1902 Encyclopedia > Slavery > Disguised Slave Trade.

(Part 21)


Disguised Slave Trade.

In the colonies of more than one European country, after the prohibition of the slave trade, attempts were made to replace it by a system of importing labourers of the inferior races under contracts for a somewhat lengthened term ; and this was in several instances found to degenerate into a sort of legalized slave traffic. About 1867 we began to bear of a system of this kind which was in operation between the South Sea Islands and New Caledonia and the white settlements in Fiji. It seems to have begun in really voluntary agreements ; but for these the unscrupulous greed of the traders soon substituted methods of fraud and violence. The natives were decoyed into the labour ships under false pretences, and then detained by force; or they were seized on shore or in their canoes and carried on board. The nature of the engagements to go and work on the plantations was not fully explained to them, and they were hired for periods exceeding the legal term. The area of this trade was ere long further extended. In 1884 attention was drawn in a special degree to the Queensland traffic in Pacific Islanders by the "Hopeful" trials, and a Government commission was appointed to inquire into the methods followed by labour ships in recruiting the natives of New Guinea, the Louisiade Archipelago, and the D’Entrecasteaux group of islands. The result of the investigations, during which nearly five hundred witnesses were examined, was the disclosure of a system which in treachery and atrocity was little inferior to the old African slave trade. These shameful deeds have made the islanders regard it as a duty to avenge their wrongs on any white men they can entice upon their shores. The noble-hearted bishop of Melanesia, John Coleridge Patteson, fell a victim to this retaliation on the island of Nukapu 20th September 1871. The tendency of the whole system is to create a war of races. It may be questioned whether this trade in labour can be safely continued at all; if so, it must be under a constant and vigorous system of surveillance and regulation.

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