Report of Mixed Courts at Sierra Leone for 1841
Report of Mixed Courts at Sierra Leone for 1841

The West African Squadron and slave trade1840 ◄► 1842

Her Majesty's Commissioners to the Earl of Aberdeen.

Sierra Leone, December 31, 1841.
(Received March 19, 1842.)


We have the honour to enclose herewith a list of all the cases adjudicated during the year 1841, in the British and Portuguese, and British and Brazilian Courts of Mixed Commission, and in the British and Spanish Mixed Court of Justice established in this colony.

No case came before the British and Netherlands Mixed Court of Justice.

The number of vessels adjudicated during the year was 22, all of which were cases of condemnation; one only of these was prosecuted in the British and Portuguese Court, 11 in the British and Spanish Court, and 10 in the British and Brazilian Court. Two other vessels captured under the Brazilian flag, and now in this harbour, still remain for trial, and will appear in the list of next year.

Three hundred and six slaves were emancipated during the year, all of when were registered here.

The total number of vessels adjudicated by the Mixed Commissions since their establishment in this colony in June, 1819, up to the present date, is 447; of this number 22 were cases of restoration to the claimant.

During the same period there have been emancipated by these Courts 59,837 slaves, of whom only 52,177 have been registered here.

Of the 22 vessels which came before the Mixed Courts during this year, two only had slaves on board; one, a Spanish vessel under Portuguese colours, shipped her living cargo at Whydah; the other, a Portuguese boat, embarked her slaves at Cape Lopez.

Eleven out of the 22 slave-vessels were employed for the island of Cuba; one for the island of St. Thomas; nine for the ports of Rio de Janeiro and Bahia; and of one, though evidently engaged in the Brazilian trade, we are unable to state the ultimate destination, owing to the absence of ship's papers, and of other evidence calculated to throw light on that point.

Of the 11 vessels employed in the Cuba Slave Trade, four only bore the Spanish flag; these had respectively cleared out from Havana, St. Jago de Cuba, Cadiz, and the Cape Verdes: the remaining seven all sailed under the Portuguese flag, and from the port of Havana.

The 10 vessels engaged in the Brazilian Slave Trade were all cases of equipment only; one bore the flag of Portugal, and cleared from Rio de Janeiro; the remaining nine all sailed under Brazilian colours; eight of them belonged to Rio and Bahia; the other had no papers on board to indicate her particular port.

The destinations on this coast of the 11 vessels in the Cuba trade were, one for Bissao, four for the slave marts between Sierra Leone and Cape Palmas, four for the Bights of Benin and Biafra, and two for the Portuguese settlements south of the Equator.

Of the 10 Brazilian vessels, four were for the slaving ports in the Bight of Benin, five for places to the southward of the Line, and the tenth, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, was probably to have shipped her slaves in the neighbourhood of Benguela, where she was captured.

The only vessel prosecuted in the Portuguese Court of Mixed Commission was the schooner boat "Formigo," belonging to St. Thomas, off which island she was fallen in with and captured on her return with slaves from Cape Lopez.

The number of vessels tried in these Courts of Mixed Commission during the past year has not equalled that in the preceding. Several captures have, however, been made by British cruisers of vessels under the Act 2nd and 3rd Vict., cap. 73, which have been taken into the Vice-Admiralty Courts of Sierra Leone, St. Helena, the Cape of Good Hope, and elsewhere; but we have no means of stating with any degree of accuracy the numbers or particulars of those seizures. On the whole, we are not of opinion that there has been any material difference in the total number of vessels captured during the two years, though we are disposed to think that the actual number of slaves shipped during the respective periods was less in 1840 than in 1841.

The numerous seizures last year of vessels under the American flag have probably had the effect of inducing slavers to trust rather to chance and good sailing, and to save themselves the trouble and expense of assuming a character which has so often proved an insufficient screen for their proceedings; there has been consequently, we think, a more frequent resort made latterly to the flag of Brazil and of Portugal.

Causes for the decrease in the number of slaves seized will be found in the destruction or abandonment of slave factories at Gallinas, Rio Pongas, and New Sesters, which have not yet had time to be fully re-established, in the strict blockade which has been kept up so far as practicable by Her Majesty's vessels of war at the Gallinas and other notorious slave marts, and in the general activity and vigilance of the British cruisers employed in the repression of the Slave Trade.

By information received from Her Majesty's Consul at Cape Verdes, we learn that those islands have, during the last two years, not unfrequently been used as depots for slaves conveyed thither in small vessels from Bissao, Cacheo, and places on the main land, and in that vicinity; and when a sufficient number has thus been collected, the slaves appear to have been carried off by vessels equipped for the purpose, which cruise off and on in the neighbourhood, being afraid of lying for any length of time at the islands lest they should he captured by a British man-of-war. These vessels are stated to be mostly under the Spanish and Portuguese flags; and it is reported that those of the former nation, on their arrival off Porto Praia, Bona Vista, before coming to anchor, communicate with the Spanish Consul by signals, and, it would appear, act according to the information thus received from the Consulate; and it is further alleged that when slave vessels do enter the ports of these islands they are allowed both ingress and egress without the law of Portugal being strictly carried into effect in regard to them. It is probable that the chief supply obtained in this manner is destined for the island of Cuba; not, however, exclusively so, for in April and November, 1840, two Brazilian vessels are reported to have carried off a large number of slaves collected by them from the different islands of Sal, Bona Vista, and St. Jago.

The connivance of the Governor of the Cape Verdes at such proceedings is, unfortunately, not to be doubted; it even appears that the Government schooners "Constitucao" and "Bona Vista" were employed in 1840 in that very occupation of conveying slaves from the main land to the islands.

The Cape Verdes seem, from our latest information, to continue to be frequented by slave vessels on their way to the coast for their illicit cargoes; these are chiefly under the Spanish and Portuguese flags; and such vessels occasionally take (whilst waiting for their human cargoes) any legitimate employment which may present itself, and such, though their character be notorious, they are represented to obtain readily in preference to British ships, the Government itself having occasionally freighted vessels of this description.

Our obliging correspondent to the northward, in a communication which he addressed to us in April last, expresses an opinion that the destruction of the slave stores at Gallinas will probably increase the Slave Trade at Pongas and Bissao; we have not, however, received any information to lead us to suppose that an actual increase in the traffic has taken place at either of those slave marts, though we have reason to believe that at Bissao it continues in full activity. We have been given to understand that a very considerable number of slaves has been shipped by the notorious Kyetan during the past year; part direct for Cuba, and part for the same ultimate destination, but (for the sake of greater security) by way of the Cape Verde Islands; and it appears also that in this employment Kyetan makes use of very small vessels, which it is difficult for a cruiser to get at.

An interesting communication which we have received from our correspondent alluded to, and of which we enclose an extract, would seem to establish the fact that the Slave Trade is carried on in the river Cazaman&c.edil;a to a considerable extent by a French slaving company.

In their last annual report Her Majesty's Commissioners, alluding to the destruction of slave-factories at the Gallinas, expressed an opinion that those measures of hostility having been conducted by the native chiefs, so considerable a feud must have arisen between them and the slave-dealers, that the re-formation of similar establishments, for a considerable period at least, was rendered highly improbable. We regret, however, to be obliged to say that this opinion has not been borne out by the result. We have received information that during last rains no less than three slave-factories were settled in the Gallinas, whither the factors and goods had been conveyed in an American vessel. We have not yet heard, however, of any shipment of slaves from that place.

We have also with much concern learnt that the slave-factory at New Sesters, formerly belonging to Theodore Canot, which Her Majesty's Commissioners had hoped would have ceased to exist in consequence of Canot's professed abandonment of the trade, has been re-established by the well-known José Urresti, who is said to have sent off a small cargo of slaves during the last rains, but has since then, we believe, been closely blockaded by Her Majesty's brig "Termagant"

To the southward of the line the Slave Trade appears to be still carried on with great activity; in the early part of this year one British cruiser (Her Majesty's brig "Brisk") in the short space of five weeks captured no less than four vessels (three with slaves) and ran a fifth on shore. The result of similar activity on the part of the squadron has, however, no doubt diminished the exportations, and produced a considerable falling off in the traffic in that quarter. Ambriz, for instance, which is said to have formerly shipped about 1000 per month, is now stated to have been able between the months of October, 1840, and April last, to run only a single cargo of 127 slaves.

A very considerable number of the captures now made to the southward of the equator being under the Portuguese flag, and consequently in general sent to Vice-Admiralty Courts nearer than Sierra Leone to the place of detention, and the unfrequency of the visits to Sierra Leone of Her Majesty's vessels cruising to the southward, are circumstances which will account for our being unable to afford such full information as we could wish respecting the state of trade in that quarter.

We have, &c.


The Right Hon. the Earl of Aberdeen, K.T.
&c, &c, &c,

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