On the Water

Ship Model, Brig Diligente

This model represents the brig Diligente, a two-masted sailing vessel used in the last days of the transatlantic slave trade. Begun in the sixteenth century, this trade was fueled by the demand for human labor in the New World. Enslaved people were forced to work in gold and silver mines as well as on plantations producing valuable crops like sugar, coffee, rice, cotton and tobacco. The ships that delivered cargoes of these products to European markets also carried millions of enslaved people from their African homelands to the Americas.

By the early nineteenth century, several nations had outlawed the slave trade. As a result, slave ship owners regularly changed the names of their ships and sold them frequently in an attempt to remain active in the lucrative trade without getting noticed. Because accurate records of these ships are difficult to find, the date and place where the slaver brig Diligente was built cannot be confirmed. Still, it is thought to be American-built, as the ship’s design is similar to that of ships built along the east coast of the United States, specifically vessels built in Maryland.

In the early 1800s, Lloyd’s of London auctioned off old slave ships, which allowed condemned ships like the Diligente to return to the slave trade. In 1837 Parliament outlawed this practice, making the Diligente one of the last slave ships to be sold by auction. On January 12, 1837, the HMS Scout captured the slaver along the coast of Africa. At this time, the Diligente was sailing under the Portuguese flag and used the name Paquete de Cabo Verde. It was condemned to Sierra Leone, where it was sold to an American named Lake. Records indicate that Lake resold the ship to Miguel Bentinotte, a known slave trader, for the price of 1,000 British pounds.

After changing owners and names twice more, the Diligente soon re-entered the slave trade with a license from the Portuguese government, only to be captured by the HMS Pearl on April 24, 1838. The British government sent the nine crewmen to Portugal to be tried, while the Diligente was condemned to Bermuda. Although there is some indication that the Diligente was caught again in 1839 near Cuba, it was probably broken up after its arrival in the Caribbean.

ID Number:
TR*318279
Material:
wood
Date:
1960
Dimensions:
30 x 44 x 16 in.; 76.2 x 111.76 x 40.64 cm