The Newgate Calendar - Supplement 3
DAVIS was born in Monmouthshire, and, from a boy, trained to the sea. His last voyage from England was in the sloop Cadogan, from Bristol, in the character of chief mate. This vessel was captured by the pirate England, upon the Guinea coast, whose companions plundered the crew, and murdered the captain, as already related in England's life.
Upon the death of Captain Skinner, Davis pretended that he was urged by England to become pirate, but that he resolutely refused. He added, that England, pleased with his conduct, had made him captain in room of Skinner, giving him a sealed paper, which he was not to open until he was in a certain latitude, and then expressly to follow the given directions. When he arrived in the appointed place, he collected the whole crew, and solemnly read his sealed instructions, which contained a generous grant of the ship and all her stores, to Davis and his crew, requesting them to go to Brazil, and dispose of the cargo to the best advantage, and make an equal division of the money.
Davis then commanded the crew to signify whether they were inclined to follow that mode of life, when, to his astonishment and chagrin, the majority positively refused. Then, in a transport of rage, he desired them to go where they would.
Knowing that part of the cargo was consigned to merchants in Barbados, they directed their course to that place. When arrived there, they informed the merchants of the unfortunate death of Skinner, and of the proposal which had been made to them. Davis was accordingly seized, and committed to prison, but he having never been in the pirate service, nothing could be proved to condemn him, and he was discharged without a trial. Convinced that he could never hope for employment in that quarter, after this detection, he went to the island of Providence, which he knew to be a rendezvous for pirates. Upon his arrival there, he was grievously disappointed, because the pirates who frequented that place, had just accepted of his Majesty's pardon, and had surrendered.
Captain Rogers having equipped two sloops for trade, Davis obtained employment in one of these, called the Buck. They were laden with European goods to a considerable value, that they were to sell or exchange with the French and the Spaniards. They first touched at the island of Martinique, belonging to the French, and Davis knowing that many of the men were formerly in the pirate service, enticed them to seize the master, and to run off with the sloop. When they had effected their purpose, they hailed the other ship, in which they knew that there were many hands ripe for rebellion, and, coming to, the greater part joined Davis. Those who did not choose to adhere to them, were allowed to remain in the other sloop, and continue their course, after Davis had pillaged her of what things he pleased.
In full possession of the vessel, and stores, and goods, a large bowl of punch was made; under its exhilarating influence, it was proposed to choose a commander, and to form their future mode of policy. The election was soon over; and as a large majority of legal votes were in favour of Davis, and no scrutiny being demanded, Davis was declared duly elected. He then drew up a code of laws, to which he himself swore, and required the same bond of alliance from all the rest of the crew. He then addressed them in a short and appropriate speech, the substance of which was, a proclamation of war with the whole world.
They next consulted, what part would be most convenient to clean the vessel, and it was resolved to repair to Coxon's Hole, at the east end of the island of Cuba, where they could remain in perfect security, as the entrance was so narrow, that one ship could keep out an hundred.
They, however, had no small difficulty in cleaning their vessel, as there was no carpenter among them. They performed that laborious task in the best manner they could, and then made to the north side of Hispaniola. The first sail they met with was a French ship of twelve guns, which they captured; and, while they were plundering her, they discovered a sail in view. Inquiring at the Frenchman, they learned that she was a ship of twenty-four guns and sixty men. Davis proposed to his crew to attack her, assuring them that she would prove a rich prize. This appeared to the crew such an hazardous enterprise, that they were rather adverse to the measure. But he acquainted them, that he had conceived a stratagem that he was confident would succeed; they might, therefore, safely leave the matter to his management. He then commenced chase, and ordered his prize to do the same. Being a better sailer, he soon came up with the enemy, and showed his black colours. With no small surprise at his insolence in coming so near them, they commanded him to strike. He replied, that he was disposed to give them employment until his companion came up, who was able to contend with them. Meanwhile, assuring them, that if they did not strike to him, it would most certainly fare the worse with them. Then, giving them a broadside, he received the same in return.
When the other pirate ship drew near, they, according to the directions of Davis, appeared upon deck in white shirts, which making an appearance of numbers, the Frenchman was intimidated, and struck. Davis ordered the captain, with twenty of his men, to come on board, and they were all put in irons except the captain. Then he dispatched four of his men to the other ship, and, calling aloud to them, desired that his compliments should be given to the captain, and request him to send a sufficient number of hands on board their new prize, to see what they had got in her; at the same time, giving them a written paper with their proper instructions, even to nail up all the small guns, and to take out all the arms and powder, and to go every man on board the new prize. When his men were on board her, he ordered the greater part of the prisoners to be removed into the empty vessels; and, by this means, he secured himself from any attack to recover their ship.
During three days, those three vessels sailed in company; but, finding that his late prize was a heavy sailer, he emptied her of everything that he stood in need of, and then restored her to the captain, with all his men. The French captain was so enraged at being thus miserably deceived, that, upon the discovery of the stratagem, he would have thrown himself overboard, had not his men prevented him.
Captain Davis then formed the resolution of parting with the other prize ship also, and afterwards steered his course northward, and took a Spanish sloop. He next steered his course towards the western islands, and from Cape Verde islands cast anchor at St. Nicholas, and hoisted English colours. The Portuguese supposed that he was a privateer; and Davis going on shore, he was hospitably received, and they traded with him for such articles as they found most advantageous. He remained here five weeks, and he and the half of his crew visited the principal town of the island. Davis, from his appearing in the dress of a gentleman, was greatly caressed by the Portuguese, and nothing was spared to entertain and render him and his men happy. Having amused themselves during a week, they returned to the ship, and allowed the other half of the crew to visit the capital, and enjoy themselves in like manner. Upon their return, they cleaned their ship and put to sea; but four of the men were so captivated with the ladies and the luxuries of the place, that they remained in the island, and one of them married and settled there.
Davis now sailed for Bonavista; and, perceiving nothing in that harbour, they steered for the Isle of May. Arrived there, they found several vessels in the harbour, and plundered them of whatever they found necessary. They also received a considerable reinforcement of men, the greater part of whom entered willingly into the piratical service. They likewise made free with one of the ships, equipped her for their own purpose, and called her the King James. They next proceeded to St. Jago, to take in water. Davis with some others going on shore to seek water, the governor came to inquire who they were, and expressed his suspicion of their being pirates. Upon this Davis seemed highly affronted, and expressed his displeasure in the most polite but determinate manner. He however hastened on board, informed his men, and suggested the possibility of surprising the fort during the night. Accordingly, all his men being well armed, advanced to the assault; and, from the carelessness of the guards, they were in the garrison before the inhabitants were alarmed. Upon the discovery of their danger, they took shelter in the governor's house, and fortified it against the pirates; but the latter throwing in some granado-shells, ruined the furniture, and killed several people.
The alarm was circulated in the morning, and the country assembled to attack them; but, unwilling to stand a siege, the pirates dismounted the guns, pillaged the fort, and fled to their ships.
When at sea, they mustered their hands, and found that they were about seventy strong. They then consulted among themselves what course they should steer, and they were divided in opinion; but, by a majority, it was carried to sail for Gambia on the coast of Guinea: of this opinion was the captain, who, having been employed in that trade, was acquainted with the coast, and informed his companions, that there was always a large quantity of money deposited in that castle, and he was confident, that if the matter was intrusted to him, he would successfully storm that fort. From their experience of his former prudence and courage, they cheerfully submitted to his direction, in the assurance of success.
Arrived at Gambia, he ordered all his men below, except as many as were necessary to work the vessel, that those from the fort, seeing so few hands, might have no suspicion that she was any other than a trading-vessel He then run under the fort and cast anchor; and, having ordered out the boat, manned with six men indifferently dressed, while he, with the master and doctor, dressed themselves like gentlemen, in order that the one party might look like common sailors, and the other like merchants. In rowing ashore, he instructed his men what to say if any questions were put to them by the garrison.
When he came to land, he was conducted by a file of musketeers into the fort, and kindly received by the governor, who inquired what they were, and whence they came? They replied, that they were from Liverpool, and bound for the river Senegal, to trade for gum and elephants' teeth; but that they were chased on that coast by two French men-of-war, and narrowly escaped being taken.
"We are now disposed," continued Davis, "to make the best of our voyage, and would willingly trade here for slaves." The governor then inquired what were the principal articles of their cargo. They replied, that they were iron and plate, which were necessary articles in that place. The governor then said, that he would give them slaves for all their cargo; and asked if they had any European liquor on board. They answered, a little for their own use, but that he should have a hamper of it. He then treated them with the greatest civility, and desired them all to dine with him. Davis answered, that as he was commander of the vessel, it would be necessary for him to go down to see if she was properly moored, and to give some other directions; but that these gentlemen might stay, and he would return before dinner, and bring the hamper with him.
While in the fort, his eyes were keenly employed to discover the position of the arms, and how the fort might most successfully be surprised. He discovered that there was a sentry standing near a guard-house, in which there was a quantity of arms heaped up in a corner, and that a considerable quantity of small arms were in the governor's hall. When he went on board, he ordered some hands on board a sloop lying at anchor, lest, hearing any bustle, they should come to the aid of the castle; then, desiring his men to avoid too much liquor, and to be ready when he should hoist the flag from the castle, to come, twenty of them, to their assistance, he procured the castle.
Having taken these precautions, and formed these arrangements, he ordered every man who was to accompany him to arm himself with two pair of pistols, which he himself also did, concealed under their clothes. He then directed them to go into the guard-room, and fall into conversation, and immediately upon his firing a pistol out of the governor's widow, to shut the men up, and secure the arms in the guard-room.
When Davis arrived, dinner not being ready, the governor proposed that they should pass the time in making a bowl of punch. Davis's boatswain attending him, had an opportunity of visiting all parts of the house, and observing their strength. He whispered his intelligence to his master, who, being surrounded by his own friends, and seeing the governor unattended by any of his retinue, presented a pistol to the breast of the latter, informing him that he was a dead man, unless he should surrender the fort and all its riches. The governor, thus taken by surprise, was submissive; for Davis took down all the pistols that hung in the hall, and loaded them. He then fired his pistol out of the window. His men flew like lions, presented their pistols to the soldiers, and while some carried out the arms, the rest secured the military, and shut them all up in the guard-house, placing a guard on the door. Then one of them struck the union flag on the top of the castle, which the men from the vessel perceiving, rushed to the combat, and in an instant were in possession of the castle, without tumult or bloodshed.
Davis then harangued the soldiers, and many of them enlisted with him, and those who declined, he put on board the small ships; and, to prevent the necessity of a guard, or the possibility of escape, carried off the sails, rigging, and cables.
That day being spent in feasting and rejoicing, the castle saluting the ship, and the ship the castle, on the day following they proceeded to examine the contents of their prize. They, however, were greatly disappointed in their expectations, a large sum of money having been sent off a few days before. But they found money to the amount of about two thousand pounds in gold, and many valuable articles of different kinds. They carried on board their vessel whatever they deemed useful, gave several articles to the captain and crew of the small vessel, and allowed them to depart, while they dismounted the guns, and demolished the fortifications.
After doing all the mischief that their vicious minds could possibly devise, they weighed anchor; but, in the meantime, perceiving a sail bearing towards them with all possible speed, they hastened to prepare for her reception, and made towards her. Upon her near approach they discovered that she was a French pirate of fourteen guns and sixty-four men, the one half French and the other half Negroes. The Frenchman was in high expectations of a rich prize, but when he came nearer, he suspected, from the number of her guns and men, that she was a small English man-of-war; but he determined, notwithstanding, upon the bold attempt of boarding her, and immediately fired a gun, and hoisted his black colours: Davis immediately returned the compliment. The Frenchman was highly gratified at this discovery; both hoisted out their boats, and congratulated each other. Mutual civilities and good offices passed, and the French captain proposed to Davis to sail down the coast with him, in order to look out for a better ship; assuring him, that the very first that could be captured should be his, as he was always willing to encourage an industrious brother.
They first touched at Sierra Leone, where they spied a large vessel, and Davis being the swiftest sailer, came first up to her. He was not a little surprised that she did not endeavour to make off, and began to suspect her strength.
When he came along side of her, she fired a whole broadside, and hoisted black colours. Davis did the same, and fired a gun to leeward. The satisfaction of these brothers in iniquity was mutual, by having thus acquired so much additional strength and ability to undertake more formidable adventures. Two days were devoted to mirth and song, and, upon the third, Davis and Cochlyn, the captain of the new confederate, agreed to go in the French pirate ship to attack the fort. When they approached, the men in the fort, apprehensive of their character and intentions, fired all the guns upon them at once. The ship returned the fire, and afforded employment until the other two ships arrived, when the men in the fort seeing such a number on board, lost courage, and abandoned the fort to the mercy of the robbers.
They took possession, remained there seven weeks, and cleaned their vessels. They then called a council of war, to deliberate concerning future undertakings, when it was resolved to sail down the coast in company; and, for the greater regularity and grandeur, Davis was chosen Commodore. That dangerous enemy, strong drink, had well-nigh, however, sown the seeds of discord among these affectionate brethren. But Davis, alike prepared for council or for war, addressed them to the following purport: "Hear ye, you Cochlyn and La Boise, (which was the name of the French captain) I find, by strengthening you, I have put a rod into your hands to whip myself; but I am still able to deal with you both; however, since we met in love, let us part in love; for I find that three of a trade can never agree long together." Upon this, the other two went on board of their respective ships, and steered different courses.
Davis held down the coast, and, reaching Cape Appolonia, he captured two English and one Scottish ship, plundered them, and allowed them to proceed. In five days after, he met with a Dutchman, of thirty guns and ninety men. She gave Davis a broadside, and killed nine of his men; a desperate engagement ensued, which continued from one o'clock at noon until nine next morning, when the Dutchman struck.
Davis equipped her for the pirate service, and called her the Rover. With his two ships he sailed for the bay of Anamaboe, which he entered about noon, and took several vessels which were there waiting to take in Negroes, gold, and elephants' teeth. Davis made a present of one of these vessels to the Dutch captain and his crew, and allowed them to go in quest of their fortune. When the fort had intelligence that they were pirates, they fired at them, but without any effect: Davis fired also, and hoisted the black colours, but deemed it prudent to depart. Before proceeding farther in the life of Davis, it may afford variety and instruction, to insert a description given by an ingenious gentleman, of the Portuguese settlements on this coast.
A DESCRIPTION OF THE ISLANDS OF ST. THOME, DEL PRINCIPE, AND ANNOBONO.
The Portuguese were the great improvers of navigation, and the first Europeans who settled on the coasts of Africa, even round to India, and made those discoveries, so much to the advantage of other nations.
The attractive power of the loadstone was universally known to the ancients; but its directive, or polar virtue, has only been known within these 350 years, and is said to be found out by John Goia, of Malphi, in the kingdom of Naples; though others assure us, that it was transported by Paulus Venetus, from China to Italy, like the two other famous arts of printing and the use of guns.
The other properties or improvements of the magnet, its variation, or deflection from an exact N. or S. line, variation of that variation, and its inclination, were the inventions of Sebastian Cabot, Mr. Gellibrand, and Mr. Norman; the inclination of the needle, or that property whereby it keeps an elevation above the horizon, in all places but under the equator, where it is parallel, is as surprising a phenomenon as any, and was the discovery of our countrymen; and, could it be found regular, I imagine it would very much help towards the discovery of the longitude; at least it would point out better methods than are hitherto known, when ships draw nigh land; which would answer as useful an end almost as the other.
Before the verticity and use of the compass, the Portuguese navigations had extended no farther than Cape Non; which was their ne plus ultra, and therefore so called. Distress of weather, indeed, had drove some coasters to Porto Santo and Madeira, before any certain method of steering was invented; but after the needle was seen, thus inspired, navigation every year improved, under the great encouragement of Henry, Alphonsus, and John II. , kings of Portugal.
King Alphonsus was not so much at leisure as his predecessors, to pursue these discoveries; but, having seen the advantages that accrued to Portugal by them, and that the Pope had confirmed the perpetual donation of all they should discover between Cape Bajadore and India, inclusively, he resolved not to neglect the proper assistance, and so farmed the profits that did or might ensue, to one Bernard Gomez, a citizen of Lisbon, who was, every voyage, obliged to discover 100 leagues still farther on. About the year 1470, he made these islands.—the only place of all the considerable and large colonies they had in Africa, that do now remain to that crown.
St. Thome is the principal of the three, whose governor is styled captain-general of the islands, and from whom the other at Prince's receives his commission, though nominated by the court of Portugal. It is a bishopric, with a great many secular clergy, who appear to have neither learning nor devotion, as many of them are Negroes. One of the chief of them invited us to hear mass, as a diversion to pass time away; when he and his inferior brethren acted such affected gestures and strains of voice, as showed, to their dishonour, that they had no other aim than that of pleasing us; and, what I think was still worse, it was not without a view of interest; for, as these clergy are the chief traders, they stoop to pitiful and scandalous methods for ingratiating themselves. They and the government, on this trading account, maintain no great harmony, being ever jealous of each other, and practising little deceitful arts, to monopolize what strangers have to offer for sale, whether toys or clothes, which, of all sorts, are ever profitable commodities with the Portuguese, in all parts of the world: an ordinary suit of black will sell for seven or eight pounds a middle-row wig of four shillings, for a moidore; a watch of forty shillings, for six pounds.
The town is of mean building, but large and populous; it is the residence of the greater part of the natives, who, throughout the whole island, are computed at 10,000, the militia at 3000, and are, in general, a rascally, thievish generation, as an old grave friend of mine can witness; for he, having carried a bag of second-hand clothes on shore, to truck for provisions, seated himself on the sand for this purpose, and presently gathered a crowd round him to view them; one of these desired to know the price of a black suit, that unluckily lay uppermost, and was the best of them: agreeing to the demand, with little hesitation, provided it would but fit him, he put them on immediately, in as much hurry as possible, without any co-licentia seignor; and when my friend was about to commend the goodness of the suit, and exactness they sat with, not dreaming of the impudence of his running away from a crowd, the rascal took to his heels; my friend followed and bawled very much, and though there were 500 people about the place, it served to no other end but making him a clear stage, that the best pair of heels might carry it; so he lost the suit of clothes, and, before he could return to his bag, others of them had beat off his servant, and shared the rest.
Most of the ships from Guinea, of their own nation, and frequently those of ours, call at one or other of these islands, to recruit with fresh provisions, and take in water; which on the coast are not so good, nor so conveniently come by: their own ships likewise, when they touch here, are obliged to leave the king his custom for their slaves, which is always in gold, at so much a head, without any deduction for the mortality that may happen afterwards; this, by being a constant bank, to pay off the civil and military charges of the government, prevent the inconveniency of remittances, and keeps both St. Thome and Prince's Isle rich enough to pay ready money for everything they want of the Europeans.
The beefs are small and lean, few of them exceeding two hundred weight, none of them much more; but the goats, hogs, and fowls, are very good; their sugar is coarse and dirty, and their rum is very ordinary; as these refreshments lay most with people who are in want of other necessaries, they come to us, in a way of bartering, very cheap: a good hog, for an old cutlass; a fat fowl, for a span of Brazil tobacco (no other sort being valued,) and so in proportion to the rest. But, in money, you give eight dollars per head for cattle, three dollars for a goat, six dollars for a grown hog, a testune and a half for a fowl, a dollar per gallon for rum, two dollars a roove for sugar, and half a dollar for a dozen of paroquets: here are likewise plenty of corn and farine, limes, citrons, and yams.
The island is reckoned to be almost square, each side being 18 leagues long; it is hilly, and under the equinoctial—a wooden bridge, just without the town, being said not to deviate the least part of a minute, either to the southward or northward; and, notwithstanding this warm situation, and the continual vertical suns, the islanders are very healthy; which is imputed, in a great measure, to the want of even so much as one surgeon or physician!
The isle Del Principe, the next in magnitude, is a pleasant and delightful spot to the grave and thoughtful disposition of the Portuguese; it is an improvement of country retirement, in that this may be a happy and uninterrupted retreat from the whole world.
The southern coast of Africa runs in a western line of latitude, the northern on an eastern line, but both straight, with the fewest inlets, gulfs, or bays, of either of the four continents; the only large and remarkable one is that of Benin and Calabar, towards which the currents of each coast tend, and which is strongest from the southward, because more open to a large sea, whose rising is (though little and scarcely discernible at any distance from the land,) that gives rise to these currents close in shore; which are nothing but tides, altered and disturbed by the make and shape of lands.
In proof of this I shall lay down the following observations; viz. that in the rivers of Gambia and Sierra Leone, in the straits and channels of Benin, and in general along the whole coast, the flowings are regular on the shores, with this difference, that, in the above-mentioned rivers, and in the channels of Benin, where the shores contract the waters into a narrow compass, the tides are strong and high as well as regular; but, on the dead coast, where it makes an equal reverbation, weak and low, increasing as you advance towards Benin; and this is farther evident, in that at Cape Corso, Succonda, and Commenda, and where the land rounds and gives any stop, the tides flow regularly on, four feet and upwards; when on an evener coast, they shall not exceed two or three feet; and ten leagues out at sea, they become scarcely, if at all, perceptible.
What I would adduce from this, besides a confirmation of that ingenious theory of the tides, by Captain Halley, is first, that the ships bound to Angola, Cabenda, and other places on the southern coast of Africa, should cross the equinoctial from Cape Balnias, and run into a southern latitude, without keeping too far to the westward; and the reason seems plain, for, if you endeavour to cross it about the islands, you meet calms, southerly winds, and opposite currents; and, if too far to the westward, the trade-winds are strong and unfavourable; for it obliges you to stand into eight degrees or thirty degrees southern latitude, till they are variable.
On the north side of Guinea, if ships are bound from the Gold Coast to Sierra Leone, Gambia, or elsewhere to windward, considering the weakness of these currents, and the favourableness of land breezes, and the southerly rains, tornadoes, and even the trade-wind, when abreast of Cape Palmas, it is more expeditious to pursue the passage this way, than by a long perambulatory course of 400 or 500 leagues to the westward, and as many more to the northward, which must be before a wind can be obtained that could recover the coast.
Lastly, it is, in a great measure, owing to this want of inlets, and the rivers being small and unnavigable, that the seas rebound with so dangerous a surf through the whole continent.
Hound the shores of this island, and in July, August, and September—the mouths we were there—there is a great resort of whale-fish, tame, and sporting very nigh the ships as they sail in; they are always in pairs, the female being much the smaller, and are often seen to turn on their backs for dalliance—the prologue to engendering. This fish has an enemy called the thresher, a large fish too, that has its haunts here at this season, and encounters the whale, raising himself out of the water a considerable height, and falling again with great weight and force. It is commonly said also, that there is a sword-fish in these battles, who pricks the whale up to the surface again; but without this, I believe, he would suffocate when put to quick motions, unless frequently approaching the air, to ventilate and remove the impediments to a swifter circulation. Nor do I think he is battled for prey, but to remove him from what is, perhaps, the food of both. The number of whales here, has put me sometimes on thinking that an advantageous fishery might be made of it; but I presume these, no more than those of Brazil, are the sort which yield the profitable part, called whalebone. All, therefore, that the islanders do, is now and then to go out with two or three canoes, and set on one for their diversion.
The rocks and outer lines of the island are the haunts of a variety of sea-birds, especially boobies and noddies; the former are of the bigness of a gull, and of a dark colour; named so from their simplicity, because they often sit still and let the sailors take them up in their hands; but I fancy this succeeds more frequently from their weariness, and the largeness of their wings, which, when they once have rested, cannot have the scope necessary to raise and float them on the air again. The noddies are smaller, and flat-footed also.
What I would remark more of them, is, the admirable instinct in these birds, with respect to the proper seasons, and the proper places for support. In the aforementioned months, when the large fish are here, numerous flocks of fowl attend for the spawn and superfluity of their nourishment; and in January few of either. For the same reason, there are scarce any sea-fowl seen on the African coast; rocks and islands being generally their best security and subsistence.
The harbour of Princes is at the E. S. E. point of the island; the north side has gradual soundings, but here is deep water, having no ground at a mile offshore, with one hundred and forty fathom of line. The port, when entered, is a smooth, narrow bay, safe from winds, unless a little swell when southerly, and draughted into other smaller and sandy ones, convenient for raising of tents, watering, and hauling the seam; the whole protected by a fort, or rather battery, of a dozen guns on the larboard side. At the head of the bay stands the town, about a mile from the anchoring place, and consists of two or three regular streets of wooden-built houses, where the governor and chief men of the island reside. Here the water grows shallow for a considerable distance, and the natives at every ebb, (having before encompassed every convenient angle with a rise of stones, sometimes like the weirs in England,) resort for catching of fish, which, with them, is a daily diversion as well as subsistence; five thousand attending with sticks and wicker baskets; and, if they cannot dip them with one hand, they knock them down with the other. The tides rise regularly six feet in the harbour, and yet not half that height without the capes that make the bay.
Here are constantly two missionaries, who are sent for six years, to inculcate the Christian principles, and more especially attend to the conversion of the Negroes. The present are Venetians, ingenious men, who seem to despise the loose morals and behaviour of the seculars, and complain of them as of the slaves. They have a neat conventual-house, and a garden appropriated, which, by their own industry and labour, not only thrives with the several natives of the soil, but many exotics and curiosities;—a fruit, in particular, larger than a chestnut, yellow, containing two stones, with a pulp or clammy substance about them, which, when sucked, exceeds in sweetness sugar or honey, and has this property beyond them, of giving a sweet taste to every liquid you swallow for the whole evening after. The only plague infesting the garden, is a vermin called land-crabs, which are in vast numbers: they are of a bright red colour, but in other respects like the sea ones. They burrow in these sandy soils like rabbits, and are altogether as shy.
The island is a pleasant intermixture of hill and valley; the hills are spread with palms, cocoa-nuts, and cotton-trees, with numbers of monkeys and parrots among them; the valleys with fruitful plantations of yams, kulalu, papas, variety of salads, ananas or pineapples, guavas, plantains, bananas, maniocs, and Indian corn; with fowls, Guinea-hens, Muscovy ducks, goats, hogs, turkeys, and wild beeves; with each a little village of Negroes, who, under the direction of their several masters, manage the cultivation, and exchange or sell the product for money, much after the same rates with the people of St. Thome.
The palm-trees are numerous on the shores of Africa, and may be reckoned the first of their natural curiosities, in that they afford them meat, drink, and clothing; they grow very straight to forty and fifty feet high, and, at the top only, have three or four circles of branches, that spread and make a capacious umbrella. The trunk is very rough with knobs, either excrescences, or the healings of those branches that were lopped off to forward the growth of the tree, and make it answer better in its fruit. The branches are strongly tied together with a cortex, which may be unravelled to a considerable length and breadth; the inward lamella of this cortex are woven like a cloth at Benin, and afterwards dyed and worn. Under the branches, and close to the body of the tree, hang the nuts, thirty bunches, perhaps, on a tree, and each of thirty pounds weight; with prickly films from between them, not unlike hedgehogs. Of these nuts comes a liquid and pleasant-scented oil, used as food and sauce all over the coast, but chiefly in the windward parts of Africa, where they stamp, boil, and skim it off in great quantities; underneath, where the branches fasten, they tap them for wine, called cokra, in this manner: the Negroes, who are mostly limber, active fellows, encompass themselves and the trees with a hoop of strong with, and run up with a great deal of agility, at the bottom of a branch of nuts; he that ascends makes an excavation of an inch and a half over, and, tying fast his calabash, leaves it to distil, which it does to two or three quarts in a night's time; when done, he plugs it up, and chooses another; for, if suffered to run too much, or in the day time, the sap is unwarily exhausted, and the tree spoiled; the liquor thus drawn is of a wheyish colour, very intoxicating; it sours in twenty-four hours, but, when new drawn, is pleasant to thirst and hunger both. It is from these wines they draw their arrack in India. On the very top of the palm grows a cabbage; called so, we believe, from some resemblance its taste is thought to have with ours, being used like it; the covering has a down that makes the best of tinder, and the weavings of other parts are drawn out into strong threads.
Cocoa-nut trees are branched like, but not so tall as palm-trees, the nut, like them, growing under the branches, and close to the trunk; the milky liquor they contain, to the quantity of half a pint, or more, is often drank to quench thirst, but is apt to surfeit; and this may be observed in their way of nourishment, that when the quantity of milk is large, the shell and meat are very thin, and they harden and thicken in proportion as that loses.
Cotton-trees, also, are the growth of all parts of Africa, as well as the islands; they are of vast bigness, yet not so apt to increase as the shrubs or bushes of five or six feet high; these bear a fruit (if it may be so called) about the bigness of pigeons' eggs, which, as the sun swells and ripens it, bursts forth and discovers three cells loaded with cotton, and seeds in the middle of them: this, in most parts, the Negroes know how to spin, and here, at Nicongo, and the island of St. Jago, how to weave into cloths.
Yams are a common root, sweeter, but not unlike potatoes: kubalu is an herb like spinach; papa, a fruit less than the smallest pumpkins; they are all three for boiling, and to be eat with meat; the latter are improved, by the English, into a turnip or an apple taste, with a due mixture of butter or limes.
Guavas are a fruit as large as a pippin, with seeds and stones in it, of an uncouth astringent taste, though never so much be said in commendation of it. In the West Indies, it is common for the Creolians, (who have tasted both,) to give it a preference to peach or nectarine; no amazing thing for men whose tastes are so degenerated, as to prefer a toad in a shell (as Ward calls turtle) to venison, and Negroes to fine English ladies.
Plantains and bananas are fruit of oblong figure, that I think differ only secundum majus et minus; if any, the latter are preferable, and, by being less, are more juicy; they are usually, when stripped of their coat, eat at meals instead of bread. The leaf of this plantain is an admirable detergent, and, externally applied, has been known to cure the most obstinate scorbutic ulcers.
Manioc is a root that shoots in branches, about the height of a currant bush; from this root the islanders make a farine of flour, which they sell at three rials a roove, and drive a considerable trade for it, with the ships that call in. The manner of making it is first to press the juice from it, (which is poisonous) by the help of engines, and then the Negro women, upon a rough stone, rub it into a granulated flour, which they reserve in their houses, either to still, as we do our wheat, when it makes a hearty food tor the slaves; or to make it into bread, fine, white, and well-tasted, for themselves. One thing worth taking notice about manioc in this island, is, that the woods abound with a wild, poisonous, and more mortiferous sort, which sometimes men, unskilled in the preparation of it, feed on to their destruction: this, the missionaries assured me, they often experimented in their hogs, and believed we did, in the mortality of our sailors.
Indian corn is likewise, as well as the farine de manioc and rice, the common victualling of our slave-ships, and is afforded here at one thousand heads for two dollars. This corn grows eight or nine feet high, on a hard reed or stick, shooting forth, at every six inches height, some long leaves; it has always an ear, or rather head, at the top of it, perhaps containing four hundred fold increase; and often two, three, or more, about midway.
Here are some tamarind trees; another tree called cola, whose fruit, or nut (about twice the bigness of a chestnut, and bitter) is chewed by the Portuguese, to give a sweet gust to their water which they drink; but, above all, the bark of one is gravely affirmed, by the inhabitants, to have a peculiar property of enlarging the virile member; those who are not fond of such conceits, nor believe it in the power of any vegetables, have acknowledged they have seen sights of this kind, among the Negroes, very extraordinary; yet, that there may be no wishes among the ladies for the importation of this bark, I must acquaint them, that they are found to grow less merry, as they increase in bulk. I had like to have forgot their cinnamon trees; there is only one walk of them, which is the entrance of the governor's villa; they thrive extremely well, and the bark is not inferior to our cinnamon from India. The reason why they and other spices, in a soil so proper, receive no farther cultivation is, probably, their suspicion that so rich a produce might make some potent neighbour take a fancy to the island.
They have two winters, or rather springs, and two summers: their winters, which are the rainy seasons, come in September and February, or March, and continue two months, returning that fatness and generative power to the earth, that makes it yield a double crop every year, with little sweat or labour.
Their first coming is with tornadoes, i.e. sudden and hard gusts of wind, with thunder, lightning, and heavy showers; but the continuance of these tempests is very short; and the next new or full moon, at those times of the year, infallibly introduces the rains, which, once begun, fall with little intermission, and are observed to be coldest in February. Similar to these are rainy seasons, also, over all the coast of Africa: if there may be allowed any general way of calculating their time, they happen from the course of the sun, as it respects the equinoctial only; for if these equinoxes prove rainy seasons all over the world, (as we are apt to think they do,) whatever secret cause operates with that station of the sun to produce them, will more effectually do it in these vicine latitudes; and, therefore, as the sun advances, the rains are brought on the Whydah and Gold coast by April, and on the windwardmost part of Guinea, by May; the other season of the sun's returning to the southward, makes them more uncertain and irregular in North Africa; but then to the southward again, they proceed in like manner, and are at Cape Lopez in October, at Angola in November, and so in proportion at the other parts.
The manner of living among the Portuguese here, is with the utmost frugality and temperance, even to penury and starving: a familiar instance of this appears in the voracity of their dogs, who, finding such clean cupboards at home, are wild, in a manner, with hunger, and tear up the graves of the dead for food, as has been often seen. They themselves are lean with covetousness, and that Christian virtue, which is often the result of it, self-denial; they would even train up their cattle in the same way, could they fetch as much money, or had they not their provisions more immediately of Providence. The best of them (excepting the governor, now and then) neither pay nor receive any visits of escapade or recreation; they meet and sit down at each other's doors, in the streets, every evening; and, as few of them, in so small an island, can have their plantations at any greater distance than that they may see them every day if they will, so the subject of their tale is mostly how affairs went there, with their Negroes or their ground; and then they part, one with another, innocently, but as empty as when they came together.
The Negroes have yet no hard duty with them; they are rather happy in slavery: for, as their food is chiefly vegetables, that could no way else be expended, there are no murmurs bred on that account; and as their business is domestic, either in the services of the house, or in gardening, sowing, or planting, they have no more than what every man would prefer for his health and pleasure; the hardest of their work is the carriage of their masters or their wives, to and from the plantations: this they do in hammocks, (called at Whydah, serpentines,) flung across a pole, with a cloth overhead, to screen the person so carried from sun and weather; and the slaves are at each end: and yet even this, methinks, is better than the specious liberty a man has, for himself and his heirs, to work in a coal mine.
The Negroes are, most of them, through the care of their patrons, Christians, at least nominal; but, excepting a very few, they adhere still to many silly Pagan customs, in their mournings and rejoicings; and, in some measure, a powerful majority of these people has introduced their manners among the vulgar of the Mulatto and Portuguese race.
When a person of that colour dies, his relations and friends meet at the house, where the corpse is laid out decently on the ground, and covered, all except the face, with a sheet; they sit round it, crying and howling dreadfully, not unlike what the natives are said to do in Ireland. This mourning lasts eight days and nights, but not equally intense; for as the friends, who compose the chorus, go out and in, they grow weary, and are unequally affected; so that the tone lessens daily, and the intervals of grief are longer.
In rejoicings and festivals they are equally ridiculous; these are commonly made on some friend's escape from shipwreck, or other danger. They meet in a large room of the house, with a strum, strum, to which one of the company, perhaps, sings woefully; the rest, standing round the room close to the partitions, take it in their turns, one or two at a time, to step round, in a manner which they call dancing, the whole clapping their hands continually, and whooping out, every minute, "Abeo," which signifies no more than. How do you do? And this foolish mirth will continue three or four days together at a house, and, perhaps, twelve or sixteen hours at a time.
The Portuguese, though eminently abstemious and temperate in all other things, are unbounded in their lusts; and, perhaps, they substitute the former in the room of a surgeon, as a counterpoison to the mischiefs of a promiscuous salacity. They have most of them venereal taints, and with age become meagre and hectic. I saw two instances here of venereal ulcers that had cancerated in the bowels—spectacles enough to have effectually persuaded men how salutary the restriction of laws are.
Annobono is the last, and of the least consequence of the three islands: there are plenty of fruits and provisions, which they exchange for old clothes and trifles of any sort; they have a governor nominated from St. Thome, and two or three priests, neither of which are minded, every one living at discretion, filled with ignorance and lust.
But to return to Captain Davis.—The next day after he left Anamabona, the man at the mast-head discovered a sail. It may be proper to inform our readers, that, according to the laws of pirates, the man who first discovers a ship, is entitled to the best pair of pistols in the ship; and such is the honour attached to these, that a pair of them has been known to sell for thirty pounds.
Davis pursued that vessel, which being between him and the shore, laboured hard to run aground. Davis, perceiving this, got between her and land, then fired a broadside at her, when she immediately struck. She proved to be a very rich prize, having on board the governor of Accra, with all his substance, going to Holland. There was, in money, to the amount of fifteen thousand pounds, besides a large quantity of merchant goods, and other valuable articles.
Before they reached the isle of Princes, the St. James sprung a leak; so that the men and the valuable articles were removed into Davis's own ship. When he came in sight of the fort, he hoisted English colours. The Portuguese, seeing a large ship sailing towards the shore, sent a sloop to discover her character and destination. Davis informed them, that he was an English man-of-war, sent out in search of some pirates which they had heard were in this quarter. Upon this, he was piloted into the port, and anchored below the guns at the fort. The governor was happy to have Englishmen in his harbour; and, to do honour to Davis, sent down a file of musketeers to escort him into the fort; while Davis, the more to cover his design, ordered nine men, according to the custom of the English, to row him on shore.
During the time that Davis remained here, a French vessel came into the harbour, which Davis plundered, alleging to the governor, that it was only some goods that were in her that he knew belonged to pirates.
Davis also took the opportunity of cleaning and preparing all things for renewing his operations. He, however, could not contentedly leave the fort, without receiving some of the riches of the island. He formed a scheme to accomplish his purpose, and communicated the same to his men. His design was to make the governor a present of a few Negroes in return for his kindness; then to invite him, with a few of the principal men and friars belonging to the island, to dine on board his ship, and secure them all in irons, until each of them should give a large ransom. They were accordingly invited, and very readily consented to go: deeming themselves honoured by his attention, all that were invited, would certainly have gone on board. Fortunately, however, for them, a Negro, who was privy to the horrible plan of Davis, swam on shore during the night, and gave information of the danger to the governor.
In present circumstances, the governor also thought it proper to dissemble his indignation, and to wait the event. The day arrived, and Davis, the better to secure his prey, and to delude his intended guests on board, along with his fellow nobles, (a title which Davis and his principal officers had assumed,) went on shore to bring the governor and the rest on board to dinner; and they were desired to walk up to the fort to take a little refreshment. An ambush was laid for them, and a whole volley being fired at them, every man fell except one, who ran back and gained the boat. Davis was wounded in the bowels, and, in his dying agony, fired his pistols at his pursuers.