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    "It is asserted that two vessels, one French, the other American, have landed [illegal] cargoes of Slaves on the coast of this province recently"

    [George W. Storer] USS Perry Naval Reports, many regarding the illegal American slave trade. Fifteen reports written to Commodore Storer, the commander of U.S. Naval forces off the coast of Brazil. All are dated between August 1848 and May 1849 and many contain information about the illegal slave trade being conducted in the South Atlantic. All letters are written from the brig Perry as she cruised along the coast of South America ("Harbor of Montevideo", "Harbour of Rio de Janeiro", and "Off Cape Frio"). Most of these reports were written by Lieutenant Commander John A. Davis, the commander of the Perry who, according to one report, relieved Lieutenant Commander E. G. Tilton from "the command of this vessel" in September 1848.

    Earlier in 1847, the Perry joined the Brazil Squadron in the South Atlantic to protect American interests there. In December 1848, a report reveals that "the suspected brig Democrat" was stopped and boarded by crew members of the Perry. After examining the vessel's cargo, Davis determined that "Her cargo and manifest closely coincided, the only articles found and not mentioned, being a few (say eleven) Fire Bricks." But that finding "did not furnish sufficient evidence of illegal trade to warrant me, in my opinion, and in that of the boarding officer, in sending said Brig Democrat to the United States for trial."

    As revealed in one of the reports in this collection, in late 1848 the brig was assigned the new task of capturing American ships involved in the slave trade. Even though the U.S. banned the importation of slaves in 1808, many American slave traders continued their business in the South Atlantic, bringing slaves from Africa to Brazil. Brazil officially banned the importation of slaves in 1831, but illegal slave trading continued there for the next thirty years, with little law enforcement by the Brazilian government. It is estimated that nearly 60,000 Africans were brought to Brazil in 1847, with the same amount brought in 1848. The following year of 1849 shows a slight decrease to 50,000, likely as a result of the increased efforts by the Perry and the rest of the American fleet.

    In a report issued in late December 1848, Lt. Commander Davis acknowledges the receipt of the new assignment for the Perry, specifically, to engage in the "suppression of the Slave trade" in the South Atlantic. In that report, Davis writes that "I have had the honor to receive your instructions of 5th September relative to vessels engaged in the Slave trade, accompanied by 'General extracts for Commanders of vessels of war engaged in suppression of the Slave trade'; your instructions of 11th Decemr. on the same subject designating the port to which American vessels having slaves on board are to be sent in case of capture." As a result of the new instructions to participate in the patrol, the Perry's reports reflect an increase in awareness of the activities of the illegal trade. Davis reports in March 1849 that "The British Steamer Hydra captured a new Brazilian Brig suspected of being engaged in the Slave trade, and is at this time blockading the Braz. Steamer Providencia under the same suspicion. The capture was made by one of the steamer's boats, outside the harbor, and after an exchange of some volleys from small arms. Regarding the Slave trade under our Flag there is nothing new to communicate." In April 1849, Davis communicates about other illegal slaving activity: "It is asserted that two vessels, one French, the other American, have landed cargoes of Slaves on the coast of this province [Rio de Janeiro] recently. Beside this I know of no movement in the Slave trade."

    These reports also communicate more mundane information, such as the condition of the ship and the activities of legal American merchant ships in the area. One of the latest letters of this collection reveals that command of the brig was transferred back to Tilton in May 1849, ending Davis' work on the Perry.

    More Information:

    In one of the earliest reports, dated September 22, 1848, Davis, shortly after receiving command of the Perry, writes that he has been cruising about for "two weeks between Cape Frio and San Salvador outside the Abrolhos Banks, without having discovered any suspicious vessels. The only American vessels seen during this time were the Barque Chilton, bound to New-Orleans with a cargo of coffee, and the ship Esther May, bound to Rio de Janeiro with an assorted cargo." Other early reports inform Storer that there was little activity to report ("nothing that is of importance to communicate. . . . There are no American vessels in this port at present"). Other reports also convey information on common concerns, such as repairs done to the ship and the general condition of the ship ("The Perry is now in excellent order, and her crew and officers are as healthy as usual"). Sometimes, news from the United States was conveyed through the reports. For example, in the April 18, 1849, report, Davis forwards "intelligence of the formation of the New Cabinet" of the new president, Zachary Taylor.


    The 105-foot USS Perry was launched in 1843 from Norfolk, Virginia. She sailed on various missions around the globe until the Mexican War, when she was used to blockade Mexican ports. Following her mission in the South Atlantic, the brig took an active part in the Civil War. The Perry was decommissioned in 1865 and sold. George Washington Storer (1789-1864) served a long career - nearly fifty-five years - in the U.S. Navy, commanding such ships as the USS Constellation and USS Brandywine. In 1848, Storer was placed in command of the U.S. naval forces off the coast of Brazil. Later, from 1854 through 1857, he served as the governor of the U.S. Naval Asylum in Philadelphia. He died a rear admiral at his home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1864. According to a statement issued by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles at Storer's death, the naval officer had "served faithfully, and has filled with credit many important positions both ashore and afloat."

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2010
    8th-9th Tuesday-Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
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