Gomer Williams on the Massacre at Old Calabar 1767



                                                                CHAPTER III.

                                             THE MASSACRE AT OLD CALABAR

[529]  IN 1766, the Vine, Captain Simmons, returned from a voyage to Bonny, on the coast of Africa, and Dominica, in the West Indies, with 400 slaves, having accomplished the round voyage in seven months and ten days, and apparently broken the record. The market value of the cargo could not have been less than, £13,000, as will be seen from the following table, showing the average price of negroes sold at Charleston, Jamaica, Grenada, Tortola, and Dominica, during seven years (1759, 1767-1772), and from the account sales of negroes imported in the ship African.


Sales of 268 Negro slaves imported in the ship African, Captain Thomas Trader, from Malemba, on the acct. And risque of Messrs. John Cole & Co., owners of the said ship, merchants in Liverpool.
To whom Sold.

[531]    As few persons in this country ever saw a bill of lading for human beings, shipped on board a British vessel engaged in this odious traffic, we append a copy of an original bill of lading for slaves, shipped for Georgia*: 

Shipped by the grace of God, in good order and well condition'd by James [surname illegible], in and upon the good Ship call'd the Mary Borough, whereof is Master, under God, for this present voyage, Captain David Morton, and now riding at Anchor at the Barr of Senegal, and by God's grace bound for Georgey, in South Carolina, to say, twenty four prime Slaves, six prime women Slaves, being mark'd and number'd as in the margin, and are to be deliver'd, in the like good order Marked on the and well condition'd, at the aforesaid Port of Right Buttock Georgia, South Carolina (the danger of the Seas O and Mortality only excepted), unto Messrs. O Broughton and Smith, or to their Assigns; he or they paying Freight for the said Slaves at the rate of Five pounds sterling per head at delivery, with Primage and Avrage accustom'd. In WITNESS whereof, the Master or Purser of the said Ship hath affirm'd to three Bills of Lading, all of this tenor and date; the one of which three bills being accomplish'd, the other two to stand void; and so God send the good ship to her desir'd port in safety, Amen.

Dated in Senegal, ist February, 1766,


Marked on the Right Buttock



It will be observed from the bill of lading, that those slaves were marked or branded with particular marks. The operation of marking slaves was performed on them by means of

* The original bill of lading was in the possession of the late Richard Brooke, Esq., F.S.A., who printed it in his "Liverpool as it was during the last quarter of the Eighteenth Century."

[532] a heated iron, with as much indifference as if they had been merely cattle. Branding irons, with letters or marks for branding slaves, were exhibited for sale in the shops of Liverpool, and no doubt they were sold in the same manner in other seaport towns of the kingdom. Mr. Clarkson gives the following description of certain instruments which he bought during his sojourn in Liverpool:

There were specimens of articles in Liverpool, which I entirely overlooked at Bristol, and which, I believe, I should have overlooked here also, had it not been for seeing them at a window in a shop. I mean those of different iron instruments used in this cruel traffic. I bought a pair of the iron handcuffs with which the men slaves are confined. The right-hand wrist of one, and the left of another, are almost brought into contact by these, and fastened together by a little bolt with a small padlock at the end of it. I bought also a pair of shackles for the legs. The right, ancle of one man is fastened to the left of another, by similar means. I bought these, not because it was difficult to conceive how the unhappy victims of this execrable trade were confined, but to show the fact that they were so. For what was the inference from it, but that they did not leave their own country willingly; that when they were in the holds of the slave vessels, they were not in the Elysium which had been represented; and that there was a fear, either that they would make their escape, or punish their oppressors. I bought also a thumb-screw at this shop. The thumbs are put into this instrument through the two circular holes at the top of it. By turning a key, a bar rises up by means of a screw, and the pressure upon them becomes painful. 'By turning it further, you may make the blood start from the ends of them. By taking the key away, you leave the tortured person in agony, without any means of extricating himself, or of being extricated by others. This screw, as I was then informed, was applied by way of punishment in case of obstinacy in the slaves, or for any other reputed offence, at the discretion of the captain. At the same place I bought another instrument which I saw. It was called a speculum oris. This instrument is known among" surgeons, having been invented to assist them in wrenching open the mouth, as in the case of a locked jaw. But it had got into use in this trade. On asking the seller of the instruments on what occasion it was used there, he replied, that the slaves were frequently so sulky, as to shut their mouths against all sustenance, and this with a determination to die; and that it was necessary their mouths should be forced open to throw in nutriment, that they who had purchased them might incur no loss by their death.

The slave-captains sometimes got into awkward scrapes with the natives. Captain James Berry, of Liverpool, gives the following remarkable account of his being taken prisoner: --

"On board Brig Dalrimple Old Callabar April 3, 1763

This is to acquaint all gentlemen that it may fall into the hands of that on the 30 of Jany I arrived hear in a small vessell came too at 7 Fathom Point wrote up to Abashey finding no vessell their I imagined the might Lett me stay paying a small acknowledgement to the King the Duke and some of the Heads*Abashey came down and prevaild on me to go up the River I accordingly went up that night next morning according to custom went ashore to shake the Kings and the Rest of the getlemen Hands made my proposalls which was at first Refuse'd but after standing out about fifteen Day aggreed to pay 1000 Coppers among's them all the King and Duke each 65 Crs the rest of the Gentlemen in proportion I gott pledges out of the Kings Town Dukes and Tom Henshaws Likewise there cairn as tokens of their Honour^Robin John Town Refused me a son for pledge but thought I had sufficient security on the Second of March was much out of order and Had been for four Days before that was unfortunate

*The leading people of Old Town, Calabar, were the King, the Duke, Ephraim [INCOMPLETE]

[534] enough to go down the River to gett a little air thinking their was no Danger of being molested by any Body haveing the Kings Sons Duks and Tom Henshaw's Egbyoung Antera in the Boat with me but no sooner gott the Lenght of Old Town but that Rouge Ephm. Robin John Joined by Rn. John Tom Rn. Captn. John Ambo and the Rest of that Town sent ten canoos full of people and took me out of my Boat by force hauld me over nine into the Tenth the first vilain that I was recd by was Tom Rn. who told me it was very well I was come it had saved them the Trouble of fetching me out of my ship Ephm. came on board my vesell the night before that with that design only I was at that time very bad but had intended to have come again in a day or two they haveing counted all my people and pitched upon their Boys for the seaing my people seeing so few and three or four of them at that time sick while the[y] took me bo [sic, by] force and putt me in the canooe he kept me on shore 29 Day and obliged me to pay him and the Rest of the Scounclrells just what he pleas'd the amount of his imposition is 4251 Copper besid's him takeing in spight of all I cood do one of my great guns which I have given the Duke an order for if he can possably get it he Likewise has gott three of my musquetts two Blunderbusses 2 pistolls 2 cutlasses and two of my Jacketts the Black Boys had on that was in the Boat with me he oblig'd me to give severall Books and one to clear him of all palaver with me which for sake of getting on board my vesell wood have given him any Books he wanted but the air all of no signification I immagine any Gentleman wodd do the same was it their case. On the 22nd of Mar the King the Duke Solomon Henshaw and the Rest of the Gentlemen of the other party come on board with 98 slaves the seeing how I was Imposed on by those Rascalls made my mate count all the good in my ship Abashey made Trade and Bought me 47 slave all of which was good only one woman and I believe did me justice in every thing the Duke carried ashore with him 605 Copper to buy yammes which he sent me as fast as he cood gett them I doant Blame any of them for what the did seeing- the vilanious intentions of the [535]

Old Town Scoundrells but never will for give the injury Ephm and the rest of them did me till I have satisfaction.

I am the Gentleman

Hum'e Servt


In 1767, there was a strong competition between the ports of Bristol and Liverpool in the trade to the coast of Africa. The inconveniences and dangers attendant on that branch of traffic are described in the following extract of a letter from Old Calabar, dated August I2th, 1767:

We had a tolerable good passage of three weeks and five days. There are now seven large vessels in the river, each of which expects to purchase 500 slaves, and I imagine there was seldom ever known a greater scarcity of slaves than at present, and these few chiefly from the low country. The natives are at variance with each other, and, in my opinion, it will never be ended before the destruction of all the people at Old Town, who have taken the lives of many a fine fellow. Captain Hutton's chief mate had the misfortune to suffer under their vile hands; but I now flatter myself, I shall be an assistant in revenging the just cause of every poor Englishman that have innocently suffered by them.

"The river of late has been very fatal both to whites and blacks. There have three captains belonging to Bristol died within these few months, besides a number of officers and sailors. I assure you, I never saw a worse prospect in my life for making a voyage than at present. The major part of the vessels here have very dangerous disorders amongst the slaves, which makes me rejoice that I have very few on board. I do not expect that our stay here will exceed eight months. The adjoining coasts of trade seem all to be very much thronged with shipping, except the Gold Coast, the bad effects of which, I am afraid, the Liverpool gentlemen must feel this season.*

*"Troughton's History of Liverpool," p. 143.

In the year 1767, a terrible affair, which seems to be hinted at in the preceding letter, known as the massacre [538] at Calabar, took place. The details are drawn from copies of the original depositions, in the case of the King against Lippincott and others, supplied to Mr. Clarkson by Mr. Henry Sulgar, a Moravian minister at Bristol. The originals were sworn before Jacob Kirby and Thomas Symons, commissioners at Bristol for taking affidavits, by Captain Floyd, of the city of Bristol, who had been a witness to the tragedy, and of Ephraim Robin John and Ancona Robin Robin John, two African chiefs, who had been sufferers by it. It appears from these documents, that in the year 1767, the ships, Indian Queen, Duke of York, Nancy, and Concord, of Bristol, the Edgar, of Liverpool, and the Canterbury, of London, lay in Old Calabar river. A quarrel, originating in a jealousy respecting slaves, existed at this time between the principal inhabitants of Old Town, and those of New Town, Old Calabar. The captains of the vessels before mentioned joined in sending several letters to the inhabitants of Old Town, but particularly to Ephraim Robin John, who was at that time a grandee, or principal man of the place. The tenor of these letters was, that they were sorry that any jealousy or quarrel should subsist between the two parties; that if the inhabitants of Old Town would come on board, they would afford them security and protection; adding, at the same time, that their intention in inviting them was that they might become mediators and thus heal their disputes.

The inhabitants of Old Town joyfully accepted the invitation. The three brothers of the chief, Ephraim Robin John, the eldest of whom was Amboe Robin John, first entered their canoe, attended by twenty-seven persons, and being followed by nine canoes, directed their course to the Indian Queen. They were dispatched from thence the next morning to the Edgar, and afterwards to the Duke of York, on board of which they went, leaving their canoe and attendants alongside of the same vessel. In the meantime, [537] the people on board the other canoes were either distributed on board, or lying close to the other ships.

This being the situation of the three brothers, and of the leading people of the place, the treachery now began to appear. The crew of the Duke of York, aided by the captain and mates, and armed with pistols and cutlasses, rushed into the cabin with an intent to seize the persons of their three unsuspicious guests. The unhappy men, alarmed at this violation of the rights of hospitality, and struck with astonishment at the behaviour of their supposed friends and peacemakers, attempted to escape through the cabin windows, but being wounded, were obliged to desist and to submit to be put in irons. While this atrocious act was in progress, an order was given to fire upon the canoe, which was then lying alongside of the Duke of York. The canoe soon filled and sank, and the wretched attendants were either seized, killed, or drowned. Most of the other ships followed the example. Great numbers were thus added to the killed and drowned on the occasion, while others attempted to escape by swimming to the shore. But at this juncture, the inhabitants of New Town, who had concealed themselves in the bushes by the waterside, and between whom and the commanders of the vessels the plan had been previously arranged, came out of their hiding places, and, embarking in their canoes, made for such as were swimming from the fire of the ships. The ships' boats also were manned, and joined in the pursuit. They butchered the greatest part of those whom they caught. Many dead bodies were soon seen upon the sands, and others floating upon the water. Including those who were seized and carried off, and those who were drowned and killed, either by the firing of the ships, or by the people of New Town, the number lost to the inhabitants of Old Town on that day was three hundred souls. The carnage was scarcely over when a canoe, full of the principal people of New Town [538] who had promoted the massacre, dropped alongside of the Duke of York. They demanded the person of Amboe Robin John, the brother of the chief of Old Town, and the eldest of the three on board. The unfortunate man put the palms of his hands together, and beseeched the commander of the vessel that he would not violate the rights of hospitality by giving up an unoffending stranger to his enemies. But no entreaties could prevail. The commander received from the New Town people a slave, of the name of Econg, in his stead, and then forced Amboe Robin John into the canoe, where his head was immediately struck off in the sight of the crew, and of his afflicted brothers. As for them, they escaped his fate, but they were carried off, with their attendants, to the West Indies, and sold into slavery.

The action of the captains has never been defended; but we must not forget that they were dealing with a shifty, greedy, and treacherous lot of rascals, who made a practice of selling their own countrymen into slavery. The delays and subterfuges resorted to by the native chiefs to enhance the price of slaves, and to extract more "coomey," must have been extremely exasperating to the slave commanders, whose lives and cargoes were imperilled by a prolonged bargaining, owing to the climate, and the possible outbreak of disease among the slaves cooped up in the hold, before they left the coast and entered upon the horrors of the sea passage. The following copies of papers belonging to the commander of the Edgar, show that the chiefs were in his debt, and that they exonerated him from the charge of kidnapping a boy named Assogua. Moreover, certain letters from the chiefs of Old Town, Calabar, addressed to the captain, prove that they held him and his family in the highest esteem, notwithstanding the fact that the Edgar was present in the unfortunate tragedy of 1767. Whether this is to be attributed to the innocence of the captain, [539] who was at all events a worthy citizen of Liverpool, or to the abnormal development of Christian charity and forgiveness in the African chiefs and man-stealers of Old Calabar, let the reader determine for himself: -

"An Ace', of Goods and Slaves Owing to the ship Edgar from the Traders of Old Town as under "Archibong Robin John five slaves Goods Co*

20 Iron 5 Nicconees 5 Brawels 155

4 Romaics 3 Cushtaes 2 Photes 106

8 B. Pipes 5 Flagons 50 Rods 102

3 Basons 4 Guinea stuffs 25

3 Blunderbus's 8 Kegs 112

500 J


Rec* Nothing

24th July 1767 Goods for 5 slaves.

Received a further trust 10 rods i Nicconee 20 Co


"Orrock Robin John Dr

23rd July 1767 To 1 Keg of Powder

By a boy left on board name Asuqu not stoped by me as Orrok says nor was Orrock's son

" Ambo Robin John

August 7. 1767 To Goods for two men slaves


2 Blunderbss 3 Kegs 8 Iron i Nicconee             98

2 Brawels 1 Cushtae 2 Romaics                      44

1 Photac 2 Flagons 2 basons 3 Pipe bds          44                                Recd Nothing

10 Rods 8 Chints                                            18


* "Co." means cowries, small shells brought from the East Indies, and used by the natives as substitutes for coin. Meneles, maniloes, or manillas were ornaments for the wrists and ancles. Romalls (or romales), niccannees, cushtaes, photes, photacs, or photaes, chellos, and Guinea stuffs, were Manchester and [540]


"Ephraim Robin John                                                                          Dr



July 23rd 1767 To 20 Rods 1 Romale

4 Basons 4 L. Meneles                                      48

1 Neganepaut 1 Blunderbus 20 Rods 1 Baft                                                  Recd Nothing

12 Knives                                                          74



24th To Goods for 2 men slaves as under


4 Kegs 8 Iron 2 Nicconees 2 Brawels

1 Cushtae                                                        104

1 Romaic 1 Photac 16 Chello 4 bg Pipe bds                 60                              Recd Nothing

2 bg Red 2 G. Stuffs 1 Flagon 14 rods                         36



"John Robin John                                                                                            Dr


July 7th 1767 To 10 rods 1 Nicconee

6 Romale                                                           26

Augt 2             To 8 Chello 1 hatt 1

Jug brandy                                16







"OLD CALABAR, August 22, 1776

This is to certify whom it doth or may concern that the within is a True List of Debts owing- by the Natives of Old Town to Captain Lace of Liverpoole, and that the Boy named Assogua was not stoped by Captain Lace has as been Reported, but was put on board by Orrock Robin John unto whom he belonged, and that Captain Lace carried him of for the within debts, because we made no application for him nor did we even offer to Redeem him whilst the ship staid in the River, as Witness our hands

Witness                                                                                               his

John Richards                                                                         King X George

James Hargraves                                                                     mark


Jno. X Robin John


Otto Ephraim


Orrock Robin X Jonn

mark "


Another signature is also appended which is undecipherable.

The following letter written by the former captain of the Edgar to Mr. Thomas Jones, a Bristol owner of slave-ships, seems to have some reference to the two brothers carried off after the massacre in 1767: -

"LIVERPOOL, 11th November, 1773

“Mr. Thos. Jones,

"SIR, - Yours of 7th I received wherein you disire I will send an Affidavit concerning the two black men you mention, Little Epm. and Ancoy, in what manner the ware taken off the coast, and that I know them to be Brothers to Grandy Epm. Robin John; as to little Epm. I remember him very well, as to Ancoy Rob. Rob. John I cant recolect I ever saw him. Iknew old Robin John the Father of Grandy Epm. and I think all the Family, but never found that little Epm. was one of Old [542] Robins sons, and as to Rob. Rob. John he was not Old Rob. Johns son. Old Robin took Rob. Rob. Jno. - mother for a wife when Robin Rob. Jno. was a boy of 6 or eight years old, and as to Rob. Rob. Jno. hen ever [sic: he never] had a son that I heard of. You know very well the custom of that place whatever Man or Woman gos to live in any family the take the Name of the first man in the family and call him Father, how little Epm.  came into the family I cant tell, and as to what ship they came off the coast in I know no more than you, therefore, cant make Affidavit Eather to their being- Brothers to Grandy Epm. or the manner he was brought off the Coast, as to Grandy Epm. you know very well has been Guilty of so many bad Actons, no man can say anything in his favour, a History of his life would exceed any of our Pirates, the whole sett at Old Town you know as well as me. I brought young Epm. home, and had him at School near two years, then sent him out, he cost me above sixty pounds and when his Fathers gone I hope the son will be a good man. As to Mr. Floyd he says more then I ever knew or heard of hes in many Errors, even in the Name of the vessell I was in hes wrong, there was no such a ship as the Hector while I was at Callebarr, a man should be carefull when on Oath, how he knows the two men to be brothers to Epms. I cant tell, I have several times had the pedigree of all the familys from Abashey the foregoing acct. of Rob. Rob. was from him, but to prove the two men to be Epms- brothers I dont know how you will do it, I assure you I dont think they are, if you think to send a vessell to Old Town it might ansr for you to purchas the two men I once bog' (bought) one at Jamaica a man of no consiquance in family but it ansrd the Expence.

I am Sir your hbl Servt.

"P.S. I left the duke of York and Indian Queen at Callebarr."

[543] Copy of a letter from "Grandy King George," King of the Old Town Tribe, addressed to "Mr. Ambrose Lace and Companey, Marchents in Liverpool": -

"OULD TOWN, OULD CALLABAR, January 13, 1773

Marchant Lace, SR, I take this opertunety of Wrighting to you and to aquant you of the behaveor of Sum ships Lately in my water there was Capt Bishop of Bristol and Capt. Jackson of Liverpool laying in the river when Capt Sharp arived and wanted to purchese his cargo as I supose he ought to do but this Bishop and Jackson cunsoulted not to let him slave with out he payed the same Coomey* that thy did thy sent him out of the River so he went to the Camoroons and was away two munths then he arived in my water again and thy still isisted upon his paying1 the Coomey acordingly he did a Nuff to Blind them so I gave him slaves to his content and so did all my peeple, till he was full and is now ready to sail only weats for to have a fue afairs sattled and this sail be don before he sails to his sattisfection, and now he may very well Laffe at them that was so much his Enemeys before, for that same day thy sent him out of the River this Jackson and Bishop and a brig that was [tender?] to Jackson at night began to fire at my town without the least provecation and continued it for twenty-four hours for which I gave them two cows but it seemed as after words Jackson confirmed that Bishop and him was to cary away all our pawns as it was lickely true for Jackson did cary of his but more than that before he sailed he tould me that if I went on bord of Bishop I shuld be stoped by him and my hed cut of and sent to the Duke at Nuetown, but I put that out of his power for to cut of my hed or cary of the pawns by stoping his boats and sum of his peeple and so I would Jackson had I known his entent when he informed me of Bishop, but he took care not to divulge his own secrets which he was much to bleam if he^did so my friend marchant Lace if you Send ship to my water again Send good man all same your Self or same marchant black,** No Send ould man or man want to be [544] grandy man, if he want to be grandy-man let he stand home for marchant one time, no let him com heare or all Same Capt Sharp he very good man, but I no tell before that time Capt. Sharp go to Camoroons he left his mate till he came back again, so they say I do bad for them but I will leave you to Jude that for if any ship fire at my town I will fire for ship again Marchant Lace Sr there is Mr Canes Capt. Sharp and second mate a young man and a very good man he is very much Liked by me and all my peeple of Callabar, so if you plase to sand him he will make as quick a dispatch as any man you can send and I believe as much to your advantage for I want a good many ship to cum, for the more ships the more treade wee have for them for the New town peeple and has blowed  buncko for no ship to go from my water to them nor any to cum from them to me tho Bishop is now lying in Cross River but thy only lat him stay till this pelaver is satteled for I have ofered him 10 slaves to Readeem the Pawns and let him have his white people, but he will not for I dount want to do any bad thing to him or any ship that cums to my water but there is 4 of my sons gone allredy with Jackson and I dont want any more of them carried of by any other vausell the coomy in all for my water now is 24 thousand coprs besidges hats case and ship gun, Marchant Lace I did as you bob me for Lettrs when this tendr com I no chop [545] for all man for you bob me No Chop to times for bionbi I back to much Copr for Coomy so I do all same you bob me who make my father grandy no more white man so now marchant Lace send good ship and make me grandy again for war take two much copr from me who man trade like me that time it be peace or break book like me so Marchent Lace if you Send ship now and good cargo I will be bound shee no stand long before shee full for go away.

*Coomey was the duty paid to the King for the privilege of trading.

** Patrick Black, one of the oldest sea captains of the port of Liverpool. Troughton,in his History, dedicated to him a view of Woodside Ferry. "An Old Staler" gives the following amusing account of "Marchant Black," when he lived in Duke Street: "Picture to yourselves a kind and venerable man, in a cloak enveloping his whole body from head to foot, a gold-headed cane in his hand, and [544] a wig. Oh! such a wig, a regular wig of wigs, as white as the whitest of hair-powder could make it, of a transcendental cauliflower appearance, and in size far beyond the proportions of the largest Sunday wig assigned to Dr. Johnson in the pictures which have come clown to us. We recollect once, when about some six years old, getting into an awful scrape about this said venerable gentleman and his megatherium wig. We were walking with a small friend of our own age and inches, when suddenly the apparition of Mr. Patrick Black, arrayed as we have described him, came in sight. Our admiration, as usual, burst forth in the far from respectful and almost profane exclamation, 'There goes old Black with his white wig.' Hardly were the words out of our mouth, when a gentle tap came upon our shoulders, and a soft whisper fell upon our ear.' Master Aspinall, if it would be any particular pleasure to you, I will ask my father to wear a black wig in future.' We looked round, and O! horror of horrors! were we not thrown into real agonies and almost hysterics, when, in the person uttering this mild remonstrance, we recognised the daughter of the old gentleman, whose wig we had been blaspheming? We stammered and hammered at an excuse, and then ran for our life. And for many a long day we disappeared round the nearest corner as quickly as possible, if any of the Black family came in sight of us in our walks. The joke, however, got wind and it was long before our martyrdom and persecution ceased, even in our own circle, where 'Old Black with his white wig was thrown into our teeth whenever we were inclined to be obstreperous and naughty.

The following is another lucid passage from "Grandy King George's" correspondence: -

And now war be don Wee have all the Trade true the Cuntry so that wee want nothing but ships to Incorige us and back us to cary it on so I hope you and marchant Black wount Lat ous want for that In Curigement Or the other marchants of that Pleasce thut has a mind for to send their ships thy shall be used with Nothing but Sivellety and fare trade other Captns may say what they Please about my doing them any bad thing for what I did was thier own faults for you may think Sr that it was vary vaxing to have my sons caried of by Captn Jackson and Robbin sons and the King of Qua son thier names is Otto Imbass Egshiom Enick Ogen Acandom Ebetham Ephiyoung Aset and to vex ous more the time that wee ware fireing at each other thy hisseted [hoisted ?] on of our sons to the yard arm of Bishop and another to Jacksons yard arm and then would cary all of them away and cut of my hed if it had not been Prevented in time and yet thy say I do them bad only stoping Sum of their peeple till I get my Pawns from them Marchant Lace when you Send a ship send drinking horns for Coomey and sum fine white mugs and sum glass tanckards with Leds to them Send Pleanty of ship guns the same as Sharp had I dount care if there was 2 or 3 on a Slave Send one Chints for me of a hundrerd yard o1 Neckonees of one hundrd yards 1 photar of a hundrd y's 1 Reamalli hund. yards one Cushita of a hundred yds one well baft of the same Send sum Leaced hats for trade and Vicor bottles and cases to much [to match ?] for all be gon for war Send sum Lucking glasses at 2 Coprs and 4 Coprs for trade and Coomey to [546] and send Planty of hack and Bally for Trade and Comey and Small Bells Let them be good ones and send sum Lango Sum Large and sum small and sum Curl beads Send me one Lucking glass six foot long and six foot wide Let it have a strong woden freme Send two small Scrustones that their Leds may Lift up send Plenty of Cutlashs for Coomey of 2 Copr price Let your Indgey goods be Right good and your ship no stand long send me one table and six Chears for my house and one two arm Schere for my Salf to sat in and 12 Puter plates and 4 dishes 12 Nifes and 12 forcks and 2 Large table spoons and a trowen and one Pear of ballonses 2 brass Juggs with thier Cisers (?) to lift the same as a tanckard and two Copr ones the same two brass falagons of two gallons each Pleanty for trade of puter ones Send Plenty of Puter Jugs for trade send me two Large brass beasons and puter ones for trade Send me one close stool and Send me one Large Red [illegible] Send me one gun for my own shuting 5 foot barill and two pueter p--- pots Send one good Case of Rezars for my Saveing Send me sum Vavey brade Iron bars of 16 foot long Send 100 of them Send Large caps of 2 Coprs for Coomey &c Please to show this to Marchant black and shend sum Large Locks for trade Sum chanes for my Salf two brass tea kittles and two scacepang a fue brass Kittles 12 or fifteen Coprs each Send Pleanty of canes for Coomey and one long cane for my self gould mounted and small Neals for Coomey you may pay your Coomy Very Reasonable Saws or aney tools No Send Small Iron moulds for to cast mustcats and sum small 3 pounders Send me sum banue* canvess to make sails for my canows and sum large Leg monelones** with hendges [hinges?] to thim to lock with a Screw and two large iron wans for two sarve in the Room of irons and Send me one whip shaw and one cross cut shaw Send red green and white hats for trade Send me one red and one blue coat with gould Lace for to fit a Large man Send buttr and Suger for to trade Send sum green sum red sum blue Velvet caps with small Leace and Send Sum files for trade, So no more at Preasent from your best friend


[547]    "give my Complements to the gentlemen owners of the brigg Swift Mr Devenport Marchant Black and Capt" Black and as allso Mr Erll.***

"Please to have my name put on Everything that you sendfor me."

*Possibly, "brand new."      **Maniloes or Manillas perhaps.   ***Mr. Earle.


Robin John Otto Ephraim writes to Captain Ambrose Lace, merchant, in Liverpool, as follows:

Parrot Island July 19th  1773

SIR, I take this opportunity to write to you I send Joshua 1 Little Boy By Captain Cooper I been send you one Boy By Captain faireweather I ask Captain Cooper wether Captain faireweather give you that Boy or not he told me Captain fairewether sold the Boy in the West India and give you the money I desire you will Let me know wether faireweather give you money or not my mother Send your wife one Teeth By Captain Sharp I done very well for Captain Cooper and my father too I am going to give a Town of my own I dar say you knows that place I am going to Live Bashey Dukey there once send Gun Enough for Trad. I want 2 Gun for every Slave I sell Send me 2 or 3 fine chint for my self and handkerchief any thing you want from Callabar Send me Letter I think I come to see next voyage Send me some writing paper and Books my Coomey his 1600 Copper Send me 2 sheep a Life Sir I am your BEST friend Otto Ephraim.

S.P. I will Sell Captain Doyle slave because he told me you have part for his ship I expect Captain Sharp here in 4 months time Remember me to your Wife and Mr. Chiffies.**


*This letter was marked "The King's own handwriting."      **Captain Chaffers, probably.

OLD TOWN CALLABAR December 24th 1775

Captain Lace I take this opportunity to write to you by Captain Jolly that letter you Send me by Sharp you did not put your name as for Captain Sharp I will do anything hys in my power to obliged you when Captain Cooper comes Let him [548] Guns enough I want 2 Gun for every Slave I Sell and father we Dont want Iron only 2 for one slave so no more at present from your friend


S.P. Remember me to your wife.

To Captain Ambrose Lace merchant in Liverpool.


Chief’s Letter.

From "Otto Ephraim, King of Old Town, Old Callebar," to Mr. Ambrose Lace, merchant, in Liverpool.

OLD TOWN OLD CALLABAR August 2$the 1776


Sir, I take this opportunity to write to you I received by Captain Cooper one painted cloth one book in the box one gown one ink cake and some wafers I was in the country when Orrock send that letter to you now I put my hand and my that is enough what Orrock can do he can do anything without my father and I please I pay Egbo men yesterday I have done now for Egbo I received by Captain Sharp one lace hat I make monkey Captain Loan pay me for that cap I got one hundred Copper for it I put him in the iron 5 days in Quabacke sea he told me that Captain Barley give the Willy Honesty but I make him pay for all that I was on board Barley myself he never mention it to me that you Send me a cap by him I have sent you by Cooper one teeth 50 weight

Your most obedent Humble Servant

Otto Ephraim


Old Town Old Callabarr March 20th 1783

Mr 1783 Lace,


I take this oportunity By Captain Faireweather we have no News here only Tom King John come Down to live with my father is here now with us Orrock Robin John is Dead May 24th 1783 (?) we give all his coppers to his both son George Orrock and Ephraim Orrock Send me some Writing papers and i Bureaus to Buy

Your Humble Servant


[549] P.S. Remember me to your Wife and your son Joshua

Ambrose William and Polly
Mr Ambrose Lace
Merchant in Liverpool
Sent by ship Jenny.

*Joshua Lace was the founder and first President of the Liverpool Law Society.

The Liverpool newspaper of June i6th, 1769, contained the following laconic announcement: - “The John, Captain Erskine, from Bonny, at Barbadoes, with 200 and odd slaves, buried 247, and gone to Dominica." There was no fuss made about this mortality of at least 50 per cent, on the number originally shipped, but so tender is the public conscience in 1897, that the death of 247 bullocks in crossing the Atlantic would immediately be the subject of questions in Parliament.

On the 11th of January, 1769, about eight o'clock in the morning, as the Nancy, Captain Williams, of Liverpool, was lying at anchor at New Calabar, with 132 slaves on board, the negroes rose upon the crew and wounded several,which obliged them to fire amongst the slaves, killing six and wounding others. "It was with great difficulty," says the paper, "though they attacked them sword in hand, to make them submit. As soon as the natives on shore heard the report of the guns, great numbers of them came off in canoes, and surrounded the vessel, and finding her weakly manned (having only five people but what were sick), immediately boarded her, took away all the slaves, with some ivory, and a large quantity of different kinds of goods; plundered the vessel of everything on board, stripped the captain and crew of books, instruments, and clothes, afterwards split the decks, cut the cables, and set the vessel adrift. Captain Labbar, who was lying in the river, sent his boat, and brought Captain Williams and his people from the vessel, which was then driving with the ebb, a perfect wreck."

[550] The following is a fragment of -instructions handed to a slave-captain who sailed from Liverpool on the 3rd of August, 1770: -

"to whom deliver your Cargoe of Slaves provided they will engage to turn them out @ £30 per head sterling round clear of the Island Duty and the advantage of the sale to us in bills not exceeding 6 9 and 12 months (or less if possible) in equal Sums -- Could a freight to Porto Rica be procured on Advantageous terms we should be glad and perhaps it would be a good opportunity to dispose of the Brig which we limit you at £150 Sterling either there or at Dominica you taking out the Butts and Guinea Materials. We have liberty in our policys of Insurance to go to Porto Rica. You'll find Letters lodged for you at Lovell Morson & Co.'s for your Government to which we at present refer. We allow of no private adventures being carried out that all trade be on the owners Acct recomending humane treatment to your Crew, care of accidents by Fire and that a Diligent Watch be kept so that the unhappy Misfortunes of Insurrections may be prevented. We are wishing you health and a prosperous voyage.

"Yo friends &ct




The following curious particulars regarding the customs paid at Whydah when trading for slaves, appear to have been drawn up by Captain Ambrose Lace, for the guidance of one of his captains: -

"State of the Customs which the ships that make their whole trade at Whydah pay to ye King of Dahomey:

Eight Slaves for Permission of Trade gongon Beater and Breakers:

Thes slaves paid to ye Caborkees after which he gives you two small children of 7 or 8 years old which the King sends as a return for the Customs.

[551] 1 Slave for Water and washerwoman 

2 Do. for the Factory house

7 Do. for the Conoe

These slaves paid to whom supplies you These to the Fort

The above Slaves are Valued as under: -
6 Anchors Brandy is               1 Slave
20 Cabess of Cowries is          1 Do
40 Sililees                              1 Do 
200 lb Gunpowder                   1 Do
25 Guns                                 1 Do   
10 Long Cloths                       1 Do
10 Blue Bafts                          1 Do
10 Patten Chints                     1 Do
40 Iron Barrs                           1 Do

And if any other good must be in proportion but you must observe to pass the Goods Least in Demand.

"After the Customs are paid which should be done as soon as possable for the traders dare not trade till the Kings Customs are paid, the Vice Roy gives you the nine following Servants viz. one Conducter to take care of the goods that comes and go's to and from the waterside which you deliver him in count and he's obliged to answer for things delivred him he's paid 2 Gallinas of Cowries every time he conducts any thing whether coming or going and one flask of brandy every Sunday.

"Two Brokers which are obliged to go to the traders houses to look for slaves and stand Interpiter for the Purchas the are paid to each two Tokes of Coweres per day and one flask of brandy every Sunday and at the end of your trade you give to each of them one Anchor of Brandy and one ps of Cloth.

"Two Boys to serve in the house the[y] are paid each two tokees per day at the end of your trade per ps of cloth.

"One Boy to Serve at the tent water side 2 Tokees per day.

"One Doorkeeper paid 2 Tokees per day 1 ps Cloth for him and ye above.

"One Waterwoman for the factory 2 Tokees per day at end of trade. One ps of Cloth.

[552] "One Washer Woman 2 Tokees per day and six Tokees everytime you give her any Linnen to Wash and one ps of Cloth at ye end of trade.

"N.B. the two last Servants are sometimes one if so you only pay one.

"To the Cannoe men for bringing the Captain on shore one Anchor Brandy and to each man a hatt and a fathom Cloth. To the Boatswain a hat ½ ps Cloth one Cabes Cowrees a flask of brandy every Sunday and a bottle every time the cross the Barr with goods or Slaves and every time the pass a white man and at the end of trade for earring the Captn on board one anchor of Brandy and four Cabeses Cowrees.

"N.B. The above Bottles flasks &c was usely given to ye Conoemen but now the Captn gives ym one Anchor of Brandy and one Cabese of Cowrees every Sunday for the weeks work.

To the Gong Gong Beater for anouncing trade 10 Gellinas of Cowrees and one flask of Brandy.

"To the Kings Messenger for Carring News of the ships Arrivell and Captn’s 5 Compliments to the King ten Gallinas.

"To the Trunk keeper a bottle brandy every Sunday and a peice of Cloth when you go away if you are satisfied with his service.

"To the Captn of the Waterside on your arrivell one anchor of brandy and at your Dept. one ps Cloth and one anchor of brandy.

"To the six Waterrowlers two tokees per day each and two Bottles Brandy besides which you pay them 2, 3 or 4 tokees of cowrees each Cask according to the size at the end of trade two ps Cloth and one anchor Brandy.

"To the Vice Roy who go's with his people to Compliment the Capt. at his arrivell and Conduct him to the Fort one Anchor Brandy and two flasks but if Coke be their four flasks Brandy.

"To the Vice Roy for his owne Custom 1 ps Silk 15 yards 1 Cask of Flower one of Beef but if you are short of these you may give him some thing else in Lew of them.

"To making the Ten one Anchor Brandy 4 Cabess Cowrees.

[553] "To the Captn. Gong Gong that looks after the house at night one bottle per day and one ps Cloth if your content.

"You pay 3 Tokees of Cowrees for every load such as one Anchor 40 Sililees 10 ps Cloth and so in proportion for small goods but when loads are very heavy you pay more as ten Gallinas

for a Chest of pipes &c.

The Tokee is 40 Cowrees

The Gallina is 200     --

The Cabess is 4000   --

"N.B. their go's five tokees to one Gallina and twenty Gallinas makes one Cabess."


Letter from a Chief, addressed "see Capt. Brighouse": -

"Friend William Brighouse,

"I have sent you one woman and girl by Shebol. I will come toomorrow to see you. Suppose you Some Coffee to spar. Please send me a Little.

"I am your Friend

                                    "Eboboyoung Coffiong

"Decr 30th 1777


In the year 1772, slavery in England received its death-blow. In 1729, Lord Talbot, Attorney-general, and Mr. Yorke, Solicitor-general, had given an opinion which raised the whole question of the legal existence of slaves in Great Britain and Ireland. They said that the mere fact of a slave coming into these islands from the West Indies did not make him a free man, and he could be compelled to return again to those plantations. On the strength of this decision, slavery continued to flourish in England for a period of forty-three years. Chief-Justice Holt, however, had expressed a contrary opinion to that of the law officers of the crown; and, after a long struggle the matter was brought to a final issue in the case of the negro Somerset, so nobly fought by Granville Sharp. On May 22nd, 1772, Lord Mansfield in the name of the whole bench, delivered the [554] memorable decision,* which, from "that day to this, has been one of the glories of our land that "as soon as a slave set foot on the soil of the British Islands, he became free," or in the words of Cowper:

"Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lung's Receive our air, that moment they are free; They touch our country, and their shackles fall."

Notwithstanding this ruling, we find in Williamson's Advertiser, of May 4th, 1780, the following curious advertisement: -

"RUN AWAY, on the 1 8th of April last, from PRESCOT, A BLACK MAN SLAVE, named GEORGE GERMAIN FONEY, aged twenty years, about five feet seven, rather handsome ; had on a green coat, red waistcoat, and blue breeches, with a plain pair of silver shoe buckles; he speaks English pretty well. Any person who will bring the black to his master, Captain Thomas Ralph, at the Talbot Inn, in Liverpool, or inform the master where the black is, shall be handsomely rewarded. All persons are cautioned not to harbour the black, as he is not only the slave, but the apprentice of Captain Ralph."**


* "On May 22nd, 1772, the court of King's Bench gave judgment in the case of Somerset, the slave, viz. that Mr. Stuart, his master, had no power to compel him on board a ship, or to send him back to the plantations. Lord Mansfield stated the matter thus: The only question before us is, is the cause returned sufficient for remanding the slave? If not, he must be discharged. The cause returned is, the slave absented himself, and departed from his master's service, and refused to return and serve him during his stay in England ; whereupon, by his master's orders, he was put on board the ship by force, and there detained in secure custody, to be carried out of the kingdom and sold. So high an act of dominion was never in use here; no master ever was allowed here to take a slave by force to be sold abroad, because he had deserted from his service, or for any other reason whatever. We cannot say the cause set forth by this return is allowed or approved of by the laws of this kingdom, therefore the man must be discharged."  Annual Register, vol. 15, p. 110.

** In contrast to the above, we take the following from the Liverpool newspaper: "On Saturday, February 26th, 1780, died in the 79th year of his age, Thomas Crowder, a merchant who had acquired a large fortune in Jamaica; and on Tuesday died his faithful black servant, who had served him upwards of twenty years."

"On Jany. 4th, 1797, died William Patrick, a black, upwards of 36 years a servant in the family of William Gregson, Esq., of Everton, in which capacity he was honest and faithful becoming his situation.”

[555] The rapid decline of commerce consequent upon the revolt of the North American Colonies, and the activity of the American Privateers, seriously interfered with the Liverpool slave trade. In 1773, the number of ships cleared to Africa was 105, burthen 11,056 tons, which carried to the West Indies 28,200 negroes. In 1775, the number of ships fell to 81, burthen 9,200 tons, while during the war this branch of traffic, in common with others, had declined so much that in 1779, only 11 vessels, burthen 1205 tons, sailed from the Mersey to the coast of Africa. One great blow to the trade was an Order in Council prohibiting the exportation of gunpowder, an article which formed a large portion of every Guinea cargo.

In August, 1775, a sailors' riot broke out in Liverpool, and continued for several days, threatening to lay the town and shipping in ashes. Some sailors, who had been engaged on board the Derby Guineaman, Captain Yates, fitting out in one of the docks, having finished the rigging, demanded their wages at the rate of 30s. per month, for which they had contracted; but the owners refused to pay more than 20s., as there were then about 3000 sailors in the port unemployed, and no fewer than forty sail of Guinea ships laid up. The men returned on board the vessel, and in a short time cut and demolished the whole of the rigging, and left it on the deck. A party of constables seized nine of the ringleaders, whom the magistrates committed to the Tower in Water-street, whereupon upwards of 2000 sailors, armed with handspikes, clubs, and other weapons, attacked the gaol and rescued their comrades. The rioters then marched about the docks till near midnight, terrifying the inhabitants and unrigging all the vessels that were ready to sail. This was on a Friday; on Saturday all was quiet, and on Monday, the sailors, in a body, waited on the magistrates, praying redress and support. They came to no terms, but met the following [556] day, and the merchants agreed to give the wages they demanded. On this they dispersed and spent the day in the greatest festivity, but hearing that 300 able-bodied men had been hired at los. per day to apprehend those who had been most forward in the riot, the sailors again met at nine o'clock the same evening, unarmed, and went to the Exchange, which they surrounded. Some straggler of their party unfortunately broke a pane of glass, whereupon the special constables within fired upon the mob, killing seven and wounding about forty. A general attack upon the windows of the Exchange was made with stones, amid the dismal cries and groans of the wounded. On Wednesday morning, upwards of 1000 sailors again assembled, all with red ribbons in their hats. They went to Parr's, the gunsmith, took about 300 muskets, plundered  other shops of powder, balls, &c., and at one o'clock, being all armed, some with muskets and others with cutlasses, they surrounded the Exchange, against which they planted six cannon, which they had brought from the vessels in dock.* Having hoisted the bloody flag, they blazed away at the building with great guns and small arms. The cannon in Castle-street was so large, and the street so narrow, that the houses shook till scarce a pane of glass was left whole in the neighbourhood. In this attack four persons were killed. It is said that much more damage would have been done to the Exchange by cannon balls if some one had not cried, "Aim at the goose," alluding to the cormorant, or liver, the heraldic device of the town, which formed one of the figures in the pediment. The gunners took the hint, [557] and the cannon, being pointed high, did less mischief than it might otherwise have done.

* "When the sailors were attacking the houses of the African merchants in 1775," says Stonehouse, "a cannon was obtained from the Old Dock by a party of the rioter-. One of these fellows took a horse out of Mr. Blackburne's stable at the Salt Works, and attempted to harness it to a truck on which the cannon had been placed. The leader of the gang, in stooping down to fasten a rope to the truck, offered so fair a mark for a bite, that the horse, evidently having notions of law and order, availed himself of the opportunity of making his mark upon Jack's beam end, which sent him off roaring, leaving the gun in the possession of the saline Bucephalus."

From the Exchange, they marched to Whitechapel, to the house of Mr. Thomas Ratcliffe, a Guinea merchant, the attack upon which is thus described by an eye-witness:

"This day I have been so frightened as hardly to be able to do anything". Such scenes of distress as I have been eye-witness to, with the clattering- of swords and cannon, have so terrified me, that I hardly know what I say or do. To inform you of the particulars : you must know that in Whitechapel, lived a merchant [Mr. Thomas Ratcliffe], who was said to be the first that fired upon the sailors ; in consequence thereof, a large number of them came with a drum, a flag, and armed with guns, blunderbusses, cutlasses, clubs, &c. who fired on the said merchant's house, which stands in sight of us, where they threw out the feather beds, pillows, &c. ripped them open, and scattered the feathers in the air, broke open the drawers, full of clothes, laces, linen, tore in pieces the house and bed furniture, together with the stoves, parchments, china, &c. and all that was in the house. We were all in a dreadful confusion, but they behaved very well to every one, excepting those to whom they owed a grudge. They then marched to a very large house behind us, [in Rainford Garden] belonging to another merchant, whose name is [William] James., and one of the greatest traders here.* The family having been apprised of their coming, had left it, and taken some of their most valuable effects with them to a country house they have; but such good furniture they destroyed here, would have grieved any one to see. They destroyed also the compting-house, with [558] all the papers, goods, &c. The household furniture was very rich, with abundance of china and chintz bed-furniture, all of which were torn to shivers, and linen, plate, &c. tumbled into the street, and thrown about in fragments immediately, in the air. During the whole time the cellars were kept quite open, and what liquor they did not drink, they threw away. Our poor Debby would go to see them, and has got her eyelash cut with a candlestick.

It is not possible to form any idea of the distress this place has been in, all this day. The merchants get to the corner of the streets, where, methinks, I yet see them standing, with fear painted in their faces. The 'Change has all its windows broke, and frames forced quite out. They have been firing also at the walls the greatest part of this day, and are now gone to Cleveland Square. I suppose there is not a merchant who has wanted to lower their wages but will be visited by them; and God knows how long these riots may continue. You will not wonder, after reading this, that I was terrified. I am a coward, it's true, but I think this would have alarmed any one. They read the Riot Act last night, and then began to fire on them, when they killed three, and wounded fifteen. This has made them so desperate. I could not help thinking we had Boston here, and I fear this is only the beginning of our sorrows.

* Mr. William James had, at one time, 29 vessels engaged in the slave trade, but they were not of large dimensions. lie died at his house in Clayton Square, in January, 1798, aged 67. "Mr. James," says one who knew him, "sat for some years in the House of Commons, and gave evidence of talent far beyond mediocrity. There was also a spice of originality about him which commanded attention whenever he spoke, which, however, was but seldom. 'I here was another Mr. James, in Liverpool, in those days, rather a rough-spun and unhewn kind of person, and very eccentric and amusing in his way a character, in short, amongst his own circle. His name was Gabriel James, or 'the Angel Gabriel,' as some of his waggish friends called him. He had a ready tongue and plenty of mother wit, and seldom came off second best in a tilt and tournament with words.'

In destroying Mr. James's furniture, a little negro boy was discovered by the sailors, concealed in the clock case, whither he had fled for safety. Having got drunk at Mr. James's house, the mob marched to Mr. Thomas Yates' in Cleveland Square, and from thence to Mr. John Simmons' in St. Paul's Square, sacking both houses, after which they met at their rendezvous, the North Ladies' Walk, where they gathered daily under a leader they called "General Gage." Besides other acts of turbulence and disorder, which were committed during several days, the rioters marched about the streets in gangs, presenting pistols at the breast of every person they met, and demanding [559] money from them. They also visited the houses of the merchants, levying contributions of money, among the rest, the residence of Mr. William Leece, a merchant, in Water-street. It happened that no one was within, except the merchant's daughter and the female servants. Miss Leece, with a fearlessness and self-possession that was completely wanting in the local authorities of Liverpool during the riot, went to the door, and, addressing the mob leader, who was a sailor, enquired what they wanted. Jack, struck with admiration at her courage and coolness, took off his hat, and remained uncovered while, in respectful language, he solicited, instead of demanding, a contribution. Having received it, he thanked her, and drew off the rabble without doing any mischief. This wise and highspirited lady afterwards married Mr. James Drinkwater, who was mayor of Liverpool in 1810. Her eldest son, Sir George Drinkwater, was mayor in 1829; her second son, Mr. William Leece Drinkwater, of the Isle of Man, was a member of the House of Keys; her third son, Mr. John Drinkwater, was the father of Deemster Drinkwater. Her daughter, Margaret, married Mr. Peter Bourne, who was mayor of Liverpool in 1825. The riot was eventually quelled by a troop of light horse from Manchester,* and in April, 1776, fourteen of the sailors [560] concerned in the affair, "were suffered to go on board one of his Majesty's ships destined for America." With the exception of the rebellion and the Gordon Riots, the annals of the eighteenth century probably cannot mention a more extraordinary and formidable popular outbreak in England than these riots, arising from the greed of slave-merchants and the ferocity of their hirelings, and in which cannon, muskets, pistols, cutlasses and other deadly weapons were freely used by the mob.

* A gentleman, who accompanied the party of Lord Pembroke's Royal Regiment of Horse, that was sent for from Manchester to Liverpool, to quell the riot, writing on September 6th, says: " Last Wednesday, at three o'clock in the afternoon, an express was received at Manchester from the Mayor of this place, demanding the assistance of the soldiery, to put a stop to the riotings of the sailors; and in the evening two of the principal gentlemen in the town arrived, praying their immediate march, otherwise, Liverpool would be laid in ashes, and every inhabitant murdered. Upon this, the men were collected together with all speed, to the number of 100 privates and six officers; and about three o'clock in the morning, they marched. It rained very hard, and did not cease until they came within six miles of Liverpool, where they were met by the Mayor, who told them the rioters were drawn up in a body to attack them. Before they proceeded any further, they examined their arms, which being very wet, required a short time to put them in order and when done they loaded, then marched in six divisions with their horses on each side, to keep the flanks clear, intending to give the sailors the street fairing. They arrived at Liverpool about four o'clock in the afternoon, in good spirits, though somewhat fatigued, amidst the acclamations of the whole town, who now came out of their houses, which they had not clone, nor even shewn their faces, for some time before. Immediately upon their appearance, the rioters dispersed, with the utmost confusion, hiding themselves in garrets, cellars, &c. and in short, anywhere they could. The soldiers then surrounded several houses, and in the course of Thursday and Friday, made about sixty prisoners, who were sent to Lancaster Jail, and now all remains very quiet."

The True Briton, Captain Dawson, which sailed from Bonny, for the West Indies, on the 14th of June, 1776, with upwards of 500 slaves, in coming out had an insurrection on board, in which the sailmaker was killed, and cooper wounded.

One of the most inexplicable facts in connection with the trade is, that when the slave-ships were in danger from an enemy on the middle passage, the captains frequently armed some of the negroes, who fought most gallantly to preserve the vessels and the lives of the men who were carrying them into perpetual and pitiless bondage. We have an instance of this in the case of the notorious slaver, the Brooks. Captain Noble, her commander, writing to the owners from Montego Bay, Jamaica, on the 26th of April, 1777, says:

"I can with a good deal of pleasure inform you that your ship Brooks has been the destruction of one of the American privateers. The next morning after we left Barbadoes, we were chased by her, and made all the sail we could to get from her, but to no purpose, for she came up with us very fast, and a little afterwards we saw another privateer right ahead, so that we had then nothing to do but either fight or be taken. [561] We therefore, to prevent being engaged by them both at once, took in all our small sails, and made ready for an engagement. She came up right astern, would shew no colours till we fired two shot at her, which did great execution; upon which she hoisted American colours, and gave us a broadside, which we returned with our two stern chasers, which never missed raking them fore and aft. After engaging her about an hour, we were so lucky as to shoot away her mast, just above the deck, by which time the other was almost up with us, but seeing the sloop's mast gone, she hauled away from us as fast as possible. The sloop and us exchanged many shot after her mast was gone, but I thought it the most prudent way not to attempt taking her for fear of the other (which was a schooner) altering her mind, and coming back, upon which we bore away in a tattered condition, our sails and rigging being very much torn to pieces, and a great many shot in the hull, but miraculously nobody killed or wounded on board us, except the Doctor, who received a musket ball in his belly, but has got the better of it already, as it came through the stern before it hit him. We killed a great number on board the privateer, as they stood quite exposed to our shot. She was a sloop of ten or twelve guns, a great number of swivels, and as full of men as she could stow. I believe the greatest part Frenchmen by their appearance. I had fifty of our stoutest slaves armed, who fought with exceeding great spirit. After I left the sloop, the schooner came to her, and, I suppose, took the people out of her; she sunk about an hour after I left her. The engagement was within two miles of St. Vincent, on the S.E. part of the island. I went into Kingston Bay, and went on board the Favourite, sloop-of-war, to beg some powder, which they supplied me with very readily, and that evening made sail for Jamaica, kept a great way to the southward, and then hauled right over for Jamaica, by which means (I dare say) we escaped a good many of the Americans. We saw several small sail on our way down, but what they were, I cannot tell."

Captain Noble, when writing, had not heard the sequel. [562] Soon after the removal of the sloop's crew on board the schooner, the latter blew up, and fifty-five persons were drowned and thirteen saved, amongst whom was the captain of the sloop privateer. The captain and three men were lodged in gaol at St. Vincent's. We shall presently hear more of the Brooks, and her accommodation for compulsory passengers.

At a public meeting of the African Freemen, merchants and others, held in the Exchange, in Liverpool, on the 14th of July, 1777, a committee of merchants was appointed to take into consideration the state of the African trade, and to draw up some plan to be laid before the ensuing Sessions of Parliament for the better regulation of the said trade.

The following merchants were present: -


Alderman Gregson,     Mr. Higginson,            Mr. Sparling,

Mr. Slater,                   Mr. T. Hodgson,         Mr. Blundell,

Mr. Caruthers,             Mr. Heywood,            Mr. Brown,

Mr. Bold,                    Mr. Greenwood,         Mr. Birch,

and Mr. Grimshaw.


It was resolved that the Committee be an open one, "to which any merchant or other person, trading to Africa from Liverpool, or any Freeman of the African Company there, or other merchant of the same place, should be allowed to come, be heard, and vote." The Committee sat at ten o'clock every Monday morning in the Town Hall, and was formed of the following gentlemen: -

William Crosbie, Esq., Mayor,

William Gregson,        John Dobson,              Alexr. Nottingham,

Gill Slater,                   Joseph Brooks, Jun.,   Thomas Hodgson,

Thomas Case,              Benjamin Heywood,   Thomas Staniforth,

George Case,               Thos. Rumbold,          Thomas Birch,

Richard Savage,          James Caruthers,         Wm. Crosbie, Jun.,

Francis Ingram.

The Secretary was Francis Gildart.

[563] On the 4th of December, 1777, the Jane, Captain Syers, and the Gregson, Captain Boyd, two Liverpool slave-ships, arrived at Barbadoes, from Africa, after a passage of seven weeks. Two days before their arrival, they exchanged a broadside with a small sloop, but the day following, the Jane, then a good way ahead of the Gregson, was grappled and attacked by a large sloop of 14 guns and well manned, who managed to throw five boarders into the Jane, but these were soon repulsed, and a close action ensued for about two hours, when the privateer cut her grapnel and sheered off, having caught fire, which, however, was extinguished. The Jane had five men and a negro boy killed, and six seamen dangerously wounded. "Captain Boyd," says the Liverpool newspaper, "crowded all he could, but was not able to get up and assist, otherwise 'tis likely the people of Barbadoes would have had the pleasure of seeing those two brave African heroes bring the Rebel Taxgatherer into Carlisle Bay." An account from St. Vincent's, dated December 27th, mentions that a Liverpool Guineaman had given a rebel privateer a severe drubbing, near Barbadoes, and that 33 of the privateer's crew were killed, and upwards of 47 wounded, and this, no doubt, was the action with the Jane.

In March 1779, in a cause tried before Earl Mansfield, at Guildhall, Amissa, a free black of Anamaboe, on the coast of Africa, was awarded £500 damages against the captain of a Liverpool slave-ship, under the following circumstances. In 1774, the defendant, wanting hands while on the coast, hired the plaintiff as a sailor, advancing part of his wages. When the ship arrived at Jamaica, the plaintiff was sent, with three other sailors, to row some slaves on shore, and, to his intense astonishment and grief, instead of being allowed to return to the ship, he was detained by the purchaser of the slaves, to whom the captain had sold him, and sent up to the mountains to work as a slave. When the heartless captain returned with his ship to Anamaboe,

[564] he gave out to Amissa's friends that he had died on the passage. A year or two later, however, a black returned to Anamaboe, who reported that he had left Amissa in slavery at Jamaica, whereupon the King, and other great people of the country, desired Captain E----, who was then on the coast with his ship, on his arrival at Jamaica, to redeem Amissa and send him back to his friends, they paying all expenses. The better to identify his person, they directed the son of one Quaw, a gold taker at Anamaboe, to accompany Captain E---- on his voyage. Soon after their arrival at Jamaica, they found out the man, redeemed him after a slavery of near three years, and brought him to London, where the matter was laid before the African Committee, who ordered the defendant to be prosecuted as a warning to other captains, with the result, as aforesaid, of heavy damages.

Early in 1781, the Sally, Captain Taubman, had the good fortune of capturing, and escorting to Barbadoes, a Dutch Guineaman with 350 slaves, which, taken at the average market price ruling in Jamaica for eleven years -- £50 a head would amount to £17,500.

On the 28th of April, 1781, Captain Stevenson of the slave-ship Rose, wrote to his owners, in Liverpool, from Old Harbour, Jamaica, in the following terms: -


      "This is to inform you of my safe arrival here on the 16th inst, after a passage of 48 days from Cape Coast, but had the misfortune the day before we got in here, to fall in with a French privateer of 14 guns, and 85 men, called the Mould, belonging to Cape Nichola Mole, off the S.E. end of this island. At first coming up with us, we gave her two broadsides with our great guns and small arms, which she returned in the like manner, but her intention was for boarding us, he at last came up on our starboard quarter, with a stinkpot fast to the end of his gaff, thinking to swing it on board, but one of the Trantee slaves shot it away with his musquet. He then grappled our main chains, and we lay together yardarm and yardarm for [565] above one glass, when he thought proper to sheer off, having got his belly full. I had about fifty men, black and white, on deck at great guns and small arms, halfpikes, boathooks, boat oars, steering-sail-yards, firewood, and slack ballast, which they threw at the Frenchmen in such a manner that their heads rattled against one another like so many empty callibashes.

       "My people all behaved very well, both white and black. We lost a white man named Peter Cane ; myself wounded, and five other white people, as likewise seven blacks, one of which is since dead, the other six I am in hopes will recover. The Frenchmen hove such a large quantity of powder flasks on board us, that the ship abaft was all in a blaze of fire three different times; this hurt the blacks much, having no trowsers on them. I had my own shirt burnt off my back. After that I received a ball through my right shoulder, but, thank God, it was in the latter part of the action, so that I did not lose much blood. On the doctor's examining my wound, he found the ball was gone clean through my shoulder."

The Rose carried 12 guns, three and four-pounders, and 30 white people. On the 12th of June in the following year, she was taken on the Coast of Africa, by two French frigates and a cutter, and sent to England as a cartel with prisoners. The Othello (Letter of Marque) Captain Johnson, a slave-ship belonging to Messrs. Heywood & Co., on her voyage to the coast of Africa, took the St. Anne, 300 tons burthen, from Buenos Ayres for Cadiz, with a cargo of 8,500 dry hides, 1 80 boxes of Peruvian bark, and four sacks of fine Spanish wool, the whole valued at £20,000.* The prizemaster put into Killybegs, in September, 1781, to await orders from the Messrs. Heywood, before venturing to proceed to Liverpool, on account of the swarm of the enemies' privateers on the coast and in the Channel.

* The unfortunate owner of a considerable part of the cargo, a Spanish gentleman, who spoke very had English, was on board the prize when taken. He told a horrible tale of a rebellion which had broken out in several provinces of South America, particularly Cuzco, where the native Indians had hanged the governor, and driven 500 Christians into a church, to which they set fire, and destroyed them.

[566] In the spring of the year 1783, the Othello was taken, on the coast of Africa, by the crew, and retaken by the second mate and the doctor, but not until Captain Johnson had lost his life in attempting to quell the mutiny. In July of the same year, we read of her being cast away on her passage from Africa to Tortola, on the east of that island ; the cargo, consisting of 213 slaves, was saved.

On the 7th of December, 1781, the Nelly, Captain Fairweather, on her passage from Africa to Jamaica, with 429 slaves on board, was wrecked in the night upon the Grand Canaries; 108 of the slaves, and one of the crew perished. The remainder of the blacks were shipped in a vessel the captain purchased, and sent to Jamaica.

The peace of 1783 infused new life into the trade, which had been languishing for nine years; the number of slaveships which cleared from Liverpool for the coast of Africa in that year being 85, burthen 12,294 tons, carrying 39,170 slaves.* Hitherto, no public demonstration hostile to the traffic had been made, though private opinion in many quarters was gradually strengthening against it. The time, indeed, was fast approaching when a small but devoted band of men were to win undying renown by grappling with, and, after a fierce and prolonged struggle, slaying a monster more hideous than the Gorgon, cruel as Moloch, and hydra-headed in its ramifications. In 1787, the little cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, appeared in the political sky in the shape of a petition to the House of Commons, from some members of the Society of Friends, praying for the suppression of the trade in human flesh.

* The reader is warned against accepting the figures of Sirjames Picton on this question, as he repeatedly gives the amount oftonnage as the nivrnber of slaves carried; for instance, in this case, he puts the number of slaves at 12,294, instead of 39,170. The tables in the Appendix show at a glance the number of vessels, tonnage, &c.; cleared for Africa from 1709 to 1807.