The Author sails for the Coast of Africa: Manner of purchasing Negro Slaves.
ON the eighteenth of July, one thousand seven hundred and eighty eight, I received orders, from my captain, to join the ship in the Downs. I accord|ingly took passage in a post chaise; and, after a rapid journey of seventy four miles, arrived, the same afternoon at Deal; and the next morning entered as surgeon, on board the ship Sympathy, of three hundred tons, and thirty eight men, Page 187 Captain Sydney Russell commander; bound to the coast of Africa, thence to Barbadoes, and to South Carolina with a cargo of slaves.
We were favoured with a clear sky and pleasant gales; and, after a short and a|greeable voyage, we touched at Porto San|to, one of the Madeira isles; where we watered and supplied ourselves with fresh provisions in abundance, to which the captain added, at my request, a quan|tity of Madeira, malmsey, and tent wines, for the sick. We had a fine run, from the Madeiras to the Canary isles. The morning after we sailed, I was highly gratified with a full view of the island and peak of Teneriff; which made its ap|pearance the day before, rising above the ocean, at one hundred miles distance. We anchored off Fuertuventura one of the Canaries, in a good bottom. I went on shore, with the mate, to procure green vegetables; as I ever esteemed them the Page 188 specific for that dreadful sea disorder, the scurvy. Before we had reached the Ma|deiras, though I had stored our medicine chest with the best antiscorbutics, and we had a plenty of dried vegetables on board, yet the scurvy had began to infect us. A plentiful distribution of green veg|etables, after our arrival at Porto Santo, soon expelled it from the crew. At Fu|ertuventura, I was delighted with the wild notes of the Canary bird, far surpassing the most excellent of those I had seen in cages, in the United States.
I was anxious to visit the Cape de Verd islands; but, our course being too far east, we ran down to the little island of Coree, to which the contentious of the English and French crowns have annexed its only importance. The French officers received us with politeness, and were ex|tremely anxious for news, from their pa|rent country. Soon after, we dropt an|chor off Loango city, upon a small Page 189 well peopled island, near the coast of Congo or lower Guinea, in possession of the Portuguese. Our captain carried his papers on shore, and, the next day, weigh|ed anchor and stood in for the continent. All hands were now employed to unlade the ship, and the cargo was deposited in a Portuguese factory, at a place called Cacongo, near the mouth of the river Zaire. The day after our arrival at Ca|congo, several Portuguese and Negro mer|chants, hardly distinguishable however, by their manners, employments, or com|plexions, came to confer with the captain, about the purchase of our cargo of slaves. They contracted to deliver him two hun|dred and fifty head of slaves, in fifteen days' time. To hear these men converse upon the purchase of human beings, with the same indifference, and nearly in the same language, as if they were contract|ing for so many head of cattle or swine, shocked me exceedingly. But, when I Page 190 suffered my imagination to rove to the habitation of these victims to this infa|mous, cruel commerce, and fancied that I saw the peaceful husbandman dragged from his native farm; the fond husband torn from the embraces of his belov|ed wife; the mother, from her babes; the tender child, from the arms of its pa|rent; and all the tender, endearing ties of natural and social affection rended by the hand of avaricious violence, my heart sunk within me. I execrated myself, for even the involuntary part I bore in this execrable traffic: I thought of my native land and blushed. When the captain kindly inquired of me how many slaves I thought my privilege in the ship entitled me to transport, for my adventure, I reject|ed my privilege, with horrour; and declar|ed I would sooner suffer servitude than purchase a slave. This observation was received in the great cabin with repeated bursts of laughter, and excited many a Page 191 stroke of coarse ridicule. Captain Rus|sell observed, that he would not insist upon my using my privilege, if I had so much of the yankee about me. Here is my clerk, Ned Randolph, will jump at the chance; though the rogue has been rather unlucky in the trade. Out of five and twenty negroes he purchased, he nev|er carried but one alive to port; and that poor devil was broken winded, and he was obliged to sell him for half price in Antigua.
Punctual to the day of the delivery, the contractors appeared, and brought with them about one hundred and fifty negroes, men, women, and children. The men were fastened together, in pairs, by a bar of iron, with a collar to receive the neck at each extremity; a long pole pass|ing over their shoulder, and between each two, bound by a staple and ring, through which the pole was thrust, and thus twenty, and sometimes thirty, were con|nected Page 192 together; while their conductors incessantly applied the scourge to those, who loitered, or sought to strangle them|selves, by lifting their feet from the ground in despair, which sometimes had been suc|cessfully attempted. The women and children were bound with cords, and driven forward by the whip. When they arrived at the factory, the men were unloosed from the poles; but still chain|ed in pairs, and turned into strong cells, built for the purpose. The dumb sor|row of some, the frenzy of others, the sobbings and tears of the children, and shrieks of the women, when they were presented to our captain, so affected me that I was hastening from this scene of barbarity, on board the ship; when I was called by the mate, and discovered, to my surprize and horrour, that, by my station in the ship, I had a principal and active part of this inhuman transaction imposed upon me. As surgeon, it was my duty to Page 193 inspect the bodies of the slaves, to see, as the captain expressed himself, that our owners were not shammed off with unsound flesh. In this inspection, I was assisted by Randolph the clerk, and two stout sailors. It was trans|acted with all that unfeeling insolence, which wanton barbarity can inflict up|on defenceless wretchedness. The man, the affrighted child, the modest ma|tron, and the timid virgin were alike exposed to this severe scrutiny, to hu|manity and common decency equally insulting.
I cannot reflect on this transaction yet without shuddering. I have de|plored my conduct with tears of an|guish; and, I pray a merciful God, the common parent of the great family of the universe, who hath made of one flesh and one blood all nations of the earth, that the miseries, the insults, and cruel wound|ings, I afterwards received, when a slave Page 194 myself, may expiate for the inhumanity, I was necessitated to exercise, towards these MY BRETHREN OF THE HUMAN RACE.