No. 764.
Mr. BoJcer to Mr. Fish.

No. 137.]

Sir: I have the honor to say, in reply to dispatch No. 120 from the Department of State, asking for information concerning the traffic in. African slaves carried on with the Levant, via Malta, that the result of my inquiries convinces me that, to a limited extent, such a trade is in existence. I have had sufficient assurances, both from the British embassador at Constantinople and from the Ottoman government, that this commerce prevails notwithstanding their best efforts for its suppression. I have been further assured by the British embassador that in any measures which we may take for the extinction of the abominable traffic we may depend upon the hearty co-operation of his government.

By referring to my former dispatch on this subject, No. 81, under date of March 18, 1873, it will be seen that just previous to that date stringent instructions had been issued by the British government to the governor of Malta concerning the transportation of slaves in British vessels touching at that island. The adroit precautions taken by the slave-dealers to avoid detection were also mentioned. So skillful are these arrangements, that while an examining officer might be morally certain that a group of slaves was before his eyes, he could find no legal pretext for disturbing the so-called “family “of the dealer.

To anticipate the stricter scrutiny at present in force at Malta, it is now the practice to provide each slave with regularly executed papers of manumission, which are exhibited at Malta and at the port of destination, and destroyed on the disembarkation of the slaves. The [Page 1128] poor creatures are, of course, no more aware of the meaning of the charter of freedom, which they take and give up with equaldocility, than though it were a papyrus coeval with Cheops.

Notwithstanding the obstacles thus thrown in the way of a legal emancipation of slaves transported under the protection of the British flag, which the authorities at Malta may plead in abatement of our indignation, the British government has lately informed the governor of Malta that it is far from satisfied with the result of his preventive measures, and it is hinted that there is a thought of replacing him with some one who will look more to facts and less to legal forms.

In my previous dispatch I also mentioned the real or feigned activity of the Ottoman authorities in searching for slaves in vessels arriving at this port from Africa, and of the zeal with which papers of manumission are thrust into the hands of every negro suspected of the slightest taint of slavehood. I have somedoubts of the genuineness of this ostentatious display of virtue. It is performed with too much noise, too much parade, and too much is said to the simple public about the matter. Ido not observe that the number of slaves is diminishing in Constantinople, not even of eunuchs, which latter sexless things should be on the decline were there not a regular source of supply and a way of importation, which are kept carefully hidden from all but the faithful.

Perhaps the clamor made by the Turks over the introduction of African slaves is for the purpose of leading our eyes away from the much greater and more nefarious traffic in female slaves for the harem which is carried on from the north by way of the Black Sea. Abhorring, as all Christians must, this latter infernal trade in helpless women, whose very charms and lovely sensibilities—gifts which to a higher degree give them a natural right to freedom—are used but to increase their price to the chaffering sensualist, I am astonished that such representations have not been made to the Russian government as would induce that power, in the name of our common humanity, to putdown this business with the strong hand, if need be. Holding the key of the Caucasus anddominating the Black Sea, it would cost Russia no great effort so to set her face against the commerce in women that its extinction must soon follow, and besides, if the famous “traditional policy” is yet in force at St. Petersburg, such a step would be in the line of Russia’s political interests.

While on the general subject of slavery in Turkey, permit me to call the attention of the Department to that branch of it which relates to trade in eunuchs, carried on between Egypt and the Levant, and which, I believe, might be suppressed by a joint action of the powers, the more surely at the present time while the Khedive is asking the world’s indulgence for the establishment of the Egyptian judicial reform.

These unfortunate creatures are manufactured in Upper Egypt, not one in ten surviving the barbarous operation. At an early age they are brought through the whole length of Egypt, and those that are not sold for the harems of Cairo and Alexandria are exported from the latter city to stock the harems of the Levant. In the various conversations which I have had with the Khedive and his minister of foreign affairs on this subject, they have invariably replied to me with complacent irony: “The eunuchs are made by Christians in a region beyond our jurisdiction, and in purchasing them we greatly better their condition.” These unqualified facts, facts though they are, involve a fundamental lie when unexplained. Without the encouragement of the harem system of the Turkish Empire, eunuchs would not be made at all. The producers of them, the Copts of Upper Egypt, Christians in name, [Page 1129] would disgrace any religion that was ever contrived by pagandom. Over the region which the Egyptian government affects to have no jurisdiction it has nevertheless perfect control; or, granting the official assertion to be true, it is equally true that the trade in eunuchs could not exist for a day after the Khedive prohibited their transportation through Egypt. I beg the Department to consider the above suggestions; for, leaving religion out of the question, the horrible practice of eunuch making and selling, which exists only because of the Turkish market for these maimed beings, is a reproach to any organized government, whether living under the law of the Bible or the Koran.

While there is no denial of the fact, inquired of by the Department, of transportation of African slaves in British ships via Malta, lapse of time and the vague information furnished by the Department’s dispatch render it impossible for me to give more than a general reply to the inquiry, or to point at present to a particular case in illustration of an abuse, the truth of which is admitted even by the British government.

If, however, the Department will instruct the consul of the United States at Malta to telegraph to me the name and the destination of those ships arriving at Malta which may be suspected of transporting slaves for any market in the Turkish Empire, I shall take such measures as will lead to the detection of the guilty parties who connive at the wretched business, and in my effort I feel sure that I shall have the fall co-operation of the British embassador, who has already suggested to me that we should act in concert.

I shall instruct the various consuls of the United States who correspond with this legation, so that they may be ready to investigate the case of any suspected ship that I may report to them by telegraph which may arrive at their several posts. I have already requested information from the agent and consul-general in Egypt as to the departure of slaves from any port of the vice-royalty, and if the Department will instruct, or permit me to instruct, the consuls of the United States at Tangier, Tunis, and Tripoli to send me telegraphic intelligence of the name, destination, and date of sailing of Such vessels as are supposed to contain slaves, I fear that we shall soon discover that as lively a trade in humanity is in progress between Africa and the ports of the Levant, although with mitigated horrors and to a less extent, as was ever carried on between the Bight of Benin and the coast of Cuba.

In accordance with the instructions of the Department, I shall continue my investigations of the matter in hand, and report any new information as soon as it may be obtained. In view of the infamous traffic in women by way of the Turkish ports of the Black Sea, to which I have alluded, all of which is conducted in Turkish steamers, it is to be desired that the post of consul of the United States at Trebizond should be filled, and that it should be made of sufficient importance to secure the services of a competent American.

I have, &c.,