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Historical Documents
Memoir of Captain Paul Cuffee, Liverpool Mercury
1811

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Memoir of Captain Paul Cuffee, Liverpool <I>Mercury</I>

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On New Year's Day, 1811, Paul Cuffe and his crew of nine black seamen sailed out of Philadelphia aboard Cuffe's flagship, the Traveller. They were bound for Sierra Leone, a British colony that had been created as a haven for poor blacks from London and black Loyalists who despaired of life as free people in Nova Scotia. During this three-month visit to the west coast of Africa, Cuffe met with government officials and local chiefs, visited schools and Methodist meetings, and distributed bibles, all the time carefully noting his observations on the prospects for black emigration from America.

From May to December, Cuffe accepted an invitation by English abolitionists to visit London, Liverpool, and Manchester. He also visited schools and factories, marveling at the innovations he saw. He was received as an honored and respected guest by members of Parliament, and by such notables as the Duke of Gloucester, who was nephew to the king and president of the African Institution, an organization of abolitionists and social reformers dedicated to "promoting the civilizations of the people" of Africa. While in England he obtained a license for trading with Sierra Leone.

Near the end of his visit, frin October 4-11, 1811, the Liverpool Mercury published a "Memoir of Captain Paul Cuffee (sic)" in which the editor praised him as preferable "to the proudest stateman that ever dealt our destruction amongst mankind." The "Memoir" offered a description of Cuffe's early life and his many notable achievements, including his 1780 challenge to the Massachusetts legislature against taxation without representation for blacks.

Cuffe later received an English land grant on which he could settle a few worthy immigrants of his choosing. Cuffe's plans were delayed by the War of 1812, but in 1815-1816 he made a successful voyage to Sierra Leone with 38 colonists. On January 16, 1817, he wrote that in Sierra Leone, "These few Europeans hath pritty much Control of the Colony Yet the people of Coular Are intitled to every privlege of a free born Subjects.... Yet It cannot be said that Thay Are Equal for the prejudice of tradition is preciptable but I believe much Lieth At thare Doors."

Image Credit: From the collections of the Library of Congress




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Forten letter to Cuffe





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