Slavery

This chapter contains many of the articles that relate to slavery. They appear in chronological order without any development of theme.

Slavery is an ancient institution. In European history it described those people who neither owned (freemen) or leased land and necessarily worked for their lord’s advantage retaining only sufficient for their board and lodging. It should be distinguished from the trade in slaves that believers in Middle Eastern religions created. In England slavery was widespread from the Norman Conquest until the Wars of the Roses. When the houses of York and Lancaster enfranchised their villeins and granted them lands held by copy of court roll in order to use them as soldiers, their act necessarily bestowed freedom upon them and, whilst there were concurrent judicial causes (and the incidence of plague briefly revalued the landless peasant survivors), this was the proximate cause of the reduction of slavery in the country. By the reign of James I, about half the land of Britain was copyhold. This form of occupation developed in early 18th century into leasehold land and copyholding concurrently reduced.

In Asia, slavery was less pernicious as the Western concept of land ownership did not extend to unused or abandoned lands which were always available to landless farmers to clear and plant and thus establish a means of subsistence. That safety-valve was closed in India with the adoption of Governor-General Cornwallis’ land reforms in late 18th century but continued elsewhere. There was a requirement in Thailand and Vietnam to give free service to the state, sometimes for several months each year, which might qualify as slavery.

An additional fertile source of articles on this subject is in the reports relating to West Indies and the Caribbean that appear in the North America chapter and in the chapter on Mauritius (France in Asia).

Sat 9th Feb 1793

A French ship is in Cochin Roads buying slaves for Mauritius. A French brig under Captain Bourgoyne also took some Muslim slaves from Orissa for Mauritius. He put in to Pedier[1] for water, where objection was taken to the cargo and all the European officers on the ship were killed by the Malay natives.

Sat 1st Feb 1794

In a debate in the Commons on the slave trade, Cawthorne made a rambling incoherent speech recalling inter alia that it was exactly this subject that the French parliament was debating, that led to the new system of reform and the demise of the monarchy and old government. “Then the rascals in the National Convention put aside the whole matter.”

He characterised the anti-slavery movement as part of the attempt at political reform and thought it fraught with mischief. The vote was nevertheless 61:18 for abolition (not a quorum).

Sat 15th Feb 1794

Mauritius and Reunion are part of the French Empire. They are planted with cotton, coffee and indigo for international trade.[2] This commercial slave-owning economy, with all production exported, requires the residents to import much of their foodstuffs. Now the war is causing hardship to the poor through the interruption of trade. Inadequate supplies of grain are being received. The inhabitants have not yet commenced planting grain and it is feared the delay may worsen their situation. They all seem unconcerned and prefer collecting money from prize-taking than food from the soil. Some of the crew of the Princess Royal elected to join the crews of privateers as the lack of provisions on the island disturbed them.

Sat 22nd Feb 1794

Reward – 50 rupees for the return of a Malay slave about 15-16 years old. He stole a purse containing 45 Venetians and some silver buttons. His features are prominent and sulky. He walks like a pigeon taking long steps. If you see him take him in custody and alert Douglas Richardson.

Sat 22nd March 1794

Madras news – the Princes of Mysore (Tippoo’s sons) are en route to Seringapatam. They are accompanied by HRH Omdat al Omrah, the Nabob of the Carnatic. On the release of the children,[3] Omdat gave handsome presents to the Company worth at least 50,000 gold pagodas and including 40 Abyssinian (Ethiopian) slaves.

Sat 19th July 1794

On 4th February the National Convention received a report from Santo Domingo, the major French colony in West Indies:

Galbaud, the friend of Dumouriez, united with the big merchants and émigrés of Santo Domingo to deliver the island to England or Spain. The black population had united with the Commissioners sent from Paris and is resisting Galbaud and the Royalists. As reward for their support, the Commissioners have declared the freedom of the negroes from slavery. The ex-slaves then declared their allegiance to Republican France.

The National Convention then decreed that all inhabitants of French colonies, of whatever colour, are French citizens and enjoy equal rights under the Declaration of Rights and the Constitution. Slavery is abolished. Vive la France.

Danton thought the initiative would kill Pitt.

Sat 9th Aug 1794

In March 1790, Congressman James Jackson made a speech to the American House of Representatives in support of slavery. It is reminiscent of the Dey of Algiers’ reply to the Islamic purists (the Erika), when they petitioned him to ban piracy and slavery in 1687.

Here is an edited copy of the Dey’s memorable old speech:

“If we cease pirating the Christians we will lose the use of their commodities which are so necessary for us. If we do not enslave them, who will farm the fields or care for our households in this hot country? The purists should show more compassion to Muslims than Christians. We have only 50,000 slaves in Algiers. If we do not replenish the supply, we will run out. Then our lands will become worthless for want of cultivation, rents will fall, government revenue from prizes will drop, all to gratify a whimsical sect.

“Suppose we were persuaded to manumit the slaves, who will indemnify their owners? The government cannot afford it. Will the purists pay?

“Suppose we overcame this obstacle, what will become of these slaves? They do not adopt our customs or embrace the true religion. We cannot intermarry with them. A few may return to their countries but what of the rest? They will become beggars and thieves because men accustomed to slavery cannot work for their own livelihood.

“Are not Portugal, Spain, France and Italy all governed by despots who hold their populations in slavery?

“England treats her sailors as slaves. Whenever the English government pleases, it seizes people, confines them in warships and forces them to work and fight for a subsistence no greater than we allow our slaves.

“The condition of these seamen is not worsened by our enslavement of them, they merely exchange one slavery for another, and here at least they have the chance of entering the true religion and saving their immortal souls. To send them home is to send them from the light into the darkness.

“It is suggested that we grant them lands in the wilderness where they may subsist under their own government. Will they labour without compulsion? Can they manage to govern themselves? Would not the nomadic Arabs to the south soon destroy them or again enslave them? At least, while they serve us, they are treated with humanity.

“I am told these slaves are worse fed and clothed and housed in their own countries than they are here. Their condition is already improved. With us, they live their lives in safety. They are not required to fight as soldiers. Those purists who have freed their slaves have not acted humanely. The Koran says ‘masters, treat your slaves with kindness’ and ‘slaves, serve your masters with cheerfulness and fidelity’.

“The plundering of Christians is not forbidden by the Koran. Allah has given the World to the Muslims who are to enjoy it as fast as they can conquer it. The manumission of Christian slaves is a detestable idea. It will reduce prosperity, create discontent, impoverish the government and promote insurrection. I have no doubt our wise Council will prefer the comfort and happiness of true believers to the dangerous whims of the purists.”

The Council then ruled that the doctrine ‘plundering and enslaving Christians is unjust’ is problematical but the clear interest of the state is to continue the practice. The petition is rejected.

Sat 27th Sept 1794

British attempts to liberate the French West Indian colonies are proceeding but must move more quickly. They should be completed before it becomes known that the National Convention has decreed the emancipation of the slaves. That measure will deprive the allies of their main source of soldiers and destabilise all the islands.

Sat 7th Nov 1795

St Vincent, West Indies, 30th March 1795:

The natives (Caribs) are in rebellion under a chap called Chatoye and have burnt the estates of the English landowners and the crop of sugar in the ground. The English planters have withdrawn within Kingstown to await support.

The Caribs raised the tricolor on Dorsetshire Hill. They are joined by 150 Europeans (likely all French) and themselves have about 300 men. They have got the cannon from Stubb’s Battery and are trying to move them to use against us. So far they have mounted a 6-pounder and a 4-pounder.

A Company of the 46th regiment has now arrived from Martinique and joined the remnants of the 60th regiment. They have a couple of field pieces and are keeping the Caribs away with the occasional shot. After some extra reinforcements arrived, we attacked them at Dorsetshire Hill. Chatoye and many of his men were killed.

We suspect the Caribs intended to exterminate us. They were not trying to conquer territory like a regular enemy. On this assumption, we have suspended the rules of war and executed all of them together with all the Frenchmen who were with them. They had all made Oaths of loyalty to George III when we assumed the government of this island.

Sat 12th Dec 1795

House of Commons, 11th June 1795 – The British merchants of Grenada and St Vincents have petitioned for relief. Pitt said it deserved serious attention. The French have freed the slaves in their West Indian colonies and British slaves now expect the same freedom. They are rioting all over our West Indian islands.

Fox said the relief requested by the planters was for the purchase of new slaves from Africa. He opposed the petition.

Sat 26th Dec 1795

Admiral Parker has landed 1,800 English troops at Santo Domingo in West Indies. It is insufficient to conquer the island but enough to thwart the slave army and revive the hopes of the planters.

Sat 30th Jan 1796

The Madras Courier says Dutch attempts to improve their hold on Java have entailed the subjection of the Malay and Chinese residents at Batavia. The oppression has caused an insurrection. There are 30,000 Chinese in Batavia and they have joined with all the other Asian expatriates there.

The anomalous position of ex-slaves under the French Constitution, and its inference for Dutch colonies, has permitted many of those expatriates to join in an immense protest against the Dutch government.

Sat 28th May 1796

British army HQ, Jamaica 13th August – the maroon negroes are in rebellion. They are based at Trelawney Town. Every maroon negro delivered dead or alive to British forces will earn the captor £20. Women and children are worth £10 each.

James Palmer and Leonard Parkinson are the leaders of the maroon negroes. Palmer is worth £100 dead or alive, Parkinson is worth £50.

Sgd on behalf of Major General Balcarras.

Sat 18th June 1796

The French from Mauritius use Madagascan slaves. The merchants from the northern part of Madagascar sail to the Comoros and obtained their supply from there, particularly the Isle of Joanna (today called Nzwani). It is said that several of the Comoros Islands are now completely depopulated.

The most formidable assault on those people was two years ago when 1,000 Madagascans, many armed with muskets, arrived at Joanna and remained 50 days rounding-up the inhabitants and pillaging, etc. The former population of about 5,000 has now been completely removed and enslaved.

Bakka, the son and representative of the King of the Comoros, and Hussein, the King’s minister, have arrived at Bombay. They petition for British protection.

Sat 2nd July 1796

Mauritius – The American ship Confederacy (Jenckes) arrived Bombay on 25th June. She left Port Louis on 10th June.

Jenckes says the French frigate La Preneuse (44) had arrived with the Decree of the National Convention to free the slaves. The Colonial Assembly was appalled. It immediately sent the warship off on a cruise whilst it considered what to do. Her crew was not allowed ashore.

The Assembly has banned the importation of any new slaves as a first measure. They have approved the expression ‘bois d’ebene’ instead of ‘noir’ to describe their slaves in all documents in order that the slaves cannot be made aware of their improved situation.

Sat 17th Sept 1796

All slaves are to be registered free of charge with the Superintendent of Bombay Police. Any slave who is not registered will be considered as a freeman.

Sat 1st Oct 1796

The Spanish are evacuating Santo Domingo. The freed slaves are in command of the island. Property is selling at 10% of its value last year.

Sat 1st Oct 1796

Brunel and Barco, the Deputies from Paris, who were recently thrown out of Mauritius were found objectionable to the resident officials because they brought instructions to free the slaves. The Colonial Assembly categorised the instructions as destructive of the commerce of Mauritius ‘like the horrors that have laid waste to the Antilles’.

On 18th June the French frigates La Forte, La Seine, Regeneree and La Virtu arrived at Mauritius from France with 600 troops. Three Commissioners of the Directorate arrived with the ships – Barco, Brunel and Lamarre. They were received with honour and quartered in Government House. Next day they reviewed the National Guard and the French garrison and required the soldiers all take the civil Oath of Loyalty, which includes a phrase denoting one’s implacable hatred of Royalty. Some took the oath but the majority called ‘Vive Malartic’ (the Governor’s name).

The commissioners then dissolved the Colonial Assembly.

Before complying the local officials arranged a deputation of their number to examine the new commissioners’ credentials and discuss the new organisation of the colony. After this meeting there was a riot in the town and thirty armed men rushed into Government House where they peremptorily told the Commissioners to depart. Barco, who was formerly Mayor of Nantes, remonstrated. One of the rioters named Polvert fired at him but his pistol misfired. Barco drew his sword but the Commissioners were quickly surrounded and disarmed. They were taken to the corvette Moineau which departed two hours later.

Malartic reappeared and ordered the corvette to Manila.[4]

Sat 17th Dec 1796

A London newspaper has reported that 100 bloodhounds have been imported to Jamaica from Cuba to be used in the war with the Maroons. The Spanish farmers of Cuba trained these dogs to hunt the native Cubans and it seems Lord Balcarras, the military governor of Jamaica, has the same plan.

General McLeod raised the matter in the House of Commons. Pitt said England did not fight with dogs. Yorke said the purpose of the bloodhounds was to track the Maroons not to savage them.

Balcarras, when he found out, wrote on 2nd May:

“The dogs were in the rear of my column. Their presence may have caused many Maroons to surrender but they were never used in battle. The dogs were imported at the order of the General Assembly of Jamaica which sent one of its members to procure them in their own ships – it was an act of the planters and nothing to do with British military activities.

“British merchants’ investments in Jamaica are worth £40 millions and we cannot have these Maroons causing trouble. They have control of the centre of the island and Montego Bay. They are wild fighters of the guerilla type. They are skilful in ambushing our columns. They have all taken an Oath to murder white men. These former servants are killing their masters! They take no prisoners. We have often heard the screams of our captured soldiers

“Our Rules of War differ for defence and attack – a fort can use red hot shot in its defence but a ship-of-war (a means of aggression) cannot. I employ dogs to sniff these guerillas out.”

Sat 2nd June 1798

Indian sirdars commonly described themselves as slaves in their correspondence with their Nabob – it is an Asian affectation. Manchu officials in China do the same in their memorials to the Emperor.[5]

Sat 11th Aug 1798

Letter from Constantinople, 28th May – the French fleet preparing at Toulon may not be for Egypt after all. The French also have a quarrel with the Dey of Algiers.

That pirate chief has captured many European Christians and enslaved them. The French government recently sent Jambon St Andre as their Consul to Algiers. He demanded the release of the European slaves and obtained the Dey’s agreement.

He then demanded the release of Italian Christians, supposing that France now speaks for that country. The Dey felt this was inappropriate from a French consul and refused. They argued. The Dey boxed the Frenchman’s ears. The Frenchman pulled the Dey’s beard.

Attendants then intervened and killed the French party of the Consul as well as two officers from the frigate on which he arrived and some accompanying dragomans. The Dey is nominally responsibly to the Porte at Constantinople who will be concerned by this dispute.

Sat 6th April 1799

The Company has caught Joachim Manuel Correa, master of the Nossa Senhora de Rozario, shipping slaves from Cochin on the Kerala coast. He and his ship are banned from all British ports in Bombay Presidency until he atones.

Sat 24th April 1802

On 22nd Nov 1801 First Consul Bonaparte published his State of the Republic address. Here is an extract:

We are almost out of contact with our old colonies.

Guadaloupe retains some prosperity but it has been outraged by factionalism amongst the governing councils. We have sent a Captain-General to restore order and good government and he has selected and sent 13 individuals to France whose activities were inimical with good government. We consider these men dangerous and want them out of France as well. We may send them to some other colony.

Santo Domingo is irregularly governed and an army and navy are being sent to restore that valuable colony to France.[6]

In both these colonies slavery is abolished and will never be restored.

Martinique is governed on different principles. Our colonists have preserved slavery there and it will continue. France recognises the social costs of changing basic institutions and this is not the time to do so in Martinique.

Sat 8th May 1802

News from Jamaica – An insurrection is said to have occurred on Guadaloupe in November. The mulattoes attacked the blacks and whites, reportedly successfully. They have placed their own men in charge of government departments and the army. They have arrested the Captain-General (General Lacrosse) who was sent out from France on the peace, and detained him on a ship. The British cruisers found him and tried to return him to his island under a flag of truce but the return was refused and the British officer insulted.

One of the planters here (in Jamaica), who went to Guadaloupe a fortnight ago, has just escaped minus his wife and children. He says the mulattoes decline to ally themselves with either blacks or whites and intend to create their own homeland. The report was received at Lloyd’s Insurance Market on 29th December and circulated in confidence.

Five British capital ships and a frigate arrived at Jamaica in early December presumably as a counterpoise to the French fleet sent to Santo Domingo from France on 14th December. The French are sending 23 warships and 25,000 men (There is a Spanish element in the force and General Gravina is also going as the new Governor of Havana). The British are alarmed and anxious. They are sending a further 7 capital ships and a frigate and sloop.

Gen Touissant has already restored Santo Domingo to order and tranquillity. His troops wear only a loincloth but are well-disciplined. It will be interesting to see how he gets along with the French Admiral.[7]

Sat 7th August 1802

When Christopher Columbus discovered Santo Domingo it had a huge population but within fifteen years the Spanish whittled it down to 60,000.

At the start of the Revolution the French part of the island contained 42,000 whites, 44,000 free blacks and 600,000 slaves. It is calculated that the population of the French part has diminished by about 100,000 during the war. In the 1789 French census, deaths exceeded births 7122 / 4232 and it appears that the population is only maintained by immigration.

Sat 1st Jan 1803

The Dey of Algiers has claimed 180,000 piastres from England for prize-taking by the Royal Navy. He claims to have lost many ships and cargoes and, if he is not paid within four months, he says he will declare war. He has placed claims on other countries as well. They total 2,918,500 piastres.

This nest of pirates has existed for nine centuries and we have never taken effective action – now is the time. Algiers succeeds because the Dey plays us off against each other.

Sat 23rd April 1803

Lost – a Malabari slaveboy about 10-12 years old. Speaks Malabari, Persian and English. Answers to Edward or Cassuo. Wearing a green jacket with yellow collar, nankeen pantaloons and white waistcoat. Reward available.

Sat 10th Sept 1803

Col Fraser, the English Commander at Goree (the slave market) has declined to surrender the island to the French Commandant of Senegal, Gen Blanchot, as he has no ships to take away his men.

Sat 17th March 1804

Milan, 28th September – Barbary slavers have landed between Fano and Senigallia (south of Rimini) and abducted an entire convent of nuns.

Sat 4th Aug 1804

For sale on 9th August for ready money – prize of the Indiaman Sir Edward Hughes – the French brig Jeune Clementine, 115 tons, and her cargo of 180 Zanzibar slaves, as is, caveat emptor.

Sat 29th Dec 1804

The Bill for the abolition of the slave trade was lost in House of Lords. Hawkesbury proposed its adjourment for three months. As the House will only sit for one more month, its the same as rejecting it.

Sat 2nd March 1805

Notice – the duty on import and export of slaves has been abolished along with the traffic of slaves through the port of Bombay. It is not the Company’s intention to interfere with the practice of domestic slavery prevalent amongst the Muslims and Hindus of India. We merely proscribe the trade in slaves.

Sat 30th March 1805

Dessalines is rallying the Haitians at Santo Domingo. Here is his Declaration of 8th May 1804:

‘We have cast off slavery. We will never adopt the cruel and merciless policies of the whites. But we will meet war with war, crime with crime, outrage with outrage. We have avenged America. We do not care what the historian may think – we have done what had to be done. Our two classes of men, negro and mulatto, have united to throw off the yoke. We must never again allow the whites to divide us.

‘Maintain harmony amongst yourselves. It is the guarantee of our success. Never forget that the French government of this island meditated our complete annihilation and replacement with new slaves. Never forget the destruction of the men, women and children of Guadaloupe; the barbarism practised at Martinique. Never forget Delgresse[8] who died with all his men rather than submit to their chains. Recognise the nobility of your cause.’

An American ship captain walking the streets of Santo Domingo was appalled by the role reversal. A negro drummer coming the other way shouted at him ‘you damned white rascal; get out of my way’.

Sat 20th April 1805

Toussaint’s widow has arrived in America from France. She was tortured in Paris to extract her information on the activities of the French Governor of Santo Domingo and to reveal where Toussaint’s papers and money are hidden. She has 44 wounds on her body and six of her toenails have been extracted. She has lost the use of her left arm. As she knew nothing of these things, she withstood the torture and was released on her son’s promise to form a pro-French party at Santo Domingo to oppose Dessalines.

Sat 2nd Aug 1806

The French are upset with American merchants for supplying arms and ammunition and all sorts of provisions to the ex-slaves on Santo Domingo. This strengthens the government of Dessalines (the leader of the ex-slaves) and makes it difficult for France to reassert control. Talleyrand has written to complain:

“… They clear from an American port merely saying they are off to West Indies but they all go to Santo Domingo. Americans merchants are charging high prices and take gold or silver in payment. When they come back they celebrate the exponential increase in their capital. Government officials are involved.

“Here is an article from your press adverting to just such a party in New York harbour on the return from Santo Domingo of the New York mercantile fleet (not published in the Bombay Courier newspaper). The ninth toast celebrates the longevity of the ex-slave government. Those merchants are now preparing a second fleet and will put it under armed convoy. You must be aware of the accumulation of arms and ammunition in your ports for export.

“Please stop your merchants trading to Santo Domingo until the French colonial government has been restored. If we cannot agree this, we will capture every American ship we can in Santo Domingo ports.”

Sun 26th Oct 1806 Extraordinary

Fox has proposed England abolish the slave trade as soon as possible. Wilberforce has got House of Commons agreement to petition the King for this emancipation. The parliamentary resolution to abolish slavery was made last century and was intended to become effective in the year 1800. Every administration has an anti-slavery policy but no-one does anything – it’s the constant political hesitancy in restraining the merchants; no politician dares to do it.[9]

Sat 10th Oct 1807

Proclamation, 22nd September – Arab and Persian merchants have been carrying on a smuggling trade from Bombay in slaves. Every European ship commander will in future make Oath before the magistrate that his ship carries no slaves before the Port Clearance Certificate will be issued to him.

The Resident Broker or Consignee of all Asiatic shipping will make a similar Declaration. If Indians are discovered being taken away, the fine is 500 Rupees per head which will be paid in full to the informer.

Sat 2nd April 1808

Lord Seaforth’s resignation from the Governorship of Barbados is creditable. He procured a law making the murder of slaves a felony. This resulted in his being shunned and insulted by all the planters.

Formerly any abuse of slaves resulting in death was a misdemeanour. The owner could recover damages of twice the slave’s appraised value from the murderer.

Sat 27th Oct 1810

Brougham notified the MPs that in spite of the passage of the Slave Trade Act, six slaving ships had been fitted out at Liverpool in the last two days.

Sat 29th June 1811

HMS Salsette (ex Pitt) made prize of the French slaver La Expedition off Mauritius on 15th June 1806. We sent the ship and cargo beyond English legal jurisdiction to Goa for disposal, the sale of slaves being illegal in British India.[10]

The nett proceeds have now been received at the Admiralty Court of Bombay and will be distributed on 5th July. Prize money is shared by agreement of HMS Salsette with the crews of HMS Drake and HMS Cornwallis.

Contact John Leckie of the late firm of M/s Leckie and Malcolm, Prize Agents.

Sat 12th Oct 1811

We should end slavery on Mauritius. The island gets its slaves from Madagascar where France employs 40 commercial agents who travel the country fomenting war between the tribes and selling-off the survivors of the losing side. The Madagascans copied this forceful-style of European trade and sent huge fleets, sometimes of 300 boats, to the Comoro Islands to capture slaves for the French. As a result the delightful island of Joanna was and is depopulated. We ourselves have ceased slaving and recently pressed the Portuguese to emulate us. With the French now removed from Asia, we have a chance to end that hideous trade and restore the productiveness of the natives.

Sat 11thJan 1812

Caribbean news – A W Hodge, a member of the Governing Council of Tortola, one of the beautiful Virgin Islands, has been sentenced to death and executed for murdering one of his slaves.

He ordered Prosper to watch a mango tree and protect its fruit from thieves. Unnoticed by Prosper, one mango fell to the ground and was found by Hodge who required 6/- compensation or he would flog the slave. Prosper borrowed 3/- which he gave Hodge but it was insufficient. Hodge flogged Prosper for an hour administering 100 lashes. He told Prosper to bring the 3/- balance next day or he would be flogged again. Prosper was unable to get the money and was tied to a tree and flogged extensively. Eventually he stopped screaming and his head was seen to fall back. He was carried to the sick room and chained to two patients. He remained there for 5 days and was then found missing and later located dead in the slave hall.

Hodge’s Estate Manager Stephen McKeogh said Hodge told him he liked to hear the sound of the whip.

Defence Counsel called other workers from the Estate to establish that Hodge was a good employee. That regrettably backfired.

Under cross-examination they revealed he had earlier killed his cook by pouring boiling water down her throat. Hodge admitted he was cruel to many of his slaves but denied murdering Prosper – I was nowhere near him when he died. He was found guilty. Six other similar charges were taken into consideration and a death sentence was handed down. He was hanged publicly. He leaves three children.

Sat 8th Feb 1812

The occupation of Mauritius and Reunion is occasionally an embarrassment to the India Company. In November 1811 the slaves at St Leu, a town on the west coast of Reunion, revolted and killed two white farmers. They had to be suppressed by the British Garrison of Reunion under Colonel Picton.

Governor Farquhar has proclaimed that British rule is fair to all. He requires all slave owners to explain this basic feature to each of their slaves individually and post a copy of his Proclamation in a conspicuous part of their Estates.

The slave Figaro, who exposed the conspiracy at St Leu, is to get 150 piastre pension for life. He is given a plot of land sufficient for his family.

Sat 25th July 1812

The new British administrators of Mauritius and Reunion are having difficulty restraining the slave trade in their territories. Both islands operate a slave economy and need constant replenishment of supply whilst British government policy is to end supply and incrementally direct the farmers into using paid labour.

Nevertheless, the supply of slaves from Madagascar and the African east coast continues. The vice Admiralty Court of Bombay has just released La Prudente from condemnation under the Prize Act. The ship had a slave cargo and the Court could not contemplate returning them to Madagascar although it found no legal means to prevent it.

Governor Farquhar of Mauritius is persuaded that he should interdict the traffic, house the slaves temporarily at government expense and obtain a decision of the High Court of Admiralty in London on which to base his future policy towards them. The admiral at the Cape has solicited this interference and Farquhar is making an appropriate Proclamation to the Mauritian farmers.

Sat 29th Aug 1812

The Company has made a treaty with the Pasha of Baghdad.[11] He has agreed to send no more slaves to British India. He has also agreed to hand over those deserters from British ships who adopt the Muslim religion to escape our justice.

Sat 3rd July 1813

Britain proscribed the trade in African slaves to its people in March 1807. It was extended to all slaves in May 1811. Those laws were applicable to Ceylon since 1st January 1812. The Admiralty Court at Colombo is now hearing a case involving the sale of Singalese children to Arabia.

The defendants are three British subjects and three foreigners – a man from Mocha, Ahmed Carsim Patcherin who is an officer on an arab dhow Johan Banny, a Malay Muslim priest from Malacca and a Malabar Lascar. The three Britons are two Muslim merchants from Galle and a Burgher.

A similar case occurred at Calcutta a few years ago which Sir William Jones heard. In his Judgment, Jones held that the export of children for profit was a despicable crime.

Mocha is a great slaving market in the Ottoman empire. It handles much of the business from the African east coast (Zanzibar and Abyssinia) and Madagascar.

The Johan Banny entered Galle harbour in January 1813 at a time when considerable shortage and famine was affecting the area. Many children were willing to do anything to get food. Badgammegey Simon is a pauper who led children to the ship. Fifteen were found on board ……

Sat 17th July 1813

The market at Mocha, apart from slaves and coffee, also supplies gum arabic, aloes, frankincense, myrrh, senna leaf, madder root (to make red and orange dye) and alkali.

Sat 4th March 1815

HCS Magnet (Vine) has taken the Aglaise ex Abercromby en route from Seychelles to Mauritius with a cargo of 132 Madagascan slaves. It has brought-in the ship to St Denis, Bourbon (Reunion). Seventy of the slaves had been chained by the legs to a long chain and 22 of them had injured ankles. They were found in a deck of 3 feet in height, each seated between the legs of the next.

The ship belongs to Salmon, an India Company lawyer, who has obtained the grant of one of the Seychelles group of islands which he uses to warehouse slaves prior to shipping them to Reunion. Whilst in Salmon’s depot, the slaves are taught a few words of Creole French in order that they might more easily pass for old slaves and evade the new British regulations against slavery (Farquhar is preventing replacement of slaves in the Mauritian farms to encourage the planters to employ freemen, but Reunion continues its old style economy).

Capt Suzor of the Aglaise says there is a group of Company employees involved in the supply of slaves to Bourbon.

Sat 15th April 1815

Governor Farquhar of Mauritius has written to the Edinburgh Review concerning an article the magazine published in issue No 41 on the slave trade:

“After we captured Mauritius, HMS Eclipse (Lynne) was sent to Tamatave on the Madagascan east coast and obtained the capitulation of Roux and his group of French settlers there. One of the terms of capitulation was our guarantee to protect all private property. Roux then declared to us that 868 Africans were the property of the French residents at Tamatave. We checked this and they seemed to have good documentary title.

Later we advised all the French that we would withdraw our garrison from Tamatave and, to avoid the consequences of the hatred of the natives, the French should remove to Mauritius or Reunion. We gave them passports to do so. We did not expect them to ship their slaves to the islands now they are under British administration.”

Sat 6th May 1815

Getting the slave trade abolished has become an unnecessarily uphill job since we contracted with the Bourbon family for a five year postponement of abolition in French lands.

Sat 20th May 1815

The island of Bourbon (Reunion) has been returned to the French. It has no potential as a naval base for France and we did not want to be associated with its slave economy. Our Regiment of Bourbon is transferred to West Indies.

1816 – Whole year missing in the British Library copy

1817 – Whole year missing in the British Library copy

Sat 13th June 1818

King Ferdinand has forbidden Spaniards to trade in slaves north of the Equator and has limited the time remaining for the trade in the southern hemisphere to 2 years and 5 months. The penalty for disobedience is transportation to the Philippines.

Sat 31st Oct 1818

Calcutta Journal, 2nd October – The William Petrie sailed from Calcutta to the Persian Gulf and amongst its passengers was a Muslim and his wives. On arriving at Muscat the ship was boarded for inspection by one of the Company’s revenue cruisers and the wives were then said to be slaves bought in the Calcutta market.

The Company imperatively needs to restrain publicity of slavery within India. The women were disembarked at Bushire and when the ship returned from Basra they were put back on board for the return voyage to Calcutta.

Sat 20th March 1819

There are few Europeans who completely missed the Great War but this is the life of one of them:

Pierre Dumont has just returned to France after an absence of 34 years. When he was 14 years old (1782) he left Paris as servant to the Chevalier de Ternay but transferred to the service of the Comte d’Artois when the Chevalier died. He was pressed into the crew of Le Lievre, a warship blockading Port Mahon, but was shipwrecked near Algiers, one of 18 survivors from a crew of 150.

He was captured by the Coubaly tribe under Sheikh Saied Suleiman, fettered to another man and enlisted in the Sheikh’s force of 4,000 labourers. For 28 years he worked throughout daylight in the mines, or cutting down trees or ploughing the land. He was fed every morning with two dark-coloured bread rolls and some olives. Once a year, at the Muslim festival in which the children of the tribe were circumcised, he got to eat a small piece of meat. Daily work was continuous and stopping entailed a beating – he learned to pace himself.

Only one event of consequence occurred during his enslavement. A Marabou (a Turkish monk) passed through the country and donated 30 Sequins (c. 200 Francs) to each slave. After the monk left, the overseer collected all the money but …

“…….. I refused to part with my share. As a result, I was beaten daily before work to change my mind. I, contrary to his expectation, became angered, picked up a rock and hit the overseer, knocking out his right eye. I was thrashed by the guards and taken before the Sheikh to whom I explained myself. The overseer was hanged. The Sheikh enquired which hand had struck the blow and, recognising the drift of his question, I said the left, being a right-handed man. My left forearm was tied to a plank and the hand repeatedly struck with a rock. The wounds were not dressed and I was transferred to do duty with the crew rotating the millstone which work does not require two hands. I did that for a year and my wound recovered to its present state.

“The Sheikh was at constant war with his neighbours and each expedition took 100-odd slaves with it to load / unload the camels and pitch tents, etc. I was put on this duty and, as a result of a negotiated peace settlement with the Bey of Titre, was transferred into his service. The Bey was tributary to the Dey of Algiers and gave about 500 slaves to him as tribute in lieu of cash. I was one of them and was then enslaved in Algiers for 6 years until Lord Exmouth’s expedition invaded Algiers and all European slaves were released as a term of the peace treaty. Then I came home.”

Sat 20th March 1819

The Governor of St Helena has proposed the gradual abolition of slaving on the island. The island belongs to the Company but it should conform with British government policy as well as may be.

He suggested to the inhabitants that any slaves born on or after 25th December 1818 be declared freemen and the former owner be charged with the costs of their upbringing. Owners may reimburse themselves by indenturing the children to their service until the boys are 18 years and the girls 16 years old.

The residents were in agreement and the plan is to be enacted as law.

Sat 26th May 1821

Raffles has taken possession of the island of Nias, off the S W coast of Sumatra. He is forming a settlement at Dalam in the S E point of the island. Nias was formerly reliant on the slave trade which Raffles will now try to annihilate.

Vol 2 No 8 – Sat 18th April 1829

Macau news – The Heung Shan magistrate has published an order in Macau requiring foreigners to use only Chinese porters and not black slaves, purportedly to reduce smuggling. Previously the Chinese coolies asked for too much money and tried to charge per boat so we stopped patronising them. Now they are required to charge per picul times the distance at a rate of 1 candareen per Li. This works out to 2 – 3 times what we pay now. From Leal Senado to Praia Grande is 3 Li; the inner harbour customs house to the new village is 7 Li.

Vol 2 No 14 – Thurs 16th July 1829

The district of Nam Hoi in Canton is said to contain 10.000 slaves. Some are born into slavery (slave children are their master’s property) and others are enslaved as punishment. A further group voluntarily sell themselves. On the death of a slave owner, the slaves pass to his heirs. A slave may only marry another slave. They are forbidden to wear certain coloured clothes or wear square toed shoes.

Beating a slave to death merits 60 blows and 18 months transportation, the same as killing a son or grandson. Many of the criminals who are enslaved as punishment for their crimes are given to the Tartar soldiers who are said to be very oppressive masters.

Vol 8 No 42 – Tues 20th October 1835

At the end of 1834 HMS Raleigh seized a slaver and took her into Rio de Janeiro as a prize. The owner was a Portuguese with Brazilian nationality. The Brazilian Court thought the seizure unlawful and could not be persuaded to reassess the evidence.

To resolve the dispute, the two litigants picked straws and the British one got the longest. The ship was then judicially condemned as a slaver and lawful prize of HMS Raleigh.

Vol 9 No 11 – Tues 15th March 1836

In a populous country like China, where life and labour have such low value, slavery is mainly consensual. The government permits Manchu soldiers of the eight banners to buy slaves subject only to registration. Poor people may sell children for it is better that they live than starve. Merchants may buy slaves but civil servants are forbidden to traffic in people under their care. Every slave owner is obliged to promote the marriage of his slaves. Any children of such marriages belong to the slave owner although the parents may redeem themselves. Slaves may not marry freemen. Slaves who redeem themselves may become full citizens if their behaviour is deemed appropriate. Slaves are treated as minors. The owner is expected to treat his slaves well. He cannot beat his slaves unless it is approved by the magistrate. Frontier tribes and Miao people are often enslaved but this is in fact illegal.

Slavery extends amongst all classes in China but the more sophisticated the slave the better his conditions. Even senior Manchu officials designate themselves slaves in correspondence with the Emperor who seems to be the only freeman in China. Nevertheless, slavery in China is not generally oppressive. It is unlike slavery in Siam and Cochin China where the Kings force their people to work 4-6 months a year for the state.

Vol 12 No 21 – 21st May 1839

Alexandria Gazette – British India is perpetuating the slave trade with a new system. The inhabitants of the hill districts, called ‘hill coolies’, are being systematically transported to Mauritius and British Guiana. It is proposed to soon send some to the British West Indies as labourers.

London Spectator – Lord Glenelg is patronising a new slave trade. The trade in ‘hill coolies’ is becoming extensive. The Whitby has just arrived in West Indies. Out of a cargo of 289 coolies, only 8 died and few were ill. But only 8 female companions were sent with the men. They will need to form a self-sustaining community because the negro slaves speak a different language and will not mix with them.

Editor – these ‘hill coolies’ volunteer for service and they are well paid. The system may be abused – we have crimps supplying sailors to the navy – but it is not a slave trade.

Friend of China 29.12.42 edition

Slave trade – Capt Borden of the whaler Sally Ann has produced a list of slavers and their cargoes captured by British frigates between July 1840 – May 1842 and sent to St Helena for adjudication. We were shocked to learn this trade is still carried on so extensively. The list shows 34 ships carrying 5,139 slaves that were detained during the 23 month period.

Of the slaves 1,746 have died, 1,332 were sent to the Cape of Good Hope, 542 to Demerara, 120 to Jamaica, 201 to Trinidad, 198 were apprenticed at St Helena and 1,010 remain on that island pending for availability of work in a British colony for their future living.

Of the ships involved, 28 flew the Portuguese flag, 2 Brazilian, 1 Montevidean and 3 English (of which one was the brig Cypher formerly of Salem, Mass.)

Friend of China 16.3.43 edition

Aurora Macaense reports Sr Brazilho Breduet sued Teresa (a local Macanese Christian) for $17 which he had paid to buy her son. The boy ran off when mistreated a few months after purchase and was found with his mother. In the circumstances she refused to return him. The magistrate ordered Teresa to repay $17 to Sr Breduet within 6 months.

Friend of China, 16.3.43 edition

England is annoying other maritime nations in the world with its anti-slavery activities off the African coast and in the Caribbean. She could find herself fighting a war in Europe for the sake of Africa!

America questions her right to search, France denies it, all others detest it.

We mention this because one of the new duties of our treaty port consuls in China will be to prevent smuggling. Smuggling will diminish only if the commercial treaty has very low duties.

Friend of China 23.3.43 edition

Sir Henry Ellis is in Brazil to negotiate the slave question. The Brazilians say they need slave labour to harvest the sugar crop as its too hot for Europeans. Britain has a high tax on foreign sugar as it is mostly produced with slave labour. Sir Henry will offer a duty reduction in return for freedom of the slaves.

Friend of China 30.3.43 supplement

The French government has officially informed all interested parties that it will not ratify the treaty of 20th December 41 for the suppression of the slave trade.

Friend of China 17.8.43 edition

Judging from the numbers of captures on the African west coast, the slave trade seems to be going from strength to strength. The Portuguese ship Progresso was taken into Simon’s Bay on 2nd June. From the manifest, the tally was 6 dead, 231 alive and 162 thrown overboard.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. A port in western Sumatra, part of a loose federation of Muslim states under the leadership of the Sultan of Aceh.
  2. The usual colonial deal. The colony provides commodities for the mother country’s industries whilst the mother country supplies it with day-to-day necessaries. Mauritian slaves are mainly from Madagascar and the Comoros.
  3. They have been held hostage pending performance of the financial terms of the treaty.
  4. After the corvette got to sea the Commissioners persuaded the captain to divert to Madagascar to land two people to return to Mauritius for undisclosed duties. The corvette then returned to France.
  5. And sepoys in the Company’s army often address their officers as ‘father.’
  6. This is the first public notice of a French fleet and army being sent to West Indies as a result of peace – included amongst the people sailing to Santo Domingo are the two sons of Toussaint who had been sent to France for their education about 11 years earlier.
  7. The revolt in Guadaloupe continues and the French garrison for that island is transferred to Santo Domingo, the ports of which the English still hold until they can hand it over. Uniquely, the two governments have co-operated against the slaves confirming money outweighs morality and ideology. The French have issued an ultimatum to the people of Guadaloupe. All ships and passengers leaving the island without Lacrosse’s passport will be arrested and their goods seized. Vessels going to Guadaloupe are required to discharge at the Saints. Lacrosse expects the declining availability of provisions will persuade the rebels to talk.
  8. Louis Delgresse led the rebellion on Guadaloupe. He is remembered in Francophone countries and should be better known globally. He and the 300 men of his slave army killed themselves on 20th November 1802 rather than return to slavery.
  9. This was the paramount achievement of Charles James Fox. The Ministry of All the Talents that he led was in fact a Ministry of Fox’s Talents and collapsed with his death. The pro-slavery lobby in the House was led by General Banastre Tarleton, MP for Liverpool.
  10. In fact the Company is a buyer of girls in Indian slave markets for the entertainment of the men in the garrison towns, but that is a domestic matter.
  11. A Viceroy of the Porte. He commands Mesopotamia and the Basra government which in turn controls Muscat and the Gulf ports, whilst the Pasha of Egypt controls that country and the holy sites of Mecca and Medina. This agreement applies to the Gulf ports under Baghdad control.

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