Irons and Shackles Used on Slave Ships, late 18th cent.


Thomas Clarkson, The History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade by the British parliament (London, 1808), vol. 1, between pp. 374-75. (Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library)


Clarkson explains (vol. 1, pp. 375-377) that he purchased these items in a shop in Liverpool and that they had been used on slave ships. A, pair of handcuffs for men (right wrist of one person was padlocked to left wrist of another); B, leg shackles for men (right ankle of one is fastened to left ankle of another); C,D,E, the thumbscrew used for punishing slaves (The thumbs are put into this instrument through the two circular holes at the top of it. By turning a key, a bar rises up by means of a screw from C to D, and the pressure upon them becomes painful. By turning it further you may make the blood start from the ends of them . . .); F,G,H, speculum oris or mouth opener (used by surgeons aboard slave ships for force feeding, in cases of locked jaw or on persons who for one reason or another refused to eat or could not eat). The same illustrations appear in the 1808 Philadelphia edition, but between pp. 300 and 301.

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