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in getting slaves.

When three or four hundred slaves are put
in the hold of a vessel in a hot climate, their
breathing soon affects the air. Were that
number of free people to go passengers with
all things proper for their voyage, there would
inconvenience arise from their number; but
slaves are taken by violence, and they fre-
quently endeavour to kill the white people,
that they may return to their native land.
Hence they are kept under confinement, by
means of which a scent ariseth in the hold of
a ship, and distempers oflen break out amongst
them, of which many die. Of this tainted air
in the hold of ships freighted with slaves, I
have had several accounts, some in print and
some verbal, and all agree that the scent is
grievous. When these people are sold in
America and in the islands, they are made to
labour in a manner more servile and constant,
than that which they were used to at home,
that with grief, with difierent diet from what
has been common with them, and with hard
labour, some thousands are computed to die
every year, in what is called the seasoning.*



* In perusing the writings of this worthy man,
the reader cannot fail to oberve how large a por-
tion of his attention was occupied in contemplating
the wronffs and cruelties of txeero slavery and the
slave trade, and how deeply ana tenderly he sym-
pathised with the sufiering victuns of those crying
evila The firm but temperate tone of his writmgB
in relation to them, and his earnest and mewing
remonstrances with the oppressors, are models
worthy of imitation. It is the benign, the just
and the mercifiil spirit of the Gospel which must
eradicate slavery from our country if it is done Ir^
peacefiil methods; and the closer we keep to the
leadings of this spirit, the more snccessfbl will be
our em>rts in this righteous cause. If the evfls
attendant on slavery, occasioned so much painfid
concern and exercise of mind to John Woolman,
at the time in which he lived, how much more
deeply would he sufier now, when the number of
its helpless victuns is so vastly multiplied. We
must not admit the idea, that praiseworthy as were
his sympathy and benevolent exertkms on belulf
of these oppressed people, they were suited to
other times and other circumstances than those
under which we live, and that we are exempted
fix)m the obligation of those principles and feelmgs
which actuated him and his fellow-labourers in the
cause of sufiering humanity. Within these United
States, more than two millions of our fellow-beings
are groaning under the wrongs and cruelties of
hopelesB, unconditkxnal bondage, and we cannot



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LIFE OP JOHN WOOLMAN.



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Thus it appears evident, that great numbers
of these people are brought every year to an
untimely end ; many of them being persons
who never injured us.

Where the innocent sufier under hard-



doubt but that the sighs and the tears extorted
from them by the iron hand of oppression, ore no-
ticed by that ffracious and impartial Being, who
made of one blood all the families of the earth,
and who declares himself to be the refuge of the
poor, the refuge of the needy in his distress.

Since the enactment of laws for the abolishment
of the foreign slave trade and declaring it piracy,
it has claimed but a small share of the public at-
tention, and the idea seems to have obtained con-
siderable currency, that it had nearly ceased. But
the truth is, that not only the extent of the traffic
is greatly increased, but the horrors and cruelties
attendant on its prosecution are dreadfully aggra-
vated. The trade being contraband, the vessels
employed in it are constructed for fast sailing, in
order to elude the vigilance of the cruisers who
are watching them. This mode of construction
diminishes the space allowed the poor slaves and
increases their sufferings to a frightful degree,
while the laws which regulated 3ie niunber of
slaves taken on board, in proportion to the tonnage
of the vessel, and made some other humane pro-
visions to lessen their sufferings, are of course all
inoperative. Thus the wretched victims of this
abominable traffic are wholly at the mercy of a
class of men, who seem actuated only by cupidity
and the worst passions which degrade the human
species.

The following statements founded mainly on
official documents, will give some idea of the pre-
sent state of the foreign slave-trade.

It appears that after making ample allowance
for all doubtful cases, not less than one hundred
and fifty thousand slaves are annually imported
from Africa into Cuba, Brazil and Porto Rico, be-
sides a large number, (not less than fifty thousand
more) who are carried every year to Texas, the
United States and other countries.

As these slaves are chiefly the victims of rapine,
or prisoners taken in predatory warfare, the num-
ber who are killed in procuring them is great, not
less probably than those who are captured. During
the long forced marches to the sea coast, over
burning sands, destitute of food and of water, and
sabjected to ^eat cruelties, vast numbers perish ;
and while waiting for a market at the places of
deposit on the sea-board, contagious diseases and
sickness occasioned by grief, confinement and
starvation, occasion great mortality.

On the passage across the Atlantic, it is well
ascertained, that the deaths are fully twenty-five
per cent of the whole number 8him)ed ; and of
those who are landed at the places of destination,
twenty per cent die in the seasoning and from
other causes.

Thus we are warranted in the conclusion, that
at a moderate estimate, for the two hundred thou-
sand slaves annually taken from Africa, three
hundred thousand are sacrificed, and that the con-
tinent is thus despoiled of half a million of its in-
habitants every year.

Vol. IV.— No. 11.



hearted men, even unto death, and the chan-
nels of equity are so obstructed, that the
cause of the sufferers is not judged in righte-
ousness, *' the land is polluted with blood."
Where blood hath been shed unrighteously,



We have already said that many of the slaves
were prisoners of war:

These wars are not the consequence -of a dis-
position naturally quarrelsome, but are the imme-
diate offspring of cupidity, sharpened up and roused
to action by the arrival of a slave ship. Others of
these wretched bein^ are the innocent victims of
a corrupt system of jurisprudence, which owes its
existence to the same nruitful source of human
misery. This unjust system places the poor na-
tives wholly at the mercy of^ the petty despots
who rule the country. He who has enriched him-
self by his industry, or who has a numerous family
of fine children, the sale of which would produce
a handsome sum, seldom escapes the notice of his
chieftain. Crimes are invented and promoted, and
accusations multiplied, solely with the hope of
procuring condemnations, the punishment annexed
to which is, * Sale to the Slave Merchant' Many
are the victims of a system of avowed rapine and
plunder — ^peacefully pursuing their agricultural or
mechanical occupations, they are seized by ruffians
who had concealed themselves in ambush, are
gag'ged, bound, and borne away to the slave ship.
All these are the effects of the strong temptations
held out by the white men who visit their shores,
to procure cargoes of slaves; for the natives, when
unprovoked by their artifices, evince mild and pa-
cific dispositions ; but no sooner does a ship drop
anchor, than avarice, hatred, revenge, and all the
malevolent passions which agitate the human
breast, seem at once roused into action.

Upon the authority of Mungo Parke, an eye
witness of the facts, and whose mteresting travels
in Africa are before the public, we state the fol-
lowing fects : — Those who are captured or stolen
in the vicinity of the sea coast, suffer compara-
tively but little from the fiitigue of travelling; but
such as are brought from the interior of the coun-
try endure die most grievous sufierinffs during a
ioumey of several moons, over rugged rocks and
burning sands, and through inhospitable and dan-
gerous deserts. They are secured by locking the
right leg of one and the left leg of another in the
same pair of fetters, which they must support by
a string in order to enable them to walk without
very great torture. Every four slaves are tied
together by a rope of strong twisted thon^ passed
round their necks, and at ni^t an additional pair
of fetters is put upon their hands. The scorching
heat of the sun and sand, the weight of their irons,
added to the burdens which they are compelled to
carry, weary and oppress them to so dreadful a
degree as to induce sickness, vomiting, and fre-

auently fainting; but regardless of their sufferings,
[ley are goaded and spurred alon^ by the cruel
application of the lacerating lash, tillmany actually
expire under tiheir complicated miseries.

In an investigation into the character and

effects of the slave-trade, which took place before

a committee of the British Parliament, numerous

witnesses who were examined under the solemn

56



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434



LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



and remains unatoned for, the cry thereof is
very piercing.

Under the hambling dispensations of Divine
Providence, this cry hath deeply affected my
heart, and I feel a concern to open, as I may



obligation of an oath or affirmation, agree in stating
that when on board the vessels, the slaves appear
melancholy and dejected, that many continue so
during the whole of the voyage, and that their
dejection evidently arises irom the anguish of
their feelings on being separated forever from
their country, their homes, meir beloved fiunilies
and friends. From the same respectable and au-
thentic source we draw the followm^ information:
The men are chained together in paurs — ^the right
leg of one is fettered to the left leg of another, in
which situation they are stowed into the hold of
the vessel — ^the women and children, however, are
not chained and ironed like the men. When the
weather is fiur, they are brought up out of their
prisons for tiie benefit of a pure air, and to take
their m^s. For this purpose the men are dis-
tributed on the deck in long rows, two by two,
from head to stem, but to prevent their rising, and
to secure tl^em from jumping overboard, which
they often attempt, a long cham is passed through
the irons of each couple and locked down to the
deck at both ends.

When the vessel is full, their condition is
wretched indeed. In the best regulated ships, a
full grown man has no more space allowed him to
lie upon than sixteen inches, which is less than
he would have in a coffin — while the heic^it of
llie apartment is about thirty-two inches. There
are few vessels, however, in which even this lim-
ited space is allowed them. In many they are so
closely stowed that the poor creatures are com-
pelled to lie upon their sides, while the top of the
hold in which they are crammed is so very low as
wholly to prevent their sitting upright Beside
all Uiese evils, they are entirely na&ed, and lie
upon the bare boards, in which situation the con-
stant motion of the vessel bruises and excoriates
difierent parts of their bodies«-the rubbing of their
irons lacerates and inflames their legs, occasioning
constant torture, from which they can seldom pro-
cure even the smallest intermission.

But horrible beyond all description, are the
agonies which they endure, when it blows a heavy
gale, and the hatches and gratings are of necessity
shut down. No language can possibly portray even
a fiiint picture of their deplorable condition. In
the extremity of anguish Uiey are often heard to
cry out in the language of their country, •* We
are dying! We are dying!*' Imagine to yourselves
several hundreds of human beings shut up close
in the hold of a vessel in a warm climate, the cir-
culation of air wholly excluded, while liie heat,
the excretions of their bodies, and the filth of the
boards the^r lie upon, are emitting the most noi-
some effluvia - add to this, the dreadful effecta of
the increased motion of the vessel, the shrieks of
the swooning, and the groans of the dymg, and
your imagination may present some idea of what
these miserable beings are compelled to sufiler in
a voyage to our country. The steam which comes
at this time from their bodies, and which ascends



be enabled, that which Iteth heavy on my
mind.

When " the iniquity of the house of Israel
and of Judah was exceedingly great, when
the land was defiled with blood, and the



through the little crevices of the gratings, has
been compared by some of the witnesses, to that
which issues fix)m the mouth of a fiimace. Many
of them feinting from the heat, stench and cor-
rupted air, have been brought upon deck in a dy-
ineStBitBf while others have actually expired of
sunbcation, who but a few hours before were in
apparent health. Horrible as this descriptioii mav
appear, many circumstances are omitted which
would greatly ag^avate it. We can refer to the
most credible testimony for cases, where they have
been affiicted with contagious diseases, especially
the flux, when, says one of the witnesses, the floor
of their prison was covered with blood and mucus
like that of a slaughter-house. — See the Evidence
before the Cmnmittee of Parliament before refer-
red ta

It is not surprising that these poor creatnres,
groaning under the horrors of such complicated
misery should seek that relief in death, which
they have no reason to hope for from any other
source, and hence it is that opportunities for de-
stroying themselves are anxiously watched for and
seized with an aviditv almost beyond belief The
most common method of effecting this, is by throw-
ing themselves into the sea, although every ave-
nue of escape by such means is carefully guarded.
Tlie men are not only locked to the deck as before
mentioned, but strong nettings are fastened around
the ship which reach from i& deck to a oonsideni-
ble height in the rigffing. But notwithstanding
these precautions, and uie terrible example ef
shooting some who attempt to leap overboard, the
instances where they thus destroy themselves are
numerous, and where they are mistrated in the
attempt this way, they resort to other means to ob-
tain their object The keenest foresight on the part
of their oppressors cannot always prevent them.
When rop^ have been left about me deck, some
have seized the opportunity and strangled them-
selves — when small instruments, or even pieces ci
iron have come within their reach, others have
been discovered to have made mortal wounds with
them upon their bodies, and many to whom all
these means have failed, resolutely refuse to take
any sustenance, when after pining in great miseiy
for several days, the welcome hand of death has
at last terminated their sufferings. Numerous are
Uie instances of females of very delicate tempera-
ment of body and mind, whose feelings are more
tender, and who have a more acute sense of their
situation, but possess less resolution, where a con-
tinually increasing melancholy has terminated in
madness, in which pitiable condition they have re-
mained for the short remnant of their days. Sack
are the melancholy scenes which are continually
passing on board the slave ships ftom the period
of leaving the coast of Africa, until they arrive at
the place of destination, during- which tune a con-
siderable mortality occurs. From the evidence
before quoted, it appears that out of seven thou-
sand nine hundred and four slaves who sailed with



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LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



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city full of perrerseness ; some were found
sighing and crying for the abominations of
the times." And those who live under a right
feeling of our condition as a nation, I trust
will be sensible that the Lord at this day doth
call to mourning, though many are ignorant
of it. So powerful are bad customs when



the witnesses at different times, two thousand and
fifty-three perished in the short space of six or
eight weeks, though all of them were voung and
h^thy when brought on board — the oldest slave
seldom being more than twentjr-five vears of age.
What a murderous, what a cruel devastation of
the human race is hereby occasioned ! What an
impious rebellion against the will and the designs
of a beneficent Providence !

It is impossible that men can firequently partici-
pate in such scenes as those we have been endeav-
ouring to describe, without becoming hardened in
cruelty and in wickedness. There is no doubt that
manv when they first commence this diabolical
employ, find it necessary to suppress and stifle the
feelings of humanity; but every suppression of
benevolent feeling does vblence to the tenderness
of the human heart; it steels and blunta its virtu-
ous sensibility, and prepares it ibr the commission
of acts of greater atrocity. Such is precisely the
case of slave trader& Bydegrees they are brought
to view with indifierence, and then to perpetrate
acta of the most shocking barbarity — acts, the bare
recital of which would cause a feelmg mind to
shudder with aUiorrence. — ^They are taught by
repeated cruelties, to regard the cries, the tears,
aiid the sufierings of a fellow-creature whom they
have purchased, no more than they would the
drownmg of a fly! To the truth of our assertions
let the following facts testify:

'^ On board a fereiffn ship called the Zon^, many
of the slaves had died, and the mortality was
spreading so rapidly that the captain began to fear
he shoum lose them all. He therefore came to
the diabolical resolution of selectinfif those who
were the most sickly and throwing ttiem into the
eea, conceivinff that if he could plead a necessity
fer the deed, the loss of the slaves would fidl upon
the underwriters. The plea which he proposea to
set up, was want of water, though neither the crew
nor the slaves had been put upon allowance. He
selected accordmgly one hundred and thirty-two
of the most sickly, fifty-feur of whom were imme-
diately thrown overboard, and ferty-two on the
succeeding day. But here the wretch was left with-
out the shadow of an excuse, fer a shower of rain
came on, which lasted fer three day& Notwith-
standing this, the remaining twenty-six were
brought on deck to diare the same fete. The first
sixteen submitted to be thrown into the sea, but
the remainder would not permit any of the crew
to touch them, but leaped in after their compan-
ions. These circumstances were all fblly proved
befere a court of justice, held at Guildhall, in Lon-
don, in the prosecution of a suit brought to recover
their value fh>m the insurers — the result of which
however, was, that the loss was adjudged to fidl
upon the owners.

** The case of the Rodeur, captain B , a French
vessel of two hundred tons burden, is remarkable.



they become general, that people growing
bold through the example one of another,
have often been unmoveid at the most serious
warnings.

Our blessed Saviour speaking of the people
of the old world, said, «*They eat, they drank,
they married and were given in marriage,



She left Havre fer the coast of Africa, where she
arrived and anchored before Bonny, in the river
Calabar, and took in a cargo of slaves, contrary to
the French law fer the ab^tion of the trade. She
soon after sailed with them fer Gaudaloupe. Li
about a fortnight, when the vessel had nearly
reached the Equator, a dreadfel ophthalmia, sore
ejeBf broke out among the negroes, and spread
with alarming rapidity. By the advice of the sur-
geon to the ship, the negroes, who tUl then had
been confined to the bold, were successively
brought upon deck, in order that they might
breame a purer air ; but it soon became necessary
to abandon this salutary measure, fer nuuiy of
them leaped into the sea, embracing each o&eiv
undaunted by the severity of the captain, who
made a temble example by diooting some and
hanging others who attempted it The danger of
the disease, and probably the cause of the conta-
gion were increased, byavblent dysentery, which
now broke out among them. The disorder in-
creased daily, as well as the number of those who
became blind ; and it spread with such alarming
rapidity among the crew, that in a little time there
was only one man left who could steer the ship.
At this period a lar^e ship approached the Rodeur,
which appeared to oe totally at the mercy of the
winds iad waves. She was the Spanish slave
ship St Leon. Her crew, hearing the voices of
the Rodeur's men, cried out most vehemently for
help. They told Uie melancholy tale as they pass-
ed along, that the contagion had seized the eyes
of all on board, and that there was not one indi-
vidual left, either sailor or slave, who could see!
But alas— this pitiable tale of woe was utterly in
vain — ^no helo could be given them — the St Leoa
passed on ana was never heard of more 1

** At length by a concurrence of very fkvourable
circumstances, and the skill and perseverance of
one man, who only preserved his sight unimpaired,
the Rodeur reached Gaudaloupe. By this time
thirty-nine of the slaves had become blind, twelve
had lost one eye and fourteen were afiected with
blemishes. Out of the crew consisting of twenty-
two, twelve had lost their sight, among whom was
the surgeon, five had become blind of one eye, and
four o^ers were partially injured.

**lNow what will the reader suppose was the
first aet of this captain and crew when they
found themselves safely entering the port of Gau-
ddoupe? Doubtless he will imagine they were
employed in returning unfeipied thanks to God
for so signal and so unmerited a deliverance. But
he will mistake if he thinks sa They possessed
neither gratitude to God nor humanity towards his
creatures. Destitute of every virtuous and tender
feelmg, they evinced their impious iiu^ratitude by
absolutely throwing into the sea all those slaves,
to the number of uiirty-nine, who were incurably
blind. This they did upon the wicked plea that if



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436



LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



unlii the day that Noah went ioto the ark,
and the flood came and destroyed them all."
The like he spoke cooceroiog the people of
Sodom, who are also represented by the pro-
phet, as haughty, luxurious and oppressive ;



they carried them on shore nobody would purchase
them, and they would of course be at the expense
of their maintenance ; and further, by fei^ing an
act of necessity, they might claim their vdue mm
the underwritera"

Sir George Collier of the Tartar frigate, gave
chase to a vessel supposed to be a slave ship. In
the course of the chase several casks were ob-
served to be floating in the sea, which the Tartar
^passed. After a long pursuit they boarded her,
"and she proved to be the La Jeune Estelle, of Mar-
tinique, Olympia Sanguines, master. The captain
declared that he had no slaves on board, having
been plundered of them by a Spanish pirate. The
agitation and alarm which marked every counte-
nance on board the vessel, excited stronff suspi-
cions in the mind of the chief officer of Uie Tar-
tar, and he ordered the hold to be searched.
During the examination one of the sailors hap-
pened to strike a cask which was tightly closed
up, when he heard a faint sound issue from it like
the voice of some creature expiring. The cask
was immediately opened, when two slave girls,
about twelve or fourteen years of age, in the last
stage of suffocation were found packed up in it.
They were carried on board the Tartar, revived
by the fresh air, and were thus saved from a mise-
rable death. These girls, when brought on the
deck of the Tartar, were recognised by a person
who had seen them in their own country, and who
had been taken from another slave ship, as being
the property of captain Richards, of the schooner
Swift, of New York. An investigation afterwards
took place, in the course of which, it appeared in
evidence that captain Richards had died at Trade
town on the coast of Africa, leaving behind him
fourteen slaves of whom these girls were a part;
and that afler his death, captain Sanguines had
landed his men armed with swords and pistols, and
carried off the whole fourteen slaves on board the
Jeune Estelle. Sir George Collier conceiving that
the other twelve might possibly be concealed m the
vessel, ordered her re-searched. The result was
that a neffro man, not however of the twelve, was
rescued mm death. A platform of loose boards
had been raised upon the water casks of tlie ves-



Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds → online text (page 94 of 104)