James Moss senior

1759 - 23rd Oct 1820


Bahamian slave-owner, in the process of moving 1000 enslaved people from Crooked Island in the Bahamas to British Guiana on his death in 1820, uncle of John Moss, Henry Moss of Liverpool and James Moss junior (each of whom q.v.).

  1. Will of James Moss senior, merchant of the island of New Providence proved 22/06/1822. To nephew James Moss junior, then in Cuba, he left his dwelling house in Nassau 'and my servant named Fanny and her three children' as well as his farm or plantation two miles west of Nassau originally granted to his brother William 'and twenty-eight negroes and other slaves thereon', whom he named. To his sister Ann Tarbuck of Liverpool he left his farm originally granted to Robert Johnson and lately bought from representatives of Christopher Morley deceased and five negroes thereon. He manumitted his 'faithful servant' Phillis who had long 'had the management of one of my farms' and gave her during her life the services of her carpenter son Sam, who was to be freed on her decease. The trustees appointed for all his slaves in the Bahamas and his property in Cuba were his 'friends' James Moss junior of 'the Havana' [his nephew], Henry Moss of Crooked Island, James Meadows and Abraham Eve, to sell the property to fund annuities of £200 p.a. for his sister Ann Tarbuck, £100 p.a. for his niece Elizabeth Welsh and several further annuities to apparently unrelated women, with the residue to be divided among his cousins and the children of his nieces and nephews, the latter identified as James, Henry and John Moss. There appears no mention of Anna Regina in Demerara in the will.

  2. The brothers James and William Moss were merchants in Nassau and the principal slave importers to the Bahamas. William, who was described as a British Loyalist, was a significant plantation owner and on his death in 1796 James inherited his property, becoming one of the wealthiest men on the island. James was a senior Member of the House of Assembly. After spending some years expanding his holdings, upon his death in 1820 he was the largest slave-owner in the Bahamas. His business was helped by his family connection to Liverpool. William and James's brother Thomas was a successful Liverpool merchant whose ships were used by James to import slaves and goods to the Bahamas. James resided in three storey brick house called New Providence in Nassau. In 1816 James was charged by the Attorney General Wylly for persistently under-supplying forty-two enslaved people on Perseverance Estate, Crooked Island in contravention of a law passed in 1797. James was one of very few individuals to actually be legally pursued for the mistreatment of slaves. Following the testimony of his fellow planters as to his 'benevolent' nature, James Moss was acquitted. The only person to be changed, prosecuted and imprisoned for this crime during the period 1800-1811 was a free man of colour. Shortly before he died James had been given permission by the Colonial Office 'to remove his Negroes consisting of about 1,000 from the Bahamas to Demerara on certain terms.' He only succeeded in moving 211 enslaved people before he died. Having remained unmarried he bequeathed most of his estate to his three nephews John, James and Henry (the sons of his brother Thomas), and tasked them to finish the transfer. With the antislavery cause gaining momentum again in the early 1820s there was an extended political wrangling over the movement of the enslaved people. However in 1823 the nephew James sent a shipment of 840 enslaved people from Acklin's Island and Crooked Island to Jamaica. It was the largest single transfer of enslaved people during the period.


  1. PROB 11/1658/306.

  2. Paul Farnsworth, 'The Influence of Trade on Bahamian Slave Culture' in Historical Archaeology, Vol. 30, No. 4 (1996) , pp. 1-23. Published by: Society for Historical Archaeology. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25616490; Graham Trust, John Moss of Otterspool (AuthorHouse, 2010); Michael Craton and Gail Saunders, Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People: Volume One: From Aboriginal Times to the End of Slavery (University of Georgia Press, 1999). See especially the chapters 'The Lifeways of the Loyalist Elite' and 'The Decline of Cotton and Slavery' which have extensive material on James Moss and the Moss family more generally; Michael Craton, 'Changing patterns of slave family life in the British West Indies' in eds. Gad Heuman and James Walvin, The Slavery Reader (Routledge, 2003), p.284.

Further Information


Associated Estates (2)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1817 [SY] - 1817 [EY] → Owner

James Moss had been a slave trader and was one of the most prominent slave-owners in the Bahamas. It is likely that this was not an estate but rather a transfer of enslaved people from the Bahamas to Jamaica for sale.

1820 [EA] - → Other

Sold a group of 15 enslaved people to Hon. Samuel Jackson, presumably part of the 119 enslaved people registered for him in Jamaica in 1817.

Relationships (5)

Uncle → Nephew
Uncle → Nephew
Uncle → Nephew