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Chapter 19

Chapter XIX.

About three months after the death of Chapman, I was well enough to quit
the hospital. I could walk, with the aid of crutches, but had no hope of
ever being a sound man again. Of course, I had an anxious desire to get
home; for all my resolutions, misanthropical feelings, and resentments,
had vanished in the moral change I had undergone. My health, as a whole,
was now good. Temperance, abstinence, and a happy frame of mind, had
proved excellent doctors; and, although I had not, and never shall,
altogether, recover from the effects of my fall, I had quite done with the
"horrors." The last fit of them I suffered was in the deep conviction I
felt concerning my sinful state. I knew nothing of Temperance
Societies--had never heard that such things existed, or, if I had, forgot
it as soon as heard; and yet, unknown to myself, had joined the most
effective and most permanent of all these bodies. Since my fall, I have
not tasted spirituous liquors, except as medicine, and in very small
quantities, nor do I now feel the least desire to drink. By the grace of
God, the great curse of my life has been removed, and I have lived a
perfectly sober man for the last five years. I look upon liquor as one of
the great agents of the devil in destroying souls, and turn from it,
almost as sensitively as I could wish to turn from sin.

I wrote to the merchant who held my wages, on the subject of quitting the
hospital, but got no answer. I then resolved to go to Batavia myself, and
took my discharge from the hospital, accordingly. I can truly say, I left
that place, into which I had entered a miserable, heart-broken cripple, a
happy man. Still, I had nothing; not even the means of seeking a
livelihood. But I was lightened of the heaviest of all my burthens, and
felt I could go through the world rejoicing, though, literally, moving
on crutches.

The hospital is seven miles from the town, and I went this distance in a
canal-boat, Dutch fashion. Many of these canals exist in Java, and they
have had the effect to make the island much more healthy, by draining the
marshes. They told me, the canal I was on ran fifty miles into the
interior. The work was done by the natives, but under the direction of
their masters, the Dutch.

On reaching the town, I hobbled up to the merchant, who gave me a very
indifferent reception. He said I had cost too much already, but that I
must return to the hospital, until an opportunity offered for sending me
to Holland. This I declined doing. Return to the hospital I would not, as
I knew it could do no good, and my wish was to get back to America. I then
went to the American consul, who treated me kindly. I was told, however,
he could do nothing for me, as I had come out in a Dutch ship, unless I
relinquished all claims to my wages, and all claims on the Dutch laws. My
wages were a trifle, and I had no difficulty in relinquishing them, and as
for claims, I wished to present none on the laws of Holland.

The consul then saw the Dutch merchant, and the matter was arranged
between them. The Plato, the very ship that left Helvoetsluys in company
with us, was then at Batavia, taking in cargo for Bremenhaven. She had a
new cap tain, and he consented to receive me as a consul's man. This
matter was all settled the day I reached the town, and I was to go on
board the ship in the morning.

I said nothing to the consul about money, but left his office with the
expectation of getting some from the Dutch merchant. I had tasted no food
that day, and, on reaching the merchant's, I found him on the point of
going into the country; no one sleeping in the town at that season, who
could help it. He took no notice of me, and I got no assistance; perhaps I
was legally entitled to none. I now sat down on some boxes, and thought I
would remain at that spot until morning. Sleeping in the open air, on an
empty stomach, in that town, and at that season, would probably have
proved my death, had I been so fortunate as to escape being murdered by
the Malays for the clothes I had on. Providence took care of me. One of
the clerks, a Portuguese, took pity on me, and led me to a house occupied
by a negro, who had been converted to Christianity. We met with a good
deal of difficulty in finding admission. The black said the English and
Americans were so wicked he was afraid of them; but, finding by my
discourse that I was not one of the Christian heathen, he altered his
tone, and nothing was then too good for me. I was fed, and he sent for my
chest, receiving with it a bed and three blankets, as a present from the
charitable clerk. Thus were my prospects for that night suddenly changed
for the better! I could only thank God, in my inmost heart, for all
his mercies.

The old black, who was a man of some means, was also about to quit the
town; but, before he went, he inquired if I had a bible. I told him yes;
still, he would not rest until he had pressed upon me a large bible, in
English, which language he spoke very well. This book had prayers for
seamen bound up with it. It was, in fact, a sort of English prayer-book,
as well as bible. This I accepted, and have now with me. As soon as the
old man went away, leaving his son behind him for the moment, I began to
read in my Pilgrim's Progress. The young man expressed a desire to examine
the book, understanding English perfectly. After reading in it for a short
time, he earnestly begged the book, telling me he had two sisters, who
would be infinitely pleased to possess it. I could not refuse him, and he
promised to send another book in its place, which I should find equally
good. He thus left me, taking the Pilgrim's Progress with him. Half an
hour later a servant brought me the promised book, which proved to be
Doddridge's Rise and Progress. On looking through the pages, I found a
Mexican dollar wafered between two of the leaves. All this I regarded as
providential, and as a proof that the Lord would not desert me. My
gratitude, I hope, was in proportion. This whole household appeared to be
religious, for I passed half the night in conversing with the Malay
servants, on the subject of Christianity; concerning which they had
already received many just ideas. I knew that my teaching was like the
blind instructing the blind; but it had the merit of coming from God,
though in a degree suited to my humble claims on his grace.

In the morning, these Malays gave me breakfast, and then carried my chest
and other articles to the Plato's boat. I was happy enough to find myself,
once more, under the stars and stripes, where I was well received, and
humanely treated. The ship sailed for Bremen about twenty days after I got
on board her.

Of course, I could do but little on the passage. Whenever I moved along
the deck, it was by crawling, though I could work with the needle and
palm. A fortnight out, the carpenter, a New York man, died. I tried to
read and pray with him, but cannot say that he showed any consciousness of
his true situation. We touched at St. Helena for water, and, Napoleon
being then dead, had no difficulty in getting ashore. After watering we
sailed again, and reached our port in due time.

I was now in Europe, a part of the world that I had little hopes of seeing
ten months before. Still it was my desire to get to America, and I was
permitted to remain in the ship. I was treated in the kindest manner by
captain Bunting, and Mr. Bowden, the mate, who gave me everything I
needed. At the end of a few weeks we sailed again, for New York, where we
arrived in the month of August, 1840,

I left the Plato at the quarantine ground, going to the Sailor's Retreat.
Here the physician told me I never could recover the use of my limb as I
had possessed it before, but that the leg would gradually grow stronger,
and that I might get along without crutches in the end. All this has
turned out to be true. The pain had long before left me, weakness being
now the great difficulty. The hip-joint is injured, and this in a way that
still compels me to rely greatly on a stick in walking.

At the Sailor's Retreat, I again met Mr. Miller. I now, for the first
time, received regular spiritual advice, and it proved to be of great
benefit to me. After remaining a month at the Retreat, I determined to
make an application for admission to the Sailor's Snug Harbour, a richly
endowed asylum for seamen, on the same island. In order to be admitted, it
was necessary to have sailed under the flag five years, and to get a
character. I had sailed, with two short exceptions, thirty-four years
under the flag, and I do believe in all that time, the nineteen months of
imprisonment excluded, I had not been two years unattached to a ship. I
think I must have passed at least a quarter of a century out of sight of

I now went up to New York, and hunted up captain Pell, with whom I had
sailed in the Sully and in the Normandy. This gentleman gave me a
certificate, and, as I left him, handed me a dollar. This was every cent I
had on earth. Next, I found captain Witheroudt, of the Silvie de Grasse
who treated me in precisely the same way. I told him I had _one_ dollar
already, but he insisted it should be _two_. With these two dollars in my
pocket, I was passing up Wall street, when, in looking about me, I saw the
pension office. The reader will remember that I left Washington with the
intention of finding Lemuel Bryant, in order to obtain his certificate,
that I might get a pension for the injury received on board the Scourge.
With this project, I had connected a plan of returning to Boston, and of
getting some employment in the Navy Yard. My pension-ticket had, in
consequence, been made payable at Boston. My arrival at New York, and the
shadding expedition, had upset all this plan; and before I went to
Savannah, I had carried my pension-ticket to the agent in this Wall street
office, and requested him to get another, made payable in New York. This
was the last I had seen of my ticket, and almost the last I had thought of
my pension. But, I now crossed the street, went into the office, and was
recognised immediately. Everything was in rule, and I came out of the
office with fifty-six dollars in my pockets! I had no thought of this
pension, at all, in coming up to town. It was so much money showered down
upon me, unexpectedly.

For a man of my habits, who kept clear of drink, I was now rich. Instead
of remaining in town, however, I went immediately down to the Harbour, and
presented myself to its respectable superintendant, the venerable Captain
Whetten.[18] I was received into the institution without any difficulty,
and have belonged to it ever since. My entrance at Sailors' Snug Harbour
took place Sept. 17, 1840; just one month after I landed at Sailors'
Retreat. The last of these places is a seamen's hospital, where men are
taken in only to be cured; while the first is an asylum for worn-out
mariners, for life. The last is supported by a bequest made, many years
ago, by an old ship-master, whose remains lie in front of the building.

Knowing myself now to be berthed for the rest of my days, should I be so
inclined, and should I remain worthy to receive the benefits of so
excellent an institution, I began to look about me, like a man who had
settled down in the world. One of my first cares, was to acquit myself of
the duty of publicly joining some church of Christ, and thus acknowledge
my dependence on his redemption and mercy. Mr. Miller, he whose sermons
had made so deep an impression on my mind, was living within a mile and a
half of the Harbour, and to him I turned in my need. I was an
Episcopalian by infant baptism, and I am still as much attached to that
form of worship, as to any other; but sects have little weight with me,
the heart being the main-stay, under God's grace. Two of us, then, joined
Mr. Miller's church; and I have ever since continued one of his
communicants. I have not altogether deserted the communion in which I was
baptized; occasionally communing in the church of Mr. Moore. To me, there
is no difference; though I suppose more learned Christians may find
materials for a quarrel, in the distinctions which exist between these two
churches. I hope never to quarrel with either.

To my surprise, sometime after I was received into the Harbour, I
ascertained that my sister had removed to New York, and was then living in
the place. I felt it, now, to be a duty to hunt her up, and see her. This
I did; and we met, again, after a separation of five-and-twenty years. She
could tell me very little of my family; but I now learned, for the first
time, that my father had been killed in battle. Who, or what he was, I
have not been able to ascertain, beyond the facts already stated in the
opening of the memoir.

I had ever retained a kind recollection of the treatment of Captain
Johnston, and accident threw into my way some information concerning him.
The superintendant had put me in charge of the library of the institution;
and, one day, I overheard some visiters talking of Wiscasset. Upon this, I
ventured to inquire after my old master, and was glad to learn that he was
not only living, but in good health and circumstances. To my surprise I
was told that a nephew of his was actually living within a mile of me. In
September, 1842, I went to Wiscasset, to visit Captain Johnston, and found
myself received like the repentant prodigal. The old gentleman, and his
sisters, seemed glad to see me; and, I found that the former had left the
seas, though he still remained a ship-owner; having a stout vessel of five
hundred tons, which is, at this moment, named after our old craft,
the Sterling.

I remained at Wiscasset several weeks. During this time, Captain Johnston
and myself talked over old times, as a matter of course, and I told him I
thought one of our old shipmates was still living. On his asking whom, I
inquired if he remembered the youngster, of the name of Cooper, who had
been in the Sterling. He answered, perfectly well, and that he supposed
him to be the Captain Cooper who was then in the navy. I had thought so,
too, for a long time; but happened to be on board the Hudson, at New York,
when a Captain Cooper visited her. Hearing his name, I went on deck
expressly to see him, and was soon satisfied it was not my old shipmate.
There are two Captains Cooper in the navy,--father and son,--but neither
had been in the Sterling. Now, the author of many naval tales, and of the
Naval History, was from Cooperstown, New York; and I had taken it into my
head this was the very person who had been with us in the Sterling.
Captain Johnston thought not; but I determined to ascertain the fact,
immediately on my return to New York.

Quitting Wiscasset, I came back to the Harbour, in the month of November,
1842. I ought to say, that the men at this institution, who maintain good
characters, can always get leave to go where they please, returning
whenever they please. There is no more restraint than is necessary to
comfort and good order; the object being to make old tars comfortable.
Soon after my return to the Harbour, I wrote a letter to Mr. Fenimore
Cooper, and sent it to his residence, at Cooperstown, making the inquiries
necessary to know if he were the person of the same family who had been in
the Sterling. I got an answer, beginning in these words--"I am your old
shipmate, Ned." Mr. Cooper informed me when he would be in town, and
where he lodged.

In the spring, I got a message from Mr. Blancard, the keeper of the Globe
Hotel, and the keeper, also, of Brighton, near the Harbour, to say that
Mr. Cooper was in town, and wished to see me. Next day, I went up,
accordingly; but did not find him in. After paying one or two visits, I
was hobbling up Broadway, to go to the Globe again, when my old commander
at Pensacola, Commodore Bolton, passed down street, arm-in-arm with a
stranger. I saluted the commodore, who nodded his head to me, and this
induced the stranger to look round. Presently I heard "Ned!" in a voice
that I knew immediately, though I had not heard it in thirty-seven years.
It was my old shipmate--the gentleman who has written out this account of
my career, from my verbal narrative of the facts.

Mr. Cooper asked me to go up to his place, in the country, and pass a few
weeks there. I cheerfully consented, and we reached Cooperstown early in
June. Here I found a neat village, a beautiful lake, nine miles long, and,
altogether, a beautiful country. I had never been as far from the sea
before, the time when I served on Lake Ontario excepted. Cooperstown lies
in a valley, but Mr. Cooper tells me it is at an elevation of twelve
hundred feet above tide-water. To me, the clouds appeared so low, I
thought I could almost shake hands with them; and, altogether, the air and
country were different from any I had ever seen, or breathed, before.

My old shipmate took me often on the Lake, which I will say is a slippery
place to navigate. I thought I had seen all sorts of winds before I saw
the Otsego, but, on this lake it sometimes blew two or three different
ways at the same time. While knocking about this piece of water, in a good
stout boat, I related to my old shipmate many of the incidents of my
wandering life, until, one day, he suggested it might prove interesting to
publish them. I was willing, could the work be made useful to my brother
sailors, and those who might be thrown into the way of temptations like
those which came so near wrecking all my hopes, both for this world, and
that which is to come. We accordingly went to work between us, and the
result is now laid before the world. I wish it understood, that this is
literally my own story, logged by my old shipmate.

It is now time to clew up. When a man has told all he has to say, the
sooner he is silent the better. Every word that has been related, I
believe to be true; when I am wrong, it proceeds from ignorance, or want
of memory. I may possibly have made some trifling mistakes about dates,
and periods, but I think they would turn out to be few, on inquiry. In
many instances I have given my impressions, which, like those of other
men, may be right, or may be wrong. As for the main facts, however, I know
them to be true, nor do I think myself much out of the way, in any of
the details.

This is the happiest period of my life, and has been so since I left the
hospital at Batavia. I do not know that I have ever passed a happier
summer than the present has been. I should be perfectly satisfied with
everything, did not my time hang so idle on my hands at the Harbour. I
want something to occupy my leisure moments, and do not despair of yet
being able to find a mode of life more suitable to the activity of my
early days. I have friends enough--more than I deserve--and, yet, a man
needs occupation, who has the strength and disposition to be employed.
That which is to happen is in the hands of Providence, and I humbly trust
I shall be cared for, to the end, as I have been cared for, through so
many scenes of danger and trial.

My great wish is that this picture of a sailor's risks and hardships, may
have some effect in causing this large and useful class of men to think on
the subject of their habits. I entertain no doubt that the money I have
disposed of far worse than if I had thrown it into the sea, which went to
reduce me to that mental hell, the 'horrors,' and which, on one occasion,
at least, drove me to the verge of suicide, would have formed a sum, had
it been properly laid by, on which I might now have been enjoying an old
age of comfort and respectability. It is seldom that a seaman cannot lay
by a hundred dollars in a twelvemonth--oftentimes I have earned double
that amount, beyond my useful outlays--and a hundred dollars a year, at
the end of thirty years, would give such a man an independence for the
rest of his days. This is far from all, however; the possession of means
would awaken the desire of advancement in the calling, and thousands, who
now remain before the mast, would long since have been officers, could
they have commanded the self-respect that property is apt to create.

On the subject of liquor, I can say nothing that has not often been said
by others, in language far better than I can use. I do not think I was as
bad, in this respect, as perhaps a majority of my associates; yet, this
narrative will show how often the habit of drinking to excess impeded my
advance. It was fast converting me into a being inferior to a man, and,
but for God's mercy, might have rendered me the perpetrator of crimes that
it would shock me to think of, in my sober and sane moments.

The past, I have related as faithfully as I have been able so to do. The
future is with God; to whom belongeth power, and glory, for ever and ever!

The End.


[1]: The writer left a blank for this regiment, and now inserts it from
memory. It is probable he is wrong.

[2]: Edward, Duke of Kent, was born November 2, 1767, and made a peer April
23, 1799; when he was a little turned of one-and-thirty. It is probable
that this creation took place on his return to England; after passing some
six or eight years in America and the West Indies. He served in the West
Indies with great personal distinction, during his stay in this

[3]: This is Ned's pronunciation; though it is probable the name is not
spelt correctly. The names of Ned are taken a good deal at random; and,
doubtless, are often misspelled.--Editor.

[4]: I well remember using these arguments to Ned; though less with any
expectations of being admitted, than the boy seemed to believe. There was
more roguery, than anything else, in my persuasion; though it was mixed
with a latent wish to see the interior of the palace.--Editor.

[5]: Second-mate.

[6]: 22d--Editor.

[7]: When Myers related this circumstance, I remembered that a
Lieutenant-Colonel Meyers had been killed in the affair at Fort George,
something in the way here mentioned. On consulting the American official
account, I found that my recollection was just, so far as this--a
Lieutenant-Colonel Meyers was reported as wounded and taken prisoner. I
then recollected to have been present at a conversation between
Major-General Lewis and Major Baker, his adjutant-general, shortly after
the battle, in which the question arose whether the same shot had killed
Colonel Meyers that killed his horse. General Lewis thought not; Major
Baker thought it had. On my referring to the official account as reporting
this gentleman to have been only _wounded_, I was told it was a
mistake, he having been _killed_. Now for the probabilities. Both Ned
and his sister understand that their father was slain in battle, about
this time. Ned thought this occurred at Waterloo, but the sister thinks
not. Neither knew anything of the object of my inquiry. The sister says
letters were received from _Quebec_ in relation to the father's
personal effects. It would be a strange thing, if Ned had actually found
his own father's body on the field, in this extraordinary manner! I
pretend not to say it is so; but it must be allowed it looks very much
like it. The lady may have been a wife, married between the years 1796 and
1813, when Mr. Meyers had got higher rank. This occurrence was related by
Ned without the slightest notion of the inference that I have here

[8]: It is supposed that Capt. Deacon died, a few years since, in
consequence of an injury he received on board the Growler, this night. A
shot struck her main-boom, within a short distance of one of his ears, and
he ever after complained of its effects. At his death this side of his
head was much swollen and affected.--Editor.

[9]: By this, Ned means six men had to subsist on the usual allowance of
four men; a distinction that was made between men on duty and men off.
Prisoners, too, are commonly allowed to help themselves in a variety of

[10]: The name of this young officer was King. He is now dead, having been
lost in the Lynx, Lt. Madison.--Editor.

[11]: If this be true, this could hardly have been a court, but must have
been a mere investigation; as Sir John Borlase Warren was
commander-in-chief, and would scarcely sit in a court of his own

[12]: Ned means Loto, probably.--Editor.

[13]: Ned might have added "few duchesses." The ambassadors' bags in
Europe, might ten many a tale of _foulards_, &c., sent from one court
to another. The writer believes that the higher class of American
gentlemen and ladies smuggle less than those of any other country. It
should be remembered, too, that no seaman goes in a smuggler, thut is not
sent by traders ashore.--Editor.

[14]: A friend, who was then American Consul at Gibraltar, and an old navy
officer, tells me Ned is mistaken as to the nature of the anchorage. The
ship was a little too far out for the best holding ground. The same friend
adds that the character of this gale is not at all overcharged, the
vessels actually lost, including small craft of every description,
amounting to the every way extraordinary number of just three hundred and

[15]: This is the reasoning of Ned. I have always looked upon the American
law as erroneous in principle, and too severe in its penalties. Erroneous
in principle, as piracy is a crime against the law of nations, and it is
not legal for any one community to widen, or narrow, the action of
international law. It is peculiarly the policy of this country, rigidly to
observe this principle, since she has so many interests dependent on its
existence. The punishment of death is too severe, when we consider that
nabobs are among us, who laid the foundations of their wealth, as slaving
_merchants_, when slaving _was_ legal. Sudden mutations in morals,
are not to be made by a dash of the pen; and even public sentiment can
hardly be made to consider slaving much of a crime, in a slave-holding
community. But, even the punishment of death might be inflicted, without
arrogating to Congress a power to say what is, and what is not, piracy.

It will probably be said, the error is merely one of language; the
jurisdiction being clearly legal. Is this true? Can Congress, legally or
constitutionally, legislate for American citizens, when undeniably within
the jurisdiction of foreign states? Admit this as a principle, and what is
to prevent Congress from punishing acts, that it may be the policy of
foreign countries to exact from even casual residents. If Congress can
punish me, as a pirate, for slaving under a foreign flag, and in foreign
countries, it can punish me for carrying arms against all American allies;
and yet military service may be exacted of even an American citizen,
resident in a foreign state, under particular circumstances. The same
difficulty, in principle, may be extended to the whole catalogue of legal

Congress exists only for specified purposes. It can _punish_ piracy,
but it cannot declare what shall, or shall not, be piracy; as this would
be invading the authority of international law. Under the general power to
pass laws, that are necessary to carry out the system, it can derive no
authority; since there can be no legal necessity for any such double
legislation, under the comity of nations. Suppose, for instance, England
should legalize slaving, again. Could the United States claim the American
citizen, who had engaged in slaving, under the English flag, and from a
British port, under the renowned Ashburton treaty? Would England give such
a man up? No more than she will now give up the slaves that run from the
American vessel, which is driven in by stress of weather. One of the vices
of philanthropy is to overreach its own policy, by losing sight of all
collateral principles and interests.--Editor.

[16]: Ned's pronunciation.

[17]: I find, in looking over his papers and accounts, that Ned,
exclusively of all the prison-ships, transports, and vessels in which he
made passages, has belonged regularly to seventy-two different crafts! In
some of these vessels he made many voyages, In the Sterling, he made
several passages with the writer; besides four European voyages, at a
later day. He made four voyages to Havre in the Erie, which counts as only
one vessel, in the above list. He was three voyages to London, in the
Washington, &c. &c. &c.; and often made two voyages in the same ship. I am
of opinion that Ned's calculation of his having been twenty-five years out
of sight of land is very probably true. He must have _sailed, in all
ways_, in near a hundred different craft.--Editor.

[18]: Pronounced, Wheaton--Editor.

James Fenimore Cooper

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