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Journal of a West-India Proprietor

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I have noticed throughout the readings for the semester that whenever the plantation or slave owner is telling the story, he always views himself favorably.  Stedman, d'Auverney, and now Lewis all see the oppressive cruel slavery in others and feel they are not a part of it and it is just part of life.  In his depiction, Lewis tells the story of getting rid of a man because he was too harsh with the slaves.  He gives them holidays and a festival. Although he claims to treat the slaves well, he has no problem owning slaves or with the idea of slavery.  He depicts the slaves as wanting a master and begging him to stay.  He makes them work by threatening to go back to England.  The Journal was a very interesting perspective on the slave/ owner relationship. 

Erica Osterloo


I'm glad Erica mentioned this because I wholeheartedly agree.  It seems that these people wash their hands of responsibility for their actions because they are egocentric and thus, perhaps subconsciously, believe they can do no wrong.  I found this most glaringly obvious in this week's reading in that Lewis has the nerve to venerate himself for his treatment of the slaves and believes himself doing them a service.  How very convenient.  Of course when you tell a group of people for an extended amount of time that their only worth is the amount of work they can do for another specific group, they begin to rely on this since it is their only security.  Why would slaves want their masters to leave if they felt their lots were better than some their peers and knew that without their "master" they would be exposed to a viscous and unforgiving world? Lewis has been thoroughly and willingly brainwashed by his society to believe himself in the right when considering other humans his property; its appalling we ever read his drivel today.


Alyssa Dytko


I may be going on a huge limb here, but I find his section about mulattos interesting. In it he lists the different words for people mixed with black heritage such as mulatto, sambo, quadroon or mustee. Finding I did not grow up in these times, nor did I know how these words came about, why are these people not consisdered black? Why are not they considered white? It is a very difficult desicion because the anwser is sitting right in front of you, they are both, but why consider the race weak? In his journal, Lewis describes how the equality of one black man is worth more than 2 mulattos, as well as the finding that mixed people will not have children. Also, he makes a reference that mixed children are hard to rear, giving the mix race a face worse than being black. As I stated above, this is a tangent maybe too far into thinking, but I it made me think about a movie I was watching the other day. In "The Wedding Planner," with Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey, the female lead played by Lopez falls in love with a white man. Even today it seems society has to place people with mixed backgrounds, or not "brown or white" enough skin into one category or the other. 




Lewis brings a different light to the reading that we have had this semester.  His book is often humorous and romantic in a way.  The life of a man at sea leaves him desiring the things that are lost to him: family, women, books.  Lewis opens up our eyes to a side of the slave ship that we have not yet seen, the side of the men living above deck.  We have seen these ships primarily from an external view throughout our readings, only diving below deck to see atrocities and punishments, cramped living spaces, death, starvation, pestilence, abuse.  Lewis seems to concentrate on the other side of the spectrum at the beginning of the book, talking of how the crew sits down to read books, how they pass the time by fishing.  He humanizes the abusers of the slave trade by showing a side that we have not seen previously.  I liked how the book had different elements of prose in it.  It contained poetry as well as journal entries, creating a contrasting feeling in which there is a man who is involved with this terrible business but writes about love and temptation.  There was a line that I came across early in the reading that I found to be interesting.  It reads, “I am not much used to take pleasure in the sight of animal suffering but if Pythagoras himself had been present and of opinion that the soul of his grandam might haply inhabit this dolphin I think he must still have admired the force and agility displayed in his endeavours to escape.” (p.26) Possibly, this line is exactly how Lewis coped with the life that he led; possibly, this is how many people were able to accept the life that they chose.  When the suffering of humans is seen as a plight that is inevitable, it is easier to admire how they deal with that plight rather than ask why they have to endure it.


Evan Gallagher

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