Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Africa Squadron
(1843 - 1859)

Fleet of American ships that sailed along the coast of West Africa during the nineteenth century for the purpose of suppressing the Atlantic slave trade.

the United States Navy’s African Squadron was sent to West Africa after the Treaty of Washington (1842), which provided for a joint armed British and American squadron to enforce both countries’ laws against the slave trade. From 1843 to 1859 the American fleet of sailing cruisers, based in the Cape Verde islands, freed 7,745 slaves and seized 35 ships (compared to 45,600 slaves freed and 595 ships seized by the British). Only 19 slavers were ever brought to trial.

from the beginning, several obstacles prevented the squadron from effectively stopping all the American slave-trading heading from West Africa to the American South. Although the squadron was supposed to function jointly with British sailing ships, the latter were based in Sierra Leone, and mutual suspicion led the fleets to limit each others’ rights to search the other country’s ships. In addition, the US Navy secretaries, most of whom were from the pro-slavery South, provided the squadron with only eighty guns and a few aging ships, including the famed fifty-one-gun USS Constitution. Other obstacles included the squadron’s base in Cape Verde, which by the mid-1800s was far from the center of slave-trading activity (then in Nigeria), and the American slaving ships’ tendency to disguise themselves by flying the Portuguese flag. The squadron operated on an annual budget of US$250,000, but its highest cost was in human lives: Many American sailors died of malaria, yellow fever and other tropical diseases. In 1859 the ships were recalled to the United States to enforce a blockade against the South during the Civil War there.

To the English, racial slavery was a relative sin, not an absolute one. They unilaterally abolished the slave traffic in the British Empire in 1807 and slavery itself in 1834-8, but still traded with slave-trafficking states like Spain, Portugal and the United States.

A bill presented in the English Parliament in 1815 to proscribe slave trafficking as an investment for British capital was thrown out because banks such as Barings petitioned against it.

In 1824, 117 London merchants petitioned for the recognition of South America to open it up to British commerce - despite the existence there of the same slave traffic that had been banned throughout the British Empire.

In 1818, England paid Spain £400,000 in return for a promise to abolish its racial slave trade. But Spain did not do so because that would have ruined the Cuban economy. Britain had to compromise humanitarianism with profit since it traded heavily with Brazil, then a Portuguese colony.

British capitalists waged a vigorous campaign against their government’s policy of forcible suppression of slave trafficking that was then being conducted by stationing warships on the African coast. This government policy was expensive since it exceeded the annual value of the total trade with Africa (African exports were worth £154,000 in 1824; imports £118,000). Public money was thus wasted trying to watch every West African shore where a slave ship could be seen or suspected. Courts of special judicature were established in half the inter-tropical regions of the globe along with the use of diplomatic influence and pressure. Yet slavery continued after 30 years of attempted suppression (& undeclared war with the slaving nations). The policy was also dangerous for sailors; entailing a sacrifice of human life that English capitalists were not prepared to countenance - given the lack of financial rewards and the possibility of declared war with the still-slaving nations.

It was also hypocritical of Whites to salve their consciences over their treatment of Blacks when neither the poor nor women could vote in Britain. Above all, England was jealous of the commercial benefits of slavery that it no longer enjoyed through outlawing it in their own territories; while trying to take the moral high-ground in pretending to be the world’ s moral leader.

After the slaves in the British Empire were emancipated in 1833, British goods from Manchester and Liverpool - eg, cotton, fetters & shackles - were sent directly to the African Slave Coast or indirectly to Rio de Janeiro and Havana where they were partly-used by the Brazilian and Cuban consignees to purchase more African slaves. Seventy percent of the goods used by Brazil for purchasing slaves were British manufactures. (It was rumored that the British were reluctant to destroy the barracoons on the Slave Coast because it would thereby destroy British calicoes.)

In 1843, John Bright argued against a bill prohibiting the use of British capital - however indirectly - in slave trafficking because it would be impossible to enforce. In the same year, British firms handled 37.5% of the sugar, 50% of the coffee & 62.5% of the cotton exported from Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro & Bahia.

In 1845, Robert Peel refused to deny the fact that British subjects were engaged in slavery. British banks in Brazil financed slavery and insured slave cargoes. British mining companies owned and purchased slaves whose labor they employed in their enterprises.

Disraeli & Wellington condemned the suppression of the slave traffic and even Gladstone changed his mind in 1850 mind about it: 'It is not an ordinance of Providence that the government of one nation shall correct the morals of another.'

An editorial in the London times of 1857 makes the White position crystal clear: 'We know that for all mercantile purposes England is one of the States, and that, in effect, we are partners with the Southern planter; we hold a bill of sale over his goods and chattels, his live and dead stock, and take a lion's share in the profits of slavery... we fête Mrs Stowe, cry over her book, and pray for an anti-slavery president..., but all this time we are clothing not only ourselves, but all the world besides, with the very cotton picked and cleaned by "Uncle Tom"' and his fellow sufferers. We are "Mr Legree's" agents for the manufacture and sale of his cotton crops.'

All proof that profit triumphs ethics for Whites

Capitalism & Slavery Eric Williams Andre Deutsch 1964 LONDON

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