Copyright
William Chambers.

Chambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) online

. (page 39 of 58)
Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 39 of 58)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


and satisfy himself respecting the state of the country, and other
points. This he accomplished in 1811, in the brig Traveller, with
which he reached Sierra Leone after a two months' passage. While
he was there, the British African Institution, hearing of his benevolent
designs, applied for and obtained a license, which induced Paul to
come to Britain with a cargo of African produce. He left his nephew,
however, behind him at Sierra Leone, to prosecute his disinterested
views, and brought away a native youth, in order to educate him,
and render him fit to educate others, on being restored to the place of
his birth.

On arriving at Liverpool with his brig, navigated by eight men of
colour and a boy, Paul Cuffee soon gained the esteem of all with
whom he held intercourse. He visited London twice, the second
visit being made at the request of the members of the African
Institution, who were desirous of consulting with him as to the best
means of carrying their benevolent views respecting Africa into
effect. This excellent and enterprising man shortly after returned
to America, to pass the remainder of his days in the bosom of his
family, and to do good to all around him, with the ample means
which his industry had acquired.

The following description is appended to a notice of him which
appeared in the Liverpool Mercury at the time of his visit to Britain,
and to which we have been indebted for the materials of the present
article : ' A sound understanding, united with indomitable energy
and perseverance, are the prominent features of Paul Cuffee's
character. Born under peculiar disadvantages, deprived of the
benefits of early education, and his meridian spent in toil and
vicissitudes, he has struggled under disadvantages which have
seldom occurred in the career of any individual. Yet, under the
pressure of these difficulties, he seems to have fostered dispositions
of mind which qualify him for any station of life to which he may



INTELLI(P T



, . . , j TT- -til, well formed, and athletic; his

be introduced. His person is ta d and . ^ His den

deportment conciliating yet digmfft T nQ d()ubt ded him

strengthened by parental care and e\ , c ' wh f ch unavoid .

m his youth, when exposed to the : disso^ . flu y encing his mind
ably attends a seafaring life; whilst rehj .^ . advancing man-
by its secret guidance in silent reflection^. ' ' d instit 5 ted or
hood, added to the brightness of his char^ ^ Latterl y, he made
confirmed his disposition to practical good. V, the respectable
application, and was received into membership wifh
Society of Friends.'



THE AMISTAD CAPTIVES.

The case of the ' Amistad Captives,' as they were termed, crea
considerable sensation in the United States ; and as little
nothing was known respecting them in England at the time \
write, we offer the following account, which we have collected fro;
materials in the work of Mr Sturge. d

During the month of August 1839, public attention was excite^
by several reports, stating that a vessel of suspicious and piratic^
character had been seen near the coast of the United States, in th~
vicinity of New York. This vessel was represented as a long, low'
black schooner, and manned by blacks. Government interfered!
and the steamer Fulton and several revenue-cutters were despatched
after her, and notice was given to the collectors at various seaports.

The suspicious-looking schooner proved to be the Amistad, and
it was eventually captured off Culloden Point by Lieutenant Gedney,
of the brig Washington. On being taken possession of, it was
found that the schooner was a Spanish vessel, in the hands of about
forty Africans,* one of whom, named Cinque, acted as commander.
They described themselves, with truth and consistency, to be persons
who had been originally carried off from their own country as slaves,
and taken to Havana to be sold ; bought there by two Spaniards,
Jose Ruiz and Pedro Montez, who shipped them on board the
Amistad, to be conveyed to a distant part of Cuba, at which was
Ruiz's estate ; and that, when at sea, they overpowered their oppres-
sors, killing the captain and part of the crew in the effort to regain
their liberty, and now wished to navigate the vessel homeward to
Africa. Ruiz and Montez they had not injured, but only placed in
confinement till an opportunity occurred for liberating them. Lieu-
tenant Gedney at once secured the whole as prisoners, and sent them
to Newhaven county jail, where they were detained by Ruiz and
Montez, who claimed them as their property, and caused them to be

* The exact number is not clearly stated by Mr Sturge : he speaks first of forty-four, and
afterwards of thirty-five : as it appears there were several children, perhaps thirty-five was
the number of individuals who took a share in the fray.



INTELLIGENT NEGROES.

indicted for piracy and murder. This was almost immediately dis-
posed of, on the ground that the charges, if true, were not cognisable
in the American courts ; the alleged offences having been perpetrated
on board a Spanish vessel. The whole were, however, still kept in
confinement ; the question remaining to be determined, whether they
should be handed over to the Spanish authorities of Cuba, who
loudly demanded them, or transmitted to the coast of Africa ?

It may be supposed that these proceedings excited a lively sensa-
tion among all the friends of the blacks in America, and every
proper means was adopted to procure the liberation of the unhappy
Africans. The American government finally came to the resolution
of delivering them up either as property or assassins ; and Van
Buren, the president, issued an order, January 7, 1840, to that effect.
But, after all, the order did not avail. The district judge, contrary
to all anticipations of the executive, decided that the negroes were
freemen ; that they had been kidnapped in Africa, and were fully
entitled to their liberty. They were accordingly set free, and allowed
to go where they pleased. This event gave great satisfaction to the
anti-slavery societies throughout the States ; and many persons
kindly volunteered to assist the late captives in their homeless and
utterly penniless condition. Lewis Tappan, a member of a com-
mittee of benevolent individuals, took a warm interest in their fate,
and was deputed by his brethren to make an excursion with some of
the Africans to different towns, in order to raise funds. In this he
was aided by Mr Deming and one or two others ; and by their
united efforts, several highly interesting public exhibitions were
accomplished, and some money collected. The Africans, it appears,
were natives of Mendi, and possessed no small degree of intelligence.
Ten were selected from among the number as being considered the
best singers, and most able to address an audience in English.
These were named Cinque, Banna, Si-si, Su-ma, Fuli, Ya-bo-i,
So-ko-ma, Kinna, Kali, and Mar-gru. Taken to Boston, they made
a deep impression on the large audiences which came to hear them
sing and tell the story of their capture. In a narrative written by
Mr Tappan, we find the following account of what occurred at one
of these exhibitions. After some preliminary statements, ' three of
the best readers were called upon to read a passage in the New
Testament. One of the Africans next related in 'Merica language'
their condition in their own country, their being kidnapped, the
sufferings of the middle passage, their stay at Havana, the trans-
actions on board the Amistad, &c. The story was intelligible to the
audience, with occasional explanations. They were next requested
to sing two or three of their native songs. This performance
afforded great delight to the audience. As a pleasing contrast, how-
ever, they sang immediately after one of the songs of Zion. This
produced a deep impression upon the audience ; and while these late
pagans were singing so correctly and impressively a hymn in a



INTELLIGENT NEGROES.

Christian church, many weeping eyes bore testimony that the act
and its associations touched a chord that vibrated in many hearts.
Cinque was then introduced to the audience, and addressed them in
his native tongue. It is impossible to describe the novel and deeply
interesting manner in which he acquitted himself. The subject of
his speech was similar to that of his countrymen who had addressed
the audience in English ; but he related more minutely and graphic-
ally the occurrences on board the Amistad. The easy manner of
Cinque, his natural, graceful, and energetic action, the rapidity of his
utterance, and the remarkable and various expressions of his coun-
tenance, excited the admiration and applause of the audience. He
was pronounced a powerful natural orator, and one born to sway the
minds of his fellow-men.

' The amount of the statements made by Kinna, Fuli, and Cinque,
and the facts in the case, are as follow : These Mendians belong to
six different tribes, although their dialects are not so dissimilar as to
prevent them from conversing together very readily. Most of them
belong to a country which they call Mendi, but which is known to
geographers and travellers as Kos-sa, and lies south-east of Sierra
Leone, as we suppose, from sixty to one hundred and twenty miles.
With one or two exceptions, these Mendians are not related to each
other ; nor did they know each other until they met at the slave
factory of Pedro Blanco, the wholesale trafficker in men, at Lomboko,
on the coast of Africa. They were stolen separately, many of them
by black men, some of whom were accompanied by Spaniards, as
they were going from one village to another, or were at a distance
from their abodes. The whole came to Havana in the same ship,
a Portuguese vessel named Tecora, except the four children, whom
they saw for the first time on board the Amistad. It seems that
they remained at Lomboko several weeks, until six or seven hundred
were collected, when they were put in irons, and placed in the hold
of a ship, which soon put to sea. Being chased by a British cruiser,
she returned, landed the cargo of human beings, and the vessel was
seized and taken to Sierra Leone for adjudication. After some time
the Africans were put on board the Tecora. After suffering the
horrors of the middle passage, they arrived at Havana. Here
they were put into a barracoon for ten days one of the oblong
enclosures without a roof, where human beings are kept, as they keep
sheep and oxen near the cattle-markets in the vicinity of our large
cities, until purchasers are found when they were sold to Jose Ruiz,
and shipped on board the Amistad, together with the three girls, and
a little boy who came on board with Pedro Montez. The Amistad
was a coaster, bound to Principe in Cuba, distant some two or three
hundred miles.

' The Africans were kept in chains and fetters, and were supplied
with but a small quantity of food or water. A single banana, they
say, was served out as food for a day or two, and only a small cup



INTELLIGENT NEGROES.

of water for each daily. When any of them took a little water from
the cask, they were severely flogged. The Spaniards took Antonio,
the cabin-boy, and slave to Captain Ferrer, and stamped him on the
shoulder with a hot iron, then put powder, palm-oil, &c. upon the
wound, so that they " could know him for their slave." The cook, a
coloured Spaniard, told them that, on their arrival at Principe, in
three days they would have their throats cut, be chopped in pieces,
and salted down for meat for the Spaniards, He pointed to some
barrels of beef on the deck, then to an empty barrel, and by signifi-
cant gestures as the Mendians say, by " talking with his fingers "
he made them understand that they were to be slain, &c. At
four o'clock that day, when they were called on deck to eat, Cinque
found a nail, which he secreted under his arm. In the night they
held a council as to what was best to be done. " We feel bad," said
Kinna, " and we ask Cinque what we had best do. Cinque say :
' Me think, and by and by I tell you.' He then said : ' If we do
nothing, we be killed. We may as well die in trying to be free, as
to be killed and eaten.'" Cinque afterwards told them what he
would do. With the aid of the nail, and the assistance of another,
he freed himself from the irons on his wrists and ankles, and from
the chain on his neck. He then, with his own hands, wrested the
irons from the limbs and necks of his countrymen.

' It is not in my power to give an adequate description of Cinque
when he shewed how he did this, and led his comrades to the
conflict, and achieved their freedom. In my younger years I saw
Kemble and Siddons, and the representation of Othello, at Covent
Garden ; but no acting that I ever witnessed came near that to
which I allude. When delivered from their irons, the Mendians,
with the exception of the children, who were asleep, about four or
five o'clock in the morning, armed with cane-knives, some boxes of
which they found in the hold, leaped upon the deck. Cinque killed
the cook. The captain fought desperately. He inflicted wounds on
two of the Africans, who soon after died, and cut severely one or two
of those who now survive. Two sailors leaped over the side of the
vessel. The Mendians say : " They could not catch land they
must have swum to the bottom of the sea ;" but Ruiz and Montez
supposed they reached the island in a boat. Cinque now took com-
mand of the vessel, placed Si-si at the rudder, and gave his people
plenty to eat and drink. Ruiz and Montez had fled to the hold.
They were dragged out, and Cinque ordered them to be put in
irons. They cried, and begged not to be put in chains ; but Cinque
replied : " You say fetters good for negro ; if good for negro, good
for Spanish man too ; you try them two days, and see how you feel."
The Spaniards asked for water, and it was dealt out to them in the
same little cup with which they had dealt it out to the Africans.
They complained bitterly of being thirsty. Cinque said : " You say
little water enough for nigger ; if little water do for him, a little do

93



INTELLIGENT NEGROES.

for you too." Cinque said the Spaniards cried a great deal ; he felt
very sorry ; only meant to let them see how good it was to be treated
like the poor slaves. In two days the irons were removed, and then,
said Cinque, we gave them plenty water and food, and treat them
very well. Kinna stated, that as the water fell short, Cinque would
not drink any, nor allow any of the rest to drink anything but salt
water, but dealt out daily a little to each of the four children, and
the same quantity to each of the two Spaniards ! In a day or two
Ruiz and Montez wrote a letter, and told Cinque that, when they
spoke a vessel, if he would give it to them, the people would take
them to Sierra Leone. Cinque took the letter, and said : " Very
well;" but afterwards told his brethren: "We have no letter in
Mendi. I don't know what is in the letter there may be death in
it. So we will take some iron and a string, bind them about the
letter, and send it to the bottom of the sea."

' At the conclusion of the meeting, some linen and cotton table-
cloths and napkins, manufactured by the Africans, were exhibited,
and eagerly purchased of them by persons present, at liberal prices.
They are in the habit of purchasing linen and cotton at the shops,
unravelling the edges about six to ten inches, and making with their
fingers net fringes, in imitation, they say, of ' Mendi fashion.' Large
numbers of the audience advanced and took Cinque and the rest by
the hand. The transactions of this meeting have thus been stated
at length, and the account will serve to shew how the subsequent
meetings were conducted, as the services in other places were
similar.

' These Africans, while in prison (which was the greater part of
the time they have been in this country), learned but little compara-
tively; but since they have been liberated, they are anxious to learn,
as they said " it would be good for us in our own country." Many
of them write well, read, spell, and sing well, and have attended to
arithmetic. The younger ones have made great progress in study.
Most of them have much fondness for arithmetic. They have also
cultivated, as a garden, fifteen acres of land, and have raised a
large quantity of corn, potatoes, onions, beets, &c. which will be
useful to them at sea. In some places we visited, the audience were
astonished at the performance of Kali, who is only eleven years of
age. He could not only spell any word in either of the Gospels, but
spell sentences, without any mistake ; such sentences as, " Blessed
are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth," naming each letter
and syllable, and recapitulating as he went along, until he pronounced
the whole sentence. Two hundred and seven dollars were received
at this meeting.'

Mr Tappan concludes as follows : 'On Wednesday, there is to be
a large farewell meeting at Farmington ; and in a few days the
Mendians will embark from New York. May the Lord preserve
them, and carry them safely to their native land, to their kindred

84



INTELLIGENT NEGROES.

and homes ! Su-ma, the eldest, has a wife and five children ;
Cinque has a wife and three children. They all have parents or
wives, or brothers and sisters. What a meeting it will be with
these relations and friends when they are descried on the hills ot
Mendi ! We were invited to visit other places, but time did not
allow of longer absence. I must not forget to mention, that the
whole band of these Mendians are teetotalers. At a tavern where
we stopped, Banna took me aside, and with a sorrowful countenance
said : " This bad house bar house no good." But the steam-boat
is at the wharf, and I must close. The collections in money, on
this excursion of twelve days, are about a thousand dollars, after
deducting travelling expenses. More money is needed to defray the
expenses of the Mendians to their native land, and to sustain their
religious teachers.'

Being unanimous in the desire to return to their native country,
the Mendian negroes, thirty-five in number, embarked from New
York for Sierra Leone, November 27, 1841, on board the barque
Gentleman, Captain Morris, accompanied by five missionaries and
teachers ; their stay in the United States, as Mr Sturge observes,
having been of immense service to the anti-slavery cause ; and there
was reason to hope that, under their auspices, Christianity and
civilisation may be introduced into their native country.



IGNATIUS SANCHO.

When the subject of slavery was much agitated towards the end
of the last century, one of the most effective advocates for its aboli-
tion was a free black living in London in the capacity of valet or
butler to a family of distinction. This individual had been born in
a slave vessel bound for Carthagena, in South America, his father
and mother being destined for the slave-market there. Shortly after
their arrival his mother died, and his father committed suicide in
despair. The little slave child was carried to England by his
master, and made a present of to a family of three maiden sisters
residing at Greenwich. Being of a droll and humorous disposition,
he earned for himself the nickname of Sancho, after Don Quixote's
squire ; and ever afterwards he called himself Ignatius Sancho.
The Duke of Montague, who was a frequent visitor at the house of
Sancho's mistresses, took an interest in him, lent him books, and
advised his mistresses to have him educated. At length, on their
death, he entered the service of the Duchess of Montague in the
capacity of butler ; and on the death of the duchess, he was left an
annuity of thirty pounds. This, added to seventy pounds which he
had saved during the period of his service, might have enabled him
to establish himself respectably in life ; but for a while Sancho pre-
ferred the dissipated life of a wit about town, indulging in pleasures

35



INTELLIGENT NEGROES.

beyond his means, and hanging on about the green-rooms of
theatres. On one occasion he spent his last shilling at Drury Lane
to see Garrick act ; and it is said that Garrick was very fond of his
negro admirer. Such was Sancho's theatrical enthusiasm, that he
proposed at one time to act negro parts on the stage ; but as his
articulation was imperfect, this scheme had to be given up. After
.an interval of idleness and dissipation, Sancho's habits became
more regular, and he married an interesting West India girl, by
whom he had a large family. At this period of his life Sancho
devoted himself earnestly to the cause of negro freedom. His
reputation as a wit and humorist still continued ; and his acquaint-
ances were of no mean sort. After his death, two volumes of his
letters were published, with a fine portrait of the author ; and in
these letters his style is said to resemble that of Sterne. As a
specimen, we subjoin a letter of his to Sterne, with Sterne's reply.

' REVEREND SIR It would be an insult on your humanity (or
perhaps look like it) to apologise for the liberty I am taking. I am
one of those people whom the vulgar and illiberal call negroes.
The first part of my life was rather unlucky, as I was placed in a
family who judged ignorance the best and only security for obedi-
ence. A little reading and writing I got by unwearied application.
The latter part of my life has been, through God's blessing, truly
fortunate, having spent it in the service of one of the best and
.greatest families in the kingdom ; my chief pleasure has been books :
philanthropy I adore. How very much, good sir, am I (amongst
millions) indebted to you for the character of your amiable Uncle
Toby ! I declare I would walk ten miles in the dog-days to shake
hands with the honest corporal. Your sermons have touched me to
the heart, and I hope have amended it, which brings me to the
point. In your tenth discourse, page seventy-eight, in the second
volume, is this very affecting passage. " Consider how great a part
of our species in all ages down to this have been trod under the feet
of cruel and capricious tyrants, who would neither hear their cries
nor pity their distresses. Consider slavery, what it is, how bitter a
draught, and how many millions are made to drink of it.' Of all
my favourite authors, not one has drawn a tear in favour of my
miserable black brethren excepting yourself and the humane author
of Sir George Ellison. I think you will forgive me ; I am sure you
will applaud me for beseeching you to give one half-hour's attention
to slavery, as it is at this day practised in our West Indies. That
subject, handled in your striking manner, would ease the yoke
perhaps of many ; but if only of one gracious God ! what a feast to
a benevolent heart ! and sure I am you are an epicurean in acts of
charity. You who are universally read, and as universally admired
you could not fail. Dear sir, think in me you behold the uplifted
hands of thousands of my brother Moors. Grief, you pathetically
26



INTELLIGENT NEGROES.

observe, is eloquent : figure to yourself their attitudes ; hear their
supplicating addresses ! Alas ! you cannot refuse. Humanity
must comply ; in which hope I beg permission to subscribe myself,
reverend sir, &c. IGNATIUS SANCHO.'

STERNE'S REPLY.

' COXWOULD, July 27, 1767.

' There is a strange coincidence, Sancho, in the little events (as
well as in the great ones) of this world ; for I had been writing a
tender tale of the sorrows of a friendless poor negro girl, and my
eyes had scarce done smarting with it, when your letter of recom-
mendation in behalf of so many of her brethren and sisters came to
me. But why her brethren, or yours, Sancho, any more than mine ?
It is by the finest tints and most insensible gradations that nature
descends from the fairest face about St James's to the sootiest com-
plexion in Africa. At which tint of these is it, that the ties of blood
are to cease ? and how many shades must we descend lower still in
the scale, ere mercy is to vanish with them ? But 'tis no uncommon
thing, my good Sancho, for one half of the world to use the other
half of it like brutes, and then endeavour to make 'em so. For my
own part, I never look westward (when I am in a pensive mood at
least), but I think of the burthens which our brothers and sisters are
there carrying, and could I ease their shoulders from one ounce of
them, I declare I would set out this hour upon a pilgrimage to Mecca
for their sakes which, by the by, Sancho, exceeds your walk of ten
miles in about the same proportion that a visit of humanity should
one of mere form. However, if you meant my Uncle Toby more, he



Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 39 of 58)