See also Middle Passage and the Love of Liberty: Texts and Sources
RESISTANCE ABOARD SHIP
- Astley, Thomas, A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels, Vol. II, London, 1745
- (notes and quotations: Astley's source here is Snelgrave's New Account of Some parts of Guinea and the Slave Trade)
506 As they generally suspect they are to be eaten he took care immediately to acquaint them that they were brought to till the ground etc. and that if any one abused them on board they should air their complaint to the linguist to have justice done them; but that if they are to make a disturbance or offered to strike a white man, they should expect to be severely punished.
When they purchase Negroes the sturdy men are coupled together with irons, but the women and children are suffered to go freely about. And soon after they have sailed from the coast the men are loosened.
They are fed twice a day and allowed in fair weather to come upon the deck at 7 in the morning and remain there until sunset. Every Monday they are served with pipes and tobacco. The men Negroes lodge separate from the women and children and the places they lie are cleared every day under some white mens supervision.
506 Mutiny (1704)
400 Negroes 10 white men able to do service. Many were dead, others sick, 12 people were gone ashore to fetch wood. They rose just before supper. None had been able to remove their irons as they had always been carefully examined morning and evening. 3 white men stood on watch with cutlasses one of whom being on the forecastle and seeing them lay hold of the chief mate in order to throw him overboard, soon made them quit him, who ran to the quarter deck to get arms. Snelgrave was sick of an ague on a couch in the great cabin. Hearing a cry of mutiny took 2 pistols and ran on deck with them. On deck gave one to his father (the captain) and one to the mate. They went forward on the Booms, calling to the Negroes, who little regarded their threats being busy with the Centry, who had disengaged the Chief Mate. They had seized him but not being able to break the line which fastened the cutlass to his wrist, could not make use of it upon which they tried to throw him overboard. Which he prevented by clinging fast to one of them.
Old Snelgrave ventured at last amongst them to save this fellow, and fired his pistol over their heads thinking to frighten them. But a lusty slave almost stunned him with the stroke of a billet and was going to repeat his blow when a young lad about 17 whom he had been kind to, received the stroke upon his arm, by which the bone was fractured. At the same instant the mate shot the negro with his pistol at sight of which the mutiny ceased and all those on the forecastle threw themselves on their faces, crying out for mercy. Upon examination not above 20 men were concerned and the 2 ringleaders when they found their project defeated jumped overboard and were drowned. Which was all the loss they suffered.
507 The Kormantines on the Gold Coast are the most stubborn fellows. In 1721 Snelgrave bought a good many of these people whom he secured well in irons and watched narrowly. However they mutinied at a place called Mumford on the same coast. There were five hundred negroes on board, 300 of them men, but then he had 50 white men all in health and very good officers. The mutiny began at midnight when the moon shone very bright. The two centries at the fore hatch way suffered 4 negroes to go at once to the house of office, and neglecting to lay the grating again, four more came up. These eight having gotten off their irons fell all together on the the 2 centries, who immediately called out for help. The negros tried to force their cutlasses from them but the line yards by which they were fastened to their wrists were so twisted in the scuffle that they could not get them off before assistance came up. Upon this the negros jumped overboard but they found them all clinging to the cable the ship was moored by.
After they were secured the Captain asked them how they came to mutiny. They answered he was a great rogue to buy them, in order to carry them away from their own country and that they were resolved to regain their liberty if possible. He replied that they had forfeited their freedom before he bought them either by crimes or being prisoners of war and finding they had no ill usage on board to complain of, he observed to them that if they should gain their point and escape to the shore, their countrymen would catch them and sell them to other ships. This had its effect for they immediately begged pardon and went quietly to sleep.
507 However in a few days they were plotting again and one of the ringleaders proposed to a linguist that if he would get them an axe he would in the night cut the ships cable by which means on her driving ashore, they could get out and would become his servants during life. The linguist (or broker) acquainted the Captain with this. This made Snelgrave very uneasy. Learning the Kormantines to be desperate fellows who despised punishment and even death itself. For it has often happened at Barbados...that on their being any ways hardly dealt with to break them of their stubbornness in refusing to work, 20 or more, have hanged themselves at a time, in one plantation.
507 Mutiny on another ship. Full moon. They saw 2 negroes swimming from (a ship) who were torn to pieces by sharks, before they could reach them. Coming to the ships side they found two other negroes holding by a rope, with their heads just above water, being frightened at the sight of their two countrymens fate. One had found the cooks ax and surprised by the cooper, split his skull. Captain invited captains of all 8 other ships then at Anomabu to his ship. They sentenced the assailant to death. His answer was that he confessed it was a rash action in his to kill the cooper, but . . . Snelgrave to consider that if he put him to death he should lose all the money he had paid for him. S replied that though it was customary in his country to commute for murder with money, yet it was not so with the English. Other captains returned to their ship, called slaves on deck.
The Hour- Glass being run out the murderer was carried on the Ship's Forecastle where he had a rope fastened under his arms in order to be hoisted up to the fore yard arm to be shot to death. Some of his countrymen, observing how the rope was fastened bid him not to be afraid saying it was plain he was not to be put to death else the rope would have been put about his neck to hang him, for they had no notion of his being to be shot. But they immediately saw the contrary for as soon as he was hoisted up, ten white men, placed behind the barricado on the quarter deck fired their muskets and instantly killed him. This struck a sudden damp upon all the negromen who thought on account of his profit that he would have spared him. The body being let down on deck the head was cut off and thrown overboard. This was done to let the negros see that all who offended thus should be served in the same manner. For many of the blacks believe that if they are put to death and not dismembered they shall return to their own country after they are thrown overboard.
508 Snelgrave tells of Capt Messery who on his first voyage called at a village just after a war (salt-rice palaver) and was able to buy 300 slaves in a few days. Snelgrave advised Messery to be very careful as he had gotten so many negroes of one country together. Next day Snelgrave went to Messery's ship. Seeing Messery go himself on the main deck when the negroes were at supper and put pepper and palm oil in their rice, observed to him the imprudence of going near them when at victuals or at any time, without a good guard of white men with fire arms. Messery thanked Snelgrave but did not relish his advice saying the Master's Eye makes the House Fat.
En route to Jamaica being at the forecastle amongst the men negroes when they were at victuals, they laid hold of him and beat out his brains with little tubs out of which they eat their boiled rice. This mutiny having been plotted by all the negroes on board they ran to fore part of the ship in a body and endeavoured to face the barricado on the quarter deck not regarding the muskets or half pieces presented at them by the white men through the loop holes. So that at last the chief mate was obliged to order one of the quarter deck guns laden with partridge shot to be fired among them whereby nearly 80 of them were killed or drowned, many jumped overboard when the gun went off. This indeed put an end to the mutiny but after it most of the rest through sullenness starved themselves to death and after the ship arrived at Jamaica they attempted twice to mutiny before the sale begun.