Our boats were painted like fishing boats, and our men disguised as fishermen, as usual; so, apparently occupied with our pretended business, we gradually approached the slave-vessel. My orders were strictly to follow the movements or action of my superior.
Jackson did not return to England, but had entered on board of a Portuguese slave-vessel, and continued some time employed in this notorious traffic, which tends so much to demoralise and harden the heart.
He returned to the knoll, and pouring out water into a tin pan from the breaker, brought it down to them. He offered it to one, who seized it eagerly; water was a luxury seldom obtained in the hold of a slave-vessel. The man drank deeply, and would have drained the cup, but Francisco prevented him, and held it to the lips of another.
In pursuing my objects, I found that reports were current, that the crew of the Alfred slave-vessel, which had just returned, had been barbarously used, but particularly a young man of the name of Thomas, who had served as the surgeon's mate on board her.
Paul de Loando, for the purpose of visiting different parts of Angola, and in which view I had prepared myself with a letter of introduction to the Viceroy of that country, from a distinguished person in England: but although I had been about seven months at Fernando Po, and other parts of the Bight of Biafra, I had never met with an opportunity for proceeding to Angola; I was therefore obliged to leave that place out of my plan, and to make the Brazils the next point in my route; with this intention I thought it most desirable to return to Sierra Leone with Captain Owen, where I might meet with a captured slave-vessel, that had been bought up by the agents, to be sent to some part of the Brazils, from whence there would be no difficulty in my ultimately reaching Rio de Janeiro.
Jago, our captain intending to complete his water in Port Praya Bay, previous to a long cruise after the American squadron. We found here a slave-vessel in charge of a naval officer, bound to England; and I thought this a good opportunity to quit, not being over anxious to serve as a lieutenant when I knew I was a commander.
The work was always dangerous, for the natives along the slave-coast soon became suspicious. After they had seen some of their tribesmen taken away, they learned not to go unarmed while a slave-vessel was on the coast, and very often there were hand-to-hand encounters.
There are some dispositions so naturally kind and ingenuous that even example and evil contact cannot debase them: such was the disposition of Francisco. As he gained in years and knowledge, he thought more and more for himself, and had already become disgusted with the cruelties practised upon the unfortunate negroes, when the slave-vessel was seized upon by Cain and converted into a pirate.
It will not have escaped the reader's notice, that the foregoing journal of our cruise records not the capture of a single slave-vessel, either by our own ship or any other belonging to the American squadron. Such is the fact, and such it must inevitably be, so long as the circumstances, which prevented our efficiency in that respect, shall continue to exist.
Seamen, also, were boarded in these houses, who, when the slave-ships were going out, but at no other time, were encouraged to spend more than they had money to pay for; and to these, when they had thus exceeded, but one alternative was given, namely, a slave-vessel or a gaol.