Observations on the scurvy: with a review of the theories lately advanced on that disease ; and the opinions of Dr. Milman refuted from practice


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Observations on the scurvy: with a review of the theories lately advanced on that disease ; and the opinions of Dr. Milman refuted from practice


Enslaved People


This document provides an account of scurvy seen among enslaved peoples during the Middle Passage. This document also shows the author's belief that some of the ailments could be contributed to the trauma of the slave trade and their capture.


Thomas Trotter


National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health


John Parker




Brayden Milam


Book, print






United States 18th Century
American Colonies 18th Century

Text Item Type Metadata


22 Obfervations.

It was no time to think of either preventing it
among the other flaves, or taking it at the begin-
ning ; and as the one juft dead was remarkably
fat, it was moft probable thofe in the like fituation
would be fufferers. I accordingly Selected the
moft corpulent ; and on examining them clofely
all over, found the like hardneffes in many of their
limbs. Their gums were juft beginning to fhow
the appearance of fiefh fprouting out from them ;
they complained of pains and weaknefTes in their
extremities, and wherever they lay down were
ready to fall afleep." Ulcers on any part of the
body were covered with the cloated blood former
ly taken notice of. Many of them, inftead of the
hard fpots on their limbs, had their legs fwelled,
aud pitting ┬źn preffure : a peculiar ftupor was
obferved in fome, which in the advanced ftage of
the difeafe turned to delirium ; and none but one
with this Symptom ever recovered. A contracti-
on of the joints of the ham and elbow was equal-
ly frequent. In a few, there were hemolrhagies
from the ncfe, and a purging of blood *. Thefe

* The bltod that flowed from thefe hemorrhagies
was always of a darker cotour than natural; and
vt^en cold, only formed a partial ccagulum.
on the Scurvy. 23
appearances were all for fome time confined to
the Slaves that had been longeft on board ; and
ampng them, to thofe that were moft corpulent
and ufed leaft exercife. So certain was I of this,
that when I faw a Negro taking on fat too rapidly,
I could judge when he would be feized in the
like manner. Thus it advanced among them by
quick degrees, till it fhowed every different fymp-
tom taken notice of by authors. When it came
to affect a greater number than thofe of the firft
purchafe, I could perceive the natives of fome
different countries more hVoJe to it than others,
Of thefe were what are called the Dunco coun-
try ; of a fallow complexion, heavy dull look,
inactive and gloomy turn of mind : While the
Fantees, who are preferred to all other natives
of Guinea on account of their, fine black'comm-
and genteel fhape, were fcarcely tainted with
the difeafe. Thefe, on tie contrary, are a cheer-
ful lively people, and generally the firft to raife
mutiny in fhips, or undertaka any hazardous en-
This is a proof, that depreding paffions of the
mind have a powerful effect in the production.of
fcurvy. I tan by no means fuppofe the Nt gro,
feeh no parting pang when he bids farewell ro
24 Cbfervations
his country, his liberty, his friends and all that is
to be valued in exiftence. In the night they are
often heard making a hideous moan. This hap-
pens when waking from fleep, after a dream that
had prefented to their imagination their home and
friends. Thofe who have ever known what it
is to deplore the feparation of tender tie, muft
have remarked how exquifite fenfibility becomes
after a divam that painted to their fancy the im-
age of foaie darling object.
Of all the women only eight were affected,and
that number were confined to theDuncos. Few
boys were tainted, from being out of irons, and
allowed to run about the fnip.
During all this none of the failorshad the leaft
fcorbutic complaint, though they generally eat a
portion of the flaves victuals with their falted beef.
But they had at all times plenty of frefh vegeta-
bles, which they purchafed themfelves from the
natives, and which I believe was,a means of cor-
recting the bad properties of the water they ufed.
This water was taken from a ftagnant lake ; and
fo full of animalcules, that when ftrained through
a ftone, and kept for the fpace of a few hours, it
again exhibited the like number of living atoms.

Original Format

Book, paper


Thomas Trotter, “Observations on the scurvy: with a review of the theories lately advanced on that disease ; and the opinions of Dr. Milman refuted from practice,” Digital Histories, accessed September 24, 2023, https://digitalhistories.kennesaw.edu/items/show/27.