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Blackbirding

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Blackbirding, or blackbird catching, has been the term used since the mid-19th century to describe the forcible conscription of South Pacific islanders into labour. Melanesians and Micronesians native to the western South Pacific were preferred for plantation work in Australia and the Fiji and Samoa Islands. Polynesians native to the eastern South Pacific were mostly shipped to Peru and the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. In addition, large numbers of islanders were brought aboard European ships for fishing and sailor duties. A core element of the practice was the use of deception, threats, and violence in recruitment.

International protests among employer countries triggered extensive legal regulation of the trade in Pacific Islanders as laborers, which ultimately ended blackbirding. Law enforcement saw spectacular court cases.

Among English missionary societies and the Royal Navy, blackbirding was suspected of being a slave trade. Whether the comprehensive system of indentured labour served by blackbirding was a late form of slavery is still disputed today.

Targets of forcible recruitment of workers for Queensland and Fiji, c. 1860 to c. 1910

Methods

Islanders are recruited at Home Beach. Depiction around 1892

All forms of blackbirding exhibit elements of physical force, extortion, or deception to varying degrees. In encounters at sea, people often took canoes carrying islanders under their bows and rammed them, then feigned a rescue operation to get the occupants on board.[1] Here, captains or recruiters enticed them to sign away a contractual obligation to plantation work, or incapacitated them by threats, physical force, administration of alcohol or opium, and imprisoned them with leg irons.[2]

There have been manhunts in the Pacific Islands for labor..[3] as well as cases of robbery and extortion. Often individual dwellings or entire villages were burned to the ground in an attempt to force island rulers or family heads to surrender tribal members to recruiting captains or ship crews.[4]

In terms of special deceptions, there was the so-called missionary trick, the invention of which is attributed to the recruiter Henry Ross Lewin on Tanna (New Hebrides) or his accomplice John Coath:[5]

“… traders dressing in cassocks and surplices, and, in the guise of peaceful missionaries, entrapping the natives into approaching their ship …”

“… traders who, dressed in frocks and surplices, seduce natives to approach their ship under the guise of peaceful missionaries …”[6]

In a more subtle variation, recruiters sent ashore a native sailor in a missionary’s frock to suggest to islanders the possibility of a spiritual career and lure them aboard.[7]

Blackbirding on land. Sydney Illustrated News, 1880

Clumsier deceptions took place in the clarification of the contents of the contract of employment to be entered into, which was prescribed by the enactment of the Queenslander Pacific Island Labourers Act (1880). According to a report by the British Deputy High Commissioner to the Western Pacific, Hugh Hastings Romilly, could:

“… three outstretched fingers [signify] a ‘contract period’ of three days, three months, or three years, depending on the whim of the skipper.”[8]

Recruiting on the beach, watched from a distance by women and children. Drawing by William T. Wawn, 1892

Just as often, islanders were kept in the dark about the distance of their place of work from their home island.[9] Deceptions about working conditions and hours at the destination were common.

Taken by themselves, however, the conditions there are not an aspect of blackbirding, but of the comprehensive system of indentured labour. They were also encountered by those Pacific Islanders who had consciously and voluntarily entered into their labor contract. Questions of inadequate hygienic conditions during ship transports and high mortality during plantation stays are also dealt with separately from blackbirding in individual studies.[10]

Start

In the wake of abolitionism, there was a shortage of unskilled and heavy manual labour in almost all coastal regions of the Pacific, especially the British colonies in these areas. In the Australian colonies, the abolition of penal servitude (1850-1868), another source of cheap labour, further exacerbated the situation.

During the American Civil War (1861-1865), the availability of cotton became scarce worldwide. British merchants welcomed new and regular sources of raw material that could make them independent of imports from America. However, cultivation in the colony of Queensland (Australia) without cheap labour was not considered profitable. Whaling crews with their ships laid up by the decline of the whaling industry, Australian bankrupts and refugees from the American Civil War who had taken refuge on Pacific islands found a lucrative field of activity in the recruitment of such forces.[11]

The entrepreneur and politician Benjamin Boyd made the first attempts to recruit relief workers for Australia from 1847 to 1849. Using the ships Portenia and Velocity, he imported nearly 200 inhabitants of the Loyalty and Gilbert Islands to work shearing sheep on farms in New South Wales. The action failed because of hostility between the islanders as cheap competition and the existing staff.[12] Human rights activists already see in this action the beginnings of a slave trade in the South Seas, because the islanders were not recruited personally, but were obliged by agreements with the island rulers.[13]

Plantation owner Robert Towns gave the first order to recruit Pacific Islanders for the British colony of Queensland in 1863

An official start to the importation of Pacific Islanders into the colony of Queensland was marked by the arrangement of Captain Robert Towns, a Member of Parliament and merchant. In 1863 he commissioned Henry Ross Lewin, formerly a sandalwood merchant on Tanna, to recruit residents of the New Hebrides and Loyalty Islands as labourers for his cotton plantations at Townsvale(now Veresdale and Gleneagle, both Queensland).[14] For this purpose the schooner Don Juan was refitted and sent out from Brisbane on 29 July 1863. Town’s instructions to the captain, however, show that he objected to blackbirding:

“… I will on no account allow [these islanders] to be ill-used. They are a poor, timid, inoffensive race, and require all the kindness you can show them … I will not allow them to be driven …”

“… I will not, under any circumstances, permit [these islanders] to be ill-treated. They are a poor, timid, peaceable race, and they deserve all the kindness and goodness you can show them … I will not allow them to be forced to do anything …”[15]

On the return journey, one of the recruited islanders died; he was buried on Mud Island (Moreton Bay). The remaining 67, who reached Brisbane on 17 August 1863, are historically considered the first Pacific indentured labourers in Queensland.[16]

According to Edward W. Docker, circumstantial evidence that violence was used despite Town’s instructions can only be found in a report by Captain William Blake of HMS Falcon. An islander from Épi (New Hebrides) had testified to him in 1867:

“… how a white man …(Lewin, apparently?) had battered one of the recruits to death with a stick.”

“… how a white man … (Lewin apparently?) would have beaten one of the recruits to death with a stick.”[17]

In 1864, the Uncle Tom saw the first return shipment of Pacific Islanders who had fulfilled their employment contract with Towns.[18] Parallel to the Uncle Tom, the Black Dog, an ex-opium runner, was used for further recruiting.[19]

That same year, Fiji began recruiting in the Gilbert Islands.[20] Coming from South America, the Ellen Elizabeth had reached the archipelago the previous year. Under command of a Captain Muller, who was to procure labourers for Peru, there had almost certainly been the first outrages, subterfuges, and kidnappings.[21] On the German side, in 1864, thirty islanders were first hired for twelve months’ contract work on the plantations of the trading house of Joh. Ces. Godeffroy & Son ( Samoa Islands). They came from Rarotonga (Cook Islands). Nothing is known about the methods of their recruitment.[22]

Extension

Main cultural regions of Oceania (Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia) and the labour trade destinations outside them (Queensland, Peru)

Between the 1860s and 1940s, the number of contract workers from the island peoples of the South Pacific – according to estimates – was nearly one million. In addition, employers in the region contracted some 600,000 Asian contract workers. Between 1884 and 1940, a total of up to 380,000 workers were taken to German New Guinea or the Territory of New Guinea, which was under Australian control, and 280,000 to British New Guinea. Some 38,000 people worked on Solomon Islands plantations between 1913 and 1940.[23] Recruitment took place mainly in Melanesia, but also in Micronesia in the Western and Central Caroline Islands.
Recruitments to South America or Hawaii were concentrated in Polynesia. Already missionized islands were avoided,[24] although exceptional cases are known.[25]

Queensland

Between 1863 and 1906, a total of 64,000 South Pacific Islanders came to Queensland for indentured labour.[26] The total number of all blackbirding victims deported to and landed in the colony is close to 1,000, according to research by Kay Saunders.[27] Clive Moore, a historian at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, estimated that 15 to 20 percent of the initial diaspora in Queensland had been kidnapped.[28] The Australian Human Rights Commission suggests that a third in total were kidnapped or lured to Australia by deception.[29]

Fiji Islands

About 16,000 Pacific Islanders were transported to Fiji from other atolls and island groups between 1877 and 1911.[30] Earlier shipments have been documented, but not adequately statistically recorded or published. For example, a report by New Zealand Governor George Ferguson Bowen mentions that as early as 1860 most ships calling at Fiji from New Zealand were chartered to transport so-called labour immigrants.[31] The destination of these voyages is rarely clear.

Violent clashes with islanders in the Fiji contract labour trade occurred particularly from 1882 onwards during recruitments to New Britain, the Duke of York Islands and New Ireland.[32] Initial proposals to legislate to curb blackbirding here proved futile. In 1871, for example, the British consul in Levuka, Edward March, considered his own draft reform unworkable.[33]

After the adoption of appropriate regulations in Queensland, the port of Levuka also served to disguise blackbirding operated from Australia. To circumvent the restrictions of the Queenslander Polynesian Labourers Act (1868), it became common to sail to Levuka with small cargoes, secretly rename one’s ship and re-register with the resident British consul. This meant practical advantages, for Fiji’s regulations on the labour trade were more lax than those of Queensland. However, subsequent recruitments were still legally blackbirding(officially: kidnapping), because the clandestine renaming of a ship was illegal. The licence issued in the actual home port for the labour trade lost its validity, a newly acquired one in Levuka had no validity.[34]

In parallel with South Pacific islanders, as many as 60,000 Indian laborers were transported to Fiji for contract work from 1879 to 1916.[23]

Samoa Islands

Labour shipments from the Pacific to the islands of Samoa have been recorded only patchily in quantitative terms. It can be taken as certain that between 1874 and 1877 about 200 and between 1878 and 1881 about 475 Gilbert Islanders were transported annually for work on the plantations of John . Ces. Godeffroy & Son were employed.[35] Between 1885 and 1913, the Deutsche Handels- und Plantagengesellschaft der Südsee-Inseln zu Hamburg (DHPG), successor to Godeffroy’s factories and plantations, imported some 5,800 Gilbert Islanders from the protectorate of the New Gu inea Company or later German New Guinea as contract workers.[36] Statistically undocumented recruitment for the DHPG took place in the British part of the Solomon Islands and in the Shortland Islands, among other places.[37] Estimates of the total number of workers brought to German/Western Samoa between 1884 and 1940 amount to 12,000.[23]

On blackbirding in the Samoan-led labour trade, 19th century sources paint an overall negative picture. Australian political scientist and historian Stewart Firth considers the German system of contract labour generally inferior to the British.[38] Writer Jakob Anderhandt points to James T. Proctor, one of the most brutal and feared recruiters among islanders, who was employed by the German Trading and Plantation Company.[39] The South Sea merchant Eduard Hernsheim mentions in his memoirs that the DHPG, through lobbying in Germany, declared contract labour recruitment a “vital issue”. The German consul in Samoa was therefore inclined to take “not too strict” action in the event of irregularities in the movement of workers.[40]

In contrast, Oskar Stübel, as German Consul General for the South Seas, emphasized at the time that until 1883 there had been no evidence of blackbirding (“rioting”) from aboard German ships in the South Seas. Most German captains in the trade had been familiar with the labour business “for years” and had given the consulate in Apia a “personal guarantee” of legal action.[41] It was only a later decision by German trading companies in Samoa to outsource labour recruitment and hand it over to contracted recruiters that led to the decline of this impeccable practice, according to historian Sylvia Masterman.[42]

Peru

Peruvian fleet in the port of Callao, 1864

Vertragsformular Arbeitsverpflichtung englisch Vertragsformular Arbeitsverpflichtung spanisch
Contract forms for a work engagement in Peru, English and Spanish, ca. 1863

After the abolition of slavery in Peru (1854), cheap labor was not easy to come by for the cultivation of their own plantations and guano mining in the Chinchain Islands. Between 1862 and 1863, Peruvian and Chilean Blackbirder transported 3,630 mostly Polynesian islanders to the port of Callao. In 1864 they operated as far west as the sea areas of Tahiti.[43]

Reliable individual data on deported inhabitants exist only for Easter Island. Between 1400[44]and 1500[45]Rapanui (or 34% of the estimated population) were taken on board. About 550 were victims of blackbirding.[44] In the unaccustomed climate of Peru, a considerable number died of infectious diseases. The French chargé d’affaires in Lima then prompted the diplomatic corps to send a note to the Prime Minister protesting against the importation of workers.[46] Under international pressure, the country repatriated fifteen survivors to Easter Island, but there they introduced smallpox. The epidemic killed most of the inhabitants who remained there by 1864.[45]

Oʻahu

From 1859[47] there was a lesser amount of labor transportation in the Pacific for use on the sugar cane plantations of Oʻahu (Kingdom of Hawaiʻi). Between 1877 and 1887, approximately 2,400 islanders,[48] mostly Polynesians,[49] were brought here.

Violent conflict between crews of Hawaiian labour ships and islanders being recruited, while common, was less severe than in the Queensland and Fiji contract labour trade, according to historian Judith Bennett. Bennett sees one main reason in the presence of Hawaiian missionaries in the recruitment areas, where clergy would have critically monitored, if not disapproved, of worker recruitment. Another reason, he says, was the Hawaiian government’s fear of criticism from Britain and France. Likewise, recruitment had been positively influenced by a government-initiated subsidy.[50]

Other contract laborers in Hawaii came from China (from 1852), Japan (from 1868), Portugal (from 1878), Scandinavia (1880-1881), and Germany (1880-1897).[51] In 1946, labor recruitment officially ended here.[47]

Statistics

Assured quantitative statements about transports for the purpose of work engagement are hardly possible because of the incomplete sources. Furthermore, in addition to official voyages in the South Pacific, including known cases of blackbirding, there was a significant smuggling of workers. In the case of Queensland, estimates of this do not even exist.[52] Official records of work commitments did not begin here until 1863.[53]

There are no sources at all on the recruitment of Pacific Islanders for fishing and ship services in the Pacific due to the lack of practical possibilities for a survey in the 19th century. Tabular lists of corresponding licenses held by European ship owners or leaders, the Lists of Vessels licensed … (Labour to be employed among Islands), are somewhat informative. One of the earliest lists covers the period from 1876 to 1881.[54]

Humanitarian protests

At the latest, drastic failures in recruitment for Peru drew the attention of humanitarian organizations to the Pacific labor trade. According to historian Jane Samson, a driving force for missionaries in the Pacific to report unfair practices by ship captains and crews in recruitment was also a covert competition between missionary societies and ship crews for Oceanians willing to travel and work.[55] Overall, a distrustful attitude took shape. An early series of protest letters submitted by representatives of various missionary societies to the governments of the Australian colonies stated sweepingly that labor recruitment in the Pacific:

“… could be nothing else than the victimization of helpless islanders …”

“… could be nothing but victimizing helpless islanders …”[56]

New Zealand Bishop John Coleridge Patteson was murdered in 1871, presumably in revenge for blackbirding

The murder of New Zealand Bishop John Coleridge Patteson by Nukapu residents (September 1871) further polarised the debate. The background to this was that sections of the Australian British and New Zealand public believed the event to be an act of revenge against a kidnapping of five young men of Nukapu by Blackbirder.[57] Instead of a factual debate, it now came to this:

“… humanitarians rode the tide of public indignation in order to secure passage of protective legislation, and to ensure that its terms reflected their interpretation of events in the labor trade …”

“… human rights activists rode a wave of public outrage to secure passage of preemptive legislation and to be assured that it satisfied their interpretation of events surrounding the labor trade …”[58]

Members of the Royal Navy, who were also publicists, used this for their own purposes. They took public outrage as a springboard to give English warships expanded powers as a police force in the South Pacific. Critical positions in recent scholarship assume that Captain George Palmer in particular was “obsessed” with the idea that labor recruitment in the South Pacific was fundamentally and invariably a slave trade. In his book Kidnapping in the South Seas(1871) he had[59] he had deliberately cited particularly “hair-raising” (exaggerated) statements by missionaries and had given much of what he knew only at second hand the “veneer of self-experience” in order to be able to demand the curbing of labour recruitment.

Palmer had thus joined a tradition of publicly effective naval commanders who, on the one hand, were attached to the idea of the innocent, naïve and defenceless Pacific Islander and, on the other, to that of the brutal, morally inferior and unscrupulous European in the South Seas. In retrospect, both were clichés that were one-sided and false.[60]

Legal measures

First page of the Polynesian Laborers Act (Queensland, 1868), which was intended to prevent the mistreatment of contract laborers

In 1824, the British declared the slave trade at sea to be piracy. Until the enactment of new, adapted laws, this regulation formed the only legal framework within which the Royal Navy – represented by six ships in Sydney Harbour since the 1860s – could take action against blackbirding in Pacific waters. Even a subsequent justification of the recourse measures in court depended on how British commanders could interpret the facts of blackbirding (in the British law of the time: kidnapping) established by them in terms of the slave trade and interpret them as a violation of the Slave Trade Legislation. This particular legal reality is one of the roots of the historical conflation of blackbirding and slavery.

In terms of legal theory, only a minority of experts in the 1860s considered it possible to apply slave trade laws to cases of blackbirding. An effective conviction by an Australian British court for a breach of such laws would further have admitted the existence of slavery in the colony (or its environs), thereby placing the colonial government itself in a skewed light before London. Against this background, the Queensland legislature in particular found itself in a position where it had to choose a special path independently of the London Parliament.[61]

Following a complaint from the French government about raids by Queenslander recruiters on New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands, Queensland enacted its first Colonial Law in March 1868 to regulate, but not restrict, the trade in Pacific contract labourers. The most important reasons for the Act to Regulate and Control the Introduction and Treatment of Polynesian Laborers were, according to the text of the law: “… the prevention of abuses …” (“… the prevention of abuses …”) of Pacific Islanders, but also: “… securing to the employer the due fulfilment by the immigrant of his agreement …” (“… securing to the employer the due fulfilment by the immigrant of his agreement …”).

A means of punishing irregularities in recruitment did not arise until 1872 with the Pacific Islanders Protection Act, which was passed in London. In the run-up to this imperial law(Imperial Law, valid for the entire British Empire or for all British citizens), Bishop John Coleridge Patteson in particular had once again made it clear that recruiters and captains on working ships were operating “in the spirit of slave traders” if they did not understand even half a dozen words of the island dialects and that misunderstandings and escalating conflicts were therefore inevitable during recruitments.[62]

In 1872, New Zealand Prime Minister William Fox called on the British government to intervene against blackbirding

Outrage at Patteson’s violent death eventually led to a public address by New Zealand Prime Minister William Fox, in which he sought legal action from London. Following the murdered Patteson’s arguments, Queen Victoria described the new law as a measure in her 1872 Speech from the Throne:

“… to deal with … practices, scarcely to be distinguished from Slave Trading.”

“… to oppose … courses of conduct hardly distinguishable from the slave trade.”[63]

At the same time as the Act was passed, the construction of five smaller wartime schooners was authorised, which were attached to Australia Station and used to monitor labour recruitment in the South Pacific.[64]

However, for the next eight years, for all practical purposes, blackbirding and kidnapping were still not curbed. John Crawford Wilson, the new Commodore of Australia Station in Sydney, noted in a report published by the New South Wales government in 1880:

“… that where the native is recruited for the Fisheries, Guano Islands, or such like purposes, and when no Government agents [who monitor compliance with the laws] are present or checks of any kind placed on the masters or crews of these vessels, such practices as a means of getting cheap labor are as likely as not to exist.”

“… that where the native is recruited for fishing, guano islands, or the like purposes, and where there are no government agents present [to watch over the observance of the law], or the commanders or crews of such vessels are not in some way controlled, the presence of such practices as a means of obtaining cheap labor is as likely as their absence.”[65]

Labour recruitment for Queensland ended in 1892 under Prime Minister Samuel Griffith

Islanders transported by the Blackbirder Daphne are taken on deck. Contemporary depiction of the 1869 seizure

Also, in legal reality, the policing of anti-kidnapping laws by government agents aboard working-class ships failed. Like captains and ship’s crews, most of these agents were “incapable” of communicating with islanders in their dialects. They relied heavily on local interpreters to explain employment contracts, but these interpreters received a commission for each islander recruited and were not particularly truthful.[66]

Further publicised outrages in labour recruitment, particularly in the islands north of New Guinea, led to the convening of a Royal Commission in January 1885. Its inquiries were followed in June 1885 by the early repatriation of 404 Pacific labour conscripts in Queensland who the Commission found had not been adequately informed of their working conditions and place of work.[67] Two months later, the government under Sir Samuel Griffith issued a decision to stop the importation of Pacific indentured labourers at the end of 1890. A resumption followed briefly in 1892, but proved politically and publicly untenable.

Final phase

Application by whites futile. Cartoon on the crisis of the sugar industry in Queensland, 1892

The final cessation of the transport of Pacific Islanders for the purpose of providing labor was based on a variety of reasons. Spectacular and litigated blackbirding cases led to a loss of reputation from 1871 onwards, which is why the encircling system of indentured labour also had to deal with resistance.

In the case of Queensland, working islanders were perceived as unwanted competition and stigmatised by the white Australian population. The economic crisis (1890) and the collapse of the sugar industry (1892) intensified this development.

Following Queensland’s entry into the new Australian Commonwealth, the Pacific Island Labourers Act (1901) was passed in the same year, requiring workers from the Pacific Islands to leave Australia by 31 December 1906. Islanders who had arrived on the continent before 1 September 1879, and those employed on ships, were not covered by this Act.[68]

The Pacific Islanders’ Fund was established to pay outstanding wages and to finance repatriation after the contract period had expired. On the government side, however, money from the fund was misappropriated. On the one hand, they were used to pay for the Australian administrative apparatus around the system of indentured labour, and on the other hand, they were used to pay for the deportation of Pacific Islanders in accordance with the Pacific Labourers Act (1901) and the new White Australia Policy.[69][70] The deportations reached their conclusion in 1906. Few Pacific Islanders remained in Australia.[71][72][73] Descendants of those affected estimated in 2013 that the misappropriated funds had now run up to an amount of 30 million Australian dollars[28] (about 19.5 million euros at the time).[28][74]

In Fiji, an alternative importation of labour from India began from May 1879. In contrast, the recruitment of Melanesian workers declined and ceased altogether in 1911.[30]

In Kaiser-Wilhelmsland and the Bismarck Archipelago, recruiting workers was only gradually abandoned, but in principle and on a political level. In 1911-1913, the governor of German New Guinea, Albert Hahl, issued the first decrees banning recruitment on smaller islands. For this, Hahl risked a conflict of interest with resident planters and entrepreneurs.[75] In addition, Hahl campaigned for the abolition of privileges of the German Trading and Plantation Company (DHPG) in the recruitment of workers for German Samoa.[76] However, he was unsuccessful with this initiative. In German Samoa, the beginning of the First World War and the loss of German New Guinea as a colonial territory finally led to the end of Melanesian contracting.

Conceptual History

English

The blackbird or blackbird, English blackbird. Hunting the birds gave the term for hunting people

The term derives from blackbird, in British English the name for blackbird or blackbird (Turdus merula). Although a transfer of the color of the plumage to the skin color of black Africans or Aborigines is obvious, how this developed into blackbirding is unattested. Blackbird shooting, the 19th century hunting of members of the indigenous Australian population by early European settlers, is considered an intermediate term. Especially the connotation that it was a kind of “sport ” (“sporting activity”) was similarly incorporated into blackbird catching.[77][23]

In 1836, the New York weekly The Emancipator, which journalistically fought slavery, cites blackbirding as a term.[78] In the 1860s, the evidence becomes denser for the Atlantic area. In 1864, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a guilty verdict because, according to testimony, the barque Sarah planned to black-bird from New York to West Africa in 1861.[79] In an 1864 adventure novel by English author Henry Robert Addison, a ship “‘blackbirding'” off the coast of West Africa rescues the protagonist after a shipwreck.[80] In 1873, the English playwright Colin Henry Hazlewood wrote the “romantic drama” Blackbirding, or, the filibusters of South America.[81]

Since the 1870s, the term has appeared especially for Australia and for the South Seas. An early dictionary entry is its inclusion in the English Slang dictionary in 1870, where blackbird-catching is explained as slave-trading.[82] According to the 1873 edition, the word is already used “nowadays chiefly for the Polynesian kuli trade”.[83] An early mention of blackbirding with reference to the Pacific islands is also found in the Narrative of the Voyage of the Brig Carl (1871). Here a distinction is already made between different methods of recruiting labour – those that were “just and useful”, those that were “of suspicious character”, and finally those that were ultimately “robbery and murder”. In this early period, however, the term black-birding or blackbird catching was always applied to the activity as such, irrespective of the method.[84]

More recent dictionary entries also show a spectrum of meanings. The Australian Macquarie Dictionary of 2009 sees in blackbirding:

“… the practice of employers in Australia (also Fiji and Samoa) of recruiting Pacific islander people … as labourers, often by kidnapping them or by the use of force …”

“… the practice by employers in Australia (also in Fiji and Samoa) of recruiting Pacific Islanders … as workers, often by abduction or the use of force …”[85]

The 2005 Oxford Dictionary of English defines blackbird historically as:

“… black or Polynesian captive on a slave ship …”

“… black or Polynesian prisoners on a slave ship …”[86]

The Historical Dictionary of Oceania from 1981 describes the practices generalized under labour trade. This was:

“… the system of indentured labour, developed as a scaled-down but legal replacement of slave labour …”

“… the system of contract labor, developed as an attenuated but legitimate substitute for slave labor …”[87]

The online edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica refers to blackbirding as:

“… practice of enslaving (often by force and deception) South Pacific islanders on the cotton and sugar plantations of Queensland, Australia (as well as those of the Fiji and Samoan islands) …”

“… [the] practice of enslaving South Pacific islanders (often using deception and violence) on the cotton and sugar cane plantations of Queensland, Australia (as well as those of the island groups of Fiji and Samoa) …”[88]

By English-language technical writers, such as the historian Gerald Horne[89] or the labour researcher Edward D. Beechert,[49] as well as the Australian Human Rights Commission,[29] blackbirding is more often used as a synonym for slave trade in the Pacific area. The conceptual proximity is also reflected in the titles of popular books on the subject, such as Slavers of the South Seas by the Australian publicist Thomas Dunbabin, published in 1935.[90]

German

A ship used to transport labor is referred to as a “blackbirder” in both German and English literature. As a German equivalent, the colonial writer Stefan von Kotze used the term “Schwarzdroßler”.[91] The maritime historian and captain Heinz Burmester also spoke of “blackbirder” as persons who were involved in the trade (“illegal recruiting”). According to him, the word “Küstern” was in use for the activity on German ships.[92] The writer Jakob Anderhandt likewise refers to the persons involved as “Schwarzdroßler”, referring to the English term of origin black bird catcher.[93]

In recent German literature, blackbirding is defined indirectly. The ethnologist Hermann Mückler sees in the phenomenon a “violent […] abduction of mainly Melanesian Pacific Islanders on sugar cane plantations in Queensland” and understands the boundaries between ” indentured labour ” and slave trade as “fluid”. But at the same time Mückler considers a view of the system of indentured labour as merely forced recruitment to be one-sided and in need of relativisation: “There were certainly also islanders who voluntarily embarked on this adventure, although of course they could not know what hardships they were taking on.”[94] In a biography of the South Sea merchant Eduard Hernsheim, Jakob Anderhandt elaborates that even 19th-century Germans could understand the practices of blackbirding as “reine[n] Sclavenhandel.”[95] For Hernsheim, they were outgrowths of the Queensland labour trade, which had formed “without the knowledge and against the laws of the Australian colonial governments”.[96]

Rating as slavery

An auctioneer circumvents the slavery ban by auctioning off a coconut with a “nigger” as a free gift. Caricature from 1886

The question of whether Pacific Islanders were mainly properly recruited as workers for plantations or whether they were kidnapped, i.e. victims of blackbirding, continues to be a source of debate to this day. It is certain that kidnapping/blackbirding occurred with great frequency in the first ten to fifteen years of the contract labour trade.[97] The extent to which the whole system of indentured labour was slavery is still debated in Australia.[98]

Already the contemporary anthropologist Nikolai Nikolayevich Miklucho-Maklai referred to the entire labor trade as the slave trade and to labor obligations as slavery. The employer, unlike the owner of a slave, would have no economic interest in his contractor’s ability to work beyond the obligation. He forces the employee to expend himself, pays little attention to his diet, and hardly cares for him in case of illness. For this reason, contract work entails even greater disadvantages for the obligated than enslavement.[99]

In contrast, the German Consul General for the South Seas, Oscar Stübel, refused to call the trade in labourers a “hidden slave trade”. The decisive difference lay in the fact that “the workers were transported back free of charge at the end of the contract period” and that their use during the contract period was “controlled in the best possible way”. Nor did the contract worker’s situation deteriorate as a result of the stay at work, but rather changed for the better because of the possibility of absorbing “elements of civilization”.[100]

More recently, historian Clive Moore argued that slavery was defined by ownership, purchase, sale, and lack of wages. In contrast, in the indentured labor system, contracts were made and labor was paid. As further evidence for the correctness of his thesis, Moore sees the fact that many islanders decided to return to work after their return home. Slavery was a term used emotionally by Pacific Islanders to describe the processes and prevailing sentiments of the time. Objectively, however, it did not apply.[101] Nevertheless, the indentured labour system as a whole was motivated by exploitation. Those affected by it had lived under slave-like and racially contemptuous conditions.[102]

How difficult it was for contemporaries to obtain facts about the system was described by the scientist and explorer Benedict Friedländer in 1899: “The interested say that all is well; but the envious of the planters tell horror stories. There are hardly any uninterested people who are also experts, and the cautious reporter must leave it at that with an ignoramus.”[103]

The extent to which an islander’s free will was interfered with or physical coercion was used in recruitments can be decided only comparatively rarely, even in retrospect. Among other things, this is due to the fact that the power of government agents aboard the laboring ships to watch over compliance with the anti-kidnapping laws was narrowly circumscribed. Minor infractions could hardly be proven in court. Agents who threatened retaliation made fools of themselves in front of the crew and captain – or later at trial. They therefore often refrained from taking such steps.[104] Corresponding sources thus reflect the historical reality incompletely and paint too positive a picture. The agents themselves also had a vital interest in supplying as many workers as possible to the colony for which they worked.[105]

Attempts to cope

Pacific Islanders who remained in Australia became politically active in the 1970s[106] and achieved recognition as a national minority in 1994. In 2013, about 40,000 people belonged to this group.[107] For injustices suffered such as blackbirding, misappropriated funds[108] and deportations in pursuit of the White Australia Policy[109] their representatives expect compensation and hope for an official apology from the Australian government.[28] In their views they are supported by the governments of Solomon Islands[110] and Vanuatu[71] governments. Australia has not yet complied with such requests and demands.

In 2008, UNESCO nominated the Pacific Slave Route theme for inclusion in the World Documentary Heritage as part of its Slave Route Project.[111]

See also

  • Shanghai

Literature

  • Jakob Anderhandt: De facto the Pure Slave Trade and Courageous Men. In: ders.: Eduard Hernsheim, the South Seas and a lot of money. Biography in two volumes. MV-Wissenschaft, Münster 2012, here: Vol. 2, pp. 75-130.
  • Edward W. Docker: The Blackbirders. A Brutal Story of the Kanaka Slave-Trade. Angus & Robertson, London 1981, ISBN 0-207-14069-3.
  • Thomas Dunbabin: Slavers of the South Seas. Angus & Robertson, Sydney 1935.
  • Stewart G. Firth: German Recruitment and Employment of Labourers in the Western Pacific before the First World War. (Thesis submitted for the degree of D. Phil., Oxford 1973.) British Library Document Supply Centre, Wetherby.
  • Henry Evans Maude: Slavers in paradise. The Peruvian slave trade in Polynesia, 1862-1864. Stanford University Press, Stanford 1981, ISBN 0-8047-1106-2.
  • Reid Mortensen: Slaving in Australian Courts: Blackbirding Cases, 1869-1871. in: Journal of South Pacific Law, vol. 4 (2000), no pagination, core.ac. uk (PDF)
  • Hermann Mückler: Blackbirding. In: ders.: Kolonialismus in Ozeanien. Facultas, Vienna 2012, p. 140.
  • Jane Samson: Imperial Benevolence: The Royal Navy and the South Pacific Labour Trade 1867-1872. in: The Great Circle, vol. 18, no. 1 (1996), pp. 14-29.
  • Deryck Scarr: Recruits and Recruiters: A Portrait of the Pacific Islands Labour Trade. In: The Journal of Pacific History, vol. 2, 1967, pp. 5-24.

Web links

Individual references

  1. For example: Edward Wybergh Docker: The Blackbirders: a brutal story of the Kanaka slave-trade. (Queensland Classics Edition.) Angus & Robertson, Sydney, Melbourne et al. 1981, p. 47, and Henry Evans Maude: Slavers in Paradise: The Peruvian labour trade in Polynesia, 1862-1864. Australian National University Press, Canberra 1981, p. 90.
  2. An early example of the latter can be found in: Henry Evans Maude: Slavers in Paradise: The Peruvian labour trade in Polynesia, 1862-1864. Australian National University Press, Canberra 1981, p. 44.
  3. See as one of the earliest instances the arrival of the King Oscar, Kpt. Gibbins, off Épi (New Hebrides), Edward Wybergh Docker: The Blackbirders: A brutal story of the Kanaka slave-trade. (Queensland Classics Edition.) Angus & Robertson, Sydney, Melbourne et al. 1981, p. 46.
  4. The Stanley Incident describes this type of approach in detail, cf. the account in German in: Jakob Anderhandt: Eduard Hernsheim, the South Seas, and a Lot of Money. Biography in two volumes. MV-Wissenschaft, Münster 2012, here: Vol. 2, pp. 106-119.
  5. Reid Mortensen: Slaving in Australian Courts: Blackbirding Cases, 1869-1871. In: Journal of South Pacific Law, vol. 4 (2000), no pagination.
  6. P. J. Stewart, “New Zealand and the Pacific Labor Traffic, 1870-1874.” In Pacific Historical Review, vol. 30, no. 1 (1961), pp. 47-59, here: S. 53.
  7. Edward Wybergh Docker: The Blackbirders: A brutal story of the Kanaka slave-trade. (Queensland Classics Edition.) Angus & Robertson, Sydney, Melbourne et al. 1981, p. 69.
  8. Quoted from: Jakob Anderhandt: Eduard Hernsheim, the South Seas, and a lot of money. Biography in two volumes. MV-Wissenschaft, Münster 2012, here: Vol. 2, p. 82.
  9. Cf. Hugh Hastings Romilly’s report (1883), quoted in German translation in: Jakob Anderhandt: Eduard Hernsheim, the South Seas, and a Lot of Money. Biography in two volumes. MV-Wissenschaft, Münster 2012, here: Vol. 2, p. 134.
  10. See especially: Ralph Shlomowitz: Mortality and the Pacific Labor Trade. In: Journal of Pacific History, vol. 22, no. 1 (1987), pp. 34-55.
  11. Gerald Horne: The White Pacific: U.S. Imperialism and Black Slavery in the South Seas after the Civil War. University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu 2007, ISBN 978-0-8248-3147-9, p. 38 ff., books. google.de
  12. Thomas Dunbabin: Slavers of the South Seas, Angus & Robertson, Sydney 1935, pp. 149-151.
  13. Jane Samson: Imperial Benevolence: the Royal Navy and the South Pacific Labour Trade 1867-1872. in The Great Circle, vol. 18, no. 1 (1996), pp. 14-29, here: S. 16.
  14. Townsvale Cotton Plantation.(No longer available online.) Archived from.OriginalApril 2,2015; retrieved March 20, 2015.
  15. E. V. Stevens: Blackbirding: A brief history of the South Sea Island Labour Traffic and the vessels engaged in it. In: Journal [of the] Historical Society of Queensland, vol. 4, iss. 3 (1950), pp. 361-403, here: P. 363 f.
  16. E. V. Stevens: Blackbirding: A brief history of the South Sea Island Labour Traffic and the vessels engaged in it. In: Journal [of the] Historical Society of Queensland, vol. 4, iss. 3 (1950), pp. 361-403, here: P. 365, see also Brisbane Courier, 18 August 1863.
  17. Edward Wybergh Docker: The Blackbirders: A brutal story of the Kanaka slave-trade. (Queensland Classics Edition.) Angus & Robertson, Sydney, Melbourne et al. 1981, p. 46.
  18. Edward Wybergh Docker: The Blackbirders: A brutal story of the Kanaka slave-trade. (Queensland Classics Edition.) Angus & Robertson, Sydney, Melbourne et al. 1981, p. 42.
  19. E. V. Stevens: Blackbirding: A brief history of the South Sea Island Labour Traffic and the vessels engaged in it. In: Journal [of the] Historical Society of Queensland, vol. 4, iss. 3 (1950), pp. 361-403, here: S. 366.
  20. Henry Evans Maude: Slavers in Paradise: The Peruvian labour trade in Polynesia, 1862-1864. Australian National University Press, Canberra 1981, p. 91.
  21. Henry Evans Maude: Slavers in Paradise: The Peruvian labour trade in Polynesia, 1862-1864. Australian National University Press, Canberra 1981, p. 90; see also: J. A. Bennett: Immigration , ‘Blackbirding’, Labour Recruiting? The Hawaiian Experience 1877-1887. in Journal of Pacific History, vol. 11, no. 1 (1976), pp. 3-27, here: S. 16.
  22. Stewart G. Firth: German Recruitment and Employment of Labourers in the Western Pacific before the First World War. (Thesis submitted for the degree of D. Phil., Oxford, 1973.) British Library Document Supply Centre, Wetherby , p. 12.
  23. a b c d Paul Bartizan: Pacific Islanders to be used as cheap labour. Australian government prepares to revive “blackbirding”. In: World Socialist Website, 3 November 2003, online.
  24. Michael Köhler: Acculturation in the South Seas. The Colonial History of the Caroline Islands in the Pacific Ocean and the Transformation of Their Social Organization. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 1982, ISBN 3-8204-5763-1 (also dissertation, University of Marburg 1980), p. 230.
  25. Heinz Schütte: ‘A small advance in cultural terms’: mission as modernization, in Saeculum: Jahrbuch für Universalgeschichte, 64th volume (2014), 1st half-volume, pp. 73-89, here: Sections Education for Work, pp. 77 ff. and Violence, Obedience, Forced Labor, pp. 86 f.
  26. Deryck Scarr, “Recruits and Recruiters: A Portrait of the Pacific Islands Labour Trade”. In: The Journal of Pacific History, vol. 2 (1967), pp. 5-24, here p. 5.
  27. Kay Saunders: Uncertain bondage: an analysis of indentured labour in Queensland to 1907 with particular reference to the Melanesian servants, PhD thesis, University of Queensland 1974, pp. 71-86.
  28. a b c d Charmaine Ingram: South Sea Islanders call for an apology. In: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Lateline, 2 September 2013.
  29. a b Tracey Flanagan, Meredith Wilkie, Susanna Iuliano: Australian South Sea Islanders. A century of race discrimination under Australian law, Australian Human Rights Commission, online.
  30. a b Deryck Scarr: Recruits and Recruiters: A Portrait of the Pacific Islands Labour Trade. In: The Journal of Pacific History, vol. 2 (1967), pp. 5-24, here p. 5.
  31. P. J. Stewart: New Zealand and the Pacific Labor Traffic, 1870-1874. in Pacific Historical Review, vol. 30, no. 1 (1961), pp. 47-59, here: S. 48.
  32. Peter Corris: “Blackbirding” in New Guinea Waters, 1883-1884. in: The Journal of Pacific History, vol. 3 (1968), pp. 85-105, here p. 89.
  33. Jane Samson: Imperial Benevolence: the Royal Navy and the South Pacific Labour Trade 1867-1872. in The Great Circle, vol. 18, no. 1 (1996), pp. 14-29, here: S. 18.
  34. Edward Wybergh Docker: The Blackbirders: A brutal story of the Kanaka slave-trade. (Queensland Classics Edition.) Angus & Robertson, Sydney, Melbourne et al. 1981, p. 55.
  35. Stewart G. Firth: German Recruitment and Employment of Labourers in the Western Pacific before the First World War. (Thesis submitted for the degree of D. Phil., Oxford, 1973.) British Library Document Supply Centre, Wetherby , p. 24.
  36. Stewart G. Firth: German Recruitment and Employment of Labourers in the Western Pacific before the First World War. (Thesis submitted for the degree of D. Phil., Oxford, 1973.) British Library Document Supply Centre, Wetherby , p. 40.
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  39. Jakob Anderhandt: Eduard Hernsheim, the South Seas, and a lot of money. Biography in two volumes. MV-Wissenschaft, Münster 2012, here: Vol. 2, p. 76.
  40. Eduard Hernsheim: Südseekaufmann: Gesammelte Schriften. MV-Wissenschaft, Münster 2014/15, p. 171.
  41. Oscar Wilhelm Stübel: Denkschrift, betreffend die Deutsche Handels- und Plantagen-Gesellschaft der Südsee-Inseln zu Hamburg. In: Hans Delbrück, Das Staatsarchiv: Sammlung der officiellen Actenstücke zur Geschichte der Gegenwart. Founded by Aegidi and Klauhold, Vol. 43, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1885, pp. 322-334, here p. 329.
  42. Sylvia Masterman, The Origins of International Rivalry in Samoa: 1845-1884. Allen & Unwin, London 1934, p. 76.
  43. Brij V. Lal, Kate Fortune: The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. Volume 1. University of Hawaii Press, 2000, ISBN 0-8248-2265-X, p. 208.
  44. a b Henry Evans Maude: Slavers in Paradise: The Peruvian labour trade in Polynesia, 1862-1864. Australian National University Press, Canberra 1981, pp. 19 f.
  45. a b Karl F. Gründler: Enslaved Islanders. Theinhabitants of Easter Island suffered from slave trade and oppression. Deutschlandradio Kultur, 5 April 2007. Quoted from: Hermann Fischer: Shadows on Easter Island – A plea for a forgotten people. BIS Verlag, Oldenburg 1998, 248 p., ISBN 3-8142-0588-X. The sources assume about 150 to 160 islanders as the surviving total population.
  46. Jean Ingram Brookes: International Rivalry in the Pacific Islands, 1800-1875. University of California Press, Berkeley/Los Angeles, 1941, p. 295.
  47. a b Niklaus Rudolf Schweizer: Hawaiʻi und die deutschsprachigen Völker. Bern / Frankfurt am Main / Las Vegas 1982.
  48. J. A. Bennett: Immigration, ‘Blackbirding’, Labour Recruiting? The Hawaiian Experience 1877-1887, in Journal of Pacific History, vol. 11, no. 1 (1976), pp. 3-27, here p. 17.
  49. a b Edward D. Beechert: Working in Hawaii: A Labor History. University of Hawaii Press, 1985, ISBN 0-8248-0890-8, pp. 77, 81, books. google.com
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  51. On contract workers recruited in Scandinavia and Germany, see: Ralph Simpson Kuykendall: The Hawaiian Kingdom, vol. 3 (that is: 1874-1893: The Kalakaua dynasty), pp. 133-135, ulukau.org
  52. Reid Mortensen: Slaving in Australian Courts: Blackbirding Cases, 1869-1871. In: Journal of South Pacific Law, vol. 4 (2000), no pagination.
  53. Jane Wessel: The Australian South Sea Islander Collection. In: Queensland State Archives: The Australian South Sea Islander Collection. 2013, here 2:10 min.
  54. Contained in: John Crawford Wilson: Labour Trade in the Western Pacific. Thomas Richards (Government Printer), Sydney 1881.
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  56. Jane Samson: Imperial Benevolence: the Royal Navy and the South Pacific Labour Trade 1867-1872. in The Great Circle, vol. 18, no. 1 (1996), pp. 14-29, here: S. 17.
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  105. For the example of government agent William A. McMurdo (Queensland), see: Jakob Anderhandt: Eduard Hernsheim, the South Seas, and a Lot of Money. Biography in two volumes. MV-Wissenschaft, Münster 2012, here: Vol. 2, p. 106.
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  108. Clive Moore: The Pacific Islanders Fund and the Misappropriation of the Wages of Deceased Pacific Islanders by the Queensland Government. In: University of Queensland, 15 August 2013, uq.edu.au(Memento of 2 April 2015 in the Internet Archive)
  109. Our Federation Journey – A ‘White Australia’.(Memento of 2 April 2015 in the Internet Archive) Museum Victoria
  110. Special Broadcasting Services: 150 years on, South Sea Islanders seek apology for blackbirding. 2. November 2013.
  111. Pacific Memories nominated for Memory of the World Register.(Memento of 16 April 2013 in the Internet Archive) UNESCO
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on 31 May 2015 in this version.