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Colonial Cases



The Argus (Melbourne, Australia), 6 May 1876

... but a somewhat analogous case happened to Captain Sullivan, of the London, last year.  The report of Mr. Rothery to the Treasury on this case is given in the return.  The boats of the London captured and destroyed a supposed slave show off the Zanzibar coast, but Captain Prideaux, the acting judge of the Consular Court at Zanzibar, subsequently awarded compensation to the owner of the dhow, on the ground that although the women on board the vessel were technically slaves, they had been "free to all intents and purposes since the death of their late master," and were voluntary passengers on board the dhow.  The return states that "the compensation awarded to the owner of the dhow has been paid by the country." 


The Times, 29 April 1878

   H.M.S. Lynx arrived at Zanzibar on the 4th inst. with a large dhow in tow, having boarded her off Ras Ngado, and slave irons were found by the gunners in charge of the boarding party stowed away in the water tanks.  She was at once seized and taken to Zanzibar.  It was estimated that she would measure over 200 tons, and will therefore prove a valuable prize to the eneregetic and indefatigable Lynx, should she be condemned in the Consular Court.  The trial was to commence on the 11th inst.


The Standard (London), 8 August 1892


The cruiser Blanche, of her Majesty's Navy, having captured a show with thirty-three slaves on board, the case came before Mr. Cracknall, Judge of the Consular Court, on Friday.  He has condemned the captured vessel as a prize, and has handed its Arab owners over to the Sultan's jurisdiction.


The Brisbane Courier (Queensland, Australia), 26 December 1892



One of the most important slave captures of recent years has been made by H.M.'s cruiser Blanche, of which Captain Lindley is in command.  It appears that the steamship Kilwa was proceeding to Pemba from Zanzibar when she was boarded by the boat's crew of the Blanche, and unsatisfactory answers having been given by the Kilwa's passengers to the questions asked by the officer in charge of the boat, they were taken on board the Blanche, while the Kilwa was allowed to proceed on her voyage.

   The passengers included twelve slaves and six owners.  A few days later the case was tried in the Consular Court at Zanzibar, when the slaves declared that they were being taken to Pemba against their will, and that some of them had been kidnapped.  In two cases the slaves had been entrapped by bogus messages.  The owners did not deny having taken the slaves on board, but said none of them had complained to the captain.  Tickets had been taken at the Government shipping offices for the slaves on the representation that they were willing to go to Pemba, but it was supposed that the passengers actually taken on board were substituted for those in whose names the tickets had been procured.  This was the interesting point of the case.

   Captain Lindley, of the Blanche, in the course of his evidence said he had suspected that the Kilwa was used for the conveyance of slaves, and had determined to watch her.  For months past his officers had been boarding dhows, but with little result, and this he attributed to the fact that the traffic had been carried on the Kilwa.

   Ultimately the Judge, while giving an order for the liberation of the slaves, held that the defendants were not criminally responsible, and the costs have been paid by the Government of Zanzibar.  The slaves were freed on the 8th of October.


Bathurst Free Press (Australia), 31 December 1892


Another important capture of slaves, although it took place previous to that described above, was off Pemba.  The attention of those on board the Blanche was attracted by a large Arab crew on board a dhow sailing towards Pemba, and a boat was sent to board her.  The dhow was found to have on board 3[0] slaves. The case came before Mr. Cracknall, in the Consular Court when the dhow and slaves were condemned.  Three of the slaves were selected by chance to be examined. ...The captain of the show said it was the business of the people of the coast to sell slaves, and that he had paid for every one of them, and had not kidnapped or stolen any.  'It is not,' he said, 'against our law or religion.'  The slaves were handed over to the French mission, and the captain and crew were sent to the Sultan for punishment, which practically means death, as they are committed to a vile dungeon.


The Times, 20 November 1893



A dhow with 33 slaves on board has been captured by the Racoon, and has been condemned to-day in the Consular Court. - Our Correspondent.


The Preston Guardian (Preston), 25 November 1893

A dhow with 33 slaves on board has been captured by the Racoon, and has been condemned in the Consular Court at Zanzibar.


The Times, 10 April 1895.



The Phoebe has captured a slave dhow at Port Durnford.  The vessel has been condemned by the Consular Court. - Our Correspondent.

See also The Friend of India (Calcutta, India), 25 March 1876

And see Star (NZ), 16 June 1884 (Zanzibar and problems with local prison, Sir John Kirk).

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School