This page was last updated on 11 August 2021

Click here to 
Print this page

Biography finder





























Index of first names

Letters relating to the slave trade






Extract from letter from Isabella Douglas to Joseph Strutt, 22 January 1792

'You will no doubt be surprised to hear that my brother is again quitting his native country & will sail for Africa in less than a fortnight having been appointed a few weeks ago a writer to the company of merchants trading to that country - I have been very unhappy about him & was at first startled at the idea of his encountering those savage climes, & even beheld it with horror - but on consideration I think the situation is a more eligible one than any he is likely to attain here & I find the geographers give so favourable an account of the climate that my fears are in a great measure quieted - the place he is I believe to reside at is James Island about a mile in circumference delightfully situated almost in the middle of the River Gambia on which the company have a fort mounted with cannon & a garrison which preserves the right of trading in that River - independent of the salary which is 0 p[e]r an[nu]m a writer has the privilege of trading in the country to any amount he chooses - the staples of which (gold dust, elephants teeth &, grieved am I to add human beings) turn to good account in England & the West Indies - the writers rise by seniority thro the different departments till they ascend to the governorship which is two thousand pounds yearly - their employment in the company's service does not take up above three or four hours daily, & the remainder of their time they may appropriate as they please'

Extract from letter from William Archibald Douglas to Isabella Strutt, 15 April 1799

'I have the pleasure to aquaint you that my capital daily undergoes some increase, and with the support I feel I shall in future receive from your valuable husband, I think my stay in this country cannot exceed 3 years. I am just closing a considerable sale I have effected for one of our late Governor in Chief, and tomorrow enter on another for my friend (and whom you will most likely one day see at Derby, he having a god daughter at school at Duffield) the Captain I returned to Africa with - The only thing I am now in want of to make a rapid fortune is a regular supply of India Goods from England, to sell for Gold Dust, to the Whites wholesale, and to the Natives retail. A man who turns his attention to these modes of commerce may do great things in Africa in a very short time, infinitely more than by directing his sole attention to the slave trade - a trade that certainly no man can embrace but from necessity - at present that necessity does not exist here, as from the great opposition that prevails, there is very little to be made by the slave trade.'

Extract from letter from William Archibald Douglas to Joseph Strutt, 1 April 1799

'To shew you the emolument the execution of such an indent would produce I beg leave to annex a list of the cost in Europe and the selling prices in Africa. And as I have now entirely abandoned the slave trade, I shall be able to turn the whole of the indent into Gold Dust in about 2 months after the arrival of the same, so that I should have it in my power to make the Remittance within the limited time, say 12 months from the date of purchase & emolument = salary or profit

From page 3: I am therefore very anxious not to lose one moment respecting this shipment of the present indent. As I am now the only man in the Castle that does not buy slaves, and as there is likely to be a great opposition among the captains, so as to make them pass all articles that are in much demand for Gold Dust, or slaves only, the greater part of the Gold Dust in this part of the coast will most likely come into my hands.'


This is part of a series of articles on
The Slave Trade





1.  William Archibald Douglas disappeared, presumed killed, on his return to Britain, his gold also disappearing.

2.  Isabella was the daughter of Archibald Douglas of Swaybrook, Derbyshire.  More on her correspondence with her suitor and fiancée, Joseph Strutt, can be found here>>>

3.  Joseph Strutt was the youngest son of the inventor and cotton-manufacturer Jedediah Strutt and his wife Elizabeth (née Woollat) (see above). He was baptised at Friar Gate Presbyterian Chapel in Derby on 19th September 1765. His engagement to Isabella lasted seven years before their marriage on 5th January 1793.16 They had two sons and three daughters together, with Caroline (1799-1834), Isabella (1797-1877) and Joseph Douglas (d. 1821) surviving into adulthood. Upon his death on 13th January 1844, Joseph left most of his estate to his sole surviving child Isabella, who had married John Howard Galton (1794-1862) in 1819.



Any contributions will be gratefully accepted



Errors and Omissions

The Forum

What's new?

We are looking for your help to improve the accuracy of The Douglas Archives.

If you spot errors, or omissions, then please do let us know


Many articles are stubs which would benefit from re-writing. Can you help?


You are not authorized to add this page or any images from this page to (or its subsidiaries) or other fee-paying sites without our express permission and then, if given, only by including our copyright and a URL link to the web site.


If you have met a brick wall with your research, then posting a notice in the Douglas Archives Forum may be the answer. Or, it may help you find the answer!

You may also be able to help others answer their queries.

Visit the Douglas Archives Forum.


2 Minute Survey

To provide feedback on the website, please take a couple of minutes to complete our survey.


We try to keep everyone up to date with new entries, via our What's New section on the home page.

We also use the Community Network to keep researchers abreast of developments in the Douglas Archives.

Help with costs

Maintaining the three sections of the site has its costs.  Any contribution the defray them is very welcome



If you would like to receive a very occasional newsletter - Sign up!
Temporarily withdrawn.



Back to top


The content of this website is a collection of materials gathered from a variety of sources, some of it unedited.

The webmaster does not intend to claim authorship, but gives credit to the originators for their work.

As work progresses, some of the content may be re-written and presented in a unique format, to which we would then be able to claim ownership.

Discussion and contributions from those more knowledgeable is welcome.

Contact Us

Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024