Social History Of Negroes In America
AFRICAN ORIGINS 1921 EXCERPT: 1
- The Negro in Spanish Exploration
- Development of the Slave-Trade
- Planting of Slavery in the Colonies
- The Wake of the Slave-Ship
An outstanding characteristic of recent years has been an increasing recognition of the cultural importance of Africa to the world. From all that has been written three facts are prominent:
(1) That at some time early in the Middle Ages, perhaps about the seventh century, there was a considerable infiltration of Arabian culture into the tribes living below the Sahara, something of which may to-day most easily be seen among such people as the Haussas in the Soudan and the Mandingoes along the West Coast.
(2) That, whatever influences came in from the outside, there developed in Africa an independent culture which must not be underestimated.
(3) That, perhaps vastly more than has been supposed, this African culture had to do with early exploration and colonization in America. The first of these three facts is very important, but is now generally accepted and need not here detain us. For the present purpose the second and third demand more attention.
The development of native African art is a theme of never-ending fascination for the ethnologist. Especially have striking resemblances between Negro and Oceanian culture been pointed out. In political organization as well as certain forms of artistic endeavor the Negro people have achieved creditable results, and especially have they been honored as the originators of the iron technique.
It has further been shown that fetichism, which is especially well developed along the West Coast and its hinterland, is at heart not very different from the manitou beliefs of the American Indians; and it is this connection that furnishes the key to some of the most striking results of the researches of the latest and most profound student of this and related problems.
From the Soudan radiated a culture that was destined to affect Europe and in course of time to extend its influence even beyond the Atlantic Ocean. It is important to remember that throughout the early history of Europe and up to the close of the fifteenth century the approach to the home of the Negro was by land. The Soudan was thought to be the edge of the then known world; Homer speaks of the Ethiopians as "the farthest removed of men, and separated into two divisions."
Later Greek writers carry the description still further and speak of the two divisions as Eastern and Western?the Eastern occupying the countries eastward of the Nile, and the Western stretching from the western shores of that river to the Atlantic Coast. "One of these divisions," says Lady Lugard, "we have to acknowledge, was perhaps itself the original source of the civilization which has through Egypt permeated the Western world.
When the history of Negroland comes to be written in detail, it may be found that the kingdoms lying toward the eastern end of the Soudan were the home of races who inspired, rather than of races who received, the traditions of civilization associated for us with the name of ancient Egypt."
If now we come to America, we find the Negro influence upon the Indian to be so strong as to call in question all current conceptions of American archæology and so early as to suggest the coming of men from the Guinea Coast perhaps even before the coming of Columbus.
The first natives of Africa to come were Mandingoes; many of the words used by the Indians in their daily life appear to be not more than corruptions or adaptations of words used by the tribes of Africa; and the more we study the remains of those who lived in America before 1492, and the far-reaching influence of African products and habits, the more must we acknowledge the strength of the position of the latest thesis.
This whole subject will doubtless receive much more attention from scholars, but in any case it is evident that the demands of Negro culture can no longer be lightly regarded or brushed aside, and that as a scholarly contribution to the subject Wiener's work is of the very highest importance.
The Negro in Spanish Exploration
When we come to Columbus himself, the accuracy of whose accounts has so recently been questioned, we find a Negro, Pedro Alonso Niño, as the pilot of one of the famous three vessels. In 1496 Niño sailed to Santo Domingo and he was also with Columbus on his third voyage. With two men, Cristóbal de la Guerra, who served as pilot, and Luís de la Guerra, a Spanish merchant, in 1499 he planned what proved to be the first successful commercial voyage to the New World.
The revival of slavery at the close of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the system of Negro slavery were due to the commercial expansion of Portugal in the fifteenth century. The very word Negro is the modern Spanish and Portuguese form of the Latin niger. In 1441 Prince Henry sent out one Gonzales, who captured three Moors on the African coast. These men offered as ransom ten Negroes whom they had taken.
The Negroes were taken to Lisbon in 1442, and in 1444 Prince Henry regularly began the European trade from the Guinea Coast. For fifty years his country enjoyed a monopoly of the traffic. By 1474 Negroes were numerous in Spain, and special interest attaches to Juan de Valladolid, probably the first of many Negroes who in time came to have influence and power over their people under the authority of a greater state.
He was addressed as "judge of all the Negroes and mulattoes, free or slaves, which are in the very loyal and noble city of Seville, and throughout the whole archbishopric thereof." After 1500 there are frequent references to Negroes, especially in the Spanish West Indies. Instructions to Ovando, governor of Hispaniola, in 1501, prohibited the passage to the Indies of Jews, Moors, or recent converts, but authorized him to take over Negro slaves who had been born in the power of Christians.
These orders were actually put in force the next year. Even the restricted importation Ovando found inadvisable, and he very soon requested that Negroes be not sent, as they ran away to the Indians, with whom they soon made friends. Isabella accordingly withdrew her permission, but after her death Ferdinand reverted to the old plan and in 1505 sent to Ovando seventeen Negro slaves for work in the copper-mines, where the severity of the labor was rapidly destroying the Indians.
In 1510 Ferdinand directed that fifty Negroes be sent immediately, and that more be sent later; and in April of this year over a hundred were bought in the Lisbon market. This, says Bourne, was the real beginning of the African slave-trade to America. Already, however, as early as 1504, a considerable number of Negroes had been introduced from Guinea because, as we are informed, "the work of one Negro was worth more than that of four Indians."
In 1513 thirty Negroes assisted Balboa in building the first ships made on the Pacific Coast of America. In 1517 Spain formally entered upon the traffic, Charles V on his accession to the throne granting "license for the introduction of Negroes to the number of four hundred," and thereafter importation to the West Indies became a thriving industry.
Those who came in these early years were sometimes men of considerable intelligence, having been trained as Mohammedans or Catholics. By 1518 Negroes were at work in the sugar-mills in Hispaniola, where they seem to have suffered from indulgence in drinks made from sugarcane. In 1521 it was ordered that Negro slaves should not be employed on errands as in general these tended to cultivate too close acquaintance with the Indians.
In 1522 there was a rebellion on the sugar plantations in Hispaniola, primarily because the services of certain Indians were discontinued. Twenty Negroes from the Admiral's mill, uniting with twenty others who spoke the same language, killed a number of Christians. They fled and nine leagues away they killed another Spaniard and sacked a house. One Negro, assisted by twelve Indian slaves, also killed nine other Christians. After much trouble the Negroes were apprehended and several of them hanged.
It was about 1526 that Negroes were first introduced within the present limits of the United States, being brought to a colony near what later became Jamestown, Va. Here the Negroes were harshly treated and in course of time they rose against their oppressors and fired their houses. The settlement was broken up, and the Negroes and their Spanish companions returned to Hispaniola, whence they had come.
In 1540, in Quivira, in Mexico, there was a Negro who had taken holy orders; and in 1542 there were established at Guamanga three brotherhoods of the True Cross of Spaniards, one being for Indians and one for Negroes. The outstanding instance of a Negro's heading in exploration is that of Estévanico (or Estévanillo, or Estévan, that is, Stephen), one of the four survivors of the ill-fated expedition of De Narvaez, who sailed from Spain, June 17, 1527.
Having returned to Spain after many years of service in the New World, Pamfilo de Narvaez petitioned for a grant, and accordingly the right to conquer and colonize the country between the Rio de las Palmas, in eastern Mexico, and Florida was accorded him. His force originally consisted of six hundred soldiers and colonists. The whole conduct of the expedition?incompetent in the extreme?furnished one of the most appalling tragedies of early exploration in America.
The original number of men was reduced by half by storms and hurricanes and desertions in Santo Domingo and Cuba, and those who were left landed in April, 1528, near the entrance to Tampa Bay, on the west coast of Florida. One disaster followed another in the vicinity of Pensacola Bay and the mouth of the Mississippi until at length only four men survived.
These were Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca; Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, a captain of infantry; Alonzo del Castillo Maldonado; and Estévanico, who had originally come from the west coast of Morocco and who was a slave of Dorantes. These men had most remarkable adventures in the years between 1528 and 1536, and as a narrative of suffering and privation Cabeza de Vaca's Journal has hardly an equal in the annals of the continent.
Both Dorantes and Estévanico were captured, and indeed for a season or two all four men were forced to sojourn among the Indians. They treated the sick, and with such success did they work that their fame spread far and wide among the tribes. Crowds followed them from place to place, showering presents upon them. With Alonzo de Castillo, Estévanico sojourned for a while with the Yguazes, a very savage tribe that killed its own male children and bought those of strangers.
He at length escaped from these people and spent several months with the Avavares. He afterwards went with De Vaca to the Maliacones, only a short distance from the Avavares, and still later he accompanied Alonzo de Castillo in exploring the country toward the Rio Grande. He was unexcelled as a guide who could make his way through new territory.
In 1539 he went with Fray Marcos of Nice, the Father Provincial of the Franciscan order in New Spain, as a guide to the Seven Cities of Cibola, the villages of the ancestors of the present Zuñi Indians in western New Mexico. Preceding Fray Marcos by a few days and accompanied by natives who joined him on the way, he reached Háwikuh, the southern-most of the seven towns.Here he and all but three of his Indian followers were killed.
Development of the Slave-Trade
Portugal and Spain having demonstrated that the slave-trade was profitable, England also determined to engage in the traffic; and as early as 1530 William Hawkins, a merchant of Plymouth, visited the Guinea Coast and took away a few slaves.
England really entered the field, however, with the voyage in 1562 of Captain John Hawkins, son of William, who in October of this year also went to the coast of Guinea. He had a fleet of three ships and one hundred men, and partly by the sword and partly by other means he took three hundred or more Negroes, whom he took to Santo Domingo and sold profitably.
He was richly laden going homeward and some of his stores were seized by Spanish vessels. Hawkins made two other voyages, one in 1564, and another, with Drake, in 1567. On his second voyage he had four armed ships, the largest being the Jesus, a vessel of seven hundred tons, and a force of one hundred and seventy men. December and January (1564-5) he spent in picking up freight, and by sickness and fights with the Negroes he lost many of his men.
Then at the end of January he set out for the West Indies. He was becalmed for twenty-one days, but he arrived at the Island of Dominica March 9. He traded along the Spanish coasts and on his return to England he touched at various points in the West Indies and sailed along the coast of Florida. On his third voyage he had five ships.
He himself was again in command of the Jesus, while Drake was in charge of the Judith, a little vessel of fifty tons. He got together between four and five hundred Negroes and again went to Dominica. He had various adventures and at last was thrown by a storm on the coast of Mexico. Here after three days he was attacked by a Spanish fleet of twelve vessels, and all of his ships were destroyed except the Judith and another small vessel, the Minion, which was so crowded that one hundred men risked the dangers on land rather than go to sea with her.
On this last voyage Hawkins and Drake had among their companions the Earls of Pembroke and Leicester, who were then, like other young Elizabethans, seeking fame and fortune. It is noteworthy that in all that he did Hawkins seems to have had no sense of cruelty or wrong. He held religious services morning and evening, and in the spirit of the later Cromwell he enjoined upon his men to "serve God daily, love one another, preserve their victuals, beware of fire, and keep good company."
Queen Elizabeth evidently regarded the opening of the slave-trade as a worthy achievement, for after his second voyage she made Hawkins a knight, giving him for a crest the device of a Negro's head and bust with the arms securely bound.
France joined in the traffic in 1624, and then Holland and Denmark, and the rivalry soon became intense. England, with her usual aggressiveness, assumed a commanding position, and, much more than has commonly been supposed, the Navigation Ordinance of 1651 and the two wars with the Dutch in the seventeenth century had as their basis the struggle for supremacy in the slave-trade.
The English trade proper began with the granting of rights to special companies, to one in 1618, to another in 1631, and in 1662 to the "Company of Royal Adventurers," rechartered in 1672 as the "Royal African Company," to which in 1687 was given the exclusive right to trade between the Gold Coast and the British colonies in America. James, Duke of York, was interested in this last company, and it agreed to supply the West Indies with three thousand slaves annually.
In 1698, on account of the incessant clamor of English merchants, the trade was opened generally, and any vessel carrying the British flag was by act of Parliament permitted to engage in it on payment of a duty of 10 per cent on English goods exported to Africa. New England immediately engaged in the traffic, and vessels from Boston and Newport went forth to the Gold Coast laden with hogsheads of rum.
In course of time there developed a three-cornered trade by which molasses was brought from the West Indies to New England, made into rum to be taken to Africa and exchanged for slaves, the slaves in turn being brought to the West Indies or the Southern colonies. A slave purchased for one hundred gallons of rum worth £10 brought from £20 to £50 when offered for sale in America.
Newport soon had twenty-two still houses, and even these could not satisfy the demand. England regarded the slave-trade as of such importance that when in 1713 she accepted the Peace of Utrecht she insisted on having awarded to her for thirty years the exclusive right to transport slaves to the Spanish colonies in America.
When in the course of the eighteenth century the trade became fully developed, scores of vessels went forth each year to engage in it; but just how many slaves were brought to the present United States and how many were taken to the West Indies or South America, it is impossible to say.
In 1726 the three cities of London, Bristol, and Liverpool alone had 171 ships engaged in the traffic, and the profits were said to warrant a thousand more, though such a number was probably never reached so far as England alone was concerned.
Planting of Slavery in the Colonies
It is only for Virginia that we can state with definiteness the year in which Negro slaves were first brought to an English colony on the mainland. When legislation on the subject of slavery first appears elsewhere, slaves are already present. "About the last of August (1619)," says John Rolfe in John Smith's Generall Historie, "came in a Dutch man of warre, that sold us twenty Negars."
These Negroes were sold into servitude, and Virginia did not give statutory recognition to slavery as a system until 1661, the importations being too small to make the matter one of importance. In this year, however, an act of assembly stated that Negroes were "incapable of making satisfaction for the time lost in running away by addition of time"; and thus slavery gained a firm place in the oldest of the colonies.
Negroes were first imported into Massachusetts from Barbadoes a year or two before 1638, but in John Winthrop's Journal, under date February 26 of this year, we have positive evidence on the subject as follows: "Mr. Pierce in the Salem ship, the Desire, returned from the West Indies after seven months. He had been at Providence, and brought some cotton, and tobacco, and Negroes, etc., from thence, and salt from Tertugos.
Dry fish and strong liquors are the only commodities for those parts. He met there two men-of-war, sent forth by the lords, etc., of Providence with letters of mart, who had taken divers prizes from the Spaniard and many Negroes." It was in 1641 that there was passed in Massachusetts the first act on the subject of slavery, and this was the first positive statement in any of the colonies with reference to the matter.
Said this act: "There shall never be any bond slavery, villeinage, nor captivity among us, unless it be lawful captives, taken in just wars, and such strangers as willingly sell themselves or are sold to us, and these shall have all the liberties and Christian usages which the law of God established in Israel requires."
This article clearly sanctioned slavery. Of the three classes of persons referred to, the first was made up of Indians, the second of white people under the system of indenture, and the third of Negroes. In this whole matter, as in many others, Massachusetts moved in advance of the other colonies.
The first definitely to legalize slavery, in course of time she became also the foremost representative of sentiment against the system. In 1646 one John Smith brought home two Negroes from the Guinea Coast, where we are told he "had been the means of killing near a hundred more." The General Court, "conceiving themselves bound by the first opportunity to bear witness against the heinous and crying sin of man-stealing," ordered that the Negroes be sent at public expense to their native country.
In later cases, however, Massachusetts did not find herself able to follow this precedent. In general in these early years New England was more concerned about Indians than about Negroes, as the presence of the former in large numbers was a constant menace, while Negro slavery had not yet assumed its most serious aspects.
In New York slavery began under the Dutch rule and continued under the English. Before or about 1650 the Dutch West India Company brought some Negroes to New Netherland. Most of these continued to belong to the company, though after a period of labor (under the common system of indenture) some of the more trusty were permitted to have small farms, from the produce of which they made return to the company.
Their children, however, continued to be slaves. In 1664 New Netherland became New York. The next year, in the code of English laws that was drawn up, it was enacted that "no Christian shall be kept in bond slavery, villeinage, or captivity, except who shall be judged thereunto by authority, or such as willingly have sold or shall sell themselves." As at first there was some hesitancy about making Negroes Christians, this act, like the one in Massachusetts, by implication permitted slavery.
It was in 1632 that the grant including what is now the states of Maryland and Delaware was made to George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore. Though slaves are mentioned earlier, it was in 1663-4 that the Maryland Legislature passed its first enactment on the subject of slavery. It was declared that "all Negroes and other slaves within this province, and all Negroes and other slaves to be hereinafter imported into this province, shall serve during life; and all children born of any Negro or other slave, shall be slaves as their fathers were, for the term of their lives."
In Delaware and New Jersey the real beginnings of slavery are unusually hazy. The Dutch introduced the system in both of these colonies. In the laws of New Jersey the word slaves occurs as early as 1664, and acts for the regulation of the conduct of those in bondage began with the practical union of the colony with New York in 1702.
The lot of the slave was somewhat better here than in most of the colonies. Although the system was in existence in Delaware almost from the beginning of the colony, it did not receive legal recognition until 1721, when there was passed an act providing for the trial of slaves in a special court with two justices and six freeholders.
As early as 1639 there are incidental reference to Negroes in Pennsylvania, and there are frequent references after this date. In this colony there were strong objections to the importing of Negroes in spite of the demand for them. Penn in his charter to the Free Society of Traders in 1682 enjoined upon the members of this company that if they held black slaves these should be free at the end of fourteen years, the Negroes then to become the company's tenants.
In 1688 there originated in Germantown a protest against Negro slavery that was "the first formal action ever taken against the barter in human flesh within the boundaries of the United States." Here a small company of Germans was assembled April 18, 1688, and there was drawn up a document signed by Garret Hendericks, Franz Daniel Pastorius, Dirck Op den Graeff, and Abraham Op den Graeff.
The protest was addressed to the monthly meeting of the Quakers about to take place in Lower Dublin. The monthly meeting on April 30 felt that it could not pretend to take action on such an important matter and referred it to the quarterly meeting in June. This in turn passed it on to the yearly meeting, the highest tribunal of the Quakers. Here it was laid on the table, and for the next few years nothing resulted from it.
About 1696, however, opposition to slavery on the part of the Quakers began to be active. In the colony at large before 1700 the lot of the Negro was regularly one of servitude. Laws were made for servants, white or black, and regulations and restrictions were largely identical. In 1700, however, legislation began more definitely to fix the status of the slave.
In this year an act of the legislature forbade the selling of Negroes out of the province without their consent, but in other ways it denied the personality of the slave. This act met further formal approval in 1705, when special courts were ordained for the trial and punishment of slaves, and when importation from Carolina was forbidden on the ground that it made trouble with the Indians nearer home.
In 1700 a maximum duty of 20s. was placed on each Negro imported, and in 1705 this was doubled, there being already some competition with white labor. In 1712 the Assembly sought to prevent importation altogether by a duty of £20 a head. This act was repealed in England, and a duty of £5 in 1715 was also repealed. In 1729, however, the duty was fixed at £2, at which figure it remained for a generation.
It was almost by accident that slavery was officially recognized in Connecticut in 1650. The code of laws compiled for the colony in this year was especially harsh on the Indians. It was enacted that certain of them who incurred the displeasure of the colony might be made to serve the person injured or "be shipped out and exchanged for Negroes."
In 1680 the governor of the colony informed the Board of Trade that "as for blacks there came sometimes three or four in a year from Barbadoes, and they are usually sold at the rate of £22 apiece." These people were regarded rather as servants than as slaves, and early legislation was mainly in the line of police regulations designed to prevent their running away. In 1652 it was enacted in Rhode Island that all slaves brought into the colony should be set free after ten years of service.
This law was not designed, as might be supposed, to restrict slavery. It was really a step in the evolution of the system, and the limit of ten years was by no means observed. "The only legal recognition of the law was in the series of acts beginning January 4, 1703, to control the wandering of African slaves and servants, and another beginning in April, 1708, in which the slave-trade was indirectly legalized by being taxed." "In course of time Rhode Island became the greatest slave-trader in the country, becoming a sort of clearing-house for the other colonies."
New Hampshire, profiting by the experience of the neighboring colony of Massachusetts, deemed it best from the beginning to discourage slavery. There were so few Negroes in the colony as to form a quantity practically negligible. The system was recognized, however, an act being passed in 1714 to regulate the conduct of slaves, and another four years later to regulate that of masters.
In North Carolina, even more than in most of the colonies, the system of Negro slavery was long controlled by custom rather than by legal enactment. It was recognized by law in 1715, however, and police regulations to govern the slaves were enacted. In South Carolina the history of slavery is particularly noteworthy. The natural resources of this colony offered a ready home for the system, and the laws here formulated were as explicit as any ever enacted. Slaves were first imported from Barbadoes, and their status received official confirmation in 1682.
By 1720 the number had increased to 12,000, the white people numbering only 9,000. By 1698 such was the fear from the preponderance of the Negro population that a special act was passed to encourage white immigration. Legislation "for the better ordering of slaves" was passed in 1690, and in 1712 the first regular slave law was enacted.
Once before 1713, the year of the Assiento Contract of the Peace of Utrecht, and several times after this date, prohibitive duties were placed on Negroes to guard against their too rapid increase. By 1734, however, importation had again reached large proportions; and in 1740, in consequence of recent insurrectionary efforts, a prohibitive duty several times larger than the previous one was placed upon Negroes brought into the province.
The colony of Georgia was chartered in 1732 and actually founded the next year. Oglethorpe's idea was that the colony should be a refuge for persecuted Christians and the debtor classes of England. Slavery was forbidden on the ground that Georgia was to defend the other English colonies from the Spaniards on the South, and that it would not be able to do this if like South Carolina it dissipated its energies in guarding Negro slaves.
For years the development of Georgia was slow, and the prosperous condition of South Carolina constantly suggested to the planters that "the one thing needful" for their highest welfare was slavery. Again and again were petitions addressed to the trustees, George Whitefield being among those who most urgently advocated the innovation. Moreover, Negroes from South Carolina were sometimes hired for life, and purchases were openly made in Savannah.
It was not until 1749, however, that the trustees yielded to the request. In 1755 the legislature passed an act that regulated the conduct of the slaves, and in 1765 a more regular code was adopted. Thus did slavery finally gain a foothold in what was destined to become one of the most important of the Southern states.
For the first fifty or sixty years of the life of the colonies the introduction of Negroes was slow; the system of white servitude furnished most of the labor needed, and England had not yet won supremacy in the slave-trade. It was in the last quarter of the seventeenth century that importations began to be large, and in the course of the eighteenth century the numbers grew by leaps and bounds.
In 1625, six years after the first Negroes were brought to the colony, there were in Virginia only 23 Negroes, 12 male, 11 female. In 1659 there were 300; but in 1683 there were 3,000 and in 1708, 12,000. In 1680 Governor Simon Bradstreet reported to England with reference to Massachusetts that "no company of blacks or slaves" had been brought into the province since its beginning.
For the space of fifty years, with the exception of a small vessel that two years previously, after a twenty months' voyage to Madagascar, had brought hither between forty and fifty Negroes, mainly women and children, who were sold for £10, £15, and £20 apiece; occasionally two or three Negroes were brought from Barbadoes or other islands, and altogether there were in Massachusetts at the time not more than 100 or 120.
The colonists were at first largely opposed to the introduction of slavery, and numerous acts were passed prohibiting it in Virginia, Massachusetts, and elsewhere; and in Georgia, as we have seen, it had at first been expressly forbidden. English business men, however, had no scruples about the matter.
About 1663 a British Committee on Foreign Plantations declared that "black slaves are the most useful appurtenances of a plantation," and twenty years later the Lords Commissioners of Trade stated that "the colonists could not possibly subsist" without an adequate supply of slaves. Laws passed in the colonies were regularly disallowed by the crown, and royal governors were warned that the colonists would not be permitted to "discourage a traffic so beneficial to the nation."
Before 1772 Virginia passed not less than thirty-three acts looking toward the prohibition of the importation of slaves, but in every instance the act was annulled by England. In the far South, especially in South Carolina, we have seen that there were increasingly heavy duties. In spite of all such efforts for restriction, however, the system of Negro slavery, once well started, developed apace.
In two colonies not among the original thirteen but important in the later history of the United States, Negroes were present at a very early date, in the Spanish colony of Florida from the very first, and in the French colony of Louisiana as soon as New Orleans really began to grow. Negroes accompanied the Spaniards in their voyages along the South Atlantic coast early in the sixteenth century, and specially trained Spanish slaves assisted in the founding of St.
Augustine in 1565. The ambitious schemes in France of the great adventurer, John Law, and especially the design of the Mississippi Company (chartered 1717) included an agreement for the importation into Louisiana of six thousand white persons and three thousand Negroes, the Company having secured among other privileges the exclusive right to trade with the colony for twenty-five years and the absolute ownership of all mines in it.
The sufferings of some of the white emigrants from France?the kidnapping, the revenge, and the chicanery that played so large a part?all make a story complete in itself. As for the Negroes, it was definitely stipulated that these should not come from another French colony without the consent of the governor of that colony. The contract had only begun to be carried out when Law's bubble burst.
However, in June, 1721, there were 600 Negroes in Louisiana; in 1745 the number had increased to 2020. The stories connected with these people are as tragic and wildly romantic as are most of the stories in the history of Louisiana. In fact, this colony from the very first owed not a little of its abandon and its fascination to the mysticism that the Negroes themselves brought from Africa.
In the midst of much that is apocryphal one or two events or episodes stand out with distinctness. In 1729, Perier, governor at the time, testified with reference to a small company of Negroes who had been sent against the Indians as follows: "Fifteen Negroes in whose hands we had put weapons, performed prodigies of valor.
If the blacks did not cost so much, and if their labors were not so necessary to the colony, it would be better to turn them into soldiers, and to dismiss those we have, who are so bad and so cowardly that they seem to have been manufactured purposely for this colony." Not always, however, did the Negroes fight against the Indians.
In 1730 some representatives of the powerful Banbaras had an understanding with the Chickasaws by which the latter were to help them in exterminating all the white people and in setting up an independent republic. They were led by a strong and desperate Negro named Samba. As a result of this effort for freedom Samba and seven of his companions were broken on the wheel and a woman was hanged.
Already, however, there had been given the suggestion of the possible alliance in the future of the Indian and the Negro. From the very first also, because of the freedom from restraint of all the elements of population that entered into the life of the colony, there was the beginning of that mixture of the races which was later to tell so vitally on the social life of Louisiana and whose effects are so readily apparent even to-day.
The Wake of the Slave-Ship
Thus it was that Negroes came to America. Thus it was also, we might say, that the Negro Problem came, though it was not for decades, not until the budding years of American nationality, that the ultimate reaches of the problem were realized. Those who came were by no means all of exactly the same race stock and language. Plantations frequently exhibited a variety of customs, and sometimes traditional enemies became brothers in servitude.
The center of the colonial slave-trade was the African coast for about two hundred miles east of the great Niger River. From this comparatively small region came as many slaves as from all the rest of Africa together. A number of those who came were of entirely different race stock from the Negroes; some were Moors, and a very few were Malays from Madagascar.
The actual procuring of the slaves was by no means as easy a process as is sometimes supposed. In general the slave mart brought out the most vicious passions of all who were in any way connected with the traffic. The captain of a vessel had to resort to various expedients to get his cargo. His commonest method was to bring with him a variety of gay cloth, cheap ornaments, and whiskey, which he would give in exchange for slaves brought to him.
His task was most simple when a chieftain of one tribe brought to him several hundred prisoners of war. Ordinarily, however, the work was more toilsome, and kidnapping a favorite method, though individuals were sometimes enticed on vessels. The work was always dangerous, for the natives along the slave-coast soon became suspicious.
After they had seen some of their tribesmen taken away, they learned not to go unarmed while a slave-vessel was on the coast, and very often there were hand-to-hand encounters. It was not long before it began to be impressed upon those interested in the trade that it was not good business to place upon the captain of a vessel the responsibility of getting together three or four hundred slaves, and that it would be better if he could find his cargo waiting for him when he came.
Thus arose the so-called factories, which were nothing more than warehouses. Along the coast were placed small settlements of Europeans, whose business it was to stimulate slave-hunting expeditions, negotiate for slaves brought in, and see that they were kept until the arrival of the ships. Practically every nation engaged in the traffic planted factories of this kind along the West Coast from Cape Verde to the equator; and thus it was that this part of Africa began to be the most flagrantly exploited region in the world; thus whiskey and all the other vices of civilization began to come to a simple and home-loving people.
Once on board the slaves were put in chains two by two. When the ship was ready to start, the hold of the vessel was crowded with moody and unhappy wretches who most often were made to crouch so that their knees touched their chins, but who also were frequently made to lie on their sides "spoon-fashion."
Sometimes the space between floor and ceiling was still further diminished by the water-barrels; on the top of these barrels boards were placed, on the boards the slaves had to lie, and in the little space that remained they had to subsist as well as they could. There was generally only one entrance to the hold, and provision for only the smallest amount of air through the gratings on the sides. The clothing of a captive, if there was any at all, consisted of only a rag about the loins.
The food was half-rotten rice, yams, beans, or soup, and sometimes bread and meat; the cooking was not good, nor was any care taken to see that all were fed. Water was always limited, a pint a day being a generous allowance; frequently no more than a gill could be had. The rule was to bring the slaves from the hold twice a day for an airing, about eight o'clock in the morning and four in the afternoon; but this plan was not always followed. On deck they were made to dance by the lash, and they were also forced to sing. Thus were born the sorrow-songs, the last cry of those who saw their homeland vanish behind them?forever.
Sometimes there were stern fights on board. Sometimes food was refused in order that death might be hastened. When opportunity served, some leaped overboard in the hope of being taken back to Africa. Throughout the night the hold resounded with the moans of those who awoke from dreams of home to find themselves in bonds. Women became hysterical, and both men and women became insane. Fearful and contagious diseases broke out. Smallpox was one of these. More common was ophthalmia, a frightful inflammation of the eyes.
A blind, and hence a worthless, slave was thrown to the sharks. The putrid atmosphere, the melancholy, and the sudden transition from heat to cold greatly increased the mortality, and frequently when morning came a dead and a living slave were found shackled together. A captain always counted on losing one-fourth of his cargo. Sometimes he lost a great deal more. Back on the shore a gray figure with strained gaze watched the ship fade away?an old woman sadly typical of the great African mother.
With her vision she better than any one else perceived the meaning of it all. The men with hard faces who came to buy and sell might deceive others, but not her. In a great vague way she felt that something wrong had attacked the very heart of her people. She saw men wild with the whiskey of the Christian nations commit crimes undreamed of before. She did not like the coast towns; the girl who went thither came not home again, and a young man was lost to all that Africa held dear.
In course of time she saw every native craft despised, and instead of the fabric that her own fingers wove her children yearned for the tinsel and the gewgaws of the trader. She cursed this man, and she called upon all her spirits to banish the evil. But when at last all was of no avail?when the strongest youth or the dearest maiden had gone?she went back to her hut and ate her heart out in the darkness. She wept for her children and would not be comforted because they were not.
Then slowly to the untutored mind somehow came the promise: "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.... They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."