Roger Vaughan's U.K. History Pages
The Weekly Entertainer 1793
For MONDAY, August 26, 1793.
For the WEEKLY MISCELLANY
(starting at page 193)
A Narrative of the remarkable Sufferings of Mr. Le Beau, who was taken Prisoner by the Moors in Barbary, and, after suffering the Miseries of Captivity, was restored to his Liberty, afterwards returned to England, and at length died at Bridport in the Month of July, 1793.
MR. LE BEAU's life was not accompanied with any remarkable success in his undertakings; neither were the disappointments and cruelties that attended him the result of enterprising mind, but what flowed accidentally, and marked it with so many characters of distress, that suffering them to pass silently into oblivion would not be doing justice to the memory of the late honest but unfortunate man. The reader will therefore be so kind as to pass by any inaccuracies he may meet with, and expect no more than a simple narration of his sufferings in Barbary, and of those who accompanied him into that country; had it been compiled by a person whose abilities were equal to the undertaking, so favourable an incident could not have failed to ensure that success which this cannot possibly attain. Under so many disadvantages the compiler will content himself with abridging the history that was published at Exeter, some years ago, and only preserve the parts that immediately characterise his sufferings.
About the age of ten or eleven years Mr. Le Beau was driven from his native country, to avoid the persecutions which Louis XIV. was making against the Protestants, when so many thousands fell victims to his decree. In the year 1745 he went to sea in a privateer, was driven on the coast of Barbary, and wrecked in Tangier Bay, on the night of January 4, 1746. A great number of the crew perished in attempting to land, and many fell from the cruelty of the Moors; from a crew of 183 only 87 were saved, and these poor creatures will be the subject of this narrative; Mr. Le Beau was one of the number, who hoped the blessing of falling into the hands of his fellow creatures would alleviate his sufferings; but how seriously was his dissapointment felt, when he was not only treated with severity, but deprived of his little property by the unfeeling natives! Those who made a resistance were instantly drowned, or cruelly murdered. Here their misfortunes terminated ! the survivors had still a severe combat to encounter, and an additional enmity to subdue. A small number got to Fez before night, others remained without the walls, exposed to the sharp miseries of hunger and inclement cold. Twelve remained upon the wreck all night, and passed their melancholy hours in doleful outcries, expecting to be swallowed up in the gap of every roaring wave. In the morning a boat went to their relief, and brought them to shore, where inhumanity lifted its iron blows with as little reluctance as on those who escaped the night before.
They applied to the British Consul at Gibralter, who sent his deputy in a few days after in the Phoenix man of war; but all his endeavours to gain freedom for them was ineffectual. In this situation they fully expected to be made slaves, and in a little time the Alcaide gave orders for that purpose, till such time as an old debt was paid off that the British Govenor had contracted on a former occasion.
The officers hearing the news first got safe on board the vessel, thinking that an endeavour to make an escape all together would certainly risque their lives; they therefore resolved that the seamen thould remain on shore all night, and the next day they would carry them off with flying colours
Thus escaped the Captain and officers; when these were on board, the Captain sent a boat in the night to ply along shore, to carry off as many of them as they could find. But unfortunately they were confined before their arrival (except two who had secreted themselves in a rock). The Moors thus losing part of their booty hurried the remainder into a prison with scarcely any provisions for three days. Applications were repeatedly made to the Alcaide or Governor for an increase of allowance, which he positively refused. One possessed of more humanity pleaded in their behalf, and liberty was granted them to beg in the streets by day, attended with a guard. Though this was doubtless an act of indulgence, yet the inhabitants were endowed with so little compassion, that animosities frequently arose in consequence of it.
Two months passed in this deplorable condition, when an order was given for them to appear before the Governor. The dread inspired by it, made them unamimously agree to break from prison, but unluckily their scheme was detected, and all indulgencies done away. Heavy chains were locked round their necks, and 20 linked together. Hunger being so great, their dungeon so dreary, with the prospect of a miserable life, all together began forcibly to affect them, and a proposal was made to kill one of the company for the support of the others.
NOT WITHSTANDING the misery occasioned by the absolute want of the necessaries of life, the fatal proposition was rejected ; and on complaining to the gaoler that they were perishing with hunger, he remonstrated with the towns people, who immediately sent them eight small sheep, two of which, (from necessity they instantly devoured without dressing, having been deprived of food for four days and nights.
After more than three months confinement at Tangiers, orders were sent for their removal to the Emperor Muley Abdullah's camp. During their march they suffered very severely from going barefooted, the want of provisions, and comfortable lodgings. Being arrived at a small distance from the Emperorís tent, the soldiers and Alcaide, who accompanied the slaves, fell on their faces, and prayed in a very devout manner; this ceremony being over, the guards conducted them to his presence; on his commanding them to rise, each offered a present which was accepted; he then made enquiry for the Captain and Lieutenants, who, he was given to understand, had made their escape. This circumstance, although not proceeding from any neglect, was considered as a fault in the Alcaide, and he was therefore reproached as a villain unworthy of life.
His Majesty immediately sent him, to prison with the Christian slaves, He had not remained there long before he solicited for bread and water from those whom he had treated with so much cruelty, and repeatedly told on a similar occasion, to eat the stones if they were hungry ; however the generous Christian slaves, superior to the meanness of insulting an enemy who could no longer injure them, extended to him that liberal bounty from their scanty allowance, which his behaviour had not merited.
Two days after this confinement the Emperorís commands were sent for the slaves to appear in his presence; six of the youngest, in pursuance of it, assisted the Moors in cleaning his fire arms, and the remainder were disposed of in pulling down the walls of an old castle. His anxiety to have this work finished, frequently detained him for the day. During the presence of Muley Abdallah, the taskmasters did not allow the slaves time to quench their thirst, or even to ease themselves from their stooping posture; nor could any shelter be found to screen them from the scorching sun, which had already blistered their heads and backs so violently, as to render them almost in capable of service.
This cruelty made many of them turn Mahometans, as being the only means left by which any immediate release could be obtained. On the conversion of a Christian to Mahometanism the Emperor permits him to eat out of the same dish, and repeats a few words* after which ceremony he is sent to Mequinez, or Fez, to be circumcised. When the convert is recovered from the effects of circumcision, he repeats before the Emperor his renunciation of Christianity and then receives a Moorish habit, and a present of ducats [each worth 6s. 8d. sterling] From this time he is not permitted to see the Emperor again, but is obliged to take arms as the country requires. The Moors, conscious that his profession of their faith arose rather from a wish to be releafed from slavery, than from a respect to Mahomet, treat him as an object of the utmost contempt.
* Mooro feeno; Li ba cama feede; that is, I am a convert, long life to you master - again, Li elau Li; en elau feede Mahomet, a rufulau; that is, God is a Great God, and Mahomet is his prophet in Heaven.
MR. LE BEAU, with his companions, continually suffered materially from the Emperorís removing them to places he thought most secure. This inconvenience was, however, counterbalanced by a rest from their labours, in consequence of the task-masters and other officers being engaged in a war with the natives. After many battles the Emperor was victorious; during which they experienced many attentions from him, and considered them as a designed indulgence. Soon after, however, they were hastily summoned to appear before him, and ordered to assist in removing an enormous pile of wood; Some of his foot guards assisting in this undertaking, two of them, worn down with infirmities and age, personally solicited the Emperor for a respite or discharge from service, observing, their attachment to the interest of him and his successor, had ever been discharged with zeal and affection.
To this requisition the monarch replied, 'I am sensible you can labour no longer, and in return for your service, I shall take effectual care that you do not languish in poverty and disease; your sorrows in this life will shortly cease.' Two of the guards, without any reluctance, shot the poor old men through the head, by an express command of the unrelenting monarch.
On the 12th of November, 1746, they received authentic information of the English Ambassadorís arrival at Gibraltar, and considered their release as likely to take place in a short time. But notwithstanding so flattering a prospect they remained in slavery four years after. Mr. Latton, on the 22d, wrote them, accompanied with letters from their friends in England; on a perusal of which the captives resolved to brave the severest labours with spirit and intrepidity, although the sustenance allowed for a day was devoured the instant it was received in the morning.
On the next day the Emperor directed some walls to be pulled down, belonging to a castle, and afterwards to build new ones. This sort of employment continued for many months. The severities continually received from their keeper, obliged them boldly to solicit mercy from Muley Abdallah, with which he complied. One of the sufferers pointed to the Emperor, that the large stick the keeper then held in his hand was the one he beat them with; exasperated at it, the monarch ordered four good sticks to be immediately brought to him, and gave one to each of those who had suffered very much from the Alcaide. In vain he supplicated mercy from Muley Abdallah - he commanded the sticks to be broken over his bones; and, on failure of it, they should be broken over the slaves. This bastinado did not last more than 15 minutes, when the old keeper appeared to be dead, He was then, by the Emperorís orders, dragged by his heels to his house and a little time after he expired. However the Moors felt the greatest hatred for the slaves, and were particularly offended at the Emperorís giving the captives liberty of beating their enemy to death ; but, happily, the very transaction which made them hate the slaves prevented them from doing any cruelty, for fear of a similar punishments.
Two days before the festival of Melute, one of the greatest in the year, the Emperor was pleased, by his own mouth, to signify, that the slaves may hope for a release in a short time. Many disagreeable events, however, took place afterwards, and great uncertainties prevailed respecting the arrival of the English Ambassador. A ransom being agreed upon between him and the Alcaide, 25 were provided with clothes and provisions for a march to the place of embarkation.
Mr. Le Beau was not one of the fortunate persons, but expected the same vessel to arrive in a few days with the remaining money to ransom the others.
However two years passed before that happy period arrived; before it was completed frequent disputes arose between the Alcaide, Ambassador, and Governor of Gibraltar,in consequence of a demand that Muley Abdallah made of some thousand pounds, which really had been paid, but the person who received it, shortly after declared war with his master the Emperor, and therefore he would not confider it as a legal payment. The Alcaide, thinking that severity would be the likeliest means to recover it, ordered the Ambassador and his household into a dungeon. However this news having reached Gibraltar, Governor Bland seized upon all the Moorish vessels in that part. This spirited conduct produced a clamour against the Alcaide, and finding no success from these measures, he liberated the Ambassador, his household, and all the slaves from their dungeons, and commerce with Gibraltar was again restored to its ordinary course. The merchants, however, were so very much enraged at the Alcaide, that they resolved upon his death; accordingly, as he was at prayers in a mosque, a set of hired ruffians plunged their daggers into his body, and left him dead on the spot.
Such was the merited death of the cowardly minion of a merciless tyrant; and there is nothing improper or uncharitable in wishing that a similar conduct may meet with a punishment equally signal !
This murder had not been committed long before a vessel arrived from England, in which, however, only part of the slaves were permitted to depart. The unfortunate Mr. Le Beau was remanded back to Mequinez. During his stay at that place he experienced hunger and cold in a very severe manner, and almost every hardship but death. His sufferings joined with those of the Moors, inclined him to relate a few sacrifices of the natives, by Muley Abdallah. Although foreign to his own narrative, and rather an history of the Moors, I will retain them, and sincerely hope it will have a tendency to awaken a true detestation of ungovernable ambition and revenge, which must ever degrade the human character, and leave it on a level with Muley Abdallah, Nero, or those impious wretches who too often blacken the pages of our present day.
A man who, bad been absent 14 years from his wife, on his return complained to the Emperor, that she was married to another man; accordingly both parties appeared before Muley Abdallah. The woman, in her defence, declared she did not know but that her first husband had not been dead for many years, as she never received a letter from the time he first went away. Muley Abdallah demanded from the woman her decisive answer for which she entertained the greatest regard; and it proved in favour of the last. Then, said the Emperor, to prevent any jealousy that might arise in suporting your respective claims, I will administer the justice that my great father did on a like occasion. The first husband was speedily dispatched, in presence of the others. As soon as death had finally closed his eyes, the Emperor dismissed the couple, with a wish, that as he had done away any cause for jealousy they might live happily !
Another similar event took place on a person of character, to whom the Emperor had taken a great dislike. He, like the unfortunate husband, expected redress, on making a proper complaint, but, like him, found a disappointment. This person had his horse stolen from him, and accordingly accused the thief before the Emperor; but, without any regard to honour, or the claims of justice Muley Abdallah turned from him, and the soldiers instantly deprived him of life, to gratify a revenge that the Emperor's despotic temper was too much accustomed to indulge itself in exercising.
As this narrative draws near to a conclusion Mr. Le Beau records so many instances of wanton depravity, answering no useful purpose, and supporting no authority, that a critical moment might have rendered almost unavoidable, to give rise to some future good; that it must stagger the credit of every good man. As it never prevails in more civilized countries we rely entire on the credit of those who have been confined many years in the dominions of Barbary.
We are now come to the happy period, the 12th of April, 1751, when Mr. Le Beau and his companions threw off the shackles of slavery, and in a little time after returned to England. His own history of his sufferings is concluded at this place, and I shall now give some little account of him from that time til his death, which is collected from himself, and partly came within my own knowledge.
I cannot learn that he ever had it in his power to acquire a competency in the earlier part of his life to support the inconveniencies of age; but from the time of his arrival in this kingdom, he was driven from one employment to another, as the necessitous moment directed. Passing through different stages he had learned to be contented in a very eminent degree, and never procrastinated a prudent enjoyment of the present time. He was sensible that the efforts of age could but indifferently combat with the frowns of fortune; and to make it more comfortable, presented to his Majesty King George the Third, when at Weymouth, two petitions in two succeeding years, praying for a gracious consideration of his sufferings.
His Majesty had for some years allowed a pension to one of the crew. However, from a misconstruction of the number mentioned in it, the King in going away said rather hastily 'What does he think I can do for them all?' In reality only four were then living out of the great number that he mentioned. I am inclined to think as Mr. Le Beau did, that had the petition been clearly expressed, the King would have extended to him that assistance, which it was more than reasonable to expect should be extended to the number of 60 or 70 persons. The night before his death an unusual pleasantry prevailed; and about five oíclock the next morning, July 20, 1793, he was violently seized in his stomach and expired in less than an hour, I do not recollect ever to have heard him complain of fate, or even repine at the many defeats his endeavours had received, He envied no man's prosperity, but contributed to increase it. He was pious, and Providence blessed him, though not in riches, yet with health and contentment. When Heaven granted him but a small gleam of prosperity, he enjoyed it with thanks; and free from those embittering clouds of doubt, that too often overwhelm the inexperienced youth, and blast the genial season of his life.
I have frequently thought characters in the humbler walks of life of little importance, and that they were chiefly introduced by writers to fill up those vacancies of time which might otherwise have remained unemployed; but one like Mr. Le Beau's is extremely useful. We can see in it no depravity of mind; but ever capable of bearing its disappointments with a true elevation of spirit, diverting it from the fate of misery, and the intricate paths of vice. By rectitude and integrity he had risen himself to a level with the most respectable; and by perseverance in virtue, his exertions and anxieties were amply repaid. In applying these remarks to the character of the deceased, we perceive that wisdom, benevolence, and candour had guided him; and that he had not deceived himfelf by false hopes, nor had been the victim of unruly passions that he had not mispent his time by ungovernable ambition, or felt remorse from the anxieties of delusion. Thus he secured his tranquillity and good character.
The generous inhabitants of Bridport, as a token of regard to his surviving widow, paid off some small debts he had contracted, and presented her with a few pounds. He had three wives, and had three children by each of them.
OCR scanned and corrected.