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  • Document 5:Memorandum No. 6—Slavery Questions1
  • Frederick D. Lugard
1. From January 1st, 1900, when the Administration was transferred from the Royal Niger Company to the Imperial Government, up to April 1st, 1901, the only legislation regarding slavery was the decree of the Royal Niger Company abolishing the “Legal Status.” To explain the attitude of Government, and the action which should be taken by Residents, several Memoranda had been issued prior to the enactment of “The Slavery Proclamation” of March 31st, 1901, and these were superseded by fresh instructions consequent on that Proclamation. The enactment of “The Slavery Proclamation, 1904,” repealing that of 1901, offers an occasion for again revising these Memoranda, which are therefore cancelled. 1. Action prior to October, 1904
2. The observations I am about to make in this Memorandum apply almost exclusively to the Mohammedan States. They may be applicable in some degree to the few non-Moslem communities whom I have classed in the first group in Memo. 5, pares. 57-58, but among the uncivilized Pagan tribes, who have practically no social grades, there is no excuse at all for the system of slavery, and full effect can be given to the law with a view to abolishing altogether the servile status where it exists among them. The “Buzai” of the Asbenawa,2 however, appear to be rather a feudatory clan than slaves in the proper sense of the term, but the “Rengi”3 of North Borgu, though occupying villages with chiefs of their own, would seem to be more rightly described as Fulani Slaves. 2. Chiefly Applicable to Moslems.
3. It is not unfrequently urged (especially by those who are new to Africa) that Slavery is an institution well suited to the African, affording conditions under which he is, as a rule, happy, and that its supersession is a mistake. It is not possible in the compass of this Memo, to adequately discuss the reasons which have led thinking men to condemn the system of slavery, but the following are, in brief, among the principal ones. In the first place, slavery cannot be maintained without a supply of slaves, acquired under all the horrors of slave-raids, and transported with great loss of life from their original habitation; this results, not only in much human suffering, but also in a decrease of the population, and consequently in a decrease of the productive capacity of the country; secondly, no people can ever progress if personal initiative and personal responsibility is denied to them, as is the case with the slave class. That existing slaves may be happy in their lot is no argument to the mind of anyone who aims at the progress of the race in a remoter future. 3. Reasons why slavery is a bad system
4. Section 2 of the Proclamation abolishes the “legal status.” This means that, in the eye of the law, property in persons (as slaves is not recognized, and that a “slave” is accounted to be personally responsible for his acts, and competent to give evidence in Court. The institution of Domestic Slavery is not thereby abolished, as would be done by a decree of general emancipation, and, while as a matter of fact it gives a slave means of asserting his freedom, it does not constitute it an offence for a native to own slaves.4 A master is not compelled to dismiss his slaves, and, so long as the two work harmoniously together, the law does not interfere with their relations towards each other. A slave has, however, the power of asserting his freedom at any time, for, if he leaves his master, the latter can enforce no claim to seize him, and is actionable if he resorts to force. It should not be made a necessary antecedent to the recognition of freedom that a slave should claim his freedom before a British Court, and be able to show proper means of subsistence if liberated. This has been done elsewhere in Africa, with the practical effect of nullifying the law. The right of a slave to assert his freedom when the Legal status is abolished cannot be made dependent on such conditions, and...


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