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When I was about thirteen years of age, I would not rest satisfied till my father permitted me to take a voyage on board the brig Bella, (of which he was part owner,) bound for Whitehaven, in England. I was extremely sea-sick, it being my first voyage ; but that sickness, with all the dangers incident to a mariner's life, could not abate the cogent propensities I felt to see foreign countries. My father en deavoured to call my attention to literary pursuits, but in vain ; for 1 afterwards made several voyages to Whitehaven, which only tended to increase the desire I entertained to see the world.
On my return from one of these voyages I obtained my father's consent to sail from Dublin for Seville, an ancient city of Andalusia, in Spain. After returning, and remaining at home for some time, I made a voyage to Chester, in England, for a load of timber, which we landed at Ayr, in Scotland; but on our return, the vessel was stranded on the rocks, and sunk ; in consequence of which, I returned to Dublin, in the brig Russel, Capt. Kirkwood, and, in the same vessel, sailed for Petersburg, a large and handsome city, the capital of Russia, built by Peter the Great, in 1703. Trade flourishes greatly here, because it is the seat of government, and foreigners have the same privileges as the natives of the place. On our passage, we touched at Elsinoré and Copen. hagen, the principal cities of Denmark, and arrived safe at our destined port without meeting with any event worthy of notice.
On my return home I went to school for several months, till the eager propensity to travel again was predominant ; and after much entreaty on my side, and getting an intimate friend of my father's to solicit for my permission to take another voyage, he at length consented, and I embarked on board the brig Nancy, commanded by Capt. Brown, bound for Memel, a populous town of Prussia, in Poland, where we arrived safe, took in a cargo of timber, and returned to Porta. ferry, in Ireland, where I left this vessel, being ill-treated, and travelled by land to Belfast, and traded from thence to Londonderry and Carrickfergus in a small sloop, for some months ; afterwards I sailed for Liverpool, and from thence to Dublin. Previous to my arrival, Capt. Brown had informed my father of my leaving the brig, who reprimanded me severely for not giving him previous notice of my intention. I was so irritated at the reproval, that, in a few days after, I left my relatives and friends and went to Liverpool.
Necessity urged me to redouble my efforts to get a birth as a sailor, which soon offered on board the Ellen, a Guineaman, Capt. Clark, who proved to be a very moderate man to his sailors, which was a phenomenon indeed, as the captains who trade to Guinea, are, in general, the most unprincipled villains in existence: their cruelty to their sailors, as well as their slaves, is truly inconceivable, which the brevity of my plan forbids me to attempt to relate, much less declaim on the iniquity of the slave trade.
We sailed from Liverpool, A. D. 1790, and after a passage of two or three months, frequently stormy and sometimes becalmed, we arrived on the windward coast of Africa. We traded with the natives about half a year, and during that time visited several parts of the coast.
An adventure I met with while on the coast, proves to a demonstration the hospitality of the natives, who are treated with such inhumanity by Europeans. Being solicited by some traders to leave the ship and remain with them, I agreed to the proposal, having had some altercation with the chief mate about that time. Accordingly, the next time I went ashore (in expectation of soon realizing a fortune,) I ran from the boat, and soon made the best of my way inland. I continued to wander through the woods for a considerable time, till I met with a few negroes in a small hut, feeding on boiled rice; having entered, they very kindly invited me to partake with them, which I did, and proceeded on my way through a lonely forest, occasionally eating the spontaneous fruits thereof. After travelling some time I arrived at a small cottage, and thinking myself out of danger, I stopped, being very cordially received by the negroes, who treated me with the utmost kindness, making me as welcome in their rural abode as if I had been a dear friend or relative. In this situation I continued till I was alarmed by a body of the natives who were in pursuit of me ; to run or resist I found was in vain, I therefore informed them by signs that I would return without opposition. I accompanied them with terror and dismay, and after travelling for some time, recognised our vessel anchored close in shore, and shortly after, with
confused sensations, I found myself in the presence of the captain, who reprimanded me severely for eloping from the ship, which, to my no small disappointment, was the only punishment he inflicted upon me.
Our cargo being completed, we sailed from the Isles of Delos, and shaped our course for Grenada, with such a num. ber of slaves on board, that there was not room for the sailors below, who were obliged to sleep on deck; we arrived at our destined port, after encountering tremendous gales of wind, with a variety of events peculiar to such voyages. After disposing of our cargo, the vessel was sold, part of my shipmates returned to Europe, while the rest, with myself, continued in the West Indies. Shortly after I went to the Island of St. Bartholomew's.
The next voyage I made was to St. Eustatia, the chief island belonging to the Dutch in the West Indies, containing about 5,000 whites and 15,000 negroes. I embarked here on board the sloop Peggy, for Savannah, Georgia, and returned, after escaping many alarming dangers on the American coast, to Montserrat, and from thence to St. Christopher’s. After trading from island to island for a considerable time, I enter. ed on board a schooner belonging to Surinam, and sailed in the Dutch government's service for several months, particu. larly to Cayenne.
During our stay here, some of my shipmates and myself went on shore to cut wood for our own use, where I was left to take care of the boat, which had a sail hoisted. Being stimulated by curiosity, I hauled the boat a little on the beach, and went after my companions. On my way, I looked back towards the place where I had left the boat, and, to my no small astonishment, perceived her sailing before the wind, a blast from the shore having carried her some distance. I stripped myself immediately and swam after her, expecting to overtake her, but soon found that she made the most progress of the two. After following the boat for a considerable time, I was caught where two eddy tides met, when a mon. strous sea-cow arose on the surface of the water and snorted, at the distance of about two yards from me; being exceed. ingly terrified, and almost exhausted, I was on the point of sinking, when the captain of the garrison, who had been ob. serving me with a spy-glass, and seeing my perilous situation,
sent a canoe with four men to my assistance, who picked me up, fainting with terror and exhausted with fatigue.
From this place I sailed once more for Grenada, on board the sloop Betsey, Capt. Gilbert, and afterwards pro. ceeded to the Bahama islands, in the West Indies, lying to the north of Cuba and St. Domingo, called by the Spaniards, Lucayos. The Bahamas are said to be five hundred in num. ber, some of them are only rocks, others very low and nar
After touching at several parts of the Spanish Main, we arrived at Bermuda, where our vessel belonged, with a load of mahogany. My wages during the time I sailed with Capt. Gilbert amounted to about 60 or 70 dollars, of which I never received a cent, being defrauded by him out of the whole, and thus left in a strange place entirely destitute. Seeing no better prospect, I entered on board of an English privateer, that carried 10 guns and 60 men, which cruised off Cape François and Port-au-Prince.
While cruising on board this privateer we met with a tremendous hurricane, which had nearly put an end to our piratical career, and given us a mittimus to the prison from whence there is no redemption : in short, we were saved merely by cutting away our main mast, while the vessel was on the point of upsetting. After the storm was nearly over, I fell from the jib-boom while clearing the wreck, and could not be nearer meeting a watery grave than I was at that time. Next day we rigged a jury mast, and shaped our course for Bermuda, with the booty which we had plundered from unfortunate wretches whom we ought to have protected, instead of pillaging in such an unrelenting manner.
Though I was young at this time, yet I frequently thought that the profession of a privateersman was incompatible with the principles of moral rectitude, and no better than a genteel piracy, and accordingly resolved to relinquish the wages of iniquity and shun the devious paths of unrighteousness, as unjust in the sight of God and in the estimation of all good
On our arrival at Bermuda, I immediately left the privateer, without receiving a penny of prize-money, which amounted to a considerable sum, having captured some rich prizes during our cruise. After remaining a few weeks in Bermuda, I sailed on board a flag of truce for Hispaniola, with a number of French persons, whom the Bermudian privateers had previously robbed, and sent wretched and pennyless back to anticipate all the horrors of anarchy and intestine commotion. From this place I sailed, in the same vessel, to St. Vincent's; and after visiting several islands of the West Indies, I settled on an estate called the Villa, in An. tigua, as an overseer, being then about twenty years of
age. I continued about four years on this island, during which time I experienced a variety of adventures, the diversity and peculiarity of my employment being truly remarkable. I have often felt for the situation of the poor slaves, and took every opportunity to ameliorate their afflictions, in some mea. sure relieving their wants, though frequently in violation of orders I received, forbidding me to show the least lenity or compassion to them in their sufferings. After being impressed with a sense of the villany and barbarity of keeping human beings in such deplorable conditions as I often saw the slaves reduced to, I resolved to relinquish the situation I then held, though lucrative and advantageous. I was solicited very warmly, by a number of religious friends in particular, and my acquaintances generally, to continue ; but, being neces. sitated from conscientious motives, I gave up my situation, without any prospect of another, relying entirely on that Providence whom I endeavoured to please and obey. And I then resolved, that
“I would not have a slave to till my ground
To carry me--to fan me while I sleep,
And wear the bonds, than fasten them on him.” The evening prior to my departure from Antigua, I exhorted and prayed with, and for the slaves, and proceeded to take my last farewell, at which they seemed extremely affected, both old and young weeping bitterly ; and, indeed, my own sensations on forsaking them, and a great number of respectable acquaintances and religious friends, may be better conceived than expressed ; especially, when it is re. membered that in so doing I threw myself upon an unfriendly