Physical Punishment of Slaves, Hispaniola, late 16th cent.

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Girolamo Benzoni, Americae pars quinta nobilis & admiratione (Frankfort, 1595), part V, fig.3. (Copy in Library Company of Philadelphia)

Title, "Nigritae non absoluto qvotidiano. . . III." This is one of the earliest known illustrations of Spanish cruelty towards Black slaves. It is the fanciful depiction of the De Bry brothers, the Flemish engravers (who never visited the New World), based on a passage in Benzoni (and, perhaps, other voyagers): "And there being among the Spaniards some who are not only cruel, but very cruel, when a man occasionally wished to punish a slave, either for some crime that he had committed, or for not having done a good day's work, or for spite that he had towards him, or for not having extracted the usual quantity of silver or gold from the mine, when he came home at night . . . he made him undress, if he happened to have a shirt on, and being thrown down on the ground, he had his hands and feet tied to a piece of wood laid across . . . then with a thong or rope he was beaten, until his body streamed with blood; which done, they took a pound of pitch or a pipkin of boiling oil, and threw it gradually all over the unfortunate victim; then he was washed with some of the country pepper mixed with salt and water. He was thus left on a plank covered over with a cloth, until the master thought he was again able to work. Others dug a hole in the ground and put the man in upright, leaving only his head out, and left him in all night, the Spaniards saying that they have recourse to this cure because the earth absorbs the blood and preserves the flesh from forming any wound, so they get well sooner . . . Thus, on account of these very great cruelties in the beginning, some of them escaped from their masters, and wandered about the island in a state of desperation. They have gradually multiplied, however, to such a degree, that they have caused, and still cause the Spanish population a great deal of trouble" (See, History of the New World by Girolamo Benzoni, of Milan. Shewing his travels in America, from A.D. 1541 to 1556 . . . . Now first translated, and edited by Rear-Admiral W.H. Smyth [London: Printed for the Hakluyt Society, 1857; original published in Venice, 1565]. p. 94). i