“For the Browns, wealth led to greater power, and John Brown became a congressman representing Rhode Island; fellow slave trader James De Wolf represented the state as a senator. Profit from the trade brought the trappings of wealth. When former President John Quincy Adams visited the Browns’ home he called it ‘the most magnificent and elegant mansion that I have ever seen on this continent.’ Today the house still stands at Fifty-Two Power Street in Providence, where it is operated by the Rhode Island Historical Society, which would like the family’s slave trading mentioned as little as possible.
The fact that the Brown family fortune was made in the slave trade is a matter of historical record. In August 1797 John Brown became the first American to be tried in federal court for violating the Slave Trade Act. Brown’s legal maneuvers and favors from cohorts did not save him from reaching the court, as his brother Moses was the person pressing charges. Moses had seen firsthand the horrors of the slave ship and subsequently quit the family business and became its greatest opponent. His efforts stopped the importation of slaves into Rhode Island, and he helped enact a federal law against it. A bill freeing children of slaves and completely banning the trade would have succeeded, but William Bradford of Bristol removed the clause on the ban. His rum business depended on the slave trade. The business of his son-in-law, James De Wolf, depended on in more. John Brown died in 1803, before the trade was banned forever.
The profits from the slave trade helped the Brown family reach immortality. Near the Power Street hose stands Brown University. Because the Browns were such great benefactors, the school originally known as Rhode Island College showed the family the ultimate gratitude by changing its name to Brown University. Although Brown University is the great monument to the profits of the Browns’ slave trade, a lesser known monument to John Brown is the Fleet Financial Group of New England. Brown was one of the founders in 1791 when it was called the Providence Bank. It merged with Samuel Colt’s creation, the Industrial Trust, and underwent a name change to Industrial National Bank. In 1982, the Rhode Island bank changed its name again to Fleet Financial. Finally it merged with the Bank of Boston to become the seventh largest financial holding company in the United States.” -From, “Secret Societies of America’s Elite” By: Steven Sora