Marcelino, A slave escapee from Cape Verde

In the first session held of the 28th Congress of the United States in 1844, on the floor of the US capital, the story was told of a young man named Marcelino who escaped from slavery in Cape Verde after boarding the Barque, Pantheon.

Joao Jose Claudio de Lima, a merchant from Rabil, Boa Vista, had his most trusted and skilled slave, Marcelino, tending to his many boats. First hand accounts from that day describe Mercellino as a “ladino” which best suggests that he was of mixed ancestry and probably the son of Mr. De Lima. Other accounts tell of Marcelino rushing past the custom house with a bundle under his arm and when asked where he was going, he replied that he was going to look after one of the boats that had gotten tangled up. Another witness described seeing Marcelino swimming from his master’s boat to the Pantheon where he was helped aboard.

Joao Jose Claudio de Lima immediately tried to get his slave back but was unsuccessful since the Pantheon was already outside of Cape Verde’s jurisdiction. His only other resort was to file an official complaint against Captain Borden, the owner of the Pantheon and  the United States government for compensation of his “stolen property”. His complaint, filed on March 7, 1844, stated;

I, John Joseph Claudius de Lima, a merchant in the city of Praia, Santiago, declare that on the 26th of December last, the whaling barque Pantheon, from Fall River, in the United States of America, while under sail off this port, set about to buy refreshments, which remained all day, and retired at seven o’clock in the evening. During the stay of that boat ashore, her crew enticed away a young “ladino” slave named Marcelino, by trade a carpenter and sailor, belonging to the petitioner and carried him away furtively on board and took him to the place whither the vessel was abound, causing the petitioner to lose an annual sum of a hundred and fifty milReis, clear of all expenses, as he earned at least 600 Reis a day…


Captain Borden and the Patheon sailed out of the port of Fall River, Massachusetts in 1841, stopping in Cape Verde for supplies. The ship was owned by Isaac Hall who served as a state representative for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1837 to 1872. Mr Hall was known to be very anti-slavery and even left the Democratic party because if it. The Pantheon was a 271 ton whaling ship which was commissioned by President Martin Van Buren on June 3, 1841. I haven’t found further information on Joao Jose Claudio de Lima’s petition or whether he received any of the 800,000 milReis he actually petitioned for. In searching the records for the Pantheon, I only found a “Manuel” from Cape de Verd who arrived with the ship to the US in 1844. Captain Daniel Borden died at sea in the summer of 1849 and Isaac Hall kept serving the Massachusetts House of Representatives until his death in 1872.

Joao Jose Claudio de Lima was a well-to-do land owner, ship builder, merchant and slave holder from Boa Vista, Cape Verde. There are records of him in his dealings with Manuel Antonio Martins, also from Boa Vista who was the first civilian governor of Cape Verde, who built the salinas on the island of Sal and made his money in the salt industry.

It is difficult to make a direct connection between my earliest Lima ancestor, Rosa Joanna de Lima, and Joao Jose Claudio de Lima, however, they were both from the exact area of Rabil, the northern part of Cabecinhas.  The vital records that are in existence for Boa Vista only date back to the 1870’s. But there are other records showing Mr. de Lima as the owner date back to the early 1800’s so I am placing his birthdate to the late 1700’s. I am guessing Rosa was born around 1800 or so. Her son, Luis Antonio, was born in 1826. Most of the de Lima’s I have found from that time period were all from Rabil.

I hope Marcelino was able to make a life for himself after escaping slavery in Cape Verde. He probably arrived in the US with the Pantheon in 1844 and maybe even continued working on other whaling ships for a living. Maybe he settled in Fall River or New Bedford and had a family. Perhaps he decided to get off at another port in New Zealand, Cardiff , or Hawaii, as so many other Cape Verdean whalers did. We may never know what happened to Marcelino but the story of a slave named Marcelino who escaped slavery in Cape Verde is forever recorded in the Congressional Papers in the Library of Congress of the United States of America and his story is still being told almost two hundred years later.