The picture I have endeavoured to delineate may serve to convey an idea to the mind of the moral and physical state of Africa, which, undisturbed by ferocious barbarism, fierce hostilities, and horrid customs, convey a blissful and happy state of being; but, alas! we must now take another view, and contemplate these beings in the most degrading state, absorbed in superstitious idolatry, inhuman customs, and shut out from the civil arts of life, and the mild principles of Christianity. Their customs, their hostilities, slavery, and the mode I have conceived requisite to infranchise this unhappy race of men, I shall attempt to represent in the following chapter; and happy shall I feel if the description excites the attention and interference of more capacious minds on this subject, interesting to so large a portion of the human race, and to the claims of humanity.
The Mode of Trial by Ordeal and Red Water in Africa.—The Wars of its Inhabitants.—The State of Barbarism and Slavery considered.—The Condition of the Africans will not be improved by a late Legislative Act, without further Interference.—Salutary Measures must be adopted towards the Negroes in the Colonies.—A System suggested to abolish Slavery in Africa, and the Slave Trade in general, and to enlarge the intellectual Powers of its Inhabitants.—The proper Positions to effect an Opening to the Interior of Africa, and to display to the World its manifold Resources.
Trial by ordeal in Africa is a punishment for petty thefts and delinquincies. Trial by red water is generally applied to crimes of greater magnitude. After the usual ceremonial of calling a palaver, the operation is performed by heating a piece of iron in the fire, the hand of the accused is dipped into a viscous preparation, and the iron is immediately drawn horizontally over the palm of the hand. If the judges (one of whom is always the executioner) have previously determined, in defiance of all the evidence, to prove the culprit guilty, the consequence is that the flesh is seared; but if they are predisposed to acquit him, the iron is dexterously applied so as to absorb the unctuous surface on the hand without affecting it, and a sentence of not guilty is pronounced.
Trial by red water consists in making the accused drink a quantity of water, into which is infused the poisonous juice of the melley or gris-gris tree; this is prepared by these equitable judges, and applied upon the same fraudulent principles as in the trial by the ordeal of fire; it is, however, less resorted to. If the unhappy object of suspicion is affected in such a manner as they consider as a proof of guilt, his brains are knocked out upon the spot, or the body is so inflated by the pernicious liquid that it bursts. In either of these catastrophes all his family are sold for slaves. Some survive these diabolical expedients of injustice, but the issue is uniformly slavery. When chiefs of influence, guilty of atrocity and fraud, become objects of accusation, the ingredient is of course qualified so as to remove its fatal tendency. Hence justice seldom or ever in this country can punish powerful offenders, or shield the innocence of the weak and unprotected.