Illegal Slave Trade in Mauritius

2 February 2018

When the British conquered Mauritius in 1810, slave import was effectively banned and the slave market turned into a local one, until the abolition of slavery in 1835. In his book The Slave Legacy’, Jacques David notes that: “One main issue was owing to set the island on fire once more: in England, the Government voted the Slave Abolition Act in 181 0 and the Slave Trade Felony Act was registered in Mauritius in 1813. ” Therefore, it would be during the governance of Sir Robert Townsend Fraught that Mauritius would start witnessing the persistence of Illegal Slave Trade. By 1826, Fraught was reprimanded in the court of justice for never prosecuting the slave traders.The main reasons behind this persistence of slave trade may be because of: Parquet’s leniency, the corrupted officials, lack of labor force, the quest for development, the French laws, etc.

All these will be emphasized in the following paragraphs * Background To The Slave Trade Act In England, public feelings against slavery and slave owners were being roused through the intervention of humanitarians in the British Parliament. Deckhand Napalm notes that: “In 1 787, leaders of anti-slavery movement among whom were Granville Sharp and Wildflower, pleaded in bold terms for the good treatment of the slaves class instead of exploiting them as if they were senseless creatures. In 1 806, Granville made a passionate speech where he argued that the trade was “contrary to the principles of justice, immunity and sound policy,” and criticized fellow members for “not having abolished the trade long ago. ” When the vote was taken, the Abolition of the Slave Trade bill was passed in the House of Lords by 41 votes to 20. In the House of Commons, it was carried by 114 to 15 and it became law on the 25th of March 1807. British captains who were caught continuing the trade were fined El 00 for every slave found on board. This law, however, did not stop the British slave trade.

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If slave ships were in danger of being captured by the British navy, captains often reduced the fines they had to pay by ordering the laves to be thrown into the sea.Consequently, when Fraught became governor of Mauritius in 181 0, he was unwilling to enforce the Abolition Act of 1807 and made enquiries at the Colonial office whether this Act, as well as the Penal Act of 1811 was to be applied on Mauritius. Deckhand Napalm writes that: “Fraught was of opinion that the laws could not be applied to Mauritius because it was a British Colony only since the last month of 181 0, conquered long after the abolition act. ” * Sir Robert Townsend Fraught Sir Robert Townsend Fraught was born on the 14th of October 1 776 in England. He was appointed governor of Mauritius after the conquest and capitulation of Ill De France from the French on the 3rd of December 1810.This conquest brought about an end to the ninety years of the French administration on the Island. Ill De France was renamed Mauritius and it was formally given to Britain at the treaty of Paris in 1815.

The British guaranteed the inhabitants their customs, their laws, language and religion. Deckhand Napalm notes that: ‘”When Fraught took the Government of the newly conquered island, the slave population rose to 60,000 out of a total population of 80,500. It was quite an excessive number and nearly three quarters of the population of the island. ” * Problem: Which Law To Follow? There was, however, a problem on the question of trade. The French and the British laws differed equally.Then which law was to be applied to the Island if the existing French law said one thing and the British colonial said something different? The French followed The Slave Code which was a French Colonial Law, but the British had already abolished slave trade in its colonies by the year 1810. Deckhand Napalm notes that: “On the arrival of the English, the French colonists considered the slaves to be their property by right of possession, being unwilling to tolerate the interference of the British Government.

Hence the first British Governor of Mauritius had the difficult task of governing the island during the transition period of the take over and the adaptation of the inhabitants in the new regime. Slavery, as we can see here, was indispensable for the colony to survive. By that time, all British colonies had to strictly not indulge in slave trade. Sir Robert Fraught will thus make an appeal to the Earl of Liverpool in the following words: “… Slavery s known throughout the world, and forms a special head of law even in some of the British colonies in the East Indies; and it is impossible to conceive how some of those establishments could be upheld without it.

.. ” Thus according to Fraught, if there’s no slavery, there would be no colony, and labor force is important for a colony to progress. Above all, paid labor is very expensive.So, Fraught was in favor of this trade and pleaded the British Government to grant his colony permission to continue with it. Liverpool, however, warned Fraught on strong tones that he had to strictly abide by the laws eased at the British Parliament with the approval of “His Majesty’. Liverpool maintained that these laws concerning the slave trade were based on principles.

These principles were from religious men who argued that slavery was a sin against God. He warned Fraught in the following words: “l am inclined to hope that you will not have suffered any slaves to be imported into the islands under your government, until you shall have received the necessary explanation upon the subject from home. * Various Challenges Fraught Faced During the same period, we would notice that Sir Robert Fraught was entrusted with the most delicate task as a governor. He was required to establish British rule in a colony which was previously a French one. He had also the duty to convince Mauritania of French origin to accept the new regime without hostility and to please them at the same time. These were two difficult challenges Fraught had to face up with. Miniaturization Farm writes Of him as follows: “Being an administrator, he tried and succeeded to get his work done in a peaceful way.

By doing so, he intelligently avoided many problems which could be created and associated with the change of overspent” Governor F-regular did almost everything not to upset the French colonists.Jacques David quotes him saying: “My opinion is that the maintenance of the British Authority in the colony will materially depend on the coalition of the established inhabitants of the island, and on the degree in which the terms of the capitulation may consult their personal interests, as connected with the security of their property, with the advantageous dispersal of the products of the island and with their safety against insurrection of their slaves. ” During his administration, Fraught encouraged amerce and allowed Port Louis to operate as a free port. Any ship belonging to any nation could freely enter the harbor. Deckhand Nap writes that Fraught did not pay attention to the navigation laws which he had been asked to enforce. The French merchant ships liked the idea of maintaining their trade and this made them respond positively to the new government.The idea of making the French happy will create greater problem later when General Hall would blame the French and their laws for promoting the cause of Slave Trade on the Island.

For the time being, the issue of slave trade is still considered as illegal in Mauritius. Illegal slave trade was not put into force on the Island and Fraught did not stop the importation and entry of the slaves altogether, but he made it difficult for the planters to bring more. Miniaturization Farm writes that Fraught was: “… Aware of their efforts to continue as before for which reason he did not make any law to punish them. Rather, while being kind and considerate, he also made it difficult by exercising some checks and control.

In reply to the Earl of Liverpool, Fraught assured that: “l beg leave, in reply, to assure your lordship, that every precaution has been oaken on the part of the government, to prevent the importation of slaves… ” Thus, on one hand, he was able to discourage slave trade, and on the other hand, he did not take severe action against those who were involved in it. This strategy from Fraught was applied so as not to bring about conflict and chaotic situations in the colony as the colonists were themselves in need of labor. Thus, this leniency adopted by Fraught towards this illegal practice acted as incentive for slave traders to be indulged deeply in this trade. Some Cases Of Illegal Slave Trade Caught In The ColonyDespite the fact that Fraught was rather lenient with the slave owners and the slave trade, we can see from the various documents or dispatches that efforts were being done by the Governor to discourage this illegal activity which made its way on the Island.

For instance, in the dispatch addressed to the Earl of Liverpool on the 26th of October 1811, Fraught claimed of capturing two vessels which came from Madagascar with 335 slaves, “Of which 217 only agreed in description with those for whom permission had been granted; the remaining 1 1 8 therefore appeared to have been embarked or the purpose of being fraudulently introduced into these colonies. ” Other cases were recorded in 1812. Fraught stated the seizure of 75 blacks from Bourbon who were “surreptitiously’ introduced into the colony as slaves. Also, a certain Mr. John May was recorded to be involved in the unlawful trade of Slavery.Fraught writes to Earl of Liverpool that Mr. May: “Afforded a conveyance for one hundred and one slaves on board that vessel, from Madagascar to Bourbon.

.. ” Captain Lynn was also suspected to be involved in such trade from Teammate to Mauritius, but he was later found innocent. Fraught also assured the Earl of Liverpool that necessary measures were being taken to ameliorate the condition of the existing legal slaves in general. * The Slave Trade Felony Act In 1813 When the Secretary of State for colonies learnt about his negligence, Fraught was reprimanded. It was then that the law was registered in Mauritius in 1813 in the name of Slave Trade Felony Act.The British Government passed a number of laws in regard with slave trade, but there was strong opposition from the slave owners.

The colonists who were involved in illegal slave trading protested vigorously against it and boycotted he registration of slaves. They had different interests from that of the abolitionists. At the same time, Deckhand Napalm points out that these slave owners: “… Were afraid that at any time, another law might be passed in the British Parliament, freeing all slaves, which would cause them considerable financial loss. ” To control slaves, registration was important, but in Mauritius, registration was badly done as sometimes, the planters falsified them.

For the first time, slaves would be given a surname along with their name.This registration, by giving a surname to the slaves, helps to combat against slave read. Fraught proved to be too tolerant for the colonists, especially the French ones. Hence illicit slave trade continued and slaves, by then, were being smuggled to Mauritius at night time in small boats, carrying within them, as many as 100 slaves at a time, and above all, in deplorable inhuman conditions. Jacques David further writes that: “An Order in Council, voted on 24th September 1 814, requiring the registration of slaves, was published in Mauritius one year later, that is, in 1815. ” In relation to the British Parliament, if F-regular were to allow slave trade to continue in the colony, the BritishGovernment would not, at any cost, let such situation prevail and London insisted that the registration be made. So, we can see here that the registration of the slaves would prevent the prevailing of cases of illegal slave trade which was not the case before.

Otherwise, the previous situation before the registration system can be said to be one of the reasons for the persistence of this undesirable act. Sir Robert Fraught, however, pressurized by the colonists’ desire to own slaves, remained negligent about this new act and consequently he was removed from office. He was replaced y General Hall and Jacques David writes: “Far from being lenient on this issue, (Hall) tried to apply the law in its stricter terms. This caused uproar.Fraught was recalled and, upon his return, on 5th June 1820, the colonist warmly welcomed him. ” * The Malagasy Treaty With Radars In 1817 Before he was removed from officer Sir Robert Fraught made treaties with the King of Madagascar in 1817, and later, with the Imam of Muscat in 1822 to prevent their countries from selling slaves to slave traders. This was to show that he was concerned with the abolition of this illegal business.

By 181 7, Fraught made a treaty with Radars, the King of Madagascar to stop slave trade. Fraught argued in a dispatch addressed to Earl Bathurst that this treaty was essential to attain the aims and objectives of the British Parliament, which was to abolish slave trade.Initially, Radars refused to accept this treaty as he wanted to sell slaves in order to get guns, weapons and revenue to modernism his country. Fraught, however, managed to persuade him, after many trials, to stop slave trade, and in exchange, he would be given what he wanted, of an estimated amount of 20001 sterling as mention in the Dispatch: The expenses which this government incurs by this treaty may be estimated at about 2,0001 Sterling per annum… The funds which I have effected for the discharge Of this subsidy arise from sources of the colonial revenue.

.. It was impossible to obtain such a treaty, without giving to Radars that equivalence to power… ” According to some historians, Fraught used this treaty as a pretext to influence Imperial Policy in Madagascar.Also we can deduce that this was a tactic from his part to show the authorities in the British parliament that he was devoted to abolish this unlawful trade of Slavery.

Anthony Barker toes that: “Parquet’s whole policy of dealing with Radars, including the promotion of Madagascar mission, was design to divert attention away from Mauritius itself. ” Nevertheless, Fraught would be reprimanded by the authorities and will thus have to leave the Island at 1817. During his absence from 1 9th of November 181 7, until his return on the 5th of February 1 820, Fraught was replaced by three acting governors. The first governor was the Major General Gage Hall, which would be replaced by Colonel Dillydally, which would again be replaced by Major General Darling. * Corruption Found During The Fraught Era (1810-1822)During the absence of Fraught from Mauritius, the acting governors who replaced him would bring light on some of the illicit dealings and smugglings that took place on the Island. Unlike Fraught, the first Major General, Gage Hall, was a stern man of principles and he did not make use of diplomacy in his dealings with the slave owners, but blamed them openly for their illicit slave trade. Anthony Barker writes that: “In 1818-19 during his (Parquet’s) absence in Britain, two contemporary governors raised serious doubts about, not only the wisdom and efficiency, but also the honesty of his administration.

” General Hall reported that the slave trade had “attain a daring pitch here”.He also acknowledged the fact that this was partly because the “executive authority is hampered with all those French and delays of the law, which are calculated to favor that traffic. ” As we will go through the documents, we would see that Hall repudiated Parquet’s treaty with Radars, claiming that since it had been signed in 1817, not less than 1700 slaves had been introduced from Madagascar to Mauritius. It was for this reason that Hall brought about new rigorous policies on the Island. He ordered troops to be stationed throughout the Island and fishermen were all prevented from sailing at night to stop the various clandestine landings of slaves.All these created rifts between Hall and the local populations, but the General was determined to stop this trade at any cost. * Corrupted Officials In The Colony General Hall, during his stay on the Island, also denounced many of the officials in the colony.

For instance, there was the case of Louis Blanchard, the Civil Commissary, who had beaten a black in Savanna for giving information about major landing of new slaves. He was eventually suspended by Hall. The Chief Justice of Court, George Smith, nearly opposed every act of Hall’s orders. Anthony Barker quotes Hall saying that: “George Smith, as a major accomplice, had done everything possible to parallelize (sic) any efforts or disposition I may take to interrupt this trade, and punish the offenders. Also, Smith had enraged Hall by acquitting three accused slave traders, namely Debugging, Mate and Serrate. Later, Hall included in the list of suspended officials: the Chief Justice, M. Smith, the Grief of the Court; the Procure General, M.

Virtue; and the collector of Customs, M. Draper, due to the allure of the Court to deal conveniently with cases of smuggling. Deckhand Nap’, however, notes that: “In 1818, November, all these officials were restored to their respective posts, while General Hall was recalled to England. ” According to the Earl of Labeler and General Hall, Fraught was in favor of slavery and did not have the least intention of carrying out the provisions of the slave trade Abolition Act.Deckhand Napalm quotes them saying that: “He cared more to make himself acceptable to the French planters than to relieve the sufferings of the downtrodden slaves who ‘toiled and sweated, ragging the heavy carts and loads throughout the country, arduous labor us table only for beasts of burden'” * Major General Darling When Hall was recalled to England, Colonel Dillydally acted as governor during this period until the next arrival of the acting Governor, Major General Darling. Dillydally was an easy going man and he did not earn the hostility of the people as Hall before him and Darling after him. Major General Darling, like General Hall, condemned and blamed the planters for their unlawful slave trade.

He also wanted to abolish this trade, unlike Fraught. In fact, Anthony Barker notes that: “Even before he had officially assumed office, he was writing to the authorities in Britain of the large numbers of unregistered slaves in the Island… Darling was to the view that the illegal landing could be avoided only by new controls, both maritime and military, and during his administration on the Island, he was requested by the fishermen to remove Hall’s restrictions on their nocturnal sailings. But, he proclaimed that: “New Negroes, in considerable numbers, have lately been smuggled into the island through the means of the fishermen. ” Darling deiced that the possessing class was not only against the abolition of slave trade, but they were bent on causing the ruin of those who were in favor of abolition.

Anthony Barker argued that: “It was, no doubt, easier for temporary governors such as Hall and Darling to challenge this French Plutocracy than it had been for Fraught, who had presided over the uneasy transition from French to British rule…Yet there is strong evidence to support Hall’s implicit, and Edward Beam’s direct, allegations that Fraught himself, in conjunction with Charles Atelier and other British cronies, had a irrupt personal stake in Mauritius slavery and the clandestine of slave trade. ” Thus, we can see that Hall and Darling did not share the same opinion with Fraught because they were more based on a humanitarian ground than the governor. They preferred to be on the side of the slaves against the slave owners. Deckhand Napalm notes that: “According to Hall and Darling, even the legal authorities favored the illicit slave trade and the slave owners, most Of them having vested interests in slave property.

As staunch abolitionists, both Hall and Darling had pitied the deplorable lot of the poor laves who traveled in awful situations and conditions to be sold to slave owners and be mall treated by slave drivers. The loading of slave ship was then under the supervision of an official who was equipped with a heavy club, generally known as the ‘packer’. Deckhand Napalm quotes that: “According to James Prior, even the ass was exempted from such heavy duties, hence these human beings had to undergo worse treatment than the asses… ” The administration of Hall and Darling in Mauritius were the source of discontent among the colonist and this caused uproar. This was why Fraught was ailed back again to the pleasure of the colonists.

Fraught did not accept the allegation made by Hall and Darling in his dealings with the unlawful trade of slavery. Fraught agreed that he did not deny that there had been some cases of slave trading during his administration, but Anthony Barker argues that he was able to point out to memoranda from early in his governorship in which he had stressed the difficulty of strict policing of slave trade if the conquered planter elite were to be reconciled to British rule. He could also point to his own enthusiasm for abolition after 181 5, mistreated publicly by his antislavery treaties with native potentates and privately in correspondence with the most eminent of abolitionists. This led Fraught, shortly, in 1 822, to conclude a treaty with the Grand Imam of Muscat, asking him to stop selling slaves to slave traders. The treaty with the Imam of Muscat was conducted on the 10th Of September 1822. Its aims and objectives were similar to that of the Malagasy treaty with Radars, the King of Madagascar, that is, to abolish slave trade. It consisted mainly of 6 statements of requisitions, with an additional one.

They have all en replied positively by the Imam who assured that he would do everything possible to help to combat against slave trading in: “Zanzibar, and throughout all the dominions and dependencies of the alum of Muscat, on the coasts of Arabia, Africa… Also: “British cruisers have authority to seize all Arab vessels that may be found laden with slaves to the eastward of the island of Actors, and on to Did Head, being the western extremity of the Gulf of Cymbal; or that may be found carrying slaves to or from Madagascar, or in the seas adjacent… ” Fraught, finding himself in chaotic situations, had to recourse to a treaty to rove that he was for the unlawful trade of slavery and this was maybe why he renewed such a treaty with the Imam of Muscat.

Recently, with the accusations of Hall and Darling, his position at the British Parliament is under attack, and consequently weak. This treaty might be a sort kind of help for him if ever he would be accused of helping or involving in slave trading. By this, we can deduce that Fraught was a man of tactic. In 1818, the Duke of Richer informed the British Government that thousands of slaves were illegally introduced in Mauritius.Despite the fact that the authorities were ware of those illegal transactions going on, nothing was being done to stop them as Deckhand Napalm quotes that: “Fraught was the favorite of the Regent Prince of England. ” It was General Hall as well as the Commissary of Police who fed the Anti-Slavery Society with information concerning slaves and slavery in Mauritius. Royal Commission Of Enquiry In 1823 And The Amelioration Policy The members of the Anti-Slavery Society, upon being fed with information that Mauritius was introducing illegal slaves, tried to convinced the British Government to set up a Royal Commission of Enquiry to enquire about the conditions and treatment of the slaves in British colonies.

The commission was to throw light on the reality prevailing in the colonies to the advantages of the slaves and to the inconveniences of slave masters. Also, something important to mention is that there has been the Amelioration Policy. The Abolition of slave trade was intended to encourage the masters to improve the conditions of the slaves. The abolitionists led by William Wildflower in Britain argued that slaves died young because of bad living and working condition. The slave masters did not care much about the death of laves because it was easy to import slaves and to replace them with those who died. If the slave masters could not import slaves, thus they would have to see it that their slaves lived longer.Hence, they would have to provide for better living and working conditions Amelioration Policy: Measures Aims I Response and Results I Slave Trade Abolish Force masters to better the conditions of the slaves I Illegal slave trade continued up to 1820 Registration of all slaves in the Island Check the number of slaves introduced illegally I Slave owners falsified the figures Laws making certain practices illegal, for example, logging of women slaves To make conditions of the slaves more humane Measures rarely put into practice Appointment of an English man as Protector of Slaves To look after the welfare of the slaves and to punish masters who broke the laws The Judges, the Magistrates and the lawyers boycotted the Protector’s work I The period from 1823 to 1 825 has been called the amelioration period, where attempts have been made to ameliorate the conditions of slaves.

However, some argues that the amelioration policy failed as we can see in the documents of the Protector of Slaves that there were numerous cases of laves complaining to them about their conditions. Also, slavery is something that cannot be ameliorated as it is itself a crime against humanity. Amelioration was to prepare the slaves for freedom, but this whole idea to prepare for freedom is wrong, there some argues that the Amelioration concept was totally wrong. The Quest For Development: The Growth Of Sugar Industry According to Jacques David: ‘ ‘The reluctance of the colonists to apply the Slave Trade Felony Act of 1813 was due mainly to the fact that the expansion of sugar led to a demand for more slave labor. ” So, this was another reason which accounted for the rather persistence of illegal slave trade in Mauritius. On sugar estates, the policy was to increase the labor import of slaves employed by the planters and Jacques David continues to write that: “. Hirers switched the slaves from one occupation to another whenever the need was felt.

” The severe shortage Of labor meant that owners who had slaves could hire them for their own profit. The technological change created a demand for more and more labor. Thus, more field and slaves were needed.

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