It is said that a Portuguese merchant was the first to purchase slaves in 1441 from an African chieftain, who were then taken to Portugal. This country had emerged as the first European country and viable political unit which could raise sufficient revenues through taxation to sustain overseas expeditions for future trade relations. And, like their European counterparts, African coastal slave catchers viewed their captives as marketable objects.
The African slave trade monopoly developed by the Portuguese spread to other European powers, and eventually New England, which created its own “rum triangle” of the transatlantic trade in slaves. Thus, the agrarian Southern colonies of British America became populated with African slaves to work the British plantation labor system. It is then clear who developed, profited from and perpetuated the existence of African slavery, and where condemnation should be accurately directed.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
Portuguese Trade with Africa
“The transatlantic trade affected the coastal area of West Africa that became Liberia in 1822. Before the arrival of Europeans in the fifteenth century, coastal pre-Liberia had been affected by internal and external social dynamics. The Mande, Mel and Kwa were the first linguistic groups to reside in the region . . . [and] Dei, Bassa, Kran, Kru and Glebo came to pre-Liberia in about 988 AD.
Nearly all these ethnic groups practiced some form of slavery prior to the arrival of the Europeans. [The European] discovery of the New World brought significant demands for . . . a large number of Africans to meet the demand for labor. [North and South American] Indians were enslaved, but frequently escaped. As many as 30 million Indians were killed by diseases such as smallpox and chicken pox . . .
Attempts were made to enslave poor Europeans. Some poor Irish, Scots and English were reduced to indentured servitude to meet the increasing demands for labor in the New World.
The first group of African slaves sent to the West Indies in 1510, had been bought in Portugal. Owing to the increasing significance of the slave trade, King John III activated the monopoly that had been established over the coastal pre-Liberian trade, even though the Portuguese monopoly was ignored by other European powers as the transatlantic slave trade, started by Portugal, was taken over by Spain and then the Netherlands.
Nearly all the major European powers came to be involved with the trade from the 1400s to the 1800s. It has been estimated that as many as 9.5 million Africans were transported to the Americas between 1510 and 1870.
The prosperity of the Vai, Kissi, Kry, Bassa and Glebo merchants was directly tied to their participation in the Atlantic trade . . . [and] African coastal merchants perceived slavery as a commercial action. The African slavers sent “gampisas”, professional slave captors, into the interior to hunt for slaves for their western allies.”
(Transatlantic Trade and the Coastal Area of Pre-Liberia, Amos J. Beyan, The Historian, Phi Alpha Theta, Volume 57, No. 4, Summer 1995, excerpts pp. 757-758; 763-768)