the action of indemnifyingb) the condition of being indemnified

So what prompted this collection of data in the first place?

According to the NARA catalog entry:

DUring the War of 1812, the British took possession of a large amount of American property, including slaves, some of whom were voluntary fugitives, while others were taken in predatory excursions. Article I of the Treaty of Ghent, signed on December 24, 1814, contained provisions for restoration of "all territory, places, and possessions" taken by either party during the war. A dispute, however, arose between American and British officials about interpretation of this provision as it affected slaves. The dispute was referred, by article V of the convention signed on October 20, 1818, to the Emperior [sic] of Russia for arbitration. The Emperor's decision, APril 22, 1822, favored the United States. Having settled this point, a convention was signed on June 30, 1822, by the United States and Great Britain providing for a commission of two members from each country, a commissioner, and an arbitrator who would determine the average value of slaves and the validity of property claims. Langdon Cheves and Henry Seawell were appointed U.S. commissioner and arbitrator, respectively. 
Although the commssion [sic], which met in Washington, August 25, 1823, agreed on some points, it soon ran into insurmountable difficulties. On November 13, 1826, a new convention was signed in which Great Britain agreed to pay $1,204,960 in satisfaction of all claims under award of the Emperior [sic] of Russia. 
An act of March 2, 1827 (4 Stat. 219), provided for establishment of a domestic claims commission to examine and determine the validity and amount of award, if any, claimants should receive. Langdon Cheves, Henry Seawell, and James Pleasants were appointed commssioners [sic]. Aaron Ogden served as clerk. The commission met in Washington on July 10, 1827. A total of 1,060 claims were decided before it adjourned on August 31, 1828.

So which states exactly were covered?
Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, and Louisiana had the most slave claims, followed by Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, District of Columbia, and Delaware.  Image 2 from U.S., Definitive List of Slaves and Property, 1827-1828:  Definitive List of Slaves and Property on Ancestry.

An example of the list, with the slave owners, the enslaved that the British allegedly carried off, the enslaved's value, and a note of the proof:
Image 7 from U.S., Definitive List of Slaves and Property, 1827-1828:  Definitive List of Slaves and Property on Ancestry.

I'm not sure how, or even if, I can apply this dataset in my own research, but regardless this looks like an interesting new release.

ETA:  Maya Davis (Research Archivist, Maryland State Archives) and her colleagues used the the data for case studies on the fate of some of these slaves.  Blog post about her presentation here.

© 2016 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

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