Travels in the Interior of Africa — Volume 02 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 166 pages of information about Travels in the Interior of Africa — Volume 02.

The third cause of slavery is insolvency.  Of all the offences (if insolvency may be so called) to which the laws of Africa have affixed the punishment of slavery, this is the most common.  A negro trader commonly contracts debts on some mercantile speculation, either from his neighbours, to purchase such articles as will sell to advantage in a distant market, or from the European traders on the coast—­payment to be made in a given time.  In both cases the situation of the adventurer is exactly the same.  If he succeeds, he may secure an independency:  if he is unsuccessful, his person and services are at the disposal of another; for in Africa, not only the effects of the insolvent, but even the insolvent himself, is sold to satisfy the lawful demands of his creditors. {9}

The fourth cause above enumerated is, the commission of crimes on which the laws of the country affix slavery as A punishment.  In Africa the only offences of this class are murder, adultery, and witchcraft, and I am happy to say that they did not appear to me to be common.  In cases of murder, I was informed that the nearest relation of the deceased had it in his power, after conviction, either to kill the offender with his own hand or sell him into slavery.  When adultery occurs, it is generally left to the option of the person injured either to sell the culprit or accept such a ransom for him as he may think equivalent to the injury he has sustained.  By witchcraft is meant pretended magic, by which the lives or healths of persons are affected; in other words, it is the administering of poison.  No trial for this offence, however, came under my observation while I was in Africa, and I therefore suppose that the crime and its punishment occur but very seldom.

When a freeman has become a slave by any one of the causes before mentioned, he generally continues so for life, and his children (if they are born of an enslaved mother) are brought up in the same state of servitude.  There are, however, a few instances of slaves obtaining their freedom, and sometimes even with the consent of their masters, as by performing some singular piece of service, or by going to battle and bringing home two slaves as a ransom; but the common way of regaining freedom is by escape, and when slaves have once set their minds on running away they often succeed.  Some of them will wait for years before an opportunity presents itself, and during that period show no signs of discontent.  In general, it may be remarked that slaves who come from a hilly country and have been much accustomed to hunting and travel, are more apt to attempt to make their escape than such as are born in a flat country and have been employed in cultivating the land.

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Travels in the Interior of Africa — Volume 02 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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