Edward Akroyd.

The slave trade of east Africa : (reprinted from the Christian Observer) : with an appendix (Volume Talbot Collection of British Pamph online

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Online LibraryEdward AkroydThe slave trade of east Africa : (reprinted from the Christian Observer) : with an appendix (Volume Talbot Collection of British Pamph → online text (page 1 of 4)
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Exactly one hundred years have passed since Granville
Sharpe gave to the world the result of his enquiries into the law
of England on the toleration of slavery in this kingdom. The
basis of this investigation was, it may be remembered, the
opinion given in 1729, by the then Attorney and Solicitor-
Generals, Yorke and Talbot, that a slave, by coming to England,
did not become free, and might be legally compelled, to return
with his master to the plantations. Granville Sharpe, after a
careful examination of the subject, concluded '' that the senti-
ment of Lord Chief Justice Holt, that as soon as a negro comes
into England he becomes free, might safely be preferred to all
contrary opinions.^'

Soon afterwards, the action brought on behalf of the negro
Somerset, aflbrded an opportunity of testing the correctness of
this opinion, and for the establishment as a rule of law, of Lord
Chief Justice Holt's now well-known sentiment.

Least prominent in the contest which led to this result,
though its real mainspring, stands the figure of Granville
Sharpe, the prosecutor, who, though poor and immersed in
the duties of a toilsome daily occupation, supplied the money,
the leisure, the perseverance, and the learning required for this
great controversy, and yet had carefully concealed his own
connection with it, fearful lest so humble a name should weaken
a cause so momentous.

With no special education, and but little leisure, the Ordnance

clerk had, by unflincliing industry and toil^ proved himself on a
par, if not superior, in one main branch of English law, to some
of our most eminent judges of that period ; such at least is the
dictum of the late Sir James Stephen, One hundred years have
passed away, a century marked by events *as important as any
that have transpired in the world's history, and among them
no landmark stands out more conspicuously than the monu-
ment which records the history of the abolition of the Slave
Trade. To Granville Sharpe belongs the honour of having first
aroused in the Enghsh mind a sense of the enjoyment of a free-
dom so perfect, so ennobhng, so gracious, as to cover and
enfi'anchise all who share with EngHshmen the privilege of
treading English soil.

When, in the mercy of God to Africa, a few earnest men were
found whose heai'ts bled for her wrongs, and whose hands were
strong to redress those wrongs, foremost as leaders stood
Granville Sharpe, Clarkson, and William Wilberforce. To the
first was committed the presidency of the Society formed for
the Abohtion of the Slave Trade, and to Wilberforce was
assigned the general superintendence and Parliamentary ma-
nagement of the cause. The century whose commencement
we have marked has passed away, and we witness the result of
these men's labours ; truly they have laboured, and we have
entered into their labours. They contemplated but the over^
throw of a gigantic evil, the curse of Africa's sons ; we see that
curse removed, and in place of the slaver and the slave barra-
coon, we see, looking from the very spot where John Newton
lamented his captivity in the service of Satan, a Freeto^vn,
many of whose inhabitants, once slaves, or the children of
slaves, are now free men in Christ Jesus. Nay more ; we see
the Gospel carried into the old haunts of the slavers ; and as the
sailor makes for the bar of Lagos, that last haunt of the slave
trade, his landmark for the harbour is the spire of an English
church, one of three erected there by the Church Missionaiy
Society. Still further on we find a native Christian church in
Abeokuta, and at various places on the Niger, native churches,
their spiritual father himself once a slave, now a bishop of our

own beloved Church. The century may well close with words
taken from an evening paper which, writing in May last, pro-
nounces the African slave trade to be a thing of the past,
adding that the British cruiser is not the only obstacle to the
trade, but the want of purchasers has rendered the trade
useless and unprofitable, and never to be resuscitated.

It may be well, in directing the attention of our readers to
the slave trade at present carried on with all the horrors of the
old trade, upon the East Coast of Africa, to call to remembrance
the cix'cumstances under which the battle of the West Coast
slave trade was fought and won. The disappointments and
failures in that conflict may not be familiar to all, and many of
our readers may be surprised to learn that twenty long years of
labour and sorrow were consumed ere Mr. Wilberforce^s efforts
for the abolition of the slave trade were crowned with success.
In 1789, he first proposed the abolition of the slave trade in the
House of Commons, and it was not until April 1791, that the
question was brought directly to an issue. The two years that
had elapsed since his successful speech in 1 789, had sufficed to
change the current of popular feeling ; and some indication of
the temper of the time, and of the estimate formed by thinking
men of the difficulties in Wilberforce's path, may be gathered
from the following letter, penned by John Wesley on his dying
bed. They are probably the last written words of that great
servant of God : —

" Mr Dear Sir — Unless Divine power has raised yon up to be as
Athanasius contra inunduvi, I see not how you can g'o tliroug-li
your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villany which is
the scandal of religion, of England,' and of human nature. Unless
God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by
the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can
be against you ? Are all of them together stronger than God ? Oh,
be not weary in well-doing ! Go on in the name of God, in the
name of His might, till even American slavery, the vilest that ever
saw the sun, shall vanish away before it. That He who has guided
you from your youtli up may continue to strengthen you in this and
in all things, is the prayer of, dear Sir, your affectionate Servant,

" John Wesley."

The event justified these forebodings. Mr. Wilberforce's

motion was lost by a large majority ; even Mr. Pitt, with


whom he had concerted his first measure, avowing his opinion
that it was wiser to await more tranquil times before the trade
coukl he abohshed. Again and again did Mr. Wilberforce
return to the attack. His perseverance was at len^h rewarded^
and the House of Commons for the first time passed a Bill, in
1 794, for the immediate abolition of the trade. This Bill was
lost in the House of Lords ; and in succeeding Sessions Mr.
Wilberforce laboured zealously, though ineffectually, to induce
the House of Commons to resume the ground they had already
occupied. Defeat followed defeat, and the contest, which had
lasted for twelve years, seemed for a while to leave the advo-
cates of slavery the masters of the field. In 1802, however,
Mr. Wilberforce resumed his attempt, though under most dis-
couraging circumstances. A second time did the Bill pass the
Commons, only to be hung up in the Lords, and the question
was adjourned to the following Session. The next efibrt was
foiled; the House of Commons, in 1805, -rejecting the Bill,
inflicting upon Mr. Wilberforce distress and pain beyond that
suffered on any previous defeat.'* But the impending change in
the position of parties gave promise of hope. The Ministry of
Mr. Fox had scarcely succeeded Mr. Pittas Cabinet, when Bills
were introduced into the Lords, and a Resolution carried in the
Commons condemnatory of the trade ; and finally, in 1807, the
Bill was passed which condemned for ever the trade in slaves.
Twenty- six years afterwards, the abolition of slavery in all
British Dominions took place, and the example and influence
of England soon secured from all European powers treaty-
engagements by whicli trade in African slaves was declared to
be piracy, and punishable as such. Under these treaties the
African squadron was maintained, and mixed courts instituted
at various ports around the African coast, for adjudging all
cases of capture or seizure of vessels engaged in the trade.
The watch maintained by the cruisers of the African squadron,
and the energy and interest in the subject displayed by the late
Lord Palmerston, have brought about the result we have
adverted to, and true it is, so far as the West Coast of Africa is
concerned, tliat the African Slave Trade is a thing of the past.

But while this happy result is chronicled conccrniug the old
Atlantic Slave Trade, the annual reports of our Consul at
Zanzibar, and the despatches of the naval officers in command
of the few vessels which form the East African Squadron, tell
a very different story. JB'rom these reports and despatches,
which are annually presented to Parliament, we learn some
particulars of the trade in slaves, carried on between the East
African Coast and ports on the Persian Gulf, the Southern
shores of Arabia and Persia, and the Red Sea. Dr. Living-
stone, in his last work, " The Zambesi and its Tributaries,^'
speaks, from his o-rti personal observation, of the horrors and
atrocities which accompany the slave raids made to supply this
trade ; and the late Bishop of Mauritius, at the request of the
Committee, addressed a letter to the Earl of Chichester, as
President of the Church Missionary Society, calling attention
to the increasing- extent of tlie trade, and urgiug the Society
to take such measures as lay in their power to mitigate the
. evils and misery inflicted on that hapless land. Not unmindful
of the claim that all Africa has on the Society, a claim indi-
cated by its title, " The Church Missionaiy Society for Africa and
the East"," nor forgetting the link which binds the memory of
its eai'her days with the, circle which gathered round Wilber-
force, and with the contest in which he was the leader, the
Committee have, we rejoice to learn, responded to the call, and
we would venture to express our -confidence and trust in the
ultimate success of any cause undertaken in the calm prayerful
spirit which guides the deliberations of the men who compose
that Committee.

The measures decided upon by the Committee are twofold.
They have endeavoured, first, to apply to the present circum-
stances of the trade some mitigating remedy; and secondly,
by spreading information upon the subject, and by urging upon
the Government, with such influence as the Society may possess,
the adoption of measures for that purpose, to briug about the
suppression and extinction of this nefarioiis traffic. Most
gladly would we assist in this enterprise, and we therefore
propose to lay before our readers a short account of the present

circumstances of this slave trade^ with some notice of the
remedial measures already adopted by the Church Missionary

We are indebted for the information we propose to supply,
to a pamphlet pubhshed by the Society, compiled from the
official correspondence upon the East African Slave Trade, to a
memorial recently presented by a deputation from the Society
to the Duke of Argyll, as Secretary of State for India, and to
the Parliamentary Blue Books of recent Sessions, on the Slave

It was in the year 1822 that the attention of the British
Government was first called to the traffic in slaves carried on
nominally between the African and Persian dominions of the
Imaum of Muscat, but in reality between his African dominions
and the very ports on the Red Sea and Persian Gulf to which
the slaves are now carried. The dominions of the Imaum at
that time comprised the petty state of Muscat, on the Southern
shore of the Persian Gulf, and a large portion of the African
coast, extending from Cape Delgado, at about 11 degrees South
Latitude, to a port called Jubb, about 1 degree South of the
Equator, including the large and important islands of Zanzibar,
Pemba, and Monfia. The British Government, while declaring
its intention of suppressing foreign slave trading, refused to
meddle with slavery as a domestic institution, and accordingly,
in the case of the Imaum of Muscat, determined to permit the
slave trade between port and port in his own dominions ; and a
treaty to this efiect was arranged between our Government and
the Imaum. This treaty, dated 10th September, 1822, stipu-
lates that the Imaum will abolish the trade in slaves between
his dominions and every Christian country. By the treaty and
a subsequent convention, authority to search and detain Muscat
vessels was given to Her Majesty's ships, and the ships of war
belonging to the East Indian Company ; and by a further
ao"reement, concluded between the Imaum of Muscat and Her
Majesty the Queen, on the 2nd October, 1845, the Imaum
ao-reed to prohibit, under the severest penalties, not only the
export of slaves from his African dominions, but also the im-


portation of slaves from any part of Africa into liis dominions
in Asia. By tliat treaty permission is granted to our cruisers
to seize and confiscate any vessels carrying on slave trade,
except only such as are engaged in the transport of slaves from
one port to another of the Imaum's African dominions, between
the poi-t of Lamoo and its dependencies in South Lat., 9° 58',
and the port of Kilwa and its dependencies in 9° 2' South
Lat., including the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Monfia ;
thus limiting the traffic to the coastwise trade in the Imaum^'s
African dominions ; the effect of this limitation being never-
theless to continue a protection from our cruisers to the slavers,
over about half their journey North. '' ' ^'' ' ' -'

Upon the death of the grandfather of the pre'sem; liriRiim
(who is now in exile), his dominions were divided between his
two sons, one retaining the Persian, and the other succeeding
to the African territories, with the title of Sultan of Zanzibar.
This division was not effected without strife, which at one time
went the length of a threatened invasion of the Zanzibar terri-
tory by the Imaum, who had chartered for the occasion a fleet
of "dhows," used for the purposes of the slave-trade. But
the threatened invasion was summarily crushed by the appear-
ance of a British squadron, which intimated in unmistakeable
terms that England Avould permit no infringement of what she
regarded as her sole prerogative in those waters. A truce
was thereupon agreed to, and to a British officer was entrusted
the task of preparing a treaty between the brothers, and
settling the terms on which the division of territory should be
made. The main article of the treaty was, that, in considera-
tion of the superior wealth and extent of the African dominions
claimed by the Sultan of Zanzibar, he should pay to his poorer
brother, the Imaum, an annual subsidy of 40,000 crowns, equal
to about £8,000 sterling.

Subsequent events have shown that the particular source
whence this subsidy was to be drawn was the royalty derived
by the Sultan from the slave-trade, of which he has the keys.
We have been thus particular in detailing the connection be-
tween the saintly house of Muscat and the slave-trade, because.


altliougli there are branches of the East Coast slave-trade
wholly unconnected with either Zanzibar or Muscat, there can
be no question that, since the decline of the Portuguese power,
and the extinction of the American trade, the principal abettors
of the trade have been the rulers of Muscat and Zanzibar. In
former days, about twenty to twenty-five years ago, our
cruisers used to seize slavers in the Mozambique Channel,
bound for Cuba or South America, and the writer well re-
members the arrival at the Cape of Good Hope of ship-loads
of these poor creatures, who were liberated thei'e, and appren-
ticed by the Government to such of the inhabitants as would
undertake for five years the support and training of the boy or
girl committed to their care. In place of this trade, now
defunct, there is a small trade in slaves carried on with Mada-
gascar and the French islands of Mayotta, Nos Be, and
Reunion ; the latter used to go under the name of the free en-
gauges system — a name pronounced by Colonel Playfair, the late
Consul at Zanzibar, to be but a synonym for the slave-trade.

We now come to the main division — the Northern Slave-
trade — which is carried on entirely by Arabs, and the chief
points between which it is pursued are froni the mainland
opposite and to the south of Zanzibar, to the islands of Zanzibar
and Peniba, and thence to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. The
'^ dhows '^ used in the trade are rapid sailers before a wind, and
carry as many as 250 slaves. The season for making the run
North is during the southerly monsoon, from January to July
and August, and the traders avail themselves of the northerly
monsoon to come down to Zanzibar to make their purchases.
In dealing with the subject as it now is before us, we shall,
we think, present it best to our readers by endeavouring first
to follow the course of the " merchandize " from its first acqui-
sition to its final deportatiou, and then to detail some par-
ticulars showing the extent and present results of the trade,
and the eflbrts made for its suppression, calling attention, in
concluding, to the remedial measures proposed by the Church
Missionary Society.*

Let usj for our first purpose, accompany the slaving expe-
* See Appendix, Note A, p. 22.


dition of some successful hunter, probably an Arab sheikh,
whose sacred writings inform him that all the African tribes
south of the Somalis are proper subjects for his sword and his
bow. Before starting on his exp. dition, he obtains from some
agent at Zanzibar the needful articles either for barter or
murder and kidnapping — beads, common cotton cloth, muskets,
and ammunition ; and the party starts for the interior, on what
is now a long and toilsome march across a country once well
cultivated and populous, but now desolated by the ravages of
these marauders. The beads and cloth are used for paying
their way during the early part of the journey, and for
the purchase of ivory. According to Dr. Livingstone, these
slaving parties seem to preserve their mercantile character for a
large portion of the trip. They usually settle down with some
chieftain and cultivate the soil, assisting him from time to time
in raids against neighbouring tribes for the sake of the captives
which their invariable success in these expeditions throws into
their power. Either by this means, or by barter and purchase,
the slave gang gradually accumulates; and we may form some
conception of the value set on life by these traffickers in human
flesh, by the price paid for the slave at his home, which we
learn to be a few yards of cotton cloth, or, as the case may be,
theft and murder. When the gang is sufficiently large to
cover the terrible percentage of deaths due to the march down,
and all preparations are completed, then commences the weary
awful march to death or captivity. We have before us two
records whence we can draw details of the atrocities perpe-
trated, during the march down, on these hapless '' miserables.''^
Both accounts are given by eye-witnesses. The first is Dr.
Livingstone. In the work already mentioned, " The Zambesi
and its Tributaries,^^ is the following account of a slave party
he met with in the valley of the Shire : —

'' The slave party, a long line of manacled men, women, and
children, came wending their way round the hill and into the valley,
on the side of which the village stood. The black drivers, armed
with muskets, and bedecked with various articles of finery, marched
jauntily in the front, middle, and rear of the line, some of them
blowing exulting notes out of long tin horns. They seemed to feel


that they -were doing a very noble thing, and might proudly march
with an air of triumph. But the instant the fellows canght a
glimpse of the English, they darted off like mad into the forest ; so
fast, indeed, that Ave caught but a ghmpse of their red caps and the
soles of their feet. The chief of the party alone remained, and he,
from, being in front, had his hand tightly gi-asped by a Makololo.
He proved to be a well known slave of the late commandant at
Tette, and for some time our own attendant while there. On asking
hini how he obtained these captives, he replied he had bought them ;
but on our enquii-ing of the people themselves, all save four said
they had been captui-ed in war. ^Yhile this enquiry was going on,
he bolted too.

" The captives knelt down, and, in their way of expressing thanks,
clapped their hands with great energy. They were thus left entirely
on our hands, and knives were soon busy at work cutting the women
and children loose. It was more difficult to cut the men adrift, as
each had his neck in the fork of a stout stick, six or seven feet long,
and kept in by an ii*on rod which was riveted at both ends across
the throat. With a saw, luckily in the Bishop's baggage, one by
one the men were sawn out into fi*eedom. The women, on being
told to take the meal they were carrying, and cook breakfast for
themselves and the children, seemed to consider the news too good
to be true ; but, after a little coaxing, went at it with alacrity, and
made a capital fire by which to boil their pots, with the slave sticks
and bonds, their old acquaintances through many a sad night and
weary day. Many were mere children, about five years of age and
under. One little boy, with the simplicity of childhood, said to our
mien, ' The others tied and starved us ; you cut the ropes and tell us
to eat. What sort of people are you ? Where did you come from ?'
Two of the women had been shot the day before, for attempting to
untie the thongs. This, the rest were told, was to prevent them
attempting to escape. One woman had her infant's brains knocked
out, because she could not carry her load and it ; and a man was
despatched with an axe, because he had broken doAvn with fatigue.''

Onr next witness is Keuten, one of the party of eight Sepoys
sent from Bombay with Dr. LiA-ingstone, who^ overcome with
terror, deserted the traveller in the interior, and joined them-
selves to the slave gang of one Sideiman, an Arab chief. After
accompanying them to the coast, the Sepoys found their way to
Zanzibar, and the following is the deposition of the Sepoy,
made to Mr. Seward, the British Consul there. He says : —

" We left ^lataka with the slave-caravan of one Suleiman, an
Ai'ab. His band numbered 300 slaves, besides porters and servants,
but there were many other smaller bands varying in number ;
altogether there started about 900. It seemed one great regiment.


" The slaves were yoked together in line, with forked sticks, their
hands bound ; women and children were simply bound.*

" We set out at daylight, and pitched camp at about 3 o'clock in
the afternoon.

" The slaves were compelled to sleep either in rows, head to head,
under a central bar, to which the ends of their forked sticks were
lashed ; or they were arranged in groups of from five to ten, in such
a manner that their sticks could all be brought together in the
middle of the group and lashed.

" They had to sleep upon their backs, their wrists bound before
them, helpless and unable to move.

" They were fed once a day with boiled jowarree and water.

" They were cheap : an adult cost two yards of common cotton
cloth, a child one yard.

" They were urged forward on the march like cattle, beaten about
the face and head. We witnessed many murders — many deaths ;
and the path was strewn with the bodies of those who had been

" When we passed up with Dr. Livingstone, the road stunk with
the way-side corpses ; it was so again when we passed down.

" Every day we came upon the dead, and certainly we witnessed
not less than a hundred deaths.

" Men were either killed by the club, or the dagger, or strangled.

" I with my own eyes (Reuten says) saw six men (at different
times) choked to death : the victims were forced to sit leaning
against a tree ; a strip of bark or a thong was looped around the
stem of the tree, pulled taut from behind, and the slave strangled.

" I saw not less than fifteen slaves clubbed to death by heavy
blows between the eyes (which bespattered theu' faces with blood)

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Online LibraryEdward AkroydThe slave trade of east Africa : (reprinted from the Christian Observer) : with an appendix (Volume Talbot Collection of British Pamph → online text (page 1 of 4)