The American Slave Trade (Spears)/Chapter 5

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3511473The American Slave Trade (Spears) — Chapter 51907John Randolph Spears



Physical Features of Land and Sea — Peculiarities of the Aborigines and some Characteristics that were not Peculiar to Them — Gathering Slaves for the Market — A Trade that Degenerated from a System of Fair Barter into the Most Atrocious Forms of Piracy Conceivable — Utter Degradation of White Traders — The Slaughter at Calabar — Prices Paid for Slaves — The Barracoons of Pedro Blanco and Da Souza — When Negroes Voluntarily Sold Themselves.

The chief source of supply for the devouring slave-market of the West throughout the whole history of the trade, and practically the only source during the years when the trade was legal, was found along the Atlantic coast of Africa, between Cape Verde, at the north, and Benguela, or Cape St. Martha, at the south. The sea here makes a great scoop into the land, as if the Brazilian part of the South American continent had been broken out of the hollow in the African coast. Two great rivers and a host of smaller streams come down to the sea within its limits, and its contour, as a whole, is that of a mighty gulf, but there is neither bay nor inlet throughout its whole extent that forms a good harbor for shipping. And the off-shore islands, too, are few in number and small in extent. The land at the beach is almost everywhere low, even though hills and mountains may be seen, flooded with a dreamy haze, in the distance. The rivers wind about through uncounted channels in low delta lands covered with masses of mangrove and palm trees, and haunted by poisonous and vicious reptiles. The yellowish sand of the sea and the black washings of the uplands mingle to form low, tawny beaches and dunes where the river currents are beaten back by the ever-present and ever-treacherous surf. Goree and Gambia, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the Bight of Benin and the Bight of Biafra, Bonny and Calabar, Anamaboe and Ambriz, the Congo and St. Paul de Loango, are all familiar names to the student of slavecoast literature.

Here as elsewhere in the primitive life of man the strong dominated the weak—there were tribes that were superior, mentally and physically, to their neighbors, and in every tribe there were men who arose above the masses, while among these stalwarts there was a chief who was in every case a real hero to his people. The sons of the chiefs or kings did, indeed, inherit the commanding positions of their fathers, but only when it was shown in them that the blood had not degenerated. In some tribes there was no inheritance of the chief's office.

It was a superstitious as well as a savage people, believing in the existence of invisible supernatural beings of various kinds, but because of the destructive influence of the unexplainable phenomena of nature round about, they regarded nearly all of these spirits as having malevolent minds. From the lightning's stroke to the insidious spread of a tumor, no ill of life occurred that was not the work of a malignant spirit. In a way not hard to understand, these savages connected the spirits with the evil creatures of the earth—with the poisonous serpents, the fierce robber birds, the ravenous beasts, and with those human individuals in whom cunning and stealth took the place of courage and physical prowess. Even the rocks, when of unusual form, and especially when of terrifying aspect, were regarded as the abiding places of evil spirits, and not infrequently as their visible bodies.

With all they had a crude knowledge of what, in works on political economy, is treated under the head of "exchanges." The savage, of course, had made but slight progress in the practical arts, while the white men understood the results of accumulation as well as of exchange.

In one other matter the savage and the civilized man found themselves on common ground, though that is not to say exactly on a level. They both loved rum. The white man mixed his rum with juice of limes and water and sugar. The savage always took (and takes) his "straight." The white man of those days, too, preferred madeira wine when he could afford it, which he could do after one voyage to Africa. Moreover the white man drank it for his health, or for some other reason of that kind, while the savage took it because he liked it. The relative levels of the two races are herein manifest.

Because the white men were superior in a variety of ways the black men received them with joy, and opened traffic at once.

It was a grewsome traffic that followed—the most grewsome in the history of the world—for the white men came seeking slaves and the blacks had them to sell.

Tt is a curious subject of inquiry, when we come to consider how the African chiefs happened to have slaves for sale. That slaves were few in number during the earlier years of the trade is certain. That is to say, the great men of every tribe held a few of their neighbors as personal property. They were detained in various ways, but chiefly through taking prisoners in the fights with neighboring tribes, for strange as it may seem now, the presence of slaves in a tribe indicated some degree of mercy in the minds of the slaveowners. Instead of killing everybody, old and young, when attacking an enemy, these slave-owners saved some alive.

One other way was through the tribal laws regarding debts. The civilized people threw the insolvent debtor into prison and held him there, very frequently, until he died—sometimes while he starved to death. The black savages made the debtor work out the debt. It was also noted by the whites that when a negro husband found one of his wives unfaithful he made a slave of her lover.

More remarkable still was another source of slaveowning among the Africans. So jealous were they of their right to worship their gods when, where, and how they pleased, that for a man to desecrate or remove a neighbor's fetish, or even to touch it, was an offence for which the penalty was often slavery.

War, crime, and superstition supplied the great men of the tribes with servants, and these they would sell on occasion. That they might also sell wives and children scarcely need be said, though sons were rarely sold save in time of famine, even in the mild slaveholding days before the white slaver came — days when slaves were, on the whole, treated as members of the slave-holder's family. In connection with these facts we must remember that the Africans, having food and raiment, were therewith content. They did not try to accumulate fortunes, and so had no need for many workmen. Slaves were few in number on this coast before the white man came.

The story of the first American voyage to Africa of which we have a definite record tells us somewhat of methods employed in obtaining slave cargoes. A Boston ship, called the Rainbowe, commanded by one Captain Smith, went away to Madeira with saltfish and staves. Sailing thence with the proceeds of her sale, she "touched on the coast of Guinea" for slaves. She found some London slave-vessels already here, with their captains very much disgruntled because trade was dull. There were very few slaves for sale, that is, and to liven matters a little, the Yankees and the Londoners united, and "on pretence of some quarrel with the natives landed a ‘murderer' — the expressive name of a small cannon — attacked a negro village on Sunday, killed many of the inhabitants, and made a few prisoners, two of whom fell to the share of the Boston ship."

That was in 1645 — just twenty-six years after the Dutchman landed the slaves in Virginia as recorded by John Rolfe, the first American squaw-man. False pretence, outrage, and the slaughter of innocents characterized the first-recorded gathering of slaves in which an American had part. They "killed many of

after a raid.
See page 56.
the inhabitants," and got two slaves for their share of the plunder.

That Captain Smith's act was not according to the ordinary usages of the trade may be inferred from what happened when he returned to Boston. A quarrel with the ship's owners over the proceeds of the voyage resulted in a lawsuit. The story of the voyage was told in court, and although it was nota criminal trial], one of the magistrates "charged the master with a threefold offence — murder, man-stealing, and Sabbath-breaking." The captain escaped punishment on these charges, on the ground that the court had no jurisdiction over crimes committed in Africa, a decision that was typical of what was to come. But the two slaves were returned home.

On the other hand, when we consider the usual course of trade, we may say that, viewed fairly and by the light of the age, the gathering of slaves on the coast of Africa, previous to 1750, was conducted with as great a regard for honesty as was any other trade with uncivilized people.

The voyage to the coast in the Newport slaver days lasted anywhere from six to ten weeks, according to the ship and the luck in winds. On reaching Bonny, or Anamaboe, or Old Calabar, then favorite ports, the captain made ready for a grand entertainment in honor of the native chiefs and headmen. To put it bluntly, the chiefs were invited on board to get drunk, and they accepted the invitation with an eager thirst.

In addition to this free debauch the chiefs received sundry presents. According to Alexander Falconbridge, a surgeon in the trade in the latter half of the eighteenth century, the presents "generally consist of pieces of cloth, cotton, chintz, silk handkerchiefs, and other India goods, and sometimes brandy, wine, or beer."

Having propitiated the chiefs, the captain was free to begin trade. Some inkling of how this was conducted is told in the letter of Captain George Scott in the chapter "When Voyages Went Awry."

It was disheartening and even exasperating to the slavers, and the more enterprising made ways of livening the trade. They looked for a chief who held a grudge against a native tribe, and incited and aided him to take revenge. They suggested to chiefs that certain stout, well-built citizens of the tribe were ambitious of becoming rulers and that an effectual stop to such ambition was to sell the offenders. They made friends with the fetish or medicine men — always the adroit and underhand rascals of the tribe — in order to have charges of witchcraft preferred against likely young men and women. They persuaded the medicine men to have youths and children entrapped without any charge of any kind. They told men having many wives that this or that young man was the lover of one or another wife. So the great man was led to lie in wait and capture the lover and sell him. It was a short step from this to another practice whereby attractive wives were sent to entrap unwary amorous swains. Incredible as it must seem, the civilized captains from Christian lands introduced what is known to professional thieves as the badger game, and they made money out of it, and the ship merchants and stockholders in the ships knew that it was done and willingly shared the profits. But a worse state of affairs was to come. That there was a steady growth in the number of ships in the trade has already been noted. The cause of the rapid increase in the number and capacity of the slavers during the middle years of the eighteenth century is not far to seek. The planters of the West Indies had found it more profitable to work slaves to death, while yet in the prime of life, than to support them in an idle old age. The loss of hands could be readily replaced by importations from Africa, and there was nothing in the civilization of that age to make the planters consider any other question in the matter than that of making profits.

The prices of slaves rose steadily under this increasing demand. Captain Lindsay, in the voyage that was "anoof to make a man creasey," sold his prime slaves for £35 each. Twenty-five years later the price received averaged £70, and the Liverpool ship Enterprise, belonging to T. Leyland & Co., in a voyage made about the first of the present century, cleared £24,430 8s. 11d. on a cargo of three hundred and ninety-two slaves, or more than £62 per head, old and young all counted in.

The result was an activity, well called "feverish," in the market on the African coast. The price of a slave there, according to a Newport record dated 1762, was one hundred and ten gallons of rum. An old commercial history of Liverpool records that in 1786 the average cost of delivering a slave in the West Indies was £27 5s. 10d., of which perhaps £22 was the price paid for the slave. With the first jumps in the price came a change in the methods of obtaining cargoes. The dribbling supply that had worried Captain Lindsay, who was satisfied with a cargo of but fiftysix, was wholly inadequate to the growing demand,

The first change in the trade was relatively a mild one. Slavers had never been very scrupulous about the title which a seller claimed when a slave was offered, but there are cases on record where slavers refused to buy when it was learned that men offered as slaves were really free and had been kidnapped. When the demand became eager, after 1750, the captains let it be known that every soul offered, if physically sound, would be taken and no questions asked. Slaves, too, had been purchased almost exclusively of chiefs and headmen, and it had been a daylight trade. Now anybody might bring a slave at any time of the night and get a good price for him.

Straightway the people of the coast who, in the ordinary course of their lives would never have owned a slave, began bringing slaves to the ships. Two or three would paddle off in a canoe at night, bringing one that was bound and gagged, and the purchase of those who were manifestly kidnapped became the regular custom of the trade. Alexander Falconbridge, the slaver surgeon already quoted, said that in his time (during the latter part of the century) the majority of the slaves with whom he talked had been kidnapped. He gave many instances of which he had personal knowledge, by way of illustration. A woman was invited by a neighbor to come in for a visit one evening. As soon as she entered the hut two men in waiting bound her and carried her on board ship. A father and his son, while planting yams, were seized by men who came from the brush. A man from the interior having brought some product to the beach for sale was asked to visit the ship lying off shore and get a free drink of rum. He went, but when there found that his guide had sold him, and stay he must.

James Town, a ship carpenter, in the Parliamentary inquiry, testified that he saw a dealer sell a slave on board a ship, in the Gallinas, but when the dealer paddled to the beach with his goods, four men came from the brush, seized him, robbed him of his goods and then carried him, in his own canoe, to the slave-ship, where they sold him to the captain, who had seen the whole doings.

While the British slaver Briton was lying in the Benin River a native chief known as Captain Lemma came on board to get the usual presents. A few minutes later a canoe with three negroes was seen crossing the river, and the chief sent his followers to bring it to the ship. The three proved to be members of another tribe than the chief's, and they were at once offered for sale. Two were purchased, but the third, an elderly man, was refused as unsalable. At that the old man was taken over the rail and there his head was cut off.

Off Piccaninni Sestus, on the windward coast, in 1769, Mr. William Dove saw a noted native slaver named Ben Johnson bring off a girl he had stolen. Just as Johnson was leaving the ship on one side two very excited men came to the other to inquire about the girl. On learning her fate they went in chase of Johnson, captured him, and, bringing him to the ship, offered him for sale.

"You won't buy me, whom you know to be a great trading man, will you, captain?" said Jolinson, in remonstrance.

"If they will sell you I will buy you, be you what you may," replied the captain, and the kidnapping Ben Johnson became a slave himself. This story is especially interesting because of the picture it gives of the workings of the captain's mind. He would not kidnap a negro himself, but he would buy of anyone under any circumstances.

A man named Marsh, who was in charge of a shore station established for buying slaves at Cape Coast Castle, in those days, is on record as saying: "I do not mind how they get them, for I buy them fairly." It is a queer exhibition of conscientious scruples, though one, perhaps, not now wholly unknown.

But the slavers rapidly outgrew such squeamishness. They outgrew it simply because the increased numbers obtained by such methods were still inadequate for the demand. Moreover with the increase in the number in an average cargo came a special need for haste in procuring them. Captain Lindsay might keep forty negroes "in helth and fatt" under the deck of the Sanderson while gathering fifteen or twenty more by the old slow process, but when Captain Billy Boates, of Liverpool, a noted slayer, who was "born a beggar to die a lord," had two hundred and fifty on board the ship Knight, in which he won fame, he could not wait long for the remaining hundred because those already on board would die.

The trade in its origin had been an exchange of a fair measure of goods for individuals legally held as slaves. It arrived at a stage in which a majority of every cargo purchased consisted of freemen napped as individuals. The next step down involved a resort to piracy — to deliberate attacks on natives who refused to trade. It will be remembered that the Massachusetts slaver had been a pirate in this fashion as early as 1645. Such acts were too common throughout the traffic, but what is to be emphasized here is that piratical acts naturally increased in number as the demand for slaves increased.

Following bloody quarrels with the coast tribes came the practice of inciting the coast tribes to make piratical raids on the interior.

It is likely that the practice of inciting these raids began as early as 1757 — perhaps earlier, in a desultory way. At any rate, in a letter already quoted "six four-pounders, four swevles, and four cow-horns" were among the goods carried out for trade. But it is certain that raiding was not then the usual course of trade.

Mr. John Bowman, who was employed at the slave coast just previous to 1776, testified before the Committee of Parliament that he had had charge of an agency established on the Scassus River that he accompanied the raiders on one expedition. Coming to the agency the chief obtained a supply of guns and ammunition. Then the trumpets were sounded, a band of men was collected, the arms were distributed, and the start was made immediately. Late in the afternoon the band camped near a branch of the Scassus and waited until midnight. Then, leaving Bowman, whose heart had failed him, they crept away through the forest. A half hour later shouts and screams were heard and the forest was lighted up by the flames of burning huts. Later still the band returned, bringing thirty men, women, and children. A small village had been attacked when all its people were asleep. Some were killed and some escaped to the brush, the thirty captives being taken alive and unhurt. These were bound securely, and when day came they were carried down to the agency.

This is one of the mildest stories of a raid known to the history of the trade.

Captain Canot, in describing the work of a raiding party, says:

"In my wanderings in Africa I have often seen the tiger pounce upon its prey, and with instinctive thirst satiate its appetite for blood and abandon the drained corpse; but these African negresses [who were of the raiding party] were neither as decent nor as merciful as the beast of the wilderness. Their malignant pleasure seemed to consist in the invention of tortures that would agonize but not slay. A slow, lingering, tormenting mutilation was practised on the living ... and in every instance the brutality of the women exceeded that of the men. I cannot picture their hellish joy... while the queen of the harpies crept amid the butchery gathering the brains from each severed skull as a bonne bouche for the approaching feast."

As for the defeated negroes who were not killed, they were carried down to the sea and sold. And as time passed the passion for blood grew on the raiders until it was greater than their greed. They tortured to death many whom they might have sold. Before the end of the eighteenth century these raids, called wars by those who owned the slave-ships, were the chief source of supply for the coast market, and after the trade was declared illegal they were, practically, the only source of supply; and the people of the United States knew that it was so.

There were many little tribes and settlements on the rivers in the old days wherein the natives were chiefly devoted to agriculture, and these were the prey of the coast pirates until the rivers were swept clean of all peace-loving inhabitants, and the whole population surviving was turned into ravaging pirate bands.

Said an eloquent coast chief when the English began to negotiate with him for the abolition of the slave traffic:

"I and my army are ready, at all times, to fight the enemies of England, and do anything the English may ask of me, except to give up the slave-trade. No other trade is known to my people. It is the source of their glory and wealth. Their songs celebrate their victories, and the mother lulls the child to sleep with notes of triumph over an enemy reduced to slavery."

Still another view of the effect of the growing demand for slaves is to be given. ‘Treat men as pawns and nine-pins and you shall suffer as well as they." It is chiefly because of the effect of the trade on those engaged in it, directly or indirectly, that their history is of present interest.

From furnishing arms to raiders and otherwise inciting them to the work, the white slavers at an early day descended far enough to take part in the bloody deeds. Even Anglo-Saxon slavers — members of the only race that in these days does really understand the meaning of the words justice and liberty — were found ready to pose as peacemakers for the purpose of betraying one band of negroes into the hands of another, and of themselves beginning the bloody slaughter that followed.

The Calabar (or Kalaba) River empties into the Bight of Biafra — right at the angle formed by the coast lines of the huge gulf already mentioned. It is a stream about three miles wide, with from three to five fathoms of water. The banks are low and covered with mangrove brush and palm-trees. Numerous lagoons are found on both sides of the stream, and the apparent banks are but a succession of islands.

On one of these islands was a settlement known as Old Calabar, or the Old Town. On another was a settlement called New Town. The people of the two settlements were of one blood, but they hated each other intensely because of the rivalry growing out of the slave trade. Yet so nearly balanced were they in forces that only by kidnapping and an occasional murder of an individual or two could one inflict injury on the other. However, as time went on the New Town people became somewhat the stronger through favor of the slave captains, and then came the crowning infamy of the trade in that age.

It was in the year 1767. The ships Indian Queen, Duke of York, Nancy, and Concord, of Bristol; the Edgar, of Liverpool and the Canterbury, of London, were lying in the river between the two towns. Trade was dull, and the captains of these ships got together to devise a plan to liven it by taking advantage of the jealousy between the two towns, and the somewhat superior force of New Town. After brief consultation it was agreed that they should, on the pretence of making peace between the two towns, invite the Old Town people to come unarmed to the ships fora palaver. Accordingly messages were sent to the chief, Ephraim Robin John, his brother, Amboe, and some other headmen, requesting all the men of the town to come to the ships on a certain day, and promising unlimited free rum to mellow the hearts of the obdurate before the peace terms were arranged. The captains, of course, pledged their honor to protect the Old Town people from all danger during the palaver, and a safe return ashore.

Knowing their inferiority in fighting force, the Old Calabar people very gladly accepted the offer of these ship-captains to arrange for peace, and the appointed day came on with much jubilation in Old Calabar. For some reason not given Chief Ephraim did not go off to the banquet, but he sent one of his wives as a present to the Chief of New Town; and three of his brothers, of whom Amboe was the oldest, went in one canoe along with twenty-seven other men, while nine other canoes, none of which was smaller than this, followed.

The first ship visited was the Indian Queen, where a seemingly hearty welcome was extended. From the Indian Queen the leading canoe was sent to the Edgar and thence to the Duke of York, an abundance of rum being supplied at each ship. Some of the canoes followed the leader, and others distributed themselves among the other ships, where the greater number of their crews went on board and were received with lavish presents of rum.

The effect of the liquor was soon apparent in the sleepy actions of the drinkers, and the moment for the final stroke of the conspiracy was at hand. While Amboe Robin John and his two brothers were sitting in the cabin of the Duke of York her officers and crew suddenly dropped the rum-cups, and, taking up muskets, cutlasses, and boarding-pikes, that had been placed ready for the occasion, they attacked the unsuspecting and unarmed negroes.

A wild dash for life was made. The three brothers strove to get out of the cabin-windows, but were hauled in and ironed. On deck the negroes who strove to resist were cut down, and those who fled for the rail were tripped or slashed or stabbed or shot, as the case might be. Even the canoes alongside were fired on and sunk with all who happened to be in them, when some were drowned, some were dragged on board, and a few went swimming for the shore.

The noise of the conflict on the Duke of York was a signal to the other ships, on most of which the natives were attacked in like manner. And then came the inhabitants of the New Town; for the slaver captains had arranged that they should hide in the mangroves along shore until the attack was made, when they were to come out with canoes and pick up the Old Town people who might be swimming for the shore. And these, being mad with their thirst for blood, killed more than they took out of the water for slaves. Tn all more than three hundred of the Old Town people were killed or enslaved in the course of this raid planned by the white men.

But the end of the story is not yet told. Having killed or captured the last man in the water, the New Town people paddled to the ships to receive their reward for their share in the onslaught. This reward was collected, of course, in the shape of a liberal price for each captured Old Town man, with free drinks added, although of the drinks they were naturally a little shy under the circumstances. But at the side of the Duke of York, one other reward was wanted — the head of their chief enemy among the captured Old Town people — the head of Amboe Robin John, But knowing that the captain of the Duke of York cared nothing for their thirst for blood — knowing that he had joined in the raid solely for the profit there was in it — the chief of New Town, who was known as Willy Honesty, said:

"Captain, if you will give me that man, to cut his head off, I will give you the best man in my canoe, and you shall be slaved first. ship."

At that Amboe, who could speak English, bowed his head and, putting his hands together in the attitude of prayer, begged the captain of the ship to retain him on board. But the captain forced him, his guest under a solemn promise of protection, over the rail, where his head was struck off, and his body thrown to the sharks.

As a result of their treachery and murder, the slaver captains received from twenty-five to thirty slaves each, of whom a third, perhaps, were captured in the water, and had to be purchased of the New Town people.

The two brothers of Amboe Robin John were sold in the West Indies, but managed to escape to Virginia, and thence to Bristol, "where the captain who had brought them, fearing he had done wrong, meditated carrying them back." But before he could sail with them, a shipper in the oil, ivory, and gold-dust trade, who had heard the story of the massacre, took them before a court on a writ of habeas corpus, when they were declared free and were sent home to Old Calabar. Through this means Clarkson, the famous abolitionist, got the authenticated story, and used it with tremendous effect in his crusade against the trade. It was not in the Anglo-Saxon heart to approve such doings, even in the eighteenth century.

Time had been when the long and dangerous voyage had made vikings of those engaged in it, but as the profits grew and swelled before the eyes of the slavers all other views were fogged from sight, and from brave men, really striving to do right, they were, within half a century, degraded to a level beyond which there was no depth conceivable. And degradation is the inevitable fate of everyone who deliberately ignores justice in his treatment of inferiors. Get rich he may, but be degraded hell-low he shall be.

How the degradation of the slaver's deck was contagious; how it spread to the owners of the ships; how these owners, while posing as Christians, became, through inciting such acts, worse than the captains who participated actively in the infamies; how communities and nations were thus made rotten, until at last the greatest slave nation of them all regained health by the most frightful of modern wars, can only be suggested here.

After the end of the eighteenth century the only notable change in the methods of gathering slaves for market was in the establishing of barracoons — that is, what a cowboy might call corrals — in which to herd the slaves awaiting shipment. The trade having been outlawed, cruisers were stationed on the African coast to stop the work of the slavers. The slave-ships then had need of such quick despatch as had never been dreamed of before. They came to the coast, usually, disguised as honest traders, and watching for a day when the coast was clear they got their slaves quickly on board and sailed away. To enable a ship to load quickly, depots were established at convenient points, where pens were built by setting treetrunks into the ground to make a high fence. In these the slaves were held by the hundred — sometimes more than a thousand were imprisoned in one pen — to await the arrival of a ship.

Captain Philip Drake, an English slaver, whose diary was printed in New York about forty years ago under the title of "Revelations of a Slave-Smuggler," describes incidentally two of the most noted of these slave stations — that of Don Pedro Blanco, on the Gallinas River, and that of Da Souza, at Whydah. "Gallinas," he says, "was a depot and market for slaves brought from all streams that penetrated the Guinea Coast, as well as territory further south. The river was full of small islands; and on several of these, near the sea, as well as on the banks, were located factories, barracoons, dwelling-houses, and storehouses. The success of Blanco had attracted a dozen other traders, and the Don was a prince among them. In African fashion he supported a harem, and quite a retinue of house servants, guards, etc., besides clerks and overseers of his barracoons."

Captain Canot describes Blanco's headquarters in greater detail. He says:

"About a mile from the river's mouth we found a group of islets on each of which was erected the factory of some particular slave-merchant belonging to the grand confederacy. Blanco's establishments were on several of these marshy flats. On one, near the mouth, he had his place of business or trade with foreign vessels, presided over by his principal clerk, an astute and clever gentleman. On another island, more remote, was his residence, where a sister, for a while, shared with Don Pedro his solitary home.[1] Here this man of education and refined address surrounded himself with every luxury that could be purchased in Europe or the Indies, and dwelt in a sort of Oriental but semi-barbarous splendor. Further inland was another islet, devoted to his seraglio, within whose recesses each of his favorites inhabited her separate establishment after the fashion of the natives.

"The barracoons were made of rough poles of the hardest trees, four or six inches in diameter, driven five feet in the ground and clamped together by double rows of iron bars. Their roofs were constructed of similar wood, strongly secured, and overlaid with a thick thatch of long and wiry grass, rendering the interior both dry and cool. Watch-houses, built near the entrance, were tenanted by sentinels, with loaded muskets. Each barracoon was tended by two or four Spaniards or Portuguese, but I have rarely met a more wretched class of human beings. Such were the surroundings of Don Pedro in 1836. Three years later he left the coast forever with a fortune of nearly a million."

a wild dash for life was made.
See page 60.
Captain Drake, under date of January 5, 1840, writes of another coast prince as follows:

"Da Souza, or Cha-Chu, as everybody calls him, is apparently a reckless voluptuary, but the shrewdest slave-trader on the African coast. Whydah was built by his enterprise, and he lives the life of a prince. His mansion here is like a palace, and he has a harem filled with women from all parts of the world. He keeps up a continual round of dissipation, gambling, feasting, and indulging in every sensual pleasure with his women and visitors. . . . His house is the very abode of luxury. He must squander thousands. But what is money toa man who has a slave-mine in Dahomey, bringing hoards of wealth yearly by a hundred vessels. Da Souza enjoys almost a monopoly of the coast trade. Blanco has been his only rival of late years. . . . This morning Cha-Chu met me and proposed to supply me with a wife. ‘ You shall have French, Spanish, Greek, Circassian, English, Dutch, Italian, Asiatic, African or American,' he said laughing."

The origin of the demand for silks and other fancy goods of which Commodore Perry made mention is thus apparent.

The kidnapping and the raiding were increased, although the market price of slaves fell as low as from $12 to $20 a head. The demand continued because the hardships of the slave-life killed off the slaves more rapidly than slave children were born. This was true even in certain parts of the United States. Virginia and some other States were breeding places, but by a statement printed in De Bow's Review for November, 1858, it appears that the slave population of Louisiana in 1850 was 244,985. The report of the State Auditors to the Legislature of 1858 puts it at "264,985, an increase of 20,167, or twelve and one-half per cent., in seven years." The slaves had increased at the rate of less than 3,000 a year in spite of the importation of thousands from the slave-breeding States and the smuggling of native Africans!

The raids were extended hundreds of miles inland, according to Canot. In the atrocities of the raids there could be no change for the worse, because there was no form of torture or degradation below that already existing. There was a greater volume of suffering; there could be no worse degree of it.

The history of the slave-trade is in one respect unique. In all other forms of industry there was a steady amelioration of the people engaged in them as civilization grew brighter. On the sea for instance, the cat was abolished as a lawful instrument of discipline and impressment was abandoned. Even in the killing of cattle humane methods came to be adopted. But the handling of slaves, from the beginning of the trade to its end, was like a portrayal of the myth of the bottomless pit.

And yet, black as was the panorama of the trade as described in history, there was one dash of warm color in it to relieve the aching heart of the spectator. Says Charles W. Thomas, U. 8. N., chaplain to the African squadron in 1855, in a work relating to coast usages:

"In time of famine men who have no slaves to dispose of, or not enough to meet the demand, pawn themselves. . . for food. . . . A degree of admirable self-immolation is sometimes shown in such cases of family distress by a member coming forward and offering himself to the highest bidder, willing to go anywhere or to be anything so that he may relieve his father and mother or other dear relatives from distress."

  1. There are records of more than one woman being engaged in the slave-trade on her own account.