Primary Resource

"Description of the Slave Ship 'Brookes'"; chapter 6 of Liverpool and Slavery by "a Genuine 'Dicky Sam'" (1884)

In chapter 6 of Liverpool and Slavery (1884), the writer known only as "Dicky Sam" describes the infamous slave ship Brooks, which was built in 1781 for the Liverpool merchant Joseph Brooks Jr. At 297 tons, it was bigger than most slave ships and made ten voyages to the west coast of Africa, carrying more than 600 Africans on three occasions and 740 in 1785–1786. In 1788, the abolitionist William Elford created an influential, even iconic broadside depicting the design of the Brooks and how enslaved Africans were stowed in his hold. "Dicky Sam," meanwhile, used his book to collect and publish information about the Liverpool trade and included an image of Elford's broadside.

Transcription from Original

Description of the Slave Ship "Brookes"—Stowing of the Slaves—Baron Montesquieu.

In order to clearly comprehend the method of stowing the slaves in the hold of the ship, I here give a picture of the celebrated and successful slave-ship the "Brookes," of Liverpool, Captain Noble, Surgeon Thomas Trotter, M.D. This ship was employed in the trade in 1783, in which year she was lying in Liverpool with several other ships of her class. She was only legally allowed to carry 450 slaves, but it was clearly proved that on a former occasion she had no less a number than 609 wretched slaves packed in the hold. [...]

— page 31 —

You will see by the plate of the ship "Brookes,"
  • "Man's inhumanity to man,
  • Make countless thousands mourn."

So small was the place allowed to each, they had not so much room as a man in a coffin. They were placed lying on their back, and sometimes they were packed spoonways, one on the other; so close were they, you could not walk without treading on them, but then they were only slaves. One kind-hearted sailor, when passing over them, would remove his shoes so as not to hurt them. So close and foul was the stench arising from the negroes, they have been known to be put down the hold strong and healthy at night; and have been dead in the morning. A trader stated that after remaining ten minutes in the hold, his shirt was as wet as if it had been in a bucket of water. What must have been their feelings, the acute pains of those poor wretches, whose only crime was that of colour? As many as 800 have been stowed in the holds of these infernal ships, and to add to their wretchedness, remaining in for a four-month's voyage to the West Indies; the white man arrogating to himself the supreme privilege of being the lord and master of the blacks; to buy, to sell, to torture, and kill as he pleases.

— page 32 —

Baron Montesquies affirmed "it is impossible to allow that the negroes are men; because, if we allow them to be men, it will begin to be believed that we ourselves are not christians."