John Brown of Providence was a wealthy and powerful merchant. He had financed slaving voyages. He also had experience financing privateers— privately-owned vessels licensed by the government to capture and sell enemy vessels and their contents.
After the Continental Congress prohibited importation of African captives, Brown sent a privateer to the coast of Africa, where British slavers continued to operate but where Great Britain, otherwise occupied with the war, was unable to protect her merchant ships. His aim was to inflict harm on the British economy while making money for himself.
In early 1777, Brown commissioned the construction of the privateer he named the Marlborough, a 250-ton, square-rigged brig with twenty guns. In late December of 1777, the Marlborough, commanded by George Waite Babcock of North Kingstown, ran the Royal Navy blockade of the Sakonnet Channel and began its maiden voyage to Africa.
Mr. McBurney’s new book, Dark Voyage: An American Privateer’s War on Britain’s Slave Trade, tells the story of the Marlborough. On Monday, October 10 at 7:00 p.m., the author will be in our Museum Gallery to tell us about the contribution the Marlborough and other American privateers made to the Revolutionary War effort, and the effect American privateers had on the British slave trade.