SOME HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF GUINEA,
ITS SITUATION, PRODUCE, AND THE GENERAL DISPOSITION OF ITS INHABITANTS.
AN INQUIRY INTO THE RISE AND PROGRESS OF THE SLAVE TRADE, ITS NATURE AND LAMENTABLE EFFECTS.
1771 BY ANTHONY BENEZET
SITUATION, PRODUCE, and the general
DISPOSITION of its INHABITANTS.
An Inquiry into the RISE and PROGRESS
Its NATURE, and lamentable EFFECTS.
A REPUBLICATION of the Sentiments of several Authors of Note on this interesting Subject: Particularly an Extract of a Treatise written by GRANVILLE SHARPE.
By ANTHONY BENEZET
ACTS xvii. 24, 26. GOD, that made the world hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the—bounds of their habitation.
PHILADELPHIA: Printed MDCCLXXI.
LONDON: Re-printed MDCCLXXII.
CHAPTER I. A GENERAL account of Guinea; particularly those parts on the rivers Senegal and Gambia.
CHAP. II. Account of the Ivory-Coast, the Gold-Coast and the Slave-Coast.
CHAP. III. Of the kingdoms of Benin, Kongo and Angola.
CHAP. IV. Guinea, first discovered and subdued by the Arabians. The Portuguese make descents on the coast, and carry off the natives. Oppression of the Indians: De la Casa pleads their cause.
CHAP. V. The English's first trade to the coast of Guinea: Violently carry off some of the Negros.
CHAP. VI. Slavery more tolerable under Pagans and Turks than in the colonies. As christianity prevailed, ancient slavery declined.
CHAP. VII. Montesquieu's sentiments of slavery. Morgan Godwyn's advocacy on behalf of Negroes and Indians, &c.
CHAP. VIII. Grievous treatment of the Negroes in the colonies, &c.
CHAP. IX. Desire of gain the true motive of the Slave trade. Misrepresentation of the state of the Negroes in Guinea.
CHAP. X. State of the Government in Guinea, &c.
CHAP. XI. Accounts of the cruel methods used in carrying on of the Slave trade, &c.
CHAP. XII. Extracts of several voyages to the coast of Guinea, &c.
CHAP. XIII. Numbers of Negroes, yearly brought from Guinea, by the English, &c.
CHAP. XIV. Observations on the situation and disposition of the Negroes in the northern colonies, &c.
CHAP. XV. Europeans capable of bearing reasonable labour in the West Indies, &c.
Extracts from Granville Sharp's representations, &c.
Sentiments of several authors, viz. George Wallace, Francis Hutcheson, and James Foster.
Extracts of an address to the assembly of Virginia.
Extract of the bishop of Gloucester's sermon.
The slavery of the Negroes having, of late, drawn the attention of many serious minded people; several tracts have been published setting forth its inconsistency with every christian and moral virtue, which it is hoped will have weight with the judicious; especially at a time when the liberties of mankind are become so much the subject of general attention. For the satisfaction of the serious enquirer who may not have the opportunity of seeing those tracts, and such others who are sincerely desirous that the iniquity of this practice may become effectually apparent, to those in whose power, it may be to put a stop to any farther progress therein; it is proposed, hereby, to republish the most material parts of said tracts; and in order to enable the reader to form a true judgment of this matter, which, tho' so very important, is generally disregarded, or so artfully misrepresented by those whose interest leads them to vindicate it, as to bias the opinions of people otherwise upright; some account will be here given of the different parts of Africa, from which the Negroes are brought to America; with an impartial relation from what motives the Europeans were first induced to undertake, and have since continued this iniquitous traffic. And here it will not be improper to premise, that tho' wars, arising from the common depravity of human nature, have happened, as well among the Negroes as other nations, and the weak sometimes been made captives to the strong; yet nothing appears, in the various relations of the intercourse and trade for a long time carried on by the Europeans on that coast, which would induce us to believe, that there is any real foundation for that argument, so commonly advanced in vindication of that trade, viz. "That the slavery of the Negroes took its rise from a desire, in the purchasers, to save the lives of such of them as were taken captives in war, who would otherwise have been sacrificed to the implacable revenge of their conquerors." A plea which when compared with the history of those times, will appear to be destitute of Truth; and to have been advanced, and urged, principally by such as were concerned in reaping the gain of this infamous traffic, as a palliation of that, against which their own reason and conscience must have raised fearful objections.
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[Price 2s. 6d. stitched.]
Guinea affords an easy living to its inhabitants, with but little toil. The climate agrees well with the natives, but extremely unhealthful to the Europeans. Produces provisions in the greatest plenty. Simplicity of their housholdry. The coast of Guinea described from the river Senegal to the kingdom of Angola. The fruitfulness of that part lying on and between the two great rivers Senegal and Gambia. Account of the different nations settled there. Order of government amongst the Jalofs. Good account of some of the Fulis. The Mandingos; their management, government, &c. Their worship. M. Adanson's account of those countries. Surprizing vegetation. Pleasant appearance of the country. He found the natives very sociable and obliging.
When the Negroes are considered barely in their present abject state of slavery, broken-spirited and dejected; and too easy credit is given to the accounts we frequently hear or read of their barbarous and savage way of living in their own country; we shall be naturally induced to look upon them as incapable of improvement, destitute, miserable, and insensible of the benefits of life; and that our permitting them to live amongst us, even on the most oppressive terms, is to them a favour. But, on impartial enquiry, the case will appear to be far otherwise; we shall find that there is scarce a country in the whole world, that is better calculated for affording the necessary comforts of life to its inhabitants, with less solicitude and toil, than Guinea. And that notwithstanding the long converse of many of its inhabitants with (often) the worst of the Europeans, they still retain a great deal of innocent simplicity; and, when not stirred up to revenge from the frequent abuses they have received from the Europeans in general, manifest themselves to be a humane, sociable people, whose faculties are as capable of improvement as those of other Men; and that their oeconomy and government is, in many respects, commendable. Hence it appears they might have lived happy, if not disturbed by the Europeans; more especially, if these last had used such endeavours as their christian profession requires, to communicate to the ignorant Africans that superior knowledge which Providence had favoured them with. In order to set this matter in its true light, and for the information of those well-minded people who are desirous of being fully acquainted with the merits of a cause, which is of the utmost consequence; as therein the lives and happiness of thousands, and hundreds of thousands, of our fellow Men have fallen, and are daily falling, a sacrifice to selfish avarice and usurped power, I will here give some account of the several divisions of those parts of Africa from whence the Negroes are brought, with a summary of their produce; the disposition of their respective inhabitants; their improvements, &c. &c. extracted from authors of credit; mostly such as have been principal officers in the English, French and Dutch factories, and who resided many years in those countries. But first it is necessary to premise, as a remark generally applicable to the whole coast of Guinea, "That the Almighty, who has determined and appointed the bounds of the habitation of men on the face of the earth" in the manner that is most conducive to the well-being of their different natures and dispositions, has so ordered it, that altho' Guinea is extremely unhealthy[A] to the Europeans, of whom many thousands have met there with a miserable and untimely end, yet it is not so with the Negroes, who enjoy a good state of health[B] and are able to procure to themselves a comfortable subsistence, with much less care and toil than is necessary in our more northern climate; which last advantage arises not only from the warmth of the climate, but also from the overflowing of the rivers, whereby the land is regularly moistened and rendered extremely fertile; and being in many places improved by culture, abounds with grain and fruits, cattle, poultry, &c. The earth yields all the year a fresh supply of food: Few clothes are requisite, and little art necessary in making them, or in the construction of their houses, which are very simple, principally calculated to defend them from the tempestuous seasons and wild beasts; a few dry reeds covered with matts serve for their beds. The other furniture, except what belongs to cookery, gives the women but little trouble; the moveables of the greatest among them amounting only to a few earthen pots, some wooden utensils, and gourds or calabashes; from these last, which grow almost naturally over their huts, to which they afford an agreeable shade, they are abundantly stocked with good clean vessels for most houshold uses, being of different sizes, from half a pint to several gallons.
[Footnote A: Gentleman's Magazine, Supplement, 1763. Extract of a letter wrote from the island of Senegal, by Mr. Boone, practitioner of physic there, to Dr. Brocklesby of London.
"To form just idea of the unhealthiness of the climate, it will be necessary to conceive a country extending three hundred leagues East, and more to the North and South. Through this country several large rivers empty themselves into the sea; particularly the Sanaga, Gambia and Sherbro; these, during the rainy months, which begin in July and continue till October, overflow their banks, and lay the whole flat country under water; and indeed, the very sudden rise of these rivers is incredible to persons who have never been within the tropicks, and are unacquainted with the violent rains that fall there. At Galem, nine hundred miles from the mouth of the Sanaga, I am informed that the waters rise one hundred and fifty feet perpendicular, from the bed of the river. This information I received from a gentleman, who was surgeon's mate to a party sent there, and the only survivor of three captains command, each consisting of one captain, two lieutenants, one ensign, a surgeon's mate, three serjeants, three corporals, and fifty privates.
"When the rains are at an end, which usually happens in October, the intense heat of the sun soon dries up the waters which lie on the higher parts of the earth, and the remainder forms lakes of stagnated waters, in which are found all sorts of dead animals. These waters every day decrease, till at last they are quite exhaled, and then the effluvia that arises is almost insupportable. At this season, the winds blow so very hot from off the land, that I can compare them to nothing but the heat proceeding from the mouth of an oven. This occasions the Europeans to be sorely vexed with bilious and putrid fevers. From this account you will not be surprized, that the total loss of British subjects in this island only, amounted to above two thousand five hundred, in the space of three years that I was there, in such a putrid moist air as I have described."
[Footnote B: James Barbot, agent general to the French African company, in his account of Africa, page 105, says, "The natives are seldom troubled with any distempers, being little affected with the unhealthy air. In tempestuous times they keep much within doors; and when exposed to the weather, their skins being suppled, and pores closed by daily anointing with palm oil, the weather can make but little impression on them."]
That part of Africa from which the Negroes are sold to be carried into slavery, commonly known by the name of Guinea, extends along the coast three or four thousand miles. Beginning at the river Senegal, situate about the 17th degree of North latitude, being the nearest part of Guinea, as well to Europe as to North America; from thence to the river Gambia, and in a southerly course to Cape Sierra Leona, comprehends a coast of about seven hundred miles; being the same tract for which Queen Elizabeth granted charters to the first traders to that coast: from Sierra Leona, the land of Guinea takes a turn to the eastward, extending that course about fifteen hundred miles, including those several civilians known by name of the Grain Coast, the Ivory Coast, the Gold Coast, and the Slave Coast, with the large kingdom of Benin. From thence the land runs southward along the coast about twelve hundred miles, which contains the kingdoms of Congo and Angola; there the trade for slaves ends. From which to the southermost Cape of Africa, called the Cape of Good Hope, the country is settled by Caffres and Hottentots, who have never been concerned in the making or selling slaves.
Of the parts which are above described, the first which presents itself to view, is that situate on the great river Senegal, which is said to be navigable more than a thousand miles, and is by travellers described to be very agreeable and fruitful. Andrew Brue, principal factor for the French African company, who lived sixteen years in that country, after describing its fruitfulness and plenty, near the sea, adds,[A] "The farther you go from the sea, the country on the river seems the more fruitful and well improved; abounding with Indian corn, pulse, fruit, &c. Here are vast meadows, which feed large herds of great and small cattle, and poultry numerous: The villages that lie thick on the river, shew the country is well peopled." The same author, in the account of a voyage he made up the river Gambia, the mouth of which lies about three hundred miles South of the Senegal, and is navigable about six hundred miles up the country, says,[B] "That he was surprized to see the land so well cultivated; scarce a spot lay unimproved; the low lands, divided by small canals, were all formed with rice, &c. the higher ground planted with millet, Indian corn, and pease of different sorts; their beef excellent; poultry plenty, and very cheap, as well as all other necessaries of life." Francis Moor, who was sent from England about the year 1735, in the service of the African company, and resided at James Fort, on the river Gambia, or in other factories on that river, about five years, confirms the above account of the fruitfulness of the country. William Smith, who was sent in the year 1726, by the African company, to survey their settlements throughout the whole coast of Guinea[C] says, "The country about the Gambia is pleasant and fruitful; provisions of all kinds being plenty and exceeding cheap." The country on and between the two above-mentioned rivers is large and extensive, inhabited principally by those three Negro nations known by the name of Jalofs, Fulis, and Mandingos. The Jalofs possess the middle of the country. The Fulis principal settlement is on both sides of the Senegal; great numbers of these people are also mixed with the Mandingos; which last are mostly settled on both sides the Gambia. The government of the Jalofs is represented as under a better regulation than can be expected from the common opinion we entertain of the Negroes. We are told in the Collection,[D] "That the King has under him several ministers of state, who assist him in the exercise of justice. The grand Jerafo is the chief justice thro' all the King's dominions, and goes in circuit from time to time to hear complaints, and determine controversies. The King's treasurer exercises the same employment, and has under him Alkairs, who are governors of towns or villages. That the Kondi, or Viceroy, goes the circuit with the chief justice, both to hear causes, and inspect into the behaviour of the Alkadi, or chief magistrate of every village in their several districts[E]." Vasconcelas, an author mentioned in the collection, says, "The ancientest are preferred to be the Prince's counsellors, who keep always about his person; and the men of most judgment and experience are the judges." The Fulis are settled on both sides of the river Senegal: Their country, which is very fruitful and populous, extends near four hundred miles from East to West. They are generally of a deep tawny complexion, appearing to bear some affinity with the Moors, whose country they join on the North. They are good farmers, and make great harvest of corn, cotton, tobacco, &c. and breed great numbers of cattle of all kinds. Bartholomew Stibbs, (mentioned by Fr. Moor) in his account of that country says,[F] "They were a cleanly, decent, industrious people, and very affable." But the most particular account we have, of these people, is from Francis Moor himself, who says,[G] "Some of these Fuli blacks who dwell on both sides the river Gambia, are in subjection to the Mandingos, amongst whom they dwell, having been probably driven out of their country by war or famine. They have chiefs of their own, who rule with much moderation. Few of them will drink brandy, or any thing stronger than water and sugar, being strict Mahometans. Their form of government goes on easy, because the people are of a good quiet disposition, and so well instructed in what is right, that a man who does ill, is the abomination of all, and, none will support him against the chief. In these countries, the natives are not covetous of land, desiring no more than what they use; and as they do not plough with horses and cattle, they can use but very little, therefore the Kings are willing to give the Fulis leave to live in their country, and cultivate their lands. If any of their people are known to be made slaves, all the Fulis will join to redeem them; they also support the old, the blind, and lame, amongst themselves; and as far as their abilities go, they supply the necessities of the Mandingos, great numbers of whom they have maintained in famine." The author, from his own observations, says, "They were rarely angry, and that he never heard them abuse one another."
[Footnote A: Astley's collect. vol. 2. page 46.]
[Footnote B: Astley's collection of voyages, vol. 2, page 86.]
[Footnote C: William Smith's voyage to Guinea, page 31, 34.]
[Footnote D: Astley's collection, vol. 2, page 358.]
[Footnote E: Idem. 259.]
[Footnote F: Moor's travels into distant parts of Africa, page 198.]
[Footnote G: Ibid, page 21.]
The Mandingos are said by A. Brue before mentioned, "To be the most numerous nation on the Gambia, besides which, numbers of them are dispersed over all these countries; being the most rigid Mahometans amongst the Negroes, they drink neither wine nor brandy, and are politer than the other Negroes. The chief of the trade goes through their hands. Many are industrious and laborious, keeping their ground well cultivated, and breeding a good stock of cattle.[A] Every town has an Alkadi, or Governor, who has great power; for most of them having two common fields of clear ground, one for corn, and the other for rice, the Alkadi appoints the labour of all the people. The men work the corn ground, and the women and girls the rice ground; and as they all equally labour, so he equally divides the corn amongst them; and in case they are in want, the others supply them. This Alkadi decides all quarrels, and has the first voice in all conferences in town affairs." Some of these Mandingos who are settled at Galem, far up the river Senegal, can read and write Arabic tolerably, and are a good hospitable people, who carry on a trade with the inland nations."[B] They are extremely populous in those parts, their women being fruitful, and they not suffering any person amongst them, but such as are guilty of crimes, to be made slaves." We are told from Jobson,"[C] That the Mahometan Negroes say their prayers thrice a day. Each village has a priest who calls them to their duty. It is surprizing (says the author) as well as commendable, to see the modesty, attention, and reverence they observe during their worship. He asked some of their priests the purport of their prayers and ceremonies; their answer always was, That they adored God by prostrating themselves before him; that by humbling themselves, they acknowledged their own insignificancy, and farther intreated him to forgive their faults, and to grant them all good and necessary things as well as deliverance from evil." Jobson takes notice of several good qualities in these Negroe priests, particularly their great sobriety. They gain their livelihood by keeping school for the education of the children. The boys are taught to read and write. They not only teach school, but rove about the country, teaching and instructing, for which the whole country is open to them; and they have a free course through all places, though the Kings may be at war with one another.
[Footnote A: Astley's collect. vol. 2, page 269.]
[Footnote B: Astley's collect. vol. 2, page 73.]
[Footnote C: Ibid, 296.]
The three fore-mentioned nations practise several trades, as smiths, potters, sadlers, and weavers. Their smiths particularly work neatly in gold and silver, and make knifes, hatchets, reaping hooks, spades and shares to cut iron, &c. &c. Their potters make neat tobacco pipes, and pots to boil their food. Some authors say that weaving is their principal trade; this is done by the women and girls, who spin and weave very fine cotton cloth, which they dye blue or black.[A] F. Moor says, the Jalofs particularly make great quantities of the cotton cloth; their pieces are generally twenty-seven yards long, and about nine inches broad, their looms being very narrow; these they sew neatly together, so as to supply the use of broad cloth.
[Footnote A: F. Moor, 28.]
It was in these parts of Guinea, that M. Adanson, correspondent of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, mentioned in some former publications, was employed from the year 1749, to the year 1753, wholly in making natural and philosophical observations on the country about the rivers Senegal and Gambia. Speaking of the great heats in Senegal, he says,[A] "It is to them that they are partly indebted for the fertility of their lands; which is so great, that, with little labour and care, there is no fruit nor grain but grow in great plenty."
[Footnote A: M. Adanson's voyage to Senegal, &c, page 308.]
Of the soil on the Gambia, he says,[A] "It is rich and deep, and amazingly fertile; it produces spontaneously, and almost without cultivation, all the necessaries of life, grain, fruit, herbs, and roots. Every thing matures to perfection, and is excellent in its kind."[B] One thing, which always surprized him, was the prodigious rapidity with which the sap of trees repairs any loss they may happen to sustain in that country: "And I was never," says he, "more astonished, than when landing four days after the locusts had devoured all the fruits and leaves, and even the buds of the trees, to find the trees covered with new leaves, and they did not seem to me to have suffered much."[C] "It was then," says the same author; "the fish season; you might see them in shoals approaching towards land. Some of those shoals were fifty fathom square, and the fish crowded together in such a manner, as to roll upon one another, without being able to swim. As soon as the Negroes perceive them coming towards land, they jump into the water with a basket in one hand, and swim with the other. They need only to plunge and to lift up their basket, and they are sure to return loaded with fish." Speaking of the appearance of the country, and of the disposition of the people, he says,[D] "Which way soever I turned mine eyes on this pleasant spot, I beheld a perfect image of pure nature; an agreeable solitude, bounded on every side by charming landscapes; the rural situation of cottages in the midst of trees; the ease and indolence of the Negroes, reclined under the shade of their spreading foliage; the simplicity of their dress and manners; the whole revived in my mind the idea of our first parents, and I seemed to contemplate the world in its primitive state. They are, generally speaking, very good-natured, sociable, and obliging. I was not a little pleased with this my first reception; it convinced me, that there ought to be a considerable abatement made in the accounts I had read and heard every where of the savage character of the Africans. I observed both in Negroes and Moors, great humanity and sociableness, which gave me strong hopes that I should be very safe amongst them, and meet with the success I desired in my enquiries after the curiosities of the country."[E] He was agreeably amused with the conversation of the Negroes, their fables, dialogues, and witty stories with which they entertain each other alternately, according to their custom. Speaking of the remarks which the natives made to him, with relation to the stars and planets, he says, "It is amazing, that such a rude and illiterate people, should reason so pertinently in regard to those heavenly bodies; there is no manner of doubt, but that with proper instruments, and a good will, they would become excellent astronomers."
[Footnote A: Idem, page 164.]
[Footnote B: M. Adanson, page 161.]
[Footnote C: Idem, page 171.]
[Footnote D: Ibid, page 54.]
[Footnote E: Adanson, page 252, ibid.]
The Ivory Coast; its soil and produce. The character of the natives misrepresented by some authors. These misrepresentations occasioned by the Europeans having treacherously carried off many of their people. John Smith, surveyor to the African company, his observations thereon. John Snock's remarks. The Gold Coast and Slave Coast, these have the most European factories, and furnish the greatest number of slaves to the Europeans. Exceeding fertile. The country of Axim, and of Ante. Good account of the inland people Great fishery. Extraordinary trade for slaves. The Slave Coast. The kingdom of Whidah. Fruitful and pleasant. The natives kind and obliging. Very populous. Keep regular markets and fairs. Good order therein. Murder, adultery, and theft severely punished. The King's revenues. The principal people have an idea of the true God. Commendable care of the poor. Several small governments depend on plunder and the slave trade.
That part of Guinea known by the name of the Grain, and Ivory Coast, comes next in course. This coast extends about five hundred miles. The soil appears by account, to be in general fertile, producing abundance of rice and roots; indigo and cotton thrive without cultivation, and tobacco would be excellent, if carefully manufactured; they have fish in plenty; their flocks greatly increase, and their trees are loaded with fruit. They make a cotton cloth, which sells well on the Coast. In a word, the country is rich, and the commerce advantageous, and might be greatly augmented by such as would cultivate the friendship of the natives. These are represented by some writers as a rude, treacherous people, whilst several other authors of credit give them a very different character, representing them as sensible, courteous and the fairest traders on the coast of Guinea. In the Collection, they are said[A] to be averse to drinking to excess, and such as do, are severely punished by the King's order: On enquiry why there is such a disagreement in the character given of these people, it appears, that though they are naturally inclined to be kind to strangers, with whom they are fond of trading, yet the frequent injuries done them by Europeans, have occasioned their being suspicious and shy. The same cause has been the occasion of the ill treatment they have sometimes given to innocent strangers, who have attempted to trade with them. As the Europeans have no settlement on this part of Guinea, the trade is carried on by signals from the ships, on the appearance of which the natives usually come on board in their canoes, bringing their gold-dust, ivory, &c. which has given opportunity to some villainous Europeans to carry them off with their effects, or retain them on board till a ransom is paid. It is noted by some, that since the European voyagers have carried away several of these people, their mistrust is so great, that it is very difficult to prevail on them to come on board. William Smith remarks,[B] "As we past along this coast, we very often lay before a town, and fired a gun for the natives to come off, but no soul came near us; at length we learnt by some ships that were trading down the coast, that the natives came seldom on board an English ship, for fear of being detained or carried off; yet last some ventured on board, but if those chanced to spy any arms, they would all immediately take to their canoes, and make the best of their way home. They had then in their possession one Benjamin Cross the mate of an English vessel, who was detained by them to make reprisals for some of their men, who had formerly been carried away by some English vessel." In the Collection we are told,[C]This villainous custom is too often practised, chiefly by the Bristol and Liverpool ships, and is a great detriment to the slave trade on the windward coast. John Snock, mentioned in Bosman[D] when on that coast, wrote, "We cast anchor, but not one Negro coming on board, I went on shore, and after having staid a while on the strand, some Negroes came to me; and being desirous to be informed why they did not come on board, I was answered that about two months before, the English had been there with two large vessels, and had ravaged the country, destroyed all their canoes, plundered their houses, and carried off some of their people, upon which the remainder fled to the inland country, where most of them were that time; so that there being not much to be done by us, we were obliged to return on board.[E] When I enquired after their wars with other countries, they told me they were not often troubled with them; but if any difference happened, they chose rather to end the dispute amicably, than to come to arms."[F] He found the inhabitants civil and good-natured. Speaking of the King of Rio Seftre lower down the coast, he says, "He was a very agreeable, obliging man, and that all his subjects are civil, as well as very laborious in agriculture, and the pursuits of trade," Marchais says,[G] "That though the country is very populous, yet none of the natives (except criminals) are sold for slaves." Vaillant never heard of any settlement being made by the Europeans on this part of Guinea; and Smith remarks,[H] "That these coasts, which are divided into several little kingdoms, and have seldom any wars, is the reason the slave trade is not so good here as on the Gold and Slave Coast, where the Europeans have several forts and factories." A plain evidence this, that it is the intercourse with the Europeans, and their settlements on the coast, which gives life to the slave trade.
[Footnote A: Collection, vol. 2, page 560.]
[Footnote B: W. Smith, page 111.]
[Footnote C: Astley's collection, vol. 2, page 475.]
[Footnote D: W. Bosman's description of Guinea, page 440.]
[Footnote E: W. Bosman's description of Guinea, page 429.]
[Footnote F: Ibid, 441.]
[Footnote G: Astley's collection, Vol. 2, page 565.]
[Footnote H: Smith's voyage to Guinea, page 112.]
Next adjoining to the Ivory Coast, are those called the Gold Coast, and the Slave Coast; authors are not agreed about their bounds, but their extent together along the coast may be about five hundred miles. And as the policy, produce, and oeconomy of these two kingdoms of Guinea are much the same, I shall describe them together.
Here the Europeans have the greatest number of forts and factories, from whence, by means of the Negro sailors, a trade is carried on above seven hundred miles back in the inland country; whereby great numbers of slaves are procured, as well by means of the wars which arise amongst the Negroes, or are fomented by the Europeans, as those brought from the back country. Here we find the natives more reconciled to the European manners and trade; but, at the same time, much more inured to war, and ready to assist the European traders in procuring loadings for the great number of vessels which come yearly on those coasts for slaves. This part of Guinea is agreed by historians to be, in general, extraordinary fruitful and agreeable; producing (according to the difference of the soil) vast quantities of rice and other grain; plenty of fruit and roots; palm wine and oil, and fish in great abundance, with much tame and wild cattle. Bosman, principal factor for the Dutch at D'Elmina, speaking of the country of Axim, which is situate towards the beginning of the Gold Coast, says,[A] "The Negro inhabitants are generally very rich, driving a great trade with the Europeans for gold. That they are industriously employed either in trade, fishing, or agriculture; but chiefly in the culture of rice, which grows here in an incredible abundance, and is transported hence all over the Gold Coast. The inhabitants, in lieu, returning full fraught with millet, jamms, potatoes, and palm oil." The same author speaking of the country of Ante, says,[B] "This country, as well as the Gold Coast, abounds with hills, enriched with extraordinary high and beautiful trees; its valleys, betwixt the hills, are wide and extensive, producing in great abundance very good rice, millet, jamms, potatoes, and other fruits, all good in their kind." He adds, "In short, it is a land that yields its manurers as plentiful a crop as they can wish, with great quantities of palm wine and oil, besides being well furnished with all sorts of tame, as well as wild beasts; but that the last fatal wars had reduced it to a miserable condition, and stripped it of most of its inhabitants." The adjoining country of Fetu, he says,[C] "was formerly so powerful and populous, that it struck terror into all the neighbouring nations; but it is at present so drained by continual wars, that it is entirely ruined; there does not remain inhabitants sufficient to till the country, tho' it is so fruitful and pleasant that it may be compared to the country of Ante just before described; frequently, says that author, when walking through it before the last war, I have seen it abound with fine well built and populous towns, agreeably enriched with vast quantities of corn, cattle, palm wine, and oil. The inhabitants all applying themselves without any distinction to agriculture; some sow corn, others press oil, and draw wine from palm trees, with both which it is plentifully stored."
[Footnote A: Bosman's description of the coast of Guinea, p, 5.]
[Footnote B: Idem, page 14.]
[Footnote C: Bosman, page 41.]
William Smith gives much the same account of the before-mentioned parts of the Gold Coast, and adds, "The country about D'Elmina and Cape Coast, is much the same for beauty and goodness, but more populous; and the nearer we come towards the Slave Coast, the more delightful and rich all the countries are, producing all sorts of trees, fruits, roots, and herbs, that grow within the Torrid Zone." J. Barbot also remarks,[A] with respect to the countries of Ante and Adom, "That the soil is very good and fruitful in corn and other produce, which it affords in such plenty, that besides what serves for their own use, they always export great quantities for sale; they have a competent number of cattle, both tame and wild, and the rivers abundantly stored with fish, so that nothing is wanting for the support of life, and to make it easy." In the Collection it is said,[B] "That the inland people on that part of the coast, employ themselves in tillage and trade, and supply the market with corn, fruit, and palm wine; the country producing such vast plenty of Indian corn, that abundance is daily exported, as well by Europeans as Blacks resorting thither from other parts." "These inland people are said to live in great union and friendship, being generally well tempered, civil, and tractable; not apt to shed human blood, except when much provoked, and ready to assist one another."
[Footnote A: John Barbot's description of Guinea, page 154.]
[Footnote B: Astley's collect. vol. 2. page 535.]
In the Collection[A] it is said, "That the fishing business is esteemed on the Gold Coast next to trading; that those who profess it are more numerous than those of other employments. That the greatest number of these are at Kommendo, Mina, and Kormantin. From each of which places, there go out every morning, (Tuesday excepted, which is the Fetish day, or day of rest) five, six, and sometimes eight hundred canoes, from thirteen to fourteen feet long, which spread themselves two leagues at sea, each fisherman carrying in his canoe a sword, with bread, water, and a little fire on a large stone to roast fish. Thus they labour till noon, when the sea breeze blowing fresh, they return on the shore, generally laden with fish; a quantity of which the inland inhabitants come down to buy, which they sell again at the country markets."
[Footnote A: Collection, vol. 2, page 640.]
William Smith says,[A] "The country about Acra, where the English and Dutch have each a strong fort, is very delightful, and the natives courteous and civil to strangers." He adds, "That this place seldom fails of an extraordinary good trade from the inland country, especially for slaves, whereof several are supposed to come from very remote parts, because it is not uncommon to find a Malayan or two amongst a parcel of other slaves. The Malaya, people are generally natives of Malacca, in the East Indies, situate several thousand miles from the Gold Coast." They differ very much from the Guinea Negroes, being of a tawny complexion, with long black hair.
[Footnote A: William Smith, page 145.]
Most parts of the Slave Coasts are represented as equally fertile and pleasant with the Gold Coast. The kingdom of Whidah has been particularly noted by travellers.[A] William Smith and Bosman agree, "That it is one of the most delightful countries in the world. The great number and variety of tall, beautiful, and shady trees, which seem planted in groves, the verdant fields every where cultivated, and no otherwise divided than by those groves, and in some places a small foot-path, together with a great number of villages, contribute to afford the most delightful prospect; the whole country being a fine easy, and almost imperceptible ascent, for the space of forty or fifty miles from the sea. That the farther you go from the sea, the more beautiful and populous the country appears. That the natives were kind and obliging, and so industrious, that no place which was thought fertile, could escape being planted, even within the hedges which inclose their villages. And that the next day after they had reaped, they sowed again."
[Footnote A: Smith, page 194. Bosman, page 319.]
Snelgrave also says, "The country appears full of towns and villages; and being a rich soil, and well cultivated, looks like an entire garden." In the Collection,[A] the husbandry of the Negroes is described to be carried on with great regularity: "The rainy season approaching, they go into the fields and woods, to fix on a proper place for sowing; and as here is no property in ground, the King's licence being obtained, the people go out in troops, and first clear the ground from bushes and weeds, which they burn. The field thus cleared, they dig it up a foot deep, and so let it remain for eight or ten days, till the rest of their neighbours have disposed their ground in the same manner. They then consult about sowing, and for that end assemble at the King's Court the next Fetish day. The King's grain must be sown first. They then go again to the field, and give the ground a second digging, and sow their seed. Whilst the King or Governor's land is sowing; he sends out wine and flesh ready dressed; enough to serve the labourers. Afterwards, they in like manner sow the ground, allotted for their neighbours, as diligently as that of the King's, by whom they are also feasted; and so continue to work in a body for the public benefit, till every man's ground is tilled and sowed. None but the King, and a few great men, are exempted from this labour. Their grain soon sprouts out of the ground. When it is about a man's height, and begins to ear, they raise a wooden house in the centre of the field, covered with straw, in which they set their children to watch their corn, and fright away the birds."
[Footnote A: Collection, vol. 2, page 651.]
Bosman[A] speaks in commendation of the civility, kindness, and great industry of the natives of Whidah; this is confirmed by Smith,[B] who says, "The natives here seem to be the most gentleman-like Negroes in Guinea, abounding with good manners and ceremony to each other. The inferior pay the utmost deference and, respect to the superior, as do wives to their husbands, and children to their parents. All here are naturally industrious, and find constant employment; the men in agriculture, and the women in spinning and weaving cotton. The men, whose chief talent lies in husbandry, are unacquainted with arms; otherwise, being a numerous people, they could have made a better defence against the King of Dahome, who subdued them without much trouble.[C] Throughout the Gold Coast, there are regular markets in all villages, furnished with provisions and merchandize, held every day in the week, except Tuesday, whence they supply not only the inhabitants, but the European ships. The Negro women are very expert in buying and selling, and extremely industrious; for they will repair daily to market from a considerable distance, loaded like pack-horses, with a child, perhaps, at their back, and a heavy burden on their heads. After selling their wares, they buy fish and other necessaries, and return home loaded as they came.
[Footnote A: Bosman, page 317.]
[Footnote B: Smith, page 195.]
[Footnote C: Collect, vol. 2, p. 657.]
"There is a market held at Sabi every, fourth day,[A] also a weekly one in the province of Aplogua, which is so resorted to, that there are usually five or six thousand merchants. Their markets are so well regulated and governed, that seldom any disorder happens; each species of merchandize and merchants have a place allotted them by themselves. The buyers may haggle as much as they will, but it must be without noise or fraud. To keep order, the King appoints a judge, who, with four officers well armed, inspects the markets, hears all complaints, and, in a summary way, decides all differences; he has power to seize, and sell as slaves, all who are catched in stealing, or disturbing the peace. In these markets are to be sold men, women, children, oxen, sheep, goats, and fowls of all kinds; European cloths, linen and woollen; printed callicoes, silk, grocery ware, china, golddust, iron in bars, &c. in a word, most sorts of European goods, as well as the produce of Africa and Asia. They have other markets, resembling our fairs, once or twice a year, to which all the country repair; for they take care to order the day so in different governments, as not to interfere with each other."
[Footnote A: Collect. vol. 3, p. 11.]
With respect to government, William Smith says,[A] "That the Gold Coast and Slave Coast are divided into different districts, some of which are governed by their Chiefs, or Kings; the others, being more of the nature of a commonwealth are governed by some of the principal men, called Caboceros, who, Bosman says, are properly denominated civil fathers, whose province is to take care of the welfare of the city or village, and to appease tumults." But this order of government has been much broken since the coming of the Europeans. Both Bosman and Barbot mention murther and adultery to be severely punished on the Coast, frequently by death; and robbery by a fine proportionable to the goods stolen.
[Footnote A: Smith, page 193.]
The income of some of the Kings is large, Bosman says, "That the King of Whidah's revenues and duties on things bought and sold are considerable; he having the tithe of all things sold in the market, or imported in the country."[A] Both the abovementioned authors say, The tax on slaves shipped off in this King's dominions, in some years, amounts to near twenty thousand pounds.
[Footnote A: Bosman, page 337. Barbot, page 335.]
Bosman tells us, "The Whidah Negroes have a faint idea of a true God, ascribing to him the attributes of almighty power and omnipresence; but God, they say, is too high to condescend to think of mankind; wherefore he commits the government of the world to those inferior deities which they worship." Some authors say, the wisest of these Negroes are sensible of their mistake in this opinion, but dare not forsake their own religion, for fear of the populace rising and killing them. This is confirmed by William Smith, who says, "That all the natives of this coast believe there is one true God, the author of them and all things; that they have some apprehension of a future state; and that almost every village has a grove, or public place of worship, to which the principal inhabitants, on a set day, resort to make their offerings."
In the Collection[A] it is remarked as an excellency in the Guinea government, "That however poor they may be in general, yet there are no beggars to be found amongst them; which is owing to the care of their chief men, whose province it is to take care of the welfare of the city or village; it being part of their office, to see that such people may earn their bread by their labour; some are set to blow the smith's bellows, others to press palm oil, or grind colours for their matts, and sell provision in the markets. The young men are listed to serve as soldiers, so that they suffer no common beggar."
[Footnote A: Astley's collection, vol. 2, page 619.]
Bosman ascribes a further reason for this good order, viz. "That when a Negroe finds he cannot subsist, he binds himself for a certain sum of money, and the master to whom he is bound is obliged to find him necessaries; that the master sets him a sort of task, which is not in the least slavish, being chiefly to defend his master on occasions; or in sowing time to work as much as he himself pleases."[A]
[Footnote A: Bosman, page 119.]
Adjoining to the kingdom of Whidah, are several small governments, as Coto, great and small Popo, Ardrah, &c. all situate on the Slave Coast, where the chief trade for slaves is carried on. These are governed by their respective Kings, and follow much the same customs with those of Whidah, except that their principal living is on plunder, and the slave trade.
The kingdom of Benin; its extent. Esteemed the most potent in Guinea. Fruitfulness of the soil. Good disposition of the people. Order of government. Punishment of crimes. Large extent of the town of Great Benin. Order maintained. The natives honest and charitable. Their religion. The kingdoms of Kongo and Angola. Many of the natives profess christianity. The country fruitful. Disposition of the people. The administration of justice. The town of Leango. Slave trade carried on by the Portugueze. Here the slave trade ends.
Next adjoining to the Slave Coast, is the kingdom of Benin, which, though it extends but about 170 miles on the sea, yet spreads so far inland, as to be esteemed the most potent kingdom in Guinea. By accounts, the soil and produce appear to be in a great measure like those before described; and the natives are represented as a reasonable good-natured people. Artus says,[A] "They are a sincere, inoffensive people, and do no injustice either to one another, or to strangers." William Smith[B] confirms this account, and says, "That the inhabitants are generally very good-natured, and exceeding courteous and civil. When the Europeans make them presents, which in their coming thither to trade they always do, they endeavour to return them doubly."
[Footnote A: Collection. vol. 3, page 228.]
[Footnote B: Smith, page 228.]
Bosman tells us,[A] "That his countrymen the Dutch, who were often obliged to trust them till they returned the next year, were sure to be honestly paid their whole debts."
[Footnote A: W. Bosman, page 405.]
There is in Benin a considerable order in government. Theft, murther, and adultery, being severely punished. Barbot says,[A] "If a man and a woman of any quality be surprized in adultery, they are both put to death, and their bodies are thrown on a dunghill, and left there a prey to wild beasts." He adds, "The severity of the laws in Benin against adultery,[B] amongst all orders of people, deters them from venturing, so that it is but very seldom any persons are punished for that crime." Smith says, "Their towns are governed by officers appointed by the King, who have power to decide in civil cases, and to raise the public taxes; but in criminal cases, they must send to the King's court, which is held at the town of Oedo, or Great Benin. This town, which covers a large extent of ground, is about sixty mile from the sea."[C] Barbot tells us, "That it contains thirty streets, twenty fathom wide, and almost two miles long, commonly, extending in a straight line from one gate to another; that the gates are guarded by soldiers; that in these streets markets are held every day, for cattle, ivory, cotton, and many sorts of European goods. This large town is divided into several wards, or districts, each governed by its respective King of a street, as they call them; to administer justice, and to keep good order. The inhabitants are very civil and good natured, condescending to what the Europeans require of them in a civil way." The same author confirms what has been said by others of their justice in the payment of their debts; and adds, "That they, above all other Guineans, are very honest and just in their dealings; and they have such an aversion for theft, that by the law of the country it is punished with death." We are told by the same author,[D] "That the King of Benin is able upon occasion to maintain an army of a hundred thousand men; but that, for the most part, he does not keep thirty thousand." William Smith says, "The natives are all free men; none but foreigners can be bought and sold there.[E] They are very charitable, the King as well as his subjects." Bosman confirms this,[F] and says, "The King and great Lords subsist several poor at their place of residence on charity, employing those who are fit for any work, and the rest they keep for God's sake; so that here are no beggars."
[Footnote A: Barbot, page 237.]
[Footnote B: By this account of the punishment inflicted on adulterers in this and other parts of Guinea, it appears the Negroes are not insensible of the sinfulness of such practices. How strange must it then appear to the serious minded amongst these people, (nay, how inconsistent is it with every divine and moral law amongst ourselves) that those christian laws which prohibit fornication and adultery, are in none of the English governments extended to them, but that they are allowed to cohabit and separate at pleasure? And that even their masters think so lightly of their marriage engagements, that, when it suits with their interest, they will separate man from wife, and children from both, to be sold into different, and even distant parts, without regard to their sometimes grievous lamentations; whence it has happened, that such of those people who are truly united in their marriage covenant, and in affection to one another, have been driven to such desperation, as either violently to destroy themselves, or gradually to pine away, and die with mere grief. It is amazing, that whilst the clergy of the established church are publicly expressing a concern, that these oppressed people should be made acquainted with the christian religion, they should be thus suffered, and even forced, so flagrantly to infringe one of the principal injunctions of our holy religion!]
[Footnote C: J. Barbot, page 358, 359.]
[Footnote D: Barbot, page 369.]
[Footnote E: W. Smith, page 369.]
[Footnote F: Bosman, page 409.]
As to religion, these people believe there is a God, the efficient cause of all things; but, like the rest of the Guineans, they are superstitiously and idolatrously inclined.
The last division of Guinea from which slaves are imported, are the kingdoms of Kongo and Angola: these lie to the South of Benin, extending with the intermediate land about twelve hundred miles on the coast. Great numbers of the natives of both these kingdoms profess the christian religion, which was long since introduced by the Portugueze, who made early settlements in that country.
In the Collection it is said, that both in Kongo and Angola, the soil is in general fruitful, producing great plenty of grain, Indian corn, and such quantities of rice, that it hardly bears any price, with fruits, roots, and palm oil in plenty.
The natives are generally a quiet people, who discover a good understanding, and behave in a friendly manner to strangers, being of a mild conversation, affable, and easily overcome with reason.
In the government of Kongo, the King appoints a judge in every particular division, to hear and determine disputes and civil causes; the judges imprison and release, or impose fines, according to the rule of custom; but in weighty matters, every one may appeal to the King, before whom all criminal causes are brought, in which he giveth sentence; but seldom condemneth to death.
The town of Leango stands in the midst of four Lordships, which abound in corn, fruit, &c. Here they make great quantities of cloth of divers kinds, very fine and curious; the inhabitants are seldom idle; they even make needle-work caps as they walk in the streets.
The slave trade is here principally managed by the Portugueze, who carry it far up into the inland countries. They are said to send off from these parts fifteen thousand slaves each year.
At Angola, about the 10th degree of South latitude, ends the trade for slaves.
The antientest accounts of the Negroes is from the Nubian Geography, and the writings of Leo the African. Some account of those authors. The Arabians pass into Guinea. The innocency and simplicity of the natives. They are subdued by the Moors. Heli Ischia shakes off the Moorish yoke. The Portugueze make the first descent in Guinea. From whence they carry off some of the natives. More incursions of the like kind. The Portugueze erect the first fort at D'Elmina. They begin the slave trade. Cada Mosto's testimony. Anderson's account to the same purport. De la Casa's concern for the relief of the oppressed Indians. Goes over into Spain to plead their cause. His speech before Charles the Fifth.
The most antient account we have of the country of the Negroes, particularly that part situate on and between the two great rivers of Senegal and Gambia, is from the writings of two antient authors, one an Arabian, and the other a Moor. The first[A] wrote in Arabic, about the twelfth century. His works, printed in that language at Rome, were afterwards translated into Latin, and printed at Paris, under the patronage of the famous Thuanus, chancellor of France, with the title of Geographica Nubiensis, containing an account or all the nations lying on the Senegal and Gambia. The other wrote by John Leo,[B] a Moor, born at Granada, in Spain, before the Moors were totally expelled from that kingdom. He resided in Africa; but being on a voyage from Tripoli to Tunis, was taken by some Italian Corsairs, who finding him possessed of several Arabian books, besides his own manuscripts, apprehended him to be a man of learning, and as such presented him to Pope Leo the Tenth. This Pope encouraging him, he embraced the Romish religion, and his description of Africa was published in Italian. From these writings we gather, that after the Mahometan religion had extended to the kingdom of Morocco, some of the promoters of it crossing the sandy desarts of Numidia, which separate that country from Guinea, found it inhabited by men, who, though under no regular government, and destitute of that knowledge the Arabians were favoured with, lived in content and peace. The first author particularly remarks, "That they never made war, or travelled abroad, but employed themselves in tending their herds, or labouring in the ground." J. Leo says, page 65. "That they lived in common, having no property in land, no tyrant nor superior lord, but supported themselves in an equal state, upon the natural produce of the country, which afforded plenty of roots, game, and honey. That ambition or avarice never drove them into foreign countries to subdue or cheat their neighbours. Thus they lived without toil or superfluities." "The antient inhabitants of Morocco, who wore coats of mail, and used swords and spears headed with iron, coming amongst these harmless and naked people, soon brought them under subjection, and divided that part of Guinea which lies on the rivers Senegal and Gambia into fifteen parts; those were the fifteen kingdoms of the Negroes, over which the Moors presided, and the common people were Negroes. These Moors taught the Negroes the Mahometan religion, and arts of life; particularly the use of iron, before unknown to them. About the 14th century, a native Negro, called Heli Ischia, expelled the Moorish conquerors; but tho' the Negroes threw off the yoke of a foreign nation, they only changed a Libyan for a Negroe master. Heli Ischia himself becoming King, led the Negroes on to foreign wars, and established himself in power over a very large extent of country." Since Leo's time, the Europeans have had very little knowledge of those parts of Africa, nor do they know what became of his great empire. It is highly probable that it broke into pieces, and that the natives again resumed many of their antient customs; for in the account published by William Moor, in his travels on the river Gambia, we find a mixture of the Moorish and Mahometan customs, joined with the original simplicity of the Negroes. It appears by accounts of antient voyages, collected by Hackluit, Purchas, and others, that it was about fifty years before the discovery of America, that the Portugueze attempted to sail round Cape Bojador, which lies between their country and Guinea; this, after divers repulses occasioned by the violent currents, they effected; when landing on the western coasts of Africa, they soon began to make incursions into the country, and to seize and carry off the native inhabitants. As early as the year 1434, Alonzo Gonzales, the first who is recorded to have met with the natives, being on that coast, pursued and attacked a number of them, when some were wounded, as was also one of the Portugueze; which the author records as the first blood spilt by christians in those parts. Six years after, the same Gonzales again attacked the natives, and took twelve prisoners, with whom he returned to his vessels; he afterwards put a woman on shore, in order to induce the natives to redeem the prisoners; but the next day 150 of the inhabitants appeared on horses and camels, provoking the Portugueze to land; which they not daring to venture, the natives discharged a volley of stones at them, and went off. After this, the Portugueze still continued to send vessels on the coast of Africa; particularly we read of their falling on a village, whence the inhabitants fled, and, being pursued, twenty-five were taken: "He that ran best," says the author, "taking the most. In their way home they killed some of the natives, and took fifty-five more prisoners.[C] Afterwards Dinisanes Dagrama, with two other vessels, landed on the island Arguin, where they took fifty-four Moors; then running along the coast eighty leagues farther, they at several times took fifty slaves; but here seven of the Portugueze were killed. Then being joined by several other vessels, Dinisanes proposed to destroy the island, to revenge the loss of the seven Portugueze; of which the Moors being apprized, fled, so that no more than twelve were found, whereof only four could be taken, the rest being killed, as also one of the Portugueze." Many more captures of this kind on the coast of Barbary and Guinea, are recorded to have been made in those early times by the Portugueze; who, in the year 1481, erected their first fort at D'Elmina on that coast, from whence they soon opened a trade for slaves with the inland parts of Guinea.
[Footnote A: See Travels into different parts of Africa, by Francis Moor, with a letter to the publisher.]
[Footnote B: Ibid.]
[Footnote C: Collection, vol. 1, page 13.]
From the foregoing accounts, it is undoubted, that the practice of making slaves of the Negroes, owes its origin to the early incursions of the Portugueze on the coast of Africa, solely from an inordinate desire of gain. This is clearly evidenced from their own historians, particularly Cada Mosto, about the year 1455, who writes,[A] "That before the trade was settled for purchasing slaves from the Moors at Arguin, sometimes four, and sometimes more Portugueze vessels, were used to come to that gulph, well armed; and landing by night, would surprize some fishermen's villages: that they even entered into the country, and carried off Arabs of both sexes, whom they sold in Portugal." And also, "That the Portugueze and Spaniards, settled on four of the Canary islands, would go to the other island by night, and seize some of the natives of both sexes, whom they sent to be sold in Spain."
[Footnote A: Collection vol. 1, page 576.]
After the settlement of America, those devastations, and the captivating the miserable Africans, greatly increased.
Anderson, in his history of trade and commerce, at page 336, speaking of what passed in the year 1508, writes, "That the Spaniards had by this time found that the miserable Indian natives, whom they had made to work in their mines and fields, were not so robust and proper for those purposes as Negroes brought from Africa; wherefore they, about that time, began to import Negroes for that end into Hispaniola, from the Portugueze settlements on the Guinea coasts; and also afterwards for their sugar works." This oppression of the Indians had, even before this time, rouzed the zeal, as well as it did the compassion, of some of the truly pious of that day; particularly that of Bartholomew De las Casas, bishop of Chapia; whom a desire of being instrumental towards the conversion of the Indians, had invited into America. It is generally agreed by the writers of that age, that he was a man of perfect disinterestedness, and ardent charity; being affected with this sad spectacle, he returned to the court of Spain, and there made a true report of the matter; but not without being strongly opposed by those mercenary wretches, who had enslaved the Indians; yet being strong and indefatigable, he went to and fro between Europe and America, firmly determined not to give over his pursuit but with his life. After long solicitation, and innumerable repulses, he obtained leave to lay the matter before the Emperor Charles the Fifth, then King of Spain. As the contents of the speech he made before the King in council, are very applicable to the case of the enslaved Africans, and a lively evidence that the spirit of true piety speaks the same language in the hearts of faithful men in all ages, for the relief of their fellow creatures from oppression of every kind, I think it may not be improper here to transcribe the most interesting parts of it. "I was," says this pious bishop, "one of the first who went to America; neither curiosity nor interest prompted me to undertake so long and dangerous a voyage; the saving the souls of the heathen was my sole object. Why was I not permitted, even at the expence of my blood, to ransom so many thousand souls, who fell unhappy victims to avarice or lust? I have been an eye witness to such cruel treatment of the Indians, as is too horrid to be mentioned at this time.—It is said that barbarous executions were necessary to punish or check the rebellion of the Americans;—but to whom was this owing? Did not those people receive the Spaniards, who first came amongst them, with gentleness and humanity? Did they not shew more joy, in proportion, in lavishing treasure upon them, than the Spaniards did greediness in receiving it?—But our avarice was not yet satisfied;—tho' they gave up to us their land and their riches, we would tear from them their wives, their children and their liberties.—To blacken these unhappy people, their enemies assert, that they are scarce human creatures?—but it is we that ought to blush, for having been less men, and more barbarous, than they.—What right have we to enslave a people who are born free, and whom we disturbed, tho' they never offended us?—They are represented as a stupid people, addicted to vice?—but have they not contracted most of their vices from the example of the christians? And as to those vices peculiar to themselves, have not the christians quickly exceeded them therein? Nevertheless it must be granted, that the Indians still remain untainted with many vices usual amongst the Europeans; such as ambition, blasphemy, treachery, and many like monsters, which have not yet took place with them; they have scarce an idea of them; so that in effect, all the advantage we can claim, is to have more elevated notions of things, and our natural faculties more unfolded and more cultivated than theirs.—Do not let us flatter our corruptions, nor voluntarily blind ourselves; all nations are equally free; one nation has no right to infringe upon the freedom of any other; let us do towards these people as we would have them to have done towards us, if they had landed upon our shore, with the same superiority of strength. And indeed, why should not things be equal on both sides? How long has the right of the strongest been allowed to be the balance of justice? What part of the gospel gives a sanction to such a doctrine? In what part of the whole earth did the apostles and the first promulgators of the gospel ever claim a right over the lives, the freedom, or the substance of the Gentiles? What a strange method this is of propagating the gospel, that holy law of grace, which, from being, slaves to Satan, initiates us into the freedom of the children of God!—Will it be possible for us to inspire them with a love to its dictates, while they are so exasperated at being dispossessed of that invaluable blessing, Liberty? The apostles submitted to chains themselves, but loaded no man with them. Christ came to free, not to enslave us.—Submission to the faith he left us, ought to be a voluntary act, and should be propagated by persuasion, gentleness, and reason."
"At my first arrival in Hispaniola, (added the bishop) it contained a million of inhabitants; and now (viz. in the space of about twenty years) there remains scarce the hundredth part of them; thousands have perished thro' want, fatigue, merciless punishment, cruelty, and barbarity. If the blood of one man unjustly shed, calls loudly for vengeance; how strong must be the cry of that of so many unhappy creatures which is shedding daily?"—The good bishop concluded his speech, with imploring the King's clemency for subjects so unjustly oppressed; and bravely declared, that heaven would one day call him to an account, for the numberless acts of cruelty which he might have prevented. The King applauded the bishop's zeal; promised to second it; but so many of the great ones had an interest in continuing the oppression, that nothing was done; so that all the Indians in Hispaniola, except a few who had hid themselves in the most inaccessible mountains, were destroyed.
First account of the English trading to Guinea. Thomas Windham and several others go to that coast. Some of the Negroes carried off by the English. Queen Elizabeth's charge to Captain Hawkins respecting the natives. Nevertheless he goes on the coast and carries off some of the Negroes. Patents are granted. The King of France objects to the Negroes being kept in slavery. As do the college of Cardinals at Rome. The natives, an inoffensive people; corrupted by the Europeans. The sentiments of the natives concerning the slave-trade, from William Smith: Confirmed by Andrew Brue and James Barbot.
It was about the year 1551, towards the latter end of the reign of King Edward the Sixth, when some London merchants sent out the first English ship, on a trading voyage to the coast of Guinea; this was soon followed by several others to the same parts; but the English not having then any plantations in the West Indies, and consequently no occasion for Negroes, such ships traded only for gold, elephants teeth, and Guinea pepper. This trade was carried on at the hazard of losing their ships and cargoes, if they had fallen into the hands of the Portuguese, who claimed an exclusive right of trade, on account of the several settlements they had made there.[A] In the year 1553, we find captain Thomas Windham trading along the coast with 140 men, in three ships, and sailing as far as Benin, which lies about 3000 miles down the coast, to take in a load of pepper.[B] Next year John Lock traded along the coast of Guinea, as far as D'Elmina, when he brought away considerable quantities of gold and ivory. He speaks well of the natives, and says,[C] "That whoever will deal with them must behave civilly, for they will not traffic if ill used." In 1555, William Towerson traded in a peaceable manner with the natives, who made complaint to him of the Portuguese, who were then settled in their castle at D'Elmina, saying, "They were bad men, who made them slaves if they could take them, putting irons on their legs."
[Footnote A: Astley's collection, vol. 1. page 139.]
[Footnote B: Collection vol. 1. p. 148.]
[Footnote C: Ibid. 257.]
This bad example of the Portuguese was soon followed by some evil disposed Englishmen; for the same captain Towerson relates,[A] "That in the course of his voyage, he perceived the natives, near D'Elmina, unwilling to come to him, and that he was at last attacked by them; which he understood was done in revenge for the wrong done them the year before, by one captain Gainsh, who had taken away the Negro captain's son, and three others, with their gold, &c. This caused them to join the Portuguese, notwithstanding their hatred of them, against the English." The next year captain Towerson brought these men back again; whereupon the Negroes shewed him much kindness.[B] Quickly after this, another instance of the same kind occurred, in the case of captain George Fenner, who being on the coast, with three vessels, was also attacked by the Negroes, who wounded several of his people, and violently carried three of his men to their town. The captain sent a messenger, offering any thing they desired for the ransom of his men: but they refused to deliver them, letting him know, "That three weeks before, an English ship, which came in the road, had carried off three of their people; and that till they were brought again, they would not restore his men, even tho' they should give their three ships to release them." It was probably the evil conduct of these, and some other Englishmen, which was the occasion of what is mentioned in Hill's naval history, viz. "That when captain Hawkins returned from his first voyage to Africa, Queen Elizabeth sent for him, when she expressed her concern, lest any of the African Negroes should be carried off without their free consent; which she declared would be detestable, and would call down the vengeance of heaven upon the undertakers." Hawkins made great promises, which nevertheless he did not perform; for his next voyage to the coast appears to have been principally calculated to procure Negro slaves, in order to sell them to the Spaniards in the West Indies; which occasioned the same author to use these remarkable words: "Here began the horrid practice of forcing the Africans into slavery: an injustice and barbarity, which, so sure as there is vengeance in heaven for the worst of crimes, will some time be the destruction of all who act or who encourage it." This captain Hawkins, afterwards sir John Hawkins, seems to have been the first Englishman who gave public countenance to this wicked traffic: For Anderson, before mentioned, at page 401, says, "That in the year 1562, captain Hawkins, assisted by subscription of sundry gentlemen, now fitted out three ships; and having learnt that Negroes were a very good commodity in Hispaniola, he sailed to the coast of Guinea, took in Negroes, and sailed with them for Hispaniola, where he sold them, and his English commodities, and loaded his three vessels with hides, sugar and ginger, &c. with which he returned home anno 1563, making a prosperous voyage." As it proved a lucrative business, the trade was continued both by Hawkins and others, as appears from the naval chronicle, page 55, where it is said, "That on the 18th of October, 1564, captain John Hawkins, with two ships of 700 and 140 tuns, sailed for Africa; that on the 8th of December they anchored to the South of Cape Verd, where the captain manned the boat, and sent eighty men in armour into the country, to see if they could take some Negroes; but the natives flying from them, they returned to their ships, and proceeded farther down the coast. Here they staid certain days, sending their men ashore, in order (as the author says) to burn and spoil their towns and take the inhabitants. The land they observed to be well cultivated, there being plenty of grain, and fruit of several sorts, and the towns prettily laid out. On the 25th, being informed by the Portugueze of a town of Negroes called Bymba, where there was not only a quantity of gold, but an hundred and forty inhabitants, they resolved to attack it, having the Portugueze for their guide; but by mismanagement they took but ten Negroes, having seven of their own men killed, and twenty-seven wounded. They then went farther down the coast; when, having procured a number of Negroes, they proceeded to the West Indies, where they sold them to the Spaniards." And in the same naval chronicle, at page 76, it is said, "That in the year 1567, Francis Drake, before performing his voyage round the world, went with Sir John Hawkins in his expedition to the coast of Guinea, where taking in a cargo of slaves, they determined to steer for the Caribbee islands." How Queen Elizabeth suffered so grievous an infringement of the rights of mankind to be perpetrated by her subjects, and how she was persuaded, about the 30th year of her reign, to grant patents for carrying on a trade from the North part of the river Senegal, to an hundred leagues beyond Sierra Leona, which gave rise to the present African company, is hard to account for, any otherwise than that it arose from the misrepresentation made to her of the situation of the Negroes, and of the advantages it was pretended they would reap from being made acquainted with the christian religion. This was the case of Lewis the XIIIth, King of France, who, Labat, in his account of the isles of America, tells us, "Was extremely uneasy at a law by which the Negroes of his colonies were to be made slaves; but it being strongly urged to him as the readiest means for their conversion to christianity, he acquiesced therewith." Nevertheless, some of the christian powers did not so easily give way in this matter; for we find,[C] "That cardinal Cibo, one of the Pope's principal ministers of state, wrote a letter on behalf of the college of cardinals, or great council at Rome, to the missionaries in Congo, complaining that the pernicious and abominable abuse of selling slaves was yet continued, requiring them to remedy the same, if possible; but this the missionaries saw little hopes of accomplishing, by reason that the trade of the country lay wholly in slaves and ivory."
[Footnote A: Collection, vol. 1. p. 148.]
[Footnote B: Ibid. 157.]
[Footnote C: Collection, vol. 3, page 164.]
From the foregoing accounts, as well as other authentic publications of this kind, it appears that it was the unwarrantable lust of gain, which first stimulated the Portugueze, and afterwards other Europeans, to engage in this horrid traffic. By the most authentic relations of those early times, the natives were an inoffensive people, who, when civilly used, traded amicably with the Europeans. It is recorded of those of Benin, the largest kingdom in Guinea,[A]That they were a gentle, loving people; and Reynold says,[B] "They found more sincere proofs of love and good will from the natives, than they could find from the Spaniards and Portugueze, even tho' they had relieved them from the greatest misery." And from the same relations there is no reason to think otherwise, but that they generally lived in peace amongst themselves; for I don't find, in the numerous publications I have perused on this subject, relating to these early times, of there being wars on that coast, nor of any sale of captives taken in battle, who would have been otherwise sacrificed by the victors:[C] Notwithstanding some modern authors, in their publications relating to the West Indies, desirous of throwing a veil over the iniquity of the slave trade, have been hardy enough, upon meer supposition or report, to assert the contrary.
[Footnote A: Collection, vol. 1, page 202.]
[Footnote B: Idem, page 245.]
[Footnote C: Note, This plea falls of itself, for if the Negroes apprehended they should be cruelly put to death, if they were not sent away, why do they manifest such reluctance and dread as they generally do, at being brought from their native country? William Smith, at page 28, says, "The Gambians abhor slavery, and will attempt any thing, tho' never so desperate, to avoid it," and Thomas Philips, in his account of a voyage he performed to the coast of Guinea, writes, "They, the Negroes, are so loth to leave their own country, that they have often leaped out of the canoe, boat, or ship, into the sea, and kept under water till they were drowned, to avoid being taken up."]
It was long after the Portugueze had made a practice of violently forcing the natives of Africa into slavery, that we read of the different Negroe nations making war upon each other, and selling their captives. And probably this was not the case, till those bordering on the coast, who had been used to supply the vessels with necessaries, had become corrupted by their intercourse with the Europeans, and were excited by drunkenness and avarice to join them in carrying on those wicked schemes, by which those unnatural wars were perpetrated; the inhabitants kept in continual alarms; the country laid waste; and, as William Moor expresses it, Infinite numbers sold into slavery. But that the Europeans are the principal cause of these devastations, is particularly evidenced by one, whose connexion with the trade would rather induce him to represent it in the fairest colours, to wit, William Smith, the person sent in the year 1726 by the African company to survey their settlements, who, from the information he received of one of the factors, who had resided ten years in that country, says,[A] "That the discerning natives account it their greatest unhappiness, that they were ever visited by the Europeans."—"That we christians introduced the traffick of slaves; and that before our coming they lived in peace."
[Footnote A: William Smith, page 266.]
In the accounts relating to the African trade, we find this melancholy truth farther asserted by some of the principal directors in the different factories; particularly A. Brue says,[A] "That the Europeans were far from desiring to act as peace-makers amongst the Negroes; which would be acting contrary to their interest, since the greater the wars, the more slaves were procured," And William Bosman also remarks,[B] "That one of the former commanders gave large sums of money to the Negroes of one nation, to induce them to attack some of the neighbouring nations, which occasioned a battle which was more bloody than the wars of the Negroes usually are." This is confirmed by J. Barbot, who says, "That the country of D'Elmina, which was formerly very powerful and populous, was in his time so much drained of its inhabitants by the intestine wars fomented amongst the Negroes by the Dutch, that there did not remain inhabitants enough to till the country."
[Footnote A: Collection, vol. 2, page 98.]
[Footnote B: Bosman, page 31.]
The conduct of the Europeans and Africans compared. Slavery more tolerable amongst the antients than in our colonies. As christianity prevailed amongst the barbarous nations, the inconsistency of slavery became more apparent. The charters of manumission, granted in the early times of christianity, founded on an apprehension of duty to God. The antient Britons, and other European nations, in their original state, no less barbarous than the Negroes. Slaves in Guinea used with much greater lenity than the Negroes are in the colonies.—Note. How the slaves are treated in Algiers, as also in Turkey.
Such is the woeful corruption of human nature, that every practice which flatters our pride and covetousness, will find its advocates! This is manifestly the case in the matter before us; the savageness of the Negroes in some of their customs, and particularly their deviating so far from the feelings of humanity, as to join in captivating and selling each other, gives their interested oppressors a pretence for representing them as unworthy of liberty, and the natural rights of mankind. But these sophisters turn the argument full upon themselves, when they instigate the poor creatures to such shocking impiety, by every means that fantastic subtilty can suggest; thereby shewing in their own conduct, a more glaring proof of the same depravity, and, if there was any reason in the argument, a greater unfitness for the same precious enjoyment: for though some of the ignorant Africans may be thus corrupted by their intercourse with the baser of the European natives, and the use of strong liquors, this is no excuse for high-professing christians; bred in a civilized country, with so many advantages unknown to the Africans, and pretending to a superior degree of gospel light. Nor can it justify them in raising up fortunes to themselves from the misery of others, and calmly projecting voyages for the seizure of men naturally as free as themselves; and who, they know, are no otherwise to be procured than by such barbarous means, as none but those hardened wretches, who are lost to every sense of christian compassion, can make use of. Let us diligently compare, and impartially weigh, the situation of those ignorant Negroes, and these enlightened christians; then lift up the scale and say, which of the two are the greater savages.
Slavery has been of a long time in practice in many parts of Asia; it was also in usage among the Romans when that empire flourished; but, except in some particular instances, it was rather a reasonable servitude, no ways comparable to the unreasonable and unnatural service extorted from the Negroes in our colonies. A late learned author,[A] speaking of those times which succeeded the dissolution of that empire, acquaints us, that as christianity prevailed, it very much removed those wrong prejudices and practices, which had taken root in darker times: after the irruption of the Northern nations, and the introduction of the feudal or military government, whereby the most extensive power was lodged in a few members of society, to the depression of the rest, the common people were little better than slaves, and many were indeed such; but as christianity gained ground, the gentle spirit of that religion, together with the doctrines it teaches, concerning the original equality of mankind, as well as the impartial eye with which the Almighty regards men of every condition, and admits them to a participation of his benefits; so far manifested the inconsistency of slavery with christianity, that to set their fellow christians at liberty was deemed an act of piety, highly meritorious and acceptable to God.[B] Accordingly a great part of the charters granted for the manumission or freedom of slaves about that time, are granted pro amore Dei, for the love of God, pro mercede animae, to obtain mercy to the soul. Manumission was frequently granted on death-beds, or by latter wills. As the minds of men are at that time awakened to sentiments of humanity and piety, these deeds proceeded from religious motives. The same author remarks, That there are several forms of those manumissions still extant, all of them founded on religious considerations, and in order to procure the favour of God. Since that time, the practice of keeping men in slavery gradually ceased amongst christians, till it was renewed in the case before us. And as the prevalency of the spirit of christianity caused men to emerge from the darkness they then lay under, in this respect; so it is much to be feared that so great a deviation therefrom, by the encouragement given to the slavery of the Negroes in our colonies, if continued, will, by degrees, reduce those countries which support and encourage it but more immediately those parts of America which are in the practice of it, to the ignorance and barbarity of the darkest ages.
[Footnote A: See Robertson's history of Charles the 5th.]
[Footnote B: In the years 1315 and 1318, Louis X. and his brother Philip, Kings of France, issued ordonnances, declaring, "That as all men were by nature free-born, and as their kingdom was called the kingdom of Franks, they determined that it should be so in reality, as well as in name; therefore they appointed that enfranchisements should be granted throughout the whole kingdom, upon just and reasonable conditions." "These edicts were carried into immediate execution within the royal domain."—"In England, as the spirit of liberty gained ground, the very name and idea of personal servitude, without any formal interposition of the legislature to prohibit it, was totally banished." "The effects of such a remarkable change in the condition of so great a part of the people, could not fail of being considerable and extensive. The husbandman, master of his own industry, and secure of reaping for himself the fruits of his labour, became farmer of the same field where he had formerly been compelled to toil for the benefit of another. The odious name of master and of slave, the most mortifying and depressing of all distinctions to human nature, were abolished. New prospects opened, and new incitements to ingenuity and enterprise presented themselves, to those who were emancipated. The expectation of bettering their fortune, as well as that of raising themselves to a more honourable condition, concurred in calling forth their activity and genius; and a numerous class of men, who formerly had no political existence, and were employed merely as instruments of labour, became useful citizens, and contributed towards augmenting the force or riches of the society, which adopted them as members." William Robertson's history of Charles the 5th, vol. 1, P. 35. ]
If instead of making slaves of the Negroes, the nations who assume the name and character of christians, would use their endeavours to make the nations of Africa acquainted with the nature of the christian religion, to give them a better sense of the true use of the blessings of life, the more beneficial arts and customs would, by degrees, be introduced amongst them; this care probably would produce the same effect upon them, which it has had on the inhabitants of Europe, formerly as savage and barbarous as the natives of Africa. Those cruel wars amongst the blacks would be likely to cease, and a fair and honorable commerce, in time, take place throughout that vast country. It was by these means that the inhabitants of Europe, though formerly a barbarous people, became civilized. Indeed the account Julius Caesar gives of the ancient Britons in their state of ignorance, is not such as should make us proud of ourselves, or lead us to despise the unpolished nations of the earth; for he informs us, "That they lived in many respects like our Indians, being clad with skins, painting their bodies, &c." He also adds, "That they, brother with brother, and parents with children, had wives in common." A greater barbarity than any heard of amongst the Negroes. Nor doth Tacitus give a more honourable account of the Germans, from whom the Saxons, our immediate ancestors, sprung. The Danes, who succeeded them (who may also be numbered among our progenitors) were full as bad, if not worse.
It is usual for people to advance as a palliation in favour of keeping the Negroes in bondage, that there are slaves in Guinea, and that those amongst us might be so in their own country; but let such consider the inconsistency of our giving any countenance to slavery, because the Africans, whom we esteem a barbarous and savage people, allow of it, and perhaps the more from our example. Had the professors of christianity acted indeed as such, they might have been instrumental to convince the Negroes of their error in this respect; but even this, when inquired into, will be to us an occasion of blushing, if we are not hardened to every sense of shame, rather than a palliation of our iniquitous conduct; as it will appear that the slavery endured in Guinea, and other parts of Africa, and in Asia,[A] is by no means so grievous as that in our colonies. William Moor, speaking of the natives living on the river Gambia,[B] says, "Tho' some of the Negroes have many house slaves, which are their greatest glory; that those slaves live so well and easy, that it is sometimes a hard matter to know the slaves from their masters or mistresses. And that though in some parts of Africa they sell their slaves born in the family, yet on the river Gambia they think it a very wicked thing." The author adds, "He never heard of but one that ever sold a family slave, except for such crimes as they would have been sold for if they had been free." And in Astley's collection, speaking of the customs of the Negroes in that large extent of country further down the coast, particularly denominated the coast of Guinea, it is said,[C] "They have not many slaves on the coast; none but the King or nobles are permitted to buy or sell any; so that they are allowed only what are necessary for their families, or tilling the ground." The same author adds, "That they generally use their slaves well, and seldom correct them."
[Footnote A: In the history of the piratical states of Barbary, printed in 1750, said to be wrote by a person who resided at Algiers, in a public character, at page 265 the author says, "The world exclaims against the Algerines for their cruel treatment of their slaves, and their employing even tortures to convert them to mahometism: but this is a vulgar error, artfully propagated for selfish views. So far are their slaves from being ill used, that they must have committed some very great fault to suffer any punishment. Neither are they forced to work beyond their strength, but rather spared, lest they should fall sick. Some are so pleased with their situation, that they will not purchase their ransom, though they are able." It is the same generally through the Mahometan countries, except in some particular instances, as that of Muley Ishmael, late Emperor of Morocco, who being naturally barbarous, frequently used both his subjects and slaves with cruelty. Yet even under him the usage the slaves met with was, in general, much more tolerable than that of the Negroe slaves in the West Indies. Captain Braithwaite, an author of credit, who accompanied consul general Russel in a congratulatory ambassy to Muley Ishmael's successor, upon his accession to the throne, says, "The situation of the christian slaves in Morocco was not near so bad as represented.—That it was true they were kept at labour by the late Emperor, but not harder than our daily labourers go through.—Masters of ships were never obliged to work, nor such as had but a small matter of money to give the Alcaide.—When sick, they had a religious house appointed for them to go to, where they were well attended: and whatever money in charity was sent them by their friends in Europe, was their own." Braithwaite's revolutions of Morocco. Lady Montague, wife of the English ambassador at Constantinople, in her letters, vol. 3. page 20, writes, "I know you expect I should say something particular of the slaves; and you will imagine me half a Turk, when I do not speak of it with the same horror other christians have done before me; but I cannot forbear applauding the humanity of the Turks to these creatures; they are not ill used; and their slavery, in my opinion, is no worse than servitude all over the world. It is true they have no wages, but they give them yearly cloaths to a higher value than our salaries to our ordinary servants." ]