Stages of the voyage

Résumé letters by Adriaan de Visser

Copy made from a later written by Arriaan de Visser, author of Captain Jan Minkelveld

Honorable Sir,

I take the liberty to address Your Honor, whom I know only as my lord and master, but also as my benefactor and wordly judge, through writing and under the eye of the all-knowing God.

On account of affairs which took place during this voyage, which I, who am no more than the least of Your Honorable servants, need to make public. I will show my duty of loyalty, although my captain, Your Honor, whom I thought would treat me as a father his child, which he had promised me, but which I, Your Honor, have experienced differently. For from the beginning of the voyage onwards, the aforementioned captain has not noted me more than one of the cabin boys, all of which I bore and endured with patience up until Axim. There the captain had been ashore, and had come back on board drunk with his assistant Groothuisen, who then left the ship. The captain, after he had brought him until the accommodation ladder and returned to the cabin again, started to swear and curse at me that the cabin was not clean enough, although I had only just scrubbed it the other day. Thus, Your Honor, it shows that along the coast of Africa, when the captain had been ashore, and come back on board he again, he had been drunk. Then he said, “Then I only received this much gold”, which was about 15 to 16 mark, which I gave him in a box.

Today he told to call the first mate inside, saying to that same mate Kerkhoven, “There is 2 ounce gold of that overproduced gunpowder”, all of which I had received. And Your Honor, should I reveal all that passed between the captain and the first mate in the cabin, I would need a full book of paper. Though, Your Honor, a servant should know more than he says, but, Your Honor, should I speak in defense of my person, this is not how the captain treated me after I treated him. Since he, when he was sick, which took almost the whole voyage, I had to remain by his bunk and miss my own sleep, which was my duty, Your Honor, and I would have done it with pleasure if the captain had treated me according to the reason of human society. Also when the captain was in his bunk, he continuously called for his wife and child, that they would not have enough to live on. I don’t think he was thinking much about the state of his soul, as he said, “But I go in peace to eternity, if only I know that I have left my wife enough”. Whose hair would not stand on end on hearing such a thing from a person who is deathly sick?

And may I add, Your Honor, that I heard even more gruesome sins and blasphemous words from the captain as on 2nd Christmas Day 1765. Someone was standing on deck and the captain was sitting in front of the cabin, and he said, “Today it is again the 2nd Holy Christmas Day,” at which the captain said, “The 2nd or the 3rd day, I know of no 2nd Christmas day, every day is the same for me, I know of no Holy days.”

And this he also showed in his actions, for he never came to prayers, but with a pipe smoking tobacco. And when he got up from his bunk he was always ill-tempered, not failing to always curse and swear at me, which continued for the entire voyage, but was worst when he made up the account of the cargo goods and was not satisfied with receiving 40 mark gold for 7 000 guilders worth of cargo, but swearing and cursing that they had this many goods left, that being 10 000 guilders. Of this I sold 3 000 at Paramaribo, having had to walk through the entire city each day while the captain took his pleasure and went to the plantations. When he came back from them full and drunk, he would have his son call me from the warehouse, since it was already 11 or 12 at night, sometimes even 2 or 3. He would complain of pain his body, vomit, and spew out only red wine. Then he would get up again at dawn, and go everywhere again. This happened not once, but 3 to four different times.

He used a Jew named Jacob Soesman to look after his affairs, due to the private sale of slaves, since he paid 200 guilders for them, using the Company’s money. The captain asked me how many slaves were dead, and I answered, “Captain, according to the doctor it is 41, and he would know, but according to Kerkhoven’s log it’s 42.” I leave to the judgment of Your Honor, whether I did not speak rightly with my first answer.

While I began work after the sale of the slaves, since already 256 had been sold, 142 at three public auctions and 114 privately, but the captain disputed this, saying, “42 is the right number”, and told me, “There should be 2 extra”. At which I answered, “Captain, it’s not possible to have two extra.” He answered again, “Then I will calculate them. If there is that woman with her young who were sold first, you should put her down for 2, and then leave the number 42.”

And having reported this to Their Honor I am willing to confirm its truth under the eye of the all-knowing God and before the eye of Your Honor, as well as, Your Honor, that the captain had the aforementioned Jew draw up a final account. He asked the captain whether he had put in some money for cards, at which the captain answered, “Yes Soesman, to the amount of 3000 guilders.” But I can testify in truth that the captain did not receive more than 375 guilders of card money from the Company’s account. When the account was finished they sealed it in a letter and sent it to Your Honor.

Also, Honorable Sir, when everything was in a desolate state due to the fact that the first mate was fired and we were sailing again, the captain checked his goods again, and said he was missing some items, those being two pieces of cambric which had come on board at ‘t Flakke with the salvage men. Yet the captain, standing with his carriage by the castle, had sent it ashore, and I have not seen it on board since. This the captain disputes, saying that I helped them disappear, so I hope that, God-willing and we are alive, I will more information on this, and that captain M.V. can see for himself my loyalty or disloyalty.

On the coast the first mate often resisted prayer, saying at the table, “If you want trouble, try and pray,” and that before the meal. He also frequently walked along the deck at night, fully drunk, holding the white pick axes in his hand, while the captain lay drunk in his cabin. This also happened at the roadstead of Cormantine, where they went on board a Frenchman together to buy a barrel of wine.

I will also show Their Honor that the captain could have bought more slaves at Elmina if he would only been willing to add a piece of silk broulis lambij for each slave. The captain still had 40 pieces, which he had held back at Cape Lahoe, instead using the linen which he sold to the Portuguese in exchange for tobacco, which was in turn sold for gold, as well as the silk broulis lambij at Elmina. This is the reason, Your Honor, that the captain could not get slaves, which the negroes told me, saying that the captain had sold the silk textiles to the general for gold, that he did not want slaves, but had only come for gold.

And if I wanted to say more, I would need more time and paper, so I leave it to the judgment of Their Honor.