DESCRIPTION OF A SLAVE SHIP.
The PLAN and SECTIONS annexed exhibit a slave ship with the slaves stowed.(*)
In order to give a representation of the trade against which no complaint
of exaggeration could be brought by those concerned in it, the Brooks is
here described, a ship well known in the trade, and the first mentioned
in the report delivered to the House of Commons last year by Captain
Parrey, who was sent to Liverpool by Government to take the dimensions
of the ships employed in the African slave trade from that port. The
plans and sections are on a scale of the 8th of an inch to a foot.
DIMENSIONS OF THE SHIP
|Length of the Lower Deck, gratings and bulk-heads included
|Breadth of Beamon the Lower Deckinside, BB
|Depth of Hold, OOO from cieling to cieling
|Height between decks from deck to deck
|Length of the Mens Room, CC on the lower deck
|Breadth of the Mens Room, CC on the lower deck
|Length of the Platforms, DD in the mens room
|Breadth of the Platformsin mens rooms on each side
|Length of the Boys Room, EE
|Breadth of the Boys Room
|Breadth of Platforms, FF in boys room
|Length of Womens Room, GG
|Breadth of Womens Room
|Length of Platforms, HH in womens room
|Breadth of Platforms in womens room
|Length of the Gun Room, II on the lower deck
|Breadth of the Gun Room, II on the lower deck
|Length of the Quarter Deck, KK
|Breadth of Quarter Deck
|Length of the Cabin, LL
|Height of the Cabin
|Length of the Half Deck, MM
|Height of the Half Deck
|Length of the Platforms, NN on the half deck
|Breadth of the Platformson the half deck
|Upper deck, PP
Nominal tonnage 297
Supposed tonnage by measurement 320
Number of seamen 45
The number of slaves actually carried on this slave ship from the acoounts
given to Captain Parrey by the slave-merchants themselves are as follows:
The room allowed to each description of slaves in this plan is:
To the Men 6 feet by 1 foot 4 inches.
Women 5 feet 10 in. by 1 foot 4 in.
Boys 5 feet by 1 foot 2 in.
Girls 4 feet 6 in. by 1 foot.
(*) This is the usual manner of placing the slaves, butx it varies according
to the position of the ship, and the practice of different commanders.
With this allowance of room the utmost number that can be stowed in
a vessel of the dimension of the Brooks, is as follows, (being
the number exhibited in the pan) and is 1 1/2 to a ton, viz. (+)
||On the Plan
|Men - on the lower deck, at CC
|Ditto on the platform of ditto, CC DD
|Boys - lower deck EE
|Ditto - platform FF
|Women - lower deck, GG
|Ditto - platform, HH
|Women Half deck, MM
|Platform ditto, NN
|Girls Gun room, II
The principal difference is in the men. It must be observed
that the men, from whom only insurrections are to be feared,
are kept continually in irons, and must be stowed in the room allotted
for them, which is of a more secure construction than the rest.
In this ship the number of men actually carried was - 351
The number of men stated in the plan at 1 foot 4 inches each 190
As the ship on this plan would stow 42 women boys and girls in the places
here allotted them more than she did carry, supporting that number taken
from the mens room and placed in their stead, this will reduce the number
of men to 309 in the mens room; of course the room allowed them, instead
of being 16 inches as in the plan was in reality only 10 inches each;
but if the whole number 351 were stowed in the mens room, they had only
9 inches each to lay in.
The men therefore, instead of lying on their backs, were placed, as is
usual, in full ships, on their sides, or on each other. In which last
situation they are not unfrequently found dead in the morning.
The longitudinal section, fig. I shows the manner in which the slaves
were placed on all the decks and platforms, which is also further illustrated
by the transverse sections, fig. II. and III. By which it appears, that
the height between the decks is 5 feet 8 inches, which allowing 2 inches
for the platform and its bearers, makes the height between the decks
and the platform 2 feet 9 inches; but the beams and their knees, with
the carlings, taking 4 inches on an average, this space is unequally
divided, and above or under the platforms cannot be estimated at more
than 2 feet 7 inches; so that the slaves cannot, when placed either on
or under the platform, relieve themselves by sitting up; the very short
ones excepted, nor can they except on board the larger vessels.
The average of nine vessels measured by Captain Parrey, being mostly
large ships, was only 5 feet 2 inches. The height of the Venus between
decks was 4 feet 2 inches; of the Kitty, 4 feet 4 inches, both of which
had platforms. In these smaller vessels therefore they have not 2 feet
under or upon the platforms.
In fig. I, under the upper deck PP, and the lower deck AA, the beams
and the intervening carlings are represented by shaded sqares. The beams
are also introduced on one side of the transverse sections II. and III,
in order to shew the space which a slave placed under a beam has to lie
and breathe in.
(+) It must be notd, that every possible advantage of stowing is allowed
in the plan. There are or ought to be in each apartment one of more poopoo
tubs; there are also stanchions to support the platforms and decks; for
which no deduction is made; but the deck is supported clear of every
It may be expected, from this mode of packing a number of our fellow-creatures,
used in their own country to a life of ease, and from the anguish of
mind their situation must necessarily create, that many of them fall
sick and die. Instances sometimes occur of horrible mortality. The average
is not less than 1-5th, or 20 percent. The half deck is sometimes appropriated
for a sick birth, but the men slaves are seldom indulged the
privilege of being placed there, till there is little hope of recovery.
The slaves are never allowed the least bedding, either sick or well;
but are stowed on the bare boards, from the friction of which, occasioned
by the motion of the ship, and their chains, are frequently much bruised;
and in some cases the flesh is rubbed off their shoulders, elbows, and
It may not be improper to add a short account of the mode of securing,
airing, and exercising the slaves.
The women and children are not chained, but the men are constantly chained
two and two; the right leg of one to the left leg of the other, and their
hands are secured in the same manner.
They are brought up on the main deck every day, about eight o'clock,
and as each pair ascend, a strong chain, fastened by ring-bolts to the
deck, is passed through their shackles; a precaution absolutely necessary
to prevent insurrections. -In this state, if the weather is favourable,
they are permitted to remain about one-third part of the twenty-four
hours, and during this interval they are fed, and their apartment below
is cleaned; but when the weather is bad, even those indulgencies cannot
be granted them, and they are only permitted to come up in small companies,
of about ten at a time, to be fed, where after remaining a quarter of
an hour, each mess is obliged to give place to the next in rotation.
In very bad weather, some are unavoidably brought on deck; there
being no other method of getting water, provisions etc. out of the hold,
but by removing those slaves who lie on the hatch-ways. The consequence
of this violent change from their rooms, which are inconceivably hot,
to the wind and rain, is their being attacked with coughs, swellings
of the glands of the neck, fevers, and dysenteries; which are communicated
by infection to the other slaves, and also to the sailors.
The only exercise of the men-slaves is their being made to jump in their
chains; and this by the friends of the trade, is called dancing.
To persons unacquainted with the mode of carrying on this system of trading
in human flesh, these Plans and Sections will appear rather a fiction,
than a real representation of a slave-ship. They will probably object,
that there is no room for stowing cables, and such other utensils and
stores as are usually placed between decks. In a slave ship (i.e. a full
one) these articles are either deposited in the hold, or piled upon the
upper deck; and from thence, in case of bad weather, or accidents, no
small confusion is occasioned. -It may be also said, the slaves are placed
so very close, that there is not room for the surgeon to visit and assist
them: the fact is, that when the surgeon goes amongst them, he picks
out his way as well as he can, by stepping between their legs. He frequently
finds it to be impossible to afford them that relief which an humane
man (and such there are even in this trade) would willingly give them.
When attacked with fluxes, their situation is scarcely to be described.
To give an instance, (as related by an eye-witness) as it serves to convey
some idea, though a very faint one, of the sufferings of those unhappy
beings whom we wantonly drag from their native country, and doom to perpetual
labour and captivity: "Some wet and blowing weather having occasioned
the port-holes to be shut, and the grating to be covered, fluxes and
fevers among the negroes ensued. While they were in this situation, my
profession requiring it, I frequently went down among them, till at length
apartments became so extremely hot, as to be only sufferable for a very
short time. But the excessive heat was not the only thing that rendered
their situation intolerable. The deck, that is, the floor of their rooms,
was so covered with the blood and mucus which had proceded from them
in consequence of the flux, that it resembled a slaughter-house. It is
not in the power of the human imagination to picture to itself a situation
more dreadful or disgusting. Numbers of the slaves had fainted, they
were carried upon deck, where several of them died, and the rest were,
with difficulty, restored. It had nearly proved fatal to me also." (*)
Another objection which may be stated, is, that here no room is allowed
for the sailors hammocks. In slave ships, while the slaves are on board,
the sailors have no other lodging than the bare decks, or (in large ships)
the tops. From this exposure, they often are wet for a long time together,
the rains in those climates being frequent and extremely heavy. There
is in wet weather a tarpawling placed over the gratings; if the sailors
to shelter themselves creep under this, they are exposed to the noisome
and infectious effluvia which continually exhale from the slaves below.
It appeared from the evidence given by the slave merchants last year
before the House of Commons, that the employment of the seamen, viz.
boating up the rivers after the negroes, guarding them on board, cleansing
the vessel, etc. is of a nature offensive and dangerous beyond that of
seamen in other services, and that the small-pox, measles, flux, and
other contagious disorders, are frequent on board these ships.
It is therefore falsely said by the well-wishers to this trade, that
the suppression of it will destroy a great nursery for seamen, and annihilate
a very considerable source of commercial profit. -The Rev. Mr. Clarkson,
in his admirable treatise on the Impolicy of the Trade, has proved from
the most incontestable authority, that so far from being a nursery, it
has been constantly and regularly a grave for our seamen; for that
in this traffic only, a greater proportion of men perish in ONE year,
than in all the other trades of Great Britain in TWO years.
Besides the time spent on the coast to complete their cargoes, which
sometimes lasts several months, the slaves are from six to eight week
on their passage from thence to the West-Indies.
Now let any person reflect on the situation of a number of those devoted
people, thus managed and thus crammed together, and he must think it
dreadful, even under every favourable circumstance of an humane captain,
an able surgeon, fine weather, and a short passage. But when to a long
passage are added, inhuman treatment, scanty and bad provisons, and rough
weather, their condition is miserable beyond description. So destructive
is this traffic in some circumstances, particularly in bad weather, when
the slaves are kept below, and the gratings covered with tarpawlings,
that a schooner, which carried only 140 slaves, meeting with a gale of
wind which lasted eighteen hours, no less than 50 slaves perished in
that small space of time.
As then the inhumanity of this trade must be universally admitted and
lamented, people would do well to consider, that it does not often fall
to the lot of individuals, to have an opporunity of performing so important
a moral and religious duty, as that of endeavouring to put an end to
a practice, which may, without exaggeration, be stiled one of the greatest
evils at this day existing upon the earth.
(*) Falconbridge's Account of the Slave Trade, page 31.
LONDON: PRINTED BY JAMES PHILLIPS, GEORGE-YARD, LOMBARD STREET. MDCCLXXXIX