OBSERVATIONS UPON THE WINDWARD COAST OF AFRICA, THE RELIGION, CHARACTER, CUSTOMS, &c. OF THE NATIVES; WITH A SYSTEM UPON WHICH THEY MAY BE CIVILIZED, AND A KNOWLEDGE ATTAINED OF THE INTERIOR OF THIS EXTRAORDINARY QUARTER OF THE GLOBE; AND UPON THE NATURAL AND COMMERCIAL RESOURCES OF THE COUNTRY; MADE IN THE YEARS 1805 AND 1806.
BY JOSEPH CORRY.
WITH AN APPENDIX, CONTAINING A LETTER TO LORD HOWICK, ON THE MOST SIMPLE AND EFFECTUAL MEANS OF ABOLISHING THE SLAVE TRADE.
LONDON: PRINTED FOR G. AND W. NICOL, BOOKSELLERS TO HIS MAJESTY, PALL-MALL; AND JAMES ASPERNE, CORNHILL. BY W. BULMER AND CO. CLEVELAND ROW, ST. JAMES'S 1807.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE LORD VISCOUNT CASTLEREAGH, ONE OF HIS MAJESTY'S PRINCIPAL SECRETARIES OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS.
Hightly flattered by your Lordship's polite condescension, in permitting me to inscribe to you the following Pages, I return your Lordship my most unfeigned thanks.
If they meet your Lordship's approbation, and that of a discerning Public; or if they tend in the most remote degree to excite more intelligent efforts and more active enterprise on behalf of the unenlightened African, or to augment the Commerce of the United Kingdom with a Country, now in danger of falling into the hands of our Enemies, I shall feel an ample reward for the risques and dangers to which I have been exposed in collecting these Fragments; while the occasion gives me the opportunity of subscribing myself,
With grateful acknowledgments, Your Lordship's Most obedient, and devoted humble Servant,
With becoming deference, I shall endeavour to illustrate in the following pages, the observations I have personally made upon the Coast of Africa, and to give the information I have obtained from an extended circle of Chiefs, and native Tribes, relative to its Inhabitants, their Religion, Habits and Customs, the natural productions and commercial resources, &c. and attempt to delineate the most eligible grounds upon which the condition of the African may be effectually improved, and our commercial relations be preserved with that important quarter of the globe.
Though deeply impressed with the importance of the subject, and my own incompetency, I obtrude myself upon Public notice, governed by this reflection, that I am stimulated by an ardent zeal for the prosperity of my Country, and am animated by a philanthropic solicitude for the effectual manumission of the African, from his enslaved customs, his superstitious idolatry, and for the enlargement of his intellectual powers.
I shall guard against the sacrifice of truth to abstracted principles; and if in the most remote degree, I excite the interference of my countrymen in behalf of the African, extend our commerce, and enlarge the circle of civilized and Christian Society, I shall think that I have neither travelled, nor written in vain.
Africa is a country hitherto but little known; those in general who have visited it, have been either inadequate to research, or have been absorbed in the immediate attainment of gain; moreover the European Traveller in that country has to contend with the combined influence of the native jealousies of its inhabitants, their hereditary barbarism, obstinate ferocity, and above all, an uncongenial climate. To surmount these difficulties, commerce is the most certain medium to inspire its Chiefs and Natives with confidence, and to obtain a facility of intercourse with the Interior country. Sanctioned by that pursuit, I have been favoured with information from a large circle of Native Chiefs, and Tribes, relative to their customs, their habits, localities, predilections, and the existing state of society.
The impressions, which ocular demonstration, and personal investigation occasion upon visiting this uncultivated country, are so different from those excited in any other district of the globe, and so powerful, that the mind is naturally led to meditation on the means of its improvement and on the mode by which it may be ameliorated, and the sources of commerce be essentially enlarged.
Europe, which merits the highest rank for philanthropy, has hitherto strangely neglected this country; nor have the attempts of individuals and benevolent Societies been productive in endeavouring to diffuse the influence of civilization, and to desseminate the seeds of science throughout these extensive regions.
Trusting that my endeavours to befriend the Natives of Africa, and to extend the Commerce of my Country, will shield me from the severity of animadversion, and of criticism, I shall proceed in my relation.
J. CORRY. September 1st, 1807.
Remarks from the Period of Embarkation at St. Helen's, till the Arrival at Sierra Leone—Sketches of the Land seen in the Passage—its Bearings and Distance—Observations upon the Bay and Entrance of Sierra Leone River, &c.
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 Banana.—His Embarkation for the Island of Goree, &c.
An Excursion to the main Land.—Visit to King Marraboo.—Anecdotes of this Chief.—Another Excursion, accompanied by Mr. Hamilton.—A shooting Party, acccompanied by Marraboo's Son, Alexander, and other Chiefs.—Reflections upon Information obtained from them, and at Goree, relative to this Part of the Coast.—Embark in his Majesty's Sloop of War the Eugenia, 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
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.
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
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 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
What the Anthor conceives should be the System of Establishment to make effectual the Operations from Cape Verd 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 may be placed, &c. &c.
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.
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 Demerary.—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
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 read galhinas. 62 2, for is derived from the African gris-gris, read, is the expression from which the African gris-gris is derived. 64 20, for lugras, read lugars. 92 6, for bungra, read bangra.
OBSERVATIONS UPON THE 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.
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 who presides over these labouring people. Their numbers may be estimated at about 600. Originally they were slaves to the proprietors of this island; but from a very humane and wise policy, they have been endowed with certain privileges, which rescue them from an absolute state of slavery, and prevents their being sold as slaves, unless they are convicted by the laws and customs of their country of some crime or delinquency.
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 40,000l. independant of buildings destroyed, valued at first cost, about 15,000l. more. Bance Island experienced the same fate, and suffered in pecuniary loss upwards of 20,000l.
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.
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.
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, government, localities, and religion; I suggested to him that "I understood he was a powerful king, and a great warrior, had many wives and children, that he ruled over much people, and a fine country, that I hear he get much head, that he far pass any of his enemies, and that I be very happy to look so great a king:" or, in other words, that I understood he was a great general, was very rich, was more wise than all his contemporary chiefs, and that it gave me much pleasure to pay my respects to so great a prince: but the former idiom of language is best adapted to convey meaning to the interpreters of the chiefs of Africa, in whatever tongue it may be spoken; being that which they use in translation; and when they are addressed in this phraseology, they convey their ideas with more perspicuity and literal interpretation. But to return to the dialogue.
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.
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.
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 see, Our hearts untravell'd fondly turn to thee; Still to our country turn, with ceaseless pain, And drag, at each remove, a lengthening chain." GOLDSMITH.
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.
Number confessed, 95,000 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 30,000l. 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 5s. 6d. pistareens, value about is. bits, about 6d. and half bits, about 3d.
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.
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.