Bristol and Liverpool
The demise and rise of rival ports in the eighteenth century slave trade. In the early eighteenth century, Bristol dominant position as a slave trading port remained virtually unchallenged. Yet, by the end of the century, Liverpool firmly established its status as Britain’s leading slave trading port, surpassing Bristol completely.
Despite some similarities between the rival ports, a number of factors, decisions and circumstances serve to explain Liverpool magnificent rise and Bristol consequent demise.The ports differing geographical locations, markets, trade goods, vessels, voyages and war impacts all played a role in Liverpool subversion of Bristol. The decision- making and business capabilities of the merchants also proved influential in the developments of the ports. This essay argues that most importantly, the Brilliant merchants’ poor economic and market decisions, compared with the exceptional business acumen of Lilliputian merchants, sealed the fate of both ports. Bristol geographical location and new parliamentary legislation acted favorably to propel the town into the slave trade.
Only $13.90 / page
The location of the River Severe and Bristol Channel encouraged early involvement in trade over the waterways, stimulating the development of the port city. Contributions to Atlantic trade also initiated Bristol role in the sugar trade, following the capture of Jamaica in 1655.
 However, increased competition in the trade of sugar thrust Bristol merchants into the trade of slaves. An Act passed in 1698 further encouraged Bristol participation in slave trading, stating that any subject of Great Britain could trade to any part of Africa “between Cape Blanch and the Cape of Good Hope”, successfully ending the London Company’s monopoly. 2] Bristol geography served to ender the ports trading ability, mainly due to difficulties in navigating the meandering River Avon, its wide tidal range, and industrial waste in the river. Geographical location and legislation also contributed to Liverpool commencement in the slave trade. Located on the coast in northwest England, Liverpool benefited from close proximity to many industrial and textile producing centers such as Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield.A network of rivers, including the River Meyers, made the port easily accessible to the many incoming and outgoing vessels.  The Isle of Man provided a useful off shore base, allowing for trade with Ireland and entry into the contraband trade with Spain.
The Greenville Treaty of 1 747 soon ended this arrangement, forcing Lilliputian merchants to consider new options for trade. Utilizing the knowledge and wealth gained from contraband trade, the merchants developed vessels and goods specially suited to the African market, putting them towards gaining entrance to the slave trade. 4] Small vessels and on board slave revolts lessened the slave carrying capacity and efficiency of Bristol merchants ships. The smaller size of Bristol vessels rapes resulted from the winding nature of the River Avon, with navigation difficult for larger ships. The period 1 727 to 1769 provides an example of seventy Bristol vessels, one at fifty tons, thirteen at fifty-one to seventy-one tons, and thirty-eight at seventy-six to one hundred tons. CO] Even before Liverpool rise, London outshone Bristol in tonnage, 5,925 tons to 4,250 tons at a value of 137,000 to 98,820 pounds Sterling. 6] The origins of slaves purchased by Brilliants, coupled with lengthy on shore waiting times for slave deliveries, both reduced carrying capacity and efficiency of vessels.
A incineration of suicide prone Bib slaves and rebellious Bobbie slaves caused many problems. Consequently, merchants received instruction to shackle and bolt slaves from the popular Bight of Bavaria region, to reduce the loss of slaves on board vessels .  Liverpool merchants similarly witnessed slave revolts, but they experienced superior carrying capacity and efficiency of vessels.Liverpool specialized in manufacturing fast slaving vessels in the docks of the River Meyers.  Liverpool carrying capacity far exceeded that of Bristol, as demonstrated in the 1100 ton Kent of 1773, the largest ship built n Northern England.  Such large ships and the capacity of five slaves per two tons, allowed for maximum vessel efficiency, and in 1753, 101 Liverpool vessels managed to carry over 30,000 slaves to the Americas. Poor vessel conditions for slaves resulted from maximizing carrying capacities, and up to a third of slaves died.
L O] One renowned incident on board the Gong displays how captains attempted to avoid the loss of slaves: Captain Cowlings threw 132 sickly slaves overboard in order to claim insurance, rather than risk not selling them in the Americas.  Unbearable conditions on board also exulted in increased mutinies between 1751 and 1775, which Manic and Cooley attribute to ruthless Libertarians’ efforts to save money by reducing the size of crews on vessels. [1 2] Slaving voyages and their destinations impacted greatly on Bristol attempts to gain prominence in the slave trade.Bristol shorter voyage time gave merchants a distinct advantage over London, and until the sass most Bristol voyages traveled to the Bight of Bavaria where they encountered little competition.  Most Bristol voyages targeted Old Calabash, which oversupplied male slaves, leading to many raiding failures. Merchants such as James Rogers only managed a delivery rate of seventy-three per cent from this region.  Bristol destination choices remained conservative, including Angola and the Gold Coast, despite increasing competition there from Liverpool.
1 5] The rise of Liverpool caused a vast reduction in voyages made by Brilliants. Jamaican voyages fell from sixty-nine to twenty-five per cent from 1 728 to 1730.  As a result, the period of 1786 to 1807 produced only 240 voyages, compared with 2,473 from Liverpool.  Voyages direct to Jamaica became a common trend by 750, with 104 trips taking place between 1749 and 1755, compared with seventy-four voyages following various triangle trade patterns.  Liverpool merchants achieved more numerous and varied voyages and destinations compared with Bristol.Liverpool first slave trade voyage departed in 1708, which is a much later entry than Bristol. Despite Bristol early advantage and established market destinations, Liverpool succeeded in creating new slaving destinations in areas such as Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Gabon.
 In contrast with Bristol procrastination of the region, only one gage took place to Old Calabash in 1793 out of forty-seven voyages, instead thirty-six sailed to Angola where slaves were much more desirable.  In 1771 alone, 105 vessels traveled to Africa, obtaining 28,200 slaves. 21] In Jamaica, Liverpool trade comprised seventy-four per cent of delivered slaves and seventy-two per cent of visiting vessels. Liverpool dominant presence at Atlantic slave trade destinations displays the port’s numerous options, and their lack of presence at the unpopular sites displays their competent business choices. The choice of trade goods further influenced Bristol Success as a slave trading port. James Rogers’ voyages, perhaps not entirely typical of Bristol trading, provided African merchants with East Indian and English textiles, bar iron, gunpowder, beads, hardware and liquor. 22] Other Bristol merchants traded with refined sugar, haberdashery, window glass, bottled beer, wrought iron, woolens, copper and brass, in return for slaves.
Wales generally provided the tin and iron for Bristol supplies.  Once in Africa, in addition to slaves, Bristol merchants requested items such as wax, ivory and redwood, either for sale in the Americas or back in Bristol. 24] Interestingly, Brilliants sent little linen to the African coast in comparison with other slave trading ports. 25] Linen stood as a leading commodity in Liverpool choice of trading goods, giving the port a considerable advantage over Bristol. Linen formed ninety-one per cent of all British exports to North America and West Africa, which Liverpool benefited from due to its easy acquisition of Lancashire cottons and Manchester textiles.  Manchester s provision of checks and silk handkerchiefs contributed to the expulsion of Bristol German, French and Scottish textiles from the market. 27] In addition to linen, Liverpool traded copper and brass from Staffordshire, salt from Cheshire, and firearms from Birmingham.
Liverpool also re-exported a number of goods from East India, such as Chintz, glass beads, cotton and calicoes.  The careful assortment of trade goods meant numerous colonies demanded trade with Liverpool. A number of international conflicts severely hindered Bristol progress in the slave trade. Throughout the eighteenth century conflicts existed with F-range, Spain and America. Bristol location in relation to the Bristol Channel meant a great number of vessels ere lost to French privateers- Consequently, Bristol successfully turned to pertaining during the Spanish Succession from 1702 to 1713.The capture of over seventeen of its vessels by the Spaniards deepened Bristol involvement in pertaining further during the Seven Years War (1 756 to 1763). Trade with the West Indies suffered in consequence, due to the heavy amount of investment in privateers.
 The American War of Independence and subsequent loss of American colonies hampered the triangular trade, which Brilliants heavily relied on. Shipping from the United States dropped room approximately 21,202 tons in 1773-7 to 12,326 in 1778-80. 131] Bristol slave trade experienced war in an entirely negative way during this period.On the other hand, Liverpool made substantial gains from Great Britain’s involvement in international conflicts. Williamson, an observer of the War of the Austrian Succession 1 739 to 1 748, stated that: “trade flourished and spread her golden wings so extensively that if they had possessed it seven years longer, it would have enlarged the size and riches of the town to a prodigious Involvement in conflicts meant that the dockyards on the River Meyers fitted UT many ships in order to fill the void left by Bristol departure from trade.Slave trading voyages increased considerably during the Wars, and vessels successfully avoided meeting French privateers due to Liverpool advantageous geographical location. War also enabled Liverpool merchants to take advantage of price differentials between England and the colonies.
Profits inevitably resulted, which contrasts starkly with Bristol experience of the wars.  Vast potential existed for profit in the slave trade, yet when factoring in costs, Bristol struggled to reap the benefits of the system. Loss of laves in the middle passage presented one expense, as Captain Blacks letter to James Rogers depicted.His voyage lost thirteen female slaves, fifty-six males and sixteen sailors.  Bristol merchants also paid generous wages, commissions and financial incentives to captains and slave sellers in order to ensure a loyal partnership.  When Robert Tension’s brother, a cook on Rogers’ Pearl, died, he requested wages of 55 shillings for a month’s work, revealing the high wages paid by Brilliants. High duties also frustrated Bristol merchants, especially those on tobacco, which is something they specialized in.
J David Richardson offers an estimated return of 7. To 19. 8 per cent on Bristol voyages, however Rogers’ voyages barely managed three per cent profit, and the highest estimate still comes in lower than the profits made by Libertarians.  Lilliputian merchants made significantly higher profits in the slave trade, primarily due to cunning commercial decisions. Manipulated stock records enabled merchants to avoid paying duties on up to twenty per cent of the tobacco shipped into the port.  Proposed estimates suggest that 100-ton ships returned profits of 750 pounds Sterling based on five Negroes per TVВ»’0 tons. 9] The Liverpool vessel Lively produced a 300 per cent profit in 1737, but most voyages secured around ten per cent profit, which barely proved sufficient considering the risks involved in slaving.
 One particular Liverpool voyage achieved a profit of 8000 pounds Sterling (before deductions for victuals and trade goods), with costs approximately comprising duties of 134 pounds, Doctor wages of thirteen pounds, Captain salary of 4 pounds per 104 made on total returns, and commission costs of 454 pounds Sterling. CO] Libertarians clearly possessed a unique capability to make large profits, despite mounting costs.The merchant oligarchy of Bristol overlooked crucial investments in port facilities in favor of spending profits on luxurious lifestyles, proving detrimental to their trade accomplishments. Instead, investments centered around the urban “renaissance” taking place in the city, rather than focusing on shifting towards indiscriminatingly. Proportioning Caribbean ventures over local industrial schemes demonstrates a further hindrance to the development of Bristol.  It appears that Brilliants’ preferences centered on funding a lifestyle founded on wealth and consumption, reflected in the growing local demand for sugar and tobacco.Furthermore, Bristol did not invest in the port until the nineteenth century, when developments included a floating harbor, which proved highly inefficient also.
 Comparatively, the port of Liverpool received extensive urban development as a result of profits made in the slave trade. The city underwent considerable expansion and urban growth, facilitating merchants’ ability to exploit the Atlantic trade system and various markets. The city wealth stemmed from the merchants, hence their control over city developments.Subsequently, profits funded financial structures and transport networks including canals, enabling overpower to maintain control over sources of goods such as the salt of Cheshire. [J Investment in the docklands proved most influential, earning Liverpool the title of largest ship construction site in England, with sixty-one of the 161 English-built slave vessels manufactured in Liverpool.  The swift response to mercantile needs and construction of the Midlands canal network resulted in the shipment of valuable, high demand trade goods to Liverpool, not Bristol.A notable shift in Bristol priorities may account for Liverpool eclipse of Bristol as the leading slave trading port in England.
The transition to specialization in the sugar trade proves the most convincing causal factor in the reduced role in slave trading. The Brilliant pleasures derived from sugar, tobacco and snuff consumption drove merchants to focus on supplying the domestic market with what locals demanded.  The sugar industry thrived in Bristol, which is reinforced by the sustained existence of twenty guardhouse between 1720 and 1775. 48] Tobacco and sugar faced restrictions regarding direct trade to foreign countries, perhaps further encouraging Brilliants to cater to local markets.  One argument reposes that Bristol became more conservative, simply preferring safer, more profitable trade options as they arose. A Jamaican agent noted that “Bristol..
. Is rich enough, but don’t care to launch out much”. John Wesley, an abolitionist, also observed Bristol “love of money and The increasing abolitionist environment and comparative ease of the sugar trade perhaps rendered the Bristol mans content with exiting the slave trade.The lack of familial slaving dynasties and a reluctance to engage in mercantile competition with close ties offer two further justifications for Bristol demise in the slave trade. Bristol failed to secure dynasties through which to pass commercial knowledge and wealth to, mainly because eighteen of the leading twenty-five Bristol merchants died as bachelors. Encouraging others to continue the slave trade proved particularly difficult.The problems faced in re-exporting tobacco presented one deterrent, and the inevitable encounters with disease on the African coast and challenges in securing return goods also discouraged new entrants to the trade.
(51] Bristol merchants tended to form strong, friendly connections with fellow traders, making ruthless competition difficult. To “wage war” against familial, banking or residential associates would destroy useful connections and jeopardize one’s reputation.  Liverpool merchants, on the other hand, formed strong bonds and maintained family dynasties, but did not refrain from competition, further enhancing their prominence . 53] The Bristol merchants experienced limitations in available market options, which presented a sizeable obstacle to success in the slave trade. Bristol traders lacked the vital trade goods necessary for securing demand from markets that would stock vessels with healthy slaves from desirable locations. Merchants such as Rogers tended to focus on Jamaica and Grenade to sell their slaves, places whose markets displayed an aversion to slaves from Old Calabash due to their poor health and high mortality. 54] These detrimental oversights in buying unsuitable slave cargoes and being unaware of the slave preferences at plantations provided great motivation to move away from trading in slaves.
Bristol persisted in trading commodities with Jamaica, South Carolina and Charleston, however they gained no advantage over Liverpool or even London- Furthermore, Bristol failed to respond to new markets such as he Ceded Islands including Dominica and SST Vincent, leaving the opportunity wide open for Liverpool.Liverpool slave traders successfully seized every new market opportunity that arose, providing numerous market options for the diverse trade goods they supplied. After trade opened up in 1 750, Liverpool launched into trade with Upper Guiana and other markets in America, where they made gains over Bristol.  Liverpool also possessed advantageous contacts throughout the West African coast, especially Sierra Leone.  In contrast to Bristol, Liverpool concentrated on lesser markets such as Barbados and the Leeward Islands.Barbados supplied over fifty per cent of Liverpool imports after 1735, closely followed by Chesapeake, the Leeward Islands and Jamaica. The range of trade goods supplied, and entrance into the trade at a time of colonial economy deceleration also enabled Liverpool merchants to almost monopolies the Anglo-American commercial market.
 Liverpool merchants conducted business on the coast of Africa from the Senegal River to Ambries, where healthy slave populations attribute to the demand for Liverpool commerce in a vast number of West Indian locations.With so many options for destinations to induct trade with slaves, it is unsurprising that Liverpool ousted the port of Bristol from its dominant position. Despite the numerous causes attributed to the demise of Bristol, the inability of merchants to make economical, competent business decisions ultimately present the most significant explanations. Brilliants paid munificent salaries to captains and crew, as well as allowing privileges, daily charges and commission payments. Captains ate and drank excessively on shore, eroding profits considerably.Less profit also resulted from fully manning vessels, with the knock on effect of needing to charge more for slaves. 60] Bristol merchants found themselves outbid for slaves in Old Calabash, driving them to purchase unhealthy slaves.
Their condition worsened further due to cheap provisions on board.  Consequently, prices achieved in the Americas for slaves were lower. The Bristol merchants justifiably earned a reputation as extravagant and unembellished squanderer, who treated their Captains like “young gentlemen on the Grand Tour “. 62] A credit crisis in 1793 caused many merchants to go bankrupt, putting an end to the slave trade for the majority of Brilliants.  The lack of business acumen amongst Bristol merchants roved detrimental to their SUccess. Conversely, the business expertise and economical ability of Lilliputian merchants secured the city’s title of the most successful slave trading port in Europe. Liverpool merchants trained their crew better, paid lower wages, and minimized outfitting costs.
Additionally, merchants were economical by paying wages annually not monthly, and refusing cabin privileges, primates and port allowances. For example, crew ate salt beef and drank rum punch on board their vessel, compared with Bristol creamers’ excessive drinking of Madeira on shore. 64] Low expenditure enabled Libertarians to sell slaves for four to five pounds Sterling less than other traders, underselling Brilliants considerably- Accepting Bills of Exchange avoided reliance on return goods for payment, giving flexibility to merchants, which allowed them to return direct to Africa to embark more slaves.Liverpool merchants skillfully evaded customs administrators by importing “damaged” and therefore duty free goods, and disembarking “underweight” hogsheads, only to re-export them at heavier weights.  These tricks meant payment of less duty tax, maximizing profits. Resourceful and imaginative actions and decisions thrust overlook to record heights never reached by Bristol in the slave trade. Liverpool skilful rise to prominence in the slave trade undoubtedly provides explanation for Bristol demise from a once eminent slave trading port.
Geographical location, vessel size, voyages, trade goods, international conflicts, market destinations, and urban development all provide convincing explanations of Bristol fall from the position of leading British port. However, problems could easily have been overcome or averted had the Bristol merchants possessed strong business capability, judgment skills and knowledge. Perhaps Bristol priorities did shift toward catering for the domestic market.