Theodore Canot

Captain Canot; or, Twenty Years of an African Slaver

By Theodore Canot. Written out and edited from Captain Theodore Canot’s journals, memoranda and conversations, by Brantz Mayer. An authentic, dramatic, shocking, and adventure-packed biography of an Italian-born slave trader who plied the Africa to Cuba slave trade from 1820 to 1840.

This book has immense value not only for its vivid descriptions of the inhumanity of the slave trade, but also for its detailed explanations of how the African slave trade worked in Africa.

Specifically, this work reveals that slavery was a long-standing African tradition practiced long before the Europeans arrived, and that it was Africans and Muslim-slave traders in particular who provided all the slaves eventually transported to the New World.

It is clear from all the “transactions” and “shipments” which Canot describes, that without the active assistance of Africans and Muslim slave traders, there would never have been a Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade—and that these two groups bear equal, if not greater blame for the crime of slavery.

As Canot describes, the African slave traders regularly captured and traded their own people as slaves, with tribesmen selling each other, and their own wives, sisters, daughters and sons to slave traders for trifles such as bottles of rum or a handful of beads. Some African chiefs grew so rich from the slave trade, Canot reveals, that when he finally decided to halt his “business,” the local Africans were so angry that they burned down his property in revenge for his refusal to buy any more slaves from them.

In addition, Canot describes precisely how slaves were captured, and how they were transported across the Atlantic. His many adventures include how he dealt with crew mutinies and slave rebellions, his clashes with the anti-slavery British and French navies, his capture and imprisonment by the French, his escape from captivity, and much more.

First published in English in 1854, this edition has been completely reset, and contains all the original text and illustrations.

About the author: Theodore Canot (real name Théophile Conneau) was born in Piedmont, Italy, in 1804. He first went to sea at the age of 16, but was shipwrecked off Cuba. There, he was employed by one of that island’s largest slave traders to crew a slave ship crossing the Atlantic. Arriving in Africa, Canot quickly rose to command his own slaver, and eventually become one of the most important slave traders active between Cuba and the coasts of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. By 1840, after having been arrested by the British and French—and having served prison time in France—he halted his participation in the slave trade, and attempted to establish a legitimate trading post on the Liberian coast. This attempt failed after the British navy destroyed his settlement in the belief that he was still a slave trader.

By this time, Canot’s brother, Henri (1803–1877), had risen to be the personal doctor of newly elected French President Charles-Louis Napoléon Bonaparte (Emperor Napoleon III). Through Henri’s assistance, Canot was appointed France’s official agent of colonization in the southwest Pacific Ocean colonial territory of New Caledonia in 1854. There he successfully made a new life for himself—but not before preparing a manuscript of his previous slave-trading life, using the pseudonym now associated with his book.

After six years’ service in New Caledonia, Canot’s health declined, forcing his resignation and return to Paris. He died on December 22, 1860, and is buried in the family tomb at the Montmartre cemetery.

Brantz Mayer (1809–1879) was an American of German descent who made a living trading in the East Indies and Mexico. While on his travels, Mayer chanced upon Canot through a mutual acquaintance. Upon hearing that Mayer was also a published author, Canot offered up his manuscript to the American, who published the work in English in 1854.


About the Author

Foreword by the Transcriber

Chapter 1: My Background and First Sea Voyage

Chapter 2: Back and Forth over the Atlantic

Chapter 3: Shipwrecked in Spanish Cuba

Chapter 4:  Don Rafael and the Slave Traders of Cuba

Chapter 5: My First Adventures on a Privateer

Chapter 6: To Africa on a Slave Ship

Chapter 7: Mongo John and the First Slave Cargo

Chapter 8: Mongo John’s Harem

Chapter 9: Islam and the Arab Slave Traders

Chapter 10: How Slaves are Purchased from the Africans

Chapter 11: How Slaves are Transported from Africa

Chapter 12: How Slaves are Landed in Cuba

Chapter 13: Tribal Life in Africa

Chapter 14: Exploring the Interior—The Bagers and the Kroomen

Chapter 15: Slavery in Africa from Time Immemorial

Chapter 16: Timbuctoo and its Trade—Slavery

Chapter 17: Finding African Slave Traders Inland

Chapter 18: The Devil’s Fountain and African Beliefs

Chapter 19: Interior Tribes and Fugitive Slaves

Chapter 20: Islam’s Spread in Africa’s Interior

Chapter 21: The Only White Man in Tamisso

Chapter 22: Ali-Ninpha, the Cheating Slave Trader

Chapter 23: Slavers in Timbo Try to Convert me to Islam

Chapter 24: Islamic Slave Hunts in the Interior

Chapter 25: How Sulimani Sold his Daughter into Slavery

Chapter 26: I am Made Prisoner by a French Slaver

Chapter 27: I am Rescued by a Spanish Slaver

Chapter 28: I Take Command of a Spanish Slaver

Chapter 29: A British Man-of-War Attacks and I am Arrested

Chapter 30: I Escape from the British Ship

Chapter 31: I Return to the African Coast

Chapter 32: A Mulatto Slave Trader Dies

Chapter 33: A Slave Hunt and the Matacan Wizard

Chapter 34: I Steal Slaves from another Slave Ship

Chapter 35: Crew Mutiny at Sea Near the Antilles

Chapter 36: I Land Slaves in Cuba—and am Nearly Arrested

Chapter 37: Slave Trading in the Mozambique Channel

Chapter 38: I Defeat a British Cruiser Attack

Chapter 39: I Slave Trade off the Gold Coast

Chapter 40: Human Sacrifices at the Court of Dahomey

Chapter 41: A Slave Rebellion at Sea

Chapter 42: A British Cruiser Nearly Captures My Ship off Cuba

Chapter 43: I am Captured by the French off Gambia

Chapter 44: Imprisoned in Brest, France

Chapter 45: Prison Life in France

Chapter 46: I Gain Employment as a Prison Schoolmaster

Chapter 47: Monsieur Germaine, the Forger

Chapter 48: An Escape is Attempted

Chapter 49: I am Pardoned and Deported from France

Chapter 50: I Resolve to Continue as a Slaver

Chapter 51: Slavery in West Africa Prior to the Establishment of Sierra Leone and Liberia

Chapter 52: Barbarity of the West Coast Africans and their Slave Trade

Chapter 53: I visit Liberia, and Establish the Slave Trade at New Sestros

Chapter 54: Local Chiefs Help Me Establish the Slave Trade at New Sestros

Chapter 55: Africans Sell Each other for Rum and Coral Beads

Chapter 56: A British Governor is Murdered by the Africans

Chapter 57: I Land a Slave Shipment in Monrovia, Liberia

Chapter 58: An Inspection by British Naval Officers

Chapter 59: Captured on a Russian Ship, Escape, and Return to New Sestros

Chapter 60: The Confession of Sanchez

Chapter 61: Massacres, Barbarity and Cannibalism

Chapter 62: We Barely Escape with Our Lives

Chapter 63: My Negro Servant and I in London

Chapter 64: A Slave Girl Returns to Africa—and Leaves Again in Disgust

Chapter 65: The Last Slave Cargo I Ever Shipped

Chapter 66: Africans Destroy My Settlement in Revenge for Me Abandoning the Slave Trade

Chapter 67: At the Mercy of the British

Chapter 68: A New Settlement at Cape Mount, Liberia

Chapter 69: Speculation on Liberia’s Future

Chapter 70: Legal Business at New Florence, Cape Mount

Chapter 71: Human Sacrifice among the Vey Negroes

Chapter 72: Adventures at Cape Mount

Chapter 73: Finale: The British Destroy My Settlement

450 pages. Paperback.


Additional information

Weight 21.2 oz
Dimensions 6 × 1.051 × 9 in

Theodore Canot

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