Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Samuel Wood: What the Unhappy Children of Africa Endure from Those Who Call Themselves Christians

Samuel Wood, Injured Humanity; Being A Representation of What the Unhappy Children of Africa Endure from Those Who Call Themselves Christians, 1805. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

From the Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale University, "The horrors of slavery, 1805: by Samuel Wood" -- Originally circulated in 1805 to educate the public about the treatment of slaves, this broadside, entitled “Injured Humanity,” continues to inform twenty-first-century audiences of the true horrors of slavery. As evidenced by this document, early abolitionists decried the slave trade before it was abolished by an 1807 act of Congress. “Injured Humanity” was intended to shock readers and called on the conscience of citizens to “reject, with horror, the smallest participation in such infernal transactions.” This broadside was printed in New York City by Samuel Wood, a prolific Quaker-reformist printer. The text refers to a the publication of An Abstract of the Evidence Delivered before a Select Committee of the House of Commons in the Years 1790 and 1791; on the Part of the Petitioners for the Abolition of the Slave-Trade (London: James Phillips, 1791). The descriptions of the slave trade and treatment of slaves are brought to life by seven strikingly vivid vignettes depicting slaves being whipped, sold, tortured, and separated from their families.  (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Injured Humanity; Being A Representation of What the Unhappy Children of Africa Endure from Those Who Call Themselves Christians, Published by Samuel Wood. New York, New York, 1805. Broadside, 1 page.

INJURED HUMANITY ; BEING A Representation of what the unhappy Children of Africa endure from those who call themselves CHRISTIANS.

THE respectable and increasing numbers of those, who, from motives of humanity, have concurred in rejecting the produce of West-India slavery, cannot but afford a subject of the sincerest joy to every friend of mankind. Even those who, from motives of interest, still favour or engage in the trade, have been obliged to be silent upon the injustice of first procuring the Negroes, and have not had the hardiness to excuse or palliate the horrors of the middle passage: but still they assert, that the treatment the slaves meet with in the West-Indies amply counterbalances their previous sufferings; nay, they have not scrupled to extol a state of servitude as a happy asylum from African despotism, and calmly maintain, that the condition of the labouring poor in England is much harder than that of the Negroes in the West-India islands. Upon this ground, the opposers of slavery are willing to meet its advocates, and the design of the following extracts is to enable the public to form an impartial and decisive judgment on the subject.  (Gilder Lehrman Collection)
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Samuel Wood, Injured Humanity, Log Yokes (Gilder Lehrman Collection)
Caption reads: "The Log-Yokes are made of the roots of trees, so heavy as to make it extremely difficult for the persons who wear them to walk, much more to escape or run away.

 WHEN a ship arrives at the port in the West-Indies, the slaves are exposed to sale, (except those who are very ill, they being left in the yard to perish by disease or hunger.) The healthy are disposed of by public auction, the sickly by scramble. The sale by scramble is thus described; the ship being darkened by sails, the purchasers are admitted, who, rushing forward with the ferocity of brutes, seize as many slaves as they have occasion for. In none of the sales, is any care taken to prevent the separation of relatives or friends; but husbands and wives, parents and children, are parted with as little concern as sheep and lambs by the butcher. Abstract of the evidence, as laid before a committee of the British parliament, page 45 and 47., 

With respect to the general treatment of the slaves, Mr. Woolrich says, that he never knew the best master in the West-Indies use his slaves so well, as the worst master his servants in England. Abstract of the evidence, see page 53., 

To come to a more particular description of their treatment, it will be proper to divide them into different classes: the first consisting of those bought for the use of the plantations : the second of the in and out-door slaves. ,  (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Caption reads: An  enlarged view of the mouthpiece.  Which, when long worn, becomes so heated, as frequently to bring off the skin along with it.  A view of the leg-bolts or shackles, as put upon the legs of the slaves on shipboard, in the middle passage.  An enlarged view of he boots and spurs to be used at some of the plantations in Antigua.

The field slaves are called out by daylight to their work : if they are not out in time, they are flogged. When put to their work, they perform it in rows, and, without exception, under the whip of drivers, a certain number of whom are allotted to each gang. Such is the mode of their labour : as to the time of it, they begin at daylight, and continue with two intermissions (one for half an hour in the morning, the other for two hours at noon) till sunset. Besides this, they are expected to range about and pick grass for the cattle, either during their two hours rest at noon, or after the fatigues of the day. , 

Sir G. Young adds, that women were, in general, considered to miscarry, from the cruel treatment they met with ; and Captain Hall says, that he has seen a woman seated to give suck to her child, roused from that situation by a severe blow from the cart-whip.  Abstract of the evidence, see page 53, 54, 55.,  (Gilder Lehrman Collection)


The husband and wife, after being sold to different purchasers, violently separated; probably never to see each other more.

The above account of their labour is confined to that season of the year which is termed out of crop., 

In the crop season, the labour is of much longer duration. Mr. Dalrymple says, they are obliged to work as long as they can, that is, as long as they can keep awake or stand. Sometimes, through excess of fatigue, they fall asleep, when it has happened to those who feed the mills, that their arms have been caught therein and torn off. Mr. Cook, on the same subject, states, that they work, in general, eighteen hours out of the twenty-four : he knew a girl lost her hand by the mill while feeding it, being overcome with sleep, she dropped against the rollers.  Abstract of the evidence, page 55, 56. , 

To this account of their labour, it should be added, that it appears, that on some estates, the slaves have Sunday and Saturday afternoon to themselves; on others, Sunday only, and on others, only Sunday in part. It appears again, that in crop, on no estate have they more than Sunday for the cultivation of their own lands. Abstract of the evidence, page 56. ,

 The point next to be considered is the food of the slaves, which appears to be subject to no rule ; on some estates, they are allowed land ; on others, provisions ; and some are allowed provisions and land jointly. The best allowance is at Barbados, of which the following is the account. The slaves, in general, says Gen. Tottenham, appeared to be ill fed: each slave had one pint of grain for 24 hours, and sometimes, half a rotten herring. When the herrings were unfit for the whites, they were bought up for the slaves. Nine pints of corn, and one pound of salt-fish a week, are, in general, the utmost allowance As a proof that some have not food enough, Mr. Cook says, that he has known both Africans and Creoles eat the putrid carcasses of animals through want.  Abstract of the evidence, page 57 and 58.,  (Gilder Lehrman Collection)




As to the accusation of their being thieves, all the evidences maintain, that it was on the account of their being half starved. Abstract of the evidence, p.58., 

Concerning the property of the field-slaves, all the evidences agree in asserting, that they never heard of a field-slave amassing such a sum as enabled him to purchase his freedom. Abstract of the evidence, page 60. , 

The in-door slaves are allowed to be better clothed and fed, and less worked, than the plantation ; on account, however, of being constantly exposed to the cruelty and caprice of their masters and mistresses, their lives are rendered so wretched, that they not unfrequently wish to be sent to the field : the out-door slaves are porters, coopers, &c. who are obliged to bring to their masters a certain sum every day. , 


The ordinary punishments of the slaves are inflicted by the whip and cow-skin. This, says Mr. Woolrich, is generally made of plaited cow-skin, with a thick strong lash, it is so formidable an instrument, that some of the overseers can by means of it take skin off a horse’s back, he has seen them lay the marks of it into a deal board : the incisions (according to Dr. Harrison and the Dean of Middleham) are sometimes so deep that you can lay your finger into the wounds, and are such as no time can erase. As a farther proof of the severity of the punishments, the following facts are adduced. Mr. Fitzmaurice has known pregnant women so severely whipped, as to have miscarried in consequence of it. Davidson knew a negro girl die of a mortification of her wounds two days after whipping. Dr. Jackson recollects a negro dying under the lash, or soon after. Abstract of the evidence, see page 66 and 67.  (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

We now proceed to the extraordinary punishments, in the infliction of which malice, fury, and all the worst passions of the human mind, rage with unbridled license. Benevolence recoils at the dreadful perspective, and can scarce collect composure to disclose the bloody catalogue. , 

Captain Rap has known slaves severely punished, then put into the stocks, a cattle chain of sixty or seventy pounds weight put on them, and a large collar round their necks, and a weight of fifty-six pounds fastened to the chain, when they were driven afield : the collars are formed with two, three, or four projections, which hinder them from lying down to sleep. , 

A negro man, in Jamaica, (says Dr. Harrison) was put on the picket so long, as to cause a mortification of his foot and hand, on suspicion of robbing his master, a public officer, of a sum of money, which it afterwards appeared the master had taken himself. Yet the master was privy to the punishment, and the slave had no compensation.(Gilder Lehrman Collection)


Abstract of the evidence, page 69., Mr. Fitzmaurice mentions the practice of dropping hot lead upon the slaves, which he saw performed by a planter of the name of Rushie in Jamaica, this same man, in three years, destroyed by severity of forty negroes out of sixty. The rest of the conduct of this planter was suppressed by the house of commons, as containing circumstances too horrible to be given to the world. 

An overseer on the estate where Mr. J. Turry was, in Granada, threw a slave into the boiling cane juice, who died in four days. , Captain Cook relates, that he saw a women named, Rachel Lauder, beat a slave most ummercifully, and would have murdered her, had she not been prevented ; the girl’s crime was, the not bringing money enough from on board of a ship, whither she had been sent by her mistress, for the purpose of prostitution.

Lieutenant Davidson relates, that the wife of the clergyman at Port-Royal, used to drop hot sealing-wax on her negroes after flogging; he was sent for as surgeon to one of them whose breast was terribly burnt. , 

If it should be asked, for what offences the punishments cited have taken place, the following answer may be given : 

Under the head of ordinary punishments, the slaves appear to have suffered for not coming to the field in time, not picking a sufficient quantity of grass, for staying too long of an errand, and theft, to which they were often driven by hunger., (Gilder Lehrman Collection)


Under the head of extraordinary punishments, the following have been alleged as reasons: for running away, for breaking a plate, or to extort confession in the moments of passion, and one on a diabolical pretence, which the master held out to the world to conceal his own villainy, and which he knew to be false. 

Women punish their slaves for being found pregnant, for not bringing home the full wages of prostitution, and others without even the allegation of a fault. , 

All the facts that have been now adduced are of unquestionable authority having been extracted from the evidence laid before the house of commons by eye-witnesses of the facts. Let now every honest man lay his hand on his breast, and seriously reflect, whether he is justifiable in countenancing such barbarities; or whether he ought not to reject, with horror, the smallest participation in such infernal transactions. To the weaker sex, whose amiable characteristic it is, to be ”tremblingly alive” to every tale of wo, the friends of the abolition return their warmest acknowledgments, for the zeal with which many of them have espoused the cause of humanity, and for the noble example they have shewn, in rejecting the produce of slavery and misery. , ,(Gilder Lehrman Collection)

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