William Matthews

William Matthews published an annual Directory for Bristol from 1793, listing all the inhabitants in the better areas, and providing an index of shops and businesses. In 1794, he also published The New History, Survey and Description of the City and Suburbs of Bristol, or Complete Guide. Chapter VII was called ‘Of the Trade and Commerce of Bristol, foreign and domestic; its Ships and various Manufactories’. In it, the author declared that the right-thinking merchants of Bristol had more or less given up the slave trade due to their better nature and kindness, whilst the merchants of Liverpool (Bristol’s trade rivals) were taking over the trade. The writer ignored the fact that Bristol’s merchants were abandoning the slave trade for other reasons, such as financial ones. The financial collapse of 1793 had bankrupted several of the main slave traders. Many more were cutting down on their slaving voyages and redirecting their trade interests because of the belief that the slave trade would soon be abolished by the government. The section from Chapter VII of the Directory is pictured here, the author wrote as follows:

“The Ardor for The Trade to Africa for men and women, our fellow creatures and equals, is much abated among the humane and benevolent Merchants of Bristol. In 1787 there were but 30 Ships employed in this melancholy traffic; while the people of Liverpool, in their indiscriminate rage for Commerce and for getting money at all events have nearly engrossed this Trade, incredibly exceeded London and Bristol in it, employ many thousand tons of shipping, for the purposes of buying and enslaving God’s rational creatures, and are the venders (horresco referens) of the souls and bodies of men and women! to almost all the West Indian [Caribbean] islands!!!”

At the same time, in 1793, 461 slaves were loaded onto a Bristol ship, the Isabella, in the Congo. This was one of 14 slaving voyages that year.