Modern history

12

He Who Knows How to Supply the Slaves Will Share This Wealth

“Everyone knows that the slave trade is the source of the wealth which the Spaniards draw from their Indies, and that he who knows how to supply the slaves will share this wealth with them.”

Benjamin Raule of Zeeland to the elector of Brandenburg, 1680

SPAIN LIMPED ALONG for some years, after the defection of Portugal from the combined realm in 1640, without a policy for the supply of slaves to her imperial possessions. King Philip IV approved a return to the policy of separate licenses, with no asiento, such as had prevailed before 1580. But this arrangement worked even worse in the seventeenth century than it had in the sixteenth, because the presence now of the Dutch, the French, and the English in the Caribbean led to smuggling on a large scale. Despite that, there were continuous shortages. Thus, in 1648, Pedro Zapata de Mendoza, the governor of what was now the biggest entry port for slaves, Cartagena de Indias, in present-day Colombia, wrote home to Madrid that no Africans had been brought in for seven years. He recalled that, in addition to the disastrous consequences for the economy, the losses of taxes were considerable: “A ship full of blacks brings more to the Treasury than galleons and fleets put together.”1 Most of the few slaves who entered those territories in these years were imported illegally from Dutch captains: the letters of Beck, vice-director of the Dutch West India Company, were in the 1650s full of the possibilities of landing slaves on the north coast of Cuba, where there were no coast guards and few fortresses, or at Portobelo, with due arrangements. In Africa, a few Spanish ships traded illegally in Portuguese territories such as the Cape Verde Islands or in the rivers Cacheu and Bissau, causing a good deal of irritation, even scandal, there, but not sensibly affecting the problems of the Indies.

Yet there were all the same in 1640 probably about 330,000 African slaves in Spanish America, of whom half, or 150,000, were in Peru and the Andean region, 80,000 in New Spain, about 45,000 in what is now Colombia, over 25,000 in Central America, perhaps 16,000 in the Spanish Antilles, and about 12,000 in the modern Venezuela. These were the estimates of Fernando de Silva Solís, a captain who wrote to the king that, having spent twenty-five years in the Indies, he knew that the annual demand in the Empire was nearly 9,000.2 Slaves from Africa had come to seem essential in the silver mines of Potosí in Bolivia and Zacatecas in New Spain, in pearl-fishing, in building fortresses, and on sugar plantations which, if none were at that stage anything like so efficient as the Anglo-Saxon and French ones, were all the same well established.

The increasing reliance of Spanish planters on Dutch, French, or En-glish interlopers meant above all that the Crown was losing what it had always considered to be essential taxes. So, in 1651, for the first time since 1580, Spanish merchants were given the opportunity of supplying the empire with Africans. The trade was to be handled, from 1651 till 1662, by the Consulado, or Universidad de Mercaderes, of Seville, a guild of great merchants. This body had been set up a century before, in 1543, when Spain had seemed to constitute a lively economy, to arrange with the Casa de Contratación the dispatch and outfitting of fleets to the Americas.I

Four years later, in 1655, Spain suffered the loss to the English of Jamaica, which had been for some years, with its long and unfrequented coastline, a center of the illicit slave trade in the Caribbean. The event was a bad defeat for the Crown but, for the merchants of Seville, who had not yet organized a slave trade from Africa, it was a blessing in disguise. Jamaica, English though it in theory now was, became a prosperous slave mart, stocked now by the new masters without any apology, as by the Dutch—a mart to which the Spanish ex-masters of the place could return and buy fruitfully. The reliance on English heretic suppliers was, it was true, a bitter thing for good Catholic Spanish colonists. But they had for years accepted the humiliation of buying from the Dutch; and, a harbinger of what was to come, two English merchants, Burchett and Phillips of Barbados, had already in 1642 offered to supply the Spaniards with two thousand slaves a year—acting, as it turned out, as intermediaries for the Dutch.

In 1662, Spanish merchants from Cartagena de Indias proposed to Humphrey Walrond, president of the Barbados council, that they buy slaves from him for Peru. Although such sales were quite illegal by both Spanish and English law, Walrond allowed the Spaniards to take four hundred slaves at between 125 and 140 pieces-of-eight per head. The explanation was that Walrond, one of the most curious individuals in the bizarre history of the West Indies, was almost a Spanish agent since, a cavalier, he had passed the years of the Commonwealth in the Spanish service, for which he had been named a marquis, and even a grandee of Spain, by Philip IV.II

Weary of these unsatisfactory arrangements, disgusted with the inactivity of the sevillanos, and anxious to return to those rules which had seemed to work so well before 1640, the Spanish Council of the Indies in 1663 established a new asiento, in favor of Domingo Grillo and Ambrosio and Agustín Lomelin—all three Hispanicized Genoese merchants whose families had had many years of contact with Spain and Portugal. Ancestors of Lomelin had been rich and influential in Madeira in the fifteenth century, and another member of the family, Leonardo, had contracted to supply slaves to Cortés in 1542. Once a Lomelin had been Portuguese consul in Genoa at the same time as a cousin was selling sugar in Madeira. The Grillos, too, had had a remarkable mercantile history in the fifteenth century, in Spain as well as in Genoa. Their ships had already been on the coast of Angola as interlopers.

The idea of employing these Genoese came from yet one more influential Dominican at the Spanish Court, Fray Juan de Castro, whose innocent title of “Regent of the Order of Preachers” gave him access to everyone on both the Council of the Indies and the Junta de Negros. Castro had known the new asentistas when they had been treasurers of the Santa Cruzada, a lucrative fiscal responsibility. Grillo and the brothers Lomelin pledged themselves to deliver in Veracruz, Cartagena, and Portobelo 24,500 piezas de indiasin the next seven years, on which they would pay duty of three hundred thousand pesos.III But they were not to take their slaves from merchants whose countries were at war with Spain. So their schemes, adequate though they were for illegal interlopers, were confused. In practice, the Spanish colonists continued to obtain what they needed from the Dutch island of Curaçao, so conveniently close to Cartagena and, to a lesser extent, from Jamaica and other English islands. They established a network of agents in London and Amsterdam to assist them to find the slaves whom they had promised. Meantime, as a price for the contract, Grillo and the Lomelins agreed to build two galleons for the Spanish government at their own cost.3

The Spanish ambassador to the Hague, Esteban de Gamarra, warned his king that these Genoese were going to seek slaves everywhere under the sun—the “trade is now being introduced by way of Curaçao . . . [where], as I understand it, they have now established large stores with every kind of merchandise there which they deliver during the night, using long boats, taking back silver bars and other products . . .”4

Dutch Sephardic Jews played a certain part in this slave traffic from Curaçao. They had excellent contacts with Portuguese New Christians, in both the Caribbean and Brazil. Firms directed by conversos in Amsterdam were also concerned. By 1702, the Dutch Sephardic community on Curaçao of perhaps six hundred accounted for over a third of the wealth of the island. Curaçao flourished, and perhaps four thousand slaves were exported from there every year between 1668 and 1674. Yet in 1668, because of difficulties over sales, more than three thousand slaves had to be held in the island’s “storage facilities.”

All the same, the English were evidently, in the long run, more satisfactory to the Spanish buyers than the Dutch. Grillo recognized that reality by arranging a subcontract with the Royal Adventurers of London for an annual delivery of 3,500 slaves, to be obtained chiefly from Old and New Calabar, in the Niger Delta. An effort was made to keep the contract secret, for Grillo knew that the Spaniards would not like it. But that contract was not fulfilled, and the truth came out. Grillo for a time turned back to Portugal and to Holland for what he needed.

Grillo had been helped by a decision in 1666 by the Portuguese Overseas Council that the Genoese could trade, among other places, in Angola for slaves to be sold in Spanish America, on condition that they paid to the Crown in Lisbon dues of one or two million reals, as had been previously demanded by Spain. But, as so often, the asiento made for unhappiness, even among those to whom the privilege was granted. Thus Agustín Lomelin died on the way from Veracruz to Mexico, a victim of a revolt of slaves whom he was leading to the capital, the only example of a great slave merchant being killed by his cargo; and, thereafter, his brother, Ambrosio, lost interest as well as money. In 1667, Grillo, now alone, took the radical decision to appoint as the administrator of the asientoan important Dutch banker, Baltasar Coymans, then established in Cádiz as representative of his brother, Jan Coymans, one of the biggest bankers in Amsterdam. Of course, he realized that most of the slaves would come from Curaçao, many of them directly through the Dutch West India Company. Thus it was that Amsterdam became the unofficial headquarters of the Spanish traffic in slaves.

In 1670, Grillo’s asiento was canceled. By that time he had earned the hatred of the very Dominican who had promoted his and the Lomelins’ cause in the first place, Fray Juan de Castro, whose hopes of profiting from shipbuilding in Havana had not been fulfilled. For the next five years, the supply of slaves to the empire was vested in a joint concession to Antonio García and Sebastián de Siliceo, both Portuguese businessmen living in Madrid; to the Consulado of Seville; and to Juan Barroso del Pozo, an independent merchant, also of Seville. All employed the Dutch in Curaçao to supply their ships, and also used Dutch banks in Amsterdam for the financing. When, a year or two later, García took over the contract alone, he bought all his slaves in Curaçao, borrowing the money he needed from Coymans’s bank in the Dutch capital, which thus continued their dominance of the commerce behind the scenes, as if they were supercapitalists in a play by Shaw—or in a pamphlet by Marx.

The Spanish government did what it could to oppose this reliance on the heretic enemy and, in 1676, awarded an asiento to last for five years to another consortium of merchants of Seville, organized by the Consulado of that city, with the explicit instruction that no slaves were to be bought in Curaçao. Many merchants in Seville, Cádiz, and Sanlúcar de Barrameda—some of them women, such as Jerónima Vabas or Juana Balcano—invested money for the purpose. But the Consulado had difficulty in finding the right number of slaves, and in 1679 confessed its failure and shamefacedly handed back its contract.

Despite these failures, over sixty thousand slaves were carried between 1650 and 1675 to Spanish America. The Dutch West India Company was no doubt the largest single supplier to its old enemy; certainly by the last quarter of the seventeenth century, slaving had become the mainstay of that company which, it will be remembered, had, in the first place, entertained doubts about entering into that business at all.

The constant changes of asiento in the late seventeenth century are curious. It is surprising that the Spanish Court did not seek to approach the pope to revise his concessions in the fifteenth century to the Portuguese to control trade in Africa; they must have realized that there was no effective alternative to seeking their own slaves in Africa. Yet they seem to have made no effort to change the status quo. After the failure of the sevillanos, for example, the contract went, in 1679, to Juan Barroso del Pozo (the independent merchant of 1670) and his son-in-law, Nicolás Porcío, yet one more hispanicized Italian. The scheme, like everything related to the asiento, was complex; in ten years, they had to import black slaves from Africa in such quantity as would fill 11,000 tons of shipping and, in return for that privilege, they would have to pay over a million pesos in taxes and be responsible for two hundred thousand escudos of government expenditure in Flanders. It was recognized that they would buy their slaves in Curaçao.

This arrangement lasted only till 1685. Barroso and Porcío operated on a small scale, though Porcío moved to Cartagena. They seem to have imported only 883 slaves in all, nearly all from Curaçao, though their eight ships could easily have brought in four times that number, and though Porcío seems to have had an interest in the now more promising Jamaica.

Spanish settlers were privately every year more busy in Jamaica buying slaves illegally, including many from the RAC. In 1684, Sir Thomas Lynch, the governor there (he had been on the island in various capacities since its capture in 1655), wrote home to London about the difficulty of preventing the Spaniards from buying slaves from English interlopers. He thought it difficult to keep any contract with Spain, for, he wrote, “their ill conduct will ruin any that trust them.” He admitted that “particular Spaniards may be in their senses, but the Government is out of it. . . . Altogether, if we can get negroes, it is very likely that, let who will have the asiento, they will come to us. . . .”5 Next year, an Order in Council in London, though forbidding foreign vessels in general to go to English colonial ports, made an exception for Spanish ones, which “shall come to buy Negroes at Jamaica or Barbados. . . .”6

Often in these days there were piracies involving slave ships en route to Spanish harbors: for example, in 1677, a Scottish pirate, James Browne, with a mixed Dutch, French, and English crew, seized a Dutch slave ship off Cartagena, killed the captain and several of his men, and took the 150 slaves back to Jamaica. Browne was hanged for piracy, but his crew was pardoned; the slaves, however, remained at the disposition of the governor of Jamaica.

In 1685, Barroso died and Porcío, his son-in-law, was forced to abandon the asiento from which he had profited so little, partly because of illness and partly because the governor of Cartagena, Juan de Pando, had himself reached a close understanding with the Dutch in Curaçao. Pando gave it out that Porcío was insane, seized his ships, and had him consigned to a prison. Porcío appealed to the Supreme Court, the Audiencia, at Panama, and carried his case to the Council of the Indies in Spain. He was prospering there when Baltasar Coymans—the banker from Amsterdam, the power behind recent asentistas—entered the lists. He was supported by several members of the Council of the Indies, including its president, the duke of Medinaceli, as by the friends of the governor of Cartagena. No doubt money changed hands. The Dutch ambassador in Madrid had lobbied extensively for Coymans. At all events, Coymans won the contract.

The éminence grise had thus come into the limelight. The great privilege was at last formally in the hands of a heretic—as the dean of the cathedral at Cádiz, Pedro Francisco de Barroso, Porcío’s brother-in-law, took a great deal of trouble to point out. This might have seemed the triumph of Holland; but in truth that once aggressive state was now in decline, the Dutch West India Company (with which Jan Coymans had worked in respect of his sales of slaves in the Spanish Indies) was near bankruptcy and, though the Dutch had sustained themselves successfully in war and trade when their rivals were Catholics, whether Spaniards or Portuguese, they were now being outdistanced by their Protestant neighbors, the English.

Baltasar Coymans received the asiento with qualifications: his firm had to make a large payment, in cash, to the Spanish Ministry of Finance, and he also, like Grillo and Lomelin, had to promise to build ships for the Spanish navy, four of them this time. To cover his expenses, which were in the nature of a loan, the Crown exempted certain of the slaves whom Coymans would bring in from the regulation duty. Even so, by this time, the Inquisition, apparently alerted by Dean Barroso, as well as by the papal nuncio in Madrid, had begun to interest itself in the matter. The nuncio had a paper prepared on the subject for him by Miguel de Villalobos concerning the dangers implicit in giving power to a heretic. Villalobos pointed out that, in the East, the Dutch, making much of a far smaller opportunity than would be open to Coymans in the West, had been able to put an end to the propagation of the true faith. The nuncio intrigued with the king’s confessor, the bishop of Sigüenza, and both of them let the king know that, in their opinion, the pope would be bitterly opposed to the new asiento if he only knew of it.

The nuncio had gone too far. What business was it of his? Anyway, in Rome itself, business with heretics went on all the time. Why should the nuncio find intolerable in the Spanish Indies what the Holy Father himself countenanced in the shadow of Saint Peter’s? A committee of the Council of the Indies approved the confirmation of the asiento but, at the same time, King Charles II of Spain, in a rare act of self-assertion, insisted on mounting an inquiry into the implications of the affair. This report, after a good deal of argument, declared: “First, the introduction of blacks is not only desirable, but absolutely necessary. . . . The fatal consequences of not having them are easily deduced, for . . . they are the ones who cultivate the haciendas, and there is no one else who could do it, because of a lack of Indians. [If there were no slave trade] the landed properties, the main wealth of which consists chiefly of black slaves, would be lost, and America would face absolute ruin. . . .”

There followed a more curious passage: “As to . . . whether this slavery is permitted [by God, or the Church], there are many authors who discuss it. . . . The Council is . . . of the opinion that there cannot be any doubt as to the necessity of those slaves for the support of the kingdom of the Indies nor as to the importance to the public welfare of continuing and maintaining this procedure without any change; and, with regard to the question of conscience, its [desirability is proved] . . . because of the reasons expressed, the authorities cited, and its long-lived and general custom in the kingdoms of Castile, America and Portugal, without any objection on the part of His Holiness or ecclesiastical state, but rather with the tolerance of all of them. . . .”7

This document suggests that the moral dimension was at least recognized in Spain, even if not faced. The effect of the declaration was, however, weakened by a statement by the Supreme Council of the Inquisition, which took the view that the contract with Coymans would not guarantee the purity of the faith, and would enable the introduction into the Indies of Africans who could be subversive of order. The Vatican’s important Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith took the same view, by talking of “the spiritual ruin” to be expected if the asiento went to a heretic. The next stage was that a special committee of the Council of the Indies recommended that the asiento to Coymans should indeed be annulled.

But Coymans was already at work, using Jamaica, the English depository, as well as Curaçao, the Dutch, to obtain his captives. Yet even Jamaica could not fully meet the demands. The recent establishment of tobacco in Cuba increased those requirements, even if sugar was still managed in an elementary way. Instructions in 1685 to a new governor of Jamaica (Sir Philip Howard) included permission to allow a Spanish agent, Diego Maget of Cartagena, to settle “in Jamaica, in order to continue the Negro trade” on behalf of Coymans. In 1689, the Council and Assembly of Jamaica—it must be remembered that these English islands always had parliaments, whose decisions could often be unpredictable—were found protesting that the Spaniards received the “choicest negroes,” and the Jamaicans only the “refuse”; and, when Jamaican planters had gone aboard the ships to buy slaves, “their ready money has been refused because it was not pieces of eight.”8

It does not seem as if Baltasar Coymans had the definite intention of using any of his twelve or so ships (such as the immodestly named Rey Baltasar, specially built for the trade, in Amsterdam, or the Profeta Daniel) for the purpose of introducing Dutch or other Northern European goods into Spanish ports as well as slaves, but obviously some smuggling did occur, giving support to the fears of Dutch imperial expansion expressed by the civil servants in Madrid. Coymans had no doubt committed this pardonable offense in the past, since he specifically had introduced into his contract a clause forgiving him for all previous illicit business. As a result of the intervention of the Council of the Indies, Coymans also agreed to carry Capuchin friars on his boats, and he seems to have tried to do so.IV

But then this imaginative Dutchman inconveniently died, and his longtime assistant and heir, Jan Carçau, a Dutch-born Spanish resident (and a Catholic) was soon in a jail, chained, in Cádiz for fraud. Coymans’s contribution to the slave trade had been much less than the Spanish government had hoped, for the legal import was less than five hundred slaves in the two years 1685-86, even if the smuggled number must have exceeded that. Coymans had encountered difficulties in securing permission for his ships to leave Cádiz, one excuse after another being used by the port authorities—the need to carry post, passengers, even troops—in order to delay departures of which they heartily disapproved. Then Coymans had been obliged to maintain a large bureaucracy in the main ports of the empire. With numerous quarrels preventing the free supply of slaves to the Spanish empire, the “storage” in Curaçao in 1687 was again overcrowded—so much so that a special ship had to be sent to Africa to bring food for the 5,000-odd slaves.

Despite the interest of Jan Coymans, Baltasar’s brother, and, behind him, the Dutch West India Company, Coymans’s company now lost the asiento: first, it was returned to Nicolás Porcío, who claimed that he had been unfairly outmaneuvered by Coymans; and then to Bernardo Marín de Guzmán, a merchant of Caracas who had many connections with old Spain. The former used Curaçao much as Coymans had done; the latter struck out on his own for supplies, for he employed the new Portuguese joint-stock Cacheu Company (founded in 1676, on the initiative of Duarte Nunes, a Portuguese merchant established in Hamburg) of which, he, Marín de Guzmán, had previously been the agent and which backed him strongly.V The Crown was also in favor of this, for it seemed to mean that Spain would thus escape from the embarrassing reliance on heretics. But Marín de Guzmán died mysteriously in 1696—murdered by a Dutch agent, it was rumored.

In 1690, an Order in Council in London, meantime, had given freedom to both Barbados and Jamaica to trade in blacks with Spain. The governors of the two islands were even asked to give protection to all Spanish merchants who came to them; the year before, a Spanish agent, Santiago Castillo, representing Jan Coymans, arrived in London to negotiate with the RAC a regular arrangement for the sale of slaves. The aim was, as it were, to make regular an accepted illicit practice.

This was a remarkable concession to free trade. But it lasted a very short time. A reconstituted Cacheu Company asked for the asiento and, after the usual complicated negotiations in Madrid, obtained it, by offering a loan of two hundred thousand pesos to the Spanish Crown, as well as undertaking to deliver to Spanish America thirty thousand slaves in the following six and a half years. The agreement showed that the old Spanish resentment of Portugal after 1640 had died away; and converso connections between merchants in Portugal and Holland probably still enabled the former to obtain their goods for the African trade in Amsterdam both more easily and more cheaply than would otherwise have been the case. (The Huguenot French merchant and captain Jean Barbot wrote in the late 1670s that “the Portuguese . . . have most of their cargoes from Holland, under the names of Jews residing there. . . .”9)

Still, the Portuguese company failed to supply what it had promised. In these circumstances, Simon and Louis de Souza, agents for this company, approached, as so many of their predecessors as asentistas had done, the Dutch West India Company to help them find the necessary slaves. This request certainly maintained the fortunes of Curaçao but, as ever, demand there exceeded supply. In the end, the Cacheu Company did manage to carry ten thousand slaves to Spanish imperial ports legally, of whom just over half came direct from Africa. But hundreds of slaves were illegally imported: some were landed without payment of duties at Cartagena, on the plea that they were dead or dying—an early version, it might be said, of Gorki’s novel Dead Souls; and over two thousand went into the small port of Río de la Hacha, one of John Hawkins’s old markets. This was too much for the new governor of Cartagena, Juan Díaz Pimenta, who arrested the Portuguese company’s agent, Gaspar de Andrade, and closed his offices. Litigation followed, the governor being amply justified by evidence of the purchase of slaves in Jamaica and Curaçao. It even seemed, after a while, that the defrauding of the Spaniards had been the main purpose of the Portuguese company, though King Pedro II is said to have been the main investor in it. As King Louis XIV would say, in the early 1700s, “The English and the Dutch are the only ones to have profited. . . .”10

•  •  •

In Portuguese America—that is, Brazil—the usual estimates of African slaves imported for the first half of the seventeenth century seem exaggerated: one historian thought in terms of 200,000, or 4,000 a year, but his evidence is questionable. There were, after all, still thousands of Indian slaves available then from the raids of innumerable bandeirantes in the interior for all but the hardest work in the sugar plantations. Still, 350,000 African captives were almost certainly taken to Brazil in the second half of the century.11

The end of the sixty-year association with Spain incidentally seems to have had little effect on Portuguese trading to Brazil; thus a single contractor held the right to trade slaves from Angola from 1636 to 1644 (Pero Avoiz de Abreu), and he retained his place during the Dutch occupation there; he was followed by a succession of well-established Lisbon merchants.VI The same continuity was to be seen in the less valuable trading of slaves from the Cape Verde Islands, where Gaspar da Costa was the contractor, from 1637 to 1643. Private merchants maintained the trade from Lisbon or Porto till the end of the century, when a national company was established, in much the same way as had happened in other European countries. This was indeed the Cacheu Company, from the river of that name, between the Gambia and the Sierra Leone, whose activities in respect of Spain have already been touched upon.

The governors of Angola after the expulsion of the Dutch, João Fernandes Vieira and André Vidal de Negreiros, revived the old relations with the kings of Congo (ever more dependent, in a disintegrating realm), re-established the ngola of Ndongo as a useful puppet, made peace with the still-resilient Queen Nzinga (she did not die till 1663), sought a way of connecting Angola with the Portuguese colony in Mozambique by land, and above all began a process whereby Angola became more and more a commercial dependency of Brazil, rather than a colony of Portugal. Frei Antônio Vieira would, in his famous Sermões, at the end of the century, pronounce that, though Brazil certainly had its body in America, its soul was in Africa (he encouraged the black slave to resignation).

Congo was for a generation at the end of the century the best source of slaves for Brazil. The Portuguese had gone to war against the kingdom in 1665, King Antonio I had been executed after a victory (his head had been taken in un-Christian triumph to Luanda), and though the place remained nominally independent, it had in effect accepted the suzerainty of Portugal. That meant that the latter could extract from the territory such slaves as they wanted. Congo then began to break up; different members of the old Christian dynasty (the so-called infantes, each with his incongruous Christian name, a Pedro Constantino and even a Pedro del Valle de Lagrimas) fought each other, while the nominal monarch survived only as a ghost of his former eminence and, despite the emergence of a prophetess who claimed to be in touch with Saint Anthony of Padua (in order to bring the wars to an end), several small, autonomous principalities traded slaves without interruption.

Within a few years, the puppet kingdom of Ndongo also declined and, after a rebellion, was extinguished as an independent entity; the breakaway monarchy of Matamba, founded by Queen Nzinga, was in much the same condition after 1681, and that monarchy agreed to protect Portuguese pombeiros entering the realm in search of slaves. Beyond, the once equally ferocious Lunda kingdom had also allowed itself to be tamed and, by 1700, was the biggest slave producer for the Portuguese, with whom its people happily exchanged wine and clothes in return for souls.

Meantime, the Sonyo confirmed their independence from the Christian kings of Congo, though the astounding role there of the Capuchin order seemed to limit this freedom. The sons of the Sonyo king, for example, were named the “ten masters of the Church,” acting as interpreters, chanting mass, and assisting with confessions. This spiritual presence did not, however, interfere with a steadily rising export of slaves.

At the very end of the seventeenth century, the Brazilian market was transformed by the discovery of large deposits of gold. Just as Brazil had been the first in the Americas, in the late sixteenth century, to develop sugar-plantation agriculture, so she was the first to experience a “gold rush,” in Minas Gerais, in 1698: nothing like it had been seen before and “nothing like it was seen again, until the California gold rush of 1849.”12 To begin with, Indian slaves were used to open up the mines but they, as usual, proved themselves (or contrived to prove themselves) inferior to blacks, in endurance, commitment, and docility; and so the demand for Africans increased accordingly, as more and more gold was discovered, often in more and more remote places: the Mato Grosso, for instance, as well as Goiás and Cuiabá. The demand for labor so far exceeded supply that the mine owners even absorbed the extra taxes on slaves imposed by officials always looking for ways of replenishing the treasury, as of enriching themselves. Most of the work in this adventure was soon being performed by Africans, under the supervision, of course, of Brazilian masters. The mine owners made their petty distinctions among different slaves; thus the captives from Guinea were found to be stronger and better for this new back-breaking work than those from Angola. Slaves imported from Whydah, on the Slave Coast, were also thought for some years to have a magic gift for discovering new deposits of gold.

Slaves for Brazil were now easily, and directly, carried across the South Atlantic from Angola, Congo, or possibly Mozambique. But many, perhaps most, still came from the Gulf of Guinea—or “Mina,” as the Portuguese came to call that territory (a fond diminutive of lost Elmina). One estimate gives an overall figure of over 150,000 carried to Brazil in the first ten years alone of the eighteenth century, of whom fewer than half, about 70,000, were said to have come from Angola, and 80,000 from Mina.13 Most of the few settlers in Luanda in these years were engaged in one aspect or another of slave trading and, in the 1680s, there were seldom fewer than twenty slave ships in the harbor. (The Portuguese had been permitted by the Dutch to return to Axim in Guinea, though not to Elmina—on condition of a 10-percent duty on all trade goods brought to the coast. Thereafter, Portuguese traders also set themselves up at four ports on the Slave Coast: Grand Popo, Ouidah, Jaquin, and Apa.)

Though the journeys of most of these ships were still organized in Lisbon, increasing numbers were now often sent across the Atlantic directly by merchants from Rio. That was, in some ways, the most important long-term consequence of the gold rush in Minas Gerais. Daniel Defoe caused his character Robinson Crusoe to participate in one of these early direct journeys from Brazil to Africa, and it was on the outward journey that Crusoe was shipwrecked.14 Later on, some of these Rio-based traders would also smuggle slaves to Spanish settlers at Buenos Aires, on the river Plate. Though these merchants made money, and sometimes a great deal of it, their long-term position was weaker than it seemed, because they naturally could not offer the elaborate range of European goods which the Lisbon captains, with their connections in England and Holland, could guarantee. Brazil, however, had two successful direct exports, which accounted for a majority of the slaves taken to the place in these years: first, there was the sweet, molasses-dipped, third-rate tobacco which was especially favored in Benin; second, they produced a strong, rough cane brandy, gerebita, which was extraordinarily popular in Angola.

As well as the trade to Brazil, there was also in Angola still a flourishing coastal slave trade with Guinea and São Tomé, and even from Luanda to the southern city of Benguela. Municipal councils in the different parts of Luanda, the governor, the bishop, and most government and ecclesiastical officials were paid indirectly in “black ivory”: it was in return for such services that the councilors were awarded a third of the available shipping space for themselves in 1716.

On the other shore of the Atlantic, travelers to Bahia, at the end of the seventeenth century, were astonished at the numbers of slaves, especially domestic ones, as they were amazed at the frequency with which black girls, lavishly adorned with jewels, but slaves all the same, became the mistresses or even wives of Portuguese settlers. For example, the French traveler La Barbinais noted, in 1729: “The Portuguese born in Brazil prefer the possession of a black or a mulatto woman to the most beautiful [white] one. I have often asked them whence comes such a bizarre taste, but they do not know the answer themselves. I believe that, being brought up and fed by these slaves, they acquire these inclinations with their milk.”15

•  •  •

Scandinavians were also by then implicated in the slave trade from Africa. One initiative was taken by Louis de Geer, a financial genius from Liège, who had made a fortune from Swedish ironworks during the Thirty Years’ War. He was inspired to interest himself in Africa by Samuel Blommaert of Amsterdam. His first voyage returned to Gothenburg by way of West Africa and the Caribbean with a good cargo of tobacco and sugar, as well as ivory and gold; other journeys followed. Though Swedish in name, these expeditions were mostly led by Dutch captains, who had been rejected by their own Africa company, and the capital behind the schemes came from de Geer’s friends in Amsterdam. A company was formed in 1649, the charter being a copy of the Dutch West India Company’s of 1621 except that, so far as possible, the firm would use Swedish ships, crewed by Swedes, and built in Sweden. If forts were built in Africa, Swedish soldiers would man them.

The company commissioned Henrick Carloff, that restless captain originally from Rostock, in the duchy of Mecklenburg, on the Baltic Sea, to make African settlements. He indeed did begin to do so, at Cape Coast (Carlosburg), between Elmina and Nassau, the cornerstone being apparently laid by a Swiss, Isaac Melville. Some of Carloff’s subsequent adventures have been described earlier. The English, the Dutch, and the Portuguese had trading stations nearby and they, of course, protested at the newcomer’s arrival. Carloff cleverly renewed an old document which a Swedish predecessor had made with the king of Fetu, and built fortified trading stations at Anamabo and Takoradi, as well as, on a smaller scale, Gemoree and Apollonia. For several years, these settlements were successful, largely because the Dutch and English were at war with one another.

Next, following in the wake of Carloff, a Baltic aristocrat became concerned. This was the duke of Courland (Lithuania), then a dependency of Poland, though the duke descended from the grand masters of the Teutonic knights. In 1651, seamen acting for that faraway nobleman seized Saint Andrew’s Island in the river Gambia: that was the origin of Fort James (James Island) which, after 1658, fell first to the Dutch and, in 1660, to the English being conquered by that same Admiral Robert Holmes who would sweep so successfully through the Dutch forts on Guinea before turning aside to seize New Amsterdam. The duke of Courland had intended to trade slaves: one thousand, “or indeed more,” to be sold in America—more precisely, in Tobago, where the duke sought to set up a sugar colony in 1654. But there is no evidence that such a traffic ever began.

The year 1651 also saw the Danes committed to begin an adventure in Guinea which would last over two hundred years. The plan was conceived in Glückstadt, a fortified city of Holstein on the Elbe (then part of Denmark), which had been renowned for its generous reception of Portuguese Jews. These seem to have taken the initiative in launching the Danish African trade, Simon and Henrik de Casseres being the first to receive “sea passes” to go to trade at Barbados, from the patron of the city, Count Dietrich Reventlow. Danish ships were recorded in Africa from 1649, and a charter for the Glückstadt Company was drawn up in 1651. Jens Lassen, secretary to the exchequer in Copenhagen, went so far as to ask for a permission to enter the slave trade from Bernardino de Rebolledo, the astonished Spanish minister, and a ship owned by Lassen and some partners, the Neldebladet, was the first Danish vessel to carry slaves from Africa to the West Indies, bringing back sugar, ivory, gold, and palm oil to the Elbe. The success of this voyage stimulated further journeys.

In 1657, Carloff, who had by then quarreled with his Swedish employers, sailed from Denmark on a new ship, the Glückstadt, with a Danish force, and seized the Swedish establishments which he himself had founded at Takoradi, Ursu (Accra), and Anamabo. He even captured a Swedish ship, laden with gold and probably slaves, too, the Stockholm Slott. Carloff returned to Europe; the Swedes requested his arrest as a pirate; the Danish authorities allowed him to escape, with his stolen property; and war between Denmark and Sweden followed. Carloff, however, slipped back to Guinea and founded his own fort, Christiansborg, at what became Accra, and later also built Fort Friedrichsburg. The Swedes sent a naval vessel to Africa to reconquer what they had lost, but were unsuccessful. Henceforth, the Swedes, preoccupied by their ambitions in Poland, disappeared from the history of Africa, if not entirely from that of the slave trade. But Carloff remained, to desert the Danes in turn as he had deserted the Swedes, and then to act, as indicated earlier, as an agent for French slave labor in the 1660s.

The Danes, meantime, after several naval battles with the Dutch, carried on a modest slave trade from several of the forts that Carloff had won for them, as also from Friedrichsburg and Christiansborg. An average of a ship a year left the latter in the 1670s, carrying about four thousand slaves to the Caribbean in the twenty-five years between 1675 and 1700. (Carlosburg, however, beside Cape Coast, had by then been finally lost to the English.)

The Danish arrangements were far from regular. When Carloff died, his successor at Christiansborg Castle, Johann Ulrich, was murdered by a Greek butler in 1679, and Ulrich’s successor, Pieter Bolt, sold the place on his own responsibility to the Portuguese and the local Africans for a mere £36 in gold. It was not till 1682 that, with the help of the Dutch, the Danes recovered that castle; and they then lost it again to Africans in 1692. But they once more recovered it, and would hold it throughout the eighteenth century. Their main preoccupation was to send slaves to Saint Thomas, the tiny sugar-island colony which they had acquired in the Caribbean.

•  •  •

Yet one more Northern European people entered upon the African scene: the Brandenburgers. Once again, as in the case of the Danish involvement in Africa, Dutch interlopers seem to have taken the initiative, in this instance to influence the Great Elector Frederick William. So the Germans entered African commerce with an expedition led by one of these men from Holland, Captain Joris Bartelsen, sailing under the Brandenburg flag. His idea was to carry slaves from Angola to Lisbon and Cádiz. He was also instructed to bring home to the Great Elector in Berlin “six slaves aged between 14 and 16, handsome and well-built.”16

Though nothing came of this journey, settlements in the name of Brandenburg were made by another Dutch interloper, Benjamin Raule, from Zeeland: at Gross Friedrichsburg, subsequently Princestown, near Axim; at Fort Dorothea, at Akwidah; and at a trading post at Takoradi. The Brandenburgers also established themselves in 1685 at the abandoned Portuguese post at Arguin, the first European commitment in West Africa, their hold on which was confirmed by the Peace of Ryswick (they carried on much contraband from there). From these bases, German captains were ready to sell slaves to São Tomé and to the Dutch Guyana colony on the Berbice River, and even to bring them back for use in Berlin. In the Caribbean, the Germans, who had no American possessions, carried most of their slaves to the Danish island of Saint Thomas in the West Indies.

These Brandenburgers came to Africa in substantial strength—more so than the other Europeans. At their smallest forts, there was a captain and, under him, nearly a hundred men, sixteen six-pounder cannon, and fifteen hundred hand grenades. After a while, they sought a West Indian base: they tried for Tobago, as the duke of Courland had earlier done, but the Dutch opposed them, and they did not press the matter.

In consequence, no doubt, of this failure, the Brandenburgers soon tired of African adventure and, after some delays, sold out to the Dutch in 1720, when Gross Friedrichsburg became, more modestly, Fort Hollandia.

•  •  •

By 1700, all the chartered national companies, ambitious “nationalized industries,” set up to trade with Africa and carry slaves to the New World, seemed to be financial failures. They were usually unable to attract sufficient capital, and so governments were continually forced to subsidize them; the officials on their payrolls could not prevent high costs, deriving from the maintenance and defense of forts in Guinea, as well as from their own salaries; they failed to secure employees willing (or able) to surrender their private interests; and their obligations—for example, to provide a specific number of slaves every year to a specific buyer—meant that they had to trade, whatever the conditions. They were constantly criticized—above all, by independent traders excluded from their monopoly, and by manufacturers, who objected to the terms according to which they exchanged goods for slaves, as by political opponents of monarchical power. Even the Dutch West India Company was outma-neuvered on every side by interlopers. The same was equally true in relation to its English, French, and Portuguese equivalents.

In consequence of these failures, the commanders of the settlements in Africa which depended on the companies were by 1700 beginning to adopt a policy of “live and let live” rather than conquest: born of weakness and exhaustion, not principle. The monopoly companies could not defeat the interlopers, any more than the English could annihilate the Dutch, or vice versa. What was true of nations was true of different groups within them.

At the end of the seventeenth century, there were in that region of Africa which had the largest number of foreigners, the Gold Coast, nearly four hundred Dutch citizens, about two hundred English, about eighty-five Danes, and the same number of Brandenburgers. There were some small Portuguese settlements on the rivers Cacheu and Bissau, between Cape Verde and the river Sierra Leone, as on the Cape Verde Islands themselves. The French and English had forts on the rivers Sénégal, Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Sherbro, as also at Gorée. The Dutch, Portuguese, and English also had trading stations at Whydah (Ouidah) on the Slave Coast (the kings there would only permit Europeans to establish mud forts at three miles inland from the shore). All the nations concerned except the Portuguese eschewed anything in the nature of real colonies. Most European governments even deplored the idea of their employees’ making gardens and plantations, on the ground that the land was leased, not owned. Thus, in 1678, the local chief agent of the RAC recommended that all trading for slaves should be conducted from sloops, offshore: “Once settled ashore, a factor is absolutely under the command of the king where he lives, and is liable for the least displeasure to lose all the goods he has in his possession, with danger also to his life.”17 (As late as 1752, the British Board of Trade would forbid the Company of Merchants Trading to Africa—a successor to the RAC, as will be seenVII—to introduce any kind of cultivation into the Gold Coast, since they “were only tenants of the soil which we hold at the good will of the natives.”18) The Portuguese African establishments south of the equator—in São Tomé, Congo, and Angola, as well as in Mozambique, where a steady flow of slaves for the Americas now derived—were more solid enterprises. Luanda was a real imperial outpost with a governor, a bureaucracy, and a bishop, each with appropriate public buildings.

•  •  •

The last quarter of the seventeenth century had seen a great increase in the export of slaves from all these African ports. The best historian of the statistics of this matter thought that there might have been nearly 370,000 exported between 1650 and 1675, or a little less than 15,000 a year, and for the years between 1675 and 1700, his estimate was just over 600,000, an annual average of over 24,000. A majority of these slaves were now going to the islands of the Caribbean.19

The impact on West Africa was, of course, colossal, but it is not easy to give an impression of the consequences so far. For example, the ivory trade had for a long time been a rival of the trade in slaves in the European mind (in the seventeenth century, the region of the Rio del Rey, on the east side of the delta of the Niger, was exporting forty thousand pounds of ivory a year). But two centuries of uncontrolled hunting had greatly diminished the number of elephants. Gold, on the other hand, was still a real rival to slaving. Then, too, most European traders entered into several departments of African commerce: thus the Portuguese used kola nuts from Sierra Leone to buy slaves in Senegambia; the Dutch shipped beads and cloth from Benin to the Gold Coast. So it is hard to distinguish between the impact of European trade as such and the impact of the trade in slaves.

Yet there were obviously political changes in Africa because of the slave trade. Just as the medieval Arab trade in slaves had inspired new cities on the bend of the Niger, such as Timbuktu, so the Atlantic trade in slaves was consolidating new polities: for example, in Ashanti and Accra, on the Gold Coast, in Dahomey and Lagos, on the Slave Coast, as in the oligarchies of the delta of the Nile. In Senegambia, the region of the Wolofs, the Damel (ruler) of Lat Sukaabe would inspire reforms which led to the increase in the number of slave warriors; while the Bambara kingdom, founded about 1710, on the Middle Niger, would soon become an “enormous machine to produce slaves.”20 The decay of the kingdom of Congo was a good example of the impact of slaving on an indigenous monarchy.

The emergence of the Ashanti kingdom on the Gold Coast shows how hard it is to decide absolutely about the impact of the Atlantic commerce. The Ashanti, living about one hundred miles north of Elmina on the Gold Coast, also to the north of the gold mines of the Akan forest, had been for many years dependents of the Akans. By 1700, the Akans were conquered by their vassals who, led by Osei Tuti, the first “Asantahene,” or independent monarch of the Ashanti, using guns obtained from the English and Dutch, would soon establish his people as the dominant one on the Gold Coast. Osei Tuti’s new capital was Kumasi, a city built near the ancient trading town of Tafo, and the symbol of the power of the new empire was the famous golden stool. The Ashanti soon traded slaves extensively with the Dutch. Yet they would probably have become an important power even if it had not been for the slave trade. They were, after all, concerned with gold more than with slaves for a generation after their emergence from the Akan yoke. Between 1675 and 1700, three-quarters of the value of Dutch imports from Guinea was gold, and only about 13 percent slaves. Thereafter, slavery did play a big part: a director of the Dutch West India Company reported in 1705 that the Gold Coast was “changing completely into a slave coast, and the natives no longer concentrate on the search for gold, but make war on each other to acquire slaves.”21

•  •  •

By 1700, it should have been evident that no chartered company had a future. But all staggered on, as state enterprises usually do, and new ones even came to be founded. It should have been obvious too to the Spanish Crown that the pursuit of the ideal monopoly contract (asiento) for trading slaves was as vain as the search for a Fountain of Eternal Youth; and it should have been evident to potential candidates eager to obtain that contract that it was an enterprise as unlucky as it was unprofitable. But not only were such new privileges granted, they were sought after ever more enthusiastically. Indeed, during the War of the Spanish Succession, which began in 1701, the issue of which nation afterwards would have the asiento was one of the most important questions at stake.

In 1700, the Portuguese still had the privilege of the asiento but, as has been seen, their control of it had been wracked by controversy. Further, most of the goods carried on the outward journey were, as often as not, French, provided by powerful French merchants in both Portugal and Spain. So it was not surprising that, in 1701, the Cacheu Company should have been induced, by a handsome payment of a million pesos, to hand back the asiento to the Spanish Crown. The new French-born king of Spain, Philip V, grandson of the king of France, immediately gave the opportunity to France. Future profits were to be divided among the two Bourbon kings of Spain and France, and Jean-Baptiste Ducasse, the hero of Gorée, now governor of the amazingly successful sugar colony Saint-Domingue. He had been a French special envoy in Madrid, and was an experienced trader in Africa, for he had earlier worked for the Sénégal Company as a captain of slave ships as well as an effective administrator (his favor with Louis XIV was due to his actions in seizing both Cartagena de Indias and Jamaica during the wars of the 1690s).VIII In consequence of these arrangements, King Pedro of Portugal allied with England and the Habsburgs against the Bourbons, and Philip V immediately canceled all payments which he had agreed to make to his Portuguese colleague.23 This marked a real triumph for France: after all, one of the long-standing aims of Colbert had been to gain control of the Spanish markets.

The French, under the new arrangements, were to take their slaves from Angola and the island of Corisco, off Gabon. They were to enjoy a ten-year monopoly, from 1702 to 1712; 4,800 piezas de indias were to be delivered every year to any port in the Spanish Indies to which entry was not specifically prohibited. On nearly all the slaves, a duty of thirty-three and a third écus would be levied. Three thousand slaves would also be taken to the French Indies; and, whatever company performed these duties in France, it would have to pay the king of Spain six hundred thousand livres.

Louis XIV, on the advice of his astute chancellor Louis Pontchartrain—another hero of Saint-Simon—assigned the prize of the asiento to the Guinea Company (at that time one of three surviving French African companies, the others being the Royal Company of Sénégal of 1696, and the Royal Company of Saint-Domingue).IX

The treaty was unpopular in Spain. France had been mocked continually during the seventeenth century, and it seemed that now the imperial economy was being handed over to the object of the national derision. Any dandified courtier in Madrid might be seized by the townspeople and asked if he could pronounce “ajo” (garlic) or “cebolla” (onion); if he could not, he ran the risk of being beaten for the crime of being French. The Council of the Indies thought that the treaty would make it easy for the French merchants to import all manner of goods into the empire, as well as slaves, and thought that “Spanish national interests”—the modern phrase was used—would undoubtedly suffer. The king made a mild effort to mollify the offended commercial leaders of his new country by prohibiting the Guinea Company’s ships from docking at Pacific ports and reducing the number of slaves to be landed at Buenos Aires. Those provisions had little effect: and Spanish officials both at home and in the Indies did all they could to impede the new contractors. Even the Council of the Indies, in 1702, forbade the import of slaves from the Gold Coast or Cape Verde Islands into the empire, on the specious ground that they were barbarous, difficult to convert to Christianity, and liable to eat human flesh “with voracity.” When one of the company’s vessels, the Gaillarde of La Rochelle, reached Cartagena in 1703, with thirty-six ill among 103 male slaves on board, the governor there, Díaz Pimenta, charged the full duty. There were other minor vexations which the Spaniards delighted to devise in order to humiliate or to obstruct their new patrons.

At the same time, the illegal trade continued. The Guinea Company later claimed that, in its years of privilege, it carried a total of ten or twelve thousand slaves, but the real figure imported at that time into the Spanish empire approached forty thousand. Demand seemed greater than ever in the course of the War of the Spanish Succession. The new gold mines of El Choco in New Granada, if never so significant as those in Brazil, used up slaves at a high rate. Though Holland was at war with France, the Dutch West India Company sold many slaves to the Guinea Company at Curaçao, and knew that they could have sold more, had they had them: representatives of the French asentistas (Gaspar Martin, Jean Chourra, Louis Chambert) visited them with that in mind. (The accounts of the Dutch West India Company show that almost twenty thousand slaves were sold in Curaçao to Spanish buyers between 1700 and 1729.)

Jamaica, the main entrepôt of France’s most important enemies, the English, was at this time even busier, dealing both direct with the asiento company, and through interlopers. Yet there was English indignation (especially among the directors of the RAC) that France should have secured the great contract. After all, Britain was by then more important as a slaving nation than France was. In 1701, the slave population of Martinique, Saint-Domingue, and Guadeloupe was a mere forty-four thousand, many of whom must have come from Jamaica or Barbados. Over twice as many were imported into the British colonies in the first ten years of the century alone.

In May 1702, an infuriated RAC suggested to the British Admiralty that, if the French could only be prevented from obtaining slaves to fulfill their contract, the Spanish colonists might be forced to buy from England. The African Company’s factor in Jamaica, Lieutenant-Governor Peter Beckford (a sugar planter, of Gloucestershire origin, then at the beginning of his family’s rise to vast wealth), wrote to the secretary of state, James Vernon, suggesting that the English should station frigates off Portobelo and Cartagena de Indias, and on the African coast, in order to “constrict the French trade.”24 English merchants, he thought, should also be prevented from making contracts with the French or from delivering slaves to them. Next year, the RAC itself, in the same vein, suggested to Vernon’s successor, Lord Nottingham, that, since French slave ships spent about two months on the African coast collecting slaves, a mere three British ships of war and one fire ship could spoil their entire traffic.

The British government did not pursue this tactic, but the war did mean fighting between British and French ships. Thus a new lieutenant-governor of Jamaica, Handasyd (an enemy of Beckford, whom he accused of murder), wrote in 1703 to the Board of Trade and Plantations in London: “We have a dismal account of the great losses of the merchant ships by [French] privateers of Martinico [Martinique] which, as I have been informed, are twenty-eight in number and have taken seventy odd sail of ships and sloops. Some of them are laden with negroes.” He added: “Our number of slaves augments daily but, to my great grief, the number of white men daily decrease.”25

The British and the French were in competition everywhere, even for the trade of Loango Bay. With the Dutch in retreat from those harbors, the French desired to destroy all their rivals in the region and establish their own monopoly. For they had been informed that, given proper supervision, two thousand slaves could be bought annually at Loango, and the same number again in the two nearby small ports of Cabinda and Malemba. The rivalry of great powers was, however, destructive for the trade there; and, in 1706, a Dutch captain reported that, though there were many slaves available in those ports, no one was there to buy them.

In 1707, the British government, largely to satisfy the RAC, drew up a draft contract between Queen Anne and the Archduke Charles, the British candidate to be king of Spain, to supply slaves to the Spanish empire, this being sent to James Stanhope, their minister in Spain. The British would pledge themselves in ten years to find the 48,000 slaves which the French had undertaken to carry but, thanks to the war, had been unable to deliver. Advances would be paid, rather like a modern contract for a book (“The contractors are to advance by way of anticipation 200,000 pesetas [in pieces-of-eight] or £45,000 English money, to be paid in two payments, the first two months after his Catholic Majesty’s approbation of this contract, the second two months after the first, which sum the said contractors shall not be reimburst”). But those were matters for the peace to resolve.

The French themselves had more ambitious plans. That same year, Louis XIV sent an emissary—a rich young official, Nicolas Mesnager—to Holland to propose a collaboration of all the maritime powers to provide slaves for the Americas. A similar plan was proposed by King Philip V: Spain, Britain, Holland, and France were to have each a fourth part. This remarkable idea for a European Common Market in selling slaves failed: since the Dutch refused to think of making common cause with the French, nothing was done.

The British maintained their pressure on Spain. By 1710, they were selling well over ten thousand slaves a year to the Indies, the Spanish empire included; the French sold fewer than thirteen thousand in the twelve years 1702-13. The former were obviously in the dominant position. The Spaniards and the French were also falling out. For example, in 1712, the Guinea Company asked the Crown of Spain for five million pesos in debts, interest, and damages. Many colonists in the Spanish empire and several officials in Spain were coming to think that recourse to England (Britain, as the United Kingdom had officially become in 1707) was the only way that their empire could be properly stocked with African labor. At the same time, in London, “this abstruse trade” now seemed “the most beneficial of all others to the nation.”26 There were innumerable petitions to the House of Commons from gunmakers, cutlers, dyers, sailmakers, weavers, and tuckers, manufacturers of wrought iron from Birmingham, serge makers, merchants from Edinburgh and from Chester, not to speak of manufacturers of Welsh flannel, at the horrible thought that the government might, as a result of the forthcoming peace, limit rather than extend their participation in the trade to Africa, and hence in the traffic of slaves.

The consequence was that, when the Treaty of Utrecht came to be drawn up in 1713, to conclude the War of the Spanish Succession, the British were able to insist on taking over the asiento. Though a Bourbon ruled in Madrid, British ships would carry Africans to the Americas to work in the haciendas, the palaces, the mines, and the tobacco and sugar farms of his great empire. A new French Company of Sénégal, run by merchants from Rouen, could do little more than complain. It was a victory for British diplomacy beside which the concurrent acquisition of Gibraltar and Minorca seemed modest.


IThe most prominent of the businessmen who took advantage of this opportunity were Juan Rodrigo Calderón, Juan de Salcedo, and Jacinto Núñez de Loarca.

IIWalrond was marquis of Vallado, an obscure mountain hamlet near Oviedo.

IIIA pieza de indias was a male slave in the prime of life and in good health; two children could make up one pieza de indias, and two or even three old women could also.

IVCapuchin friars, mostly Italians, had reached Congo, precisely the Sonyo community, in 1645, to embark on a determined effort at evangelization which continued till at least 1700.

VThis was not the first Portuguese privileged company; the Companhia da Costa de Guiné had had a short-lived and obscure existence for a few years after 1664, organized by the brothers Lorenzo and Manuel Martins.

VITomas Figueira Bultão and Diogo Sanches Caraçe, then Antônio da Gama Nunes and Jeronymo Teixeira da Fonseca.

VIISee page 265.

VIIISaint-Simon, in his memoirs, reserved for this son of a seller of hams in Bayonne some of his most respectful sentences: “gentle, polite, respectful,” he was also possessed of “much fire and vivacity”; he was “never false to himself.”22

IXThe king would pay a bounty of thirteen livres per slave delivered live to the Americas, in order to encourage the traffic. The company was relieved of paying any duty on any goods carried. Two hundred thousand pesos would be paid to the Spanish Crown for the contract, and it would pay a duty per slave of thirty-three and a third pesos, which was 4.5 percent lower than the one levied on the Portuguese. Further, 17 percent of the duty was to be deducted per head of four thousand eight hundred slaves actually delivered: an enticement which suggests how little the expectation was that the contract would be fulfilled. The company would not, actually, have a complete monopoly, for trade to Cayenne and to the Windward Isles was to be allowed to other French traders. All merchants of the Breton port of Nantes might also go to Guinea, if they paid the company twenty livres per head on the slaves whom they took to Saint-Domingue, and ten livres if they went to the other French islands. Merchants from Martinique might import four or five hundred slaves a year, provided that they paid thirteen livres to the company and sent a hundred slaves to Guadeloupe. A final section of this exceptionally complicated understanding provided that the two kings, Louis XIV and Philip V, grandfather and grandson, would take a quarter each of the stock in the company, while the rest would be available for French investors. The company also agreed to give King Philip a loan to buy the stock which he had reserved to him.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!