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Title: A short sketch of the evidence for the abolition of the slave trade, delivered before a committee of the House of Commons
Author: Crafton, William Bell
Language: English
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                             SHORT SKETCH


                             THE EVIDENCE

                               FOR THE


                                OF THE

                             SLAVE TRADE,

        _Delivered before a Committee of the House of Commons_

                         TO WHICH IS ADDED, A

                    Recommendation of the Subject

                                TO THE

                          SERIOUS ATTENTION


                          PEOPLE IN GENERAL.

                [Illustration: (decorative separator)]

                   THEM,” Matt. chap. vii. ver. 12.

                [Illustration: (decorative separator)]

                    LONDON, PRINTED; PHILADELPHIA:
                    RE-PRINTED BY DANIEL LAWRENCE.


  _The Design of the following_ SHORT SKETCH _is not to supersede, in
  any Degree_, MORE IMPORTANT PUBLICATIONS, _but, on the Contrary, to
  extend their Circulation, and promote their Influence_.



Virtue, say moralists, is so transcendently beautiful, that she need
but be _seen_, to be universally admired: and is not VICE so hateful,
that the more its features are _viewed_, the more it will be avoided?
The traffic in the human species, particularly as carried on by the
Europeans on the coast of Africa, has so horrible an aspect, that
nothing, one should think, but the MASK, under which it has been
concealed, could have prevented all the civilized nations in the
world uniting to drive the detested Monster from the face of the
earth. This MASK is, however, at length taken away, and the traffic
stands exposed in all its real, unalterable deformity. The PEOPLE
are now called upon to behold, to feel, and judge for themselves.
The representations of former writers on this subject were roundly
denied; the facts they stated were not only contradicted, but deemed
impossible, and the authors themselves were accused of slander.
Now we have a body of EVIDENCE to which to appeal; of evidence,
possessing every essential of _credibility_. The witnesses have
declared before the Select Committee of the House of Commons, what
they themselves saw: they had the best opportunities of observation,
and they are disinterested. And now it appears, that one half of the
tale of human misery hath not been told: and that every principle,
that can bind a man of honour and conscience,[1] loudly calls for
the prohibition of the iniquitous traffic. Hard indeed must those
hearts be, and inaccessible those understandings,[2] which such
evidence cannot reach!

The Evidence delivered before the Select Committee of the House of
Commons is very voluminous, occupying two thousand pages in folio.
But a judicious Abstract and Arrangement of the Evidence, on the Part
of the Petitioners for the Abolition of the Slave Trade,[3] has been
published, and in a short compass, contains the evidence of well
informed persons on that subject.

In the PREFACE to this important volume of evidence we read of
rewards offered for taking run-away negroes _alive or dead_--of
laws being required to be made to prevent the practice of _cutting
off ears, noses, and tongues_--of _breaking limbs_ and _putting out
eyes_--to prevent _distempered, maimed, and worn out negroes_ from
infesting towns--to prevent _aged_ and _infirm_ negroes being driven
from the plantations _to starve_. We meet also with such kind of
PREAMBLES to acts as the following, viz.

‘Whereas the extreme cruelty and inhumanity of the managers,
overseers, and book-keepers of estates, have frequently driven slaves
into the woods, and occasioned rebellions, internal insurrections,
&c. And whereas also it frequently happens, that slaves come
to their deaths by hasty and severe blows and other improper
treatment of overseers and book-keepers, in the heat of passion;
and when such accidents do happen, the victims are entered in the
plantation-books, as having died of convulsions, fits, or other
causes not to be accounted for; and to conceal the real truth of
the cause of the death of such slave or slaves, he or they is or
are immediately put under ground, &c. Other preambles of a similar
complexion, respecting the lodging, food, and clothes of negroes,
are here to be met with. We also find that run-away negroes, when
advertised, are described by the various brands upon their shoulders,
breasts, cheeks, and foreheads. A woman is described with a wooden
leg; a man as having both his ears cropt, and another by his nose
and ears being cut off.’ Cornwall Chronicle, Nov. 7, 1789. Other
instances occur within the year 1791.

The FIRST CHAPTER contains an account of the Enormities committed
by the Natives of Africa on the persons of one another, to procure
slaves for the Europeans, proved by the testimony of such as have
visited that continent--and confirmed by accounts from the slaves
themselves, after their arrival in the West-Indies.

Under this head, we learn that Kidnapping, or as the natives call it,
Panyaring, is very common, that war is made on purpose to procure
slaves. The king’s soldiers set fire to villages in the night,
and seize the wretched inhabitants as they attempt to escape from
the flames, and many perish, either by the fire or sword, in the
execution of this horrid purpose. A Boy, who was carried away in the
night from his father’s house, says, he believes both his parents
were killed, he is sure that one was, and that many others were
killed and some taken. Various instances are mentioned of consummate
treachery employed in making captives. Kidnapping is professionally
followed; large parties go up the country three hundred miles to
drive down captives--they go a wood-ranging, and pick up every one
they meet, and strip them naked. The purchasers generally say, they
do not care how the sellers come by their slaves. Many are sold for
crimes falsely imputed; the Judges participate in the profits of the
sale, and are therefore strongly induced to condemn the innocent.
Crimes are invented and multiplied for the purpose of traffic. The
great men dress up and employ women, to entice young men to be
connected with them, that they may be convicted of adultery and
sold. The slaves are separated without the least regard to ties of
consanguinity, or the pathetic expostulations and remonstrances of
nature. When slave-ships are on the Coast the natives go armed, but
are no where safe. The man, invited to drink with his neighbour, on
rising to go, is seized by two of them and a large dog: and this mode
of seizure is common.

By the Second Chapter it appears that the Europeans, by means of the
trade in slaves, are the occasion of the before-mentioned enormities;
that they sometimes use additional means to excite the natives to
practise them, often attempt themselves to steal the natives, and
succeed, force trade as they please, and are guilty of injustice in
their dealings. In proof of this charge, we learn from the evidence
that Africans receive European goods in exchange for slaves--that
they declare when ships cease to come (as in times of war) slaves
cease to be taken. African dealers make the Princes drunk, in order
to overcome their aversion to unprovoked war: they furnish the
natives with arms and ammunition and excite them to pillage.

The term war, in Africa, is used in general to signify pillage; and
when many towns are seen blazing in the night, the natives say war
is carrying on.

The Traders advance goods to Chiefs to induce them to seize their
subjects or neighbours. Capt. Patterson set two villages at variance,
and brought prisoners from both sides. It is not uncommon to make
the natives drunk, and then buy them. General Rooke says, that it
was proposed to him by three English captains of ships, to kidnap
a hundred, or a hundred and fifty men, women, and children, king
Damel’s subjects, who had come to Goree in consequence of the
friendly intercourse between him and Damel: He refused and was much
shocked by the proposition. They said such things had been done by
a former governor. Two men, black traders, were invited on board,
intoxicated, and captured when asleep. The Gregson’s people, in
running down the coast, kidnapped thirty-two of the natives. The
Dobson’s boat of Liverpool had stolen a man and woman; the captain
on the remonstrance of Capt. Briggs, who told him, there would be no
more trade if he did not deliver up his two captives, restored them;
upon which the natives loaded a boat with yams, goats, fowls, honey,
and palm wine, and would take nothing for them,--a striking instance
of forgiveness of injuries, and of unmerited kindness!

We then meet with as opposite an exhibition of character as can
possibly be conceived: three or four hundred Africans cruelly
massacreed or carried off, by means of the treacherous contrivance
of six English captains in Old Calabar River. But let us “turn our
eyes for relief to some ordinary wickedness”[4]: Some consider frauds
as a necessary part of the traffic; they put false heads into powder
casks, cut off two or three yards from the middle of a piece of
cloth, adulterate spirits, and steal back articles given. Besides
these, there are others who pay in bottles, which hold but half the
contents of the samples shewn; use false steel-yards and weights, and
sell such guns as burst on firing; so that many of the natives of the
windward coast, are without their fingers and thumbs on this account,
and it has become a saying that these guns kill more out of the butt
than the muzzle.

The Third Chapter contains an account of the transactions of the
enslaved Africans, and of the method of confining, airing, feeding,
and exercising them; incidents on the passage, and the manner of
selling them when arrived at their destined ports; the deplorable
situation of the refuse or sickly slaves; separation of relations and
friends; mortality on the passage, and frequently after sale; and the
causes of this mortality.

On being brought on board, says Dr. Trotter, they shew signs of
extreme distress and despair, from a feeling of their situation,
and regret at being torn from their friends and connexions. They
sometimes dream of being in their own country, and when they awake
shew their despair by howling and shrieking in a most dreadful
manner. The women go into fits. In the course of the voyage, the
slaves are chained to the deck every day from eight in the morning to
four o’clock in the afternoon. They are fed twice a day with rice,
yams, and horse-beans, and now and then a little beef and bread:
after each of these two meals they are allowed half a pint of water:
and are forced to jump in their irons, which, by the slave dealers,
is called making them dance. This exercise frequently occasions the
fetters to excoriate their limbs; and, when it is very painful to
move at all, they are compelled to dance by a cat-of-nine-tails.
The captains order them to sing, and they sing songs of sorrow, the
subject of which are their wretched situation, and the idea of never
returning home: the witness remembers the very words upon these

The slaves are so crouded below, that it is impossible to walk among
them without treading upon them. Dr. Trotter has seen the slaves
drawing their breath with all those laborious and anxious efforts for
life, which are observed in expiring animals, subjected by experiment
to foul air, or in the exhausted receiver of an air pump: they cry
out--‘we are dying,’ and many are irrecoverably lost by suffocation,
having had no previous signs of indisposition. They are closely
wedged together, and have not so much room as a man in his coffin,
either in length or breadth. They sometimes go down well at night,
and are found dead in the morning. Alexander Falconbridge was never
among them for ten minutes together below, but his shirt was as
wet as if dipped in water. Sometimes the dead and living are found
shackled together. They lie on the bare blanks, and the prominent
parts of their bones, about the shoulder-blade and knees, have
frequently been seen bare. No situation can be conceived so dreadful
and disgusting as that of slaves when ill of the flux. In the
Alexander (A. Falconbridge says) the deck was covered with blood and
mucus, and resembled a slaughter-house; the stench and foul air were
intolerable. The slaves, shackled together, frequently quarrel, and
make a great disturbance. Some refuse food and medicine, and declare
they want to die. In such cases compulsion is used. The ships are so
fitted up as to prevent, by net-work, the slaves jumping overboard;
notwithstanding which they often attempt it, and sometimes succeed,
shewing signs of exultation in the very jaws of death. Some employ
other means to destroy themselves, and others go mad: Some resolve
to starve, and means are ineffectually used to wrench open their
teeth: they persist in their resolution, and effect their purpose,
in spite of the utmost pains to prevent it. When severely chastised
for not taking their food they have looked up with a smile and said,
“presently we shall be no more.” The thumbscrew is an instrument of
torture, the application of it sometimes occasions mortifications,
of which the negroes die. An instance occurs of the cruelty of a
captain to an infant only nine months old, which one would suppose
too shocking to be true, were it not corroborated by other specimens
of as great cruelty in various parts of the evidence. After a series
of tortures the infant expired, and its savage murderer, not yet
satiated, would suffer none of the people on deck to throw the body
overboard, but called the Mother, the wretched Mother, to perform
this last sad office to her murdered child. Unwilling as it might
naturally be supposed she was, to comply, “he beat her,” regardless
of the indignant murmurs of her fettered countrymen, whom in the
barbarous plenitude of secure tyranny, he permitted to be spectators
of this horrible scene--“he beat her, until he made her take up the
child and carry it to the side of the vessel, and then she dropped it
into the sea, turning her head another way, that she might not see
it!”[5] Another instance occurs in this chapter, not perhaps of more
cruelty, though of greater magnitude.

A ship from Africa, with about four hundred slaves on board, struck
upon some shoals, called the Morant Keys, distant eleven leagues, S.
S. E. off the east end of Jamaica. The officers and seamen of the
ship landed in their boats, carrying with them arms and provisions.
The slaves were left on board in their irons and shackles. This
happened in the night time. When morning came, it was discovered that
the negroes had got out of their irons, and were busy making rafts,
upon which they placed the women and children; the men, who were
capable of swimming, attended upon the rafts, whilst they drifted
before the wind towards the island where the seamen had landed.
From an apprehension that the negroes would consume the water and
provisions which the seamen had landed, they came to the resolution
of destroying them, by means of their fire-arms and other weapons.
As the poor wretches approached the shore they actually destroyed
between three and four hundred of them. Out of the whole cargo only
thirty three or thirty four were saved and brought to Kingston, where
they were sold at public vendue.

When the ships arrive at their destined ports, the cargo of slaves
is sold, either by scramble or vendue. The sale by scramble is
described:--“A great number of people come on board with tallies in
their hands (the ship being first darkened with sails and covered
round; the men slaves placed on the main deck, and the women on the
quarter deck), and rush through the barricado door with the ferocity
of brutes. Some have three or four handkerchiefs tied together, to
encircle as many as they think fit for their purpose.” This is a very
general mode of sale, and so terrifies the poor negroes, that forty
or fifty at a time have leaped into the sea; these, however, the
witness believes, have been taken up again: the women have got away
and run about the town as if they were mad. The slaves sold by public
auction or vendue, are generally the refuse, or sickly slaves. These
are in such a state of health, that they sell greatly under price.
They have been known to be sold for five dollars, a guinea, and even
a single dollar each. Some that are deemed not worth buying are left
to expire in the place of sale, for nobody gives them any thing to
eat or drink, and some of them live three days in that situation! In
the sale no care is taken to prevent the reparation of relations;
they are separated (says the evidence) like sheep and lambs by
the butcher. Making the slaves walk the plank, is a term used for
throwing them overboard when provisions are scarce. Sometimes the
ships lose more than half their cargoes by the small-pox; at others
they bury a quarter or one-third on the passage, owing to various
other causes of mortality: and it is confessed by the planters,[6]
that half the slaves die in the seasoning, after arrival in the
West-Indies. Surgeon Wilson says, that of the death of two thirds of
those who died in his ship, the primary cause was melancholy. The
disorders which carry off the slaves in such numbers, are ascribed
by Falconbridge to a diseased mind, sudden transitions from heat to
cold, a putrid atmosphere, wallowing in their own excrements, and
being shackled together.

The captains, surgeons, &c. who have quitted the African slave-trade,
uniformly declare the reason to have been, that they could not
conscientiously continue in it: they say, that it is an unnatural,
iniquitous, and villainous trade, founded on injustice and treachery;
manifestly carried on by oppression and cruelty, and not unfrequently
terminating in murder. Capt. Hall says, he quitted it (in opposition
to lucrative offers) from a conviction that it was perfectly illegal,
and founded in blood.

The Fourth Chapter gives an account of the general estimation and
treatment of the slaves in the West-Indies. Dr. Jackson says, that
the negroes are generally esteemed a species of inferior beings, whom
the right of purchase gives the owner a power of using at his will.
T. Woolrich says, he never knew the best master in the West-Indies
use his slaves so well, as the worst master his servants in England:
that their state is inconceivable--that a sight of a gang would
convince more than all words.

Slaves are either Field Slaves, or in or out Door Slaves.

The field-slaves begin their work at break of day. They work in
rows, without exception under the whip of drivers, and the weak are
made to keep up with the strong. They continue their labour (with
two intermissions, half an hour during the morning, and two hours at
noon) till sun set. In the intervals they are made to pick grass for
the cattle. Cook has known pregnant women worked and flogged a few
days before their delivery. Some, however, are a little indulged when
in that state. After the month they work with the children on their
backs. In the crop-season the labour is of much longer duration[7].
The slaves sometimes work so long that they cannot help sleeping,
and then it not unfrequently happens, that their arms are caught in
the mill and torn off. They are said to be allowed one day in seven
for rest, but this time is necessarily employed in raising food for
the other days, and gathering grass for their master’s cattle. The
best allowance of food is at Barbadoes, which is a pint of grain
for twenty four hours, and half a rotten herring when to be had.
When the herrings are unfit for the whites, they are bought up
by planters for the slaves. Some allow nine pints of corn a week,
and about one pound of salt fish, which is the greatest allowance
mentioned in the whole course of the evidence. Some have no provision
but what they raise themselves, and they are frequently so fatigued
by the labour of the rest of the week, as scarcely to be able to
work for their own support on the Sunday. And the land allotted them
for this purpose is often at the distance of three miles from their
houses; it would, however, be quite ample for their support, were
they allowed time sufficient for its cultivation. Sometimes when they
have been at the pains of clearing their land, their masters take
it for canes, and give them wood land instead of it. This hardship
some have so taken to heart as to die. Putrid carcases are burnt; if
they were buried, the slaves would dig them up and eat them, which
would breed distempers among them. They are sometimes driven by
extreme hunger to steal at the hazard of their lives. They are badly
clothed; one half of them go almost naked. The slaves in general have
no bed or bedding at all. Their houses are built with four poles and
thatched. They have little or no property. All the evidence (to whom
the question has been proposed) agree in answering, that they never
knew or heard of a field-slave ever amassing such a sum, as enabled
him to purchase his own freedom. The artificers, such as house
carpenters, coopers, masons, the drivers and head slaves, are better
off. The owners of women let them out for prostitution, and flog
them, if they do not bring home full wages.

The negroes, when whipped, are suspended by the arms, with weights
at their feet. They are first whipped with a whip made of cow-skin
(which cuts out the flesh, whereas the military whips cut only the
skin) and afterwards with ebony bushes (which are more prickly than
thorn bushes in this country) in order to let out the congealed
blood. Dr. Harrison thinks the whipping too severe to be inflicted
on any human being: he could lay two or three fingers into the
wounds of a man whipped for not coming when he was called. Many
receive from one hundred and fifty to two hundred lashes at a time;
and in two or three days this is repeated: they wash the raw parts
with pickle; this appears from the convulsions it occasions, more
cruel than whipping; but it is done to prevent mortification. After
severe whipping, they are worked all day without food, except what
their friends may give them out of their own poor pittance. They are
returned to their stocks at night, and worked next day as before.
This cruel treatment his made many commit suicide. Cook has known
fourteen slaves, who, in consequence thereof, ran into the woods and
cut their throats together. These severe punishments are frequent.
The scars made by whipping last to old age. T. Woolrich has seen
their backs one undistinguished mass of lumps, holes, and furrows.
They sometimes die of mortification of the wounds. A planter flogged
his driver to death, and boasted of having so done.

Under the head of Extraordinary Punishments, (for those already named
are reckoned only ordinary), mention is made of iron collars with
hooks[8], heavy cattle chains, and a half hundred weight fastened to
them, which the negroes are forced to drag after them, when working
in the field, suspending by the hands ’till the fingers mortify;
flogging with ebony bushes ’till they are forced to go on all fours,
unable to get up, being tied up to the branch of a tree, with a heavy
weight round the neck, exposed to the noon-day sun--thumb-screws; a
man was put on the picket, so long as to occasion a mortification
of his foot and hand, on suspicion of robbing his master, a public
officer, of a sum of money, which it afterwards appeared, the master
had taken himself. Yet the master was privy to the punishment, and
the slave had no compensation. He was punished by order of the
master, who did not then chuse to make it known that he himself
had made use of the money. A girl’s ears were nailed to a post,
afterwards torn away, and clipt off close to her head, with a pair of
large scissors; besides this, she was unmercifully flogged, and all
for--BREAKING A PLATE, OR SPILLING A CUP OF TEA! A negro, impelled by
hunger, had stolen part of a turkey, his master caused him to be held
down, and, with his own hands, took a hammer and punch and knocked
out four of his teeth. The hand is cut off if lifted up against a
white man, and the leg for running away. A planter sent for a surgeon
to cut off the leg of a negro who had run away. On the surgeon’s
refusing to do it, the planter took an iron bar, and broke the leg in
pieces, and then the surgeon took it off. This planter did many such
acts of cruelty, and all with impunity. The practice of dropping hot
lead upon the negroes, is here mentioned. H. Ross saw a young female
suspended by her wrists to a tree, swinging to and fro, while her
master applied a lighted torch to the different parts of her writhing
body. It was notorious that Ruthie tortured so many of his negroes
to death, that he was obliged to sell his estate. Another planter,
in the same Island[9], destroyed forty slaves out of sixty (in three
years) by severity. The rest of the conduct of this infamous wretch
was cancelled by the Committee of the House of Commons, as containing
circumstances too horrible to be given to the world. We, however,
go on to read of knocking on the head and stabbing, of a hot iron
forced between the teeth, of a slave thrown into the boiling juice,
and killed, of a negro shot and his head cut off. And it appears,
that the women, deemed of respectability and rank, not only order
and superintend, but sometimes actually inflict with their own hands
severe punishments on their slaves.

The offences for which the before-mentioned punishments are inflicted
are, not coming into the field in time, not picking a sufficient
quantity of grass, not appearing willing to work, when in fact sick
and not able; for staying too long on an errand, for not coming
immediately when called, for not bringing home (the women) the full
weekly sum enjoined by their owners; for running away, and for theft,
to which they are often driven by hunger.

Under the head of “Extraordinary Punishments,” some appear to have
suffered for running away, or for lifting up a hand against a white
man, or for breaking a plate, or spilling a cup of tea, or to extort
confession. Others again, in the moments of sudden resentment, and
one on a diabolical pretext, which the master held out to the world
to conceal his own villainy, and which he _knew_ to be _false_.

The slaves have little or no redress against ill-usage of any sort;
the laws to restrict punishment are a mere farce, and universally
disregarded, or when pretended to be observed they are in divers ways
effectually evaded: besides, the evidence of a Black is in no case
whatever admitted against a White Man; which circumstance alone is
enough to deprive the negroes of all legal protection whatever, were
the laws, in other respects, ever so just and salutary. Lieutenant
Davidson was so hurt at the severe and frequent whippings of one of
the women, that he complained to a magistrate, who said, “he had
nothing to do with it.”

The particular instances mentioned in the evidence, of slaves dying
in consequence of severe and cruel treatment from their masters, were
not punished, though generally known; nor do the perpetrators of
these barbarities appear to have suffered any disgrace!

If you speak to a negro of future punishments, he says,----“Why
should a poor negro be punished? he does no wrong? fiery cauldrons,
and such things, are reserved for white people, as punishments for
the oppression of slaves.”

In the Fifth Chapter, it is proved, by such as have seen them in
their own country, that the natives of Africa are equal to the
Europeans in their natural capacities, feelings, affections, and
moral character. They manufacture gold and iron, in some respects,
equal to the European Artists--also cloth and leather with uncommon
neatness; the former they die blue, yellow, brown and orange. They
are skilled in making indigo and soap, and pottery wares, and prepare
salt for their own use from the sea water. They also make ropes with
aloes. With respect to their moral character, they are very honest
and hospitable: grateful and affectionate, harmless and innocent;
punctual in their dealings, and as capable of virtue as the Whites.
They are susceptible of all the social virtues: generosity, fidelity,
and gratitude, are allowed them by Dr. Stuart. These virtues Dr.
Jackson enumerates, and adds charity to all in distress, and a strong
attachment on the part of parents to their children. T. Woolrich
says, he never knew of an African, who could express himself, that
did not believe in the existence of a supreme Being.

In the Sixth and Seventh Chapters it appears that the natives possess
industry and a spirit of commerce, sufficient for carrying on a new
trade; that their country abounds with, and might easily be made
still more productive of, many and various articles of commerce; but
that the traffic in slaves is an insuperable impediment to opening a
new trade.

In the Eighth Chapter it is inquired, whether the slave trade be not
a grave (instead of a nursery) of the seamen employed in it.

It appears by the muster-rolls of Liverpool and Bristol, that in 350
vessels, 12,263 men were employed, out of whom 2643 were lost, that
is to say, more than a fifth of the whole number employed, or more
than seven in every single voyage, besides nearly one half of those
who go out with the ships are constantly left behind.

Capt. Hall (of the merchant’s service) says that the crews of the
African ships, when they arrive in the West-Indies, are the most
miserable objects he ever met with in any country in his life: he
does not know a single instance to the contrary. He has frequently
seen them with their toes rotted off, their legs swelled to the size
of their thighs, and in an ulcerated state all over &c. &c. This
account is confirmed by Capt. Hall of the navy. Sir W. Young is of
opinion, that a trade to Africa in the natural productions of the
country, would not be attended with more inconvenience to the health
of the seamen employed in it, than the present West-India Trade.

In the Ninth Chapter we find that the seamen employed in the slave
trade are in general barbarously used. They are worse fed both in
quantity and quality of food than the seamen in other trades. They
have little or no shelter night or day from the inclemency of the
weather during the whole of the middle passage. They are inhumanly
treated when ill, and subjected to the fury of the impassioned
officers for very trifles. A boy, to avoid the cruel treatment of
his officer, jump’d overboard, and was drowned. A man was killed
with a hand spike for being very ill and unable to work. Six men
were chained together by their necks, legs, and hands, for making
their escape from the vessel; they were allowed only a plantain a
day; they all died in their chains; one of them (Thomas Jones a very
good seaman) raving mad! The evidence proves that instances of wanton
cruelty, and inhuman treatment in general, are numerous, various
and frequent. One man, with both his legs in irons and his neck in
an iron collar, was chained to the boat for three months, and very
often most inhumanly beaten for complaining of his situation, both by
the captain and other officers. His allowance of provisions was so
small that (after his release from the boat, on account of extreme
weakness) he begged something to eat, saying that if it were not
given him he should die:--the captain reproached him, beat him, and
bid him die and be damned. The man died in the night. This was in the
Ship Sally, on board of which ill-treatment was common. Another man
was deliberately, by a series of shocking barbarities, murdered.

Sir Geo. Young remarks that a ship of the line might be presently
manned by the sailors who wish to escape from the miseries of African
ships. One poor young man, when dying in consequence of the ill
treatment he had received from the captain, said (which were the last
words A. Falconbridge heard him speak) “I cannot punish him (meaning
the captain) but God will.” The sailors when sick are beaten for
being lazy, till they die under the blows!

“If this be the real situation of things, how happens it (the reader
may perhaps ask) that the objects of such tyranny and oppression
should not obtain redress, and that our courts of law should not have
to decide upon more cases of this kind, than they have at present?”
It is answered, “these objects are generally without friends and
money, without which the injured will seek for justice but in vain;
and because the peculiarity of their situation is an impediment to
their endeavours for redress.” Whoever wishes for a more particular
answer to this question, may meet with it in “Clarkson’s Essay on
the Impolicy of the African Slave-Trade,” (page 52) from which the
question and the above general reply are quoted.

If it should still be asked, “how it happens that seamen enter
for slave vessels, when such general ill usage on board of them
can hardly fail of being known?” the reply must be taken from the
evidence, “that whereas some of them enter voluntarily, the greater
part of them are trepanned; for that it is the business of certain
landlords to make them intoxicated, and get them into debt, after
which _their only alternative is a Guineaman or a Gaol_.”

In the Tenth Chapter it is proved not to be true, what some say,
that the natives of Africa are happier in the European colonies
than in their own country. They love their own country, but destroy
themselves in the colonies, &c. &c. But any comparison between the
two situations is as (H. Ross says, tho’ on another occasion) “_an
insult to common sense_.”

The Eleventh, Twelfth, and Thirteenth Chapters are on the subjects
of negro population in the colonies, and plainly shew that the
importation of fresh Africans might immediately be superceded, by
the introduction of general good treatment, and of certain salutary
regulations therein suggested.

The Fourteenth Chapter is employed to demonstrate, from the evidence
before the committee, that the colonists would be able to carry on
the necessary cultivation of their lands, without a fresh importation
of slaves while the generation immediately succeeding the regulations
proposed, were growing up to supply the vacancies occasioned by the
natural deaths of the slaves of all ages, now in their possession.

The Fifteenth Chapter inquires, whether there be not a prevailing
opinion in the colonies, that it is cheaper to buy or import
slaves than thus to increase them by population. And whether the
very reverse of this opinion be not true: namely, that it is more
profitable to breed than to import. The result of this inquiry is
clearly in favour of the _immediate_ Abolition of the African Slave
Trade. The same may be said of the sixteenth _and last_ chapter, in
which it is considered. Whether it be more political to extend the
cultivation of the colonies by the continuance of the slave-trade, or
wait till the rising generation shall be capable of performing it.

Having thus taken a general view of the most striking features of
the evidence for the abolition of the traffic in the human species,
as carried on by the English on the coast of Africa, it might not
be improper to close it with the declaration of a virtuous and wise
Senator, whose indefatigable labours on behalf of the oppressed
Africans, cannot fail to insure him the unfeigned respect of every
lover of freedom and humanity:


The noble exordium of another able advocate of the same righteous
cause, must not however be omitted in this place: The House of
Commons being now apprized of the nature of this trade, having
received evidence, having had the facts undeniably established,
knowing, in short, _what the Slave-Trade was_, he declared, that
if they did not, by the vote of that night, mark to all mankind
their abhorrence of a practice so enormous, so savage, so repugnant
to all laws, human and divine, it would be more scandalous, and
more defaming, in the eyes of the country, and of the world, than
any vote which any House of Commons had ever given. He desired
them seriously to reflect, before they gave their votes, what they
were about to do that evening. If they voted that the Slave Trade
should not be abolished, they would, by their vote that night, give
a _Parliamentary sanction_ to RAPINE, ROBBERY and MURDER; for a
system of rapine, robbery, and murder, the Slave Trade had now _most
clearly_ been proved to be[11].

It remains now to recommend, as earnestly and as strongly as
possible, to the inhabitants of this Land of Freedom individually,
a particular and serious attention to THE ABSOLUTE NECESSITY, ON

Much has been lately done, by the united friends of equitable
freedom, in circulating throughout the kingdom important information
on this interesting subject: but much remains yet to be done. The
minds of many have been informed, and their indignation justly
kindled by the history of a commerce “_written throughout in
characters of blood_[12].” But the understandings it is to be
fear’d, of a great majority of the people of England, are still
unenlightened. Should the foregoing Short Sketch of the Evidence,
awaken the feelings, or quicken the attention, of any, in favour of
their greatly injured fellow-creatures, the oppressed Africans, it
is much to be wished, that they will not hastily dismiss the subject
from their recollection, or suffer its painful impressions to be
made in vain: but seek a further acquaintance with the evidence,
which the more they examine, the stronger will be their inducements
to exert every power and faculty they possess, for the purpose of
procuring the Abolition of the Slave-Trade. Let no one say, “my
situation of privacy and obscurity, precludes all possibility of
serving the cause”--for the greatest numbers consist of units, and
the most mighty exertions of states and empires are but aggregates of
individual ability. Next to Members of Parliament, all who have any
just influence in the election of them, are particularly concerned
to consider, how far the attainment of the great end we have in
view may depend upon their conduct. We may certainly conclude, that
whoever is not a friend to the liberty of the meanest subject, is
not fit to be entrusted with that of the state: and even those who
have no vote, are nevertheless comprehended in our idea of the public
mind,--nor is any man of sense and virtue, let his situation in a
free country be what it may, to be deemed of _no account_. Upon his
judgment, his voice (if not his vote,) his example, much may depend.
The discovery of truth, the communication of useful knowledge, and
the exemplary recommendation of virtuous conduct, may dignify a
plebeian, as well as add lustre to a crown. Even a negro slave,
amidst the horrors of a middle passage, and debased by every external
circumstance of degradation and misery that the imagination can
conceive, shall divide his meagre morsel[13] with the inhuman monster
in distress, who stole him from his native country, and his nearest
connexions, thereby returning all the GOOD in his power, for all the
EVIL his merciless enemy could inflict, and giving an example of true
benevolence of heart and real greatness of mind, unsurpassed in the
history of civilized nations, and worthy of the best and purest of
all religions:--“_if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give
him drink_[14].” Let no one, therefore, think too meanly of himself
when called upon to assist in a good cause, seeing, that from the
most abject state of human wretchedness a lesson may sometimes be
learnt, and an influence imparted which the proudest philosophy need
not blush to own. The abolition of the slave trade is an object of
such high importance, and so nearly concerns every one who has a
mind to comprehend, and a heart to feel, that no communication or
assistance is too _small_, nor any too _great_, to be exerted upon
this occasion.

Some people seem inclined to lend an ear to tales of human woe, and
feel a certain gratification in beholding the exhibitions of tragedy,
or in the perusal of pathetic poetry, and the like. Even the case of
the oppressed Africans, when represented by their favourite bards,
or appearing in the form of the “_Dying Slave_,” or the “_Negro’s
Complaint_,” seem to possess, if not charms to please, at least
powers forcibly to attract their willing attention, and to win their
sympathetic regard. Yet the evidence delivered before the House of
Commons, containing a true and faithful account of the miseries and
wickedness attendant upon the traffic in their fellow-creatures,
unembellished by flourishes of rhetoric, undecorated with the
splendid habiliments of poetry, is almost in vain recommended to
their notice. Should they be prevailed upon to cast their eye over
a few pages of the shocking history, they presently shut up the
book--it makes them shudder--they have read enough--such horrid
barbarities, such complicated sufferings, are not to be endured even
in imagination! But let such remember--“that humanity consists not in
a squeamish ear--it consists not in a starting or shrinking at such
tales as these, but in a disposition of heart to relieve misery, and
to prevent the repetition of cruelty:--Humanity appertains rather to
the mind than to the nerves, and prompts men to real, disinterested
endeavours to give happiness to their fellow-creatures[15].” It is
therefore to be wished that no affection of extreme sensibility, or
real effeminacy of manners, may disincline, or disqualify, for the
service of humanity. That extreme DELICACY which deprives us, if not
of the disposition, yet of the ability to encounter suffering for
the sake of, and in order to help our brethren in affliction, and
under the severest oppression, is detrimental to its possessor, and
injurious to the community; it renders compassion a painful, useless
thing, and makes beneficence fruitless.

To the busy and the gay “_a great book is a great evil_.” TWO
THOUSAND PAGES IN FOLIO, written (like Ezekiel’s roll) within and
without,--lamentations, mourning and woe, stand but little chance of
obtaining _their_ notice--even THE ABSTRACT OF THE EVIDENCE, would
detain some of them too long from their eager pursuits of business,
or their favourite schemes of pleasure. This HASTY SKETCH will not,
however, it may be presumed, encroach too much upon their time;
and well rewarded will the compiler of it be, if it should prove a
stimulus to further investigation of the Evidence. No one knows what
opportunities he may have, or how far his influence may extend, to
assist the endeavours now using for the abolition of a trade, the
continued carrying on of which, after being so fully apprized of its
dreadful enormity, may be expected (without the smallest tincture of
superstitious fear) to expose this nation to the just punishment of

Three nations, Juvan, Tubal, and Meshech, are mentioned in
Scripture[16] as having their principal trade at Tyre in the _selling
of men_. This circumstance has been appealed to in vindication of the
African Slave-Trade:--but mark the sequel. In the following chapter,
verse 18, the Prophet addresses the Prince of Tyre thus:--“Thou hast
defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the
iniquity of thy traffic: _therefore_ will I bring forth a fire from
the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to
ashes upon the earth.” A prophecy which has been remarkably fulfilled.

The great leader in the Debates of the House of Commons on this
momentous subject has declared--“That interested as he may
be supposed to be in the final event of the question, he was
comparatively indifferent as to the then decision of the House.
Whatever they might do, the people of Great Britain, he was
confident, would abolish the slave-trade, when, as would now soon
happen, its injustice and cruelty should be fairly laid before them.
It was (said he) a nest of serpents, which would never have endured
so long, but for the darkness in which they lay hid. The light of day
would now be let in upon them, and they would vanish from the sight.”

                                                            _W. B. C._


[1] Speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the House of Commons.

[2] Fox’s ditto.

[3] Printed by J. Phillips, George-Yard, Lombard Street.

[4] Wilberforce’s Speech in the House of Commons.

[5] Speech by W. Smith in the House of Commons.

[6] See Stanley’s Speech in the House of Commons.

[7] In some estates it is usual to dig a hole in the ground, which
they put the bellies of pregnant women, while they whip them, that
they may not excuse punishment, nor yet endanger the life of the
woman or child.

[8] General Tottenham saw a youth, about nineteen, walking in the
streets, in a most deplorable situation, entirely naked, and with
an iron collar about his neck, with five long projecting spikes.
His body, before and behind, his breech, belly and thighs, were
almost cut to pieces, and with running soars all over them, and
you might put your finger in some of the wheals. He could not sit
down, owing to his breech being in a state of mortification, and
it was impossible for him to lie down, from the projection of the
prongs. The boy came to the general to ask relief. He was shocked
at his appearance, and asked him what he had done to suffer such a
punishment, and who inflicted it. He said it was his master, who
lived about two miles from town, and that as he could not work, he
would give him nothing to eat.

[9] Jamaica.

[10] Speech of W. Wilberforce, in the House of Commons.

[11] Speech of C. J. Fox in the House of Commons. Reported by

[12] Speech of W. Wilberforce, Esq. in the House of Commons.

[13] In one of the ships we find the slaves privately and voluntarily
feeding the hungry sailors with a part of their own scanty allowance.

[14] Rom. xii. chap. 20 ver.

[15] Fox’s Speech in the House of Commons.

[16] Ezek. xxvii. 13.


  Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been
  corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within
  the text and consultation of external sources.

  Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text,
  and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained.

  Pg 2: ‘important Puplications’ replaced by ‘important Publications’.
  Pg 3: ‘SHOTR SKETCH’ replaced by ‘SHORT SKETCH’.
  Pg 6: ‘participate the profits’ replaced by
        ‘participate in the profits’.
  Pg 10: ‘The thumscrew is’ replaced by ‘The thumbscrew is’.
  Pg 11: ‘capable of swiming’ replaced by ‘capable of swimming’.
  Pg 11: ‘with the ferociety’ replaced by ‘with the ferocity’.
  Pg 15: ‘They are retured’ replaced by ‘They are returned’.
  Pg 16: ‘large scissars’ replaced by ‘large scissors’.
  Pg 16: ‘took a hammar’ replaced by ‘took a hammer’.
  Pg 17: ‘his own villany’ replaced by ‘his own villainy’.
  Pg 18: ‘these barbaraties’ replaced by ‘these barbarities’.
  Pg 21: ‘or a Goal’ replaced by ‘or a Gaol’.
  Pg 27: ‘real effiminacy’ replaced by ‘real effeminacy’.
  Pg 27: ‘severest oppession’ replaced by ‘severest oppression’.
  Pg 27: ‘superstious fear’ replaced by ‘superstitious fear’.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A short sketch of the evidence for the abolition of the slave trade, delivered before a committee of the House of Commons" ***

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