Such are the general outlines of that system of slavery which prevails in Africa, and it is evident, from its nature and extent, that it is a system of no modern date. It probably had its origin in the remote ages of antiquity, before the Mohammedans explored a path across the desert. How far it is maintained and supported by the slave traffic which for two hundred years the nations of Europe have carried on with the natives of the coast, it is neither within my province nor in my power to explain. If my sentiments should be required concerning the effect which a discontinuance of that commerce would produce on the manners of the natives, I should have no hesitation in observing that, in the present unenlightened state of their minds, my opinion is, the effect would neither be so extensive nor beneficial as many wise and worthy persons fondly expect.
Those valuable commodities, gold and ivory (the next objects of our inquiry), have probably been found in Africa from the first ages of the world. They are reckoned among its most important productions in the earliest records of its history.
It has been observed that gold is seldom or never discovered except in mountainous and barren countries—nature, it is said, thus making amends in one way for her penuriousness in the other. This, however, is not wholly true. Gold is found in considerable quantities throughout every part of Manding, a country which is indeed hilly, but cannot properly be called mountainous, much less barren. It is also found in great plenty in Jallonkadoo (particularly about Boori), another hilly, but by no means an unfertile, country. It is remarkable that in the place last mentioned (Boori), which is situated about four days’ journey to the south-west of Kamalia, the salt market is often supplied at the same time with rock-salt from the Great Desert and sea-salt from the Rio Grande; the price of each, at this distance from its source, being nearly the same. And the dealers in each, whether Moors from the north or negroes from the west, are invited thither by the same motives—that of bartering their salt for gold.
The gold of Manding, so far as I could learn, is never found in any matrix or vein, but always in small grains nearly in a pure state, from the size of a pin’s head to that of a pea, scattered through a large body of sand or clay, and in this state it is called by the Mandingoes sanoo munko (gold powder). It is, however, extremely probable, by what I could learn of the situation of the ground, that most of it has originally been washed down by repeated torrents from the neighbouring hills. The manner in which it is collected is nearly as follows:-