The colony of Sierra Leone was established by the 31st of George III. avowedly in opposition to the Slave Trade, and for the purpose of augmenting more natural commerce, and introducing civilization among the natives of Africa. The grant is from the 1st of July, 1791, and to continue for the space of 31 years. During the late war with France, in September 1794, it was nearly destroyed by a French squadron, consisting of one two-decker, several armed ships and brigs, in the whole about seven or eight sail; they appeared in the offing on the evening of the 27th, and in the morning of the 28th at day-light commenced their operations; the result of which was, that the colony was ravaged by the enemy, and many houses burnt and destroyed. This squadron was piloted into the river by two Americans, one of whom was a Captain Neville. The pecuniary loss to the colony by this attack has been estimated at about 40,000_l_. independant of buildings destroyed, valued at first cost, about 15,000_l_. more. Bance Island experienced the same fate, and suffered in pecuniary loss upwards of 20,000_l_.
In addition to this calamity, the Sierra Leone Company had to lament the inefficiency of its superintendants, their want of unanimity, and various other disasters and unforeseen difficulties which operated to augment the charge in their establishment, and diminish its funds; and with every deference to the benevolent undertakers, whose motives merit the highest approbation of every enlightened mind, I would observe, they have likewise to regret their misconception of the eligible grounds upon which so beneficent a plan is to be productive of operative influence; but as at a future stage of my narrative, I shall be enabled from more minute investigation to enter at large upon this interesting subject, I shall for the present dismiss it.
On the 28th of April I embarked on board his Majesty’s sloop of war the Lark, then upon the windward station; having looked into the river for Governor Day’s dispatches, &c.; and I cannot omit this opportunity of expressing the obligations conferred upon me by Captain Langford, the commander, and his officers, which invariably continued during my being on board. At day-light we weighed, and were saluted by one of the forts with 15 guns, which were returned; nothing of moment occurred during our passage, except being once overtaken with a tornado: this is a hurricane which prevails upon the windward coast of Africa about this season of the year, preceding the rainy season; and it is impossible to convey by description an adequate idea of this explosion of the elements. It announces its approach by a small white cloud scarcely discernible, which with incredible velocity overspreads the atmosphere, and envelopes the affrighted mariner in a vortex of lightning, thunder, torrents of rain, &c. exhibiting nature in one universal uproar. It is necessary when this cloud appears at sea, to take in all sail instantaneously, and bear away right before the furious assailant, which soon expends its awful and tremendous violence, and nature is again hushed into peaceful tranquillity.