Commodore Jones' destruction of the barracoons at Dombocorro and elsewhere in February 1845
1: The Lieutenant-Governor of Sierra Leone requests action
Government House, Sierra Leone, January 20, 1845.
I HAVE the honour herewith to enclose for your information, copies of depositions made before a bench of magistrates in this colony, by three of Her Majesty's liberated African subjects, who were found among the slaves at this place on the 8th November last, from the schooner "Enganador," prize to Her Majesty's ship "Growler."
You will perceive by these depositions, that each of those three persons, when seized and sold into slavery, was engaged in the quiet and inoffensive prosecution of an innocent and lawful calling; and that, after having been successively purchased and sold, they eventually become the so-called property of a Spaniard named Luiz, who is now, and has for some time been residing at Seabar, a tenant of Harry Tucker, Chief of the Little Boom River, and within the precincts of his sovereignty and jurisdiction.
You will also perceive that each of those persons declares that while in Luiz's possession as slaves, they severally intimated to him that they were subjects of Her Majesty, an intimation which he in each case disregarded, as well as the intrinsic corroborative testimony of the truth of their statements derived from the fluency with which they addressed him in the English language, a language in which he himself is understood to be a tolerable proficient.
They were shipped by Luiz as slaves in the "Enganador."
It will be also seen by the deposition of Tom Peters, that while he was held in slavery by Luiz, there lived at Seabar a woman, a native of Sierra Leone, named Elizabeth Eastman, who, for the alleged crime of having given some food to himself and other persons similarly held in slavery, was, by order of Luiz, seized, and most severely flogged. It also appears by collateral and undoubted evidence, that this woman was at that time in a state of pregnancy; and that from the severity of the punishment then inflicted on her, she shortly afterwards miscarried.
When these circumstances came to my knowledge, I did not fail to address a strong remonstrance to Harry Tucker, detailing to him the dreadful outrages which had been perpetrated on British subjects within his dominions, by a person enjoying the privileges of his countenance and protection, and calling on him to offer such measure of redress or reparation as it might be in his power to give.
In his reply to this communication he has admitted that it had come to his knowledge that Sierra Leone people were in slavery at Seabar. He does not deny that Elizabeth Eastman had been flogged by order of Luiz, but has contented himself simply by stating that she is not dead. He has made no offer of redress or reparation for the past, nor has be given any assurance that such nefarious practices shall not be continued in future but on the contrary, I know, and I feel assured, that by the vigilance of Commander Buckle, and of the officers of the squadron acting under his order, that it either has or will become known to you that Luiz is still engaged in the diligent prosecution of the Slave Trade at Seabar, and that he continues to enjoy all the countenance, favour, and protection which the Chief of Little Boom River can lend to his outrageous proceedings.
The great success by which the zeal of the squadron under your orders has been distinguished, leads me to indulge in a confident assurance, that any comment by me on this detail would be wholly superfluous.
The legitimate trade of this neighbourhood, and the personal safety of Her Majesty's subjects, are in a state of constant jeopardy by those very outrageous and illegal practices; I have therefore, the honour to request that you will afford such attention to each of those considerations as the means at your disposal may admit, with the view of obtaining redress for grievances so justly to be complained of, and such pledges as may appear to you satisfactory that they shall not be repeated.
The impunity with which the native Chiefs in the Sherbro and the slavedealers established there have hitherto carried on their systematic aggressions on Her Majesty's subjects, has already had such a demoralizing effect on the Chiefs and Headmen of minor note, that these have commenced intercepting and plundering such trading canoes belonging to Sierra Leone people as occasionally pass through their waters. A flagrant instance of this has occurred within the last few weeks, in the illegal detention of considerable property belonging to Mr. James Smith, a native of this colony, by a Chief named Kangrikoomba James Fortune.
Mr. Smith will lay the particulars of this transaction before you in person; and I have also to request that you will accord to him such aid as you deem necessary to obtain restitution of his property.
I have, &c.
(Signed) W. FERGUSSON, Lieutenant-Governor.
Depositions of Tom Peters, William Mering, Abraham Walsh, and John Sharp.
Police Office, Freetown, Sierra Leone, December 20, 1845.
Before the Honourable N. W. Macdonald, M. C. John McCormack, and Thomas McFoy, Esquires, Police Magistrates.
Tom Peters having been duly sworn, deposeth and saith as follows: - That he is a Sherbro man, and was brought to this colony in a slaver, many years ago, when he was very young; he was put to school at York, when Mr. Pratt was manager. On Mr. Pratt going to England, he was very desirous of taking deponent with him, but deponent not wishing to go, ran away from York, and went to Kissy. After looking about for work, he engaged himself to an Ackoo man, named Mahomadoo, as Captain of his canoe, to trade to the Sherbro. They went to the Sherbro, when Mahomadoo ill-used him. They went up the Bompey river, to a town called Tiamah, in the Hussoo country, trading; the headman of which was named Sanassee, they stopped trading at Tiamah for about two months; whilst there had words with Mahomadoo about money due to him deponent; Mahomadoo told him that he deponent had been a slave before, and that he must not humbug him. He then sold this deponent to Sanassee for an elephant's tooth. Sanassee sold witness to Tayack, who resides in Boom. Stopped three months with Tayack, who carried him afterwards to the Gallinas, and sold him to Louis, who sent this deponent, and plenty other slaves, to Seabar, where there are plenty of barracoons - five, and one to cook in; remained there seven months before he was first put on board the vessel he was taken in; does not know the name of the vessel, but it is Coker's vessel. Saw a Sierra Leone woman, named Mary Eastman, at Seabar; six months and a half before he saw her; she gave him food, and when Louis saw her thus act, he handcuffed, and put her feet in irons, and gave her three dozen lashes; she was alive when we was put on board the slaver. It was about 42 dry seasons ago since this deponent went in Mahomadoo's canoe to trade in the Sherbro; and by last Christmas Mahomadoo had sold him, since which deponent has not seen him. Knows the house of Mahomodoo; it is in the Fourah Bay road. Deponent went to his house the other day with a constable, but did not find him. Mahomadoo is a Mohammedan Ackoo; he is a short man, with a great deal of beard. Has not seen Mahomadoo since he was sold to Sanassee. Deponent told Louis he was a Sierra Leone boy. Louis said he did not care what he was, he was as good to him as any other boy.
William Mering or Mayling, having been duly sworn, deposeth and saith as follows: - That he is a Kussoo boy; was a little boy when brought to this colony; was brought here in a vessel with other slaves; they were taken by a King's ship. Went to school at Charlotte, about eight or nine years ago, when John Langley was manager. Was apprenticed at Waterloo, to a Kussoo man named Sam Mering, or Mayling, a liberated African, and by trade a lawyer; was with him about three years, when his master went up to the Kussoo country to trade, and left deponent at Waterloo. After remaining at Waterloo some time, expecting the return of his master, but as he did not come back, he, deponent came to Freetown, to look for work, and hired himself to the Bailiff of the Police Court, whose name is Abraham Walsh; was hired by him as a grumetta to work in a canoe trading to the Sherbro; at the Sherbro the Captain of the canoe purchased half a ton of rice, and one jug of palm oil; the Captain of the canoe then asked deponent to go with him to the Gallinas to buy country clothes; they went to a town called Manoharthe, Gallinas, to trade, and remained there eight weeks; lived in the King's yard at Manoh; and one day the canoe in which he come down from Freetown to the Gallinas went to a creek, he was told for wood, with some strange hands; the captain and deponent were in the King' yard together, and the Captain told deponent he was going to get his breakfast; a woman had called him; deponent was going to accompany him, when he was seized and tied with country rope; deponent took a small knife he had, and cut the rope, when he was told by the King, that he had broken the country law by cutting the rope; he was then put into country land stocks, and carried to Manoh's place, called Gendahmar by Kaybezze; Kaybezze told Manoh, Look, the man who spoilt your things has paid one slave; Manoh asked deponent what country boy he was; to which deponent replied, A Sierra Leone boy; Manoh said, he did not care for his being a colony boy, he would take him to the Spaniards, and if the Spaniards would pay for his head, they might send him home. Manoh then took him down to Louis's factory, called Lomboco, close to the sand beach at Seabar. Manoh told Louis that deponent was his slave, and that he wanted goods fur him. Deponent told Louis he was a Sierra Leone boy: but Louis replied, he did not care for his being a Sierra Leone boy, as the English always "prized' (captured) his slaves. When he told Louis he was a Sierra Leone boy, he (Louis) struck him on the face and side, and then handcuffed him hands and feet, and put a chain round his neck. Deponent stopped at Lomboco two months; men of war anchor off the town; heard that a vessel had come to take them away; it was the one deponent arrived at Freetown in. Does not know the name of the vessel; but it is Coker's schooner. Has not seen the Captain of the canoe since the day he was seized. The Captain said he belonged to Freetown. Deponent would know him were he to see him; his name his George; knows him by no other name. Saw about 10 Sierra Leone boys as slaves in different towns in the neighbourhood of Gendahmar; they all spoke English. Did not learn how they become slaves, as they were prevented from talking. Saw one woman, named Nancy, when deponent was stopping at Louis's place, at Bohol, at Seabar. A mulatto girl brought some rice to a Sherbro [man], who was detained by Louis for a debt due by his father. Louis told her he did not allow any free woman or Sierra Leone woman to give food to his slaves; and told his slaves they must tie her up and flog her. Does not know her name. Saw her flogged. Does not know if she was in the family way. She was flogged by two men and was flogged severely. Saw the girl but once since she was flogged. Does not know whether she is living or dead. Knows she was a Sierra Leone girl; she spoke English to them always. Does not know who she lived with. It is one year and eight months since deponent left this in the canoe to go to the Sherbro. Has never seen any of the other grumettas who left Freetown in the canoe with him.
Abraham Walsh, having been duly sworn, deponeth and saith as follows (deponent is the Bailiff to the Police Court, and the individual referred to by William Mering or Mayling): - Remembers sending his canoe to the Bagroo river, last April 12 months. There were four grumettas and a Captain. The Captain's name was John Smart, a Sherbro man, but he is also a resident of Freetown; one of the grumetta's name was George Nixon, the other Suree, the other William Miller, the last witness. Deponent sent his canoe to purchase rice and palm oil at Bagroo. He told the Captain of the canoe not to be absent more than two weeks, but in case of its being bad weather, deponent would look out for him in three weeks. Deponent never saw his canoe or Captain, or grumettas for upwards of three months, until he met George Nixon, one of the grumettas, in Freetown, who told deponent his canoe was sunk at Goderich. Deponent asked him for the Captain and other grumettas; he said the Captain was very sick at Bagroo, and that William Miller, one of the grumettas saw some of his family at Bagroo, and that he stopped, and refused to come up to Freetown. Deponent asked him if the Captain did not give him any money for him: when he stated that the canoe had sunk and everything in it. George Nixon, Bamah and Suree, came up in the canoe, and had hired another hand to assist them in bringing the canoe to town. Deponent has never seen the Captain (John Smart) since. Deponent states he was informed about a month ago, by Joseph Norman, a tailor, in Freetown, that he had heard from some Sherbro people that William Miller, one of the grumettas of his canoe, and the last witness, was in slavery at Seabar. Deponent has been trying to find out the Sherbro people, to learn if this report be true, but has not been able to find them yet.
John Sharp, having been duly sworn, deposeth and saith as follows: - He is a native of Attim; does not know how long he has been in this colony. Was brought here very young. Was brought here by a man-of-war. He was in a ship full of slaves when taken by the man-of-war. Was apprenticed to a man at Waterloo, named John Cole, a trader. Accompanied his master to the Kussoo country, upwards of six years ago. Lived in a town called Soamah. Made farms there for his master, John Cole, who did nothing all the time he was in the country. Deponent worked for him. His master was in the habit of coming back to the colony, but deponent never accompanied him. On one occasion the war people took all his master had. John Cook took a man's wife; and on the man demanding reparation, he, John Cole, gave deponent to him. The man's name was Soamah. Soamah took deponent, and gave him to a Sierra Leone man, named John, who lives at Seabar. Deponent told this Sierra Leone man, he was a King's boy, and spoke English; he replied, Never mind, I go, take you to Louis. He gave deponent to Louis; when deponent told Louis he was an English boy, Louis said nothing to him, but told his people to tie deponent. Stopped three months with Louis; was locked up with plenty of other slaves, and whenever a man-of-war came off the port, they were driven into the bush; and when they did not go voluntarily they were flogged, and Louis threatened to kill them. At the end of three months deponent was put into a vessel, which was brought up to Freetown by a man-of-war.