Partially-printed Bill of Lading for a cargo aboard the ship Royal Charlotte, bound for "Mississippi" [i.e. New Orleans], Signed by ship's master Silvanus Jencks. Silvanus Jenckes.

A Rare Document Relating to the Louisiana Rebellion of 1768

Partially-printed Bill of Lading for a cargo aboard the ship Royal Charlotte, bound for "Mississippi" [i.e. New Orleans], Signed by ship's master Silvanus Jencks.

[Likely printed in Newport, RI, but accomplished in manuscript at St. Eustatius, West Indies]: 18 October 1769.

A Rare Document Relating to the Louisiana Rebellion of 1768. Old folds. Item #305028

Reading in part: "Shipped by the grace of God … in and upon the good Ship, called the Royall Charlotte whereof is Master under God for this recent voyage Silvanus Jencks and now riding at anchor in the Road to St. Eustasius and by Gods grace bound for Mississippy to lay Five hundred ninety Barrels of Flower, Thirty T---- of ships Bread, Twenty T---- of Rice, Twenty kegs of white Bread, five Hhds of Rum, fourpipes & fifty kegs of Brandy, four Hhds Claret, two puncheons of beer & two puncheons of Cyder in bottles, five cases of Frontignan Wine, five Casks hams & Twenty four Negroe Slaves…and are to be delivered… at the aforesaid, Port of Missisipi (the danger of the seas onely excepted) unto Mr. Oliver Pollock…"

Among the terms of the Treaty of Paris which ended the French and Indian War, France ceded New Orleans and control of the Mississippi to Spain. The transfer of power, however, was not without violence. In October 1768, riots broke out led by Creole and German inhabitants, who had deposed the Spanish Governor Ulloa in response to government trade restrictions. In April, 1769 Alejandro O’Reilly was ordered to New Orleans to quell the uprising. He arrived in August, with 2,000 troops and quickly restored order, earning the nickname "Bloody O'Reilly" because he had six prominent rebel French colonists executed in October 1769.

The Royal Charlotte is believed to be one of the 30 merchant vessels owned by Aaron Lopez (1731-1782), a Sephardic Jew born in Lisbon, Portugal, who came to Newport, Rhode Island in 1752. Lopez quickly became a leading merchant in Newport and would go on to become its wealthiest citizen. Among his diverse business interests, he is credited with underwriting at least 21 slave ships between 1761 and 1774.

The ship’s captain chartered for the present voyage from the free Dutch port of St. Eustatius to the Spanish port in New Orleans was Silvanus Jenckes (1746-1781), a Providence, Rhode Island ship’s master. Jenckes, like most seafaring New Englanders, would go on to become a privateer during the American Revolution. Although Jencks has signed this bill of lading, the goods on board the Royal Charlotte did not belong to the ship’s owner but rather the “charter party,” in this case, Mr. Oliver Pollock.

Pollock (1737-1823) was born in County Tyrone, Ireland and arrived in Pennsylvania 1760, settling in Cumberland County. Within two years he established himself as a merchant, trading mainly with the Spanish in the West Indies. He set up his headquarters in Havana, Cuba, where he became friends with the island’s Governor General O’Reilly.

After suppressing the rebellion, O'Reilly was faced with the daunting task of supplying his large force. Then, “To O’Reilly’s great fortune, his old friend Oliver Pollock arrived at the port of New Orleans just in time on a ship with the very British name Royal Charlotte. O’Reilly was delighted to learn that the ship was full of flour…” (Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution, DuVal, Kathleen. Random House Publishing Group, 2016). Given the timing and the items listed on this bill of lading, it is likely that this bill of lading is for the very cargo of flour and goods that saved O’Reilly and fed his Spanish army. Instead of selling his flour at inflated market prices, Pollock sold them to O’Reilly at pre-rebellion cost. As a reward, Pollock was granted free trade privileges in Louisiana and relocated his headquarters to New Orleans, where he soon became one of its most successful businessmen. Pollock would later use his fortune to finance western operations of the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

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