Origin of the Missions—Its Objects and Plan—Preparations—Arrival at Tripoli—Prussian Colleagues—Necessary Delay—The Boat for Lake Tchad—Wind-bound—Anxieties at Tripoli—Correspondence with Mourzuk and Ghat—Circular Letter of Izhet Pasha—Composition of the Caravan—An aristocratic Interpreter—A Mohammedan Toper—The Chaouches—Free Blacks returning to their Countries—Marabout—Camel-drivers—Rate of Desert travelling—Trade of Tripoli with the Interior—Slavery—Caravans from Central Africa—Details on Commerce—Promotion of legitimate Traffic—Spread of Civilisation.
Since my return from a first tour of exploration in the Great Sahara I had carefully revolved in my mind the possibility of a much greater undertaking, namely, a political and commercial expedition to some of the most important kingdoms of Central Africa. The plan appeared to me feasible; and when I laid it in all its details before her Majesty’s Government, they determined, after mature consideration, to empower me to carry it out. Two objects, one principal, necessarily kept somewhat in the background—the abolition of the slave-trade; one subsidiary, and yet important in itself—the promotion of commerce by way of the Great Desert; appeared to me, and to the distinguished persons who promoted the undertaking, of sufficient magnitude to justify considerable sacrifices. Much preliminary discussion took place; but the impediments and difficulties that naturally start up at the commencement of any enterprise possessing the character of novelty were gradually overcome, and in the summer of 1849 it was generally known that I was about to proceed, by way of Tripoli and the Sahara, and the hitherto unexplored kingdom of Aheer, to endeavour to open commercial relations and conclude treaties with any native power so disposed, but especially with the Sultan of Bornou. It was not thought necessary, however, to surround my Mission with any circumstances of diplomatic splendour; and it was still in the character of Yak[=o]b—a name already known throughout the greater portion of the route intended to be traversed—that I proposed to resume my intercourse with the Moors, the Fezzanees, the Tibboos, the Tuaricks, and other tribes and peoples of the desert and the countries beyond.
The various preparations for the expedition occupied a considerable time before I could leave Europe; but I shall pass over all account of these, and enter as soon as possible on the plain narrative of my journey. We reached Tripoli on January the 31st, 1850, having come circuitously by way of Algeria and Tunis. Divers reasons, on which it is unnecessary to enlarge, had prevented us from adopting a more direct route. However, there had, properly speaking, been no time lost, and we had still to look forward to inevitable delays. An expedition of the kind we were about to undertake cannot be performed in a hurry, especially in Africa. In that continent everything is carried on in a deliberate manner. The climate is in itself suggestive of procrastination; and no one who has there had to do with officials, even of our own country, until he has himself felt the enervating influence of the atmosphere, can fail to have been held in ludicrous suspense between indignation and surprise.