English Slave Trade
Abstract of Evidence Before House of Commons
English Slave Trade in Senegal: Abstract of Evidence Before House of Commons
Slave Merchant in...
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The English slave trade, (says Mr. Kiernam), in the river Senegal, was chiefly with the Moors, on the northern banks, who got them very often by war, and not seldom by kidnapping; that is, lying in wait near a village, where there was no open war, and seizing whom they could. He has often heard of villages, and seen the remains of such, broken up by making the people slaves. That the Moors used to cross the Senegal to catch the negroes was spoken of at Fort Louis as notorious; and he has seen instances of it where the persons so taken were ransomed.
Concerning the English slave trade, General Rooke says, that kidnapping took place in the neighborhood of Goree. It was spoken of as a common practice. It was reckoned disgraceful there, but he cannot speak of the opinion about it on the Continent. He remembers two or three instances of negroes being brought to Goreee, who had been kidnapped, but could not discover by whom. At their own request he immediately sent them back.
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Mr. Dalrymple found that the great droves (Caffellas or Caravans) of slaves brought from inland, by way of Galam, to Senegal and Gambia, were prisoners of war. Those sold to vessels at Goree, and near it, were procured either by the grand pillage, the lesser pillage, or by robbery of individuals, or in consequence of crimes. The grand pillage is executed by the king's soldiers, from three hundred to three thousand at a time, who attack and set fire to a village, and seize the inhabitants as they can. The smaller parties generally lie in wait about the villages, and take off all they can surprise; which is also done by individuals, who do not belong to the king, but are private robbers. These sell their prey on the coast, where it is well known no questions as to the means of obtaining it are asked.
As to kidnapping for the English slave trade, it is so notorious about Goree, that he never heard any person deny it there. Two men while he was there offered a person, a messenger from Senegal to Rufisco, for sale, to the garrison, who even boasted how they had obtained him. Many also were brought to Goree while he was there, procured in the same manner. These depredations are also practiced by the Moors: he saw many slaves in Africa who told him they were taken by them; particularly three, one of whom was a woman, who cried very much, and seemed to be in great distress; the two others were more reconciled to their fate.
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Captain Wilson says, that slaves for the English slave trade are either procured by intestine wars, or by kings breaking up villages, or crimes real or imputed, or kidnapping. Villages are broken up b the king's troops surrounding them in the night, and seizing such of the inhabitants as suit their purpose. This practice is most common when there is no war with another state. It is universally acknowledged that free persons are sold for real or imputed crimes, for the benefit of their judges. Soon after his arrival at Goree, king Damel sent a free man to him for sale, and was to have the price himself. One of the king's guards being asked whether the man was guilty of the crime imputed to him, answered, that was of no consequence, or ever inquired into. Captain Wilson returned the man.
Kidnapping for the English slave trade was acknowledged by all he conversed with, to be generally prevalent. It is the first principle of the natives, the principle of self-preservation, never to go unarmed, while a slave-vessel is on the coast, for fear of being stolen. When he has met them thus armed, and inquired of them, through his interpreter, the reason of it, they have pointed to a French slave-vessel then lying at Portudal, and said their fears arose from that quarter. As a positive instance in the English slave trade, he says, a courier of Captain Lacy's, his predecessor, though a Moor, a free man, and one who spoke the French language fluently, was kidnapped as he was traveling on the continent with dispatches on his Britannia Majesty's account, and sold to a French vessel, from which he, Captain Wilson, after much trouble, actually got him back.
When he presided in a court of Goree, a Maraboo swore, with an energy which evinced the truth of his evidence, that his brother, another Maraboo, had been kidnapped in the act of drinking, a moment known to be sacred by natives in the boat with him, that war had been there, and the natives had been taken in the manner as before described, and carried to the ships.
He has also seen such upon the Coast: while trading at Grand Bassa, he went on shore with four black traders to the town a mile off. On the way, there was a town deserted, (with only two or three houses standing), which seemed to have been a large one, as there were two fine plantations of rice ready for cutting down. A little further on they came to another village in much the same states. he was told that the first town had been taken by war, there being many ships then lying at Bassa: the people of the other had moved higher up in the country for fear of the white men. In passing along to the trader's town, he saw several villages deserted: these, the native said, had been destroyed by war, and the people taken out and sold.
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