Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/242

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226
SLAVERY


mildness of the code, its provisions were habitually and glaringly violated in the colonies of Spain, and in Cuba particularly the con- ditions of slavery were very bad. The slave population of the island was estimated in 1792 at 84,000; in 1817 at 179,000; in 1827 at 286,000; and in 1843 at 436,000. An act was passed by the Spanish legislature in 1870, providing that every slave who had then passed, or should thereafter pass, the age of sixty should be at once free, and that all yet unborn children of slaves should also be free. The latter, however, were to be maintained at the expense of the proprietors up to their eighteenth year, and during that time to be kept, as apprentices, to su>_h work as was suitable for their age. This was known as the Moret Law, having been carried through the house of representatives by Sefior Moret y Prendergast, then minister for the colonies. By the census of 1867 there was in Cuba a total popula- tion of 1,370,211 persons, of whom 764,750 -were whites and 605,461 black or coloured ; and of the latter number 225,938 were free and 379. 5 2 3 were slaves. In 1873 the Cubans roughly estimated the population at 1,500,600 — of whom 500,000, or one-third, were slaves. Mr Crowe, consul-general in the island, in 1885, stated that " the institution was rapidly dying, — that in a year, or at most two, slavery, even in its then mild form, would be extinct."

There was a convention between Great Britain and Brazil in 1826 for the abolition of the slave trade, but it was habitually Brazil violated in spite of the English cruisers. In 1830 the

traffic was declared piracy by the emperor of Brazil. England asserted by the Aberdeen Act (1845) the right of seizing suspected craft in Brazilian waters. Yet by the connivance of the local administrative authorities 54,000 Africans continued to be annually imported. In 1850 the trade is said to have been decisively put down. The planters and mine proprietors cried out against this as a national calamity. The closing of the traffic made the labour of the slaves more severe, and led to the employment on the planta- tions of many who before had been engaged in domestic work; but the slavery of Brazil had always been lighter than that of the United States. On 28th September 1871 the Brazilian chambers decreed that slavery should be abolished throughout the empire. Though existing slaves were to remain slaves still, with the exception of those possessed by the government, who were liberated by the act, facilities for emancipation were given; and it was provided that all children born of female slaves after the day On which the law passed should be free. They were, however, bound to serve the owners of their mothers for a term of 21 years. A clause was in- serted to the effect that a certain sum should be annually set aside from fines to aid each province in emancipating slaves by purchase. Seven years before the passing of this act the emperor, whose influence had always been exerted in favour of freedom, had liberated his private slaves, and many Brazilians after 1871 followed his example. Finally, in 1888 the chambers decreed the total abolition of slavery, some 700,000 persons being accordingly freed.

In the colonies of more than one European country, after the prohibition of the slave trade, attempts were made to replace it Disguised ^y a s y st:em of importing labourers of the inferior races slave under contracts for a somewhat lengthened term; and

trade * ms was * n severa ^ instances found to degenerate into a

sort of legalized slave traffic About 1867 we began to hear of a system of this kind which was in operation between the South Sea Islands and New Caledonia and the white settlements in Fiji. It seems to have begun in really voluntary agreements; but for these the unscrupulous greed of the traders soon substituted methods of fraud and violence. The natives were decoyed into the labour ships under false pretences, and then detained by force; or they were seized on shore or in their canoes and carried on board. The nature of the engagements to go and work on the plantations was not fully explained to them, and they were hired for periods exceeding the legal term. The area of this trade was ere long further extended. In 1884 attention was drawn in a special degree to the Queensland traffic in Pacific Islanders by the " Hopeful " trials, and a government commission was appointed to inquire into the methods followed by labour ships in recruiting the natives of New Guinea, the Louisiade Archipelago, and the D'Entrecasteaux group of islands. The result of the investigations, during which nearly five hundred witnesses were examined, was the disclosure of a system which in treachery and atrocity was little inferior to the old African slave trade. These shameful deeds made the islanders regard it as a duty to avenge their wrongs on any white men they could entice upon their shores. The bishop of Melanesia, John Coleridge Patteson, fell a victim to this retaliation on the island of Nukapu 20th September 1871.

We have seen that the last vestiges of the monstrous anomaly of modern colonial slavery are disappearing from all civilized states and their foreign possessions. It now remains to consider the slavery of primitive origin which has existed within recent limes, or continues to exist, outside of the Western world.

In Russia, a country which had not the same historical ante- cedents with the Western nations, properly so called, and which is in fact more correctly classed as Eastern, whilst slavery had dis- appeared, serfdom was in force down to our own days. The rural population of that country, at the earliest period accessible to


our inquiries, consisted of (1) slaves, (2) free agricultural labourers, and (3) peasants proper, who were small farmers or cottiers and members of a commune. The sources of slavery were there, R„ ss /an as elsewhere, capture in war, voluntary sale by poor ser /y OOI freemen of themselves, sale of insolvent debtors, and the action of the law in certain criminal cases. In the 18th century we find the distinction between the three classes named above effaced and all of them merged in the class of serfs, who were the property either of the landed proprietors or of the state. They were not even adscripti glebae, though forbidden to migrate; an imperial ukase of 1 72 1 says, " the proprietors sell their peasants and domestic servants, not even in families, but one by one, like cattle." This practice, at first tacitly sanctioned by the government, which received dues on the sales, was at length formally recognized by several imperial ukases. Peter the Great imposed a poll-tax on all the members of the rural population, making the proprietors responsible for the tax charged on their serfs; and the " free wandering people " who were not willing to enter the army were required to settle on the land either as members of a commune or as serfs of some proprietor. The system of serfdom attained its fullest development in the reign of Catherine II. The serfs were bought, sold, and given in presents, sometimes with the land, sometimes without it, sometimes in families and sometimes individually, sale by public auction being alone for- bidden, as " unbecoming in a European state." The proprietors could transport without trial their unruly serfs to Siberia or send them to the mines for life, and those who presented complaints against their masters were punished with the knout and condemned to the mines. The first symptoms of a reaction appear in the reign <jf Paul (1796-1801). He issued an ukase that the serfs should not be forced to work for their masters more than three days in each week. There were several feeble attempts at further reform, and even abortive projects of emancipation, from the commencement of the 19th century. But no decisive measures were taken before the accession of Alexander II. (1855). That emperor, after the Crimean War, created a secret committee composed of the great officers of state, called the chief committee for peasant affairs, to study the subject of serf-emancipation. Of this body the grand-duke Con- stantine was an energetic member. To accelerate the proceedings of the committee advantage was taken of the following incident. In the Lithuanian provinces the relations of the masters and serfs were regulated in the time of Nicholas by what were called in- ventories. The nobles, dissatisfied with these, now sought to have them revised. The government interpreted the application as im- plying a wish for the abolition of serfdom, and issued a rescript authorizing the formation of committees to prepare definite pro- posals for a gradual emancipation. A circular was soon after sent to the governors and marshals of the nobility all over Russia proper, informing them of this desire of the Lithuanian nobles, and setting out the fundamental principles which should be observed " if the nobles of the provinces should express a similar desire." Public opinion strongly favoured the projected reform ; and even the masters who were opposed to it saw that, if the operation became necessary, it would be more safely for their interests intrusted to the nobles than to the bureaucracy. Accordingly during 1858 a committee was created in nearly every province in which serfdom existed. From the schemes prepared by these committees, a general plan had to be elaborated, and the government appointed a special imperial commission for this purpose. The plan was formed, and, in spite of some opposition from the nobles, which was suppressed, it became law, and serfdom was abolished (19th February = 3rd March 1861). (See Russia.) The total number of serfs belonging to proprietors at the time of the emancipation was 21,625,609, of whom 20,158,231 were peasant serfs and 1,467,378 domestic serfs. This number does not include the state serfs, who formed about one-half of the rural population. Their position had been better, as a rule, than that of the serfs on private estates; it might indeed, Mr (afterwards Sir) R. D. M. Wallace says, be regarded as " an intermediate position between serfage and freedom." Amongst them were the serfs on the lands formerly belonging to the church, which had been secularized and transformed into state demesnes by Catherine II. There were also serfs on the apanages affected to the use of the imperial family ; these amounted to nearly three and a half millions. Thus by the law of 1861 more than forty millions of serfs were emancipated.

The slavery of the Mahommedan East is usually not the slavery of the field but of the household. The slave is a member of the family, and is treated with tenderness and affection. The Mahom-Koran breathes a considerate and kindly spirit towards tnedan the class, and encourages manumission. The child of a slave slavery girl by her master is born free, and the mother is usually raised to be a free wife. The traffic in slaves has been repeatedly declared by the Ottoman Porte to be illegal throughout its dominions, and a law for its suppression was published in 1889, but it cannot be said to be extinct, owing to the laxity and too often the complicity of the government officials. In Egypt it has practically died out.

In the days of the colonial slave trade its African centre was the region about the mouths of the rivers Calabar and Bonny, whither the captive negroes were brought from great distances Africa. in the interior. As many slaves, Clarkson tells us, came annually from this part of the coast as from all the rest of Africa besides. The principal centres from which the supply was furnished