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Alvares, Manuel, 1526-1583, et al. / Ethiopia Minor and a geographical account of the Province of Sierra Leone : (c. 1615)
(1990)

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


Page 3

J.
in these parts, carried out in good faith and in conformity with the
principles and rules of canon and civil law. But what can be said when
a conspiracy of silence - the poor heathen gagged so that he cannot
speak - is the only response to inquiry ? Under cover of this silence,
this new head for enslavement, this head of the Gagged Mouth, those
gentlemen, the contractors for these regions, buy slaves who have been
stolen, sometimes in large numbers. And they have been brought, by
night, to their buildings and sometimes to their vessels, by the Biafar
and Banhu criminals who were responsible. Again, what about the head of
Slaves in Disguise, whereby they obtain other slaves and have them
conveyed like this in order not to be recognised - what excuse can be
given for such acts ? Where is the justice and good faith in these
proceedings ? I do not repent my singing a different tune about 'the
most substantial trade' of Guinea.
I could speak of other injustices for which I believe the merchants
are not (to be held) responsible, since it would be difficult for them to
learn the truth. But these injustices are often committed by the heathen
when getting rid of their own people, and they run contrary not only to
natural and divine law but to eanoand civil law. One such is when they
enslave large numbers on the grounds that they are witches, an offence
which they can only prove by diabolic arts. But once the notion is in
their heads they attack the homes of the witches and kill their families.
Then there is the abominable abuse practised by the Biafars whereby
uncles sell their nephews. Are there any to whom this does not appear to
be beyond the bounds of reason ? Only those deprived of this very reason,
only those who are instead bound by closer ties to self-interest, only
those least subject to the 3nfluence of noble blood and noble feeling
which alone can censure base dealings. Reason in a generous spirit
elevates all, aids all; and only those things appear good to it which are
indeed so. Reason is so divorced from gold and silver that however much
these rattle and tinkle, it judges as folly what is current in the world
about these metals - how they can turn gross behaviour into polished
manners, how they can represent what is iow as being high, how they can
exalt what is unworthy and give authority to ignorance, and worst of all,
how they can make masters out of slaves - so aggravatedly that a man who
owns money becomes increasingly its slave.
Let it not seem /f.19v/ that by dallying over this subject we too
are enslaved. We only claim to be of use to those who are most curious
about the true interests which are involved. After this digression we


 


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