George Anton Schaeffer
George Anton Schaeffer
Chapter Eight-- Returning to Europe
The trip from Kauai to China on the Panther was pleasant for George. The late summer weather of that 1817 year was nice and the wind was firm and steady. He spent most of his time talking with Captain Isaiah Lewis and John Marshall. These men agreed with his point of view that the American captains were generally unscrupulous, cruel and exploitive to both the natives they encountered and their own crews. George gave his opinion that the economics of the Pacific trading business was now such that the captains could not make a profit for themselves and their owners without cheating both the natives and their own men.
A likeness of George Anton Schaeffer at age 45 in 1824.
"It costs too much now to outfit a ship and pay good men what they deserve," said George. "So the captains take on native crew members and work them to death without paying them. They pillage native villages, giving nothing in exchange. They flog and kill their own, shoot and kill the others. It's become a terrible business."
"The only way to make a justifiable profit," commiserated John Marshall, "Is to trade in slaves, sandalwood, or opium."
"I think that whaling may wind up being a profitable business," said Captain Lewis. "People are burning more and more whale oil to light their homes, and the whalebone and the spermaceti are growing in demand as well."
"You may be right about that," said George. "I talked to an American whaler, a Captain Josiah Barnes, whose ship was anchored in Sydney Cove during the war between the United States and Great Britain. He said he had taken seventeen sperm whales off the coast of New Zealand, and that they would bring him a fortune back in New England."
George then asked John Marshall, "Do you think your Uncle, John Jacob Astor, will enter the whaling business?"
John Marshall replied, "He's into any business he thinks will be profitable. He's not only in the fur business. He buys and rents property, founds and runs banks, buys and sells opium. I wouldn't be surprised to see him go into the whaling business as well."
"From what I've seen in the oceans of the world," commented George, "There is certainly an endless supply of the whales."
When they were well into the China Sea, Captain Lewis sent up extra lookouts, fearing pirates.
"They come at you in fleets of junks," he explained. "The only way to stay out of their clutches is to see them before they see you."
"Are there many pirates in these waters?" asked George.
"Yes, many," said Captain Lewis. "There is one pirate commander, a man called 'Admiral Apo-tsy,' who controls this area with a very large fleet of ships. You might know that back in 1809 he and his men captured the Bering when it was still the American ship Atahualpa . James Bennett was the captain."
"I know James Bennett," said George, "But I didn't know that he had been captured by pirates. What happened to him?"
"Admiral Apo-tsy removed the Atahualpa 's cargo, then held the ship and crew for ransom," explained Lewis. "The American Consul in Canton, a Mr. Benjamin Chew Wilcocks, paid dearly to rescue Bennett and his ship."
"I met Consul Wilcocks' brother James at Waimea," said George. "He and I got along very well. It's a good thing the Americans have a Consul in Canton. The Russians don't. Are there any other pirates in this area?"
"I think Admiral Apo-tsy is pretty much in control of this area now," related Captain Lewis. "But a few