June 27, 2016 – Bishop Ajayi Crowther Letter From 1837 Page 4
Thus the Lord, while I knew Him not, led me not into temptation and delivered me from evil. After my price had been counted before my own eyes, I was delivered up to my new owners, with great grief and dejection of spirit, not knowing where I was now to be led. About the first cock-crowing, which was the usual time to set out with the slaves, to prevent their being much acquainted with the way, for fear an escape should be made, we set out for Jabbo (Ijebu), third dialect from mine.
After having arrived at Ik-ke-ku Ye-re (Ikereku-iwere), another town, we halted. In this place I renewed my attempt of strangling, several times at night; but could not effect my purpose. It was very singular, that no thought of making use of knife ever entered my mind. However, it was not long before I was bartered for tobacco, rum and other articles. I remained here, in fetters, alone, for some time, before my owner could get as many slaves as he wanted. He feigned to treat us more civilly, by allowing us to sip a few drops of White Man’s liquor, rum; which was so estimable an article, that none but Chiefs could pay for a jar or glass vessel of four or five gallons: so much dreaded it was, that no one should take breath before he swallowed every sip, for fear of having the string of throat cut by the spirit of the liquor. This made it so much more valuable.
I had to remain alone, again, in another town in Jabbo, the name of which I do not now remember for about two months. From hence, I was brought, after a few days’ walk to a slave-market, called I-ko-sy (Ikosi), on the coast, on the bank of a large river, which probably was the Lagoon on which we were afterwards captured.
The sight of the river terrified me exceedingly, for I had never seen anything like it in my life. The people on the opposite bank are called E’ko. Before sun set being battered again for tobacco, I became another owner’s. Nothing now terrified me more than the river, and the thought of going into another world. Crying was nothing now, to vent out my sorrow; my whole body became stiff. I was now bade to enter the river, to ford it to the canoe. Being fearful at my entering this extensive water, and being so cautious in every step I took, as if the next would bring me to the bottom, my motion was very awkward indeed. Night coming on canoe, and the men having very little time to spare, soon carried me into the canoe, and placed me among the corn-bags, and supplied me with an Ab-alah (abala) for my dinner.
Almost in the same position I was placed I remained, with my abala in my hand quite confused in my thoughts, waiting only every moment our arrival at the new world” which we did not reach till about 4 o’clock in the morning. Here I got once more into another dialect, the fourth from mine; if I may not call it altogether another language, on account of now, in some words, and then there being a faint shadow of my own. Here I must remark that during the whole night’s voyage in the canoe, not a single thought of leaping into the river had entered my mind, but, on the contrary, the fear of the river occupied my thought.
Having now entered E’ko (Lagos), I was permitted to go any way I pleased; there being no way of escape, on the account of the river. In this place I met my two nephews, belonging to two different masters. One part of the town was occupied by the Portuguese and Spaniards, who had come to buy slaves.
Although I was in Lagos more than three months, I never once saw a White Man; until one evening, when they took a walk, in company of about six, and came to the street of the house in which I was livivng. Even then I had not the boldness to appear distinctly to look at them, being always suspicious that they had come for me: and my suspicion was not a fanciful one, for, in a few days after, I was made the eight in number of the slaves of the Portuguese.
Being a veteran in slavery, if I may be allowed the expression, and having no more hope for ever going to my country again, I patiently took whatever came. It was not without a great fear and trembling though that I received, for the first time the touch of a white man, who examined me whether I was sound or not. Men and boys were at first chained together, with a chain of about six fathoms in length, thrust through an iron fetter on neck of every individuals, and fastened at both ends with padlocks. In this situation the boys suffered the most: the men sometimes, getting angry, would draw the chain so violently, as seldom went without bruises on their poor little necks; especially the time of sleep, when they drew the chain so close to ease themselves of its weight, in order to be able to lie more conveniently, that we were almost suffocated, or bruised to death, in a room with one door, which was fastened as soon as we entered in, with no other passage for communicating the air than the opening under the eavesdrop.
Very often at night, when two or three individuals quarrelled or fought, the whole drove suffered punishment, without any distinction. At last, we boys had the happiness to be separated from the men, when their number was increased and more chain to spare: we were corded together, by ourselves. Thus, we were going in and out, bathing together, and so on. The female sex fared not much better. Thus we were for nearly the space of four months.
About this time, intelligence was given that the English were cruising the coast. This was another subject of sorrow with us – that there must be war also on the sea as well as on land – a thing never heard of before, or imagined practicable. This delayed our embarkation. In the meanwhile, the other slaves which were collected in Popo and were intended to be conveyed into the vessel the nearest way from that place, were brought into Lagos, among us. Among this number was Joseph Bartholomew, my Brother in the service of the Church Missionary Society.
After a week’s delay we embarked, at night in canoe, from Lagos to the beach; and on the following morning were put on board the vessel, which immediately sailed away. The crew being busy embarking us, 187 in number, had no time to give us either breakfast or supper; and we being unaccustomed to the motion of the vessel, endured the whole of this day in sea-sickness, which rendered the greater part of us less fit to take any food whatever.
In the very same evening, we were suprised by two English men-of-war, and on the next morning found ourselves in the hands of new conquerrors, who we at very much dreaded, they being armed with long swords. In the morning, being called up from the hold, we were astonished to find ourselves among two very large men-of-war and several other brigs. The men-of-war were, His Majesty’s ships Mymidon, Captain J.H Leeke, and Iphigenia, Captain Sir Robert Mends, who captured us on the 7th of April 1822, on the river Lagos.