Full and true account, of the cruel sufferings of the passengers on board the brig Nancy bound for New-York

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A FULL and TRUE ACCOUNT, of the cruel Sufferings of the Passengers on board the BRIG NANCY bound for NEW-YORK being, a Relation of the barbarous and inhuman Treatment, which those EMIGRANTS, met with from the Captain and Ships Crew, by which near one hundred Passengers died before their Arrival at that Place in December last.

THAT the Brig belonged to Sunderland in Yorkshire; that the owners, or freighters concerned the voyage, were W———m P--rk -r, of London, merchant and his brother, J. P--rk-r, of Bicout island, in Scotland; and the undertaker of agent for fitting out the vessel, shipping and accommodating the passengers, &c. was R———t Gr-- y, of Southerland: that by agreement the vessel was to have been ready to set out early in the Summer, and tho’ it was expected, that the owners, and contracter would of their own accord provide every necessary of provision, and accomodation for the passengers, and that the captain would see such provision made, yet Mr. M‘Coy (one of the principal passengers, who embarked, with his Wife and children) prudently took care, that a written contract, mentioning the principal articles of provision, and allowance, for the people on the passage, &c. should be signed by the undertaker, and captain, before embarkation; and to the premeditated breach of contract, in the time of setting out (which was not till the 17th of September, when the ground was covered with snow) in want of provisions, and necessaries, and in unmanly and cruel usage on the voyage, was apparently, owing the distress that succecded, the loss of more than a third of the lives on board, and manifest danger of all the rest.

After embarking, the first inconveniency that presented itself, was the want of room; the vessel (burden about 150 tons) being too small for the accommodation of 300 passengers; nor was she properly fitted with conveniencies, for stowage, cleanliness, cooking, &c. The passengers soon experienced a numerous train of wants, and inconveniencies, arising from mere negligence, or design, in the undertakers. There were ndeed in the hold, conveniencies made for the support and division of the beds; but between decks, the whole space was left entirely open, so that the people could only lodge on the floor of the deck, and when the ship rolled, were thrown all together, and tumbled from side to side. Soon after they put to sea, the weather proving stormy, and the people, as usual, being all sea-sick, had little inclination to eat; but the wind being contrary, they put into the harbour of Stromness, in the Orkneys, where finding the vessel had no pot or kettle, sufficient for the number of passengers, they proposed to buy one there, at their own expence; but the captain would not agree to it, telling them, that if they had such a one on board, he had no conveniency in the vessel, for using it. Thus unprovided, they set out again, when the wind continued contrary, and exceedingly stormy for about 6 weeks together, during which time they were beating off the Lewes and Shetland isles, and the coast of Ireland, generally in sight of land, and could, at any time, have put into those places, as they earnestly entreated the captain to do, but he refused, saying he was unacquainted with the coast. They assured him, if he would put in, they would pay all the expence of a pilot; but he absolutely refused, and still kept off at sea. During this time, the people were in a most uncomfortable, melancholy, and distressed situation, through sickness, want of conveniencies, and necessaries, and the unwholesomness and stench of the place, together with the brutal and cruel behaviour of the captain, mate, and most of the crew. After the sea sickness began to abate, and the people to want nourishment, as there was no appearance of cooking, or any provision for them, the captain was spoke to about it, and desired to order their provision to be dressed. He said he had no cook; and when they expressed their surprise, that he should undertake to bring out such a number of passengers, without having a cook on board; he said he had been told a cook was unnecessary, for that they could cook for themselves. However, he ordered them pretty near their proper allowance, and as they had been some weeks without meat, two pound one half each full passenger which was due to them, was delivered, and this was all the meat they had during the whole passage.——— They made the best shift they could, to cook this meat; but it was so ill done, and so salt, that it afforded but little satisfaction and so increased their thirst, that they drank an unusual quantity of water; on which the captain took occasion to advise with some of the principal passengers, whether (as the wind continued still unfavourable, and threatened a long passage) it would not be expedient, to withhold from the passengers (till they should have made some progress on their voyage) meat, which while they continued unwell, did them little service, and by increasing their thirst, might occasion the water as well as the meat, to fall short. The persons consulted, readily concurred with the captain in opinion, that for the present, meat might be withheld. The captain and seamen appropriated the cabin to themselves, where they lived plentifully on good provisions, while the passengers were confined to black raw musty meal, and stinking water.—The door of the bulk head between the companion, and the deck where the passengers were, was strongly fastened with nails, so that the passengers had no air but what came in at the hatches, which occasioned them to be left open, in all weathers; and as no contrivance was made to secure them from the seas, that beat into the vessel, whose torrents would frequently pour down, whereby the passengers, sick, scarce able to crawl, and some of them dying, were sometimes almost drowned, while their cries and distress, were made matter of laughter and derision, to the inhuman captain, and his crew, who while the helm was lashed, and the vessel lying to, for a week or two days successively, very unconcerned took their rest, without affording the least assistance to the distressed sufferers on board, who in the darkness of the night, could not obtain a spark of light to see how to shelter themselves, or procure dry clothes.

When the wind at last came fair, and they were proceeding on the voyage, the people who had been so long confined to the starving miserable diet of raw meal and water, but now extremely solicitous for meat, for which they were almost in a longing condition, and as there was a considerable quantity of their stipulated allowance due to them; they desired it might then be deliver’d. The captain said he had but a bare sufficiency for himself and seamen, and could spare none,—the passengers were amazed, and reminded him of the agreement signed with his own hand,—but told him if he was really scant, they would be content with a small part of their due, if it was only a pound or less to each. But no entreaties could prevail on him to let them have a morsel. When he was reminded of his contract, and that on his arrival he would be called to account for his conduct, he discovered some uneasy apprehensions, and swore he had a great mind to put into the first land he could make, and with the seamen quit the vessel altogether, leaving the passengers to shift for themselves.

His behaviour gave them reason to think he had really such a design in contemplation, and that on their approach to any land, he would have hoisted out the longboat and left them, pretending they were mutinous; and his conduct seemed calculated to make them so; for he, his mate, and most of the crew, used the women and children, and indeed all the passengers, with a utmost brutality, contempt and insult.

When the husband of a poor sick woman begged for a little meat for his wife, who almost longed for it, he was not only refused but insulted; after they had regaled themselves with meat, they would offer the bare bones to the people, and to this man in particular, asking, If they would buy some fat beef? and would order the bones and leavings of their meals to be thrown down, into the hold, "for the Scotch negroes;" and while these injured people were suffering variery of distresses, wounded in their most tender connections, as well as by personal wrongs and insults, it was hard to restrain themselves from making the unmanly captain and his crew feel the immediate effects of their resentment: but it was prudently represented to them, that bad as the captain and his crew were, in their safety that of all the passengers was involved; that the least violence offered to them, would be construed into a mutiny, and would give him an excuse for his conduct, and an opportunity to throw all the blame upon them.

These reasons had due weight, and prevented the least offer of violence to the captain or his men, whose brutality and cruelty secmcd to incrcase, and was continued during the whole voyagc, as if intended to provoke the people to mutiny, that he might thereby be furnished with an excuse for his conduct. Mean while the sickness, mortality and distress of the people was continued and augmented by the ill usage that occasioned it.

On some damage being done by the sea to the cabouse or stand where the largest pot was fixed, it was said to be rendered useless, and was stowed away in the hold, the other pot, which was small, and which the passengers were allowed to use only 4 or 5 hours in the day, afforded very few of them an opportunity of boiling their meal and water, or even warming their water. When they crawled up to the deck, to get a little air, or near the fire to warm themselves, or their food, they were abused with the grossest language, and pushed, kicked, cuffed, or beaten away: one poor woman, who with a little skillet, was warming some of her meal and water at the fire, by the tossing of the ship, or some other accident, happening to spil some of it on deck, was seized by the shoulders, and dragged over it to wipe it up with her clothes, and the rest of her mess thrown over board. Another woman was struck on the breast by one of the men, and so much hurt, that her life is stil in danger. A poor sick child, who could not drink the water afforded them, which stunk intolerably, earnestly begged for a little good warm water, and not being not able to obtain it, continued to call for it till he died. Another poor child having got to the fire, the mate took him up, and dallied him against the deck, whereby he was much hurt, and confined to his bed till he died, about a fortnight after. A young man who used sometimes to assist the seamen in working the vessel, being wanted for that purpose when he was below, eating his unsavoury meal, the captain ran to him seized the hair of his head, and by it dragged him up four steps to the deck, throwing to the wind a handful of the hair which was left in his hand.

It would be tedious to recount all the injuries those poor people suffered from this barbarous captain, his mate, second mate, and most of his men. Some of them indeed, for a high price sold some of their provision to such passengers as were able to purchase it, and one man who seemed to compassionate their case, and when he had an opportunity gave some of them relief and assistance, for this was severely used and beaten by the captain and the rest of his crew, who would not even assist them in drawing up and committing their dead to a watery grave without a fee of 6 pence for each.

Of above 50 children at the breast, and not more than 4 years of age, all died but one, and many of the mothers; 7 women who were delivered on board, all died but one, with all the children. When some of them, in the captain’s hearing, lamented the loss of so many lives, he said with great earnestness, he wished to God they were all dead, and that then he could go to Carolina without calling at New York. Many of the people believed that he not only wished their death, but would contribute towards it all in his power, and even that he set out with such a disposition from the first—for the vessel was entirely unprovided with many necessaries for the preservation of the passengers, and the necessaries he had, he withheld from them. He had no lantern, nor spy glass, nor candles, even for himself, except a small parcel insufficient for the passage, and if he had not been supplied by one of the passengers, who happened to bring a box with him, there would have been none to direct the sailing of the vessel.

Notwithstanding the agreement of half a pound of beef per week for each passenger, it appeared there were but 6 barrels shipped in all. There were indeed on board 6 large hhds. of good meal, but these it seemed he intended to convert to his own use, for he gave the passengers none of it; he had also for himself and crew, good water in plenty, but gave the passengers only corrupted stinking water, that was of itself sufficient, in human probability, to have destroyed their lives, with coarse, black musty meal, hardly fit for swine to eat, and this to be eaten raw! In short, it seems wonderful that any of them escaped with life, and contrary to his inclination that they did so; for he not only declared it by his actions, but more than once plainly by his words.

On the vessel’s arrival at New-York, the distress of the passengers, and captain’s behaviour to them, was unaccountably, for about ten days, almost entirely unknown in the city. And when at last it came by degrees in part to be known, and the captain was questioned in some parts of his conduct, and made to restore to the surviving sufferers, the deficiency in their allowance of beef and meal; yet by some means or other, that perhaps ought to be enquired into, some material witnesses were, by design or accident, out of the way, and did not appear against him; so that he was permitted to go at large, till Friday evening last, when he in a private and clandestine manner, got on board and went off with his vessel in the night. It is said he is gone to North Carolina; and as it is hoped there is hardly such another master of a vessel, and crew, in his Majesty’s dominions; this account is published, that he may be known in all parts of them.

The minds of the inhabitants were never known to be more tenderly affected than by the case of the unfortunate people lately landed here from the brigantine Nancy, capt. S———h, from the Highlands of Scotland. When they embarked, their numbers were about 280; their allowance was to have been one pound of meal each day, and half a pound of beef each week: but, strange to relate, the whole store of beef amounted only to six barrels for the voyage, in which sixteen weeks were expended. During the whole passage, their principal sustenance was pea meal, mixed with bear meal; for they were denied their favourite aliment (oatmeal) and there was a stock of it on board. Their water was put into foul wine casks, which turned it sour, and occasioned a violent dysentery: about eighty of their number died of this disease: and, incredible to say it, there was sixpence sterling exacted from the living for the liberty of lifting each lifeless corpse over the side, and depositing it in a watery grave. In short, there appear circumstances uncommonly savage and brutal in the treatment of these wretched passengers. The contractors in Scotland are very highly censured; for their miserable manner of victualling the vessel could hardly be accompanied with orders to treat the poor folks with cruelty and insupportable insolences which they loudly complain of.

When their forlorn condition was communicated to the rev. Dr. Auchmuty, rector of Trinity, and to the other clergy of the church of England, they, last Sunday, very pathetically recommended it to their three several congregations, from whose cordial beneficence resulted contributions mounting to upwards of 120 l. and a very respectable sum had the preceeding Sunday been collected fort he same benevolent purpose, from the congregation of the Protestant dissenters. The money has been entrusted to the hands of gentlemen who are applying it in the most effectual way to recruit and relieve these real objects of charity and protection.


This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.