following description of Freetown
in January, 1794, is taken from the logbook kept by Samuel Gamble,
the ship Sandown,
a slaver trading from Gravesend to the West
way of the West Coast, owned by a Mr. Cameron and chartered for £125 a
she left England, the Press Gang from H.M.S. Iris—short of sailors to
French—relieved the Sandown
of some of her crew, whilst excisemen also came aboard to
a puncheon of rum which the remainder had broached in dock,
thereby violating the excise regulations. She finally departed in April
Portsmouth with a West Indies convoy of seventy-six sail; off the Iles
she was attacked by a privateer, but on the 3rd January she arrived at
Freetown, after all the crew save the Captain and the doctor had fallen
whilst up the River Nunez. Somewhere in this area Gamble saw and drew a
of an empoldered rice plantation.
Zachary Macaulay—mentioned below—only assumed that office in March,
succeeding Mr. William Dawes who went home in ill-health. When Gamble
him, Macaulay’s official position was that of second in Council, but be
well have been Acting Governor if Dawes was sick.
Venus was the Sandown’s brig, used for voyaging
up the creeks and rivers to
purchase slaves for the parent ship; the Mary was, presumably, her Jollyboat.
must have been hoping to make a large profit on his fresh provisions,
of 850 tons, had carried
food, as well as frames for houses and other building material, for the
the recently arrived Nova Scotians. These were not at all happily
this time; indeed the whole Colony, from the Governor downwards, was
with intrigue and dissatisfaction. This makes Gamble’s account of
interest, since so many of the other contemporary reports are biased
to the writer’s prejudices. Gamble had no stake in the country and
recorded what he saw dispassionately.
is likely that there were not usually so many ships in the harbour at
seasons. December and January were the great slave-dealing months, as
himself says :—
" Representation of a Lott of Fullows (i.e. Fulahs)
Slaves for a Sale to the
which generaly commences anually in December, or early in January,
from coming down sooner by the rivers being ôverflow’d....
sometimes come upwards of one Thousand Miles out of the interior part
of the Country... Their Principal Places of trade are Gambia,
Rio Nunez and the Mandingo Country. Fifteen hundred of them have been
here in one Season. They are of (i.e. off) in May as the rains set in
. . . Their darling Comodity that they get from the Whites is salt
feed their Cattle with to prevent them from certain disorders....
Tobacco and Beads
are next in demand. Guns, Powder and Cloth not so great.”
it was at this time that Messrs. Watt and Winterbottom, Sierra Leone
servants, were sent by the Governor and Council to Timbo, capital of
kingdom, to undertake the Colony’s first negotiations for reciprocal
they must have travelled with the returning slave dealers.
which Gamble describes at this time had some 1,400 inhabitants
“Fri. 3rd Jan ‘94. Light baffling
winds, at the
highlands of Sierra Leone
in sight. At 9 came too off FreeTown the New Settlement.
Do. At went on shore
introduced by the Surgeon of the Settlement to H.E. Governor Z.
informed me of the disagreable news (of the Brig Venus being cut of at CapeMount with 105 slaves on
and din’d with the governor. I find their factory ship the York
is lately burn’d by the Carelesness of the Cook and their loss
near Twenty Thousand Pounds. Vessels here the Harpy of London and 7
different sizes. At 5 P.M. Capt. Treefall of the Harpy went on board
and examined some of the Beef and Pork. They seem’d not to like it
the Price) so got under way for BanceIsland.
Sunday 5th Jan. 1794.
on shore to the Agent Mr. Tilley, found here (i.e. Bunce Island) the Eleanor
and Eliza Capt. Hallsa of New York, the Morning Star of Bristol, a French
Prize Brig and several other craft.
6th Do. Mr. Tilley inform’d me that owing to taking the American up
to sail with 150 Slaves on the 14th Inst.
not lay in his power to let Mr. Walker have any slaves. Tuesday 7th to
Do. Receiv’d a Letter from Mr. McCauley intimating that if I would
send the Provisions down he would take them at the before mentioned
from Mr. Tilley 2 Puneheons Rum 5 Empty water Puncheons, 10 Prs. Leg
Irons, and 10
Handcuffs; went down to the Settlement landed the Beef and Pork. Sold
and left three in the Stores till call’d for.
Principall Buildings are the Governor’s House which is very neat and
well situated on a rising imminence having both the sea and land
their greatest purity. Protected by a Platform of 4 Nine Pounders and
two 5 ½
pounder Howisers. The Court House is a large commodious building, when
will surpass any of the others, very much built in the West India Stile
all round. The Church is a plain neat structure large enough for a
of 1,000 people with a Copula and bell in it. In the inside are seats
of Pews (owing to the heat of the Country), the Schoolmaster is their
and his Usher Clerk. They appear very Religious attending Service by 3
in the Morning and till Eleven at night, four, or five, times per week.
. . there
is likewise a range of Buildings occupied by the Physician, Doctors,
with several other neat little Houses that the Commercial Agent,
Cashiers, Storekeeper and their Clerks lives in (there is only one
of Consequence, the Storekeeper’s Wife amongst them). There is two
good Hospitals but as for the rest they are by far worse than the
hutts I ever saw in Africa.
Planters complain that the Buggabug or large black Ant destroys all
Canes and other plants so that there is nothing likely to come to
perfection except the
Cotton or Indigo plants, by which means Ivory, Camwood, Gum, Pepper,
Indigo and Cotton are their staple commodities for remittance for such
expenses they have been and are daily at which I am informed, is not
two hundred pounds per day and sixty two Thousand and six hundred
year exclusive of accidental losses. Nor is the land half clear’d or
Warehouses scarcely the foundations laid, they are imploy’d building
around the confines of their Libertys to keep King Jimmy and people in
were very riotous on Christmas day last, some of
whom struck the Lieutenant Governor for refusing them
In fact nothing but the great guns and vessels keep them under any
subjection. They are . . . not under much subordination to their
chiefly by hunting, fishing, or plunder which they sell to the settlers
exhorbitant price for their (? ancient) coin. 1 penny pieces 10 Cents,
or 6d. 20
Cents, or 1s. 50 Cents, or 2/6 100 Cents, or 5/— Currency.
Meckanics imploy’d have 3/— per day and have a lot of land1
to build upon, with
priviledge of Church and Hospital. The Labourers appear a wretched set,
per day with a lot of land, they go to work at Sunrise
by the tolling of a large Bell.
go to Breakfast at 8 o’Clock, at 9 the Bell tolls they go to work
at 11 and go again at 2 till sun set. They fire a morning and evening
here is very dear, Vennison or Mutton 7d. per lb. Salt Pork 8d., Eggs
dozen. Vegetables in proportion. Here is two Charity Schools, one for
other for Girls. The Boys are learn’d to Read, Write, Arithmetic and
Churchmusic. Girls Reading, Singing, and Needlework are about 50 in
the Centre of the Town is a Platform and Flagstaff
defended by twelve 12 Pounders and at the West end or landing place is
platform of 9 12 pounders all kept in excellent order. This place is
to Violent gusts of Wind Thunder Lightning and heavy rain throughout
attracted by the very high Mountains contigious to it.” 2
all this enterprise, in spite of the fine guns, was to fall a prey to
French before the end of the year. On 28th September, with English
vessels, flying the English flag, and with sailors on deck disguised as
tars, a French fleet sailed openly into Freetown
harbour. Suspecting nothing, the Colonists were caught in the open by
guns. The town was sacked and the buildings, including the Church, were
livestock, even domestic cats, were slaughtered. The Harpy, an armed Sierra
Leone Company vessel, which had sailed to England soon after Gamble saw
the River, returned at the end of September to fall into French hands
lost with all her cargo of foodstuffs. In fact the Colonists would have
had not the French Admiral sent ashore provisions, before sailing away
South on the 13th October, after sacking BunceIsland.
a plot of land, allotted to them. 2 Greenwich
Library MS. 53/O35