The slave trade of east Africa
|The slave trade of east Africa (1869)
THE SLAVE TRADE
(REPRINTED FROM THE "CHRISTIAN OBSERVER.")
WITH AN APPENDIX.
CHURCH MISSIONARY SOCIETY,
PRINTED BY C. F. HODGSON & SON,
GOUGH SQUARE, FLEET STREET.
SLAVE TRADE OF EAST AFRICA.
Exactly one hundred years have passed since Granville Sharpe gave to the world the result of his enquiries into the law of England on the toleration of slavery in this kingdom. The basis of this investigation was, it may be remembered, the opinion given in 1729, by the then Attorney and Solicitor-Generals, Yorke and Talbot, that a slave, by coming to England, did not become free, and might be legally compelled, to return with his master to the plantations. Granville Sharpe, after a careful examination of the subject, concluded "that the sentiment of Lord Chief Justice Holt, that as soon as a negro comes into England he becomes free, might safely be preferred to all contrary opinions."
Soon afterwards, the action brought on behalf of the negro Somerset, afforded an opportunity of testing the correctness of this opinion, and for the establishment as a rule of law, of Lord Chief Justice Holt's now well-known sentiment.
Least prominent in the contest which led to this result, though its real mainspring, stands the figure of Granville Sharpe, the prosecutor, who, though poor and immersed in the duties of a toilsome daily occupation, supplied the money, the leisure, the perseverance, and the learning required for this great controversy, and yet had carefully concealed his own connection with it, fearful lest so humble a name should weaken a cause so momentous.
With no special education, and but little leisure, the Ordnance clerk had, by unflinching industry and toil,proved himself on a par, if not superior, in one main branch of English law, to some of our most eminent judges of that period; such at least is the dictum of the late Sir James Stephen, One hundred years have passed away, a century marked by events as important as any that have transpired in the world's history, and among them no landmark stands out more conspicuously than the monument which records the history of the abolition of the Slave Trade. To Granville Sharpe belongs the honour of having first aroused in the English mind a sense of the enjoyment of a freedom so perfect, so ennobling, so gracious, as to cover and enfranchise all who share with Englishmen the privilege of treading English soil.
When, in the mercy of God to Africa, a few earnest men were found whose hearts bled for her wrongs, and whose hands were strong to redress those wrongs, foremost as leaders stood Granville Sharpe, Clarkson, and William Wilberforce. To the first was committed the presidency of the Society formed for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, and to Wilberforce was assigned the general superintendence and Parliamentary management of the cause. The century whose commencement we have marked has passed away, and we witness the result of these men's labours; truly they have laboured, and we have entered into their labours. They contemplated but the overthrow of a gigantic evil, the curse of Africa's sons; we see that curse removed, and in place of the slaver and the slave barracoon, we see, looking from the very spot where John Newton lamented his captivity in the service of Satan, a Freetown, many of whose inhabitants, once slaves, or the children of slaves, are now free men in Christ Jesus. Nay more; we see the Gospel carried into the old haunts of the slavers; and as the sailor makes for the bar of Lagos, that last haunt of the slave trade, his landmark for the harbour is the spire of an English church, one of three erected there by the Church Missionary Society. Still further on we find a native Christian church in Abeokuta, and at various places on the Niger, native churches, their spiritual father himself once a slave, now a bishop of our own beloved Church. The century may well close with words taken from an evening paper which, writing in May last, pronounces the African slave trade to be a thing of the past, adding that the British cruiser is not the only obstacle to the trade, but the want of purchasers has rendered the trade useless and unprofitable, and never to be resuscitated.
It may be well, in directing the attention of our readers to the slave trade at present carried on with all the horrors of the old trade, upon the East Coast of Africa, to call to remembrance the circumstances under which the battle of the West Coast slave trade was fought and won. The disappointments and failures in that conflict may not be familiar to all, and many of our readers may be surprised to learn that twenty long years of labour and sorrow were consumed ere Mr. Wilberforce's efforts for the abolition of the slave trade were crowned with success. In 1789, he first proposed the abolition of the slave trade in the House of Commons, and it was not until April 1791, that the question was brought directly to an issue. The two years that had elapsed since his successful speech in 1789, had sufficed to change the current of popular feeling; and some indication of the temper of the time, and of the estimate formed by thinking men of the difficulties in Wilberforce's path, may be gathered from the following letter, penned by John Wesley on his dying bed. They are probably the last written words of that great servant of God:—
"Mr Dear Sir—Unless Divine power has raised yon up to be as Athanasius contra mundum, I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villany which is the scandal of religion, of England,' and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh, be not weary in well-doing! Go on in the name of God, in the name of His might, till even American slavery, the vilest that ever saw the sun, shall vanish away before it. That He who has guided you from your youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and in all things, is the prayer of, dear Sir, your affectionate Servant,
The event justified these forebodings. Mr. Wilberforce's motion was lost by a large majority; even Mr. Pitt, with whom he had concerted his first measure, avowing his opinion that it was wiser to await more tranquil times before the trade could be abolished. Again and again did Mr. Wilberforce return to the attack. His perseverance was at length rewarded, and the House of Commons for the first time passed a Bill, in 1794, for the immediate abolition of the trade. This Bill was lost in the House of Lords; and in succeeding Sessions Mr. Wilberforce laboured zealously, though ineffectually, to induce the House of Commons to resume the ground they had already occupied. Defeat followed defeat, and the contest, which had lasted for twelve years, seemed for a while to leave the advocates of slavery the masters of the field. In 1802, however, Mr. Wilberforce resumed his attempt, though under most discouraging circumstances. A second time did the Bill pass the Commons, only to be hung up in the Lords, and the question was adjourned to the following Session. The next effort was foiled; the House of Commons, in 1805, rejecting the Bill, inflicting upon Mr. Wilberforce distress and pain beyond that suffered on any previous defeat. But the impending change in the position of parties gave promise of hope. The Ministry of Mr. Fox had scarcely succeeded Mr. Pitt's Cabinet, when Bills were introduced into the Lords, and a Resolution carried in the Commons condemnatory of the trade; and finally, in 1807, the Bill was passed which condemned for ever the trade in slaves. Twenty-six years afterwards, the abolition of slavery in all British Dominions took place, and the example and influence of England soon secured from all European powers treaty-engagements by which trade in African slaves was declared to be piracy, and punishable as such. Under these treaties the African squadron was maintained, and mixed courts instituted at various ports around the African coast, for adjudging all cases of capture or seizure of vessels engaged in the trade. The watch maintained by the cruisers of the African squadron, and the energy and interest in the subject displayed by the late Lord Palmerston, have brought about the result we have adverted to, and true it is, so far as the West Coast of Africa is concerned, that the African Slave Trade is a thing of the past.
But while this happy result is chronicled concerning the old Atlantic Slave Trade, the annual reports of our Consul at Zanzibar, and the despatches of the naval officers in command of the few vessels which form the East African Squadron, tell a very different story. From these reports and despatches, which are annually presented to Parliament, we learn some particulars of the trade in slaves, carried on between the East African Coast and ports on the Persian Gulf, the Southern shores of Arabia and Persia, and the Red Sea. Dr. Livingstone, in his last work, "The Zambesi and its Tributaries," speaks, from his own personal observation, of the horrors and atrocities which accompany the slave raids made to supply this trade; and the late Bishop of Mauritius, at the request of the Committee, addressed a letter to the Earl of Chichester, as President of the Church Missionary Society, calling attention to the increasing extent of the trade, and urging the Society to take such measures as lay in their power to mitigate the evils and misery inflicted on that hapless land. Not unmindful of the claim that all Africa has on the Society, a claim indicated by its title, "The Church Missionary Society for Africa and the East," nor forgetting the link which binds the memory of its earlier days with the, circle which gathered round Wilberforce, and with the contest in which he was the leader, the Committee have, we rejoice to learn, responded to the call, and we would venture to express our confidence and trust in the ultimate success of any cause undertaken in the calm prayerful spirit which guides the deliberations of the men who compose that Committee.
The measures decided upon by the Committee are twofold. They have endeavoured, first, to apply to the present circumstances of the trade some mitigating remedy; and secondly, by spreading information upon the subject, and by urging upon the Government, with such influence as the Society may possess, the adoption of measures for that purpose, to bring about the suppression and extinction of this nefarious traffic. Most gladly would we assist in this enterprise, and we therefore propose to lay before our readers a short account of the present circumstances of this slave trade, with some notice of the remedial measures already adopted by the Church Missionary Society.
We are indebted for the information we propose to supply, to a pamphlet published by the Society, compiled from the official correspondence upon the East African Slave Trade, to a memorial recently presented by a deputation from the Society to the Duke of Argyll, as Secretary of State for India, and to the Parliamentary Blue Books of recent Sessions, on the Slave Trade.
It was in the year 1822 that the attention of the British Government was first called to the traffic in slaves carried on nominally between the African and Persian dominions of the Imaum of Muscat, but in reality between his African dominions and the very ports on the Red Sea and Persian Gulf to which the slaves are now carried. The dominions of the Imaum at that time comprised the petty state of Muscat, on the Southern shore of the Persian Gulf, and a large portion of the African coast, extending from Cape Delgado, at about 11 degrees South Latitude, to a port called Jubb, about 1 degree South of the Equator, including the large and important islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Monfia. The British Government, while declaring its intention of suppressing foreign slave trading, refused to meddle with slavery as a domestic institution, and accordingly, in the case of the Imaum of Muscat, determined to permit the slave trade between port and port in his own dominions; and a treaty to this effect was arranged between our Government and the Imaum. This treaty, dated 10th September, 1822, stipulates that the Imaum will abolish the trade in slaves between his dominions and every Christian country. By the treaty and a subsequent convention, authority to search and detain Muscat vessels was given to Her Majesty's ships, and the ships of war belonging to the East Indian Company; and by a further agreement, concluded between the Imaum of Muscat and Her Majesty the Queen, on the 2nd October, 1845, the Imaum agreed to prohibit, under the severest penalties, not only the export of slaves from his African dominions, but also the importation of slaves from any part of Africa into his dominions in Asia. By that treaty permission is granted to our cruisers to seize and confiscate any vessels carrying on slave trade, except only such as are engaged in the transport of slaves from one port to another of the Imaum's African dominions, between the port of Lamoo and its dependencies in South Lat., 9° 58', and the port of Kilwa and its dependencies in 9° 2' South Lat., including the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Monfia; thus limiting the traffic to the coastwise trade in the Imaum's African dominions; the effect of this limitation being nevertheless to continue a protection from our cruisers to the slavers, over about half their journey North.
Upon the death of the grandfather of the present Imaum (who is now in exile), his dominions were divided between his two sons, one retaining the Persian, and the other succeeding to the African territories, with the title of Sultan of Zanzibar. This division was not effected without strife, which at one time went the length of a threatened invasion of the Zanzibar territory by the Imaum, who had chartered for the occasion a fleet of "dhows," used for the purposes of the slave-trade. But the threatened invasion was summarily crushed by the appearance of a British squadron, which intimated in unmistakeable terms that England would permit no infringement of what she regarded as her sole prerogative in those waters. A truce was thereupon agreed to, and to a British officer was entrusted the task of preparing a treaty between the brothers, and settling the terms on which the division of territory should be made. The main article of the treaty was, that, in consideration of the superior wealth and extent of the African dominions claimed by the Sultan of Zanzibar, he should pay to his poorer brother, the Imaum, an annual subsidy of 40,000 crowns, equal to about £8,000 sterling.
Subsequent events have shown that the particular source whence this subsidy was to be drawn was the royalty derived by the Sultan from the slave-trade, of which he has the keys. We have been thus particular in detailing the connection between the saintly house of Muscat and the slave-trade, because. although there are branches of the East Coast slave-trade wholly unconnected with either Zanzibar or Muscat, there can be no question that, since the decline of the Portuguese power, and the extinction of the American trade, the principal abettors of the trade have been the rulers of Muscat and Zanzibar. In former days, about twenty to twenty-five years ago, our cruisers used to seize slavers in the Mozambique Channel, bound for Cuba or South America, and the writer well remembers the arrival at the Cape of Good Hope of ship-loads of these poor creatures, who were liberated there, and apprenticed by the Government to such of the inhabitants as would undertake for five years the support and training of the boy or girl committed to their care. In place of this trade, now defunct, there is a small trade in slaves carried on with Madagascar and the French islands of Mayotta, Nos Bé, and Reunion; the latter used to go under the name of the free engaugés system—a name pronounced by Colonel Playfair, the late Consul at Zanzibar, to be but a synonym for the slave-trade.
We now come to the main division—the Northern Slavetrade—which is carried on entirely by Arabs, and the chief points between which it is pursued are from the mainland opposite and to the south of Zanzibar, to the islands of Zanzibar and Peniba, and thence to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. The "dhows" used in the trade are rapid sailers before a wind, and carry as many as 250 slaves. The season for making the run North is during the southerly monsoon, from January to July and August, and the traders avail themselves of the northerly monsoon to come down to Zanzibar to make their purchases. In dealing with the subject as it now is before us, we shall, we think, present it best to our readers by endeavouring first to follow the course of the "merchandize" from its first acquisition to its final deportation, and then to detail some particulars showing the extent and present results of the trade, and the efforts made for its suppression, calling attention, in concluding, to the remedial measures proposed by the Church Missionary Society.
Let us, for our first purpose, accompany the slaving expedition of some successful hunter, probably an Arab sheikh, whose sacred writings inform him that all the African tribes south of the Somalis are proper subjects for his sword and his bow. Before starting on his expedition, he obtains from some agent at Zanzibar the needful articles either for barter or murder and kidnapping—beads, common cotton cloth, muskets, and ammunition; and the party starts for the interior, on what is now a long and toilsome march across a country once well cultivated and populous, but now desolated by the ravages of these marauders. The beads and cloth are used for paying their way during the early part of the journey, and for the purchase of ivory. According to Dr. Livingstone, these slaving parties seem to preserve their mercantile character for a large portion of the trip. They usually settle down with some chieftain and cultivate the soil, assisting him from time to time in raids against neighbouring tribes for the sake of the captives which their invariable success in these expeditions throws into their power. Either by this means, or by barter and purchase, the slave gang gradually accumulates; and we may form some conception of the value set on life by these traffickers in human flesh, by the price paid for the slave at his home, which we learn to be a few yards of cotton cloth, or, as the case may be, theft and murder. When the gang is sufficiently large to cover the terrible percentage of deaths due to the march down, and all preparations are completed, then commences the weary awful march to death or captivity. We have before us two records whence we can draw details of the atrocities perpetrated, during the march down, on these hapless "misérables." Both accounts are given by eye-witnesses. The first is Dr. Livingstone. In the work already mentioned, "The Zambesi and its Tributaries," is the following account of a slave party he met with in the valley of the Shiré:—
The slave party, a long line of manacled men, women, and children, came wending their way round the hill and into the valley, on the side of which the village stood. The black drivers, armed with muskets, and bedecked with various articles of finery, marched jauntily in the front, middle, and rear of the line, some of them blowing exulting notes out of long tin horns. They seemed to feel that they were doing a very noble thing, and might proudly march with an air of triumph. But the instant the fellows caught a glimpse of the English, they darted off like mad into the forest; so fast, indeed, that we caught but a glimpse of their red caps and the soles of their feet. The chief of the party alone remained, and he, from, being in front, had his hand tightly grasped by a Makololo. He proved to be a well known slave of the late commandant at Tette, and for some time our own attendant while there. On asking him how he obtained these captives, he replied he had bought them; but on our enquiring of the people themselves, all save four said they had been captured in war. While this enquiry was going on, he bolted too.
"The captives knelt down, and, in their way of expressing thanks, clapped their hands with great energy. They were thus left entirely on our hands, and knives were soon busy at work cutting the women and children loose. It was more difficult to cut the men adrift, as each had his neck in the fork of a stout stick, six or seven feet long, and kept in by an iron rod which was riveted at both ends across the throat. With a saw, luckily in the Bishop's baggage, one by one the men were sawn out into freedom. The women, on being told to take the meal they were carrying, and cook breakfast for themselves and the children, seemed to consider the news too good to be true; but, after a little coaxing, went at it with alacrity, and made a capital fire by which to boil their pots, with the slave sticks and bonds, their old acquaintances through many a sad night and weary day. Many were mere children, about five years of age and under. One little boy, with the simplicity of childhood, said to our mien, 'The others tied and starved us; you cut the ropes and tell us to eat. What sort of people are you? Where did you come from?' Two of the women had been shot the day before, for attempting to untie the thongs. This, the rest were told, was to prevent them attempting to escape. One woman had her infant's brains knocked out, because she could not carry her load and it; and a man was despatched with an axe, because he had broken down with fatigue.'
Our next witness is Reuten, one of the party of eight Sepoys sent from Bombay with Dr. Livingstone, who, overcome with terror, deserted the traveller in the interior, and joined themselves to the slave gang of one Suleiman, an Arab chief. After accompanying them to the coast, the Sepoys found their way to Zanzibar, and the following is the deposition of the Sepoy, made to Mr. Seward, the British Consul there. He says:—"We left Mataka with the slave-caravan of one Suleiman, an Arab. His band numbered 300 slaves, besides porters and servants, but there were many other smaller bands varying in number; altogether there started about 900. It seemed one great regiment.
"The slaves were yoked together in line, with forked sticks, their hands bound; women and children were simply bound.
"We set out at daylight, and pitched camp at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
"The slaves were compelled to sleep either in rows, head to head, under a central bar, to which the ends of their forked sticks were lashed; or they were arranged in groups of from five to ten, in such a manner that their sticks could all be brought together in the middle of the group and lashed.
"They had to sleep upon their backs, their wrists bound before them, helpless and unable to move.
"They were fed once a day with boiled jowarree and water.
"They were cheap: an adult cost two yards of common cotton cloth, a child one yard.
"They were urged forward on the march like cattle, beaten about the face and head. We witnessed many murders—many deaths; and the path was strewn with the bodies of those who had been killed.
"When we passed up with Dr. Livingstone, the road stunk with the way-side corpses; it was so again when we passed down.
"Every day we came upon the dead, and certainly we witnessed not less than a hundred deaths.
"Men were either killed by the club, or the dagger, or strangled.
"I with my own eyes (Reuten says) saw six men (at different times) choked to death: the victims were forced to sit leaning against a tree; a strip of bark or a thong was looped around the stem of the tree, pulled taut from behind, and the slave strangled.
"I saw not less than fifteen slaves clubbed to death by heavy blows between the eyes (which bespattered their faces with blood) or upon the head.
"Children were felled in this way, and put out of life by repeated blows on the head.
"I have seen a porter in mercy carry a sick slave, but some who were so thin and worn that they could not walk, and whose death was certain, were tossed aside into the bush.
"Others who had been so mercilessly beaten that but little life remained in them, were unyoked, and with a kick and an oath thrown aside to take their chances in the wilderness.
"An infant, not long born, was torn from its mother's breast, and pitched screaming into the bush. She was dragged relentlessly along.
"These things were done by the servants of the Arab owners, but always by the Arab's order. One Arab was very cruel. We saw his cruel nature in his face.
"The large and valuable tusks were not carried by the slaves, they were borne along by porters or servants of the Arabs; the small tusks, so light that they could easily be carried in one hand, were carried by a few, not all, of the slaves."
"The Naigue of the Sepoys gave much the same account as Reuten, but he declares to more numerous murders. In addition to the club and the noose, he saw the dagger used to despatch victims who either could not or would not move along with the caravan."
"These atrocities," says Mr. Seward, "occurred after the gang began their march: but what of the crimes that waited upon their original capture?"
We have now accompanied the "merchandize" to the coast. We may think the worst is over. Many gangs, no doubt, are taken at once to Quiloa, and there sold; but many also have to await a favourable chance for shipment, so as to elude the Zanzibar market, and be smuggled off at once to their destination; and for these poor wretches are reserved the horrors of the slave barracoon. Again we have an eye-witness to relate to us details of the sickening scene. Monsieur Ménon, of the island of Rếunion, who was formerly engaged in promoting what he calls African emigration to the French colonies, describes the following scene on the river Lindie, on the Eastern coast:—
" An Arab chief told us he had, in the forest at some leagues' distance, a depôt of 800 men, whom he would bring to us the next day. I asked the chief to conduct us to his depôt, and at first he stubbornly refused. But then I promised him a rifle musket, which he eagerly desired to get, he consented and led us thither. After three hours' march we arrived, but could see nothing. 'Where are they lodged?' we asked; and he pointed to a palisade of bamboo, open to the sky, where they were exposed, at the worst season of the year, to a fiery sun, alternating with torrents of rain and sometimes of hail, without any roof to cover them.
"A man of tall stature, with his spear in his hand and a poignard in his belt, pulled up three posts which served for a gate to this enclosure, and we entered. There they were, naked as on the day of their birth; some of them with a long fork attached to their neck—that is, a heavy branch of a tree (une grossière branche d'arbre) of fork-like shape—so arranged that it was impossible for them to step forward, the heavy handle of the fork, which they could not lift, effectually preventing them from advancing, because of the pressure on the throat; others were chained together in parcels (paquets) of twenty." The word which I underline is a trivial one, but it exactly expresses the idea. The keeper of this den utters a hoarse cry (pousse un rugissement); it is the order for the merchandize to stand up; but many of them do not obey. What is the matter? Our interpreter, who has gone among the groups, will tell us: listen to him. 'The chains are too short; the dead and the dying prevent the living from rising. The dead can say nothing; but what do the dying say? They say that they are dying—of hunger.'
"But let us leave the consideration of this trader's picture as a whole; and let us look at some of the details. Who is this creature who holds tightly in her arms a shapeless object covered with filthy leaves? On looking close, you see that it is a woman, lying in the mud, and holding to her dried up breast the child of which she has just been delivered. And those little girls who totter as they strive to rise, and who seem to ask for pity, on what are they leaning? On a dead body! And this man who is working with his hands a piece of mud, which he is continually placing on his eye, what is the matter with him? Our guide tells us, 'He is a troublesome fellow, who set a bad example by throwing himself at my feet this morning, and saying with a loud voice, I am dying of hunger; and I gave him a blow which burst his eye; he is henceforth good for nothing;' and he added with a sinister look, 'He wont be hungry long.'"
To the question addressed to the Arab chief, why he dealt thus with the men, his reply was, "I do as my father did before me."
We pass on from the consideration of such revolting scenes, to watch the future destiny of the unhappy slaves when brought down to the coast.
The port of Quiloa, or Kilwa, which we have mentioned, lies about 150 miles south of the island of Zanzibar, and is the great mainland mart or emporium where thousands are exposed for sale, and whence they are shipped for Zanzibar. The cost of the slave purchased at Kilwa is about five dollars. Some attempt is there made to register the number exported for Zanzibar, by means of port clearances furnished by the authorities to the slavers; and it is from these registers that we are enabled to calculate the yearly consumption of slaves. To this part of our subject we shall presently return.
On arrival at Zanzibar, the majority of the slaves pass into the slave market. Many are at once consigned to their Arab purchasers, who have come down from Arabia with the northerly monsoon, and have hired houses for the reception of their purchases. For every slave thus brought to Zanzibar, the Sultan receives a royalty of two dollars, and it is therefore manifest that for any assistance he may offer in the suppression of the trade, he expects, as the lawyers say, "a valuable consideration."
We again turn to the testimony of Dr. Livingstone; and at this time, when there is so much uncertainty as to the safety of our great traveller, the mind naturally recurs to the state of suspense almost hopeless, save for the firm opinion expressed by Sir R. Murchison, which followed on the report of his death given by the Johanna men at Zanzibar. Great was the rejoicing at the tidings of his safety, and hearty were the congratulations offered to their president by the members of the Geographical Society at the meeting at which Dr. Livingstone's letter announcing his safety was read. While all who spoke claimed him as the great geographer, the African explorer, the undaunted traveller, there was one present who, having himself, with Livingstone, witnessed some of the horrors of the East African Slave-trade, endeavoured to impress upon the fashionable and learned assembly, that Livingstone had other objects in view beside the mere solution of geographical problems—that he was a true philanthropist, and that one of the causes nearest to his heart was the suffering oppressed slave. The appeal fell on ears geographical, geological, and polite, but unsympathising, and it was evident that the harmony of the evening was not to be marred by the mention of so uncomfortable and unscientific a subject as the woes of the slave. However interesting Africa's land and lakes and rivers may be to the man of science, the condition of Africa's sons seems to appeal only to a few unenlightened enthusiasts, whose hopes and prayers and efforts form fit subject for scoff and sneer. But the friend of the slave was the truest exponent of Livingstone's character and views; and it is deeply interesting to see the traveller, as we may picture him to ourselves, sitting down in Lat. 11° 18' South, Long. 37° 10' East, to write a long report, dated 11th June, 1866, to the Earl of Clarendon on the slave-trade. Again, writing from Lake Nyassa in the following month of August, he returns to the subject, and makes suggestions for the suppression of the trade; and again, in a letter dated 1st February, 1867, written from Bembo, about 500 miles from the spot where he penned his first report, he devotes the greater part of his space to the slave-trade, and concludes with a regret that the geographical notes must be so scanty.
With this digression, the object of which was mainly to enhance the value of Dr. Livingstone's testimony on the subject, we return to the island of Zanzibar and its slave mart, to which point we have followed the slave. "This," says Dr. Livingstone, (in the report dated 11th June, 1866, received on the 18th April, 1868), "is now almost the only spot in the world where 100 to 300 slaves are daily exposed for sale in open market. This disgraceful scene I several times personally witnessed, and the purchasers were Arabs or Persians, whose dhows lay anchored in the harbour, and these men were daily at their occupation examining the teeth, gait, and limbs of the slaves, as openly as horse dealers engage in their business in England."
The thought may here occur to many of our readers, possibly unfamiliar with the subject, "This may all be true, but is it not a small insignificant trade you are describing—an annual caravan of perhaps 300 or 400 slaves?" A few words on the present extent and results of the trade will, we regret to say, reveal a very different state of things. We have stated that Quiloa, or Kilwa, is the principal mainland export harbour, and that here proper clearances are furnished to the slavers. In a letter dated Zanzibar, 4th March, 1868, Consul Churchill states that for the five years terminating September, 1867, there had been exported from Quiloa 97,253 registered slaves. He states also, that from 3000 to 4000 annually are smuggled from various parts of the mainland; so that we may swell the above total to about 115,000 slaves, in five years, who have reached the coast, and have been shipped for Zanzibar, Arabia, and other places. Nor is this enormous total the measure of the misery and sin which accompanies the trade. Let us again recur to the statement of the Indian Sepoy. He says, "When we passed up with Dr. Livingstone, the wayside stunk with corpses; it was so when we passed down again;" and out of the 300 slaves who started on that fearful march, 100 were left murdered on the bloody track. Dr. Livingstone, in Chap. xix. of the "Zambesi and its Tributaries" says,—
"Would that we could give a comprehensive account of the horrors of the Slave-trade, with an approximation to the number of lives it yearly destroys: for we feel sure that, were even half the truth told and recognised, the feelings of men would be so thoroughly roused, that this devilish traffic in human flesh would be put down at all risks; but neither we, nor any one else, have the statistics necessary for a work of this kind. Let us state what we know of one portion of Africa, and then every reader who believes our tale can apply the ratio of the known misery to find out the unknown. Let it not be supposed for an instant, that those taken out of the country represent all the victims; they are but a very small section of the sufferers. Besides those actually captured, thousands are killed and die of their wounds and famine, driven from their villages by the slave raid; thousands in internecine war waged for slaves with their own clansmen and neighbours, slain by the lust of gain, which is stimulated by the slave purchasers. The many skeletons we have seen amongst rocks and woods, by the little pools, and along the paths of the wilderness, attest the awful sacrifice of human life which must be attributed, directly or indirectly, to this trade of hell. We would ask our countrymen to believe us when we say, as we conscientiously can, that it is our deliberate opinion, from what we know and have seen, that not one-fifth of the victims of the slave-trade ever become slaves. Taking the Shiré valley as an average, we should say, not even one-tenth arrive at their destination."
Again, in his report to Lord Clarendon, dated the 20th August, 1866, he speaks of "a tract of very fine, well-watered, but depopulated country, which took us eight days' hard marching to cross":—
"It was about 100 miles broad, and so long, there was no possibility of going round either end. It bore all the marks of having been densely peopled at some former period. The ridges in which the natives plant grain and beans were everywhere visible; and from the number of calcined clay pipes used in furnaces, it is evident that they worked extensively in iron. The country was very beautiful, mountainous, well-wooded, and watered. I counted in one day's march fifteen running burns, though it was the dry season, and some were from four to ten yards broad. The sound of gushing water, though not associated in our minds with Africa, became quite familiar. It was too cold to bathe in with pleasure, the elevation above the sea being between 3000 and 4000 feet.
"The process of depopulation to which I have adverted goes on annually. The coast Arabs from Kilwa come up with plenty of ammunition and calico to the tribe called Waigau or Ajawa, and say that they want slaves. Marauding parties immediately start off to the Manganja or Wanyassa villages, and, having plenty of powder and guns, overpower and bring back the chief portion of the inhabitants. Those who escape usually die of starvation. This process is identical with that of which we formerly saw so much in the lands of the Portuguese in the Shiré valley. I cannot write about it without a painful apprehension that to persons at a distance I must appear guilty of exaggeration. But I beg your Lordship to remember, whenever my statements have been tested on the spot, they have been found within, not beyond, the truth. Even the grand Victoria sales were put down at less than half their size."
We have been told by General Rigby, formerly Consul at Zanzibar, that the old slaves still living there state that their homes were in the country bordering on the sea; while now the slave hunter has to penetrate for 400 or 500 miles into the interior, through a country once populous and fertile, but now a waste, ere he can secure the victims for his traffic. We leave our readers to form their own conclusions as to the awful sacrifice of human life caused by the Slave-trade on the East Coast of Africa, and proceed to answer the question which must naturally occur to every one,—"Has nothing been done by our Government to put a stop to this miserable traffic?"
Within the last ten years, more attention has been given by our authorities to the subject; and, in addition to the watch maintained by our small squadron, various measures have been urged upon the Sultan, the adoption of which, it was thought, would materially aid the efforts of our cruisers. But it is a fact, that as yet no palpable check has been placed on the trade. The reason assigned by Dr Livingstone for this failure is the treaty protection afforded by us over the first and most difficult half of the sea voyage, under the policy to which expression was given by Lord Russell, in a despatch dated 14th March, 1864. In that despatch he says, that Her Majesty's Government do not claim the right to interfere in the status of domestic slavery in Zanzibar, nor with the bonâ fide transport of slaves from one portion of the Sultan's territory to another, so long as this latter traffic shall not be made a cloak to cover the foreign Slave-trade. The limits of this article prevent our giving at length the arguments adduced by Dr. Livingstone and Mr. Churchill for a reconsideration of the policy of our Government in this matter,—they are to be found in the pamphlet published by the Church Missionary Society;—it will be sufficient for our purpose to say, that they point out the absurdity of supposing that an export trade of 20,000 slaves annually is needed to maintain the status of domestic slavery in Zanzibar and the Sultan's African dominions; and concur in suggesting either that the Sultan be urged to surrender the protected trade entirely, or to consent to a gradual reduction of the number of slaves to be brought into Zanzibar to a minimum of 4000; at the same time granting our cruisers such a right of search as would practically blockade the whole of these waters, save a small limit over which the vessels of Zanzibar, furnished with proper clearances from Kilwa, might carry the slaves required for the island of Zanzibar. The Sultan, personally, is supposed to be anxious to check and suppress the trade; and, when urged to relinquish his treaty right of carrying slaves, has expressed his willingness to do so, provided our Government will, in return, refrain from compelling him to pay the subsidy which it was arranged should be paid to Muscat, on the partition of the dominions of the old Imaum. Apart from the question of the relinquishment of the treaty rights, the Sultan prays to be released from this payment, giving as his reason that it was contrary to all principles of right that he should continue to pay a subsidy to a parricide and usurper; his brother, with whom the compact was made, having been foully murdered by his son, who usurped his throne. So strongly does the Sultan appear to have felt this, that he sent an embassy to England to obtain from our Government a release from the hateful subsidy. The presence of these envoys afforded an opportunity, which was seized by the Church Missionary Society, of approaching the Government; and as the matter was within the purview of the India Office, a memorial was presented to His Grace the Duke of Argyll, setting forth shortly some of the main facts connected with the trade, and urging that the presence of the envoys afforded an opportunity, that should not be lost, of obtaining from the Sultan a virtual abandonment of the protected slave-trade. The deputation was kindly received by His Grace, who, from his answer, seemed to think that the condition attached by the Sultan to the concession, viz., the release from the subsidy, so complicated the question, as to render it impossible to answer the memorial of the Society until the Indian Government had been consulted. He expressed a hope that, in the meantime, the arrangements which were pending between the Admiralty and the India Office would place the East African Squadron on a more efficient footing.
We now come to the last division of our subject, the measures by which the Society hope, in some degree, to alleviate the curse brought on East Africa, and to turn that curse into a blessing. The annual returns from the East Coast Squadron show that they capture every year a varying number of slaves ranging from 1000 to 1800. These poor creatures are liberated at the nearest British port to the point of capture; and accordingly cargoes of these poor creatures, many of them children, are landed at Aden, Bombay, Mauritius, and the Seychelles Islands. The pamphlet from which we have so largely drawn, in order to point its argument in favour of a Christian settlement on or near the East Coast of Africa, to which these liberated slaves may be brought, sketches shortly the history of the Missions of the Society to West Africa, showing how the settlement of Sierra Leone, formerly only the depot for the liberated slave, has become a Christian capital, and the centre of light for that part of Africa; and proceeds:—
"The practical conclusion to which we now come is, that the efforts of our own Government to suppress the East Coast Slave Trade afford an opportunity for the evangelization of portions of the East Coast tribes similar to that so successfully embraced by the Church Missionary and other Missionary Societies at Sierra Leone; and with hopes of similar success, provided only that a Sierra Leone can be formed on the East Coast. This is a most important point, for without some such central depôt be combined missionary effort can be made."
After balancing the advantages and difficulties presented by such localities as Zanzibar, Mauritius, Mombas, Aden, and the Seychelles Islands, the latter are pronounced most suited to the scheme proposed by the Society; which is to commence a Mission, principally of an educational character, among the liberated slaves, now or hereafter to be brought to those islands, taking charge of the children, supporting and educating them, as is still done, with the help of the Government, in the Liberated African Schools at Sierra Leone, at the Powder Mills Asylum in Mauritius, and at the African Institution at Nassick in Bombay. From letters recently received by the Society from their missionaries at Mauritius, and from the Bishop of Mauritius, we learn that there are now at the Island of Mabe, one of the Seychelles group, no less than 2000 liberated slaves, and that there are in the market several small estates suitable for the establishment of a training school, which may become self-supporting, and where the lads may be instructed in the trades and handicrafts so necessary to the development of civilized life. For further details of the scheme, we again refer our readers to the pamphlet.
Thus, practically, the Church Missionary Society seems called upon, to undertake a new Mission, and already it has responded to the call by transferring to the Seychelles from the Kisulidiui Station of the Society on the East African coast, one of its missionaries whose ill-health had rendered a change necessary. While we would congratulate the Committee on its ready response to the call "Come over and help us," and concur most heartily in the scheme they have in view, we hope they will not relax their efforts to obtain from the Government such measures as shall lead to a complete abandonment of this curse of East Africa, and pave the way for the restoration, to their own wasted and depopulated though fertile country, of a people who, under the teaching of the Society, will be not only educated in agriculture and the useful arts, but "instructed unto the kingdom of heaven." But to the accomplishment of this end many will be the obstacles; nor must the Society falter or swerve from its path at the opposition they must encounter. We beg them to remember the inheritance which has descended to them from the men who fought and won the old fight. And here the words of Sir James Stephen seem to us so encouraging, and conceived in a spirit so appropriate to that in which the present contest, inferior though it may be in magnitude to the battle of the old slave trade, should be commenced and maintained, that we cannot do better than close this article by quoting them at length:—
"In later days agitation for the accomplishment of groat political objects has taken a place among social arts. But sixty years since, it was among the inventions slumbering in the womb of time, taught by no professors, and illustrated by no examples. We have lived to see many of the most ancient and solid edifices, erected by the wisdom of our ancestors, totter at the blast of leagues, associations, speeches, reports, and editorial articles, like the towers of Jericho falling before the rams' horns of Joshua. But when Mr. Wilberforce and his friends met to deliberate on their enterprise, the contrast between the magnitude of their design and the poverty of their resources demanded a faith scarcely inferior to that which encouraged the invaders of Palestine to assault with the sound of their trumpets the towers built up by the children of Anak to the heavens. Truth, indeed, and justice were on their side; and in the flower of his youth, his eloquence, and his fame, Mr. Pitt had given the bright augury of his adhesion to their cause. But, after twenty years of ceaseless controversy had rolled away, the most sanguine of them was constrained to 'stand in awe of the powers of falsehood' and of commercial cupidity, and to acknowledge that, in effecting so great a deliverance, God would not employ the rulers nor the mere rhetoricians of the world, but would use, as His instruments, His own devoted servants—men able to touch in the bosoms of others the sacred springs of action which were working in their own."
This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.