Cross-Section of Slave Ship, 1829

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This record was last updated on 15 Dec 2016

Image Reference

Robert Walsh, Notices of Brazil in 1828 and 1829 (London, 1830), vol. 2, p. 479; also in ibid., Boston and New York, 1831, vol. 2, facing title page.

Caption, "sections of a slave ship.” Walsh was a clergyman who went to Brazil in 1828, accompanying the new British ambassador. He left in 1829, on board a British trading vessel bound for England. After his ship had been at sea for about 2 or 3 weeks, it accosted a Brazilian slave ship which it captured. The slaver had acquired 562 slaves (336 male and 226 female) in Africa and by time she had been out to sea for seventeen days, 55 had died “of dysentery and other complaints,” and had been thrown overboard. When the slaver was boarded, the British found that all of the slaves were “enclosed under grated hatchways, between decks. The space was so low, that they sat between each other’s legs, and stowed so close together, that there was no possibility of their lying down, or at all changing their position, by night or day. They were all branded, like sheep, with the owners’ marks of different forms [included are small sketches of these brands]. The brands, made with a “red-hot iron” were “impressed under their breasts, or on their arms . . . . The space between decks was divided into two compartments, 3 feet 3 inches high; the size of one was 16 feet by 18, and of the other 40 by 21; into the first were crammed the women and girls; into the second, the men and boys: 226 fellow-creatures were thus thrust into one space 288 feet square; and 336 into another space 800 feet square, giving to the whole an average of 23 inches, and to each of the women not more than 13 inches, though many of them were pregnant . . . . The heat of these horrid places was so great and the odour so offensive, that it was quite impossible to enter them.” The author could only measure the rooms after the slaves were taken out, and “it is impossible to conceive the effect of this eruption—517 fellow-creatures of all ages and sexes… all in a state of total nudity, scrambling out together to taste the luxury of a little fresh air and water . . . After enjoying for a short time the unusual luxury of air, some water was brought; it was then that the extent of their sufferings was exposed in a fearful manner. . . . they shrieked and struggled and fought with one another, for a drop of this precious liquid. . . . There is nothing which slaves, in the mid-passage, suffer from so much as want of water” (pp. 479-83). Thanks to Peter Fay for assistance.