JOHN GABRIEL STEDHAM (1744-1797)
Narrative of a five year expedition against the revolted Negroes of Surinam in Guiana on the Wild Coast of South America from the year 1772 to 1777, elucidating the history of the country and describing its productions, Viz. Quadrupedes, birds, fish, reptiles, tree, shrubs, fruits & roots with an account of Indians of Guiana and the negroes of Guinea, by Captain J.G. Stedman, illustrated with 80 elegant engravings from drawings made by the author.
With sixteen of the eighty hand-coloured plates by William Blake, others by Bartolozzi a.o.
Second edition, Royal quarto, large paper copy, 2 volumes, London, J.J. Johnson, St. Paul's Church Yard and Th. Payne, Pall Mall, 1806
Stedman (1744-1794) was a soldier in the Scots Brigade of the Dutch army and in 1772 volunteered to accompany an expedition sent out by the States-General to subdue the revolting Negroes in Surinam. His narrative of this service describes the marching, fighting and dying of the soldiers amid the tropical swamps of Surinam. Of the near twelve hundred able-bodied men that sailed to Surinam to fight the revolting Negroes not more than one hundred would return to Holland! Almost all died through sickness and exhaustion. In addition, the field of Stedman’s curiosity embraced not only all branches of natural history, but also the economic and social conditions of the colony.
His book, however, is best remembered for his description of the cruelties practised on the Negroes and of the moral deterioration resulting to their masters. It forms one of the most vivid indictments of slavery that have been written. Not the least curious thing in the book is the story of his love relation with Joanna, a beautiful mulatto, who nursed him when sick, bore him a son but who did not want Stedman to buy her freedom and did not follow him to Europe.
In 1777 Stedman returned to Holland without Joanna and his son Johnny and married Adriana Wiertz van Coehorn. His book was first published in 1796. Throughout his journal Stedman shows every sign of having been genuinely and steadfastly devoted to his mulatto “wife” Joanna and seems sincere to have mourned her death in 1782, suspected by poison, and later of his son Johnny at sea as a midshipman in the British navy. Stedman had three sons and two daughters with Adriana. The second of his daughters was christened Maria Joanna.