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American Negro Slavery
Chapter I - The Discovery and Exploitation of Guinea
by Phillips, Ulrich Bonnell

The Portuguese began exploring the west coast of Africa shortly before Christopher Columbus was born; and no sooner did they encounter negroes than they began to seize and carry them in captivity to Lisbon. The court chronicler Azurara set himself in 1452, at the command of Prince Henry, to record the valiant exploits of the negro-catchers. Reflecting the spirit of the time, he praised them as crusaders bringing savage heathen for conversion to civilization and christianity. He gently lamented the massacre and sufferings involved, but thought them infinitely outweighed by the salvation of souls. This cheerful spirit of solace was destined long to prevail among white peoples when contemplating the hardships of the colored races. But Azurara was more than a moralizing annalist. He acutely observed of the first cargo of captives brought from southward of the Sahara, less than a decade before his writing, that after coming to Portugal "they never more tried to fly, but rather in time forgot all about their own country," that "they were very loyal and obedient servants, without malice"; and that "after they began to use clothing they were for the most part very fond of display, so that they took great delight in robes of showy colors, and such was their love of finery that they picked up the rags that fell from the coats of other people of the country and sewed them on their own garments, taking great pleasure in these, as though it were matter of some greater perfection."[1] These few broad strokes would portray with equally happy precision a myriad other black servants born centuries after the writer's death and dwelling in a continent of whose existence he never dreamed. Azurara wrote further that while some of the captives were not able to endure the change and died happily as Christians, the others, dispersed among Portuguese households, so ingratiated themselves that many were set free and some were married to men and women of the land and acquired comfortable estates. This may have been an earnest of future conditions in Brazil and the Spanish Indies; but in the British settlements it fell out far otherwise.
[Footnote 1: Gomez Eannes de Azurara Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, translated by C.R. Beazley and E.P. Prestage, in the Hakluyt Society Publications, XCV, 85.]
As the fifteenth century wore on and fleets explored more of the African coast with the double purpose of finding a passage to India and exploiting any incidental opportunities for gain, more and more human cargoes were brought from Guinea to Portugal and Spain. But as the novelty of the blacks wore off they were held in smaller esteem and treated with less liberality. Gangs of them were set to work in fields from which the Moorish occupants had recently been expelled. The labor demand was not great, however, and when early in the sixteenth century West Indian settlers wanted negroes for their sugar fields, Spain willingly parted with some of hers. Thus did Europe begin the coercion of African assistance in the conquest of the American wilderness.

Guinea comprises an expanse about a thousand miles wide lying behind three undulating stretches of coast, the first reaching from Cape Verde southeastward nine hundred miles to Cape Palmas in four degrees north latitude, the second running thence almost parallel to the equator a thousand miles to Old Calabar at the head of "the terrible bight of Biafra," the third turning abruptly south and extending some fourteen hundred miles to a short distance below Benguela where the southern desert begins. The country is commonly divided into Upper Guinea or the Sudan, lying north and west of the great angle of the coast, and Lower Guinea, the land of the Bantu, to the southward. Separate zones may also be distinguished as having different systems of economy: in the jungle belt along the equator bananas are the staple diet; in the belts bordering this on the north and south the growing of millet and manioc respectively, in small clearings, are the characteristic industries; while beyond the edges of the continental forest cattle contribute much of the food supply. The banana, millet and manioc zones, and especially their swampy coastal plains, were of course the chief sources of slaves for the transatlantic trade.

Of all regions of extensive habitation equatorial Africa is the worst. The climate is not only monotonously hot, but for the greater part of each year is excessively moist. Periodic rains bring deluge and periodic tornadoes play havoc. The dry seasons give partial relief, but they bring occasional blasts from the desert so dry and burning that all nature droops and is grateful at the return of the rains. The general dank heat stimulates vegetable growth in every scale from mildew to mahogany trees, and multiplies the members of the animal kingdom, be they mosquitoes, elephants or boa constrictors. There would be abundant food but for the superabundant creatures that struggle for it and prey upon one another. For mankind life is at once easy and hard. Food of a sort may often be had for the plucking, and raiment is needless; but aside from the menace of the elements human life is endangered by beasts and reptiles in the forest, crocodiles and hippopotami in the rivers, and sharks in the sea, and existence is made a burden to all but the happy-hearted by plagues of insects and parasites. In many districts tse-tse flies exterminate the cattle and spread the fatal sleeping-sickness among men; everywhere swarms of locusts occasionally destroy the crops; white ants eat timbers and any other useful thing, short of metal, which may come in their way; giant cockroaches and dwarf brown ants and other pests in great variety swarm in the dwellings continuously--except just after a village has been raided by the great black ants which are appropriately known as "drivers." These drivers march in solid columns miles on miles until, when they reach food resources to their fancy, they deploy for action and take things with a rush. To stay among them is to die; but no human being stays. A cry of "Drivers!" will depopulate a village instantly, and a missionary who at one moment has been combing brown ants from his hair will in the next find himself standing safely in the creek or the water barrel, to stay until the drivers have taken their leave. Among less spectacular things, mosquitoes fly in crowds and leave fevers in their wake, gnats and flies are always on hand, chigoes bore and breed under toe-nails, hook-worms hang themselves to the walls of the intestines, and other threadlike worms enter the eyeballs and the flesh of the body. Endurance through generations has given the people large immunity from the effects of hook-worm and malaria, but not from the indigenous diseases, kraw-kraw, yaws and elephantiasis, nor of course from dysentery and smallpox which the Europeans introduced. Yet robust health is fairly common, and where health prevails there is generally happiness, for the negroes have that within their nature. They could not thrive in Guinea without their temperament.

It is probable that no people ever became resident on or near the west coast except under compulsion. From the more favored easterly regions successive hordes have been driven after defeat in war. The Fangs on the Ogowe are an example in the recent past. Thus the inhabitants of Guinea, and of the coast lands especially, have survived by retreating and adapting themselves to conditions in which no others wished to dwell. The requirements of adaptation were peculiar. To live where nature supplies Turkish baths without the asking necessitates relaxation. But since undue physical indolence would unfit people for resistance to parasites and hostile neighbors, the languid would perish. Relaxation of mind, however, brought no penalties. The climate in fact not only discourages but prohibits mental effort of severe or sustained character, and the negroes have submitted to that prohibition as to many others, through countless generations, with excellent grace. So accustomed were they to interdicts of nature that they added many of their own through conventional taboo, some of them intended to prevent the eating of supposedly injurious food, others calculated to keep the commonalty from infringing upon the preserves of the dignitaries.[2]
[Footnote 2: A convenient sketch of the primitive African régime is J.A. Tillinghast's The Negro in Africa and America, part I. A fuller survey is Jerome Dowd's The Negro Races, which contains a bibliography of the sources. Among the writings of travelers and sojourners particularly notable are Mary Kingsley's Travels in West Africa as a vivid picture of coast life, and her West African Studies for its elaborate and convincing discussion of fetish, and the works of Sir A.B. Ellis on the Tshi-, Ewe- and Yoruba-speaking peoples for their analyses of institutions along the Gold Coast.]
No people is without its philosophy and religion. To the Africans the forces of nature were often injurious and always impressive. To invest them with spirits disposed to do evil but capable of being placated was perhaps an obvious recourse; and this investiture grew into an elaborate system of superstition. Not only did the wind and the rain have their gods but each river and precipice, and each tribe and family and person, a tutelary spirit. These might be kept benevolent by appropriate fetish ceremonies; they might be used for evil by persons having specially great powers over them. The proper course for common-place persons at ordinary times was to follow routine fetish observances; but when beset by witch-work the only escape lay in the services of witch-doctors or priests. Sacrifices were called for, and on the greatest occasions nothing short of human sacrifice was acceptable.

As to diet, vegetable food was generally abundant, but the negroes were not willingly complete vegetarians. In the jungle game animals were scarce, and everywhere the men were ill equipped for hunting. In lieu of better they were often fain to satisfy their craving for flesh by eating locusts and larvae, as tribes in the interior still do. In such conditions cannibalism was fairly common. Especially prized was an enemy slain in war, for not only would his body feed the hungry but fetish taught that his bravery would pass to those who shared the feast.

In African economy nearly all routine work, including agriculture, was classed as domestic service and assigned to the women for performance. The wife, bought with a price at the time of marriage, was virtually a slave; her husband her master. Now one woman might keep her husband and children in but moderate comfort. Two or more could perform the family tasks much better. Thus a man who could pay the customary price would be inclined to add a second wife, whom the first would probably welcome as a lightener of her burdens. Polygamy prevailed almost everywhere.

Slavery, too, was generally prevalent except among the few tribes who gained their chief sustenance from hunting. Along with polygamy, it perhaps originated, if it ever had a distinct beginning, from the desire to lighten and improve the domestic service. [3] Persons became slaves through capture, debt or malfeasance, or through the inheritance of the status. While the ownership was absolute in the eyes of the law and captives were often treated with great cruelty, slaves born in the locality were generally regarded as members of their owner's family and were shown much consideration. In the millet zone where there was much work to be done the slaveholdings were in many cases very large and the control relatively stringent; but in the banana districts an easy-going schedule prevailed for all. One of the chief hardships of the slaves was the liability of being put to death at their master's funeral in order that their spirits might continue in his service. In such case it was customary on the Gold Coast to give the victim notice of his approaching death by suddenly thrusting a knife through each cheek with the blades crossing in his mouth so that he might not curse his master before he died. With his hands tied behind him he would then be led to the ceremonial slaughter. The Africans were in general eager traders in slaves as well as other goods, even before the time when the transatlantic trade, by giving excessive stimulus to raiding and trading, transformed the native economy and deranged the social order.
[Footnote 3: Slavery among the Africans and other primitive peoples has been elaborately discussed by H.J. Nieboer, Slavery as an Industrial System: Ethnological Researches (The Hague, 1900).]
Apart from a few great towns such as Coomassee and Benin, life in Guinea was wholly on a village basis, each community dwelling in its own clearing and having very slight intercourse with its neighbors. Politically each village was governed by its chief and its elders, oftentimes in complete independence. In occasional instances, however, considerable states of loose organization were under the rule of central authorities. Such states were likely to be the creation of invaders from the eastward, the Dahomans and Ashantees for example; but the kingdom of Benin appears to have arisen indigenously. In many cases the subordination of conquered villages merely resulted in their paying annual tribute. As to language, Lower Guinea spoke multitudinous dialects of the one Bantu tongue, but in Upper Guinea there were many dialects of many separate languages.

Land was so abundant and so little used industrially that as a rule it was not owned in severalty; and even the villages and tribes had little occasion to mark the limits of their domains. For travel by land there were nothing but narrow, rough and tortuous foot-paths, with makeshift bridges across the smaller streams. The rivers were highly advantageous both as avenues and as sources of food, for the negroes were expert at canoeing and fishing.

Intertribal wars were occasional, but a crude comity lessened their frequency. Thus if a man of one village murdered one of another, the aggrieved village if too weak to procure direct redress might save its face by killing someone in a third village, whereupon the third must by intertribal convention make common cause with the second at once, or else coerce a fourth into the punitive alliance by applying the same sort of persuasion that it had just felt. These later killings in the series were not regarded as murders but as diplomatic overtures. The system was hard upon those who were sacrificed in its operation, but it kept a check upon outlawry.

A skin stretched over the section of a hollow tree, and usually so constructed as to have two tones, made an instrument of extraordinary use in communication as well as in music. By a system long anticipating the Morse code the Africans employed this "telegraph drum" in sending messages from village to village for long distances and with great speed. Differences of speech were no bar, for the tom tom code was interlingual. The official drummer could explain by the high and low alternations of his taps that a deed of violence just done was not a crime but a pourparler for the forming of a league. Every week for three months in 1800 the tom toms doubtless carried the news throughout Ashantee land that King Quamina's funeral had just been repeated and two hundred more slaves slain to do him honor. In 1806 they perhaps reported the ending of Mungo Park's travels by his death on the Niger at the hands of the Boussa people. Again and again drummers hired as trading auxiliaries would send word along the coast and into the country that white men's vessels lying at Lagos, Bonny, Loango or Benguela as the case might be were paying the best rates in calico, rum or Yankee notions for all slaves that might be brought.

In music the monotony of the tom tom's tone spurred the drummers to elaborate variations in rhythm. The stroke of the skilled performer could make it mourn a funeral dirge, voice the nuptial joy, throb the pageant's march, and roar the ambush alarm. Vocal music might be punctuated by tom toms and primitive wind or stringed instruments, or might swell in solo or chorus without accompaniment. Singing, however, appears not so characteristic of Africans at home as of the negroes in America. On the other hand garrulous conversation, interspersed with boisterous laughter, lasted well-nigh the livelong day. Daily life, indeed, was far from dull, for small things were esteemed great, and every episode was entertaining. It can hardly be maintained that savage life is idyllic. Yet the question remains, and may long remain, whether the manner in which the negroes were brought into touch with civilization resulted in the greater blessing or the greater curse. That manner was determined in part at least by the nature of the typical negroes themselves. Impulsive and inconstant, sociable and amorous, voluble, dilatory, and negligent, but robust, amiable, obedient and contented, they have been the world's premium slaves. Prehistoric Pharaohs, mediaeval Pashas and the grandees of Elizabethan England esteemed them as such; and so great a connoisseur in household service as the Czar Alexander added to his palace corps in 1810 two free negroes, one a steward on an American merchant ship and the other a body-servant whom John Quincy Adams, the American minister, had brought from Massachusetts to St. Petersburg.[4]
[Footnote 4: Writings of John Quincy Adams, Ford ed., III, 471, 472 (New York, 1914).]
The impulse for the enslavement of negroes by other peoples came from the Arabs who spread over northern Africa in the eighth century, conquering and converting as they went, and stimulating the trade across the Sahara until it attained large dimensions. The northbound caravans carried the peculiar variety of pepper called "grains of paradise" from the region later known as Liberia, gold from the Dahomey district, palm oil from the lower Niger, and ivory and slaves from far and wide. A small quantity of these various goods was distributed in southern Europe and the Levant. And in the same general period Arab dhows began to take slave cargoes from the east coast of Africa as far south as Mozambique, for distribution in Arabia, Persia and western India. On these northern and eastern flanks of Guinea where the Mohammedans operated and where the most vigorous of the African peoples dwelt, the natives lent ready assistance in catching and buying slaves in the interior and driving them in coffles to within reach of the Moorish and Arab traders. Their activities, reaching at length the very center of the continent, constituted without doubt the most cruel of all branches of the slave-trade. The routes across the burning Sahara sands in particular came to be strewn with negro skeletons.[5]
[Footnote 5: Jerome Dowd, "The African Slave Trade," in the Journal of Negro History, II (1917), 1-20.]
This overland trade was as costly as it was tedious. Dealers in Timbuctoo and other centers of supply must be paid their price; camels must be procured, many of which died on the journey; guards must be hired to prevent escapes in the early marches and to repel predatory Bedouins in the later ones; food supplies must be bought; and allowance must be made for heavy mortality among the slaves on their terrible trudge over the burning sands and the chilling mountains. But wherever Mohammedanism prevailed, which gave particular sanction to slavery as well as to polygamy, the virtues of the negroes as laborers and as eunuch harem guards were so highly esteemed that the trade was maintained on a heavy scale almost if not quite to the present day. The demand of the Turks in the Levant and the Moors in Spain was met by exportations from the various Barbary ports. Part of this Mediterranean trade was conducted in Turkish and Moorish vessels, and part of it in the ships of the Italian cities and Marseilles and Barcelona. Venice for example had treaties with certain Saracen rulers at the beginning of the fourteenth century authorizing her merchants not only to frequent the African ports, but to go in caravans to interior points and stay at will. The principal commodities procured were ivory, gold, honey and negro slaves.[6]
[Footnote 6: The leading authority upon slavery and the slave-trade in the Mediterranean countries of Europe is J.A. Saco, Historia de la Esclavitud desde los Tiempas mas remotas hasta nuestros Dias (Barcelona, 1877), vol. III.]
The states of Christian Europe, though little acquainted with negroes, had still some trace of slavery as an inheritance from imperial Rome and barbaric Teutondom. The chattel form of bondage, however, had quite generally given place to serfdom; and even serfdom was disappearing in many districts by reason of the growth of towns and the increase of rural population to the point at which abundant labor could be had at wages little above the cost of sustaining life. On the other hand so long as petty wars persisted the enslavement of captives continued to be at least sporadic, particularly in the south and east of Europe, and a considerable traffic in white slaves was maintained from east to west on the Mediterranean. The Venetians for instance, in spite of ecclesiastical prohibitions, imported frequent cargoes of young girls from the countries about the Black Sea, most of whom were doomed to concubinage and prostitution, and the rest to menial service.[7] The occurrence of the Crusades led to the enslavement of Saracen captives in Christendom as well as of Christian captives in Islam.
[Footnote 7: W.C. Hazlitt, The Venetian Republic(London, 1900), pp. 81, 82.]
The waning of the Crusades ended the supply of Saracen slaves, and the Turkish capture of Constantinople in 1453 destroyed the Italian trade on the Black Sea. No source of supply now remained, except a trickle from Africa, to sustain the moribund institution of slavery in any part of Christian Europe east of the Pyrenees. But in mountain-locked Roussillon and Asturias remnants of slavery persisted from Visigothic times to the seventeenth century; and in other parts of the peninsula the intermittent wars against the Moors of Granada supplied captives and to some extent reinvigorated slavery among the Christian states from Aragon to Portugal. Furthermore the conquest of the Canaries at the end of the fourteenth century and of Teneriffe and other islands in the fifteenth led to the bringing of many of their natives as slaves to Castille and the neighboring kingdoms.

Occasional documents of this period contain mention of negro slaves at various places in the Spanish peninsula, but the number was clearly small and it must have continued so, particularly as long as the supply was drawn through Moorish channels. The source whence the negroes came was known to be a region below the Sahara which from its yield of gold and ivory was called by the Moors the land of wealth, "Bilad Ghana," a name which on the tongues of European sailors was converted into "Guinea." To open a direct trade thither was a natural effort when the age of maritime exploration began. The French are said to have made voyages to the Gold Coast in the fourteenth century, though apparently without trading in slaves. But in the absence of records of their activities authentic history must confine itself to the achievements of the Portuguese.

In 1415 John II of Portugal, partly to give his five sons opportunity to win knighthood in battle, attacked and captured the Moorish stronghold of Ceuta, facing Gibraltar across the strait. For several years thereafter the town was left in charge of the youngest of these princes, Henry, who there acquired an enduring desire to gain for Portugal and Christianity the regions whence the northbound caravans were coming. Returning home, he fixed his residence at the promontory of Sagres, on Cape St. Vincent, and made his main interest for forty years the promotion of maritime exploration southward.[8] His perseverance won him fame as "Prince Henry the Navigator," though he was not himself an active sailor; and furthermore, after many disappointments, it resulted in exploration as far as the Gold Coast in his lifetime and the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope twenty-five years after his death. The first decade of his endeavor brought little result, for the Sahara shore was forbidding and the sailors timid. Then in 1434 Gil Eannes doubled Cape Bojador and found its dangers imaginary. Subsequent voyages added to the extent of coast skirted until the desert began to give place to inhabited country. The Prince was now eager for captives to be taken who might inform him of the country, and in 1441 Antam Gonsalvez brought several Moors from the southern edge of the desert, who, while useful as informants, advanced a new theme of interest by offering to ransom themselves by delivering on the coast a larger number of non-Mohammedan negroes, whom the Moors held as slaves. Partly for the sake of profit, though the chronicler says more largely to increase the number of souls to be saved, this exchange was effected in the following year in the case of two of the Moors, while a third took his liberty without delivering his ransom. After the arrival in Portugal of these exchanged negroes, ten in number, and several more small parcels of captives, a company organized at Lagos under the direction of Prince Henry sent forth a fleet of six caravels in 1444 which promptly returned with 225 captives, the disposal of whom has been recounted at the beginning of this chapter.
[Footnote 8: The chief source for the early Portuguese voyages is Azurara's Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, already cited.]
In the next year the Lagos Company sent a great expedition of twenty-six vessels which discovered the Senegal River and brought back many natives taken in raids thereabout; and by 1448 nearly a thousand captives had been carried to Portugal. Some of these were Moorish Berbers, some negroes, but most were probably Jolofs from the Senegal, a warlike people of mixed ancestry. Raiding in the Jolof country proved so hazardous that from about 1454 the Portuguese began to supplement their original methods by planting "factories" on the coast where slaves from the interior were bought from their native captors and owners who had brought them down in caravans and canoes. Thus not only was missionary zeal eclipsed but the desire of conquest likewise, and the spirit of exploration erelong partly subdued, by commercial greed. By the time of Prince Henry's death in 1460 Portugal was importing seven or eight hundred negro slaves each year. From this time forward the traffic was conducted by a succession of companies and individual grantees, to whom the government gave the exclusive right for short terms of years in consideration of money payments and pledges of adding specified measures of exploration. As new coasts were reached additional facilities were established for trade in pepper, ivory and gold as well as in slaves. When the route round Africa to India was opened at the end of the century the Guinea trade fell to secondary importance, but it was by no means discontinued.

Of the negroes carried to Portugal in the fifteenth century a large proportion were set to work as slaves on great estates in the southern provinces recently vacated by the Moors, and others were employed as domestic servants in Lisbon and other towns. Some were sold into Spain where they were similarly employed, and where their numbers were recruited by a Guinea trade in Spanish vessels in spite of Portugal's claim of monopoly rights, even though Isabella had recognized these in a treaty of 1479. In short, at the time of the discovery of America Spain as well as Portugal had quite appreciable numbers of negroes in her population and both were maintaining a system of slavery for their control.

When Columbus returned from his first voyage in the spring of 1493 and announced his great landfall, Spain promptly entered upon her career of American conquest and colonization. So great was the expectation of adventure and achievement that the problem of the government was not how to enlist participants but how to restrain a great exodus. Under heavy penalties emigration was restricted by royal decrees to those who procured permission to go. In the autumn of the same year fifteen hundred men, soldiers, courtiers, priests and laborers, accompanied the discoverer on his second voyage, in radiant hopes. But instead of wealth and high adventure these Argonauts met hard labor and sickness. Instead of the rich cities of Japan and China sought for, there were found squalid villages of Caribs and Lucayans. Of gold there was little, of spices none.

Columbus, when planting his colony at Isabella, on the northern coast of Hispaniola (Hayti), promptly found need of draught animals and other equipment. He wrote to his sovereigns in January, 1494, asking for the supplies needed; and he offered, pending the discovery of more precious things, to defray expenses by shipping to Spain some of the island natives, "who are a wild people fit for any work, well proportioned and very intelligent, and who when they have got rid of their cruel habits to which they have been accustomed will be better than any other kind of slaves."[9] Though this project was discouraged by the crown, Columbus actually took a cargo of Indians for sale in Spain on his return from his third voyage; but Isabella stopped the sale and ordered the captives taken home and liberated. Columbus, like most of his generation, regarded the Indians as infidel foreigners to be exploited at will. But Isabella, and to some extent her successors, considered them Spanish subjects whose helplessness called for special protection. Between the benevolence of the distant monarchs and the rapacity of the present conquerors, however, the fate of the natives was in little doubt. The crown's officials in the Indies were the very conquerors themselves, who bent their soft instructions to fit their own hard wills. A native rebellion in Hispaniola in 1495 was crushed with such slaughter that within three years the population is said to have been reduced by two thirds. As terms of peace Columbus required annual tribute in gold so great that no amount of labor in washing the sands could furnish it. As a commutation of tribute and as a means of promoting the conversion of the Indians there was soon inaugurated the encomienda system which afterward spread throughout Spanish America. To each Spaniard selected as an encomendero was allotted a certain quota of Indians bound to cultivate land for his benefit and entitled to receive from him tutelage in civilization and Christianity. The grantees, however, were not assigned specified Indians but merely specified numbers of them, with power to seize new ones to replace any who might die or run away. Thus the encomendero was given little economic interest in preserving the lives and welfare of his workmen.
[Footnote 9: R.H. Major, Select Letters of Columbus, 2d. ed., 1890, p. 88.]
In the first phase of the system the Indians were secured in the right of dwelling in their own villages under their own chiefs. But the encomenderos complained that the aloofness of the natives hampered the work of conversion and asked that a fuller and more intimate control be authorized. This was promptly granted and as promptly abused. Such limitations as the law still imposed upon encomendero power were made of no effect by the lack of machinery for enforcement. The relationship in short, which the law declared to be one of guardian and ward, became harsher than if it had been that of master and slave. Most of the island natives were submissive in disposition and weak in physique, and they were terribly driven at their work in the fields, on the roads, and at the mines. With smallpox and other pestilences added to their hardships, they died so fast that before 1510 Hispaniola was confronted with the prospect of the complete disappearance of its laboring population.[10] Meanwhile the same régime was being carried to Porto Rico, Jamaica and Cuba with similar consequences in its train.
[Footnote 10: E. g. Bourne, Spain in America (New York, 1904); Wilhelm Roscher, The Spanish Colonial System, Bourne ed. (New York, 1904); Konrad Habler, "The Spanish Colonial Empire," in Helmolt, History of the World, vol I.]
As long as mining remained the chief industry the islands failed to prosper; and the reports of adversity so strongly checked the Spanish impulse for adventure that special inducements by the government were required to sustain any flow of emigration. But in 1512-1515 the introduction of sugar-cane culture brought the beginning of a change in the industrial situation. The few surviving gangs of Indians began to be shifted from the mines to the fields, and a demand for a new labor supply arose which could be met only from across the sea.

Apparently no negroes were brought to the islands before 1501. In that year, however, a royal decree, while excluding Jews and Moors, authorized the transportation of negroes born in Christian lands; and some of these were doubtless carried to Hispaniola in the great fleet of Ovando, the new governor, in 1502. Ovando's reports of this experiment were conflicting. In the year following his arrival he advised that no more negroes be sent, because of their propensity to run away and band with and corrupt the Indians. But after another year had elapsed he requested that more negroes be sent. In this interim the humane Isabella died and the more callous Ferdinand acceded to full control. In consequence a prohibition of the negro trade in 1504 was rescinded in 1505 and replaced by orders that the bureau in charge of colonial trade promote the sending of negroes from Spain in large parcels. For the next twelve years this policy was maintained--the sending of Christian negroes was encouraged, while the direct slave trade from Africa to America was prohibited. The number of negroes who reached the islands under this régime is not ascertainable. It was clearly almost negligible in comparison with the increasing demand.[11]
[Footnote 11: The chief authority upon the origin and growth of negro slavery in the Spanish colonies is J.A. Saco, Historia de la Esclavitud de la Raza Africana en el Nuevo Mundo y en especial en los Paises Americo-Hispanos. (Barcelona, 1879.) This book supplements the same author's Historia de la Esclavitud desde los Tiempos remotos previously cited.]
The policy of excluding negroes fresh from Africa--"bozal negroes" the Spaniards called them--was of course a product of the characteristic resolution to keep the colonies free from all influences hostile to Catholic orthodoxy. But whereas Jews, Mohammedans and Christian heretics were considered as champions of rival faiths, the pagan blacks came increasingly to be reckoned as having no religion and therefore as a mere passive element ready for christianization. As early as 1510, in fact, the Spanish crown relaxed its discrimination against pagans by ordering the purchase of above a hundred negro slaves in the Lisbon market for dispatch to Hispaniola. To quiet its religious scruples the government hit upon the device of requiring the baptism of all pagan slaves upon their disembarkation in the colonial ports.

The crown was clearly not prepared to withstand a campaign for supplies direct from Africa, especially after the accession of the youth Charles I in 1517. At that very time a clamor from the islands reached its climax. Not only did many civil officials, voicing public opinion in their island communities, urge that the supply of negro slaves be greatly increased as a means of preventing industrial collapse, but a delegation of Jeronimite friars and the famous Bartholomeo de las Casas, who had formerly been a Cuban encomendero and was now a Dominican priest, appeared in Spain to press the same or kindred causes. The Jeronimites, themselves concerned in industrial enterprises, were mostly interested in the labor supply. But the well-born and highly talented Las Casas, earnest and full of the milk of human kindness, was moved entirely by humanitarian and religious considerations. He pleaded primarily for the abolition of the encomienda system and the establishment of a great Indian reservation under missionary control, and he favored the increased transfer of Christian negroes from Spain as a means of relieving the Indians from their terrible sufferings. The lay spokesmen and the Jeronimites asked that provision be made for the sending of thousands of negro slaves, preferably bozal negroes for the sake of cheapness and plenty; and the supporters of this policy were able to turn to their use the favorable impression which Las Casas was making, even though his programme and theirs were different.[12] The outcome was that while the settling of the encomienda problem was indefinitely postponed, authorization was promptly given for a supply of bozal negroes.
[Footnote 12: Las Casas, Historio de las Indias (Madrid, 1875, 1876); Arthur Helps, Life of Las Casas (London, 1873); Saco, op. cit., pp. 62-104.]
The crown here had an opportunity to get large revenues, of which it was in much need, by letting the slave trade under contract or by levying taxes upon it. The young king, however, freshly arrived from the Netherlands with a crowd of Flemish favorites in his train, proceeded to issue gratuitously a license for the trade to one of the Flemings at court, Laurent de Gouvenot, known in Spain as Garrevod, the governor of Breza. This license empowered the grantee and his assigns to ship from Guinea to the Spanish islands four thousand slaves. All the historians until recently have placed this grant in the year 1517 and have called it a contract (asiento); but Georges Scelle has now discovered and printed the document itself which bears the date August 18, 1518, and is clearly a license of grace bearing none of the distinctive asiento features.[13] Garrevod, who wanted ready cash rather than a trading privilege, at once divided his license into two and sold them for 25,000 ducats to certain Genoese merchants domiciled at Seville, who in turn split them up again and put them on the market where they became an object of active speculation at rapidly rising prices. The result was that when slaves finally reached the islands under Garrevod's grant the prices demanded for them were so exorbitant that the purposes of the original petitioners were in large measure defeated. Meanwhile the king, in spite of the nominally exclusive character of the Garrevod grant, issued various other licenses on a scale ranging from ten to four hundred slaves each. For a decade the importations were small, however, and the island clamor increased.
[Footnote 13: Georges Scelle, Histoire Politique de la Traité Négrière aux Indes de Castille: Contrats et Traités d'Asíento (Paris, 1906), I, 755. Book I, chapter 2 of the same volume is an elaborate discussion of the Garrevod grant.]
In 1528 a new exclusive grant was issued to two German courtiers at Seville, Eynger and Sayller, empowering them to carry four thousand slaves from Guinea to the Indies within the space of the following four years. This differed from Garrevod's in that it required a payment of 20,000 ducats to the crown and restricted the price at which the slaves were to be sold in the islands to forty ducats each. In so far it approached the asientos of the full type which became the regular recourse of the Spanish government in the following centuries; but it fell short of the ultimate plan by failing to bind the grantees to the performance of their undertaking and by failing to specify the grades and the proportion of the sexes among the slaves to be delivered. In short the crown's regard was still directed more to the enrichment of courtiers than to the promotion of prosperity in the islands.

After the expiration of the Eynger and Sayller grant the king left the control of the slave trade to the regular imperial administrative boards, which, rejecting all asiento overtures for half a century, maintained a policy of granting licenses for competitive trade in return for payments of eight or ten ducats per head until 1560, and of thirty ducats or more thereafter. At length, after the Spanish annexation of Portugal in 1580, the government gradually reverted to monopoly grants, now however in the definite form of asientos, in which by intent at least the authorities made the public interest, with combined regard to the revenue and a guaranteed labor supply, the primary consideration.[14] The high prices charged for slaves, however, together with the burdensome restrictions constantly maintained upon trade in general, steadily hampered the growth of Spanish colonial industry. Furthermore the allurements of Mexico and Peru drained the older colonies of virtually all their more vigorous white inhabitants, in spite of severe penalties legally imposed upon emigration but never effectively enforced.
[Footnote 14: Scelle, I, books 1-3.]
The agricultural régime in the islands was accordingly kept relatively stagnant as long as Spain preserved her full West Indian domination. The sugar industry, which by 1542 exported the staple to the amount of 110,000 arrobas of twenty-five pounds each, was standardized in plantations of two types--the trapiche whose cane was ground by ox power and whose labor force was generally thirty or forty negroes (each reckoned as capable of the labor of four Indians); and the inqenio, equipped with a water-power mill and employing about a hundred slaves.[15] Occasional slave revolts disturbed the Spanish islanders but never for long diminished their eagerness for slave recruits. The slave laws were relatively mild, the police administration extremely casual, and the plantation managements easy-going. In short, after introducing slavery into the new world the Spaniards maintained it in sluggish fashion, chiefly in the islands, as an institution which peoples more vigorous industrially might borrow and adapt to a more energetic plantation régime.
[Footnote 15: Saco, pp. 127, 128, 188; Oviedo, Historia General de las Indias, book 4. chap. 8.]


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