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.