The Slave Trade
Henry Charles Carey

Chapter XI.
How Slavery Grows In Portugal and Turkey.

In point of natural advantages, PORTUGAL is equal with any country in Western Europe.  Her soil is capable of yielding largely of every description of grain, and her climate enables her to cultivate the vine and the olive.  Mineral riches abound, and her rivers give to a large portion, of the country every facility for cheap intercourse;  and yet her people are among the most enslaved, while her government is the weakest and most contemptible of Europe.

It is now a century and a half since England granted her what were deemed highly important advantages in regard to wine, on condition that she should discard the artisans who had been brought to the side of her farmers, and permit the people of England to supply her people with certain descriptions of manufactures.  What were the duties then agreed on are not given in any of the books now at hand, but by the provisions of a treaty made in 1810, cloths of all descriptions were to be admitted at a merely revenue duty, varying from ten to fifteen percent.  A natural consequence of this system has been that the manufactures which up to the date of the Methuen treaty had risen in that country, perished under foreign competition, and the people found themselves by degrees limited exclusively to agricultural employments.  Mechanics found there no place for the exercise of their talents, towns could not grow, schools could not arise, and the result is seen in the following paragraph:—

“It is surprising how ignorant, or at least superficially acquainted, the Portuguese are with every kind of handicraft;  a carpenter is awkward and clumsy, spoiling every work he attempts, and the way in which the doors and woodwork even of good houses are finished would have suited the rudest ages.  Their carriages of all kinds, from the fidalgo’s family coach to the peasant’s market cart, their agricultural implements, locks and keys, &c. are ludicrously bad.  They seem to disdain improvement, and are so infinitely below par, so strikingly inferior to the rest of Europe, as to form a sort of disgraceful wonder in the middle of the nineteenth century.” — Baillie.

The population, which, half a century since was 3,683,000, is now reduced to little more than 3,000,000;  and we need no better evidence of the enslaving and exhausting tendency of a policy that limits a whole people, men, women, and children, to the labours of the field.  At the close almost of a century and a half of this system, the following is given in a work of high reputation, as a correct picture of the state of the country and the strength of the government:—

“The finances of Portugal are in the most deplorable condition, the treasury is dry, and all branches of the public service suffer.  A carelessness and a mutual apathy reign not only throughout the government, but also throughout the nation.  While improvement is sought everywhere else throughout Europe, Portugal remains stationary.  The postal service of the country offers a curious example of this, nineteen to twenty-one days being still required for a letter to go and come between Lisbon and Braganza, a distance of 423½  kilometres, (or little over 300 miles.)  All the resources of the state are exhausted, and it is probable that the receipts will not give one-third of the amount for which they figure in the budget.” — Annuaire de l’Economie Politique, 1849, 322.

Some years since an effort was made to bring the artisan to the side of the farmer and vine-grower, but a century and a half of exclusive devotion to agriculture had placed the people so far in the rear of those of other nations, that the attempt was hopeless, the country having long since become a mere colony of Great Britain.

If we turn to Madeira, we find there further evidence of the exhausting consequences of the separation of the farmer and the artisan.  From 1836 to 1842, the only period for which returns are before me, there was a steady decline in the amount of agricultural production, until the diminution had reached about thirty per cent., as follows:—

           Wine.        Wheat.     Barley.
1836......27,270 pipes  8472 qrs.   3510
1842..... 16,131   "    6863  "     2777

At this moment the public papers furnish an “Appeal to America,” commencing as follows:—

“A calamity has fallen on Madeira unparalleled in its history.  The vintage, the revenue of which furnished the chief means for providing subsistence for its inhabitants, has been a total failure, and the potato crop, formerly another important article of their food, is still extensively diseased.  All classes, therefore, are suffering, and as there are few sources in the island to which they can look for food, clothing, and other necessaries of life, their distress must increase during the winter, and the future is contemplated with painful anxiety and apprehension.  Under such appalling prospects, the zealous and excellent civil Governor, Snr. José Silvestre Ribeiro, addressed a circular letter to the merchants of Madeira on the 24th of August last, for the purpose of bringing the unfortunate and critical position of the population under his government to the notice of the benevolent and charitable classes in foreign countries, and in the hope of exciting their sympathy with, and assistance to, so many of their fellow creatures threatened with famine.”

Such are the necessary consequences of a system which looks to compelling the whole population of a country to employ themselves in a single pursuit — all cultivating the land and all producing the same commodity;  and which thus effectually prevents the growth of that natural association so much admired by Adam Smith.  It is one that can end only in the exhaustion of the land and its owner.  When population increases and men come together, even the poor land is made rich, and thus it is, says M. de Jonnes, that “the powers of manure causes the poor lands of the department of the Seine to yield thrice as much as those of the Loire.”[1]  When population diminishes, and men are thus forced to live at greater distances from each other, even the rich lands become impoverished;  and of this no better evidence need be sought than that furnished by Portugal.  In the one case, each day brings men nearer to perfect freedom of thought, speech, action, and trade.  In the other they become from day to day more barbarized and enslaved, and the women are more and more driven to the field, there to become the slaves of fathers, husbands, brothers, and even of sons.

Of all the countries of Europe there is none possessed of natural advantages to enable it to compare with those constituting the TURKISH EMPIRE in Europe and Asia.  Wool and silk, corn, oil, and tobacco, might, with proper cultivation, be produced in almost unlimited quantity, while Thessaly and Macedonia, long celebrated for the production of cotton, abound in lands uncultivated, from which it might be obtained in sufficient extent to clothe a large portion of Europe.  Iron ore abounds, and in quality equal to any in the world, while in another part of the empire “the hills seem a mass of carbonate of copper.”[2]  Nature has done every thing for the people of that country, and yet of all those of Europe, the Turkish rayah approaches in condition nearest to a slave;  and of all the governments of Europe, that of Portugal even not excepted, that of Turkey is the most a slave to the dictation, not only of nations, but even of bankers and traders.  Why it is so, we may now inquire.

By the terms of the treaty with England in 1675, the Turkish government bound itself to charge no more than three percent duty on imports,[3] and as this could contribute little to the revenue, that required to be sought elsewhere.  A poll-tax, house-tax, land-tax, and many other direct taxes, furnished a part of it, and the balance was obtained by an indirect tax in the form of export duties;  and as the corn, tobacco, and cotton of its people were obliged to compete in the general markets of the world with the produce of other lands, it is clear that these duties constituted a further contribution from the cultivators of the empire in aid of the various direct taxes that have been mentioned.  So far as foreigners were interested, the system was one of perfect free trade and direct taxation.

For many years, Turkey manufactured much of her cotton, and she exported cotton-yarn.  Such was the case so recently as 1798, as will be seen by the following very interesting account of one of the seats of the manufacture:—

“'Ambelakia, by its activity, appears rather a borough of Holland than a village of Turkey.  This village spreads, by its industry, movement, and life, over the surrounding country, and gives birth to an immense commerce which unites Germany to Greece by a thousand threads.  Its population has trebled in fifteen years, and amounts at present (1798) to four thousand, who live in their manufactories like swarms of bees in their hives.  In this village are unknown both the vices and cares engendered by idleness;  the hearts of the Ambelakiots are pure and their faces serene;  the slavery which blasts the plains watered by the Peneus, and stretching at their feet, has never ascended the sides of Pelion (Ossa;) and they govern themselves, like their ancestors, by their protoyeros, (primates, elders,) and their own magistrates.  Twice the Mussulmen of Larissa attempted to scale their rocks, and twice were they repulsed by hands which dropped the shuttle to seize the musket.

“'Every arm, even those of the children, is employed in the factories;  while the men dye the cotton, the women prepare and spin it.  There are twenty-four factories, in which yearly two thousand five hundred bales of cotton yarn, of one hundred cotton okes each, were dyed (6138 cwts.)  This yarn found its way into Germany, and was disposed of at Buda, Vienna, Leipsic, Dresden, Anspach, and Bareuth.  The Ambelakiot merchants had houses of their own in all these places.  These houses belonged to distinct associations at Ambelakia.  The competition thus established reduced very considerably the common profits;  they proposed therefore to unite themselves under one central commercial administration.  Twenty years ago this plan was suggested, and in a year afterward it was carried into execution.  The lowest shares in this joint-stock company were five thousand piastres, (between £600 and £700,) and the highest were restricted to twenty thousand, that the capitalists might not swallow up all the profits.  The workmen subscribed their little profits, and uniting in societies, purchased single shares;  and besides their capital, their labour was reckoned in the general amount;  they received their share of the profits accordingly, and abundance was soon spread through the whole community.  The dividends were at first restricted to ten percent, and the surplus profit was applied to the augmenting of the capital;  which in two years was raised from 600,000 to 1,000,000 piastres, (£120,000.)’

“It supplied industrious Germany, not by the perfection of its jennies, but by the industry of its spindle and distaff.  It taught Montpellier the art of dyeing, not from experimental chairs, but because dyeing was with it a domestic and culinary operation, subject to daily observation in every kitchen;  and by the simplicity and honesty, not the science of its system, it reads a lesson to commercial associations, and holds up an example unparalleled in the commercial history of Europe, of a joint-stock and labour company;  ably and economically and successfully administered, in which the interests of industry and capital were, long equally represented.  Yet the system of administration with which all this is connected, is common to the thousand hamlets of Thessaly that have not emerged from their insignificance;  but Ambelakia for twenty years was left alone.”[4]

At that time, however, England had invented new machinery for spinning cotton, and, by prohibiting its export, had provided that all the cotton of the world should be brought to Manchester before it could be cheaply converted into cloth.

The cotton manufacturers at Ambelakia had their difficulties to encounter, but all those might have been overcome had they not, says Mr. Urquhart, “been outstripped by Manchester.”  They were outstripped, and twenty years afterward, not only had that place been deserted, but others in its neighbourhood were reduced to complete desolation.  Native manufactories for the production of cotton goods had, indeed, almost ceased to work.  Of 600 looms at Sentari in 1812, but 40 remained in 1821;  and of the 2000 weaving establishments at Tournovo in 1812, but 200 remained in 1830.[5]  For a time, cotton went abroad to be returned in the form of twist, thus making a voyage of thousands of miles in search of a spindle;  but even this trade has in a great degree passed away.  As a consequence of these things there had been a ruinous fall of wages, affecting all classes of labourers.  “The profits,” says Mr. Urquhart—

“Have been reduced to one-half, and sometimes to one-third, by the introduction of English cottons, which, though they have reduced the home price, and arrested the export of cotton-yarn from Turkey, have not yet supplanted the home manufacture in any visible degree;  for, until tranquillity has allowed agriculture to revive, the people must go on working merely for bread, and reducing their price, in a struggle of hopeless competition.  The industry, however, of the women and children is most remarkable;  in every interval of labour, tending the cattle, carrying water, the spindle and distaff, as in the days of Xerxes, is never out of their hands.  The children are as assiduously at work, from the moment their little fingers, can turn the spindle.  About Ambelakia, the former focus of the cotton-yarn trade, the peasantry has suffered dreadfully from this, though formerly the women could earn as much in-doors, as their husbands in the field; at present, their daily profit (1881) does not exceed twenty paras, if realized, for often they cannot dispose of the yarn when spun.

                              Piastres.    Paras.
Five okes of uncleaned cotton,
at seventeen paras...........   2             5
Labour of a woman for two days,
(seven farthings per day)....   0            35
Carding, by vibrations of a 
cat-gut....................     0            10
Spinning, a woman’s unremitting
labour for a week..........     5            30
Loss of cotton, exceeding an
oke of uncleaned cotton.......  0            20
Value of one oke of uncleaned
cotton...................  Prs. 9            00
“Here a woman’s labour makes but 2d. per day, while field-labour, according to the season of the year, ranges from 4d. to 6d. and at this rate, the pound of coarse cotton-yarn cost in spinning 5d.”— P. 147.

The labour of a woman is estimated at less than four cents per day, and “the unremitting labour of a week” will command but twenty-five cents.  The wages of men employed in gathering leaves and attending silkworms are stated at one piastre (five cents) per day.  At Salonica, the shipping port of Thessaly, they were ten cents. (Urquhart, 268.)

As a necessary consequence of this, population diminishes, and everywhere are seen the ruins of once prosperous villages.  Agriculture declines from day to day.  The once productive cotton-fields of Thessaly lie untilled, and even around Constantinople itself—

“There are no cultivated lands to speak of within twenty miles, in some directions within fifty miles.  The commonest necessaries of life come from distant parts:  the corn for daily bread from Odessa;  the cattle and sheep from beyond Adrianople, or from Asia Minor;  the rice, of which such a vast consumption is made, from the neighbourhood of Phillippopolis;  the poultry chiefly from Bulgaria;  the fruit and vegetables from Nicomedia and Mondania. Thus a constant drain of money is occasioned, without any visible return except to the treasury or from the property of the Ulema.” — Slade’s Travels in Turkey, vol. ii. 143.

The silk that is made is badly prepared, because the distance of the artisan prevents the poor people from obtaining good machinery; and as a consequence of this, the former direct trade with Persia has been superseded by an indirect one through England, to which the raw silk has now to be sent.  In every department of industry we see the same result.  Birmingham has superseded Damascus, whose blades are now no longer made.

Not only is the foreigner free to introduce his wares, but he may, on payment of a trifling duty of two percent, carry them throughout the empire until finally disposed of.  He travels by caravans, and is lodged without expense.  He brings his goods to be exchanged for money, or what else he needs, and the exchange effected, he disappears as suddenly as he came.

“It is impossible,” says Mr. Urquhart, “to witness the arrival of the many-tongued caravan at its resting-place for the night, and see, unladen and piled up together, the bales from such distant places — to glance over their very wrappers, and the strange marks and characters which they bear — without being amazed at so eloquent a contradiction of our preconceived notions of indiscriminate despotism and universal insecurity of the East.  But while we observe the avidity with which our goods are sought, the preference now transferred from Indian to Birmingham muslins, from Golconda to Glasgow chintzes, from Damascus to Sheffield steel, from Cashmere shawls to English broadcloth;  and while, at the same time, the energies of their commercial spirit are brought thus substantially before us;  it is indeed impossible not to regret that a gulf of separation should have so long divided the East and the West, and equally impossible not to indulge in the hope and anticipation of a vastly extended traffic with the East, and of all the blessings which follow fast and welling in the wake of commerce.”—P. 133.

Among the “blessings” of the system is the fact that local places of exchange no longer exist.  The storekeeper who pays rent and taxes has found himself unable to compete with the peddler who pays neither;  and the consequence is that the poor cultivator finds it impossible to exchange his products, small as they are, for the commodities he needs, except, on the occasional arrival of a caravan, and that has generally proved far more likely to absorb the little money in circulation, than any of the more bulky and less valuable products of the earth.

As usual in purely agricultural countries, the whole body of cultivators is hopelessly in debt, and the money-lender fleeces all.  If he aids the peasant before harvest, he must have an enormous interest, and be paid in produce at a large discount from the market price.  The village communities are almost universally in debt, but to them, as the security is good, the banker charges only twenty percent per annum.  Turkey is the very paradise of middlemen — a consequence of the absence of any mode of employment except in cultivation or in trade;  and the moral effect of this may be seen in the following passage:—

“If you see,” says Urquhart, “a Turk meditating in a corner, it is on some speculation — the purchase of a revenue farm, or the propriety of a loan at sixty percent;  if you see pen or paper in his hand, it is making or checking an account;  if there is a disturbance in the street, it is a disputed barter;  whether in the streets or in-doors, whether in a coffeehouse, a serai, or a bazaar, whatever the rank, nation, language of the persons around you, traffic, barter, gain are the prevailing impulses;  grusch, para, florin, lira, asper, amid the Babel of tongues, are the universally intelligible sounds.” — P. 138.

We have thus a whole people divided into two classes — the plunderers and the plundered;  and the cause of this may be found in the fact that the owners and occupants of land have never been permitted to strengthen themselves by the formation of that natural alliance between the plough and the loom, the hammer and the harrow, so much admired by Adam Smith.  The government is as weak as the people, for it is so entirely dependent on the bankers, that they may be regarded as the real owners of the land and the people, taxing them at discretion;  and to them certainly enure all the profits of cultivation.  As a consequence of this, the land is almost valueless.  A recent traveller states that good land maybe purchased in the immediate vicinity of Smyrna at six cents an acre, and at a little distance vast quantities may be had for nothing.  Throughout the world, the freedom of man has grown in the ratio of the increase in the value of land, and that has always grown in the ratio of the tendency to have the artisan take his place by the side of the cultivator of the earth.  Whatever tends to prevent this natural association tends, therefore, to the debasement and enslavement of man.

The weakness of Turkey, as regards foreign nations, is great, and it increases every day.[6]  Not only ambassadors, but consuls, beard it in its own cities;  and it is now even denied that she has any right to adopt a system of trade different from that under which she has become thus weakened.  Perfect freedom of commerce is declared to be “one of those immunities which we can resign on no account or pretext whatever;  it is a golden privilege, which we can never abandon.”[7]

Internal trade scarcely exists;  and, as a natural consequence, the foreign one is insignificant, the whole value of the exports being but about thirty-three millions of dollars, or less than two dollars per head.  The total exports from Great Britain in the last year amounted to but £2,221,000, ($11,500,000,) much of which was simply en route for Persia;  and this constitutes the great trade that has been built up at so much cost to the people of Turkey, and that is to be maintained as “a golden privilege” not to be abandoned!  Not discouraged by the result of past efforts, the same author looks forward anxiously for the time when there shall be in Turkey no employment in manufactures of any kind, and when the people shall be exclusively employed in agriculture;  and that time cannot, he thinks, be far distant, as “a few pence more or less in the price of a commodity will make the difference of purchasing or manufacturing at home.”[8]

Throughout his book he shows that the rudeness of the machinery of cultivation is in the direct ratio of the distance of the cultivator from market; and yet he would desire that all the produce of the country should go to a distant market to be exchanged, although the whole import of iron at the present moment for the supply of a population of almost twenty millions of people, possessing iron ore, fuel, and unemployed labour in unlimited quantity, is but £2500 per annum, or about a penny’s worth for every thirty persons!  Need we wonder at the character of the machinery, the poverty and slavery of the people, the trivial amount of commerce, or at the weakness of a government whose whole system looks to the exhaustion of the land, and to the exclusion of that great middle class of working-men, to whom the agriculturist has everywhere been indebted for his freedom?

The facts thus far given have been taken, as the reader will have observed, from Mr. Urquhart’s work;  and as that gentleman is a warm admirer of the system denounced by Adam Smith, he cannot be suspected of any exaggeration when presenting any of its unfavourable results.  Later travellers exhibit the nation as passing steadily onward toward ruin, and the people toward a state of slavery the most, complete — the necessary consequence of a policy that excludes the mechanic and prevents the formation of a town population.  Among the latest of those travellers is Mr. Mac Farlane,[9] at the date of whose visit the silk manufacture had entirely disappeared, and even the filatures for preparing the raw silk were closed, weavers having become ploughmen, and women and children having been totally deprived of employment.  The cultivators of silk had become entirely dependent on foreign markets in which there existed no demand for the products of their land and labour.  England was then passing through one of her periodical crises, and it had been deemed necessary to put down the prices of all agricultural products, with a view to stop importation.  On one occasion, during Mr. Mac Farlane’s travels, there came a report that silk had risen in England, and it produced a momentary stir and animation, that, as he says, “flattered his national vanity to think that an electric touch parting from London, the mighty heart of commerce, should thus be felt in a few days at a place like Biljek.”  Such is commercial centralization!  It renders the agriculturists of the world mere slaves, dependent for food and clothing upon the will of a few people, proprietors of a small amount of machinery, at “the mighty heart of commerce.”  At one moment speculation is rife, and silk goes up in price, and then every effort is made to induce large shipments of the raw produce of the world.  At the next, money is said to be scarce, and the shippers are ruined, as was, to so great an extent, experienced by those who exported corn from this country in 1847.

At the date of the traveller’s first visit to Broussa, the villages were numerous, and the silk manufacture was prosperous.  At the second, the silk works were stopped and their owners bankrupt, the villages were gradually disappearing, and in the town itself scarcely a chimney was left, while the country around presented to view nothing but poverty and wretchedness.  Everywhere, throughout the empire, the roads are bad, and becoming worse, and the condition of the cultivator deteriorates;  for if he has a surplus to sell, most of its value at market is absorbed by the cost of transportation, and if his crop is short, prices rise so high that he cannot purchase.  Famines are therefore frequent, and child-murder prevails throughout all classes of society.  Population therefore diminishes, and the best lands are abandoned, “nine-tenths” of them remaining untilled;[10]  the natural consequence of which is, that malaria prevails in many of those parts of the country that once were most productive, and pestilence comes in aid of famine for the extermination of this unfortunate people.  Native mechanics are nowhere to be found, there being no demand for them, and the plough, the wine-press, and the oil-mill are equally rude and barbarous.  The product of labour is, consequently, most diminutive, and its wages twopence a day, with a little food.  The interest of money varies from 25 to 50 percent per annum, and this rate is frequently paid for the loan of bad seed that yields but little to either land or labour.

With the decline of population and the disappearance of all the local places of exchange, the pressure of the conscription becomes from year to year more severe, and droves of men may be seen “chained like wild beasts — free Osmanlees driven along the road like slaves to a market” — free men, separated from wives and children, who are left to perish of starvation amid the richest lands, that remain untilled because of the separation of the artisan from the producer of food, silk, and cotton.  Internal commerce is trifling in amount, and the power to pay for foreign merchandise has almost passed away.  Land is nearly valueless;  and in this we find the most convincing proof of the daily increasing tendency toward slavery, man having always become enslaved as land has lost its value.  In the great valley of Buyuk-derè, once known as the fair land, a property of twenty miles in circumference had shortly before his visit been purchased for less than £1000, or $4800.[11]  In another part of the country, one of twelve miles in circumference had been purchased for a considerably smaller sum.[12]  The slave trade, black and white, had never been more active;[13] and this was a necessary consequence of the decline in the value of labour and land.

In this country, negro men are well fed, clothed, and lodged, and are gradually advancing toward freedom.  Population therefore increases, although more slowly than would be the case were they enabled more to combine their efforts for the improvement of their condition.  In the West Indies, Portugal, and Turkey, being neither well fed, clothed, nor lodged, their condition declines;  and as they can neither be bought nor sold, they are allowed to die off, and population diminishes as the tendency toward the subjugation of the labourer becomes more and more complete.  Which of these conditions tends most to favour advance in civilization the reader may decide.


1 Statistique de l’Agriculture de la France, 129.

2 Urquhart’s Resources of Turkey, 179.

3 Equivalent to light port-charges, the anchorage being only sixteen cents per ship.

4 Beaujour’s Tableau du Commerce de la Greece, quoted by Urquhart, 47.

5 Urquhart, 150.

6 The recent proceedings in regard to the Turkish loan are strikingly illustrative of the exhausting effects of a system that looks wholly to the export of the raw produce of the earth, and thus tends to the ruin of the soil and of its owner.

7 Urquhart, 257.

8 Ibid. 202.

9 Turkey, and its Destiny, by C. Mac Farlane, Esq., 1850.

10 Mac Farlane, vol. i, 46.

11 Mac Farlane, vol. ii, 242.

12 Ibid. 296.

13 Ibid. vol. i. 37.