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American Negro Slavery
The Maritime Slave Trade
by Phillips, Ulrich Bonnell

At the request of a slaver's captain the government of Georgia issued in 1772 a certificate to a certain Fenda Lawrence reciting that she, "a free black woman and heretofore a considerable trader in the river Gambia on the coast of Africa, hath voluntarily come to be and remain for some time in this province," and giving her permission to "pass and repass unmolested within the said province on her lawfull and necessary occations."[1] This instance is highly exceptional. The millions of African expatriates went against their own wills, and their transporters looked upon the business not as passenger traffic but as trade in goods. Earnings came from selling in America the cargoes bought in Africa; the transportation was but an item in the trade.
[Footnote 1: U.B. Phillips, Plantation and Frontier Documents, printed also as vols. I and II of the Documentary History of American Industrial Society (Cleveland, O., 1909), II, 141, 142. This publication will be cited hereafter as Plantation and Frontier.]
The business bulked so large in the world's commerce in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that every important maritime community on the Atlantic sought a share, generally with the sanction and often with the active assistance of its respective sovereign. The preliminaries to the commercial strife occurred in the Elizabethan age. French traders in gold and ivory found the Portuguese police on the Guinea Coast to be negligible; but poaching in the slave trade was a harder problem, for Spain held firm control of her colonies which were then virtually the world's only slave market.

The test of this was made by Sir John Hawkins who at the beginning of his career as a great English sea captain had informed himself in the Canary Islands of the Afro-American opportunity awaiting exploitation. Backed by certain English financiers, he set forth in 1562 with a hundred men in three small ships, and after procuring in Sierra Leone, "partly by the sword and partly by other means," above three hundred negroes he sailed to Hispaniola where without hindrance from the authorities he exchanged them for colonial produce. "And so, with prosperous success, and much gain to himself and the aforesaid adventurers, he came home, and arrived in the month of September, 1563."[2] Next year with 170 men in four ships Hawkins again captured as many Sierra Leone natives as he could carry, and proceeded to peddle them in the Spanish islands. When the authorities interfered he coerced them by show of arms and seizure of hostages, and when the planters demurred at his prices he brought them to terms through a mixture of diplomacy and intimidation. After many adventures by the way he reached home, as the chronicler concludes, "God be thanked! in safety: with the loss of twenty persons in all the voyage; as with great profit to the venturers in the said voyage, so also to the whole realm, in bringing home both gold, silver, pearls, and other jewels in great store. His name therefore be praised for evermore! Amen." Before two years more had passed Hawkins put forth for a third voyage, this time with six ships, two of them among the largest then afloat. The cargo of slaves, procured by aiding a Guinea tribe in an attack upon its neighbor, had been duly sold in the Indies when dearth of supplies and stress of weather drove the fleet into the Mexican port of San Juan de Ulloa. There a Spanish fleet of thirteen ships attacked the intruders, capturing their treasure ship and three of her consorts. Only the Minion under Hawkins and the bark Judith under the young Francis Drake escaped to carry the harrowing tale to England. One result of the episode was that it filled Hawkins and Drake with desire for revenge on Spain, which was wreaked in due time but in European waters. Another consequence was a discouragement of English slave trading for nearly a century to follow.
[Footnote 2: Hakluyt, Voyages, ed. 1589. This and the accounts of Hawkins' later exploits in the same line are reprinted with a valuable introduction in C.R. Beazley, ed., Voyages and Travels (New York, 1903), I, 29-126.]
The defeat of the Armada in 1588 led the world to suspect the decline of Spain's maritime power, but only in the lapse of decades did the suspicion of her helplessness become a certainty. Meantime Portugal was for sixty years an appanage of the Spanish crown, while the Netherlands were at their heroic labor for independence. Thus when the Dutch came to prevail at sea in the early seventeenth century the Portuguese posts in Guinea fell their prey, and in 1621 the Dutch West India Company was chartered to take them over. Closely identified with the Dutch government, this company not only founded the colony of New Netherland and endeavored to foster the employment of negro slaves there, but in 1634 it seized the Spanish island of Curaçao near the Venezuelan coast and made it a basis for smuggling slaves into the Spanish dominions. And now the English, the French and the Danes began to give systematic attention to the African and West Indian opportunities, whether in the form of buccaneering, slave trading or colonization.

The revolt of Portugal in 1640 brought a turning point. For a quarter-century thereafter the Spanish government, regarding the Portuguese as rebels, suspended all trade relations with them, the asiento included. But the trade alternatives remaining were all distasteful to Spain. The English were heretics; the Dutch were both heretics and rebels; the French and the Danes were too weak at sea to handle the great slave trading contract with security; and Spain had no means of her own for large scale commerce. The upshot was that the carriage of slaves to the Spanish colonies was wholly interdicted during the two middle decades of the century. But this gave the smugglers their highest opportunity. The Spanish colonial police collapsed under the pressure of the public demand for slaves, and illicit trading became so general and open as to be pseudo legitimate. Such a boom came as was never felt before under Protestant flags in tropical waters. The French, in spite of great exertions, were not yet able to rival the Dutch and English. These in fact had such an ascendency that when in 1663 Spain revived the asiento by a contract with two Genoese, the contractors must needs procure their slaves by arrangement with Dutch and English who delivered them at Curaçao and Jamaica. Soon after this contract expired the asiento itself was converted from an item of Spanish internal policy into a shuttlecock of international politics. It became in fact the badge of maritime supremacy, possessed now by the Dutch, now by the French in the greatest years of Louis XIV, and finally by the English as a trophy in the treaty of Utrecht.

By this time, however, the Spanish dominions were losing their primacy as slave markets. Jamaica, Barbados and other Windward Islands under the English; Hayti, Martinique and Guadeloupe under the French, and Guiana under the Dutch were all more or less thriving as plantation colonies, while Brazil, Virginia, Maryland and the newly founded Carolina were beginning to demonstrate that slave labor had an effective calling without as well as within the Caribbean latitudes. The closing decades of the seventeenth century were introducing the heyday of the slave trade, and the English were preparing for their final ascendency therein.

In West African waters in that century no international law prevailed but that of might. Hence the impulse of any new country to enter the Guinea trade led to the project of a chartered monopoly company; for without the resources of share capital sufficient strength could not be had, and without the monopoly privilege the necessary shares could not be sold. The first English company of moment, chartered in 1618, confined its trade to gold and other produce. Richard Jobson while in its service on the Gambia was offered some slaves by a native trader. "I made answer," Jobson relates, "we were a people who did not deal in any such commodities; neither did we buy or sell one another, or any that had our own shapes; at which he seemed to marvel much, and told us it was the only merchandize they carried down, and that they were sold to white men, who earnestly desired them. We answered, they were another kind of people, different from us; but for our part, if they had no other commodities, we would return again."[3] This company speedily ending its life, was followed by another in 1631 with a similarly short career; and in 1651 the African privilege was granted for a time to the East India Company.
[Footnote 3: Richard Jobson, The Golden Trade (London 1623,), pp. 29, 87, quoted in James Bandinel, Some Account of the Trade in Slaves from Africa (London, 1842), p. 43.]
Under Charles II activities were resumed vigorously by a company chartered in 1662; but this promptly fell into such conflict with the Dutch that its capital of £122,000 vanished. In a drastic reorganization its affairs were taken over by a new corporation, the Royal African Company, chartered in 1672 with the Duke of York at its head and vested in its turn with monopoly rights under the English flag from Sallee on the Moroccan coast to the Cape of Good Hope.[4] For two decades this company prospered greatly, selling some two thousand slaves a year in Jamaica alone, and paying large cash dividends on its £100,000 capital and then a stock dividend of 300 per cent. But now came reverses through European war and through the competition of English and Yankee private traders who shipped slaves legitimately from Madagascar and illicitly from Guinea. Now came also a clamor from the colonies, where the company was never popular, and from England also where oppression and abuses were charged against it by would-be free traders. After a parliamentary investigation an act of 1697 restricted the monopoly by empowering separate traders to traffic in Guinea upon paying to the company for the maintenance of its forts ten per cent, on the value of the cargoes they carried thither and a percentage on certain minor exports carried thence.
[Footnote 4: The financial career of the company is described by W.R. Scott, "The Constitution and Finances of the Royal African Company of England till 1720," in the American Historical Review, VIII. 241-259.]
The company soon fell upon still more evil times, and met them by evil practices. To increase its capital it offered new stock for sale at reduced prices and borrowed money for dividends in order to encourage subscriptions. The separate traders meanwhile were winning nearly all its trade. In 1709-1710, for example, forty-four of their vessels made voyages as compared with but three ships of the company, and Royal African stock sold as low as 2-1/8 on the £100. A reorganization in 1712 however added largely to the company's funds, and the treaty of Utrecht brought it new prosperity. In 1730 at length Parliament relieved the separate traders of all dues, substituting a public grant of £10,000 a year toward the maintenance of the company's forts. For twenty years more the company, managed in the early thirties by James Oglethorpe, kept up the unequal contest until 1751 when it was dissolved.

The company régime under the several flags was particularly dominant on the coasts most esteemed in the seventeenth century; and in that century they reached a comity of their own on the basis of live and let live. The French were secured in the Senegal sphere of influence and the English on the Gambia, while on the Gold Coast the Dutch and English divided the trade between them. Here the two headquarters were in forts lying within sight of each other: El Mina of the Dutch, and Cape Coast Castle of the English. Each was commanded by a governor and garrisoned by a score or two of soldiers; and each with its outlying factories had a staff of perhaps a dozen factors, as many sub-factors, twice as many assistants, and a few bookkeepers and auditors, as well as a corps of white artisans and an abundance of native interpreters, boatmen, carriers and domestic servants. The Dutch and English stations alternated in a series east and west, often standing no further than a cannon-shot apart. Here and there one of them had acquired a slight domination which the other respected; but in the case of the Coromantees (or Fantyns) William Bosman, a Dutch company factor about 1700, wrote that both companies had "equal power, that is none at all. For when these people are inclined to it they shut up the passes so close that not one merchant can come from the inland country to trade with us; and sometimes, not content with this, they prevent the bringing of provisions to us till we have made peace with them." The tribe was in fact able to exact heavy tribute from both companies; and to stretch the treaty engagements at will to its own advantage.[5] Further eastward, on the densely populated Slave Coast, the factories were few and the trade virtually open to all comers. Here, as was common throughout Upper Guinea, the traits and the trading practices of adjacent tribes were likely to be in sharp contrast. The Popo (or Paw Paw) people, for example, were so notorious for cheating and thieving that few traders would go thither unless prepared to carry things with a strong hand. The Portuguese alone bore their grievances without retaliation, Bosman said, because their goods were too poor to find markets elsewhere.[6]But Fidah (Whydah), next door, was in Bosman's esteem the most agreeable of all places to trade in. The people were honest and polite, and the red-tape requirements definite and reasonable. A ship captain after paying for a license and buying the king's private stock of slaves at somewhat above the market price would have the news of his arrival spread afar, and at a given time the trade would be opened with prices fixed in advance and all the available slaves herded in an open field. There the captain or factor, with the aid of a surgeon, would select the young and healthy, who if the purchaser were the Dutch company were promptly branded to prevent their being confused in the crowd before being carried on shipboard. The Whydahs were so industrious in the trade, with such far reaching interior connections, that they could deliver a thousand slaves each month.[7]
[Footnote 5: Bosman's Guinea (London, 1705), reprinted in Pinkerton's Voyages, XVI, 363.]

[Footnote 6: Ibid., XVI, 474-476.]

[Footnote 7: Ibid., XVI, 489-491.]
Of the operations on the Gambia an intimate view may be had from the journal of Francis Moore, a factor of the Royal African Company from 1730 to 1735.[8] Here the Jolofs on the north and the Mandingoes on the south and west were divided into tribes or kingdoms fronting from five to twenty-five leagues on the river, while tributary villages of Arabic-speaking Foulahs were scattered among them. In addition there was a small independent population of mixed breed, with very slight European infusion but styling themselves Portuguese and using a "bastard language" known locally as Creole. Many of these last were busy in the slave trade. The Royal African headquarters, with a garrison of thirty men, were on an island in the river some thirty miles from its mouth, while its trading stations dotted the shores for many leagues upstream, for no native king was content without a factory near his "palace." The slaves bought were partly of local origin but were mostly brought from long distances inland. These came generally in strings or coffles of thirty or forty, tied with leather thongs about their necks and laden with burdens of ivory and corn on their heads. Mungo Park when exploring the hinterland of this coast in 1795-1797, traveling incidentally with a slave coffle on part of his journey, estimated that in the Niger Valley generally the slaves outnumbered the free by three to one.[9] But as Moore observed, the domestic slaves were rarely sold in the trade, mainly for fear it would cause their fellows to run away. When captured by their master's enemies however, they were likely to be sent to the coast, for they were seldom ransomed.
[Footnote 8: Francis Moore, Travels in Africa (London, 1738).]

[Footnote 9: Mungo Park, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa (4th ed., London, 1800), pp. 287, 428.]
The diverse goods bartered for slaves were rated by units of value which varied in the several trade centers. On the Gold Coast it was a certain length of cowrie shells on a string; at Loango it was a "piece" which had the value of a common gun or of twenty pounds of iron; at Kakongo it was twelve- or fifteen-yard lengths of cotton cloth called "goods";[10] while on the Gambia it was a bar of iron, apparently about forty pounds in weight. But in the Gambia trade as Moore described it the unit or "bar" in rum, cloth and most other things became depreciated until in some commodities it was not above a shilling's value in English money. Iron itself, on the other hand, and crystal beads, brass pans and spreadeagle dollars appreciated in comparison. These accordingly became distinguished as the "heads of goods," and the inclusion of three or four units of them was required in the forty or fifty bars of miscellaneous goods making up the price of a prime slave.[11] In previous years grown slaves alone had brought standard prices; but in Moore's time a specially strong demand for boys and girls in the markets of Cadiz and Lisbon had raised the prices of these almost to a parity. All defects were of course discounted. Moore, for example, in buying a slave with several teeth missing made the seller abate a bar for each tooth. The company at one time forbade the purchase of slaves from the self-styled Portuguese because they ran the prices up; but the factors protested that these dealers would promptly carry their wares to the separate traders, and the prohibition was at once withdrawn.
[Footnote 10: The Abbé Proyart, History of Loango (1776), in Pinkerton's Voyages, XVI, 584-587.]

[Footnote 11: Francis Moore, Travels in Africa, p.45.]
The company and the separate traders faced different problems. The latter were less easily able to adjust their merchandise to the market. A Rhode Island captain, for instance, wrote his owners from Anamabo in 1736, "heare is 7 sails of us rume men, that we are ready to devour one another, for our case is desprit"; while four years afterward another wrote after trading at the same port, "I have repented a hundred times ye lying in of them dry goods", which he had carried in place of the customary rum.[12] Again, a veteran Rhode Islander wrote from Anamabo in 1752, "on the whole I never had so much trouble in all my voiges", and particularized as follows: "I have Gott on bord 61 Slaves and upards of thirty ounces of Goold, and have Gott 13 or 14 hhds of Rum yet Left on bord, and God noes when I shall Gett Clear of it ye trade is so very Dull it is actuly a noof to make a man Creasey my Cheef mate after making foor or five Trips in the boat was taken Sick and Remains very bad yett then I sent Mr. Taylor, and he got not well, and three more of my men has [been] sick.... I should be Glad I coold Com Rite home with my slaves, for my vesiel will not Last to proceed farr we can see Day Lite al Roond her bow under Deck.... heare Lyes Captains hamlet, James, Jepson, Carpenter, Butler, Lindsay; Gardner is Due; Ferguson has Gone to Leward all these is Rum ships."[13]
[Footnote 12: American Historical Record, I (1872), 314, 317.]

[Footnote 13: Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, LXIX, 59, 60.]
The separate traders also had more frequent quarrels with the natives. In 1732 a Yankee captain was killed in a trade dispute and his crew set adrift. Soon afterward certain Jolofs took another ship's officers captive and required the value of twenty slaves as ransom. And in 1733 the natives at Yamyamacunda, up the Gambia, sought revenge upon Captain Samuel Moore for having paid them in pewter dollars on his previous voyage, and were quieted through the good offices of a company factor.[14] The company suffered far less from native disorders, for a threat of removing its factory would bring any chief to terms. In 1731, however, the king of Barsally brought a troop of his kinsmen and subjects to the Joar factory where Moore was in charge, got drunk, seized the keys and rifled the stores.[15] But the company's chief trouble was with its own factors. The climate and conditions were so trying that illness was frequent and insanity and suicide occasional; and the isolation encouraged fraudulent practices. It was usually impossible to tell the false from the true in the reports of the loss of goods by fire and flood, theft and rapine, mildew and white ants, or the loss of slaves by death or mutiny. The expense of the salary list, ship hire, provisions and merchandise was heavy and continuous, while the returns were precarious to a degree. Not often did such great wars occur as the Dahomey invasion of the Whidah country in 1726[16] and the general fighting of the Gambia peoples in 1733-1734[17] to glut the outward bound ships with slave cargoes. As a rule the company's advantage of steady markets and friendly native relations appears to have been more than offset by the freedom of the separate traders from fixed charges and the necessity of dependence upon lazy and unfaithful employees.
[Footnote 14: Moore, pp. 112, 164, 182.]

[Footnote 15: Ibid., p. 82.]

[Footnote 16: William Snelgrave, A New Account of Some Parts of Guinea and the Slave Trade (London, 1734), pp. 8-32.]

[Footnote 17: Moore, p. 157.]
Instead of jogging along the coast, as many had been accustomed to do, and casting anchor here and there upon sighting signal smokes raised by natives who had slaves to sell,[18] the separate traders began before the close of the colonial period to get their slaves from white factors at the "castles," which were then a relic from the company régime. So advantageous was this that in 1772 a Newport brig owned by Colonel Wanton cleared £500 on her voyage, and next year the sloop Adventure, also of Newport, Christopher and George Champlin owners, made such speedy trade that after losing by death one slave out of the ninety-five in her cargo she landed the remainder in prime order at Barbados and sold them immediately in one lot at £35 per head.[19]
[Footnote 18: Snelgrave, introduction.]

[Footnote 19: Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, LXIX, 398, 429.]
In Lower Guinea the Portuguese held an advantage, partly through the influence of the Catholic priests. The Capuchin missionary Merolla, for example, relates that while he was in service at the mouth of the Congo in 1685 word came that the college of cardinals had commanded the missionaries in Africa to combat the slave trade. Promptly deciding this to be a hopeless project, Merolla and his colleagues compromised with their instructions by attempting to restrict the trade to ships of Catholic nations and to the Dutch who were then supplying Spain under the asiento. No sooner had the chiefs in the district agreed to this than a Dutch trading captain set things awry by spreading Protestant doctrine among the natives, declaring baptism to be the only sacrament required for salvation, and confession to be superfluous. The priests then put all the Dutch under the ban, but the natives raised a tumult saying that the Portuguese, the only Catholic traders available, not only paid low prices in poor goods but also aspired to a political domination. The crisis was relieved by a timely plague of small-pox which the priests declared and the natives agreed was a divinely sent punishment for their contumacy,--and for the time at least, the exclusion of heretical traders was made effective.[20] The English appear never to have excelled the Portuguese on the Congo and southward except perhaps about the close of the eighteenth century.
[Footnote 20: Jerom Merolla da Sorrente, Voyage to Congo (translated from the Italian), in Pinkerton's Voyages, XVI, 253-260.]
The markets most frequented by the English and American separate traders lay on the great middle stretches of the coast--Sierra Leone, the Grain Coast (Liberia), the Ivory, Gold and Slave Coasts, the Oil Rivers as the Niger Delta was then called, Cameroon, Gaboon and Loango. The swarm of their ships was particularly great in the Gulf of Guinea upon whose shores the vast fan-shaped hinterland poured its exiles along converging lines.

The coffles came from distances ranging to a thousand miles or more, on rivers and paths whose shore ends the European traders could see but did not find inviting. These paths, always of single-file narrowness, tortuously winding to avoid fallen trees and bad ground, never straightened even when obstructions had rotted and gone, branching and crossing in endless network, penetrating jungles and high-grass prairies, passing villages that were and villages that had been, skirting the lairs of savage beasts and the haunts of cannibal men, beset with drought and famine, storm and flood, were threaded only by negroes, bearing arms or bearing burdens. Many of the slaves fell exhausted on the paths and were cut out of the coffles to die. The survivors were sorted by the purchasers on the coast into the fit and the unfit, the latter to live in local slavery or to meet either violent or lingering deaths, the former to be taken shackled on board the strange vessels of the strange white men and carried to an unknown fate. The only consolations were that the future could hardly be worse than the recent past, that misery had plenty of company, and that things were interesting by the way. The combination of resignation and curiosity was most helpful.

It was reassuring to these victims to see an occasional American negro serving in the crew of a slaver and to know that a few specially favored tribesmen had returned home with vivid stories from across the sea. On the Gambia for example there was Job Ben Solomon who during a brief slavery in Maryland attracted James Oglethorpe's attention by a letter written in Arabic, was bought from his master, carried to England, presented at court, loaded with gifts and sent home as a freeman in 1734 in a Royal African ship with credentials requiring the governor and factors to show him every respect. Thereafter, a celebrity on the river, he spread among his fellow Foulahs and the neighboring Jolofs and Mandingoes his cordial praises of the English nation.[21] And on the Gold Coast there was Amissa to testify to British justice, for he had shipped as a hired sailor on a Liverpool slaver in 1774, had been kidnapped by his employer and sold as a slave in Jamaica, but had been redeemed by the king of Anamaboe and brought home with an award by Lord Mansfield's court in London of £500 damages collected from the slaving captain who had wronged him.[22]

The bursting of the South Sea bubble in 1720 shifted the bulk of the separate trading from London to the rival city of Bristol. But the removal of the duties in 1730 brought the previously unimportant port of Liverpool into the field with such vigor that ere long she had the larger half of all the English slave trade. Her merchants prospered by their necessary parsimony. The wages they paid were the lowest, and the commissions and extra allowances they gave in their early years were nil.[23] By 1753 her ships in the slave traffic numbered eighty-seven, totaling about eight thousand tons burthen and rated to carry some twenty-five thousand slaves. Eight of these vessels were trading on the Gambia, thirty-eight on the Gold and Slave Coasts, five at Benin, three at New Calabar, twelve at Bonny, eleven at Old Calabar, and ten in Angola.[24] For the year 1771 the number of slavers bound from Liverpool was reported at one hundred and seven with a capacity of 29,250 negroes, while fifty-eight went from London rated to carry 8,136, twenty-five from Bristol to carry 8,810, and five from Lancaster with room for 950. Of this total of 195 ships 43 traded in Senegambia, 29 on the Gold Coast, 56 on the Slave Coast, 63 in the bights of Benin and Biafra, and 4 in Angola. In addition there were sixty or seventy slavers from North America and the West Indies, and these were yearly increasing.[25] By 1801 the Liverpool ships had increased to 150, with capacity for 52,557 slaves according to the reduced rating of five slaves to three tons of burthen as required by the parliamentary act of 1788. About half of these traded in the Gulf of Guinea, and half in the ports of Angola.[26] The trade in American vessels, particularly those of New England, was also large. The career of the town of Newport in fact was a small scale replied of Liverpool's. But acceptable statistics of the American ships are lacking.
[Footnote 21: Francis Moore, Travels in Africa, pp. 69, 202-203.]

[Footnote 22: Gomer Williams, History of the Liverpool Privateers, with an Account of the Liverpool Slave Trade (London, 1897), pp. 563, 564.]

[Footnote 23: Ibid., p. 471, quoting A General and Descriptive History of Liverpool (1795).]

[Footnote 24: Ibid., p. 472 and appendix 7.]

[Footnote 25: Edward Long, History of Jamaica (London, 1774), p. 492 note.]

[Footnote 26: Corner Williams, Appendix 13.]
The ship captains in addition to their salaries generally received commissions of "4 in 104," on the gross sales, and also had the privilege of buying, transporting and selling specified numbers of slaves on their private account. When surgeons were carried they also were allowed commissions and privileges at a smaller rate, and "privileges" were often allowed the mates likewise. The captains generally carried more or less definite instructions. Ambrose Lace, for example, master of the Liverpool ship Marquis of Granby bound in 1762 for Old Calabar, was ordered to combine with any other ships on the river to keep down rates, to buy 550 young and healthy slaves and such ivory as his surplus cargo would purchase, and to guard against fire, fever and attack. When laden he was to carry the slaves to agents in the West Indies, and thence bring home according to opportunity sugar, cotton, coffee, pimento, mahogany and rum, and the balance of the slave cargo proceeds in bills of exchange.[27] Simeon Potter, master of a Rhode Island slaver about the same time, was instructed by his owners: "Make yr Cheaf Trade with The Blacks and little or none with the white people if possible to be avoided. Worter yr Rum as much as possible and sell as much by the short mesuer as you can." And again: "Order them in the Bots to worter thear Rum, as the proof will Rise by the Rum Standing in ye Son."[28] As to the care of the slave cargo a Massachusetts captain was instructed in 1785 as follows: "No people require more kind and tender treatment: to exhilarate their spirits than the Africans; and while on the one hand you are attentive to this, remember that on the other hand too much circumspection cannot be observed by yourself and people to prevent their taking advantage of such treatment by insurrection, etc. When you consider that on the health of your slaves almost your whole voyage depends--for all other risques but mortality, seizures and bad debts the underwriters are accountable for--you will therefore particularly attend to smoking your vessel, washing her with vinegar, to the clarifying your water with lime or brimstone, and to cleanliness among your own people as well as among the slaves."[29]
[Footnote 27: Ibid., pp. 486-489.]

[Footnote 28: W.B. Weeden, Economic and Social History of New England (Boston [1890]), II, 465.]

[Footnote 29: G.H. Moore, Notes on the History of Slavery in Massachusetts (New York, 1866), pp. 66, 67, citing J.O. Felt, Annals of Salem, 2d ed., II, 289, 290.]
Ships were frequently delayed for many months on the pestilent coast, for after buying their licenses in one kingdom and finding trade slack there they could ill afford to sail for another on the uncertain chance of a more speedy supply. Sometimes when weary of higgling the market, they tried persuasion by force of arms; but in some instances as at Bonny, in 1757,[30] this resulted in the victory of the natives and the destruction of the ships. In general the captains and their owners appreciated the necessity of patience, expensive and even deadly as that might prove to be.
[Footnote 30: Gomer Williams, pp. 481, 482.]
The chiefs were eager to foster trade and cultivate good will, for it brought them pompous trappings as well as useful goods. "Grandy King George" of Old Calabar, for example, asked of his friend Captain Lace a mirror six feet square, an arm chair "for my salf to sat in," a gold mounted cane, a red and a blue coat with gold lace, a case of razors, pewter plates, brass flagons, knives and forks, bullet and cannon-ball molds, and sailcloth for his canoes, along with many other things for use in trade.[31]
[Footnote 31: Ibid., pp. 545-547.]
The typical New England ship for the slave trade was a sloop, schooner or barkentine of about fifty tons burthen, which when engaged in ordinary freighting would have but a single deck. For a slaving voyage a second flooring was laid some three feet below the regular deck, the space between forming the slave quarters. Such a vessel was handled by a captain, two mates, and from three to six men and boys. It is curious that a vessel of this type, with capacity in the hold for from 100 to 120 hogsheads of rum was reckoned by the Rhode Islanders to be "full bigg for dispatch,"[32] while among the Liverpool slave traders such a ship when offered for sale could not find a purchaser.[33] The reason seems to have been that dry-goods and sundries required much more cargo space for the same value than did rum.
[Footnote 32: Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, LXIX, 524.]

[Footnote 33: Ibid., 500.]
The English vessels were generally twice as great of burthen and with twice the height in their 'tween decks. But this did not mean that the slaves could stand erect in their quarters except along the center line; for when full cargoes were expected platforms of six or eight feet in width were laid on each side, halving the 'tween deck height and nearly doubling the floor space on which the slaves were to be stowed. Whatever the size of the ship, it loaded slaves if it could get them to the limit of its capacity. Bosnian tersely said, "they lie as close together as it is possible to be crowded."[34] The women's room was divided from the men's by a bulkhead, and in time of need the captain's cabin might be converted into a hospital.
[Footnote 34: Bosnian's Guinea, in Pinkerton's Voyages, XVI, 490.]
While the ship was taking on slaves and African provisions and water the negroes were generally kept in a temporary stockade on deck for the sake of fresh air. But on departure for the "middle passage," as the trip to America was called by reason of its being the second leg of the ship's triangular voyage in the trade, the slaves were kept below at night and in foul weather, and were allowed above only in daylight for food, air and exercise while the crew and some of the slaves cleaned the quarters and swabbed the floors with vinegar as a disinfectant. The negro men were usually kept shackled for the first part of the passage until the chances of mutiny and return to Africa dwindled and the captain's fears gave place to confidence. On various occasions when attacks of privateers were to be repelled weapons were issued and used by the slaves in loyal defense of the vessel.[35] Systematic villainy in the handling of the human cargo was perhaps not so characteristic in this trade as in the transport of poverty-stricken white emigrants. Henry Laurens, after withdrawing from African factorage at Charleston because of the barbarities inflicted by some of the participants in the trade, wrote in 1768: "Yet I never saw an instance of cruelty in ten or twelve years' experience in that branch equal to the cruelty exercised upon those poor Irish.... Self interest prompted the baptized heathen to take some care of their wretched slaves for a market, but no other care was taken of those poor Protestant Christians from Ireland but to deliver as many as possible alive on shoar upon the cheapest terms, no matter how they fared upon the voyage nor in what condition they were landed."[36]
[Footnote 35: E. g., Gomer Williams, pp. 560, 561.]

[Footnote 36: D.D. Wallace, Life of Henry Laurens (New York, 1915), pp. 67, 68. For the tragic sufferings of an English convict shipment in 1768 see Plantation and Frontier, I, 372-373]
William Snelgrave, long a ship captain in the trade, relates that he was accustomed when he had taken slaves on board to acquaint them through his interpreter that they were destined to till the ground in America and not to be eaten; that if any person on board abused them they were to complain to the interpreter and the captain would give them redress, but if they struck one of the crew or made any disturbance they must expect to be severely punished. Snelgrave nevertheless had experience of three mutinies in his career; and Coromantees figured so prominently in these that he never felt secure when men of that stock were in his vessel, for, he said, "I knew many of these Cormantine negroes despised punishment and even death itself." In one case when a Coromantee had brained a sentry he was notified by Snelgrave that he was to die in the sight of his fellows at the end of an hour's time. "He answered, 'He must confess it was a rash action in him to kill him; but he desired me to consider that if I put him to death I should lose all the money I had paid for him.'" When the captain professed himself unmoved by this argument the negro spent his last moments assuring his fellows that his life was safe.[37]
[Footnote 37: Snelgrave, Guinea and the Slave Trade (London, 1734), pp. 162-185. Snelgrave's book also contains vivid accounts of tribal wars, human sacrifices, traders' negotiations and pirate captures on the Grain and Slave Coasts.]
The discomfort in the densely packed quarters of the slave ships may be imagined by any who have sailed on tropic seas. With seasickness added it was wretched; when dysentery prevailed it became frightful; if water or food ran short the suffering was almost or quite beyond endurance; and in epidemics of scurvy, small-pox or ophthalmia the misery reached the limit of human experience. The average voyage however was rapid and smooth by virtue of the steadily blowing trade winds, the food if coarse was generally plenteous and wholesome, and the sanitation fairly adequate. In a word, under stern and often brutal discipline, and with the poorest accommodations, the slaves encountered the then customary dangers and hardships of the sea.[38]
[Footnote 38: Voluminous testimony in regard to conditions on the middle passage was published by Parliament and the Privy Council in 1789-1791. Summaries from it may be found in T.F. Buxton, The African Slave Trade and the Remedy (London, 1840), part I, chap. 2; and in W.O. Blake, History of Slavery and the Slave Trade (Columbus, Ohio, 1859), chaps, 9, 10.]
Among the disastrous voyages an example was that of the Dutch West India Company's ship St. John in 1659. After buying slaves at Bonny in April and May she beat about the coast in search of provisions but found barely enough for daily consumption until at the middle of August on the island of Amebo she was able to buy hogs, beans, cocoanuts and oranges. Meanwhile bad food had brought dysentery, the surgeon, the cooper and a sailor had died, and the slave cargo was daily diminishing. Five weeks of sailing then carried the ship across the Atlantic, where she put into Tobago to refill her leaking water casks. Sailing thence she struck a reef near her destination at Curaçao and was abandoned by her officers and crew. Finally a sloop sent by the Curaçao governor to remove the surviving slaves was captured by a privateer with them on board. Of the 195 negroes comprising the cargo on June 30, from one to five died nearly every day, and one leaped overboard to his death. At the end of the record on October 29 the slave loss had reached 110, with the mortality rate nearly twice as high among the men as among the women.[39] About the same time, on the other hand, Captain John Newton of Liverpool, who afterwards turned preacher, made a voyage without losing a sailor or a slave.[40] The mortality on the average ship may be roughly conjectured from the available data at eight or ten per cent.
[Footnote 39: E.B. O'Callaghan ed., Voyages of the Slavers St. John and Arms of Amsterdam (Albany, N.Y., 1867), pp. 1-13.]

[Footnote 40: Corner Williams, p. 515.]
Details of characteristic outfit, cargo, and expectations in the New England branch of trade may be had from an estimate made in 1752 for a projected voyage.[41] A sloop of sixty tons, valued at £300 sterling, was to be overhauled and refitted, armed, furnished with handcuffs, medicines and miscellaneous chandlery at a cost of £65, and provisioned for £50 more. Its officers and crew, seven hands all told, were to draw aggregate wages of £10 per month for an estimated period of one year. Laden with eight thousand gallons of rum at 1s. 8d. per gallon and with forty-five barrels, tierces and hogsheads of bread, flour, beef, pork, tar, tobacco, tallow and sugar--all at an estimated cost of £775--it was to sail for the Gold Coast. There, after paying the local charges from the cargo, some 35 slave men were to be bought at 100 gallons per head, 15 women at 85 gallons, and 15 boys and girls at 65 gallons; and the residue of the rum and miscellaneous cargo was expected to bring some seventy ounces of gold in exchange as well as to procure food supplies for the westward voyage. Recrossing the Atlantic, with an estimated death loss of a man, a woman and two children, the surviving slaves were to be sold in Jamaica at about £21, £18, and £14 for the respective classes. Of these proceeds about one-third was to be spent for a cargo of 105 hogsheads of molasses at 8d. per gallon, and the rest of the money remitted to London, whither the gold dust was also to be sent. The molasses upon reaching Newport was expected to bring twice as much as it had cost in the tropics. After deducting factor's commissions of from 2-1/2 to 5 per cent. on all sales and purchases, and of "4 in 104" on the slave sales as the captain's allowance, after providing for insurance at four per cent. on ship and cargo for each leg of the voyage, and for leakage of ten per cent. of the rum and five per cent. of the molasses, and after charging off the whole cost of the ship's outfit and one-third of her original value, there remained the sum of £357, 8s. 2d. as the expected profits of the voyage.
[Footnote 41: "An estimate of a voyage from Rhode Island to the Coast of Guinea and from thence to Jamaica and so back to Rhode Island for a sloop of 60 Tons." The authorities of Yale University, which possesses the manuscript, have kindly permitted the publication of these data. The estimates in Rhode Island and Jamaica currencies, which were then depreciated, as stated in the document, to twelve for one and seven for five sterling respectively, are here changed into their approximate sterling equivalents.]
As to the gross volume of the trade, there are few statistics. As early as 1734 one of the captains engaged in it estimated that a maximum of seventy thousand slaves a year had already been attained.[42] For the next half century and more each passing year probably saw between fifty thousand and a hundred thousand shipped. The total transportation from first to last may well have numbered more than five million souls. Prior to the nineteenth century far more negro than white colonists crossed the seas, though less than one tenth of all the blacks brought to the western world appear to have been landed on the North American continent. Indeed, a statistician has reckoned, though not convincingly, that in the whole period before 1810 these did not exceed 385,500[43]
[Footnote 42: Snelgrave, Guinea and the Slave Trade, p. 159.]

[Footnote 43: H.C. Carey, The Slave Trade, Domestic and Foreign (Philadelphia, 1853), chap. 3.]
In selling the slave cargoes in colonial ports the traders of course wanted minimum delay and maximum prices. But as a rule quickness and high returns were not mutually compatible. The Royal African Company tended to lay chief stress upon promptness of sale. Thus at the end of 1672 it announced that if persons would contract to receive whole cargoes upon their arrival and to accept all slaves between twelve and forty years of age who were able to go over the ship's side unaided they would be supplied at the rate of £15 per head in Barbados, £16 in Nevis, £17 in Jamaica, and £18 in Virginia.[44] The colonists were for a time disposed to accept this arrangement where they could. For example Charles Calvert, governor of Maryland, had already written Lord Baltimore in 1664: "I have endeavored to see if I could find as many responsible men that would engage to take 100 or 200 neigros every year from the Royall Company at that rate mentioned in your lordship's letter; but I find that we are nott men of estates good enough to undertake such a buisnesse, but could wish we were for we are naturally inclined to love neigros if our purses could endure it."[45] But soon complaints arose that the slaves delivered on contract were of the poorest quality, while the better grades were withheld for other means of sale at higher prices. Quarrels also developed between the company on the one hand and the colonists and their legislatures on the other over the rating of colonial moneys and the obstructions placed by law about the collection of debts; and the colonists proceeded to give all possible encouragement to the separate traders, legal or illegal as their traffic might be.[46]
[Footnote 44: E.D. Collins, "Studies in the Colonial Policy of England, 1672-1680," in the American Historical Association Report for 1901, I, 158.]

[Footnote 45: Maryland Historical Society Fund Publications no. 28, p. 249.]

[Footnote 46: G.L. Beer, The Old Colonial System (New York, 1912), part I, vol. I, chap. 5.]
Most of the sales, in the later period at least, were without previous contract. A practice often followed in the British West Indian ports was to advertise that the cargo of a vessel just arrived would be sold on board at an hour scheduled and at a uniform price announced in the notice. At the time set there would occur a great scramble of planters and dealers to grab the choicest slaves. A variant from this method was reported in 1670 from Guadeloupe, where a cargo brought in by the French African company was first sorted into grades of prime men, (pièces d'Inde), prime women, boys and girls rated at two-thirds of prime, and children rated at one-half. To each slave was attached a ticket bearing a number, while a corresponding ticket was deposited in one of four boxes according to the grade. At prices then announced for the several grades, the planters bought the privilege of drawing tickets from the appropriate boxes and acquiring thereby title to the slaves to which the numbers they drew were attached.[47]
[Footnote 47: Lucien Peytraud, L'Esclavage aux Antilles Françaises avant 1789 (Paris, 1897), pp. 122, 123.]
In the chief ports of the British continental colonies the maritime transporters usually engaged merchants on shore to sell the slaves as occasion permitted, whether by private sale or at auction. At Charleston these merchants charged a ten per cent commission on slave sales, though their factorage rate was but five per cent. on other sorts of merchandise; and they had credits of one and two years for the remittance of the proceeds.[48] The following advertisement, published at Charleston in 1785 jointly by Ball, Jennings and Company, and Smiths, DeSaussure and Darrell is typical of the factors' announcements: "GOLD COAST NEGROES. On Thursday, the 17th of March instant, will be exposed to public sale near the Exchange (if not before disposed of by private contract) the remainder of the cargo of negroes imported in the ship Success, Captain John Conner, consisting chiefly of likely young boys and girls in good health, and having been here through the winter may be considered in some degree seasoned to this climate. The conditions of the sale will be credit to the first of January, 1786, on giving bond with approved security where required--the negroes not to be delivered till the terms are complied with."[49] But in such colonies as Virginia where there was no concentration of trade in ports, the ships generally sailed from place to place peddling their slaves, with notice published in advance when practicable. The diseased or otherwise unfit negroes were sold for whatever price they would bring. In some of the ports it appears that certain physicians made a practise of buying these to sell the survivors at a profit upon their restoration to health.[50]
[Footnote 48: D.D. Wallace, Life of Henry Laurens, p. 75.]

[Footnote 49: The Gazette of the State of South Carolina, Mch. 10, 1785.]

[Footnote 50: C. C. Robin, Voyages (Paris, 1806), II, 170.]
That by no means all the negroes took their enslavement grievously is suggested by a traveler's note at Columbia, South Carolina, in 1806: "We met ... a number of new negroes, some of whom had been in the country long enough to talk intelligibly. Their likely looks induced us to enter into a talk with them. One of them, a very bright, handsome youth of about sixteen, could talk well. He told us the circumstances of his being caught and enslaved, with as much composure as he would any common occurrence, not seeming to think of the injustice of the thing nor to speak of it with indignation.... He spoke of his master and his work as though all were right, and seemed not to know he had a right to be anything but a slave."[51]
[Footnote 51: "Diary of Edward Hooker," in the American Historical Association Report for 1906, p. 882.]
In the principal importing colonies careful study was given to the comparative qualities of the several African stocks. The consensus of opinion in the premises may be gathered from several contemporary publications, the chief ones of which were written in Jamaica.[52] The Senegalese, who had a strong Arabic strain in their ancestry, were considered the most intelligent of Africans and were especially esteemed for domestic service, the handicrafts and responsible positions. "They are good commanders over other negroes, having a high spirit and a tolerable share of fidelity; but they are unfit for hard work; their bodies are not robust nor their constitutions vigorous." The Mandingoes were reputed to be especially gentle in demeanor but peculiarly prone to theft. They easily sank under fatigue, but might be employed with advantage in the distillery and the boiling house or as watchmen against fire and the depredations of cattle. The Coromantees of the Gold Coast stand salient in all accounts as hardy and stalwart of mind and body. Long calls them haughty, ferocious and stubborn; Edwards relates examples of their Spartan fortitude; and it was generally agreed that they were frequently instigators of slave conspiracies and insurrections. Yet their spirit of loyalty made them the most highly prized of servants by those who could call it forth. Of them Christopher Codrington, governor of the Leeward Islands, wrote in 1701 to the English Board of Trade: "The Corramantes are not only the best and most faithful of our slaves, but are really all born heroes. There is a differance between them and all other negroes beyond what 'tis possible for your Lordships to conceive. There never was a raskal or coward of that nation. Intrepid to the last degree, not a man of them but will stand to be cut to pieces without a sigh or groan, grateful and obedient to a kind master, but implacably revengeful when ill-treated. My father, who had studied the genius and temper of all kinds of negroes forty-five years with a very nice observation, would say, noe man deserved a Corramante that would not treat him like a friend rather than a slave."[53]
[Footnote 52: Edward Long, History of Jamaica (London, 1774), II, 403, 404; Bryan Edwards, History of the British Colonies in the West Indies, various editions, book IV, chap. 3; and "A Professional Planter," Practical Rules for the Management and Medical Treatment of Negro Slaves in the Sugar Colonies (London, 1803), pp. 39-48. The pertinent portion of this last is reprinted in Plantation and Frontier, II, 127-133. For the similar views of the French planters in the West Indies see Peytraud, L'Esclavage aux Antilles Françaises, pp. 87-90.]

[Footnote 53: Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West Indies, 1701, pp. 720, 721.]
The Whydahs, Nagoes and Pawpaws of the Slave Coast were generally the most highly esteemed of all. They were lusty and industrious, cheerful and submissive. "That punishment which excites the Koromantyn to rebel, and drives the Ebo negro to suicide, is received by the Pawpaws as the chastisement of legal authority to which it is their duty to submit patiently." As to the Eboes or Mocoes, described as having a sickly yellow tinge in their complection, jaundiced eyes, and prognathous faces like baboons, the women were said to be diligent but the men lazy, despondent and prone to suicide. "They require therefore the gentlest and mildest treatment to reconcile them to their situation; but if their confidence be once obtained they manifest as great fidelity, affection and gratitude as can reasonably be expected from men in a state of slavery."

The "kingdom of Gaboon," which straddled the equator, was the worst reputed of all. "From thence a good negro was scarcely ever brought. They are purchased so cheaply on the coast as to tempt many captains to freight with them; but they generally die either on the passage or soon after their arrival in the islands. The debility of their constitutions is astonishing." From this it would appear that most of the so-called Gaboons must have been in reality Pygmies caught in the inland equatorial forests, for Bosman, who traded among the Gaboons, merely inveighed against their garrulity, their indecision, their gullibility and their fondness for strong drink, while as to their physique he observed: "they are mostly large, robust well shaped men."[54] Of the Congoes and Angolas the Jamaican writers had little to say except that in their glossy black they were slender and sightly, mild in disposition, unusually honest, but exceptionally stupid.
[Footnote 54: Bosman in Pinkerton's Voyages, XVI, 509, 510.]
In the South Carolina market Gambia negroes, mainly Mandingoes, were the favorites, and Angolas also found ready sale; but cargoes from Calabar, which were doubtless comprised mostly of Eboes, were shunned because of their suicidal proclivity. Henry Laurens, who was then a commission dealer at Charleston, wrote in 1755 that the sale of a shipload from Calabar then in port would be successful only if no other Guinea ships arrived before its quarantine was ended, for the people would not buy negroes of that stock if any others were to be had.[55]
[Footnote 55: D.D. Wallace, Life of Henry Laurens, pp. 76, 77.]
It would appear that the Congoes, Angolas and Eboes were especially prone to run away, or perhaps particularly easy to capture when fugitive, for among the 1046 native Africans advertised as runaways held in the Jamaica workhouses in 1803 there were 284 Eboes and Mocoes, 185 Congoes and 259 Angolas as compared with 101 Mandingoes, 60 Chambas (from Sierra Leone), 70 Coromantees, 57 Nagoes and Pawpaws, and 30 scattering, along with a total of 488 American-born negroes and mulattoes, and 187 unclassified.[56]
[Footnote 56: These data were generously assembled for me by Professor Chauncey S. Boucher of Washington University, St. Louis, from a file of the Royal Gazette of Kingston, Jamaica, for the year 1803, which is preserved in the Charleston, S.C. Library.]
This huge maritime slave traffic had great consequences for all the countries concerned. In Liverpool it made millionaires,[57] and elsewhere in England, Europe and New England it brought prosperity not only to ship owners but to the distillers of rum and manufacturers of other trade goods. In the American plantation districts it immensely stimulated the production of the staple crops. On the other hand it kept the planters constantly in debt for their dearly bought labor, and it left a permanent and increasingly complex problem of racial adjustments. In Africa, it largely transformed the primitive scheme of life, and for the worse. It created new and often unwholesome wants; it destroyed old industries and it corrupted tribal institutions. The rum, the guns, the utensils and the gewgaws were irresistible temptations. Every chief and every tribesman acquired a potential interest in slave getting and slave selling. Charges of witchcraft, adultery, theft and other crimes were trumped up that the number of convicts for sale might be swelled; debtors were pressed that they might be adjudged insolvent and their persons delivered to the creditors; the sufferings of famine were left unrelieved that parents might be forced to sell their children or themselves; kidnapping increased until no man or woman and especially no child was safe outside a village; and wars and raids were multiplied until towns by hundreds were swept from the earth and great zones lay void of their former teeming population.[58]
[Footnote 57: Gomer Williams, chap. 6.]

[Footnote 58: C.B. Wadstrom, Observations on the Slave Trade (London, 1789); Lord Muncaster, Historical Sketches of the Slave Trade and of its Effects in Africa (London, 1792); Jerome Dowd, The Negro Races, vol. 3, chap. 2 (MS).]
The slave trade has well been called the systematic plunder of a continent. But in the irony of fate those Africans who lent their hands to the looting got nothing but deceptive rewards, while the victims of the rapine were quite possibly better off on the American plantations than the captors who remained in the African jungle. The only participants who got unquestionable profit were the English, European and Yankee traders and manufacturers.


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