Tag Archives: henry nevinson

Cadbury Chocolate Debate: Resolving Moral and Economic Contradictions

In 1901, the Cadbury company, which employed workers in Britain to make chocolate, started becoming aware of a brewing ethical crisis. Though the company prided itself on caring for its employees with Quaker hospitality, they now learned that São Tomé and Príncipé, African islands in the Portuguese Empire, were potentially using a form of labor that was effectively slavery on the cocoa farms. The drama primarily unfolded amidst the clash between the harsh reality of economic self-interest and a universal liberal moral consensus of antislavery. Ultimately, the work of investigative journalists made it untenable for Cadbury and other stakeholders to continue to triangulate between the two contradictory forces, and the forces of liberal consensus proved to be more powerful for Cadbury.

To understand how Cadbury ended up in this quagmire, it is helpful to understand that the company’s identity held contradictory elements from its beginning. The company insisted that its mission was not solely to make money, but to also model a morally superior Quaker society. Religious discrimination prevented Quakers from many areas of social and political power, but the Quakers provided support for each other, and many were able to succeed in business (Satre 14). The Cadbury family was highly involved in charity work, and aimed to build the rural village of Bournville (also the name of the factory) into a model city as part of the “Garden City movement, designed to improve the living conditions of its people” (Satre 16).

Still, even before the Cadbury debate, there were hints that this best of both worlds narrative, which portrayed the company as both morally and economically superior, was covering over disheartening contradictions. Specifically, the company often would choose money over morals. The company operated under a “marriage bar,” which forced female employees to leave upon becoming married. Cadbury justified it by explaining that “Cadbury did not want to take mothers away from their homes and children” (Newkey-Burden). Yet Cadbury employed large numbers of single women to keep expenses down, and had to separate the sexes in the factory to protect the single women. Further, many Cadbury workers could not afford the rents in Cadbury’s model village (Satre 16). These factors raise fair suspicious that Cadbury’s actions were sometimes motivated more by economic factors (i.e. young, single women could be paid less) rather than by their proclaimed moral intentions (i.e. promoting motherhood).

As the scandal burst onto the public awareness after journalist Henry Nevinson’s articles (Satre 82), Cadbury’s reputation was in a particularly vulnerable position. Its predicament was summed up well by a journal’s wry observation that “the cocao and chocolate which are turned out in this country by philanthropic manufacturers with the most scrupulous of care for the welfare of their employees, should have been grown under the most infamous and revolting conditions of murderous slavery” (Satre 83). This contrast can be displayed through a 1960 BBC video clip of Bessbrook model village (link, BBC) with images from slave condition. Bessbrook served as inspiration for Bournville, and the BBC reporter notes its “quiet dignity,” and remarks that the park and childrens playgrounds are “well-kept and free from litter”. As a goose gracefully swims in lake, the reporter nostalgically describes the bygone era in which the Quaker companies “were concerned with the social welfare of their workers.” Even after scandals of São Tomé and Príncipé, the benevolent image continued to hold its place in the public’s mind, as evidenced by the wistful mood of the video.

In contrast, Nevinson’s image (link, Nevinson) of the slaves being transported by ship encapsulates the complete disempowerment of the slaves. While the BBC video extols the parks and playgrounds, the mass of woman and their children are crowded lifelessly on the deck, with no space to leisurely roam about even if they wanted to. Only a few of the women in the picture have the energy to sit up, and of those, many appear to avert the gaze of the camera, perhaps in shame. The two women who do make eye contact appear mournfully resigned to their predicament.

The advertisement for Cadbury provides another contrasting example. Two woman happily look down at the expansive, well-manicured soccer field that the children are playing on (link, Wilson). The field is surrounded by impressive architecture of Cadbury, perhaps signifying the benevolently paternalistic ethos of Cadbury. The women appear pleased to be contributing members of the model society, and their lively children on the soccer field contrast sharply with the hapless children resting in the laps of the women slaves.

Not only was slavery against the proclaimed morals of the Quaker’s, but the major players in the debate were united, at least ostensibly, in a liberal moral consensus of antislavery. Slavery had already been officially banned in both the British and Portuguese empires, so the debate was not over a moral dispute about slavery, but over a dispute of fact (Satre 2). Portugal claimed that the native laborers were voluntarily entering five year labor contracts, but Nevinson brought forth evidence the Portuguese system of “contract labor” was effectively the same as slavery (Satre 7).

Portugal’s insistence on its own propriety had a practical effect of constraining its ability to reign in threats such as Nevinson. Even though the “slave traders were aware of Nevinson’s presence and purpose” (Satre 5), he was allowed to proceed in peace (except for a poisoning incident which was possibly intentional). Instead of actively confronting Nevinson, slave traders avoided Nevinson by taking alternative paths, camouflaging the slaves as carriers, and taking other steps to disguise their practices (Satre 5). Since the Portuguese insisted they had nothing to hide, they even promoted visits to a “‘model’ plantation in São Tomé, ‘a show-place for the intelligent foreigner or for the Portuguese shareholder who feels qualms as he banks his dividends” (Satre 10). Nevinson was not impressed with the “model” plantation, especially when the doctor admitted a twelve to fourteen percent annual death rate, with the chief cause being “‘anaemia’ brought on by ‘unhappiness’” (Satre 10).

When Cadbury company decided to send William Burtt as a representative to investigate the allegations of slavery, the Portuguese not only tolerated Burtt, but actually consistently displayed hospitality to him (Higgs 141). As Cadbury negotiated with the Portuguese over reforms to the labor system, the Portuguese emphasized that they shared the company’s “‘liberal and humane sentiment’”(Higgs 141). While the Portuguese might have secretly wished to forcefully end the investigations from Nevinson and Burtt, their options were limited by their official stance of antislavery.

Cadbury was rightfully fearful of the consequences of the public outrage generated by journalists such as Nevinson. It was a “public relations nightmare” for the firm, with consumers mailing Cadbury with comments such as “You pious Frauds” (Higgs 153). The public image fallout even impacted the members of a jury, in which they ruled in favor of Cadbury’s libel lawsuit against a critical article, but only rewarded one farthing (one quarter of a penny) in damages, strongly implying their lack of sympathy for the company (Higgs 152). While a cynical interpretation is that companies and countries only act in their own self-interest, journalists such as Nevinson demonstrate that when journalists are allowed to do their jobs, the public has a chance to demand changes to the status quo.

Works Cited

Satre, Lowell. 2005. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business.

Higgs, Catherine. 2012. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa

Wilson, An. 2010. How the Cadbury family of the Victorian age would put today’s fat cats to shame

Nevinson, Henry. 1906. A Modern Slavery

Newkey-Burden, Chas . 2018.Who were the Cadbury Angels?

BBC Roving Reporter, 1960. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOCne_jgJlA

Cocoa and Corruption: The Darker Side of Cadbury’s Business Practices

By the late 19th century, Cadbury had become a renowned chocolate manufacturer and humanitarian enterprise with a model factory in Bournville providing accommodating working conditions (Coe and Coe 242). However, Cadbury was soon swept into a controversy surrounding claims of slavery on São Tomé and Principe, one of the firm’s major suppliers of cacao. The documentation of Joseph Burtt, who was appointed by Cadbury to visit São Tomé, was not published until almost a decade after William Cadbury first learned of slave labor in the islands. This delay as well as the firm’s deferment of boycotting São Toméan cocoa brings to question the company’s business ethics. Ethical scrutiny should extend not only to the Cadbury corporation but also to the Portuguese and British political bodies; however, a principal cause of the delayed and arduous path to reform stemmed from Cadbury’s prioritization of business incentives over moral practices.

bournville
Cadbury’s model factory in Bournville provided adequate housing and hospitable facilities (Cadbury). The idealistic working conditions of Cadbury workers in Britain were a stark contrast to the brutal labor practices on cacao plantations in São Tomé, where enslaved people provided cacao for major British chocolate firms.

British journalist Henry Nevinson traveled to Africa in 1904 and helped expose the unethical practices of cacao labor. The servicais, or “contracted laborers,” in São Tomé were actually slaves brought from Angola; although a Portuguese decree of 1903 required the option of repatriation after a five year labor contract, none of them actually returned to Angola (Satre 8-9). Plantation owners paid their laborers less than what was required by the decree and renewed their contracts without consulting the servicais; the Portuguese government, unconcerned by these breaches of law, were often encouraging Angolan natives to commit crimes so they could be enslaved, furthering the government’s economic self-interest through the money-making benefits of the slave trade (Satre 8, 11). Not only did the Portuguese deny slavery, British authorities also seemed to refrain from thorough investigations, perhaps because Britain depended on labor in the islands (Off 60). Both Portuguese and British authority figures were driven by the economical benefits of facilitating, rather than obstructing, slave labor practices.

Henry_Woodd_Nevinson_(1856-1941)_circa_1915
Henry Nevinson actively reported on the slave labor he had witnessed in Portuguese West Africa (Wikimedia Commons). His outspokenness was often unfavored by the Cadburys, who believed explicit coverage of slavery would complicate the chocolate company’s business incentives or the Foreign Office’s diplomatic approaches to Portugal.

 

slaves to sao tome
Though called “indentured servants,” enslaved Angolans were forcibly brought to São Tomé to work on cacao plantations under dire conditions, for the benefit of companies like Cadbury (Nevinson).

In contrast to Nevinson, who published reports on slavery immediately after returning to Britain, the Cadburys took considerably more time in taking action (Satre 12). When William Cadbury visited Trinidad in early 1901, he heard claims of slave labor in São Tomé and traveled to Lisbon in 1903 to investigate. Despite hearing from some Portuguese plantation owners that the decree of 1903 would end labor abuses, missionaries to Africa and British authorities strongly doubted the new decree would mediate any genuine reform (Satre 23-24). Despite testimony confirming brutal labor, William provided an optimistic report to his firm: “I cannot but feel that things are going to mend a little … the onus of this will lie on the British” (Satre 24). When appointing an agent to investigate the situation in Portuguese West Africa, the Cadburys chose the rather incompetent Joseph Burtt over more experienced yet more outspoken researchers such as Nevinson (Satre 32). The fact that Burtt was encouraged to approach plantation owners amicably and spent almost two years traveling in Africa imply that the ordeal was not perceived as a significantly pressing issue (Satre 32).

slave quarters
Slave Quarters in São Tomé – English chocolate manufacturers like Cadbury were indirectly employing one-third of the slaves on São Tomé (Nevinson, Satre 82).

 

Cadbury may have stalled for time to secure an alternative cocoa supplier through the help of their cocoa buyer Edward Thackray, who began his research shortly after William heard of the slave labor in 1901 (Higgs 135). This may explain why the Cadburys agreed to the British Foreign Office’s suggestion to delay the publication of Joseph Burtt’s documentation (Satre 92-93). During this delay, the Foreign Office tried to amicably push the Portuguese towards reform, and Thackray escalated his search (Higgs 135). This delay may have also benefited the British government, which was wary about aggravating the Portuguese, key trading partners who could provide cheap labour forces for their holdings in Africa (e.g. diamond mines in Transvaal) (Off 65-66). For Cadbury and the British Foreign Office, a cautionary approach would help preserve their standings as business or economic powerhouses.

William Cadbury persistently rejected suggestions by Nevinson and others to boycott São Toméan cocoa, placing economic reasons at the fore of his argument; boycotting would ruin Cadbury’s buying influence and the valuable cocoa would be “very readily absorbed by other nations” (Higgs 137). Newspapers criticized Cadbury, and the company chose to sue the Standard for libel. Before their trial in 1909, William traveled to São Tomé, though the primary reason for this voyage may have been to confirm cocoa export possibilities in the Gold Coast. In his 1910 diary entry, Nevinson recorded a conversation between cocoa traders implying Cadbury had to verify Gold Coast production capacities before cutting ties with São Tomé (Off 71). Only after William’s trip did Cadbury decide to stop buying São Toméan cocoa, for an alternative source had been secured (Off 69). Almost a decade had passed since William first learned about the slave labor, and the business implications of this could only be magnified during the prosecution of the Standard trial; Cadbury had imported £1.3 million ($6.3 million) worth of São Toméan cocoa between 1901 and 1908 (Higgs 151). Cadbury had partaken in the investigation of slave labor on São Tomé but profit and quality of cocoa came first and foremost.

burtt documentation
Burtt’s documentation was not published for the British public until 1910, almost a decade after William Cadbury first learned of São Toméan slavery (Internet Archive). This adds to the controversy of whether Cadbury was truly proactive in mediating reform in cacao labor practices.

 

Cadbury had also attempted to discourage Nevinson from publishing another report on slavery, and The Daily News, owned by George Cadbury, remained quite reticent on the subject of São Tomé (Satre 82). This further implies that Cadbury was concerned with the effects on chocolate sales if more explicit coverage of São Tomé was released to the public (Higgs 151). The years Cadbury spent on silence or reliance on the British government cannot excuse the abuse or death of thousands of laborers while the company continued to profit from the cocoa sourced from São Tomé. Had it not been for individuals such as Nevinson, who favored “publicity, not silence,” the public’s awareness of cacao slave labor would have been limited (Satre 85). Had Cadbury provided an example by boycotting sooner and working with British authorities to press the Portuguese in a more threatening rather than cautious manner, reforms may have come sooner. In actuality, nearly a decade passed and Cadbury’s cautionary approach did not lead to substantial reform, as slavery persisted and the Portuguese continued to abuse their power to operate unfair labor practices (Higgs 153). The slow path to reform surely stems in part from corruptive flaws within the Portuguese and British political systems; however, Cadbury also shared a significant responsibility through their inclination to place their business before all else. For Cadbury, divided between jeopardizing their economic prospects and tainting their philanthropic reputation, securing other sources of cocoa was pivotal for their business success. This case study of Cadbury offers perspective into pressing labor problems even today, such as child labor and human trafficking; when political, economic, and moral issues become intertwined, it is critical that we ethically prioritize and preserve the welfare of human beings.

Works Cited

An LMS Railways Advertisement – Bournville. Cadbury. Cadbury. https://www.cadbury.co.uk/the-storyAccessed 4 March 2017.

Coe, Sophie, and Michael Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed., Thames & Hudson, 2013.

Henry Wood Nevinson. Library of Congress. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons .wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Henry_Woodd_Nevinson_(1856-1941)_circa_1915.jpg. Accessed 5 March 2017.

Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Ohio University Press, 2012.

Labour in Portuguese West Africa. Claire T. Carney Library. Internet Archive. https://archive.org /details/labourinportugue00cadbAccessed 5 March 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Lecture 6: Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 1 March 2017. Lecture.

Nevinson, Henry. Slaves on Ship, Wearing Tin Disk and Cylinder. Photograph. “The Slave-Trade of To-day: Part VI.” Harper’s Monthly Magazine, Jan. 1906, pp. 237-246.

Nevinson, Henry. Slave-Quarters on a Plantation. Photograph. “The Slave-Trade of To-day: Conclusion.” Harper’s Monthly Magazine, Feb. 1906, pp. 327-337.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: Anatomy of an Industry. The New Press, 2006.

Satre, Lowell. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Ohio University Press, 2005.

Cadbury: Business vs. Morality

Cadbury chocolates was founded by the grocer John Cadbury in 1824. He ran a shop that sold assorted goods, including cocoa and drinking chocolate. As a Quaker he frowned on the consumption of alcohol and sought to promote alternatives that would fit the healthy, happy society he envisioned. It’s out of this desire that the Cadbury family’s partnership with chocolate was born (“The Story”).

In 1861 John’s sons Richard and George took over the family business, which had expanded with the purchase of a large factory and now sold many types of drinking chocolate. When the rapidly growing company outsized that factory in the 1870s the Cadburys conceived of a new type of factory ground, a place that could house their growing workforce while embodying their Quaker ideals. They would build grounds for their workers outside the polluted air of the city and provide amenities that would help their workers live happy, healthy lives. They called this factory Bournville (“The Story”).lightbox_image_0016_12_gardenvilliageofbourneville_c

This peaceful village centered around the Quaker ideals of health and family was a bold reflection of the beliefs the Cadbury family held dear. But at its heart the Cadbury company is a business, and in 1901 the same brothers who had poetically professed that “No man ought to be condemned to live in a place where a rose cannot grow” (“The Story”) as they built an airy village for their European workers learned that the cacao they imported from off the western coast of Africa, from the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, was being produced by enslaved workers living in destitute conditions. And for the next 8 years they sat in silence and through their continued business were complicit in slavery.

 

lightbox_image_0018_13_bourneville_house_a1
Children playing in Bournville, 1893

The Cadburys (and many other chocolatiers) were reliant on São Tomé and Principe as a steady source of good quality cacao. Joseph Burtt reports that in the early 1900s about one-fifth of the world’s cacao supply came from São Tomé and Principe (Cadbury 106). The islands were originally seized by Portugal in the 15th century because they had favorable conditions for sugarcane farming. Portugal was at the time encouraging the spread of slave-manned plantation farming along the Atlantic islands as part of an effort to solidify their trade route around Africa to Asia (Mintz 31). This tradition of slavery was maintained after its formal abolition with the establishment of the seviçal system.

Seviçaes were workers taken from the interior countries of Africa (most often from Angola) and made to sign a contract stating they were willingly to work on a Portuguese plantation for 5 years, with the option to re-sign the contract after it expired. These workers were often abducted from their villages and, when presented with the contract, not provided with a translator to let them know what they were agreeing to. The conditions they worked under and the number of workers who attempted to flee their plantations confirms that seviçaes were really slaves (Nevinson 670).

Screenshot_2016-03-11-20-27-06-1 (2)
Photograph of a girl sold into slavery, included in one of Henry Nevinson’s reports

John Cadbury’s grandson William was helping to run the company when, according to historian Catherine Higgs, he came across a catalog for property in São Tomé that listed men for sale alongside cattle and equipment (Higgs 9). He realized Cadbury may have been buying cacao produced with slave labor. In response, William hired the researcher Joseph Burtt to investigate this instance and other rumors of slavery on the island. Burtt spent some months in Portugal learning the language then headed to Africa on June 1, 1905 (Cadbury 103). After spending five and a half months on São Tomé and Principe he came to the unequivocal conclusion that the seviçal system constituted slave labor.

In 1907 William Cadbury and Joseph Burtt compiled a report of their findings called Labour in Portuguese West Africa and sent it to their fellow British chocolatiers and England’s secretary of state. But Cadbury, despite the care that went into providing for their European workers, continued to support Portuguese plantations and did not widely release this information (Higgs 150).

In 1905 the British journalist Henry Nevinson went to São Tomé and Principe to investigate the rumors of slavery on the islands. In 1906 he published several reports that went into great detail confirming the allegations in Harper’s Magazine.

These two reports, though both confirming that the seviçal system is one of slavery, offer differing perspectives on the culture that surrounds that slavery. Nevinson’s articles use strong language to condemn the treatment of the enslaved. When he covers corporeal punishment he describes scenes of abuse without reservation, like in the following excerpt:

 

An Englishman coming down from the interior last African winter, was roused at night by loud cries in a Portuguese trading house at Mashiko. In the morning he found that a slave had been flogged, and tied to a tree in the cold all night. He was a man who had only lately lost his liberty, and was undergoing the process which the Portuguese call “taming,” as applied to new slaves who are sullen and show no pleasure in the advantages of their position.”

(Nevinson 675)

William Cadbury and Joseph Burtt, on the other hand, bent to pressure from the Portuguese government and were careful to word their report in an inoffensive manner. They wanted to end slavery, but apparently not at the cost of their trade relations. After attending a conference between São Tomé proprietors and British chocolatiers in which talks of emancipation were stonewalled (Cadbury 147), Burtt added an amendment to a section in the report on the use of corporal punishment against the enslaved. His take on the abuse of the slaves ends softly and apologetically as he writes:

Gentlemen,

I wish to state that the paragraph in my report headed “Punishments” is constructed in a manner that may convey an impression not entirely just to the Propreitors of S. Thomé plantations.

Will you therefore kindly make the following addition to the report as presented to you on July 14, 1907 :–

“Though convinced of the very common occurrence of corporeal punishment in spite of the restrictions of the law, I am sure that on the best estates this is against the wish of the proprietors, and is one of those abuses that repatriation will quickly check.

“I should also like to state that I have evidence of the fairness of the Government Curator, and know that from time to time he visits the estates, including those in the most distant parts of the island.”

Yours faithfully,

Joseph Burtt”

(Cadbury 113)

Cadbury withheld from boycotting cacao from São Tomé and Principe until 1909, after facing a run of bad press substantiated by Henry Nevinson’s reporting and multiple refusals from the Portuguese government to reform their practices (Martin). Their Quaker ideals led them to build a revolutionary and humane workplace in England, but their beliefs would not stretch to include the welfare of the enslaved Africans harvesting their cacao until they were prodded into action.

 

Works Cited

 

Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Athens, OH: Ohio UP, 2012. Print.

Martin, Carla D. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.  Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 3 March 2016. Class Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York, NY: Viking, 1985. Print.

Nevinson, Henry W. “The Slave-Trade of To-Day.” Harper’s Magazine 1 Jan. 1905: 668-76. Google Books. Web. 9 Mar. 2016. <https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=flowAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA668>.

“The Story.” Cadbury. Cadbury, n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2016. <https://www.cadbury.co.uk/the-story>.