Stages of the voyage

Testimony against first mate Cornelis van Kerkhove

Testimonies against the first mate Cornelis van Kerkhove, employed to the Commercial Company’s frigate Haast u langzaam.

We, undersigned, state the following, as requested by captain Jan Menkenveldt.

Article 1

On the last day of December 1764 the son of the aforementioned first mate celebrated his birthday. The first mate asked the captain whether they could have a glass of wine in celebration of his son’s birthday, which the captain allowed. This happened behind the cabin, during the dog watch. The captain and the master surgeon having gone to their bunks, the aforementioned first mate drank himself drunk and was walking drunkenly on the aft deck with a rapier in his hand, cursing and swearing, threatening the master surgeon that if he even dared to come up on deck he would stab him and hew him to pieces. All the while he was slashing the wheel of the helm so badly that he broke off a piece. Yes, he even wanted to go downstairs to murder the surgeon.

Article 2

On January 1st, 1765, in the evening after the watch had commenced, the crew was emboldened to sing, contrary to the captain’s orders. On another day, in the morning, they refused to set up the spoelboom [probably a beam used to collect water from the sea to clean the decks]. The aforementioned first mate went to them, and said, “Boys, set up the spoelboom. If you do not want to do it for the captain, do it for me.” And he stirred up the crew against the captain and the other officers so much, yes, even to the point that they should throw the surgeon over board.

Article 3

On January 18, 1765, we were anchored at Cape Lahoe, the captain got into an argument with the aforementioned first mate over a negro woman. In the evening the captain was sitting at the table, saying the he certainly knew there were women or whores in the ship, at which the aforementioned told the captain, “You should not see or know this.” At which the captain answered, “But I do see it, and I have seen it for a long time, it is only boy’s talk on your part.”
At which the captain punched him, and told him, “Kerkhoven, be silent.”
Because of the blow he hurt his head against two keys which were hanging on the starboard side of the cabin. At this the aforementioned first mate told the captain with threats and curses, “I will make you pay for that, you did that with good reason.” He demanded that the captain engage him with swords and loaded pistols, and urged the third mate and others to write up a statement.

Article 4

N.B. two or three weeks before this time the aforementioned first mate was with the captain, and asked for a woman or whore for every sailor, which the captain refused. At this the first mate said it would be for the good of the slaves, and that he had seen it with other captains. The captain answered that he had never made it his habit, and that he would not permit it.

Article 5

Aforementioned first mate has been guilty multiple times of using God’s name in vain, mocking God and His blessing. At the same time it turned out that when we were eating at the table, that aforementioned first mate often would not brook any prayer. It was the duty of the captain’s son to pray for the blessing of God Almighty over the means of satisfying our bodily needs, granted us by God. Sometimes he stammered a bit in his prayer, and it would take a long time; then the first mate would stand, his face raised up, erupting with these words, “Sod your bloody prayer, taking such a long time before the damned dinner.” Unbecoming for a christian.

Article 6

On April 4, at the roadstead of Elmina, the captain was ashore to conduct some private slave trading and to seek profits for his lord and master. The aforementioned first mate had the nerve to leave the ship and go to another ship, which was a Portuguese, thereby leaving only the third mate on board, for the second mate had gone to Cape Lahoe with the boat. When he left the ship he took a negro woman with him as his whore, leaving the ship with 239 slaves under the command of a third mate. Already the sky was beset with a heavy trade wind – that evening we even found that he, the first mate, could barely get back on board. Also when he had drawn first watch of the night ashore, he always went to his bunk and let a sailor take over the watch, named Davidt Goedendrop, the cook.

Article 7

On May 1, 1765, at Cormantine, aforementioned first mate drank himself drunk at night, and walked with his naked body along the deck, sword in hand, threatening to shoot a French ship that was anchored there into the ground. We had a blunderbuss, which was set up behind the tent, in case of insurrection among the slaves, from which God has preserved us thus far. He took the blunderbuss and was aiming it at the aforementioned French ship. He wanted to pull the trigger, but was pulled back. He stood op again and went to the gun chest again, wanting any kind of gun, from which was prevented. Then he walked back and forth across the tent, doing nothing but cursing and swearing, and hitting the steering wheel with this sword. Then he went below the tent violently and forcefully, wanting to load a canon to shoot the aforementioned Frenchman into the ground.

At this time our master surgeon Petrus Couperus was sick, and had been suck when we were on our crossing, during which the aforementioned first mate revealed his unchristian and barbaric rage, ordering the boys to not give him anything, nor help in any way. Yes, he even told the surgeon’s mate Abraham Heron, “Give your mate something that he will die quickly, you now have a good chance, there won’t be any consequences and the heaviness that’s in it will be mine.

Article 8

On July 12, 1765, at Rio de Gabon, our captain was on board the ship The Europe from Vlissingen, commanded by captain J. Dankers, in order to bring some letters for the Honorable Directors, and also in order to settle a bill of eleven slaves which he had bought from him. Aforementioned first mate got drunk and made the slaves dance until 7 or 8 in the evening, walking back and forth on the deck, again holding the ‘boer met singels’ [a type of whip] in his hands, hitting anyone in his way. We were in the utmost distress, since the slaves here had a very good opportunity to turn the ship into a bloodbath and fill the waist with murder.

At nine hours the captain came on board, whom he [the first mate] received at the ladder. The captain went aft to smoke another pipe of tobacco, and the aforementioned first mate also went aft, and told the captain, “Dear father, old man, did you see any another officer on deck but me?” He convinced the captain that they had all already gone to their bunks, which was true, since he had chased them there with his wanton swearing and cursing. Yet the captain was unable to understand his [Kerkhoven’s] reasoning because he was still drunk, calling the captain nothing but, “Father dear, I will protect you, but others will seek to betray you.” But the captain told him nothing but to go to his bunk, that all things would settle down. The captain did not yet know he was drunk.

Article 9

According to the attached statements of the boatswain and some sailors he had a disorderly command and had done some excessive things, to which is added 1 more article, article 7. And here it is also reported that aforementioned first mate went for provisions with the boat in Rio de Gabon, and had taken several sailors with, namely Michiel van Repelen and Willem van Heusden and Willem Karel. He gave away the sailor Willem van Heusden as security to the negroes, for the daughter of a king, whom he took in the boat to slake his lecherous lust.

Shortly after the events of this statement, boatswain Pieter Pieterse came aft, and complained to the captain about the first mate, that if he would not stop cursing and swearing and keeping such a disorderly command, that they did not want to bear command from him anymore, which the captain allowed him. Yet, since he did listen, the boatswain again went aft, and said that the crew would not listen to him anymore, then the captain took his command away from him, and took over the watch himself.

In that time he was also sick, and pretended to be blind, which was caused by his excessive wenching and whoring, because of which he lost his strength. The captain could also no longer entrust him with a watch, since he always slept on the watch, both day and night. This state of affairs continued until we entered Rio Suriname at Paramaribo on September 9, 1765. He went ashore, still ill, and the captain turned over the command to the second mate Martinus Cusee, who was in command until November 12, 1765, when the captain came back on board again.

We undersigned officers and sailors, sailing on the Commercial Company’s frigate The Make Haste Slowly, declare unanimously that these foregoing nine articles are true, and will present ourselves accountable under oath, should the need require it.

Actum at the Commercial Company’s Frigate The Make Haste Slowly

November 13, 1765,
Sailing at northern latitude 30 degrees 6 minutes, longitude 329 degrees 13 minutes.

Second mate Maartijn Cusee
Third mate Cornelis van Kakom
Petrus Couperus
Pieter Pietersen
Jacob Vermeij
Piter van Hauten
Master cooper Christian Pluss, W.W., kok
Second mate Teunis Teunis, Abraham Heron
Sailors Adriaan de Visser
David Goedendorp
X This is the signature of Coenraet Meijer
X This is the signature of Willen Carel
Willem Gessen
Corneles Ulbes
X This is the signature of Jan Cool
Peieter Reinhardt
Willem van Huijsden
Willem Cuningham
Benjamin Jardis Mammen
Adriaan van Simmeren
X This is the signature of van Jan Ceet
Jan Godlieb Stroock