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Colonial Cases

Newspaper commentary and minor cases, Cape of Good Hope

The Singapore Free Press & Mercantile Advertiser, 4 April 1844


(From the Cape of Good Hope Shipping List, Dec. 1.)

THE SLAVE TRADE. - The Portuguese schooner of 44 tons, the Esperanza, has been condemned by the mixed Commission Court, and broken up for sale, agreeably to our treat with Portugal.

   Her instructions contain a tale of horror, requiring no varnishing to render it a romance.  She was commissioned for the coast of Africa, for the Mozambique, and with a crew of ten men, and provisions for fifteen days (!  !  !) was to take in 220 slaves, or if small bales - so the slaves are termed - 250 ! and easily packed  - in space of what (Gracious God!) the hold of a vessel of 44 tons, with a height of thirty-two inches, - ay, inches! Between the slave, or under, and the upper deck.  Manacles and chains were on board to the number of 900 for another cargo.  And with provisions for fifteen days was this frightful freight - this cargo of human misery, to cross the wide Atlantic - to traverse at a bird's flight nearly 4,000 miles.

   Suppose calms or diverse winds or storms occurred - suppose the voyage was delayed for twenty days, - to no port dare the slave-ship run; from no vessel dare she seek for assistance - 250 human beings, without water or food, crammed into a space not high enough to sleep when lying down in one position for twenty days and nights, in a fold fetid with their own filth, without ventilation, with a putrid and foul atmosphere, on a deck thirty-two inches from the ceiling.  Can any fiction, any romance portray what might have been the bitter agony - the torture of these Africans.

   A slave can be purchased for ten bars of baft, or ten pieces of blew cloth - say twenty shillings, and will fetch at Brazil 480 dollars, or often 120l.; the immense profit renders the slave traders regardless of human life - one slave in every ten, if brought to Cuba or Brazil, yield an ample return; and anxious as out cruisers are to check this wretched traffic, the western coast of Africa is too vast and extensive for the fleet employed to watch it. - Naval Military Gazette.

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