Last of the slavers. [from the Washington post, January 18, 1908.]
Adventurous voyage made by the Wanderer. Young Lamar's daring trip.Some New light thrown on closing Chapter in the slave trade by representative Bartlett, of Georgia.
[Without diatribe as to the cruelty of the slave system, which obtained so extensively in the colonies entering into our original national compact; or as to the providence or beneficence of the patriarchal institution, which transplanted from barbarism, those sold into servitude by their own kindred, the following is given as a minute contribution to our National history. It cannot be controverted that the condition of the negro as a slave in the Southern States was infinitely for his betterment, mentally, spiritually and physically, and a consequence was the provision of educated teachers toward the ameliorment of the race in Africa. It is in historical evidence, abundantly, that the institution of slavery was pressed upon the South, despite constant and continued protest, because it was at first profitable to Great Britain, and subsequently to our brethren of the North. These last further, when the hapless creatures enslaved by them could not longer be profitably employed by them—were transferred to the South to the great profit of their late masters. New England did not confine her system to the enslavement of one race, but held in thraldom also the proud red man, the native lord of our soil.—Ed.] Those who are familiar with the history of the Wanderer, the vessel which, in 1859, landed the last cargo of African slaves in the United States, will be interested in the following unpublished fragments of history of that memorable event, related to a Post reporter, by Representative C. L. Bartlett, of Georgia. Apropos of this narrative, the following brief resume of the career of that famous vessel is given, in order that the reader may better understand the facts given by the Georgia member.  The Wanderer was built in New York in 1856 or 1857, by Joseph G. Bayless, for a Mr. J. T. Johnson, a wealthy member of the New York Yacht Club. Shortly after the Wanderer was launched from the ways of Bayless's ship-yard, Johnson sold it to a Captain W. C. Corrie, who retained possession of the yacht until about 1859. It was about this time that Charles A. L. Lamar, of Savannah, Ga., a young man of high social position, and a member of one of the wealthiest and most aristocratic of Southern families (being a relative of L. Q. C. Lamar, Secretary of the Interior under Cleveland), decided to try the experiment of bringing a cargo of slaves from the west coast of Africa, landing them at some point on the southern coast of the United States. Lamar, a daring and adventurous young fellow, was tempted to undertake this risky enterprise, by the enormous profits awaiting those who succeeded in landing a cargo of negroes in America, without attracting the attention of the courts and officers. Slavery had been outlawed for nearly half a century, and such was the vigilance of the British. French and American war vessels in patrolling the West African coast, and in running down suspicion-looking craft, that few other than the most daring, not to say foolhardy, cared to assume the risk of a slave voyage. During the ten years preceding this event, the rapidly decreasing number of slave captains, used to leave the west coast with some 500 to 800 negroes, whom they purchased at prices ranging from $5 to $20 per head, paying for them in cloth, pot-metal muskets, rum, etc. Each trip they regarded as their last, for there was no telling what minute they would be run down, and, as a result of this ever present danger, they endeavored to gain a fortune in one voyage. Every foot of space on the slave ship was crammed to suffocation with human flesh, and that instrument of torture, the ‘slave deck,’ was rigged up amid-ships, into which they packed the negroes like sardines in a box. Out of every 800 negroes they counted upon losing one-fourth. But, even with this loss they were certain, in the event they reached the Brazilian or Cuban coasts in safety, of a ready sale of the cargo at prices ranging from $200 to $500 per head. From this it is easy to form an idea of the profits realized in the African slave trade. Having thus decided, Lamar took into his confidence Captain A. C. McGee, of Columbus, Ga.; Mr. Richard Dickerson, of Richmond, Va., and Captain Egbert Farnum, a former mail rider and Indian fighter. Proceeding to New York they purchased the Wan-  derer from Corrie; joined the New York Yacht Club, put on a great deal of style; spending money lavishly, and giving a series of dinners and parties which soon rendered them extremely popular with the fashionable set of the metropolis. Soon after this event Lamar ordered Farnum to take the Wanderer to Charleston, S. C., telling his friends he intended to set out from that port on a pleasure cruise to China and return. The same report was industriously circulated, when, a few weeks later, they joined Farnum at the above-named port, and in the late spring of 1859, set sail for parts known only to themselves. The voyage to the mouth of the Congo river, on the West African coast, occupied about twice the time needful, owing to the fact that Lamar had to steer clear of a great many vessels which he had no desire of meeting. They reached their destination in safety, however, entering the Congo river unnoticed by the war-ships patrolling the coast, which seemed at the time to be absent on other business. The anchor had barely settled in the soft alluvium of the river's bed before Lamar and his associates were negotiating with the native chiefs and half-caste Portugese slave raiders for the delivery, at a point known nowadays as Brazziville, of 400 or more negroes. The negotiations were barely concluded when a curious thing occurred, illustrating in striking manner the wonderful self-possession resourcefulness and presence of mind of Lamar. The meeting with the chiefs and traders had just adjourned and the owners of the Wanderer were stepping from the yawl to the yacht when an English man-of-war appeared in the river, anchoring only a few hundred yards from the slaver. Did Lamar commit suicide, or surrender, or give up the venture as lost? Far from it. He was not that kind of man. The moment he caught sight of the vessel he ordered the crew of the yawl back to their oars, and with Farnum struck out for the representative of H. B. M. on the high seas. Reaching the man-of-war, he mounted the ladder, and proceeding straight to the cabin, introduced himself in a manner so thoroughly agreeable that the officers could not hear of his returning until late that night. To meet an educated, refined and civilized gentleman in that wilderness of naked savages and sordid slave hunters they declared was a treat so rarely enjoyed that they proposed to make the best of it while it lasted. Next day Lamar arranged a dinner in honor of the British officers, which was given on board the Wanderer. He had completely disarmed their suspicions by stating  that as a gentleman of wealth, he and some friends were making a pleasure cruise to India. The dinner was a great success. Champagne flowed like water, and every one, except Lamar, became intoxicated. While the revel was at its height, Lamar asked one of the guests if he did not think the Wanderer would make a capital slaver; a sally which excited uproarious laughter and applause among her Majesty's representatives, who declared that Lamar was a trump. That night the man-of-war sailed away in pursuit of an imaginary slaver, that, according to which Lamar had previously set in circulation, was down the coast loading negroes. The rest of the story is soon told. The Wanderer ran up to Brazziville, took on 400 negroes, set sail for the United States, and landed them on the coast of Georgia. Lamar's plan was to scatter the negroes about on a number of plantations until matters quieted down sufficiently to sell them. He succeeded in the first part of this programme, but not the last. The friends whom he depended upon turned traitors; he was arrested, hauled before the Federal courts, and the negroes, from whose sale he counted upon reaping a fortune, were seized by the United States marshal, pending orders from the court. Such, however, was not the case with all the negroes. Over one-third of them were appropriated, hidden. sold, etc., by those whom Lamar regarded as friends, and upon whom he depended for the successful execution of his plan, and it is this phase of the matter with which Representative Bartlett is familiar, and about which he relates the following incident: “My father,” he said,
was a member of the Georgia Senate, which was in session in the old capitol of Milledgeville at the time of the arrival of the Wanderer and the arrest of the owners of that vessel. From what he has told me of the matter, I imagine that it was the greatest sensation that ever broke the calm of old Milledgeville. The owners of the vessel were highly connected with the best families of Georgia, and many of their relatives were residents of the old State capital. To cap the Climax, the cargo of the Wanderer was landed upon the estate of one of the State senators, serving in the Legislature then in session, and who was obliged to answer a great many embarrassing and irritating questions. What made matters worse, the owners of the Wanderer selected this plantation as a base from which to distribute their human cargo about among other plantations of the sea-coast region, and what we call the “wire-grass section ” of Georgia. The matter was discussed  at length in the Georgia Senate and House, opinions being divided in the matter, some regarding the enterprise with disfavor and others taking the view that in arresting the owners and seizing the cargo the Federal Government was overriding States rights roughshod. But the most interesting phase of this matter was a thing that happened years after the Civil war, at a time when the people of this country had forgotten all about the Wanderer. It came about in this manner: The Wanderer landed her cargo on Georgia soil, either late in 1859 or the early part of 1860, and when the owners were arrested the United States marshal was directed to gather together the negroes brought over on this vessel and to hold them pending further orders from the court. According to the law passed by Congress many years before, the negroes taken from African slavers were to be sent to Liberia, and such would have been the outcome of this case, had it not been for the following circumstance: The United States marshal turned the work of collecting these negroes over to his deputy, John R. McRae, who, after several months of hard work, managed to get together something in the neighborhood of two-thirds, I should say, of the entire cargo landed. He had his hands full to accomplish that much even, for the owners had scattered them about over the country so thoroughly before they were found out that, between conflicting interests, duplicity, and falsehood, it is a wonder that he got together as many as he did. Before the Federal court could try the owners, however, and order the negroes sent back to Liberia, the Civil war came on, blocking further proceedings and leaving McRae without compensation for the months of hard work he had spent trotting about over the lowlands in search of the scattered cargo of the Wanderer. As for the negroes, they were released, and I have understood there are still quite a number of them living in the coast region about Savannah. Well, the war passed, McRae returned from the Confederate army, living for many years on his farm in Telfair county. He forgot all about his experience in gathering up the cargo of the Wanderer until old age began to tell on him. Then he wondered whether or not the government would still allow his claim for services. He brought the matter to the attention of Judge Henry G. Turner, who for sixteen years represented the Eleventh Georgia District in Congress, with the result that in 1896, just thirty-seven years after the landing of the last cargo of human beings on our shores, the latter introduced a bill before the Fifty-fourth Congress providing for the payment of $700 to John R. McRae for services rendered the  government in 1860 in gathering together the last cargo of African slaves landed within the borders of the United States. The bill passed both houses unanimously. Northern and Southern members voting the compensation due McRae for services actually rendered. McRae died several years ago. He made good use of the money and left his family in good circumstances.