Slave Trade Act of 1794
|Enacted by the||
3rd United States Congress
|Effective||March 22, 1794|
|Stat.||1 Stat. 348|
The Slave Trade Act of 1794 was a law passed by the United States Congress that limited American involvement in the trade of human cargo. This was the first of several acts of Congress that eventually stopped the importation of slaves to the United States. The owning of slaves would later be made illegal in the U.S. by the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865.
The bill was introduced during the 3rd Congress that convened December 2, 1793. This bill was then passed March 22, 1794, with the title: An Act to prohibit the carrying on the Slave Trade from the United States to any foreign place or country.
Text of the law 
"Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That no citizen or citizens of the United States, or foreigner, or any other person coming into, or residing within the same, shall, for himself or any other person whatsoever, either as master, factor or owner, build, fit, equip, load or otherwise prepare any ship or vessel, within any port or place of said United States, nor shall cause any ship or vessel to sail from any port or place within same, for the purpose of carrying on any trade or traffic in slaves, to any foreign country; or for the purpose of procuring, from any foreign kingdom, place or country, the inhabitants of such kingdom, place or country, to be transported to any foreign country, port, or place whatever, to be sold or disposed of, as slaves: And if any ship or vessel shall be so fitted out, as aforesaid, for the said purposes, or shall be caused to sail, so as aforesaid, every ship or vessel, her tackle, furniture, apparel and other appurtenances, shall be forfeited to the United States; and shall be liable to be seized, prosecuted and condemned, in any of the circuit courts or district court for the district where said ship or vessel may be found and seized."
Section 2 allows for forfeiture by owners and the possibility of a $2,000 fine. Section 3 affected foreign merchants. Section 4 forfeited any slaves on board the ship and a fine of $200 per slave.
First prosecution 
In August 1795, Providence, Rhode Island merchant John Brown conspired to trade in slaves. Brown conspired with a Captain Peleg Wood with the ship Hope to be used in the slave trade. By November the Hope was engaged in the slave trade, and in March 1796, the owners of the ship were fined by Rhode Island the amount of £200 for trading in slaves, which had been outlawed in that state. On a voyage in 1796 Brown’s ship traveled to Havana, Cuba with 229 slaves. This trading voyage led to a trial of Brown in 1796 for violating the statute. Brown became the first American tried in federal court under the Slave Trade Act of 1794. Then on October 5, 1797, Brown lost his case and was forced to forfeit the ship in accordance with the law.