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Alvares, Manuel, 1526-1583, et al. / Ethiopia Minor and a geographical account of the Province of Sierra Leone : (c. 1615)

Chapter 5: The trade of this port and the characters of the settlers there and of the heathen who surround them,   pp. 1-8

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Indies.  On average, 1,800 slaves are exported annually, either to the
Indies, or to Santiago Island and other parts. This port is the most
suitable centre in our part of Ethiopia for this trade, and hence it
draws to itself trade-goods from overseas and from the whole of Guinea.
These are then divided among trading ports and exchanged for that
commodity for which these provinces are best known, slaves. This trade
is the most substantial and the best one (we have), according to the
experts. But I am not sure they have examined the matter other than its
more superficial aspects. Those who maintain this have, as well as the
necessary capacity, the equally necessary and fortunate circumstances of
their own experience; and can convince us. Yet in terms of general
considerations, it may be that one important factor in producing this
view has been that acknowledged daughter of avarice, greed, which regularly
corrupts everyone, and by removing scruple where property is concerned,
makes things seem beneficial which often are not and things seem clear
which are markedly shady. As experience has taught me, I do not wish to
be too positive in this matter without full consideration, and will only
say, as the royal prophet said of the waterp gathered up in the clouds
before they spread it over the land : "Tenebrosa aqua in nubibus aeris"
"Dark waters in the clouds of the air", Psalm 17 [ v.12]7
Unjust critics are never in short supply. Since I already hear
such people attributing the literature on the subject to Jesuit scruples,
I wish to reply to them thus.  Slavery can only be justified under four
heads. First, when anyone sells himself, taking a share of the price and
being of age, the law setting the age at 20. This derives from the emperor
Justinian's Institutes.   Second head, when poor people sell their
children : Leviticus 25,L.2, "De patribus cui filios distraxerunt"
"Concerning fathers who offer their children for sale". Third head,
war : L., "Libertas",ff.  And the fourth and last head is /f.19/
criminal offence. This is the common opinion of scholarly authorities.
I pass over the recommendation of Mercado and Brother Luis Lopes,
to the effect that the trading agents should examine into the justice or
injustice (of enslavement) in individual cases. This is not my view.
Repetition (of inquiry) is useless where there is a lack (of information).
My approach is better in that, in relation to the traders, it raises the
dust in the streets of the great city of conscience. I entirely agree
with all that Mercado says about the four heads, when these apply,
according to his understanding of justice, to the acquisition of slaves


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