Discovery Of The Canary Islands And The African Coast
Author:      Helps, Sir Arthur
Discovery Of The Canary Islands And The African Coast
Beginning Of Negro Slave Trade, A.D. 1402
     The Canary Islands - the "Elysian Fields" and "Fortunate Islands" of
antiquity - have perhaps figured in fabulous lore more extensively than any
others, and have been discovered, invaded, and conquered more frequently than
any country in the world.  There has scarcely been a nation of any maritime
enterprise that has not had to do with them, and in one manner or another made
its appearance in them.
     During the period following the death of ancient empires, the Canary
Islands lay hidden in the general darkness which fell upon the world.  With
the modern revival came new and greater mariners, and the islands were once
more discovered.  It is well to note the connection between these modern
rediscoveries and the origin of negro slavery.
     In Europe the old pagan slavery existed in many nations, and in the early
Christian centuries underwent many modifications through the advance of the
new religion and civilization.  The modern form of slavery began with the
first importation of negroes into Europe, as shown in the following account,
from which it appears that the history of modern slavery begins with the
history of African discovery.
     Petrarch is referred to by Viera to prove that the Genoese sent out an
expedition to the Canary Islands.  Las Casas mentions that an English or
French vessel bound from France or England to Spain was driven by contrary
winds to these Islands, and on its return spread abroad in France an account
of the voyage.  The information thus obtained - or perhaps in other ways of
which there is no record - stimulated Don Luis de la Cerda, Count of Clermont,
great-grandson of Don Alonzo the Wise of Castile, to seek for the investiture
of the crown of the Canaries, which was given to him with much pomp by Clement
VI, at Avignon, in 1344, Petrarch being present.  This sceptre proved a barren
one.  The affairs of France, with which state the new King of the Canaries was
connected, drew off his attention; and he died without having visited his
dominions.  The next authentic information that we have of the Canary Islands
is that, in the times of Don Juan I of Castile, and of Don Enrique, his son,
these islands were much visited by the Spaniards.  In 1399, we are told,
certain Andalusians, Biscayans, Guipuzcoans, with the consent of Don Enrique,
fitted out an expedition of five vessels, and making a descent on the island
of Lanzarote, one of the Canaries, took captive the King and Queen, and one
hundred and seventy of the islanders.
     Hitherto there had been nothing but discoveries, rediscoveries, and
invasions of these islands; but at last a colonist appears upon the scene.
This was Juan de Bethencourt, a great Norman baron, lord of St. Martin le
Gaillard in the County of Eu, of Bethencourt, of Granville, of Sancerre, and
other places in Normandy, and chamberlain to Charles VI of France.  Those who
are at all familiar with the history of that period, and with the mean and
cowardly barbarity which characterized the long-continued contests between the
rival factions of Orleans and Burgundy, may well imagine that any Frenchman
would then be very glad to find a career in some other country. Whatever was
the motive of Juan de Bethencourt, he carried out his purpose in the most
resolute manner.  Leaving his young wife, and selling part of his estate, he
embarked at Rochelle in 1402, with men and means for the purpose of
conquering, and establishing himself in, the Canary Islands.  It is not
requisite to give a minute description of this expedition.  Suffice it to say
that Bethencourt met with fully the usual difficulties, distresses,
treacheries, and disasters that attach themselves to this race of enterprising
men.  After his arrival at the Canaries, finding his means insufficient, he
repaired to the court of Castile, did acts of homage to the King, Enrique III,
and afterward renewed them to his son Juan II, thereby much strengthening the
claim which the Spanish monarchs already made to the dominion of these
islands.  Bethencourt, returning to the islands with renewed resources, made
himself master of the greater part of them, reduced several of the natives to
slavery, introduced the Christian faith, built churches, and established
     On the occasion of quitting his colony in A.D. 1405, he called all his
vassals together, and represented to them that he had named for his lieutenant
and governor Maciot de Bethencourt, his relation; that he himself was going to
Spain and to Rome to seek for a bishop for them; and he concluded his oration
with these words: "My loved vassals, great or small, plebeians or nobles, if
you have anything to ask me or to inform me of, if you find in my conduct
anything to complain of, do not fear to speak; I desire to do favor and
justice to all the world." The assembly he was addressing contained none of
the slaves he had made.  We are told, however, and that by eye-witnesses, that
the poor natives themselves bitterly regretted his departure, and, wading
through the water, followed his vessel as far as they could.  After his visit
to Spain and to Rome, he returned to his paternal domains in Normandy, where,
while meditating another voyage to his colony, he died in 1425.
     Maciot de Bethencourt ruled for some time successfully; but afterward,
falling into disputes with the Bishop, and his affairs generally not
prospering, he sold his rights to Prince Henry of Portugal - also, as it
strangely appears, to another person - and afterward settled in Madeira.  The
claims to the government of the Canaries were, for many years, in a most
entangled state; and the right to the sovereignty over these islands was a
constant ground of dispute between the crowns of Spain and Portugal.
     Thus ended the enterprise of Juan de Bethencourt, which, though it cannot
be said to have led to any very large or lasting results, yet, as it was the
first modern attempt of the kind, deserves to be chronicled before commencing
with Prince Henry of Portugal's long-continued and connected efforts in the
same direction.  The events also which preceded and accompanied Bethencourt's
enterprise need to be recorded, in order to show the part which many nations,
especially the Spaniards, had in the first discoveries on the coast of Africa.
     We now turn to the history of the discoveries made, or rather caused to
be made, by Prince Henry of Portugal.  This Prince was born in 1394.  He was
the third son of John I of Portugal and Philippa, the daughter of John of
Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.  That good Plantagenet blood on the mother's side
was, doubtless, not without avail to a man whose life was to be spent in
continuous and insatiate efforts to work out a great idea.  Prince Henry was
with his father at the memorable capture of Ceuta, the ancient Septem, in
1415.  This town, which lies opposite to Gibraltar, was of great magnificence,
and one of the principal marts in that age for the productions of the East.
It was here that the Portuguese nation first planted a firm foot in Africa;
and the date of this town's capture may, perhaps, be taken as that from which
Prince Henry began to meditate further and far greater conquests.  His aims,
however, were directed to a point long beyond the range of the mere conquering
soldier.  He was especially learned, for that age of the world, being skilled
in mathematical and geographical knowledge.  And it may be noticed here that
the greatest geographical discoveries have been made by men conversant with
the book knowledge of their own time.  A work, for instance, often seen in the
hands of Columbus, which his son mentions as having had much influence with
him, was the learned treatise of Cardinal Petro de Aliaco (Pierre d'Ailly),
the Imago Mundi.
     But to return to Prince Henry of Portugal.  We learn that he had
conversed much with those who had made voyages in different parts of the
world, and particularly with Moors from Fez and Morocco, so that he came to
hear of the Azeneghis, a people bordering on the country of the negroes of
Jalof.  Such was the scanty information of a positive kind which the Prince
had to guide his endeavors.  Then there were the suggestions and the
inducements which to a willing mind were to be found in the shrewd conjectures
of learned men, the fables of chivalry, and, perhaps, in the confused records
of forgotten knowledge once possessed by Arabic geographers. The story of
Prister John, which had spread over Europe since the crusades, was well known
to the Portuguese Prince.  A mysterious voyage of a certain wandering saint,
called St. Brendan, was not without its influence upon an enthusiastic mind.
Moreover, there were many sound motives urging the Prince to maritime
discovery; among which, a desire to fathom the power of the Moors, a wish to
find a new outlet for traffic, and a longing to spread the blessings of the
faith may be enumerated.  The especial reason which impelled Prince Henry to
take the burden of discovery on himself was that neither mariner nor merchant
would be likely to adopt an enterprise in which there was no clear hope of
profit.  It belonged, therefore, to great men and princes, and among such he
knew of no one but himself who was inclined to it.
     The map of the world being before us, let us reduce it to the proportions
it filled in Prince Henry's time: let us look at our infant world.  First,
take away those two continents, for so we may almost call them, each much
larger than a Europe, to the far west.  Then cancel that square,
massive-looking piece to the extreme southeast; happily there are no penal
settlements there yet.  Then turn to Africa: instead of that form of inverted
cone which it presents, and which we now know there are physical reasons for
its presenting, make a cimetar shape of it, by running a slightly curved line
from Juba on the eastern side of Cape Nam on the western. Declare all below
that line unknown.  Hitherto, we have only been doing the work of destruction;
but now scatter emblems of hippogriffs and anthropophagi on the outskirts of
what is left in the map, obeying a maxim, not confined to the ancient
geographers only - where you know nothing, place terrors. Looking at the map
thus completed, we can hardly help thinking to ourselves, with a smile, what a
small space, comparatively speaking, the known history of the world has been
transacted in, up to the last four hundred years.  The idea of the
universality of the Roman dominions shrinks a little; and we begin to fancy
that Ovid might have escaped his tyrant.  The ascertained confines of the
world were now, however, to be more than doubled in the course of one century;
and to Prince Henry of Portugal, as to the first promoter of these vast
discoveries, our attention must be directed.
     This Prince, having once the well-grounded idea in his mind that Africa
did not end where it was commonly supposed, namely, at Cape Nam (Not), but
that there was a world beyond that forbidding negative, seems never to have
rested until he had made known that quarter of the globe to his own.  He fixed
his abode upon the promontory of Sagres, at the southern part of Portugal,
whence, for a many year, he could watch for the rising specks of white sail
bringing back his captains to tell him of new countries and new men.  We may
wonder that he never went himself; but he may have thought that he served the
cause better by remaining at home and forming a centre whence the electric
energy of enterprise was communicated to many discoverers, and then again
collected from them.  Moreover, he was much engaged in the public affairs of
his country.  In the course of his life he was three times in Africa, carrying
on war against the Moors; and at home, besides the care and trouble which the
state of the Portuguese court and government must have given him, he was
occupied in promoting science and encouraging education.
     In 1415, as before noticed, he was at Ceuta.  In 1418 he was settled on
the promontory of Sagres.  One night in that year he is thought to have had a
dream of promise, for on the ensuing morning he suddenly ordered two vessels
to be got ready forthwith, and to be placed under the command of two gentlemen
of his household, Joham Goncalvez Zarco and Tristam Vaz, whom he ordered to
proceed down the Barbary coast on a voyage of discovery.
     A contemporary chronicler, Azurara, whose work has recently been
discovered and published, tells the story more simply, and merely states that
these captains were young men, who, after the ending of the Ceuta campaign,
were as eager for employment as the Prince for discovery; and that they were
ordered on a voyage having for its object the general molestation of the
Moors, as well as that of making discoveries beyond Cape Nam.  The Portuguese
mariners had a proverb about this cape - "He who would pass Cape Not, either
will return or not"; intimating that, if he did not turn before passing the
cape, he would never return at all.  On the present occasion it was not
destined to be passed; for these captains, Joham Goncalvez Zarco and Tristam
Vaz, were driven out of their course by storms, and accidentally discovered a
little island, where they took refuge, and from that circumstance called the
island Porto Santo.  "They found there a race of people living in no settled
polity, but not altogether barbarous or savage, and possessing a kindly and
most fertile soil."
     I give this description of the first land discovered by Prince Henry's
captains, thinking it would well apply to many other lands about to be found
out by his captains and by other discoverers.  Joham Goncalvez Zarco and
Tristam Vaz returned.  Their master was delighted with the news they brought
him, more on account of its promise than its substance.  In the same year he
sent them out again, together with a third captain, named Bartholomew
Perestrelo, assigning a ship to each captain.  His object was not only to
discover more lands, but also to improve those which had been discovered.  He
sent, therefore, various seeds and animals to Porto Santo.  This seems to have
been a man worthy to direct discovery.  Unfortunately, however, among the
animals some rabbits were introduced into the new island; and they conquered
it, not for the Prince, but for themselves.  Hereafter, we shall find that
they gave his people much trouble, and caused no little reproach to him.
     We come now to the year 1419.  Perestrelo, for some unknown cause,
returned to Portugal at that time.  After his departure, Joham Goncalvez Zarco
and Tristam Vaz, seeing from Porto Santo something that seemed like a cloud,
but yet different - the origin of so much discovery, noting the difference in
the likeness - built two boats, and, making for this cloud, soon found
themselves alongside a beautiful island, abounding in many things, but most of
all in trees, on which account they gave it the name of "Madeira" (Wood).  The
two discoverers entered the island at different parts.  The Prince, their
master, afterward rewarded them with the captaincies of those parts.  To
Perestrelo he gave the island of Porto Santo to colonize it. Perestrelo,
however, did not make much of his captaincy, but after a strenuous contest
with the rabbits, having killed an army of them, died himself.  This captain
has a place in history as being the father-in-law of Columbus, who, indeed,
lived at Porto Santo for some time, and here, on new-found land, meditated far
bolder discoveries.
     Joham Goncalvez Zarco and Tristam Vaz began the cultivation of their
island of Madeira, but met with an untoward event at first.  In clearing the
wood, they kindled a fire among it, which burned for seven years, we are told;
and in the end, that which had given its name to the island, and which, in the
words of the historian, overshadowed the whole land, became the most deficient
commodity.  The captains founded churches in the island; and the King of
Portugal, Don Duarte, gave the temporalities to Prince Henry, and all the
spiritualities to the Knights of Christ.
     While these things were occurring at Madeira and at Porto Santo, Prince
Henry had been prosecuting his general scheme of discovery, sending out two or
three vessels each year, with orders to go down the coast from Cape Nam, and
make what discoveries they could; but these did not amount to much, for the
captains never advanced beyond Cape Bojador, which is situated seventy leagues
to the south of Cape Nam.  This Cape Bojador was formidable in itself, being
terminated by a ridge of rocks with fierce currents running round them, but
was much more formidable from the fancies which the mariners had formed of the
sea and land beyond it.  "It is clear," they were wont to say, "that beyond
this cape there is no people whatever; the land is as bare as Libya - no
water, no trees, no grass in it; the sea so shallow that at a league from the
land it is only a fathom deep; the currents so fierce that the ship which
passes that cape will never return;" and thus their theories were brought in
to justify their fears.  This outstretcher - for such is the meaning of the
word bojador - was, therefore, as a bar drawn across that advance in maritime
discovery which had for so long a time been the first object of Prince Henry's
     The Prince had now been working at his discoveries for twelve years, with
little approbation from the generality of persons; the discovery of these
islands, Porto Santo and Madeira, serving to whet his appetite for further
enterprise, but not winning the common voice in favor of prosecuting
discoveries on the coast of Africa.  The people at home, improving upon the
reports of the sailors, said that "the land which the Prince sought after was
merely some sandy place like the deserts of Libya; that princes had possessed
the empires of the world, and yet had not undertaken such designs as his, nor
shown such anxiety to find new kingdoms; that the men who arrived in those
foreign parts - if they did arrive - turned from white into black men; that
the King Don John, the Prince's father, had endowed foreigners with land in
his kingdom, to break it up and cultivate it - a thing very different from
taking the people out of Portugal, which had need of them, to bring them among
savages to be eaten, and to place them upon lands of which the mother country
had no need; that the Author of the world had provided these islands solely
for the habitation of wild beasts, of which an additional proof was that those
rabbits the discoverers themselves had introduced were now dispossessing them
of the island.
     There is much here of the usual captiousness to be found in the criticism
of bystanders upon action, mixed with a great deal of false assertion and
premature knowledge of the ways of Providence.  Still, it were to be wished
that most criticism upon action was as wise; for that part of the common talk
which spoke of keeping their own population to bring out their own resources
had a wisdom in it which the men of future centuries were yet to discover
throughout the peninsula.  Prince Henry, as may be seen by his perseverance up
to this time, was not a man to have his purposes diverted by such criticism,
much of which must have been, in his eyes, worthless and inconsequent in the
extreme.  Nevertheless, he had his own misgivings.  His captains came back one
after another with no good tidings of discovery, but with petty plunder
gained, as they returned from incursions on the Moorish coast.
     The Prince concealed from them his chagrin at the fruitless nature of
their attempts, but probably did not feel it less on that account.  He began
to think: Was it for him to hope to discover that land which had been hidden
from so many princes?  Still, he felt within himself the incitement of "a
virtuous obstinacy," which would not let him rest.  Would it not, he thought,
be ingratitude to God, who thus moved his mind to these attempts, if he were
to desist from his work, or be negligent in it?  He resolved, therefore, to
send out again Gil Eannes, one of his household, who had been sent the year
before, but had returned, like the rest, having discovered nothing.  He had
been driven to the Canary Islands, and had seized upon some of the natives
there, whom he brought back.  With this transaction the Prince had shown
himself dissatisfied; and Gil Eannes, now intrusted again with command,
resolved to meet all dangers rather than to disappoint the wishes of his
master.  Before his departure, the Prince called him aside and said: "You
cannot meet with such peril that the hope of your reward shall not be much
greater; and in truth, I wonder what imagination this is that you have all
taken up - in a matter, too, of so little certainty; for if these things which
are reported had any authority, however little, I would not blame you so much.
But you quote to me the opinions of four mariners, who, as they were driven
out of their way to Frandes or to some other ports to which they commonly
navigated, had not, and could not have used, the needle and the chart; but do
you go, however, and make your voyage without regard to their opinion, - and,
by the grace of God, you will not bring out of it anything but honor and
     We may well imagine that these stirring words of the Prince must have
confirmed Gil Eannes in his resolve to efface the stain of his former
misadventure.  And he succeeded in doing so; for he passed the dreaded Cape
Bojador - a great event in the history of African discovery, and one that in
that day was considered equal to a labor of Hercules.  Gil Eannes returned to
a grateful and most delighted master.  He informed the Prince that he had
landed, and that the soil appeared to him unworked and fruitful; and, like a
prudent man, he could not tell of foreign plants, but had brought some of them
home with him in a barrel of the new-found earth - plants much like those
which bear in Portugal the roses of Santa Maria.  The Prince rejoiced to see
them, and gave thanks to God, "as if they had been the fruit and sign of the
promised land; and besought Our Lady, whose name the plants bore, that she
would guide and set forth the doings in this discovery to the praise and glory
of God and to the increase of his holy faith."
     After passing the Cape of Bojador there was a lull in Portuguese
discovery, the period from 1434 to 1441 being spent in enterprises of very
little distinctness or importance.  Indeed, during the latter part of this
period, the Prince was fully occupied with the affairs of Portugal.  In 1437
he accompanied the unfortunate expedition to Tangier, in which his brother
Ferdinand was taken prisoner, who afterward ended his days in slavery to the
Moor.  In 1438, King Duarte dying, the troubles of the regency occupied Prince
Henry's attention.  In 1441, however, there was a voyage which led to very
important consequences.  In that year Antonio Goncalvez, master of the robes
to Prince Henry, was sent out with a vessel to load it with skins of
"sea-wolves," a number of them having been seen, during a former voyage, in
the mouth of a river about fifty-four leagues beyond Cape Bojador.  Goncalvez
resolved to signalize his voyage by a feat that should gratify his master more
than the capture of sea-wolves; and he accordingly planned and executed
successfully an expedition for capturing some Azeneghi Moors, in order, as he
told his companions, to take home "some of the language of that country." Nuno
Tristam, another of Prince Henry's captains, afterward falling in with
Goncalvez, a further capture of Moors was made, and Goncalvez returned to
Portugal with his spoil.
     In the same year Prince Henry applied to Pope Martin V, praying that his
holiness would grant to the Portuguese crown all that it could conquer, from
Cape Bojador to the Indies, together with plenary indulgence for those who
should die while engaged in such conquests.  The Pope granted these requests.
"And now," says a Portuguese historian, "with this apostolic grace, with the
breath of royal favor, and already with the applause of the people, the Prince
pursued his purpose with more courage and with greater outlay."
     In 1442 the Moors whom Antonio Goncalvez had captured in the previous
year promised to give black slaves in ransom for themselves if he would take
them back to their own country; and the Prince, approving of this, ordered
Goncalvez to set sail immediately, "insisting as the foundation of the matter,
that if Goncalvez should not be able to obtain so many negroes (as had been
mentioned) in exchange for the three Moors, yet that he should take them; for
whatever number he should get, he would gain souls, because the negroes might
be converted to the faith, which could not be managed with the Moors."
Goncalvez obtained ten black slaves, some gold-dust, a target of buffalo-hide,
and some ostrich eggs in exchange for two of the Moors, and, returning with
his cargo, excited general wonderment on account of the color of the slaves.
These, then, we may presume, were the first black slaves that had made their
appearance in the peninsula since the extinction of the old slavery.
     I am not ignorant that there are reasons for alleging that negroes had
before this era been seized and carried to Seville.  The Ecclesiastical and
Secular Annals of that city, under the date 1474, record that negro slaves
abounded there, and that the fifths levied on them produced considerable gains
to the royal revenue; it is also mentioned that there had been traffic of this
kind in the days of Don Enrique III, about 1399, but that it had since then
fallen into the hands of the Portuguese.  The chronicler states that the
negroes of Seville were treated very kindly from the time of King Enrique,
being allowed to keep their dances and festivals; and that one of them was
named mayoral of the rest, who protected them against their masters and before
the courts of law, and also settled their own private quarrels. There is a
letter from Ferdinand and Isabella in the year 1474 to a celebrated negro,
Juan de Valladolid, commonly called the "Negro Count," nominating him to this
office of mayoral of the negroes, which runs thus: "For the many good, loyal,
and signal services which you have done us, and do each day, and because we
know your sufficiency, ability, and good disposition, we constitute you
mayoral and judge of all the negroes and mulattoes, free or slaves, which are
in the very loyal and noble city of Seville, and throughout the whole
archbishopric thereof, and that the said negroes and mulattoes may not hold
any festivals nor pleadings among themselves, except before you, Juan de
Valladolid, negro, our judge and mayoral of the said negroes and mulattoes;
and we command that you, and you only, should take cognizance of the disputes,
pleadings, marriages, and other things which may take place among them,
forasmuch as you are a person sufficient for that office, and deserving of
your power, and you know the laws and ordinances which ought to be kept, and
we are informed that you are of noble lineage among the said negroes."
     But the above merely shows that in the year 1474 there were many negroes
in Seville, and that laws and ordinances had been made about them.  These
negroes might all, however, have been imported into Seville since the
Portuguese discoveries.  True it is that in the times of Don Enrique III, and
during Bethencourt's occupation of the Canary Islands, slaves from thence had
been brought to France and Spain; but these islanders were not negroes, and it
certainly may be doubted whether any negroes were imported into Seville
previous to 1443.
     Returning to the course of Portuguese affairs, a historian of that nation
informs us that the gold obtained by Goncalvez "awakened, as it always does,
covetousness"; and there is no doubt that it proved an important stimulus to
further discovery.  The next year Nuno Tristam went farther down the African
coast; and, off Adeget, one of the Arguim Islands, captured eighty natives,
whom he brought to Portugal.  These, however, were not negroes, but Azeneghis.
     The tide of popular opinion was now not merely turned, but was rushing in
full flow, in favor of Prince Henry and his discoveries.  The discoverers were
found to come back rich in slaves and other commodities; whereas it was
remembered that, in former wars and undertakings, those who had been engaged
in them had generally returned in great distress.  Strangers, too, now came
from afar, scenting the prey.  A new mode of life, as the Portuguese said, had
been found out; and "the greater part of the kingdom was moved with a sudden
desire to follow this way to Guinea."
     In 1444 a company was formed at Lagos, who received permission from the
Prince to undertake discovery along the coast of Africa, paying him a certain
portion of any gains which they might make.  This has been considered as a
company founded for carrying on the slave trade; but the evidence is by no
means sufficient to show that its founders meant such to be its purpose.  It
might rather be compared to an expedition sent out, as we should say in modern
times, with letters of marque, in which, however, the prizes chiefly hoped for
were not ships nor merchandise, but men.  The only thing of any moment,
however, which the expedition accomplished was to attack, successfully the
inhabitants of the islands Nar and Tider, and to bring back about two hundred
slaves.  I grieve to say that there is no evidence of Prince Henry's putting a
check to any of these proceedings; but, on the contrary, it appears that he
rewarded with large honors Lancarote, one of the principal men of this
expedition, and received his own fifth of the slaves. Yet I have scarcely a
doubt that the words of the historian are substantially true - that discovery,
not gain, was still the Prince's leading idea.  We have an account from an
eye-witness of the partition of the slaves brought back by Lancarote, which,
as it is the first transaction of the kind on record, is worthy of notice,
more especially as it may enable the reader to understand the motives of the
Prince and of other men of those times.  It is to be found in the Chronicle,
before referred to, of Azurara.  The merciful chronicler is smitten to the
heart at the sorrow he witnesses, but still believes it to be for good, and
that he must not let his mere earthly commiseration get the better of his
     "O thou heavenly Father," he exclaims, "who, with thy powerful hand,
without movement of thy divine essence, governest all the infinite company of
thy holy city, and who drawest together all the axles of the upper worlds,
divided into nine spheres, moving the times of their long and short periods as
it pleases thee!  I implore thee that my tears may not condemn my conscience,
for not its law; but our common humanity, constrains my humanity to lament
piteously the sufferings of these people (slaves).  And if the brute animals,
with their mere bestial sentiments, by a natural instinct, recognize the
misfortunes of their like, what must this by human nature do, seeing thus
before my eyes this wretched company, remembering that I myself am of the
generation of the sons of Adam!  The other day, which was the eight of August,
very early in the morning, by reason of the heat, the mariners began to bring
to their vessels, and, as they had been commanded, to draw forth those
captives to take them out of the vessel: whom, placed together on that plain,
it was a marvellous sight to behold; for among them there were some of a
reasonable degree of whiteness, handsome and well made; others less white,
resembling leopards in their color; others as black as Ethiopians, and so
ill-formed, as well in their faces as their bodies, that it seemed to the
beholders as if they saw the forms of a lower hemisphere.
     "But what heart was that, how hard soever, which was not pierced with
sorrow, seeing that company: for some had sunken cheeks, and their faces
bathed in tears, looking at each other; others were groaning very dolorously,
looking at the heights of the heavens, fixing their eyes upon them, crying out
loudly, as if they were asking succor from the Father of nature; others struck
their faces with their hands, throwing themselves on the earth; others made
their lamentations in songs, according to the customs of their country, which,
although we could not understand their language, we saw corresponded well to
the height of their sorrow.  But now, for the increase of their grief, came
those who had the charge of the distribution, and they began to put them apart
one from the other, in order to equalize the portions, wherefore it was
necessary to part children and parents, husbands and wives, and brethren from
each other.  Neither in the partition of friends and relations was any law
kept, only each fell where the lot took him.  O powerful Fortune! who goest
hither and thither with thy wheels, compassing the things of the world as it
pleaseth thee, if thou canst, place before the eyes of this miserable nation
some knowledge of the things that are to come after them, that they may
receive some consolation in the midst of their great sadness! and you others
who have the business of this partition, look with pity on such great misery,
and consider how can those be parted whom you cannot disunite Who will be able
to make this partition without great difficulty? for while they were placing
in one part the children that saw their parents in another, the children
sprang up perseveringly and fled to them; the mothers enclosed their children
in their arms and threw themselves with them on the ground, receiving wounds
with little pity for their own flesh, so that their offspring might not be
torn from them!
     "And so, with labor and difficulty, they concluded the partition, for,
besides the trouble they had with the captives, the plain was full of people,
as well of the place as of the villages and neighborhood around, who in that
day gave rest to their hands, the mainstay of their livelihood, only to see
this novelty.  And as they looked upon these things, some deploring, some
reasoning upon them, they made such a riotous noise as greatly to disturb
those who had the management of this distribution.  The Infante was there upon
a powerful horse, accompanied by his people, looking out his share, but as a
man who for his part did not care for gain, for, of the forty-six souls which
fell to his fifth, he speedily made his choice, as all his principal riches
were in his contentment, considering with great delight the salvation of those
souls which before were lost.  And certainly his thought was not vain, for as
soon as they had knowledge of our language they readily became Christians; and
I, who have made this history in this volume, have seen in the town of Lagos
young men and young women, the sons and grandsons of those very captives, born
in this land, as good and as true Christians as if they had lineally
descended, since the commencement of the law of Christ, from those who were
first baptized."
     The good Azurara wished that these captives might have some foresight of
the things to happen after their death.  I do not think, however, that it
would have proved much consolation to them to have foreseen that they were
almost the first of many millions to be dealt with as they had been; for, in
this year 1444, Europe may be said to have made a distinct beginning in the
slave trade, henceforth to spread on all sides, like the waves upon stirred
water, and not, like them, to become fainter and fainter as the circles widen.
     In 1445 an expedition was fitted out by Prince Henry himself, and the
command given to Gonsalvo de Cintra, who was unsuccessful in an attack on the
natives near Cape Blanco.  He and some other of the principal men of the
expedition lost their lives.  These were the first Portuguese who died in
battle on that coast.  In the same year the Prince sent out three other
vessels.  The captains received orders from the Infante, Don Pedro, who was
then Regent of Portugal, to enter the river D'Oro, and make all endeavors to
convert the natives to the faith, and even, if they should not receive
baptism, to make peace and alliance with them.  This did not succeed.  It is
probable that the captains found negotiation of any kind exceedingly tame and
apparently profitless in comparison with the pleasant forays made by their
predecessors.  The attempt, however, shows much intelligence and humanity on
the part of those in power in Portugal.  That the instructions were sincere is
proved by the fact of this expedition returning with only one negro, gained in
ransom, and a Moor who came of his own accord to see the Christian country.
     This same year 1445 is signalized by a great event in the progress of
discovery along the African coast.  Dinis Dyaz, called by Barros and the
historians who followed him Dinis Fernandez, sought employment from the
Infante, and, being intrusted by him with the command of a vessel, pushed
boldly down the coast, and passed the river Sanaga (Senegal), which divides
the Azeneghis - whom the first discoverers always called Moors - from the
negroes of Jalof.  The inhabitants were much astonished at the presence of the
Portuguese vessel on their coasts, and at first took it for a fish or a bird
or a phantasm; but when in their rude boats - hollowed logs - they neared it,
and saw that there were men in it, judiciously concluding that it was a more
dangerous thing than fish or bird or phantasm, they fled.  Dinis Fernandez,
however, captured four of them off that coast, but as his object was
discovery, not slave-hunting, he went on till he discovered Cape Verd, and
then returned to his country, to be received with much honor and favor by
Prince Henry.  These four negroes taken by Dinis Fernandez were the first
taken in their own country by the Portuguese.  That the Prince was still
engaged in high thoughts of discovery and conversion we may conclude from
observing that he rewarded and honored Dinis Fernandez as much as if he had
brought him large booty; for the Prince "thought little of whatever he could
do for those who came to him with these signs and tokens of another greater
hope which he entertained."
     In this case, as in others, we should do great injustice if we supposed
that Prince Henry had any of the pleasure of a slave-dealer in obtaining these
negroes: it is far more probable that he valued them as persons capable of
furnishing intelligence, and, perhaps, of becoming interpreters, for his
future expeditions.  Not that, without these especial motives, he would have
thought it anything but great gain for a man to be made a slave, if it were
the means of bringing him into communion with the Church.
     After this, several expeditions, which did not lead to much, occupied the
Prince's time till 1447.  In that year a fleet, large for those times, of
fourteen vessels, was fitted out at Lagos by the people there, and the command
given by Prince Henry to Lancarote.  The object seems to have been, from a
speech that is recorded of Lancarote's, to make war upon the Azeneghi Moors,
and especially to take revenge for the defeat before mentioned which Gonsalvo
de Cintra suffered in 1445 near Cape Blanco.  That purpose effected, Lancarote
went southward, extending the discovery of the coast to the Gambia. In the
course of his proceedings on that coast we find again that Prince Henry's
instructions insisted much upon the maintenance of peace with the natives.
Another instance of the same disposition on his part deserves to be especially
recorded.  The expedition had been received in a friendly manner at Gomera,
one of the Canary Islands.  Notwithstanding this kind reception, some of the
natives were taken prisoners.  On their being brought to Portugal, Prince
Henry had them clothed and afterward set at liberty in the place from which
they had been taken.
     This expedition under Lancarote had no great result.  The Portuguese went
a little farther down the coast than they had ever been before, but they did
not succeed in making friends of the natives, who had already been treated in
a hostile manner by some Portuguese from Madeira.  Neither did the expedition
make great spoil of any kind.  They had got into feuds with the natives, and
were preparing to attack them, when a storm dissipated their fleet and caused
them to return home.
     It appears, I think, from the general course of proceedings of the
Portuguese in those times, that they considered there was always war between
them and the Azeneghi Moors - that is, in the territory from Ceuta as far as
the Senegal River; but that they had no declared hostility against the negroes
of Jalof, or of any country farther south, though skirmishes would be sure to
happen from ill-understood attempts at friendship on the one side, and just or
needless fears on the other.
     The last public enterprise of which Prince Henry had the direction was
worthy to close his administration of the affairs relating to Portuguese
discovery.  He caused two ambassadors to be dispatched to the King of the Cape
Verdi territory, to treat of peace and to introduce the Christian faith. One of
the ambassadors, a Danish gentleman, was treacherously killed by the natives,
and upon that the other returned, having accomplished nothing.
     Don Alfonso V, the nephew of Prince Henry, now took the reins of
government, and the future expeditions along the coast of Africa proceeded in
his name.  Still it does not appear that Prince Henry ceased to have power and
influence in the management of African affairs; and the first thing that the
King did in them was to enact that no one should pass Cape Bojador without a
license from Prince Henry.  Some time between 1448 and 1454 a fortress was
built in one of the islands of Arguim, which islands had already become a
place of bargain for gold and negro slaves.  This was the first Portuguese
establishment on the coast of Africa.  It seems that a system of trade was now
established between the Portuguese and the negroes.

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