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The Brig “Vigilante” was a French slaver captured in the River Bonny, at the Bight of Biafra, on April 15th, 1822. She departed from Nantes, in France, and carried 345 slaves from the coast of Africa, but she was intercepted by anti-slave trade cruisers before sailing to the Americas and taken to Freetown, Sierra Leone. The English had no rights to detain vessels under the French flag, and the cruiser had approached the “Vigilante” only in order to verify its papers. The French captain, fearing detention, opened fire killing several of the cruiser’s crew. It was only then that the “Vigilante” was taken captive and escorted to first Sierra Leone where the slaves were disembarked, and then to Plymouth, England, where the English captain hoped to lay murder charges. Abolitionists drew the vessel while it was in Plymouth. In the event, the vessel and crew were released without charges. The image is of a plan of the “Vigilante”, showing the slave decks and the instruments used to chain the slaves. This plan was published as a fold out in a pamphlet printed first in London and then Paris and other places in 1823. The image is reproduced courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.
Affaire de la Vigilante, batiment négrier de Nantes (Paris, 1823), following p. 8