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Mr. Fish to General Schenck.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
SIR: I give you herewith, for your information, copies of two dispatches addressed to this Department by the consuls of the United States at Malta and Tripoli, respectively, *
which relate to the
traffic in slaves between Tripoli and the Levant ports via Malta.*
I am, &c.,
Mr. Adams to Mr. Davis.
UNITED STATES CONSULATE, Malta, June 14, 1873. (Received July 9.) SIR: Referring to my dispatch No. 102, of January 1, I have now to communicate the result of inquiries, continued since that date, into the alleged existence of the slavetrade between Barbary and the Levant, via Malta.
The Crown advocate, Sir Adrian Dingli, having made a statement in council defending the government in the matter, I called upon him officially, to ask for any information he could give me. He replied to me at length, saying, substantially, that the government had long watched the movement of blacks through Malta; that the rules of the port had been applied with special stringency to vessels arriving from Barbary; that passengers landing from them had been kept under police supervision while here, and when embarking for the Levant, that frequently the police have inquired of the blacks whether they were free or slaves, and whether they wished to proceed with the persons in whose charge they were traveling, informing them at the same time that they were at liberty to go where they chose; finally, that owing to charges made upon the government, he had ordered that the conductors of the first parties of blacks arriving from Barbary should be prosecuted in the police-court for dealing in slaves; that such a trial had been held on November 14, 1872, and no evidence appearing to sustain the charge, the accused persons had been released. Sir Adrian concluded by saying that in his opinion it was doubtful if any traffic in slaves took place through Malta; and that in any event the local government had fulfilled its duty with the approval of the imperial government, the responsibility for the traffic, if any, lying elsewhere. He subsequently furnished to me translations of certain official papers, which are inclosed herewith, viz: examples of inquiries made and reported by the police, and a copy of the judicial proceedings of November 14, 1872.
Mr. Giacomo Psaila, adjutant of the interior police, the prosecutor in the action of November 14, made a statement to precisely the same effect. He is sure the blacks are no slaves, "the relation being without force and voluntary on both sides." Mr. Luigi Aloisio, adjutant of marine police, who has conducted most of the investigatious, stated that he has been thirty-two years in the force. Negroes, or Moors, had passed through here from Barbary to the Levant for many years, but the number has been greater since the opening of steam-lines to Barbary. A few come from Benghazi, or other small ports, but nearly all from Tripoli; most of them upon the Turkish steamer Trabulus Gharb of Tripoli, a much less number upon the Turkish steamer Villayet, a few upon other occasional steamers or sailing-vessels of different nationalities. They consist of women and children of both sexes; the language spoken by them is Turkish, Arabic, or Soudanese. They travel in companies of from two or three to ten or fifteen, sometimes being represented as the servants of ordinary passengers, but usually coming in charge of a padrone (master) or conductor, who is almost always a Turk of Tripoli or Constantinople. The same padrone who brings them from Barbary takes them to the Levant, no instance of changing masters here having been noticed. Several padroni have been observed to pass repeatedly, always accompanied by blacks, but never by the same blacks. While waiting to re-embark they resort to a lodginghouse here kept by a Maltese, licensed by the authorities and under police inspection. They take deck-passage usually on British steamers for Alexandria, Smyrna, or Constantinople, mostly for the last-named port. Having long been suspicious of these persons, he called the attention of the authorities to the subject two years ago, and was ordered to inquire into it and report officially. He finds that the blacks individually, or sometimes the padroni for themselves and their suites, bear a passport from
* See also correspondence on this subject, post under the title "Turkish Empire."
the authorities at Tripoli, or the port whence they arrive, but not vised by the British consul. Very many blacks have been examined apart individually in Turkish, Arabic, or, when an interpreter could be had, in the tongue of Soudan. There have been one or two occasions where persons have been released from the padroni at their own request, but usually they profess to be free and desirous of continuing with the padroni. The largest number that ever came at one time was fifty-two, who arrived on the Trabulus Gharb, and proceeded in her to Constantinople, the vessel having, as he understood, been chartered for the voyage by the Pasha of Tripoli. His official observations and reports extend from January, 1872. He has reason to believe that formerly many blacks were brought here secretly, not appearing in the lists of passengers. Lately he has noticed that they seemed to have been previously instructed what replies to make to the questions of the police, often declaring before questioning that they are free and wish to go to Constantinople. He has no doubt at all that most of them are slaves purchased in Barbary to be resold in the Levant. I inclose three reports furnished to me by Mr. Aloisio, made by him to his superior officers, and a report of arrivals of Moors (blacks) since February 17, 1872. This last report, he explained to me, is of those who were suspected to be slaves.
Salvatore Borg stated to me that he has kept the lodging-house spoken of by Adjutant Aloisio for five years past. There are arrivals of blacks by nearly every steamer coming from Benghazi and Tripoli, and a few from Tunis. He reports, according to law, every arrival to the police, who frequently inspect his house. He has often talked with the padroni, and the women of his family with the black women, who will not converse with Christian men. To the question whether they were slaves, he replied, "S'intende, signore," but in a later interview declared that he meant only to say they were servants, (“serve non schiave.") He had never seen any constraint used by the padroni, who always accompany the blacks, nor any unwillingness in the latter to go with the padroni. Some of the padroni had been at his house several times, each time with a different party.
Amabile Grech, recently agent of the Turkish steamer Villayet, states that the blacks arrive by every steamer, but more in summer than in winter. It is notorious that they are slaves and that the principal person engaged in the traffic is the Pasha of Tripoli.
O. F. Golcher, A. Duncan & Co., A. Camilleri, and other agents of the various lines of British steamers calling here, state that they grant passage to any applicant unless notified by the police that there is a legal impediment upon his departure. They would not take slaves, knowing them to be so, and in a few cases had refused to take parties of blacks; but in general it is no part of their business to inquire into the character or condition of their passengers.
A trustworthy person, J. Azzopardi, whom I have privately employed for two or three months to inquire whether any persons residing in Malta are directly concerned in the traffic, tells me that Mr. L. Farragia, consul for Tunis, and recently for Turkey, is intimate with the padroni, and often aids them to secure passage for the Levant, which is the sum total of his discoveries.
I am inclined to think that the foregoing facts are all that can be discovered here, and probably all that there are. There is really no mystery in the matter, the padroni relying upon their passports and the ignorance and docility of the blacks as a sufficient safeguard. They have evidently been encouraged by the failure of police investigations, and come and go without any attempt at secrecy. I may add, however, that it seems to me that if the object of the authorities has been to ascertain the real character of the traffic, the case has been rather unskillfully managed, little attempt having been made to obtain other testimony than that of the supposed slaves themselves, from whom, owing to their gross ignorance, timidity, and religious scruples, no trustworthy evidence could well be expected; while, even in the rare cases of those who have been released, nothing seems to have been sought for beyond their declaration that they were under constraint and desired to be set free. But I think it quite certain that decisive proofs are to be had only at the termini of the route in Barbary, where the blacks are obtained, or in the Levant, where they are finally disposed of. All that can be obtained in Malta is likely to be purely circumstantial evidence, which may be summed up as follows: 1. The movement is entirely in one direction, from Barbary to the Levant, no Moors, or nearly none, going the other way; 2. The Moors are all women or children; 3. There are persons whose regular employment seems to be the conducting of these parties to the east.
Finally, with the exceptions noted above, it is the conviction of all persons whom I have questioned, and, I am assured, the general conviction of the public, that the most of the blacks are slaves; and many persons, official and others, do not fail to comment on the extreme absurdity of the recent mission to Zanzibar, and other costly attempts to suppress on foreign soil or waters a traffic which daily passes in all security through the principal military possessions of Great Britain and under the eyes of her representatives in a dozen different ports of the Mediterranean.
I am, &c.,
LYELL T. ADAMS, Consul.
Abstract of contents of translation annexed of proceedings before the Malta police-court, instituted by Giacomo Psaila, the adjutant of police, on November 14, 1872.
Sworn statement of Adjutant Psaila, presenting Her bin Bubakar, Mohammed Trzeni, Selim bin Ghasciur, and Hmida bin Ibrahim, all arrived from Tripoli by the Trabulus Gharb, for dealing in slaves. The two first had with them 3 female slaves-Hadiga, Zehnia, and Amina. The third 6-Zara, Zara, Fatima, Zara, Zara, and Fatima, or Zara. The last 4-Mizghuda, Mabraka, of 5 years, Salma, an infant, and Hdya. Representations of accused to adjutant, pp. 1-4.
Statements of the accused to the court. They all plead not guilty, pp. 4-9.
Mohammed Iscemli, of Tripoli; knows accused personally; women with them not slaves, p. 10.
Angelo Abela, of Malta, and Angelo Borg, of Malta, belonging to the Trabulus Gharb, acted as interpreters when Adjutant Psaila examined accused, and women with them, on the arrival of the Trabulus Gharb. Statements of the conversation, pp. 11-16. Hdiga, of Tripoli; goes with her daughters to join her son at Constantinople; is not a slave, p. 16.
Amina, her daughter; same statement, p. 18.
Hjenia, sister of Amina; same statement, p. 20.
Fatima, of Tripoli; no slave; goes to find a place as hired servant at Constantinople. Zara and Zara, born in Soudan; same statement, pp. 25-28.
Fidaga, born in Soudan; goes with Misonda, her sister, to join the latter's husband, p. 29.
Misonda; has been in voluntary service of Pasha, of Tripoli; goes to join her husband, p. 30.
Naounr Duhany, swears to translations of passes borne by Mabraka, Madigia, Ahmet Amish, Selem, Zara, and Mehmett Hamula, for themselves and certain persons with them, pp. 31-38.
Decision of the court; charge not sustained; accused discharged, p. 38.
Proceedings before the Malta police court.
The 14th day of November, 1872, Adjutant Giacomo Psaila, son of the late Vincenzo, born and residing in Valletta, states on oath in the presence of Her Ben Bubakar Mohammed Fizeni, Selim bin Ghasciur, and Hmida bin Ibraim, the whole being explained to them in Arabic by Elia Sciumama, sworn interpreter:
I have the honor to report to this court that, on the eleventh instant, the Turkish steamer Trabulus Gharb, Capt. Vincenzo Azzopardi, arrived in this port from Tripoli, and that, amongst the passengers, there were these four individuals, whom I present before this court, on a summons, and whose names are Her bin Bubakar, Mohammed Fizeni, Selim bin Ghasciur, and Hmida bin Ibraim; and I charge each of them with dealing in slaves, they having female slaves with them. Her bin Bubakar left Constantinople for Tripoli, bearing a letter from Lies Effendi, which he delivered to the person to whom it was addressed, and he left Tripoli for Constantinople in the company of Mohammed Fizeni, taking with them, and under their charge, on board the said steamer, three female slaves, namely, Hadigia, Zehnia, and Amina, to deliver them to said Lies Effendi at Constantinople. Selim bin Ghasciur embarked at Tripoli in the same steamer, six women named Zara, Zara, Fatima, Zara, Zara, and another whose name is also Zara or Fatima, I do not know which. In regard to the first four, he told me that they composed his family, and in regard to the last two he told me that they had been delivered to him at Tripoli by Seih Ghali, to be delivered by him to Selim Effendi at Constantinople. Hmida bin Ibraim has four women, namely, Mizghuda, Mabruka, a girl aged five years, Salma, an infant, and Hdeja, aged eighteen years, sister of Mizghuda; and he stated that they were placed under his charge at Tripoli by the Pasha, to be delivered by him at Constantinople to the son of the said Pasha, adding that he is a police officer at Tripoli. I produce five teschere or passports, or rather passes, relative to the accused and the women mentioned in this report, and two other passports. I request that I may be permitted to produce the evidence in support of my report, in order that, the facts being inquired into, justice may be administered. GIACOMO PSAILA, Adjutant.
F. Mizzi, Mag'te.
On the 14th day of November, 1872, the court explained in Maltese to the accused Her bin Bubakar the nature of the charge against him, and warned him that he is not bound to answer any question, or to criminate himself; that he could, if he wished, be assisted by advocates and legal procurators, and that anything he might say could be received in evidence against him. Subsequently the accused, Her bin Bubakar, without being sworn, answered as follows in Arabic, through the sworn interpreter, Elia Sciumama:
My name is Her bin Bubakar; my age is about thirty years; I was born in Bar-elghabid; at present in this island en route for Constantinople; I am a domestic servant; the name of my father, who is living, is Bubakar.
Being then asked by the court whether and what he wished to answer, he said in Arabic, without being sworn:
I am innocent.
F. Mizzi, Mag'te.
HER BIN + BUBAKAR. own mark.
On the 14th day of November, 1872, the court explained to the accused, Mohammed Fizeni, the nature of the charge against him, and warned him that he is not bound to answer any question, or to criminate himself; that he could, if he wished, be assisted by advocates and legal procurators, and that anything he might say could be received in evidence against him. Subsequently the accused, Mohammed Fizeni, without being sworn, answered as follows, in Arabic, through the sworn interpreter, Elia Sciumama: My name is Mohammed Fizeni; my age is about twenty years; I was born at Fezzan, and reside at Tripoli; I am a domestic servant; my father's name is Ottman, and he is alive.
Being then asked by the court whether and what he wished to answer, he said, in Arabic, and without being sworn, through the said interpreter:
I am not guilty.
F. Mizzi, Mag'te.
(His signature in Arabic.)
On the 14th day of November, 1872, the court explained, in Arabic, to the accused, Selim bin Ghasciur, the nature of the charge against him, and warned him that he is not bound to answer any question, or to criminate himself; that he could, if he wished, be assisted by advocates and legal procurators, and that anything he might say could be received in evidence against him. Subsequently the accused, Selim bin Ghasciur, answered as follows, in Arabic, and without being sworn:
My name is Selim bin Ghasciur; my age is thirty-five years; I was born at Kirkna, and reside at Tripoli; at present in this island en route for Constantinople; the name of my father, who is alive, is Mohammed bin Ghasciur; I am a seaman.
Being then asked by the court whether and what he wished to answer, he stated in Arabic, and without being sworn, through the said interpreter:
I have my family with me, and I am not guilty of the crime with which I am charged.
F. MIZZI, Mag'te.
SELIM BIN + GHASCIUR. own mark.
On the 14th day of November, 1872, the court explained, in Arabic, to the accused Hmida bin Ibraim, the nature of the charge against him, and warned him that he was not bound to answer any question, or to criminate himself; that he could, if he wished, be assisted by advocates and legal procurators, and that anything he might say could be received in evidence against him. Then the accused, Hmida bin Ibraim, without being sworn, answered as follows in Arabic, the whole being interpreted in Italian by the sworn interpreter, Elia Sciumma:
My name is Hmida bin Ibraim. My age is thirty-eight years. I was born and reside at Tripoli. I am police officer, charged with the conveyance of the mails. The name of my father, who is dead, was Ibraim.
Being then asked by the court whether and what he wished to say in answer to the charge, he stated in Arabic through the said interpreter:
I am not guilty.
F. MIZZI, Mag'te.
HMIDA BIN + IBRAIM. own mark.
The 14th day of November, 1872, Mohammed Iscemli, son of the late Hag-Mustafa, born and residing at Tripoli, stated on oath, in Arabic, in the presence of the accused,
the whole being explained to the court in Italian by the sworn interpreter, E. Sciu
I knew each of the parties accused at Tripoli. They were on board the steamer Trabulus Gharb. Her bin Bubakar and Mohammed Fizeni have three white women, who are proceeding to Constantinople to join the son of one of them. They are not slaves. Selim bin Ghasciur has four women with him-one is his wife, another his daughter, another his wife's sister, and the other a servant. With them there are two others, one of whom had gone to Tripoli from Constantinople, and on his return to Constantinople she is taking her sister with her. Hmida bin Ibraim is a police officer at Tripoli. He is accompanying four women, namely, two sisters, aud two little children of one of them. Their said mother had come to Tripoli from Constantinople together with them, and from Tripoli she was now taking her sister to Constantinople. What I have stated I knew at Tripoli, and it was confirmed on board by the parties accused and by the women themselves.
F. MIZZI, Mag'te.
MOHAMMED + ISCEMLI. own mark.
On the 14th day of November, 1872, Angelo Abela, son of Felice, born and residing at Cospicua, stated on oath, in Maltese, in presence of the accused, the whole being explained to the said accused in Arabic by the sworn interpreter, Elia Sciumama: On Monday last the adjutant, Giacomo Psaila, came on board the Turkish steamer Trabulus Gharb, on which I am a seaman, in the great harbor of Valletta, which steamer had arrived from Tripoli. He wished to see all the passengers, and to know to whom they belonged. The accused, Selim, said to the adjutant that four of the women who were on board that steamer composed his family, and that he had been requested to take in his company the other two, who had been intrusted to his care at Tripoli by the shih, to convey them to the son of the same shih at Constantinople. The other accused, Hmida, said that four women had been intrusted to him by the pasha of Tripoli, and that he was to deliver them at Constantinople to the son of the same pasha. The adjutant continued to speak with the passengers, but I left them to attend to my own business, and therefore I can say nothing else. I cannot say what was said by the passengers on board the steamer, because I am ignorant of their language. Neither am I aware of any circumstance from which I can infer that the women who embarked at Tripoli were slaves. Adjutant Psaila obtained the names of the same men-passengers, and of the women from themselves. I and others of the ship acted as interpreters to Adjutant Psaila and the passengers, so far as we understood Arabic; but neither I nor the others know that language well.
Questioned by Selim, in cross-examination, whether the witness is sure that he heard Selim say that those women were directed to the son of the shih, or to Selim Effendi. Answer. As far as I remember, he said that he was to take them to the son.
ANGELO + ABELA. own mark.
F. MIZZI, Mag'te.
Hmida being asked whether he wished to cross-examine the witness, answered in the negative; and the other accused parties also did the same.
F. Mizzi, Mag'te.
ANGELO ABELA. own mark.
On the 14th day of November, 1872, Angelo Borg, son of the late Giovanni, born and residing at Vittoriosa, stated on oath, in Maltese, in the presence of the accused, the whole being explained to them in Arabic by the sworn interpreter, Elia Scinmama: I am the boatswain of the Turkish steamer Trabulus Gharb, coming from Tripoli to Malta, with goods aud passengers. On the arrival of the said steamer in this port Adjutant Psaila went on board and put many questions respecting the passengers. I and Angelo Abela acted as interpreters for him, as far as we understand Arabic. The accused Selem said to the adjutant that four of the women who were on board belonged to him, one being his wife, another his daughter, another his wife's sister, and the fourth his servant. He also stated that he had been charged by a sheik at Tripoli to accompany two women until their arrival at Constantinople, and he was to deliver them to Selem. The other accused, Hmida, said to the adjutant that he was a police officer, charged with the mails, and that two women and two girls had been intrusted to his care by the pasha of Tripoli, and he was to accompany them until their arrival at Constantinople, and there to deliver them to the son of the same pasha.
F. MIZZI, Maj'te.