Tangier, England’s lost Atlantic outpost, 1661-1684


“English consuls in the pirate cities lived in constant danger. When the corsairs brought in a party of English people taken on board an enemy ship, it was the duty of the Consul to attend the auction at which they were sold and to negotiate the release of any who could prove themselves to have been merely passengers. Any mistake on his part, or any grievance, real or imaginary, which the pirates might raise against the captains of English ships, or against the Governor of Tangier, had to be smoothed over most careful diplomacy, on pain of a popular riot which was very likely to end in the murder of the Consul, unless the Government protected him by rigorous imprisonment.”

The post of Consul at Algiers was held from 1667-1674 by John Ward, who, after many vicissitudes was cut to pieces by an angry mob in front of the palace. The Dey, an old man who had little influence, was unable or unwilling to restrain the rioters, and his wife, “a cunning, covetous English woman, who would sell her soul for a bribe,” in whose hands the chief power was said to lie, appears to have done nothing to save the Consul from his fate. While galleys were still used in the Mediterranean, slavery was practiced, as a matter of course by Europeans as well as Mohammedans, for it was impossible to obtain volunteers for the rower’s bench.

“Two galleys were built at Leghorn in 1671-1672 for use at Tangier” against the common enemy of Christendom,” and Sir Jean Baptiste Duteil, who superintended the work, sent proposals to Lord Arlington for the purchases of slaves to man them. It was usual to employ prisoners taken from pirate ships, but there was some difficulty in finding rowers for the Tangier galleys, which required forty or fifty each. It was proposed to send condemned criminals from England for the purpose, as this would “save the lives of many poor Christians, and clear the country of such idle people.”

“English convicts, however, petitioned against being sent to the galleys, and slaves were finally bought in October 1672 at Malta, where the Chevalier de Princourt and M. Bardou, commissioned by the Kings of England and France respectively to buy slaves for their galleys, arranged to buy all slaves in common at a price agreed between them, and then to draw lots, “and he who wins is to choose a slave first, and then the other is to choose, and so alternately to the end.” At the same time, Dueteil was negotiating with private persons at Malta, but found there were few slaves to be had, “though forty corsairs were out.”

“Still, he hoped to have both galleys ready for sea, with oars and sails, by the spring of 1673. “A list of slaves belonging to his Maties Bagnio at Tang”, dated 1677, contains seventy-nine names. The galleys gave occasional support to the King’s frigates in engagements with pirates near Tangier, but after four years they were superseded by “galley-frigates,” and the slaves were made over to Mr. Shere, the engineer, for work on the Mole.” 


“In time of peace, there was a certain amount of sport to be had; no more than twelve Englishmen might hunt or shoot at a time, and the officers who in a moment of excitement passed the boundary, was liable to be taken prisoner and made a slave for life. Lancelot Addison, a chaplain at Tangier, wrote in 1663: “Wild boars are no rarity in this diocese, which the Moores hunt and kill in a manly pastime. In 1669 Lord Howard was sent from England on a special embassy to the Moorish Court, with instructions to conclude, if possible a treaty of peace and commerce which would ensure for Tangier free trade and intercourse with the interior of Morocco.”

“The Ambassador sailed from Plymouth in the Mary Rose on 23 July, and reached Tangier on 11th August “safely,” though sickly.” The secretary to the Embassy was Mr. Thomas Warren, merchant of London, who carried on a considerable trade in gunpowder and saltpeter with Morocco. His agents at this time were negotiating for the sale of a large quantity of powder to the Emperor Er Rasheed II.,”

“”Letters to the Governor of Tangier from the Emperor and his chief advisers at this time gave ample proof of the futility of negotiating with the Moorish Government. It must be admitted that Ismail had some ground for his indifference to the proposals of the English. He had but too little reason to fear the military resources of Charles II., of who he spoke of as “an old woman, a slave to his Parliament”; he knew from his own spies that Tangier, by which alone he judged of England’s strength, was left ill provided with men an ammunition.”

“The defeat of his troops in October 1680 had been recounted to him in a carefully edited form by the Moorish commanders; he could see for himself that his enemies had followed up their victory only by an open willingness to treat for peace. His Ambassador told him that all the presents sent to him from England were tribute paid by the English King, and every mark of friendship and every attempt at conciliation he counted for a sign of weakness and fear. Ismail was firmly convinced that no European kingdom could prosper without his help, for the English, French, and Dutch were all rivals for his favor.”

“In 1682 the Dutch bought from him a treaty of peace and commerce at the price of six hundred quintals of the best powder and a large and richly furnished State coach. At the same time, a French Ambassador was at the Moorish Court, and the English Consul at Salli learned from some of the Moors that he was attempting to plan with the Emperor a joint attack upon Tangier. Whether this be true or false, I know not,” remarked Mr. Onby, the Consul, “but this is what I pumpt out of them, they all being very shy of telling anything of new.”

“At any rate, Kirke had suspicious of a Franco-Moorish plot, and asked for a cipher, as his letters “often happened to be broken up as they passed through France.” The persistent demands of the English for peace by sea caused great annoyance to the Emperor, who would not at first admit that he was powerless to grant their request. The Salli rovers paid not the slightest heed to the four months, true agreed to at Whitehall, merely thinking it a splendid opportunity to capture English trading vessels, while the King’s frigates lay idly by, bound to inaction by their orders. The Emperor was deaf to all remonstrances, for her knew that the pirates of Salli, though owning his suzerainty, would have paid little respect to his authority had he tried to impose upon them an unwelcome peace.” 

Source: Tangier, England’s lost Atlantic outpost, 1661-1684

Moors In Colonial Louisiana

“When the African slave trade to Lousiana began, the Company of the Indies’ control over its Senegal concession was weak and was challenged by African nations as well as by its European rivals. During the early and mid-1720s, the French and the Dutch fought over Arguin Islan, the center of the trade of Arabic gum collected in the forests of Morocco. The gum trade was considered far more profitable than the trade in slaves. The Moors sided with the Dutch. The English had a trading post at Fort James in the Gambia River and were quite active there. The Portuguese had a long tradition of control at Bissau, and the Company of the Indies’ trading post there was under great pressure.” 

“The Bambara brought to Lousiana during the 1720s had been captured during warfare among Bambara kingdoms at the early stage of the formation of the Segu empire under Mamari Kulubali, who ruled from 1712 to 1755. The export of Bambara slaves peaked during warfare in Bambara. In contrast, when peace reigned, the slave trade from Galam to St. Louis was badly disrupted. In 1721, Galam sent few slaves, and those have been of poor quality, even though the trading post had received good and adequate trade merchandise. St. Robert explained that “no slave caravans arrived… the Bambara who are almost always at war among themselves…were all obliged to unite to protect their country against the Moors of Morocco whom they chased out of their country after having defeated them twice. The said Moors, upon withdrawing, boasted that they would soon come back with an army big enough to destroy the Bambara entirely. This obliges the countries of Bambara to live in harmony and join forces to oppose the Moroccans whom they expect.”

“If the slave trade from Senegal to Lousiana got a late start, it was not for lack of trying. As soon as the Company of the Indies took control of Lousiana, it devoted serious attention to supplying the colony with slaves from the Senegal concession. In October 1720, its directors informed Senegal that it had sent le Comte de Toulouse with well-assorted trade goods, principally to strengthen Galam and stimulate trade there. Le Comte de Toulouse was to be sent quickly to Lousiana with a “cargo” of slaves. Le Marechal d Estrees had picked up its cargo of wine, liquor, and foods at Bordeaux, and this vessel was also to be sent to Lousiana with slaves. Any ship seized from interlopers was to be likewise sent to Lousiana with slaves and its papers sent to France for confiscation proceedings. After retaking Fortd‘ Arguin, the French were to enslave any Moors taken prisoner, send them to Senegal, keep them in shackles, and transport them to Lousiana on the first available ship. Aside from the four ships sent to Juda during 1720, three ships were reportedly sent to Madagascar in June of the same year to load slaves for Louisiana.”

“Few of these projects materialized. There is no record of any interloper seized and sent to Louisiana with slaves. There is no evidence that any ships from Madagascar arrived in Louisiana. The Moors taken at For d’Arguin were not deported and enslaved: They were needed there to cut wood and to make salt. The French were afraid of antagonizing all the Moors if they enslaved those who had turned Arguin Island over to the Dutch. The Moors (called “cette Morvaille“) still had not forgotten the affair of M. Ducas, who had taken Moorish captives to French islands. Instead of enslaving Moorish captives, the French decided to try to win over that nation with kindness. In order to attract and control the Moors, it was proposed to hire Boaly, a great Marabout (Muslim holy man) and an interpreter at Portendic. Le Ruby was the first slave trade ship that arrived in Lousiana from the Senegal concession. It left Le Havre in December 1719, and Goree in May 1720, with 130 slaves, arriving in Louisiana in July 1720, with 127 slaves.”

“The French had great difficulties with the Moors along the coast. The pilot of le St. Louis wrote, “The Moors there behave very badly, and we can never land without risking several attacks by this bunch of Moors who are without pity when they can take advantage of us, whom they hate more than the other nations.” Before leg St. Louis left Senegal, a war had broken out in Galam with King Braque and had extended all along the Senegal River.”

See Africans In Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Revised Edition