Lot 240    

Ship's Journal of a Voyage from New Orleans to Liverpool, 1815
2010, American History, Including the Civil War
Unbound, 58pp

In the months after the end of the War of 1812, John Nichols shipped out aboard the merchantman, General Hamilton, as it sailed from New Orleans to Liverpool and then back to New York. The journal he kept during that voyage (and subsequent ones) begins as a fairly standard daily log of position, direction, wind and weather, but upon the return trip from Liverpool to New York and Antwerp, it moves into a more narrative form. Little is known of Nichols, although he appears to have been a man still learning his craft: the journal includes a record of the buoys in New York Harbor, and exercises in finding the time at sea (by several methods) and lunar estimation of longitude. By personality, though, he seems to have had larger dreams: early in the journal, as he was returning to New York, he writes of his grandiose plans for his new invention, a silent chronometer. Nichols most interestingly includes his invention in his Rules for my conduct and behavior after I arrive in N. York, which seem remarkably un-seaman like:

1st Drink no ardent spirits and abstain from women 2nd Live in a private family and ditto ditto 3rd Keep genteel company and but very little of that. Live retired and attend constantly to the Sabath to public worship and avoid swaring 4th Apply ameadeately for money to my brother and in case he does not supply me apply to a stranger for the purpose of bringing the above machine to perfection and secure a patent from our government preavous to making it public as to have all lucrative advantage which will naturally arrive from the discovery of the chronometer, which is the name I shall give to the instrument or in other words a silent chronometer as it will give you the time of night at any place on any meredean...

Nichols comments on his ships’ officers, too, comparing two of his captains in a revealing manner: I find there is as much difference between Capt. Gantley and Capt. Deypester as possible, the one economical and the [other] extravagant and his mind sure as the wind which is always a head, so is he always opposed to any regulation that we formerly had in the ship on the passage out...

The apparent propriety of his rules for conduct and his criticism of Capt. Depeyster, though, may not reflect Nichols’ actual behavior, and much of the rest of the journal sounds more like what one might expect of a roving seaman. On his 33rd birthday (Feb. 20, 1817), Nichols mused on his moral state: I make these remarks as I am thirty three years old and not worth a cent in the world and owe about 500 Dollars... and now I am determine if it pleases God to assist me in my determination that is to forsake all lewd women be temperate in my drinking ardent spirits and economical in all my expences get clear of debt clothe my self and remit home all the money that I can spare to my parents for there support in there old age and in part by them for there assistance to me and my duty to the best of parents whom I have shamefully neglected during my absence from them....

Apparently, he had something to worry about. The journal includes a long and complicated passage, not quite complete, that seems to describe a just-missed assignment with the wife of a man with whom he was doing business, after he got the money on board, he learned he was in danger I being ignorant of my danger went on as cheareful as ever and he presented me with a double joe or sixteen dollars and his wife put on had put up for me a jarr of sweet meets and in the bottom ware a beautiful ring which I lost in Riojanario one night when in bed with a ----- W.

The last thirty pages of the journal appear to be something of a memoir of Nichols’ exploits at sea in the years prior to the War of 1812, with accounts of his time in Rio de Janeiro, Valparaiso, and other ports in South America. He mentions visiting a Catholic county on St John’s Day, when all labor was set aside and nothing but going to mass and then to sport and pastime. The women go to what is call midnight mass in order to fulfill some intrigues or in other words adorn her husband’s head with antlers which them is but few that have not the affectation of cuckold...

In Rio, he was more explicit: I was constantly employed in the night time and in the day time having so many opportunities on shore and seeing so many pretty fair that I was enammoured with all of the fair sex I was six weeks constant on shore and in the cours of that time I had thirty eight different wives or concubines I spent two thousand dollars broke my constitution all to pieces and returned to American pendys(?). Thus I made a business of F---g. One night when I was at the play I fell enamoured with an Atalian actress and got access to her and reined her kind embrace for the paltry sum of one hundred dollars. Thus you may say with the authors a fool and his money is soon separated for I found the pleasure had some durability as her paint had that set her face off to such an advantage the night that I first saw her on the stage, I found in the morning was wrinkled and ugly and the paint is the cause of our A....s got rubbed off so that she was disgustfull.

The journal includes twelve pages of sketch maps of coast lines visited and entries into port; a wonderful map of the Atlantic depicting the course of the General Hamilton as it voyaged from New York to the west coast of Africa December 1815; a plan of a harbor in Trinidad; and a map of English Harbor in “Bonavista” (off the west coast of Africa).

A colorful look into a sailor’s life during the period of the War of 1812, with excellent content on sailors’ attitudes, navigation and shipboard life, and life in ports of call in South America, along with several attractive maps.

Expected wear and some soiling, a few pages apparently lacking, else good condition.
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