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A higher resolution scan of the image. - 2248595 bytes
First, some technical comments on this page:
Some comments more to the point of the page:
I recently acquired this image (and book) and thought that it would be an interesting addition to the site. The image of the placement of slaves on a ship is a popular reference used when trying to visually convey the conditions of the middle passage. (What pictorial US history book does not include a similar picture?) When I found this image I wished to share it primarily for its popularity in that respect.
After reading some of the book I decided it was insufficient to just include the image, and not some of the text. The image conveys a uniform neatness in the Middle Passage that the text does not. I include the text of chapter ten here to give a better, more complete, view of the situation.
SLAVERY AND THE SLAVE TRADE,
ANCIENT AND MODERN.
THE FORMS OF SLAVERY THAT PREVAILED IN ANCIENT NATIONS,
PARTICULARLY IN GREECE AND ROME.
THE AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE
POLITICAL HISTORY OF SLAVERY
COMPILED FROM AUTHENTIC MATERIALS
BY W. O. BLAKE
PUBLISHED AND SOLD EXCLUSIVELY BY SUBSCRIPTION
BY J. & H. MILLER.
AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY, CONTINUED.--THE
Abstract of Evidence before House of Commons, continued.--The enslaved Africans on
board the Ships--their dejection.--Methods of confining, airing, feeding and exerci-
sing then.--Mode of stowing them, and its horrible consequences.--Incidents of the
terrible Middle Passage--shackles, chains, whips, filth, foul air, disease, suffocation.--
Suicides by drowning, by starvation, by wounds, by strangling.--Insanity and Death.
--Manner of selling them when arrived at their destination.--Deplorable situation
of the refuse or sickly Slaves.--Mortality among Seamen engaged in the Slave Trade.
Their miserable condition and sufferings from disease, and cruel treatment.
THE natives of Africa having been made slaves in the modes described in
the former chapter, are brought down for sale to the European ships. On
being brought on board, says Dr. Trotter, they show signs of extreme distress
and despair, from a feeling of their situation, and regret at being torn from
their friends and connections; many retain those impressions for a long time;
in proof of which, the slaves on board his ship being often heard in the night
making a howling melancholy noise, expressive of extreme anguish, he repeat-
edly ordered the woman who had been his interpreter to inquire into the
cause. She discovered it to be owing to their having dreamed they were in
their own country again, and finding themselves, when awake, in the hold of a
slave-ship. This exquisite sensibility was particularly observable among the
women, many of whom, on such occasions, he found in hysteric fits.
The foregoing description, as far as relates to their dejection when brought
on board, and the cause of it, is confirmed by Hall, Wilson, Claxton, Ellison,
Towne, and Falconbridge, the latter of whom relates an instance of a young
woman who cried and pined away after being brought on board, who recovered
when put on shore, and who hung herself when informed she was to be sent
again to the ship.
Captain hall says, after the first eight or ten of them come on board, the
men are put into irons. They are linked two and two together by the hands
and feet, in which situation they continue till they arrive in the West Indies,
except such as may be sick, whose irons are taken off. The women, how-
ever, he says, are not ironed. On being brought up in a morning, says Surgeon
Wilson, and additional mode of securing them takes place, for to the shackles
of each pair of them there is a ring, through which is reeved a large chain,
which locks them all in a body to ring-bolts fastened to the deck. The time
of their coming up in the morning, if fair, is described by Mr. Towne to be
between eight and nine, and the time of their remaining there to be till four in
the afternoon, when they are again put below till the next morning. In the
interval of being upon deck they are fed twice. They have also a pint of
water allowed to each of them a day, which being divided is served out to
them at two different times, namely, after their meals. These meals, says Mr.
Falconbridge, consist of rice, yams, and horse-beans, with now and then a
little beef and bread. After meals they are made to jump in their irons.
This is called dancing by the slave-dealers. In every ship he has been desired
to flog such as would not jump. He had generally a cat-of-nine-tails in his
hand among the women, and the chief mate, he believes, another among the men.
The parts, says Mr. Claxton, (to continue the account,) on which their
shackles are fastened, are often excoriated by the violent exercise they are thus
forced to take, of which they made many grievous complaints to him. In his
ship even those who had the flux, scurvy, and such œdemtatous swellings in
their legs as made it painful to them to move at all, where compelled to dance
by the cat. He says, also, that on board his ship they sometimes sung,
but not for their amusement. The captain ordered them to sing, and they
sung songs of sorrow. The subject of these songs were their wretched situa-
tion, and the idea of never returning home. He recollects their very words
upon these occasions.
The above account of shackling, messing, dancing, * and singing the slaves,
is allowed by all the witnesses, as far as they speak to the same points, except
by Mr. Falconbridge, in whose ships the slaves had a pint and a half of water
On the subject of the stowage and its consequences, Dr. Trotter says that
the slaves in the passage are so crowded below, the it is impossible to walk
through them, without treading on them. Those who are out of irons are
locked spoonways (in the technical phrase) to one another. It is the first
mate's duty to see them stowed in this way every morning; those who do not
get quickly into their places, are compelled by a cat-of-nine-tails.
When the scuttles are obliged to be shut, the gratings are not sufficient for
airing the rooms. He never himself could breath freely, unless immediately
under the hatchway. He has seen the slaves drawing their breath with all
those laborious and anxious efforts for life, which are observed in expiring
animals, subjected by experiment to foul air, or in the exhausted receive
of an air pump. He has also seen them, when the tarpaulings have inadvert-
ently been thrown over the gratings, attempting to heave them up, crying out
in their own language, "We are dying!" On removing the tarpaulings and
gratings, they would fly to the hatchway with all the signs of terror and dread
of suffocation. Many of them he has seen in a dying state, but some have re-
covered by being brought hither, on on the deck; others were irrecoverably
lost by suffocation, having had no previous signs of indisposition.
Mr. Falconbridge also states on this head, that when employed in stowing
the slaves, he made the most of the room and wedged them in. They had not
so much room as a man in his coffin, either in length or breath. It was im-
possible for them to turn or shift with any degree of ease. He has often
occasion to go from one side of their rooms to the other, in which case he
always took off his shoes, but could not avoid pinching them; he has the
marks on his feet where they bit and scratched him. In every voyage, when
the ship was full, they complained of hear and want of air. Confinement in
this situation was so injurious, the he has known them to go down apparently in
good health at night, and found dead in the morning. On his last voyage he
opened a stout man who so died. He found the contents of the thorax and
abdomen healthy, and therefore concludes he died of suffocation in the night.
He was never among them for ten minutes below together, but his shirt was as
wet as if dipped in water.
One of his ships, the Alexander, coming out of Bonny, got aground on the
bar, and was detained there six or seven days, with a great swell and heavy
rain. At this time the air ports were obliged to be shut, and part of the
gratings on the weather side covered: almost all the men slaves were taken ill
with the flux. The last time he went down to see them, it was so hot he took
off his shirt. More than twenty of them had fainted, or were fainting.
* The necessity of exercise for health is the reason given for compelling the slaves to
dance in the above manner.
He got however, several of them hauled on deck. Two or three of these
died, and most of the rest, before they reached the West Indies. He was
down only about fifteen minutes, and became so ill by it that he could not get
up without help, and was disabled (the dysentery seizing him also) from doing
duty the rest of the passage. On board the same ship he has known two or
three instances of a dead and living slave found in the morning shackled
The crowded state of the slaves, and the pulling off the shoes by the sur-
geons, as described above, that they might not hurt them in traversing their
rooms, are additionally mentioned by surgeons Wilson and Claxton. the
slaves are said also by Hall and Wilson to complain on account of heat.
Both Hall, Towne, and Morley, describe them as often in a violent perspira-
tion. or dew sweat. Mr. Ellison has seen them faint through heat, and obliged
to be brought on deck, the steam coming up through the gratings like a fur-
nace. In Wilson's and Towne's ships, some have gone below well in even-
ing, and in the morning have been found dead; and Mr. Newton has often
seen a dead and living man chained together, and to use his own words, one
of the pair dead.
To come now to the different incidents on the passage. Mr Falconbridge
says that there is a place in every ship for the sick slaves, but there are
no accommodations for them, for they lie on the bare planks. He has seen
frequently the prominent parts of their bones about the shoulder-blade and
knees bare. He says he cannot conceive any situation so dreadful and dis-
gusting as that of slaves when ill of the flux; in the Alexander, the deck was
covered with blood and mucus, and resembled a slaughter-house. The stench
and foul air were intolerable.
He has known several slaves on board refuse sustenance, with a design
to starve themselves. Compulsion was used in every ship he was in to make
them take their food. He has known also many instances of their refusing to
take medicines when sick, because they wished to die. A woman on board the
Alexander was dejected from the moment she came on board, and refused
both food and medicine: being asked by the interpreter what she wanted, she
replied, nothing but to die--and she did die. Many other slaves expresses
the same wish.
The ships, he says, are fitted up with a view to prevent slaves jumping over-
board; notwithstanding which he has known instances of their doing so. In
the Alexander tow were lost in this way. In the same voyage, near twenty
jumped overboard out of the Enterprise, Capt. Wilson, and several from a
large Frenchman in Bonny River. In his first voyage he say at Bonny, on
board the Emilia, a woman chained to the deck, who, the chief mate said, was
mad. On his second voyage, there was a woman on board his own ship, whom
they were forced to chain at certain times. In a lucid interval she was sold at
Jamaica. He ascribes this insanity to their being torn from their connections
Doctor Trotter, examined on the same subject, says that the man sold with
his family for witchcraft, (of which he has been accused, out of revenge, by a
Cabosheer,) refused all sustenance after he came on board. Early next morn-
ing it was found he had attempted to cut his throat. Dr. Trotter sewed up
the wound, but the following night the man had not only torn out the sutures,
but had made a similar attempt on the other side. From the ragged edges of
the wound, and the blood upon his finger ends, it appeared to have been done
with his nails, for though strict search was made through all the rooms, no in-
strument was found. He declared he never would go with white men, uttered
incoherent sentences, and looked wishfully at the skies. His hands were se-
cured, but persisting to refuse all sustenance, he died of hunger in eight or ten
days. He remembers also an instance of a woman who perished from refusing
food: she was repeatedly flogged, and victuals forced into her mouth, but no
means could make her swallow it, and she lived for the four last days in a state
of torpid insensibility. A man jumped overboard, at Anamaboe, and was
drowned. Another also, on the Middle Passage, but he was taken up. A
woman also, after having been taken up, was chained for some time to the mizen-
mast, but being let loose again made a second attempt, was again taken up, and
expired under the floggings given her in consequence.
Mr. Wilson, speaking also on the same subject, relates, among many cases
where force was necessary to oblige the slaves to take food, that of a young
man. He had not been long on board before he perceived him get thin. On
inquiry, he found the man had not taken his food, and refused taking any.
Mild means were then used to divert him from his resolution, as well as prom-
ises that he should have any thing he wished for: but still he refused to eat.
They then whipped him with the cat, but this also was ineffectual. He always
kept his teeth so fast, that it was impossible to get any thing down. They
then endeavored to introduce a speculum oris between them; but the points
were too obtuse to enter, and next tried a bolus knife, but with the same effect.
In this state he was for four or five days, when he was brought up again
in the same state as before. He then seemed to wish to get up. The crew
assisted him, and brought him aft to the fire-place, when, in a feeble voice, in
his own tongue, he asked for water, which was given him. Upon this they
began to have hopes of dissuading him from his design, but he again shut his
teeth as fast as ever, and resolved to die, and on the ninth day from the first
refusal he died.
Mr Wilson says it hurt his feelings much to be obliged to use the cat so
frequently to force them to take their food. In the very act of chastise-
ment, they have looked up at him with a smile, an in their own language
have said, "presently we shall be no more."
In the same ship a woman found means to convey below the night preceding
some rope-yarn, which she tied to the head of the armorer's vice, then in the
women's room. She fastened it round her neck, and in the morning was found
dead, with her head lying on her shoulder, whence it appeared, she must have
used great exertions to accomplish her end. A young woman also hanged her-
self, by tying rope-yarns to a batten, near her usual sleeping-place, and then
slipping off the platform. The next morning she was found warm, and he
use the proper means for her recovery, but in vain.
In the same ship also, when off Annabona, a slave on the sick list jumped
overboard, and was picked up by the natives, but died soon afterwards. At
another time, when at sea, the captain and officers, when at dinner, heard the
alarm of a slave's being overboard, and found it true, for they perceived him
making every exertion to drown himself. He put his head under water, but
lifted his hands up; and thus went down, as if exulting that he had got away.
Besides the above instance, a man slave who came on board apparently well,
became afterwards mad, and at length died insane.
Mr. Claxton, the fourth surgeon examined on these points, declares the
steerage and boy's room to have been insufficient to receive the sick; they
were therefore obliged to place together those that were and those that were
not diseased, and in consequence the disease and mortality spread more and
more. The captain treated them with more tenderness than he has heard was
usual, but the men were not humane. Some of the most diseased were obliged
to keep on deck with a sail spread for them to lie on. This, in a little time,
became nearly covered with blood and mucus, which involuntarily issues from
them, and therefore the sailors, who had the disagreeable task of cleaning the
sail, grew angry with the slaves, and used to beat them inhumanly with their
hands, or with a cat. The slaves in consequence grew fearful of committing
this involuntary action, and when they perceived they had done it would im-
mediately creep to the tubs, and there sit straining with such violence, as to
produce a prolapsus ani, which could not be cured.
Some of the slaves on board the same ship, says Mr. Claxton, had such
an aversion to leaving their native places, that they threw themselves over-
board, on an idea that they should get back to their own country. The cap-
tain, in order to obviate this idea, thought of an expedient, viz: to cut off the
heads of those who died, intimating to them, that if determined to go, they
must return without their heads. the slaves were accordingly brought up to
witness the operation. One of them seeing, when on deck, the carpenter
standing with his hatchet up ready to strike off the head of a dead slave, with
a violent exertion got loose, and flying to the place where the nettings had
been unloosed, in order to empty the tubs, he darted overboard. The ship
brought to, and a man was placed in the main chains to catch him, which he
perceiving, dived under water, and rising again at a distance from the ship,
made signs, which words cannot describe, expressive of his happiness in escap-
ing. He then went down, and was seen no more. This circumstance deterred
the captain from trying the expedient any more, and therefore he resolved for
the future (as he saw they were determined to throw themselves overboard) to
keep a strict watch; not withstanding which, some afterwards contrived to un-
loose the lashing, so that two actually threw themselves into the sea, and were
lost; another was caught when about three parts overboard.
All the above incidents, described as to have happened on the Middle Pas-
sage, are amply corroborated by the other witnesses. The slaves lie on the
bare boards, says surgeon Wilson. They are frequently bruised, and the prom-
inent parts of the body excoriated, adds the same gentleman, as also Trotter
and Newton. They have been seen by Morley wallowing in their blood and
excrement. Claxton, Ellison, and Hall describe them as refusing sustenance,
and compelled to eat by the whip. Morley has seen the pannekin dashed
against their teeth, and the rice held in their mouths, to make them swallow it,
till they were almost strangled, and they have even been thumb-screwed* with
this view in the ships of Towne and Millar. The man stolen at Galenas river,
says the former, also refused to eat, and persisted till he died. A woman, says
the latter, who was brought on board, refused sustenance, neither would she
speak. She was then ordered the thumb-screws, suspended in the mizzen rig-
ging, and every attempt was made with the cat to compel her to eat, but to no
purpose. She died in three or four days afterwards. Mr. Millar was told that
she had said, the night before she died, "She was going to her friends."
As a third specific instance, in another vessel, may be mentioned that related
by Mr. Isaac Parker. there was a child, says he, on board, nine months old,
which refused to eat. for which the captain took it up in his hand, and flogged
it with a cat, saying, at the same time, "Damn you, I'll make you eat; or I'll
kill you." The same child having swelled feet, the captain ordered them to
be put into water, through the ship's cook told him it was too hot. This brought
off the skin and nails. He then ordered sweet oil and cloths, which Isaac Par-
ker himself applied to the feet; and as the child at mess time again refused to
eat, the captain again took it up and flogged it and tied a log of mango-wood
eighteen or twenty inches long, and of twelve or thirteen pounds weight, round
its neck, as a punishment. He repeated the flogging for four days together at
mess time. The last time after flogging it, he let it drop out of his hand, with
the same expression as before, and accordingly in about three quarters of an
hour the child died. He then called its mother to heave it overboard, and beat
her for refusing. He however forced her to take it up, and go to the ship's
side, where, holding her head on one side, to avoid the sight, she dropped
he child overboard, after which she cried for many hours.
Besides instances of slaves refusing to eat, with the view of destroying them-
selves, and dying in consequence of it, those of their going mad are confirmed
by Towne, and of their jumping overboard, or attempting to do it, by Towne,
Millar, Ellison, and Hall.
Other incidents on the passage, mentioned by some of the witnesses in their
examination, may be divided into three kinds:
The first kind consists of insurrections on the part of the slaves. Some of
these frequently attempted to rise, but were prevented, (Wilson, Towne, Trot-
* To show the severity of this punishment, Mr. Dove says, that while two slaves were
under the torture of the thumb-screws, the sweat ran down their faces, and they trem-
bled as under a violent ague fit; and Mr. Ellison has known instances of their dying, a
mortification having taken place in their thumbs in consequence of these screws.
ter, Newton, Dalrymple, Ellison,) others rose, but were quelled, (Ellison, New-
ton, Falconbridge,) and others rose and succeeded, killing almost all the whites:
(Falconbridge and Towne.) Mr. Towne says that , inquiring of the slaves into
the cause of these insurrections, he has been asked what business he had to
carry them from their country. They had wives and children, whom they wanted
to be with. After an insurrection, Mr. Ellison says he has seen them flogged,
and the cook's tormentors and tongs heated to burn the flesh. Mr. Newton
also adds that it is usual for captains, after insurrections and plots happen, to
flog the slaves. Some captains, on board whose ships he has been, added the
thumb-screw, and one in particular told him repeatedly that he had put slaves
to death,after an insurrection, by various modes of torture.
The second sort of incident on the passage is mentioned by Mr. Falconbridge
in the instance of an English vessel blowing up off Galenas, and most of the
men-slaves, entangled in their irons, perishing.
The third sort is described by Mr. Hercules Ross as follows. One instance,
says he, marked with peculiar circumstances of horror, occurs:--About twenty
years ago a ship from Africa, with about four hundred slaves on board, struck
upon some shoals, called the Morant Keys, distant eleven leagues, S.S.E. off
the east end of Jamaica. The officers and seamen of the ship landed in their
boats, carrying with them arms and provisions. The slaves were left on board
in their irons and shackles. This happened in the night time. The Morant
Keys consist of three small sandy islands, and he understood that the ship had
struck upon the shoals, at about half a league to windward of them. When
morning came, it was discovered that the negroes had got out of their irons,
and were busy making rafts, upon which they placed the women and children,
whilst the men, and others capable of swimming, attended upon the rafts, while
they drifted before the wind towards the island where the seamen had landed.
From an apprehension that the negroes would consume the water and provis-
ions which the seamen had landed, they came to the resolution of destroying
them by means of their fire-arms and other weapons. As the poor wretches
approached the shore, they actually destroyed between three and four hun-
dred of them. Out of the whole cargo, only thirty-three or thirty-four were
saved, and brought to Kingston, where Mr. Ross saw them sold at public ven-
due. The ship, to the best of his recollection, was consigned to a Mr. Hugh
Wallace, of the parish of St. Elizabeth's. Mr. Ross says, in extenuation of
this massacre, that the crew were probably drunk, or they would not have acted
so, but he does not know it to have been the case.
When the ships arrive at their destined ports, the slaves are exposed to sale.
They are sold either by scramble, by public auction, or by lots. The sale by
scramble is thus described by Mr. Falconbridge: "In the Emilia, at Jamaica,
the ship was darkened with sails, and covered around. The men-slaves were
placed on the main deck, and the women on the quarter deck. the purchasers
on shore were informed that a gun would be fired when they were ready to open
the sale. A great number of people came on board with tallies or cards in
their hands, with their own names on them, and rushed through the barricado
door with the ferocity or brutes. Some had three or four handkerchiefs tied
together, to encircle as many as they thought fit for their purpose. In the yard
at Grenada, he adds, (where another of his ships, the Alexander, sold by scram-
ble,) the women were so terrified, that several of them got out of the yard, and
ran about St. George's town as if they were mad. In his second voyage, while
lying at Kingston, he saw a sale by scramble on board the Tryal, Captain Mac-
donald. Forty or fifty of the slaves leaped into the sea, all of whom, how-
ever, were taken up again." This was a vary general mode of sale Mr. Bail-
lid says it was the common mode in America where he has been. Mr. Fitz-
maurice has been at twenty sales by scramble in Jamaica. Mr. Clappeson
never saw any other mode of sale during his residence there, and it is men-
tioned as having been practiced under the inspection of Morley and of Trotter.
The slaves sold by public auction are generally the refuse, of sickly slaves.
These were in such a state of health that they sold, says Baillie, greatly under
price. Falconbridge has known them sold for five dollars each, Town for a
guinea, and Mr Hercules Ross as low as a single dollar.
The state of such is described to be very deplorable by General Tottenham
and Mr. Hercules Toss. The former says that he once observed at Barbadoes
a number of slaves that had been landed from a ship. They were brought
into the yard adjoining the place of sale. Those that were not very ill were
put into little huts, and those that were worse were left in the yard to die,
for nobody gave them any thing to eat or drink; and some of them lived
three days in that situation. The latter has frequently seen the very refuse
(as they are termed) of the slaves of Guinea ships landed and carried to the
vendue-masters in a very wretched state; sometimes in the agonies of death;
and he has known instances of their expiring in the piazza of the auctioneer.
Mr. Newton says, that in none of the sales he saw was there any care ever
taken to prevent such slaves as were relations from being separated. They
were separated as sheep and lambs by the butcher. This separation of rela-
tions and friends is confirmed by Davison, Trotter, Clapperson, and Towne.
Fitzmaurice also mentions the same, with an exception only to infants; but
Mr. Falconbridge says that one of his captains (Frazer) recommended it to
the planters never to separate relations and friends. He says he once heard
of a person refusing to purchase a man's wife, and was next day informed the
man hanged himself.
With respect to the mortality of slaves in the passage, Mr. Falconbridge
says, that in three voyages he purchased, 1,100 and lost 191; Trotter, in one
voyage, about 600, and lost about 70; Millar, in one voyage, 490, and lost
180; Ellison, in three voyages, where he recollects the mortality, bought 895,
and lost 356. In one of these voyages, says the latter, the slaves had the
small-pox. In this case he has seen the platform one continued scab; eight
or ten of them were hauled up dead in a morning, and the flesh and skin peeled
off their wrists when taken hold of.
Mr. Morley says that in four voyages he purchased about 1,325, and lost
about 313. Mr. Towne, in two voyages, 630, and lost 115. Mr. Claxton, in
one voyage, 250, and lost 132. In this voyage, he says, they were so straighten-
end for provisions, that if they had been ten more days at sea, they must either
have eaten the slaves that died, of have made the living slaves walk the plank,
a term used among Guinea captains for making the slaves throw themselves
overboard. He says, also, that he fell in with the Hero, Captain Withers,
which had lost 360 slaves, or more than half her cargo, by the small-pox
The surgeon of the Hero told him that when the slaves were removed from
one place to another, they left marks of their skin and blood upon the deck, and
it was the most horrid sight he had ever seen.
Mr. Wilson states that in his ship and three others belonging to the same
concern, they purchased among them 2064 slaves, and lost 586. He adds, that
he fell in with the Hero, Captain Withers, at St. Thomas', which had lost 159
slaves by small-pox Captain Hall, in two voyages, purchased 550, and
lost 110. He adds, that he has known some ships in the slave-trade bury a
quarter, some a third, and others half of their cargo. It is very uncommon
to find ships without some loss* in their slaves.
Besides those which die on the passage, it must be noticed here that several
die soon after they are sold. Sixteen, says Mr. Falconbridge, were sold by
auction out of the Alexander, all of whom died before the ship left the West
Indies. Out of fourteen, says Mr. Claxton, sold from his ship in an infectious
state, only four lived; and through in the four voyages mentioned by Mr. Wil-
son, no less than 586 perished on the passage out of 2,064, yet 220 addition-
ally died of the small-pox in a very little time after their delivery in the river
Plate, making the total loss for those ships not less than 836, out of 2,064.
The causes of the disorders which carry off the slaves in such numbers, are
ascribed by Mr. Falconbridge to a diseased mind, sudden transitions from heat
to cold, a putrid atmosphere, wallowing in their own excrements, and being
shackled together. A diseased mind, he says, is undoubtedly one of the causes;
for many of the slaves on board refused medicines, giving as a reason, that
they wanted to die, and could never be cured. Some few, on the other hand,
who did not appear to think so much of their situation, recovered. That
shackling together is also another cause, was evident from the circumstance of
the men dying in twice the proportion the women did; and so long as the
trade continues, he adds, they must be shackled together, for no man will at-
tempt to carry them out of irons.
Surgeon Wilson, examined on the same topic, speaks nearly in the same
manner. He says that of the death of two-thirds of those who died in his
ship, the primary cause was melancholy. This was evident, not only from the
symptoms of the disorder, and the circumstance that no one who had it was
ever cured, whereas those who had it not, and yet were ill, recovered; but
from the language of the slaves themselves, who declared that they wished to
die, as also from Captain Smith's own declaration, who said their deaths were
*Total purchased, 7,904, lost 2,053, exclusive of the Hero, being above one-fourth
of the number purchased. The reader will observe that Mr. Claxton fell in with the
Hero on one voyage, and Mr. Wilson on another.
to be ascribed to their thinking so much of their situation. Though several
died of the flux, he attributes their death, primarily, to the cause before assign-
ed; for, says he, their original disorder was a fixed melancholy, and the symp-
toms, lowness of spirits and despondency. Hence the refused food. This
only increased the symptoms.
Mr. Towne, the only other person who speaks of the causes of the disorders
of the slaves, says "they often fall sick, sometimes owing to their crowded
state, but mostly to grief for being carried away from their country and friends."
This he knows from inquiring frequently (which he was enabled to do by
understanding their language) into the circumstances of their grievous com-
We make some further extracts from the evidence, to exhibit the disastrous
and fatal effects of the trade upon the seamen engaged in it. Such was the
despotic character of the discipline on board of the slave-ships, and such the
insensibility to suffering acquired by the officers, that the condition of the sea-
men was not much better than that of the slaves. To exhibit the mortality
among the seamen on board these infected ships, a report was made to the
house of Commons, giving an abstract of the muster-rolls of such Liverpool and
Bristol ships as were returned to the custom houses from September, 1784, to
January, 1790. During this period, it appears that in 350 vessels, 12,263 sea-
men were employed; of these, only 5,760 returned home of the original crews;
of the remaining 6,503, there had died, before the vessels arrived in the West
Indies, 2,643. The fate of the 3,860, not accounted for in the muster-rolls,
we gather from the witnesses.
The crews of the African slavers, says Captain Hall, when they arrive in
the West Indies, are generally (he does not know a single instance to the con-
trary) in a sickly, debilitated state, and the seamen, who are discharged or
desert from those ships in the West Indies, are the most miserable objects he
ever met with in any country in his life. He has frequently seen them with
their toes rotted off, their legs swelled to the size of their thighs, and in an
ulcerated state all over. He has seen them on the different wharves in the
islands of Antigua, Barbadoes, and Jamaica, particularly at the two last
islands. He has also seen them laying under the cranes and balconies of the
houses near the water-side in Barbadoes and Jamaica expiring, and some quite
To confirm the assertion of Captain Hall, of the merchant service, that the
crews of Guinea-men generally arrive at their destined ports of sale in a sickly,
debilitates state, we may refer to Captain Hall, of the navy, who asserts that
in taking men (while in the West Indies) out of the merchant ships for the king's
service, he has, in taking a part of the crew of a Guinea ship, whose number
then consisted of seventy, been able to select but thirty, who could have been
thought capable of serving on board any ships of war, and when those thirty
were surveyed by order of the admiral, he was reprimanded for bringing such
men into the service, who were more likely to breed distemper than to be of
any use, and this at a time when seamen were so much wanted, that almost
any thing would have been taken. He adds also that this was not a singular
instance, but that it was generally the case; for he had many opportunities
between the years 1769 and 1773 of seeing the great distresses of crews of
Guinea ships, when they arrived in the West Indies.
We may refer also to Captain Smith, of the navy, who asserts that though
he may have boarded near twenty of these vessels in the West Indies, for the
purpose of impressing men, he was never able to get more than two men.
The principal reason was the fear of infection, having seen many of them in a
very disordered and ulcerated state.
The assertion also of Captain Hall, of the merchant service, relative to
their situation after their arrival at their destined ports of sale, is confirmed
by the rest of the witnesses in the minutest manner; for the seamen belonging
to the slave-vessels are described as lying about the wharves and cranes, or
wandering about the streets or islands full of sores and ulcers. It is asserted
by the witnesses, that they never saw any other than Guinea seamen in that
state in the West Indies. The epithets also of sickly, emaciated, abject, de-
plorable objects, are applied to them. They are mentioned again as desti-
tute, and starving, and without the means of support, no merchantmen taking
them in because they are unable to work, and men-of-war refusing them them for
fear of infection. Many of them are also described as lying about in a
dying state; and others have been actually found dead, and negroes have
been seen carrying the bodies of others to be interred.
It may be remarked here, that this diseased and forlorn state of the seamen
was so inseparable from the slave-trade, that the different witnesses had not only
seen it at Jamaica, Antigua, and Barbadoes, the places mentioned by Captain
Hall, but wherever they have seen Guinea-men arrive, namely, at St. Vincents,
Grenada, Dominique, and North America also.
The reasons why such immense numbers were left behind in the West Indies,
as were found in this deplorable state, are the following: The seamen leave
their ships from ill usage, says Ellison. It is usual for captains, say Clappe-
son and Young, to treat them ill, that they may desert and forfeit their wages.
Three others state they were left behind purposely by their captains; and Mr.
H. Rose adds in these emphatical words, "that it was no uncommon thing for
the captains to send on shore, a few hours before they sail, their lame, emaci-
ated, and sick seamen, leaving them to perish.
That the seamen employed in the slave-trade were worse fed, both in point
of quantity and quality or provisions, than the seamen in other trades, was
allowed by most of the witnesses, and that they had little or no shelter night
or day from the inclemency of the weather, during the whole of the Middle
Passage, was acknowledged by them all. With respect to their personal ill
usage, the following extracts may suffice:
Mr. Morley asserts that the seamen in all the Guinea-men he sailed in,
except one, were generally treated with great rigor, and many with cruelty.
He recollects many instances: Mathews, the chief mate of the Venus, Captain
Forbes, would knock a man down for any frivolous thing with a cat, a piece of
wood, or a cook's axe, with which he once cut a man down the shoulder, by
throwing it at him in a passion. Captain Dixon, likewise, in the Amelia, tied
up the men, and gave them four or five dozen lashes at a time, and then
rubbed them with pickle. Mr. Morley also himself, when he was Dixon's
cabin-boy, for accidentally breaking a glass, was tied to the tiller by the hands,
flogged with a cat, and kept hanging for some time. Mr. Morley has seen the
seamen lie and die upon the deck. They are generally, he says, treated ill
when sick. He has known men ask to have their wounds or ulcers dressed;
and has heard the doctor, with oaths, refuse to dress them.
Mr. Ellison also, in describing the treatment in the Briton, says there was a
boy on board, whom Wilson, the chief mate, was always beating. One morn-
ing, in the passage out, he had not got the tea-kettle boiled in time for his
breakfast, upon which, when it was brought, Wilson told him he would severely
flog him after breakfast. The boy, for fear of this, went into the lee for
chains. When Wilson came from the cabin, and called for Paddy, (the name
he went by, being an Irish boy,) he would not come, but remained in the fore
chains; on which Wilson going forward, and attempting to haul him in, the
boy jumped overboard, and was drowned.
Another time on the Middle Passage, the same Wilson ordered one James
Allison (a man he had been continually beating for trifles) to go into the
women's room to scrape it. Allison sad he was not able for he was very
unwell; upon which Wilson obliged him to go down. Observing, however,
that the man did not work, he asked him the reason, and was answered as
before, "that he was not able." Upon this, Wilson threw a handspike at him,
which struck him on the breast, and he dropped down to appearance dead.
Allison recovered afterwards a little, but died the next day.
Mr. Ellison relates other instances of ill-usage on board his own ship, and
with respect to instances in others, he says, that in all slave ships they are most
commonly beaten and knocked about for nothing. He recollects that on board
the Phœnix, a Bristol ship, while lying on the coast, the boatswain and five of
the crew made their escape in the yawl, but were taken up by the natives.
When Captain Bishop heard it, he ordered them to be kept on shore at Forje,
a small town at the mouth of the Calabar River, chained by the necks, legs, and
hands, and to have each a plantain a day only. The boatswain, whose name
was Tom Jones, and an old shipmate of his, and a very good seamen, died
raving mad in his chains there. The other five died in their chains also.
Mr. Towne, in speaking of the treatment on board the Peggy, Captain
Davison, says that their chests were brought upon deck, and staved and burnt,
and themselves turned out from lying below; and if any murmurs were heard
among them, they were inhumanly beaten with any thing that came in the way,
or flogged, both legs put in irons, and chained abaft to the pumps, and there
made to work points and gaskets, during the captain's pleasure; and very
often beat just as the captain thought proper. He himself has often seen the
captain as he has walked by, kick them repeatedly, and if they have said any
thing that he might deem offensive, he has immediately called for a stick to
beat them with; they at the same time, having both legs in irons, an iron col-
lar about their necks, and a chain; and when on the coast of Guinea, if not
released before their arrival there from their confinement, they were put into
the boats, and made to row backwards and forwards, either with the captain
from ship to ship, or on any other duty, still both legs in irons, an iron collar
about their necks, with a chain locked to the boat, and taken out when no other
duty was required of them at night, and locked fast upon the open deck, ex-
posed to the heavy rains and dews, without any thing to lie upon, or any thing
to cover them. This was a practice on board the Peggy.
He says, also, that similar treatment prevailed on board the Sally, another
ship on which he sailed. One of the seamen had both legs in irons, and a col-
lar about his neck, and was chained to the boat for three months, and very often
inhumanly beaten for complaining of his situation, both by the captain and
other officers. At last he became so weak that he could not sit upon the
thwart or seat of the boat to row, or do anything else. They then put him
out of the boat, and made him pick oakum on board the ship, with only three
pounds of bread a week, and half a pound of salt beef per day. He remain-
ed in that situation, with both his legs in irons, but the latter part of the time
without a collar. One evening he came aft, during the middle passage, to beg
something to eat, or he should die. The captain on this inhumanly beat him,
and used a great number of reproaches, and ordered him to go forward, and
die and be damned. The man died in the night. The ill treatment on board
the Sally was general.
As another particular instance, a landsman, one Edw. Hilton, was in the boat
watering, and complained of his being long in the boat without meat or drink.
The boatswain, being the officer, beat him with the boat's tiller, having nothing
else, and cut his dead in several places, so that when he come on board he was
all over blood. Mr. Towne asked him the reason of it. Hiton began to tell
him, but before he could properly tell the story, the mate came forward, (by
order of the captain) the surgeon and the boatswain, and all of them together
fell to beating him with their canes. The surgeon struck him on the side of
his eye, so that it afterwards mortified, and was lost. He immediately had both
his legs put in irons, and locked with a chain to the boat, until such
time as he became so weak that he was not able to remain any longer there.
He was then put on board the ship, and laid forwards, still in irons, very ill.
His allowance was immediately stopped, as it was the surgeon's opinion it was
the only method of curing any one of them who complained of illness. He
remained in that situation, after being taken out of the boat, for some weeks
after. During this time, Mr. Towne was obliged to go to Junk River, and
on his return he inquired for Hilton, and was told that he was lying before the
foremast, almost dead. He went and spoke to him. but Hilton seemed insen-
sible. The same day Mr. Towne received his orders to go a second time in
the shallop to Junk River. After he had gotten under weigh, the commander
of the shallop was ordered to bring to, and take Hilton in, and leave him on
shore any where. He lived that evening and night out, and died early the
next morning, and was thrown overboard off Cape Mesurado.
Mr. Falconbridge, being called upon also to speak to the ill usage of sea-
men, said that on board the Alexander, Captain M'Taggart, he has seen them
tied up and flogged with the cat frequently. He remembers also an instance
of an old man, who was boatswain of the Alexander, having one night some
words with the mate, when the boatswain was severely beaten, and had one or
two of his teeth knocked out. The boatswain said he would jump overboard;
upon which he was tied to the rail of the quarter-deck, and a pump-bolt put
into his mouth by way of gagging him. He was then untied, put under the
half-deck, and a sentinel put over him all night--in the morning he was re-
leased. Mr. Falconbridge always considered him as a quiet, inoffensive man.
In the same voyage a black boy was beaten every day, and one day after he
was so beaten, he jumped through on of the gun-ports of the cabin into the
river. A canoe was lying alongside, which dropped astern and picked him up.
Mr. Falconbridge gave him one of his own shirts to put on, and asked him if
he did not expect to be devoured by the sharks. The boy said he did, and
that it would be much better for him to be killed at once, than to be daily
treated with such cruelty.
Mr. Falconbridge remembers also, on board the same ship, that the black
cook one day broke a plate. For this he had a fish-gig darted at him, which
would certainly have destroyed him if he had not stooped or dropped down.
At another time also, the carpenter's mate had let his pitch-pot catch fire.
He and the cook were accordingly both tied up, stripped and flogged, but the
cook with the greatest severity. After that the cook had salt water and cay-
enne pepper rubbed on his back. A man also came on board at Bonny,
belonging to a little ship, (Mr. Falconbridge believes the captain's name was
Dodson, of Liverpool,) which had been overset at New Calabar. This man,
when he came on board, was in a convalescent state. He was severely beaten
one night, but for what cause Mr. Falconbridge knows not, upon which he
came to Mr. Falconbridge for something to rub his back with. Mr. Falcon-
bridge was told by the captain not to give him any thing, and the man was
desired to go forward. He went accordingly, and lay under the forecastle.
Mr. Falconbridge visited him very often, at which times he complained of his
bruises. He died in about three weeks from the time he was beaten. The
last words he ever spoke were, after shedding tears, "I cannot punish him,"
meaning the captain, "but God will." These are the most remarkable in-
stances which Mr. Falconbridge recollects. He says, however, that the ill
treatment was so general, that only three in this ship escaped being beaten out
of fifty persons.
To these instances, which fell under the eyes of the witnesses now cited, we
may add the observations of a gentleman who, though never in the slave-trade
had yet great opportunities of obtaining information upon this subject. Sir
George Young remarks, that those seamen whom he saw in the slave-trade,
while on the coast in a man-of-war, complained of their ill treatment, bad feed-
ing, and cruel usage. They all wanted to enter on board his ship. It was like-
wise the custom for the seamen of every ship he saw at a distance, to come on
board him with their boats; most of them quite naked, and threatening to turn
pirates if he did not take them. This they told him openly. He is persuaded,
if he had given them encouragement, and had a ship-of-the-line to have
manned, he could have done it in a very short time, for they would all have left
their ships. He has also received several seamen on board his ship from the
woods, where they had no subsistence, but to which they had fled for refuge
from their respective vessels.
That the above are not the only instances of barbarity contained in the evi-
dence, and that this barbarous usage was peculiar to, or springing out of the
very nature of the trade in slaves, may be insisted on the following accounts:
Captain Thompson concludes from the many complaints he received from
seamen, while on the coast, that they are far from being well treated on board
the slave-ships. One Bowden swam from the Fisher, of Liverpool, Captain
Kendal, to the Nautilus, amidst a number of sharks, to claim his protection.
Kendal wrote for the man, who refused to return, saying his life would be en-
dangered. He therefore kept him in the Nautilus till she was paid off, and
found him a diligent, willing, active seaman. Several of the crew, he thinks,
of the Brothers, of Liverpool, Captain Clark, swam towards the Nautilus,
when passing by. Two only reached her. The rest, he believes, regained
their own ship. The majority of the crew had the day before come on board
the Nautilus, in a boat, to complain of ill usage, be he had returned them
with an officer to inquire into and redress their complaints. He received many
letters from seamen in slave-ships, complaining of ill usage, and desiring him
to protect them, or take them on board. He is inclined to think that ships
trading in the produce of Africa, are not so ill used as those in the slave-ships.
Several of his own officers gave him the best accounts of the treatment in the
Iris, a vessel trading for wood, gums, and ivory, near which the Nautilus lay
for some weeks.
Lieutenant Simpson says that on his first voyage, when lying at Fort Appo-
lonia, the Fly Guineaman was in the roads. On the return of the Adventure's
boat from the fort, they were hailed by some seamen belonging to the Fly, re-
questing that they might be taken from on board the Guineaman, and put on
board the man-of-war, for that their treatment was such as to make their lives
miserable. The boat, by the direction of Captain Parry, was sent to the Fly,
and one or two men were brought on board him. In his second voyage, he re-
collects that on first seeing the Albion Guineaman, she carried a press of sail,
seemingly to avoid them, but finding it impracticable, she spoke them; the day
after which the captain of the Albion Guineaman, she carried a press of sail,
seemingly to avoid them, but finding it impracticable, she spoke them; the day
after which the captain of the Albion brought a seamen on board the Adven-
ture, whom he wished to be left there, complaining that he was a very riotous
and disorderly man. The man, on the contrary, proved very peaceable and
well-behaved, nor was there one single instance of his conduct from which he
could suppose he merited the character given him. He seemed to rejoice at
quitting the Albion, and informed Mr. Simpson that he was cruelly beaten both
by the captain and surgeon; that he was half starved; and that the surgeon
neglected the sick seamen, alleging that he was only paid for attending the
slaves. he also informed Mr. Simpson that their allowance of provisions was
increased, and their treatment somewhat better when a man-of-war was on the
coast. He recollects another instance of a seaman, with a leg shockingly ul-
cerated, requesting a passage in the Adventure to England; alleging that he
was left behind from a Guineaman. He alleged various instances of ill treat-
ment he had received, and confirmed the account of the sailor of the Albion,
that their allowonce of provisions was increased, and treatment better, when a
man-of-war was on the coast. During Mr. Simpson's stay at Cape Coast Cas-
tle, the Adventure's boat was sent to Annamaboe to the Spy Guineaman; on
her return, three men were concealed under her sails, who had left the slave-
ship; they complained that their treatment was so bad that their lives were
miserable on board--beaten and half starved. There were various other in-
stances which escaped his memory. Mr. Simpson says, however, that he has
never heard any complaints from West Indiamen, or other merchant ships; on
the contrary, they wished to avoid a man-of-war; whereas, if the captain of the
Adventure had listened to all the complaints made to him from sailors of slave-
ships, and removed them, he must have greatly distressed the African trade.
Captain Hall, of the navy, speaking on the same subject, asserts that as to
peculiar modes of punishment adopted in Guineamen, he once saw a man
chained by the neck in the main top of a slave-ship, when passing under the
stern of His majesty's ship Crescent, in Kingston-Bay, St. Vincent's; and was
told by part of the crew, taken out of the ship, at their own request, that the
man had been there one hundred and twenty days. He says he has great rea-
son to believe that in no trade are seamen so badly treated as in the slave-
trade, from their always flying to men-of-war for redress, and whenever they
came within reach; wheras men from West Indian or other trades seldom ap-
ply to a ship-of-war.
The last witness it will be necessary to cite is the Rev. Mr. Newton. This
gentleman agrees in the ill usage of the seamen alluded to, and believes that
the slave-trade itself is a great cause of it, for he thinks that the real or sup-
posed necessity of treating the negroes with rigor gradually brings a numness
upon the heart, and renders most of those who are engaged in it too indiffer-
ent to the sufferings of their fellow-creatures. If it should be asked how it
happened that seamen entered for slave-vessels, when such general ill usage
there could hardly fail of being known, the reply must be taken from the evi-
dence, "that whereas some of them enter voluntarily, the greater part of them
are trepanned, for that is the business of certain landlords to make them in-
toxicated, and get them into debt, after which their only alternative is a Guin-
eaman or a gaol."