James Hasler – Mariner, Captain and Part Owner of Slave Ships

St Nicholas Church, Liverpool

James Hasler was a Mariner, Captain and part owner of several Slave Ships which operated out of the Port of Liverpool. 

In February 1799, at the age of 21, he married Lucy Forrest the daughter of a Liverpool Marble Mason. They were married in the Parish of St Nicholas, presumably at what is recognised as the ‘Mariner’s Church’.

They were to have one child ‘Mary’, her baptism being recorded at the Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas with St Anne in the City of Liverpool. She died shortly after her first birthday.

Upon the death of his first wife Lucy in 1834, James Hasler subsequently married Mary Kendall at the Parish Church in Wrexham (also in 1834). They moved to Tattenhall and took up residence at ‘Laurel Bank’, now known as ‘Flacca Lodge’, Burwardsley Road.

Of particular interest is the fact that James Hasler captained several vessels which were directly involved in the triangular slave trade traffic between Liverpool, Africa and the Americas, including the ‘Lively’‘Prince John’, ‘Hibernia’, ‘Venus’, ‘Trio’ and ‘Active’

By today’s standards it is astonishing to consider that Captain James Hasler was but 20 years of age when he captained the ‘Lively’ (1798), the voyage from Africa to the Americas alone taking some 7 months and with the threat of capture ever present. Not all voyages were completed as originally intended, the ‘Prince John’ (1799), for example, was shipwrecked or destroyed after disembarkation, the outcome of the voyage being listed as ‘natural hazard’. Similarly, one voyage on board the ‘Venus’, which began on 26 October 1803, was ‘thwarted by human agency’ meaning that the vessel was captured by pirates or privateers before the slaves embarked. A further voyage in September 1805 resulted in the vessel ‘Trio’ being captured by the French.

Life for the crew members was equally hazardous on such voyages – 6 crew members died during the voyage of the ‘Hibernia’ alone, a voyage which started on 8 August 1800 and which was completed on 19 August 1801 – a full year and more! Interestingly, 25 slaves also died on this particular voyage.

The table below lists the sailing ships of which James Hasler was Captain, together with their type, tonnage, crew numbers and slaves carried. Many voyages started and finished at the Port of Liverpool but others started in West Africa and returned to that destination. Similarly, slaves frequently embarked at more than one location.

Ship Date Type Tons Crew Numbers Slave Numbers – embarked(disembarked)
Lively 1798 Sloop 66 12 164 (128 disembarked)
Prince John 1799 Brig 123 18 (1 death on voyage) 210 (195 disembarked)
Outcome: vessel was shipwrecked or destroyed
after disembarkation
Hibernia 1800 Unknown 204 28 (6 deaths on voyage) 247 (222 disembarked)
Venus 1802 Schooner 70 10 109 (95 disembarked)
Venus 1803 Schooner 70 22 Outcome: vessel captured by Pirates or Privateers before slaves embarked
Trio 1805 Brig 136 25 Outcome: vessel captured by French before slaves embarked
Active 1807 Brig 91 20 (3 deaths on voyage) 114 (104 disembarked)

Whilst Liverpool may have been relatively late in entering the slave trade, it quickly came to dominate the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the second half of the 18th Century whether measured by the numbers of ships dispatched to Africa or by the numbers of slaves carried across the Atlantic Ocean. By 1792, for example, Liverpool boasted 131 sailings compared with only 42 from Bristol and 22 from London. This is the exact time period in which Captain James Hasler was employed by varying owners and merchants connected to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Slave Ship similar in design to those captained by James Hasler

Without doubt, Liverpool’s prosperity was bound up in this triangular trade. In Liverpool the ships would have been loaded with cottons and woollens, guns, iron, alcohol and tobacco. The vessels then sailed to Africa where these goods were traded for slaves, ivory and gold. The ‘middle passage’ of the journey then took them to America or to the West Indies where the slaves would then be sold for money, colonial produce or bills of exchange.

Very few images of slave ships remain but it is likely that the ships captained by James Hasler were in the style of the vessel shown to the left.

Similarly, the detailed drawing of the interior of a slave ship (below) demonstrates how the ‘cargo’ was arranged to maximise capacity.

Liverpool merchants were vociferous in their opposition to the abolition of slavery, 64 anti-abolition petitions being submitted from Liverpool. The above drawing was a powerful propaganda tool used by those who campaigned to end the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In 1807 an Act of Parliament was passed abolishing the slave trade. In this very year, Captain James Hasler left the Port of Liverpool on 22 April 1807 not returning until 12 December 1807. In fact, he was part owner of the ship `Active` in which he undertook this journey, sailing firstly to the Windward Coast, the principal region of slave purchase, before crossing the Atlantic to Barbados. Annual Slavery Remembrance Day is held on 23 August.

Captain James Hasler died in 1841 and he is buried (together with his wife) in the Churchyard of St Alban’s Church. The Reverend Edward Bird who is also listed in this section of the Website under ‘Local People’, conducted the service. In the context of the abolitionist debate and by which time slavery was completely abolished, the inscription on James Hasler’s 1841 tombstone is perhaps surprising:

‘Sacred to the Memory of Captain James Hasler, late of Wrexham, who departed this life January 19th, 1841 aged 70 years. Having sailed for 33 years in and out of Liverpool to the West Indies and Africa; thus spending a life of usefulness and honour’.

Whist resident in Tattenhall, James and Mary Hasler lived at the property shown below. Indeed, James Hasler’s association with this property is recorded on the 1837 Tithe Map and Apportionment, designated as ‘Plot 535’, namely a ‘house and garden’. Today, the property is known as ‘Flacca Lodge’, Burwardsley Road albeit that it was formerly known as ‘Laurel Bank’.

Mary Hasler died in 1851, aged 65. Her ‘Will’ provides further imagery of life in our village in the mid 19th century.

  • This is the last will and testament of me, Mary Hasler of Tattenhall in the County of Chester, widow … this sixteenth day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty nine. 
  • I give and bequeath my best suit, two bonnets one winter and one summer, one winter cloak and one winter shawl to Sarah, widow of my Brother the late Reverend John Kendall of Wrexham. 
  • I give and bequeath to Ellen Nuttall of Liverpool a silver Teapot with the name ‘Ellen Nuttall’ engraved thereon.
  • I bequeath to Sarah … now ‘Barnard’ of Cincinnati State, Ohio, provided she claims them herself in person but not otherwise, a bookcase made by my youngest brother, a picture of a pious family and a mourning ring containing the hair of myself, husband and eldest brother.

Interesting too is that on 7 June 1851 and only one month after the death of Mary Hasler, ‘Messrs Cowap and Son’ are listed as the auctioneers responsible for the sale of the effects related to the property of Captain James Hasler deceased. The particulars state ‘sale of remarkable neat household furniture in Dining, Drawing and Bed Room … plate, linen, china, glass, plates and pictures, small library of books, Phaeton*, kitchen requisites, garden tools, wire fencing and all other effects’. Since James and Mary Hasler had no children, the monies raised from the auction of these household items were to be placed in trust for Mary Hasler’s Goddaughter, ‘Mary Ann Kendall Stubbs’. The property was ultimately sold to Robert Orton in 1858 (a principal landowner and featured in the ‘Local People’ section of this Website). 

* a small trap/carriage, pulled by a horse. 

Particular thanks to the current owners of ‘Flacca Lodge’ who have assisted in the production of this Webpage. The inclusion of this topic does not represent any judgement on our part.


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