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A brief view of slavery in British India.

Source: Wilson Anti-Slavery Collection,
1841
Contributed by: The University of Manchester, John Rylands University Library
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/60228274
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D
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s A BRIEF VIEW

SLAVERY IN BRITISH INDIA.
'SLAVERY IS THE GREATEST OF ALL EVILS J AND THE ATTEMPT TO REGULATE TlIERE SUCH IS NO EXCUSE FOR
AN EVIL IS IN ITSELF
CONTINUING THE PRACTICE IN INDIA, A COUNTKY TULLY PEOPLED, AND WHERE CULTIVATION AND COMMERCE CAN BE CARRIED ON BY FREE Men."
Farquhar.

The Mahomedan law declares
"
Fellow Countrymen!Among the various questions which the property (in slaves) is so a
solute
engage, if they do not actually absorb your attention, at the and complete, that it is assigned as a rea
present moment, permit the Committee of the Britishjecting
and Fo¬ an owner to no worldly punishment or pe
reign Anti-Slavery Society to bring specially under your murder
consider¬ of his slave ; he has of course entire power o
being restrained by no provisions of law adapted t
ation one which strongly appeals to your patriotism as Englishmen,
to your sympathies as philanthropists, and to your principles slave from
as ill-treatment" And these atrocious law
Christians, namely, Slavery in British This
India.
great grade human beings to the condition of property,
subject, involving as it does the personal liberty and happiness of owners unbridled power over the persons both of t
hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of your fellow-men and female slaves, are sanctioned by the British author
fellow-subjects, and the prosperity and honour of the whole em¬ and at home, with the exception that it is provid
pire, has been too much and too long neglected. The present, shall not be put to death by their masters, without b
however, is a favourable time for bringing it under the attention to law. In adverting to the power possessed by the In
of the candidates who are now soliciting your suffrages in order to holder over the persons of his slaves, a learned judg
on the subject, has advertedatto the mention of which
"

secure their return to the next Parliament; and of engaging, when¬ practices
ever it is practicable and possible, such of them as may be sent modesty recedes with blushes, and humanity shrinks with horror."
CONDITION OF SLAVES.
thither, to support a measure for its immediate and entire aboli¬
tion.. And this may the more readily be done, as the subject It may well be imagined that if such be the state o
involves no religious peculiarities or political predilections, but is one the condition of the slaves generally must be most w
of humanity and justice, in which all parties may cordially unite. so it is :—" Nothing can be more abject and wretche
than the condition of that degraded race of m
"
The Committee believe that the apparent want of interest in Baber,
this great matter arises from want of information, not from indif¬ slaves of Malabar, whose huts are little better than m
ference to it; and from the prevalence of an opinion that slavery whose diminutive stature and squalid appearance ev
has ceased to exist in every part of the dominions of Great Britain. leant of adequate nourishment.'' Grasme,
" The slave," says Mr.in
"
They would, therefore, respectfully yet earnestly call your attention his report on Malabar, 1822, in the interior, is a wretched, hal
to the facts of the case. starved, diminutive creature, stinted in his food, and ex
EXTENT OP SLAVERY. inclemency of tlie weather ; whose state demands that c
The existence of slavery to an enormous extent and melioration
in the presi¬ which may confidently be expectedfrmn
ity of the British Mr. Campbell, in reply to the
government."
dencies of Bengal, Bombay, and Madras, has been fully established
by the official papers which have been laid before questions Parliament,on slavery and proposed by the Board of Con
by the concurrent testimony of the most eminent states,and" Thebest
creatures in human form who constitute the agrestic
informed
of the East India Company's servants; and, slave although
population ofit is im¬
Malabar, being distinguishable, like the savage
possible to give the exact number of slaves tribes still to be found
contained in ourin someEast
of the forests of Arabia, from the
Indian territories and dependencies, the following rest of the human race, by t/ieir
statement ex¬ degraded, diminutive, squalid ap¬
tracted from parliamentary papers will be sufficient to prove
pearance, their dropsical the
pot bellies, contrasting horridly with their
existence of this^rightful evil, and consequently sleleton armsof and your duty.hardly clothed, and in a con¬
legs, half-starved,
In Malabar, Canara, Coorg, Wynad, Cochin, and Travancore,
dition scarcely superior to thethere
cattle they follow at the plough."
are 401,000 slaves, in Tinnevelly 324,000, in Trichinopoly INCIDENTS 10,600,OF SLAVERY.
in Arcot 20,000, in Assam 11,300, in Surat 3,000, From in theSilhet
evidence, and and of persons of high reputation
Buckergunge 80,000, in Behar 22,722, in Tirhoot swer to11,061, queries in submitted
the to them by the commissione
district lying between the rivers Kistna andaffairs Toongbutra of India15,000, in 1832, we"•learn husbands and wives are
that
in the southern Mahratta country 7>500, and in the British
separated settle¬ parties"—" That they are sold off the
by sale to different
ments of Ceylon, Malacca, and Penang above 30,000;
estates where making
they were born in and bred"—" And the nearest and_
all 936,183 Most of these are prandial Yet these form
slaves. dearest associations and ties of our common nature severed"—
but a portion, perhaps a small portion of the mighty mass, scat¬
"
That they are sold in satisfaction of revenue
"
when arrears,"
tered throughout the whole of British India, who claim the im¬ proprietors are in want of cash to pay the leven
the sale of
" "

mediate attention and powerful aid of British abolitionists. The slaves can be and are sold at pleasure"—That
The effect of this is described by
"
domestic slaves are excessively numerous : All the Jagheerdars, agrestic slaves is common."
Deshwars, Zemindars, principal Brahmins, and the Sahookdars,
Foujdaree Adawlut, retainone of the Law Courts, in an extract from
slaves in their domestic establishments; in fact its proceedings,
in every Mahratta dated 20th July, 1829 :—"In Malabar, where the
household of consequence they are, both maleslave andisfemale,
often soldespecially
separately from the land, civilization is checked by
the latter, to be found, and indeed are considered the infractionto beofindispen¬
those feelings, the cultivation of which principally
sable."—" In all the great towns throughout Malabar and Canara, tends to raise human nature. He is dragged from the field which he
these descriptions of slaves are to be met with."—"I entertain no is accustomed to till, from all the connexions of blood and affection,
doubt whatever," said the Duke of Wellington, in a debate on the and his diminutive size, stinted growth, and squalid appearance,
subject, in 1833, "that slavery does exist in that country—domesticpresent the picture of the degraded being which he feels he is."
slavery in particular, to a very considerable extent ;" and, he added, FOOD.

"in the hut of every Mussulman soldier in the Indian army, there The daily allowance of slaves varies from one
"

is a female slave, who accompanies him in all his marches."To to one and three-quarters seers in of the
paddy husk) to
(rice
the male; and from one to one and a quarter to the f
these must be added the Nautch girls, and the youthful prostitutes
connected with the idolatrous and sensual services of the HindooThe" daily wages of a freeman are about one-third m
temples. then he icorks only till noon, whereas the slave has
"
LAW OP SLAVERY.
morning until evening, and to keep watch by turns at n
What the legal condition of these slaves is, maybe the paddy
gathered from"The
field" food, clothing, and comf
(Baber).
the following authoritative statement The Hindoo
of the law.
the agrestic slaves are every where inferior to tho
law " treats the slave as the absolute property ofonehis(Campbell).
"
"
master, The general condition of the agrestic slav
familiarly speaking of this property, in association is badwith cattle,
every where.
They enjoy little comfort, have coarse, pre
under the contemptuous designation of bipeds and carious, and scanty Dr.
quadrupeds. Buchanan states, not more than
food.
It makes no provision for the protection of the slave from two-sevenths
'
the cruelty In the Tamil
of what is a reasonable quantity.'"
"
and ill treatment of an unfeeling master, nor defines the some
country, master's of them who are outcasts possess a
power over the person of his slave; neither prescribing the cattle that die from disease; and they
distinct
limits to that power, nor declaring it to extend animals, as well as that of snakes, and othe
to life or limb."

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*
]omi, zo.-i-
fyr^fO

general In times
their food is the coarsest grain" of
(Campbell).
of the people."
"

" The practice of slitting, and even cuttin
scarcity, the by
they are left to eke out a miserable existence noses of slaves
feeding
" was'formerly, and is said even now to pre
As
upon wild yams, and such refuse as would be sought after by that
corporal punishment prevails much in India," and as th
extreme wretchedness which envied the husks that the swine did
of the lash had been recognised by the Sudder Foujdary c
eat" (Baber). Malabar as a legal punishment for slaves, it will not be diffi
CLOTHING.
imagine the torture to which they may sometimes be put in
In reference to their clothing, we find that" ing
there is a
compulsory toil.
custom of giving them a cloth occasionally, the only clothing DEGRADATION.
they wear." That "
the allowance consists of a waist-cloth, called
The moral and social, as well as the physical degradation of
moond, to men ; and moori, signifying a fragment, to females
these wretched beings is ;complete.
it They are compelled," says
"

is just large enough to wrap round their loins, Brown,Mr. "
and is whenever
of the value
to Is.
they come in sight of a habitatio
of one or two fanams, equal to ; from
in some6d.
districts from the public high road, and make a long circu
this is given but once a year, but more generally twice." remotest approach ; forced to utter a cry, to give wa
"As a substitute for these waistcloths, it is very common, espe¬ that a human being, notcoming; a dog, was and driven, whene
cially in the retired parts of the country, to use or wear bunches theirof cry was answered, to hide themselves And in the
leaves, generally of the wild plantain tree, supported by a fibre Dr.of
Buchanan, who travelled extensively in Malabar, Canara, and
some tree or vine." Mysore, states, that "they follow all the oxen and buffaloes of the
SHELTER.
village, as so much live stock, when these are driven in procession
Their habitations are most wretched. "They erect for at a great festival which the farmersannually celebrate." " The
small huts that are little
"
themselves," says Buchanan,
Dr. slaves," says theMr.Rev. Fenn,
"

are in the lowest possible
better than mere baskets" " The slave alone," says Mr. Grasme, of degradation," and "nothing," he adds,
"has a sieve of a hut in the centre of the rice fields." In the sheds
Christianity descends low enough to meet them,
erected for cattle "

the slaves are permitted to dwelltowhen the levelthe of mankind."
crop
is not on the ground; for these poor creatures are consideredDOMESTIC as tooSLAVES.
impure to be permitted to approach the house The offoregoing
their devaru remarks or apply to the general condition of
lord." "
With respect to their dwellings," Baber, says
"
Mr.
so
slaves in the western peninsula The of India.
domestic slaves,
very impure are all castes of slaves held, that they are obliged
those of to them who become the favourites of their mas
«rect their chala or huts at a distance from all other habitations; treated with greater leniency.
"

They are well fed," and •
neither are they allowed to approach, except within certain clothed." pre¬ Such, however, is not the lot of the fe
scribed distances, the houses or persons of any of the free slaves castes."employed as attendants in the seraglios
MEDICAL ATTENDANCE.
rank; they are too often treated with caprice,
frequently pun¬a
In old age and sickness the slaves appear to be utterly
lected. " ished neg¬ with much cruelty The com
I am not aware," Fenn, says Mr. "of any provision me as for superintendent of police, Campbell, at Madras, s
old age or sickness."
" "
They enjoy," observes Welsh, Col. no
gave me an insight into transactions committed in the recesses of
jnovision, that ever I could" learn, for old "Sick¬ age or sickness."
the female apartments, which has left on my mind a strong im¬
ness among them," says Capt. Bevan, causes no additional atten¬
pression of the cruelty and wanton barbarity with which this class
tion on the part of the proprietors, who frequently lose many ofof female slaves is subject to be treated ; indeed, little doubt can
their slaves when an epidemic gets among them." be entertained that the seclusion of female slaves in the harems of
LABOUR.
Mussulmans of rank, too often precludes complaint, prevents re¬
'•
The labour exacted from them is onerous and dress, oppressive.
and cloaks crimes at which Europeans would shudder." Oc¬
They are employed in all kinds of agricultural casionally theselabour, riceoppression escape from their
victims of a ruthless
"
tillage, and the sugar cane, without the intermission tormentors, of a single
bearing on their persons the scars and wo
"
day, so long as their masters can find employment have been for them."on them ; providentially,
inflicted and sometimes by the
They have no particular hours which they can merest
call their accident,own, their nor murder hag come to of
knowledge thethe
any day in the week set apart for rest " In theor police."
devotion."
Tamil country the men are employed in ploughing the land and DANCING GIRLS.
sowing the seed, and on all the various laborious works necessaryThere are two other classes of this degraded race of be
for the irrigation of the land upon which rice is grown; thethose who belong to the owners " of sets of dancing women, who
women in transplanting the rice plants, and both in reaping the
"
buy female children, and instruct them for public exhibitio
crop." The slave has to toil from morning till who, evening;
when they aftergrow up, become courtezans;" and those
which he has to keep watch by turns at night, in sheds
employed inerected
the obscene on and idolatrous worship temples. of the
an open platform in the centre of the paddy field, Of theseveral
former Sir feet under¬
John Malcolm gives a painful description, in his
water, exposed to the inclemency of the weather, remarks on the tostate
scare away
of slavery in Malwa.
"
He says, The danc¬
trespassing cattle or wild animals."
Besides their ordinary ing agri¬
women, who are all slaves, are condemned
cultural employments, these slaves, occasionally, vice, are for called
the profit upon, of others, and some of the
by requisition of the collector or magistrate issued to their masters,
and zemindars in Malwa have from 50 to 200
to aid in stopping any sudden breach in the great works
their family. Afterofemploying
irriga¬ them in the menial labours of their
tion conducted at the expense of government, house or in dragging the
during the day, they send them at night to their own dwell¬
enormous cars of the idols round the villages ings,or temples,
where they are ,at to move
liberty to form such connexions as they
which immense cables, dragged by many thousands, please; but a are necessary.
large share of the profits of that promiscuous inter¬
In Tanjore, in particular, from the great number course, intoof whichtemples
they fall, isand
annually exacted by their masters,
the frequency of the festivals, this is a They very onerous
who add anyduty." children they have to their list of slaves. The
are also compelled to make or repair the higli roads, to carry the female slaves in this condition, as well as those of the dancing sets,
luggage of public servants and their establishments, of marching are not permitted to marry, and are often very harshly treated; so
regiments and of travellers; to carry treasure remittances from that the latter, from this cause, and the connexions they form, are
the several talook-cutcheries to the collector's treasury at Calicut, constantly in the habit of running away."
or stolen goods with parties of robbers sent in by the different SLAVERY AND IDOLATRY.

police officers; or the Company's tobacco from the several depots Of the latter class, Judge Lascelles gives the followin
for sale to the talook and revenue cutcheries ; on all which occa¬ choly account:—" Their situation," "he is remarks,
by far the
sions they are guarded by kolkars (armed peons), or choorabakar most objectionable, combining as it does every attenda
(persons with canes), to prevent their running away ; and it must very worst description of Initiated slavery. in early youth into
be confessed, that it is no less a source of complaint to the mas¬ the mysteries of their profession, and immured within t
ters, than grievance to their slaves, to be so worked" (Baber). the pagoda, they are taught, as the first and chief lesson
PUNISHMKNTS.
sider an implicit and blind obedience to the will of th
The discipline required under such circumstances, as their highestto and their obedience forms their sole
duty!
coerce labour and enforce obedience to the will onlyof thecodemaster,
of moral obligation. The
wily guardians appear to
must be necessarily severe ; we therefore find that, if slaves
make it their chief endeavour to destroy all that wou
either refuse to work, or run away, they are, on being the caught,female character, and foster the basest passions of
flogged and put in the stocks for some days, and afterwards heart,made as the means of pandering to the vices of the m
to work with chains on." "
Moreover, there is hardly a and sessions It will revenue
continuing to themselves their ill-gotten
of gaol delivery, the calendars of which (though readily a vast be number
believed of how degrading this system is to the miserable
crimes occurring are never reported) do not contain subjects ofcases
it. ofthe evil of this description does not stop here;
But
wounding and even murdering slaves, chiefly brought there is,tounhappily,
light by too great cause to apprehend a latent mischief
the efforts of the police, though, generally speaking, theymagnitude.
of more fearful (the To say that these miserable beings
slaves) are the most enduring, unresisting, and unoffending arc subject to the classes
caprice of their masters, the Brahmins, is but

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to say, in other words, that they suffer under the worst slavery THUGGEE.

known' either in ancient or modern times; Their excesses, it is From the depositions ot some of these Thugs, who had
Gopaul: I murdered,
'

true, are rarely exposed, for they are veiled in all the intricacies taken, we make the following extracts.—"
of their religious observances, and witnessed only by the actors of in company with a large gang of Thugs, eight travellers at Beloo-
them, in the security of their polluted walls ; but this much is open chepore, and took six of their children.' 'I never had
to observation:—The aged are seldom found amony this wretched any other occupation.' Jewan:—' I murdered four people
class, nor is it possible, in many cases, to trace their steps. It would at Kusseeagunge.' Six children of the murdered people were
be superfluous" he adds,
"
to draw an inference which recovered. Khumba (a female) :—' My husband had a gang of
is so very
obvious, especially when we consider that theforty or fifty men
disappearance ofandonewomen, whom I always accompanied on
of these poor creatures involves in it none Thuggee. of these I never performed the office of Sugh Andoss, or
sympathies
which ordinarily take place in society." Three of this woman's sons and two of her relations
strangle!-.'"
FOREIGN SLAVE TRADE. were hanged for the "
murder of three travellers, whose children
In connexion with the system of slavery so prevalent they obtained.
in British Radha:—' My parents were murdered near t
India is an extensive slave-trade, carried on to meet village theof Dunkaree between forty and fifty Thug
demand
for human beings in consequence of its destructive present on the
nature, and occasion.' 'I was subsequently adopted by
one form of this atrocious traffic, from which theSaiga Jemadar
greatest number a relation of Kheama.' 'I have been three
'
of victims is obtained, is actually permitted, if not or justified
four expeditions
by' the with him.' A poor woman was murdered in
authorities in India representing the merchants of Leadenhall my house.' I took charge of her children (three) while my
"

Street! The Committee allude to the purchase and sale of free husband was employed in strangling her.'
"
children. "
The number of slaves," Colebrooke,says Mr. con¬ The report of Major Sleeman, from which th
tinually diminishing, a demand constantly exists for the been abstracted, closes with a list of 223 Thug
purchase
of them, which is supplied chiefly by their parents in seasons
known, employed in murdering indigent parent
of scarcity and famine, or in circumstances of individual children, and all of whom, with the exception of
peculiar distress." By this means vast numbers of innocent been captured, were at large.
beings, and their posterity after them, are reduced to We perpetual
might pursue this subject further, Enough but w
slavery, and this horrible evil is increased and prolonged. has been said to prove the existence of slavery in its most de¬
The supply of foreign slaves is principally derived from
grading the
and atrocious forms, in British India; and to show that
eastern coast of Africa, and from Arabia, importeditsthrough kindred abomination,
the the slave-trade, prevails to an enormous
Portuguese settlements of Goa, Diu, and Dumaon, orextent as a consequence
through the of its existence. It is also clear that the
ports belonging to some of the native states, more foreign or less branch
underof it is marked with the usual revolting features of
the control of the Indian Government, and thence surreptitiously the African slave-trade, of which it forms a part, with the additional
introduced into the various presidencies, the seats ofenormity, government that mutilated individuals are required by the voluptuous
being the chief places into which they areOf the en¬ Asiatics to watch over their harems; and that the home branch of
imported.
tire slave-trade carried on, the naval officer stationed it is at
associated
Surat, with all that is debasing in idolatry, and cruel in
says, a very large portion of these slaves, murder.
"

there is no doubt, are
imported into the British Interritory."
Bombay African
"
CONCLUDING REMARKS.
children are so valuable" that it is not safe for them to All the attempts made to ameliorate the condition of the sla
appear in the streets for fear of beingEunuchs, stolen. it wouldin British India up to 1833, when the charter of the East In
appear, are in great demand at Calcutta, and are'clandestinely Company im¬ was renewed, had proved It was
vain.then that the
ported in considerable numbers. In one establishment at Moor- government of Earl Grey introduced a clause into the charter bill
shedabad, no less than sixty of these unhappy beings were providing
found for the complete abolition of slavery in British India,
composing part of the household of slaves of a wealthy "on the 12th day of April, 1837," in the event of the Governor-
native. "

All the revolting features of the African slave-trade, as General carried in onCouncil not being able to effect it " previously to

by the Brazils and the Spanish colonies, characterize the eastern This noble attempt of the Government to destroy
that period.
branch of it;
"
Men, women and children are forcibly the evil was seized
resisted byin the Court of Directors, and the pro-slavery
the interior, and carried off;" and in some cases,
"
party in both
when Housestheyof Parliament,
have especially in that of

been captured, the poor wretches were found some of them
Peers; and, con¬ after a clause making it manda
cealed in boxes, and other private places in the holds" of
in India "to vessels,
frame laws for theandextinction of
regulation
"
"
totally naked."It is to be feared that "the importation slavery of hadslaves"
passed the House of Commons, it was f
into Calcutta " continues to be carried on, to an extent mined utterlyby the House of Lords, should thatbe required
they only
disgraceful," as no effectual means as yet have "to beentaketaken by consideration the means of mitiga
into
the Executive to prevent it. slavery, and of ameliorating the condition of the
HOME SLAVE TRADE : KIDNAPPING.
tinguishing slavery throughout the said territorie
The Home branch of the slave-trade is carried on to a great
extinction shall be ex¬ practicable and safe ;" and the
tent through the medium of extensive bands handed of kidnappers.
over to the East India Company to be de
Finding an ample market for all the children might they steal,proper!
think among
Year after year has rolled away w
priests, prostitutes, and the wealthy natives residing any measures in the having cities of been taken even to mitigate
Hindostan, they are constantly moving about very, inand all to ameliorate the condition
directions The wretched
of the slave
watching for their prey, and the skill withbondsmen which still they groan elude
under de-
the most intolerable oppression, and
tection,|renders almost all attempts to convict willthem
continueof to the
do so,offence,
unless the power which terminated the sla¬
abortive. Besides which the state of the law isvery such of as greatly
800,000 negroesto in the West Indies, shall be evoked to
facilitate their operations. Hence it is found that " while the rescue the millions of India from their chains.
free transport of slaves is allowed, and while the sale of them Fellow Countrymen! the committee earnesily implore you on
is permitted, the practice of kidnapping will be continued, what¬behalf of suffering and oppressed humanity to plead the cause of
ever penalties may be enacted against it." Sometimes a gang of the -Indian slave at the forthcoming election, and by the votes you
these wretches will attack a village, and carry off some of its give to lay the foundation of his freedom; then may they hope,
inhabitants to sell as slaves. The following case is taken from that, under the divine blessing, the first session of the next Parlia¬
the parliamentary papers of 1839. " A gang of Dacoits attack¬ment will not pass away without the enactment of a law which
ed a village in Arrakan, in the day time, murdered four men shall relieve from slavery, however modified or sanctioned, every
and nine women, and carried off' twenty women as slaves." But class of persons within the limits of this great empire; and which
among the Indian kidnappers the Megpunna Thugs are the shall mostprovide, that every person who shall hereafter touch any
merciless and cruel. They invariably murder the parents portion
to of British territory, in any part of the world, shall,
obtain thejr children. without exception or limitation, be ipso facto free.

*

The Committee, in putting forth the foregoing summary of information respecting Slavery in British India, take the o
tunity of assuring the reader that the facts referred to may be fully relied upon, being taken from Parliamentary Pape
they would earnestly recommend to their friends in addition, a PamphletSlavery and 'the Slave Trade in British
entitled
India, with notices of the existence of these evils in Ceylon, Malacca, and Penang, drawn from Official Docum
the material facts of the question are referred to, and the authorities on which they rest given,&c. objections an
Single copies, one shilling, which may be ordered through any bookseller; six copies and upwards, for distribution
"
also the foregoingBrief View of Slavery in British India," either in the above form, or as a tract, for
Jive shillings per hundred, may be had at the Society's
27, Office,
New Broad No. London, or of Thomas Ward a
Street,
Paternoster Row.

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