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.