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The Heritage of The South: A History of the Introduction of Slavery

118 pages
Library of Alexandria
The struggle for independence made by the Southern States of the American Union, grew out of questions of self government arising mainly in regard to the institution of African slavery as it existed in those states, and as that institution was the occasion for the development of the difficulties which led immediately to the struggle, the conduct of the states lately forming the Southern Confederacy has been misunderstood, therefore, misrepresented, with the effect of casting upon them not only the odium of originating the war but even for the existence and continuance of slavery itself. Much misapprehension has existed in the minds even of intelligent foreigners upon these subjects and it is therefore not inappropriate to take a retrospective view of the history of slavery in general and especially of the slave trade and of slavery in the United States, as well as of the questions which led to the secession of the Southern States and to the war consequent thereon. It is said that the Portuguese began the traffic in slaves on the coast of Africa in the 15th century, and that at the beginning of the 16th century negro slaves had become quite common in Portugal. After the discovery of America, the Spaniards made slaves of the Indians and employed them in their first settlements in the newly discovered country, but the supply not being found sufficient and the Indians not being very well adapted for the purpose in the tropical regions, negro slaves were introduced from Africa—the first being imported into Hispaniola (St. Domingo), in the year 1503. The example of Spain in regard to the use of negro slaves in her American Colonies was followed by all the other nations of Europe, who undertook the colonization of the newly found continent and islands, to-wit: the Portuguese, English, French, Dutch, Danes and Swedes. Sir John Hawkins, an English admiral and adventurer, was the first Englishman known to have engaged in the African slave trade, and he carried his first cargo to the Spanish West India islands about the year 1562. Report says that Queen Elizabeth became a partner in and shared the profits of his subsequent voyages in the prosecution of the trade. From that time the African slave trade became a regular branch of English commerce, and was conducted in its first stages principally under monopolies granted to companies, in the profits of which members of the Royal family, noblemen, courtiers and churchmen, as well as merchants, shared, as was the practice in those days in all important branches of commerce. From the restriction under Charles II, the African trade, including that in slaves, was monopolized by the "Royal African Company" for a number of years; and that company built and established, on the coast of Africa, forts and factories for the purpose of facilitating and protecting the trade; but in the year 1698, the slave trade was thrown open to private traders, upon the payment to the company of a certain percentage towards the support of its forts and factories.