Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Cambric Dracott, a life

My Festival of Remembrance continues today with an excerpt from Thomas Coke's, A History of the West Indies.  The following biographical sketch was recorded by a Methodist missionary, a Brother Turner, who was assigned to the Virgin Islands in the late 1700s.  (All spellings and grammar are as I found them and reflect the tradition of the times.)  This slave woman led no rebellion, gave no speeches and wrote no book but her very life was heroic, a triumph of the human spirit.

"Cambric Dracott, who was born a slave in the Island of Barbadoes about the year 1735 was the offspring of a Mulatto man and a Mestee woman, and was at her birth the property of Henry Evens Holdin, Esq.  As soon as she became capable of labour she was employed in the house as a domestic servant, and was treated by the family with great kindness, so that she felt tolerably happy in her condition.  When very young, she was sent to learn to read and work; but making little proficiency in reading, and afterward having no opportunity of improvement, she intirely forgot the little she had acquired.

About the age of seventeen she received the addresses of a White man, a smith by trade, to whom she was united for about four years in the character of a wife, though without the ceremony of marriage, for matrimony, in this sense, is universally denied to slaves.  They may unite, but only by private contract.  During their union she had two children, and was perfectly satisfied with the man whom she considered to be her husband.  But this state did not last long.  Through those vicissitudes which diversify human life, she fell into the hands of another owner, who soon put an end to the happiness she had enjoyed.  For notwithstanding he was a married man, he used every exertion that fraud and force could suggest, to seduce his slave; and on finding himself disappointed, had recourse to revenge, and determined to sell her off the Island, and thus burst for ever those tender ties which nature had formed.  To effect his purpose he had her seized, put in irons, and closely confined till he could meet with a convenient opportunity to send her off....After remaining six weeks in this state of confinement, and living only on a small portion of the coarsest fare, the morning arrived on which she was to take her final departure from all that could endear her to the continuance of life.

Amidst the pangs of agonizing nature, she solicited the favour of clasping her only child (for at this time only one was living) in a last embrace; but this favour was denied.  She was sternly forbidden to see the child, neither did she ever behold it more.  As to her husband, she was permitted to have with him an interview of about two minutes, but no longer; she was then torn from him by violence, hurried on board the vessel, and never beheld either him or the Island again...

She left Barbadoes under convoy of the fleet, which reduced to Martinico in 1756, and soon found herself in the Island of Tortola, the property of William Dracott, who, together with his lady, treated her remarkably kindly in every respect, which tended greatly to alleviate the anguish of her soul, and to wear off those painful sensations which she felt, on account of leaving her child and all she had, in Barbadoes.  With her new proprietors she was again employed in domestic concerns...  In this station she became the wife of a Dutchman. with whom she lived sixteen years, but had no child after leaving Barbadoes.

The Dutchman dying, she became the wife of another man, an enemy to godliness, with whom she lived, till by hearing the Methodists, she was convinced of sin, and induced to join the society.  Exasperated at her conduct, he immediately became her enemy, stripped her of all she had, and, leaving her much in debt, finally abandoned her.  Though grieved at this unmerited treatment, she rejoiced in being separated from a man to whom she was not lawfully married, and who was so great an enemy to all spiritual things.  in this single state she has devoted her days to God, and bids fair to end her life in peace."

Cambric Dracott, you are remembered.

1 comment:

  1. That's a great post Eugenia ! Poor Cambric to be brought up relatively happy, be joined with someone that cared for her and then to be sold off. Very dynamic. Why is it that all other history is so much more interesting than my U.S. History ?