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CHAP. II. - Thomas Clarkson, An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species 
An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, particularly the African, translated from a Latin Dissertation, which was Honoured with the First Prize, in the University of Cambridge, for the Year 1785, with Additions (London: J. Phillips, 1786).
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The foregoing scene, though it may be said to be imaginary, is strictly consistent with fact. It is a scene, to which the reader himself may have been witness, if he has ever visited the place, where it is supposed to lie; as no circumstance whatever has been inserted in it, for which the fullest and most undeniable evidence cannot be produced. We shall proceed now to describe, in general terms, the treatment which the wretched Africans undergo, from the time of their embarkation.
When the African slaves, who are collected from various quarters, for the purposes of sale, are delivered over to the receivers, they are conducted in the manner above described to the ships. Their situation on board is beyond all description: for here they are crouded, hundreds of them together, into such a small compass, as would scarcely be thought sufficient to accommodate twenty, if considered as free men. This confinement soon produces an effect, that may be easily imagined. It generates a pestilential air, which, co-operating with bad provisions, occasions such a sickness and mortality among them, that not less than *twenty thousand are generally taken off in every yearly transportation.
Thus confined in a pestilential prison, and almost entirely excluded from the chearful face of day, it remains for the sickly survivors to linger out a miserable existence, till the voyage is finished. But are no farther evils to be expected in the interim particularly if we add to their already wretched situation the indignities that are daily offered them, and the regret which they must constantly feel, at being for ever forced from their connexions? These evils are but too apparent. Some of them have resolved, and, notwithstanding the threats of the receivers, have carried their resolves into execution, to starve themselves to death. Others, when they have been brought upon deck for air, if the least opportunity has offered, have leaped into the sea, and terminated their miseries at once. Others, in a fit of despair, have attempted to rise, and regain their liberty. But here what a scene of barbarity has constantly ensued. Some of them have been instantly killed upon the spot; some have been taken from the hold, have been bruised and mutilated in the most barbarous and shocking manner, and have been returned bleeding to their companions, as a sad example of resistance; while others, tied to the ropes of the ship, and mangled alternately with the whip and knife, have been left in that horrid situation, till they have expired.
But this is not the only inhuman treatment which they are frequently obliged to undergo; for if there should be any necessity, from tempestuous weather, for lightening the ship; or if it should be presumed on the voyage, that the provisions will fall short before the port can be made, they are, many of them, thrown into the sea, without any compunction of mind on the part of the receivers, and without any other regret for their loss, than that which avarice inspires. Wretched survivors! what must be their feelings at such a sight! how must they tremble to think of that servitude which is approaching, when the very dogs of the receivers have been retained on board, and preferred to their unoffending countrymen. But indeed so lightly are these unhappy people esteemed, that their lives have been even taken away upon speculation: there has been an instance,* within the last five years, of one hundred and thirty two of them being thrown into the sea, because it was supposed that, by this trick, their value could be recovered from the insurers.
But if the ship should arrive safe at its destined port, a circumstance which does not always happen, (for some have been blown up, and many lost) the wretched Africans do not find an alleviation of their sorrow. Here they are again exposed to sale. Here they are again subjected to the inspection of other brutal receivers, who examine and treat them with an inhumanity, at which even avarice should blush. To this mortifying circumstance is added another, that they are picked out, as the purchaser pleases, without any consideration whether the wife is separated from her husband, or the mother from her son: and if these cruel instances of separation should happen; if relations, when they find themselves about to be parted, should cling together; or if filial, conjugal, or parental affection, should detain them but a moment longer in each other’s arms, than these second receivers should think sufficient, the lash instantly severs them from their embraces.
We cannot close our account of the treatment, which the wretched Africans undergo while in the hands of the first receivers, without mentioning an instance of wanton barbarity, which happened some time ago; particularly as it may be inserted with propriety in the present place, and may give the reader a better idea of the cruelties, to which they are continually exposed, than any that he may have yet conceived. To avoid making a mistake, we shall take the liberty that has been allowed us, and transcribe it from a little manuscript account, with which we have been favoured by a * person of the strictest integrity, and who was at that time in the place where the transaction happened. “Not long after,” says he, (continuing his account) “the perpetrator of a cruel murder, committed in open day light, in the most publick part of a town, which was the seat of government, escaped every other notice than the curses of a few of the more humane witnesses of his barbarity. An officer of a Guinea ship, who had the care of a number of new slaves, and was returning from the sale-yard to the vessel with such as remained unsold, observed a stout fellow among them rather slow in his motions, which he therefore quickened with his rattan. The slave soon afterwards fell down, and was raised by the same application. Moving forwards a few yards, he fell down again; and this being taken as a proof of his sullen perverse spirit, the enraged officer furiously repeated his blows till he expired at his feet. The brute coolly ordered some of the surviving slaves to carry the dead body to the water’s side, where, without any ceremony or delay, being thrown into the sea, the tragedy was supposed to have been immediately finished by the not more inhuman sharks, with which the harbour then abounded. These voracious fish were supposed to have followed the vessels from the coast of Africa, in which ten thousand slaves were imported in that one season, being allured by the stench, and daily fed by the dead carcasses thrown overboard on the voyage.”
If the reader should observe here, that cattle are better protected in this country, than slaves in the colonies, his observation will be just. The beast which is driven to market, is defended by law from the goad of the driver; whereas the wretched African, though an human being, and whose feelings receive of course a double poignancy from the power of reflection, is unnoticed in this respect in the colonial code, and may be goaded and beaten till he expires.
We may now take our leave of the first receivers. Their crime has been already estimated; and to reason farther upon it, would be unnecessary. For where the conduct of men is so manifestly impious, there can be no need, either of a single argument or a reflection; as every reader of sensibility will anticipate them in his own feelings.
[* ]It is universally allowed, that at least one fifth of the exported negroes perish in the passage. This estimate is made from the time in which they are put on board, to the time when they are disposed of in the colonies. The French are supposed to lose the greatest number in the voyage, but particularly from this circumstance, because their slave ships are in general so very large, that many of the slaves that have been put on board sickly, die before the cargo can be completed.
[* ]This instance happened in a ship, commanded by one Collingwood. On the 29th of November, 1781, fifty-four of them were thrown into the sea alive; on the 30th forty-two more; and in about three days afterwards, twenty-six. Ten others, who were brought upon the deck for the same purpose, did not wait to be hand-cuffed, but bravely leaped into the sea, and shared the fate of their companions. It is a fact, that the people on board this ship had not been put upon short allowance. The excuse which this execrable wretch made on board for his conduct, was the following, “that if the slaves, who were then sickly, had died a natural death, the loss would have been the owners; but as they were thrown alive into the sea, it would fall upon the under writers.”
[* ]This gentleman is at present resident in England. The author of this Essay applied to him for some information on the treatment of slaves, so far as his own knowledge was concerned. He was so obliging as to furnish him with the written account alluded to, interspersed only with such instances, as he himself could undertake to answer for. The author, as he has never met with these instances before, and as they are of such high authority, intends to transcribe two or three of them, and insert them in the fourth chapter. They will be found in inverted commas.