Isaac Franklin, in New Orleans. The firm owned four ships-the tribune, United States, Isaac Franklin, and Unease-that transported slaves and other passengers from Virginia to New Orleans. It encouraged passengers, who were often planters, to inspect the slave quarters and assess the “merchandise.”

Public slave auctions were regulated by the same credit and commercial laws that applied to other businesses. Before the Civil War, slave sales constituted “one sixth of the nearly 11,000 American appellate cases involving slaves.” Disputants sought remedies and were generally concerned with “transfer and protection of property rights, not with the established of ownership.” Southern courts deemed sales to be “contractual right and responsibilities agreed to by buyers and sellers.” Judges encouraged participants to “develop standardized forms of dealing.”
The cash generated by the slave-trading process was a powerful incentive even for anti-slavery advocates such as the English actress Frances Anne (Fanny) Kemble.