Unlucky (Part 2)
ANNETTE TELLS TALES Continuing our Chat with Englishman Bill Moraley About His Failure in America . . . in 1729
How Long Is This Post? 9, 000 words, 40 minutes. Another long ‘un! You get value for your time and money at NBH! And remember: You can read whatever you want, whenever you want. There’s no test at the end.
Dear Nonnie Friend,
Let’s continue my fun chat with Englishman William (Bill) Moraley, author of the 1743 autobiography, Unlucky [properly called The Infortunate, and edited by historians Susan Klepp and Billy Smith]. Today, Moraley dishes on his life in America as an indentured servant. Missed Part 1, catch it here:
Unlucky is based on my close reading of Dr. Susan E. Klepp and Dr. Billy G. Smith, editors, The Infortunate: The Voyage and Adventures of William Moraley, an Indentured Servant (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992, and second edition 2006) Any screw-ups are my fault, not theirs! Annette
UNLUCKY, pt 2, with Bill Moraley, Author and Indentured Servant
SETTING: Studio A at Non-Boring House. ON AIR light flashing. Lights go up on Annette, sitting on stage across from William Moraley. Small audience of Gnomes madly applaud.
ANNETTE Welcome back, everyone! I’m joined today by William Moraley, author of Unlucky, his autobiography. Bill told us last time why he decided to seek the American Dream as an indentured servant, and today, we'll find out what happened to him after he landed from London. So, Bill, you arrive in the port of Philadelphia in December, 1729. What now?
BILL So once we docked, we indentured servants were allowed to go have a look around town.
ANNETTE Wait, you weren’t sold first?
BILL No. We were indentured servants, what I like to call “voluntary slaves”, so not slaves at all, and we were Englishmen. People sometimes felt a bit sorry for African slaves, but they saw us English indentured servants as a bunch of useless white blokes who couldn’t make it back home. But we were still English.
ANNETTE But you were also indentured servants, and I'm very surprised you were allowed to wander off before you were sold. Normally, the captain would sell the servants first, in case they made a run for it.
BILL Are you saying I was lucky? [Audience chuckles]
ANNETTE Maybe! But you got dropped off in Philadelphia, so maybe not. So what did you do in Philly? I mean, there wasn’t much in the way of sightseeing. No Independence Hall. No Liberty Bell. Even cheesesteaks won’t be invented for another couple of a hundred years.
BILL Cheesesteaks? Not a thing in my day, no. Pity. So, anyway, I had no money when I arrived in Philadelphia. The first thing I did was trade my scraggy old London coat for a quart of rum.
ANNETTE Rum that you needed for medicinal purposes, right? For your, what was it you called it, diabates, which I gather isn’t quite the same as diabetes?
BILL That’s right. My diabates. As I said before, rum cured me.
ANNETTE Well, I don't know about a cure, but I'm sure drinking a quart of rum left you pain-free.
BILL It did, indeed! Anyway, like I was saying, I sold my old coat. I also sold my ratty old wig. I got sixpence for that, and it funded my supper, a three-quart loaf of bread, and a quart of hard cider.
ANNETTE Thank you for giving us poor historians some idea of money values in the past. Not that this tells us about values anywhere but on one day in Philadelphia in 1729. So what happened next? Were you sold? Not just on Philadelphia. I mean literally sold.
BILL Yeah, so, I went back to the ship, and said my goodbyes to the lads. Then we were all sold at the dockside, one by one. I was last to go, and I went for eleven pounds to Mr. Isaac Pearson of Burlington, New Jersey. He was a goldsmith and clockmaker, and he liked my training and experience with watchmaking and clocks. Mr. Pearson was a Quaker, but fortunately not super-religious, which would have been very annoying. He and I didn’t always see eye to eye, mind, but he liked a good time, did Mr. Pearson. Anyway, he didn’t take me back to Burlington straight away, and I ended up being left to my own devices. I spent three weeks in Philly, which was a lot of fun.
ANNETTE Really? You got a vacation? In Philadelphia?
BILL Oh, yeah, it’s lovely there. Absolutely beautiful in Philadelphia, Annette, you should go sometime.
ANNETTE I have been. Several times. Beautiful isn't the word.
BILL Then you know! “One of the most delightful cities upon Earth”, that’s what I call it in the book.
ANNETTE Hmm. Is that in one of the chapters where you sort of wander into fiction?
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Non-Boring History to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.