Albeit a land-locked country at a great distance from any major colonial port (320 km to Marseilles, 600 km to Nantes, 600 km to Amsterdam, 700 km to London, 1400 km to Cadiz, 750 km to Hamburg), Switzerland has made a number of important structural contributions to the European colonial project. Since they cannot be assigned to one single Caribbean country, they shall be set out in the following chapter.
4.1 Anti-Black Racism and Ideologies Relevant to Caribbean Economic Space
=> Johann Caspar Lavater (1741–1801) from Zurich was an important figure in the development of «racial science». He is known for his contributions to the field of physiognomy, which pretended to assess a person’s character or personality from their outer appearance and thus became a theory of morality and racial superiority. Lavater categorised black Africans as «animal-like» and «limited», and in his books spread ideas of contemporary authors who argued that tribal societies were unable of cultural development, that even without slavery there would be no progress, and that slavery was after all not a very hard fate. Lavater, Swiss popularizer of the physiognomic school, was enthusiastically welcomed in France (nine editions of his L’Art de connaître les hommes par la physionomie in half a century) and in England. He was also in contact with and influenced by Petrus Camper (1722-1789), whose theory of the «facial angle» became one of the stepping stones of anti-black racism. In fact, in volume 4 of his Essays on Physiognomy, Lavater claimed that he had used the facial angle for analysis before Camper. A facial angle of 100° was found with Greek gods, an angle of 80° was typical of humans worthy of that term (such as himself), those with angles of 70° like «the Angolan negro and the Kalmyk» were losing all traces of human likeness. They were followed by orang-utans (58°) and macaques (42°).
=> Isaak Iselin (1728–1782) from Basel, philosopher of history and politics and secretary of the Republic of Basel from 1756 until his death, published his Geschichte der Menschheit (History of Humanity) in 1764, in response to works by Montesquieu and Rousseau. In Book 1 («Psychological Considerations on Man»), Iselin had this to say: «Thus the south is prone to laziness and weakness of the body, limitation and depression of the mind, calm and contentedness. Thus the cold north is characterised by bodily strength, listlessness of the spirit, stubbornness of the mind, restlessness, and dissatisfaction, whereas the benefits of the body and of the mind are manifoldly distributed in the temperate zones. Thus slavery and timidity are the fruits of the south, unrestraint and courage the quality of the north, and freedom and virtue the lot of the temperate lands.» In Book 3 («On the State of Savagery»), he argued that those peoples to whom a mild sky and fertile land had granted a happy organisation had apparently left behind the state of savagery, whereas those stricken by stupidity and living – without restraint – in rough climes and on barren soil would hardly be able to overcome that state.
=> Swiss media of the time reported on the 1763 Berbice slave rebellion (see 1.4) and the indigenous Pontiac’s Rebellion in the Great Lakes area of the same year in a clearly partisan manner, as if it was their own interests (and not those of the British, of the Dutch, or of the American settlers) which were at stake. The following quotes from the Alter und neuer grosser Staats-, Kriegs- und Friedens Appenzeller-Calender published in the Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden in 1765 betrays the ruling discourse, i.e. the discourse of colonial dominance:
«The Blacks on the island of Berbice, which belongs to the Dutch, rose in rebellion, and it is pitiful to read with what cruelty they killed the Christians.»
«The English in North America were confronted with an even bigger rage from those inhumane brutes. (…) During the siege of Fort Detroit, such atrocities took place as to make mankind tremble: In an attempt to sally out, one of the Indian chieftains was killed. As soon as his father had learnt the news, he took one of the English captains who had been captured and forced him to say his prayers over the dead body of his son. He was massacred thereafter, and his heart was torn from his body and devoured by the Indians; the body of another Englishman was boiled in a cauldron and feasted on; his skin was made into tobacco-bags.»
«The English as well as the Dutch have immediately sent reinforcements in order to resist the rebels and to bring them to heel, and, as we have been informed so far, most colonies have by now been freed from the rebels and again enjoy the desired peace and quiet.»
=> Christoph Girtanner (1760–1800) from St.Gallen was the son of merchant banker Hieronymus Girtanner (1730–1773) and Barbara Felicitas née Wegelin and became a short-lived but influential author, physician, and chemist. He was a cousin of internationally cross-linked merchant banker Daniel Girtanner (1757-1844), with whom he was in communication. Christoph Girtanner studied in St.Gallen, Lausanne, Paris, Edinburgh, and London and received his doctorate from Göttingen University in 1782. He was later made Privy Councillor to the Duke of Saxe-Coburg. In his Abhandlung über die venerische Krankheit (1788), he quoted reports on the reduced sex drive of indigenous men in the Americas, for which their lack of beard was considered a sign. This was, according to Girtanner’s sources, in stark contrast to the voluptuousness of the indigenous women:
«When the Europeans first landed there, the women sought the embraces of these foreigners with a lust that almost bordered on rage. Without this extraordinary attachment of the Indian women to the Europeans, America might never have been conquered. They threw themselves voluntarily into the arms of the cruel companions of Pizarro and Cortes…»
For Immanuel Kant, Girtanner’s book Ueber das Kantische Prinzip für die Naturgeschichte (1796) confirmed his own position of a racial hierarchy, as is substantiated by Kant’s reference to Girtanner in Anthropologie in pragmatischer Hinsicht (1798). Girtanner had taken over Kant’s idea that the indigenous Americans were of Mongolian origin and stated that this race ranked «still far below even the Negro». Girtanner explained that «the disgusting smell of the evaporations peculiar to the negroes seems to be partly due to the warmth of the climate». For Girtanner, the malodorous sweat was characteristic of the «negro race» and was particularly strong in Africa. That smell was allegedly so strong that it lingered in places where negroes had stayed long after they had gone. These malodorous evaporations were said to be strongest with negroes from Angola and weakest with those from the Senegal. On the question whether the orang-utan was a human or an ape, Girtanner argued that that could only be decided if orang-utans were able to beget children with humans. Although he stated that none of the stories he was going to draw on were trustworthy, he then quoted several authors who had written of orang-utans having sex with black women, of orang-utans in Sumatra who were so «horny» and in love with the local womenfolk that these were afraid of pregnancies, about orang-utans raping black women, of a hairy «bastard» having been born to a woman who had had sex with an orang-utan, of orang-utans abducting «negro women» in order to keep them for themselves, of «negro women» who had been made pregnant by big apes and had given birth to monsters or to apes, of apes at the Cape of Good Hope having sex with women.
In his book Ueber das Kantische Prinzip für die Naturgeschichte (Göttingen 1796), Girtanner had this to say about Romani people, Africans and Jews:
«It seems as if nature in each human race […] has developed germs and natural predispositions appropriate to the climate in which it found itself, but stifled the rest […]. The gypsies give an example of this: for in almost four hundred years they have not yet managed to become farmers and manual labourers. Likewise, one also notices that among the many thousands of negroes who have been set free […] not a single one is engaged in a business that could actually be called work. This sentence is even confirmed in the case of the varieties. The Jews, a breed of white people accustomed to the Oriental skies, still remain in Europe, despite their long stay among us, averse to all real work, and seem to be quite incapable of it.»
=> In 1833, Marc Warnery (1797-1836) from Morges in the Canton of Vaud, plantation manager in Suriname since 1823, had this to say about the execution of a slave accused of rebellion:
«This sentence, which will appear frightful to all civilized people, is necessary here, when one considers how few in number we white people are, and that we are dealing with beings without instruction, almost brutes, for whom any sentiment in the soul is unknown and who respond only to physical pain. The goal was to make an impression on the multitude [of slaves].»
=> John Jacob Flournoy (1808–1879) from a family of Huguenots who fled to Geneva in the 16th century was the son of one of the largest plantation-owners and slaveholders of Georgia. He became a champion of the expulsion of all African-American slaves from the United States on grounds of their supposed inferiority to the white race. In several letters from Flournoy to the black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Flournoy excoriated free blacks for their presumed arrogance to southern and northern whites, charging them with resistance to God’s divine plan for the African race to remain inferior, and advising them to move permanently to Liberia. In his «Essay on the origin, habits, and c. of the African race: incidental to the propriety of having nothing to do with Negroes» (1835), he advanced the Biblical argument that Ham’s descendants, who were Negroes, were cursed for his scoffing at his father. Flournoy went even farther than that by arguing that Christ had not intended that Blacks should be called «brethren», for if he had, this would have fostered amalgamation. According to Flournoy, the original men were either white or red, and black was a degeneration from the standard colour. Thus, he would place the Negro on the lowest plane of the races. In New York, Flournoy asserted black ignorance, obscenity and viciousness. In a partial division of his father’s estate, he was awarded about twenty slaves. He refused «to receive them» and asked that they be sold and the money invested in bank stock or in some other good security. The slaves (among them Scipio, Nelly, Joshua, Mahaly, Grace, Sally, and Dolly) were sold to his brother Robert Willis Flournoy (1802-1844), who was later accused of whipping them so cruelly that they all died. But it appears that in spite of this incident John Jacob Flournoy always kept a few slaves, and at the end of the Civil War, he had about a dozen black children and adults.
=> In 1849, Scottish historian and essayist Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) anonymously published his racist pamphlet Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question. It propagated the vision of a feudalist, paternalistic society in the West Indies that would treat the now free blacks with sternness and keep them in a state of inferiority similar to serfdom. Carlyle largely drew from the writings of Carl Ludwig von Haller (1768–1854) from Berne, professor for constitutional law and politician, who had argued in 1818 in his Digression on Slavery that slavery was neither morally wrong nor abhorrent nor a crime, but a reasonable system of reciprocal rights and obligations.
=> In his lecture «Über die Menschenraçen» (On the Human Races), held at the annual meeting of the Swiss Natural Scientists in Basel in 1838, Dr. Friedrich Fischer (1801–1853), Professor of Philosophy and Rector of Basel University, started on the assumption that there were four «races»: the Causacian, the Mongolian, the African, and the American. He described the skin of the African as «damp and malodorous» and, by analogy with the animal kingdom, his «slanted skull» as «a reminiscence of stomach formation» in the evolutionary process. The skin of the African with its «malodorous and dampish secretion» reminded Fischer of «the mucous membrane of fish and molluscs». He then treated the peculiarities of character of the four «races» in accordance with the four classes of vertebrates and saw a marked «avidity, namely voraciousness and the sex drive» reflected in the «negro» and the fish (as a «stomach animal»). In contrast, he defined the Caucasian’s character by his «freedom over his own nature and his capacity to develop towards a free intelligence». All other races were denied the ability to enter into a process of history. The meeting of 12–14 September 1838 in Basel’s «Casino» was attended by nearly 200 members and guests from all over Switzerland, who can – without exaggeration – be called the intelligentsia of the day, with most of the major Swiss patrician families holding offices in politics and universities being represented. Nothing is know of a protest against Prof. Fischer’s lecture. The only one to take the floor was Louis Agassiz (see below), who demanded the subject to be taken up again in one of the subcommittees.
=> Swiss scientist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) from Môtier in the Canton of Fribourg (see also 1.5.3) has been called «the most influential scientific racist of the 19th century» (Alex Marsh). He made a career in Europe as a glaciologist and ichthyologist, and from 1846 until his death he lived and worked in the USA. He divided mankind into races, postulating a clear hierarchy: He defined the «white race» as superior and creative, and described the «black race» as «ape-like», incapable of establishing a culture and not belonging to the same mankind as the whites. He categorically rejected miscegenation, considering it the cause of cultural deterioration. He described mixed race «hybrids» as inferior and wanted to force the state to adopt racial policies, including spatial separation of races as well as quickly getting rid of «hybrids». His ideology influenced Ralph Waldo Emerson in his racist «English Traits» (1856), the thinking of the fascist poet and Mussolini-admirer Ezra Pound, the doings of John Kasper, Ku-Klux-Klan member and militant racist in the fight against the Civil Rights Movement. The thoughts of Louis Agassiz can be traced as far as the Nazi racial hygienists.
=> Just like the letters of Louis Agassiz (1807–1873) and Jakob Laurenz Gsell (1815–1896) to their mothers, or the letters of Henri de Saussure (1829–1905) to his family, the letters of their contemporary, Bernese patrician Ferdinand Karl Rudolf von Steiger (1825 – 1887), to family and friends are testimony to a deep-rooted (Swiss and European) colonial racism and ideology of white supremacy. Von Steiger had bought Vitoria plantation in São Jorge dos Ilhéus, Bahia, from fellow Swiss Gabriel von May (1791–1870). In 1855, he wrote to bis brother Albert von Steiger in Berne:
«Life among among Negroes is horribly repugnant to me & yet I must probably submit to living with them. What the Negrophiles blather about the sad lot of the Negroes is nonsense & lies; not the Negroes – their masters are to be lamented & pitied & they are the true slaves of their slaves. You are zealous about the wickedness & depravity of your European officials, workers, etc. But I can assure you without exaggeration that they are better than the negroes, not only because I know them & can therefore compare them with the latter, but also because it is impossible that there is anything worse or as bad in the world as the negro. A bad labourer or servant in Europe is sent away & another taken & one is thus relieved of every annoyance & all labour. Not so with a bad negro; his master must, nolens volens, put up with him & be annoyed with him daily & feed & care for him without advantage. You will probably say: why is such a subject not beaten up? To this I can reply from my own experience & that of others that this is impossible: He gets used to light chastisement & doesn’t mind it; if you come down too hard on him he runs away or hangs himself & you lose your capital. You can’t sell such a guy either, because nobody wants to risk his money on him. Among the common, uneducated part of mankind, the negro slave is the happiest being, the only being in the world that never has worries. His master must provide for everything: He may be industrious or lazy, healthy or sickly, may have children or not. He works his 10–12 hours a day, if he doesn’t want to be ill & that’s that. In return, he gets his 3⁄4 pounds of meat and the equivalent of 5 pounds of potatoes in vegetables, with the necessary accessories and his ration of brandy every day, whether he works or not, on workdays as well as on Sundays and holidays. Twice annually a full suit for the working days & once a Sunday suit & the necessary bedding. Furthermore, he receives his solid, homely house, calculated to be spacious according to the size of his family, together with the necessary utensils; plus a garden behind the house & a piece of land as large as he wants, in order to work in his free time, from which an active negro derives not little benefit. Finally he has the faculty & necessary relief to raise sheep, pigs & feathered cattle & to hunt & fish as much as he likes & can. So you see that, in spite of the fact that all necessities of life are amply provided for, innumerable sources of acquisition are open to them for the attainment of the superfluous, of luxury. If a Negro falls ill, he enjoys the most careful medical treatment & during the convalescence, which he naturally likes to make as long as possible, there is no lack of strong broths, old wine, etc. If a Negress comes down, she is often dispensed from all service for several months, receives everything that is necessary on this occasion & as long as the child lives, a monthly bonus in money. Compare this fate with that of our workers, even in the regions where they are best off & you will certainly decide, without much thought, which are happier. Only, of course, you will make the objection: That is all well & good, but the slave lacks the most precious good, freedom. – Error & delusion! – As long as he is a slave, he lacks it, but he has all the means at his disposal to acquire his freedom in a shorter or longer period of time. […] I cannot give you a more convincing example that the Negro, in general, is quite indifferent to his freedom, hence unworthy of it, than that I myself know Negro slaves who are masters & owners of numerous slaves (hence even mulattos), who could therefore buy themselves free at any moment & still retain a handsome capital for their maintenance & who prefer to remain & die in slavery. Why? Because the negro is so terribly lazy & indifferent to everything that at most he is forced by blows to make up his mind & undertake a change in his status quo. […] The Nagó, a Negro tribe from the east coast of Africa, are a notable exception…»
=> Adolphe Pictet (1799–1875) from a Geneva Huguenot dynasty of bankers, scientists, and mercenary officers with global networks was greatly admired by Henri de Saussure, mineralogist and entomologist from Geneva. Adolphe Pictet has been called «a hard core exponent of the racism of his day» (Pieter A.M. Seuren). He saw an ascending scale from the ape to the «negro» to the European, and he held that «the negro tends more towards the animal than the European type does». According to Adolphe Pictet, the «Indo-European race … was destined by Providence to rule one day the entire globe … and was … privileged among all other races by the beauty of its blood, the gift of its intelligence …».
=> Arnold Guyot (1807–1884) from Neuchâtel, a Swiss and American (racial) geographer and a friend of the «scientific racist» Louis Agassiz, outlined his views on race in his books The Earth and Man (1849) and The Biblical Cosmogony in the Light of Modern Science (1884). The former, extremely popular in the USA, argued for Northern intellectual acuity, for European imperialism and imperial occupation of the tropics: «It is reserved for the European race not only to exhibit the most perfect phase of Human Civilisation but to impress that civilisation on other races of the world.» On black Africans he had this to say: «The progress of the Negro would never develop from within, but necessarily be imposed from without.» And the intricate coastline of the northern continents as opposed to that of the southern ones was for him proof that the global north was more appropriate for the development of mankind.
=> Carl Vogt (1817–1895), a friend of Agassiz‹, was originally from Germany and played a part in the 1848 revolution. He then fled to Switzerland where he became professor of Geology in Berne and Zoology in Geneva, where he was the first rector of the reformed university. He was naturalised in 1861 and served as a federal MP 1856–61, 1870–71 and 1878–81. As a polygenist evolutionist, he believed and taught that the «Negro race» was related to the ape and that the «white race» was a separate species to «Negroes». In his Lectures on Man: his place in creation, and in the history of the earth (1863) he argued that the «Germanic type» and the «Negro» stood at the opposite end of human forms. According to Vogt, black and white children developed in parallel intellectually. «But no sooner do they reach the fatal period of puberty than, with the closure of the sutures and the projection of the jaws, the same process takes place as in the apes. The intellectual faculties remain stationary, and the individual – as well as the race – is incapable of further progress.»
=> Gottfried Keller (1819–1890), renowned Swiss novelist from Zurich, has two of his protagonists spend time in a colonial context without making any effort at exposing its dimension or reality of violence and suppression. Pankraz («Pankraz, der Schmoller», 1856) leaves his hometown Seldwyla for Hamburg, and from there sails to America. The «New World» represents for him the frontline of the civilised world, which he does not like with its disorder. He therefore hurries back to his ship and sets off for «ancient, hot India», where he becomes a soldier of the British East India Company. He works at the office of the Regiment’s Commander and rises to the rank of a subaltern officer. He spends his time in this exotic environment hunting, gardening, and doing administrative work. He then escapes from a love affair and re-joins his regiment, which is involved in fighting «wild mountain tribes on the outermost border of the Indo-British Empire». This is probably a historical reference to the so-called Sikh Wars (1845–46 and 1848–49), fought between the Sikhs and the British and resulting in the British conquest and annexation of the Punjab, at the cost of tens of thousands of Indian and thousands of British lives. Pankraz is promoted to the rank of lieutenant, later captain, and he spends two years mainly trying to prevent «the burning of Indian women» (the Indian custom of «sati»: widows sacrificing themselves by sitting atop their deceased husband’s funeral pyre). Just like slavery and cannibalism in Africa by European powers, the Hindi practice of «sati» was used as a justification by British imperialists: «White men are saving brown women from brown men.» (Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak in Can the Subaltern Speak?). To forget his loved one, Pankraz decides (in Paris) to join the French Army in Africa. He goes to Algiers, and – having been promoted to colonel – amuses himself with lion-hunting. Like India, North Africa is merely used as an exotic foil of nature for the projection of the protagonist’s inner emotional and amorous struggles.
=> The second protagonist set temporarily in a colonial context by Gottfried Keller (1819–1890), renowned Swiss novelist from Zurich, is Martin Salander («Martin Salander», 1886). He comes from the provincial town of Münsterburg in Switzerland, becomes very rich in Brazil with the cultivation and trade of coffee and tobacco, loses everything to a fraudulent financial scheme, returns to Brazil and regains his wealth. His son also travels to Brazil to continue his father’s business there: Arnold Salander expands his father’s estate and finds a capable Swiss «for operation and supervision», who will soon be involved in the business transactions. Although the only way to get rich twice in Brazil through coffee and tobacco is by being involved in chattel slavery, a professor of German literature at Zurich University in 2020 speculated vaguely if Salander might have become rich through emigration or perhaps as an engineer. Slavery as a possibility was not even mentioned.
=> As opposed to «Martin Salander» and «Pankraz, der Schmoller», Gottfried Keller’s novella «Don Correa» is really set in a colonial context, but only for the sake of providing an exotic background to an unbearably sexist, Eurocentric and paternalistic love-story. At a time when the dimension and the horror of transatlantic slavery had become fully visible and was being wildly debated both in the Americas and in enlightened abolitionist European circles, Keller managed to write a novella as if the world of the «Die drei gerechten Kammacher» had been transferred to the Atlantic. In his 1882 novella, the half historical 17th century protagonist, Portuguese naval hero and statesman Don (sic!) Salvador Correa de Sa Benavides, governor of Rio de Janeiro, fails to find in Donna Feniza Mayor de Cercal his desired spouse. Although he has been appointed Vice-Admiral, his amorous adventure in Portugal ends in turmoil, fighting, executions, and disappointment, and he returns to Brazil. Ten years later he is sent to West Africa to wrest away Benguela from the Dutch, which he manages to do. He establishes contact with the «Negro King of Angola», described as a «terrible tyrant» and a «desert lion», living with a hundred wives in a society of cannibals. The king sends his sister, Princess Annachinga, to negotiate, and she arrives with herds of elephants, giraffes, lions and tigers (!) in chains. A conflict arises, but before departing, Annachinga leaves him with the slave woman she has used as a stool to sit on: beautiful Zambo. Her skin is not black, but brown, hair is not as «woolly» as with the «negroes», her features are «noble» and reminiscent of «ancient Egyptian women». Don Correa falls in love with her, and at the same time senses «the silent lament and sorrow of suffering nature». He lifts her to her feet, kisses her on both cheeks, thus «marking her tenderly as his property». He swears to himself to put at the disposal of the «heathen slave human and Christian freedom and self-confidence». He has her christened, with himself being the baptismal witness, and he chooses «Maria» for her new name. In a series of further adventures, Don Correa saves her from the fanatical Jesuits, gives her a ring, kisses her again, and sends her to Rio de Janeiro in order to «have her acquainted with Christian morals and a good way of life». He is then appointed commander in Angola and rules the kingdom for several years. He returns to Rio with the plan to marry her and the fantasy of having a painting made for her in which «Zambo-Maria is being christened in the Queen of Sheba’s costumes and with two blackamoor kings holding the baptismal font». However, he finds that she has been kidnapped by the cunning Jesuits and taken to Portugal. After another series of adventures, he manages to find and to liberate her. Out of gratitude she embraces his feet, whereupon he lifts her to her feet again, gives her a new ring and marries her. Her wedding dress is made of «heavy white silk fabric», and Donna Maria Correa still considers herself her husband’s slave. He now becomes her teacher, as he gradually makes her «understand the freedom of her soul» and describes to her «the honour and right of a Christian wife». The real 17th century Don Correa (and apparently also Keller’s fictitious one) continued to commit himself and to fight for the colonial and slave-trading power of Portugal for all his life, both in Brazil and in Angola.
=> The Swiss chocolate industry started and thrived for a lengthy period of time on slavery-produced cocoa from the Americas and West Africa: In 1819, François-Louis Cailler (1796-1852) created the oldest still existing Swiss chocolate brand by converting a mill near Vevey. He had spent four years as a chocolate apprentice in Torino. In 1826, Philippe Suchard (1797-1884) set up a chocolate factory in Serrières, canton Neuchâtel. Charles-Amédée Kohler (1790-1874) opened a chocolate factory in Lausanne in 1830. His son taught Rudolf Lindt (1855-1909), a distant cousin, how to make chocolate. Jean (Johann Jakob) Tobler (1830–1905) from Lutzenberg in the Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden came from a branch of the same family as Johannes Tobler (1696–1765) from Rehetobel, who in 1736 had emigrated to the Carolinas to become a slave-owner himself. Jean Tobler founded the company that later was to invent the iconic Swiss chocolate «Toblerone». Giuseppe Maestrani learnt the trade of chocolate-making in Lombardy. His son Ludovico «Aquilino» Maestrani (1814–1880) from Aquila in the Blenio Valley (Canton of Ticino) learnt chocolate-making from his father in Lugano and sold chocolate in his shop in Via Nassa 1826-1829. After migratory years 1846–1852 in in Italy and Germany, he opened his first shop in Lucerne (Krongasse) in 1852, before moving to St.Gallen in 1859, where he had the luxurious «Marmorhaus» (House of Marble) built in the city centre. In 1859, Swiss chocolate factory Maestrani (St.Gallen, E Switzerland) still imported cocoa beans from Suriname, where slavery was abolished as late as 1863. But the Swiss chocolate industry of today ignores or deliberately hides its historical slavery-roots, which is in itself a kind of racism. A case in point is the «Home of Chocolate Museum» in Kilchberg (near Zurich), which exhibits 4000 years of chocolate history without mentioning the slaves a single time. Moreover, the cocoa and chocolate history is inextricably bound up with that of slavery-produced sugar.
=> Members of the cosmopolitan DeSaussure (or de Saussure) family from Geneva, many of whom settled in South Carolina, played important roles in the formation of an anti-black racism that spanned the centuries and the Atlantic. Henry William de Saussure became a lawyer, state legislator and jurist, who defended slave-owners› interests and warned of the «ultimate effects of a degrading, calumnating democracy.» He advocated the abolition of the slave trade (but not of slavery) because «…that leaven of barbarism which was heretofore continually infused into the mass…» would now be withheld, which could mean «…that the descendants, born and bred in the country, may gradually become a docile, and in some degree a civilised people.» In the Denmark Vesey trial, however, he was rather critical of the charges of conspiracy. Horace-Bénédict de Saussure’s grandson was Henri de Saussure (1829–1905), mineralogist and entomologist from Geneva, whose letters to his mother and various members of his family (Voyage aux Antilles et au Mexique, 1854-1856) reveal a deep-seated racism and European arrogance (see 1.7.3 Saint Domingue and 1.8 Jamaica). Henri de Saussure met the «scientific racist» Louis Agassiz in Cambridge, Mass., in 1856. In her Old Plantation Days. Being Recollections of Southern Life Before the Civil War (1909), Nancy Bostick De Saussure (1837–1915), a direct descendant of Henry William de Saussure, drew an idyllic picture of the ante-bellum south with a slave-holding family DeSaussure whom she believed to have have treated their slaves with kindness and who were loved by their «darkies» so much that even after emancipation that relationship did not change (when one Louis McPherson DeSaussure acquired Beaufort Plantation, it had a size of 700 acres and an enslaved workforce of 480). However, what the old lady really thought of those slaves is revealed in the following quotation:
«My father and mother inherited most of their negroes, and there was an attachment existing between master and mistress and their slaves which one who had never borne such a relation could never understand.
‹Uncle Tom’s Cabin› has set the standard in the North, and it seems useless for those who owned and loved the negroes to say there was any other method used in their management than that of strictest severity; but let me tell you that in one of my rare visits South to my own people, the old-time darkies, our former slaves, walked twenty miles to see «Miss Nancy» and her little daughter, and the latter, your dear mother, would often be surprised, when taken impulsively in their big black arms, and hugged and kissed and cried over «for ol› times› sake.»
When I would inquire into their welfare and present condition I heard but one refrain, «I’d never known what it was to suffer till freedom came, and we lost our master.» Yes, Dorothy dear, a lot of children unprepared to enjoy the Emancipation Proclamation were suddenly confronted with life’s problems.
I have beside me a letter from a friend, now in South Africa. She says in part: «I am sure you, too, would have thought much on the many problems presented by this black people. It is perfectly appalling when one thinks that they are really human beings! Human beings without any humanity, and not the slightest suggestion that there is any vital spark on which to begin work, for apparently they have no affection for anybody or anything, and it is an insult to a good dog to compare them to animals.»
Such, my dear child, is the African in his native country at the present day, the twentieth century, and such was the imported African before he was Christianized and humanized by the people of the South.»
=> Henri Léopold de Saussure (1866–1925), son of Henri de Saussure (1829–1905), was born in Creux de Genthod, outside Geneva. He became an officer in the French navy, serving in Indochina, Japan, China (on the gunboat «Aspie» cruising the Yangtze River), and taking part in the Dahomey campaign. He then turned to sinology and ancient Chinese astronomy. De Saussure was a «scientific» racist, who wrote of «unbridgeable divisions between the superior and lower races». Moreover, he was convinced of the superiority of the Indo-European («Aryan») languages over the Semitic ones, including Arabic. He was inspired by the elitist and racist writings of Gustave Le Bon, and influenced by the racism of Joseph Arthur de Gobineau (Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races). Under the Vichy regime, he was praised for his racial supremacism.
=> Auguste Forel (1848–1931) was a Swiss neuroanatomist, psychiatrist and eugenicist. While he held progressive views on women’s emancipation, sexuality, nationalism, militarism and social reform, he must be considered an important proponent of eugenics and racism. His trip through the Caribbean in 1878 on the private yacht of a French aristocrat betrays a deep-seated contempt for non-European cultures and societies. On his voyage from Jamaica to Barbados and on to St. Lucia, he stated that he could no longer stand «the stench of the negroes». He commented on Jamaica: «Order on the island is exemplary, at least externally. But inside, the Negroes are hardly any better than anywhere else.» On Martinique, he visited the «cruel negro king of Dahomey» and described him as «the fat and somewhat daft looking king». In Holland, in 1910, he gave a lecture on «Malthusianism or eugenics», in which he had this to say:
«I would add that pious missionaries, Englishmen and North Americans, have for a long time plagued themselves in vain, and for other (religious) reasons, with making similar experiments with Negroes. I say in vain, because no education has ever succeeded in making a cultural race out of the Negroes. Enough time, effort and money have been wasted on them.»
In 1911, Forel commented on the dangers of mixing with «creatures of inferior mental capacities», such as certain people in Ceylon or the Congo Basin:
«These are not a danger for our race as they are doomed anyway. Considerably more danger is posed by particular races, above all the negroes, who are physically strong and robust, extraordinarily fertile, but mentally inferior, who have learned to adapt to our culture extremely well. When they have adapted to our culture, they corrupt it and our race through sloth, lack of ability and by creating such awful, mixed races as the Mulates. By carefully observing the situation in the southern states of the USA, it is easy to be convinced how negatively the negro element, as it increases, affects our culture.»
In 1912, he thus clarified his position: «Of course, one should not misunderstand me. In no way do I doubt true racial differences, according to natural science, nor do I agree with mixing in inferior races such as negroes.» In his posthumously published «Rückblick auf mein Leben» (My Life in Retrospect), he wrote:
«Finally, the question of the human race itself. Which race is useful for the continuation of mankind and which is not? And if these lowest races are useless, how we should gradually eliminate them.»
=> In 1863, the Swiss federal government was asked in a private member’s bill by MP Wilhelm Joos from Schaffhausen to take legal action against those compatriots in Brazil who bought and sold and owned slaves. The Swiss House of Representatives («Nationalrat») with 64:4 voted against the move. In 1864, Wilhelm Joos again submitted an application asking for the federal government to write a report on the question of slave ownership by Swiss citizens in Brazil. In 1864, the report by Swiss scholar Johann Jakob von Tschudi (1818-1889) was submitted to the House by the federal government. It held that it was neither unreasonable nor illegal nor immoral for Swiss citizens to hold slaves. It was rather beneficial and expedient. A Swiss consul, said the Swiss government, could not be expected to stand in the kitchen and do housework himself. That thought was unbearable, and so it was perfectly acceptable to own slaves. The federal government of today excused their predecessors of 1863 by saying «their reaction had been marked by the predominant norms of the 1860s».
=> In 1860, Adolf Guyer (1839-1899) from Neuthal (Canton of Zurich) travelled to the USA to see where the raw material processed in his father’s cotton mill came from. In his travel diary, he argued that the slaves› living conditions were not so bad after all, that slave revolts like the ones in Cuba aimed at eradicating the white man from the face of the earth, that primitive African slaves became civilized on the American plantations, that slavery was a necessary evil, that the great nations of antiquity (the Greeks and the Romans) had already practiced slavery and that, if God had not wanted slavery to exist, HE would have abolished it long ago. The man who held that some were born to rule and some to serve later became a cotton entrepreneur, the founder of a HSBC predecessor bank, a railway tycoon, and a politician.
=> Jacob Burckhardt (1818–1897) from Basel was a world-famous Swiss historian of art and culture and an influential figure in historiography. In his university lectures Reflections on History (1868-1871), later published as a book, he took anti-semitic, anti-democratic and racist positions. He differentiated between higher races and «lesser races», «negro peoples», «savages» and «semi-savages». On the latter, he wrote, «For such peoples are from the outset a prey to everlasting fear; their religions do not even give us a standard for the first signs of the birth of the spirit, because among them the spirit is destined never to come to spontaneous birth.» Later he raised the questions (without answering them), «How far are inferior peoples held in their uncivilized condition by their religions of fear? Or do those religions subsist because the race is uncivilizable?» Of Abessynians, he thought very little and claimed, «The Christianity of Abyssinia and other totally degenerate or mentally inferior peoples…»
=> In the context of Jean-David Ramel (1757-1819) from Château-d’Oex in the Canton of Berne/Vaud (W Switzerland), who owned a plantation in Saint-Domingue, local historian R. Campiche wrote in a historical review in 1948 that after the Haitian revolution, the estates of Saint-Domingue fell into ruin, because «the Black, who strives to destroy, does not care to rebuild».
=> In his Geography Textbook for Higher Education of 1876, Johann Jakob Egli, Professor for Geography at Zurich University, wrote: «The intellectual capacities of the negro seem to be inferior to those of other races, and since they have always been considered inferior beings, even the oldest history finds negroes in slavery.»
=> In 1899, Dr. Albert Maag, state grammar school teacher for History and Classical Language in Biel, published «Geschichte der Schweizertruppen in französischen Diensten während der Restauration und Julirevolution (1816—1830)». On pp. 126 ff., he argued that Swiss mercenaries had had a much harder fate than the slaves in the Americas. Whereas the latter were only forced to work, free from danger, and were cared for and fed by their masters at old age, the poor mercenary, after a life full of dangers, was refused financial assistance by the Swiss cantons on his return from foreign service and saw no alternative but suicide.
=> In 1895, two years after the death of her husband, who was from the Rosenberger family from Bilten in the Canton of Glarus, Mollie Ragan Macgill Rosenberg (1839–1917) from a family devoted to the Confederacy used her wealth to establish the Galveston Veuve Jefferson Davis chapter of the «United Daughters of the Confederacy», whose president she remained until her death. That organisation has been accused by many of «advocacy for white supremacy». In 1911, during the height of the Jim Crow era with its new legislation against free Blacks, its violence, and its voter intimidation, the statue «Dignified Resignation» was erected at Mollie Rosenberg’s behest, who thus expressed her devotion to the «Lost Cause» of the slaveholding South. From the «Galveston Monument Project» website: «In light of current public discourse over race, racism, black history, and the growing awareness of the presence of confederate statues within our landscapes, the Rosenberg family name is at stake, as is the reputation and perception of Galveston itself.»
=> When in the Upper Valais region the Simplon Tunnel Project was launched (construction periods 1898–1906 and 1912–21), a new neighbourhood consisting of rather simple barracks was built for the numerous Italian tunnel workers in Naters around 1899. This was soon nicknamed «Negro Village» (today: Quartier Feld), allegedly because of the darker skin of the migrant workers resident there. But the following source reveals other undertones. In a letter dated 16th January, 1900, the local priest, Ignaz Amherd, wrote to the Bishop of Sion, Adrien Jardinier: «These Italians are a poor people, most of them have no education, no religion, no sense of shame, they live like indigenous people («Naturmenschen»). Theft, fraud, murder, immorality, blasphemy is innate to them – with only a few exceptions. Only few of them ever go to church on Sundays, especially the women folk are missing there.»
=> Henry Hotze (1833–1887) from Rümlang in the Canton of Zurich was the son of Rudolph Hotze (1802–1849), captain in the French Royal Service. Henry emigrated to Alabama around 1850, where he was naturalised in 1856. He was trained as a journalist and translated racist tracts from French into English in support of slavery. One of his mentors was the physician, scientist, and author Josiah C. Nott, a collaborator of the Swiss-American racist Louis Agassiz. It was Nott who enlisted Henry Hotze to translate Arthur de Gobineau’s«Essai sur L’inégalité des Races Humaines»into English. Hotze added his own introduction of more than 100 pages to the book, which is considered today to be one of the earliest and most influential examples of scientific racialism. Hotze joined the 3rd Alabama Infantry Regiment and was transferred to the office of the adjutant general in Richmond, Virginia, in 1861. He was then sent by the War Minstry of the South to Europe, where in 1863, he became a paid commercial agent and unofficial propagandist for the Confederate States in London. He edited the propagandist newspaper «The Index» from 1863–1865. He died in Zug, Switzerland. His writings promoting a scientific hierarchy of race-based intelligence were used by white supremacists as a justification for slavery. He is seen by many as perhaps the South’s most effective propagandist abroad.
=> Edmund von Schumacher (1859–1908) came from an old patrician Lucerne family. He was born in Naples because his father was General of Naples-Sicily at the service of the House of Bourbon. His grandfather had been an officer in the Swiss Guards of Louis XVI. Edmund von Schumacher became a member of the Swiss Federal Parliament (the state chamber), and in 1904/5 studied the human rights situation in the Congo Free State of King Leopold II. However important the report by the «International Commission of Investigation» (1905), which he co-authored, was for the disclosure of a criminal and brutal regime responsible for the death of millions of Congolese, it is also a testimony to Schumacher’s deep-rooted racist and white supremacist views. It aimed at excusing colonial violence and reiterated myths which have always made up the colonial ideology. It praised Leopold II for having introduced into this «dark and mysterious continent the benefits of civilisation» and for organising a state in that immense territory where «security now reigned». Africa was, in the eyes of Edmond Janssens, Giacomo Nisco and Edmond de Schumacher (who was the brother of the Belgian honorary consul in Lucerne), a continent that had suffered from excesses of slavery, human sacrifices, despotic «chiefs» and the horrors of cannibalism. The report refrained from condemning all forms of colonial violence, because corporal punishment was – in the eyes of «any one familiar with colonial affairs» – necessary for «barbarous peoples». The credibility of the «entire class of witnesses, the blacks» was called into question by arguing that «the black of the Congo has not the same notion of truth that we have». Moreover, the inhabitants of the Congo Free State were generally qualified as «naturally indolent» and as follows, «It is well understood that we have to take into account the precocity of the native and the fact that his intelligence reaches its apex at the age of thirteen of fourteen.»
=> Charles Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin (1863–1937) was a French educator and historian, who came from an aristocratic family. He is known as the father of the modern Olympic Games and the founder of the International Olympic Committee. In 1922, Coubertin had left Paris permanently to move to Lausanne with his wife, daughter and son. He died in Geneva, where he had moved in 1934, and Lausanne made him an honorary citizen in 1937. The «Olympic Capital» still commemorates him with a stadium (Stade Pierre-de-Coubertin), a statue (IOC headquarters), a bust (near Casino de Montbenon), a plaque (Villa Mon Repos), a «homage to the French genius of sport» (website of the International Olympic Committee) and with his tomb (Bois-de-Vaux cemetery). All this in spite of Coubertin’s visceral racism. He had absorbed the racial theories of Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau, as this Coubertin quote exemplifies: «The races are of different value and all others should pledge allegiance to the white race, which is of a superior essence.» In 1890, he wrote of French colonialists: «With what moving gaze do you not follow the audacious men who travel the black continent and valiantly spill their blood to plant our three colours once again on a native hut»? Coubertin criticised the 1904 St. Louis games, not because of their performative competitions during the «Anthropology Days» (which exploited «primitives» from around the world to support racial stratification), but because he was afraid that «black men, red man and yellow men learn to run, jump, and throw and leave the white man far behind them». In 1908, he saw the role of Olympic sport in «bringing to perfection the strong and hopeful youth of our white race, thus again helping towards the perfection of all human society.» Africa for him was a continent «behind the times» and with «peoples still without elementary culture» but with «individual laziness». He nobly conceded to Africans «an innocent gentleness that is not without its charm», but also «sudden outbursts of ancestral violence». Coubertin rightly spoke of himself as a «fanatical colonialist» and deplored that «the theory of equal rights for all human races leads to a political line contrary to any colonial progress.» In his Ode to Sport written for the fifth Olympics in Stockholm in 1912, he thus eulogised sport: «You strive directly and nobly towards perfection of the race, destroying unhealthy seed and correcting the flaws which threaten its essential purity.» That he contacted the German Olympic Committee after Hitler’s rise to power with Olympic Games in Berlin in mind was only consistent. In exchange for these services, Hitler tried to put Coubertin forward as a candidate for the Nobel Peace. Ironically, Jessie Owens‹ triumph in Berlin made the worst of Coubertin’s 1904 nightmares come true.
=> The racial theories of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) are being debated between Anthroposophists and outside critics. Steiner’s defenders argue that his voluminous published works do not contain any racist elements or that his racist thoughts belong to an earlier period of his life. According to Steiner, the «lower races» or cultures were in need of being educated, which at least can be termed a paternalistic form of racism. Steiner’s Anthroposophy was no doubt built around a racial view of human nature arranged in a hierarchical framework. He held that a succession of five «root races» had arisen in the distant past: Polarians, Hyperboreans, Lemurians, Atlanteans, and Aryans. The Aryan root race had emerged, according to Steiner, on the lost continent of Atlantis, and the Atlantean root race had been preceded by a still older root race that had inhabited the lost continent of Lemuria; contemporary non-white and indigenous communities were the degenerate remnants of these earlier races. The following quotes by Steiner are indications of a specific anti-Black or colonial racism:
«To what extent are uncivilized peoples capable of becoming civilized? How can a Negro or an utterly barbaric savage become civilized? And in what way ought we to deal with them?» (The Occult Significance of Blood, 1906)
«The black or Negro race is substantially determined by these childhood characteristics. If we now cross over to Asia, we find a point or centre where the formative forces of the Earth impress permanently on man the particular characteristics of later youth or adolescence and determine his racial character. Such races are the yellow and brown races of our time. If we continue northward and then turn in a westerly direction towards Europe, a third point or centre is reached which permanently impresses upon man the characteristics of his adult life». (The Mission of the Individual Folk-Souls, 1910)
«Everything that gives the Ethiopian race its particular characteristics arises because the Mercury forces boil and simmer in the glandular system of the people concerned». (The Mission of the Individual Folk-Souls, 1910)
«As a result, everything in Negroes connected with the body and the metabolism is actively developed. They have, as people say, a strong drive, instincts. Negroes, then, have a strong instinctual life. And since essentially, they have the sun element, light and heat, on the surface of their bodies in the skin, there is a completely different metabolism as if the sun itself were cooking inside them. That is where their instinctual life originates. It is constantly cooking inside Negroes…» (Lectures to workmen at the Goetheanum, 1923)
«The Negro race does not belong in Europe and it is of course nonsense that it now plays such a large role in Europe». (Lectures to workmen at the Goetheanum, 1923)
«The white race is the race of the future, working on the spirit». (Lectures to workmen at the Goetheanum, 1923)«If the blue-eyed and blond-haired people were to die out, people would become increasingly stupid unless they developed a kind of cleverness which is independent of blondness. It is the blond hair which actually leads to cleverness». (Lectures to workmen at the Goetheanum, 1923)
=> Carl Gustav Jung (1875–1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, who founded analytical psychology. He was interested in non-European cultures and travelled to North and Central Africa, as well as to South America and India, to study collective experience and what he referred to as «primitive» cultures. Like many European intellectuals of his age, he was influenced by the thinking of twentieth century anthropologists who distinguished between so-called «primitive» and «civilised» mentality. Critics have argued that his theories became racist when he equated primitive states of mind (unconscious process) with so called «primitive» people. Moreover, he has been accused by many to have fostered anti-Semitism and to have held National Socialist sympathies, because when Hitler took power in 1933, he praised him as the «true leader» (der wahre Führer), as an embodiment of the «Germanic spirit» (germanischer Geist), and an «incarnation of the people’s soul and their mouthpiece» (Inkarnation der Volksseele und ihr Sprachrohr). Jungians have defended him, arguing that he was a man of his time and that his positions changed over the years. The following quotes are meant to illustrate Jung’s anti-black or colonial racism:
«The psychological peculiarities of the Americans exhibit features that would be accessible to psychoanalysis, since they point to intense sexual repression. The reasons for repression are to be sought in the specifically American complex, namely living together with the lower races, more particularly the negroes. Living together with the barbarous races has a suggestive effect on the laboriously subjugated instincts of the white race and drags it down. Hence strongly developed defensive measures are necessary, which manifest themselves in the particular aspects of American culture.» (Summary of a 1910 Jung lecture,Collected Works, Vol. 18)
«Even today, the European, however highly developed, cannot live with impunity among the negroes of Africa; their psychology goes into him unnoticed and unconsciously he becomes a negro. There is no fighting against it. In Africa there is a well-known technical expression for this: ‘going black’. It is no mere snobbery that the English should consider anyone born in the colonies, even though the best blood may run in his veins, ‘slightly inferior’. There are facts to support this view.» (Collected Works, Vol. 10, p. 121)
«An incident in the life of a bushman may illustrate what I mean. A bushman had a little son whom he loved with the tender monkey-love characteristic of primitives. Psychologically, this love is completely auto erotic – that is to say the subject loves himself in the object. The object serves as a sort of erotic mirror. One day the bushman came home in a rage; he had been fishing as usual, and caught nothing. As usual the little fellow came running to meet him, but his father seized hold of him and wrung his neck on the spot. Afterwards, of course, he mourned for the dead child with the same unthinking abandon that had brought about his death.» (Collected Works, Vol. 6, p. 239)
«For though a child is not born conscious, his mind is not a tabula rasa. The child is born with a definite brain, and the brain of an English child will not work like that of the Australian black fellow but in the way of the modern English person. The brain is born with a finished structure, it will work in the modern way, but this brain has its history.» (Collected Works, Vol. 18, p. 41)
«When you observe primitives, for instance, you will see that on the slightest provocation or on no provocation whatever they doze off, they disappear. They sit for hours on end, and when you ask them ‘What are you doing? What are you thinking?’ they are offended because they say: ‘Only a man that is crazy thinks he has thoughts in his head. We do not think.’ If they think at all, it is rather in the belly or in the heart.» (Collected Works, Vol. 18, p. 10)
«The expression of religious feeling, the revival meetings, the Holy Rollers, and other abnormalities are strongly influenced by the Negro, and the famous American naivete, in its charming as well as its more unpleasant form, invites comparison with the childlikeness of the Negro.» (Collected Works. Vol. 10, p. 45)
=> The «Julius-Klaus-Foundation for Genetic Research, Social Anthropology and Racial Hygiene» (Julius-Klaus-Stiftung) was founded in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1921 with support from the Canton of Zurich and Zurich University. Article 13 of the foundation’s charter stated the purpose as «all efforts based on scientific principles ultimately aiming at the preparation and implementation of practical reforms to improve the white race». This article was deleted as late as 1971. Members of the foundation and scholars in its wake were linked to racialised research by European colonial powers (Rudolf Martin, dubitable pioneer of anthropometric measurement techniques and instrument, in British Malaysia, Eugène Pittard in the Balkans, Otto Schlaginhaufen in German New Guinea). Moreover, they were in close contact with internationally active problematic or racist figures such as Charles Davenport, Paul Broca, Ernst Haeckel, Eugen Fischer, Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, August Forel, Otto Reche, Erwin Baur, Fritz Lenz, Ernst Rüdin, and Alfred Ernst. The latter was rector of Zurich University 1928–1930 and in 1905/1906 carried out anthropological research in the Dutch colonial territories in Southeast Asia (Malayan Archipelago, Ceylon, Singapore, Java, Sumatra), where he profited from the imperial infrastructure. His second research expedition of 1930–1933 took him to India, Indochina, Java, and Bali. In 1916, Otto Schlaginhaufen, who was president of the «Julius-Klaus-Foundation» 1922–1968, identified the presence of African and Asian colonial soldiers in Europe in the context of WWI as a major danger for racial purity. On the other hand, Schlaginhaufen had profited from German military escorts during his 1907/1909 field trip to German New Guinea, where he carried out anthropometric research on indigenous inhabitants. According to him, every racial hygienist drew a line, «…which the tendencies towards racial mixing should not cross: the boundaries of the white race». All of the above was published in Pascal Germann’s 2015 dissertation «Laboratorien der Vererbung» (Wallstein). In January 2018, a complaint was filed with the Zurich university administration against Dr. Pascal Germann on suspicion of unfairness in science. Descendants of Alfred Ernst’s basically accused Dr. Germann of having made false statements in his dissertation: of falsifying, omitting or arbitrarily interpreting data and repeatedly describing researchers of the 20th century as cooperators with research institutes of the Third Reich, as racists, profiteers from colonial power asymmetries and the like. Dr. Mitchell Ash of the University of Vienna independently investigated the allegations and determined in his expert opinion of 18 March 2019 that there was no evidence whatsoever of scientifically unfair conduct by Dr. Germann and that the allegations were a mixture of distortions, insinuations and factual errors.
=> In 2019, Peter Buser, 82-year-old Swiss banker, author, businessman and sponsor of ice-hockey and classical music events, said in a televised interview of his girl-friend from the Dominican Republic: «She has to be in a subservient position, because I am the master (…). She used to be a slave and now she is a subservient woman. (…) 200 years ago they were all slaves in Santo Domingo…».
4.2 Marine Navigation
Naval expeditions, the triangular trade and maritime commerce in the colonial era set the need for better navigation tools (instruments like the astrolabe, the sextant and precision timepieces). This led to a fierce competition between colonial powers and likewise between scientists including astronomers, mathematicians and finally watchmakers. The following Swiss played a role in this:
=> Ferdinand Berthoud (1727-1807) was a watchmaker and a scientist from Plancemont (Canton of Neuchâtel), whose main credit was the development of a robust marine chronometer for measuring longitude on the high seas. In 1745, he moved to Paris, and in 1753 was made a «Master Watchmaker» by the French king. In 1764, he became an «associate foreign member» of the Royal Society in London. In 1768, the two sea clocks built by Berthoud and financed by the King were tested on the corvette Isis during a voyage from Rochefort to Saint-Domingue and back.In 1770, Berthoud received the title of «Horloger Mécanicien du Roi et de la Marine» and was commissioned by the king of France to produce twenty marine chronometers.
=> Pierre-Louis Berthoud (1754-1813) from Plancemont (Canton of Neuchâtel) together with his uncle Ferdinand manufactured and repaired the sea clocks supplied to the French and Spanish navies.
=> Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823) from Neuchâtel was apprenticed in watchmaking in Neuchâtel and Versailles. In 1775, he set up his watchmaking company in Paris, where he soon became famous for his innovations. In 1814, Breguet became a member of the «Bureau des Longitudes», and in 1815 was appointed as chronometer-maker to the French navy.
=> A number of scientists from Basel (N Switzerland) made important contributions to naval architecture: Johann Bernoulli (1667-1748) and his brother Jacob Bernoulli (1655-1705) worked on the mathematics of ship sails; Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) made a study into ship stability (the best way to place the masts on a ship); Daniel Bernoulli (1700-1782) researched the best shape for a ship’s anchor and created the principle in fluid dynamics named after him and relevant for the movement of ships in open bodies of water.
=> Jost Bürgi (1552-1632) from Lichtensteig in the Canton of St.Gallen (E Switzerland) was a watchmaker, inventor, mathematician and astronomer. By 1586, he was able to calculate sines at arbitrary precision, using several algorithms to calculate tables which were important for navigation at sea. In 1585, he built the first metal sextant.
4.3 African and European Logistics
The Swiss have made a number of contributions to the logistics of slavery in Europe and Africa itself, which are either not in the context of transatlantic slavery or which cannot be assigned to an individual region in the Americas but whose «front end profiteers» might well have been in the Caribbean. Among these is also marine insurance.
=> In the 9th century, Walenstadt in the Canton of St.Gallen and around the year 1000 Bellinzona in the Ticino hosted slave-markets. In 1605, transporting slaves through the Swiss Engadine region was declared forbidden. In the latter case, these might have been enslaved Muslims from the Mediterranean or the Balkans en route for France or Spain.
=> In 1652, Isaac Miville (from Basel or Fribourg) laid the corner-stone for the Swedish slave-castle Cabo Corso (today Cape Coast Castle in Ghana).
=> David de Pury (1709–1786) from Neuchâtel, son of Jean-Pierre de Pury (founder of Purysburg, USA, and slave-owner), was active in the slave trade from London in the 1730s. In 1736, he established himself as a merchant in Lisbon and gained a fortune through a monopoly in the Pernambuco Brazil-wood trade, through financial services and the diamond trade. In 1762, he became the banker of the King of Portugal. He was a shareholder in the «Companhia de Comércio de Pernambuco e Paraíba», established in 1759 and trading slaves from Angola to Brazil.
=> Barthès de Marmorières (1763–1811) from the city of St.Gallen, was colonel of a Swiss regiment and «maréchal général des logis» of the Swiss Guards in Versailles. In 1779, he asked to be put in charge of a company of troops in the colonies in the rank of captain.
=> Jan Willem (Baron von) Hogguer (1755-1838) from a St.Gallen family (Högger) who had owned a plantations in Suriname (see under Suriname and Guyana), was the Dutch Ambassador to the Portuguese court in Lisbon from 1783–1790. In this function he had to deal with such affairs as the conflict between France and Portugal over the slave-trade stronghold Fort Cabinda in Angola (1783/84), a ship of the Westindian Company that had stopped a Portuguese ship near Cape Caïre (1785), and the fact that «France had engaged in an exclusive slave trade on the Gold Coast» for six years (1786).
=> During most of the 18th century, the French town of Lyon served as a hub for commercial relations between Switzerland and both Spanish America and the French West Indies (mainly Martinique and Saint Domingue): export of textile products, import of indigo, other natural dyes, and coffee. Swiss merchants (among theme 15 from Berne, 11 from St.Gallen and 10 from Neuchâtel) were organised in the so-called «nation suisse». The following merchant families from St.Gallen were represented in Lyon: Zollikofer (Sollicoffre), Scherer, Schlumpf (Sellonf), Fitler, Locher, Högger (Hogguer), Schobinger, Hochreutener (Horutener), Kunz (Cuentz), Wegelin, Kunkler (Councler), Studer, Scheitlin (Scheidlin), and Fingerlin (Finguerlin). From outside St.Gallen and unhampered by the city’s guild regulations came the families of the Zellweger (Zellweguer) from Trogen AR and the Gonzenbach (Gonzebat) family from Hauptwil. Scheitlin and Fingerlin traded textiles with Cap Français (Saint-Domingue), and in 1750, Councler et Cie. made a deal with a trading house at Cap Français. 1717-1724, Jean Henri Gonzebat, partner in the merchant company «Specht et Gonzebat», traded in textiles (mainly silkwares and cloth) and bullion (piastres) towards the Americas. Their European trading space comprised Paris and Geneva and such port (and triangular trade) cities as Marseilles, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Nantes, Saint-Malo and Rouen. Jacques Christophe Gonzebat (1734-1777) from the same St.Gallen family became a merchant in Pondichéry (French/British India), where he died at the age of 43. The brothers David and Sébastien Cuentz from St.Gallen started as a textile trading company in 1700. Around 1715, they went into banking, and their financial activities extended from Switzerland to southern Germany, northern Italy, southern France, Spain, and Holland, comprising such cities as Amsterdam, Marseilles, Paris, Saint-Malo, Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Seville.
=> When the ship «La Galathée» was prepared in La Rochelle in 1735 for her slave-trading triangular voyage, the ship’s equipment was insured for 20,000 pounds, the cargo (to and from the colonies) for 32,000 pounds. The insurance sum was divided up between 19 individuals or companies with a sum each of between 500–3000 pounds. Among them were the Sollicoffre, a family of merchants from the City of St.Gallen established in Lyon and Marseille. The ship departed in 1738 and carried on board textiles, distilled beverages, gun powder, rifles, cowry shells, and iron bars. The places of slave purchases were the Windward Coast, Cape Mount and Cess (today’s Liberia), and the Ivory Coast. Only 19 slaves (males: «nègres», females «négresses», boys: «négrillons», girls: «négrites») were traded. A slave insurrection off Cap La Houe ended by the ship being blown up, with most of the slaves killed and some of the sailors drowned.
=> François Adolphe Pierre Cottier (1780–1843) from a family established in Rougemont (Canton of Berne/Vaud) and with relationships to other globalised families like the Schérer (St.Gallen) and the Marcuard (Berne) had his formative years in Lyon. He became a merchant, a banker, and one of the administrators of the Banque de France. In 1816, he helped to create the «Compagnie royale d’assurances maritimes». In 1823 and 1825 he communicated his interest in financing the young Haitian Republic, but his suggestions were not considered.
=> For their imperial expansion towards the east (Southeast Asia, Japan, Vietnam, India, Ceylon, and Persia) and towards the west (Africa, North America, the Caribbean, Guyana und Brazil), the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands – contrary to populous nations like France or Britain – was badly in need of foreign manpower: sailors, soldiers and members of the civil professions. The Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) was founded in 1602, the West-Indische Compagnie (WIC) in 1621, and the Middelburgse Commerzielle Compagnie (MCC) in 1720. The Swiss served in all of them: 2000 were at the service of the VOC from 1670-1794, 300 of which managed to rise into the status of civilian employees. The largest contingent came from Berne (800), 310 were from Geneva, Zurich and Basel contributed 230 each, and 60 came from Schaffhausen. 180 Swiss served in the WIC, which from its beginnings made huge profits from plantation slavery, the sugar and the gold trade. The MCC, which organised 113 triangular slaving expeditions, had 35 Swiss on their payrolls from 1720–1807.
=> Towards the end of the 18th century, when Transatlantic slavery and the plantation system was in full swing, there were – according to the French legal historian Guy Antonetti – six important European business centres («the big business hexagon»): London, Amsterdam, Geneva, Lyons, Bordeaux, and Nantes. In all these places, Swiss bankers and merchants played important roles.
=> During the time of «prohibition», France’s ban on the manufacture and import of indiennes textiles (1686-1759), the Swiss indiennes industry flourished. French Protestants (Huguenots) who had fled religious persecution emigrated to Switzerland and established companies near the border. Enormous wealth was brought to producers in Geneva and Neuchâtel, from where the industry spread to Berne/Aargau, Zurich, Basel, Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Glarus. Johann Rudolf Wetter (1705–ca. 1767) from Herisau in the Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden established a large indiennes manufactory in Marseilles, which in the middle of the 18th century employed 700 specialised workers. After his business failed in 1755, he launched a new enterprise in Orange, where 500 workers produced some 17,000 cloth panels in 1762. In 1785, the Fabrique-Neuve factory in Cortaillod NE became the largest producer of indiennes in Europe with an annual production of 160,000 cloth panels. In 1830, there were in Geneva, Neuchâtel and Bienne about 21 indiennes manufactories employing nearly 3000 workers. A considerable proportion of the Swiss indiennes production went into the slave trade, where indiennes panels were considered «l’argent de la traite» (the currency of the the slave trade) by historians of slavery. For example, Swiss fabrics made up 75% of the value of goods in a ship called «Necker». The «Necker» launched its voyage in Nantes in 1789, sailed to West Central Africa and St.Helena and disembarked 403 slaves in Port-au-Prince (out of 443 embarked in Africa). Moreover, indiennes manufactories with their unification of specialised workers (designers, engravers, printers, colourists, assistants, managers, etc.) under one roof were the pioneering enterprises for the industrialisation of Switzerland.
=> The «Livre des Habitants» records for Geneva in the period 1684–1792 a total of 73 immigrants working in the indiennes textile industry: manufacturers of indiennes (3), producers of indiennes textiles (4), engravers of wooden forms for indiennes textiles (6), engravers for indiennes textiles (2), printers of indiennes textiles (4), «indienneurs» (39), indiennes textile workers (14), manufacturer of indiennes textiles (1).
=> David-Henri Gallandat (1732–1782) from Yvonand in the Canton of Berne/Vaud became a marine surgeon on a French commercial vessel and made several voyages to the Guinea Coast and to Surinam in the service of the Dutch. He became the founder of the «Zeeland Scientific Society», and in 1769, he wrote «Noodige onderrichtingen voor de slavenhandelaaren» (Necessary Instructions for the Slave-Traders), which he sent to the municipality of Middelburg, because they were in charge of the slave-trading Middelburgse Commerzielle Compagnie (MCC). Gallandat argued that the slave trade was justified for two reasons: It was founded in the Bible, and it was very profitable. In his study, he made a number of recommendations to captains of slave ships: Firstly, they should buy only healthy young men, secondly the captives should be put in charge of the marine surgeon on board, who would then take the utmost care of them. Proper ventilation systems should be installed in order to provide airing, and slaves should be allowed to dance and sing during their regular stays on deck. Furthermore, cats should be taken on board to control mice and rats, and lastly, the ship’s surgeon should be provided with the best works of medicine and the necessary tools for operations, and he should inform himself both on the local climate and the peculiarities of the indigenous people.
=> Théodore Tronchin (1709–1781) from a Geneva Huguenot family made his career as a medical doctor and researcher, which led him to Leiden, Amsterdam, back to Geneva and then to Paris. His father Jean-Robert Tronchin (1670-1761) had been one of the richest bankers of Lyon and Geneva and was ruined when John Law’s speculation scheme («Mississippi Bubble») collapsed. His son Théodore became a pioneer and major proponent of inoculation for smallpox, and in 1748 inoculated his own son in Amsterdam. However, the first mass medical experiments had already been made in Saint-Domingue («Plaine de Cap») from 1745 onwards. Until the 1760s, inoculation had still not spread beyond Saint-Domingue, but became more popular when Simeon Worlock from Britain inoculated thousands of slaves at the recommendation of the French Minister of the Marine. Thus, the French colony of Saint-Domingue was an ideal experimentation ground for what was later to become common practice in Europe.
=> In Sent (Lower Engadine Valley, Canton of Graubünden) can be found the palace of the brothers Andrea Corradini (1799–1884)and Jon Corradini (built as a holiday residence in 1829). They had emigrated to Livorno (an Italian free port), where they founded a company trading in colonial goods, and where one Chasper J. Curdin founded a bank in 1808. Later, «Fratelli Corradini» had branches in Florence and other Italian cities. Corradini was called the «King of Livorno» because of his lavish lifestyle. It was said that throughout Tuscany, you could not consume coffee, sugar, pepper, rum, or cognac that did not come from the Corradini warehouses. Corradini also founded a sugar refinery in Ancona. Losses through speculation in sugar caused the company, which dominated the colonial goods trade of almost all of central Italy, to go bankrupt in 1891. One Corradini familiy member committed suicide, a Corradini son disappeared. Sugar was a slavery product until well into the 19th century (abolition of slavery in Cuba in 1883). Around 1900 there was a Corradini metal foundry in Livorno with 500 workers.
=> Benjamin Burlamacchi (1643–1697) from a Geneva family operated a thriving international trading company from Amsterdam. Burlamacchi’s firm traded in a wide variety of goods and enjoyed far-flung commercial links throughout Europe, the Baltic, Russia, India, and Dutch colonies in the East Indies and the Antilles. He died in Bengal. His daughter Adriana Wilhelmina Burlamachi (1684–1760) was a direct descendent in the female line of the Calandrini & Diodati families: powerful Geneva-based Protestant Italian banking & East Indian trading families from Lucca with trading houses in England, Netherlands, France, Germany & Switzerland. She became famous for her Marcus Lodovicus Antonius Clifford portrait with a black child, married Johan Cornelis d’Ablaing (1663-1721) at the age of sixteen. He left for the Dutch East Indies at a young age. During their marriage he was the regent of a children’s home in Haarlem, acting governor of the Cape of Good Hope, and counsel to the Dutch East Indies in Batavia where he died in 1721.
=> Johann Viktor Travers von Ortenstein (1721–1776), of a noble family from Tumegl/Domleschg, entered his father’s regiment in Valenciennes. After a military career in the Swiss Guards, he became brigadier-general (1747), marshal (1759) and lieutenant-general (1762), and was ennobled by Louis XVI («comte», 1775). In 1775/1776, he offered to raise a Swiss regiment for the colonies. He acquired the episcopal castle and estate of «Horn» near Constance (Germany), but spent his final years in Paris.
St.Gallen (Switzerland), 3rd July, 2023
To be updated at irregular intervals.