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|Mixed Court report on seized Nova Fortuna|
|► The West African Squadron and slave trade|
Her Majesty's Commissioners to Viscount Palmerston.
Sierra Leone, July 22, 1841.
(Received September 20.)
On the 6th of June ultimo Her Majesty's brigantine "Dolphin," Lieutenant Littlehales commanding, seized at anchor in the roadstead of British Accra the Brazilian brigantine "Nova Fortuna," Francisco Jozé da Rocha, master, on the ground of her being concerned in the Slave Trade, and sent that vessel hither for adjudication on the charge mentioned.
The detained vessel anchored in this harbour on the 28th ultimo, and on the 1st instant proceedings were commenced against her in the British and Brazilian Mixed Commission Court. From the papers of the vessel and the evidence received in the case, which was a contested one, it appeared that the "Nova Fortuna" belonged to Bahia, where her owner, Jozé Joaquim d'Almeida, resided; and who had despatched her thence in March last on an ostensible trading voyage along the Coast of Guinea, where she was to procure, in exchange for a cargo of Brazilian tobacco and spirits, a return cargo of gold, ivory, palm-oil, and salt. The trade was under the management of Manoel Joaquim da Costa, as supercargo.
In the alleged performance of this voyage the vessel is said to have touched at Elmina, Annamaboe, Appam, WinneBah, and British Accra (where she was seized), and had disposed of much of her outward cargo, some of the return for which was found on board in the shape of dollars, doubloons, native African gold, and a very little palm-oil.
The proof offered by the seizor that the "Nova Fortuna" was concerned in the Slave Trade, mainly rested on her equipment in some respects for that traffic, and on the suspicious character of the owner's instructions for the voyage.
This evidence having received nothing to weaken it by that filed on behalf of the claimant, but, on the contrary, having been strengthened by the conflicting nature of the testimony of the master and mate; by the fact of the master having been found in possession of a certificate which would enable him to receive three slaves held in trust for a third party by a resident at Whydah, and of several letters addressed to persons living at that notorious slave mart, all of which related to the Slave Trade; by the well-known connexion of the bona fide master of this vessel, Carvalho, as well as that of the vessel's owner and supercargo, with the Slave Traffic, and generally the illegal character, as connected with the Slave Trade, which many of the papers seized in this vessel bore, induced the Court to pronounce her confiscation on the 20th instant.
Our report of this case we have now the honour to lay before your Lordship.
The names of Jozé Joaquim d'Almeida, the ostensible owner of this vessel, and Manoel Joaquim da Costa, her supercargo, appeared in our report of the case of the Portuguese schooner "Lafayette," condemned here on the 16th of June, 1837. On that occasion they fitted out the "Lafayette" at Bahia, and were to have been the consignees of that vessel on her return. It also appeared in evidence that the slaves seized in that vessel were owned by them. Almeida and Costa were also owners of the condemned slave ship "Quatro d'Abril."
The mate of the "Nova Fortuna," Jozé Gervazio de Carvalho, was master of the Portuguese schooner "Latona," condemned here with a cargo of slaves on the 17th of March, 1837. He has been here as a mate in two other condemned slavers besides the present.
From the information Lieutenant Littlehales received down the coast, it appears that the merchandise to pay for the slaves supplied for the Brazil markets is now brought over in Brazilian, French, and other vessels, which, touching at the ports on the leeward coast, trade for money to be delivered at the factories in payment for the slaves, and the cargo-vessels then return to Brazil in ballast. This is said to have been the case with the schooner "Illinois," under United States colours, which came over lately from Bahia, chartered there by a French firm, Messieurs Leceaguel and Company. The vessels which carry the slaves come across, it is said, sometimes without even an anchor at their bows, and remain but a few hours.
We have, &c.
|(Signed)||WALTER W. LEWIS.|
|M. L. MELVILLE.|
The Right Hon. Viscount Palmerston, G.C.B.
&c. &c. &c.
Report of the case of the Brazilian brigantine " Nova Fortuna," Francisco Jozé da Rocha, Master.
The following papers were found on board of the "Nova Fortuna" at the time of her detention: -
|l.||An imperial passport, No. 91, bearing date 19th December, 1840, in which this vessel is described as owned by Jozé Joaquim d'Almeida, of Bahia, commanded by Manoel Peixoto Villas Boas, and of the burden of 77 tons. When the above-mentioned Da Rocha superseded Boas in the command is not mentioned in this or any other of the ship's papers.|
|2.||Muster-roll, dated Bahia, March 20th, 1841, describing the crew of the vessel to consist of 1 persons, and bound to the coast of Africa.|
|3.||Manifest of the cargo, dated Bahia, 20th of March, 1841, and signed by Almeida, the owner of the vessel. From this document it appeared there had been shipped,|
- 1494 rolls and 46 barrels of tobacco,
- 20 pipes of spirits,
- 1 bale of foreign goods,
in addition to various stores apparently for use during the voyage. The manifest also includes 10 water-casks, but does not clearly explain whether they were for the ship's use or for sale. Attached to this manifest is a bill of lading, dated the 19th of March, 1841, describing the cargo as consisting of spirits and tobacco only, without any allusion to the bale of foreign goods, and as consigned to the supercargo, Manoel Joaquim da Costa, and to Jozé Gervazio de Carvalho, who appears as first mate in the muster-roll. Carvalho was, however, evidently bona fide master on board, the ostensible master, Da Rocha, being quite a lad in appearance, and certainly not more than 17 years of age.
The aforesaid manifest and bill of lading were authenticated by the British Consul at Bahia in the following terms: - " I, Edward Porter, Her Britannic Majesty's Consul for the city and province of Bahia, do hereby certify that Jozé Joaquim de Almeida, owner, and Francisco Jozé da Rocha, master of the smack 'Nova Fortuna,' have personally appeared at this Consulate, and declared on oath that the foregoing manifest and annexed bill of lading are a true and faithful statement of the cargo and stores on board the said smack. An act whereof being required, I have granted the same under my hand and seal of office at Bahia, this 20th day of March, 1841."
This certificate was duly signed and sealed by the Consul.
|4 to 9.||Custom-house receipts, bill of health, and fort-pass.|
|l0.||A petition from the owner of the vessel dated March 20th, 1841, for permission to go to the east coast of Africa. Whether this permission was granted by the authorities of Bahia does not appear in this paper. There is an ambiguous report attached to the petition stating that it is not safe to carry the negro to the coast; and by a note it appears "a negro was landed from this vessel."|
|l1.||The instructions of Almeida to the master and mate, Da Rocha and Carvalho, bear date at Bahia on the 20th of March last, and commence with directions to go to the Gold Coast to " transact legal trade." This trade is to be conducted by the supercargo, Da Costa, who will sell the outward cargo for money, gold, ivory, and palm oil. The owner then observes that if the vessel requires ballast it is to be taken in, and the vessel is then to proceed to Aquita for salt, with which she is to return to Bahia with all possible dispatch. In conclusion is the following questionable paragraph: - "You must bear in mind that you will require to purchase some cowries to windward to enable you to procure the salt, and whatever else may be necessary for the use of the vessel; as well as to obtain provisions for your return, being careful to get sufficient for the purpose."|
|l2.||Instructions from the said owner to the supercargo, differing in no respect from No. 11,|
|l3.||Log-book of the voyage, apparently kept by the master, which shows that the "Nova Fortuna" sailed from Bahia on the 21st of March last, and on the 4th and 7th of May sighted respectively Cape Palmas and Cape Lahon, off the latter of which canoes visited them. They then commenced trading at Elmina, where they arrived on the l2th of May; went thence to Annamaboe on the 20th; to Appam on the 26th; to Winnebah on the 29th; and to British Accra on the 30th of May, on which day the log ends.|
In addition to the foregoing, there were no less than 50 other documents and papers, of which 13 were old personal passports, and seven were nautical papers and calculations, of which it will be unnecessary to give a more particular account. The remainder chiefly consisted of letters, and seems to call for a more minute description, which we shall now give.
The first in importance, as giving a character to the expedition in which the "Nova Fortuna," was engaged when seized, are a receipt for slaves deliverable at Whydah, and a letter commissioning the master, in whose possession these papers were found, to buy a slave.
The receipt or certificate is dated Whydah, 23rd of February, 1841, and signed by Joaquim Antonio da Silva, acknowledging to have three slaves in his custody belonging to João Francisco Pereira.
The letter above alluded to was apparently written in Bahia, but is undated, and addressed to João de Deus of Whydah, by João Pereira Vianna, formerly dispenser of "the pilot boat," and lately on board of the "Firme," (condemned here on the 8th of July, 1841,) in a similar capacity, advising him of having sent four doubloons to buy a female slave.
Two letters written by Manoel Joaquim Ricardo, of Bahia, respectively to Jozé Pedro Otram and Joaquim Antonio da Silva, both of Whydah, on the subject of slave adventures completed and in progress. In these letters the new word "cola" is the expression used to describe a slave.
A letter from João d'Almeida, of Bahia, to Tiburcio Joaquim Vianna of Whydah, notifies the shipment of four pieces of French cloth by the "Aurora," to buy a slave.
Three loose undated papers appeared to be - first, a report from the mate to the captain of the Brazilian schooner "Picon," stating his having fallen in with a man-of-war, supposed by him to be Her Majesty's brigantine "Bonetta," which vessel opened a fire upon them, and some shot struck the "Picon's" hull. The schooner, however, escaped by means of her sweeps. Inquiry is then made as to when and where the slaves are to be shipped.
The second and third papers appear to be replies to the above, one of which is signed by "the captain of the 'Picon,'" and the other unsigned, and addressed to "the mate in the roads." Both of these notes state that there are 500 slaves ready for embarkation. The above three papers are written in French.
A log-book of the Brazilian schooner "Picon," written in Portuguese, shows that she left Bahia on the 23rd of January, 1840, with the ostensible destination of Prince's Island, but really bound to Whydah, off which port she was on the 17th of February following, and where it is reasonable to infer, from the contents of the three papers just described, she embarked a full cargo of slaves. No log for the "Picon's" return voyage appears to have been kept.
On the 28th of June ultimo the "Nova Fortuna" anchored in this harbour, and proceedings in prosecution of her were opened on the 30th in the British and Brazilian Mixed Commission, which led to the filing in Court, on the 1st of July, of the papers found on board of her, they having been previously duly authenticated by the prize officer's affidavit; the filing of the captor's declaration of seizure; the issue of the usual monition; and an order for the examination of the.witnesses in preparatory on the standing and special interrogatories.
The declaration of the Seizor was as follows: - "I, Edward Littlehales , Lieutenant and Commander of Her Britannic Majesty's brigantine 'Dolphin,' do hereby declare, that on this 6th day of June, 1841, being at anchor off British Accra, I detained the polacca brigantine, named the 'Nova Fortuna,' sailing under Brazilian colours, commanded by Francisco Jozé da Rocha, bound from Bahia to the coast of Africa, with a crew consisting of 12 men and 1 passenger, whose name as declared by him is Manoel Joaquim da Costa, having no slaves on board, but being equipped for the Slave Trade."
On the 3rd of July instant, the master of this vessel, Francisco Jozé da Rocha, was examined by the Registrar, and deposed That "he was born at Bahia, which is his place of residence. Is a Brazilian subject, and has never been under allegiance to any other State. Is not married. Jozé Joaquim d'Almeida, a Brazilian subject, and owner of the vessel, gave witness command and possession of her in March last at Bahia; of which city the owner is a resident. Has known the vessel about four years. She was built at Bahia. He was present at the taking of the vessel, but under what pretence and for what reasons she was so seized witness does not know. The vessel sailed under Brazilian colours, and had no others on board. The vessel has always been called by the name of 'Nova Fortuna,' and she is, to the best of witness's knowledge, 75 tons burden. Witness shipped the crew, which consisted of 11 persons, exclusive of himself, at Bahia in the month of May last. Some were Brazilians, and the rest Portuguese. None of the crew (except witness, who had 25 rolls, and the mate also 25 rolls of tobacco) were interested in the ship or lading. Was master on board. There were no passengers. The voyage began at Bahia, and thence it was to be continued along the whole western coast of Africa to return thereafter to Bahia, which was the last clearing port. The destination in the clearance is the coast of Africa. Elmina was the first port the vessel touched at, and remained there eight days. Witness had communication with the shore, and sold to the natives one pipe of aguadiente and tobacco, receiving in payment for the same gold-dust and cash. The vessel then proceeded to Annamaboe, but after a stay of five or six days was prevented by the Governor from trading. Here witness received two certificates for port dues. The next place visited was Appam, where witness, after being at anchor three days, sold Mr. Fletcher and other Englishmen (who had come round from Annamaboe in consequence of the Governor's prohibition against trading there) aguadiente and tobacco for gold-dust, doubloons, and dollars. Witness also purchased mats here from the natives. After leaving Appam the vessel went to Winnebah, and anchored there only for one day, having purchased from the natives gold-dust, doubloons, mats, and cowries, the latter to buy country cloths and palm-oil. British Accra was the last place touched at on the coast, the vessel having been there captured within one mile from the shore. Remained at Accra ten days, and during the time of the vessel's stay the people from Danish Accra came on board and purchased tobacco in exchange for palm-oil and cowries, The vessel was captured whilst at anchor off British Accra, on the 5th of June last. The capturing ship made the seizure on the same day she arrived at Accra. The vessel had only four pistols and half a pound of powder on board in the shape of arms and ammunition; two of the former belonged to witness and two to the mate, for their private use. He had no instructions to destroy, conceal, or refuse to deliver up any of the ship's documents. The owner's name is Jozé Joaquim d'Almeida, a Brazilian subject, and living at Bahia with his family. Witness knows him to be the owner from the notoriety of the fact at Bahia for upwards of three years. The owner has always resided at Bahia. Knows nothing of any bill of sale, price of the vessel, or the names of the sellers. Witness has heard that the vessel was bought by the owner from the shipbuilders at Bahia, nearly five years ago, to the best of his knowledge. The owner, Jozé Joaquim d'Almeida, shipped the cargo at Bahia; it was under no consignment, as the voyage was to be a coasting one. The cargo if restored will belong to the present owner. Witness is ignorant of the nature of the vessel's lading on the last voyage, as this is the first time she has been trading on the coast. The present cargo consists of tobacco and aguadiente, which was to be exchanged for cash, gold-dust, palm-oil, mats, and cowries. The passport and al l the other ship's papers are true and fair. None of the papers, bills of lading, or letters were destroyed, concealed, or attempted. to be concealed. There are no other papers relative to the ship and cargo in any other country. There was no charter-party. Does not know whether the ship or goods be insured. The hatches of the vessel are not fitted with open gratings; there is only the main hatchway, measuring 9 feet by 6 feet. The coamings of the hatchways are not bored, nor are there any iron bars on board. There are only the bulkheads of the forecastle and cabin, but there are four bunks on deck.: There are no spare planks. There is no part of a slave deck laid. There are no shackles, bolts, or handcuffs. There are 3 pipes and 1 small keg empty, and 1 pipe full of fresh water. There are 2 mess-kits for the use of the crew. There are no iron boilers, and the cabouse is only fitted for two small boilers. There is only one bag of farinha on board."
The second witness produced by the Seizors was Jozé Gervazio de Carvalho, who appeared in the muster-roll and described himself as first mate of the vessel, but who was evidently, from his age, experience, intelligence, and authority on board, and from the extreme youth of the ostensible Master Da Rocha, the bond fide commander of the "Nova Fortuna." The evidence of this witness confirmed that of the previous one in respect to the ownership of the vessel and cargo, and that it had been partly exchanged for money, gold, palm-oil, and cowries. Carvalho differed, however, from the master who had stated that the cargo was not consigned, by declaring that Manoel Joaquim da Costa, a passenger, was the consignee; and also in respect of the master's assertion that he and the mate (this witness) had each 25 rolls of tobacco on board as a venture, by explaining that the master had really but 20.
The evidence of these witnesses concerning the stay made and the nature of their transactions [at] the different places visited on the Gold Coast for the purposes of trade, did not agree with each other, and were both somewhat at variance with the log-book of the vessel; but as this point will be alluded to in the judgment given in this case, it is unnecessary to dwell upon it here.
Publication passed in the cause on the 3rd instant.
The report of Survey which had been petitioned for on the part of the Seize on the 1st, was received and filed on the 7th instant, and described this vessel to have, besides a fore-hatch and an after or cabin hatch, a very large main one, the dimensions of which were 9 feet by 4 feet 8 inches. That the bulkheads below were not more than necessary and usual in merchant vessels; but that the "Nova Fortuna" had in addition 4 moveable sleeping-berths on deck, thus making more divisions on deck than were requisite for her as a lawful trader. There were found on board 100 coarse mats, each measuring 5 feet 4 inches by 9 feet 8 inches; suited for forming a substitute for the usual slave-deck. The cabin was of peculiar construction, being only 3 feet 5 inches in height, having a fixed deck; it had, however, all the appearance of the female slave-rooms usual in vessels engaged in the traffic. There were only 7 water-casks on board, equal to containing 929 gallons. There were, however, 2 casks filled with cowries, having the appearance of water-casks, and capable of holding 220 gallons, forming in all the means of carrying 1149 gallons of water. And the cabouse, though of an ordinary appearance, was so arranged from being built up with bricks, fitted with iron grating, and having a moveable top as to be capable of receiving and cooking with a boiler of 31 inches square.
The monition issued on the 1st, having been returned duly certified on the 8th instant, this closed the proceedings on behalf of the Seizor.
On the 6th instant the master of this vessel appeared as a claimant in the case, and on the following 8th the claim hereunder transcribed was filed, together with an affidavit of the said master authenticating the same.
"The claim of the said Francisco Jozé da Rocha, the master of the said polacca, subject of His Majesty the Emperor of Brazil, for the said polacca, her tackle, apparel, and furniture, goods, wares, merchandise, money and effects, on board the said polacca at the time of the capture thereof by Her Majesty's brigantine 'Dolphin,' Lieut. Edward Littlehales commanding, and brought to Sierra Leone, for the said polacca, her tackle, apparel, and furniture, and the said goods, wares, merchandise, money, and effects, as the sole property of Jozd Joaquim d'Almeida, an inhabitant of Bahia, and as protected by the Treaty or Convention between His late Britannic Majesty and His late Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Brazil, dated 23rd of November, 1826. And for all costs, charges, losses, damages, demurrage, and expenses as have arisen, or shall or may arise, by means of the capture and detention of the said polacca as aforesaid."
A petition to examine the master and mate on special interrogatories was presented by the claimant's proctor on the following day, which having been approved, those persons were accordingly examined on the 12th instant.
The master deposed that "the polacca came to the coast of Africa to dispose of the outward cargo of spirits and tobacco for salt, palm-oil, and gold-dust. From the detained vessel having been previously to the present voyage engaged in the sugar trade on the coast of Brazil, it was necessary that the main hatch should be of large dimensions in order to admit the boxes of sugar into the hold. Three of the 'bunks' (sleeping places on deck) were appropriated for the use of the mate, supercargo, and witness. The fourth 'bunk' contained the stores of the vessel. The height of the cabin is about 4 feet, its length 6 feet, and breadth about 4 ½ feet. It was for stowing away provisions and the trunks belonging to the officers. Brazilian sumaccas are usually built with such cabins. The mats were purchased for the stowage of the salt. The cabouse of the sumacca resembles those usually found on board vessels of this class. The iron bolt was used to secure the cabin hatch. There were 4 pipes and 1 small cask for water on board the vessel at the time of capture. The witness has in his possession a paper signed by the prize officer at the time of capture, and purporting to be a manifest of the cargo on board at that time. (This paper was delivered to the Registrar by the witness.) From this document it appeared, that there were on board 19 pipes of spirits, 1 barrel of tobacco, 4 pipes and 1 cask of water, and 5 casks of palm-oil." This paper also contained the extraordinary entry of "300 grass bags, and 100 mats, for ballast."
The replies made by the mate to the same questions were nearly word for word the same as those of the master, above quoted.
Publication was granted to the claimant on the 12th instant. No further proceedings were taken by the claimant.
On the 14th instant the captor's proctor re-opened his case on petition, and was allowed to put special interrogatories to the master, which elicited from that witness the following evidence: that "it is customary for the owners of vessels to allow masters and mates to take a few articles on board on their own account and risk; but this is not considered as forming a part of the cargo. Hence appears the discrepancy between the claim and the examination in chief. He cannot tell the cause why the Governor of Annamaboe prevented him from trading there, no reasons having been assigned for such prohibition. Although he remained ten days at British Accra, yet he did not trade there at all, but only with persons from Dutch and Spanish Accra, who paid, in return for tobacco and spirits, palm-oil and cowries. Did not land any goods during the night. The Governor of British Accra did not prevent him from trading there. Witness admits that the manifest and bill of lading were both attested before the British Consul at Bahia; but denies that the 46 barrels of tobacco were a subsequent addition, they having been inserted in the above documents at the same time as the other articles, and by the same person. The sand ballast was shipped at Appam and Winnebah; it was taken on board simply as ballast, in consequence of the vessel being empty. He obtained the money and gold-dust at Elmina, Appam, and Winnebah, for tobacco and one pipe of aguardiente, which latter formed the outward cargo. All the money and gold-dust were received at the three above-mentioned places. Part of the said gold-dust and money was intended for the purchase of salt and palm-oil, and part to be taken to Bahia on the owner's account. He intended to ship the salt at Aquitah. The salt to be taken on board was to have been of the coarse description made by the natives themselves. About 60 or 62 tons were to have been shipped, but at what price witness cannot tell. It was to have been delivered at Bahia, and is well adapted for the Brazilian market, this commodity being very scarce in Brazils. Salt fetches from 3s. to 4s. for half a bushel at Bahia. Many shipments of salt have been made from Aquitah to Bahia: witness remembers, however, the names of only two vessels which traded there for this purpose, the 'Intrepido' and 'Josefina,' but does not know the names of either their masters or owners."
There was also received on the part of the captor an affidavit (sworn on the 15th instant) of the prize officer, stating "that over the cabin of the said polacca there is a large companion-hatch, which is rather more than 3 feet from the deck, and which leads at once into the cabin by folding-doors, facing the front part of the vessel, a ladder not being necessary from the small depth of the cabin from the deck. And, lastly, that the said hatch is about 4 feet square."
At the same time the proctor for the seizor filed another affidavit, which was as follows: "Appeared personally William Bedwell Bradford, master mariner, in command of the British merchant barque 'Hartley,' and William Trickey, master mariner, in command of the British brig 'Charlotte Wylie,' who being duly sworn, maketh oath and say; and first this deponent, William Bedwell Bradford, for himself, saith, that he has seen large quantities of Brazilian sugar in the port of London, and that the same has always been imported in cases averaging in weight from 3 to 8 cwt.; and that the largest case of Brazilian sugar he has ever seen was in length about 5 feet, and in depth about 2 ½ feet, and not more. And this deponent, William Trickey, for himself, saith that he has made several voyages to different ports in the Brazils, and that the sugar of that country is packed in cases which have averaged in weight from 3 to 8 cwt., and in size from 3 feet to 5 feet in length, and from 9 feet to 2 ½ feet in depth, and he has never seen any in larger packages."
Publication of this evidence was granted on the day of its being received; and on the 17th instant a joint petition from the proctors for both parties announced the closing of the case, and prayed for a day of trial, which was named for the 20th instant, when the Court accordingly assembled.
After the evidence in the case had been publicly read, the proctors on both sides were heard in argument on behalf of their respective clients.
The proctor for the seizor remarked that the vessel's voyage was of so questionable a character that the authorities at the British settlements on the Gold Coast had refused her leave to trade there; and that at the time of seizure so much was the master impressed with the unlawfulness of his voyage that he was either unable or unwilling to declare her destination. He then went into a detailed review of the equipment with which this vessel was provided, and of the explanations offered by the master and mate respecting the same, which he urged were insufficient to relieve the vessel from the character of being illegally equipped. In conclusion, this gentleman observed that the claimant had entirely failed to show, as he was bound to do, the lawfulness of the voyage in which his vessel was engaged when seized.
The proctor for the claimant commenced his address by referring to the owner's instructions for the voyage, which he endeavoured to show were good evidence of the legality of the adventure; and then urged that the detention of this vessel was contrary to the terms of the second article of the Instructions for Cruizers, annexed to the treaty or convention with Portugal, which forbids the seizure of vessels "whilst in the port or roadstead belonging to either of the two high contracting powers." The proctor then endeavoured to support by argument the explanations which had been offered respecting the equipment, and ultimately prayed the Court to restore the vessel
The seizor's proctor replied to that part of the address of the proctor for the claimant in which he had endeavoured to show that the owner's instructions were a proof of the lawfulness of the voyage, that the very opposite opinion must be formed on an unbiassed perusal of that document, and pressed on the attention of the Court the doubtful terms in which those instructions were worded, which deprived them of all bona fide character. This gentleman also urged that it was a material defect in the claimant's case his having neglected to show the rate of wages for the voyage, and that the inference must be unfavourable.
In giving judgment, the Court, after remarking upon the circumstances of the seizure (declining to admit the claimant's objections thereto), and the grounds of prosecution, observed that the proof offered in support of the seizor's case was chiefly to be found in the contents of the ship's papers, and in the evidence showing the equipment of this vessel to a certain extent in a manner adapted for carrying on the Slave Trade.
The Court next alluded to the several items of illegal equipment, as set forth in the report of the surveyors already quoted herein, which it was remarked had much of the character of the equipment common to slave-vessels, and which would certainly prove a sufficient cause for condemnation, unless good and sufficient reasons could be given by the claimant for his vessel being so provided.
Respecting the very large main-hatchway, the Court said that the master had declared it was necessary, to admit boxes of Brazil sugar, she having been previously to the present voyage engaged in the sugar trade on the coast of Brazil, a statement which the mate had corroborated. The master's original evidence as to the previous voyage showed that he was ignorant of the vessel's lading, and the Court therefore refused to admit this witness, in order to clear up his case, conveniently to recollect that the brigantine had been a sugar droguer. Independent, however, of this point, the explanation of the master, though confirmed by the mate, has been proved to be worthless by the oaths of two of the commanders of British merchant ships now in this harbour (one has traded to Brazil), both of whom have sworn that the largest size of boxes for Brazil sugar is 5 feet by 2 feet 6 inches; the main hatch-way of this brigantine was therefore declared to be about as large again as is usual in merchant vessels lawfully employed.
In explanation of the extra accommodation afforded by the four moveable sleeping-berths on deck, which the surveyors had reported as not required by a lawful trader, it had been stated that the cabin of this brigantine, which is of the description commonly found in fair-trading vessels, had been used by the master, mate, and supercargo, to keep their luggage in, and that three of the said deck-berths had been occupied by those persons, whilst the fourth served as a store-room. As, however, the cabin of this vessel had been shown to be such as is usual in similar craft, and as the unnecessary number of four deck-berths had been found on board, thus leaving the cabin free for a female slave room, if necessary, in the manner common to all slavers, the Court held this account to be unsatisfactory.
The 100 coarse African mats found on board, stated by the master and the mate to have been for the purpose of stowing salt upon over the sand ballast, was a statement which, if the Court could have been satisfied that salt was ever intended. to have been embarked, must have proved an insufficient explanation as to these questionable articles.
The number of casks found on board which were adapted for carrying water had been proved to be capable of holding 1149 gallons, thus affording 36 days more water to the large number of persons forming the crew than the Court considered necessary for them, according to the previous practice of the Court when allowing for a voyage from Bahia to this coast. On this subject, however, there was other evidence well calculated to create and support suspicion of the object with which the number stated had been shipped, for in the manifest of the vessel it appears that originally there were 10 water-casks embarked, of the disposal of none of which the Court had heard, whilst the master had sworn that there were now on board but 6, and the mate but 5 water-casks for the vessel.
The cabouse of the "Nova Fortuna" had also been proved to be adapted for the reception of a boiler such as is usual in vessels engaged in the Slave Trade, and though the claimant and mate have both sworn that Brazilian vessels of a similar construction have generally such a description of cabouse, the Court could not see how that was to relieve the "Nova Fortuna" when on the coast of Africa and in her peculiar circumstances from the suspicion of having such an article for unlawful purposes.
On the whole, therefore, it appeared to the Court that this vessel was fitted for the Slave Trade by having a main-hatchway double the common size; more divisions on deck than requisite for a lawful trader; 100 coarse African mats, adapted as substitutes for the usual slave-deck; a cabouse adapted for cooking for slaves; and 36 days more water than even her large crew and the supercargo could reasonably need. For this illegal equipment the explanations given on behalf of the claimant had been far from satisfactory; and a reference to the papers given up by the master at the time of seizure, and to some other parts of the evidence, would serve to show that even these unsatisfactory statements of the witnesses for the defence were not entitled to credit.
The Court then referred to the papers found in this vessel, commencing with the instructions of the owner of the vessel, which they observed were, from the very questionable terms employed therein, illustrative to some extent of the captor's allegations. The owner had, the Court remarked, commenced his instructions in the usual style latterly adapted in such documents, namely, with an ostentatious statement that the vessel proceeds to the Gold Coast to "transact legal trade;" a general description of the alleged lawfulness of the voyage quite unnecessary, as it is invariably followed, as in this instance, by a very particular and detailed account of what this legal trade is to consist. The owner directed the trading to be conducted by the supercargo, who was to sell, at the ports on the Gold Coast, the outward cargo for gold, ivory, and palm-oil; adding that if the vessel required ballast it was to be taken on board, and she was then to go to Aquita for salt, with which she was to proceed immediately to Bahia. Why this vessel should need to ship ballast on this coast, in addition to that she had on board when leaving Bahia, unless her palm-oil trade had proved a failure, and when she was to fill up with salt, seemed difficult to understand, as salt is on board of most merchant vessels found to answer the purpose of ballast. The part of the voyage respecting the filling up with salt was, however, entirely overlooked by the master and mate at their original examinations, and it might therefore not unreasonably be supposed that this paragraph as to the salt was meant to apply to a much more questionable shipment to be made at Aquita, and that understanding it in this sense, the master and his mate had avoided alluding to it. The sentence immediately succeeding that relating to the purchase of salt, and concluding the owner's instructions, was confirmatory of our suspicions; it was as follows: "and to procure whatever else (besides the salt) which might be necessary for the use of the vessel, as well as to obtain provisions for your return, being careful to get sufficient for the purpose;" a warning that, had there been none other to feed but the crew of the vessel, would not have been required.
The master and mate concurred in declaring at their first examination that the outward cargo was to be disposed of for gold, ivory, palm-oil (as directed by the owner's instructions), omitting, however, as previously mentioned, the article of salt, and adding to the list, on their own authority, cash, mats, and cowries. This important omission of the salt the claimant's proctor, judiciously enough on his part, endeavoured to rectify as soon as he could, and accordingly the first of his special interrogatories to the master and mate referred to the description of the return cargo of this vessel, and both witnesses stated that it was to be salt, gold-dust, and palm-oil. How the article of salt should have originally escaped the master's recollection seemed more than extraordinary, as by a subsequent statement of this witness the vessel was to carry no less than from 60 to 62 tons of it, her entire burthen being only 77 tons. Both the master and the mate had, however, made further contradictions respecting the vessel's lading, the former stating that the outward cargo was not consigned to any one, although he had himself signed bills of lading at Bahia for the same as shipped by Almeida to the order of the supercargo and first mate, Carvalho; and the said mate suppressing the fact of his being a consignee.
Among the correspondence received from the master there were three letters addressed to different residents at Whydah, all of which were on the subject of the Slave Trade, and in one of them it was stated that four doubloons had been sent to buy a negress. As the letter relating to these four doubloons was in the master's custody, the Court thought it was not unreasonable to suppose that the doubloons had been also, and that therefore the master was plainly concerned in the Slave Trade. It would be also a fair inference from the above that Whydah, and not Aquita, was the ultimate port of destination of this vessel; and that slaves, and not salt, were to have been shipped, particularly when the owner's order, to be careful to get sufficient provisions for the return voyage, was kept in view.
In addition to the above there were also some papers and a log-book belonging to the Brazilian schooner "Picon" found on board this vessel, which clearly showed the "Picon" to have been engaged in the Slave Trade between Bahia and Whydah. How these very suspicious documents came on board the "Nova Fortuna" had not been explained, and the inference was therefore held to be unfavourable; nor had any statement been offered respecting the circumstances under which João Francisco Pereira transferred to the possession of the master his receipt for three slaves, held on his account by Joaquim Antonio da Silva, of Whydah, and the Court therefore concluded that the object of the master was to obtain the said slaves and carry them to Brazil in the "Nova Fortuna."
The log of that part of the voyage in which this vessel's trade was conducted had most improperly been kept on a loose sheet of paper, and really contained nothing more than when the vessel arrived off any particular port on the coast.
There was no account of the shipment of sand-ballast as alleged by the master, of the landing of the outward cargo, or of the embarkation of any of the return cargo, as there should have been in the vessel's log-book; whilst the brief account alluded to served to show that neither the master's nor the mate's account of the time they had been occupied in trading was correct. Of this, however, there could hardly have been any doubt when these two persons could not agree in the description of their joint proceedings. For instance, at Annamaboe the master said they remained five days, whilst the mate declared it was only three days; the master, that they went next to Appam, the mate, to Fort Kormantine; the master, that they traded at Appam with Englishmen from Annamaboe, the mate, that they traded only with the natives; the master, that they were ten days at British Accra, and bought cowries, the mate, that they were five days there, and sold cowries.
Both the bills of lading appeared after their completion to have added to them 46 barrels of tobacco, but this the master denied; whilst neither of them included a bale of foreign goods mentioned in the manifest. Indeed throughout it was observable that the papers of the voyage were deficient in that openness and clearness which would have obtained for them a bond fide character.
Taking all these circumstances into consideration, together with the fact of this vessel carrying a very large crew for her tonnage, and the well-known connexion of Almeida and Costa, her owner and supercargo, as well as that of her mate, Carvalho, for some time past with the Slave Trade, the Court declared it could not come to any other conclusion than that the "Nova Fortuna" when seized was concerned in the Slave Trade, and she was accordingly condemned.
Sierra Leone, July 22, 1841.
|(Signed)||WALTER W. LEWIS.|
|M. L. MELVILLE.|