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A narrative of voyages and commercial enterprises. In two volumes Cleveland, Richard J. (Richard Jeffry), 1773-1860 1843

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The character of the citizens of New England
for enterprise and industry is very generally acknowledged. Being, for the most part, obliged to
seek their own fortunes, they are early accustomed
to the endurance of privations, and to those industrious and frugal habits, which lead to competence
and wealth. In the pursuit of that independence
of which all are more or less desirous, there have
been instances of daring enterprise, of persevering
determination, of disregard of fatigue and suffering,
which are very remarkable j but which pass unobserved from their frequency, no less than from the
unobtrusive habits of the actor.
A simple account of such enterprises, drawn from
journals and letters written at the time the events
therein related occurred, is here given to the public.
More than forty-five years have elapsed since the
first of the voyages here narrated was undertaken;
and more than twenty since the completion of the
last. It is apparent that they possess but in a small
degree, the power to interest, that would have been
excited, had they been published at the period of
their performance; yet this delay in their publication may, on s,ome considerations, enhance their
value. It may be interesting to the young merchant to trace some of the great revolutions in the
commerce of the world, which have occurred within the above-named periods ; and those of advanced
age may be induced to recur to by-gone days, with
pleasing, even if accompanied with melancholy associations.
For several years preceding the date of the first
of my voyages, the merchants of the United States,
and particularly those of Salem, carried on an active
and lucrative commerce with the Isles of France
and Bourbon, which was continued up to the period of the conquest of those islands by the British,
since which, it has nearly ceased. That important
product of our country, cotton, which is now its
greatest and most valuable article of export, employing a greater amount of tonnage than any other,
was then unknown as an article of export from the
United States; and the little required for the consumption of our domestic fabrics, was imported from
Demerara, "Surinam, and the West India Islands.
The trade to the Northwest Coast of America, which
for about twenty-five years was actively and almost
exclusively pursued from Boston, on an extensive
scale, and to great advantage, has for some years
been abandoned, from the scarcity and high price of
furs, caused by the competition of the Russians, who
have gradually advanced their posts far to the south
of those places where my cargo was collected ; and
where they were not then seen.    The sealing voy-
"~!■- .* ■ ■ «...     .< -'   -     ■.
ages, which were prosecuted most actively from
New Haven, NorwirA, and Stonington, principally
to the Island of Masafuera, and by which sudden and
large fortunes were made, have, for many years past,
been productive of little comparative advantage to
the few yet engaged in them ; and this in consequence of the animal*s being almost annihilated.
Our cargoes from China, which were formerly
paid for in these furs, and in Spanish dollars, are
now procured for bills on England, for opium, and
for European and American fabrics. The cotton
and silk manufactures of Indostan, constituted formerly, almost exclusively, the cargoes of our ships
from Calcutta, which were pstid for in Spanish dollars, and which generally yielded large profits. At
this time our cotton fabrics are so much better and
cheaper, as entirely to have superseded the importation of those ; and most of the articles which now
compose a cfcrgo from Calcutta, excepting saltpetre
and bandanas, were then scarcely known there, as
articles of export to this country. Bills on England
in payment for these cargoes, as well as for those
laden at other ports of India, have been substituted
for Spanish dollars, which formerly were indispensable to the prosecution of thig trade.
When I first visited the ports of Brazil^ of Chili,
of Peru, of Mexico, and of California, they had been
for ages, and were then, so excltfisivefy used for their
own respective flags, that the admittance of one of
a foreign nation, was granted only on the most palpable evidence of a necessity, which it  would be
inhuman not to relieve. When admitted, no individual belonging to the vessel was permitted to
land, or to walk the streets of the city, without the
disagreeable incumbrance of a soldier following him;
hence the difficulty of obtaining information, and
consequently the meagre accounts given of the manners and customs of those nations.
The revolutions in those countries which have
been effected with so much individual distress, and
so great loss of life, though far from having produced the prosperity and happiness anticipated by
their most enlightened patriots, have nevertheless
caused their ports to be thrown open for the admission of the flags of all nations. This has afforded
opportunities to str-angers for visiting them, which
have been abundantly improved ; and the numerous
-and elaborate accounts of them which have been
given to the world, within a few years, by literary
men, who possessed the requisite leisure and opportunity for the purpose, seemed to obviate the necessity of my attempting to enlarge on those subjects.
The same reason forbade the attempt at more than
cursory and passing descriptions of countries, cities,
•customs, and manners in other parts of the globe,
visited by me for objects exclusively of a commercial character.
Equally, if not even more remarkable than the
•changes above mentioned, are thftse observable at the
Sandwich Islands, since my first visit there in the
year 1799. Then the inhabitants were but little
elevated from the barbarous state in which they
were found by Captain Cook; — now they are com-
paratively a civilized people, sensible of the value
of instruction, and eager to obtain it; cultivating
their fields, and, by an extended and increasing foreign trade, affording a most remarkable instance of
the ameliorating and humanizing effects of commerce.
In these days of philanthropy, when there are so
many zealous advocates and active promoters of the
great and truly benevolent cause of temperance, it
is proper and becoming in evetff well wisher to the
advancement of this cause, to aid it in every way in
his power. With such impressions, and with the
favorable opportunity now presented, I should consider it reprehensible to withhold from the public,
a statement of facts relating to myself personally,
and which no other consideration than the hope
of doing good, would induce me to make, although
they may be viewed by many as not the least extraordinary of the facts which have been narrated.
I am not, nor have I ever been a member of a
.'temperance society ; but I was a practical temperance man loiag before such societies were dreamed
of. At the pejaod when I began my nautical career,
it was a universally received maxim, that drinking
grog and chewing tobacco were two essential and
indispensable requisites for making a good seaman.
So omnipotent is custom, and so powerful is satire,
that although the absurdity of such a maxim must
be apparent to every one, I have, nevertheless, seen
many young men repeatedly made sick before overcoming the disgust, and some of them afterwards
became miserable drunkards.    As alcohol and tobac-
;-,.- .-
co were in no degree less offensive to me than I had
evidence of their being to my associates, it appeared
to me that to submit to the ridicule rather than to
the sickness, was selecting the least of the evils, and
I acted accordingly.
Those who may honor me with a perusal of my
narrative Will perceive, that I have navigated to all
parts of the World, from the sixtieth degree of south
latitude, to the sixtieth degree nortfc.; and sometimes
in vessels whose diminutive Bize and small number
of men caused exposure to wet and cold, greatly
surpassing what is usually experienced in ships of
ordinary capacity; that I have been exposed to the
influence of the most unhealthy places; at Batavia,
where I have seen whole crews prostrate with the
fever, and death making havoc among them ; at San
Bias, where the natives can stay only a portion of
the year ; at the Havana, within whose walls I have
resided five years consecutively; that I have suffered
captivity, robbery, imprisonment, ruin, and the racking anxiety consequent thereon. And yet, through
the whole, and to the present sixty-eighth year of
my age, I have never taken a drop of spirituous
liquor of any kind; never a glass of wine, of porter,
ale, or beer, or any beverage stronger than tea and
coffee j and, moreover, 1 have never used tobacco in
any way whatever; and this, not only without injury, but, on the contrary, to the preservation of my
health. Headache is known to me by name only;
and excepting those fevers, which were produced by
great anxiety and excitement, my life has been free
from sickness.
The following narrative will enable the reader to
form a comparison between a seaman's profession
and his own ; and, possibly, after perusing it, he wiH
be less disturbed by the annoyances which peculiarly beset him. He will perceive, that the master of
a merchant ship, in whom are united the duties of
navigator and factor, is subjected to great care and
responsibility, even on ordinary and well defined
voyages. These are greatly augmented when the
enterprise is enveloped in darkness from the unknown political state of the countries whither he is
destined ; from the contingencies which may be presented to him ; and from the necessity of great circumspection, decision, and promptitude, in the choice
of them. If he is timid and afraid to enter a port
where there is uncertainty of a friendly reception,
it may cause the ruin of his voyage. If, on the contrary, he is bold, and enters such port, confiding in
the protection of existing treaties, and the laws of
nations, he may also become the victim of arbitrary
power, confided to unworthy and ignorant individuals. If success attend his enterprise, when returning
home with ample compensation for his labor, he runs
the risk of having it all snatched from him by some
hungry satellite of that great high-sea robber, termed
"His," or "Her Majesty." Thus, in addition to the
ordinary perils of hurricanes and storms, of rocks and
shoals, he has to incur the greater ones of the cupidity and villany of man.
Of the ordinary labor and fatigue attendant on the
profession, the same individual would form opposite
conclusions in different circumstances.     The man
who makes a winter's passage from Europe to America, and encounters the usual storms and severity of
weather peculiar to that passage, will probably pronounce the seaman's life to be the hardest, the most
dangerous, the most irksome, the most wearing to
body and mind, of any one of the pursuits of man.
On the contrary, he who sails from the United States
to Calcutta, to China, or to South America, avoiding
our winter's coast, may perform the voyage without
experiencing a gale of greater severity, than would
require the sails to be reefed, a pleasing excitement
when the necessity is of rare occurrence; and he
would probably decide that no profession is so easy,
so pleasant, and so free from care, as the seaman's.
These are the two extremes, between which, as may
be supposed, there are gradations, which will tend to
incline the scale one way or the other, according to
The experience of more than twenty years passed
in navigating to all parts of the world, has led me Jo
the conclusion, that though the hardships and privations of a seaman's life be greater than those of any
©ther, there is a compensation in the very excitement
of its dangers, in the opportunity it affords of visiting
different countries, and viewing mankind in the various gradations between the most barbarous, and the
most refined; and in the ever-changing scenes which
tilts occupation presents. And I can say, with truth,
that I not only feel no regret for having chosen this
profession rather than any other, but that if my life
were to be passed over agaia, I should pursue the
same course.
The Counting-House. — A Salem Merchant. — His Ships and
Masters. — Distant Voyages. — Their Excitement. — My First
. Voyage. — Disgust with it. — Become Master of the Enterprise.
— Voyage to Bourbon. — To Havre de Grace. — Disappointment. — Send home the Enterprise. — Buy a Cutter. — Amount
of Vessel and Cargo. — Explanation of my Plan. — Apprehension of my Friends. -*— Name of the Vessel. — Sail from Havre.
— Disaster. — Attempt to return. — Fall to Leeward. — Come
to Anchor. — Cables part. — Run ashore. — Humane Conduct
of the People. — They unlade and get off the Vessel. — Enter
River Orme.— Stop the Leaks. — Return to Hav<re.— Repair
the Vessel. — The Crew desert	
Difficulty in procuring Men. — Partially accomplished. — Sail
from Havre. — A British Frigate. — Ushant. — Sketch of the
Crew. — Anecdotes of George. — His Bravery and Fidelity. —
Swimming after the Pig. — British Frigate Stag. — Danger of
Contact. — Chased off Cadiz. — Boarded from a French Privateer.— Released unharmed. — Cape de Verde Islands. — A
Gale. — Lose a Cask of Water. — Causes a Necessity of Stopping at Cape of Good Hope. — Arrival. — Interview with the
Admiral. — Many Visitors. — Suspicion of our Object. — Interview with Lord Macartney. — Searched for Papers. — Sell
the Vessel. — Trouble with the Collector. — Appeal to Lord
Macartney. — Adjusted. — The Vessel despatched. — Never
heard of after.   .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .15
Description of the Cape. — Of the Town. — Effects of Southeast
Wind.—Devil's Table Cloth. — Season of Westerly Gales.—
Dangerous to the Shipping. — Loss of the Sceptre.— Loss of
Ship Jefferson. — Notice of the Inhabitants. — Their Feelings
under the actual Government. — Simon's Bay. — Constantia.
— Signal Hill. — Residence and Resource of the Man stationed
there.—Table Mountain. — The Ascent and View therefrom.
— Perilous Situation. — Mode of Rescue. — Descent and Return to Town.   .       .       .       .       .
Impatience to be off. — Embark for Batavia. — Chased by a Brig.
— Outsail her. — Arrival at Batavia. — Governor's Surprise at
our quick Passage. — Hotel. — American Commerce. — Effect
of the Climate on Europeans. — Market. — The Bay. — Sharks
and Alligators. — No Opportunity to freight to the United
States. — Embark for China. — Arrival at Macao. — A Ty-
phon.— Lose an Anchor. — Arrive at Wampoa. — At Canton.
— Embarrassment as to next Destination. — Arrival and Purchase of an English Cutter. — Associates in the Adventure. —
Factories. — Recourse of Beggars to compel Alms. — Enter
the City. — Result	
Information from Boston. — Difficulty of obtaining Men.— Northeast Monsoon. — A Choice of Difficulties. — Sail from Anson's
Bay. — Anchoring when the Tides were against us. — Narrow
Escape. — Rocks and Shoals. — Strike and stopped on a sunken Ledge. — Come off as the Tide rises. — Anchor and pro-
cure Water and Wood. — Curiosity of the People. •— Stormy
Weather. — Pass through a Breaker unhurt. — Keep Company
with a Chinese Fleet. — They enter Amoy. — Anchor outside.
— Dangerous Navigation. — Island of Kemoy. — Mutiny. —
Means of subduing it.— Leave six Men behind.-— Visit from
a Chinese. — Weather the North End of Formosa. — Heavy
Gales across the Pacific. — Discontent of the Crew.
See the Coast of America. — Prepare  Bulwarks. —- Anchor at
Norfolk Sound. — Discharge a Cannon. — Natives jcbme to us.
— Caution to them. — Their Appearance. — Purchase Skins.
— Tribe. — An Accident. — Result. — Chatham Straits. —
Ship Eliza. — Suspicious Conduct of the Natives. — An Alarm.
m\» Steeken. — War Canoe. — A Present. — Request to stop
the Rain. — A Deserter. — Recovered. — Game. — Anchor in
a Cove. — Hostile Attitude of the Natives. — Leave them.—
Ship Cheerful. — Dangerous Position of the Vessel. — Escape.
— Repair the Damage. — Ships Hancock and Despatch, of
Boston.— Skittigates. — Stratagem. — Howlings in the Night.
— Sensibility of a Native.— Chiefs Kow, Coneyaw, and El-
Sail for Sandwich Islands. — Satisfaction. — Ownyhee. —- Provisions and Fruit. — Natives. — Mowee. — Proceed Westward.
— Tinian. — Anchor in the Typa. — Ship Ontario. — Reflections caused by her Loss. — Proceed to Wampoa and Canton.
— Take a Factory. — Centract for the Cargo. — Causes operating to discourage a Return to the Coast. — Sell th© Cutter.
— Sail for Calcutta. — Malacca. — Pulo Pinang. — Procure a
Pilot. — Arrive at Calcutta 95
Captain Lay. — Take a House. — Servants. — George pressed.
— Application for his Release to Town Major and to the Chief
of Police. — Unsuccessful. — To Lord Mornington. — George
restored. — His Gratitude. — American Commerce. — Buy a
Boat. — Danish Flag. — Deer Hunt by Tigers. — Observations
on Calcutta. — Sail for Isle of France. — Culpu. — Danger in
passing the Barabulla. — Arrival at Ifcle of France.        .       .   107
Good Fortune. —Visit the Governor. — His Civility. — William
Shaler. — Dinner at the  Governor's. — Sell the Vessel and
Cargo. — Isle of Bourbon. — St. Dennis. — St. Paul's. — Riv-
VOL.   I. b
iere d'Aborde. — Mr. Nairac. — Dinner Party. — Pass near the
Volcano. — St. Benoit, — Return to St. Dennis. — Return to
Isle of France. — Death of the Governor. — Honors to his
Memory. — Entry of a Hamburgh Ship. — Cut out by English Boats. — Purchase Coffee. — Confiance and Kent. — Mode
of Capture. — Bravery and Generosity of Surcouffe. — Brig
Traveller. — A Duel. — Kent sold. — Freight her. — Natura-
liste and Geographe	
Satisfaction at the Prospect of Departure. — Observations on the
Isle of France. — Influence of the Jacobins. — A Hurricane.
— Sail for Europe. — Speak an American Schooner. — Coast
of Norway.— War between the English and Danes. — Arrive
at Christiansand. — Jjeave the Ship, and proceed to Copenhagen. — Arrival there. — A profitable Voyage. — Sketch of Copenhagen. — Obelisk. — Fredericksburg Palace. — Rosenberg
Palace. — Arrival of the Ship from Norway.
Remarks. — Associated with Mr. Shaler. — Leave Copenhagen.
— Arrive at Hamburgh.— Purchase a Vessel. — Decision as
to the Command. — Count de Rouissillon. — Peace of Amiens.
— Discouraging Prospects. — Vessel near being lost in the
River. — Proceed to Sea. — Arrive at Grand Canaria. — Appearance of the Town. — Departure. — Arrival at Rio Janeiro. — An Assassination. — Convent of Benedictines. — Bay of
Rio. — Departure. — Cape Horn.—Lose a Man. — Arrive at
Valparaiso.       ..........
American Vessels at Valparaiso. — Permission to obtain Supplies.— Threat of the Captain-General. — Controversy between the Governor and Captain Rowan. — Arrest and Imprisonment of Americans.— Preparation for Hostilities. — Anger
of the Governor. — Determined on Vengeance. — His Treachery. — Capture of the Ship Hazard. — Imprisonment of Rowan,— Correspondence with the Captain-General. — Defer our
Departure. — Seizure of our Vessel. — Interrogatories. — Our
Vessel restored to us. — Order of the Captain-General to leave
the Port. — Proposition from the Collector. — Refused. — Return of the actual Governor. — Interview and civil Reception* -
— Departure.  168
Arrive at the GalHpagos Islands. — Transactions there. — Departure.— Singular Flaw of Wind. — Arrival at San Bias; —
Visited by the Commissary.—Agreement with Him. — Opposed by the Governor. — Character of the Governor. — Con-\;
troversy between the Governor and Commissary. — Order to
leave San Bias. — Arrangement with Rouissillon. — He leaves
us for Mexico. — Go to the Three Maria Islands. — Embarrassment. — Letter from Rouissillon. — Death of the Governor. — Catch a Sun Fish. — Description of Three Marias. —
Return again to San Bias. — Proposal for the Cargo. — Return
of Rouissillon. — Sale of Part of the Cargo. — Purchase Sea
Otters' Skins. — Suspicion of Treachery. — Take final Leave
of Rouissillon. — His Character. — Death. — Again anchor at
the Three Marias. — Discover a Traitor in the Mate.— Seifce
his Papers. — Remarks thereon 187
Notice of San Bias. —Domestic Indians.— Circulation of Revolutionary Papers. — Sail from the Three Maria Islands. — St.
Clement's. — Indians. — Arrive at San Diego. — Commandant
Rodriguez visits the Ship. — Leaves a Guard on Board. — A
Visit to the Fort. — Ship Alexander. — Fail in purchasing the
Skins. — Detention of our Men. — Rescue. — Disarm the Guard
on Board. — Prepare for War.— Get under sail to go out.—
fire of the Fort. — Returned. — Pass by the Fort. — Put the
Guards on Shore. — Arrive at St. Quintin's. —Visit of Missionaries. — Corporal's Letter. — Padre's Opinion of Rodriguez. — Leave St. Quintin's. — Notice of it. — Guadaloupe. —
San Borja. — Padre Mariano Apolonario. — His Character. —
Procure Horses. — Our Farewell. — Arrive at St. Joseph's. —
Obtain Supplies. —- Sail for the Sandwich Islands.
Observations on leaviitg the Coast. — California^— Sandwich Islands. — Visit of the King. — Land the Horses. — PresentMlhem
to the King. — His Estimation of them. — Visit Derby's
Grave. — Leave the Islands. — Sketch of Tamaahmaah. — Attempt at his Conversion. — A Practice of the Natives. — An
Evidence of their Gallantry. — Instances of atrocious Conduct of Americans. — Island of Guam. — A Visit from the
Governor's Lady. — Sketch of the Island. —A Storm. — Arrival at Canton.— Dispose of One Half the Ship. — Mr. Shaler
returns to California^ and I embark in the Alert for Beaton.
Parting with Mr. Shaler. — Origin of our Acquaintance. — Observations.— Embark for Boston. — Touefe at North Island. —
Pass the Isle of Bourbon. — Arrive at the Cape of Good Hope.
— Reflections. — Departure from the Cape of Good Hope. —
Arrival at Boston. — Lelia Byrd sails for California. — Disaster. — Difficulty of making Repairs. — Arrive at the Sandwich'
Islands. — Barter with the King.— Place the Cargo in his
Power. — His honorable Conduct. — Expedite the Tamana. —
Mr. Hudson. — His Voyage. — Return and Death. — Lelia
Byrd. — Apology for the Voyage	
The navigator, whose journal has met with so
flattering a reception as that which has been bestowed, both sides of the Atlantic, on the "Narrative of Voyages and Commercial Enterprises," embraced in these volumes, should not be backward in
gratifying the curiosity which has been manifested
in several notices of the work, respecting his initiation into the profession.
The force of prejudice, in defiance of common
sense and the plainest dictates of reason, is perhaps
in no case more frequently exhibited than in the pertinacity with which old seamen, whose nautical
course began in the forecastle, adhere to the maxim,
that, to make a good seaman, P it is requisite one
should enter on board by the hawse-holes (or forecastle), and not by the cabin windows." When I began, I was aware of the existence of this maxim,
but doubted its truth; as I could not comprehend
VOL.   I. C
{': •
how the qualifications for command were to be ac*
quired by living in the forecastle j or how nautical
skill was to be advanced by practising the duties of
tarring down the rigging, and slushing the masts.
I therefore had no ambition of attaining to a practical knowledge of these accomplishments. I came in
at the cabin windows ; but with an understanding
that I was to stand watch regularly, to take my
regular turn at the helm, to reef and hand the sails,
&c.; and I am sure, it will be admitted, that there
was no time when I flinched from the performance
of those duties.
Having, early in life, imbibed a predilection for
nautical affairs, I had ample opportunity of indulging
it, while in the counting-house of a merchant who
had several ships built and equipped in the immediate vicinity of my place of employment. I had
watched the progress and manner of fitting the rigging of many vessels, and thereby obtained a better
knowledge of it than is often gained by many years'
service in the forecastle. On the sailing or the arrival of our vessels, I was almost always on board, and
thence acquired a knowledge of the art of manoeuvring a ship, such as is not always attained by long
practice at sea. With such practical experience, I
embarked at Salem, on my first voyage, in June, 1792,
on board of the brig Rose, owned by Mr. Derby, and
commanded by my early friend and school-mate,
Nathaniel Silsbee,* on a voyage to Cape Francois,
now Cape Haytien. I entered in the capacity of captain's clerk,* to live with him in the cabin • to assist
him in his business in port; and to do duty as a foremast hand at sea. Nor have I, after my long course of
experience, been able to discover any way so desirable, so eligible as this, for giving a young man a
practical knowledge of seamanship, free from the
vulgarity of the forecastle ; and of so familiarizing
him with the manner of doing business in various
countries, as to make him an accomplished super
Our passage being made in the height of summer,
— we experienced a long course of southerly winds,
which so retarded our progress, that nearly forty days
were consumed before reaching our destined port;
and there was scarcely a day of this long passage,
that I was not more or less sea-sick. I remember
only one incident to vary the monotonous scene on
this tedious passage; and this was of a description
that will never be obliterated from my memory.
We were one day lyingjperfeetly becalmed near the
tropic, — the water so smooth as to reflect every object, like a mirror,—the heat intense ; the vessel lying
like a log, with scarcely any perceptible motion.   At
* Since President of the Senate of Massachusetts, and for several
years a Senator of the United States.
this time, though not unconscious of danger, I could
not resist the inclination of taking a plunge into the
ocean. I had not, however, been swimming more
than five minutes, before the men on board perceived
a shark coming quickly towards the vessel. The
necessity for caution, so as not to alarm me, was obvious; and Captain Silsbee, being fortunately on deck,
with great presence of mind, dropped his hat overboard, and called to me to come quickly and pick it up
before it filled with Water. I did so, and had scarcely
got out of the water with the hat in my hand, when
I saw, within a few feet of me, a shark of enormous size ; indeed in all my extensive navigation
since, I have seen none that would bear any comparison with it. As he came fearlessly close alongside the vessel, one of the seamen got ready the
harpoon to throw into him, but was forbidden so to
do, from the certainty of losing it.
Arriving safely at Cape Francois, the bay presented a scene of commercial activity, such as I had
never seen equalled. The throng of boats by which
we were instantly surrounded, to sell us the variety
of strange fruits with whichf^hey were laden; — the
number of large ships in port, some loading, others
unloading ; — the daily arrival and departure of vessels of all nations; —the French slavers continually
coming in from Africa, with a crowd of blacks on their
decks; —the fine ships of war in beautiful order ;
and the multitude of boats passing to and fio, across
the bay; — formed, altogether, a scene surpassingly
animated and brilliant, to one whoseieye had never
before met any thing of the kind, exceeding the ordinary exhibition of vessels in Salem harbour* ? The
activity and bustle of business on shore seemed to
be even greater than that in the bay; and the magnificent stores, filled with every description of merchandise, gave indications of the riches and business
of the place; while the long range of stalls on the
border of the bay, for the retail of all kinds of French
knick-knacks, gave employment and a living to a
great number of the colored population. The insurrection of the negroes, however, had, at this time,
made some progress ; and only a short period elapsed
before these riches H took to themselves wings," and
the whole white population of the colony was involved in one promiscuous state of ruin.
Having disposed of our outward cargo, and reladen
with another, the produce of the island, we were
wafted to sea by the land breeze, very early on a
morning in the latter part of August, and, after a fairs
passage, arrived in safety at Salem, in September,
1792; — thus, to my great joy, accomplishing my
first voyage; and experiencing a relief from the
nausea, occasioned by the wearisome rolling and bad
odor of the vessel, which is probably not unusual, and
will be duly appreciated by those who make their
first passages at sea.
The distress from sea-sickness, and its consequent
prostration of spirits, were.such as to make it desirable to seek some other road to fortune. But I possessed no capital with which to bring my commercial
acquirements into action ; and a merchant without
capital was as incapable of making head-way, as a
mechanic without tools. There remained to me,
therefore, only the choice of persevering in the profession I had chosen, with a prospect of independence ; or of earning a maintenance as a clerk or bookkeeper, with no chance of ever being any thing else.
Had the disagreeable circumstances attending a sea-
life been even greater than they were, I should have
had no hesitancy in the choice, and I therefore engaged to go out again with Captain Silsbee, in the
same capacity as before, in a new ship of Mr. Derby's, then ready to be launched. This ship, of about
one hundred and ninety tons' burden, was called the
Benjamin, and was destined for the Isle of France
and the East Indies.
In the prosecution of this voyage, we left Salem
harbour on the 11th of December, 1792*.
During the first week after our departure, we had
a gale of wind from north-northwest, and northwest,
which compelled us to take in the topsails, and to keep
the ship scudding before the wind and sea, under the
foresail. As we passed over George's Bank the sea was
tremendous; sweeping from our decks several hogate
heads of water and two casks of merchandise, and
threatening us with the loss of boats and caboose.
The men suffered exceedingly, during the first
three days, from incessant exposure to cold and wet.
Such entire absence, for the time, of any approximation to comfort, I have never witnessed since. The
cook, a black man, either from heedlessness, or from
ignorance how to take care of himself, had his feet
so badly frozen, that it was found necessary to amputate his toes, — which was done with a penknife
by the second mate; who then dressed the wounds
jto the best of his ability.
About six weeks after this occurrence (26th January) we arrived at Port Praya, St. Jago, to which place
we had proceeded for the purpose either of leaving
the cook there, or of procuring such surgical and
medical aid as was needed for his recovery. Fortunately, we found lying there H. B. Majesty's ship
Scorpion. The surgeon of this ship, being immediately sent for, came with- alacrity, and-examined
and dressed the poor fellowys feet. He left salves
and medicines, with directions how to use them ; and,
with characteristic generosity, refused any compen-
sation. To the fortunate circumstance of receiving
this very opportune aid, the poor cook was indebted
for a speedy cure, if not for his life. Having filled
our water^casks, and procured the requisite supply of
vegetables, we sailed the next day for the Cape of
Good Hope. The long calms we experienced on the
equator, and the foulness incident to a wooden-bottomed ship, retarded our progress, so that we did not
arrive at Table Bay tiU the 10th of April.
The exhaustion of our stores, consequent on a four
months' passage, would have rendered an arrival at
any civilized place a pleasing event. But, at the
Cape of Good Hope, where fresh provisions and vegetables of good quality, and delicious grapes and
other fruits, were to be obtained in abundance, the
pleasure of our arrival was increased to a degree to
leave a lasting impression on my mind.
A part of our cargo was disposed of at the Cape;
and its place filled up with such produce of the
country as it was supposed would yield the most
profit at the Isle of France. Our business being
accomplished, we sailed from the Cape on the 23d
of April. On the succeeding night, we experienced
a gale which obliged us to heave to, under foresail and mizzen staysail. At this time the ship was
laboring and straining so much, that it was deemed expedient to throw over the deck load, which
afforded perceptible relief. Proceeding on our course,
no event worthy of notice occurred till the 26th of
May, when we fell in with the French frigate, La
Prudente, bound to the Isle of France, and conveying the news of the declaration of war by England against France. On the 6th of June, we arrived,, and came to anchor at Port Louis, Isle of
The news of the war with England greatly en>-
hanced the value of our cargo; and the prospect Was
flattering for mak»g a great voyage, if left unmolested to pursue our business. But the disorders inci*
dent to the Revolution had reached this^island; and
the discord existing between the admfral in command
of the naval force, and the government on shore, was
an epitome of that then existing in France, between
the parties who were struggling for the ascendency.
Vice-admiral St. Felix refused obedience to the dictation of the Jacobin government; and for such refusal, —like the unfortunate Macnamara, —he would
have been cut to pieces, had he ventured to come on
shore. Aware of this, he took care never to put himself into their power; but his long residence on shipboard, and consequent deprivation of the salutary effects of occasionally visiting the shore, had the usual result in such cases, producing scurvy. But however much the authorities were at variance with each
*» ;
other, they agreed in one thing, the detention of all
the American vessels in port, till the arrival of news
from France, such as should dispel the existing doubt,
then very prevalent, of America's taking sides with
England against France.
In the mean time, all the ships being sheathed
with wood, the worms were making such havoc/
that a long detention would be scarcely less disastrous than confiscation. There is probably no place
in the world surpassing Port North-West, now so
called, for the destructive power of the worm. On
going into the hold of the ship, when empty, I was
astonished at the noise they made; not unlike a
multitude of borers with augers; but, fortunately,
when they have pierced the sheathing, their further
progress is arrested by the hair which is placed between the sheathing and the bottom of the ship.
On the 6th of July, several American ships being
ready for sea, their masters went together on board of
the Admiral's ship, and had an interview with him,
on the subject of obtaining leave to sail; but this he
refused them, on the plea of its endangering the safety of some merchant ships then on the point of sailing for France. A second application was made on
the 31st of July, with a like result; nor was it till
the arrival of the American ship Pigou, with French
passengers, direct from Bordeaux,   on the 20th of
November, that the authorities were satisfied that
America would maintain a neutral position, and, as a
consequence, were willing to raise the embargo.
Being thus relieved from a painful state of anxiety, and from an embargo of nearly six months' duration, we sailed from the Isle of France on the 25th
of November, being only partly laden; and proceeded to the Isle of Bourbon to take on board a quantity
of coffee already prepared for us. Having anchored
at St. Dennis, and taken on board a part, we proceeded to St. Benoit, and took in the remainder.
The anchorage at this latter place is so bad, that it
is rare that any other than small coasting vessels attempt to load there. We came to in fifty fathoms,
the cable being nearly up and down. The Benjamin
was the first foreign vessel that had ever anchored in
that port; and having fine weather and a very smooth
sea, and receiving every facility from the agent on
shore, we succeeded in the accomplishment of our
object, after remaining four days at this dangerous
anchorage.   We then sailed, on the 7th of December,
for the Cape of Good Hope, touching again at St.
Dennis for the settlement of accounts, which caused
a detention of a few hours only.
Our passage from St. Dennis to the Cape of Good
Hope was attended with no circumstance worthy of
note.    It was performed in about thirty days, and we
arrived there on the 4th of January, 1794* A few days
afterwards, the ship Henry arrived from the Isle of
Bourbon, only partially laden ; and on the same day
the brig Hope arrived from Salem. Such a coincidence was not lost on the enterprising mind of Captain Silsbee, who, seizing the advantage presented by
it, determined on returning to the Isle of France with
a cargo of Cape produce, which was greatly wanted
there ; and on freighting home, in the above vessels^
the cargo then on board. Having made arrangements for carrying this plan into execution, — he
caused to be shipped in these vessels, to the owner in
Salem, such portion of the cargo from the Isle of
France as would considerably more than pay for the
cost of our ship