A journal, of the captivity and sufferings of John Foss; several years a prisoner at Algiers: together with some account of the treatment of Christian slaves when sick:-- and observations of the manners and customs of the Algerines. : [Eight lines of verse]
Foss, John, d. 1800., Paine, Robert Treat, 1773-1811., Citizen of Newburyport. Algerine slaves., Algeria. Treaties, etc. United States. 1795 Sept. 5.

CHAPTER II. The punishments which are common for Christian Captives, for different offences: For Mahometans and Jews, having committed similar crimes, to|gether with some entertaining stories of the punish|ments inflicted on the Christian slaves, Mahome|tans, Jews and Renegadoes, which occurred (to my knowledge) during my Captivity, and some accidents which happened.

THE punishments most common for small offences, are bastinadoes, of which I shall say but very little, having already related the manner of inflicting them; I shall how|ever relate in the course of this chapter, a few instances of people being bastinadoed for very small offences or rather no offence at all.

In the month of October '93, which was be|fore I had the misfortune of being an eye wit|ness, but of which I had a verbal account, 14 slaves of different nations, made an attempt to run away with a boat, but were finally overta|ken after they were several leagues at sea, and brought 〈◊〉 to Algiers.

Page  32 When they were landed, and carried before the Dey, he ordered the steersman, and bowman to be beheaded, and the rest to receive five hundred bastinadoes each, to have a chain of 50 weight fastened to each man's leg for life, and a wooden block of about 70lb. to the end of that, which they were obliged to carry up|on their shoulder when they walked to do their work. When they are at work they lay the block down, and can only work within the length of their chain. When they have occa|sion to go further, they must carry the block, to the place where the work calls them.

Those of them who were living when I left Algiers, which was the 13th July, '96, were still in this miserable situation.

They have different punishments for capital offences, sometimes they are burned, or rather roasted alive. At other times they are impal|ed. This is done by placing the criminal upon a sharp iron stake, & thrusting it up the posteri|ors, by his back bone until it appears at the back of his neck.

For being found in company with a Maho|metan woman he is beheaded, and the woman is put into a sack and carried about a mile at sea, and thrown overboard, with a sufficient quantity of rocks, or a bomb, to sink her. For suspicion of being with one, the slave is castra|ted, and the woman bastinadoed.

A slave for murder of another slave is im|mediately beheaded. But for murder of a Mahometan he is cast off from the walls of the Page  33 city, upon iron hooks, which are fastened into the wall about half way down.—These catch by any part of the body that happens to strike them, and sometimes they hang in this man|ner in the most exquisite agonies for several days together before they expire. But should the part that catches, not be strong enough to hold them (for sometimes this is the case, and the flesh tears out) they fall to the bottom of the wall and are dashed to pieces upon sharp stones, placed there for this purpose.

If a slave endeavours to make his escape and is brought back, they are nailed to a gallows, by one hand and the opposite foot, and in this they expire in the most undescribable torture. But this method is not always practiced for de|sertion, for sometimes they are only bastina|doed, at other times they are beheaded. I never knew an instance of the former, during my captivity; though I have been an eye witness to the latter several times.

A slave for speaking disrespectfully of the Mahometan Religion, is imposed or burnt—For striking a Turk he is executed in the same manner.

On the 16th of April, 1794, as all hands were at work in the mountains, Joseph Keith, and Peter Barry, being very much fatigued, they went to a spring of water about fifty yards distant, from where the rest of the slaves were at work, and after having drank some water they felt faint, and sat down upon the grass. The Guardian Bachi, observing them, sent two Page  34 task-masters, and brought them to him, and ordered them one hundred bastinadoes each, which was inflicted without hesitation. This was for being about five minutes absent from their work, and this at a time when they ought to have been attended by a physician—Many instances of this kind I have witnessed. Particularly on the 14th of August, '94, when a slave received three hundred bastinadoes for no greater offence, than pulling six hairs cut of a horse's tail, which belonged to one of the great men of the Regency.

In the month of November, 1794, as the slaves, were returning from work, and passing through the gate Babazia, (where they are searched by the task-masters) one of them be|ing found with three board nails in his pocket, was carried before the Viguilhadge, who com|manded him to be punished with an hundred bastinadoes, his indictment run as follows:—"you unbelieving Christian dog, what occasion could you have for these nails, unless you in|tended to open some lock and steal."

In the month of Nov. 1795, one of the Oran slaves, * having grown desperate, was drinking wine one evening in the Bagnio, and making some noise: one of the Guards beat him without mercy. The slave drew a knife and stabbed him to the heart, and he fell instantly Page  35 dead. The rest of the Guards commanded the slaves to endeavour to secure him, In at|tempting this, he killed one slave and wound|ed three more. He was then taken, secured while morning and then beheaded.

Another circumstance of this kind happened in March, 1796, one of these Oran slaves hav|ing been informed, that the money for the re|demption of the Spaniards, who deserted from that place, was lodged in the hands of a Spanish priest, resident at Algiers, and that he had neg|lected their liberation; the slave went to the priest, and asked if he had money for the re|demption of the Spaniards. Being answered in the negative, he drew a knife, and stabbed the priest in fourteen different places, and left him to all appearance dead. However, the priest recovered. The slave then went to the House of the Spanish consul, intending to kill him, and finding he was at his garden, he went to the Bagnio, where he killed a Christian slave, with whom he had had some dispute before.—He then threw down his knife and delivered himself up, and was beheaded the same even|ing.

In the month of July 1795, a Mahometan woman was found sitting among some bushes, at a small distance from where some slaves were at work, the person who found her, asked her several question concerning the business she had there, 〈…〉 satisfactory 〈…〉Cadi (who 〈…〉) and Page  36 this being deemed a breach of their religion, she being found sitting so near the christians, it was supposed she was waiting 'till some of them could find an opportunity of going to her.

As he was going with her he met a slave, who had been sent by one of the task-masters to bring a jug of water from an adjacent spring. The slave asked what crime the woman was guilty of, that he was dragging her along in such a manner, with her hands tied behind her. He was answered she had been sitting a|mong some bushes waiting for the embraces of some Christian. The slave having some hu|manity, knowing she would be punished for suspicion if she was carried before the Cadi, and being confident these wretches are in general easily bribed, he offered three sequins which was all the money he was master of, for her release. The villain not being as easily bribed as the slave supposed, answered, "you are the Christian dog whose embraces she has been seeking," and calling a Turk to his assistance, who was at a small distance from them, they dragged the two poor innocent victims before the Cadi, and they not being allowed to speak in their own defence, the cause was laid before the judge in words to this purpose, "we found these two persons out side the gate Babazoone, a|mong some bushes in actual embraces." The Cadi then ordered the man to be carried be|fore the Dey's palace, and there be beheaded, and the woman to be sewed up in a sack, with Page  37 a bomb shell at her feet, to be carried one mile at sea, and thrown overboard. A few minutes after this sentence was passed, and they were ordered to their respective places of execution, the Cadi was credibly informed that they had not been found together as it had been report|ed to him. He then ordered them both to be bastinadoed for suspicion. This message arriv|ed at the Dey's Palace just when the Novagi, (who is one of the Dey's corps of guard) was drawing his Scymitre to deprive an innocent Christian of life. The poor slave however, re|ceived five hundred bastinadoes, which disa|bled him in such a manner, that he was unable to speak for near forty eight hours, and was not capable of walking for upwards of two months afterwards.

While they were preparing to inflict his punishment, he was incessantly beseeching them, to execute the former sentence and ex|claiming, "Oh! that the Cadi had not been undeceived, that I might have died at one blow, and escaped these tortures." But alas, the messenger arrived too late for the poor woman, for she was cast into her watery grave a few minutes before the message arrived.

About four days afterwards, she was found upon the sea-shore, disengaged from the sack and bomb-shell, looking nearly as fresh as when she was alive.

She was then taken and interred, near the place where she washed on shore, and has a large marble monument built over her remains.

Page  38 They now pray at her monument as a saint; and say if she had not been innocent she could not have disengaged herself from the sack and bomb-shell. But the poor Christian, (though these bigoted superstitious beings were con|vinced of the innocence of both these unhappy sufferers) never received any redress. They would often deride him in this manner, "you was the occasion of an innocent woman's death."

I was an eye witness of these inhuman scenes of diabolical barbarity, which will never be ef|faced from my memory.

We meet with such events in the annals of Algiers, as almost makes us doubt the veracity of the most authentic history. Had I not been an eye witness, of these, and the like scenes of inhuman cruelty, I should scarcely have believ|ed that such tartareous barbarity, had ever been committed by the inhabitants of this globe, and by beings of the same species with our|selves.

While we are viewing the history of Barba|ry, and acquainting ourselves with the infernal tortures, these godless wretches inflict on their own species, whom chance has unluckily thrown into their power, "we are apt to think we are perusing the records of hell." *

A Turk for offences capital, is strangled in the following manner. The criminal is confi|ned, with his back against a wall, in which are two holes, directly opposite the back of his Page  39 neck, through these holes is reaved a rope, with the two ends on the opposite side, from where the criminal is, and the bite or double of the rope coming about the criminals neck. Then the two ends are knotted together, and the ex|ecutioner puts a stick in between the rope and wall. Then turning the stick round (as the sea phrase is) like a Spanish windlass, which twisting the two parts of the rope together brings it tight about the criminal's neck, and he is soon dispatched.

The executioner does not see the criminal while performing his office. This is accounted the most honorable death, for persons who are executed. And beheading the most ignomi|nious.

A Turk for offences not capital, is common|ly bastinadoed. A Moor or Arab, for enor|mous crimes, are sometimes cast upon the hooks; and at other times, hanged or behead|ed. For small crimes they are enslaved, (con|demned to share the fate of christian captives) for a certain term of time.

For theft, they sometimes have the right hand cut off, and hung about the neck—Then the criminal is set upon an ass, and led through the city; with his face toward the asses tail, and hath sometimes to wear his hand, hung by a string about his neck, as he passes through the city, for several years.

A Jew for different offences hath various punishments; similar to those of the Christi|an slaves, and with not less severity.

Page  40 Such is the gross indignation the Mahome|tans, bear toward the Jewish religion, that a Turk may with impunity, (if he flees to a Marabout Mosque, or pay a small penalty,) murder ten of them. If he kills the eleventh, he is then strangled, no Mosque or penalty will excuse him: Nothing will save his life, except he is pardoned by the Dey, whose word is ab|solute. A slave may with the same impunity, beat and abuse them, in the streets as he passes. While the poor Israelites are not allowed to lift their hand in their own defence, on penal|ty of having it cut off. All the consolation they will have, in such cases, from the Maho|metans, is encouragement for the slaves, to continue their abuse.

I have known fifty in one day, to receive five hundred bastinadoes each, for being found with a red sash about their waists. As they are not allowed to wear any colour except black.

A Renegado hath the same punishments as a Turk. If any Renegado, after embracing the Mahometan religion; deviates from its principles, the most ignominious death imme|diately follows.

I once knew an instance of this, during my captivity, which was in the month of February 1795, when a French merchant ship arrived at Algiers. One of the crew (through a mistaken zeal,) expressed an inclination of embracing the Mahometan religion. He was accordingly cir|cumcised, and made as they express it a true Page  41 believer. On his renouncing the Christian religion, for that of Mahomet, the principal men in the city, made him a present of 5,000 Algerine Sequins.* He had not continued a|bove 4 months, in this benighted superstition; before his conscience smote him, and he repent|ed of his folly, for having abandoned the true worship of Jesus Christ, and having embraced that of the imposter Mahomet.

Behold him now with a conscience stung with remorse; his sleepless nights are spent in meditating a possibility of his escape.

His livid countenance, haggard form, and gloomy aspect, denote some weighty remorse is preying upon his mind.

About the first of July 1795, two English frigates anchored in the bay. The same night he abandoned his riches, stripped himself na|ked and endeavored to swim to one of them, but was perceived by the centinals on board a guard boat, which was placed between the fri|gates, and the shore, to prevent any slave mak|ing his escape. They rowed after him and brought him back. They kept him confined on board the boat while morning, then carri|ed him before the Dey, who ordered him to be beheaded immediately.

Thus ended the existence of a wretch who was born a Christian, and had exchanged the true religion for Mahometanism.

Page  42 In the month of May '94, as all hands were at work, dragging those large rocks before re|lated to the quay, one of the slaves a Neapolitan happened to fall down, being near the sled, before it could be stopped, he was entirely crushed to pieces.

The task-masters apparently rejoiced at the accident, and with smiling countenances, or|dered two slaves to gather the remains of his body in a basket, and bury them at the Christ|ian burial ground, ordering the rest to go on with the rock, not giving them time to enquire what accident had happened. But telling them a christian dog was gone to his own country. And many of them did not know what had happened for sometime afterwards.

Another singular accident happened, about four months afterwards. As we were hauling rocks in the same manner, a Corsican slave ac|cidentally fell down, and the sled went over his legs and knees, taking them both off, just above the joint of the knees, his legs and feet being crushed in such a manner, that it was impossible to distinguish one part from anoth|er. His father and six brothers who were al|so slaves, were witnesses of this dreadful acci|dent. The father, his seven sons, and five grand sons, having been captured altogether on board one vessel, about fifteen days before this accident happened.

As the unfortunate Christian did not expire immediately, he was sent to the hospital, where he remained two days in the most exquisite Page  43 agony. The king of terrors then put a period to his existence.

When any such accident happens among the slaves, it is immediately reported to the Dey. On hearing this, his obdurate heart was a little softened, and he gave permission that the father might attend his son, in the hospi|tal, while he lived.

This melancholy event, deprived a father of his son, six unhappy men of a brother, three children of a father, and a woman of her hus|band. In addition to the horrors of slavery, these miserable relatives were left to bemoan the untimely death of the unfortunate suffe|rer.

On the 16th of November, '94, about forty slaves were employed in carrying some pieces of old timber from an ancient building (which had formerly been a shelter for their gun boats on shore, time had now reduced it to ruins) to where was building a powder magazine.—

Among these ruins were many venomous insects; and a slave having a piece of timber upon his moulder, was stung by a Tarantula, * on his left cheek: this being about three o'clock in the afternoon, he was obliged to work 'till night. His head having by this time swelled to a very large size. After work, he was sent to the hospital, where he expired the next day, in the greatest agony. When he died, his head measured four feet and one inch in circum|ference.

Page  44 Another Captive shared a similar fate, a few weeks afterwards.

Having recited in this Chapter, the punish|ments which are most commonly practiced on offenders of all denominations, and some acci|dents. I shall endeavour in the next to give a short description of the City and country of Algiers.