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Slavery is a real institution in the Great Island. “Modernism”, introduced from the reign of Radama I, has no hold on customs and customs. The slave market of Anjoma in Antaninarenina and its annex to Analakely are very busy. It is in vain that the missionaries preach in the pulpit, exhort, threaten. “The population turns a deaf ear when it does not engage in tumultuous demonstrations” (Revue de Madagascar, special Antananarivo, 1952). Of the kind that sounds in the temple of Ampamarinana during an anti-slavery sermon of the Rev. Standing in 1892.
Nevertheless, the codes published by the royal government formally condemn the slave trade and implicitly slavery. However, in 1896, Alfred Grandidier declared that two-thirds of the Tananarivian population, 50 to 60,000, were slaves. In 1895, more than half of the inhabitants of Imerina were servile.
Until the end of the reign of Andrianampoinimerina in 1810, the only foreign trade of the island, resulted in the slave trade. It is from this human traffic that the sovereign, the nobles, and the hova merchants derive their resources in foreign currency, valued in silver piastres.
Apart from domestic or slave slaves, the exportable mass is mainly made up of prisoners of war, ordinary criminals or political criminals. All means are good to procure it. Thus expeditions are carried out against enemy or rebel villages, at the end of which the persons in working order are conveyed to the coast, linked to each other. The prisoners who are incapable of it, the infirm, the women who have lost their charms, the vacillating children, are often abandoned to their fate, if not killed without pity.
“Frequent and numerous bargainings took place annually on several thousand individuals, subject to the payment of a duty of two dollars and a half per head for the benefit of the royal treasury. For this reason, the prosperity of old Antananarivo was sealed with tears and blood. This lasted until the exportation of cattle supplanted that of man. The slave trade was condemned in 1814 by the Congress of Vienna.
It was to ask Radama for the abolition of this trade that-following Lesage and Chardenoux-James Hastie, become for the purposes of the consular agent cause of the government of Mauritius, presented himself to the king, July 17, 1817 “In order not to be pointed out to the European princes as an enemy of civilization”, the sovereign merina consents to suppress the “export” of the slaves on 11 October 1820. In return he receives benefits in kind in the form of European products and In cash (the Equivalent). In addition, 20 young people among the grandsons receive instruction and technical training in London or Port Louis.
To the premature death of Radama in 1828, his wife Ranavalona I inherited the power. Under the pressure of the curators of the Court, diviners and sorcerers worried about the progress of civilization and Christianity, it adopted, after its first years of reign, “an attitude hostile to the Europeans and their innovations. It seems to him that their attendance and their contributions make him his disloyal subjects “.
In the first place, in order to break with the decisions of her deceased husband, she considers “incompatible with the respect due to good traditions” – it tolerates and even favors the slave trade. Trading resumes with the opportunities offered by the markets of India, America and Mascareignes (La Réunion, Mauritius, Rodrigue). “While markets are generally on the coasts, Antananarivo is nevertheless a transit center and a place where administrative authorizations are negotiated. Ch. Robequain wrote in 1949: “The Rova appears as a nest of raptors of great slave traders in the service of culture and the sugar industry. “
This trade will be repressed only at the moment of the French conquest. One of the first decisions taken by Joseph Gallieni is to abolish slavery. “The merina monarchy would not have been easily suppressed as it was by Gallieni, if it had not been entirely undermined and corroded by the double cancer of corvée and slavery. For most of the inhabitants of Antananarivo, the French conquest was really a liberation “(sic).