Liberty & Scurvy & SlaverySubmitted by deng on Tue, 03/19/2013 - 12:56
It is very interesting how the narrative for racism and slavery has been set in the Western culture. Basically it is a narrative of Europe vs. Africa / good and bad. That narrative has been set and now a European American may feel as if his ancestors were perpetrators - which they probably were to a degree - and feels largely responsible for historical events. An African American will see this perpetrator as fully responsible for slavery. Society now gets into an unreasonable analysis of history and little progress is made.
The truth is that both people(s) were tied into an oppresive system caused by the government (kings and queens). Sailors were semi-slaves in most cases and they would die by the thousands due - not to battles - but to diseases and bad treatment caused by the system in power. Why don't we change the narrative and see things as they really happened? Of course there is no excuse for the racist individual who has a distorted view of the world but the generality of the people get immersed in a quagmire with no possibility of escape.
See references below:
Maintaining sufficient crews for the large number of naval vessels proved to be difficult for countries. As a result, a system called impressment was adopted. Impressment was basically a form of kidnapping, in which captains would send out gangs of men into a port town looking for men. The impress gang would club a man and drag him back to the ship as a new “recruit.” The man’s family would have no idea what had happened and many of the men never returned home. Although some of the impressed men would have sea experience, many had none at all. Once on boar a ship, an impressed man was subject to the “law of the sea” and any attempt to escape was considered desertion and punishable by execution. On average, a third of a ship’s crew was made up by impressed men
Scurvy killed more sailors than all battles, storms and other diseases combined from the 16th to 18th centuries.
An unknown 16th century sailor, who suffered but survived scurvy, logged an account of the disease saying
It rotted all my gums, which gave out a black and putrid blood. My thighs and lower legs were black and gangrenous, and I was forced o use a knife each day to cut into the flesh in order to release this black and foul blood. I also used my knife on my gums, which were livid and growing over my teeth...When I had cut away the dead flesh and caused much black blood to flow, I rinsed my mouth and my teeth with my urine, rubbing them very hard...And the unfortunate thing was that I could not eat, desiring more to swallow than chew...Many of our people died form it every day, and we saw the bodies thrown into the sea constantly, three or four times at a time. For the most part they dies without aid given to them, expiring behind some case or chest, their eyes and the soles of their feet gnawed away by rats