The earliest records in the holdings of the National Archives at Atlanta are replete with evidence of pirates and preachers, presidents and prisoners, the powerful and the poor. They represent the interaction of the Federal government with the lives of a diverse cross section of Americans. What emerges are glimpses of Southern life, part of the collective American experience.
1718 Minutes of the British Vice Admiralty Court
Admiralty courts have jurisdiction over crimes committed on the high seas. The minutes of the British Vice Admiralty Court, Charleston, South Carolina, are the earliest records at the National Archives at Atlanta. They date from 1718—seventy-one years before the establishment of the United States under the Constitution.
Pirate Major Stede Bonnet, a cohort of Edward Teach, known as Blackbeard, was convicted of piracy and hanged. His trial is noted in the minutes of the vice admiralty court.
1790-1860 Register of Aliens Admitted to Charleston
In the early days of the United States, Charleston, was a lively city and one of the wealthiest. The early settlers were primarily Anglo-Saxons, but other ethnic groups were also represented.
1806 Indictment of Aaron Burr
In 1806, the third vice president of the United States was indicted for treason against his own country. Aaron Burr, vice president under Thomas Jefferson, was a political adventurer who allegedly schemed to form a new nation out of the West. He was acquitted in the Kentucky trial.
1825-1863 Slave Sale Documents
After the importation of slaves was outlawed by Congress in 1808, smuggling became widespread. Thousands of slaves were illegally imported into the United States because it was an enormously profitable business.
- "An Account of the Sale of fifteen African Slaves Sold on the 19th of April 1825"
In this court case, the captain of the ship was convicted of illegally importing slaves. The court ordered the ship's cargo, including the slaves, sold and the proceeds of the sale turned over to the court. The document lists fifteen slaves and their sale price.
- Vessel License for Schooner Clotilde, 1855
The Clotilde, commanded by Captain William Foster, landed in Mobile in 1859. It was the last illegal slave ship, and the descendants of the slaves on board the ship still live in the area around Mobile known as Africatown.
- In this bill of sale, a 17-year-old slave is identified only as "Negro boy George," November 6, 1833.