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1-023 (Text)

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addressee,male author,male,Johnson, Richard,37
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Private Written
Private Correspondence
Ward, 1969
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1-023-plain.txt — 6 KB

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The Rev. R. Johnson to Mr Thornton
THE LADY JULIANA brought out from England two hundred and twenty-six women convicts, out of which she had only buried five, though they had been on board for about fifteen months. The case was much otherwise with the other three ships.
There were on board - Died on board Sick landed
The Neptune, 520 163 269
The Scarborough, 252 68 96
The Surprize, 211 42 121
The short calculation or account given me will account for what I am going to relate.
Have been on board these different ships. Was first on board the Surprize. Went down amongst the convicts, where I beheld a sight truly shocking to the feelings of humanity, a great number of them laying, some half and others nearly quite naked, without either bed or bedding, unable to turn or help themselves. Spoke to them as I passed along, but the smell was so offensive that I could scarcely bear it. I then went on board the Scarborough; proposed to go down amongst them, but was dissuaded from it by the captain. The Neptune was still more wretched and intolerable, and therefore never attempted it. Some of these unhappy people died after the ships came info the harbour, before they could be taken on shore - part of these had been thrown into the harbour, and their dead bodies cast upon the shore, and were seen laying naked upon the rocks. Took an occasion to represent this to his Excellency, in consequence of which immediate orders were sent on board that those who died on board should be carried to the opposite north shore and be buried.
The landing of these people was truly affecting and shocking; great numbers were not able to walk, nor to move hand or foot; such were slung over the ship side in the same manner as they would sling a cask, a box, or anything of that nature. Upon their being brought up to the open air some fainted, some died upon deck, and others in the boat before they reached the shore. When come on shore many were not able to walk, to stand, or to stir themselves in the least, hence some were led by others.  Some creeped upon their hands and knees, and some were carried upon the backs of others.
The next thing to be considered was what was to be done with all these miserable objects. Besides the sick that were in the hospital previous to the arrival of the fleet, there were now landed not less than four hundred and eighty-six sick; but the hospital erected here is not sufficient to hold above sixty or eighty at most; what then must be done with the rest? It was fortunate that a new hospital was brought out in the Justinian. This was set up with all speed; a great number of tents, in all ninety or a hundred, were pitched. In each of these tents there were about four sick people; here they lay in a most deplorable situation. At first they had nothing to lay upon but the damp ground, many scarcely a rag to cover them. Grass was got for them to lay upon, and a blanket given amongst four of them. Have been amongst them for hours, may say days together, going from one tent to another, from one person to another, and you may imagine that what I here beheld was not a little affecting. The number landed sick were near five hundred, most at site hospital, and some few dispersed here and there throughout the camp.
The misery I saw amongst them is unexpressible; many were not able to turn, or even to stir themselves, and in this situation were covered over almost with their own nastiness, their heads, bodies, cloths, blanket, all full of filth and lice. Scurvy was not the only nor the worst disease that prevailed amongst them (one man I visited this morning, I think, I may say safely had 10,000 lice upon his body and bed); some were exercised with violent fevers, and others with a no less violent purging and flux. The complaints they had to make were no less affecting to the ear than their outward condition was to the eye. The usage they met with on hoard, according to their own story, was truly shocking; sometimes for days, nay, for a considerable time together, they have been to the middle in water chained together, hand and leg, even the sick not exempted - -nay, many died with the chains upon them. Promises, entreaties, were all in vain, and it was not till a very few days before they made harbour that they were released out of irons. The greatest complaints by far were from those persons who had come in the Neptune. No wonder that they should be so afflicted; no wonder to hear them groaning and crying and making the most bitter lamentations. Endeavoured to comiserate them under their afflictions, pitied them, encouraged them to hope many of them would soon recover; that every indulgence, every attention would be paid to them; prayed with them, and gave some books amongst those of them that were able to read.
You will, perhaps. he astonished when I tell you a little of the villainy (If these wretched people. Some would complain they had no jackets, shirts, or trowsers, and begged that I would intercede for them. Some by this means have had two, three, four- - nay, one loan not less than six different slops given him, which he would take an opportunity to sell to some others, and then make the same complaints and entreaties. When any of them were near dying, and had something given them as bread or lillipie (flour and water boiled together), or any other necessaries, the person next to him or others would catch the bread, &c., out of his hand, and, with an oath, say that he was going to die, and therefore it would be of no service to him.  No sooner would the breath be out of any of their bodies than others would watch them and strip them entirely naked. Instead of alleviating the distresses of each other, the weakest were sure to go to the wall. In the nighttime, which at this time is very cold, and especially this would be felt in the tents, where they had nothing but grass to lay on and a blanket amongst four of them, he that was strongest of the four would take the whole blanket to himself and leave the rest quite naked.
These three last ships have now been here about six weeks. In this time you may suppose there have been great alterations among the sick: a good many are so far recovered that they have got to work: a great number have died; have buried not less than eighty-six since they landed - eighty-four convicts, one child, and one soldier.