Home: Documents: Mission To America: 43-52
It will he impossible for me to see every person that may go with me because I should not have time to visit half the places were I to set off tomorrow, and my presence will be absolutely necessary in Halifax to superintend the whole collected there and to see that the ships are properly equipped for the voyage, so that many may receive Certificates, that probably will not be deserving but I shall act accordingly and take care to write to the respectable people, in the neighborhood of the place that are likely to send many to caution them in giving certificates to improper persons-
If we should be able to accomplish our wishes in sailing together I shall be very happy, as I feel myself much interested in the welfare of these oppressed people; indeed I never viewed the business I have undertaken to perform, with that degree of awe, that I do at this moment. I am fearful when in the company of these unfortunate men of opening my mouth, lest a word should be misconstrued, which might occasion their acceptance or refusal of the Company's offers, not but I am fully convinced, that those who do accept will be by far more happy than those who refuse, but still the future happiness or misery of a human being may depend upon their answer.
I have desired all those who say they wish to go with me, to consider and reflect upon the change they are about to make, and if they should make up their minds to attend me for a certainty, that they must from that moment look up to me as their guardian and Protector, and in return I shall expect their obedience and good behavior; and I hope from what I have seen of them already, I shall have but little to fear from their not conducting themselves agreeably to my wishes-
I must now mention a circumstance which has given me much pain, and which may do a great deal of harm in preventing many of the Blacks from going with me; I mean a report which has been circulated here of King Jemmy's hav-
I was in hopes that I had silenced this opinion when it was first mentioned which was at the Governor's table, the day after my arrival-On that day I met Mr. Hammond the British Minister to the United States, who had just arrived in the Packet from Falmouth and dined with him in company with the Captain who brought him out-In the course of conversation after dinner the Captain of the Packet said, Mr. Clarkson I hear you are going to conduct the Black people to Sierra Leone and therefore I wish to inform you of a report which prevailed at Falmouth on the day we sailed, in consequence of a vessel having arrived in Mounts Bay from the Coast of Africa-He then mentioned what I have stated before, respecting King Jemmy and told me that he was informed of it by one of Mr. Fox's clerks at Falmouth, that my brother was at Mr. Fox's at the time, and that the people belonging to the vessel had waited upon him with the account-
I replied that he had convinced me from what he had said respecting my brother that he must have been misinformed, for I was certain he never would have suffered the Packet to have sailed for Halifax without writing two ]lines to have put me upon my guard, and that so far from the vessel's having brought bad news, I had every reason to believe she had arrived with the most favorable accounts-That I had seen my brother at Weymouth four days before he went to Falmouth and that he told me then that a vessel answering to the description of the one mentioned by the Captain to have arrived at Mounts Bay was hourly expected to confirm the most pleasing accounts received by two vessels, which had lately come from Africa to Bristol-
Mr. Hammond agreed with me and said he was sure my brother would have written to me, had there been any foundation for such a rumor, as the Packet did not sail till some time after the Captain had heard this story-
After all this, I find the Governor is not convinced for Mr. Hartshorne and myself waited upon him two days ago to talk with him on business when he said that the people could not go he thought with safety, after the accounts received of the savages having murdered the settler-I told him I thought it abominable for any person to cherish such an opinion, as it might influence many people not to go, who would be miserable if they remained here, that it was wrong to meet difficulties half way, and that he might be sure if such a thing had happened that he would receive official
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accounts long enough before the people could possibly embark.
I must now tell you that I have heard reports similar to that propagated by the Captain of the Packet before I left England but I have never suffered them to affect me, because I know that there are many enemies to the plan who would be very happy if they could prevent the Colony from flourishing-But still I am of opinion that we ought to be upon our guard, that arms and ammunition ought to be sent out, with a proper Armourer to take care of them, and if I mistake not Mr. Kingston will be able to recommend a man of that description. I am sure there can be no impropriety in sending them out as I have such confidence in the choice the Company will make of their servants who will be entrusted with the use of them, and I hope they will act with the greatest degree of prudence on every occasion.
For my own part, I feel myself so completely at peace with these ignorant misinformed people, who are led away by the wickedness of those who call themselves Christians, that I should rather pity them than return their fire, in hopes that I might be able by such a conduct, to convince them of their error, and to persuade them that I should feel as happy in promoting their comfort, as I should those more immediately under my care-
But I will now tell you what would certainly happen should I meet with any determined resistance while the people are under my protection, I shall keep uppermost in my thoughts that I have several innocent men under me, many of whom were comfortably settled in peace and quietness, and would have been very well content, had it not been for the in clemency of the weather for some part of the year, that these people place a confidence in me, look up to me to perform the promises made by the Company and assured by me that there was no immediate danger from the Kings of the country, but that I thought it necessary that all good Citizens should be upon their guard, that these poor unfortunate men have ever since Europe called herself enlightened experienced the greatest treachery, oppression, murder and everything that is base, and that I cannot name an instance where a body of them collected together have ever had the promises made them performed in a conscientious way, and therefore after having considered what I have said, in its fullest extent, and particularly recollecting that these people were in peace and quietness, before they put a confidence in me, I shall be at a loss (supposing we meet with resistance) to convince them of the Integrity and real feelings of my heart towards them, and I do declare that you will
never see me more if anything of the kind would happen, for I will sacrifice
my life in the defense of the meanest of them on board, sooner
than that they should entertain a doubt of the sincerity of my intentions-There
is a probability of some of us reaching the Settlement by the latter end
of December or the beginning of January-I mention this supposing we cannot
sail together and I hope should this be the case, that Dalrymple the intended
Governor will have everything in readiness to receive us for I am advised
by my friends here to accompany the first party-Their wishes (considering
my report) entirely coincide with my desires, as I am determined to be
the first who puts his foot on Shore at Sierra Leone from Nova Scotia.
It is not in my power to describe the scandalous and shameful conduct shewn to the free Blacks by many of the White people in both provinces and although Government allowed to many of them from 60 to 100 acres of land, the greatest part have never been in possession of more than one or two acres, and they have so completely worked the land up that it will not yield half crops-
The white people now threaten to refuse certificates of character to force the blacks to remain in the provinces, but if I see a man's hut in decent order his land cultivated as well as it can be, and if he should be a man of moderate prosperity such as several possessing bushels of potatoes &C &C I shall not withhold my certificate from him if his general character be good, and from what Mr. Putman the Member for Manchester or Chebucto told me this morning, I have every reason to be satisfied with the whole of the Preston people for he says there are not better working men, or more honest and sober Than those of the town of Preston, and in consequence of this good character, I have promised to buy all my fowls &c of them in preference of others for my sea stock at the regular market prices.
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Before I conclude I must inform you that I had a conversation with the Governor yesterday, who has promised me that the whole shall sail together, if those from the out-ports can be collected within three weeks or a month of the time that those could be ready in the neighborhood he has like wise told me that he will put into the public papers an advertisement for collecting them-
I shall enclose you a copy of it which he had sent me, but as the Governor is considered an unsteady man and led away by other people I do not promise you that everything will take place as I have said neither shall I believe this information will be given till I see it in the papers-
The foregoing were the principal parts of my letter to the Chairman of the Court of Directors of the Sierra Leone Company-I shall now continue my journal.
October 20th, 1791-This day by appointment began to take down the names of the free Blacks who were willing to attend me to Sierra Leone, 79 men, women and children gave in their names-Dined with the Bishop spent a very agreeable afternoon, everything in very elegant style by far superior to any house I have yet visited-In the evening began to prepare for my voyage to Shelburne. By the account given in by many of the free Blacks who gave their names in this morning there cannot be a doubt but that their complaints were founded on facts, for they have certainly been much oppressed and are now in a deplorable state.
Upon enquiry of their neighbors I have reason to believe that the majority are men of good moral character. I remarked how fearful the whole were of getting into debt, and that they questioned me closely relative to the assistance to be given them to enable them to support their families at Sierra Leone without borrowing money. The following will shew the manner in which their names were entered.
October 21st, 1791-Waited upon the Governor to tell him of my intention of visiting Shelburne, had a long conversation with him about the whole of the business and particularly mentioned to him my objection to his making use of the word Guinea instead of Africa in his advertisement relative to the free Blacks as I was convinced it would be made a handle of by many to frighten the Nova Scotia blacks from accepting the offers of the Company-he promised me it should be erased.
He then consulted me respecting a gentleman being sent to Annapolis to superintend the collecting and embarkation of the New Brunswick people and also one to Shelburne to go from that place and the ports between Shelburne and Halifax.
A gentleman was immediately fixed upon to go to Annapolis and as I intended to visit Shelburne myself we dispensed with any further assistance at this time.
October 22nd I went accompanied by Mr. Taylor on board
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-nowledgement for our feast, we quitted the hut and made an attempt to reach our schooner, we soon found however that the creeks we had before passed in our way to the house, were now tilled up by the tide and rendered totally impassable, and as it rained expressly hard, being at the same time very dark, we determined to return to the house, which we had some difficulty in finding- On our knocking at the door, our little hostess received us with her own peculiar grace and sweetness, made an apology for the inconvenience of her little hut, said that she was well convinced that it was illcalculated for the accommodation of gentlemen, particularly as her mother being absent, had locked up many things which might have added to our comfort, yet that she should be happy during our stay to pay us every attention that lay in her power-
Finding all our persuasions ineffectual to induce her to take her usual repose, we laid down upon the bed which contained a small infant while our young friend during the whole night employed herself in recruiting the fire in order to render us less sensible of the inclemency of the weather--the wind and the rain was beating in at several parts of the house-
October 23 At six this morning arose and went on board the schooner but finding the Captain did not think it prudent to sail whilst the wind continued so boisterous we returned with the provisions we had laid up for the voyage
After breakfast the morning being pleasant we took a walk, and visited all the inhabitants on the eastern side of the river, not however, without meeting with considerable difficulties in passing along the rugged paths which lead through this immense forest.
It would appear totally impracticable for any man to proceed or penetrate into these woods, upwards of five miles in the course of the day, by reason of the underwood, rocks and morasses, which must constantly impede his passage, unless by accident he should meet with some Indian paths, made by the Micmac Indians who have settled themselves in this neighbourhood-This Nation or People are now very much reduced in numbers and subsist upon the flesh of such animals as they kill in their excursions and chiefly consist of Bears, Lynxes or Tiger Cats and Moose, Deer, Caribooes, Foxes, Pole Cats, Ermines, the furs of these animals which are found in great numbers they sell in order to purchase fire arms with their necessary appendages powder and shot-
One of the huts we entered belonged to John Mclean, a poor man and whom we found confined to his bed by a disorder which had affected him for some months and in great want of medical aid, as Mr. Taylor said he thought this man's case would admit of considerable relief, we promised to send him on our arrival at Shelburne such medicines as Mr. T. thought best adapted for the removal of his complaints-
I could not quit the house without paying this poor man a trifle for a basin of milk.
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In another of these huts occupied by a Negro family we found woman
extremely ill whom we left with similar promises.
We were happy thus casually to have it in our power to inform latter
family and another at a short distance of the offers made to by Government
and of which in all probability they would have remained ignorant.
Their situation at this place was peculiarly hard, being under necessity of cultivating the lands of a white man for which they were entitled to half its produce, and this was little indeed! It has reduced them to such a state of indigence, that in order to satisfy their landlord and maintain themselves they have been obliged to sell their property, clothing, and even their very beds-
Upon our return we were gratified in having the opportunity of
acknowledging the civility and attention of our little friend to her parents
who had just paid her a visit for a few hours from the opposite side of
Upon enquiring into the circumstances of the father
I found possessed 100 acres of land, which he had purchased for one guinea.
He begged us to accept of his house during our stay in this part
and after giving us in charge to his daughter returned with his wife in
evening leaving us every comfort his house could afford-
The wind still blowing hard and against us, we were under necessity
the of staying here another night.
October 24th-At daylight the morning finding the wind still blew fresh and not the least probability of sailing, we went into the wood, to cut some firewood-
During the time we were thus employed the wind became more moderate and the sea had got down considerably, finding we had it in power to quit the harbor, we took leave of our charming little friend (Jenny Lavender) &c. regretting the little probability there was of see her at any future time, and paused to think that so valuable a maid, should be entombed in this wilderness and forever secluded from the social comforts of mankind in a state of society.
I must not leave this place without giving some idea of the manner in which the houses of Port L'Herbert are constructed.
Their first care is to fix upon some large stones or rock to serve purpose of a fire-hearth, as well as the lower and back parts of the chimney at one end of the house, in the next place small trees are felled, their branches topped off, cut into proper lengths and then piled upon each other in a horizontal manner so as to form a regular quadrangular building, the extremities of such trees as form the two ends of the building, and in a manner as to project 6 or 7 inches beyond each other-
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When the house is formed, the roof is thatched with dry twigs, hay, &c. and whatever they can scrape up, finally the vacancy between each tree is well caulked up with moss which last operation requires renewing annually at the commencement of the winter season. The whole or greater part of the inhabitants have a kind of cellar or excavation of the earth for containing their stock of potatoes, and to which they descend by a small hole, just capable of admitting the body and covered over with loose planks-
We got underweigh at 11 A.M. the wind N. B. W. which enabled us to lay along the shore, and as our Captain was thoroughly acquainted with every rock and creek upon the coast, we gained considerably by keeping close along the beach frequently passing the most frightful breakers at a very short distance on each side of us-On passing by Sable River we were much struck with the appearance of its entrance-
The Ragged Islands which we next passed are several barren rocks inhabited only by the feathered creatures and are very dangerous to such people as are unacquainted with the coast- We however without the least fear went through a narrow channel formed by the largest of these Islands and the mainland.
From hence we made the Light House which stands on a small Island at the mouth of Shelburne river - The ebb tide soon after beginning to make and it being now dark, obliged us to come to an anchor for the night under the highland to the eastward of the harbor
25th October. At one this morning got under weigh and worked up the harbor. At 7 landed at Shelburne and immediately on quitting the vessel were met by a black man of the name of David George, one of the principal Baptist Ministers among the blacks in this district.
He was on the point of embarking for Halifax, having been previously chosen by his brethren to go there and inform himself from me of the real intentions, both of government and the Company, as they were at a loss to know how to act from the various reports circulated by interested people, some to induce them to stay, and others to persuade them to accept the Company's offers - both parties had their interest in view.
Breakfasted and bespoke lodgings in the Merchants Coffee House on Water Street. The same man who addressed us upon landing came to inform us that the principal inhabitants and white people of this neighbourhood were averse to any plan that tended to deprive them of the assistance of the Blacks in the cultivation of their lands, well knowing that people of their own color would never engage with them without being paid an equitable price for their labour.
He said his companions were kept in the most abject state of servitude and that if it were known in the town that he had conversed with us in private his life would not be safe. He cautioned us from appearing in the town or country after it was dark for as some of the inhabitants were
The Whites of this district we learnt had been exerting all their influence to induce the Blacks to remain in the province pointing out to them the paragraph in the Sierra Leone Company's proposals, "whereby in return for the lands granted them, they were to be subject to certain charges and obligations, which they insisted was nothing less than exacting an annual rent and most probably at an exorbitant rate-They also endeavored to instil into them ideas of a dreadful mortality which they asserted would inevitably take place during their passage and residence in Sierra Leone and distributed the following copy of an Abstract of the proceedings of the Society for propgating the gospel in Foreign parts for 1789.
In the last year's Abstract it was mentioned that Mr. James Fraser was gone, attendant upon the Negroes to Sierra Leone with an allowance of 50 guineas from the Society
That the experiment has turned out very contrary to the expectations of those who were induced from the best motives to place and encourage it - Mr. Fraser's health had been so much injured by the undertaking that he was constrain- to return home, and though many months have elapsed since he has not yet found the blessing of a perfect restoration. While he was there he wrote two letters to the Society, of the respective dates of July 24th and September 15th 1787, in the former he expressed his concern that there was no probability of a permanent Settlement, from a variety of causes, some of them unavoidable and others unfortunate, that they had the misfortune to arrive first, at the commencement of the rainy season, so that the Blacks could build comfortable huts for their security, nor raise grain to supply provisions when their allowance from Government should be exhausted the unhealthiness too of the climate, added greatly to their misfortune.
This proved fatal to Mr. Irwin their conductor, the School Master, and 20 other white people and 30 Blacks, besides that 140 died on the voyage, and of the 330 persons remaining there were no less than 150 in the sick list.