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unfit for respiration, from a variety of loathsome smells, and brought on a sick-ness among the slaves, of which many died, thus falling victims to the improvident avarice, as I may call it, of their purchasers. This wretched situation was again aggravated by the galling of the chains, now become insupportable; and the filth of the necessary tubs, into which the children often fell, and were almost suffocated. The shrieks of the women, and the groans of the dying, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable.10Slaving ships harbored a host of lethal or debilitating diseases. These included epidemic typhus, a lice-borne bacterial infection; malaria, caused by parasites that were spread by mosquitoes (see chapter 9); and dysentery, which is a condition of severe intestinal inflammation and diarrhea that may be caused by various pathogens. Although yellow fever caused mortality as well, many West Africans were immune because they had faced mild bouts of the disease as children in regions where it was endemic. This was one reason why the level of mortality among the crew of slaving ships departing from West Africa often exceeded death rates among the prisoners. In some cases, slaves had also survived previous exposure to malaria, and this conveyed some resistance to the disease. When travelers from Europe arrived in the Caribbean, their bodies were less prepared to withstand various diseases than the slaves who had endured capture and the long Atlantic voyage. The winnowing of the Middle Passage thus contributed to the European belief that Africans were immune to tropical maladies and, therefore, naturally suited to the environment of plantation labor.Yellow Fever and the Caribbean “Wilderness”Africans transplanted to the Caribbean offered food for blood-sucking mosquitoes and a few hosts for the yellow fever virus. They did not provide a large population of nonimmunes that could generate a large-scale outbreak of disease. Europeans, on the other hand, considered tropical voyages as dangerous journeys from temperate civility into a wilderness of heat and moisture. Observers described a vaguely
YELLOW FEVER, RACE, AND THE ERA OF REVOLUTION157defined process called seasoningthrough which European bodies became accli-mated and better able to withstand the onslaught of novel ailments. In practice, this probably meant survival of one or more bouts of malaria, perhaps a mild case of yellow fever, or experience with other maladies not limited to warmer climes, such as the waterborne disease typhoid fever. “Unseasoned” sailors sometimes refused to join voyages or mutinied after a Caribbean destination was disclosed. Particularly after the arrival of yellow fever, their fear was entirely justified.