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Diligent%2029 - 254 | THE DILIGENT was followed by the...

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Unformatted text preview: 254 | THE DILIGENT was followed by the second, and then the third, which was large enough to swallow the canoe whole. The canoemen paddled in rhythm, occasionally pausing to wait for the right moment, then paddling hard to make as much progress as possible before the next wave came in. If the canoe was caught by a wave, it would be thrown backward toward the shore and the canoe— men would be forced to begin the process again. The canoemen knew how difficult it was to traverse the waves, and they had arranged to be paid whether the canoe made it to the Diligent or not. Finally, after endless pitches and rolls, advances and retreats, the canoe— men grabbed hold of lines extending from the Diligent and steadied the ca— noe against the gentle bobbing of the ship. A rope ladder was extended from the ship, and the canoemen untied the hands of a woman captive and ordered her to climb it. One of the ship’s officers was at the top of the lad— der to supervise the operation, and several crew members waited there to grab the woman and pull her over the rail. Between the canoemen at the bottom and the crewmembers at the top, they were taking no chances that she might try to escape by jumping or falling from the ladder. The woman felt herself literally caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, but the sea was so terrifying that the devil seemed a better alternative. Reaching the top of the rope ladder, she was pulled onto the deck of the bobbing ship and taken down into the dark, cramped women’s section of the slave deck, located at the rear of the ship and just below the officers’ quarters. The air was dank and stifling hot because the refashioned cargo bay of the Diligent had not been built with ventilation in mind. After the women had all been loaded, the men were loaded onto the front part of the slave deck and shackled together two by two. The slave irons carried by the Diligent, which had been manufactured in Nantes, consisted of two U—shaped bars of iron held together by an iron rod that was passed through openings on the ends and locked into place. The slave iron bound the left ankle of one captive to the right ankle of another, making it difficult for either of them to walk unless they moved in perfect harmony. As their eyes grew accus— tomed to the semidarkness, they began to look around for comrades firom the warehouse who had gone out before them. @OBERT DURAND HAD SPENT less than three weeks at the warehouse at Jakin when the “malady of the country,” as he called it, struck him on November 13. It started with a severe headache and pain in the kidneys. Each person who had worked at the warehouse, it seemed, had become ill within a few weeks. Robert Durand had hoped to escape the illness, but as he put his hands to his throbbing head, he knew Durand was carried in a ham— await a canoe to take him to the had replaced him when he had hired canoemen, who demanded dle Durand through the surf. Be— f the agreement when Durand had 0 pay and vowed to find another means of reaching the Diligent. Shortly after noon he spotted the canoe belonging to the Royal African Company, manned by Mina canoemen, gettlng ready to “pass the bar” as they termed it. The English captain gave permission for Durand and Jean Mahé, the second carpenter of the Dili- gent, who was also sick, to ride with them in the canoe through the waves until they reached a point at which they could be picked up by the long— boat of the Diligent. Diligent. There he greeted Sabatier, who left the tent for Jakin. They contacted the an extra keg of brandy in order to pad cause this payment had not been part 0 first hired the canoemen, he refilsed t Arriving on board, Durand felt better than he had the previous day, and he had hopes that he was beginning to recover. The next day, however, his fever was so high and his headache so severe that he requested a bleeding 255 256 i THE DILIGENT of his feet, a procedure that would be repeated eight times before his illness ran its course. He also had violent stomachaches and difficult breathing, symptoms that were treated by bleeding his arms on two separate occa— sions. For ten days the ship’s doctor did not know whether Durand would live or die. Knowing no other treatment, he continued the bleedings and purgings. With his strength dissipated by both the illness and the treat— ment, Durand lay almost lifeless in the darkness to ease the ache in his head. On the slave deck just below him were several slaves suffering from similar illnesses, but they did not get the same level of medical attention. Perhaps, in this case, they were fortunate. Captain Mary had recovered fi'om his illness and arrived back at the warehouse in Jakin on November 10, three days before Durand’s depar— ture. Mary was eager to collect his cargo of captives and set sail. He knew that although the Nestor was anchored in the harbor, it was under orders not to trade until its captain, Joseph Negre, arrived from Whydah by the overland route. With Captain Négre detained by the exiled “king of Al— lada,” and with both the French Gompany of the Indies representative. .La , Pierre, and the Dutch West India Company representative, Hertogh, work— ing to negotiate Captain Negre’s release, Pierre Mary knew that he had to work quickly before he had some new competition. The dismal tasks of inspecting, bargaining, branding, and transporting slaves for the cargo of the Diligent continued much as before, but now Pierre Mary was concentrating on his own personal trading. Before the Diligent had leftVannes, Mary had gone to Nantes to take out a cambye—a special kind of loan made to a ship’s officer at interest rates as high as 3 3 percent on condition that if the ship became lost at sea, the creditor would absorb the loss.1 Mary took out a loan for twelve hundred livres at 30 per— cent interest on April 12, 1731, and then returned on April 16 to take out a loan of seventeen hundred livres at the same rate. Second Captain Pierre Valteau took out three separate loans totaling four thousand livres on April 12. Robert Durand, in partnership with his wealthy father—in—law, Etienne Hascouet, borrowed fifteen hundred livres on April 25. Even the ship’s doctor, Pierre Devigne, took out a five hundred livre loan on April 5.2 The purpose of these loans was to allow the officers to obtain personal trade goods, known as pacotilles, that they would use to purchase slaves or gold in Africa. Durand’s loan agreement specifically stated that he was to use the ,.—- .menmmmmmm:mg” _- ~ _. ~ / J . , . . tains salary was more than ten times as high as that of the lowliest sailor, it was still meager in comparison with the potential profits from the sale of 258 I THE DILIGENT slaves taking up space in the Diligent, but they were also eating food that had been furnished by the outfitters—the Billy brothers and La Croix. The sailing orders given to Captain Mary outlined an elaborate system for iden— tifying which captives belonged to which officer. Captives belonging to the ship’s “cargo" were branded on the right shoulder; those belonging to. the captain were branded on the left shoulder. The pacotille slaves of the second captain were branded on the right side of the chest, while those he— longing to the first lieutenant were branded on the left side of their chest. Those captives purchased by lower officers were branded on right and left hips and buttocks.4 , Although private French slave ships could legally carry modest amounts of pacotille goods and modest numbers of pacotille slaves openly, ships be— longing to the great trading companies carried on a similar pacotz'lle trade in secret. The' director of the French fort at Glewe believed there was no captain or officer of the Company of the Indies who did not bring a pa- cotille, even though the practice was clearly illegal.5 Carrying private trade goods was officially forbidden by the company, which limited each captain to one trunk three and a half feet long, sixteen inches wide, and sixteen inches high, and each officer to a similar trunk three feet long.6 The com- pany was nevertheless alarmed by the quantity of private goods being stowed away on ships. In 1724 the director of the company lamented, “That which is brought back in the patotilles of the ships is without ques— tion robbery. Soon the officers will cancel out the sales of the company if each ship carries two hundred bails of merchandise as patotille for them and their consorts.”7 That same year the commander of the port of Lorient professed to be “frightened by the quantity of patotilles that are smuggled aboard company ships.” The company’s efforts to stop private trading were as continuous as they were ineffectual. In 1725 the company ordered soldiers traveling aboard company ships to police the ships for pacotilles. Two years later it an— nounced that any official who seized a pacotille could keep half of it, and that any sailor who informed an official of the whereabouts of a pacotille would get half of the official’s share. Despite these measures, however, it re— mained commonplace for officers on ships of the Company of the Indies to carry private trade goods and conduct private trade.3 The company tried to discourage the practice of pacotilles by paying a bonus for each slave delivered alive to the islands on behalf of the company. on the Sene— gal circuit, the company paid ten livres per slave: the captain got five livres, the first lieutenant got one livre, and the rest of the officer corps got pro— portionally smaller bonuses. Company ships that made the longer circuit to Whydah received a larger bonus of fifteen livres per slave: the captain got seven livres, the first lieutenant got two, and so on down the line. Un— der this system, the captain would lose bonus money each time a patotille slave was substituted for a company slave, but the bonus was so small in comparison to the profits to be made from privately owned slaves that the measure had little effect.9 plained, was less vigorous in taking measures against pacotilles than it had been previously, and it was completely failing to prevent the practice. Some company captains were going as far as to appropriate brandy and cowry shells belonging to the ship’s cargo and cover the loss 'with a false declaration. If the captains would go that far, noted the director of the fort, they were likely to do almost anything to obtain and protect their pacotilles. In general, he believed, there was no captain or officer who did not bring a pacotille. Although the company ships were inspected before they left the company port of Lorient on the Brittany coast of France, they would stop ‘ during the night at the nearby port of Pen—Mane and load their pacotilles in secret. Once they arrived in Whydah, they no longer made any attempts to hide their personal goods and personal commerce. Private trading was also common on slave ships of the Dutch West India Company. Despite company regulations that allowed captains (but no other officers) to take along small amounts of merchandise for their own use, private trading among all officers became widespread. The company council complained that so much private merchandise was being carried on slave ships that there was not enough space for the slaves.11 Similar conditions reigned on English ships, as Jean Barbot noted: It also concerns the adventurers in Guinea voyages for slaves not to al— low the commanders, supercargo, or officers, the liberty of taking aboard any slaves for their own particular account, as it is too often practiced among European traders, thinking to save something in their salaries by 260 I THE DILIGENT sisted out of the general provisions of the ship, and trained up aboard to be carpenters, coopers, and cooks, so as to sell for double the price of other slaves in America, because of their skills.12 V ‘ mawrmxwaWmtzmwA—«xtv, ~ ’1‘"? ~ 7* revolts." " Jakin ] 261 other items in his sea chest were auctioned oil? to the other members of the crew, they brought a total of forty—one livres.16 On November 18 a. slave imprisoned on the slave deck died. Durand, who lay very sick in the As the slave deck of the Diligent gradually filled up and became more cramped, the crew became tense because they knew that shipboard slave softenstookgplace Whileizthe ship wasin sight of land. “Sentinels guarded the hatchway to the slave deck twenty—four hours a day, and there was a chest of small arms loaded and primed on the quarterdeck. The swivel guns on the quarterde‘ck were aimed at the main deck near the hatchway. The tensions mounted at mealtimes when the slaves were brought up to the main deck to be fed, since this was their best opportu~ nity to revolt. All crew members who were not busy distributing food stood guard with arms loaded with case shot. Some slaving captains even mit suicide by jumping overboard while they were on deck at mealtimes. The words of the Englishman Phillips that some slaves had a “greater ap- prehension of Barbados than we can have of hell” were borne out by cap— tives’ frequent attempts to escape overboard, even though it meant certain death in the turbulent and shark=filled waters. Perhaps they did it to avoid a lifetime of slavery; perhaps they did it out of fear of being eaten by White cannibals; or perhaps they did it out of a belief that death would return them to their own country. In any case, the captives seemed to view sui— cide more as a form of martyrdom and an affirmation of their faith than as simple escapism. The decision of whether to attempt suicide or try to rec— oncile oneself to slavery was agonizing and intensely personal. On the French ship Coum'er de Bourbon two women captives managed to get to the rail but were captured when they hesitated: one woman was still trying to convince her uncertain comrade to jump.18 The officers and crew on the Diligent were nervous because they had heard stories about ships such as the junon, on which six enslaved women 262 I THE DILIGENT sharks around the ship. There were thousands of them.” Some slave traders believed that if sharks gathered around a ship while it was in the port, they would follow it all the way across the ocean in anticipation of future meals. To prevent the sharks from gathering, crew members on the Diligent stood at full alert to prevent any escape attempts.19 One theory current among European slaving captains was that suicides could be discouraged if the crew punished attempted suicides by cutting off a limb. According to the theory, Africans committed suicide so that their spirit would return home, but the spirit could return home only if the body was intact. Dismemberment, went the theory, would defeat the whole purpose of the suicide and discourage others from trying it. Cap— tains who considered themselves “humane slave traders” rejected the prac— tice as cruel and barbaric, but it was apparently followed by other captains who were less fastidious.2O On November 26 Captain Mary and his aides returned to the ship. They had finished their slave trading, vacated the warehouse in jakin, and taken down the tent on the beach. The captain had made his decision about how many captives constituted a fiill load. By packing 256 slaves onto a ship of ninety~five registered tons burden, he was creating a ratio of 2.7 captives per ton, which was considerably higher than the 1.9 captives per ton average ratio for French ships leaving the coast of Africa in 1731.21 It was the smaller ships such as the Diligent that were the tightest packers: the sixty—ton St. Dominique carried 201 captives for a 3.35 per ton ratio, and _ the n1nety~five ton Ceres, which was the same tonnage as the Diligent, car— ried 283 captives for a ratio of almost three captives per ton. The relation— ship between crowding on slave ships and mortality of the captives has of— ten been misunderstood. It was not the crowding itself that caused the deaths of slaves, though it certainly caused misery and discomfort. The real problem was that the ship’s capacity to carry food and water was more or less fixed, and so more captives meant less food and water for each one. With its ratio of 2.7 captives per registered ton of burden, the Diligent was skirting the danger zone. By the end of the day the last of the slaves had been crammed into the slave deck, and the unspent trade goods had been returned to the ship. In the vWmmwmu‘mwxzfiaaahh,".17. , _. Jakin l 263 final days before departure, the crew had dismantled the tent that sheltered the deck and had returned the yards and sails to their sailing positions. Mil— let and other foodstufls had been purchased in Jakin, and the replenished water barrels had been safely stored in the hold. Eager to flee Jakin before any more crew members or slaves died, the captain ordered the Diligent to prepare for departure. The very next day Pierre Mathieu, an officer in training who was twenty years old, died of a high fever. With the ship ready to depart, Robert Durand felt well enough to make a list of the slave cargo that the Diligent was carrying. There were 201 cap— tives belonging to the outfitters in Vannes—the Billy brothers and La Croix. Durand listed those slaves as belonging to the “cargo.” He did not list their names or places of origin, but he did group them by gender and age class (captives under the age of ten were considered boys and girls). Durand’s list totaled 109 men, 71 women, I7 boys, and 4 girls. Overall, there were 1.7 males for'every female. This was far from the three to one ratio that William Snelgrave had requested from King Agaja and closer to the two to one ratio recommended by Des Marchais. The captives that Durand listed as pacotilles had a different age and gen— der composition entirely, demonstrating how the slave traders could take advantage of their position of being on the spot to get the most economi— cally advantageous slave cargo. Of Captain Mary’s twenty—six personally owned slaves, twenty—three were men and only three were women. He had purchased no children. Similarly, Second Captain Valteau purchased nine ' - men, two boys, and two women, and Robert Durand purchased five men, no women, and no children. Lower—ranking officers also tried to purchase slaves with their pacotilles, but their relative lack of resources and access af— fected their purchases. Second Lieutenant Thomas Laragon purchased three women; the ship’s doctor, Devigne, purchased three men and two women; First Mate Leglan bought one girl; the pilot, Sabatier, bought one man, and the second doctor, Touchard, bought one woman slave. iiii.AllfCto"getheir,256l eopl.e442,o 'belongin Mtowthe ' outf t ' i be— ' L if ' ' ' slave-deck that was only ‘ w , 'tWentyeone feet widerat its Widest point. Some of. the space on the slave deck was taken up by the thick, coiled anchor ropes and the sail lockers. Even counting the additional space created by the ’7 Mm «’qu platforms, each person got a space about one foot wide by five feet long, 264 1 THE DILIGENT the slave deck was extremely p At eight o’clock in the mor and thus ventilation on oor and the heat could become stifling. ning on Tuesday, November 27, almost three ...
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