The authenticity of the following details of the miseries endured by some German emigrants proceeding from Amsterdam to America is, we are told, guaranteed ; otherwise they are almost too shocking to admit to belief :
“Libson, Nov. 4
“We have just been witnesses here of an event which has renewed those gloomy reflexions which the friends of humanity have indulged ever since the commencement of the emigration from Germany and Switzerland to America. We have deplored the error which led so great a number of unhappy persons to expartiate themselves in the hope of finding a happier lot upon the shores of the new world. But it is less to the blindness of the victims of this error, than to the abominable speculations of cupidity that we are to attribute these numerous emigrations.
“the misery of the people of Germany and Switzerland, occasioned by a superabundance of population, and by the bad harvests of late years, serves for aliment to the avarice of certain men, who seek to establish criminal projects upon bases almost as obnoxious as those of the former slave trade. Such calculations deserve the attention of Governments, and it is with this view that we think is our duty to make known the fate of an expedition of this kind, fitted out at Amsterdam last August.
“But we shall first transcribe, from the original, the article of the charter party relative to the power reserved by the Captain over the persons of the passengers, as inlcuding stipulations which are most characteristic of the nature of that odious traffic :–
“We passengers, promise to fulfil faithfully the following conditions:– With respect to the price of the passage above stipulated, for so much as we have not yet paid, we engage to gain by our labour in America, what we owe, and we who owe the whole amount of our passage are bound, if required, and if we are unable to find better conditions, to hire ourselves for four or five years, in order to pay for our passage ; and we who have only paid for a part of our passage, equally promise to let ourselves out to work for the same time for the sum we still owe.
“We promise besides, we passengers, men or women, fathers or mothers, children and families here assembled, the children for their parents, the parents for their children, the brother for his brother, and the sister for her sister, when we shall find an opportunity to employ ourselves in America, to engage ourselves in service, and to answer for one for the other one for all the others, whether he be of our family or not, so that the price of the passage be diminished or augmented as much as shall be necessary, until we all and our families have employment, and the captain be no loser by us ; knowing very well that we passengers who have children, a family, brothers, and sisters, ought all to sumbit to our wives or husbands, our children, our brothers, our sisters, being sent separately to whatever place, in order to gain, in private service, profession, or labour, or in any manner that shall be deemed best, the price of our passage ; and in order that we may not in any case refused the engagements proposed to us, or contract others without the permission not knowledge of the capain, it is agreed for those who have not yet paid for their passage, for those who still owe part, and for those who cannot find an engagement, that they must consent to me, the captain, carrying them to such place in America as it shall please me, and wherever I may find it expedient to proceed, or wherever it may suit me to sail.”
“These horrible conditions were signed by 300 passengers. They had contracted with the Captain of a Dutch ship, which was to proceed first to Baltimore. She in the worst state when she sailed from Amsterdam, and in defiance of the clauses of the contract, by which the Captain had engaged to feed them properly during the voyage, he had not even embarked the necessary quanitity of provisions ; for, after 62 days navigation, the leaks had so gained upon the ship, that she was in danger of sinking, and famine had already made frightful ravages. It was at the end of that time, and in this deplo rable condition, that she was forced into Belem, near Lisbon.
“Long before her arrival on our coasts, the passengers had been reduced to the greatest misery, not more by the small quantity than by the bad quality of the provisions. The water was gone, and sea-water was their only drink. So much had they been wasted, that forty had already died of famine. Among the rest there were a great many sick, some of who have died since their arrival in Portugal.
“The situation of the vessel had at first given great alarm to our Council of Health, who, apprehensive of contagion, were for an instant fearful that it would be necessary to force her out to sea. That would have been a misery so much the more formidable, because the ship was not in a state to keep the sea, and all must infallibly have perished. Happily this was deemed unnecessary, and a quarantine was ordered. The Regency of Lisbon determined that provisions and other succours should be furnished at the expence of the State. All the Consuls were most active and benevolent in affording assistance.
“Such was the result of the expedition. Many others have, no doubt, answered as little the expectations of those who, seduced by deceitful promises have emigrated to America in search of happiness which they could not find, abandoning their country, their parents, and their friends. In July, a Hamburgh ship, with 106 Swiss passengers, was at Lisbon, in nearly the same distress with the Dutch ship. It is said here that there is a company in Holland which has numerous agents to seduce men to emigrate. It heaps them pell mell on board ships, and if they reach their destination, they are soon convinced of the fallacy of all their hopes.
“It would be a desirable thing for papers, in countries where these emigrations are excited, to insert the article relative to the charter party, given above, in order that the simple and credulous may see what they have to undergo.”
Citation: Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, United Kingdom), 01 January 1818, available at the Scissors and Paste Database, http://www.scissorsandpaste.net/122.