The iniquity and oppression sanctioned by these trials, is a dreadful consequence of their avarice and inhumanity, for it is a fact that slaves are created thereby, and human sacrifices offered to that spirit, which they consider as their tutelar guardian: it is a subject which humanity should seriously contemplate in the relinquishment of the slave trade, whether, by the hasty adoption of that measure, before the intellectual powers of the people are improved by civilization, this barbarous evil may not be increased. When I closely enquired of the chiefs and natives relative to these savage customs, they uniformly admitted the fact, “that such live in their country,” but with their characteristic dissimulation, always denied having perpetrated these horrid acts, and shifted the diabolical practice to some other nation or tribe, adding, “that only bad men do that thing.”
Circumcision is practised among men, and a certain infliction on women, not, however, from religious motives, but to guard against the consequences of a disease not uncommon among them. The infliction upon women is the result of infidelity, or a sacrifice of chastity to loose gratification. As a preliminary, they retire to the bunda, or penitentiary, and are there secluded from all sexual intercourse. When the season of penitence is over, the operation is performed by the rude application of two stones, fashioned and sharpened for the purpose; this obliterates all delinquincy, and on their return to the world they are considered as restored to virgin purity.
Wars in Africa originate from a variety of causes; in forming a correct estimate of these, it is necessary to consider its localities and situation. The inhabitants of this quarter of the earth, more particularly those of the district now under consideration, compose numerous tribes and nations, whose various views and interests excite jealousies and contentions, which, aided by the passions peculiar to a barbarous people, inevitably produce hostilities, and the effusion of human blood.
What we have hitherto known of this country undoubtedly proves that wars are carried on with the most sanguinary violence: their prisoners, by the customs of the country, are consigned to massacre, slavery, and sacrifice, to gratify the avarice, vanity, and cruelty of their chiefs; one of these passions must be predominant, and therefore the question is, which of them is the least pregnant with evil? It cannot admit of a doubt that those who are victims to avarice meet a more mild and humane fate, in falling into the hands of Europeans, than the unhappy portion who are sacrificed to vanity and cruelty; and it is equally true, that since the interior nations have been enabled to exchange their slaves for European merchandize, the number of victims to the latter passion has decreased. I am far from being the advocate of slavery, but I am stating a fact, and leave it to the reader to form his own conclusions. Where confirmed habits and immemorial custom is to be supplanted, it is certainly requisite to be well acquainted with the nature and character of the natives, which I have not here introduced in an exaggerated shape, but infinitely within the bounds of their savage ferocity.