From British Pirate ships roving the Atlantic Ocean to Angola’s Trail of Tears, the growth of the British merchant class was accomplished entirely at the expense of human civilization in Western Africa.
This fact though, was largely unremarked by the philosophers, artists, literary giants, and humanists alike, during the concurrent intellectual and humanist developments of the ‘age of enlightenment’.
For moral outrage, we should turn to one of the Encyclopédistes in the collection by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert, and not John Jacques Rousseau, who iterated that
“Aristotle was right; but he took the effect for the cause. Nothing can be more certain than that every man born in slavery is born for slavery. Slaves lose everything in their chains, even the desire of escaping from them: they love their servitude, as the comrades of Ulysses loved their brutish condition. If then there are slaves by nature, it is because there have been slaves against nature. Force made the first slaves, and their cowardice perpetuated the condition.” (Rousseau, 1762 ¶1.2.8)
What is found in the Encyclopédie does not justify any condition of slavery, nor is there intellectual vacillation on the morality of the British colonial enterprise.
“If a trade of this kind can be justified by a moral principle, then there is absolutely no crime, however atrocious, that cannot be legitimized. Kings, princes, and magistrates are not owners of their subjects; therefore they are not entitled to their subjects’ freedom, nor do they have the right to sell anyone into slavery. Moreover, nobody has the right to buy these subjects or to call himself their master. Men and their freedom are not objects of commerce; they can be neither sold, nor purchased, nor bought at any price. Thus, a man must blame only himself if his slave escapes. He paid money for illicit merchandise, even though all laws of humanity and equity forbid him to do so.”(Jaucourt, 1765)
From the beginnings of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the voices raised against this entirely European line of business, were few and far between. There was an extraordinary cost in human lives. Starting earlier than known records, the estimates vary. 13-15 million men, women, and children were transported.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge felt there were worse things than slavery. William Wordsworth went so far as to state that slaves should be grateful for the providence of their new condition. (Ghosh, 2001)
As with the very beginnings — Chocolate we consume without insight, is likely to be chocolate produced for great profit which reinforces a business of human rights abuses. The videos above and below here document these facts. In their own voices, children explain what the conditions are for the victims of western consumption. We have a choice about what we consume and systems we support. These children have no choice.
Beginning in the 15th century, it was the African peoples in the equatorial west that were wrangled by Portuguese slavers and sent out from the ports of Angola. Ending the triangular ship-borne trade that developed never actually ended the practices, as these issues continue unabated.
There were nearly 13 million people taken from their native lands, stacked like cordwood in the holds of ships, and transported across the Atlantic. The many who did not survive (nearly two million who did not disembark) are resting in the Atlantic. The survivors disembarked onto strange shores and were then routinely worked to death on the British sugar plantations of the Caribbean.
It is worthwhile to understand that the 20. and odd negroes landed ashore at Jamestown in 1619 or 1620 who were traded for food, were brought there by route of the British pirates who hijacked them from a Spanish ship in the Caribbean. (Sluiter, 1997) This colonizers trade in human lives began as early as 1619 for America, reached its peak in 1829 for the Caribbean and Brazil, and was supposed to have ended in the 19th century. And yet, it continued into the 20th Century and beyond, even after being conclusively exposed with Henry W. Nevinson’s documentation of Angola’s slaves on the chocolate islands, producing cacao for Cadbury.
The Standard, a British newspaper, published its editorial in September of 1908, shaming the British Quakers at Cadbury eventually, into boycotting the São Tomé and Príncipe Island’s slave produced cocoa. An American company took advantage, as Hershey’s stepped in to buy the slave produced cacao products. A practice which continued for the São Tomé and Príncipe Island’s slave product, and the Hershey intransigence continues to this day, albeit the cacao is produced in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire where much of it is worked by forced labor that includes children. The untenable reality did not end when Britain ended slavery after a prolonged period of a permitted and socially acceptable capitalist venture enriching the merchant class of Great Britain. Officially and unofficially it is unacceptable, even morally repugnant and yet, merely ignored with little or no outrage today. Ignored most likely, because we live in the age of information overload.
As David Eltis states, in this introduction to his book, Atlas of The Transatlantic Slave Trade, “…there isn’t a single port of any size anywhere in the Atlantic that wasn’t connected to the slave trade.”
Jason DeCaires Taylor, Vicissitudes. http://www.underwatersculpture.com/sculptures/viccisitudes/ For the effect, I chose this art installation at Grenada. There is some debate about the intent of the artist. My intent in using the image, was in order to instill a specific mood for my message.
Prakash, Gyan. After Colonialism: Imperial Histories and Postcolonial Displacements. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1995. Internet resource.
D. N. Ghosh. “Representation of Slavery in English Literature”. Economic and Political Weekly 36.39 (2001): 3679–3682. Web. 08 Mar 2016.
Eltis, David, and David Richardson. Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2010. Print and Online (Map excerpts).
Jaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. “Slave Trade.” The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Stephanie Noble. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2007. Web. 11 March 2016. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.did2222.0000.114>. Trans. of “Traite des nègres,” Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 16. Paris, 1765.
Nevinson, Henry W. “The Angola Slave Trade.” The Fortnightly Review. Vol. 88. London: Chapman and Hall, 1907. Print.
Nieburg, Oliver. “Mars, Nestlé and Hershey Face Fresh Cocoa Child Labor Class Action Lawsuits.” ConfectioneryNews.com. William Reed Business Media, 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2016. <http://www.confectionerynews.com/Commodities/Mars-Nestle-and-Hershey-face-fresh-cocoa-child-labor-lawsuits>.
Pagden, Anthony. “The Effacement of Difference: Colonialism and the Origins of Nationalism in Diderot and Herder.” After Colonialism: Imperial Histories and Postcolonial Displacements. Ed. Gyan Prakash. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1995. 135. Print.
Rolfe, John. “Letter of John Rolfe to Sir Edwin Sandys.” 1620. Jamestown, VA. Print. Web. 11 March 2016.
Rousseau, J.J. 1762S ¶1.2.8. The Social Contract.
Paragraph numbers from the web copy at
Slave Trade Database. http://www.slavevoyages.org/ Accessed March 2016.
Sluiter, Engel. “New Light on the “20. And Odd Negroes” Arriving in Virginia, August 1619”. The William and Mary Quarterly 54.2 (1997): 395–398. Web. 11 March 2016.
Smith, Justin E.H. “The Enlightenment’s ‘Race’ Problem, and Ours.” Opinionator The Enlightenment’s Race Problem and Ours. The New York Times, 10 Feb. 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2016. <http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/why-has-race-survived/?_r=0>.
AAAS119243. “The Black Slavery Foundation of Cadbury and Hershey’s White Utopias.” https://storify.com/AAAS119x243/the-black-slavery-tenets-of-white-utopia