Slavery And Escape
THAT evil influence which carried me first away from my father's house - which hurried
me into the wild and indigested notion of raising my fortune, and that impressed those
conceits so forcibly upon me as to make me deaf to all good advice, and to the entreaties
and even the commands of my father - I say, the same influence, whatever it was,
presented the most unfortunate of all enterprises to my view; and I went on board a vessel
bound to the coast of Africa; or, as our sailors vulgarly called it, a voyage to Guinea.
It was my great misfortune that in all these adventures I did not ship myself as a sailor;
when, though I might indeed have worked a little harder than ordinary, yet at the same
time I should have learnt the duty and office of a fore-mast man, and in time might have
qualified myself for a mate or lieutenant, if not for a master. But as it was always my fate
to choose for the worse, so I did here; for having money in my pocket and good clothes
upon my back, I would always go on board in the habit of a gentleman; and so I neither
had any business in the ship, nor learned to do any.
It was my lot first of all to fall into pretty good company in London, which does not
always happen to such loose and misguided young fellows as I then was; the devil
generally not omitting to lay some snare for them very early; but it was not so with me. I
first got acquainted with the master of a ship who had been on the coast of Guinea; and
who, having had very good success there, was resolved to go again. This captain taking a
fancy to my conversation, which was not at all disagreeable at that time, hearing me say I
had a mind to see the world, told me if I would go the voyage with him I should be at no
expense; I should be his messmate and his companion; and if I could carry anything with
me, I should have all the advantage of it that the trade would admit; and perhaps I might
meet with some encouragement.
I embraced the offer; and entering into a strict friendship with this captain, who was an
honest, plain-dealing man, I went the voyage with him, and carried a small adventure
with me, which, by the disinterested honesty of my friend the captain, I increased very
considerably; for I carried about 40 pounds in such toys and trifles as the captain directed
me to buy. These 40 pounds I had mustered together by the assistance of some of my
relations whom I corresponded with; and who, I believe, got my father, or at least my
mother, to contribute so much as that to my first adventure.
This was the only voyage which I may say was successful in all my adventures, which I
owe to the integrity and honesty of my friend the captain; under whom also I got a
competent knowledge of the mathematics and the rules of navigation, learned how to
keep an account of the ship's course, take an observation, and, in short, to understand
some things that were needful to be understood by a sailor; for, as he took delight to
instruct me, I took delight to learn; and, in a word, this voyage made me both a sailor and
a merchant; for I brought home five pounds nine ounces of gold-dust for my adventure,
which yielded me in London, at my return, almost 300 pounds; and this filled me with
those aspiring thoughts which have since so completed my ruin.