Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

group of islets on each of which was erected the factory of some particular slave-merchant belonging to the grand confederacy. Blanco's establishments were on several of these marshy flats. On one, near the mouth, he had his place of business or trade with foreign vessels, presided over by his principal clerk, an astute and clever gentleman. On another island, more remote, was his residence, where a sister, for a while, shared with Don Pedro his solitary home.* Here this man of education and refined address surrounded himself with every luxury that could be purchased in Europe or the Indies, and dwelt in a sort of Oriental but semi-barbarous splendor. Further inland was another islet, devoted to his seraglio, within whose recesses each of his favorites inhabited her separate establishment after the fashion of the natives.

"The barracoons were made of rough poles of the hardest trees, four or six inches in diameter, driven five feet in the ground and clamped together by double rows of iron bars. Their roofs were constructed of similar wood, strongly secured, and overlaid with a thick thatch of long and wiry grass, rendering the interior both dry and cool. Watch-houses, built near the entrance, were tenanted by sentinels, with loaded muskets. Each barracoon was tended by two or four Spaniards or Portuguese, but I have rarely met a more wretched class of human beings. Such were the surroundings of Don Pedro in 1836. Three years

later he left the coast forever with a fortune of nearly a million."

*There are records of more than one woman being engaged in the slave-trade on her own account.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY,

ASTOR, LENOX AND TILBEN FOUND IT

Captain Drake, under date of January 5, 1840, writes of another coast prince as follows:

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Da Souza, or Cha-Chu, as everybody calls him, is apparently a reckless voluptuary, but the shrewdest slave-trader on the African coast. Whydah was built by his enterprise, and he lives the life of a prince. His mansion here is like a palace, and he has a harem filled with women from all parts of the world. He keeps up a continual round of dissipation, gambling, feasting, and indulging in every sensual pleasure with his women and visitors. His house is the very abode of luxury. He must squander thousands. But what is money to a man who has a slave-mine in Dahomey, bringing hoards of wealth yearly by a hundred vessels. Da Souza enjoys almost a monopoly of the coast trade. Blanco has been his only rival of late years. This morning Cha-Chu met me and proposed to supply me with a wife. You shall have French, Spanish, Greek, Circassian, English, Dutch, Italian, Asiatic, African or American,' he said laughing."

6

The origin of the demand for silks and other fancy goods of which Commodore Perry made mention is thus apparent.

The kidnapping and the raiding were increased, although the market price of slaves fell as low as from $12 to $20 a head. The demand continued because the hardships of the slave-life killed off the slaves more rapidly than slave children were born. This was true even in certain parts of the United States. Virginia and some other States were breeding places, but by a statement printed in De Bow's Review for November, 1858, it appears that the slave population

of Louisiana in 1850 was 244,985. The report of the State Auditors to the Legislature of 1858 puts it at "264,985, an increase of 20,167, or twelve and one-half per cent., in seven years." The slaves had increased at the rate of less than 3,000 a year in spite of the importation of thousands from the slave-breeding States and the smuggling of native Africans!

The raids were extended hundreds of miles inland, according to Canot. In the atrocities of the raids there could be no change for the worse, because there was no form of torture or degradation below that already existing. There was a greater volume of suffering; there could be no worse degree of it.

The history of the slave-trade is in one respect unique. In all other forms of industry there was a steady amelioration of the people engaged in them as civilization grew brighter. On the sea for instance, the cat was abolished as a lawful instrument of discipline and impressment was abandoned. Even in the killing of cattle humane methods came to be adopted. But the handling of slaves, from the beginning of the trade to its end, was like a portrayal of the myth of the bottomless pit.

And yet, black as was the panorama of the trade as described in history, there was one dash of warm color in it to relieve the aching heart of the spectator. Says Charles W. Thomas, U. S. N., chaplain to the African squadron in 1855, in a work relating to coast usages:

"In time of famine men who have no slaves to dispose of, or not enough to meet the demand, pawn

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »