Chapter 23: Voyage to America
Time passed on until we got into 1839 when a break was to take place that altered my position. A Mr Connely had married the young daughter of Mr Goodson, a friend of mine who just obtained the Position as Captain of the "Windscales" a Bark that was fitting out to go to Sierra Leone on the Coast of Africa. The post of Steward was offered to me from him. This I gladly accepted, and so gave notice to my employers of the same. The Ship was in the King's Graving Dock, Liverpool, undergoing repair. I went on Board while she was there, and was there cleaning up the Pantry and setting things in Order for the Voyage. When the ship was ready to come out of the Graving Dock, Mr Connely came on board to take her out. He astonished me with his Loud Talk and bad Language. I was rather taken aback hearing the Captain Swearing and Stamping. I thought I had made a mistake engaging with the Captain for the Voyage if all this swearing must be done coming out of the Kings Dock into the Queens Dock. "What will it be at Sea?" So I made up my mind not to go with him upon any consideration.
I told him so at once. But here was a pretty Kettle of Fish. I had given up my Place and another Man had got it: so I got into disgrace all round and blamed myself in particular. Now I had the cold Shoulder on me by nearly all my Friends; and what could I say but it was quite right that it should be so. For had I not thrown up a good Place for one that was at least doubtful. But what cut me most was my Ingtatitude to the Lord who had given me the Place. So I anticipated a lot of Trouble from my own rash act which also came to pass.
Now I had to look out for employment, which was not so easily got in those days. I got employment from my old Friend Mr Salisbury for a while, unknotting ropes for teasing out to be made into Hemp. When that gave out I had to look out for another. I attended Places where groups of Men were waiting to be put on to Jobs, either for Warehouse or for Dock Work. In this way I got work sometimes for a Day or two or more, as long as the Job lasted. The worst part of the Work was being sent up to the Jugger, where mostly New Hands were sent; but the Company was worst of all, for the Language was most Abominable of all. Now I saw what a Mess I had made of it, and could reproach no one but myself not knowing when I was well off. I dragged on until July, when the thought came into my head "Could I not go to America, and seek my Fortune there, as others were doing?" But then "How could I get there?"
The only available Property I could turn into Money was a Silver Watch, for which I had given five pounds. "If I could only sell that?" I mentioned this to a friend, Mr Jones, a grocer in Scotland Road. "O", says he, "I will Buy your Watch and pay what you gave for it". On this assurance, I looked out for a berth and found Captain Michels, Master of the 'Allegany' bound for Philadelphia, who agreed to take me thither for five pounds and feed me. Upon this I engaged my Passage and told Mr Jones what I had done. He immediately paid me five Pounds in exchange for my Watch. This I took to Captain Michels and secured my Passage. It now remained only that I should bid goodbye to my Friends. So I called on Mr & Mrs Jones. They said "You have certainly paid your Passage; but how will you do on landing if you have no Money?" Mr Jones at the same time handed me a Sovereign and Mrs Jones another. This came on me with a Surprise, for I expected nothing of the sort, but nevertheless accepted it gratefully and gave thanks to God and them for the Favour. Also I called upon Mr Salisbury: he gave me fifteen shillings, and Mrs Cavannah, the Baker in Park Lane five shilling more, for all of which I gave thanks to God. For I may truly say, I had as much Pleasure in receiving that Money as I ever had in giving.
The time now came on for going out of the Dock Gates. This I expect never to forget, for, as the ship was between the two Walls, a fellow Passenger that was late came on with his Baggage. Among other things he had a Water Bottle which he threw down on Deck and catched me on my Forehead. This has left its mark to this Day, without any other bad results. We got out into the River on the 26th July 1839. We had three Cabin Passengers and five steerage, one of them myself. A Young Irish Farmer, a Tailor, an Old Welshman with a long Bluecloth Coat, and an Old Irish Farmer who was going out about some Property. He took ill as soon as we got out into the River, and was not well again until we got Sight of the Lighthouse at the Mouth of Delaware River.
On leaving, Liverpool, I found I had in my Possession a German Book which I got from Mr Myers my Landlord. "I will read this on my Passage" I said "for you will have plenty of Time to examine yourself" for the Title was "Almost a Christian" by an English Man named Meade. I read it with great Attention, and, I may say Comfort and Edification. Then I came to the conclusion "If this man is right with his 'Marks of a Christian', I can pass Muster". Our Voyage was a monotonous and dreary one. When we had plenty of Wind we had scarcely a Sail that would stand a hard Blast and, as we had many calm days our Progress was Slow. When we got off the Banks of Newfoundland, or thereabouts the heavens became as Lead. A Stillness overspread the Sea and all around was the Quietness of Death. Overhead was full of Black and Clouds from which proceeded Lightnings covering the whole Deck fore and aft and flitting up and down the shrouds. The Sailors were still as Mice; scarce a Whisper Came from any of them and the aspect was truly Aweful. They said it was Sheet Lightning. There was hardly a Breath of air. Thus we wobbled up and down the great Waters. After a while a Breeze sprang up and continued increasing till we got into a full Gale about fifty or sixty miles from Land. It lasted about 24 hours; then it began to moderate. It was the first Gale I had been in. I thought it was most Awefull and expected we should go down every Moment.
The change from Life to death brought on me a great Perturbation of Mind. "Was I ready to enter the Presence of God?". I was doubtful about it, so I entered into the Water Closet at the stern of the Vessel and called upon him to give me Strength and Courage to enter into the Watery Grave. When I got up from my Knees I got Strength and Courage to face the last Enemy. I contrasted my present position when apparently in the Jaws of Death with my former Experience when I desired to be dissolved and Die, showing the great difference there is when you are in a Happy Frame from what it is when death comes with open Jaws to swallow you up Quick. The Merciful God, however, did not take any of us but landed us all safely in Philadelphia.
After the Gale was over, we met many of the Coasters that had been in the Gale, and some we spoke to, exchanging Kindly Greetings with them. Now we looked out for the Lighthouse, which after a time we sighted. All that was in the Ship mustered on Deck and shewed by their Glad Faces the Pleasure they had in beholding the New made Land. Among these none looked more pleased than my poor Sick Mate. This was the first time he had made his Appearance since we left the Liverpool Docks. Now there was a great Bustle among the Sailors, while we were entering the Delaware River, to get lighter and handier ropes attached to the Yards, having short tacks to make when going up the River, for there were no Tug Boats in those days. I think we were three days before we were alongside our Wharf, making 49 days in all from the time we left the Liverpool Docks until we made fast to the Wharf in Philadelphia.