American Merchant Ships and Sailors eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 320 pages of information about American Merchant Ships and Sailors.
of Africa, the negroes could not be released by the simple process of landing them at the nearest point, for the land was filled with savage tribes, the captives were commonly from the interior, and would merely have been murdered or sold anew into slavery, had they been thus abandoned.  In time the custom grew up of taking them to Liberia, the free negro state established in Africa under the protection of the United States.  But it can hardly be said that much advantage resulted to the individual negroes rescued by even this method, for the Liberians were not hospitable, slave traders camped upon the borders of their state, and it was not uncommon for a freed slave to find himself in a very few weeks back again in the noisome hold of the slaver.  Even under the humane care of the navy officers who were put in command of captured slavers the human cattle suffered grievously.  Brought on deck at early dawn, they so crowded the ships that it was almost impossible for the sailors to perform the tasks of navigation.  One officer, who was put in charge of a slaver that carried 700 slaves, writes: 

“They filled the waist and gangways in a fearful jam, for there were over 700 men, women, boys, and young girls.  Not even a waistcloth can be permitted among slaves on board ship, since clothing even so slight would breed disease.  To ward off death, ever at work on a slave ship, I ordered that at daylight the negroes should be taken in squads of twenty or more, and given a salt-water bath by the hose-pipe of the pumps.  This brought renewed life after their fearful nights on the slave deck....  No one who has never seen a slave deck can form an idea of its horrors.  Imagine a deck about 20 feet wide, and perhaps 120 feet long, and 5 feet high.  Imagine this to be the place of abode and sleep during long, hot, healthless nights of 720 human beings!  At sundown, when they were carried below, trained slaves received the poor wretches one by one, and laying each creature on his side in the wings, packed the next against him, and the next, and the next, and so on, till like so many spoons packed away they fitted into each other a living mass.  Just as they were packed so must they remain, for the pressure prevented any movement or the turning of hand or foot, until the next morning, when from their terrible night of horror they were brought on deck once more, weak and worn and sick.”  Then, after all had come up and been splashed with salt water from the pumps, men went below to bring up the dead.  There was never a morning search of this sort that was fruitless.  The stench, the suffocation, the confinement, oftentimes the violence of a neighbor, brought to every dawn its tale, of corpses, and with scant gentleness all were brought up and thrown over the side to the waiting sharks.  The officer who had this experience writes also that it was thirty days after capturing the slaver before he could land his helpless charges.

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American Merchant Ships and Sailors from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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