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Having learned however, from the Portuguese prisoners that several of the crew of the Panda had left her on various parts of the coast, he determined on his way to call at all the places where he was likely to gain intelligence of any of them. With this view, after getting the Curlew underway on the 20th of June, he proceeded to the Gaboon River, where the prisoners had told him the second mate of the Panda had gone some time before. On arriving there it was found that this person had left for Havana, and the Curlew proceeded on to the Island of St. Thomas. In reply to Captain Trotter's enquiries the governor of this island professed to know nothing whatever of the pirates, but with what truth will afterwards appear. Touching afterwards at Port Antonio, Princes Island, information was received that two of the crew of the Panda, who had quitted that vessel there, had gone to Whydah, in the Bight of Benin.
As no great delay in going there would occur by going first to the Gold Coast, Captain Trotter who, as senior officer in charge of the vessels of war on the coast,* had some important duty to perform there, proceeded to Cape Coast Castle, where he left one of the Portuguese prisoners, in order that on the arrival of a man of war, which was expected, he might be put on board, for the purpose of recognizing any of the Panda's crew who might be in any vessel they fell in with.
The Curlew then sailed for Whydah: on arriving at that place, there being no British resident there of any description, Captain Trotter applied to M. De Sonza, the well-known slave dealer, for intelligence respecting the two men he was led to believe had gone there, and he found that one had sailed for Bahia, and that the other on the appearance of a man of war on the coast, had given himself up as a slave to the King of Dahomey. M. De Sonza, who seemed cordial in his proffered assistance volunteered to send an officer of the Curlew to Abomey, the capital of Dahomey, to try and secure the man who had fled there; but this offer was declined. No less than thirteen slave vessels were lying at Whydah at this time, all of which Captain Trotter, being short of officers, searched himself, in his anxiety to discover some of the Panda's crew, but in vain. He was now taken extremely ill with fever, and proceeded to Fernando Po, after making a short stay at the Bonny.
On his arrival at Clarence Cove, Fernando Po, on the 17th of August, he was in a state of great danger, and was landed in a cot and taken to the hospitable house of the governor, Colonel Nicolls, to whose care and kindness may be attributed the saving of his life. The illness of the commander caused the detention of the Curlew here for a short time, but it will soon be seen how strikingly this delay was overruled for the furtherance of the ends of justice.
A few days before the arrival of the Curlew, Captain Beecroft, an officer of the establishment at Fernando Po, had gone over to the adjoining coast to the Isle of Bimbia, at the mouth of the Cameroons River, where he accidentally fell in with five Spanish sailors. These men accosted him, saying that they had been shipwrecked in a vessel of their country, and requested that he would give them a passage to the Old Calebar River. This Captain Beecroft said he could not do as he was going to Fernando Po, but that they could go with him there, and then find their way to Calebar from that island. They accordingly took their passage with him, and were about to sail again from Fernando Po for Calebar, when Captain Beecroft received from his agent at Bimbia a quantity of Spanish dollars, with information that they had been picked up at low-water mark, and were supposed to have been lost from the canoe in which the Spaniards had arrived there.
* Admiral Warren being Commander-in-chief of both east and west coasts, necessarily remained almost always at the Cape of Good Hope.
On these circumstances coming to the knowledge of Colonel Nicolls, it immediately occurred to him that these men might have belonged to the Panda, and it was determined that they should be confronted with one of the Portuguese prisoners which Captain Trotter had on board from the Nazareth. This was no sooner dune than they were all immediately recognized as part of the Panda's crew. The youngest of them, a lad of eighteen years of age, called Jose Perez, being admitted as king's evidence, disclosed the fact, and gave the following account of the piracies which the Panda had committed:
“I entered on board the schooner Panda, Pedro Gibert, at Havana; she had two irou guns, and one long brass oné abaft the mainmast. We sailed about thirteen months ago for the coast of Africa on a slaving voyage. About a month after we had been at sea we boarded a ship at night; I believe she was English. We took two coils of rope, two goats, some syrup, and sweetmeats. About twenty days afterwards we fell in with an American brig; first saw her at 6 A.M. I was at the masthead at daylight, but did not see the brig until she was seen from deck, and I was kept all day at the masthead for it.
“ About 8 A.M. we closed her, hailed her to send her boat on board, which she did, then the second officer, boatswain, carpenter, and four men jumped into her, and made them row back to the brig; the second officer being armed with a cutlass, and the others with long knives.
“Soon after they were on board, the boatswain came to the after part of the brig and hailed the schooner, showing the captain his hand full of dollars, which he threw into the sea. On this the captain sent the schooner's boat to the brig, with some hands, and they set about plundering her. They sent the brig's crew to the forecastle, and then secured them in the cabin; but before this, they made them get up the boxes of dollars from below. Then they put sone tarpaulins and something else into the caboose, and set fire to them, and left the brig. But they brought with them ten boxes of dollars, half a cask of butter, about 300 dollars in a bag, I was told got from the captain, but I did not see it. Then they scuttled the brig's boat, and made sail away from her for Africa.
“ When we boarded the American there was another brig in sight, and when we left her a ship was seen to leeward. When we made the coast, we went to Grand Bassam for water, and were chased off for about eight hours by a frigate, but we made the River Nazareth, to purchase slaves.
“ After we had been in the Nazareth about two months they sailed for Prince's Island to refit; but before that they cut off the figure-hoad of the schooner, and made her all flush with the bulwarks. I was left on shore in charge of the slave-house, while the vessel was gone to Prince's; she came back to the Nazareth in about a month.
“ About five months afterwards I heard that a man-of-war brig was at the mouth of the Nazareth, and after anchoring she sent her boats up the river to board the schooner. As soon as the schooner's people saw them, they took to the boats for the shore. I was by the captain on shore, and heard the carpenter tell him that he was the last person out of the vessel, and had got her papers. The carpenter told him, also, he had put a barrel of powder in the caboose, with a train from it into the cabin, leading to the magazine, and had left a slow match burning. He expected before then, he said, to have seen the English all blown into the air together. The captain asked the carpenter what he had made the match of, and was told brimstone and powder.'
“I was away in the bush, but I heard firing on the town and saw rockets, but I believe nobody was hurt.
“When the schooner anchored off the town of Nazareth, a few miles
side of the river, in charge of the men-of-war officers, the Spaniards all took to the bush except the captain, who remained in the town, secreted by the king. Four days after the man-of-war sailed from Nazareth, the schooner Esperanza arrived. Some of the crew of the Panda went on board of her.
“About a month ago, five of my shipmates and I got a canoe, and our captain gave us leave to go where we liked, and he gave us all our share of the plunder we had got; the whole was 1,960 dollars, but my share was 250.
“We arrived in the Cameroons river about six days afterwards, and hearing that an English schooner was at Bimbia, we went to her, but agreed to say that we were shipwrecked seamen. We wanted to get to Calebar or Bonny, but as we could not get there without going to Fernando Po first, we threw most of our dollars away at Bimbia and kept only a few."
Such was the confession of Jose Perez before Colonel Nicolls, Captain Beecroft, and Dr. Ballard, R.N., justices of the peace at Fernando Po; and not only is great credit due to Colonel Nicolls for his indefatigable zeal in the whole of the transaction, but his great discrimination of character is well exemplified by his having selected Perez for king's evidence. It appeared afterwards that he was the only one amongst them of sufficient honesty to keep the truth at all hazard, and without his testimony, the piracy as will hereafter be seen might not have been proved.
When we consider the trivial circumstance of the dollars left exposed at low water having first produced suspicions concerning these Spaniards, and the happy coincidence of the Curlew being at Fernando Po at the moment of their arrival, with some of their shipmates on board to recognize them, Who shall say the hand of Providence was not manifest here? One of the six Spaniards, five of whom had now been secured, was left at Bimbia; but he was sent for, and all six were despatched to the Island of Ascension, by the William Harris, transport, to await the arrival of the Curlew.
( To be continued.)
Tue Sailors' IIOMES.
United Service Club, Pall Mall,
17th March, 1851. Sır.—The Shipping and Mercantile Gazette, of the 27th of February states, with reference to a meeting of seamen recently held at the Music Hall, at Liverpool, in opposition to the Mercantile Marine Act, that one of the speakers remarked " 'l hat the act was an invasion of their civil and religious liberties,” and “ That Sailors' Homes, were described as Sailors' Gaols," – a sentiment which was received with loud cheers!
Lest so monstrous an assertion, from being unnoticed, should pass current amongst mere superficial inquirers into the nature of the Mercantile Marine Act, and the system of Sailors' Homes, I take leave to offer the following observations which I trust may be allowed a place in your Magazine.
It is only those who have spent the best part of their lives amongst seamen, who can appreciate their good qualities and kindness of heart, when well directed, and it is much to be regretted there should be found amongst our shipowners and merchant captains, any who would encourage poor Jack in his misguided discontent, and who can show so little regard and sympathy for them, when they are turned adrift in our sea-port towns, with their little earnings, exposed to every kind of chicanery and temptation. During my late visit to the principal sea-ports in Ireland, Scotland, and the North of England, to personally examine the lodging-houses and haunts of the mercantile seamen when out of employment, for the purpose of ascertaining whether something could not be done, to better and ameliorate their condition, and improve their habits—and when at Liverpool I visited the shipping-office which is connected with the "Sailors' Hoine," and has been in full operation for many years. It is admirably conducted and answers well, thus proving a great boon to the sailor and an advantage to the ship-owner, as all shipping-offices will prove to be when the seamen open their eyes to the many great advantages this new Mercantile Marine Act affords to them, and not allow themselves to be led away by crimps, lodging-house-keepers, their agents, and other designing interested persons.
All who have the welfare of our seamen at heart, must be glad at any attempt to raise his character and increase his comforts. Mr. Labouchere has shewn a most laudable activity in dealing with a question that was surrounded with so many difficulties; and although he has had to encounter those obstacles which must always turn up in the way of government interference with the regulation, by general rules of matters of individual enterprise, he has, upon the whole, been successful. I am not sure in expressing these views that I shall meet with the concurrence of the whole shipping interest, since, in some respects, that body may be more or less affected disadvantageously by the new and proposed regulations. But there is at least one point on which every interest in the country (except the fraternity of knaves and harpies who infest our sea-ports) will be cordially unanimous, viz. the duty of providing some safe-guard against the temptations that strew the way of our simple, heedless seamen, when they set foot on shore. These most beneficent institutions, called "Sailors' Homes," which have only of late years begun to be established are the only means, (when combined, and worked out properly with the new Mercantile Marine Act) of effecting this most desirable object.
People who are connected with shipping, and encouraging those sailors' meetings care little for their moral habits and personal comforts; they see with indifference their vices and make no attempt to better their sad lot; they
think of getting their ship out and home in safety, and realising a good profit: ask such people to give their inite towards the moral amelioration of the sailor, and they will say they have nothing to do with it--in paying him bis wages they consider they have finished with him, and
“Where he goes, and how he fares,
No one knows and no one cares. As self interest must be the only channel through which you can get at the sympathy of such men, I would remind them that, a pound subseribed and applied towards the furtherance of a proper system for improving the habits of seamen, and their conduct on shore would be found to repay them amply, and prevent crime, desertion, and disaffection, which exists to a fearful extent in the Merchant Service, and which I have witnessed to a dreadful extent at Quebec, Calcutta, and other foreign ports, and the existance of which may be traced to the want of proper and efficient laws to regulate the Merchant Service.
Neglected by his employers, the natural weakness of human nature, uninfluenced by moral restraints, yields to the force of temptation and finds itself the victim of every passion.
I wish to impress upon my readers the debased state of prostration, this really fine warmhearted race of men labour under, and to help them out of the scrapes they are sure to fall into on coming on shore. There is no class of men so illtreated by their fellow creatures as sailors. After suffering the hardships and toils of the sea, they are beset the moment they land, by the most profligate of both sexes, for the purpose of robbing them of their hard earned wages, whilst those whose duty it is to come forward to protect them, leave them to be taken in and done for by the low lodging-house keepers and their abominable agents, who put every temptation in their way. Surely then it is evident that the merchant, the owners and commanders of ships, and all who profit by the toils of our seamen ought to come forward and assist in establishing “Sailors' Homes," and do their best to reconcile them to any act intended to benefit them. The new Mercantile Marine Act may require a few alterations, but the object of it is good, and it is conducive to the interest of all classes connected with the Mercantile Marine.
W. H. Hall, Captain, R.N. To the Editor N.M.
Whilst writing the above, I have just heard from the North, that our misguided seamen at Shields and other ports, are still setting at defiance all the laws and respect for their employers, and threatening in every way the New Mercantile Marine Act, which has been made, not only to benefit the Merchant Service, but more particularly the seamen who are therein employed, their wives and children ; and should they die abroad and far from home the protection will also extend to the widow and orphans, or to an aged mother, and sister, who will be lawfully entitled to the remains of their pay or whatever property they have left.
This act is also a check to all improper punishment, and tyranical treatment, too often practised by masters and mates ; in fact, it will protect and better the condition of seamen in every way, and in time produce a more enlightened, and better class of men, to command thein, and protect the property intrusted to their care. Many a richly laden merchant vessel with a good and gallant crew has been lost from the ignorance, and incompetency of the commander, or mate.
In the year 1849, sixty-nine vessels were lost belonging to those Northern ports, and several of the crews perished : such results might have been anticipated, for the coinmanders and mates were not subject to any exami