Kidnapping Slaves in Western Africa

Kidnapping slaves or panyaring was a common method in West Africa of obtaining slaves for trade.

Sir George Young found slaves to be procured by war, by crimes, real or imputed, by kidnapping, which is called panyaring, and a fourth mode was the inhabitants of one village seizing those of another weaker village, and selling them to the ships. He believes, from two instances, that kidnapping was frequently practiced up Sierra Leone river. One was that of a beautiful infant boy, which the natives, after trying to sell to all the different trading ships, come alongside his, (the Pheonix) and threatened to toss overboard, if no one would buy it; saying they had panyared it with many other people, but could not sell it, though they had sold the others. He purchased it for some wine. The second instance related of kidnapping slaves was, a captain of a Liverpool ship had got, as a temporary mistress, a girl from the king of Sierra Leone, and instead of returning her on shore on leaving the coast, as is usually done, he took her away with him. Of this the king complained to Sir George young very heavily, calling this action panyaring by the whites.

The term for kidnapping slaves, panyaring, seemed to be a word generally used all along the coast where he was, not only among the English, but the Portuguese and Dutch.

Captain Thompson also says, that at Sierra Leone he has often heard the word panyaring, for kidnapping slaves; he has heard also that the word, which is used on other parts of the coast, means kidnapping, or seizing of men.

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Slaves, says Mr. Town, are brought from the country very distant from the coast. The kind of Barra informed Mr. Town, that on the arrival of a ship he has gone three hundred miles up the country with his guards, and driven down captives to the sea-side. From Marraba, king of the Mandingoes, he has heard that they had marched slaves out of the country some hundred miles; that they had gone wood-ranging, to pick up every one they met with, whom they stripped naked, and , if men, bound; but if women, brought down loose; this he had from themselves, and also, that they often went to war with the Bullam nation, on purpose to get slaves. They boasted that they should soon have a fine parcel for the shallops, and the success often answered. Mr. Town has seen the prisoners (the men bound, the women and children loose) driven for sale to the water-side. he has also known the natives to go in gangs, marauding and catching all they could. In the Galenas river he knew four blacks seize a man who had been to the sea-side to sell one or more slaves. This man was returning home with the goods received in exchange for these, and they plundered him, stripped him naked, and brought him to the trading shallop, which Mr. Town commanded, and sold him there.

He believes the natives also sometimes become slaves, in consequence of crimes, as well as, that it is no uncommon thing on the coast, to impute crimes falsely for the sake of selling the persons so accused. Several respectable persons at Bance Island, and to windward of it, all told Mr. Town that it was common to bring on palavers (an African word, which signifies conferences of the natives on any public subject, or as in the place, accusations and trials.) to make slaves, and he believes it from the information of the slaves afterwards, when brought down the country and put on board the ships.

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