Slave Trade The slave trade was an integral part of the mercantilist economic structure that operated among the colonies in North Country. Vietnam Map The early settlers initially attempted to enslave native peoples, a venture that proved unsuccessful. The introduction of African slavery provided a necessary labor source. Until the late seventeenth century, slavery accounted for a relatively small portion of colonial laborers, as the indentured servitude of both whites and blacks was more common. By the dawn of the eighteenth century, however, slavery had become the dominant system, and the traffic in slaves was growing to match the demand. Origins of the Slave Trade African slaves first became commodities in international trade through Portuguese exploration. In 1441, Portuguese traders brought back to their country ten African natives; the captives, a gift for Prince Henry, had been abducted as curiosities rather than for sale.
Just three years later, however, Portuguese traders returned with a cargo of 235 Africans as slaves. These captives were distributed among the regent of Portugal and the church. The growth of sugar plantations in Portuguese colonies such as Brazil spurred a demand for cheap labor that was met by African slaves, and the Portuguese continued to control the slave trade through the sixteenth century. A series of papal bulls gave Portugal exclusive rights in Africa, thereby sanctioning the enslavement of its native peoples. In 1518, Portugal’s King Charles V granted the governor of Bresa a monopoly on the annual shipment of 4,000 African slaves to the West Indies, evidence of how quickly the slave trade had grown.