What terrible glimpses of human suffering are furnished by these dry mathematical details. The slaver, to make money, must show his human cargo with twelve to sixteen inches only of board for each to lie on. Lord Palmerston, speaking of African slave ships, strikingly says: "A negro has not as much room in them as a corpse in a coffin." a
As the witnesses examined by the Lords in council were, for the most part, masters or surgeons of slavers or merchants engaged in the trade, the results of this frightful system only occasionally came to light. The slaves, thus stowed away like so much inanimate cargo, often felt their lives so grievous a burden that they attempted suicide, sometimes by throwing themselves overboard, sometimes by refusing all food. To prevent the first mode of self-destruction, as well as to avoid the dangers of insurrection, the men slaves were always put in irons, fastened two and two, the "chains being locked at different intervals to the deck," b and when released and brought on deck, as they were every fine day, were compelled, by fear of the lash, to exercise- to dance, as the phrase of the trade was-in their fetters. c As to the second mode of suicide, by self-inflicted starvation, its frequency rendered it an object of suspicion and of punishment. Captain Hull, a slave-trader, deposes: "Has known instances of slaves being punished for not eating, supposed to be from stubbornness, when in reality it was from indisposition; and in some instances the slaves so punished have been found dead next morning." d
The women and children were not chained, and had usually more liberty than the men. But a surgeon of a slaver (Mr. James Arnold) thus indicates the spirit in which they were sometimes treated: "When the women were sitting by themselves below he had heard them singing, but always, at these times, in tears. Their songs contained the history of their separation from friends and country. These songs were so disagreeable to the captain that he has taken them up and flogged them in so terrible a manner for no other reason than this, that he (Mr. Arnold) has been a fortnight or three weeks in healing the incisions made." e
In severe weather, when the slaves could not be brought on deck, the mortality was often frightful. An instance is stated of "a schooner which carried only 140 slaves meeting with a gale of wind which lasted eighteen hours, and losing, in that brief space of time, 50 slaves," upward of one-third of the whole number.
But worse misfortunes than storms sometimes overtook these poor wretches. Mr. William James testifies as follows: "In the year 1779, being master of the Hound, sloop-of-war, and coming from the bay of Honduras to Jamaica, he fell in, off the Isle of Pines, with two Liverpool Guineamen on the middle passage, commanded by Captains Ringmaiden and Jackson, who had very imprudently (but whether willfully or not he cannot say) missed the island of Jamaica. Captain Nugent gave them chase and came up with them. Mr. James upon boarding them found them in great distress, both on account of provisions and water. He asked the captains (for both of them were on
a Speech already quoted, of July 26, 1844.
b Testimony of John Newton, mate of slaver. (Lords" Report, Part II, Sheet B 2.)
c While the slaves are upon deck it is thought necessary that they should take exercise, for which purpose the chief mate and the boatswain are stationed with a cat-of-nine-tails to compel them to dance, as it is called. (Testimony of William James, Lords" Report, Part II, Sheet D 7.)
d Lords" Report, Part II, Sheet C 2.
e Lords" Report, Part II, Sheet D 2.