Slavery is a peculiar institution and most people automatically recoil with indignation at the thought of owning other people. However, the standard revulsion is most often a socially acceptable and predictable reaction by people who have only a superficial understanding of the depth of depravity and horror enacted upon the people of Africa and on the people of Ireland. The real story is the genocidal effect on both the culture and indigenous populations. The slave trade affected the innocents who were kidnapped and sold into bondage and those who were driven by greed to share in the profits of a grossly immoral enterprise; however, those who were robbed of husbands and fathers, and were left to perish from long lingering deaths, could only wonder why some men could be so cruel, to steal their loved ones. Little did they know of the profits that could be made from the abduction of men and of selling them into slavery. There was an insatiable hunger for slave labor. The New World needed slaves to labor until death set them free from the plantations and mines of the West Indies and both the American Continents. There were vast fortunes to be realized, but slave labor was also harmful to the owners of slaves. Their cultures were jaded and built upon unsound economic principles; when their slave culture collapsed, the economy collapsed as well. Most of those economies are still suffering from the ill-effects of that collapse.Free men would never work themselves to death. The New World required slaves who would work until they died. It was the possibility of great profit that fueled this desire for slave labor, but it was the indifference to human suffering and misery that facilitated the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Most of us were taught that whites from Ireland came to the New World as indentured servants; who were expected to serve an indenture of 7 to 12 years to pay for their transport. An indenture was a binding contract for labor over a specific period of time. A few Irish were transported as indentured servants before 1625, but from then on, all the Irish except for those who had the funds to emigrate, were sold as lifetime slaves to the highest bidder.
Without argument, until the 18th Century, North America imported more Irish slaves than African slaves. Why would there be a concerted effort to conceal these intriguing facts of history?
If one political party controls the educational system, it controls the textbooks as well. In the United States, Liberals have controlled our education system for six decades, and a major portion of their political platform is based on white guilt over the slavery of blacks and in the protection of these unfortunate victims. The truth that Irish slaves far outnumbered Africans in the US becomes an inconvenient fact of history.
No human should be too proud; slavery has existed in nearly every culture and each of us has antecedents on both side of the whip. Julius Caesar is credited with bringing over a million slaves to Rome as spoils of war from his many campaigns. Only a few of these defeated people ever saw their homeland again. There is no record of any Irish ever returning home to Ireland. The sum total cruelty inflicted upon the slave is unimaginable; unfortunately, slavery is alive today, and doing well in the Middle East. The Muslim still likes his domestic help to work cheap and the idea of a large harem has enticed the libido of every teenage male, but there is only one region in the world where fantasy can be reality, and only if you have enough money. However, slavery has never existed on the scale of the trans-Atlantic slave trade over a period of 300+ years, but make no mistake, the Atlantic slave transported millions of Black Africans and millions of White Irish.
The Beginning of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade
Columbus was searching for a means to make the West Indies profitable. The natives were ill-suited for plantation work and they had the audacity to die from the common European diseases. On the return trip of his second voyage to the New World, Columbus tried to import 500 Indians to Spain as slaves; two hundred of them died, crossing the Atlantic.
The Spanish effort to make Indians into slaves on the sugar plantations of Cuba and other islands failed; the Indians died by the thousands, with little or no concern for the profit motive.
The Spanish tried a small number of African Slaves in 1501. These slaves understood the meaning of hard physical labor. They survived longer and stood up to the rigors of plantation labor much better than the Indians and they didn’t die from European diseases. The Spanish found the answer to the labor problems of the tropical plantation; they needed to look to the east for black slaves.
In 1518, King Charles V of Spain granted the first franchise to sell Africans in the New World; the African Slave Trade gained legitimacy and was set in motion.
The Portuguese, under the patronage of Prince Henry the Navigator, opened up the west coast of Africa to trade in 1471. Ghana was the first area to be exploited for trade.
Europeans needed an alternative area for trade in gold, ivory, and pepper, because the Muslims controlled the trade of North Africa and the sub-Saharan trade routes to the interior.
The West Coast of Africa or Ghana was a logical choice. The area soon became known as the Gold Coast because of the lucrative trade in gold. Although, it was an excellent source of gold, pepper, and ivory, but the real wealth was in the black people of Africa.
The Portuguese built the first permanent trading post for trading gold, pepper, and ivory in 1482. The fortress was named Elmina Castle. The fort served to protect the Portuguese from aggressive Europeans and hostile Africans; it still stands today.
The African Source
The early European slavers were content with kidnapping raids, but these proved to be dangerous and problematic for Europeans. They established hundreds of forts and trading stations along Africa’s West Coast to conduct a more formal and legitimate trade. This allowed local African chiefs and merchants to conduct raids and decreased the animosity and hard feelings when Europeans kidnapped villagers and prevented the local chiefs and merchants from making a profit.
Approximately 50% of the slave prospects were captured in war. Another 30% ended up in slavery because of criminal behavior and indebtedness, and African slave traders kidnapped 20%.
An African trader often transported his slaves to a coastal trading station with leather thongs tied around the neck of each black and secured to a tether rope at intervals of three feet. There would be 30 to 40 blacks tied to one rope. The factor, while living at a trading station, would negotiate a price between a slave trader and a ship’s captain.
When a deal was struck, the traders transported the blacks in large canoes past the breaking waves to the anchored slaving ship. The factor supervised the branding and loading of the slaves. The ocean, the ship, the branding, and the white men were horrifying to the blacks from the interior, but it paled in comparison to the trip west or the Middle Passage. Some blacks jumped into the ocean to escape the horrors, only to be devoured by the waiting sharks that followed the slavers across the Atlantic.
There were two schools of thought on packing slaves; there were tight packers and loose packers. The loose packers left extra room for the Africans and operated on the theory of more hygienic conditions and cleaner air would allow for a greater survival rate and healthier blacks upon arriving at the auction block. The tight packers wanted to maximize the potential for profit and packed the slaves as tight as possible below deck. The slaves were positioned on smaller sub-decks with approximately 30 inches of headroom. The slaves were arranged in three of four of these mini-decks that were approximately six foot long. They were shackled in twos ankle to ankle and wrist to wrist, to lessen the incidence of revolt. There were usually no sanitation facilities, other than a brass pot amidships. Women and children were usually positioned on the uppermost sub-deck without shackles. The blacks ate two meals a day of yams, beans, or rice. They were each allotted a pint of water a day.
In fair weather, the slaves were brought up in groups to the top deck. The crew would entertain them selves by using whips to make the slaves sing and dance. The captains encouraged this behavior to exercise the slaves and reduce the incidence of scurvy. It was also seen as a way to reduce the incidence of suicide among the slaves. The captain needed healthy slaves in the New World.
Smallpox, Measles, Malaria, and dysentery killed many of the Africans. Those who were afflicted with insanity were tossed overboard to the ever-present sharks. Some managed to take their own lives or just lost the will to continue. A slaver was expected to lose between 10% and 15% during the Middle Passage. Estimates are rough, but it is assumed approximately 2 million slaves perished during the Middle passage.
Selling Slaves in the New World
The slaves were examined by the ship’s doctor at the end of the voyage and prepared for sale. Water and food allotments were increased to put weight on the blacks. Lying naked for weeks in their own bodily wastes, on a plank deck in a ship riding rough seas and strong winds exacted a toll on the blacks.
Their skins were often rubbed raw from being in a prone position on a wooden deck and being exposed to the constant motion of a large sailing ship on the high seas. Palm oil with lamp black was rubbed on the sores and lacerations to improve their appearance. Scars and wounds were subjected to cruel cosmetic procedures. Evidences of disease or infirmity were treated with the same tricks used by horse traders to hide evidence of their existence.
In the West Indies, the infirm or diseased blacks were sold by auction at an average price of five dollars. The strong and healthy slaves were sold by “Scramble”. A price was agreed upon of three to four hundred dollars apiece and the slaves were led into a courtyard. The buyers rushed forward on signal to gather up the ones they wanted, at the set price. There were fights and arguments over the good specimens, but the captain received his price and unloaded his human cargo in a short period of time.
The Conclusion of the Slave Trade
The abolition of the slave trade was debated during the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Most of the delegates, including many of the slave owners, preferred a provision prohibiting the importation of slaves. However, delegates from the slave importing states of South Carolina and Georgia threatened to leave the new union if the provision were written into the Constitution. As a compromise, a provision was written that prevented any law against the importation of slaves for twenty years.
President Jefferson signed the law forbidding the importation of blacks to be sold into slavery, in 1807; although, because the coastal areas were vast and the new clipper ships were so fast, the law was nearly impossible to enforce along the southern coastline.
England passed a similar law a few weeks later and by 1820; by then, nearly all-European countries had outlawed the importation and trade of slaves.
In 1860, America hanged an American sea captain, Nathaniel Gordon, for trying to import 900 slaves, 600 of whom were children. He was the only American captain sentenced and executed in a United States’ court for engaging in the importation of slaves.
The geographical area of what was to become the United States imported approximately 500,000 African slaves during the 300+ years that slave importation was permitted. There were over 10.5 million slaves imported in the Caribbean and the West Indies. There were approximately 6 to 11 million African slaves shipped across the Atlantic from 1500 to 1810. Most of the blacks made the crossing during the 18th Century. Although these numbers would seem to have wreaked havoc on the black populations of the interior, the actual numbers of blacks lost to their cultures were far higher, because women and children were of such minimal value they were often killed or left to perish after robbing a tribe of its men. There were also high rates of attrition during the trek to the coast and during the Middle Passage. Losses of 30% were considered high, but acceptable costs of doing business in the transportation of slaves.
Distrust and clashes among tribal chiefs added to the deaths of Africans, and Europeans as well. Endemic diseases also took a toll on the Europeans, but the lure of profit attracted more Europeans who were willing to accept the risks. The trade in living flesh exacted a huge death toll as well.
The anti-slavery discourse gained traction slowly against the powerful lobbies of African, European, and American businessmen with vested interests in this highly lucrative business. Individual clergymen of various denominations spoke out against the immorality of the slave trade during the 17th Century, but the various denominations neglected to speak out as a single voice; until, the Quakers condemned slavery in 1727. Later in that same century, the Danes stopped trading in slaves, and they were followed by Sweden and the Netherlands.
The importation of slaves was outlawed by the United States in1807, when Thomas Jefferson signed into law a bill that made the importation of slaves for sale illegal; in that same year, Britain deployed its powerful naval power and diplomatic energies in an effort to stop the international slave trade. Unfortunately, these efforts were often unsuccessful because of the sheer numbers of people involved, the demand for slaves, and the willingness of daring sea captains to risk all on the possibility of huge returns.
There is debate whether humanitarian concerns fueled the abolition movement or whether the Industrial Revolution brought about the obsolescence of slavery. Replacing field workers with machines was definitely the end of an era and since the machines didn’t need to be fed in the off-season, the viability of slave labor on the plantation was drawing to a close.
If we analyze from a purely economic standpoint, slavery was doomed, but the depravity of this peculiar institution was weighing heavily on the citizens gathering in the new industrial centers, who had no reason to own slaves, but was it purely humanitarian reasons or were workers worried about factory owners acquiring black slaves to man the factories and make white workers obsolete?
Sometimes, the most pure motives have underlying factors of greed and self-interest.
The true nature of our ancestors’ feelings can never be known for sure; since, like us, they often disguise their true feelings behind false moral indignation. It is safe to say, the feelings were mixed and the reasons were both noble and selfish, but the trade was outlawed and freedom for the slaves was inevitable.
To understand the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the accompanying genocide in Africa, a serious student should have an understanding of the Irish Diaspora and of the genocide or ethnic cleansing of Ireland.
The Irish raided and settled along the West Coast of Roman Britain. The Romans recruited among the Irish or Gaels (the name they preferred) who were allowed to settle in the area. They were often dispatched to the German frontier.
Upon the withdrawal of the Roman legions, the Irish intensified their settlement in the Northwestern part of Btitain. This area was annexed by the Irish kingdom of Dal Riata, but eventually became independent and merged with the Pictish kingdom to become Scotland. The Hebrides and Highlands are considered to be traditionally Gaelic, speaking the Gaelic language. The Irish, encouraged by Celtic priests, continued to voluntarily emigrate to Western Europe, Scotland, and Britain.
Britain’s influence on Irish emigration began with the Norman Conquest of Ireland with Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow. This subjugation resulted in conflicts, but the animosity intensified during the British imposed reformation. The Native Irish Catholics and their English or Anglo-Irish Protestant overlords were at always at odds.
Elizabeth 1, was born on 7 September 1533, the daughter of Henry the VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. She was third in line to the throne, behind her half-sister, the Roman Catholic, Princess Mary. Because of the situation of her birth, Roman Catholics considered her to be a bastard or illegitimate and an unfit for the throne. In 1554, there was an unsuccessful rebellion against Queen Mary and Elizabeth barely missed being executed. She ascended to the throne upon her sister’s death in November of 1558 and reigned until her death 24 March 1603.
During her 45 year reign, Elizabeth dealt with multiple conspiracies to seize the throne and reestablish a Roman Catholic Monarchy. However, the Church of England, created during the reign of her father to facilitate his desires for divorce and a new wife, became firmly entrenched during her reign. A consummate leader and diplomat, she appeased most of the Roman Catholics with the 39 Articles of 1563, a compromise between The Church of England and Catholicism.
The Irish remained fiercely loyal to the Roman Pope and formed an alliance with the King of Spain to overthrow the feudal system of the British Landlords in Ireland.
The Spanish landed with fewer troops than were promised on the Southern end of Ireland, there were two Irish armies in the North that planned to join the Spanish to commence the campaign.
The war was over before it started at the Battle of Kinsdale, 1601. The Irish armies never bet before the British forced their surrenders. There were 60,000 prisoners; a huge liability for a cash strapped government that was expected to feed the prisoners.
British privateers were already engaged in a lucrative slave trade. The crown decided to sell the captives into slavery. It would cost money to transport them to a country for banishment, but if they were sold to British planters in the New World, a handsome profit could be realized.
A Proclamation of James II in 1625 mandated that all Irish political prisoners were to be sold as slaves in the West Indies to British settlers. After the mid-1600s, slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat were primarily Irish. The population of Montserrat at this time was 70% Irish slaves.
Ireland became the main terminus for acquisition of slaves. Between 1641 and 1652, the English killed 500,000 Irish and another 300,000 were sold into slavery. Unfortunately, so many men were shipped away or killed, there was a glut of women and children reduced to begging and wandering the countryside. The British solution to this problem was to ship them to the New World and auction them off into slavery.
During the decade of 1650 to 1660, over 100,000 children were shipped to the West Indies and sold into slavery. Over 52,000 women and children along with another 30,000 men and women were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Cromwell ordered ordered 2,000 Irish children shipped to Jamaica to be sold as slaves to British planters and settlers.
In a means to disguise the cruelty inflicted upon the Irish and make it more palatable, it has become fashionable to describe the sale of Irish into slavery as Indentured Servitude. Unfortunately, this is a ruse used to hide the fact that Irish slaves were considered to be livestock with a value placed upon them for the amount of work they were capable of accomplishing before they died.
African slaves came with the stain of being considered an inferior being, but the Irish were of the Catholic religion and a scourge upon the earth. The Irish were often more literate than their owners, thus they viewed as having a propensity for rebellion and as malcontents. Although, their superior education often put them into positions of teaching and bookkeeping, but the penalties were just as harsh for house slaves as for field hands. The possibility of unrest or rebellion was always a consideration with the Irish, and there was a continuous supply; consequently, they were much cheaper than the African and usually received inferior treatment from their British masters.
A young African male would bring 50 Sterling: An equivalent Irish man would bring 5 Sterling or 900 pounds of cotton. If a planter whipped or beat an Irish slave to death, it was considered a cost of doing business. There were no legal repercussions or obligations, only a monetary loss.
An Irish slave death was a monetary setback, but far cheaper than killing a more expensive African.
The British put their rudimentary knowledge of agricultural genetics to use by breeding their attractive slaves. The children they produced remained slaves, even in the off chance a woman obtained her freedom. Sadly these few women who obtained emancipation or manumission, almost never abandoned their children and remained in perpetual servitude.
The British used their rudimentary knowledge of genetics to put the Irish women with the Africans to come up with the new slave type of the west Indies, the Mulatto. These “hybrid” slaves brought a higher price on the auction block than the typical Irish or African and allowed the planter to save money on replacement slaves rather than investing in new Africans. This practice of interbreeding to take advantage of hybridvigor was so widespread over a period of several decades, legislation was passed to forbid the practice in 1681; since, it was beginning to negatively affect the price received by the slave transport companies for new African arrivals. Profitability was the primary concern. Breeding Irish Women to Africans produced the prized mulatto or Black Irish. A system that was banned because it softened the African slave prices[/caption]
(The following story is of course, fiction; however, questions of morality and conscience among people engaged in the illicit and sometimes legal trade of slaves. Hopefully, the story will be objective without prejudice on behalf of the author.)
The countryside Northwest of Dublin was a country locked into a system of injustice and cruelty in 1840. Since the Norman Invasion, the laws were written to give the landlord complete power and control over the land, which was complete control over the Irish peasant. The landlord’s word was law and the landlords owned all the land. Rebellion or resistance meant death or banishment, but the system was far worse than the peasant could imagine, for no Irish man or woman had ever returned from banishment to tell of the horrors.
Bob Larkin was luckier than most. He leased an acre of ground and conducted his blacksmith trade on that one-acre. He had a one room stone house that measured 8 X 12, with a thatch roof. Rob Roy, Bob’s 18 year old son and apprentice, was carrying on an animated conversation with the raven haired, blue-eyed enchantress of the county. At the age of sixteen, she knew how to lead men on and have them begging like puppies for attention, but Rob Roy was different.
He was treating her as an equal, with an innocent smile and a formal, polite way of speaking; this young Irishman charmed her.
It was unthinkable for an English lass from the highest aristocratic classes to be interacting with an Irish tradesman, he was one step up from an Irish peasant, who was one step down from a good stock dog.
Melissa’s father owned vast acreages and leased those acreages to landlords, who subleased ten-acre parcels to Irish peasants. The peasant had the right to build a home or a hovel and to plant a small garden to feed his family. The crop was split with the landlord receiving a disproportionate larger percentage.
The peasant’s one room hovel was usually shared with a pig and whatever farm animals they owned for warmth. It was a narrow margin that separated them from survival and starvation. The landlord could evict his tenants atanytime for any reason, and the tenant and his family were soon beggars.
It was a harsh system that was based on a tuber from the New World. The potato became a staple of the Western Europe, but in Ireland, potatoes were keeping an entire peasant population alive.
The potato planting was timed so it could be harvested in early fall, until late spring. The months of mid-summer were known as the months of starvation, because no potatoes were harvested during the summer season.
In the winter of 41-42, blight struck the potato crop and people were starving to death in Ireland, Scotland, and the countries of Northeastern Europe, but the suffering of Ireland was the worst. Over a million people died of starvation and the Irish who could afford passage left for America in a mass migration.
However, in the spring of 1840, Melissa and Rob Roy were falling in love. It was an impossible love, every young Englishman wanted to marry Melissa, not only to have the most beautiful girl in Ireland, but also to control an unimaginable wealth that would someday be hers.
Melissa usually rode over with one or more of her friends to ask Rob Roy’s opinion of one of her dad’s racehorses or fox hunters. The young girls were curious to see the handsome Irishman, Melissa spoke so well of, but the men only wanted to see him to show their contempt and to belittle him in front of the girls.
On this particular day, Icarus rode with Melissa’s group to the Black Water Forge; the shop leased by Rob Roy’s father, where the two of them plied their trade as blacksmiths, farriers, wheelwrights, and horse doctors. Icarus was a second cousin of Melissa, and he had come to the stark realization, if he didn’t find a wife with money, he would soon be reduced to poverty. He and his family were wastrels, they considered work beneath their station and thought that a life of sloth and decadence was their natural birthright. Unfortunately, for these people, when their money runs out, so does the natural birthright.
The cold hand of reality was closing in on Icarus, all too quickly. However, if Melissa became his wife, he could laugh at his many creditors and be the envy of every man in Ireland, but she didn’t seem interested in him and was only polite in the traditional way of extended family. Somehow, he had to get her attention and make her consider him a serious suitor.
Sadly, Icarus was not a handsome lad, he was thin and bowlegged, not from riding, he was born with legs that angled out at the knees. He was a fastidious type, who liked to impress people with how busy he was with business affairs that were a personal fantasy. He spoke with a high-pitch voice that sounded effeminate, especially to people who knew of men who were different or odd, but he was especially known for being abnormally cruel to destitute girls who sold themselves, for a penny or two, to avoid starvation.
Icarus earned a reputation for an occasion when a poor girl offered sexual favors to Icarus and hisfriends, who were riding along a country road. She was a cute thirteen year old, with a dirty face and dressed in rags. Icarus dismounted and told his friends he would only be a few minutes. He walked the girl behind some brush to be out of sight.
His friends looked at each other in disbelief and made jokes about Icarus needing his ashes hauled and his antlers trimmed, but they soon heard the girl screaming and Icarus swearing. Suspecting foul play, the young men rode around the brush to see what the problem was.
Icarus had his trousers around his ankles, swinging his whip at the young girl, who was now naked, rolling on the ground, and screaming in agony. Icarus was reciting scripture, and his whip met the young girls flesh to emphasize every punctuation pause.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Her hands were protecting her face and her body was becoming a mass of red welts oozing blood.
The young men were overcome with the bizarre spectacle and sat on their horses in disbelief and silence. Although, one young man, wasn’t caught up in this bizarre scene of depravity; he yelled out, “Icarus, she has had enough.”
Icarus stopped suddenly; he seemed confused or bewildered, as if he was returning from another dimension. He watched the young girl writhing in pain, and began to smile warmly, before he remembered his trousers were around his ankles and his flaccid manhood was on display to all his friends.
After attending to his clothing, Icarus mounted his horse and said with humor in his voice, “The little bitch should thank me for showing her the error of her ways and saving her eternal soul. Now, she will turn her life around, find an Irish husband and have a litter of kids. It makes a man feel good to help people find the right path in life.” The young men laughed at the humor of Icarus, as they cantered down the road.
Unfortunately this wasn’t an isolated event, it was repeated many times and Icarus became bolder and more sadistic with each incident. He didn’t limit his victims to the Irish; any woman or girl who was desperate enough to offer themselves to Icarus was eligible to be humiliated and beaten with a cane or a whip.
Later on, he started telling his friends, after leaving a young girl naked and bleeding, he felt like a modern day Jesus and since he was helping girls choose the correct path in life, he should receive a remittance from the Catholic Church for all the souls he was saving. Icarus admitted that Jesus was good at what he did, but his method was more direct and made a more lasting impression.
On a cool September morning, Icarus was with Melissa and several of her friends when they rode over to the blacksmith’s shop to see if Rob Roy could help one of her father’s steeple chasers. The horse had a front hoof out of balance with a pronounced flare to the outside.
Rob Roy looked at the horse and was explaining the problem and how it could be corrected with careful trimming and a slightly different shoe, while he heated a length of bar stock in the coal forge.
There were nine young people from Melissa’s aristocratic class. The girls wanted to see the strapping young lad that Melissa spoke so well of, and the young men wanted to see this lad they hated before meeting him. They were contemptuous of an Irish peasant who could captivate a young girl’s attention by talking about a horse’s hoof.
The young men were bored with talk of horse anatomy, they gathered outside to talk of gambling and whoring. With loud voices and animated laughter, they hoped to entice the girls outside and impress them with their worldliness.
Inside the shop, Melissa and her friends were intrigued with rasping and shaping the hoof to the desired form. Melissa asked Rob Roy if she could try to shape the hoof.
Rob Roy laughed, and said, “I don’t know of any reason why you can’t.”
Yet, the young Rob Roy was crossing a line of social convention that was hundreds, if not thousands of years old. Women didn’t do this type of work on horses, especially young aristocratic British women, and an Irish commoner would never instruct them.
Melissa’s friends watched in a mild state of shock as Rob Roy put the hoof on a hoof stand that was the height of a human knee and showed Melissa how to guide the rasp smoothly with a light touch, to cut cleanly through the hoof. His hands touched and guided hers, and their bodies were dangerously close, at times they seemed to be close enough to be touching.
Rob Roy kept everything on a professional level, but the girls were fascinated with the proceedings and the confident manner of Rob Roy.
Icarus walked in to see Melissa and Rob Roy next to each other working on the hoof. Rob Roy straightened up and said, “You are gifted with your hands Miss Melissa, you could probably do anything with your hands, if you set your heart to it, but if you ever need a job, we are always looking for people with talent.”
Rob Roy was making a silly joke, but he was serious about Melissa’s abilities. The girls were intrigued and rolling their eyes and smiling at one another. Men didn’t compliment young ladies on their ability to perform work, especially work meant for a man.
Icarus took offense and flew into a rage, “How dare you speak to Melissa in such a condescending manner you insolent Irish knave.”
“She asked if she could try her hand at the work, and I said, yes,” Rob Roy replied with an indifferent attitude.
“You’ll say, sir, when you speak to your betters, you Irish pig,” Icarus said, just before hitting Rob Roy across the face with a violent slash from his riding crop.
The cruel leather cut a deep gash beneath Rob’s left eye. Even Icarus was surprised at the violence of his reaction, but then he realized, this was exactly what Icarus needed to get the attention of his cousin, the beautiful Melissa.
Rob Roy put his hand to his cheek to stop the blood and ease the pain. He looked up to see Icarus raising his arm to deliver another cut with the whip and reached out to grab the wrist of Icarus with the grip, only a blacksmith has.
Rob Roy laid the hand, sill holding the whip, on the anvil, picked up a three-pound hammer and brought it down with speed and accuracy, breaking the large fingers of Icarus.
Icarus screamed in pain, and his friends rushed in to find Icarus on his knees, holding his broken hand. They picked him up, dragged him outside, and put him on his horse. As they were leaving, one of them said, “We’ll have you flogged, and then hanged, Irish. We’ll be back for you.”
Melissa walked over to Rob Roy and said, “It will be best if you leave Ireland, immediately. They will hunt you down and kill you.”
“Missy, it takes money to leave,” Rob Roy said.
“Go to the Dublin docks, look for the Black Wench. Tell Captain De Wolf, I sent you and that you want to apply as a midshipman. They will sail with the tide. I suggest you be on that ship if you value your life. Next year, I will attend Miss Livingston’s Finishing School in Boston. Please stop there to visit me, when you have learned the sailing trade. I want to see you again. Here are a few pieces of silver to help you make the trip to Dublin. Now go before they have time to figure out your plans.”
She pulled his head down and said, ‘Let me see that wound.”
When he pulled his hand away, she reached up and kissed him on the mouth and turned to leave. At the door, she turned to say, “Remember, Miss Livingston’s in Boston.”
She left and the most life-changing five minutes of his life were over. He walked into his house to explain his desperate situation and say goodbye to his parents. He packed his few belongings into an old carpetbag his mother had made. His parents didn’t want him to leave, but his father knew it was for the best; Rob Roy no longer had a future in Ireland.
His father gave him a small sack of silver coin. “Beware of the highwayman son, he will rob you and cut your throat to watch you die,” was the warning he offered his son. He was a good lad and could avoid most problems, instinctively.
He caught a coach on the Dublin Pike and booked a ride next to the driver for three pennies. In six hours, he was on the docks looking for the Black Wench and Captain De Wolf.
Rob Roy met a sailor guarding a small sailing ketch with Black Wench written across the bow. “Can you tell me where I can find Captain De Wolf?” Rob Roy asked.
“Aye, mate, he will be at the Friar’s Comfort, until tomorrow morning,” the sailor said, “unless, he runs out of money or pulls a belly muscle.”
“Can you tell me where I can find the Friar’s Comfort?” Rob Roy asked.
“You’ll be a country lad, I suppose; there’s not a red-blooded lad who can stand to piss, who doesn’t know of the Friar’s Comfort. It’s a mile due East on State St,” the young sailor answered and looked away as if he were bored.
Rob Roy was anxious to see what the Friar’s Comfort was all about. He was a little worried and yet excited, to see why the Captain spent his free time at the Friar’s Comfort.
It was a short walk for Rob Roy. There was a small sign overhead, but once he stepped into the foyer, there was a large wooden carving of a naked woman from the waist up. It was painted to look natural. It was the type of carving you would expect to see on the bow of a large ship.
He was staring at the carving when a small, well-formed Chinese lady approached Rob Roy and pulled his arm against a body that had just a few more clothes on than the carving. She looked up into his eyes, and asked, “Did you come to see a wooden woman or did you come to see some real girls?”
“Actually, I came to see, Captain De Wolf, of the Black Wench,” Rob Roy answered awkwardly, feeling humiliated over staring at a wooden woman.
The young woman made a pouty face and said, “Oh, too bad, I thought we might be naughty together. Come into the parlor and I will tell Captain De Wolf, you are here to see him. What is your name pretty boy.”
“Rob Roy, mam, Rob Roy Larkin,” he answered.
“Oh, I see, have a seat Mr. Larkin, make yourself at home. The Captain will see you when he is not, indisposed,” the girl said sweetly with a smile and a wink.
Rob Roy was out of his element, but he was fairly certain, this was a house of ill-repute. For the next two hours, several girls approached Rob Roy. He was appealing and looked innocent, he would be an interesting conquest for these girls who were bored with the typical rich customers, but he maintained that he was there on business to see the Captain.
A huge man walked into the parlor as if he owned the building. The girls all acted as if he was an intimate friend and the men stepped back to give him room. He ignored them all and walked up to Rob Roy.
Rob Roy stood awkwardly and the Captain said, “I am Captain De Wolf. What is your business with me?”
“I am Rob Roy Larkin. Melissa suggested I talk to you about being a midshipmen on the Black Wench, I have mastered several skills, I am literate, and I can tally numbers better than most men.”
The captain seemed mad until he heard Melissa’s name. He walked in like a savage, capable of killing a man with his hands, but now, he smiled and asked, “Is Melissa a friend of yours?”
“Yes, sir, I helped her with her horses, and we enjoyed each other’s company,” Rob Roy replied.
“What skills do you have?” the Captain asked.
“My main trade is that of a wheelwright, but I am good with working iron and wood. It is part of the trade. I can also shoe horses and have a natural knack for fixing wounds on horses.”
The captain was quiet for a minute, while feeling his short gray and black beard. “You realize, a midshipman is the first step in becoming an officer. Your skills will be useful aboard ship, but your job should be teaching and overseeing the crew while they perform those tasks. In an emergency, you would be expected to perform the tasks. My surgeon got drunk in Haiti and never made it back to the ship. If you can perform surgical duties you will rise through the ranks much faster; since, surgeons don’t function well at the lower ranks. Your pay is based on a percentage of the profit of a voyage. We sail from the British Isles, to Europe, to Africa, to the New World and back. If we have fair winds and trade well, we can make a handsome profit two or three times a year. I expect the ship to be run well and efficiently, but that isn’t my job; it is the responsibility of my officers. We face many dangers on the high seas; two of the worst are storms and pirates. Do you still want to sign on?”
“Yes, sir, I like to meet challenges head on,” Rob Roy answered.
“We sail in the morning with the tide. You can stay here, this is my place of business or you can walk back to the ketch and wait, but I suggest you wait here and ride back with me in a coach. These streets are dangerous at night. One of the girls will find a bunk for you and someone will wake you in the morning any questions?”
“No sir, I have no questions,” Rob Roy answered.
The captain called over Rita, the young girl who met Rob Roy in the foyer. “Rita, this is Rob Roy. Prepare that small room in the back and draw bath water for him, oh and get him something to eat as well.” The captain looked at Rob Roy and said, “I’ll expect to see you well-rested in the morning.”
“Yes sir, thank you sir,” Rob Roy replied, but the captain was already preoccupied with the women and other business.
Rita told Rob Roy to wait a few minutes while she prepared his room and bed.
She came back and told Rob Roy to follow her. She walked down a narrow hallway of many rooms and opened the door of the last room. She walked into the room and told Rob to sit down next to a copper bathtub with steaming water. She took off his shoes and began undressing him. He resisted when she started to take off his trousers, but she said, “You don’t expect to take a bath with your clothes on, do you?”
Soon Rita was helping Rob Roy into his first real bathtub. She admired his naked body. He was muscular and his body was proportional. She had seen a lot of men and knew how to judge the masculine form.
She bathed him as if he were a child and complimented his body to give him confidence as she progressed. Once the slow bath was nearly over she said, “Oops, we forgot something”. She reached down into the water and grasped his most intimate manly parts, “We need to wash your baby. We don’t want to forget him.”
Her smile and gentle hands made him forget about being self-conscious and he was enjoying his time with this knowing woman who put him to ease. She dried him and tucked him into bed. She asked if he was comfortable and warm. When he replied that he felt wonderful, she kissed him on the cheek and slipped out of the room. The night was still early, but he fell asleep almost immediately.
During the night, someone opened his door and crawled into bed with him. He felt a warm feminine form against his back. Rob Roy thought he was probably sleeping in someone else’s bed and they just needed some sleep, but soon he felt sinuous feminine movements against his body, soft hands exploring his body, and soft kisses on his neck. He was pulled over on his back and suddenly, his bed partner was on him, kissing him on the mouth and using her hand feverishly, to connect their intimate parts.
For the first time in his life, Rob Roy felt the power of a woman’s passion unleashed and he was amazed at the sheer strength of a woman. When it was over she kept him inside her and made purring sounds like a cat as she moved her body against his to extract the last bit of pleasure from their passion.
The woman got out of bed and left the room. She came back in a few minutes to clean him with a warm wet towel. Rob Roy drifted into a deep sleep when she kissed him once more.
He dreamed of the mystery woman and the exquisite pleasure. He had no idea, who had crawled into his bed and introduced him to such pleasure.
During the middle of the night, Rita opened the door and said, “Wake up Rob Roy, Captain De Wolf wants you ready in ten minutes and it is best not to keep the captain waiting. She helped Rob Roy into his clothes and he wondered if she was his midnight visitor. If it was her, she gave no indications.
The cold of the night air kept Rob Roy awake during the short coach ride. The ketch sail was the first time Rob Roy had ever sailed or been on salt water. He had learned to swim in the creek at home, but he doubted whether he could swim to shore without drowning, the docks seemed so far away.
On ship, Rob Roy was transformed into Mr. Larkin. No one knew his first name and that was the way it would be for many months and years at sea.
They were under sail before sunrise. Captain De Wolf told First Mate Horton show Mr. Larkin his cabin, the surgery table, and the forge. Rob Roy stowed his clothes in the drawers beneath his bunk. The cabin was not much larger than his narrow bunk, but Rob Roy looked at everything as an exciting opportunity. It was the mysterious Melissa who made it all possible and now, his very life was in the hands of a man who owned a bordello in Dublin. He was now a midshipman and a surgeon; although, he had never worked on humans, he figured they probably weren’t that much different than horses and dogs.
Once the sun was up, the captain gave control of the ship to the First Mate with a course heading, and called Rob Roy into the captain’s quarters for his first lesson in navigation.
The captain explained things one time, if you had no questions, he assumed you knew it forever. He was pleased to see that Rob Roy wrote everything down and asked intelligent questions.
The common sailors seemed to be from the dregs of society or maybe Hell itself, but they performed well and respected or maybe feared Captain De Wolf. The First and Second Mates were competent men and would be officers if they were more intelligent or if they hadn’t started their careers as ordinary seamen. Rob Roy could sense their resentment, but he was now considered to be from a privileged class and he would try to earn their respect over time.
Rob Roy was beginning to appreciate the elements of sailing. The wind, current, compass, stars, and sun were consulted continuously to get the most speed from the big ship. They were headed to different ports on the coasts of France, Spain, and Portugal. They wanted to trade agricultural products from the New World like sugar cane, tobacco, corn, rum, whiskey, and Maple Syrup for guns, knives, copper kettles, forks, brass, and iron.
Mr. Larkin and Second Mate Fitzhugh accompanied the captain to the trading ports along with several sailors. The men were all armed with pistols and swords to discourage brigands. A sailor or two were left behind to guard the ketch. The Second Mate was in charge of security. Rob Roy kept a tally of purchases and the approximate value added after trading the ship’s trade goods.
In France, the captain acquired two uniforms for Rob Roy, and informed him that he expected a more commanding officer in the near future.
The negotiations were hard fought battles, where opponents tried to extract the maximum value for their products. Europeans liked Caribbean Rum, American Whiskey, Maple Syrup, and American Tobacco, but the other products were harder to trade.
The captain wanted weapons, bulk cloth, clothing, copper kettles and pots, iron bars and brass ingots, but he would consider anything of value for trade.
The captain spoke French and Spanish fluently; in Portugal he communicated enough to trade. He looked each trader directly in the eye during every second negotiations. He was watching for treachery.
On the first sail to the French Coast, the Captain said to Rob Roy, “Mister Larkin, the French are fairly civilized and I don’t think we will be in danger. However, you must pick up the languages and record everything. I will watch the chief trader and Second Mate Fitzhugh will have our backs. If everything goes to Hell or if I tell you to fight, draw your pistol and kill the most dangerous man in front of you. Then draw your sword and fight like your life depends on it, because it will.”
The captain translated the proceedings for Rob Roy and was patient with his progress. When the negotiations were over, Rob Roy and the sailors, except for the Second Mate, were instructed to load the trade goods from the ship. There was danger at every turn and the captain told Rob Roy, the risks were about to increase.
Rob Roy selected a couple of seamen to be his blacksmith apprentices. He taught them how to make a finely honed edge on the swords and knives. When Captain De Wolf saw the quality of the work, he ordered all the substandard swords and knives to be sharpened. The well-made weapons were already sharpened and would bring a higher price and be reserved for discriminating customers who wanted only the finest weapons.
In safe ports, they secured fresh fruits, vegetables, and salted pork if it smelled good. It was by pure luck, but Mister Larkin had a nose that was able to recognize tainted meats and bad wine. The only times the captain smiled or laughed was when Rob Roy detected a foul odor in smoked meat or spoiled wines.
Rob Roy was summoned to the Captain’s quarters after detecting some foul pork in barrels they were ready to buy earlier that day. “Mister Larkin, I want to commend you for detecting the foul pork today. If we were facing a gale after the crew had eaten that pork, it could be a catastrophic disaster. I am happy with your progress, if you become competent in celestial navigation and continue to perform your duties well, I will probably promote you to ensign on this trip. Well done, Mister Larkin, now, good day.”
We were sailing parallel to the Gold Coast of Africa, the captain told the lookouts to be watching for a natural harbor with a white Cameroon or fort. I asked the Executive Officer, Lieutenant Benteen, “Will the Africans be trading gold.?”
Mister Benteen stared at the coast in deep thought before answering, “Aye, Mister Larkin, they have gold waiting for us, but not the kind of gold you are thinking of; the gold we seek is black as coal and is living flesh.”
“I thought the transport of Africans for slavery was abolished thirty years ago,” Rob Roy answered.
“Aye, it’s illegal alright, after we buy the best human flesh they could find for us, and we sail on the open seas, we will be no different than pirates. Men who can be hunted down by the best navy in the world and hanged like common criminals. You, Mister Larkin, will share in the profit of this voyage, if you survive. If is a big world on the Atlantic, but your share of the cruelty and death will be a little less than my share. You will probably be able realize as much as $6.00 a month for inflicting cruelty and murder upon this black race. So take care of your investment, Mister Larkin; some of these black bucks will bring over $2,000 dollars in Texas and South Carolina,” Mister Benteen said all this without Looking at Rob Roy. It was obvious, Mister Benteen was demoralized over his career as a slaver.
Rob Roy had no way of knowing, but officers and men who sailed slavers, were looked down upon and never hired on other merchant ships, they were pariahs.looking at me.
“I thought we were sailing to the Caribbean,” Rob Roy, said.
“We will go to the Caribbean, and sell the lesser blacks, but the best ones will be leased out for a month or two, to put a seasoning on them by the Spanish. We will then sail to the United States and sell out best specimens. Lucky for you my young Irish friend, we are hauling no Irish slaves or you would have to listen to their sad Gaelic songs and pleading voices.” Mister Benteen walked away and said no more.
Three weeks after we left the Gold Coast with our cargo of human flesh, we saw a British Naval Frigate through the heavy mist off our starboard bow and to the weather, there was a squall moving in and we were in a precarious position. The British had outlawed the slave trade across the Atlantic in 1807. They could blast us out of the water if we refused to heave-to, they could treat us as pirates and take the Black Wench as a prize. We were in a precarious position.
Captain De Wolf called the officers and mates, he told them his plan. We would run all our sail as if we were going to outrun the frigate, but when the storm closed in around us, we would tack across the frigates stern and hope the cloud cover held. Once we had the frigate to our leeward, it would be impossible for the frigate to pull along side our swift schooner.
We waited to be enveloped by the storm, but the frigate fired two canon shots past our bow, about two hundred yards ahead of us. Captain De Wolf ordered a quick consultation with the officers. He said our only chance was to run past the frigate and risk her cannon fire in a race to windward. He ordered 1/2 of the sand ballast to be thrown overboard along with all the sick blacks. Captain yelled out to prepare the square sail and the studding sails to be run up at the same instant.
On the captain’s signal, the ship became square rigged and was scudding before the wind and seemed to be running nearly as fast as the wind. The Captain of the British frigate was caught flat-footed and the Black Wench had gained a mile and a quarter in the five minutes before the frigate could stud the sails and settle in for a chase.
Two hours later, the Black Wench had gained another mile, but the skies had cleared and the sails had dried and we were now losing some of the ability of the sails to hold the wind. There were 12 barrels of fresh water on deck; Captain De Wolf ordered us to tap six of them and to pump from the barrels and spray the sails with the water to help hold the wind. He also ordered us to throw half the women overboard, and the smaller weaker males.
Lieutenant Benteen stepped forward and said, “Sir, I’ve thrown the sick and the belligerent overboard, are you sure you want to throw away healthy Blacks.”
“Lieutenant, do you want to hang by a yardarm on that frigate? Throw them overboard now, or I will shoot you where you stand and Ensign Larkin will throw them overboard, and don’t worry about the shackles, there will be less drama if you leave them shackled.”
Whether it was an implied threat or the announcement of my promotion was unclear, but the Lieutenant ordered the first mate and several sailors to bring up the weaker, smaller blacks and using belaying pins, pistols, swords, and knives, they pushed the wailing blacks into the ocean. Next came the women and children, when the last cries died away, the men could feel the increased speed from the wet sails and the reduction in weight. By late afternoon, the frigate was a mere speck on the horizon; however, the Black Wench was in a difficult position, with less than half her required ballast the ship would capsize if they hauled upon the wind.
Through the night, we maintained maximum speed, and the next morning we were presented with a dismasted schooner a few points off the starboard bow. The captain ordered the weapons to be passed among the crew and for the two 18 pounders to be placed amidship, primed and loaded with grapeshot and covered with canvas. We pulled alongside to see a desperate crew of four men of various races. They looked to be hiding something and moved very sluggishly. They didn’t speak English or else they were pretending.
The grappling hooks were thrown and the ships were pulled in close. Just before the ships touched, a cry was sounded from the derelict’s deck and forty pirates stood to fire a volley of pistols into the crew of the Black Wench. Captain De Wolf ordered the cannons to fire as soon as the pirates stood and the pieces of chain, chopped-up old horseshoes, and iron scrap cut two wide swaths through the pirate crew on the deck, followed by a volley of pistols from the crew of the Black Wench. From the right, I saw Lieutenant Benteen fall from a Minnie ball to the forehead. I fired my pistol at a ruthless looking maniac who was naked from the waist and tattooed over every part of his body. He was less than eight feet away and I saw the ball strike home in his chest just below the neck. He collapsed, trying to stop the immense spurting of blood from his wound.
I yelled out and jumped onto the other boat with a broad ax and cleaved the head of the next man through his forehead to the depth of his ears. The men followed with hysterical screams and the pirate crew was nearly annihilated, save for four individuals who dropped their weapons and begged for mercy.
The Captain walked over to the captives and told me to tend to the wounded on the Black Wench. His shirt and sword were covered in blood. As I walked through the carnage I heard him order the men to tie the pirates’ hands behind them. He asked the first pirate whose ship this was and where they were from. The pirate didn’t answer and a few seconds later the captain’s sword made a horizontal arc and the pirate’s head rolled on to the deck.
Lieutenant Benteen was dead, that was obvious. I had the men move the dead toward the bow. One of the sailors lost the ring finger and little finger of his right hand. I walked over to the surgical cabinet and found bandaging material, iodine crystals, a small bottle of turpentine, splints, scalpels, several different forceps, and a bone saw. I called for Topper and Stone two of the cleaner and smarter sailors.
Thank goodness, they were both alive and well. “All right you two, we are going to help these men. One of you will try to be with me and one of you will stay to finish up the bad cases. We will do the best we can do, but if they are gut shot or breathing blood bubbles from a chest wound, they are going to die and we can only make them comfortable.”
Although, they were both a few years older than me, they accepted my authority and the seriousness of their instructions with solemn pride.
I looked up in time to see the captain throwing one of the bound pirates over the side to drown. He too, must have been reluctant to cooperate.
I showed my helpers how to clean wounds and look for bullets. We amputated an arm bellow the elbow and a foot above the ankle. We had twelve casualties and committed four men to the deep. I was proud of my helpers and I was proud of my amputations; since, the only amputation I had ever done was on a weanling calf with a broken leg. The calf lived and made it to a decent size and my two emergency human amputations lived as well.
I hated to see the Executive Officer Mr. Benteen killed. He was my one true friend on this voyage, and like me, he started sailing on a slaver because he had no other options and now his body is at the bottom of the deep, along with the crew members and close to two hundred blacks and forty pirates.
The pirate ship had barrels of salt pork and beef, along with barrels of crackers, oats and rice. There were 12 barrels of fresh water and enough sand for ballast that we could sail into squalls without fear of capsizing.
We set the pirate ship afire and set it adrift. If it didn’t sink when the fire burned to the water line, the first decent wind would send it to the bottom.
The morale on the Black Wench improved with the extra food, water, and the ballast that would keep the ship upright in the water.
Captain De Wolf sent word for Mister Larkin to report to his cabin that afternoon. When he reported, Captain De Wolf yelled out, “Enter, Mister Larkin, congratulations, you took the lead at a critical moment and performed heroically.”
“Thank you, sir, however, the killing of men has been unsettling for me, like the buying of blacks,” Rob Roy let the captain know he had found the whole affair against his moral integrity.
“Ah don’t let those minor details bother you. A few more trips and you will be a dyed in the wool slaver,” the Captain said, oblivious to the emotions of revulsion being felt by Rob Roy.
“How do you like the black bitch, in your cabin?” the captain asked.
Although it was tight quarters, the two had never been intimate. They both slept on their right side. She tried to sleep on her left side, but after her face was thrown against the bulkhead in rough seas, she decided to sleep against the back of her young white protector.
“She’s a decent sort, sir, but we don’t communicate. I think she understands, but she doesn’t speak,” Rob Roy was wanted to relate enough to belay suspicion, without giving out too much information.
“You could probably buy her with the profit from your first voyage, she’s a comely bitch, I could arrange a sale,” the captain volunteered.
‘We better hold off on that talk, sir, until we begin to realize a profit,” Rob Roy said, with a measure of maturity. He was thinking of the two hundred or more blacks that were thrown overboard, while still alive.
Oh don’t be overly concerned with the balance sheet; trading beads, substandard weapons, and mirrors leaves us a wide margin when we buy these blacks. The planters will be paying top dollar for these wretched people. Don’t forget we will realize our best prices on the ones we lease out in Cuba for a couple of months and sell in Texas, New Orleans, or South Carolina.
Rob Roy had a feeling; the captain was becoming friendly towards him. Was it because he led the charge against the pirates or was he performing his job well? He admired the captain’s skill, but he was the most ruthless man he had ever known.
Rob Roy was homesick for the cool mornings at the shop and working the various jobs that came in, each one requiring different skills and ingenuity. He was a slaver now; if his rudimentary medicinal skills didn’t see results in a few days, his patients were thrown overboard to avoid contagion and disease.
Rob had learned a lot in the last few weeks; he was a sailor and was improving his skills but he had learned to be indifferent to death. He had learned to harden himself to throwing sick and dying blacks overboard. He had learned to be indifferent to their moments of stark terror, until the cruel waters robbed them of the very life they had been given in Africa. Now, he had killed two men with a ferocity he had never known. How different his life would be, if only he would have let that bastard Icarus beat him to the ground like slavers do to slaves every day.
Captain De Wolf was an intelligent well-read man and yet, he was a fair man with no sense of compromise. He had the power of life and death over every man or woman on this ship, regardless of the color of their hide. You had to submit or be flogged or keel hauled. If you were impossible deal with, you would be hanged or thrown overboard.
Melissa and her family were probably the benefactors of all this human suffering and cruelty. They lived a life of wealth and privilege, while sailors died from sickness, were hanged for infractions, or killed by pirates. The slaves were treated much worse. Their suffering was immeasurable. The Arab Muslims descended on small villages, often at the first light of day. With guns they killed all those who resisted, as well as the old people and most of the women and children. They were then marched hundreds if not thousands of miles and sold to black chieftains who had forts on the shore in natural harbors. At the forts, they waited here for the slaving ships. The chieftains wanted to feed them and get them looking healthy. There was benevolence; the trader wanted his fellow blacks to look healthy enough to survive a trip to the New World while living in intolerable conditions. Those who were rejected and judged unmarketable were often beheaded and thrown to the sharks before the ship left the harbor.
The slavers expected to lose a third to a half, during the Middle Passage. These were acceptable losses for the Middle Passage because slaves were so valuable in the Caribbean and the United States.
The whole situation was based on the class system and Melissa gave Rob Roy a key to the system, but the system of class seemed rotten to Rob Roy. Wealth and privilege was disgusting if it is obtained from the misery of others.
“Gather up the belongings of the executive officer, and store them in my quarters. You can move into his quarters, it will give you and your bitch more room to romp around, when you aren’t on duty,” the Captain said with the leer some men use to denigrate women and belittle them.
It would be foolish to challenge the captain and his opinion of women; he was a slaver and the owner of a brothel. The reason he was getting the larger quarters was because he was the only officer besides the mates between the savages they had as a crew and the captain. Rob Roy feigned interest in the new accommodations, “Thank you, Sir. It’s a shame we had to lose Lieutenant Benteen.”
The captain dropped his voice and spoke confidentially, “Mister Larkin, the lieutenant was an excellent officer, but he didn’t have the heart of a slaver. He let his conscience get the best of him, and that is probably why he is dead and you are alive. Keep your mind on the job at hand and you will live longer. Dinner will be served at 1,800 hours, Mr Larkin.”
“Yes, sir, Captain De Wolf,” it was great honor to be invited to the captain’s table. Things were going his way, but Rob Roy wondered about the cost of losing his conscience.
The new quarters allowed Rob Roy and his platonic roommate more comfort. They could both lay on their back if they wanted and she could have some privacy when washing or fixing her appearance. Rob Roy found her attractive but she was so exotic, he could never approach her for attention and everything seemed such an unfair advantage with him being an officer and she being little more than cargo, according to the captain.
With her, it was different, she found Rob Roy to be masterful and attractive. The crew treated him with respect, and her relationship with him kept the crew and the captain from violating her. She wanted desperately to be attractive to him, but he seemed uninterested. He couldn’t look at her nakedness and when she pressed up against him at night, he seemed not to notice.
Rob Roy couldn’t pronounce her native name, but they settled on Tomyris. In his free time, he taught her the rudiments of reading and arithmetic. At first he used his own hand written notes, but while he was on deck, she learned every lesson so well, it was obvious, she needed to move on to something else. Rob asked if he could borrow a book from the captain and the captain told him, “The bible will have the answers to all your questions.”
Rob Roy wasn’t familiar with the bible except for the common stories, but he wondered how a man who read the bible could rationalize the slave trade and owning a bordello.
Tomyris only had a rudimentary knowledge of reading but she studied during all her free time and asked questions of Rob Roy that left him embarrassed. In exasperation, he told her he could help her read, but philosophical questions were beyond his abilities.
Epilogue: The second half of this article is the basic storyline of a novel. It was written to enlighten and encourage the reader to question the politically correct notions of slavery and history in general. We and our children and grandchildren have allowed a Liberal interpretation of history to become fact. Actual history is far more interesting and helps to explain our current situations by employing logic, not emotion. With a more concise view of history, we can look upon our neighbors and friends with more compassion and understanding; except the compassion and understanding will be real, and not another course of pre-programmed pablum served by liberal elitists seeking to control our very thoughts and feelings.