Slaves, Boats & Mosquitoes

Blacks – Slaves &.c at Bermuda

I believe I gave you a more favourable account of the Blacks at Bermuda than of those I had seen in the other Islands – but here again I was undeceived by a gentleman long resident here, who assured me that altho’ there is greater external decency & propriety among them, the standard of moral obligations and moral duties is not in fact higher than among their Sable brethren elsewhere. If they are not great thieves, it is because they have no place of concealment for the produce of their depredations – but petty thefts are of daily and hourly occurrence. How far this judgement is correct, I have never had any opportunity of deciding for myself. I give it therefore in hearsay – but I must add that in essential points, it has been corroborated by the testimony of others equally well qualified to judge. As if in favour of my former opinion, I fell in with a black funeral, and I declare to you, that I never witnessed anything so orderly and decent among our lower classes at home. There were about 40 males and female mourners, and all of them remarkably well dressed. I was perfectly astonished when I saw the procession in the highest degree, with the decorum and modestly observed by these blacks.

The condition of slavery is, I understand, very easy at Bermuda. The slaves are a great burthen to their Masters, who have nothing for them to do to obtain by their labour a return for the expense they incur, and you may purchase a stout black man for two or three doubloons. The owners of slaves would be glad to export them to other Islands where they are much wanted, and would fetch a high price, but the Colonial laws are strict and imperative that no slave can be removed from one Island to another for the purpose of being sold. An order for the emancipation [of] slaves is therefore not likely to create much disturbance at Bermuda, as the Masters will be glad in any case to get rid of a grievous encumbrance upon their means.

Houses and Boats at Bermuda

I was wrongly informed last time when I was told that Hamilton is larger and more populous than S.t George. The exact reverse is the case. Again with regard to the whiteness of the houses, another reason was given me, why they were so completely whitewashed, and that was that it prevented the water from leaking thro’ the roof & sides. It appears that the stone used in building in Bermuda is so soft as to be easily cut with a pen-knife or sawn into slabs, & of so porous a texture, that unless you use some precaution, your houses would be constantly deluged with rain. To say the best of it, the houses are very damp, and by the influence of capillary attraction the water ascends and pervades to whole house.

I mentioned that Cedar trees grow in immense numbers & that it was applied to various uses. Among others they use it in building [such] vessels, as brigs, schooners & sloops, & these are most excellent of their kind. Boats also are built of it, & I think I never anywhere beheld boats so fine as the Mudians. They sail like witches – loose no ground in tacking – have shoulders of mutton sails – advance almost in the winds eye with good speed, & baring an accident will last for ever. Barring accidents – I repeat – for if they strike with ever so moderate a degree of force against a rock, they will splinter & break in pieces – but no worm or other animal can hurt them & they are completely water tight.

Mosquitoes – Cockroaches

In the summer season at Bermuda you are tormented by immense hoards of mosquitoes, which seldom [fail] to destroy your nights rest – but during the whole year you are exposed to the tender mercies of the cockroaches. They are here of immense size, and most destructive in their ravages. All woollen articles are their delight, and unless you take particular precautions, you can keep nothing from their voracious maws. Wherever they adhere they destroy, & in one night they will eat their way thro’ thick bales of goods. All articles of the leathern kind are quite a delicacy to them, and they will devour a pair of shoes in a much shorter time than the shoemaker could make or mend them. They are often so plentiful that if you are not especially on your guard, they will season your soup, or look like rich raisins in your plum-pudding. We on board were sadly afflicted with this plague last voyage, but ours were as the little children to the full grown parent, as the dwarf to the giant, compared with the Mudians, and for my own part, I never found they did any harm to me, altho’ I must confess I killed without mercy all that came in my way.

Thursday 26th Jan.ry – at day light weighed anchor and set sail for Halifax with fresh and favourable breeze – Cloudy weather.

Friday 27th – cloudy disagreeable weather with occasional rain. Fresh but foul breeze.

Saturday 28th – cloudy weather. Fresh wind.

Sunday 29th – beautiful weather. Foul wind.

Monday 30th – fine weather. Fresh and favourable breeze.

Tuesday 31st – cloudy weather – variable wind.

Wednesday 1st Feb.ry – cloudy weather – Foul wind.

Thursday 2d – fine weather, fresh and favourable breeze.

Friday 3d – very fine weather, but cold. Moderate and favourable breeze.

Saturday 4th – thick hazy weather – Foul wind.

Sunday 5th – dull miserable hazy weather. Fresh but foul wind.

Monday 6th – wind more favourable. Cloudy and very cold weather with much ice.

Tuesday 7th – dull miserable weather – snowing all day. Only 25 miles from our Port at noon – Foul wind blowing strong in the afternoon – no land in sight.

Wednesday 8th – desperate cold but very clear weather. Only 20 miles off. Foul wind. Saw immense quantities of ice, broken into small pieces, yet so close together as to present the appearance of a field of ice.

Thursday 9th – very fine but cold weather – tons of ice about the bows, which keeps her down much by the head. The sides are beautifully anointed as with the finest Parian marble and the strangest appearances are presented by the objects which are coated with ice – as the anchors – ropes – Chains &.c Foul Wind. Saw land at 4 P.M. but could not make it out distinctly; owing to the haziness. Stood off at 8 P.M.

Friday 10th – dull miserable weather with much snow. Foul Wind.

Saturday 11th – very fine weather but exceedingly cold. Wind very light and variable all day. In the evening moderate & favourable breeze. Saw the land at 4 P.M. I was much struck with the immense fields of floating ice thro’ which we passed.  As far as the eye could reach, nothing was visible but one apparently solid mass, which on your nearer approach was seen to consist of an innumerable pieces of ice, of every varied shape, but almost all of them with elevated edges, very loosely connected together. These pieces offered very great impediment to our progress, till we arrived at Halifax Harbour, where we came to anchor at 2 A.M. & found contrary to our expectation that the whole was free from ice.

Read on … Halifax (2)