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Letter to the Right Honourable Lord Viscount Howick, His Majesty’s late principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, on the Eve of his Lordship introducing the late Bill into Parliament for the Abolition of the Slave Trade; shewing at one View the most simple and ready Mode of gradually and effectually abolishing the Slave Trade, and eradicating Slavery
Letter to the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, referred to in the foregoing Letter to Lord Howick
Of the Purrah
Of the Termite, Termes, or Bug a Bug, as it is called by the Natives upon the Windward Coast of Africa
Of the Camelion
On the Interment of the Dead
On the Amusements, Musical Instruments, &c. of the Africans
Vocabulary of the Languages of the principal Nations of the Windward Coast of Africa
Directions to the Binder.
Mandingo Chief and his Head Man, with other Natives in their Costume, to face the Title Page.
Sketch of the Windward Coast of Africa to face page 1
The Colony of Sierra Leone and Islands of Banana
Island of Goree
Porto Praya, Island of St. Jago
Island of Fogo, Cape Verd
Island of St. Jago, and Paps of Cape Verd
Bance Island, River Sierra Leone
In illustration of the above Plates, it may be satisfactory to the Reader to explain that the Turban, in the Frontispiece, distinguishes the Mandingo Chief; and that the Cap, which adorns the Head Man, is embroidered by themselves on scarlet cloth procured from Europeans in trade, and is executed with great ingenuity.
The narrow stripe of blue cloth suspended behind from the covering which adorns one of the figures in the back ground, distinguishes a female in the state of virginity.
This distinguishing mark of virgin purity is uniformly removed upon entering into the matrimonial state, and is called by the Timmauees Tintanjey.
In the Plate of Bance Island, River Sierra Leone, page 33, is a correct representation of the Pullam tree, described in page 38, as bearing a species of silk cotton, or ether down, and is much revered by the natives, who consider it in many instances as their Fetish.
* * * * *
Page 54, line 8, for gallunas
62 2, for is derived from the African gris-gris, read,
is the expression from which the African gris-gris is
64 20, for lugras, read lugars.
92 6, for bungra, read bangra.
[Illustration: SKETCH OF THE WINDWARD COAST OF AFRICA]
WINDWARD COAST OF AFRICA.
Remarks from the Period of my Embarkation at St. Helens, to my arrival at Sierra Leone—Sketches of the Land discovered in the Passage—its Bearings and Distance—with Observations upon the Bay and Entrance of Sierra Leone River, &c.
Previous to my arrival and landing in the river Sierra Leone, on the 6th of April, 1805, I shall notice my passage, and display the sketches I have taken of the land we fell in with, its bearings and distance, for the observation of the mariner, which from position and prominence to the Atlantic, claim his most serious attention in running down the coast of Africa to-windward.
On the 9th March, 1805, I sailed from St. Helens in the ship Thames, commanded by James Welsh, in company with a fleet of ships bound to the East Indies, under convoy of his Majesty’s ship Indostan. We had a favourable run down Channel; but, after making to the westward of Scilly, a heavy gale of wind separated the Thames from the convoy, which we never afterwards regained, and were therefore obliged, at all hazards, to proceed for our destination upon the coast of Africa.
Nothing interesting occurred during a prosperous and quick passage, until the high land of Sierra Leone appeared in view on the evening of the 5th of April. We came to an anchor outside the Capes, and weighed the next morning, steering our course for the river.
The space between Leopard’s Island, situated to the north, and Cape Sierra Leone to the south, forms the entrance into the river Sierra Leone; being in latitude 8 deg. 30” N. and in 13 deg. 43” W. long. and is computed about seven geographical leagues distant. The river empties itself immediately into the ocean; and its level banks to the north are covered with impervious forests, while those to the south exhibit the romantic scenery of an extended chain of lofty mountains and hills, clothed and ornamented with foliage of the most luxuriant nature, exciting the highest admiration in those who are susceptible of the impressions which the sublime works of the creation never fail to inspire.
Upon entering the bay, the eye is attracted by an extensive river, circumscribed by the foregoing outline, and exhibiting upon its banks an assemblage of the productions of nature, vegetating in their native purity. This view is animated by the prospect of the colony of Sierra Leone, and the masts of vessels and craft which commerce, and a safe anchorage, encourage to assemble before it, and by numerous natives paddling with great dexterity in their canoes.
[Illustration: PALMA bearing S. by W. distant about 8 leagues from A Published Aug 1 1807 by G & W Nicol]
As I shall have occasion to speak hereafter of the importance of this bay in a commercial and agricultural point of view, I shall not at present enter into farther details; but only suggest that I consider it as a position from whence active enterprize may perform its operations throughout an extensive district, and derive the most important advantages.
At two. P.M. came to an anchor before the fort and settlement of Bance Island, which we saluted with seven guns. The river is navigable up to this island for ships, and small craft proceed a number of miles higher, on the branches of the Port Logo and Rochell. It is obscured from the view by the island of Tasso, until bearing round a point of that island called Tasso Point; the eye is then attracted by a regular fortification, and even an elegant range of buildings and store-houses, which, with great propriety, may be considered as one of the most desirable positions upon the windward coast of Africa, to command the interior commerce of the countries bordering upon the river Sierra Leone and its branches, and that of the rivers to the northward, the Scarcies and adjoining rivers, the Rio Pongo, with the Isles De Loss, Rio Grande, Rio Noonez, &c. and those which fall into the sea from Cape Sierra Leone to Cape Palmas.
Tasso is an island adjoining, about a mile and a half distant, of some extent, and a remarkably fertile soil. It is attached to Bance Island; bearing cotton of a very good staple, and is capable of producing any tropical production. Considerable labour and expense have been applied to introduce cultivation into this island, and to exemplify to the African the advantages derivable from his native soil, by the civil arts of life; while under a still more scientific superintendency, it would become a possession of very considerable consequence in an agricultural view.
Bance Island is little more than a barren rock, of about three-quarters of a mile in extent. The entrance into the fort is through a folding door or gate, over which, throughout the night, a watch is constantly placed. The expectations excited by its external appearance were by no means lessened by a view of the interior of the fort, in which were assembled several traders, and chiefs, with their attendants. I was much the object of their curiosity and attention; and in their manner, all came up to me, to give me service , as expressed in the idiom of their language. This ceremony is simply performed by touching the fingers, accompanied in the Timminy language by the usual obeisance of Currea , or, how do you do? The reply to this is Ba, which means good, I return you service.
The Grumittas, or free black people, are assembled outside the fort, in houses or huts built with mud, upon the general construction in Africa, which usually is an oblong square, raised little more than eight feet; or a circle of the same height, over which is thrown a roof of bamboo, or other thatch, supported by posts about five or six feet asunder, forming a canopy, which shelters them from the rays of the sun, or the inclemency of the weather, and affords a shade under which they retire in the extreme heat of the day, where they repose in their hammocks, or rest upon their mats. This group of buildings or huts is denominated Adam’s Town, from the black chief
Among these people are artizans in various branches, viz. smiths, carpenters, joiners, masons, &c. under the superintendance of Europeans in their different trades, who for ingenuity and adroitness in their respective capacities, would deserve the approbation even of the connoisseur in these arts; while in many other instances they discover a genius of the most intelligent character, and a decency in their dress and manners distinguished from that among the surrounding tribes; which is the never failing consequence of the influence of the arts of civilized society over barbarous customs and habits.
[Footnote 1: Perhaps it will be considered by the reader a singular phenomenon, that the upper region of Palma was covered with snow.]
The Author leaves Bance Island—Visits the Colony of Sierra Leone—Delivers his introductory Letter to the late Governor Day, from whom he experiences a most hospitable Reception—Cursory Remarks upon that Colony and upon the Islands of Bannana—His Embarkation for the Island of Goree, &c.
From the 6th to the 8td April, I remained at Bance Island, and having determined to embark for Europe, where circumstances required me by the first conveyance, I visited the colony of Sierra Leone, then under the government of the late Capt. William Day, of the Royal Navy, to whom I had a recommendatory letter. His reception of me was in conformity with his general character, distinguished for urbanity and polite hospitality; and such were the impressions upon my mind, both from observation and report, of the skill and penetration he possessed to fulfil the arduous duties of his station, that they never will be effaced, and I shall ever retain the highest respect for his memory. He was then occupied in forming plans of defence in the colony; and had he lived, I am firmly persuaded, from subsequent observation and enquiry, that it would in a short period have opposed to an enemy a formidable resistance, and that it might have been speedily rescued from that anarchy and confusion which distracted councils, and want of unanimity had occasioned.
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.
To the southward of Cape Sierra Leone, and in about 8 degrees north latitude, lie the Islands of Bannana, in a direction from east to west. To the west of Great Bannana, lie the smaller islands, which are little more than barren rocks. The soil of the Bannanas is very fertile, and the climate healthy, from their proximity to the sea, and the refreshing breezes which it bestows upon them. They take their name from a fruit so denominated; and are situated in the most eligible position for commerce, upon the Windward Coast; combining, from their fertility of soil and situation, great agricultural advantages, and peculiar salubrity of air. At present the sovereignty of these islands is contended for by two chiefs, of considerable intelligence and enterprise, named Caulker and Cleveland. Caulker appears to be the legitimate sovereign; Cleveland’s forefathers having been established by Caulker’s as trade men, on their account; and by intermarriage with that family their claims are founded. James Cleveland, who married king Caulker’s sister, first began the war by his Grummettas, on the Bannanas, attacking Caulker’s people on the Plantains, The result of this violence was, that Charles Caulker was killed in battle; and his body mangled and cut into pieces, in the most savage and cruel manner. In 1798, Stephen Caulker, the present chief, commenced war again, to revenge his brother’s death; and the barbarous contest has continued ever since, marked with ferocious cruelty, and with various success to the respective claimants. Soon after its renewal, James Cleveland died, and was succeeded by his nephew, William, who has received his education in England, and is a chief of no inconsiderable acquirements and talent. Stephen Caulker has succeeded in obtaining from him the possession of the Bannanas and Plantains, and at present sways authority over them; still, however, exposed to the enterprising genius and intrigues of Cleveland.
[Illustration: THE COLONY of SIERRA LEONE A bearing S.W. by E. distant 3 MILES, and the BANANAS bearing S.W. by W distant 3 leagues. Published Aug 1 1807 by G & W Nicol]
Were it practicable to reconcile these contentions, and procure these valuable islands, they would form most eligible auxiliaries and depots to any establishment which Government might form upon this part of the coast, and be of the utmost importance; or in the event of their being unattainable, factories might be established at Kittim and Boom, both under Caulker’s influence and protection. I have had frequent intercourse with this chief, and I found him of a very superior understanding, and acute intellect, to the generality of his countrymen; and if his jealousies could be allayed by the emollients of superior advantage, his intelligence and co-operation would much facilitate any operations in this quarter.
On the 10th of April we arrived at Goree Roads, and came to an anchor nearly opposite to that part of the island of Goree, called the Point de Nore, and opening Cape Emanuel, which is by much the most eligible position in the event of tornados, as a ship may always run in safety to sea, between the island and the main land.
Goree is a small island, or barren rock, little more than three quarters of a mile in length, and a few hundred yards in breadth. Its native inhabitants are of colour, and a spurious progeny from the French; for whom they still retain a great predilection. The number of what are called principal inhabitants, does not exceed 50 males, with their families, dependants, and slaves; which may in the aggregate amount to frequently between three and four thousand souls. Their principal trade is in slaves, of whom they annually export about two thousand, with a small proportion of dead cargo, chiefly procured from Gambia.
Religion, of any description, is little practised or understood among them; although it is evident that Christianity has been introduced into the island, as there are traces of a catholic chapel and a monastery remaining. Custom here, as in all the maritime countries of Africa, is the governing principle of all their actions, added to an avaricious thirst for gain, and the indulgence of sensual gratification. The ceremony of marriage is too offensive for delicacy even to reflect upon, much less for me to narrate: it does not attach to the union any sacred obligation, the bond being broken at the moment of caprice in either party, or predilection in favour of any other object. As a preliminary to this disgusting ceremony, a “big dinner,” in their phraseology, and a few presents to the lady, first obtaining her and her parents’ consent, is all that is requisite. When the happy pair are united, the dependants and slaves of the parties, and their respective connexions, who are assembled round the buildings or huts, send forth a most savage yell of exclamation, accompanied by their barbarous music, gesticulations, and clapping of the hands, in unison with their song of triumph. This dance is continued with unabating vociferation during the night, and perhaps for a week, or greater length of time, bearing, however, due reference to the rank and consequence of the connubial pair.
The following morning the bride issues forth, with solemn pace and slow, in grand procession, preceded by her most intimate female associate during her virgin state, reclining upon her shoulder with both hands; who, in consequence, is considered as the next matrimonial candidate. They are immediately surrounded by a concourse of attendants, accompanied by music, dancing, and other wild expressions of joy; and in a body proceed to visit her circle of acquaintance and friends, who are always expected to contribute some offering of congratulation. This ceremony is the concluding one on the part of the bride; while the dancing and music are continued by the attendants as long as they can procure any thing either to eat or drink.
[Illustration: ISLAND OF GOREE Published Aug 1 1807 by G & W Nicol]
In a military point of view, in its present condition, the island of Goree is far from being a place of strength; but in a commercial, it is of considerable importance; and, therefore, ought to claim the attention of Government, if it attaches any consequence towards a commerce with the coast of Africa. In a military character, its batteries and guns are in an extremely bad condition; and it is completely a position where a piccaroon privateer could check every supply from the continent, upon which it depends for fresh provisions and water, and might carry on hostile operations without the range of its batteries; which, by consequence, always exposes this garrison to contingencies and casual supply. In a commercial consideration, I view it as a possession of the greatest moment; from its contiguity to the French settlement of the Senegal, and to a large portion of that valuable district, which they claim and influence; from whence accurate information may be obtained of their operations; and a check may issue, to maintain our ascendency to leeward; besides a rallying point for our outward bound ships, to ascertain the enemy’s force upon the coast; the deviation from a direct course to leeward being very unimportant: moreover, it might be an eligible depot for the trade of that infinitely valuable river, the Gambia, which, for variety of natural productions, is perhaps not to be excelled by any other in the world; only requiring the hand of industry and intelligence to fertilize and unfold.
The garrison of Goree has seldom more than 150 effective men to defend it, of the royal African regiment, commanded by Major Lloyd; and this force is very fluctuating, from sickness and the diseases of the climate; in general, however, it is tolerably healthy, and its physical department is superintended by a gentleman (Doctor Heddle) of very considerable intelligence and ability in his profession. The hospitality of Major Lloyd, and the officers of his corps, to their countrymen, is distinguished by liberality; and during my stay in that island, which was upwards of three weeks, I have to acknowledge their polite attentions. I was the inmate of Mr. Hamilton, in the commissariat department, whose peculiar friendship and kind offices have made a most indelible impression upon my mind.
The view from the roads, some of the buildings near the shore being of stone, and upon even an elegant and convenient construction, is calculated to raise expectation upon approaching it, which is considerably lessened[**Transcriber’s note: “lessoned” must be a typesetting error.] upon a nearer view; the streets being extremely narrow, and the huts of the natives huddled together without regularity or system. The inhabitants are governed in their local customs and capacities by a native mayor, and his advisers; but, of course, under the control of the commandant of the garrison; and this privilege is a mere matter of form and courtesy, which a lenient authority permits.
[Footnote 1: Now Lieutenant Colonel Lloyd.]
An Excursion to the Main Land.—Visit to King Marraboo.—Anecdotes of this Chief.—Another Excursion, accompanied by Mr. Hamilton.—A shooting Party, accompanied by Marraboo’s Son, Alexander, and other Chiefs.—Reflections upon Information obtained from them, relative to this Part of the Coast, and at Goree.—Embark in his Majesty’s Sloop of War, the Eugenie, which convoyed Mr. Mungo Park in the Brig Crescent, to the River Gambia, on his late Mission to the Interior of Africa.—Observations on that Subject.—Arrive in Porto Praya Bay, in the Island of St. Jago.—Some Remarks upon that Island.—Departure from thence to England, and safe arrival at Portsmouth.
A few days after the arrival of the Lark at the island of Goree, accompanied by a party of the officers of that ship, I made an excursion upon the main land: we set out from the ship early in the morning, for Decar, the capital of a chief or king, named Marraboo: we arrived before he had moved abroad, and, after going through winding narrow paths or streets, we were conducted by one of his people to his palace, a wretched hovel, built with mud, and thatched with bamboo. In our way to this miserable habitation of royalty, a confused sound of voices issued forth from almost every hut we passed, which originated from their inhabitants vociferating their morning orisons to Allah and Mahomet; their religion being an heterogeneous system of Mahomedanism, associated with superstitious idolatry, incantations, and charms.
We found Marraboo’s head men and priests assembled before his majesty’s dwelling to give him service, and to offer him their morning’s salutation. At length he made his appearance, followed by several of the officers of the palace, carrying skins of wild beasts, and mats, which upon enquiry, I found to have composed the royal bed, spread out upon a little hurdle, erected about a foot and a half high, interwoven with bamboo canes: my attention was much engaged with this novel sight; and I could not contemplate the venerable old man, surrounded by his chiefs, without conceiving I beheld one of the patriarchs of old, in their primaeval state. After his chiefs had paid their obeisance, I presumed, accompanied by my friends, to approach the royal presence; when he discovered us among the group, his countenance underwent an entire change, expressive of reserve and surprise, exclaiming, “What did I want with Marraboo?” With great humility I replied, “I be Englishman, come from King George’s country, his brother, to give him service.” He replied with quickness, “I be very glad to see you, what service have you brought?” I was aware of this tax upon my civility, and replied, that “I make him good service;” which in plain English was, that I shall make you a good present. He then conversed with more freedom relative to his country,
Marraboo.—“I be very glad to look you for that, I have much trouble all my life—great deal of war—my son some time since killed in battle.” This was accompanied by such a melancholy expression of countenance, that could not fail to excite my compassion, I therefore avoided touching more on the subject of his wars; only observing, “that I hear he be too much for all his enemies, and that he build great wall that keep his town and people safe.”
Marraboo.—“The king of Darnel’s people cannot pass that—they all be killed—they come there sometimes, but always go back again.” My curiosity was excited to obtain the history of this enchanted wall, which on my approach to the town, I had discovered to be apparently little more than three or four feet high, and situated within the verge of their wells of fresh water, open at several places, and without any defence.
Upon enquiry, I found that Marraboo had been early in life fetish man, or high priest, to Damel, king of Cayor, a very powerful chief bordering upon the Senegal, and that he had artfully contrived to gain over to his interest a number of adherents, who, in process of time, became formidable, rebelled against their lawful sovereign, and took possession of that part of the country towards Cape Verd: to strengthen their position, Marraboo caused a wall to be erected, commencing from the sea shore, and extending towards the Cape; which, in the estimation of the natives, and in consequence of his sacerdotal office, incantations, and charms, was rendered invulnerable: the hypocritical priest well knew the natural disposition of his countrymen, and the effect his exorcisms would produce upon their minds; which operated so effectually, that when his army was beaten by the powerful Damel, they uniformly retired behind their exorcised heap of stones, which in a moment stopt their enemy’s career, and struck them with such dread, that they immediately retired to their country, leaving their impotent enemy in quiet possession of his usurped territory; whom otherwise they might have annihilated with the greatest facility. Superstition is a delusion very prevalent in Africa; and its powerful influence upon the human mind is forcibly illustrated by the foregoing instance.
When I enquired of Marraboo the nature of his belief in a supreme being, his observations were confused and perplexed, having no perspicuous conception of his attributes or perfections, but an indistinct combination of incomprehensibility; and to sum up the whole, he remarked, “that he pass all men, and was not born of woman.”
A few days after the abovementioned visit, I made another excursion to the main land, accompanied by Mr. Hamilton, and one of the principal inhabitants of Goree, named Martin. We landed at a small native town, called after the island, Goree Town. When we came on shore, we were immediately surrounded by natives, who surveyed us with great curiosity and attention. We had prepared ourselves with fowling-pieces and shooting equipage, with the view of penetrating into the interior country: in pursuance of our design, we dispatched a messenger to Decar, with a request that we might be supplied with attendants and horses: our solicitation was promptly complied with; and Alexander, Marraboo’s son, speedily made his appearance with two horses, attended by several chiefs and head men. Our cavalcade made a most grotesque exhibition; Mr. Hamilton and myself being on horseback, followed by Alexander and his attendants on foot, in their native accoutrements and shooting apparatus. My seat was not the most easy, neither was my horse very correct in his paces; the saddle being scarcely long enough to admit me, with a projection behind, intended as a security from falling backwards: the stirrups were formed of a thin plate of iron, about three or four inches broad, and so small, that I could scarcely squeeze my feet into them. In our progress we killed several birds, of a species unknown in Europe, and of a most beautiful plumage; one of which, a little larger than the partridge in England, was armed with a sharp dart or weapon projecting from the pinion, as if designed by nature to operate as a guard against its enemies. Our associates rendered us every friendly attention, and evinced great anxiety to contribute to our sport; and proved themselves skilful and expert marksmen. The country abounded with a multiplicity of trees and plants, which would no doubt have amply rewarded the researches of the botanist, and scientific investigator. The fatigue I had undergone, and the oppressive heat of the sun, so completely overpowered me, by the time of our return to Goree Town, that I felt myself attacked by a violent fever; in this situation I was attended with every tenderness and solicitude by the females; some bringing me a calabash of milk, others spreading me a mat to repose upon, and all uniting in kind offices: it is from them alone that man derives his highest happiness in this life; and in all situations to which he is exposed, they are the assuasive agents by whom his sorrows are soothed, his sufferings alleviated, and his griefs subdued; while compassion is their prominent characteristic, and sympathy a leading principle of their minds.
The attention of these kind beings, and the affectionate offices of my friend, operating upon a naturally good constitution, soon enabled me to overcome the disease, and to return again to Goree. During the remaining part of my stay there, I was vigilantly employed in procuring every information relative to this part of the coast, and through the intelligence of several of the native inhabitants and traders, I am enabled to submit the following remarks.
To elucidate, with perspicuity, the deep impression I feel of the importance of this district of the Windward Coast, in obtaining a facility of intercourse with the interior, combining such a variety of local advantage, by which our ascendency may be preserved, and our commercial relations improved, is an undertaking, the difficulties of which I duly appreciate; and I am aware that I have to combat many prejudices and grounds of opposition to the system I conceive to be practicable, to develope the various stores of wealth with which Africa abounds, and to improve the intellectual faculties of its native inhabitants.
That a situation so highly valuable as the Senegal, and its contiguous auxiliary, the island of Goree, has been so overlooked, is certainly a subject of great surprise, and deep regret. While visionary and impracticable efforts have been resorted to penetrate into the interior of Africa, we have strangely neglected the maritime situations, which abound with multifarious objects of commerce, and valuable productions, inviting our interference to extricate them from their dormant state; and the consideration apparently has been overlooked, that the barbarism of the natives on the frontiers must first be subdued by enlightened example, before the path of research can be opened to the interior.
We have several recent occurrences to lament, where the most enterprising efforts have failed, through the inherent jealousies of the natives, and their ferocious character; and, therefore, it is expedient to commence experiments in the maritime countries, as the most eligible points from whence operative influence is to make its progress, civilization display itself among the inhabitants, and a facility of intercourse be attained with the interior. So long as this powerful barrier remains in its present condition, it will continue unexplored; and our intercourse with its more improved tribes must remain obscured, by the forcible opposition of the frontier; and these immense regions, with their abundant natural resources, continue unknown to the civilized world. The inhabitants of the sea coast are always more fierce and savage than those more remote and insular: all travellers and voyagers, who have visited mankind in their barbarous state, must substantiate this fact: and the history of nations and states clearly demonstrates, that the never-failing influence of commerce and agriculture united, has emanated from the frontiers, and progressively spread their blessings into the interior countries. View our own now envied greatness, and the condition in which our forefathers lived, absorbed in idolatry and ignorance, and it will unquestionably appear, that our exalted state of being has arisen from the introduction of the civilized arts of life, the commerce which our local situation has invited to our shores, and our agricultural industry.
Within the district now in contemplation, flows the river of Senegal, with its valuable gum trade; the Gambia, abounding with innumerable objects of commerce, such as indigo, and a great variety of plants for staining, of peculiar properties, timber, wax, ivory, &c.; the Rio Grande, Rio Noonez, Rio Pongo, &c. all greatly productive, and their borders inhabited by the Jolliffs, the Foollahs, the Susees, the Mandingos, and other inferior nations, and communicating, as is now generally believed, with the river Niger, which introduces us to the interior of this great continent; the whole presenting an animating prospect to the distinguished enterprise of our country.
That these advantages should be neglected, is, as I have before said, subject of deep regret, and are the objects which I would entreat my countrymen to contemplate, as the most eligible to attain a knowledge of this important quarter of the globe, and to introduce civilization among its numerous inhabitants; by which means, our enemies will be excluded from that emolument and acquirement, which we supinely overlook and abandon to contingencies.
The island of Goree lies between the French settlement of the Senegal and the river Gambia, and therefore is a very appropriate local station to aid in forming a general system of operation from Cape Verd to Cape Palmas, subject to one administration and control. The administrative authority, I would recommend to be established in the river of Sierra Leone, as a central situation, from whence evolution is to proceed with requisite facility, and a ready intercourse be maintained throughout the whole of the Windward Coast; and as intermediate situations, I would propose the rivers Gambia, Rio Noonez, Rio Pongo, and Isles de Loss, to the northward; and to the southward, the Bannana Islands, the Galinhas, Bassau, John’s River, &c. to Cape Palmas; or such of them as would be found, upon investigation, best calculated to promote the resources of this extensive coast.
The supreme jurisdiction in the river Sierra Leone, with auxiliaries established to influence the trade of the foregoing rivers, form the outlines of my plan, to be supported by an adequate military force, and organized upon principles which I have hereafter to explain in the course of my narrative.
Having an opportunity to sail for England, in his Majesty’s sloop of war the Eugenie, commanded by Charles Webb, Esq. as it was uncertain at what time the Lark was to proceed, I availed myself of that officer’s kind permission to embark, accompanied by surgeon Thomas Burrowes and his lady.
The Eugenie had been dispatched for England to convoy the Crescent transport brig, with Mr. Mungo Park on board, to the river Gambia, upon his late mission to the interior of Africa. Captain Webb did not conceive it prudent, nor indeed was it expedient, to proceed higher up the river than Jillifree, and dispatched the Crescent as far as Kaya, about 150 miles from the capes of the river, where Mr. Park landed with his associates, viz. his surgeon, botanist, draftsman, and about 40 soldiers, commanded by an officer obtained from the royal African corps at Goree, by the order of Government.
Nothing could have been more injudicious than attempting this ardoous undertaking, with any force assuming a military appearance. The natives of Africa are extremely jealous of white men, savage and ferocious in their manners, and in the utmost degree tenacious of any encroachment upon their country. This unhappy mistake may deprive the world of the researches of this intelligent and persevering traveller, who certainly merits the esteem of his country, and who, it is to be feared, may fall a victim to a misconceived plan, and mistaken procedure.
[Illustration: PORTO PRAYA, ISLAND OF ST JAGO Published Aug 1 1807 by G & W Nicol]
Although anxious to embark, yet I could not take my departure without sensibly feeling and expressing my sense of obligation for the many attentions I had to acknowledge from the officers of the garrison, and also to several of the native inhabitants, among whom were Peppin, Martin, St. John, and others; the latter, I am sorry to say, was in a bad state of health; I am much indebted to him for his judicious remarks, and very intelligent observations. This native received his education in France, and has acquired a very superior intelligence relative to the present condition of his country.
Accompanied by Mr. Hamilton, my hospitable and friendly host, and several of the officers of the Lark, I embarked on board the Eugenie, on the 31st of May, and arrived in Porto Praya Bay on the 3d of June.
The town of Porto Praya is situated upon a plain, forming a height from the sea, level with the fort, and is a most wretched place, with a very weak and vulnerable fortification. In the roads there is good anchorage for shipping, opposite to Quail island, and for smaller vessels nearer the shore. It has a governmenthouse, a catholic chapel, a market place, and jail, built with stone; and is now the residence of the government of the island of St. Jago, subject to the crown of Portugul. Formerly the governor’s place of abode was at the town of St. Jago, upon the opposite side of the island: his title is that of governor-general of the islands, comprehending Mayo, Fogo, &c.
Mayo is remarkable for its salt, which is cast on shore by the rollers or heavy seas, which at certain periods prevail, and run uncommonly high. The heat of the sun operating upon the saline particles, produces the salt, which the inhabitants collect in heaps for sale. We anchored at Mayo for some hours, and a number of vessels were lying in the roads, chiefly Americans, taking in this article; it is a very rocky and dangerous anchorage; we, however, found the traders were willing to undergo the risque, from the cheapness of the commodity they were in quest of.
It is a most sorry place, with scarce a vestige of vegetation upon its surface, and its inhabitants apparently live in the greatest misery. They are governed by a black man, subject to the administration of St. Jago.
The military force of St. Jago is by no means either formidable in numbers or discipline, and exhibits a most complete picture of despicable wretchedness.
A black officer, of the name of Vincent, conducted as to the governor, who received us with politeness, and gave us an invitation to dinner. The town and garrison were quite in a state of activity and bustle; an officer of high rank and long residence among them had just paid the debt of nature, and his body was laid in state in the chapel, in all his paraphernalia. The greater part of the monks from the monastery of St. Jago were assembled upon the occasion, to sing requiems for his soul; and the scene was truly solemn and impressive. We met these ministers of religion at dinner, but how changed from that gravity of demeanor which distinguished them in their acts of external worship. The governor’s excellent Madeira was taken in the most genuine spirit of devotion, accompanied by fervent exclamations upon its excellent qualities. Upon perceiving this holy fervency in the pious fraternity, we plied them closely, and frequently joined them in flowing bumpers, until their ardour began to sink into brutal stupidity, and the morning’s hymns were changed into revelry and bacchanalian roar.
[Illustration: POGO, bearing N. by W. distance about 4 leagues from B Published Aug 1 1807 by G & W Nicol]
[Illustration: 3 ISLAND of ST. IAGO, distance 6 Miles. 4. PAPS of CAPE VERDE, bearing at C, N.N.E. and at D, S.E. by S. distance 3 leagues. Published Aug 1 1807 by G & W Nicol]
This, however, was rather a tax upon the governor’s hospitality, as it deprived him of his Ciesta, a common practice with him, almost immediately after the cloth is withdrawn. When we came ashore the next morning, we were highly entertained with the anecdotes related to us of the pranks performed during the night by the convivial priests, many of whom were unable to fulfil the duties of the altar at the usual hour of prayer.
The natives of St. Jago, with those of the neighbouring islands, are mostly black, or of a mixed colour, very encroaching in their manners, and much addicted to knavery. The island is extremely rocky and uneven, but the vallies are fertile. The inhabitants raise cotton, and they have several sugar works; the quantity they raise of both, does not, however, much exceed their own consumption, but there is no doubt that it might be considerably augmented by industry, even for exportation; but the natives are indolent, and extremely listless in their habits. The only inducement in touching at this island is, to procure water and provisions: the former is good, and the latter consists in hogs, turkeys, ducks, poultry, &c. but frequently, after they have been visited by a fleet, a great scarcity prevails.
The commodities the natives require as payment may be purchased at Rag Fair, being extremely partial to cast off wearing apparel of every description.
The men are extremely slovenly in their dress; but the women are rather more correct and uniform, those of the better condition being habited in muslin, and their hair ornamented, and neatly plaited.
They manufacture a narrow cloth of silk and cotton, which is in high estimation among them, and its exportation is prohibited, except to Portugal. Considerable ingenuity is displayed in this manufacture, which is performed in a loom, differing very little from that used by the ruder inhabitants of the coast of Africa, and similar to the garter loom in England. They have horses and mules well adapted to their roads and rugged paths, which they ride most furiously, particularly the military, who advance at full speed to a stone wall, or the side of a house, merely to shew their dexterity in halting.
After being detained here for several days in taking in stock and provisions, we again weighed with the Crescent brig, and a sloop from Gambia, bound to London, under our convoy, and after a tedious and very anxious passage, arrived at Portsmouth on the 4th of August. We were detained under quarantine until the return of post from London, and proceeded on shore the following day. There is something in natale solum which charms the soul after a period of absence, and operates so powerfully, as to fill it with indescribable sensations and delight. Every object and scene appeals so forcibly to the senses, enraptures the eye, and so sweetly attunes the mind, as to place this feeling among even the extacies of our nature, and; the most refined we are capable of enjoying.
It is this love of his country which stimulates man to the noblest deeds; and, leaving all other considerations, only obedient to its call, separates him from his most tender connections, and makes him risque his life in its defence.
“Where’er we roam, whatever realms to
Our hearts untravell’d fondly turn to thee;
Still to our country turn, with ceaseless pain,
And drag, at each remove, a lengthening chain.”
The Author proceeds to London.—Re-embarks for Africa.—Arrives at Madeira.—Observations on that Island.—Prosecution of the Voyage, and Arrival in the Sierra Leone River, &c.
Our happy arrival was celebrated at the Crown inn, where Captain Webb and his first Lieutenant (Younger) joined us; we dined together, and separated with mutual kind wishes. The next morning Mr. Burrowes and myself proceeded to London, and were once more rapidly conducted into its busy scene.
Without even time to greet my friends, I again left town for Portsmouth, to commit myself to the watery element, and revisit the shores. I had so recently left; and on the 22d of September sailed, in the ship Andersons, from St. Helen’s, under convoy of the Arab post sloop of war, commanded by Keith Maxwell, Esq. and the Favorite sloop of war, by John Davie, Esq.
We anchored in Funchal Roads, island of Madeira, on Saturday the lath of October, without experiencing any remarkable event.
When approaching the island of Madeira, it exhibits to the eye a strikingly beautiful and picturesque view. The uneven surface of the hills, covered with plantations of vines, and various kinds of herbage, with the exception of partial spots burnt up by the heat of the sun in the dry season, displays a singular perspective, which, with the beautiful appearance of the interspersed villas, churches, and monasteries, form an arrangement both exquisite and delightful.
After being visited by the boat of health, our party proceeded on shore in the evening; and upon being made known to the house of Messrs. Murdoch, Masterton, and Co. were politely invited to breakfast the ensuing morning.
At our appearance, in conformity with our appointment, we were introduced into the breakfast parlour by Mr. Wardrope, one of the acting partners, to his lady and sister, who received us with engaging civilities and attention.
After our friendly meal, we perambulated the town of Funchal, and attended chapel, which so far from being a house of devotion, presented to our contemplation a rendezvous for intrigue and the retirement of a conversazione.
Funchiale or Funchal, takes its derivation from Funcho, signifying in the Portuguese language, Fennel; it is situated at the bottom of a bay, and may be considered disproportionate to the island, in extent and appearance, as it is ill built, and the streets remarkably narrow and ill paved. The churches are decorated with ornaments, and pictures of images and saints, most wretchedly executed: I understand, however, that a much better taste is displayed in the convents, more especially that of the Franciscans, in which is a small chapel, exhibiting the disgusting view of human skulls and thigh bones lining its walls. The thigh bones form a cross, and the skulls are placed in each of the four angles.
Nature has been very bountiful in her favours to Madeira; its soil is rich and various, and its climate is salubrious and versatile; it abounds in natural productions, and only requires the fostering hand of the husbandman to produce every necessary, and almost luxury, of life. Walnuts, chesnuts, and apples, flourish in the hills, almost spontaneously, and guanas, mangoes, and bananas, in wild exuberance. At the country residence of James Gordon, Esq. where we dined, and met with the most distinguished hospitality, I saw a most surprising instance of rapid growth; a shoot of the tree, called the Limbriera Royal, started up, perpendicularly from the trunk, to a height of nearly thirty feet, from the month of January to that of October: it is, however, to be observed, that the branches were lopped off, and it is supposed the juices of the trunk communicated to this stem.
Corn of a very good quality grows in this island, and might be produced in plenty, but the inhabitants, whose characteristic is idleness, neglect its culture, and thereby subject themselves to the necessity of relying upon foreign imports. Their beef, mutton, and pork, are remarkably good, and they have game in the mountains.
By order of the late governor, in 1800, the population was taken from the confessional returns, and, as he was himself a bishop, it may be inferred that the number stated below, which I procured from official authority, is accurate, viz.
And, calculating 1 in 10 for children under 5
years of age, the first period of their confession,
is equal to 3,500
Making in the aggregate the number of souls to be 104,500
15,000 of whom were computed to be inhabitants of the town of Funchal.
The government consists of a governor, appointed by the crown of Portugal, the island being in its possession, styled governor of the islands, and: is perfectly arbitrary; Funchal is his residence; he has a council under him consisting of 24 members, whose president is the second judge for the time being. All officers are nominated by the crown, and the holders continue only for three years, at the end of which new nominations take place.
The only article of trade is wine, of which they export about 12,000 pipes annually, and consume from 6 to 8,000 pipes in the island, comprehending small wine, &c. being in the whole about 20,000 pipes. It is made by pressing out the juice from the grape in a wooden vessel, proportioned in size to the quantity they intend to make. The wine-pressers take off their jackets and stockings, get into the vessel, and with their elbows and feet press as much of the juice as is practicable by this operation; the stalks are then tied together and pressed, under a square piece of wood, by a lever with a stone fastened to the end of it; the wine is brought from the country in goat skins, by men and women on their heads.
The roads are so steep and roughly paved, that neither carriages nor carts are in use, the substitute is a palanquin for the former, and for the latter a hollow log of wood, drawn by oxen, upon which the wine vessels or other loads are placed; they, however, have horses and mules very well adapted to their roads.
The revenue to the crown of Portugal is estimated from 20 to 30,000_l_. annually, clear of all expenses; but the balance of trade is greatly against them, all their specie being drawn to Lisbon.
The currency of the island is Spanish, and consists of dollars, converted by their laws, into milreas of 5_s_. 6_d_. pistareens, value about is. bits, about 6_d_. and half bits, about 3_d_.
It is disadvantageous to take up money at Madeira upon bills, as they make payment in dollars, which they value at a milrea. Sometimes they may, from particular circumstances, give a premium, but it is seldom equal to the discount.
On the morning of the 18th I bad my grateful adieu to Madeira, and the friendly roof of Mr. Wardrope and his united family, the abode of conjugal affection, friendship, and hospitable reception; and at 2 P.M. went on board. We weighed anchor under the protection of the Favorite, the Arab continuing at her moorings. Passing between the grand Canary and close in with Teneriffe, we arrived safe at the island of Goree, on the 5th of November, without our commodore, under convoy of the Favorite. The ship Andersons having freight to deliver at that island, we continued there until the 12th, and again resumed our voyage; arriving, without accident; at Bance Island, which I have previously noticed, on the 22d of the same month.
My residence was confined to this island, and in excursions through the neighbouring countries, until the 4th June, 1806, during which period, and from a general intercourse with an extended circle of chiefs, natives, and traders, I have been enabled to decide upon the situation of this country, and to form a conclusive opinion of the condition and character of its inhabitants, and its commercial resources.
From these sources of intelligence, and the example this island displayed, with observations upon the conduct and management of the Sierra Leone company, I first conceived the system that I shall hereafter delineate, upon which the African’s condition may be effectually improved, and his hereditary slavery exterminated.
[Illustration: BANCE ISLAND, in the RIVER SIERRA LEONE. The Property of John & Alexander Anderson Esq. London.]
The natives of Africa resident upon the coast, are uniformly considered as more ferocious and barbarous in their customs and manners, less numerous in population, and more encroaching and deceitful, than those of the interior. While this formidable opposition exists, and the baneful influence of barbarous habits continues, it is in vain to look to remuneration by natural commerce, or to the establishment of civilization. The African’s barbarity must be first here assailed, and the infinite resources upon the coasts and maritime rivers must be developed to his view, to pre-dispose him to refine his condition, and adopt the civilized habits of life; nor is there any site which I have met with upon the Windward Coast of Africa, more calculated to promote this beneficent undertaking, than the island of Bance, from its locality of situation, being central to windward and leeward operation, commanding an extensive circle of interior country, and being long established in the estimation of the natives of an extended district. But more of this subject in order.
Observations upon the natural Productions of the River Sierra Leone.—The Author explores its Branches, interior to Bance Island, the Rochelle, and the Port Logo.—The Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants.—Their Commerce.—The Author’s safe Arrival at Miffare.
The river of Sierra Leone abounds in fish, and the spermaceti whale has been occasionally found, the shark, the porpoise, eels, mackarel, mullet, snappers, yellow tails, cavillos, tenpounders, &c. with the mannittee, a singular mass of shapeless flesh, having much the taste of beef, which the natives greatly esteem, and consider the highest offering they can make.
Oysters are found in great abundance, attached to the interwoven twigs and branches of the mangrove tree, to which they closely cling; and of the zoophytes, there is the common sponge to be found upon the sandy beaches, on the Boolum shore, and would, no doubt, bring a high price in England.
The domestic animals of the adjoining countries are, cattle, sheep, goats, hogs, ducks, turkeys, and fowls, very inferior, however, to those in Europe. The beasts of prey are, lions, leopards, hyaenas, wild hogs in abundance, squirrels, monkies, antelopes, &c. with the civet and zibeth cats, and a most extraordinary animal, which is found in the mountains of Sierra Leone and the adjacent countries, a species of the ourang outang, called by the natives, japanzee, or chimpanzee, but approaching nearer to the anatomy of the human frame than the former animal. Some of them, when full grown, are nearly 5 feet, and are covered with black hair, long on the back, but thin and short upon the belly and breast; the face is quite bare, and the hands and feet resemble those of man; its countenance is remarkably grave, similar to that of an old black man, but its ears are straight; it will imitate a human being in walking, sleeping, eating, and drinking, and is certainly a most singular production of nature. Surgeon Burrowes, whom I have before mentioned, had a perfect skeleton of this animal, which, he assured me, differed in nothing from the human, but in the spine, it being curved. This skeleton, I believe, now forms a part of the collection of Surgeon-General Keate.
There are, of amphibious animals, green turtles, hawk’s bills, and loggerheads, which grow to a great size, some of them weighing several hundred pounds, land turtles, fresh water turtles, alligators, extremely voracious, and from 12 to 15 feet in length; they will swallow a man, and at Bance Island Negro boys have been frequently snatched up by them from the shore. There are also a variety of the lizard species, with the guava, and camelion.
Snakes abound; some of them haunt the houses in the night, and prowl about for poultry, of which they are fond; some have been found to measure above 18 feet; and I have the skin of one in my possession, killed when young, above 10 feet in length; it is that species which swallows its prey entire; several animals were found in their perfect state when the one I allude to was cut open.
There is also an immense animal of this species, which I have heard the natives of this part of the coast describe, often exceeding 30 feet in length, and of an enormous size; it is variegated with spots, and the head is covered with scales; the tongue is fleshy and forked, but its bite is not poisonous; it is to be found in the recesses of caves and thickets, from whence it suddenly darts upon its victim, whether man or beast: it frequently chooses a tree, from which it reconnoitres the passing objects, supporting itself by the tail, which it twists round the trunk or branches: when it seizes animals, especially those of the larger kind, such as lions, tigers, &c. it dexterously, and almost instantaneously twists itself round their bodies in several folds, and by its powerful muscular force, breaks the bones, and bruises it in all its parts; when this is done it covers the animal with a viscous cohesive saliva, by licking its body with its tongue, which facilitates the power of swallowing it entire; this process is tedious, and it gradually sucks in the body, which, if large, renders it incapable of moving for some time, until it digests; and this is the period which the hunters watch to destroy it: it makes a hissing noise like a serpent, and has recourse to a variety of expedients to conceal itself; it is called by the natives Tinnui, and is what I apprehend naturalists term the species of Boa constrictor: it is most commonly found in the sultry climates of Africa, and I believe is also an inhabitant of Asia and America.
Insects are extremely numerous, of a nondescript species, and exceedingly beautiful: the most singular are termites, destructive to houses and fences built of wood; ants, causing ruin to provisions; cockroaches and crickets, destroying leather, linen, and clothes; musquitos, sand-flies, centipedes, scorpions; and wild bees, which are very productive of honey. The vermis and large barnacles abound, which are so destructive to shipping without copper bottoms.
Esculent vegetables are various: Rice, which forms the chief part of the African’s sustenance. The rice-fields or lugars are prepared during the dry season, and the seed is sown in the tornado season, requiring about four or five months growth to bring it to perfection.
Yams, a nutritious substance, known in the West Indies.
Cassada or cassava, a root, of a pleasant taste when roasted or boiled, and makes an excellent cake, superior in whiteness to flour.
Papaw, of a deep green in its growth, but yellqw when ripe, and is an excellent dish when boiled; its leaves are frequently used by the natives for soap; ropes are made of the bark.
Oranges and limes are in great abundance, and of superior quality, throughout the year; but lemons degenerate much in their growth, and in a few years are scarcely to be distinguished from the latter. Guavas, pumpkins, or pumpions, squash water mellons, musk mellons, and cucumbers, grow in the greatest perfection. The pumpkins grow in wild exuberance throughout the year, and make a good pudding or pie.
Indian corn, or maize, may be reaped several times throughout the year, only requiring about three months growth.
Millet, with a multiplicity too tedious to enumerate.
Sugar canes are not very abundant, but are of a good quality, which, under careful management and industry, would, no doubt, yield productive returns.
Coffee trees, of different nondescript species, only requiring the same interference.
Dyes, of infinite variety and superior texture: yellow is procured from the butter and tallow tree, producing a juice resembling gamboge, but more cohesive, and of a darker colour; the wood of this tree is firm, and adapted to a variety of purposes; its fruit is about the size of a tennis ball, nearly oval, thick in the rind, and of a pleasant acid taste, containing several seeds about the size of a walnut, and yielding a viscous substance used by the natives in their food. Red and black are procured from a variety of other trees and plants; and indigo growing in wild exuberance, particularly in the rivers more to the northward.
Cotton, in great varieties, requiring only cultivation to raise it to perfection and amount. The natives manufacture from it a narrow cloth, which is made from thread, spun in a manner similar to the distaff.
A species of silk cotton, or ether down, is produced on a large tree, called the pullam tree. The quantity which the usual size bears may be computed at about 4 cwt. in pods of 6 to 9 inches long, 4-1/2 in circumference, and about 1-1/2 inch in diameter, which, upon being exposed to the heat of the sun, is distended to an incredible bulk. It is much superior to down for the couch, and, from its elasticity, might be of great utility in the manufacture of hats. This tree is in great estimation among the Africans, and is frequently regarded by them as their Fetish. Every town almost has a tree of this species towering over its huts, which its chief tells the traveller with exultation he or his father planted.
Tobacco is uncertain, but I entertain very little doubt that it might be raised upon the more luxuriant soils.
Pepper, more particularly near Cape Mount, of several sorts, Maboobo, Massaaba, Massa, Amquona, Tosan, &c.; the three first are of a weaker flavour, and are oblong and angular in their seeds; but the last excels in pungency, and is the native Malaguetta pepper of Africa.
The bread-fruit tree, is similar in appearance to the apple tree, and grows in the low sandy situations of the Boolum shore, producing a fruit exceedingly nutritious, and larger than an apple.
Tamarinds in great variety and plenty: the velvet tamarind abounds in the Bananas, also the white and brown; but the latter are most in esteem, and are very fine.
Okras, the fruit of a small tree, resembling the English mallows, which put into soup gives it a gelatine quality, highly alimental; the leaves make a good spinage.
The palm tree, producing the oil so denominated, is one of the most useful trees to the African, yielding him meat, drink, and raiment. Where it grows, it is an indication of a good soil. It is remarkably tall, without branches, having regular and gradual protuberances, from the bottom towards the top, ending in five or six clusters of nuts, shaded by large deciduous leaves. The nuts, which are about the size of a hazle nut, have a hard kernel, encompassed by a clammy unctuous substance, covered by a thin skin, and the oil is produced from them by being exposed to the sun, which, by its influence, opens the juices; subsequent to this exposure, the nuts are put into a boiler full of water, and a liquid, in the process of boiling, flows upon the top, which when skimmed off, soon hardens and turns rancid; the kernel of the nut, after this process, is taken out of the boiler, beat in a paloon, and put into clear water, the shell of the nut sinks, and its contents float upon the surface, which, when skimmed as before, is finally put into a pot, fried, and carefully poured off, producing another kind of oil, used as butter, and having in a great degree its quality.
The wine is extracted from the tree by forming an incision at the bottom of every cluster of nuts, from each of which flows about a gallon of wine per day, for a week, when they are closed until the ensuing season. The liquid, when newly taken from the tree, resembles whey, and in that state has a sweetish agreeable taste, but it soon ferments and grows sour, changing to a strong vinegar of a disagreeable smell: in its fermented state it is most esteemed by the natives, and is productive of inebriety.
A substance overtops the clusters about 10 or 12 inches in diameter, and 3 or 4 feet in height, in a full grown tree, from whence proceeds a stalk, about 4 inches in length, which, on being boiled in water, makes an excellent vegetable resembling cabbage, or rather, in taste, the cauliflower; the leaves of the tree are converted by the natives into baskets, fishing nets, and cloth.
MEDICINAL PLANTS. Colla is highly esteemed by the natives, and they attribute to it the virtues of Peruvian bark; the Portuguese, ascribe the same quality to it, and dispatch from their factories small vessels to collect all they can procure.
Castor Oil Rhinum.-The bush which produces the bud from which this oil and valuable medicine is extracted, grows in great exuberance upon the Windward Coast, and its vicinity. A species of bark is in great abundance also, and is said to be equal in virtue to the Peruvian.
The foregoing enumeration of natural productions, is the result of unscientific enquiry only; but unquestionably, industrious and professional research, would discover infinitely more to philosophic and commercial contemplation, and develope the arcana of nature, dormant here through ignorance and barbarism.
On the 10th of May, I set out from Bance Island, with the view of exploring the two branches of the Sierra Leone river, the Rochelle, and the Port Logo. After rowing a few hours I arrived at the factory of Miffare, formerly occupied by a Mr. Berauld, a Frenchman, but now attached to Bance Island.
Mr. Hodgkin, with his people, then in possession of the factory, accompanied me up the Port Logo branch the following morning, taking a number of towns in our way, and visiting the chiefs. The course of this branch of the river is extremely serpentine, and is navigable for light vessels to a little way from the town of Port Logo which is now the residence of Alimami, a Mandingo chief, who assumes the title of emperor. The banks are overgrown with the mangrove tree, interwoven together, so as to form an almost impenetrable thicket, excluding the air, which, with the extreme heat of the sun, and the noxious insects which are extracted by its rays from the swamps and woods, renders this navigation intolerably oppressive. The chief part of its trade is in slaves, camwood, and ivory, the latter, however, being small, although Port Logo commands a very extensive back country. When we came near the town of Port Logo, which is extremely difficult of approach at low water, we announced our visit by saluting in the manner of this country, which is what they call bush firing, or in other words is a continued irregular firing of musquetry.
It was soon discovered who we were, and crowds of natives flocked down from the upper town, which is situated on the declivity of a hill, to give us service, or to pay their respects. Our first visit was to Marriba, one of Alimami’s head men, and a resident of what they consider the lower town.
Upon our arrival at Marriba’s house, we found him at his devotions in the palaver-house, a shed under which the natives daily assemble to pray, or discuss public affairs. He received us with every demonstration of regard, and immediately offered his services to conduct us to Alimami. The old chief preceded us, with his long gold-headed cane, and our rear was brought up by a number of armed men, who had assembled to give us a favourable reception. Our salute had pleased Alimami, and being before known to him, he was determined to shew us every respect. The heat of the sun was almost intolerable, and before we arrived at the top of the hill where the imperial palace stood, I was nearly exhausted. The entrance to this large square of irregular mud buildings, is through a narrow passage or gate, forming an oblong square of mud, covered with thatch, and facing Alimami’s house: we were ushered through this by one of his head men, and proceeded in the order we set out to Alimami, who was seated at the top of the square, surrounded by his chiefs, upon a mat spread upon a raised bank of mud, dressed in a turban, after the Turkish fashion, and a loose manding, robe, or shirt.
Several pleaders were haranguing two of his judges, who were seated at a distance, in palaver, or council, to take cognizance of a dispute relative to some slaves; and although our arrival had excited the-curiosity of every inhabitant of the town, yet we passed the tribunal without interruption, their attention being absorbed on the subject of their sitting. The whole compass of the square was scarcely equal to contain their oratory, their voices being so extremely loud as to be heard distinctly, without the walls, accompanied by menacing attitudes. Passing this declamatory assembly, we paid our obeisance to Alimami, who was graciously pleased to receive us in the manner of his country, with great civilities, and immediately spread mats for us with his own hands, near himself. It was impossible, although accustomed to these people, to contemplate the surrounding objects without interest. I had previously been acquainted with this chief at Bance Island, where he was in a high degree restrained by European manners; but here, every thing was native and original. All came to give us service, which is performed as I have mentioned. A goat and a couple of fowls were next presented for our dinners, for which an offering more valuable was expected, and of course complied with. This mutual interchange of civilities being fulfilled, our attention was excited by the orators, who by this time were extremely clamorous; one of them, with an aspect the most furious, ran up to where I was seated, and addressing Alimami, said, “that as proof his palaver be good, white man come to give him service while he address him on the subject of his demand;” attaching to that circumstance, the superstitious idea that he was right, and that I was his fetish to establish that right.
I then enquired of Alimami the nature of the trial; he replied, “these men tell their story, I appoint two judges to hear them, who are to report to me what they say, and their opinions of the matter, but I hear all that already and they cannot tell me wrong: I then give judgment,” Or in other words more expressive of his meaning; these men make their complaint to my head men, or the judges I have appointed to hear it; it is their business to make me a true report, and give me their opinion on the merits of the case; and although I am not now supposed to hear it, yet I am so situated as to hear the whole, and can thereby check any corrupt practices in the judges.
I had now leisure to examine the interior of Alimami’s residence; it consisted of a square of irregular buildings, thatched with bamboo, and covered with roofs, supported by pillars of wood, at about 6 feet distance, projecting about the same number of feet beyond the skeleton of the fabric, and forming a kind of palisado, which serves as a shade for retirement from the heat of the sun, and under which, the inhabitants indulge in repose, or sit in familiar intercourse.
During my conversation with Alimami, his brother, a fat jolly fellow, was reposing himself upon his mat, reading his Arabic prayer book, which, upon examination, I found executed in a neat character, and from his interpretation, was a record of fabulous anecdotes of his family, and containing confused extracts from the Koran.
The Mandingos are professed Mahomedans, whose influence is spreading with so much rapidity on this part of the coast, that several of the other tribes have submitted to their authority; so strong an impression has their superior attainments and book-knowledge imprinted on their minds. In no instance can their growing influence appear more conspicuous than in that of Alimami being vested with authority over the Port Logo, of which he is not a native, and over a people originally infidels. Formerly this tribe of Mandingos were itinerant fetish makers and priests, but now they are numerous to the northward of Sierra Leone, from whence a wide district receives their rulers and chieftains.
After an audience of considerable length, Alimami retired with several of his chiefs, and soon after I had a message that he wished to see me in another part of his dwelling. I had previously noticed to him that I intended shortly to embark for my country. When conducted to his presence, he very emphatically enquired “if what I tell him be true?” I replied “it was; but that I go to do him and his countrymen good; that he know this was the second time I look them, but never forget them.” “We all know that,” he replied, “but white man that come among us, never stay long time; you be good man, and we wish you live among us—How many moon you be gone from us?”—“About ten moon; how would you like to go with me, Alimami?”—“I like that much, but black man not be head enough to do what white man does;” and putting his hand to his bosom, he took from it a piece of gold in the form of a heart; and said, “take that for me.” To have refused it would have been an insult; I therefore accepted it; adding, “that I would tie it to fine riband, and wear it when I look my country, to let Englishmen see what fine present he make me.” He was quite pleased with the idea, and expressed his satisfaction with great fervency.
Soon after, I offered to take my leave, and was accompanied by him and his chiefs to the gate, where I bade him adieu, and passed through the town, paying my respects to its inhabitants, and among others, to the schoolmaster, whose venerable appearance, and superior intelligence, excited my respect and esteem.
Upon our return to Marriba’s house, we were happy to partake of a country mess of rice, boiled with fowls, palm oil, and other compounds. The chief could not be prevailed to eat with us, but attended us with great assiduity during our meal. The imperial guard accompanied us to our canoe, and we returned to Miffare without accident.
The following morning we proceeded to the branch of the Rochell, which we found more diversified and picturesque than the Port Logo, and its borders better inhabited.
Proceeding up this branch, and visiting the chiefs in our way, and the inhabitants of a number of villages, we arrived at Billy Manshu’s Town, a little chief of very considerable intelligence, and who treated us with great hospitality: here we slept.
We arose early, and pursued our course up the branch, passing one of the most regular built towns I have observed in Africa, now Morrey Samba’s, but formerly Morrey Bunda’s Town. Morrey Bunda was originally a Manding, and fetish maker to Smart, the chief who commands an extensive country on that side of the Rochell branch towards the Sherbro, and rose into notice and influence: he is now dead. The town is surrounded by a mud wall, and at the entrance, and upon each angle of the oblong square which encloses it, there are towers erected for the purposes of defence. The wall, with the towers, completely obscures the buildings which form the town, and serve as a guard against any depredations of enemies, while it shelters the inhabitants from the effects of their arrows or musquetry. Morrey Bunda has displayed in his plans of fortifications, considerable ingenuity, considering the circumstances he had to provide against, and the predatory nature of African wars, which are uniformly to surprise the inhabitants of a village or town while asleep, or in any other unguarded state, seldom or ever coming to a general engagement in the open country, but acting under the protection of some ambush, or other place of security, which, while it is calculated to conceal their numbers, serves as a retreat from their successful opponents.
Leaving Morrey Samba’s we passed by a number of other villages, until we arrived at one of Smart’s trading towns, called Mahera, situated upon an eminence, and commanding a most delightful prospect of the meandering course of the river, interspersed with islands, displaying a great diversity of appearance.
Smart has very wisely chosen this spot, as it is not only a charming situation, healthy, and delightful, but well situated to command a very extensive internal trade in camwood and ivory, besides being contiguous to the Sherbro, from whence a great portion of the camwood is procured, and situated on the principal branch of the Sierra Leone. In addition to these local advantages, he has recently opened a path with the interior, communicating with the Foolah country, which is entirely under his influence, and which he can open and shut at pleasure. It would be of incalculable advantage to any operation to secure the friendship of this chief: he possesses a very superior mind, and, from his connection with Bance Island, has acquired a knowledge of European ideas and manners seldom to be met with among any of the chiefs on this part of the coast. From the various opportunities I have had to consult Smart on his general sentiments relative to his country, and the freedom of intercourse I have had with him, I am well persuaded that he would be a powerful and intelligent auxiliary in promoting the civilization of his country, upon a liberal principle, calculated to its condition, and having a tendency to eradicate its barbarism; but he is one, of many more upon this quarter of the coast, who have no reliance upon the attempts that have been made, and deplores, with regret, that through the want of a correct knowledge of the dispositions of his countrymen, an ignorance of the nature of the evil to be removed, and the invidious principles which constituted the establishments that have been formed to promote this beneficent undertaking, his country is still excluded from the light of truth, and the refined arts of civilized life.
From Mahera we proceeded to Rochell, another of Mr. Smart’s towns, more insular, where I expected to have met him, in conformity with an arrangement previously made, to visit him at his towns, and see, as he observed, his country fashion. Upon our reaching this point of our expedition, we were saluted by a numerous assemblage of chiefs and natives, going to join my friend Smart in one of his wars with his opposite neighbours and rivals, the Cammarancies, inhabiting the country towards the Port Logo. The cause of quarrel was, that these people had seized upon the rafts and canoes which brought the camwood over the falls higher up the river, and had demolished several storehouses belonging to Smart and his people, engaged in that trade. Smart, with a part of his forces, had crossed the river only an hour before, and another division were embarking to join him at a place of rendezvous upon the enemy’s territory, with the intention of cautiously approaching during the night to some of their towns, and surprising them before they had arisen from sleep. Nothing could exceed the novelty of this sight; the chiefs and their followers were armed with their bows and arrows, and other rude implements of war, and completely in their native character; in addition to their native weapons, some had musquets, procured from Europeans in trade, swords, and various other manufacture, supplied by traders, exhibiting an appearance, of which no idea can be formed, without a personal knowledge of this barbarous people. The chiefs, in particular, were covered with gris-gris and fetishes, a mixture of feathers and other preposterous materials, calculated to obliterate any trace of human appearance, and possessing the virtue, as they conceived, of shielding them from danger. Solemn palaver is always held upon these occasions, and their gris-gris makers, fetish men, and priests, exorcise their absurd decorations, which, in their estimation, operate as guardian angels in the hour of difficulty and peril.
Having occasion to visit a gentleman resident at some distance, we left our canoes at Rochell, and proceeded on foot. Cabba, one of the chiefs, accompanied us with a guard, being apprehensive, as he observed, that “bad might happen us, as war live in the country.” We passed through a remarkably fertile country, presenting an infinite variety of natural productions. Our path was frequently lined with pine-apples, in all the luxuriance of nature; but amidst this animating landscape, we beheld deserted villages, ravaged by the ferocious hand of man; and all the traces of barbarous devastation. We fell in with several armed parties, with whom I conversed upon the subject of the war, which appeared to be of a predatory nature, and the consequence of insatiate avarice and barbarous habits.
At length we arrived, much fatigued, at Mr. Green’s (at Massou), with whom we rested for the night, receiving every kindness and attention in his power to bestow. I am indebted to this gentleman for a variety of useful information relative to a wide extent of country. His education and acquirements are of the first class, and I could not view such a man, insulated from polished society, which he was qualified to adorn, and shut up in the wilds of Africa, among barbarians, without a mixture of pain and surprise; nor did I depart from him without sympathy and regret, after he had confided to me his motives, and the outlines of his life, which were marked with eventful incidents, and extraordinary occurrences.
It was my object to have proceeded from Massou to Rocond, the principal town of Smart’s residence, and from thence to penetrate to the falls of the river, which, from every information I received, exhibit a sublime scene; but, on account of the disturbed state of the country, and that chiefs absence, I was obliged to give up my intention, and return to Rochell, from whence we rowed down the river to the town of our little hospitable chief, Billy Manshu; where we stayed the night. The following day we arrived safe at Miffare; and although Smart had given orders at Mahera to stop all canoes, we were suffered to pass; the chiefs observing, “that they knew we would not tell their enemies, when we came among them, what we saw them do.” Had we been strangers, it is more than probable we should have fallen victims to the fury of these barbarians, who, in the towns we passed, were excited to a savage fierceness, highly descriptive of the natural ferocity of the African character.
At Miffare, formerly occupied by Monsieur Berauld, as previously noticed, who had lately paid the common debt of nature, and who was here buried by his own desire, I had the opportunity of ascertaining a singular custom prevalent in this country towards the dead, and which strongly elucidates the prevailing ideas of its inhabitants, relative to the immortality of the soul and a future state.
After Monsieur Berauld’s interment, his women, and the head people of the town, assembled round the grave occasionally, for a series of days, requiring every evening, from Mr. Hodgkin, a candle to light his grave, which they kept burning during the period of their mourning, under the idea that it would light him in the other world. In addition to this, a still more singular rite was performed on this occasion, by Alimami, of the Port Logo, and a numerous assemblage of natives, who sacrificed a bull to the departed spirit of Berauld, who was held in great estimation among them. From authority I cannot doubt, I am persuaded that when slaves have been redundant, human sacrifices have been offered to the manes of their favourite chiefs and princes. This horrid custom, which is even extended, in many of the districts of Africa, to the productions of the earth, is a most serious subject to contemplate, and a feature of barbarism, pregnant with melancholy consequences to that class of beings, whom a late legislative act has abandoned to contingencies, and the uncontrolled power and avarice of other nations.
Return to Bance Island.—General Observations on the Commerce, Religion, Customs, and Character of the Natives upon the Windward Coast.—An Account of the requisite Merchandize for Trade, the best Mode of introducing natural Commerce and Civilization into Africa, &c.
The morning after my last arrival at Miffare I returned to Bance Island; before I leave it, it may not perhaps be considered as inexpedient at this stage of my narrative, to submit to my readers an account of the present state of commerce upon the Windward Coast of Africa, the merchandize used therein, a general outline of the religion, customs, and character of its natives, and the system I conceive eligible, and consistent with the claims of humanity, by which their intellectual powers may be improved, and their enslaved state ameliorated; while our commercial ascendency may be preserved with this region of the earth, and our enemies excluded from those important advantages, which it only requires intelligence and enterprise to unfold.
In accomplishing this important part of my duty I beg leave to state, that my reflections are the result of much deliberation upon the subject, derived from manifold sources of information, and that I am the zealous advocate of the radical abolition of the slavery of the human kind. The motives by which I am actuated are, a philanthropic feeling for my species, Christian principles, humanity, and justice: however I may differ, in the means I shall propose, from many truly benevolent characters, yet I trust that they will do me the justice to consider that my intentions are congenial with theirs in the cause of humanity.
I shall confine myself to a digested summary of actual observations on the trade, laws, customs, and manners of the people I have had occasion to visit; nor shall I attempt to enter into a minute detail on subjects already ably delineated to British merchants, and with which they are intimately conversant; but I shall treat of those branches of commerce which have been hitherto confined to local knowledge, and not generally known; submitting to the superior powers of the legislature, the incalculable advantages to be derived by their interference to promote the agricultural and commercial establishments upon the maritime districts of Africa, as the only appropriate measure to attain a facility of intercourse with the interior, and to enlarge the circle of civilised society.
If my endeavours tend to increase the commerce of my country, and eventually to emancipate the African, my design will be accomplished, and my fondest hopes will be gratified.
In pursuance of my plan, I shall first detail the present number of slaves, and dead cargo, annually exported, upon an average, from the Windward Coast of Africa, &c. from the information acquired from the traders of most intelligence in respective rivers, and from my own observation.
| | | | | | | |Amount | | | | | | | |Sterling | NAMES OF PLACES |A |B |C |D |E |F | L |---------------------|-------|----|----|------|----|----|--
------- |River Gambia, and | | | | | | | |Island of Goree . . .| 2,000 | 15 |-- |-- |150 |-- | 60,250 |Rio Noonez. . . . . .| 600 | 20 |-- |-- |-- |-- | 19,000 |Rio Pongo . . . . . .| 2,000 | 30 |60 |-- |-- |-- | 52,000 |River Sierra Leone, | | | | | | | |adjacent Rivers, | | | | | | | |and Isles de Loss, | 3,200 | 15 |200 |800 |-- |-- | 82,250 |inclusive . . . . . .| | | | | | | |River Sherbro . . . .| 500 |-- |200 |300 |-- |-- | 18,000 |---- Gallunas. . . .| 1,200 |-- | 80 |-- |-- |-- | 26,000 |Cape Mount to | | | | | | | |Cape Palmas . . . . .| 2,000 | 20 |-- |-- |-- |100 | 48,000 | |-------|----|----|------|----|----|-------- | |11,500 |100 |540 |1,100 |150 |100 |305,500
A-Slaves, B-Ivory, C-Camwood, D-Rice, E-Bees Wax, F-Malaguetta Pepper
Estimating slaves at 20_l_. each; ivory, 350_l_.; camwood, 25_l_.; rice, 10_l_.; wax, 100_l_.; and Malaguetta pepper, 10_l_. per ton, at first cost upon the coast of Africa; the whole produces the sum of 305,500_l_. sterling; to which may be added a three-fold export to leeward, which will make an aggregate amount of nearly one million sterling. In addition to the foregoing exemplification, we have to contemplate the great multiplicity of natural productions, abounding in this extent of region, namely, indigo, numerous plants for staining, cotton in wild exuberance, cocoa, coffee, and aromatic plants, &c. &c. Wild bees are so extremely numerous, that wax forms an important article of trade which might be considerably increased; substances proper for making soap are also to be found in great abundance, raw hides, more especially in the Gambia, and the countries insular to the Rio Noonez and Rio Pongo; gold is procured from Bambouk, and tobacco is found in every direction, which might be greatly increased by cultivation and an improved soil; cattle, poultry, Guinea hens, different species of game, fish, with other animals; fruits, and a variety of vegetable productions, calculated to satisfy every luxurious want and desire. To these objects of commerce may be added, the now important article of sugar, which might be raised to a great amount, in various districts of Africa, as the climate is propitious to the growth of the sugarcane, which, under proper cultivation, might be raised in great perfection.
The lands upon the banks of the Gambia, the Rio Noonez, the Rio Grande, the Rio Pongo, in the Mandingo country, Sierra Leone, Sherbro, &c. are universally allowed to be extremely fertile in many places, and abundant in vegetation and population.
These countries produce various hard woods, well adapted to cabinet work and ship building, and are singular in their qualites and properties.
The most remarkable are, 1st. the cevey, or kinney wood, which grows about the size of the oak, in England, and may be cut into planks of 20 feet by 15 inches. Its texture is something of the ash grey and mahogany, variegated with stripes, fancifully disposed, and is therefore adapted to cabinet work; its qualities for ship building are peculiar, having the virtue of resisting the worm and vermis, so destructive to shipping in tropical climates, and corroding iron; it grows in great abundance. Any quantity of this wood put into water sufficient to cover it, will, in a few hours, produce an unctuous substance floating on the top, resembling verdigrise, and of a poisonous quality.
Secondly, the dunjay wood, rather coarser in the grain, but harder in quality than the Spanish Bay mahogany. It possesses the same peculiarities as the cevey or kinney, in resisting the worm in salt water, and corroding iron. It may be procured in any quantity. And, Thirdly, the melley wood, or gris-gris tree, another species of mahogany, abundant in growth, having a more rare quality than the foregoing, resisting the worm in both salt and fresh water; it is extremely hard, and its juices so poisonous, in the premature state, as to cause instant death.
The manifold and neglected productions of this extraordinary continent require only to be developed, and when the useful arts of Europe are introduced here, ample recompense will attend the benevolent undertaking, natural history will be much enlarged, and mankind be greatly benefited. The claims of humanity, the distinguished part it has taken in an unnatural and much to be deplored commerce, loudly unite with a wise policy, in one impressive appeal to the feelings of the more refined inhabitants of Europe, and to none more than those of Englishmen.
The goods adapted to African commerce are,
East India goods—consisting of bafts, byrampauats, chilloes, romals, neganipauts, niccanees, red and blue chintz, Guinea stuffs, bandanoes, sastracundies, &c.
Manchester goods.—Cotton chilloes, cushtaes, neganipauts, photaes, romal handkerchiefs, silk handkerchiefs, &c. Linen Britanias, slops, spirits, tobacco, guns, swords, trade chests, cases, jars, powder, umbrellas, boats, canvas, cordage, pitch, tar, paints, oil, and brushes, empty kegs, kettles, pans, lead basons, earthenware, hardware, beads, coral, iron bars, lead bars, common caps, Kilmarnock ditto, flints, pipes, leg and hand manilloes, snuff boxes, tobacco boxes, cargo hats, fine ditto, hair trunks, knives, looking glasses, scarlet cloth, locks, shot, glass ware, stone ware, provisions, bottled ale and porter, &c. &c.
The foregoing general enumeration may serve to convey a just conception of the various manufactures requisite in the African trade, and the different branches to which it is allied, yeilding support to a numerous body of merchants, manufacturers, artizans, and many of the labouring class of the community.
Generally speaking, the Africans are unacquainted with specie as a circulating medium of commerce, although they form to themselves an ideal standard, by which they estimate the value of the commodities in barter; this, however, fluctuates on various parts of the coast.
From Senegal to Cape Mesurado, the medium of calculation is termed a bar; from thence to the eastward of Cape Palmas, the computation is in rounds; and on the Gold Coast in ackies of gold, equal to 4_l_. sterling, and of trade only half that value.
At Goree the bar, under the French, was 4, pieces of 24 sous, and 1 of 6; but at present the bar is considered a dollar.
The bar is by no means a precise value, but subject to much variation; the quantity and quality of the articles materially differing in many parts of the coast, and frequently on rivers of a near vicinity; for example, six heads of tobacco are equal in trade to a bar, as is a gallon of rum, or a fathom of chintz.
A piece of cloth which, in one place, will only pass for 6 bars, will in others fluctuate to 10; hence the trader must form an average standard, to reduce his assortment to an equilibrium.
The following are the barter prices now established throughout a considerable extent of the Windward Coast; but it is to be observed, they are subject to fluctuation from locality of situation and other circumstances.
1 blue baft 6 bars 1 bonny chintz & stripe 8 1 white baft 6 1 byrampaut 6 1 chilloe 6 1 bijudapaut 6 1 cushtae 5 1 bonny blue romal 5 1 niccanee 5 1 sastracundie 4 1 India cherridery 6 1 taffety 15 1 cottanee 12 1 dozen britannias 8 1 piece of bandanas 6 1 barrel of powder 60 1 fowling gun 8 1 burding 6 1 soldier’s gun 5 bars 1 buccanier ditto 6 1 dozen of cutlasses 8 1 sword blade 2 1 iron bar 1 1000 arangoes 30 1 bunch of point beads 1 1 bunch of mock coral 1 Red pecado 3lb. for 1 Seed beads, ditto 1 Battery ditto 1 1 Mandingo kettle 1 1 dozen of hardware 3 1 bason 1 1 ton of salt 60 1 fine hat 3 Tobacco, 6lb. to 1 Rum, per gallon 1
Prime ivory is procured at a bar per lb, and escrevals, or pieces under 20lb. 1 bar for each 1-1/2lb.
As the natives are unacquainted with arithmetic, their numerical calculations are carried on by counters of pebbles, gun-flints, or cowries.
After the number of bars is decided upon, a counter, or pebble, &c. is put down, representing every bar of merchandize, until the whole is exhausted, when the palaver is finished; and, as they have very little idea of the value of time, they will use every artifice of delay and chicane to gain a bar.
In matters of less consequence they reckon with their fingers, by bending the little finger of the right hand close to the palm, and the other fingers in succession, proceeding to the left hand, concluding the calculation by clapping both the hands together; and if it requires to be extended, the same process is repeated.
Among the Foulahs in particular, commercial transactions are carried on with extreme tardiness; a palaver is held over every thing they have for barter. The season in which they chiefly bring their trade to the coast is during the dry months, and they generally travel in caravans, under the control of a chief or head man. The head man of the party expects to be lodged and accommodated by the factor, and before they enter upon business, he expects the latter to give him service, or a present of kola, Malaguetta pepper, tobacco, palm oil, and rice; if they eat of the kola, and the present is not returned, the head man begins the trade, by making a long speech, in which he magnifies the difficulties and dangers he has had to surmount, &c.; mutual interpreters report this harangue. The trade for rice is settled with little delay, but every tooth of ivory requires a new palaver, and they will dispute for a whole day for a bar with the most determined firmness.
When the palaver and trade is gone through, they again expect a present, and if they are pleased with the factor, they march off singing his praises, which they communicate to all they meet on the road.
The annual return from this commerce in colonial productions, has been from two to three millions sterling; for although large remittances have been made in bills to the African merchants, yet these bills have been provided for in produce by the planters. Politically considered, it will appear, that its regeneration might have been more appropriately the progressive work of time; and humanely viewed, it will also appear, from my subsequent remarks, that by those means alone the African can be freed from his shackles, and his condition efficaciously improved.
But to proceed with the intention of this chapter, I shall next make some remarks on the religion, customs, and character of the natives of the Windward Coast.
The natives on this part of the coast, and indeed throughout Africa, are in general extremely superstitious; they believe in witchcraft, incantations, and charms, and in certain Mahomedan doctrines, adopted from itinerant devotees and priests of that persuasion, who are numerous among them, and make a trade of selling charms. The Baggoes, Nellos, Susees, Timinees, &c. occasionally worship and offer sacrifices to the Devil, and are equally confused in their conception of the Supreme Being, of whose attributes they entertain an assemblage of indistinct ideas, of which it is impossible to give any clear description. They will tell the traveller with great apathy, “they never saw
Fetish, derived from the word Feitico, denotes witchcraft among the majority of the maritime nations of Africa: this superstition is even extended to some Europeans after a long residence in that country, and is an expression of a compound meaning, forming an arrangement of various figures, which constitute the objects of adoration, whether intellectually conceived, or combined with corporeal substances; even the act of devotion itself; or the various charms, incantations, and buffoonery of the priests and fetish makers, who abound among them. In short, it is an incongruous composition of any thing dedicated to the purpose; one kind of fetish is formed of a piece of parchment containing an expression or sentence from the Koran, which is associated with other substances, sewed up in a piece of leather, and worn upon several parts of their bodies. Another kind is placed over the doors of their huts, composed of distorted images besmeared with palm oil, and stuck with feathers, some parts are tinged with blood, and the whole is bedaubed with other preposterous applications.
Ghresh, or Gresh, is an expression in the Arabic tongue, meaning to expel or drive away, and, as I apprehend, by the repetition of the word, is the expression from which the African gris-gris is derived, consisting of exorcised feathers, cloth, &c., short sentences from the Koran, written on parchment, and enclosed in small ornamented leathern cases, worn about their persons, under the idea that it will keep away evil spirits, and is a species of fetish.
The Mandingos, or book-men, are great fetish makers, many of them being well versed in the Arabic tongue, and writing it in a neat character. From the impression of their superior learning and address, their influence and numbers daily increase, many of them having become rulers and chiefs in places where they sojourned as strangers, The religion they profess in common with the Foolahs, Jolliffs, and other Mahomedan tribes, is peculiarly adapted to the sensual effiminacy of the Africans: the doctrines of Mahomet contained in their book I have procured from a very intelligent chief in the Rio Pongo, and when I compare his account with others of his nation on this part of the coast, the Foolahs, and the Mahomedan tribes in the vicinity of the Island of Goree, I am persuaded the following is the portion of the Islam faith believed by them.
1st. That God is above all, and not born of woman.
2d. That Mahomet stands between God and man, to intercede for him; that he is superior to all beings born of woman, and is the favorite of God. And,
3d. That he has prepared for the meanest of his followers and believers seventy-two bouris, or black-eyed girls of superior beauty, who are to administer to all their pleasures, and participate with them in the enjoyment of the fountains and groves of paradise, and in the gratification of those appetites congenial to their nature and existence in this world. This nearly amounts to the entire belief of Mahomet’s doctrine, which is nothing but a compound of this eternal truth and necessary fiction; namely, “that there is only one God, and Mahomet is the apostle of God:” from hence, in the idiom of the Koran, the belief of God is inseparable from the apostolic character of Mahomet. The fertile and politic imagination of this impostor admirably adapted his tenets to the prevailing and established customs; he tolerates polygamy, &c. and to add to the sanctity of his pernicious doctrines, he represents himself as having been visited by the angel Gabriel, in the cave of Hera, where he communicated to him the precepts of the Koran, in the month of Ramadan, which he enjoins as a fast; he interdicts wine, and inculcates the necessity of praying five times a day, facing the holy city, &c.; forming together a system of the most insidious character towards the establishment of pure Christianity. In the performance of the duties of their belief, the Mahomedan nations of Africa, upon the coast, are exact and scrupulous, but they have no idea of the intellectual doctrines of the Islam faith, or the happiness described by Mahomet as enjoyed by superior saints in the beatitude of vision; they are as perplexed on this subject as they are in their conceptions of the divine nature, and discover a surprising contraction of mental powers, when considered as human beings endowed with reason.
The nations, upon the Windward Coast, are in general little influenced by belief in their actions. Forgiveness of injuries they conceive incompatible with the nature of man; and a spirit of retaliation is very prevalent and hereditary, descending in succession from father to son. They are extremely jealous of white men, designing, ferocious, and cowardly; but there are, notwithstanding, a great variety of localities existing among them, and it will be found that their climate and habits are closely assimilated.
To the Africans, the indispensible articles of life are reduced to a very narrow compass, and they are unacquainted with the insatiate wants of Europeans. The heat of the climate renders cloathing an incumberance, and occasions a carelessness with regard to their dwellings: for the former, they require only a stripe of linen, and their gris-gris; while a building of mud, covered with an interwoven and thatched roof, forms the latter, which is reared with little labour, and, when circumstances require it, is abandoned without much regret.
The food of the Negro consists chiefly of rice, millet, &c. seasoned with palm oil, butter, or the juices of the cocoa-nut tree mixed with herbs of various kinds. They frequently regale themselves with other dishes, kous-kous, and country mess, to which they sometimes add fowls, fish, and flesh, heightened in the flavour by a variety of savory applications.
A contracted system of agriculture, conducted by their women and slaves, in a very few days prepares the lugars, or cultivated fields; and the harvest is distributed by the elders of the community, according to the portion and wants of the society of the village, or is stored up to be portioned out as circumstances may require.
Water is the ordinary drink of the Negroes; they, however, regale themselves with a wine extracted from the palm tree, as before described, which, in the luxury of indulgence, they frequently suck through a very small kind of cane, until inebriety and stupidity absorb them in a perfect state of apathy. They have also a very pleasant beverage, extracted from the cocoa nut and banana tree, besides several descriptions of beer, fermented from various roots and herbs. In the Rio Pongo, and adjacent countries, especially in the Bashia branch of that river, the Soosees extract a fermented and intoxicating liquor from a root growing in great abundance, which they call gingingey, something similar to the sweet potatoe in the West Indies. The distillation is commenced by forming a pit in the earth, into which a large quantity of the root is put, and covered with fuel, which is set on fire, and kept burning until the roots are completely roasted: the roots are then put into paloons, and beat, exposed afterwards in mats to the sun, by which they acquire a taste similar to honey; and are afterwards put into hampers for distillation. This is performed by making a funnel of sticks in a conical form, interwoven together like basket-work; the funnel is filled with the material, and water poured upon it; the succulent moisture therefrom passes through a tube, and yields a liquid similar in colour to coffee, and of a violent purgative quality. It remains in this state about twenty-four hours, and is then incorporated with a quantity of the ashes of rice-straw, which excites a bubbling fermentation like boiling water, after which it becomes fit for use. In forty-eight hours it returns again to its purgative state, which interval is employed in drinking most copiously, until overtaken by insensibility and intoxication. The root, in its roasted state, is an excellent medicine for colds.
Indigo and cotton grow in wild exuberance almost every where, without culture, and the women collect such quantities as they consider requisite for their families, which they prepare and spin upon a distaff; the thread is woven, by an apparatus of great simplicity, into fillets, or pieces from six to nine inches broad, which are sewed together to any width, required for use. The indigo, in its indigenous state, and a variety of other plants, colour these cloths, an ell of which will serve as a dress for a Negroe of the lower class.
They manufacture cloths, of a very fanciful pattern, from various substances. I have some from the rind of the cocoa-nut, of great beauty, and a fine texture; also cloth, fine mats, baskets, hats, ornaments, quivers, arrows, &c. which all prove the taste and ingenuity of the natives.
The Negro is attached by love about his thirteenth year, and from sixteen to twenty he seeks the object of his affection. This choice generally continues in his confidence during life; and in proportion as he acquires wealth, he associates with her several concubines, who generally live cordially together. From this acquisition to his household, he is considered rich; and it is a common expression with the Negro to say, “such a man be rich, he have much woman.” When an object excites his desire, he consults his head woman, who, without any apparent suspicion of rivalry, gives her assent, and forwards his suit; but she is displeased when not consulted; and it is not uncommon that the object falls a victim to her jealousy. Celibacy is a state almost unknown in Africa; and when it does occur, it is considered as a degradation.
The Negroe’s existence is almost a gratuitous gift of nature; his wants are supplied without laborious exertion, his desires are gratified without restraint, his soul remains in peaceful indolence and tranquillity, and his life glides on in voluptuous apathy and tranquil calm: he has few solicitudes or apprehensions, and he meets the stroke of fate with perfect resignation.
In the countries which I have visited, and, as I understand from others, every principal village or town has its bantaba, or palaver-house, which I have before described. In this house, or under the shade of some venerable tree, all ranks occasionally assemble in groups, from sun-rising to sun-set, and pass the time in chit-chat, or in conversation on public affairs. Their subjects are inexhaustible, and their tittle-tattle is carried on with surprising volubility, gaiety, and delight; their time thus occupied is so seducing, that they separate with great reluctance, sometimes passing the entire day in this, pratling, smoaking, and diversion: night, however, terminates these amusements: They assemble in the open air during the dry season, and under the palaver-houses in the wet, where they form themselves into dancing companies, generally during half the night, and not unfrequently the whole of it. Their instruments
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.
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.
From these sources alone have arisen the expedients attendant upon the slave trade; kidnapping and petty warfare form a very unimportant branch of the barbarism which governs the inhabitants of Africa, and their enslaved condition.
Viewing this in the mass of moral evil which disgraces the character of man, it will be found that it is even disproportioned to the estimated population of Africa, which, from the best authority, has been stated at upwards of 160 millions; and to apply the consideration to our own situation, it will be found, that the number of executions and transportations from the United Kingdom, in proportion to its population, is infinitely greater than the number of slaves exported from the shores of Africa, to its numerous inhabitants. Unquestionably the slave trade has extricated a number of human beings from death, whom the horrible sacrifices before described consigned to a barbarous exit, and has been a cause, though an immoral one when applied to Britons, of extricating many victims, who otherwise would have been annually sacrificed: humanity has, therefore, some consolation in this polluted branch of our commerce, which in its nature is barbarous and inhuman.
Theories become extremely dangerous when they are impracticable, or misapplied, and are pernicious in their consequences from the fallacious measures they establish. In Africa crimes are punished by forfeitures, slavery, or death; they are however rare; but accusations are often used to procure slaves, whether for domestic purposes, sale, or sacrifice to their customs. Death, as a punishment, is seldom the penalty of condemnation; and if the culprit is rich, he can purchase his security. The alleged crime of witchcraft, or magic, is a common means by which the chiefs increase their accusations; and, consequently, the number of slaves. Adultery, and other violations of social order, are punished by fine, but absolution is to be obtained by money.
The crimes by which the chiefs obtain the condemnation and disposal of their subjects, are nearly all imaginary; for few exist which, under their laws, are considered as acts of turpitude. The abuse of authority, the action of violent passions, barbarous customs, ferocious habits, and insatiate avarice among the chiefs, augment the number of captives and victims, and the operation of these is much greater in the interior than in the maritime districts; but this leads me to the next part of my subject, namely, that a late legislative act will not, without farther interference, improve the condition of the African.
By the hasty conclusion of that measure, the unhappy African is now abandoned to his fate; and we have surrendered him into the hands of other nations, less acquainted with his character and situation. Former acts of parliament had adopted wise and humane measures to ameliorate the condition of slaves on board British vessls, so that their wants, and even their comforts, were administered with a liberal hand; and much more might have been done to augment these comforts. Instead of now being the object of matured and wise regulations, the captive is exposed to the rapacity of our enemies, who will derive great advantages from our abandonment of the trade, and those who are incompetent, from the want of local knowledge, to ease his shackles, and sooth him in his state of bondage. The magnitude and nature of the disease, required a comprehensive system of policy to eradicate it; and although in its nature and tendency of great moral turpitude, alteratives were required calculated to its inveterate character and established habits. The condition of the African, the probable advantages he was to derive by our abandonment, and the circumstances of commerce, were all considerations of important consequence.
Even virtue itself must modify to its standard many considerations of moral evil, more particularly in a political point of view, that it may the more effectually establish its principles; nor can it, amidst the corruptions of society, exercise at all times its functions with due effect; neither has an instance occurred where its prudence and discretion was more imperiously called upon, than in that now under consideration. It had immemorial custom in Africa to contend with, inveterate barbarism, and savage ferocity. This system had interwoven itself with our commercial existence so closely, as to require the most sagacious policy to eradicate it; at the same time it was the highest consideration for our magnanimity to interfere for that being whose thraldom and calamitous state had so long contributed to our wealth and commercial prosperity, before we abandoned him to contingencies.
Enough may have been said in the foregoing pages, to prove that something yet remains to be done to effect the manumission of the African, and preserve the important branches of commerce, which necessity has allied with the slave trade; and I entreat my readers to give this subject that dispassionate consideration which its merits require, and beg to assure them, that I obtrude my suggestions upon their notice with great submission and diffidence, trusting that what may appear in my system deficient, others more competent will embrace the subject, and excite the beneficence of my country in behalf of the African, promote civilization and Christian society in his country, display its arcana of wealth to the world, and open a path to its commerce, free and unobscured.
The colonization of the coast of Africa, in my estimation, is impracticable, from its climate being uncongenial to the constitution of Europeans, and from the system of slavery existing among its inhabitants, without the employment of natives in their present condition. The requisite authority to establish a system of labour, upon remunerative principles, and with industrious vigour, cannot otherwise be supported; and a misapprehension on this principle has been one of the great causes, as I conceive, of the failure of the Sierra Leone Company in establishing their agricultural objects. They attempted, in prosecution of their humane project, an agricultural establishment on the Boolam shore, opposite to their colony, where they had a choice of good lands: they proceeded upon the principles of their declaration, “that the military, personal, and commercial rights of blacks and whites shall be the same, and secured in the same manner,” and in conformity with the act of parliament which incorporated them, more immediately that clause which relates to labour, namely, “not to employ any person or persons in a state of slavery in the service of the said Company;” but they have totally failed; and in one of their reports, among other reasons, it is acknowledged, that for want of authority over the free natives whom they employed, their agricultural establishment on the Boolam shore was unsuccessful. Let not those worthy and truly respectable characters, whose humanity has induced them to risque an extensive property unhappily expended without effect, here consider that I mean to militate against their views, but rather may they acquiesce in the truth, and devise other expedients to promote their beneficent objects, and to assimilate the natives of the country with their views. They have not only to lament a nonproductive profusion of their property, but an alienation of the natives, occasioned by a misconception of their character, by distracted councils, and the narrowed ideas of the agents they employed to prosecute their humane endeavours, but also by a desolate waste in their colony, without a regular feature of cultivation in its vicinity.
At Bance Island, where slavery and agriculture were united under one superintendance in conformity with the established laws of the country, the mechanic arts among the natives have arrived at a greater degree of perfection than any situation I have visited upon the Windward Coast; and had the intellectual powers of their minds been more amply considered and cultivated, they would have exhibited an uncontrovertible example of the capacity and intelligence of the African. Although, as I have previously noticed, a superintendance directed only to the mechanical arts, applied to the local necessities of the Island, has had the most visible effects, yet, in proportion as their privileges have been extended, authority has become more inefficient, and their labour less unproductive in a pecuniary point of view, for want of a previous enlargement of their intellectual powers, and a progressive operation of freedom commensurate thereto.
I can bestow no panegyric adequate to the sense I entertain of that active goodness which prompted the Directors of the Sierra Leone Company to the undertaking I have alluded to; but with all due deference I conceive that they have mistaken the practicable grounds, upon which the seeds of civilization, and the principles of Christianity, can be effectively displayed to the African. The Directors had to contend with a peculiar co-mixture of passions, licentious habits, and hereditary vice; to eradicate these, and to rescue the natives from their natural state, alluring and progressive measures were necessary, founded upon an accurate investigation of their characters and policy, and not by the fulminations of intemperate zealots, and theoretical speculators. The beneficent views of the Sierra Leone Company have been unaccountably perverted, and have been the distorted instruments in prolonging, rather than extirpating, the barbarism of the African: it is therefore a subject of great regret to the benevolent supporters of this establishment, that an unprofitable expenditure of their property is the only existing perpetuity of their humane interference. Will it be found that the Company’s agents have introduced the arts of civilization among any tribe or nation in Africa, that they have made any progress in agriculture, although possessing a very extensive tract of fertile lands, or that they have converted them into any of the regular features of cultivation? Have they explored or brought into action any of the attainable and lucrative branches of natural commerce, abounding in the region they inhabit, or do they employ a single ship in a regular trade with the mother country? Will it be found that they have unfolded the doctrines of Christianity, in their native purity and simplicity, to the unenlightened African, or converted, by their preaching and example, any tribe or nation among them?—The spacious waste is destitute of the appearance of domestic industry, or respectable character; it exhibits only a tissue of indolence, hypocritical grimace, petulant and assuming manners, and all the consequences of idleness and corrupted morals. To succeed in this beneficent undertaking, and to expunge the inveterate nature of the African, his prejudices, and inherent customs, progressive approaches upon his present condition are indispensibly requisite, under the attractive influence of agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and navigation.
Accidental events, concurring with political causes, frequently render the best concerted measures abortive, and retard their progress, but unquestionably the above-mentioned are the means by which the African may be manumitted, and his condition improved. The wisest laws operate but slowly upon a rude and fierce people, therefore the measures of reformation are not to be successfully performed by a coup-de-main, nor are the hereditary customs of Africa to be erased by the inflammatory declamations of enthusiasm, but
Imperceptible and circumspect approach at innovation upon the laws, customs, and country of Africa are indispensibly requisite, its chiefs and head men must be cajoled, their jealousies dextrously allayed, and their sordid avarice flattered by the prospect of superior gain.
During the infancy of colonization, the employment of native labour must be tolerated, as is evident by the unsuccessful attempts of the Sierra Leone Company, and may appear from what I have already urged. Independent of political considerations, of much weight, the uncongeniality of the climate of Africa to the constitution of the European colonist opposes an insurmountable barrier to the exercise of laborious avocations; therefore it is necessary to employ natives, in conformity with the usage of the country; and a recognition of property should exist in their persons; for it is obvious, from experiment, that authority cannot otherwise be established, or the necessary labour performed to produce an adequate return. While this invidious exigency obstructs the immediate manumission of the slave, it does not the less accelerate it, agreeable to the sound and humane policy adapted to his condition; but, on the contrary, is necessary to his complete emancipation; for he must first be taught the nature of the blessings of freedom, his intellectual faculties must be expanded, and the veil of barbarism gradually removed, to prepare him to participate in its enjoyment.
The system of colonization which I, with all submission, submit to the legislature, and to my country, is this:
1st. To employ natives in whom a recognition of property shall exist, as unavoidable from the present condition of Africa.
2d. To procure them from as wide an extent of the most powerful nations and tribes upon the sea coast, as is practicable, and from the Slatees or slave merchants from the interior countries.
3d. That a requisite number of these should be fit for the present purposes of labour, and for an immediate initiation into the mechanic arts, as applicable to the local circumstances of the colony, and the useful purposes of life.
4th. That a proportionate number of males and females should form the complement, from the age of 5 to 7 years, and be placed in a seminary of instruction, under the inspection of the government of the colony, and under tutors approved of in England.
5th. That this establishment of a seminary of instruction in Africa, under the administration of the colony, shall have for its bases the initiation of these children, as calculated to their sexes, into the rudiments of letters, religion, and science, and the progressive operation of education adapted to the useful purposes of life.
6th. That when thus prepared, the necessary avocations of domestic economy, agriculture, and mechanics, employ the next period of their existence, under the superintendence of the European colonist.
7th. When arrived at the period of mature years, and thus instructed, to become the object of legislative enquiry and investigation as to their attainments, character, fidelity, and mental improvement.
8th. That such as produce clear testimonials of capacity, knowledge, and acquirement, become immediately objects of manumission.
9th. That all proceedings in this process of education and emancipation, become matters of record in the colony, subject to such control and investigation as his Majesty’s Government may, in its wisdom, appoint, from time to time, to guard against the corruption and prejudices of the legislative authority of the colony.
10th. That thus endowed, they are to be dismissed to their respective countries and nations, employed as agents in various capacities of civilized pursuit, and to promote the commercial and agricultural views of the colony, and disseminate their allurements among their tribe, which, under the direction of the unerring dispensations of divine providence, might, in process of time, diffuse civilization and Christianity throughout the utmost region of Africa, its inhabitants become members of civilized and Christian society, and their country, in process of time, be extricated from its barbarism.
It is for the legislature to devise a system adapted to the colonies, calculated to their local situations, and to remove the invidious distinction now subsisting between the African there, and in his native country; by these means the entire Negro race may participate in the blessings of civilization and revealed religion, in every quarter where our extensive dominion and influence exist.
By adopting the first proposition, a sufficient authority would be maintained to enforce the labour necessary to produce profit, and competent to excite emulation, which is a powerful passion in the character of the African; for in every effort he discovers a strong spirit of competition.
Through the medium of the 2d proposition, the natives of an extentive district would be collected under the instruction of the European colonist, and, in process of time, would become the happy instruments of initiating their, tribe or nation into the arts of civilization, and in promoting the commercial interests of the colony, which may eventually be diffused throughout Africa.
By the 3d expedient, an adequate portion of effective labourers would be obtained to commence vigorous operations.
In consequence of the 4th, 5th, and 6th, a portion of children of both sexes would be procured at a moderate rate, in their unadulterated condition, who would be susceptible of any impressions, free from the control of their parents, and the contamination of their example, into whose tender minds might be instilled the principles of moral virtue, religious knowledge, and the civil arts of life.
Through the adoption of the 7th and 8th, the objects of humanity might be realized, and slavery, with the slave trade, make a natural exit from the shores and country of Africa.
By the 9th, the corrupted and interested endeavours of the colonists to retard the work of emancipation would be controlled; and, by the patronage of Government, pecuniary resource and support be obtained, in aid of individual and corporate endeavours, the requisite population from the parent state acquired, and the indispensible authority established to secure success to any further attempts at colonization upon the coast of Africa.
And through the 10th expedient, an extended population would enjoy the advantages of instruction and example, and our ascendency and commerce be increased by a rapid process, which would predispose the natives to throw open the avenues of their country to our enterprize and research.
Thus may the long seclusion of the African from the light of truth and revealed religion be annihilated, his inveterate jealousies allayed, his nature regenerated, and his barbarism fall before the emanations of enlightened existence. In the interim, an unobscured path to the interior of his country will be opened, and our commerce therewith flow through a less polluted channel; while the Negro, now the victim of barbarism in his native land, may be extricated from his thraldom, and received into the circle of civilized life, which he has hitherto been excluded from, and to which providence, without doubt, in its mysterious and incomprehensible administration of human affairs, has designed him to arrive at.
[Footnote 1: A portion of them being destined to domestic slavery, as victims to revenge, and as sacrifices to their barbarous customs.]
What the Author conceives should be the System of Establishment to make effectual the Operations from Cape Verde to Cape Palmas.—Reasons for subjecting the Whole to one Superior and controlling Administration.—The Situations, in his Estimation, where principal Depots may be established, and auxiliary Factories placed, &c. &c.
What I have already said respecting the coast from Cape Verde to Cape Palmas, may be sufficient to convey a tolerably just and general idea of the religion, customs, and character of the inhabitants, the commercial resources with which it abounds, and the system to be pursued to unite commerce with the claims of humanity in one harmonious compact.
I am persuaded there is no situation on the Windward Coast of Africa more calculated, or more advantageously situated, than the river of Sierra Leone to influence and command an enlarged portion of the continent of Africa.
This part of Africa, as ascertained by Mr. Park, communicates, by its rivers to the Niger, and introduces us to the interior of this great continent; and, from other sources of information, Foolahs, Mandingos, &c. I am enabled to confirm the statement given in one of the reports of the Sierra Leone Company, that from Teembo, about 270 miles interior to the entrance of the Rio Noonez, and the capital of the Foolah king, a path of communication exists through the kingdoms of Bellia, Bourea, Munda, Segoo (where there are too strong grounds to believe that the enterprising spirit of Mr. Park ceased its researches in this world), Soofundoo to Genah, and from thence to Tombuctoo, described as extremely rich and populous. The distance from Teembo to Tombuctoo the natives estimate at about four moons’ journey, which at 20 miles per day, calculating 30 days to each moon, is equal to 2,400 miles. This distance in a country like Africa, obscured by every impediment which forests, desarts, and intense climate can oppose to the traveller, is immense; and when it is considered that in addition to these, he has to contend with the barbarism of the inhabitants, it is a subject for serious deliberation, before the investigation of its natural history and commercial resources is undertaken. But it also displays an animating field of enterprise to obtain a free intercourse with this unbounded space, and if, at a future day, we should traverse it with freedom and safety, the whole of Africa might thereby be enlightened, and its mysteries developed to the civilized world.
I have therefore conceived the expediency of submitting all the enterprises and operations of the United Kingdom to the influence of a supreme direction and government in the river of Sierra Leone. No doubt many contradictory opinions may prevail upon this subject, and upon the outline I have previously submitted on the most eligible plan of introducing civilization into Africa; but the detail of all my motives and reasons would occupy too large a space; I shall therefore proceed to instance some local circumstances and political reasons why I make the proposition.
From what I have said respecting the path which Smart, of the Rochell branch of the river Sierra Leone, has now under his authority, and can open and shut at pleasure, communicating with the extensive country of the Foolahs, whose king (as the Sierra Leone agents are well aware of, but who was strangely and unaccountably neglected by them) is well disposed to aid, by prudent application, all advances towards the civilization of his country, it is evident that an immense commerce, extending northward to Cape Verde, and southward to Cape Palmas, on the coasts, and from the interior countries, might be maintained.
By light vessels and schooners, drawing from 6 to 8 feet water, a continued activity might be kept up in the maritime situations and rivers, and a correspondence by land might be conducted by post natives, who travel from 20 to 30 miles per day, to all parts of the interior countries.
From the Island of Goree a correspondence with the river Gambia, and a watchful vigilance over the settlement of the French in the Senegal would be maintained both by land and sea, which, with a well chosen position, central from Cape Sierra Leone, to Cape Palmas, would combine a regular system of operation, concentrating in the river Sierra Leone. In addition to these three principal depots, it would be requisite to establish factories, and places of defence to the northward, on the rivers Scarcies and Kissey, at the Isles de Loss, the rivers Dembia, Rio Pongo, Rio Grande, Rio Noonez, and Gambia; and to leeward, on the rivers Sherbro, Galhinas, Cape Mount, Junk river, John’s river, Bassau, &c. or in other commanding positions towards Cape Palmas. The expense of these auxiliary establishments and forts would be inconsiderable, compared with the objects they would attain, the chief requisite being regular and well supplied assortments of goods, and a wise system of organization adapted to circumstances.
The navigation of these rivers, and habits of conciliation and friendship with the chiefs resident upon them, and towards the interior, it may here be perceived, are the only practicable measures, under the auspicious control of Government, to retain our commerce with Africa, to civilize its inhabitants, and explore its hidden wealth; and are the most favourable, also, towards our operations in the countries on this continent; while the various natives attached to this pursuit, would aid, by wise management, in influencing the inhabitants, where our researches and pursuits might carry us, and eventually conduct us to the centre of Africa, from thence to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, and the banks of the Nile. I trust it will here also appear that the means of acting, and the important advantages to be derived therefrom, are neither illusive nor impracticable.
It is to be lamented, that, in undertakings of this kind, men of limited genius, of no experience in business, and incapable of acting with unanimity, have been too frequently employed; who are governed more by caprice than principle, and are consequently seldom able to reduce their ideas into practice, and allow their passions to predominate over the maxims of duty. Delicacy in managing the humours and interests of men is the art requisite to successful operation.
May it be remembered, that if civilization and our ascendency prevail in Africa, and if the first essays we make to extend our relations with that country are successful, we attach to the civilized world one-fourth of the habitable globe, and its infinite resources. It therefore becomes a subject of great magnitude, to commence and form a system of operation, to collect the means of this immense extent, and the propriety of subjecting the whole to a similarity of views, and co-operation under one controlling administration.
The precipitate abolition of the slave trade will reduce our affairs in Africa, to a contracted and unproductive compass, in its present condition; therefore if we attach any consequence to this quarter of the globe, it will be expedient to endeavour to discover new scources [**Note: sources] of commercial wealth and industry.
Coffee, cotton, the sugar cane, cacao, indigo, rice, tobacco, aromatic plants and trees, &c. first offer themselves to, our attention in wild exuberance. And these, in my humble opinion, are the only rational means to bring Africa into a state of civilization, and to abolish slavery.
I recommend one administration under the patronage of Government, in the Sierra Leone river, to guard against a want of unity in the number of petty establishments that may otherwise exist on the coast, which from jealousies and interests varying in different directions, produce operations of a contradictory nature, and the first necessary step, is to be well acquainted with the character and dispositions, of the natives, and the localities of the maritime situations; for without combined enterprises, I venture to predict we are now excluded from the commerce of Africa.
I trust that my system will be examined in all its points, with dispassionate impartiality before it is rejected; and if others more competent to the task, devise more eligible means to promote the views of humanity and commerce, I shall feel happy to have agitated the subject, and rejoice at every means, to rescue so important a matter to the interests of mankind.
The commandant of Goree, I would propose as second in command, with delegated powers to control all the operations in the countries bordering on the Senegal, and the river Gambia; and an annual inspection directed by him, throughout this district. The intermediate countries from the Rio Noonez to Cape Mount would come immediately under the examination of the central and administrative government of Sierra Leone, and the third division under the authority of another command at a position chosen between Cape Mount, and Cape Palmas.
The military protection of the establishments, as I have here recommended, would neither require great exertions, or numbers. Goree certainly claims peculiar attention. Its fortifications should be repaired, and the guns rendered more complete, and tanks for water should be in a perfect state to guard against the want of this necessary article from the main land, which, as before noticed, is liable to be cut off at any period by the enemy. The convenience, airy and healthy construction of the barracks and hospitals, claim the most minute attention and care. Under skilful superintendance in these important departments, the health of the troops might be preserved, and objects of defence realized with a very inconsiderable military establishment. But as government must be well informed by its officers, both military and naval in these points, it would be
The bricks necessary for building may be procured in the country, lime from oyster shells, &c. wood and other materials at a very inconsiderable expense; and as the usual mode of payment, is in bars of goods, instead of money, the nominal amount would thereby be greatly lessened.
The Author embarks in the Ship Minerva.—Proceeds to the Rio Pongo.—Disquisitions thereon.—Further Observations on the Inhabitants, obtained from Natives of various Nations met with there.—The Isles de Loss—Returns to Sierra Leone, &c.
Upon the 4th of June, 1806, I embarked at Bance Island, on board the ship Minerva of Liverpool, bound upon a trading voyage to the Rio Pongo, and other rivers to the northward, and on Thursday the 12th came to an anchor at the upper forks, in the Rio Pongo, being the point at which the branches of the Bungra, Charleston, Constintia, &c. empty themselves; higher up the river are the Sanga and Bashia branches, occupied by a chain of factories, and inhabited by various nations and tribes. The principal factories for trade are on the Constintia, about 40 miles up the river, Mr. Cummings’s factory, at Ventura; Mr. John Irvin’s, at Kessey; Mr. Benjamin Curtis’s, at Boston; Mr. Frasier’s, at Bangra; Mr. Sammo’s, at Charleston; Mr. David Lawrence’s, at Gambia; Mr. Daniel Botefeur’s, at Mary Hill; Mr. Ormond’s, Mr. Tillinghurst’s, Mr. Gray’s, in the Bashia branch; with various others of inferior consideration.
During my stay on this river, I visited the whole of these branches, and in addition to personal investigation, I obtained much information from the various conductors of these factories, and had a variety of opportunities of communicating with many of the natives from the interior countries, who are drawn hither by the extensive commerce of the Rio Pongo. In my excursions on this river, I was generally accompanied by Captain William Browne, of Liverpool, who was part owner of the Minerva, and had the sole management of the concerns of her voyage; and I am happy to give him this public testimony of the many obligations he conferred upon me, while on this part of the coast, which unceasingly continued until my arrival in England, by the way of the West Indies.
The countries bounded by the Rio Pongo and the Gambia, are inhabited by the Nilloes and various tribes, who carry on a considerable trade with that river, the Rio Noonez, and Rio Grande, and inland to the two latter, is the powerful nation of the Foolahs, possessing an extensive country, about 200 miles in breadth from north to south, and 400 miles from east to west. Teembo, the capital of the Foolah king, is about 270 miles inland from the entrance of the Rio Noonez. The paths for trade and communication with the interior, from this position, are at the king’s pleasure, and he opens and shuts them by his mandate. The Foolahs are tall, well-limbed, robust and courageous, grave in their deportment, are well acquainted with commerce, and travel over an astonishing space of the country. Their religion is a mixture of Mahomedanism, idolatry, and fetishism. One of their tenets, which inculcates the destruction of those they term infidels, is peculiarly friendly to slavery, and as the greater part of their neighbouring tribes are of that description, they are continually practising every violence, and, are frequently engaged in wars. When I suggested to a chief of very considerable intelligence, and one of the Foolah king’s head men, whom I met in the Rio Pongo, the enormity of their injustice to the surrounding tribes, and how displeasing it was to the God they prayed to, his reply was, “True, this be bad fashion to Foolah, or Mandingo man, but these people we make war against never pray to God, nor do we make war with those who give God Almighty service.” While this barbarism exists, and the slave trade is continued, humanity will have to, bewail the miserable condition of the African slave. For this, and various other reasons that might be urged, and considering the position and extensive influence of the Foolah nation, their king claims a high consideration in a combined scheme of establishment upon the coast.
So impressed was this chief, of the beneficial advantages to be derived from agriculture, that he tendered land, cattle, men, &c. to the agents of the Sierra Leone Company, only requesting from them, in return, a delegated superintendance; but, strange to tell, this disposition was not cultivated nor improved; nor was the further offer of the king of Laby, and his high priest, to place their sons under the protection of the Company, to be sent to England and educated. A more important step could not have been taken to attain the object of the Directors, than this of attaching the Foolah nation to their interest.
The women of this nation are handsome, and of a sprightly temper, and their countenances are more regular than those of the common Negroes; the hair in both men and women is much longer, and not so woolly, but they have a most disgusting custom of forming it into ringlets, bedaubed with oil and grease, which gives them a very barbarous appearance. The Foolah tongue, is different from that of the surrounding nations, and its accent is more harmonious.
To the southward of the Rio Pongo, to Sierra Leone, lie the countries of the Bagoes, Soosees, Mandingos, Timminees, and Boolams, all idolaters except the Mandingos, who, like the Foolahs, associate in their religion a mixture of fetishism and Mahomedanism. The Timminees are a more harmless race of men than any of the other infidel nations, and their dispositions are more calculated to industrious avocations than their neighbours.
I have already noticed the Mandingos, but, as I consider this nation and the Foolahs of the first consequence, from their power and influence over the other nations of this part of the coast, I shall add a few more observations upon them.
From what I have before stated, it will appear that the Mandingos are a numerous people in Africa, gaining a daily influence and authority in the district now under consideration. Besides the tribes of this people who inhabit the countries between the Soosees and Timminees, there are various others established in the country of Bambouk, and on the borders of the Gambia, but the great body occupy an extensive territory above the sources of that river.
The empire of the Mandingos is not, however, so considerable as that of the Foolahs, but from their increasing influence over the western countries, from their docile and cunning dispositions, their knowledge in merchandize, and acquirements in book-knowledge, their power must, in process of time, be greatly increased; and it will be of the utmost moment to civilize them, in order to acquire an influence over the more barbarous states.
Notwithstanding the cunning and dissimulation which characterizes these people, they are generous, open, and hospitable, and their women are aimiable and engaging: they are more zealous Mahomedans than the Foolahs; their colour has a mixture of yellow, but their features are more regular than the other nations of Africa which I have seen. The Foolahs, the Mandingos, and the Joliffs, bordering on the Senegal, are the most handsome Negroes on this part of Africa; the hair of the latter, however, is more crisped and woolly, their nose is round, and their lips are thick; this nation, in particular, is blacker than those approximating towards the line; nor are the Negroes in the Krew coast, and towards Palmas, so black as the nation I now speak of; which may tend to prove, that the colour of the Africans does not arise from a vertical sun, but from other physical causes yet unknown.
There is a characteristic feature between the Mahomedan nations of Africa, particularly those from the shores of the Mediterranean (whom I have seen in my travels in that quarter) which, with their almost universal profession of the Mahomedan religion, sanctions the idea, that this part of the coast has been peopled from the eastern parts of the continent; but the visible difference in religion, complexion, and feature, of the nations towards Cape Palmas, give rise to other conjectures. An obvious difference may be observed among these numerous nations; their language and their customs are various, and are frequently without affinity or relation. From the shores of the Mediterranean to this part of Africa, the majority of the nations are Mahomedans, but towards Cape Palmas they are gross idolaters, with a mixture Mahomedanism and superstition; many of them erect temples, and dedicate groves to the devil. I have seen several of these, which exhibit no outward sign or object of worship, but consist of stumps of trees, in a circular form, covered with leaves, or a thatched roof, in the centre of which stands a square altar of mud, without any image of adoration. The reason assigned by them for their omission in this instance, is, “that they never look the Devil or evil spirit, therefore they do not know how to make any thing like him.” To the good spirit they neither make offering nor sacrifice, considering it as unnecessary to obtain his favours, from his disposition to do nothing but good, which of course he will administer to them.
From every thing that I have observed, I conceive that idolatry, and fetish worship, is the predominant religion of Africa, and that Mahomedanism has been propagated by the Moore and Arab’s. It may not here be unopportune to introduce the Mandingo man’s prayer, which I obtained from a very intelligent chief of that nation: viz.
Subbohanalahe Rabila’ademy abodehe. Subbohanala rabila Allah. Subbohana arabe. Inye allamante, nafuse wa amutate sue wakefurella. Teyatelillahe tebates allivatuelub lahey. Sillamaleko ayo hanabehe, obara katolahe Sullamalina Ihannabe, lebadelahe Salihenee”
The address to Mahomet follows,
Sahadala elahe idillaha
Mahomedo, arasoolo lahi
man Mahomedo aboodaho.
In their idiom of English.
God lives and, is not dust. God be master of all and is above his slaves. God knows his slave, and is not made of earth; but above all. (Before the next sentence, Subbohana arabe, &c. he bows twice.)
Suppose I die, I can look you to-morrow, and thank you, and be out of trouble, and free from the Devil.
(Teyatelillahe, &c. accompanied
by a motion of the fingers)
I beg in my prayers again, God, I may die to day, I look to thank you again to-morrow, my people and family may then get into trouble, and I then pray to you.
Mahomet be man, born of woman, the prophet of God, and speak to him for man.
In this system of prayer there is a mixture of fetishism, Mahomedanism, and a strong analogy to the Christian system; and it is no inconsiderable argument in favour of the mediation of the Saviour, that in the worship of heathen nations a mediator is uniformly associated with the object of adoration. Virgil in his Aeneid, and other classic writers, illustrate a belief of the ancient heathens in the omniscience of the deity, and they clearly elucidate the importance they attached the mediatorial efficacy of offerings and sacrifice.
The form of worship adapted to the foregoing prayer, is to squat down upon the ground, placing the palm of their hands flat thereon twice, touching the earth the same number of times with their foreheads; then rubbing their arms from the wrist to the elbow, with that which is contracted by this operation, when the hands are applied to the face, and the forefingers put into the ears.
I have dwelt more minutely upon this people and their present condition compared with the Foolahs, because I consider these nations have it much in their power to shut and open the paths of intercourse with the interior countries, therefore they become of importance, in the contemplation of any pursuits upon this district of Africa.
The Mandingoes inhabiting Galam, and the countries interior to the Gambia, carry on the principal trade with those of Bambouk, &c. where gold is procured. This precious metal is obtained from the surface of the earth, and from the banks of the falls of the rivers in the rainy season; it is first washed in a calabash; and when the water is poured off, the dust, and sometimes large grains remain. The natives have no idea of mining; but it appears from hence, that mines of this metal must exist, which are concealed thro’ the want of the arts of civilized life. The Mandingoes speak of these countries with a great air of mystery, and are extremely jealous, lest Europeans should obtain any information relative to them: as they carry on almost exclusively, this branch of commerce.
When I was in the Bashia branch of the Rio Pongo, a meteor of an extraordinary kind appeared for two successive nights, directing its course from NE. to SW. which put the natives in a most dreadful state of consternation; the women fell into loud lamentations, the men beat their drums, and sent forth the most horrid yells; imagining, that this barbarous uproar would drive away the object of their fears. In eclipses of the sun and moon, they repeat their prayers and sacrifices, with the same clamour, under the notion that it will frighten away the monster which they suppose to obscure these planets from their view. These superstitious notions have the most powerful influence over the Negro’s mind, and it is impossible to dissuade or reason him out of them.
From all I have stated, the great importance of these countries, to open an intercourse with the interior of Africa, must appear. On the borders of the Rio Pongo, and other rivers, excellent lands, forming hill, and dale, are every where to be found, and well adapted to agricultural experiments. With the consent of the chiefs, these might be obtained at a small expense, and many of them with whom I have communicated, would gladly embrace a wise interference; but they all complain, “white man not know their fashion,” intimating in very forcible language, that every caution should be used, at innovation upon their laws, customs, and manners. Let example first excite their admiration, and their barbarism will bow before the arts of civilization, and slavery be gradually abolished.
Before I conclude this chapter, I shall make some observations upon the temperature of the western countries of Africa, situated between Cape Verde and Cape Palmas, mention the principal diseases, and those which Europeans are most exposed to on their first arrival in these countries, and give general precautions against the dangers of the climate, &c.
The inexhaustible fecundity of Africa holds out to Europeans strong excitements to enterprise and research; but in the pursuit, the diseases which prevail in this country should be well understood; and it would be highly expedient, in any plans of colonization, to attach a medical staff, as the natives have no idea of the art of surgery, except what arises from the knowledge they have of the properties of herbs, and the superstitions attached to their fetishism. In annexing this extraordinary country to the civilized world, and exploring its stores of wealth, a burning climate, and the diseases peculiar thereto, unite with the barbarism of its inhabitants in opposition to the European; but by a strict observance of necessary rules, and avoiding all kinds of excess, the formidable influence of the sun may be resisted, and the pernicious effects of exhalations, which arise from a humid, marshy, and woody country, may in a great degree be obviated; and I am sorry to say, that for want of proper precaution and through ignorance, fatal consequences more frequently occur, than from the unhealthiness of the climate.
The temperature from Cape Verde to Cape Palmas is extremely various from the vertical rays of the sun, the nature of the soil, and the face of the country.
In the months from November to March, by Fahrenheit’s thermometer, it has been from 70 deg. in the morning, to 90 deg. at noon, in the shade; and nearly the same variation has been observed at the river of Sierra Leone; and in some places in the Foolah country it has been from 50 deg. to 90 deg.
From July to October, the mean temperature in the river Gambia, by Fahrenheit, has been from 90 deg. in the morning to 100 deg. at noon in the shade, and during the same months at Sierra Leone from about 92 deg. to 106 deg.; but a variety of local circumstances may give a greater or less degree of heat: this however may serve to give a general idea of the temperature of these countries. The island of Goree, for example, the island of Bance, and the bay of Sierra Leone, are more healthy, enjoying the cooling sea breezes, more than situations in the rivers more interior. The banks of all the rivers in Africa, which I have visited, are enclosed by impenetrable forests, marshes, and the closely combined mangrove tree, and it is but seldom that the land forms an uneven dry surface on their borders. Instances however in the Sierra Leone, Rio Pongo, &c. occasionally occur, when the most picturesque scenery adorns the river.
From May to August, hurricanes or tornados, before described, prevail upon the Windward Coast, and this phenomenon is to be met with from Cape Verde to Cape Palmas. The months from November to March are remarkable for the prevalence of east and north-east winds. When these winds, which are called harmatans, set in, they are accompanied with a heavy atmosphere, and are of a dry and destructive nature. Every description of vegetation is blasted by their influence, and every object, animate and inanimate, feels their powerful effects; the skin is parched and dried, and every feature is shriveled and contracted. The most compact cabinet work will give way, the seams of flooring open, and the planks even bend. Furniture of every sort is distorted; in short, nothing escapes their dreadful power. The nights at this period are cool and refreshing.
The months of July, August, September, and October are rainy, from the equator to about the 20th degree of north latitude. Towards the equinoxial they begin earlier, and make their progress to windward, but the difference throughout the whole of the north tropic fluctuates little more or less than 15 or 20 days. When the rains commence, the earth, before parched up and consolidated into an impenetrable crust, by the powerful influence of the sun and a long period of drought, is immediately covered with vermin and reptiles of all sorts, creating a moving map of putrefaction. The natives ascribe to these many of their diseases; but a further cause may be added, namely, the great change from heat to cold, and the variations at this season.
The powerful influence of the sun, which at this period is almost vertical, quickly dissipates the clouds which obscure the sky, and produces an almost insupportable effect; but new clouds soon condense, and intercept the solar rays; a mitigating heat follows; the pores are compressed, and prespiration ceases. Variations succeeding so rapidly, are attended with the most serious effects, and the most fatal consequences.
When the rains cease, and the heat of the sun absorbs the evaporations from the earth, which have been so long concealed during the dry season, a most offensive and disgusting effluvia is produced, which then fastens upon the human system, and begets diseases that in a short time shew their effects with dreadful violence; and no period is more to be guarded against than when the rains cease, for the intense heat completely impregnates the atmosphere with animalculae and corrupted matter.
The principal complaints which attack Europeans are, malignant nervous fevers, which prevail throughout the rainy season, but they are expelled by the winds which blow in the month of December; from hence these harmatans are considered healthy, but I have heard various opinions among medical men on this subject. Dr. Ballard (now no more), whose long residence at Bance Island, and in Africa, and whose intimate acquaintance with the diseases of these climates, peculiarly qualified him to decide upon the fact, was of opinion, most decidedly, that the harmatan season was not the most healthy.
When this malignant fever takes place in all its virulence, its consequences are the most disastrous; the symptoms are violent and without gradation, and the blood is heated to an increased degree beyond what is experienced in Europe; the ninth day is generally decisive, and this is a crisis that requires the most vigilant attention and care over the patient. I speak this from personal experience. In consequence of the fatigues I underwent in the Rio Pongo, and other rivers, and having been for several days and nights exposed to an open sea, and to torrents of rain upon land, I was seized with this dreadful disorder, although I had enjoyed an uninterrupted state of good health before, and on my arrival at the colony of Sierra Leone was unable to support myself on shore; and had it not been for the kind attention and skilful prescriptions of Dr. Robson of that colony, with the friendly offices of Captain Brown, I should, in all probability, at this stage have finished my travels and existence together. Dysenteries frequently follow this fever, which are of a very fatal tendency, and sometimes the flux is unattended by fever. This disease is not uncommon
The Guinea worm is another disease among the natives, which is productive of tumours upon the body and limbs, productive of great pain, and is a contagious disease. This, however, is a subject without my province, and which has been ably treated upon by gentlemen, whose profession fully qualified them for the investigation. In addition to the many valuable treatises upon tropical diseases, from high authority, I would recommend Dr. Winterbottom’s publication to the reader, as, embracing highly important local information upon the diseases of the Windward Coast.
I have only touched on those which have more immediately come within my personal observation. Too much care cannot be taken by Europeans in drinking, and even washing in the waters of Africa, which should always undergo a filtering preparation, and I am persuaded that great circumspection should be used in this respect: these and other precautions, with a generous, but regular system of living, would no doubt tend to diminish the fatal tendency of diseases in Africa.
Without doubt, a series of professional observations and enquiry into the temperature and periodical variations of the climate of Africa, and its diseases, would be attended with the most important advantages to the science of physic, and might ultimately prove of incalculable consequence in preserving the valuable lives of our brave soldiers and sailors, exposed to all the ravages of tropical climates. Advantages that are well worth the attention of government, which would train up a body of physicians and surgeons, initiated into the mysteries of the diseases peculiar to those countries, which might tend to preserve a large portion of human beings of the utmost consequence and importance to the state; and it might form a part in the organization of colonial establishments, to attach thereto an institution of this nature.
The Author visits the Isles de Loss.—Remarks on those Islands.—Touches at the River Scarcies.—Arrives at the Colony of Sierra Leone.—Embarks for the West Indies—Lands at the Colony of Demerory.—Some Observations on the Productions of that Colony, Berbice, and Essequibo, and on the Importance of Dutch Guiana to the United Kingdom, in a political and commercial View.
On the 4th of July, I rejoined the Minerva at the Palm Trees, and on the 5th we weighed and passed the bar of the Rio Pongo, steering our course for the Isles de Loss; and on the 6th came to an anchor off Factory Island.
The Isles de Loss, in the Portuguese language meaning Islands of Idols, are so called from the idolatrous customs of the natives, and are seven in number; Tammara, Crawford’s, Factory, Temba, White’s, Goat, and Kid islands. Tammara is the largest, but very difficult of approach, and has few inhabitants; Crawford’s has two factories for trade, belonging to gentlemen formerly in the service of the Sierra Leone Company; and Factory Island has an American establishment, conducted by a Mr. Fisk, These are the principal (the others being little more than barren rocks), and they abound in vegetation and natural productions. Squilly, or the sea onion, to which great medicinal qualities are ascribed, grows in great abundance in these islands, and might be procured in almost any quantity. Dr. Lewis, in the Materia Medica, or Edinburgh Dispensary, describes the peculiar qualities of this root.
The positions of these islands are excellent for trade, but exposed to the predatory excursions of the enemy, who have frequently pillaged the factories established in Crawford’s Island.
On the 9th we again got under weigh, steering our course for the entrance into the river Scarcies. The night was attended by tremendous peals of thunder, lightning, and torrents of rain: we continued off and on until the 12th, when we arrived outside Mattacont Island, bearing E. by S. and the Isles de Loss in sight. At 2 P.M. I accompanied Captain Brown, with five hands, in the pinnace, with the intention of running into the Scarcies river. We sailed with a fresh breeze in expectation of gaining the entrance by the approach of night; but we were obliged to anchor in the open sea, amidst the most awful peals of thunder, while the whole heaven displayed nothing but vivid flashes of lightning. Amidst this tremendous scene, exposed to the mercy of the waves, with the prospect of being deluged by rain, we secured our little bark and ourselves, in the best manner our circumstances would admit, and committed ourselves to the all protecting care and disposal of Providence. The mantle of night was soon spread around us, the scene was grand and solemn, and we were at length hushed to rest by the jar of elements, and the murmurs of the ocean. We awoke to contemplate an azure sky, and the all-bountiful mercy of the Creator, in preserving us from such imminent danger, to pursue our destination through breakers, shoals, and sands.
At day-light, with a breeze from the land, we weighed, and steered our course S.S.E. for the Scarcies bar, but the wind shifting to the S.E. and the ebb tide running strong, we were nearly driven out of sight of land; we were therefore obliged again to anchor, and wait the change of tide. Trusting to a sea breeze that had just set in, it being slack water, we again weighed: the serenity of the weather did not long continue, but soon increased to a brisk gale, accompanied by thunder, lightning and rain; we were driven with great impetuosity through the narrow channel between the bar and the shore, and from the shallowness of the water, the rollers continually broke over our heads, threatening our destruction every moment. Providentially we surmounted these dangers, and at 5 P.M. entered the river, which is interspersed with islands and picturesque objects, that could not be viewed without interest. I have been thus minute in describing this excursive voyage, that others, whose business may hereafter lead them to this river, may profit by the difficulties we experienced in this critical and dangerous passage. We were obliged to come to an anchorage in the river during the night, under a very violent rain, and the next day arrived at Robart, the factory of Mr. Aspinwall.
This gentleman, whom a previous acquaintance had induced me to visit, received us with great hospitality and kindness. From a residence of upwards of 32 years on the coast, he possesses much intelligence and valuable information relative to this part of Africa, and I am indebted to him not only on this, but on former occasions, for many interesting particulars.
The factories of trade in this river are,
Mr. Aspinwall, Robart. Boatswain, A black chief and trader, above Robart. Mr. Lewis, Rocoopa, attached to Bance Island. Mr. Gordon, Thomas’s Island, ditto.
With a variety of small factories attached to those of Mr. Aspinwall.
On the 15th we took leave of Mr. Aspinwall, and embarked on board a schooner he had the kindness to furnish us with; and after a very tedious and tempestuous passage, arrived at Sierra Leone on the 21st, having had contrary winds to contend with; whereas with a favourable breeze, the passage is usually performed in a few hours.
Here I was attacked with the epidemic fever of Africa, and experienced the medical assistance and friendship I have previously noticed.
In an exceedingly exhausted state, but much recovered, I again embarked on board the Minerva, where I had a second attack of the fever, accompanied by dysentery, which reduced me to the lowest state of existence; and after one of the most distressing and disagreeable voyages I ever experienced, we arrived in Demerary roads after a passage of 71 days, and, by the providence of the Almighty, we escaped both disease and the enemy.
A few hours after we came to an anchor I went on shore, and I verily believe that the passengers and spectators suspected they had received a visitation from the world of spirits. When I reached the house of Mr. Colin McCrea, Captain Brown’s consignee, the unaffected and gentlemanlike reception I met with, both from him and his lady, with their subsequent kind conduct, can never be effaced from my memory. Captain Brown soon joined us, and in the most engaging terms we were invited to become inmates with Mr. McCrea and his partner, which we availed ourselves of during our stay in Demerary. A few days after, I became acquainted with Mr. Alexander McCrea, brother to my kind host, and as soon as my health would permit, visited him at his plantation, the Hope, 11 miles from Stabroke, the capital of the colony of Demerary. In this society, and from other quarters, I was favoured with various information upon the situation of the colonies in Dutch Guiana, and their importance in a political and commercial point of view.
The colonial produce of Demerary, Essequibo, and Berbice, chiefly consists in sugar, coffee, cotton, rum, and molasses; but the richness and fertility of the soil is capable of raising any tropical production; new sources being daily unfolded, of the immense wealth derivable from these colonies, and their great importance to Great Britain. The following example, extracted from the Custom House reports, may elucidate this in a striking degree.
In the June fleet of 1804, consisting of sixty sail of various burthen and tonnage, there were exported, viz.
17,235 Casks of sugar.
203 Casks coffee.
442 Barrels do. 39,701 Barrels cotton.
3,399 Puncheons rum. 336 Hhds. molasses.
8,668,885 lbs. wt. coffee.
Calculating sugar at L20. per cask, and L3. per barrel; rum 150 guilders, or L12. 10s. per puncheon; coffee 1s. per lb.; cotton L20. per bale of 3 cwt; and molasses a guilder, or 1s. 8d. per gallon, the total amount will be upwards of L1,600,000.
This immense export has since progressively increased, and colonists are only wanting to augment it to an inconceivable extent. How valuable then do these colonies become, and of what importance are they, in any negociation with the enemy.
Unquestionably under the fostering care and guidance of British jurisprudence, they would produce an accumulated export infinitely beyond the present computation, and be productive of increasing wealth to the merchant, and revenue to the country.
The lands are still more fertile proceeding towards the interior, and being thinly inhabited, are attainable with great facility, and are extremely various in their productions.
At this period these valuable possessions were nearly in a defenceless state, having a very inadequate and feeble military force to defend them, and being almost without naval protection; they had literally only an armed brig and schooner, built and set a float by the colony of Demerary, to guard an extensive coast, and an immense property.
In addition to the foregoing enumeration of commerce, indigo, pepper, cacoa, or chocolate nut, &c. may be raised to great amount. Of the latter, an individual planter at Berbice, from a nursery of 500,000 trees had 138,000 bearing ones in 1806, which when gathered in, calculating 5lb. to each tree, will reimburse him in the sum of L32,000.
Retrospectively viewed, it will appear that the colonies of Dutch Guiana are of the utmost importance to the revenue, and wealth of Great Britain. If any consequence is attached by government to the West Indies, and it would be preposterous to infer that there is not, these become of great magnitude in the estimation of our colonial possessions, and if they are to revert to their former proprietors, it evidently should be for no mean equivalent; and it is but justice to say, that when I was in this part of the world, the apparent negligence in the protection and jurisdiction of these possessions, by the administration of the day, had so far alienated the minds of the inhabitants, that their reversion to the former government did not appear to be a subject which would excite their regret; although they were originally predisposed in favour of Great Britain.
Contemplating also Dutch Guiana in our present state of warfare, and viewing it, from its contiguity, as an alliance of magnitude to French Guiana, the Brazils, and the Spanish settlements of South America, from whence, in the existing situation of Europe, the insatiate ambition of our inveterate enemy derives an important sinew of finance, which nerves his arm in wielding the sword against the liberties and the existence of the United Kingdom, they become infinitely enhanced, and are of still more momentous consideration.
Indisputably their possession would tend much to facilitate the British dominion in this lucrative portion of the globe, which might lead to a decisive termination of hostilities, and the permanent establishment of honourable tranquillity.
On the morning of the 30th of October I took my grateful leave of my hospitable host and his family; and, accompanied by my trusty friend, fellow voyager and traveller, Captain Brown, I embarked at noon on board the ship Admiral Nelson, the command of which he had taken, accompanied by about 20 sail of vessels under convoy of his Majesty’s sloop of war, the Cygnet, commanded by------Maude, Esq.
Touching at Tobago, where our fleet was augmented, we came to an anchor in the harbour of Grenada, on the 5th of November, and remained there until the 9th.
The history of this island, with that of the West Indies in general, is so well known, that it would be delaying my readers unnecessarily, for me to obtrude my observations. One anecdote, however, which among a variety of experiments, I made to ascertain the sentiments of the Negroes in the colonies, may prove, in a high degree, their sentiments upon their present condition. When I mentioned to them some
Among every class with whom 1 have conversed on this subject, I have uniformly received a similar answer, and it is a convincing proof that, by humane treatment, the condition of the slave is improved, not only by his transportation to the colonies, but in his own estimation.
It may be interesting to notice, that at the island of Grenada, I had an opportunity of correctly ascertaining the truth of a statement, I had heard from a medical gentleman of respectability at Demerary, that, that ravager of the human species, the yellow fever, was first imported into this island from the island of Bulam, in the Rio Grande, upon the coast of Africa, by a ship called the Hankey, which brought away the sickly colonists from that unfortunate expedition.
On the 16th we arrived at Tortola, and on the 19th sailed with the fleet under convoy of the La Seine frigate, and landed at Liverpool on the 6th of January, 1806.
I have endeavoured in the foregoing pages, to introduce to my readers, the substance of my diary of observations upon the Windward Coast of Africa.
Originally I only intended them for my own private satisfaction, and that of my intimate friends; but on my arrival in England, I found that the commerce of Africa was then a particular subject in agitation, among a large portion of my fellow subjects, and the legislature of my country.
Under these circumstances, I conceived it my duty as a British commercial subject, and as a friend to humanity, to communicate my sentiments to the Right Honourable Lord Viscount Howick, then one of his Majesty’s principal secretaries of state; which I did in the subjoined letter. (Appendix No. I.) Upon further reflection, and by the express wish of respectable individuals, I have been induced to obtrude my narrative and sentiments upon the notice of the public. I have avoided as much as possible to magnify my personal adventures, and dangers, nor have I had recourse to the flowing periods of description, preferring a simple narrative of facts formed upon grounds of personal observation. From thence, if my endeavours tend to awaken a spirit of enterprise, to enlarge the trade of the united kingdom, and to increase the export of its manufactures, or lead to more intelligent interference in behalf of the enslaved African, my design will be accomplished.
To do justice to the natural history of Africa, and to introduce to the public its various sources of commerce, would require a union of political interests, and vigorous execution, which none but government can apply with full effect.
The principal outline which I have endeavoured to confine myself to, is a recital of such traits of the disposition and character of the natives, as seem requisite to be understood to form an accurate judgment of the present condition of Africa. The advantages that may possibly result not only from moral, but political considerations, in forming upon sure principles, agricultural and mercantile establishments, calculated to instruct and civilize the Negroes employed in the necessary avocations, will unfold the fertility of their soil which is now left to nature; and will also fulfil the expectations of a rational humanity, while it might rapidly expel slavery and the Slatee trade, to the establishment of civilization, and more natural commerce. I have also endeavoured to demonstrate the eligibility of the position of the river Sierra Leone, from whence a controlling and administrative authority might employ the resources of the Windward Coast from Cape Verde to Cape Palmas, at the same time submitting solely to the wisdom of government, the propriety of annexing Senegal to our possessions on the coast; which of course would tend to the total exclusion of France from this part of the world.
I have besides dwelt upon such positions, as appear to me best calculated to establish factories of trade and agricultural operation; and upon the nations whose barbarism must first be subdued, in order to influence other tribes, and to obtain a free intercourse with the interior, and have pointed out those chiefs whose dispositions and influence, would greatly co-operate to facilitate this beneficent undertaking.
The rivers I have dwelt upon, are surrounded with fertile lands and a numerous population, and may be navigated a considerable distance into the interior country; and by reducing all operations to one well adapted system, under the guidance of experience, moderation, and wisdom, I am firmly persuaded that success will be the result.
What I have said relative to the present state of the natives of Africa, may tend to demonstrate the nature of the opposition, which civilization has to guard against, and the barbarism it has to contend with. The condition of a free Negro in Africa is easy and contented, and the class of slaves attached to them, are satisfied with their fate. They only are to be lamented, who are procured from condemnation, either for real or imaginary crimes, or who are taken in war; and it is from this class that slaves are procured by other nations. It is a remarkable circumstance, that the major part of these unhappy creatures come from the interior, and that the maritime places which have had intercourse with Europeans, afford only a small number of slaves; and I am persuaded,
This opinion may perhaps subject me to the animadversion of many worthy individuals; but I beg to assure them, that I am as zealous an abolitionist as any among my fellow subjects, although I widely differ from many of them, as to the means of effecting a measure, that embraces so large a portion of the human race; and I should contradict the conviction of my own mind, were I to utter any other opinion.
Rectitude of intention, a lively interest in the condition of the African, and a deep impression of the importance of this country to Great Britain, in a commercial point of view, have actuated me in obtruding myself upon the public; and before I take my leave, I earnestly entreat a deliberate investigation of the imperfect system of operation, I have recommended in the foregoing pages. If I have not been sufficiently perspicuous, I trust the shafts of criticism will be enfeebled by the consideration, that a commercial education and pursuit cannot claim a title to literary acquirements; but if in any instance I meet the judgment of a discerning public, and my suggestions excite more competent endeavours, I shall feel the highest pleasure, and satisfaction.
Into the hands of an enlightened legislature, and a beneficent public, I commit the Negro race; and may their endeavours be blest by Providence! may they tend to enlarge the circle of civilized and Christian society, and augment the commercial prosperity of the United Kingdom!
To the Right Honourable Lord Viscount Howick, his Majesty’s late principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; shewing at one View the most simple and ready Mode of gradually and effectually abolishing the Slave Trade, and eradicating Slavery, on the Eve of his Lordship introducing the late Bill into Parliament for the Abolition of the Slate Trade.
London, 5th February, 1807.
Stimulated by an ardent zeal for the political and commercial interests of my country, and animated by the principles of humanity, I venture to approach your Lordship upon a subject which, with every deference, I conceive to be of the most momentous consequence at the present conjuncture, namely, the existing state of Africa, and the relative importance of its trade to the United Kingdom.
In my communications to your Lordship, I shall adhere to that brevity which is consistent with perspicuity, and a recognition of the importance attached to your Lordship’s time and weighty engagements.
If experimental knowledge, my Lord, attaches any force to the observations I now submit to your Lordship, I have to premise, that they are the result of recent personal investigation, and are a summary of remarks detailed in journals of a very excursive observation on the Windward Coast of Africa, and a peculiar facility of intercourse with the chiefs and native tribes of a widely extended circle, from which I am returned, by the West Indies, in the late fleet under the convoy of his Majesty’s frigate La Seine, and Merlin sloop of war.
As a preliminary introduction, permit me to refer your Lordship to the annexed copy of a letter, (Appendix No. II.) which I ventured to address to the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, dated 1st May, ultimo, in which is exemplified the present state of commerce from the Island of Goree to Cape Palmas. Vide page 54.
Conclusive as this example may be of its magnitude, yet it is infinitely below its attainable increase. The want of naval protection, and the patronage of government, has greatly fettered it, and exposed the property engaged therein, to the incursions and destructive depredations of the enemy.
Connected with its present extent, the Gambia, the Rio Pongo, the river Sierra Leone, and the rivers adjacent to Cape Palmas, abound with the greatest variety of the most lucrative and rare objects of commercial pursuit, namely, indigo, numerous plants for staining, pepper, cotton, and a multifarious enumeration of dormant productions, besides timber of various kinds, adapted to the building of ships destined to tropical climates, having the peculiar quality of resisting the worm, so ruinous to shipping, and corroding iron; it may be cut into planks of 20 feet by 15 inches, and may be procured in any quantity.
A retrospective view therefore, my Lord, displays a fruitful field to commercial enterprise, to the attention of civilized nations, to the naturalist, and to the metaphysician, requiring united interference only, to unfold and fertilize them; which in effect, would tend to enfranchise a kindred species, absorbed in barbarism, and preserve, uninterrupted, our commercial advantages with this extraordinary and important quarter of the globe.
It is, certainly, my Lord, a subject of the deepest regret to the philanthropist, that among the Africans, a devoted race is consigned to the galling fetters of slavery by their inhuman customs, by their barbarous hostilities, and the commercial expedients of civilized states.
Much has been written and said, my Lord, upon this interesting subject, from authority high in rank, in talents, and situation, but still it is involved in a perplexed labyrinth; the attainable sources of African commerce remain unexplored, and the inhabitants of its extensive regions are still entangled by the thraldom of barbarous customs, and superstitious infidelity. No efficient measures have been adopted, upon practicable grounds, to unite the views of humanity and commerce in one harmonious compact, compatible with the present condition of Africa, its character, its customs, and its inveterate barbarism.
Benevolence has, unhappily, hitherto failed in its objects, through the opposition of a peculiar mixture of passions, of obstinate ferocity, and licentious and hereditary habits.
To subdue the inveteracy of these evils, and to establish the manumission of the African, alluring and progressive alterations are necessary, compatible with his present condition, under the influence of agriculture and mechanics, adapted to the useful purposes of life, to commerce, and to navigation.
Previous to his enfranchisement, my Lord, these must exhibit before him their facinations upon his native plains. Too impetuous and indolent to observe the forms, or to enter into the necessary details of business, he views the effect without investigating the cause; but when he perceives the former, and contemplates his own comparative wretchedness, and contracted sphere of intellect, he will be roused from his innate indolence, his powers will be dilated, and his emulation stimulated to attain a more exalted state of being, while his barbarism will fall before the luminous displays of enlightened example.
Hence, to free the African, commercial and agricultural societies adapted to the present state of the country, appear to be the most practicable means, and the only sources of remunerative and effective influence: but as these measures necessarily require population from the parent state, aided by great pecuniary support, and intelligent superintendance; the patronage of the legislature is indispensibly requisite, to aid individual and corporate endeavours.
In pursuance hereof, imperceptible and circumspect approach at innovation upon the laws, customs, and country of Africa, are highly expedient; the chiefs and head men claim a primary consideration; their obstinate predilection in favour of long-existing usage must be cajoled, the inveteracy of their jealousies and superstitions be dexterously removed, and their sordid avarice flattered, by the judicious maxims of policy, and by the prospects of superior gain.
The slave trade, therefore, being lucrative, and of immemorial existence, must, in the interim, pursue its present course, as a fatality attached to the condition of Africa, and as a polluted alliance, which the dictates of policy and humanity impose, until a succedaneum is found in its stead.
While this invidious exigency obstructs the immediate manumission of the slave, it does not the less accelerate it in conformity thereto, but on the contrary, is a necessary preliminary to his efficacious emancipation.
Before he is admitted into the political society of his master, and is allowed to be free, his intellectual faculties must be expanded by the example of polished society, and by the arts of civilization.
Maxims of policy, my Lord, are often apparently little consonant with those of morality; and where an inveterate evil in society is to be eradicated, address and delicacy in managing the humours and interests of men, are arts requisite to success.
This consideration is applicable to the present condition of the Africans, and may perhaps justify a farther continuance of the slave trade, as compatible with its radical abolition.
The reasonings adopted by a numerous assemblage of chiefs, convened in the retirement of the mountains of Sierra Leone, when that company assumed a defensive attitude, most clearly prove this grievous necessity.
In their idiom of our language they say, “White man now come among us with new face, talk palaver we do not understand, they bring new fashion, great guns, and soldiers into our country, but they make no trade, or bring any of the fine money of their country with them, therefore we must make war, and kill these white men.”
This, my Lord, is an impressive epitome of the sentiments of the whole country, and hence the impolicy of illuminating their minds and abolishing slavery, in order to erect a system of reformation upon an invidious base in the estimation of the governing characters of the country.
With every deference, my Lord, to the wisdom and benevolence which framed the constitution of the Sierra Leone Company, I would observe, that had they adopted the following measures, they would before now have been far advanced in their scheme of reformation.
1st. They should have employed their funds in the established commerce of the country. 2d. Have purchased slaves from as wide an extent of native tribes as was practicable; they should have employed them in that capacity, under the superintendence of the European colonist; have initiated them into the arts of agriculture and useful mechanics, manufactures, and navigation, and have instructed them in the rudiments of letters, religion, and science, &c.
3d. having arrived at this state of civilization and knowledge, their graduated manumission should have proceeded in proportion to their fidelity and attainments.
And, lastly, being thus qualified, they should have employed them as the agents to their tribe, to make known to them the arcana of wealth in their country, dormant through hereditary barbarism and superstitious idolatry,
From the adoption of the first proposition, a facility of intercourse with the interior and native tribes would have been acquired, and also a knowledge of the genius, policy, customs, manners, and commercial resources of the neighbouring nations.
By the 2d, the seeds of science would have been disseminated throughout an extended district, and a spirit of industry and enquiry would have been infused, which, by imperceptible degrees, under the guidance of Providence, might eventually have been spread throughout the most remote regions of Africa.
By means of the 3d, the objects of humanity would have been realized.
And by the progressive influence of the last, a system of civilization and commercial enterprize would have been diffused, and an equivalent, in process of time, been obtained, consistent with the cogency of existing circumstances, and the African’s present state of being.
By adopting this system, my Lord, the maxims of sagacious policy, and the claims of humanity, upon practicable principles, may be united, and adapted to the present condition of Africa, while our commerce therewith will be invigorated and encreased, and will flow without interruption through a less polluted channel; the seclusion of the African from the refined arts of society be annihilated, his jealousies allayed, his nature regenerated, his barbarism fall before the advantages of enlightened existence, and his enslaved customs make their natural exit, together with the slave trade, from his shores and his country.
How animating is this contemplation, my Lord, to the beneficence of enlightened nations, and how worthy of the magnanimity of a British government to effect!
In the interim, my Lord, new and accumulated sources of commerce, &c. will remunerate the parent state in a manner more congenial with the natural rights of mankind, while a monumental column will be erected to humanity, which will perpetuate its exalted benevolence, and excite the admiration of, and be an example to, the civilized world; but if Africa is abandoned by Great Britain, it will be subject to the rapacity of other nations, who, to my personal knowledge, are now directing their views towards its commerce in the contemplation of that abandonment, and who will, no doubt, seize it with avidity, as being highly lucrative and important; while the African’s chains will still clink in the ears of the civilized world, his fetters be rivetted more closely, and his miserable fate be consigned to the uncertainty of human events.
Finally, permit me to assure your Lordship, that I am wholly uninfluenced, and that I am, at this moment, ignorant of the present opinions of men in Europe upon this interesting subject, as I have just arrived in England, and have been excluded for some time past from any other scene but that of personal observation in Africa.
I have considered the subject with deep interest, and finding the momentous question upon the eve of being agitated by the legislature, I have conceived it my duty, as a British commercial Subject, to give every information to your Lordship, within my personal knowledge, and have, therefore, obtruded my thoughts upon you; and if your Lordship deems a more detailed and systematic view of my journals of any interest, I am ready to unfold them with the utmost alacrity. In the interim, I am,
Your Lordship’s most obedient
To the Right Honourable the Lords
Commissioners of the Admiralty,
referred to in the foregoing Letter to Lord Howick.
Bance Island, River Sierra
Leone, Coast of Africa,
May 1st, 1806.
That consideration which has uniformly distinguished your Lordships for the safe-guardianship of our commerce, and the property engaged in it, stimulates me to approach your Lordships with some few observations on the present state of the African trade, and its dependencies.
My object is, to submit to your Lordships a statement of the British capital involved in that commerce, as exemplified by the present amount of export, diligently ascertained from the most authentic sources of intelligence, and to offer some brief remarks on its importance to the United Kingdom, and the necessity of a more adequate naval protection.
In the first place, permit me to solicit your Lordships’ attention to the estimate of annual export from the Windward Coast of Africa. (Vide page 54.)
Your Lordships will perceive, that the amount of export only is here under review; and I submit to your consideration the capital vested in the necessary shipping, also the property of British factors, resident on the Coast, and factories belonging to merchants at home, which forms another article of great importance.
During the present war, from the Rio Noonez to the river Sierra Leone, 660 slaves, and more than the value of 100 slaves in craft, have fallen into the hands of the enemy; which were forcibly seized upon the premises of factories, the property of British subjects, to the amount of 35,000_l_. at the computation of 50 each, valuing them upon an equitable average: moreover, about one hundred resident free people have been involved in this violence, of incalculable importance, and ground of indefinite claims from the natives.
When your Lordships contemplate these facts, and the annual emolument derived from this commerce by the government, and a numerous body of merchants, it may be presumed that its magnitude is of sufficient consequence to justify the expense of adequate naval protection.
British subjects connected with, and resident on, the Coast, are consequently become deeply interested, and are earnestly solicitous for an extension of your Lordships’ paternal care towards their possessions. The principal amount, as before shewn, necessarily in the progress of business, passes into currency through their hands, which, with the surplus property they have in their stores, their buildings, and people, creates a momentous risque, which is exposed to the predatory ravages of piccaroon privateers, and to the hostile squadrons and depredations of the enemy.
With all due retrospective reference to your Lordships’ vigilance and watchful guardianship over our commerce, I take the liberty to remind your Lordships, that only one sloop of war, the Arab, (the Favourite being taken) has been charged with the important office of defending an extent of coast of upwards of 1000 miles, against the sweeping hand of the enemy; an example of which has fatally occurred in the late destruction effected by Commodore L’Hermitte’s squadron, to the very serious injury of many British merchants, and perhaps the ruin of many underwriters upon African risques.
From the apparent approaches the legislature appears to make towards an abolition of the slave trade, the object of consideration for the defence of the coast of Africa may have become of less comparative magnitude; but when upwards of one million in export from thence, and its enumerated appendages, are entangled, and at imminent hazard, an animated and impressive appeal is made your Lordships for every practicable security, while it remains in existence; and to the legislative wisdom, for a remuneration commensurate thereto, in the event of its annihilation.
Trusting that your Lordships will deign to recognize the importance of this subject, and will vouchsafe to pardon my temerity in assuming to suggest to your Lordships’ wisdom the expediency of establishing a more adequate and permanent naval force for the protection of the trade and coast of Africa, I am,
Your Lordship’s most obedient
devoted humble servant,
When the foregoing narrative and observations were prepared for the press, the original minutes from whence the following Appendix is compiled, had not come to hand, as they remained with a part of my papers, which I have since received from the coast of Africa.
The substance of these miscellaneous fragments I shall divide into sections, descriptive of the different subjects to which they allude, and it may be found that they illustrate more fully many of the foregoing remarks upon the Windward Coast of Africa.
Of the Purrah.
Among the singular customs of the inhabitants of Africa, there exists in the vicinity of the Sierra Leone, and more particularly among the mixed tribes of the Foolahs, Soosees, Boolams, &c. an institution of a religious and political nature. It is a confederation by a solemn oath, and binds its members to inviolable secrecy not to discover its mysteries, and to yield an implicit obedience to superiors, called by the natives the Purrah.
As it is dangerous to enquire from the natives, and consequently difficult to procure information on this subject, conjecture must supply the want of oral and ocular testimony; but what I have here advanced I had from an intelligent chief, who was a member of the society, who, I am nevertheless convinced, preserved his integrity, in communicating the following particulars, as I never could induce him to touch upon any part of the mysteries, which he acknowledged to exist, but spoke of them with the utmost reserve.
The members of this secret tribunal are under the supreme control of a sovereign, whose superior, or head man, commands by his council, absolute submission and authority from the subordinate councils and members.
To be admitted into the confederacy it is necessary to be thirty years of age; and to be a member of the grand purrah, fifty years; and the oldest member of the subordinate purrahs form those of the sovereign purrahs.
No candidate is admitted but at the recommendation and responsibility of members, who imprecate his death, if he betrays fear during his initiation into the ceremonies, or the sacred mysteries of the association; from which females are entirely excluded.
Some months elapse, in the preparation for admission, and the candidate passes through the severest trials, in which every dreadful expedient is employed to ascertain his firmness of mind, and courage.
The candidate is conducted to a sacred wood, where a place is appointed for his habitation, from which he dares not absent himself; if he does, he is immediately surrounded and struck dead. His food is supplied by men masked, and he must observe an uniform silence.
Fires, during the night, surround these woods, to preserve them inviolate from the unhallowed steps of curiosity, into which if indiscretion tempts any one to enter, a miserable exit is the result.
When the trials are all gone through, initiation follows; the candidate is first sworn to secrecy, to execute implicitly the decrees of the purrah of his order, and to be devoted to the commands of the sovereign purrah.
During the process of initiation, the hallowed woods resound with dreadful howlings, shrieks, and other horrid noises, accompanied by conflagrations and flames.
This secret and inquisitorial tribunal takes cognizance of crimes and delinquencies, more especially witchcraft and murder; and also operates as a mediator in wars, and dissentions among powerful tribes and chiefs. Its interference is generally attended with effect, more particularly if accompanied by a threat of vengeance from the purrah; and a suspension of hostilities is scrupulously observed, until it is determined who is the aggressor; while this investigation takes place by the sovereign purrah, as many of the warriors are convoked, as they conceive necessary to enforce their judgment, which usually consigns the guilty to a pillage of some days. To execute the decree, they avail themselves of the night to depart from the place where the sovereign purrah is assembled, previously disguising their persons with hideous objects, and dividing themselves into detachments, armed with torches and warlike weapons; they arrive at the village of the condemned, and proclaim with tremendous yells the decree of the sovereign purrah. The affrighted victims of superstition and injustice are either murdered or made captives, and no longer form a people among the tribes.
The produce arising from this horrid and indiscriminate execution of the decrees of this tribunal is divided equally between the injured tribe, and the sovereign purrah; the latter share is again subdivided among the warriors employed in the execution of its diabolical decree, as a recompense for their zeal, obedience, and promptitude.
The families of the tribes under the dominion of this infernal confederacy, when they become objects of suspicion or rivalry, are subjected to immediate pillage, and if they resist, are dragged into their secret recesses, where they are condemned, and consigned to oblivion.
Its supreme authority is more immediately confined to the Sherbro; and the natives of the Bay of Sierra Leone speak of it with reserve and dread: they consider the brotherhood as having intercourse with the bad spirit, or devil, and that they are sorcerers, and invulnerable to human power. Of course the purrah encourages these superstitious prejudices, which establish their authority and respect, as the members are numerous, and are known to each other by certain signs and expressions. The Mandingos have also their sacred woods and mysteries, where, by their delusions and exorcisms, they prepare their children for circumcision.
The Soosees, inhabiting the borders of the Rio Pongo, have a species of purrah, which gives its members great consequence among them; but their ceremonies are kept also with inviolable secrecy, and they are bound by horrid oaths and incantations. These people seem to delight in disseminating improbable tales of their institution, and their invention appears to be exhausted in superstitious legends of its mysteries.
The Timmanees have an inquisitorial institution called bunda, noticed in page 72, to which women only are subjected. The season of penitence is superintended by an elderly woman, called bunda woman; and fathers even consign their wives and daughters to her investigation when they become objects of suspicion. Here is extracted from them an unreserved confession of every crime committed by themselves, or to which they are privy in others. Upon their admission they are besmeared with white clay, which obliterates every trace of human appearance, and they are solemnly abjured to make an unequivocal confession; which if not complied with, they are threatened with death as the inevitable consequence. The general result is a discovery of fact and falsehood, in proportion as their fears of punishment are aroused, which the bunda woman makes known to the people who assemble in the village or town where the bunda is instituted. If she is satisfied with the confession, the individual is dismissed from the bunda, and, as is noticed in Chapter VII. an act of oblivion is passed relative to her former conduct; but where the crime of witchcraft is included, slavery is uniformly the consequence: those accused as partners of her guilt are obliged to undergo the ordeal by red water, redeem themselves by slaves, or go into slavery themselves.
When the bunda woman is dissatisfied with the confessions, she makes the object sit down, and after rubbing poisonous leaves, procured for the purpose, between her hands, and infusing them in water, she makes her drink in proportion to its strength. It naturally occasions pain in the bowels, which is considered as an infallible evidence of guilt. Incantations and charms are then resorted to by the bunda woman, to ascertain what the concealed crime is, and after a decent period employed in this buffoonery, the charges are brought in conformity with the imagination or malignity of this priestess of mystery and iniquity.
During the continuance of this engine of avarice, oppression, and fraud in any town, the chiefs cause their great drum and other instruments of music to be continually in action, and every appearance of festive hilarity pervades among the inhabitants, accompanied by the song and the dance.
Contumacy, or a refusal to confess, is invariably followed by death.
In short, the bewildered natives feel the effects, and dread the power of these extraordinary institutions; they know they exist, but their deliberations and mysteries are impenetrably concealed from them; and the objects of their vengeance are in total ignorance, until the annihilating stroke of death terminates their mortal career.
It is impossible to contemplate the religious institutions, and superstitious customs of the western nations of Africa, north of the equator, without closely assimilating them with those of Ethiopia and Egypt; and from hence to infer that a correspondence has existed between the eastern and western inhabitants of this great continent.
Of the Termite, Termes, or Bug a Bug, as it is called by the Natives upon the Windward Coast of Africa.
Among the insects mentioned in page 36, the termite, termes, or bug a bug, attracts peculiar notice. The following observations are derived from the investigations I occasionally made upon the Island of Tasso, attached to Bance Island, where they abound, and indeed in nearly all the western countries of Africa.
The oeconomy of nature, and the wisdom of Providence, are wonderfully displayed in these little animals; for although they occasion the utmost devastation to buildings, utensils, and all kinds of household furniture and merchandize, and indeed every thing except metal and stone, yet they answer highly important purposes in demolishing the immense quantity of putrid substances, which load the earth in tropical climates.
Their astonishing peculiarities cannot fail to excite the notice of an attentive observer; the sagacity and ingenuity they display in their buildings, their industry, and the plunder and devastation they commit, is incredible to those who have not witnessed their communities and empires. They are divided into innumerable societies, and acknowledge a king and queen, the former of which I brought to Europe, but the latter was by accident mislaid at sea. Linnaeus denominates the African bug a bug, Termes, and describes it as the plague of the Indies. Every community, as I have observed, has a king and queen, and the monarchy, if I may be allowed the expression, forms three distinct orders of insects, in three states of existence; of every species there are likewise three orders, which differ very essentially in the functions they have to perform, and are in appearance very different.
In their primitive state, they are perfectly white; they have six little feet, three on each side, and a small head, in which I could perceive no eyes, after a minute investigation with a microscope. In this state they supply the community with provisions from subterraneous cavities, fabricate their pyramidical buildings, and may with great propriety be called labourers.
In a few weeks they destroy the largest trunks of trees, carry away all descriptions of putrid substances, and particles of vegetable decay, which, in such a climate as Africa, amply compensates for the ruin which they otherwise occasion.
Their buildings are contrived and finished with great ingenuity and solidity, to a magnitude infinitely beyond the erections of man, when a comparative dimension of size is considered.
They are usually termed hills, and are generally in a conical form, from 10 to 12 feet in perpendicular height, and frequently upwards of 100 feet square in the base.
For a considerable period, vegetation is banished from the surface of their abode, but from the second to the third year, it becomes like the surrounding soil. The exterior forms a crust, which shelters the interior from the weather, and the community from the attacks of enemies. The interior is divided into almost innumerable chambers or apartments, with amazing regularity and contrivance; in the centre of which is the royal residence of the king and queen, composed of solid clay, closely compacted, and distinct from the external habitation, which accommodate their subjects. It appears that the royal erection is the first which occupies the attention of the labourers, as it is central in the foundation of the hill which composes the empire at large. This makes its first appearance above the surface of the earth in various turrets, in the form of a sugar loaf, from which they increase their number, widening them from the base; the middle one is the highest and largest, and they fill up the spaces as they proceed, until the whole is formed into one.
This compact construction is admirably adapted to guard against external violence, and to preserve a genial warmth and moisture to cherish the hatching of the eggs, and the young.
The queen is by far the largest, and has an unwieldy body, of enormous dimensions, when compared with her subjects; so also is the king, but inferior in size to the queen.
The royal residence is a full constructed hill, surrounded by an innumerable number of others, differing in shape and dimensions, arched in various forms, circular, and elliptical, which communicate by passages, occupied by guards and attendants, and surrounded by nurseries and magazines. But when the community is in an infant state, these are contiguous to the royal residence; and in proportion as the size of the queen increases, her chamber is enlarged, and her attendants and apartments multiplied.
The construction of the outward apartments which surround the central royal residence, that of the common father and mother of the community, form an intricate labyrinth of nurseries and magazines, separated by chambers and galleries, communicating with each other, and continuing towards the surface of the pyramid; and being arched, they support each other, and are uniformly larger towards the centre.
The second order of termes are like the first, blind and active, but they undergo a change of form, approaching to the perfect state; they are much larger, and increase from about a quarter of an inch in length to half an inch, and greater in bulk; and what is still more remarkable, the mouth is armed with sharp claws, and the head is disproportionably enlarged. They may properly be called the nurses and warriors of the kingdom; they urge their fellow subjects in the first state to labour, they inspect the construction of the interior apartments, repel all attacks from enemies, and devour them with fury; and may be considered as the standing army of the state.
In the third and last stage, they are winged; their bodies then measure about 7/8ths of an inch in length, furnished with four brownish transparent wings, rather large; they have eyes also of a disproportionate size, visible to the observer. When they make their appearance in this state, it is indicative of the approach of the rainy season. At this period they procreate their species.
They seldom wait before they take wing for a second or third shower; and should the rain happen in the night, the quantities of them which are found the next morning upon the surface of the earth, and on the waters, more particularly upon the latter, are astonishing. The term of existence at this stage is extremely short, and frequently on the following morning after they have taken flight, they are surprisingly weakened and decreased; at the utmost I do not think they live more than two days; and these insects, so industrious, courageous, and destructive in the two first periods of their existence, become the prey of innumerable enemies. Indolent, and incapable of resisting the smallest insects, they are hunted by various species from place to place, and not one pair in millions get into a place of safety, to fulfil the laws of nature and propagation.
Their wings in a short time fall from them, and the ponds and brooks are covered with their carcases. The Negroes in many places collect them in their calabashes, dry them, and fry them on a slow fire, which they consider as a delicious morsel.
A few, however, escape the general dissolution, several pairs of them are found by those of the first genus, as they are continually moving over the surface of the earth, and are carried by them to found new kingdoms and communities. The royal mansion is then erected, as before described, their wings fall off, and they pass the remainder of their existence in indolence and luxury, and in the propagation of their species. Their dimensions now undergo a monstrous change, more especially the queen; her abdomen augments by degrees, and increases to a prodigious size, when compared with her two first stages of existence; and the king, although greatly augmented, yet is diminutive compared to his enormous spouse, who sometimes exceeds three inches in length. She is in this state extremely prolific, and the matrix is almost perpetually yielding eggs, which are taken from her by her attendants, and are carried into the adjoining nurseries.
The foregoing is a very imperfect delineation of this wonderful insect, which requires the minutest description by an experienced and scientific naturalist to illustrate clearly; and there are many secrets in the natural history of this little animal that would amply reward his investigation upon the different circumstances attending its existence.
Those that build in trees, or erect pyramids, have a strong resemblance to each other, and pass through the same stages to the winged state, but they are not of so large a size as the foregoing; and it is a very singular circumstance, that of all these different species, neither the labourers nor soldiers expose themselves to the open air, but travel in subterraneous vaults, unless when they are obstructed and impelled by necessity; and when their covered ways and habitations are destroyed, it is wonderful how quickly they will rebuild them. I have frequently destroyed them in the evening, and have found them re-erected on the following morning.
When a pair, in the perfect state, is rescued from the general devastation which attends these little animals, they are by the two first species elected king and queen, and are inclosed in a chamber, as before described, around which a new empire is formed, and pyramids are erected.
That species which builds in trees, frequently establish their abode in houses also, which in time they will entirely destroy, if not extirpated. The large kind, however, are more destructive, and more difficult to guard against, as their approaches are principally made under-ground, and below the foundation; they rise either in the floors, or under the posts, which in African buildings support the roof, and as they proceed, they form cavities towards the top, similar to the holes bored in the bottom of ships by the worms, which appear to answer the same purpose in water as the termites do upon land. How convincing is this fact of the infinitely wise arrangements of the Creator, who has united, in the whole system of creation, one uniform conformation of order and utility; for although the vermis, or worm, which is so pernicious to shipping in tropical climates, and the termite, possess so many destructive qualities, yet these very properties serve the most important purposes and designs. Scarcely any thing perishable on land escapes the termite, or in water, the worm; and it is from thence evident, that these animals are designed by nature to rid both of incumbrances, which in tropical climates would be attended with putrefaction and disease.
The first object which strikes the attention, and excites admiration, upon opening and investigating the hills of the termites, is, the conduct of the armed species, or soldiers; when a breach is made by a pick-axe, or hoe, they instantaneously sally forth in small parties round the breach, as if to oppose the enemy, or to examine the nature of the attack, and the numbers increase to an incredible degree as long as it continues; parties frequently return as if to give the alarm to the whole community, and then rush forth again with astonishing fury. At this period they are replete with rage, and make a noise which is very distinguishable, and is similar to the ticking of a watch; if any object now comes in contact
In minutely examining these hills, great obstacles present themselves to the observer; the apartments and nurseries which surround the royal habitation, and the whole internal fabric, are formed of moist brittle clay, and are so closely connected, that they can only be examined separately, for having a geometrical dependance upon each other, the demolition of one pulls down more; patience is therefore exhausted in the investigation, and it is impossible to proceed without interruption; for while the soldiers are employed in defending the breach, the labourers are engaged in barricading the different galleries and passages towards the royal chamber. In one apartment which I dug out from a hill, I was forcibly struck with their attachment and allegiance to their sovereigns; and as it is capacious enough to hold a great number of attendants, of which it has a constant supply, I had a fair opportunity offered for experiment, I secured it in a small box; and these faithful creatures never abandoned their charge; they were continually running about their king and queen, stopping at every circuit, as if to administer to them, and to receive their commands.
Upon exposing their different avenues and chambers for a night only, before the next morning, provided the king and queen are preserved, and their apartments remain, it will be found that they are all shut up with a thin covering of clay, and every interstice in the ruins, through which either cold or wet could communicate, filled up, which is continued with unremitting industry until the building is restored to its pristine state.
Besides these species, there are also the marching termites, of an encreased size, who make excursions in large bodies, and spread devastation in their way; but as my means of observation upon them was only accidental, it will be intruding an imperfect description to notice them at all; but if we form a conclusion from the immense number of termites which everywhere abound in Africa, we shall be tempted to believe that their procreation is endless and unceasing.
When the papers came to hand which contained the substance of these remarks upon this extraordinary insect, I did not intend to annex them to the Observations on the Windward Coast of Africa, nor am I without some doubt as to the propriety of so doing; the observation of the learned naturalist only can ascertain the economy of the termite, or bug a bug, and I have therefore to apologize for obtruding these imperfect and general remarks.
Of the Cameleon.
The cameleon is a native of the torrid zone, and is a genus of the lizard: the faculty of assuming the colour of every object it approaches is ascribed to it, and other singular properties; but there are many rare phoenomena not so well understood, such as its absorption and expulsion of air at pleasure, its property of living a considerable time without any kind of nourishment, and its extraordinary visual advantages, which are perhaps not to be found in any other of the wonderful works of the creation.
I have made various experiments to ascertain these extraordinary properties in this little animal; and I brought home one in a preserved state.
The first object which struck my attention, was the variation of colour; and I am persuaded that it does not assume these from the surrounding objects, but that they proceed from internal sensations of pain, or otherwise.
From the moment that the liberty of my captive was infringed upon, or when interrupted in its pursuits, it became less sensible of external objects, the vivacity of its colour, and the plumpness of its form underwent a visible change. Its natural colour is a beautiful green; and when in a state of liberty it is to be found in the grass, or lodged on the branches of some tree, ornamented with the gayest foilage; and it would appear that its liberty, and the privilege of living in the grass, are indispensible towards the preservation of its qualities. The colour of its skin, in a perfect state of health, is scarcely discernible from the trees and grass, in which it delights to conceal itself, and is not to be discovered at all without a very minute scrutiny. It remains immoveable for a length of time, and its motions are all cautious and slow, continuing to loll out its tongue, which is long and glutinous, in order to secure the little insects that are necessary to its nourishment; and I doubt not but it has an attractive influence over its prey, for I have observed them continually floating around the cameleon, when scarcely discernible in any other space. When the tongue is covered with a sufficient quantity it draws it in instantaneously, and by incessantly repeating the operation, all the insects within its reach are taken in the snare.
That its health and existence depend upon being in the grass, I am persuaded, from the change occasioned by placing it in gravel or sand, when it immediately assumes a yellow tinge, its form is reduced considerably, and the air expelled, with which the body of this animal is inflated, so as visibly to reduce the size. If they are irritated in this situation, they expell the air so strong as even to be heard, gradually decreasing in size, and becoming more dull in colour, until at length they are almost black; but upon being carried into the grass, or placed on the branches of a tree, they quickly assume their wonted solidity and appearance.
The victims of my observation I have frequently wrapped in cloth of various colours, and have left them for a considerable time, but when I visited them I did not find that they partook of any of the colours, but uniformly were of a tarnished yellow, or greyish black, the colours they always assume when in a state of suffering and distress, and I never could succeed in making them take any other when in a situation of constraint. The skin of the cameleon is of a very soft and delicate texture, and appears to the observer similar to a shagreen skin, elastic and pliable; and it may be owing to this extraordinary construction that it changes its colours and size with that facility which astonishes us; but what may be considered as a more wonderful faculty is, its expanding and contracting itself at pleasure, and, as it were, retaining the fluid in an uniform manner, when in health, but exhaling it when in a state of suffering, so as to reduce its dimensions to a more contracted size. Its peculiar organization is such, that the atmospheric air which it inhales so generally throughout every part of its body, distends and projects even its eyes and extremities. I have frequently seen it after many days fasting become suddenly plump, and continue so for a fortnight, when immediately it became nothing but a skeleton of skin and bone.
The tenuity of its body is at these seasons astonishing, the spine of its back becomes pointed, the flesh of its sides adhere to each other, and apparently form one united subsance, when it will, in a few hours, at pleasure, resume its rotund state; and this appears to me to be a most extraordinary circumstance in the construction of this animal, which invites the minutest research of the naturalist.
To convince myself how far the assertion might be admitted, that the cameleon can exist upon air, I have placed them in a cage, so constructed, as to exclude any thing else, even the minutest insect; when I have visited my captives, they have opened their mouths and expelled the air towards me so as to be felt and heard. In the first stage of their privation and imprisonment, which has continued for more than a month, I have found them in continual motion around their prison, but afterwards their excursions became more circumscribed, and they have sunk to the bottom, when their powers of distension and contraction became languid and decreased, and were never again capable of performing their accustomed transformation. The one which I brought to England preserved in spirits, after undergoing upwards of two months of famine, when I carried it among the grass, or placed it in the thick foliage of a tree, in little more than a week regained its green colour, and power of expansion; but not contented with my experiment, and determined to ascertain it to the utmost, I redoubled my precautions to exclude every thing but air, and my devoted victim was doomed to another series of trial, and continued to exist upwards of a month, when it fell a sacrifice to my curiosity.
The eyes of the cameleon may also be considered a remarkable singularity; they are covered with a thin membrane, which nature has given it to supply the want of eye-lids, and this membrane is sunk in the centre by a lengthened hole, which forms an orifice, bordered by a shining circle. This covering follows all the motions of the eye so perfectly, that they appear to be one and the same; and the aperture, or lengthened hole, is always central to the pupil, the eyes moving in every direction, independant of each other; one eye will be in motion while the other is fixed, one looking behind while the other is looking before, and another directed above while its companion is fixed on the earth, so that its eyes move in every possible direction, independant of each other, without moving the head, which is closely compacted with the shoulders.
By these quick evolutions its personal safety is guarded, and it perceives with quickness the insects and flies, which it is always entrapping by its glutinous tongue.
Without doubt, this species of lizard possesses peculiarities well worthy the attention of naturalists, who only can define them; what I have said I have observed in my leisure moments, and must be considered as a very imperfect detail of its natural history.
Of the Interment of the Dead.
The ceremony of burial upon the Windward Coast of Africa is conducted with great singularity, solemnity, and extravagant circumstances of condolence.
The body of the deceased is wrapped up in a cloth, closely sewed around it, and the head is covered with a white cap of cotton, which is the colour universally adopted in mourning. The relatives of the deceased bedaub themselves from head to foot with white clay, upon which they form the most disgusting figures, while scarcely a leg or an arm exhibits the same feature. I have even seen serpents and other frightful animals delineated with great accuracy on many parts of the body, which gives them a most hideous appearance during the season of mourning.
When the corps has been washed, and put into a white cloth of cotton, of the manufacture of the country, the whole is inclosed in a mat, and laid out in state.
The corps is placed over the grave upon four sticks across, and after one of the nearest relatives has collected all the finery with which the deceased was accustomed to decorate himself, and that also which remains among his family, he asks him, with expressions of sorrow, if he wants such and such an article for his comfort in the other world, in which he is accompanied by the remainder of his family and friends, who join in making cry, or more property speaking, in dancing and rejoicing. The following night the dance and song is continued with demonstrations of mirth and glee, and are kept up every successive night during that moon; and if the deceased has been of consequence in his tribe, these extravagant acts of lamentation continue for months together.
On the Amusements, Musical Instruments, &c. of the Africans.
Upon all occasions of mirth or sorrow, the dance is uniformly introduced, with monotonous songs, sometimes tender and agreeable, at other times savage and ferocious, but always accompanied by a slow movement; and it may with propriety be said, that all the nights in Africa are spent in dancing; for after the setting of the sun, every village resounds with songs, and music; and I have often listened to them with attention and pleasure, during the tranquil evenings of the dry season.
Villages a league distant from each other frequently perform the same song, and alternately change it, for hours together. While this harmonic correspondence continues, and the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages chaunt their couplets, the youth of both sexes listen with the greatest attention and pleasure.
Among the several kinds of instruments of music which accompany the ceremonies of mourning or mirth among the Africans, the drum is the principal. It is made from a hard thin wood, about three feet long, which is covered with a skin distended to the utmost. They strike it with the fingers of the right hand collected together, which serves to beat time in all their dances. Among the Foulahs and Soosees they have a kind of flute, made of a hard reed, which produces sounds both unmusical and harsh: but all the Africans of the Windward district are the most barbarous musicians that can be conceived.
They have also a kind of guitar, formed from the calabash, which they call kilara. Some of these are of an enormous size, and the musician performs upon it by placing himself on the ground, and putting the kilara between his thighs; he performs on it with both his hands, in a manner similar to the playing on the harp in this country.
They have another instrument of a very complicated construction, about two feet deep, four feet long, and eighteen inches wide, which they call balafau. It is constructed by parallel intervals, covered with bits of hard polished wood, so as to give each a different tone, and are connected by cords of catgut fastened at each extremity of the instrument. The musician strikes these pieces of wood with knobbed sticks covered with skin, which produces a most detestable jargon of confused noise.
Jugglers and buffoons are very common, and are the constant attendants of the courts of Negro kings and princes, upon whom they lavish the most extravagant eulogiums, and abject flattery. These jesters are also the panders of concupiscense; they are astrologers, musicians, and poets, and are well received every where, and live by public contribution.
It has already been observed that cotton and indigo are indigenous to the Windward Coast of Africa. Tobacco grows in every direction, likewise cocoa, coffee, and aromatic plants would no doubt succeed by cultivation. A trade in raw hides might be carried on to a great extent; and the articles of wax, gold, ivory, emery, dyes, &c. might be greatly increased. Substances for making soap are to be found in great abundance; cattle, poultry, different kinds of game, fish, and various animals, fruits, and roots, abound, affording a great variety of the necessaries and luxuries of life: and European art and industry are only wanting to introduce the extensive culture of the sugar cane. The warmth and nature of the climate are peculiarly adapted to the maturing this plant, and there are many situations from Cape Verde to Cape Palmas, where this valuable production might undoubtedly be raised to great amount and perfection.
In addition to the woods I have already named, there are many others for building, viz. todso, worsmore, and a fine yellow wood, called barzilla, the black and the white mangrove, boxwood of a superior quality, conta, a remarkable fine wood for building, and various kinds of mahogany, of a beautiful colour, and large dimensions.
It has also been observed in the previous section, that one of the musical instruments used by the Africans of the Windward Coast, named by them kilara, is formed from the calabash, a pumpkin which grows from the size of a goblet to that of a moderate sized tub, and serves every purpose almost of household utensils.
They divide this pumpkin into two hemispheres, with the utmost accuracy, and it is excavated by pouring boiling water inside, to soften the pulp. The inside is cleaned with great neatness, and they execute upon the outside various designs and paintings, both fanciful and eccentric, such as birds, beasts, serpents, alligators, &c.
In fine, the objects of commerce and enjoyment in this country are, comparatively speaking, inexhaustible; and this is a part of the world which England has hitherto strangely neglected, because its mysteries are unknown. It only requires the happy influence of civilization, agriculture, and natural commerce, to surprize and enrich those, who humanely and wisely interfere to procure these blessings to its inhabitants.
The system of establishment to attain these important ends to our commerce, and to the bewildered African, should be skilfully planned, and wisely adapted to the present condition of the country, for the hasty conclusion of the abolition of the slave trade never can, in its present state, meet the views and objects of rational humanity. Is the United Kingdom, at this crisis, when the enormous power of our adversary has shut the door of commerce against us in every direction where his influence and dictates command, to abandon Africa, so abundant and versatile
The operations of impracticable theories and misguided zeal have accomplished an unqualified abolition of the slave trade, which I am persuaded will be highly injurious to the commercial and manufacturing interests of our country; and is a measure which humanity will have deeply to deplore, while in its tendency it is pernicious to the African, and auspicious to the views of France.
Without doubt the ability and energies of the present administration will be directed to avert these calamities; and amidst the important diliberations which now occupy their attention, the condition of Africa, the wealth derivable from so important a quarter of the earth, and the relations involved with it, will not be overlooked by them.
LANGUAGE OF THE PRINCIPAL NATIONS OF THE
WINDWARD COAST OF AFRICA.
|ENGLISH |JOLLIFF |SOOSEE |TIMMANEE |------------|-------------------|--------------------|-----
----------- |One |Ben |Kiring |Pen |Two |Yar |Faring |Prung |Three |Niet |Shooking |Tisas |Four |Nianett |Nari |Panlee |Five |Gurum |Shooli |Tomat |Six |Gurum ben |Shinie |Rokin |Seven |Gurum yar |Shulifiring |Dayring |Eight |Gurum Niet |Shulimashukung |Daysas |Nine |Gurum Niant |Shulimang |Daynga |Ten |Fue |Fooang |Tofot |Twenty |Nill |Mahwinia |Tofot Marung |Thirty |Fanever |Tongashukung |Tofot Masas |Forty |Nianett Fue |Tonganani |Tofot Manlu |Fifty |Guaum Fue |Tongashulang |Tofot Tomat |Sixty |Gurum ben Fue |Tongashini |Tofot Rokin |Seventy |Gurum yar Fue |Tongashulifiring |Tofot Dayring |Eighty |Gurum Niet Fue |Tongashulimashakung |Tofot Daysas |Ninety |Gurum Nianet Fue |Tongashulimanane |Tofot Danygah |One Hundred |Temer |Kime |Tofot Tofot |I | |Emtang |Eto or Munga |Thou | |Etang |Moota or Moonga |He | |Atang |Otto or Ken |It | |Atang |Ree
Page 87|We | |Mackutang |Sitta or Shang |Ye | |Wotang |Angsha |They | |Etang |Angna |God |Tallah | | |The Devil |Ghine | | |Heaven |Assaman | |
|ENGLISH |JOLLIFF |SOOSEE |MANDINGO |------------|--------------------|---------------|---------
--------- |The Sun |Burham Safara |Shuge |Teelee |The Moon |Burham Safara Lion |Kige |Koro |Gold |Ourous | |Sanoo |Father |Bail |Taffe |Fa |My Father |Samma Bail | | |Mother |De |Inga |Ba |My Mother |Samma De | | |Man |Gour | |Mo or Fato |Woman |Diguen | |Moosea |Brother |Rak Gour |Tarakunjia |Ba Ding Kea |My Brother |Samma Rak Gour | | |Sister |Rak Diguen |Magine |Ba Ding Moosea |My Sister |Samma Rak Diguen | | |Head |Bop |Hung Hungji |Roon |My Head |Samma Bop | | |Tongue |Lamin |Ning Ningje |Ning |Mouth |Guemin |De |Da |Nose |Bauane |Nieue |Nung |Bread |Bourou | |Munko |Water |Dock | |Gee |Teeth |Guene | | |Bowels |Bouthet | | |Belly |Birr | |Kono |Fingers |Baram | |Boalla Ronding |Arm |Lokoo | |Boalla Same for hand. |Hair |Cayor | | |The Beard |Jekim |Habe de Habe |Bora |White |Toulha e |Fihe |Qui |Black |Jolof |Foro |Fing |Good |Bachna |Fang |Bettie |Bad |Bahout |Niaake |Jox
|ENGLISH |SOOSEE |-------------------------------------|---------------------
--- |Elephant |Siti |Camelion |Kolungji |Horse |Shuoe |Cow |Ninkgegine |Goat |Shee |Sheep |Juke |Leopard |Shuko she |Alligator |Shonge |Parrot |Kalle |Shark |Sark |Honey |Kume |White ant, termite, &c. |Bugabuge |(or Bug a bug) | |The Sea |Baa
Page 88|Earth |Bohe |Knife |Fine |Shirt |Doma |Trowsers |Wangtanji |Brass pan |Tang kue |House |Bankhi |Door |De nade |Day |Hi |Night |Que |Health |Maie langfe |Sickness |Fura |Pain |Whondi, Whona fe |Love |Whuli |Hatred |Niaahu |Road |Kira |Idle |Kobi |Hot |Furi, furihe |Cold |Himbeli |What are you doing? |Emung she ra falama? |Tornado |Tuliakbegle |Which way are you going? |Esigama mung kirara |To trade |Sera Shofe |Make haste |Ara bafe mafuri |To Kill |Fuka fe |To Quarrel |Geri shofe |To Sing |Shige shafe |To beat the drum |Fare mokafe |Have you done? |Ebanta gei? |Are you afraid? |Egahama? |He is not yet gone |A mu siga sending |Stand still |Tife ira hara |Run |Gee fe |Leap, or Jump |Tubang fe |Have you slept well? |Eheo keefang? |Do you understand Soosee? |Esusee whi mema? |I am hungry |Kaame em shukuma |Eat |Dong |Let us go |Woem hasiga |Will you go with me? |Esigama em fokhera |I have no money |Nafuli muna embe |How much do you want? |E’ wama ierekong |Sit down |Dokha |How do you do |E’mung kee? |Very well |Em melang hekeefang |Give me some rice? |Malungdundundifeemma |Here |Be |What is your name? |Ehili mungkee? |I love you |Efanghe emma |If you want rice I will give you some|Ha ewama malunghong eminda fuma ema |Let us go together. |Meekufiring ha siga
|ENGLISH |JOLLIFF |----------------------------|----------------------- |Goat |Phas |Sheep |Zedre |Wolf |Bouki |Elephant |Guie |Ox |Nack |Fish |Guienn |Horse |Ghenapp |Butter |Dion |Milk |San |Tiger |Shagle
Page 89|Iron |Vina |Millet |Doughoul |Quiver |Smagalla |To dance |Faik |To sing |Ouhai |To-day |Thei |To-morrow |Elleck, or Mek |Yesterday |Demb |A tree |Garallun |To drink |Nan |To eat |Leck ou leckamm |She is remarkably handsome |Sama rafitnaloll |Good day |Dhiarakio |Good day Sir |Dhiarakio-Samba |Good night |Fhanandiam |Come here? |Kahihfie |Yes |Ouaa |No |Dhiett |How do you do? |Dhya mesa? |Very well |Dhya medal |Buy |Ghuyende |Sell |Ghuyal |Take |Diapol |I will |Benguena |I thank you |Guerum nala |A bar of Iron |Baravin |What did you say? |Loung a houche |Can you speak Joliff? |Digenga Jolliff |How much did that cost? |Niatar ladiar? |Give me |Maniman |I love you from my heart |Sepenata tie somo koll
|ENGLISH |TEMMANEE |BULLOM |-----------------------|------------------------|----------
------ |How do you do? |Currea |Lemmoo |I return you service, |Ba |Ba |or salute | | |Are you well? |Too pay |Appay wa? |Very well |Tai o tai |Pay chin lin |What is your name? |Gnay see mooa? |Illil e moa? |Give me a little rice |Song mee pilla pittun |Knamee opillay | | |otayk |Yes |A |A |No |Deh |Be |Is your father at home?|Pa ka moo oya roshaytee?|Appa moway lore | | |ko killayee |He is |Oeeree |Way lorre |What do you want? |Ko nyaymaee? |Yeng yayma? |Why do you do so? |Ko sum kingyotteeay |Yaywum layngalla |I beg your pardon |A marree moo |Lum marra mo
|ENGLISH |TEMMANEK |BULLOM |--------------------|--------------------|-----------------
------ |I love you |Ee boter moo |A marra mo |Let me alone |Tuoy mee |Y’nfolmee |Let me go |Teer amee |Y’mmelmee |Sit down |Yeera |Y’nchal |I am hungry |Durabang mee |Nrik mi a me |Shut the door |Kanta kayraree |Ingkunta fong folootay |Will you go with me?|Yintoo ko pey a mee?|Mo mee ko day ree |Where are you going?|Ray mo koay. |Lomo koa |Here |Unno |Kakee or ha |Forward |Kihdee |Ebol
Page 90|Backward |Rarung |Wayling |To-day |Taynung |Eenang |To-morrow |Aneenang |Beng |Sometimes |Olokko ollon |Lokko poom |And |Ray |Na |Good bye |Mang peearo |Heepeearo
** The foregoing Vocabulary, and imperfect number of words, may serve to give some idea of a part of the languages on the Windward Coast of Africa. From those accidents to which the traveller is continually exposed, I have unfortunately lost what I am persuaded was a very accurate vocabulary of the Jolliff, Foulah, Maudingo, Soosee, Bullom, and Temmanee tongues, which I had arranged under the correction of a very intelligent trader long resident upon the Windward Coast. Owing to this misfortune I have been obliged to refer to scattered memoranda only, which I know to correspond correctly with the document I allude to. As the Foulah and Mandingo nations are of most consequence in attempts at civilization, I have to regret exceedingly that I have not been able to give the languages of those nations more at large.