THE JOURNAL OF A MISSION TO THE INTERIOR OF AFRICA,
IN THE YEAR 1805
Together with Other Documents, Official And Private,
Relating To The Same Mission, to Which Is Prefixed
an Account of the Life off Mr. Park.
Edited and Commentary by John Whishaw
The original documents relating to Mr. Mungo Park's last mission into Africa having been entrusted to the Directors of the African Institution by the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, with liberty to publish them, in case they should deem it expedient; the Directors now avail themselves of this permission, by publishing the papers for the benefit of Mr. Park's family.
These documents, together with other papers furnished by Mr. Park's connections and friends, which also form a part of the present publication, consist of the following particulars:
1. The original Journal of the expedition, officially transmitted by Mr. Park to the Secretary of State; containing several of Mr. Park's drawings and sketches, illustrative of particular descriptions, which are copied in this publication.
2. The Journal, as translated from the Arabic language, in which it was originally composed, of Isaaco, a native African, commissioned in the year 1810, by the Governor of Senegal, to go in search of Mr. Park and ascertain his fate; which Journal was likewise officially transmitted to the Secretary of State.
3. A Memoir delivered by Mr. Park at the Colonial Office in the year 1804, relative to the plan and objects of the intended expedition into Africa; together with the Official Instructions which he received for his guidance; and two letters addressed by him to the Secretary of State, one, written shortly after his arrival at the Coast of Africa, and the other, at the time of transmitting his Journal, previously to his final embarkation on the Niger.
4. Several private letters of Mr. Park, principally written during the time he was engaged in this mission; which, together with the documents included under the last mentioned head, have been incorporated into the Account of Mr. Park's Life, which is prefixed to the Journal.
It has before been stated, that the official papers are published under the authority of the Directors of the African Institution. It may be proper to add, that the individual, who has undertaken to prepare this work for the press, is alone responsible for the publication of the private letters, and for whatever else is contained in this volume, besides the official documents.
Of the papers before enumerated, the most important, and the only one which calls for any particular observation, is Mr. Park's own Journal; respecting which, it may be necessary to apprize the reader that it was written without the slightest view to publication, being intended only (as he informed the Secretary of State, by his letter of the 17th of November, 1805) "to recall to his own recollection other particulars illustrative of the manners and customs of the natives, which would have swelled the communication to a most unreasonable size." The work, therefore, which is now submitted to the public, can be considered in no other light than as the mere outline of a much more extended and detailed narrative, which it was the author's intention to prepare for the press after his return to England.
A work, thus imperfect, and which the unfortunate fate of its author has prevented from being brought to a completion, is entitled to peculiar indulgence; and if those allowances are made, which candour and justice require, the editor confidently hopes, that Mr. Park's Journal will not disappoint the public expectation. It will be found to contain several interesting particulars concerning Africa, not hitherto known, and to illustrate and confirm, in various material respects, some of the most important discoveries communicated in Mr. Park's former Travels. It bears strong internal marks of truth and fidelity; and, perhaps, the very nakedness and simplicity of its descriptions and its minute details of petty circumstances, may be thought by some readers to convey a more accurate and distinct conception of the process of an African journey, and of the difficulties with which such expeditions are attended, than a more elaborate and polished narrative.
With a view of rendering the present publication more complete, and of gratifying in a certain degree that reasonable curiosity, which will naturally be felt by many readers of this Journal and the former Travels, it has been thought advisable to add a biographical Memoir of the Author. But as the events of Mr. Park's life, with the exception of those contained in the works just alluded to, are few and unimportant, the editor has been induced, in the course of this undertaking, to deviate occasionally into other topics, more or less connected with the principal subject; in the discussion of which he has inadvertently exceeded the limits which he had originally assigned to himself. This circumstance has added considerably to the length of the Memoir and its Appendix; for which, he would willingly believe, that the interest belonging to the topics themselves, will be deemed a sufficient apology.
In preparing this Memoir, the editor naturally applied for information to Mr. Park's family, and was much gratified by discovering, that some materials, with a view to a similar undertaking, had been collected by a brother-in-law of Mr. Park, Mr. Archibald Buchanan of Glasgow; who, on being made acquainted with the editor's intention, immediately and with the greatest candour, transmitted to him the whole of his papers.
These materials have been of great use in preparing the Memoir; in which the editor has likewise been assisted by much useful information which he has received from another brother-in-law of Mr. Park, Mr. James Dickson, whose name will occur in the course of the ensuing Memoir; and also from Mr. Park's two brothers, Mr. Adam Park of Gravesend, and Mr. Alexander Park of Selkirk, the latter of whom is unfortunately since dead.
The editor is likewise greatly indebted to Major Rennell and to Zachary Macaulay, Esq. for several interesting particulars concerning Mr. Park; and to the latter in particular, for much valuable information relative to the trade of this country with Africa, which will be found in the Appendix to the Memoir.
But his acknowledgments are due, in an especial manner, to Sir Joseph Banks; who has not only favoured the editor with the fullest communication of his correspondence with Mr. Park, and of his papers relating to this subject, but has in every other respect assisted and promoted the present undertaking with a kindness and liberality, proportioned to his sincere and constant friendship for Mr. Park, and to his uniform zeal for whatever he considers to be in any degree connected with useful knowledge and scientific discovery.
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It remains only to say a few words respecting the Map, which is prefixed to this publication. The readers of Mr. Park's former Travels are already apprized, that the map which accompanied that work, was constructed by Major Rennell, whose interesting Geographical Memoir in illustration of Mr. Park's first journey, was also annexed to the quarto edition. It would have been highly gratifying to the editor of this work, and most satisfactory to the public, if the same valuable assistance could have been obtained on the present occasion. But unfortunately, Major Rennell's other engagements rendered this wholly impracticable. He had the kindness, however, to furnish the editor with some notes which he had taken, and with a construction of part of Mr. Park's route in 1805, which he had traced out from the Journal now published, when it was formerly submitted to his inspection.
These papers together with Mr. Park's Journal, were placed in the hands of a respectable artist, employed by the publisher to construct the map intended to illustrate the present work; at whose request the following statement respecting certain difficulties which have occurred in its construction, is subjoined.
"In compiling the map of Mr. Park's route in 1805, much difficulty has arisen from the bearings of places not being mentioned in the Journal; and also in consequence of there being occasionally great differences between the latitudes and longitudes of places according to the astronomical observations, and the distances computed according to the journies. Considerable pains have been taken to reconcile these differences; but the general result has been, that it was found necessary in adhering to the astronomical observations, to carry Mr. Park's former route in 1796 farther north, and to place it in a higher latitude than that in which it appears in Major Rennell's map annexed to the former volume of Travels."
London, March 1, 1815.
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ACCOUNT OF THE LIFE OF PARK. Appendix, No. I. No. II. No. III. No. IV. No. V. No. VI.
Explanation of African Words
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Departure from Kayee—Arrival at Pisania—Preparations there, and departure into the Interior—Samee—Payment to Mumbo Jumbo—Reach Jindey; process of dying cottons at that place—Departure from Jindey—Cross the Wallia Creek—Kootakunda—Madina—Tabajang—Kingdom of Jamberoo—Visit from the King's son—Tatticonda—Visit from the son of the former King of Woolli—Reach Madina, the capital of Woolli—Audience of the King; his unfriendly conduct—Presents made to him and his courtiers—Barraconda—Bambakoo—Kanipe; inhospitable conduct of its inhabitants—Kussai—Nittatrees; restrictions relating to them—Enter the Simbani Woods—precautions thereon, and sacrifice and prayers for success—Banks of the Gambia—Crocodiles and hippopotami—Reach Faraba—Loss of one of the soldiers—Rivers Neaulico and Nerico—Astronomical observations.
Arrival at Jallacotta—Maheena—Tambico—Bady; hostile conduct of the Faranba, or Chief, and its consequences—Reach Jeningalla— Iron-furnaces—Mansafard—Attacked by wolves—Enter the Tenda Wilderness—Ruins and Plain of Doofroo—Attacked by a swarm of bees—Astronomical observations—Arrival at Sibikillin—Shea trees—Badoo; presents made to the King—Tambacunda—Ba Deema River—Tabba Gee—Mambari—Julifunda; unfriendly conduct of its Chief; and presents sent to him and the King—Visit from the latter—Reach Eercella—Baniserite—Celebrate his Majesty's birthday—Mode of fluxing iron—Madina—Falema river—Satadoo—Sickness and death of the Carpenter—Arrival at Shrondo; commencement of the rainy season; and alarming sickness amongst the soldiers—Gold mines; process for procuring the gold—Dindikoo; gold pits—Cultivation—Arrival at Fankia.
Departure from Fankia—Tambaura mountains, and difficulties in ascending the Pass—Toombin—Great embarrassments on the road—Serimanna—Fajemmia Astronomical observations—Increase of the sick—Nealakatla—Balee River—Boontoonkooran—Doggikotta—Falifing—Losses on the road—Gimbia; inhospitable treatment—Sullo—Face of the country—Secoba Konkromo—Passage of the Ba Fing—Mode of smelting and working gold—Fatal accident in crossing the Ba Fing—Hippopotami—Deaths and losses on the route—Increase of sickness—Reach Viandry—Koeena—Danger from young lions—Koombandi—Great embarrassments on the road—Fonilla—Ba Woolima River; difficulties in crossing it—Isaaco seized by a crocodile—Boolinkoonbo—Distressing situation of the whole of the party—Reach Serrababoo-Saboseera.
Arrival at Keminoom, or Manniakorro, on the Ba lee river.—Visit to the Chief—Depredations upon the coffle by the inhabitants—Continued attacks from banditti as far as the Ba Woolima river.—Difficulties in passing it—Temporary bridge made by the natives.—Astronomical observations—Arrival at Mareena; inhospitable conduct of its inhabitants—Bangassi; interview with the King—Continued sickness, and deaths among the soldiers.—Arrival at Nummasoolo—Obliged to leave five of the sick behind—reach Surtaboo—Sobee—Affray between Isaaco and two soldiers—Balanding—Balandoo—More of the soldiers fall behind—Koolihori—Greatly annoyed by wolves.
Departure from Koolihori—Ganifarra—Scarcity of provisions—Distressing situation of the Author from deaths and sickness of the party—Escapes from three lions—Intricate route to Koomikoomi—Dombila—Visit from Karfa Taura—View of the Niger—Reduced state of the party—Bambakoo— Losses from wolves—Bosradoo; embark on the Niger; incidents in the voyage to Marraboo—Isaaco sent to Sego with presents for Mansong— Message from Mansong—Course to Koolikorro—Deena—Yamina—Samee— Return of Isaaco; account of his interview with Mansong—Messengers sent by Mansong, and enquiries respecting the Author's journey—Quit Samee—Excessive heat—Reach Sansanding—Account of that city and its trade—Death of Mr. Anderson—Preparations for continuing the voyage eastward—Information collected respecting various districts.
LIFE OF MUNGO PARK.
Mungo Park was born on the 10th of September 1771, at Fowlshiels, a farm occupied by his father, under the duke of Buccleugh, on the banks of the Yarrow not far from the town of Selkirk. His father, who bore the same name, was a respectable yeoman of Ettrick Forest. His mother, who is still living, is the daughter of the late Mr. John Hislop, of Tennis, a few miles higher up on the same river. The subject of this Memoir was the seventh child, and third son of the family, which consisted of thirteen children, eight of whom attained to years of maturity.
Prior to the time of Mungo Park's birth, the father had for many years practised farming with assiduity and success on the estate at Fowlshiels, where he died in 1792, after a long and exemplary life, at the age of seventy-seven.
Among other estimable qualities which distinguished the father's character, was a constant and unremitting attention to the education of his children; a species of merit, which is indeed of common occurrence among the Scottish farmers and peasantry, but which appears to have been exemplary and remarkable in the present instance. His family being numerous, he did not content himself with personally superintending every part of their education; but, though far from being in affluent circumstances, engaged a private teacher to reside in his house and assist in their early instruction.
It is most satisfactory to add, that these paternal cares were followed by the happiest results, and received their appropriate reward. Mr. Park had the gratification of seeing the greater part of his children respectably settled during his life, and of witnessing their success and prosperity.
After having received the first rudiments of education in his father's family, Mungo Park was in due time removed to the Grammar School at Selkirk, where he remained a considerable number of years. He had shewn a great love of reading from his childhood, and was indefatigable in his application at school, where he was much distinguished and always at the head of his class. Even at that early age, he was remarked for being silent, studious and thoughtful: but some sparks of latent ambition occasionally broke forth: and indications might even then be discovered of that ardent and adventurous turn of mind, which distinguished him in after life, and which often lies concealed under a cold and reserved exterior.
It was the original intention of Park's father to educate him for the Scottish church, for which he appeared to be well fitted by his studious habits and the serious turn of his mind; but, his son having made choice of the medical profession, he was readily induced to acquiesce. In consequence of this determination, Mungo Park was bound apprentice at the age of fifteen to Mr. Thomas Anderson, a respectable surgeon in Selkirk, with whom he resided three years; continuing, at the same time, to pursue his classical studies and to attend occasionally at the grammar school. In the year 1789, he quitted Mr. Anderson, and removed to the University of Edinburgh, where he pursued the course which is common to medical students, and attended the usual Lectures during three successive sessions.
Nothing particular is recorded of his academical life. He appears, however, to have applied to the studies connected with the science of medicine with his accustomed ardour and assiduity, and to have been distinguished among his fellow-students. During his summer vacations he paid great attention to botanical pursuits, for which he seems always to have had a great predilection; and a tour which he made, about this time to the Highlands, in company with his brother-in-law, Mr. James Dickson, a distinguished Botanist, contributed greatly to his improvement in this science.
After having completed his studies at Edinburgh, Park removed to London in search of some medical employment. In this pursuit he was much assisted by his relation Mr. Dickson, to whom he had before been indebted in his botanical studies. By his means Park was now introduced to Sir Joseph Banks; whose interest or recommendation shortly afterwards procured for him the appointment of Assistant Surgeon to the Worcester East Indiaman.
From this period Park was honoured with the patronage, and indeed with the constant friendship, of Sir Joseph Banks, from which he derived many important advantages, and which had a material influence on the subsequent events of his life. For this highly valuable friendship he was originally indebted to a connection which had subsisted for many years between Sir Joseph and Mr. Dickson: and it may not therefore be improper, to describe shortly the origin and nature of this connection; which, besides its immediate influence on Park's fortunes, was attended with several characteristic circumstances highly honourable to the parties concerned, and in themselves not uninteresting.
Mr. Dickson was born of humble parents, and came early in life, from Scotland, his native country, to London. For some time he worked as a gardener in the grounds of a considerable nurseryman at Hammersmith, where he was occasionally seen by Sir Joseph Banks, who took notice of him as an intelligent young man. Quitting this situation he lived for some years as gardener in several considerable families: after which he established himself in London as a seedsman; and has ever since followed that business with unremitting diligence and success. Having an ardent passion for botany, which he had always cultivated according to the best of his means and opportunities; he lost no time in presenting himself to Sir Joseph Banks, who received him with great kindness, encouraged him in his pursuits, and gave him access to his valuable library. He thus obtained the free use of one of the most complete collections on Botany and Natural History, which has perhaps, ever yet been formed; and which, through the liberality of its possessor, has contributed in a greater degree to the accommodation of scientific men, and the general advancement of science than many public establishments. Such leisure hours as Mr. Dickson could command from his business, he devoted to an assiduous attendance in this library or to the perusal of scientific books obtained from thence. In process of time he acquired great knowledge and became eminent among the English Botanists; and is now known in Europe among the proficients in that science as one of its most successful cultivators, and the author of some distinguished Works. At an advanced period of life he is still active in business, and continues to pursue his botanical studies with unabated ardour and assiduity. [Footnote: Mr. Dickson is a Fellow of the Linnaean Society, of which he was one of the original founders: and also Fellow and Vice President of the Horticultural Society. Several communications from him, appear in different volumes of the Linnaean Transactions; but he is principally known among Botanists by a work entitled, "Fasciculi Quatuor Plantarum, Cryptogamicarum Britanniae." Lond. 1785-93; in which he has described upwards of four hundred plants not before noticed. He has the merit of having directed the attention of the Botanists of this country to one of the most abstruse and difficult parts of that science; to the advancement of which he has himself, very greatly contributed.]
Such an instance of successful industry united with a taste for intellectual pursuits, deserves to be recorded; not only on account of its relation to the subject of this narrative, but because, it illustrates in a very striking and pleasing manner, the advantages of education in the lower classes of life. The attention of the Scottish farmers and peasantry to the early instruction of their children has been already remarked, and is strongly exemplified in the history of Mr. Park's family. The diffusion of knowledge among the natives of that part of the kingdom, and their general intelligence, must be admitted by every unprejudiced observer; nor is there any country in which the effects of education are so conspicuous in promoting industry and good conduct, and in producing useful and respectable men of the inferior and middle classes, admirably fitted for all the important offices of common life. [Footnote: See Appendix, No. I.]
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In consequence of the appointment which Mungo Park had obtained as surgeon in the East India Company's service, by the interest of Sir Joseph Banks, he sailed for the East Indies in the Worcester in the month of February, 1792; and having made a voyage to Bencoolen, in the island of Sumatra, returned to England in the following year. Nothing material occurred during this voyage: but he availed himself of all the opportunities which it afforded to obtain information in his favourite scientific pursuits, and appears to have made many observations, and collected many specimens, in Botany and Natural History. Several of these were the subjects of a communication made by him to the Linnaean Society, which was afterwards published in their printed Transactions. [Footnote: In the Third Volume of the Linnaean Transactions, p. 83, is a paper by Park, read Nov. 4,1794, containing descriptions of eight new fishes from Sumatra; which he represents to be the fruit of his leisure hours during his stay on that coast.]
It does not sufficiently appear, whether Mr. Park, after his return from the East Indies, came to any final resolution with regard to his continuing as a surgeon in the Company's service. But whatever might be his intention in this respect, new prospects now opened upon him, and a scene of action far more congenial to his taste and feelings, was presented to his ambition.
Some years prior to this period, a few distinguished individuals, induced by a very liberal spirit of curiosity, had formed themselves into an Association for promoting discoveries in the Interior of Africa, and were now prosecuting their researches with great activity and success. In the course of a few years they had investigated, and placed in a clearer point of view than had hitherto been done by geographers, some of the leading facts relative to the Northern part of that Continent; the characteristic differences of the principal tribes, their commercial relations, the routes of the great caravans, the general diffusion of the Mahomedan religion, and the consequent prevalence of the Arabic language throughout a considerable part of that vast continent. [Footnote: See Vol. I. of the Proceedings of African Association. London, 1810.] With the assistance of their distinguished Associate, Major Rennell, they were now proceeding to trace the principal geographical outlines of Northern Africa; and were endeavouring to ascertain the course of the great inland river Joliba or Niger, and to obtain some authentic information concerning Tombuctoo, a principal city of the interior and one of the great marts of African commerce.
In the course of these enquiries, the Association, since their first establishment in 1788, had employed several persons, well qualified for such undertakings, upon missions into various parts of the African Continent. Several of these were known to have perished, either as victims of the climate, or in contests with the natives; [Footnote: The persons who had been sent out prior to this period, were Mr. Ledyard, Mr. Lucas, Major Houghton, and Mr. Horneman: subsequently to which, several others have been employed; viz. Mr. Nichols, Mr. Bourcard, &c.] and intelligence had lately been received of the death of Major Houghton, who had been sent out to explore the course of the Niger, and to penetrate, if possible, to Tombuctoo and Houssa. The Association appear to have found considerable difficulty in supplying Major Houghton's place; and had made known their readiness to give a liberal compensation to any person, competently qualified, who might be willing to proceed on this important and arduous mission.
The attention of Park was naturally drawn to this subject, in consequence of his connection with Sir Joseph Banks, who had received him with great kindness and cordiality on his return from the East Indies, and with whom he was now in habits of frequent intercourse. Sir Joseph Banks was one of the most active and leading members of the African Association, and with his accustomed zeal for the promotion of scientific discovery, was earnest in his endeavours to find out a proper person to undertake the mission in search of the Niger. There was nothing in Park's previous studies which had particularly led him towards geographical pursuits; but he had a general passion for travelling; he was in the full vigour of life; his constitution had been in some degree inured to hot climates; he saw the opportunities which a new country would afford of indulging his taste for Natural History: nor was he insensible to the distinction which was likely to result from any great discoveries in African geography. These considerations determined him. Having fully informed himself as to what was expected by the Association, he eagerly offered himself for the service; and after some previous enquiry into his qualifications, the offer was readily accepted.
Between the time of Park's return from India in 1793, and his departure to Africa, an interval elapsed of about two years. During the whole of this period (with the exception of a short visit to Scotland in 1794), he appears to have resided in London or its neighbourhood; being engaged partly in his favourite studies, or in literary or scientific society; but principally in acquiring the knowledge and making the preparations, which were requisite for his great undertaking.
Having received his final instructions from the African Association, he set sail from Portsmouth on the 22d of May, 1795, on board the Endeavour, an African trader, bound for the Gambia, where he arrived on the 21st of the following month. It is not the intention of this narrative to follow him through the details of this journey, a full account of which was afterwards published by Park, and is familiar to every reader. But it may be useful to mention the material dates and some of the principal transactions.
Having landed on the 21st of June at Jillifree, a small town near the mouth of the River Gambia; he proceeded shortly afterwards to Pisania, a British factory about 200 miles up the same river, where he arrived on the 5th of July, and was most hospitably received by Dr. Laidley, a gentleman who had resided many years at that settlement. He remained at Dr. Laidley's house for several months, in order to learn the Mandingo language, which is in general use throughout that part of Africa, and also to collect information concerning the countries he intended to visit. During two of these months he was confined by a severe fever, caught by imprudently exposing himself during the rainy season.
He left Pisania on the 2d of December, 1795, directing his course easterly, with a view of proceeding to the River Joliba, or Niger. But in consequence of a war between two sovereigns in the Interior, he was obliged, after he had made some progress, to take a northerly direction towards the territory of the Moors. He arrived at Jarra, the frontier town of that country, on the 18th of February, 1796. Pursuing his journey from thence, he was taken and detained as a prisoner, by Ali, the chieftain or king of that territory, on the 7th of March; and after a long captivity and a series of unexampled hardships, escaped at last with great difficulty early in the month of July.
The period was now approaching when he was to receive some compensation for so many sufferings. After wandering in great misery for about three weeks through the African Wilderness, he arrived at Sego, the capital of Bambarra, a city which is said to contain thirty thousand inhabitants. He was gratified at the same time by the first sight of the Niger, the great object of his journey; and ascertained the extraordinary fact, that its course is from West to East.
After a short stay at Sego (where he did not find it safe to remain), Park proceeded down the river to Silla, a large town distant about seventy or eighty miles, on the banks of the Niger. He was now reduced to the greatest distress, and being convinced by painful experience, that the obstacles to his further progress were insurmountable, he reluctantly abandoned his design of proceeding eastwards; and came to the resolution of going back to Sego, and endeavouring to effect his return to the Gambia by a different route from that by which he had advanced into Africa.
On the 3d of August, 1796, he left Silla, and pursuing the course of the Niger, arrived at Bammakoo, the frontier of Bambarra, about the 23d of the same month. Here he quitted the Niger, which ceases to be navigable at this place; and travelling for several weeks through a mountainous and difficult country, reached Kamalia, in the territory of Manding, on the 16th of September. He performed the latter part of this journey on foot, having been obliged to leave his horse, now worn out with fatigue and unable to proceed farther.
Having encountered all the horrors of the rainy season, and being worn down by fatigue, his health had, at different times, been seriously affected. But, soon after his arrival at Kamalia, he fell into a severe and dangerous fit of sickness, by which he was closely confined for upwards of a month. His life was preserved by the hospitality and benevolence of Karfa Taura, a Negro, who received him into his house, and whose family attended him with the kindest solicitude. The same excellent person, at the time of Park's last Mission into Africa, hearing that a white man was travelling through the country, whom he imagined to be Park, took a journey of six days to meet him; and joining the caravan at Bambakoo, was highly gratified by the sight of his friend. [Footnote: See Journal, p. 137.]
There being still a space of five hundred miles to be traversed (the greater part of it through a desert) before Park could reach any friendly country on the Gambia, he had no other resource but to wait with patience for the first caravan of slaves that might travel the same track. No such opportunity occurred till the latter end of April, 1797; when a coffle, or caravan, set out from Kamalia under the direction of Karfa Taura, in whose house he had continued during his long residence of more than seven months at that place.
The coffle began its progress westwards on the 17th of April, and on the 4th of June reached the banks of the Gambia, after a journey of great labour and difficulty, which afforded Park the most painful opportunities of witnessing the miseries endured by a caravan of slaves in their transportation from the interior to the coast. On the 10th of the same month Park arrived at Pisania, from whence he had set out eighteen months before; and was received by Dr. Laidley (to use his own expression) as one risen from the grave. On the 15th of June he embarked in a slave ship bound to America, which was driven by stress of weather to the West Indies; and got with great difficulty, and under circumstances of considerable danger, into the Island of Antigua. He sailed from thence on the 24th of November, and after a short, but tempestuous passage, arrived at Falmouth on the 22d of the following month, having been absent from England two years and seven months.
Immediately on his landing he hastened to London, anxious in the greatest degree about his family and friends, of whom he had heard nothing for two years. He arrived in London before day-light on the morning of Christmas day, 1797; and it being too early an hour to go to his brother-in-law, Mr. Dickson, he wandered for some time about the streets in that quarter of the town where his house was. Finding one of the entrances into the gardens of the British Museum accidentally open, he went in and walked about there for some time. It happened that Mr. Dickson, who had the care of those gardens, went there early that morning upon some trifling business. What must have been his emotions on beholding at that extraordinary time and place, the vision, as it must at first have appeared, of his long-lost friend, the object of so many anxious reflexions, and whom he had long numbered with the dead!
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Park's arrival was hailed with a sort of triumph by his friends of the African Association, and in some degree, by the public at large. The nature and objects of his mission, his long absence, and his unexpected return, excited a very general interest; which was afterwards kept up by the reports which prevailed respecting the discoveries he had made. The Association, with that liberality which characterised every part of their proceedings, gave him full permission to publish his Travels for his own benefit; and it was speedily announced, that a complete narrative of the journey would be prepared by Park himself, and given to the public. But in the mean time, in order to gratify, in a certain degree, the curiosity which prevailed, an Abstract, of the Travels, prepared from Park's own minutes, was drawn up by Mr. Bryan Edwards, secretary of the African Association, and was printed and distributed for the private use of the subscribers. [Footnote: Proceedings of African Association. Vol. I. p. 327.] This Abstract, which was written with perspicuity and elegance, formed the principal ground-work of the Book of Travels which was subsequently published.
To the Abstract or Narrative, thus circulated, was annexed an important Memoir by Major Rennell, consisting of geographical illustrations of Park's Journey, which afterwards, by that gentleman's permission, formed a valuable appendage to the quarto edition of the Travels.
After his return from Africa, Park remained for a considerable time stationary in London, and was diligently employed in arranging the materials for his intended publication. He had frequent occasion, also, to communicate on the subject of his discoveries with the members of the African Association, especially with Major Rennell and Mr. Edwards, whilst they were engaged in preparing the two Memoirs before alluded to. With Mr. Edwards, in particular, he seems to have lived on terms of great friendship, and to have occasionally paid him visits at his country residence near Southampton.
It was nearly about this time (the Spring of the year 1798) that Government, having it in contemplation to procure a complete survey of New Holland, made some application to Park, with a view of employing him upon that service. The particulars of this transaction are not known to Park's family, nor is it now material to enquire; since the proposal, whatever it might be, was declined. It was afterwards repeated, and again declined, during the following year.
In June, 1798, he visited his mother, who still resided at Fowlshiels, and his other relations in Scotland, and remained with them the whole of the summer and autumn. During all this time he was assiduously employed in compiling and arranging the Account of his Travels. His materials for this work are stated to have consisted of short notes or memoranda, written on separate pieces of paper, forming an imperfect journal of his proceedings. Where these were wanting, he supplied the deficiency from his memory. [Footnote: Enquiry has been made for the notes here alluded to, with a view to the elucidation of several points connected with this narrative, but without success; it being stated by Mr. Dickson, that a number of loose papers were left at his house by Park, and remained there for some time; but being considered of no use, were mislaid or destroyed; and that none of them are now to be found.]
His family represent him dating this period as leading the life of a severe student, employed on his papers during the whole of the mornings, and allowing himself little or no recreation, except a solitary evening walk on the banks of the Yarrow. Occasionally, however, he would indulge himself in longer excursions among the wild and romantic scenery of that neighbourhood, to which he was fondly and almost enthusiastically attached. [Footnote: The situation of Fowlshiels on the banks of the Yarrow is said to be picturesque and striking. It is in the immediate vicinity of Bow-hill, a beautiful summer-residence of the Duke of Buccleugh; and at no great distance from the ruins of Newark Castle, and other scenes celebrated in the Lay of the Last Minstrel]
He quitted Fowlshiels, with great regret towards the latter end of 1798, when it was necessary for him to return to London, to prepare for his intended publication. He carried back with him a great mass of papers, the produce of his summer's labour; and after his return to London, bestowed considerable pains in the correction and retrenchment of his manuscript before it was sent to the press. It was finally published in the Spring of the year 1799.
The applause with which this work was received, and the permanent reputation which it has obtained, are well known. Two impressions were rapidly sold off; several other editions have since been called for; and it continues even at the present time to be a popular and standard book. This distinguished success has been owing, not only to the interesting nature of its subject, but in a certain degree also to the merits of the work as a composition; to the clearness of the descriptions, the natural and easy flow of the narration, and the general elegance of the style.
But the essential merit of this book, and that which has conferred a lasting distinction on the name of its author, consists in the authentic and important information which it contains. Considered in this point of view, it must unquestionably be regarded as the greatest accession to the general stock of geographical knowledge, which was ever yet made by any single traveller. The claim of Park to this distinction will be apparent from a short view of his principal discoveries.
Among the great variety of facts concerning the Interior of Africa not before known, or at least not ascertained, which the labours of Park have placed beyond all doubt, the most interesting unquestionably are, those which relate to the existence of the great inland river, the Niger, as a distinct and separate stream, and its course from West to East; affording a remarkable confirmation of what had been stated concerning this river by Herodotus and the ancient writers; but which was afterwards controverted by the geographers of the middle ages, who asserted (what, independently of direct evidence, seemed more probable) that the course of the river was from East to West. This latter opinion had accordingly been followed by the greater part of the moderns; with the exception indeed of some of the most distinguished geographers of later times, particularly, D'Anville and Major Rennell, who had called in question the doctrine then prevalent, and given strong reasons for adhering to the ancient opinion. This however at the time of Park's journey, could be considered in no other light than as a reasonable conjecture, till the fact was ascertained by the unexceptionable testimony of an eye-witness. [Footnote: See Appendix, No. II.]
Another important circumstance respecting the Niger, previously unknown, but which was fully established by Park, is the vast magnitude of that stream; an extraordinary fact, considering its situation and inland course, and which has led, as will hereafter be seen, to several interesting conjectures respecting the course and the termination of that river.
In addition to these discoveries relative to the physical state of Africa, others were made by Park scarcely less important; in what may be termed its moral geography; namely, the kind and amiable dispositions of the Negro inhabitants of the Interior, as contrasted with the intolerance and brutal ferocity of the Moors; the existence of great and populous cities in the heart of Africa; and the higher state of improvement and superior civilization of the inhabitants of the interior, on a comparison with the inhabitants of the countries adjoining to the coast.
To this it may be added, that the work in question contains many interesting details not before known, concerning the face of the country, its soil and productions, as well as the condition of the inhabitants; their principal occupations, and their manners and habits of life; and the anecdotes which are interspersed, illustrative of the character and disposition of the Negro inhabitants at a distance from the coast, and beyond the influence of the Slave Trade, are in the highest degree interesting and affecting. [Footnote: See especially the following passages in Park's Travels, p. 82, 197, 336.]
The difficulties and dangers endured by the author in traversing this unknown continent; and the rare union of prudence, temper and perseverance, with the greatest ardour and enterprise, which distinguished his conduct in the most trying situations, give an additional value to Park's narrative. In this important, but difficult, part of his work be appears to have been peculiarly successful. His natural and unaffected manner of describing exertions and sufferings which almost surpass the fictions of romance, carries a feeling and conviction of truth to the mind of every reader, and excites deeper and more powerful emotions than have often been produced, even by works of imagination.
It is painful, after bestowing this well-merited praise, to be under the necessity of adverting to two circumstances unfavourable to Park's memory, connected with the history of this publication. These are, 1st. an opinion which has prevailed, that Park was a supporter of the cause of Slavery, and an enemy to the Abolition of the African Slave Trade; and 2dly. a report, equally current, that the Travels, of which he was the professed author, were composed not by Park himself, but in a very considerable degree, by Mr. Bryan Edwards.—Topics, thus personal and invidious, the writer of this Memoir would naturally wish to decline; but they are too intimately connected with the principal occurrences of Park's life to admit of being passed over without particular enquiry and examination. For this purpose, it will be necessary to trace, more distinctly than has hitherto been done, the connection between Park and Mr. Bryan Edwards; which was a principal cause of the reports above alluded to.
Mr. Edwards was an intelligent and respectable man, of no inconsiderable literary attainments, and known as the author of the History of the British Colonies in the West Indies. Being possessed of property in Jamaica, he resided there many years as a planter; during which time he was an eloquent and leading member of the House of Assembly, or Provincial Legislature of that island. Some time about the year 1794, when the question of the Slave Trade had for several years engaged the attention of the British parliament and public, he quitted the West Indies and came to England, where he fixed his residence for the remainder of his life. He shortly afterwards obtained a seat in the House of Commons, where he established a character as a man of business, and came forward on every occasion as the advocate of the planters, and the supporter of what are called the West India interests. In all debates upon questions connected with the Slave Trade he took an active part; and during the whole of his parliamentary career was a leading and systematic opponent of the Abolition.
As secretary of the African Association, Mr. Edwards had constant intercourse and communication with Park from the time when the latter first arrived from Africa; and must immediately have seen the advantage to be gained for the Slave Trade by a skilful use of the influence which this situation gave him. His first object must naturally have been, to gain the services of Park in the direct support of the Slave Trade; or, if this should be found impracticable, he might at least hope to secure his neutrality, and prevent him from joining the ranks of his opponents. It is not meant to be insinuated that Mr. Edwards exerted any influence which was manifestly undue and improper, or that he was disposed to go greater lengths than any other man of a warm and sanguine temper, in support of a cause in which he was deeply embarked, and of the importance of which he felt the strongest conviction. The sentiments and conduct here imputed to him, arose naturally out of the situation in which he was placed; and he probably did no more than would have been done under similar circumstances, by any partizan of the Abolition, equally able and zealous.
A previous knowledge of these particulars is necessary for enabling the reader to form a judgment upon the two points connected with the publication of Park's Travels, which were before alluded to. With respect to the first of these questions, namely, that relative to Park's sentiments on the subject of the Abolition, the writer of this narrative, in consequence of information he has obtained from some of Park's nearest relations, is enabled to state with great confidence, that Park uniformly expressed a great abhorrence of Slavery and the Slave Trade, whenever these subjects occurred in conversation. But the same persons farther represent, that he considered the Abolition of the Slave Trade as a measure of state policy; for which reason he thought it would be improper for him, in any work he might give to the public, to interpose his private opinion relative to a question of such importance, and which was then under the consideration of the Legislature.
Whatever may be thought of the correctness of this opinion, it is necessary to observe that the rule which he thus prescribed for his own conduct, was not strictly adhered to; or rather, that the system of neutrality which he professed, had, in a certain degree, the effect of a declaration of opinion. From the time of the publication of Park's Travels, his name was constantly mentioned in the list of persons conversant with Africa, who were not friendly to the Abolition; and his authority was always appealed to with some triumph by the advocates of the Slave Trade: and this, apparently, with good reason. For, although the author avowedly abstained from giving an explicit opinion as to the effects of that traffic, yet the general tone of his work appeared to leave no doubt with regard to his real sentiments; and indeed the silence of so intelligent a traveller relative to a subject which must necessarily have engaged so much of his attention, was in itself a sufficient proof, of a bias existing in the mind of the writer, unfavourable to the Abolition. For to what other cause could it be attributed, that the Slave Trade was never once mentioned in Park's book as having the smallest share in promoting the barbarism and internal disorders of the African Continent? Or, that in his pathetic description of the miseries endured by the caravan of slaves which the author accompanied from Kamalia to the Gambia (a journey of five hundred miles), not the slightest allusion was made to the obvious and immediate cause of these sufferings, the demand for slaves on the coast?—It must further be recollected, that the Slave Trade, at the time when Park wrote, had engaged universal attention, and was become the subject of much controversy and public discussion; yet this topic, of so much interest and importance, occurs only once in the course of these Travels; and is then hastily dismissed with a slight and unmeaning observation.
[Footnote: The passage here particularly alluded to, is so extraordinary, and affords such an illustration of the influence under which this work was composed, that it deserves to be transcribed. After a description of the state of slavery in Africa, which the author represents as a sort of necessary evil, deeply rooted in the habits and manners of that country (but without in the least alluding to the great aggravation of the evil arising from the European Slave Trade), the author concludes his remarks as follows: "Such are the general outlines of that system of slavery which prevails in Africa; and it is evident, from its nature and extent, that it is a system of no modern date. It probably had its origin in the remote ages of antiquity, before the Mahomedans explored a passage across the Desert. How far it is maintained and supported by the Slave Traffic which, for two hundred years, the nations of Europe have carried on with the natives of the coast, it is neither within my province, nor in my power, to explain. If my sentiments should be required concerning the effect which a discontinuance of that commerce would produce on the manners of the natives, I should have no hesitation in observing, that in the present unenlightened state of their minds, my opinion is, the effect would neither be so extensive nor beneficial as many wise and worthy persons fondly expect." (Park's Travels, p. 297.)
On reading this passage, it is impossible not to be struck both with the opinion itself and the manner in which it is expressed. The proposition, literally taken, is a mere truism, undeniably just, but of no practical value or importance. For, who doubts that the probable good effects of the Abolition may have been overrated by men of warm and sanguine benevolence? Or, who would assert, that such exaggerations ought to have any weight in argument, except as inducements to greater caution and deliberation?—But, the evident intention of the passage is, to convey a meaning beyond what "meets the ear"; to produce an impression on the reader, independent of any proofs or principles by which his opinion ought to be governed; and to insinuate, what it is not thought proper to assert, that the zeal manifested in favour of the Abolition originated solely in ignorance and enthusiasm.]
It is a remarkable circumstance, that while the supposed opinions of Park have always been appealed to by the advocates of the Slave Trade, his facts have as constantly been relied on by their opponents; and that in the various discussions which have taken place upon that subject since this work has appeared, the principal illustrations of the arguments in favour of the Abolition, have always been derived from the statements contained in Park's Travels. This circumstance deserves particular attention, considering the evident bias under which the work was composed; and affords a strong presumption of the truth and fidelity of the narrative. [Footnote: For an enumeration of the various facts contained in Park's Travels, which are relied on as favourable to the cause of the Abolition, accompanied by the proper references, see A concise statement of the question regarding the Abolition of the Slave Trade. 3d Ed. 1804, p. 99-106. A work, containing the most complete summary of the arguments upon this great subject, which has yet appeared.]
The fair result of the foregoing enquiry, relative to Park's opinions with regard to the Abolition, appears to be shortly this; that he was at no time the friend or deliberate advocate of the Slave Trade; but that, his respect and deference for Mr. Edwards led him, in a certain degree, to sacrifice his own opinions and feelings upon that subject; and that he became, perhaps almost unconsciously, the supporter of a cause of which he disapproved. That he should have been under any temptation to suppress or soften any important opinion, or to deviate in any respect from that ingenuousness and good faith which naturally belonged to his character, is a circumstance which cannot be sufficiently lamented. But if there are any who feel disposed to pass a very severe censure upon Park's conduct, let his situation at the time when he was preparing his Travels for the press, be fairly considered. He was then a young man, inexperienced in literary composition, and in a great measure dependent, as to the prospects of his future life, upon the success of his intended publication. His friend and adviser, Mr. Edwards, was a man of letters and of the world, who held a distinguished place in society, and was, besides, a leading member of the African Association, to which Park owed every thing, and with which his fate and fortunes were still intimately connected. It is difficult to estimate the degree of authority which a person possessing these advantages, and of a strong and decisive character, must necessarily have had over the mind of a young man in the situation which has now been described. Suggestions coming from such a quarter, must have been almost equivalent to commands; and instead of animadverting very severely on the extent of Park's compliances, we ought perhaps rather to be surprised, that more was not yielded to an influence which must have been nearly unlimited.
Before we dismiss this subject, it may be proper to add, that some time subsequent to the publication of his Travels, Park appeared to be fully sensible that the manner in which he had treated the question of the Slave Trade, was liable to some objections; and evidence now exists, that upon some occasions when his authority had been appealed to as being favourable to that system, he expressed his regret that an improper stress had been laid upon certain passages in his Travels, and that a meaning had been attributed to them, which it was not intended that they should bear.
It remains to be enquired, whether there is any just foundation for the opinion which has prevailed with regard to the degree of assistance given by Mr. Edwards in the actual composition of Park's work; as to which very few remarks will be necessary. The intimate connection of Mr. Edwards with Park, the interest which he took in the success of his publication, and the influence which he appears to have exerted with respect to its contents, make it quite evident, that he must have seen, and been consulted upon, every part of the work; and there can be no question but that he, at least, revised and corrected the whole manuscript before it was sent to the press. It was avowed by Park himself, that as occasion offered, he had incorporated into different parts of his work, by permission of Mr. Edwards, the whole of the narrative prepared by the latter for the use of the Association. [Footnote: Park's Travels. Preface, p. ix.] A person accustomed to literary composition, and confident of his own powers, would hardly have chosen to avail himself of this assistance; which would be attended only with a slight saving of labour, and might probably have the unpleasant effect of a mixture of different styles. No such disadvantage, it maybe observed, has in fact resulted from the course pursued in the present instance. No inequalities are apparent in Park's narrative; nor are the passages which have been inserted from Mr. Edwards's Memoir, to be distinguished from the rest of the work. The style is throughout uniform, and bears all the marks of a practised pen. Generally speaking indeed, it is more simple, and consequently more pleasing, than that of Mr. Edwards's avowed compositions. But, notwithstanding its general merits, it is altogether perhaps too much laboured; and in particular passages, betrays too much of the art of a professed writer. [Footnote: It would be easy, but invidious, to produce passages from Park's work more or less marked with some of the characteristics of Mr. Edwards's style, and, in particular, with that tendency to ambitious ornament, which is so conspicuous in many parts of the History of the West Indies.—The following extract from Park's chapter on the state of Slavery in Africa, may be sufficient. "In a country divided into a thousand petty states, mostly independent, and jealous of each other, where every freeman is accustomed to arms, and fond of military achievements; where the youth who has practised the bow and spear from his infancy, longs for nothing so much as an opportunity to display his valour, it is natural to imagine, that wars frequently originate from very frivolous provocation. When one nation is more powerful than another, a pretext is seldom wanting for commencing hostilities. Thus, the war between Kajaaga and Kasson was occasioned by the detention of a fugitive slave:—that between Bambarra and Kaarta by the loss of a few cattle. Other cases of the same nature perpetually occur, in which the folly or mad ambition of their princes and the zeal of their religious enthusiasts give full employment for the scythe of desolation." (Park's Travels, p. 290.)—On reading this passage, and the chapter from which it is taken, it may deserve to be remarked, (with reference to former observations as to the bias under which Park's work was written) that in enumerating the causes of the wars which desolate Africa, the Slave Trade is never once mentioned.]
From these observations, combined with the several facts before stated, it seems clearly to follow, that Mr. Edwards had a large share in Park's work; and, without attempting to ascertain in what degree he assisted in the composition, it may safely be affirmed that the assistance afforded was considerable and important. [Footnote: See Appendix, No. III.]
It would be a subject of sincere regret to the author of this biographical sketch, if he thought that this opinion (which he does not feel himself at liberty to suppress,) was likely to detract in any material degree from Park's well-earned reputation. But he is satisfied that there is no just cause for such an apprehension. It is unquestionably most desirable, that the adventures and discoveries of distinguished travellers should be given to the public, as far as circumstances will permit, in the language of the parties themselves; and there is no judicious reader, who would not decidedly prefer the simple, but authentic, narrative of an eye-witness, to any account of the same transactions from a different hand, however superior in literary merit. But the custom of employing professional writers upon similar occasions, has become so frequent, that the resorting to such assistance in any particular instance can no longer be considered as a just subject of animadversion; and, in forming our judgment upon books of voyages and travels (in which this practice is most common), we must in general rest satisfied, if we can obtain a reasonable assurance, that the compiler has made a correct and proper use of his materials. That this duty has been faithfully and conscientiously performed in the case of Park's Travels, there is not the slightest reason to doubt. The authenticity of the work is apparent, not only, as has been already stated, from the internal evidence of many parts of the narrative, but from the known character of Park, as well as of Mr. Edwards, his associate; who (there is every reason to believe) was a man of honour and veracity, and incapable of concealing or wilfully misrepresenting any important fact or circumstance.
It must further be recollected, that the essential merit of works of this description, consists in the authenticity and importance of the information they contain; compared with which, the beauties of style and composition are only of secondary and very inferior importance. The literary character of Park forms a small part of his general reputation. This must always rest upon grounds altogether independent of the merits of his work as a composition; and whatever may be hereafter thought of his claims to distinction as a writer, his fame as a geographical discoverer, an explorer of unknown countries, and a man of courage and capacity in the most arduous and trying situations, must ever remain undiminished.
* * * * *
After the publication of his Travels, Park began to think of settling himself in life. During his last residence in Scotland in the Summer and Autumn of 1798, he had formed a matrimonial engagement with the eldest daughter of Mr. Anderson of Selkirk, with whom he had served his apprenticeship. He returned therefore to Scotland in the Summer of 1799, and was married on the 2d of August in that year. This union, which connected him still more closely with a family with which he had long lived in friendship, contributed in a high degree to his future comfort and happiness.
For more than two years after his marriage, he resided with his mother and one of his brothers, who lived together and carried on the farm at Fowlshiels. The reason of his continuing there so long a time does not very distinctly appear, nor is any thing particular related as to the manner in which he employed himself during this period. The profits of his publication, and the liberal compensation which he had received from the African Association for the services rendered to them, had placed him, for the present, in easy circumstances: and he remained for a long time altogether doubtful and unsettled as to his future plan of life. During part of the year 1799 he appears to have been engaged in a negotiation with government (which finally proved unsuccessful) relative to some public appointment in the colony of New South Wales. At another time he had partly determined to look out for a farm; and at last came, somewhat reluctantly, to the determination of practising his profession, to which he was perhaps at no time much attached, and which was now become more irksome from disuse.
The uncertainty in the state of his affairs during this period was much encreased by the hope, which he constantly entertained, of being sent out on another expedition, either by the African Association or by Government. This clearly appears from a letter which he wrote to Sir Joseph Banks, dated 31st of July, 1800; in which, he alludes to the late capture of Goree, which he considers as introductory to opening a communication with the Interior of Africa; and after entering into some details relative to that subject, he proceeds as follows: "If such are the views of Government, I hope that my exertions in some station or other, may be of use to my country. I have not as yet found any situation in which I could practise to advantage as a surgeon; and unless some of my friends interest themselves in my behalf, I must wait patiently, until the cloud which hangs over my future prospects is dispelled."
An opportunity for medical practice, which was thought sufficiently promising, having offered itself at Peebles, he went to reside at that town in the month of October, 1801, and betook himself in good earnest to the exercise of his profession. Within no great length of time he acquired a good share of the business of the place and its neighbourhood: but this being very limited, his profits were at no time considerable. He was however very fully employed; for he was greatly distinguished by the kindness which he shewed towards the poor, and by that disinterested attention to the lower classes, which is one of the great virtues of the medical profession.
Under these circumstances, it cannot be thought surprising that he was dissatisfied with his situation, and looked anxiously forward to some other establishment. His former habits of life had indeed in a great measure disqualified him for his present humble occupations. The situation of a country practitioner in Scotland, attended with great anxiety and bodily fatigue, and leading to no distinction or much personal advantage, was little calculated to gratify a man, whose mind was full of ambitious views, and of adventurous and romantic undertakings. His journies to visit distant patients—his long and solitary rides over "cold and lonely heaths" and "gloomy hills assailed by the wintry tempest," seem to have produced in him feelings of disgust and impatience, which he had perhaps rarely experienced in the deserts of Africa. His strong sense of the irksomeness of this way of life broke out from him upon many occasions; especially, when previously to his undertaking his second African mission, one of his nearest relations expostulated with him on the imprudence of again exposing himself to dangers which he had so very narrowly escaped, and perhaps even to new and still greater ones; he calmly replied, that a few inglorious winters of country practice at Peebles was a risk as great, and would tend as effectually to shorten life, as the journey which he was about to undertake.
It might have been expected, that a person who had been so much accustomed to literary and scientific society, and who had lately been in some degree admitted into the fashionable circles of the metropolis, in which he had become an object of much interest and attention, would have felt great repugnance to the solitude and obscurity of a small market town. But this does not appear to have been the case. General society, for which indeed he was not particularly suited, was not much to his taste; and during every period of his life, he always looked forward to a state of complete retirement and seclusion in the country, as the object and end of all his labours. He had great enjoyment however in his own domestic circle, and in the society of select friends; and his residence at Peebles was, in this respect, highly fortunate for him, since it was the occasion of his becoming acquainted with two distinguished residents in that neighbourhood; Colonel John Murray of Kringaltie, a very respectable old officer, then retired from the service, and Dr. Adam Ferguson; with both of whom he became intimate, and passed much of his time. The latter of these, then residing at Hallyards in Tweedsdale, is the well-known author of the Essay on Civil Society, and History of the Roman Republic, and was formerly Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh; where, during many years, he was one of that distinguished literary circle, of which Hume, Smith, Black, and Robertson, were the principal ornaments. At the venerable age of ninety-one, he is still living, the last survivor of that illustrious society.
The friendship of a man thus interesting and distinguished, was highly honourable to Park, who was duly sensible of its value. Nor was this instance singular. The papers transmitted by his family speak of other testimonies of respect, which, subsequently to Park's return to Scotland in 1799, he received from various distinguished individuals of his own country; and they mention, in particular, that he was very highly gratified by some personal attentions which he received about this time from Mr. Dugald Stewart.
In the midst of these occupations Park's thoughts were still turned upon Africa. Soon after the signature of the Preliminary Articles of Peace with France, in October, 1801, he received a letter from Sir Joseph Banks, acquainting him, "that in consequence of the Peace, the Association would certainly revive their project of sending a mission to Africa; in order to penetrate to, and navigate, the Niger; and he added, that in case Government should enter into the plan, Park would certainly be recommended as the person proper to be employed for carrying it into execution." But the business remained for a considerable time in suspense; nor did any specific proposal follow this communication till the autumn of the year 1803; when he received a letter addressed to him from the Office of the Colonial Secretary of State, desiring his attendance without delay. On his arrival in London he had an interview with the present Earl of Buckinghamshire, then Lord Hobart, and Secretary of State for the Colonial department, who acquainted him with the nature of an expedition to Africa, which was about to take place, and in which it was proposed, that Park should bear a principal part. To this offer he declined giving an immediate answer, requesting a short time to deliberate and consult with his friends. He returned home for this purpose about ten days afterwards.
On his return to Scotland he formally consulted a few of his friends; but, in his own mind, the point was already decided. From the time of his interview with Lord Hobart, his determination was in fact taken. His imagination had been indulging itself for some years past upon the visions of discoveries which he was destined to make in the Interior of Africa; and the object of his ambition was now within his grasp. He hastily announced to Lord Hobart his acceptance of the proposal; employed a few days in settling his affairs and taking leave of his friends; and left Scotland in December, 1803, with the confident expectation of embarking in a very short time for the coast of Africa. But many delays were yet to take place previously to his final departure.
The principal details of the intended expedition had been fully considered, and in a great measure arranged, in the Colonial department, before the application was made to Park; and he had therefore flattered himself that the business was in a state of considerable forwardness. But on his arrival in London, he was much disappointed to find that the sailing of the expedition had been postponed; and it was not till after two months that his departure was finally appointed for the end of February, 1804. But, unfortunately, when this period arrived, the apprehension of important political changes, which eventually took place by the resignation of Mr. Addington a short time afterwards, caused some embarrassment in the measures and proceedings of the Administration. After all was ready at Portsmouth for the embarkation, and part of the troops destined for the service were actually on board, the expedition was suddenly countermanded; and the question, whether it should finally proceed to Africa or not, was reserved for the decision of Lord Camden, who shortly afterwards succeeded to Lord Hobart in the Colonial department.
In consequence of this change, Park was informed at the Colonial Office, that the expedition could not possibly sail before September; and it was suggested to him by some person in authority, that he might employ the interval with great advantage in improving himself in the practice of taking astronomical observations, and in acquiring some knowledge of the Arabic language. He was at the same time informed, that any reasonable expence which he might incur in acquiring this instruction would be reimbursed to him by Government. In consequence of this intimation, he engaged a native of Mogadore, named Sidi Omback Boubi, then residing in London, who had served as the interpreter of Elphi Bey, (the ambassador of the Mamelukes from Cairo) to accompany him to Scotland, for the purpose of instructing him in Arabic. They immediately left London together, and arrived early in March at Peebles; where Park continued to reside together with his African instructor, till about the middle of May. He then finally quitted his house at Peebles, and took his family to the farm at Fowlshiels, where he quietly waited the expected summons of the Secretary of State. During all this time he employed himself with great diligence in acquiring a familiar use of astronomical instruments, and in the study of the Arabic language, in which he became a tolerable proficient.
Early in September he received a letter from the Under Secretary of State for the Colonial department, desiring him to set off without delay for London, and to present himself on his arrival at the Colonial Office. He accordingly lost no time in settling his affairs; and taking an affectionate leave of his family, wife, and children, quitted Fowlshiels, and arrived in London towards the latter end of September, 1804.
In the course of Park's communications with the Colonial Office, Lord Camden had intimated a desire to be furnished with a written statement of Park's opinions, both as to the plan of the expedition, and the particular objects towards which he conceived that his attention ought to be chiefly directed during the intended journey. In compliance with this request, he had, during his leisure in the country, drawn up a Memoir upon these subjects, which he presented at the Colonial Office within a few days after his arrival in London. As this paper formed the ground work of the official instructions which were afterwards given to Park, and is in other respects interesting and important, it is here inserted at length.
Memoir delivered by Mungo Park, Esq. to Lord CAMDEN, on the 4th of October, 1804.
"A particular account—1st. of the objects to which Mr. Park's attention will be chiefly directed in his journey to the Interior of Africa: 2dly. of the means necessary for accomplishing that journey; and 3dly. of the manner in which he proposes to carry the plans of Government into execution.
"The objects which Mr. Park would constantly keep in view are, the extension of British Commerce, and the enlargement of our Geographical Knowledge.
"In directing his enquiries with respect to commerce, he would propose to himself the following subjects as worthy of particular investigation.
"1st. The route by which merchandize could be most easily transported to the Niger. This would be accomplished by attending to the nature of the country, whether wooded or open; having water or not, being abundant in provisions, or otherwise, and whether capable of furnishing the necessary beasts of burden.
"2dly. The safety or danger of that route. This, by considering the general character of the natives, their government, &c.; the jealousies that European merchants would be likely to excite, and the guard that would be necessary for the protection of the caravan.
"3dly. The return of merchandize. This by making out lists of such articles as are produced in each district, and of such as are imported from the neighbouring kingdoms.
"4thly. The value of merchandize. This could only be done by comparing the articles with each other; with gold as a standard, and with European articles in exchange.
"5thly. Profits of trade. This could be ascertained by bartering one African article for another; an European article for an African, or an African or European article for gold.
"6thly. The extent to which such a commerce might be carried. This, by a careful and cautious comparison of the above, connected with habits of industry in the natives.
"Mr. Park would likewise turn his attention to the general fertility of the country, whether any part of it might be useful to Britain for colonization, and whether any objects of Natural History, with which the natives are at present unacquainted, might be useful to Britain as a commercial nation.
"Mr. Park would propose to himself the following subjects in conducting his geographical researches.
"1st. To ascertain the correct latitude and longitude of the different places he visits in going to the Niger.
"2dly. To ascertain, if possible, the termination of that river.
"3dly. To make as accurate a survey of the river as his situation and circumstances will admit of.
"4thly. To give a description of the different kingdoms on or near the hanks of the river, with an account of the manners and customs of the inhabitants.
"Means necessary for accomplishing the journey. 30 European soldiers. 6 European carpenters. 15 or 20 Goree Negroes, most of them artificers. 50 Asses, to be purchased at St. Jago 6 Horses or mules, to be purchased at St. Jago.
"Articles of dress, &c. for the soldiers and Negros, exclusive of their common clothing.
"Each Man, 1 Musquito veil. 1 Hat with a broad brim. 2 Flannel under vests with sleeves. 2 Pair of Mosquito trowsers. 1 Pair of long leather gaiters. 1 Additional pair of shoes. 1 Great coat for sleeping, similar to what is worn by the cavalry. Knapsack and canteen for travelling.
"Arms and Ammunition. 6 Rifle pieces. 8 or ten blunderbusses.
"Each Man, 1 Gun and bayonet. 1 Pair of pistols, and belt. 1 Cartridge box and belt. Ball cartridges. Pistol ditto. Flints. Gunpowder. Small shot of different sizes.
"Articles necessary for equipping the asses.
"100 Strong sacking bags. 50 Canvass saddles. Girths, buckles, halters. 6 Saddles and bridles for horses.
"Articles necessary for building and rigging two boats on the Niger of the following dimensions, viz.
"40 Feet keel—8 feet beam, to draw 2-1/2 feet water. Carpenters tools, including hatchets and long saws. Iron work and nails. Pitch and oakum. Cordage rigging, and sails. 2 Boat compasses. 2 Spying-glasses for day or night. 2 Small union flags. 6 Dark lanterns. 2 Tons of Carolina rice. Cooking utensils. Medicines and instruments.
"List of Merchandize for purchasing provisions and making the necessary presents to the Kings of Woolli, Bondou, Kajaaga, Fooladoo, Bambarra, and the Kings of the Interior.
"Best blue India bafts, 150 yards White ditto, 50 yards Scarlet cloth, 200 yards Blue ditto, 30 yards Green ditto, 20 yards Yellow ditto, 10 yards Scarlet Salisbury flannel, red night caps, &c. Amber, L150 Coral, L50 Mock coral, L50 White garnets, L50 Red garnets Red beads Black points, L50 Piccadoes Gold beads Small black beads, L50 White ditto Yellow ditto 5 Double-barrelled guns. 5 Pairs of ditto pistols. 5 Swords with belts. Small mirrors. Knives. Scissors. Spectacles, Dollars.
"A brief account of the manner in which Mr. Park proposes to carry the plans of Government into execution.
"Mr. Park would touch at St. Jago, in order to purchase the asses and mules, and a sufficient quantity of corn to maintain them during the voyage to Goree and up the Gambia. At Goree he proposes receiving on board the soldiers and Negroes formerly mentioned, and would then proceed to Fattatenda, five hundred miles up the Gambia; where, having first obtained permission from the King of Woolli, he would disembark with the troops, asses, &c. After having allowed time for refreshment, and the necessary arrangements being made, he would then proceed on his journey to the Niger. The route he intends pursuing would lead him through the kingdoms of Bondou, Kajaaga, Fooladoo, and Bambarra.
"In conducting an expedition of this nature through such an extent of country, Mr. Park is sensible that difficulties will unavoidably occur; but he will be careful to use conciliatory measures on every occasion. He will state to the native princes the good understanding that has always subsisted between them and the English, and will invariably declare that his present journey is undertaken solely for the extension of commerce and promotion of their mutual interests.
"On his arrival at the Niger his attention will be first directed to gain the friendship of the King of Bambarra. For this purpose he will send one of the Bambarra Dooties forward to Sego with a small present. This man will inform Mansong of our arrival in his kingdom, and that it is our intention to come down to Sego with presents to him, as soon as he has given us permission, and we have provided the necessary means of conveying ourselves thither.
"In the mean time we must use every possible exertion to construct the two boats before mentioned with the utmost possible despatch. When the boats are completed, and every thing is ready for embarking, Mr. Park would dispose of the beasts of burthen; giving some away in presents, and with the others purchasing provisions. If the King of Bambarra's answer is favourable, he would proceed immediately to Sego, and having delivered the presents, solicit Mansong's protection as far as Jinnie. Here Mr. Park's personal knowledge of the course of the Niger ends.
"Proceeding farther, Mr. Park proposes to survey the lake Dibbie, coasting along its southern shore. He would then proceed down the river by Jimbala and Kabra (the port of Tombuctoo), through the kingdoms of Houssa, Nyffe, and Kashna, &c. to the kingdom of Wangara, being a direct distance of about one thousand four hundred miles from the place of embarkation.
"If the river should unfortunately end here, Mr. Park would feel his situation extremely critical; he would however be guided by his distance from the coast, by the character of the surrounding nations, and by the existing circumstances of his situation.
"To return by the Niger to the westward he apprehends would be impossible; to proceed to the northward equally so; and to travel through Abyssinia extremely dangerous. The only remaining route that holds out any hopes of success, is that towards the Bight of Guinea. If the river should take a southerly direction, Mr. Park would consider it as his duty to follow it to its termination; and if it should happily prove to be the river Congo, would there embark with the troops and Negroes on board a slave vessel, and return to England from St. Helena, or by way of the West Indies.
"The following considerations have induced Mr. Park to think that the Congo will be found to be the termination of the Niger.
"1st. The total ignorance of all the inhabitants of North Africa respecting the termination of that river. If the Niger ended any where in North Africa, it is difficult to conceive how the inhabitants should be so totally ignorant of it; and why they should so generally describe it as running to the Nile, to the end of the world, and in fact to a country with which they are unacquainted.
"2dly. In Mr. Horneman's Journal the Niger is described as flowing eastwards into Bornou, where it takes the name of Zad. The breadth of the Zad was given him for one mile, and he was told that it flowed towards the Egyptian Nile, through the land of the Heathens. [Footnote: Proceedings of African Association. Vol. II. p. 201.] The course here given is directly towards the Congo. Zad is the name of the Congo at its mouth, and it is the name of the Congo for at least six hundred and fifty miles inland.
"3dly. The river of Dar Kulla mentioned by Mr. Browne [Footnote: Browne's Travels. 2d edit. 4to. p. 354.] is generally supposed to be the Niger; or at least to have a communication with that river. Now this is exactly the course the Niger ought to take in order to join the Congo.
"4thly. The quantity of water discharged into the Atlantic by the Congo cannot be accounted for on any other known principle, but that it is the termination of the Niger. If the Congo derived its waters entirely from the south side of the mountains which are supposed to form the Belt of Africa, one would naturally suppose that when the rains were confined to the north side of the mountains, the Congo, like the other rivers of Africa, would be greatly diminished in size; and that its waters would become pure. On the contrary, the waters of the Congo are at all seasons thick and muddy. The breadth of the river when at its lowest is one mile, its depth is fifty fathoms, and its velocity six miles per hour.
"5thly. The annual flood of the Congo commences before any rains have fallen south of the equator, and agree correctly with the floods of the Niger, calculating the water to have flowed from Bambarra at the rate of three miles per hour.
"Mr. Park is of opinion, that when your Lordship shall have duly weighed the above reasons, you will be induced to conclude that his hopes of returning by the Congo are not altogether fanciful; and that his expedition, though attended with extreme danger, promises to be productive of the utmost advantage to Great Britain.
"Considered in a commercial point of view, it is second only to the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope; and in a geographical point of view, it is certainly the greatest discovery that remains to be made in this world.
"(Signed) MUNGO PARK."
The circumstance most deserving of attention in this Memoir, is the opinion expressed respecting the course and termination of the Niger; a geographical question of great difficulty and importance. In a treatise written by Major Rennell expressly on the discoveries of Park, that distinguished geographer, on comparing the various accounts of the progress of the Niger beyond Houssa, had given a distinct opinion that its waters had no communication either with the river Nile or the Sea; but were spread out into a great lake in Wangara and Ghana, and were evaporated by the heat of the sun. [Footnote: Proceedings of African Association, vol. i. p. 533.] Park's attention had of course been much directed to the same subject; and he had omitted no opportunity of collecting information which might throw light on this obscure and difficult question. During his residence in Scotland he had become acquainted with a Mr. George Maxwell, formerly an African trader, who had a great knowledge of the whole western coast of Africa, especially south of the equator, and had published a chart of the river Congo. Before Mr. Maxwell had heard any particulars of the Niger, many circumstances had induced him to conjecture that the source of the Congo lay considerably inland, and very far to the north. The publication of Park's Travels confirmed him in his opinion, and led him to conclude that the Congo and the Niger were one and the same stream. Mr. Maxwell's reasonings appear to have produced a great impression upon Park, who adopted his sentiments relative to the termination of the Niger in their utmost extent, and persevered in that opinion to the end of his life.
The sources of great rivers have often been the object of popular and even of scientific curiosity; but it is peculiar to the Niger to be interesting on account of its termination. Those who recollect the emotions which Park describes himself to have experienced during his former journey, on the first view of that mighty river, [Footnote: "While we were riding together, and I was anxiously looking around for the river, one of the Negroes called out, Geo affilli (see the water); and looking forwards, I saw with infinite pleasure, the great object of my mission, the long sought for, majestic Niger, glittering to the morning sun, as broad as the Thames at Westminster, and flowing slowly to the eastward. I hastened to the brink and having drank of the water, lifted up my fervent thanks in prayer to the great Ruler of all things for having thus far crowned my endeavours with success." Park's Travels, p. 194.] will be enabled to form some idea of the enthusiasm on this subject which he intimates at the close of the foregoing Memoir, and which was now become his ruling passion. Nor can we be surprised that the question, respecting the termination of the Niger, associated as it was, with so many personal feelings, had such entire possession of Park's mind; since the subject itself, considered as a matter of geographical enquiry, is one of the most interesting that can easily be conceived. The idea of a great river, rising in the western mountains of Africa and flowing towards the centre of that vast continent; whose course in that direction is ascertained for a considerable distance, beyond which information is silent, and speculation is left at large to indulge in the wildest conjectures—has something of the unbounded and mysterious, which powerfully attracts curiosity and takes a strong hold of the imagination. [Footnote: See Appendix, No. IV.]
* * * * *
A short time after Park had delivered his Memoir at the Colonial Office, he had an audience of Lord Camden, who expressed his general approbation of its contents and acquainted him with the plan of the expedition, so far as it was then determined upon. The amount of the compensation which he was to receive for this service, was likewise agreed upon and settled about the same time, with a commendable liberality on the part of Government, and entirely to Park's satisfaction; and it was also very properly stipulated that, in the event either of his dying before the completion of the service, or of his not being heard of within a given period after his setting out on the journey, a certain sum should be paid by Government as a provision for his wife and family.