Modern Forms Of Slavery Today. What we should feel guilty about!
Child Slavery – Crypto Slavery (below/low standard wages, esp., menial work) – Immigration/Human Trafficking Slavery – Imported/Exported Prostitution Slavery – 250,000 to 300,000 Child Soldiers – other forms of modern slavery not mentioned i.e., slavery in UK – ‘GB Government Offices’! (immigrant cleaners scandal)
What we should not really feel guilty about! Just a – "great sorrow that it was all so very appalling"!
Sir Francis Drake. ‘Drake’. A biography by Ernle Bradford.
The morality of the slave trade is something which seems to have totally engrossed modern historians (preoccupied as they are with the current emergence of African and Asian peoples into the status of full and equal citizens in the world), and this to the exclusion of any historical sense. The history of slavery is as old as the human race, the less efficient and the weaker having always become the slaves of the strong. (1965 – Not PC or ‘kind’ in today’s language. Physically, Africans were of course just as strong as Europeans, but intellectually they had remained so far inferior as to invite conquest. There has never been an African civilisation or culture that has made any significant contribution to the history of the world). Slavery was endemic in Africa itself, and a victorious raiding tribe would automatically enslave the defeated.
The sentimental idea, sometimes put out by modern propagandists-both African and European-that slavery was introduced into Africa by cynical European capitalists has no substance whatever in fact.
In the ancient world, slavery had provided the necessary manpower to keep industry and agriculture turning over. Slaves or serfs existed in Russia, to take another example, until the late 19th century-only because Russia had not become industrialised, and converted her slaves into ‘artificers’ and ‘working men’. Slavery still existed in 16th century Europe, and any European who ventured as a sailor into the eastern Mediterranean knew that, if the ship in which he sailed was captured by a Moslem galley, he might expect to find himself a slave at the oar-benches within a matter of minutes. Similarly, the galleys of the Knights of Malta were crewed almost exclusively by Moslem slaves-Turks and Arabs captured by those ‘Most Christian Knights’ on their forays into the Aegean or the waters off North Africa.
An English seaman, for instance, who fell into the hands of the Spaniards-if he were not so recalcitrant against the Catholic Faith as to merit death by burning at the stake-was almost certain to end up as a slave in a Spanish mine or galley. This was a chance that every sailor took. Just as, in every age, sailors and fishermen risk their lives to enable landsmen to eat, so no one thought of protesting at what was considered no more than an ‘industrial hazard’. ‘We live not as we would wish to, but as we must’, as a classical saying has it, was an outlook that was generally accepted in the 16th century.
To begin with, the African slave trade as practised by Europeans had had a curiously sanctimonious atmosphere about it. When it had started in the 15th century as a result of the expeditions organised by the Portuguese Prince, Henry the Navigator, the latter had been able to believe quite sincerely that these Africans were being saved from Limbo by being Christianised. ‘Prince Henry’s own attitude to the slave trade is made abundantly clear…. He knew that there was little hope of converting the Moors from the religion of Mahomet, but he saw every heathen Negro as a potential Christian. His aim was to create a Christian Kingdom in Africa…. When the first Portuguese ships return with Negro prisoners aboard them, there was rejoicing in their conversion and acceptance of the Christian faith. There was no conception of ‘colour bar’. The Africans were freely permitted to intermarry with the Portuguese, always provided that such marriages were Christian ones. It was not until much later that a cynical approach to the slave trade infected nearly all Europe.’
It would be absurd to believe that this medieval Christian outlook had any influence upon John Hawkins or his ‘merchant adventurers.’ They did not even have the justification that Henry the Navigator had, a century or so before, of believing they were saving souls. Nor was this believed by Spanish Catholics at this period, although (once a commercial advantage is apparent) men are capable of convincing themselves of almost anything.
Drake, as far as we know, only twice engaged in the slave trade, the second occasion being the Hawkins expedition of 1556-7. It will become apparent from his later life that, for an Englishman of his time, Drake was exceptional in his sympathetic treatment of peoples of other races. The Spaniards’ native cruelty, and their determination to enslave all those who would not accept their faith and way of life, was quite alien to him-this despite the fact that he and his own family had suffered under Catholic intolerance in England. Perhaps this should not be laid entirely as credit at his door, but should be attributed to that essentially practical and mercantile sense which was to make Napoleon many centuries later call the English scornfully, ‘a nation of shopkeepers’. Shopkeepers may not be idealists, but they are compelled by the nature of their lives to make a compromise to accept customers as they are, and to try and give a fair return for money spent.
As another Frenchman, Baudelaire, was later to write: ‘Qui n’accepte les conditions de la vie, vend son ame.’ Drake was no intellectual and never sold his soul. He accepted the harsh fact that, as Hemingway was to put it in our own time: ‘The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure that it will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry’. It is doubtful whether Drake saw life in quite such conscious terms: he was a seaman with his way to make in the world, and not an artist. The expedition on which he set off with John Hawkins, October 1567, seemed likely to present a fine return both in experience and money to a poor young man. Drake had little to commend him but his relationship with this one powerful family, and an already established competence as a sailor in small ships. His life had never been easy, and he was to continue to learn things the hard way. By the time that he came back from the sorrowful voyage to San Juan de Ulua in 1568 he would have learned two invaluable lessons. The first was, never trust an enemy, and the second was summarised centuries later by a dying Italian bandit:’Thumb on the blade, strike upwards, and strike first!’