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1-021 (Original)

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addressee,male author,male,NN,un
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Private Written
Private Correspondence
Clark, 1977
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Would I could draw an eternal shade over the remembrance of this miserable part of our voyage - miserable, not so much in itself, as rendered so by the villany, oppression, and shameful peculation of the masters of two of the transports. The bark I was on board of was, indeed, unfit, from her make and size, to be sent so great a distance; if it blew but the most trifling gale she was lost in the waters, of which she shipped so much; that, from the Cape, the unhappy wretches, the convicts, were considerably above their waists in water, and the men of my company, whose berths were not so far forward, were nearly up to the middles. In this situation they were obliged, for the safety of the ship, to be pen'd down; but when the gales abated no means were used to purify the air by fumigations, no vinegar was applied to rectify the nauseous steams issuing from their miserable dungeon. Humanity shudders to think that of nine hundred male convicts embarked in this fleet, three hundred and seventy are already dead, and four hundred and fifty are landed sick and so emaciated and helpless that very few, if any of them, can be saved by care or medicine, so that the sooner it pleases God to remove them the better it will be for this colony. [...]. The irons used upon these unhappy wretches were barbarous. The contractors had been in the Guinea trade, and had put on board the same shackles used by them in that trade, which are made with a short bolt, instead of chains that drop between the legs and fasten with a bandage about the waist, like those at the different gaols; these bolts were not more than three-quarters of a foot in length, so that they could not extend either leg from the other more than an inch or two at most; thus fettered, it was impossible for them to move but at the risk of both their legs being broken. Inactivity at sea is a sure bane, as it invites the scurvy equal to, if not more than, salt provisions; to this they were consigned, as well as a miserable pittance of provisions, altho' the allowance by Government is ample; even when attacked by disease their situations were not altered, neither had they any comforts administered. The slave trade is merciful compared with what I have seen in this fleet; in that it is the interests of the masters to preserve the healths and lives of their captives, they having a joint benefit with the owners; in this, the more they can withhold from the unhappy wretches the more provisions they have to dispose of at a foreign market, and the earlier in the voyage they die the longer they can draw the deceased's allowance to themselves; for I fear few of them are honest enough to make a just return of the dates of their deaths to their employers. [111] It, therefore, highly concerns Government to lodge, in future, a controlling power in each ship over these low-lifed, barbarous masters, to keep them honest, instead of giving it to one man (an agent) who can only see what is going forward in his ship.
My feelings never have been so wounded as in this voyage, so much so, that I never shall recover my accustomed vivacity and spirits; and had I been empowered, it would have been the most grateful task in my life to have prevented so many of my fellow-creatures so much misery and death.