This slave manifest for the brig Orleans, which includes Solomon Northup listed as Plat Hamilton on line 33, is now on display at the National Archives.
In 1841, Solomon Northup, a free-born African American from New York, was kidnapped by two white men and enslaved for 12 years in the deep South before he could prove his legal right to freedom. He later wrote about his ordeal in his book “12 Years A Slave” which was made into a movie.
Abducting free blacks for sale into slavery was outlawed in most of the United States. However uneven law enforcement, the marginal rights of free blacks, and mounting demand for slaves after the end of the transatlantic slave trade made kidnapping an attractive and potentially profitable prospect that encouraged the creation of a reverse underground railroad.
Kidnappers gave their victims aliases to hide their true identities. Northup recounted that he first heard the name he would be known by as a slave, “Plat Hamilton,” in New Orleans when it was called from this slave manifest (line 33) for the brig Orleans. Victims who insisted that they were free often faced severe beatings or even death. Northup accepted his identity as “Plat” because “[He] was too costly a chattel to be lost … [and] knew well enough the slightest knowledge of [his] real character would consign [him] at once to the remotest depths of Slavery.”
Vera Williams, a direct descendent of Solomon Northup works at the National Archives. You can read her personal story or learn how she walked in the footsteps of her great-great-great-grandfather.
The movie “12 Years A Slave” tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped. His journey into slavery can be found in our records.
In the slave manifest for the brig Orleans, Solomon Northup is gone, but Plat Hamilton is present.
A ban on federal slavery legislation was written into the Constitution in 1787. But an 1807 Act of Congress outlawed foreign importation of slaves. Slave manifests that documented each slave’s name, sex, age, and color were then required.
When slaves were forced into the haul of the Orleans on April 27, 1841, the Port of Richmond collector Thomas Nelson approved the slave manifest. When the ship docked in New Orleans on May 24, 1841, the inspector matched Solomon Northup’s description to the name Plat Hamilton. And Solomon Northup the free man of color ceased to exist.
Northup was transported on the Orleans with approximately forty other slaves to New Orleans where he was later sold to Edwin Epps, who owned a cotton plantation in the Louisiana Red River area. Northup was enslaved for the next twelve years. All rights and privileges that come with freedom, beginning with his given name, were stripped away from him.
To see more documents related to the life of Solomon Northup, go to the National Archives Education blog: http://go.usa.gov/WBjw
Image: Slave Manifest for the Brig Orleans, including Solomon Northup, listed as Plat Hamilton (#33)
Need a knock ‘em dead prop for your haunted house? Try Eisenbrant’s spring loaded “Life-Preserving Coffin!”
"Life-Preserving Coffin, In Doubtful Cases of Actual Death"
Drawing for a Life-Preserving Coffin, 11/15/1843
The fear of being buried alive led Christian Henry Eisenbrandt to patent a “life-preserving coffin in doubtful cases of actual death.” In his application, he claimed that through a series of springs and levers, even the slightest motion of the head or hand would instantaneously open the coffin lid.
(Also fun at parties)
A Report of an Exploration of the Country Lying between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains on the Line of the Kansas and Great Platte Rivers,” by John Charles Frémont, March 1, 1843
The official report from John C. Frémont, explorer, soldier, & politician, on his expedition into the Rocky Mountains, 170 years ago.
Supported by Frémont’s father-in-law, a powerful senator and strong proponent of western expansion, the expedition’s goal was to survey and map the Oregon Trail to the Rocky Mountains. The senator hoped it would encourage Americans to emigrate and develop commerce along the western trails.
Frémont’s report provided practical information about the geology, botany, and climate of the West that guided future emigrants along the Oregon Trail; it shattered the misconception of the West as the Great American Desert. Frémont dictated much of the report to his wife, Jessie Benton Frémont, a gifted writer. “The horseback life, the sleep in the open air,” she later recalled, “had unfitted Mr. Frémont for the indoor work of writing,” and so she helped him. Distilled from Frémont’s notes and filtered through the artistic sensibilities of his wife, the report is a practical guide, infused with the romance of the western trail.
Keep reading at Eyewitness: America on the Move
Statement on Reduction of Compensation to Members of Congress, 2/25/1843
Records of the U.S. Senate
This ledger was used to clarify a proposed reduction in compensation for Congress in 1843, thus reducing the Congressional budget. Congress sets the budget for its operations, including pay for Members of Congress.
America and Britain draw the line
On August 5, 1846, President James K. Polk proclaimed the Treaty with Great Britain, in Regard to Limits Westward of the Rocky Mountains. This treaty resolved the Oregon border dispute by drawing a straight line along the 49th parallel. The line extended the existing boundary between the United States and Britain (Canada) over the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
Presidential Proclamation regarding the Oregon Treaty, 08/05/1846
Memorial of Joseph Smith, praying to be authorized to raise a body of armed volunteers for the protection of citizens of the United States emigrating to the adjoining territories, 03/26/1844
Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saints movement, submitted this request to Congress on March 26, 1844, only 3 months before his death at the hands of a mob in Carthage, IL.
This treaty, signed on February 2, 1848, ended the war between the United States and Mexico. By its terms, Mexico ceded 55 percent of its territory, including parts of present-day Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah, to the United States.
Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo [Exchange copy], 02/02/1848
Abducted from Africa and then shipped from Cuba aboard the schooner Amistad as slaves, fifty-three Africans overcame their captors and gained control of the ship. However, the Amistad would be seized by the Navy off Long Island, New York, and the Africans imprisoned, charged with murder and facing extradition to Cuba. Dated January 7, 1840, this document was submitted on their behalf by a group of American attorneys representing them before the Federal District Court in Connecticut.
Answer of S. Staples, R. Baldwin, and T. Sedgewick, Proctors for the Amistad Africans, to the several libels of Lt. Gedney, et. al. and Pedro Montes and Jose Ruiz, January 7, 1840; Records of the District Courts of the United States; Record Group 21; National Archives.
Congressman Abraham Lincoln drafted this resolution asking President Polk to prove that the spot where American and Mexican troops clashed was really in the United States. Polk used the incident to lead the nation into war, which Lincoln opposed.
Resolution introduced by Congressman Abraham Lincoln to “establish whether the particular spot of soil which the blood of our citizens was so shed was, or was not, our own soil.” Often referred to as Lincoln’s Spot Resolution., 12/22/1847
Sewing Machine, By Elias Howe, Patent granted September 10, 1846, Ink and wash on paper, 17” x 23 1/2”
On September 10, 1846, Elias Howe was granted a patent for his Sewing Machine. Howe claimed that his machine could sew 250 stitches a minute. Invention of the sewing machine revolutionized the textile and garment industries.