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Sep 24, 2015 - Slavery Worldwide    No Comments

Africa and Slavery

The Europeans arriving on the African coast found already enslaved black people marketed for sale, a trade which had been a staple of the Dark Continent’s economy for hundreds of years. Though traditionally slave owners themselves, the Tuareg tribe of Timbuktu were defeated in battle and those not killed and beheaded became slaves themselves. Ironically today’s Volkswagen SUV is named for this tribe of slave holders.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Africa and Slavery

“The West Indies were among Great Britain’s first colonial possessions, and for two centuries they had been the most prosperous, though that was changing as the slave and sugar economies shrank . . . [But] Africa was a rougher place.

In Sierra Leone, as in all the other European settlements along the western coast [of Africa], the activities of the expatriate whites – whether traders, officials or army officers – were restricted to villages easily accessible from the ocean, if not to the narrow confines of the trading beaches where they could escape to their ships or forts at night to avoid the pestilential diseases that were thought to come with the setting sun.

This isolation by the sea was only partly due to health concerns and the difficulty of travel through the rain forests. It was also the result of the slave trade, the middlemen of which had seen to it that their European customers were denied access to the hinterlands, the source of their own supply of new slaves. Though officially abolished, the “traffick” continued.

[As the Europeans learned], the indigenous peoples of West Africa were loath to let white men know too much about the geography and riches of their interior lands for all sorts of commercial and political reasons. Arab [slave] traders too, had a vested commercial interest in keeping the Europeans out. They helped sow distrust by relating stories of the British colonization of India, tales not lost on local African kings.

By 1821, fifteen years after the abolition of the slave trade in British colonies, it had become clear in London that there was much to be gained commercially, and also sometimes politically, by creating links with some of the powerful tribes of the interior instead of conducting all [slaving] business through intermediaries on the coast.

Tripoli had been the gateway to the African interior since per-Christian Garamantes tribesmen sold precious stones to the Carthaginians. Whoever rules Tripoli tried to keep the caravan routs open . . . [and] in the sixteenth century, Tripoli was invaded by the Turks. They governed, backed by a garrison of Janissaries. A Janissary was a soldier in an elite corps of Turkish troops drawn exclusively from abducted Christian boys trained to fight and brought up as Muslims.

The Janissaries in Tripoli intermarried with Arab and Berber women, and their sons were called Cologhis. The Cologhis, inevitably, grew more powerful until a fateful day in 1711 when one of them, Ahmad Karamanli, invited the officers of the Turkish garrison to a sumptuous banquet – and promptly slaughtered all of them as they ate. [Karamanli, calling himself “the bashaw”] founded a Tripolitanian dynasty that would rule for the next 125 years.

One [European] explorer, watching [Karamanli’s] army returning after a campaign [to the African interior] counted two thousand human heads on the tips of Cologhi spears. These grisly trophies belonged to rebellious Tuareg [tribesmen] whose decapitated bodies were burned in the desert.

In 1819, a combined Anglo-French squadron appeared off the shores of Tripoli . . . [to end attacks on Mediterranean shipping] . . . a huge financial blow to the bashaw. With a large part of his revenues cut, the bashaw had to turn elsewhere for money.

One source of income he thought he could exploit the sale of black slaves. With this in mind he started to organize slave caravans to strike deeper into Central Africa than Arabs had before.”

(The Race for Timbuktu, In Search of Africa’s City of Gold, Frank T. Kryza, Harper Collins, 2006, pp. 53-55; 67-70)

 

Serfs, Slaves and Irishmen

The emancipation of Russian serfs in 1861 followed the unrest fomented by the 1848 socialist revolutions in Europe, but it should not be too closely compared to Lincoln’s act in 1863. Then, the impetus was purely military and followed the pervious examples set by the British in 1775 and 1814 which promised freedom for those who rose up against their owners and contributed to British victory. Contrary to Lincoln’s writ of fire and sword, the Russian act of emancipation was peaceful and serfs were not enfranchised to rule over the Russian nobility.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Serfs, Slaves and Irishmen

“The rationale of serfdom, that is, the tying of the peasant to the land he tilled, was that it ensured labor (and hence income) to the landowning noble, enabling the latter to devote himself to serving the state. The enserfment of the peasants had been gradual, but by the middle of the seventeenth century the peasant and his descendants were legally obliged to remain on the land of their master. When the state granted land to new or old nobles for services rendered, the peasants on that land were transferred from state peasants into serfs.

[When Tsar Peter III released the nobility from state service] the peasants [expected reforms and] became resentful. Hitherto, peasant revolts had been localized though frequent, but in the reign of Catherine the Great the intensified discontent expressed itself in Pugachov’s rebellion, which lasted two years and threw official Russia and the nobility into a panic.

Serfs cultivated the land allotted to them, and in recompense for the use of this land they were required to work also on the land reserved for the use of the landowner. Three days a week was probably the average requirement but in the worst cases, and in busy weeks, this might be doubled . . .

The landowner could increase his serfs dues and duties, he could seize their property, he could forbid them from buying from, selling to, or working with persons outside the estate, he could make them into domestic servants, sell them either separately or with their families, force them to marry so as to breed more serfs, or forbid them to marry disapproved partners. Except in case of murder or banditry, the landowner administered rural justice and could send troublesome serfs to Siberia or into the army. Whipping was commonplace.

Although there were many landowners who were kindly, educating and sometimes liberating favoured serfs, there were others who were brutal; social isolation and almost absolute power led some landowners to excesses which in other circumstances they would have found revolting.

Englishmen travelling through Russia often compared Russian peasant life, not always unfavourably, with the condition of the Irish. Bu many foreigners were shocked by the condition of the poorer peasants.

An American wrote that the village poor “generally wanting the comforts which are supplied to the Negro on our best-ordered plantations, appeared to me not less degraded in intellect, character and personal bearing. Indeed, the marks of physical and personal degradation were so strong, that I was irresistibly compelled to abandon certain theories not uncommon among my countrymen at home, in regard to the intrinsic superiority of the white race over the others.”

(Endurance and Endeavor, Russian History 1812-1986, J.N. Westwood, Oxford University Press, 1987, pp. 74-76)

England's Slave Trade Guilt

The English colonial system and a need for large labor forces to cultivate land and generate products for the benefit of the British Empire was behind the importation of slaves to North America, and fueling the transatlantic slave trade were the Muslim kings of Africa’s Gulf of Guinea who readily sold their subjects to European traders.  Slavery in Africa was a widespread institution and existed in the Sudan, Senegambia, Upper Gambia and along the Niger River. The New England abolitionists could have adopted Wilberforce’s peaceful campaign to eradicate slavery, and repaid humanity for the sins of their own slave trading fathers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

England’s Slave Trade Guilt

(Speech in the House of Commons by William Wilberforce, 12 May, 1789)

“When we consider the vastness of the continent of Africa; when we reflect how all other countries have some centuries past been advancing in happiness and civilization; when we think how in this same period all improvement in Africa has been defeated in her intercourse with Britain;

[W]hen we reflect that it is we ourselves that have degraded them to that wretched brutishness and barbarity which we now plead as the justification of our guilt; how the slave trade has enslaved their minds, blackened their character . . . What a mortification must we feel at having so long neglected to think of our guilt, or attempt any reparation!

It seems, indeed, as if we had determined to forbear from all interference [with slavery] until the measure of our folly and wickedness was so full and complete; until the impolicy which eventually belongs to vice was become so plain and glaring that not an individual in the country should refuse to join in the abolition; it seems as if we had waited until the persons most interested should be tired out with the folly and nefariousness of the trade, and should unite in petitioning against it.

Let us then make such amends as we can for the mischiefs we have done to the unhappy continent; let us recollect what Europe itself was no longer ago than three or four centuries.

What if I should be able to show this House [of Commons] that in a civilized part of Europe, in the time of Henry VII, there were people who actually sold their own children?  What if I should tell them that England itself was that country?  What if I should point out to them that the very place where this inhuman traffic was carried on was the city of Bristol?

Ireland at that time used to drive a considerable trade in slaves with these neighboring barbarians; but the great plague having infested the country, the Irish were struck with a panic, suspected (I am sure very properly) that the plague was a punishment sent from heaven for the sin of the slave trade, and therefore abolished it.

All I ask, therefore, of the people of Bristol is, that they would become as civilized now as Irishmen were four hundred years ago.  Let us put an end at once to this inhuman traffic – let us stop this effusion of human blood.”

(The World’s Famous Orations, William Jennings Bryan, editor, Funk and Wagnalls, 1906, pp. 66-68)

England's Half Naked Barbarians

The British colonial system populated North America and the West Indies with African slaves purchased from African kings and tribes; after American independence and the loss of that former colony’s profits, England professed slavery inhumane while emancipating its remaining slaves with compensations to the owners – quite possibly to undermine its French and American commercial competitors.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

England’s Half-Naked Barbarians

“To be sure, the condition of depopulated Ireland is still pitiful to behold. Says a writer on Ireland: “An Irishman has nothing national about him except his rags.” Or another: “Let an Englishman exchange his bread and beer, and beef and mutton, for no breakfast, for a lukewarm lumper at dinner and no supper. With such a diet, how much better is he than an Irishman? – a Celt, as he calls him. No, the truth is, that the misery of Ireland is not from the human nature that grows there – it is from England’s perverse legislation, past and present.” But England is philanthropic, and the Irish are not Negroes, nor are they Slaves!

Or let us turn our eyes away from Ireland across the ocean, toward that happy land of emancipation. Says a recent writer: A short term and cupidity strain the lash over the poor Coolie, and he dies; is secreted if he lives, and advantage taken of his ignorance for extended time when once merged with plantation-service, where investigation can be avoided.” But again, the Coolies are no Slaves; they are but hired servants, and England’s philanthropy is safe!

We are not through with the Testimony of England, who is always loudest in condemning our Slavery. How closely she watches those poor Hindoos! How effectually she keeps them down, whenever they express any dissatisfaction with the happiness she forces upon them! She has instituted among those “half-naked barbarians” an awful solidarite’, by which the province is responsible for the labor of all its men and women. But still, England is philanthropic!

She has carried rails and Bibles, free-schools and steamboats, telegraphs and libraries to India, all for the benefit of those half-naked barbarians. And should telegraphs and Bibles not have the requisite effect of happifying, opium will be administered to them, and to “all the world, and to the rest of mankind” Now this is decided progress! England is the civilizer and Christianizer of the world!”

(The American Question, An Incidental Reply to Mr. H.H. Helper’s Compendium on the Impending Crisis of the South, Elias Peissner, 1861, H.H. Lloyd & Company, pp. 63-65)

Canadian Slave Transaction

The erroneous belief in today’s popular culture that the American South was the only region in North America tainted by African slavery is contradicted by Carter Woodson’s writings. He states “[In] my article on “The Slave in Canada,” printed in The Journal of Negro History for July, 1920, (Vol. V, No. 3), several instances of Negro slavery in Canada were given. The latest is mentioned in Le Bulletin des Recherches Historiques for October, 1927, (Vol. XXXIII, No. 10), at p. 584. I translate it from the French the article referred to.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Canadian Slave Transaction

“Honorable William Renwick Riddell, Justice of Appeal, Ontario.

In July, 1748, Jean-Pierre Roma, Commandant for the (French) King at the island of St. Jean (now Prince Edward Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence), on his passage to Quebec, made a singular gift to his friend, Fleury de la Gorgendiere, (the younger). He gave him a mulatto girl, five months old and named Marie.

The gift made to Mr. Fleury de la Gorgendiere is explained by the fact that the mother of the child, the slave of Roma, died in giving it birth. Roma not being able to charge himself with raising the orphan, preferred to give it to M. Fleury de la Gorgendiere.

The deed of gift was drawn up by the Notary, Jean-Claude Panet, July 15, 1748; and in it is the stipulation that in case of the death of Fleury and his wife, the mulatto will return Mdll. Roma (her grandmother). If she cannot take her it is stipulated that she will receive her freedom.

Such sales of the creatures of God may seem curious – they were, however, according to the customs of the time and were made almost in every country.”

(Journal of Negro History, Carter G. Woodson, editor, Vol. XIII, No. 2, April, 1928, page 207)

Mar 28, 2015 - Slavery Worldwide    No Comments

Christian Slaves of the Moslems

Muslim geographers of old are known to have created ideological justifications for enslaving sub-Saharan Africans.  “By the eighth and ninth centuries Arab literature was already merging blackness of skin with a variety of derogatory physical and characterological traits . . . and presumptions of color prejudice . . . ” (Slavery and Human Progress, Davis, pg. 42).

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Christian Slaves of the Moslems

“The rapid extension of Mohammedan conquest brought under Moslem control many thousands of unbelievers. Of these many at once accepted the new faith, many fled, and many were put to death; but many more were reduced to slavery. War was no doubt the chief source of supply for the slave market. It was provided that one in five of the captives should go to the government while the soldiers divided among themselves the remainder.

Later the Caliphs of Egypt and the Sultans of the Turks, finding their thrones in a precarious position, resorted to the use of splendidly trained bands of slaves, bought by traders or acquired by brigands, to maintain their position. This was the origin of an annual tribute of children [as slaves].

Still another source of the slave supply was a result of the misery of the time in which the people were living. Parents sold children, especially girls, to save themselves from starvation. Christians and heathen at war, and heathen at war with heathen, sold their captives into slavery among the Moslems. With the growth in the demand for slaves, avaricious Christian and Jewish merchants also helped to supply the Moslem slave markets.

The slave policy of the Mohammedans is well illustrated in the conquest of North Africa. This began in 647 and was virtually accomplished in 673. Ackbar was the leader of the Moslems. He is said to have taken eighty thousand captives in this invasion, and as the poverty of the country made possible no tribute in gold or silver, “the richest spoil came from the booty of female captives,” some of whom were afterwards sold for a thousand pieces of gold. Captives continued to be collected before and after much persecution and proselytizing, in 743, Abd-el-Rahman reported to the Caliph, that he could send no more Christian slaves because all Africa had become Mohammedan.

The conquerors of the North extended Islam into the interior of Africa. The converted tribes, inspired by the new faith and under tutelage of the Arabs, made war on the heathen African, and the captives of these incessant tribal wars became a most important supply of the northern markets. Jenne on the Niger was a large market. Timbuktu, the capital of Songhay Kano, and Kasena, were other points at which   Negro captives were collected to fill the Arab caravans on the march to the north, where they were sold and distributed throughout Moslem territory and into Europe.

Another source of Egyptian slave supply was the country north and south of the Black Sea. The region of the Circassus became a favorite source of supply for the harem and from the far north Slavs and other people of present-day Russia and people living east and south of the Baltic Sea and those living in the valley of rivers flowing into the North Sea, were brought down to the Volga River, and collected on the Black Sea. Still other slaves were obtained by Moslem brigands coming from Spain.

In the Ninth Century the Saracens were quick to take advantage of the helpless condition of Italy. At this time Pope John the VII wrote to Charles the Bald, “If all the trees of the forests became tongues, they could not describe the ravages of the impious pagans; the devoted people of God are destroyed by continuous slaughter: he who escapes the sword is taken into slavery. Cities, castles, and villages are wasted and without a single soul . . . ”

(Journal of Negro History, Carter G. Woodson, editor, Vol. XIII, No. 4, October, 1928, pp. 479-482)

The Chinese Slaves of Peru

Nearly forgotten and overlooked in history is the fate of Chinese slaves in Cuba, and Peru. English Captain F. Trench Townsend reported: “Though the fate of the poor African slave in Cuba is horrible, that of the unfortunate Asiatic . . . struck me as more pitiful.”  It was in this era that New England-captained slave ships were being caught off Cuba in 1859 by future Confederate naval officer Capt. John Newland Maffitt.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Chinese Slaves in Peru

“No words can describe the lot of the Chinese in Peru. The system commenced in 1849, between which year and 1869, it appears that ninety-thousand Chinese have perished in Peru. What are the causes which have produced this fearful mortality?

The truest causes may probably be found in an important paper submitted by Mr. Murrow, to a meeting of the Association for the Promotion of Social Science, in the latter year [1869].

Mr. Murrow states that the rate of mortality on the passage from China to Peru in immigrant ships has certainly been twenty-five per cent. The principal mortality takes place after arrival in Peru. The coolies in guano work are goaded to their labour under the lash.

The taskmasters are tall, African Negroes, “who are armed with a lash of four plaits of cow-hide, five feet in length, and an inch and a half thick, tapering to a point.”

This weapon is little used during the early part of the day, but about four o’clock in the afternoon it is put into constant requisition, for the purpose of compelling the coolies, who, from weakness or other cause, fall short in the completion of their allotted task.

“The slightest resistance is punished by a flogging, little short of murder, the first six or twelve cuts stifling the agonizing cries of which ring through the fleet. There is no tying-up, the nearest Chinaman being compelled, by a cut of the lash, to lay hold of an arm or leg, and stretch the miserable sufferer on his stomach on the guano.

The mere weight alone of the lash makes the bodies shake, blackening their flesh at every blow, besides cutting into it like a sabre, and when a convulsive movement takes place a subordinate places his boots on the shoulders to keep the quivering body down.”

On this subject, in commenting on the able speech of Sir Charles Wingfield, in the House of Commons in 1873, the [London] Times says:

“In Peru the fate of the imported coolies is even more abominable. They are sent to work in the guano pits on the islands which produce that unsavory wealth; they are beaten and chained and passed by bargain and sale from master to master . . . There is a military force to guard them, and to crush any violence to which despair may drive even the most timid of men. Hope of escape, save by death, there is none; and hence suicide is a common practice, regularly estimated in the probable cost of the labour supply . . . “

To recruit free men in China, imprison them in barracoons, guard them with soldiers, induce them to sign contracts, convey them to Peru and on arrival compel them by force to labour in the guano pits, is that which it might have been supposed no man could have been found to defend . . . [but] shows that a man may be blinded with guano [profits] as effectually as with gold.

A new Treaty has just been negotiated between the Empress of China and Peru, providing for the continuance or renewal of Chinese coolie traffic. The British envoy at [Peking] has had a hand in the negotiation . . . [but] it is deeply regretted that if called in at all, he did not enter his emphatic protest against the whole affair.”

(The Lost Continent; or, Slavery and the Slave Trade in Africa, 1875. Joseph Cooper, Longmans, Green & Company, 1875, excerpts, pp. 43-47)

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