Stages of the voyage

Instructions for the captain – transcription

Instructions for the captain Jan Menkenveld, who commands the snowship The Unity, owned by the Commercie Compagnie of the city of Middenburg in Zeeland and destined for the shores of Africa and the Caribbean, with which the aforementioned captain should comply.

The captain will take good care to ensure good discipline on board and avert all cursing and swearing.  Instead prayers will be offered to God Almighty in the morning and evening to obtain his blessing for the coming journey.

As soon as you have readied everything and have been sent out by the directors of the Commercie Compagnie, you will sail out to sea with the first good wind and weather, for which a skilled man will come on board to guide you out to open sea. Once at open sea, you will attempt to carefully bypass the Strait of Dover in order to, if possible, sail through the Canal without touching land and without stopping in England, both in leaving and in coming back. However, if in case of pressing need you have no choice but to enter some English harbors and are in need of some money, you may address yourself to the gentlemen you will find on the list of correspondents at the English sea harbors, which will be given to you. In London, these are the gentlemen Herman and John Berens. In the West, if you are in need of assistance, you should address yourself to master Pieter van der Werff in Suriname, to master Lewis Puech in St. Eustatius and to master Pieter Kok Janszoon in Curacao. Always attempt to continue your journey as soon as possible to your destination.

First you will attempt to call in at port Caap Monte, located at 6 degr. 28 minutes.  There you will trade as many slaves as is feasible. From there up to Caap des Palmes you will go to all ports where it is possible to trade for slaves, trading back and forth along the coast and keeping this up for as long as possible. Provide yourself with a good load of rice to increase your food supply.

And when you cannot procure any more slaves on the Upper Coast, it will be necessary for you to move from Caap des Palmes or from the Greincust until Caap Lahoe and from there until Caap Tres Puntes, trading for as many slaves as are available and calling at all ports.  You will continue your journey and trading as soon as is possible.

As soon as you have all your slaves, you will sail to the colony as soon as possible, as your further particular instructions indicate.

It is highly recommended to use all caution to ensure that no one will enter the hold with fire or light, especially not in the cargo hold, unless it is necessary.  If so, they should enter with a firmly enclosed lantern and take care not to be caught off guard by the negroes.  To that end, have your handgun ready in strategic positions. The captain and officers should at all times keep a good watch with all prudence so that  there will be no chaos. In addition, take good care regarding the cleaning of the slave’s food kettle, and make sure that the slaves are well-nourished and taken care of.

You will be forced to show your passport to ships both of the West-Indische Compagnie and others, in accordance with the contents of the  regulations.  Nevertheless, take the precaution of asking those who desire this to come on board in order to view them. Yet you should not trust flags and not be involved with them, let them pass by or sail off.   At no time will you come alongside of, let alone fight, take over, or accept help from any un-free ship along the coast, because we can expect no advantage, but only much shame in doing so.

You must not fail to write to the directors on all occasions, declaring the state of your ship and people, the trade you have conducted and the trade you will conduct later.  Also always include a copy of the previous letter.

The captain will be obliged to conduct trade with the consent of the first officer insofar as that all evenings he will meet with the second officer, telling him of the goods which were traded that day, what they were traded for and where they were put away. This should be done so that if the captain dies unexpectedly, the first officer will, on his return, be able to give a detailed memory of  the day-by-day doings  to the directors, giving a good report and accountability of the conducted trade.  Therefore, the first officer is hereby ordered to strictly adhere to these, or, in case of mistakes, to forfeit his monthly salaries to this Compagnie.  He is also strictly ordered not to provide any loan or such to anyone, whoever it may be, on the coast or in the colony.  Any such will be for his own costs and moreover, as before, will forfeit all the monthly salaries and bonuses.

The directors have agreed that when the captain passes away, the books should be returned home in the same state as they were given. Also, the captain or whoever takes over command at his death, is expressly charged and ordered to balance the books and the journal every day, without taking God’s holy name in vain at the end of each daily entry which usually happens. If this happens, the one responsible will be fined. In case he will have passed away at the time of return, his monthly salaries will not be paid to the family.

When it happens (may God prevent it) that during the journey the captain passes away, the remaining officers will hold a ship’s council. Here the chief mate will be appointed captain and the rest of the officers will be appointed according to their rank; however, only if they have behaved well, without offending the deceased captain, either by letter or by word of mouth.

The newly appointed captain is required to gather all the books and papers of the deceased captain and seal them securely in the presence of the entire council, after which he shall make a neat inventory and sign it himself.  He will then discuss the possibilities for further trade with the newly appointed first officer and together they will deliberate on how to continue the journey and trade in the best interest of the Compagnie. The appointed first officer should keep a neat account of all the trade and all the events which took place since the death of the first captain, to give to the directors of this Compagnie on arrival. This should happen in the same way in which the present captain or whoever was allowed the command instead, is required to hand over to the directors of the Compagnie an orderly account of all the trade conducted during the journey, as well as the notebook or daily cash book and the journal that was kept, the ship’s inventory or what was considered necessary.  If not done, he shall forfeit his salary and recognitions.

If it happens that on your voyage you will trade for gold, you will take care on the homeward voyage that it will be put in a decent chest or keg.  A small buoy should be attached to this, so that in case of an unexpected accident it can salvaged and fished out.

The captain, or whoever receives command after his death, is expressly ordered and charged that for all incidents of importance, whether it concerns seamanship or not,  he will call together the ship’s council to discuss and resolve everything with the council for the best interest of the Compagnie.  The resolution has to be written down and signed by the ship’s council, which shall consist of the following persons, insofar as it concerns the sailing and sailing off from one place to the other:
The captain
The chief mate
The second mate
The third mate
And in the case of criminal affairs or affairs concerning the whole ship, the boatswain will also be a part of the ship’s council.

It is our express wish that the assault and abuse of any other kind to the negro slaves by any of the officers or other ships’ folk will not be permitted.  If this does occur unexpectedly, it shall be recorded and the offender will be punished by the ship’s council after the deed, yes even with confiscation of the monthly salaries.

Because it is our serious intention that neither you nor your officers take in any cargo nor trade or buy slaves for their own profit, you are expressly enjoined to pay careful attention and keep a tight supervision, so that there will not be the least offence in that regard.  Should such a crime occur and you discover it, you will take good note of it and keep a record it in your journal so that you can act accordingly.  In addition you will collect and tend to such statements as can be attested by and before the ship’s council, which can serve as evidence and persuasion of the facts and the case, so that if necessary we can make use of it here on your arrival, especially if any unexpected deaths occurred in the meantime which would make it more difficult to clearly prove the case. Even though the aim of all this is to repair a miserably poor navigation, the directors declare that they will not condone any of this.  On your return therefore, you will be required to solemnly confirm and declare under oath that neither you nor your officers took with you cargo, nor traded or sold slaves. If anything to the contrary is found, all the monthly salaries and recognition will be confiscated and a fine of 1000 guilders will have to be paid for every slave.  On the other hand, the directors bind themselves to, on your return, pay you and the officers a bonus for every slave which were sold in the colonies, as follows:
To the captain 80 pennies per slave
To the first officer 24 pennies per slave
To the second officer 24 pennies per slave
To the third steersman 10 pennies per slave
To the boatswain 6 pennies per slave
With which all will have to be satisfied.

The above condition of slave money will be put into practice and held onto only if no more profit is made from the slaves as the ship with equipage and cargo will cost at sea.  Among these costs will be included the monthly salaries and the other expenses made in service of the ship throughout  journey.  From the real profit made on top of that amount, the aforementioned officers will nevertheless enjoy a 12 percent profit.  And if the ship incurred extraordinary disasters during the journey (may God prevent it), the bonus will be calculated from the money gained in that case.

When coming home and seeing the shore, you will let fly the prince’s flag from the fore topmast and fire three shots towards the shore so that we may recognize you.

Actum Middelburg, the 30th of September, 1761

Directors of the Commercie Compagnie of this city and from this city
Jacobus Landsheer
Salomon Reijnders


The instructions for captain Jan Menkenveld, dated 30 September 1761, are part of the Archives of the MCC, access number 20, 375.3.

This transcription was made by volunteers of the Zeeland Archives, united in the workgroup PaiZ (Palaeography in Zeeland).