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.
Object Name
model, rigged brig
Date made
brig first used in the transatlantic slave trade
16th century
slaver was captured
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
plastic (fitting material)
rubber (fitting material)
overall: 30 in x 44 in x 16 in; 76.2 cm x 111.76 cm x 40.64 cm
ship used in the slave trade
Atlantic Ocean
ship possibly built here as it's design was similar to other vessals constructed in Maryland
United States: Maryland
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
On the Water exhibit
Revolution and the New Nation
Expansion and Reform
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
On the Water exhibit
On the Water
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Publication title
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL

Visitor Comments

5/31/2015 6:59:21 PM
Jim Sykes
Is there a slave ship directory? My grandfather seven generation back was the bookkeeper for a company/family named Woodhouse who owned slave ships. That was between 1767 and 1797. They had two ships, named Barbados. They sailed from England to the Ivory coast and Gold coast. Then to Barbados, St Kitts, and Kingston Jamaica. Does the museum have slave ship records? Thank you.
8/21/2015 9:20:35 AM
Paul Johnston, Maritime Curator
Records are spotty for colonial-period slave ships, but Emory University in Atlanta, GA has an online database of slave ship voyages that may be helpful for your research. You can google it. If you know where the Woodhouse company/family was located, you could also check with the nearest public library or historical society for information.
8/21/2015 3:55:16 PM
Jim sykes
Thank you Paul.... our son attended and graduated from Emory University in 2011. The Woodhouse Company was located in Lancaster England. I asked about the company to the Lancaster history society. They replied but did not help much. Sounded like I need to travel to Lancaster and research myself. I may just do that!. I will check Emory for information. If I find anything shall I forward to you? It's an interesting story. My family is shocked great grandfather 6 generations ago worked for a slave trading company and had slaves in Lancaster. When his wife passed in 1810 her will stated "free" the slaves. Not sell the slaves.
10/9/2015 9:49:53 AM
Paul Johnston, Maritime Curator
Sure; that would be interesting! Thanks, PFJ
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