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Commentary on The Native Races of South Africa
Commentary on The Native Races of South Africa

13. Slavery in South Asia

Dutch were also the exact opposite of England in its global endeavours. When slave trade was abolished by England all over British Empire, it gave the English East India Company a very fabulous chance and courage to dismantle the traditional slavery in South Asia. In fact, it was the original direction given to them by the Company governors at the very dawn of the Company’s setting up of power in South Asia.

QUOTEs from Malabar Manual: 1. The questions of slavery and the slave trade attracted the early attention of the Honourable Company’s Government. So early as 1702, the year in which British rule commenced, a proclamation was issued by the Commissioners against dealing in slaves. A person offering a slave for sale was to be considered as a thief. The slave was to be forfeited and the person offering him for sale was to be fined five times his value. The purchaser was to be similarly treated. The houses of suspected slave traders were to be well watched and entered and searched on the smallest suspicion, ................. END OF QUOTE.

QUOTE 2: on the 23rd December of that year the Principal Collector received orders desiring “that the practice of selling slaves for arrears of revenue may be immediately discontinued.” END OF QUOTE.

QUOTE 3: The matter in this and other ways reached the ears of the Court of Directors, and in their despatch of 12th December 1821 they expressed considerable dissatisfaction at the lack of precise information which had been vouchsafed to them regarding the cultivators in general, and in particular said : We are told, indeed, that part of them (an article of very unwelcome intelligence) are held as slaves ; that they are attached to the soil and marketable property.

You are directed to obtain and to communicate to us all the useful information with respect to this latter class of persons which you possibly can; the treatment to which they are liable, the habits of their masters with respect to them, the kind of life to which they are doomed, the sort of title by which the property of them is claimed, the price which they bear and more especially the surest and safest means of ultimately effecting their emancipation.

We also desire to know whether those occupants, 150,000 in number, cultivate immediately the whole of the lands by their slaves and hired servants, or whether there is a class of inferior tenants to whom they let or sub-let a portion of their lands. If there is such an interior class of lessees, you will inform us under what conditions they cultivate, what are their circumstances, and what measures, if any, have been employed for their protection END OF QUOTEs

The above quotes very amply display the general attitude the native-English had about the practise of human slavery. However, the local populations in South Asia did try to continue their age-old practise of maintain slaves, in a clandestine manner.

The French and the Dutch did try to continue their slave trade business in a sly manner from their small-time outposts on the subcontinent. However, the English rule did take a very severe attitude towards this.

See this QUOTE from the Native Life in Travancore written Rev. Samuel Mateer of the London Missionary Society:

QUOTE: Colonel Munro had also discovered, in 1812, a number of halfstarved and naked natives in irons as slaves at the Dutch settlement at Chunganicherry. The proprietor was a Pondicherry man, and the inhabitants of Chunganicherry persisted in the traffic in slaves in defiance of the proclamation of Government. END of QUOTE

See this quote from Malabar Manual by William Logan:

QUOTE: This practice was kept alive by the facility with which the slaves could be sold on the coast to the agents of vessels engaged in the trade sailing from the French settlement at Mahe and from the Dutch settlement at Cochin. These ships “in general carried them (the slaves) to the French Islands.” END of QUOTE

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