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so that a successful voyage might compensate for many captures. In olden times there were vessels fitted expressly for the purpose—large Indiamen or whalers. Lieutenant Foote says:
“If ever there were any thing on earth which, for revolting, filthy, heartless atrocity, might make the devil wonder and hell recognize its own likeness, it was on one of the decks of an old slaver. The sordid cupidity of the older, as it is meaner, was also more callous than the hurried ruffianism of the present age. In fact, a slaver now has but one deck; in the last century they had two or three. Any one of the decks of the larger vessels was rather worse, if it could be, than the single deck of the brigs and schooners now employed in the trade. Then the number of decks rendered the suffocating and pestilential hold a scene of unparalleled wretchedness."*
In bad weather, when the hatches were closed, the death of numbers from suffocation would necessarily occur, and in the efforts of the more athletic to get at the air, the weaker would be strangled. The height between decks was so small that a inan of ordinary size could hardly sit upright. The slaves were obliged to lie on their backs, and were shackled by their ankles, the left of one being fettered to the right of the next, so that the whole number, in one line, formed a single living chain. When one died, the body remained-during the night, or in stormy weather for a longer time, and until it was in a putrid state-secured to two living bodies.
We are not, however, to suppose that the horrors of “the middle passage” were essentially diminished in modern times ; and the diabolical atrocity of those who, in the middle of this century, dealt in “ebony”—some of them New England captains, from homes where the religion of Christ was taught
-was increased tenfold by the light of humanity diffused abroad. Here was the fountain-head of the slave-supply in the Southern States; and it is a cause of gratitude that our hero
* “ Africa and the American Flag," p. 27.
The West African Coast.
was enabled to do some serious work toward the permanent destruction of this original evil before he actually came to contend with the slave-power in its final assault upon the life of the government.
In Lieutenant Foote's notices of Africa, before entering upon the detail of his special work, there is much that shows an observing and penetrative, we might almost say, scientific mind; for example, he thus discourses at length of the philosophy of storms on the West African coast :
“ The vast radiator formed by the sun beating vertically on the plains of tropical Africa, heats and expands the air, and thus constitutes a sort of central trough, into which gravitation brings compensating currents, by producing a lateral sliding inward of the great trade-wind streams. Thus, as a general rule, winds which would normally diverge from the shores are drawn in toward them. They have been gathering moisture in their progress; and when pressed upward, as they expand under the vertical sun, lose their heat in the upper regions, let go their moisture, and spread over the interior terraces and mountains a sheet of heavily depositing cloud. This constitutes the rainy season, which necessarily, from the causes producing it, accompanies the sun in its apparent oscillations across the equator.
“ The Gulf of Guinea has in its own bosom a system of hurricanes and squalls, of which little is known but their existence and their danger. A. description of them, of rather old date, specifies as a fact that they begin by the appearance of a small mass of clouds in the zenith, which widens and extends till the canopy covers the horizon. Now if this were true of any given spot, it would indicate that the hurricane always began there. The appearance of a patch of cloud in the zenith could be true of only one place out of all those which the hurricane influenced. If it is meant that wherever the phenomenon originated, there a mass of cloud gradually formed in the zenith, this would be a most important particular in regard to the proximate cause of the phenomenon, for it would mark a rapid direction upward of the atmosphere at that spot as the first observable incident of the series. That the movements produced would subsequently become whirling, or circumvolant, is a mechanical necessity; but the force of the movement ought not to be strongest at the place where the movement had its origin.
“The squalls, with high towering clouds, which rise like a wall on the horizon, involve the same principles as to the formation of the vapor, and are easily explicable. They are not necessarily connected with circular hurricanes; but the principles of their formation may modify the intensity of the blasts in a circumvolant tornado. Since in the Gulf of Guinea they come from the eastward, it is to be inferred that they are ripples or undulations in an air current. In regard to all of this, it is necessary to speak doubtfully, for there is a great lack of accurate and detailed observation on these points.
“Its position and physical characteristics give to this continent great influence over the rest of the earth. Africa, America, and Australia have nearly similar relations to the great oceans interposed respectively between them. Against the eastern sides of these regions are carried from the ocean those strange, furious whirlwinds on the shallow film of the earth's atmosphere which constitute hurricanes. It is evident that these oceans are mainly the channels in which the surface winds move which are drawn from colder regions toward the equator. The shores are the banks of these air streams. The return currents above flow over every thing. They are thus prevalent in the interior, so that the climatic conditions there are different from those on the sea-board. These circumstances in the southern extra-tropical regions are accompanied by corresponding differences in the character of the vegetable world.
“These winds are sometimes drawn aside across the coast-lines, constituting the Mediterranean sirocco and the African harmattan. Vessels far off at sea, sailing to the northward, are covered or stained on the weather-side of their rigging (that next to the African coast) with a fine, light-yellow powder. A reddish-brown dust sometimes tinges the sails and rigging. An instance of this occurred on board the Perry on her outward-bound passage when five hundred miles from the African coast."*
In another place Lieutenant Foote happily describes the physical conformation of the African sea-coast, which has had, and will ever have, its influence upon the commerce of that continent:
“The sea-shore is generally low, except as influenced by Atlas, or the Abyssinian ranges, or the mountains of the southern extremity. There is not uncommonly a flat, swampy plain bordering on the sea, where the
* “ Africa and the American Flag,” p. 32–34.
The African Slave - Trade.
rivers push out their deltas, or form lagoons by their conflict with the fierce surge upon the shore. The sea does not deal kindly with Africa, for it wastes or guards the shores with an almost unconquerable surf. Tides are small, and rivers are not safely penetrable. The ocean offered to the negro nothing but a little food, procured with some trouble and much danger. Hence ocean commerce was unknown to them.”
But it is time that the real business should be spoken of which the commander of the little brig Perry took in hand to do.
After the great European war, when, in the language of Lieutenant Foote, “the matured villainy of the world” was assembled on the African coast to re-establish the slave-trade, England commenced a vigorous system of cruising by her warships to suppress the trade. In 1839 the corrective was still more stringently applied. Permission had then been wrung from the slave - trading powers to capture vessels outward bound for Africa when fitted for the slave-trade. The treaties provided that vessels equipped for the traffic might be cap. tured. A slaver was to be taken because she was a slaver: just as it is better to shoot the wolf before he has killed the sheep than afterward. If a vessel, therefore, were found on the African coast with slave-irons, water in sufficient quantity for a slave-cargo, with a slave-deck laid for packing slaves, she was seized and condemned before committing the overt act. Under this arrangement double the number of captures was made during the next ten years than in the twenty years previous. The efforts of the English squadron were conjoined with those of France and the United States, although England took the laboring oar, and was, it must be confessed, the most in earnest in this business. A treaty with Great Britain was signed at Washington in the year 1842, stipulating that each pation should maintain on the African coast a force of naval vessels of suitable numbers and description, to carry in all not less than eighty guns, to enforce, separately and respectively, the laws, rights, and obligations of each of the two countries, for the suppression of the slave-trade. These, together with other subsidiary means (such as the substitution of legal trade, the conversion of old slave-factories and forts into positions defensive against their former purpose, etc.), reduced the export of slaves in 1849 from one hundred and five thousand to about thirty-seven thousand. Still the evil was great, and the laxity on the part of the American government to fulfill its portion of the treaty was sorely felt; and since the American flag was inviolable to any foreign nation, in the case of falling in with a British cruiser, an American slaver, on presenting her register, or sea-letter, as a proof of nationality, could not be searched nor detained. The American flag came thus to be greatly abused, and was deeply involved in the slave-traffic. This was further aided by the artful device of legal trading: with a cargo corresponding to the manifest, and all the ship's papers being made out in form. American slarers, under the disguise of doing a legal business, swarmed on the African coast, and escaped almost with impunity. There was sometimes a pretended sale when the slaver was ready to start from the African coast: the American captain and his crew going on shore as the slaves were coming off, while the Portuguese or Italian passengers, who came out in her, all at once, as by a kind of devilish jugglery, became the master and crew of the vessel. There is evidence in the records of the Consulate of slaves having started from the shore, and at the same time the master and crew from the vessel, carrying with them the flag and ship's papers; when, the parties becoming frightened, both pulled back; the slaves were returned to the shore, and the American master and crew went on board the vessel. The stars and stripes were again hoisted over her, and kept flying until the cause of the alarm (an English cruiser) departed from the coast, and the embarkation was safely effected. The American minis