The African Slave Trade/Chapter 6



Isaiah I. 4. Ah, Sinful Nation, A People Laden With Iniquity, A Seed Of Evil-doers, Children That Are Corrupters: They Have Forsaken The Lord, They Have Provoked The Holy One Of Israel Unto Anger, They Are Gone Away Backward.

St. James v. 1. Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

4. Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth : and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.

5. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.

6. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.

Ecclesiastes viii. 11. Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

E'en now, e'en now, on yonder western shores,
Weeps pale Despair, and writhing Anguish roars;
E'en now in Afric's groves, with hideous yell,
Fierce Slavery stalks and slips the dogs of hell;
From vale to vale the gathering cries rebound.
And sable nations tremble at the sound.

Who right the injured, and reward the brave.
Stretch your strong arm, for ye have power to save.
Throned in the vaulted heart, his dread resort,
Inexorable Conscience holds his court;
With still small voice the plots of guilt alarms,
Bares his masked brow, his lifted hand disarms;
But, wrapped in night, with terrors all his own,
He speaks in thunders when the deed is done.
Hear him, ye Senates : hear this truth sublime,
He who allows oppression shares the crime.

Erasmus Darwin.

It would be a libel upon the Southern States of our confederacy to say that, as a body, they were in favor of the revival of the slave trade, or to say that the southern people were unanimous in their approval of slavery.

We know, from personal acquaintance, that there are many noble men and women at the South, who see and acknowledge the evils of the system, and deeply deplore its existence. There are thousands, also, who abhor the slave trade, and deprecate the efforts that are being made for its resuscitation. And our desire is to fortify such in their opinions, and secure their coöperation with the power of the North and West, in resisting those efforts. Unless there is such cooperation, to enlighten the people in reference to the dangers that threaten them, the public opinion may become corrupt upon this topic, as it has in years past upon other questions growing out of slavery.

Some may take the ground that the foreign slave trade is an evil too stupendous to allow us to think for a moment of its extensive revival in this country. But does history prove that this country is averse to fostering stupendous evils? Has the government, or the people, shown any great timidity in trampling under foot the principles of right, the dictates of humanity, the pledges of the past? Have solemn contracts preserved soil consecrated to freedom from the invasion of the slave power? Has an enlightened conscience secured deference to God's government, when the laws of human government have clashed with it? Do not multitudes regard the sentiment of a "higher law" as a jest? an "overruling Providence as an obsolete idea?

The traffic is conducted with so much secrecy, and such vigilance is exercised to escape detection, that it is difficult to obtain full evidence of its extent in this country. Still, there is proof enough to show that it is carried on in Cuba and Brazil to an alarming degree, and that American citizens are guilty of participating in it.

The state of the trade at the present time may be learned from Harper's Cyclopaedia of Commerce, published in New York, in 1858, — a reliable authority. Under the article "Slave Trade,"[1] the following statement is made:

"Passing over the interval from the period when the slave trade was declared to be piracy, to the year 1840, we find the number introduced into Brazil from that year to 1851, inclusive, was 348,609, or a little more than 30,000 a year. During the same period, the number imported into Cuba amounted to an average of about 6,000 a year As perhaps not more than three fourths of the whole number was reported to the mixed commission, the yearly average for this period, (for both countries,) may be set down at 45,000 The slave trade is now mainly, if not wholly, carried on with Cuba, which imports about 20,000 slaves every year; which added to the total of the trade with both Brazil and Cuba, since the year 1850, gives the average number imported every year up to the present time, at about 30,000. If the profit realized on the purchase of one slave amounts, as we have shown, to $365, the total profits of one year's trade will therefore be about $11,000,000


"It is estimated that in the port of New York alone, about twelve vessels are fitted out every year for the slave trade, and that Boston and Baltimore furnish each about the same number, making a fleet of thirty-six vessels, all engaged in a commerce at which the best feelings of our nature revolt. If to these be added the slavers fitted out in other Eastern ports besides Boston, we e will have a total of about forty, which is rather under than over the actual number. Each slaver registers from 150 to 250 tons, and costs, when ready for sea, with provisions, slave equipments, and every thing necessary for a successful trip, about $8,000.

"Here, to start with, we have a capital of $320,000, the greater part of which is contributed by Northern men."

A table of costs is then given, and, —

"From this estimate, it will be seen that the amount of capital required to fit out a fleet of slavers, is about $1,500,000, upon which the profits are so immense as almost to surpass belief. In a single voyage of the fleet, 24,000 human beings are carried off from different points on the slave coasts; and of these, 4000, or one sixth of the whole number, become victims to the horrors of the middle passage, leaving 20,000 fit for market. For each of these, the trader obtains an average of $500, making a total for the whole 20,000 of $10,000,000. "Now if we estimate the number of trips made by each vessel in a year at two, we will have this increased to $20,000,000. Each vessel, it is true, can make three, and sometimes four trips; but as some are destroyed after the first voyage, we have placed the number at the lowest estimate. The expenses and profits of the slave trade for a single year, compare as follows:
Total expenses of two voyages,- - - $3,000,000 
Total receipts of two voyages,- - - 20,000,000 
Profits, - - - - $17,000,000"

The case of the slave yacht Wanderer is fresh in the memories of the people. Her cargo of human beings has been distributed over various plantations, the slaves having been sold for $800 and $1000 each, and some even as high as $1500. Against the captain the Grand Jury for the District of Georgia found indictments, but the United States Judge in South Carolina refused to issue a warrant for his arrest. So much for justice, and obedience to the laws of the land!

The Echo was seized in the act of attempting to land slaves on the coast of Cuba. The bark E. A. Rawlins was seized in the bay of St. Joseph, where she had taken upon herself the new name of Rosa Lee. Last December, she cleared from Savannah, with rice on board. At that time there were suspicions that she was a slaver, but she escaped. Two and a half months later, she was taken in St. Joseph's bay, an unfrequented place, westward of Apalachicola River. There was abundant evidence to believe that she had been to Africa, taken on board her living freight, subjected the victims to all the horrors of the "middle passage," and landed them at Cuba and on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. A suspicious looking vessel was seen off the mouth of the Apalachicola, avoiding the pilots who approached her, her papers irregular, and the captain having taken an assumed name. A Spanish captain had been on board, who, the crew confessed, had been murdered.

Another case occurred near Mobile, and the crew were arrested, and brought before the Grand Jury of South Carolina. But these grave representatives of American justice, these protectors of innocence, refused to find indictments against the guilty men, and the United States judge for that district was equally resolute in refusing to enforce the laws against the slave trade.

So bold are some in their movements, that recently imported Africans are publicly offered for sale. The following is from the Richmond Reporter, (Texas,) of the 14th of June, 1859:

For Sale. — Four hundred likely African negroes, lately landed upon the coast of Texas. Said negroes will be sold upon the most reasonable terms. One third down; the remainder in one or two years, with eight per cent. interest. For further information, inquire of C. K. C., Houston, or L. R. G., Galveston.

And the Tribune quotes from the Vicksburg True Southron of the 13th, an account of an African Labor Supply Association, of which the Hon. J. B. D. De Bow is President.

Thus it is evident that this trade is to be aged in defiance of law, and organized efforts are to be made to secure the repeal of the laws enacted by our fathers against this evil.

A Washington correspondent of the New York Herald, said to be an accurate and reliable writer, stated, on the authority of a United States senator, that the number of cargoes of African slaves landed on the coast of the United States, and smuggled into the interior, since May, 1858, a period of fifteen months, amounts to sixty or seventy,[2] and twelve vessels more are expected within ninety days. If grand juries and judges refuse to enforce the laws against the slave trade, it may be indefinitely increased. And from despatches received at the Navy Department, from the frigate Cumberland, dated at Porto Praya, April 15, 1859, it appears that during the last year the traffic has greatly increased. Those despatches state that yachts, schooners, and trading vessels are engaged in the business, and that small armed vessels are required, that can sail up the rivers and capture the slavers.

To encourage the trade, it is stated that eighteen slaveholders in Enterprise, Miss., recently pledged themselves to buy 1000 negroes, at a certain price, if they were brought from Africa.

But I will let the southern papers and politicians speak for themselves. They have spoken, and their dark schemes of infamy and cruelty are before the nation. The Apalachicola (Fla.) Advertiser says:

"Until the slave trade is opened and made legal, the South will push slavery forward, as a seasoning for every dish. This is the settled and determined policy of a party at the South. We do not pretend to belong to the ultra-southern party, but we believe it a duty which the general government owes to the South, that the slave trade should be legitimate, that her vast domain may receive cultivation."

If this paper does not belong to the ultra southern party, we should be glad to have it define its position. If there is any wickedness, beyond rendering "the slave trade legitimate," we have yet to be informed of it.

In April, 1859, the citizens of Metagorda, Texas, passed the following resolution:

"Resolved That our delegates to the Convention be requested to inquire into the expediency of obtaining negro laborers suited to our climate and products, from some foreign country, and recommend measures by which the importation can be carried on under the supervision and protection of the State."

At a meeting held in Hanesville, Appling County, Georgia, Col, Goulding, of Liberty, (!) offered several resolutions, which were adopted, one of which was, "that all laws of the federal government, interdicting the right of the southern people to import slaves from Africa, are unconstitutional, and violative of the rights of the South; and that said laws are null and void, and a disgrace to the statute book." The New York Tribune of March 17, 1859, states that Dr. Daniel Lee, Professor of Agriculture and kindred sciences in the Georgia University, has written a letter in favor of reopening the slave trade, — or, rather, in favor of African importations, — the better to develop the agricultural resources of the South.

The necessity of more slaves to develop the resources of the South, and settle new territories, is becoming a favorite argument with the advocates of the revival of the foreign trade. And it will doubtless become more and more prominent in the discussions which the subject of the African trade will awaken in the future.

The Augusta Constitutionalist reports the speech delivered by the Hon. A. H. Stephens to a large concourse of people assembled in the City Park Hall, in July last, on the occasion of his resignation as representative in Congress, when he used the following language:

"As he said, in 1850, he would repeat now, there is very little prospect of the South settling any territory outside of Texas; in fact, little or no prospect at all, unless we increase our African stock.

"The question his hearers should examine in its length and breadth; he would do nothing more than present it; but it is as plain as any thing, that unless the number of African stock be increased, we have not the population, and might as well abandon the race with our brethren cf the North, in the colonization of the territories. It was net for him to advise on these questions: he only presented them. The people should think and act upon them. If there are but few more slave States, it is not because of abolitionism, or the Wilmot Proviso, but simply for the want of people to settle them. We can not make States without people; rivers and mountains do not make them; and slave States can not be made without Africans."

This language was addressed to the gentlemen and ladies of the city, and is said to have been received with great applause.

At Fort Valley, Ga., there is published a newspaper, called "The Nineteenth Century," which holds the following language in regard to the slave trade:

"Necessity will demand it at no distant day, and we also believe that the necessity will bring about the object of itself, without much noise or confusion on the part of the southern people."

So it seems that the flood gates of this stream of moral and physical death are to be opened quietly, without much disturbance of the public conscience, a few slight tremors, perhaps, and without much 66 noise" from that unfortunate class whose nerves are affected by the horrors of the middle passage. Perhaps the soothing influences of the "Nineteenth Century" will aid in this matter, and the introduction of modern improvements may render the African more submissive to his fate.

There is still another argument for the revival of the slave trade alluded to by the "Southern Confederacy," published at Atlanta, Ga.

That paper declares, that "The African slave trade is the hope and bulwark of southern interests. It is the basis underlying the future greatness and permanency of the slave States. Without its establishment, the institution (slavery) will soon become useless."

We have said that there was a vital connection between American slavery and the African slave trade, and here we have one of the proofs. We see the direct result of the doctrine which has been so strenuously maintained, that the institution should not be meddled with where it was established. As well might we be told. You must not touch the roots of the tree, but if the branches should spread too widely, or the fruits become too bitter, these points maybe carefully and judiciously considered! The principle laid down in Matthew iii. 10, is: "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire."

The word "piracy" greatly troubles the friends of the slave trade. In May, 1859, at a meeting held in Parker County, Texas, it was

"Resolved, That we demur to any law of Congress making the foreign slave trade piracy, as a usurpation of power not warranted by the Constitution of the United States, and ought to be repealed."
We come now to a document that deserves our careful attention. In May, the Savannah Republican published an indignant protest of the grand jury which recently indicted parties suspected of being engaged in the slave trade. The jurymen, being under oath to find a bill according to law, state that they did so against their will. The protest concludes thus:
Heretofore, the people of the South, firm in their consciousness of right and strength, have failed to place the stamp of condemnation upon such laws as reflect upon the institution of slavery, but have permitted, unrebuked, the influence of foreign opinion to prevail in their support.

"Longer to yield to a sickly sentiment of pretended philanthropy, and diseased mental observation of higher law' fanatics, the tendency of which is to debase us in the estimation of civilized nations, is weak and unwise. They then unhesitatingly advocate the repeal of all laws which directly or indirectly condemn the institution, and think it the duty of the southern people to require their legislators to unite their efforts for the accomplishment of this object." (Signed)

Charles Grant, Benedict Bourgein,
H. S. Byrd, M. D., Jno. J. Jackson,
S. Palmer, Geo. W. Garmy.

This is certainly a very remarkable production. That it represents an extensive southern opinion, we will not believe without farther evidence. Its authors are alone responsible for it. We know that such sentiments are received with disgust by thousands at the South. Many distinguished men have already spoken out against the slave trade. Let such men be multiplied and sustained, and the South may be saved from self-destruction, and the nation from the guilt of that gigantic crime into which many are so madly plunging.

We rejoice that our northern State legislatures are waking up to the magnitude of this evil.

The following resolution against this traffic was passed April 12, 1859, by the New York State Assembly, by a vote of 101 to 6:

"Resolved, (if the Senate concur,) That the citizens of this State look with surprise and detestation upon the virtual opening of the slave trade within the Federal Union: that against this invasion of our laws, of our feelings, and of the dictates of Christianity, we solemnly protest: that we call upon the citizens of the Union to make cause in the name of religion and humanity, and as friends of the principles underlying our system of government, to unite in bringing to immediate arrest and punishment all persons engaged in the unlawful and wicked trade, and hereby instruct our senators and representatives in Congress to exert all lawful power for the immediate suppression of this infamous traffic. "Resolved, That the Executive of this State be required to transmit a copy of this resolution to the legislatures of the several States of this Union, and earnestly request their coöperation in arresting this great wickedness.

Would that every legislature that professes to love liberty, would follow the noble example set by the Empire State! Would that every representative would recall to his memory the words of the gifted and eloquent Webster, as uttered in his speech on the President's protest:

"We have been taught to regard a representative of the people as a sentinel upon the watch-tower of liberty. Is he to be blind, though visible danger approaches? Is he to be deaf, though sounds of peril fill the air? Is he to be dumb, while a thousand duties impel him to raise the cry of alarm? Is he not rather to catch the lowest whisper that breathes intention or purpose of encroachment on the public liberties, and to give his voice, breath, and utterance at the first appearance of danger? Is not his eye to traverse the whole horizon, with the keen and eagle vision of an unhooded hawk, detecting through all disguises, every enemy, advancing in any form towards the citadel he guards?"

  1. Page 1728.
  2. This is higher than the estimate in Harper's Cyclopaedia, but that writer thinks that he understates the actual number.