African Coast Blockade.
The horrible traffic in slaves has been carried on from the west coast of Africa to the American continent since Sir John Hawkins shipped his first cargo of blacks for the Spanish settlements, to supply the loss of the mild and yielding natives of the New World destroyed by the avarice and cruelty of their task-masters. The vessels which trafficked in slaves ran down the coast, touching at all the principal native settlements, and purchased such slaves as were offered for sale until their cargoes were completed. Sometimes a well-armed slaver carried off by force the negroes on board another slaver ready to sail, and unable to defend herself. After a time, regular slave-dealers established themselves on the coast, and induced the natives to make war on each other, in order that those captured might be brought to them for sale. There were at convenient points along the coast forts and stations established by the British and other European Governments for the very purpose of facilitating the slave-trade. At length, by the indefatigable efforts of Wilberforce and other philanthropic men, the British public were taught to look on the slave-trade in all its dark and revolting colours. The British slave-trade was abolished on the 1st of January, 1808. At first only a fine was inflicted on those convicted of slave-dealing, but in 1824 the offence was declared to be piracy, and punishable by death. In 1837 the punishment inflicted on British subjects for trading in slaves was changed to transportation for life. On the trade being declared illegal, it was abandoned at all European settlements, with the exception of those belonging to the Spaniards and Portuguese, who, determining to persist in it, had adopted a new mode of operations. They had erected barracoons on those parts of the coast where slaves could be collected with the greatest ease. At stated periods vessels visited them, and took away the slaves without being detained on the coast more than twenty-four hours, and often a less time. They had from forty to fifty points where barracoons were placed, and many thousands of slaves every year were exported from them. A slave factory consists of several large dwelling-houses for the managers and clerks, and of huge stores for the reception of goods, sometimes to the amount of 100,000 pounds. To these are attached barracoons or sheds made of heavy piles driven deep into the earth, lashed together with bamboos, and thatched with palm-leaves. In these barracoons the slaves, when purchased, are imprisoned, till shipped on board a slave-vessel. If the barracoon be a large one, there is a centre row of piles, and along each line of piles is a chain, and at intervals of about two feet is a large neck-link, in one of which each slave is padlocked. Should this method be insufficient, two, and sometimes when the slaves appear unusually strong, three are shackled together—the strong man being placed between two others and heavily ironed; and often beaten half to death beforehand to ensure his being quiet. The floor is planked, not from any regard to the comfort of the slave, but because a small insect being in the soil might deteriorate the merchandise by causing a cutaneous disease. Night and day these barracoons are guarded by armed men, and the slightest insubordination immediately punished.