Otsego Herald for Aug. 17, 1818, compiled, with comments:
Secret Slave Trade
The Slave trade seems to be prosecuted (i.e., carried on) with spirit between New-Orleans and some of the states. A prime slave is worth from $400 to $1000 in Louisiana. The great profit which this speculation affords, has induced a number of unprincipled adventurers to embark clandestinely in the traffic; and we frequently hear of their kidnapping blacks, purchasing or decoying them into their power by specious promises, and shipping them secretly, in violation of law for New-Orleans, where a strong disposition has been manifested to exculpate and protect the wretches engaged in this traffic.
A New-Orleans paper of July 24, states the arrival, in several vessels from the states, of 317 blacks, and of 153 from Africa. A great number of these unfortunate beings have been taken from the state of New-Jersey. It would probably be putting an effectual stop to his traffic, if those found engaged in it were sentenced to a few years servitude upon the plantations. – Albany Argus.
COMMENT: Enslaved persons would remain in great demand in the cotton-growing South, to the extent that some northern slave states (which at this time included New Jersey) could be said to be growing African-Americans as a crop to sell down south. Although the slave trade with Africa had been abolished, I notice that this article still speaks of “153 from Africa.”
War Declared on Sea Serpents
War has been declared in earnest against the Eastern Sea-Serpent. Four vessels, two from Cape Ann, and two from Salem, well armed, and manned with intrepid souls, are out in pursuit of the monster of the deep. – New York Gazette
COMMENT: Readers of this column will have noticed numerous articles about sea-serpent sightings, mostly off the coast of Massachusetts. The sea serpent has been sighted in that area for generations: the first known sighting was in 1698, the most recent in 1962. But, for whatever reason, the largest number of sightings took place from 1817 to 1819, and the Otsego Herald frequently reprinted them. Indeed, the animal is frequently called the “Gloucester Sea Serpent.”
What, if anything real, this creature really was — or is — remains unknown, and there have been a number of books published on the subject, giving various solutions to the enigma.
The New England Linnaean Society conducted an investigation of the creature in August 1817, concluding that: “It was said to resemble a serpent in its general form and motions, to be of immense size, and to move with wonderful rapidity; to appear on the surface only in calm, bright weather; and to seem jointed or like a number of buoys or casks following each other in a line.”
Imprisonment for Debt
Some years since ... a young man by the name of Brown, was cast into the prison of this city (New York) for debt. .... His fine dark eyes beamed so much intelligence, his lively countenance expressed so much ingeniousness, that I was induced...to seek his acquaintance....
Brown was informed that one of his creditors would not consent to his discharge ... and made a solemn oath before his God, to keep him in jail “‘till he rotted”. ... I thought I saw the cheering spirit of hope, in that moment, desert him forever.
Nothing gave Brown pleasure but the daily visits of his amiable wife. ... She was able to give Brown sometimes soup, wine and fruit; and every day, clear or stormy, she visited the prison to cheer the drooping spirits of her husband. ...
One day passed the hour of one o’clock, and she came not. Brown was uneasy. Two, three, and four passed, and she did not appear. Brown was distracted. A messenger arrived. — Mrs. Brown was very dangerously ill, and supposed to be dying in a convulsive fit.
As soon as Brown received this information, he darted to the door with the rapidity of lightning. The inner door was open — and the jailor ... was closing it as Brown passed through it. The jailor knocked him down with a massy iron key which he held in his hand; and Brown was carried lifeless, and covered with blood, to his cell.
Mrs. Brown died — and her husband was denied even the sad privilege of closing her eyes. He lingered for some time, till at last, he called me one day, and ... he said “he believed death was more kind than his creditors.” After a few convulsive struggles, he expired.
Legislators and sages of America! permit me to ask you — how much benefit has that creditor derived from the imprisonment and consequent death of an amiable man, in the bloom of youth, who, without this cruelty, might have flourished, even now, an ornament and a glory to the nation?
COMMENT: Beginning about 1830, imprisonment for debt in America became controversial and states began to abolish debtors’ prisons. This took place in New York state in 1832.
Another Sea Serpent
NORFOLK, Aug. 3. Capt. Arnold, of the British brig Kora ... has favored us with the following particulars — On Friday, the 31st of July, off the Capes of Virginia ... Capt. A. ... saw ... an object ... projecting about 4 feet beyond the surface of the water, being of dark brown color. ...
It remained perfectly still for about 5 minutes, and then moved with great rapidity towards the shore. ... A few minutes after, it darted under water, and they saw no more of it. Capt. A. judges its length ... about one hundred feet. ...
The pilot who came on board ... observed, that it was no doubt a Sea-Serpent, as one was reported to have been seen not long since near the same place, by a Northern sloop.
COMMENT: And so they keep coming, though they were usually sighted a bit north of Virginia.