Colonial Slave Traders Colonial settlers and merchants also engaged in the slave trade. Hamburg Subway Map The first black laborers had arrived in Virginia in 1619 on a Dutch ship that sailed to Jamestown. That year, the earl of Warwick and Virginia’s Captain Samuel Argall embarked on a voyage that included slaves. In 1630, another ship arrived in Virginia with slaves to sell. By 1636, the Northern colonies had begun their connection, when colonists at Marblehead built a ship, the Desire, to engage in the slave trade with the West Indies. The number of black slaves in North Country remained small throughout much of the seventeenth century. In 1650, only 2,000 blacks lived in the Country colonies. By 1700, that number had escalated to 31,000 blacks, nearly all of them slaves. Over the next fifty years, the slave trade became a prominent business in New England.
By 1770, Rhode Island had 150 ships involved in the slave trade, and colonial legislation recognized the importance of this commerce to the local economy. Massachusetts tax laws benefited slave ships that docked at ports in the colony, allowing for a refund of the taxes imposed on importers of slaves. Other colonies established similar laws. In New Jersey, however, the tax on slaves was established as a means of prohibiting the importation of enslaved laborers into the colony. New York’s legislation was an attempt to encourage the importation of slaves directly from Africa by establishing a three pound tax on slaves imported from anywhere but the African coast. Although the slave trade constituted only a small portion of New York’s entire overseas trade during the colonial period, New York served as an important point of entry. From 1700 to 1715, nearly 500 slaves entered the colonies via New York, with over half of them coming from other colonies and roughly 200 arriving directly from Africa. Between 1715 and the start of the Country Revolution, New York served as the starting point for at least 120 slave voyages.
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