Travels in the Interior of Africa - Volume 1
by Mungo Park
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Transcribed from the 1893 Cassell & Company edition by David Price, email



Mungo Park was born on the 10th of September, 1771, the son of a farmer at Fowlshiels, near Selkirk. After studying medicine in Edinburgh, he went out, at the age of twenty-one, assistant-surgeon in a ship bound for the East Indies. When he came back the African Society was in want of an explorer, to take the place of Major Houghton, who had died. Mungo Park volunteered, was accepted, and in his twenty-fourth year, on the 22nd of May, 1795, he sailed for the coasts of Senegal, where he arrived in June.

Thence he proceeded on the travels of which this book is the record. He was absent from England for a little more than two years and a half; returned a few days before Christmas, 1797. He was then twenty-six years old. The African Association published the first edition of his travels as "Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa, 1795-7, by Mungo Park, with an Appendix containing Geographical Illustrations of Africa, by Major Rennell."

Park married, and settled at Peebles in medical practice, but was persuaded by the Government to go out again. He sailed from Portsmouth on the 30th of January, 1805, resolved to trace the Niger to its source or perish in the attempt. He perished. The natives attacked him while passing through a narrow strait of the river at Boussa, and killed him, with all that remained of his party, except one slave. The record of this fatal voyage, partly gathered from his journals, and closed by evidences of the manner of his death, was first published in 1815, as "The Journal of a Mission to the Interior of Africa in 1805, by Mungo Park, together with other Documents, Official and Private, relating to the same Mission. To which is prefixed an Account of the Life of Mr. Park."

H. M.


Soon after my return from the East Indies in 1793, having learned that the noblemen and gentlemen associated for the purpose of prosecuting discoveries in the interior of Africa were desirous of engaging a person to explore that continent, by the way of the Gambia river, I took occasion, through means of the President of the Royal Society, to whom I had the honour to be known, of offering myself for that service. I had been informed that a gentleman of the name of Houghton, a captain in the army, and formerly fort-major at Goree, had already sailed to the Gambia, under the direction of the Association, and that there was reason to apprehend he had fallen a sacrifice to the climate, or perished in some contest with the natives. But this intelligence, instead of deterring me from my purpose, animated me to persist in the offer of my services with the greater solicitude. I had a passionate desire to examine into the productions of a country so little known, and to become experimentally acquainted with the modes of life and character of the natives. I knew that I was able to bear fatigue, and I relied on my youth and the strength of my constitution to preserve me from the effects of the climate. The salary which the committee allowed was sufficiently large, and I made no stipulation for future reward. If I should perish in my journey, I was willing that my hopes and expectations should perish with me; and if I should succeed in rendering the geography of Africa more familiar to my countrymen, and in opening to their ambition and industry new sources of wealth and new channels of commerce, I knew that I was in the hands of men of honour, who would not fail to bestow that remuneration which my successful services should appear to them to merit. The committee of the Association having made such inquiries as they thought necessary, declared themselves satisfied with the qualifications that I possessed, and accepted me for the service; and, with that liberality which on all occasions distinguishes their conduct, gave me every encouragement which it was in their power to grant, or which I could with propriety ask.

It was at first proposed that I should accompany Mr. James Willis, who was then recently appointed consul at Senegambia, and whose countenance in that capacity, it was thought, might have served and protected me; but Government afterwards rescinded his appointment, and I lost that advantage. The kindness of the committee, however, supplied all that was necessary. Being favoured by the secretary of the Association, the late Henry Beaufoy, Esq., with a recommendation to Dr. John Laidley (a gentleman who had resided many years at an English factory on the banks of the Gambia), and furnished with a letter of credit on him for 200 pounds, I took my passage in the brig Endeavour—a small vessel trading to the Gambia for beeswax and ivory, commanded by Captain Richard Wyatt—and I became impatient for my departure.

My instructions were very plain and concise. I was directed, on my arrival in Africa, "to pass on to the river Niger, either by way of Bambouk, or by such other route as should be found most convenient. That I should ascertain the course, and, if possible, the rise and termination of that river. That I should use my utmost exertions to visit the principal towns or cities in its neighbourhood, particularly Timbuctoo and Houssa; and that I should be afterwards at liberty to return to Europe, either by the way of the Gambia, or by such other route as, under all the then existing circumstances of my situation and prospects, should appear to me to be most advisable."

We sailed from Portsmouth on the 22nd day of May, 1795. On the 4th of June we saw the mountains over Mogadore, on the coast of Africa; and on the 21st of the same month, after a pleasant voyage of thirty days, we anchored at Jillifrey, a town on the northern bank of the river Gambia, opposite to James's Island, where the English had formerly a small fort.

The kingdom of Barra, in which the town of Jillifrey is situated, produces great plenty of the necessaries of life; but the chief trade of the inhabitants is in salt, which commodity they carry up the river in canoes as high as Barraconda, and bring down in return Indian corn, cotton cloths, elephants' teeth, small quantities of gold dust, &c. The number of canoes and people constantly employed in this trade makes the king of Barra more formidable to Europeans than any other chieftain on the river; and this circumstance probably encouraged him to establish those exorbitant duties which traders of all nations are obliged to pay at entry, amounting to nearly 20 pounds on every vessel, great and small. These duties or customs are generally collected in person by the alkaid, or governor of Jillifrey, and he is attended on these occasions by a numerous train of dependants, among whom are found many who, by their frequent intercourse with the English, have acquired a smattering of our language: but they are commonly very noisy and very troublesome, begging for everything they fancy with such earnestness and importunity, that traders, in order to get quit of them, are frequently obliged to grant their requests.

On the 23rd we departed from Jillifrey, and proceeded to Vintain, a town situated about two miles up a creek on the southern side of the river. This place is much resorted to by Europeans on account of the great quantities of beeswax which are brought hither for sale; the wax is collected in the woods by the Feloops, a wild and unsociable race of people. Their country, which is of considerable extent, abounds in rice; and the natives supply the traders, both on the Gambia and Cassamansa rivers, with that article, and also with goats and poultry, on very reasonable terms. The honey which they collect is chiefly used by themselves in making a strong intoxicating liquor, much the same as the mead which is produced from honey in Great Britain.

In their traffic with Europeans, the Feloops generally employ a factor or agent of the Mandingo nation, who speaks a little English, and is acquainted with the trade of the river. This broker makes the bargain; and, with the connivance of the European, receives a certain part only of the payment, which he gives to his employer as the whole; the remainder (which is very truly called the cheating money) he receives when the Feloop is gone, and appropriates to himself as a reward for his trouble.

The language of the Feloops is appropriate and peculiar; and as their trade is chiefly conducted, as hath been observed, by Mandingoes, the Europeans have no inducement to learn it.

On the 26th we left Vintain, and continued our course up the river, anchoring whenever the tide failed us, and frequently towing the vessel with the boat. The river is deep and muddy; the banks are covered with impenetrable thickets of mangrove; and the whole of the adjacent country appears to be flat and swampy.

The Gambia abounds with fish, some species of which are excellent food; but none of them that I recollect are known in Europe. At the entrance from the sea sharks are found in great abundance, and, higher up, alligators and the hippopotamus (or river-horse) are very numerous.

In six days after leaving Vintain we reached Jonkakonda, a place of considerable trade, where our vessel was to take in part of her lading. The next morning the several European traders came from their different factories to receive their letters, and learn the nature and amount of her cargo; and the captain despatched a messenger to Dr. Laidley to inform him of my arrival. He came to Jonkakonda the morning following, when I delivered him Mr. Beaufoy's letter, and he gave me a kind invitation to spend my time at his house until an opportunity should offer of prosecuting my journey. This invitation was too acceptable to be refused, and being furnished by the Doctor with a horse and guide, I set out from Jonkakonda at daybreak on the 5th of July, and at eleven o'clock arrived at Pisania, where I was accommodated with a room and other conveniences in the Doctor's house.

Pisania is a small village in the king of Yany's dominions, established by British subjects as a factory for trade, and inhabited solely by them and their black servants. It is situated on the banks of the Gambia, sixteen miles above Jonkakonda. The white residents, at the time of may arrival there, consisted only of Dr. Laidley, and two gentlemen who were brothers, of the name of Ainsley; but their domestics were numerous. They enjoyed perfect security under the king's protection, and being highly esteemed and respected by the natives at large, wanted no accommodation or comfort which the country could supply, and the greatest part of the trade in slaves, ivory, and gold was in their hands.

Being now settled for some time at my ease, my first object was to learn the Mandingo tongue, being the language in almost general use throughout this part of Africa, and without which I was fully convinced that I never could acquire an extensive knowledge of the country or its inhabitants. In this pursuit I was greatly assisted by Dr. Laidley.

In researches of this kind, and in observing the manners and customs of the natives, in a country so little known to the nations of Europe, and furnished with so many striking and uncommon objects of nature, my time passed not unpleasantly, and I began to flatter myself that I had escaped the fever, or seasoning, to which Europeans, on their first arrival in hot climates, are generally subject. But on the 31st of July I imprudently exposed myself to the night-dew in observing an eclipse of the moon, with a view to determine the longitude of the place; the next day I found myself attacked with a smart fever and delirium, and such an illness followed as confined me to the house during the greatest part of August. My recovery was very slow, but I embraced every short interval of convalescence to walk out, and make myself acquainted with the productions of the country.

In one of those excursions, having rambled farther than usual, on a hot day, I brought on a return of my fever, and on the 10th of September I was again confined to my bed. The fever, however, was not so violent as before; and in the course of three weeks I was able, when the weather would permit, to renew my botanical excursions; and when it rained, I amused myself with drawing plants, &c., in my chamber. The care and attention of Dr. Laidley contributed greatly to alleviate my sufferings; his company and conversation beguiled the tedious hours during that gloomy season, when the rain falls in torrents; when suffocating heats oppress by day, and when the night is spent by the terrified travellers in listening to the croaking of frogs (of which the numbers are beyond imagination), the shrill cry of the jackal, and the deep howling of the hyaena, a dismal concert, interrupted only by the roar of such tremendous thunder as no person can form a conception of but those who have heard it.

The country itself being an immense level, and very generally covered with wood, presents a tiresome and gloomy uniformity to the eye; but although Nature has denied to the inhabitants the beauties of romantic landscapes, she has bestowed on them, with a liberal hand, the more important blessings of fertility and abundance. A little attention to cultivation procures a sufficiency of corn, the fields afford a rich pasturage for cattle, and the natives are plentifully supplied with excellent fish, both from the Gambia river and the Walli creek.

The grains which are chiefly cultivated are—Indian corn (zea mays); two kinds of holcus spicatus, called by the natives soono and sanio; holcus niger, and holcus bicolor, the former of which they have named bassi woolima, and the latter bassiqui. These, together with rice, are raised in considerable quantities; besides which, the inhabitants in the vicinity of the towns and villages have gardens which produce onions, calavances, yams, cassavi, ground nuts, pompions, gourds, water-melons, and some other esculent plants.

I observed likewise, near the towns, small patches of cotton and indigo. The former of these articles supplies them with clothing, and with the latter they dye their cloth of an excellent blue colour, in a manner that will hereafter be described.

In preparing their corn for food, the natives use a large wooden mortar called a paloon, in which they bruise the seed until it parts with the outer covering, or husk, which is then separated from the clean corn by exposing it to the wind, nearly in the same manner as wheat is cleared from the chaff in England. The corn thus freed from the husk is returned to the mortar and beaten into meal, which is dressed variously in different countries; but the most common preparation of it among the nations of the Gambia is a sort of pudding which they call kouskous. It is made by first moistening the flour with water, and then stirring and shaking it about in a large calabash, or gourd, till it adheres together in small granules resembling sago. It is then put into an earthen pot, whose bottom is perforated with a number of small holes; and this pot being placed upon another, the two vessels are luted together either with a paste of meal and water, or with cows' dung, and placed upon the fire. In the lower vessel is commonly some animal food and water, the steam or vapour of which ascends through the perforations in the bottom of the upper vessel, and softens and the kouskous, which is very much esteemed throughout all the countries that I visited. I am informed that the same manner of preparing flour is very generally used on the Barbary coast, and that the dish so prepared is there called by the same name. It is therefore probable that the negroes borrowed the practice from the Moors.

Their domestic animals are nearly the same as in Europe. Swine are found in the woods, but their flesh is not esteemed. Probably the marked abhorrence in which this animal is held by the votaries of Mohammed has spread itself among the pagans. Poultry of all kinds, the turkey excepted, is everywhere to be had. The guinea-fowl and red partridge abound in the fields, and the woods furnish a small species of antelope, of which the venison is highly and deservedly prized.

Of the other wild animals in the Mandingo countries, the most common are the hyaena, the panther, and the elephant. Considering the use that is made of the latter in the East Indies, it may be thought extraordinary that the natives of Africa have not, in any part of this immense continent, acquired the skill of taming this powerful and docile creature, and applying his strength and faculties to the service of man. When I told some of the natives that this was actually done in the countries of the East, my auditors laughed me to scorn, and exclaimed, "Tobaubo fonnio!" ("A white man's lie!") The negroes frequently find means to destroy the elephant by firearms; they hunt it principally for the sake of the teeth, which they transfer in barter to those who sell them again to the Europeans. The flesh they eat, and consider it as a great delicacy.

On the 6th of October the waters of the Gambia were at the greatest height, being fifteen feet above the high-water mark of the tide, after which they began to subside, at first slowly, but afterwards very rapidly, sometimes sinking more than a foot in twenty-four hours. By the beginning of November the river had sunk to its former level, and the tide ebbed and flowed as usual. When the river had subsided, and the atmosphere grew dry, I recovered apace, and began to think of my departure, for this is reckoned the most proper season for travelling. The natives had completed their harvest, and provisions were everywhere cheap and plentiful.

Dr. Laidley was at this time employed in a trading voyage at Jonkakonda. I wrote to him to desire that he would use his interest with the slatees, or slave-merchants, to procure me the company and protection of the first coffle (or caravan) that might leave Gambia for the interior country; and, in the meantime, I requested him to purchase for me a horse and two asses. A few days afterwards the Doctor returned to Pisania, and informed me that a coffle would certainly go for the interior in the course of the dry season; but that, as many of the merchants belonging to it had not yet completed their assortment of goods, he could not say at what time they would set out.

As the characters and dispositions of the slatees, and people that composed the caravan, were entirely unknown to me—and as they seemed rather averse to my purpose, and unwilling to enter into any positive engagements on my account—and the time of their departure being withal very uncertain, I resolved, on further deliberation, to avail myself of the dry season, and proceed without them.

Dr. Laidley approved my determination, and promised me every assistance in his power to enable me to prosecute my journey with comfort and safety.

This resolution having been formed, I made preparations accordingly.

And now, being about to take leave of my hospitable friend (whose kindness and solicitude continued to the moment of my departure), and to quit for many months the countries bordering on the Gambia, it seems proper, before I proceed with my narrative, that I should in this place give some account of the several negro nations which inhabit the banks of this celebrated river, and the commercial intercourse that subsists between them, and such of the nations of Europe as find their advantage in trading to this part of Africa. The observations which have occurred to me on both these subjects will be found in the following chapter.


The natives of the countries bordering on the Gambia, though distributed into a great many distinct governments, may, I think, be divided into four great classes—the Feloops, the Jaloffs, the Foulahs, and the Mandingoes. Among all these nations, the religion of Mohammed has made, and continues to make, considerable progress; but in most of them the body of the people, both free and enslaved, persevere in maintaining the blind but harmless superstitions of their ancestors, and are called by the Mohammedans kafirs, or infidels.

Of the Feloops, I have little to add to what has been observed concerning them in the former chapter. They are of a gloomy disposition, and are supposed never to forgive an injury. They are even said to transmit their quarrels as deadly feuds to their posterity, insomuch that a son considers it as incumbent on him, from a just sense of filial obligation, to become the avenger of his deceased father's wrongs. If a man loses his life in one of these sudden quarrels which perpetually occur at their feasts, when the whole party is intoxicated with mead, his son, or the eldest of his sons (if he has more than one), endeavours to procure his father's sandals, which he wears ONCE A YEAR, on the anniversary of his father's death, until a fit opportunity offers of revenging his fate, when the object of his resentment seldom escapes his pursuit. This fierce and unrelenting disposition is, however, counterbalanced by many good qualities: they display the utmost gratitude and affection towards their benefactors, and the fidelity with which they preserve whatever is entrusted to them is remarkable. During the present war, they have more than once taken up arms to defend our merchant vessels from French privateers; and English property of considerable value has frequently been left at Vintain for a long time entirely under the care of the Feloops, who have uniformly manifested on such occasions the strictest honesty and punctuality. How greatly is it to be wished that the minds of a people so determined and faithful could be softened and civilised by the mild and benevolent spirit of Christianity!

The Jaloffs (or Yaloffs) are an active, powerful, and warlike race, inhabiting great part of that tract which lies between the river Senegal and the Mandingo states on the Gambia; yet they differ from the Mandingoes not only in language, but likewise in complexion and features. The noses of the Jaloffs are not so much depressed, nor the lips so protuberant, as among the generality of Africans; and although their skin is of the deepest black, they are considered by the white traders as the most sightly negroes on this part of the continent.

Their language is said to be copious and significant, and is often learnt by Europeans trading to Senegal.

The Foulahs (or Pholeys), such of them at least as reside near the Gambia, are chiefly of a tawny complexion, with soft silky hair, and pleasing features. They are much attached to a pastoral life, and have introduced themselves into all the kingdoms on the windward coast as herdsmen and husbandmen, paying a tribute to the sovereign of the country for the lands which they hold. Not having many opportunities, however, during my residence at Pisania, of improving my acquaintance with these people, I defer entering at large into their character until a fitter occasion occurs, which will present itself when I come to Bondou.

The Mandingoes, of whom it remains to speak, constitute, in truth, the bulk of the inhabitants in all those districts of Africa which I visited; and their language, with a few exceptions, is universally understood and very generally spoken in that part of the continent.

They are called Mandingoes, I conceive, as having originally migrated from the interior state of Manding, of which some account will hereafter be given.

In every considerable town there is a chief magistrate, called the alkaid, whose office is hereditary, and whose business it is to preserve order, to levy duties on travellers, and to preside at all conferences in the exercise of local jurisdiction and the administration of justice. These courts are composed of the elders of the town (of free condition), and are termed palavers; and their proceedings are conducted in the open air with sufficient solemnity. Both sides of a question are freely canvassed, witnesses are publicly examined, and the decisions which follow generally meet with the approbation of the surrounding audience.

As the negroes have no written language of their own, the general rule of decision is an appeal to ANCIENT CUSTOM; but since the system of Mohammed has made so great progress among them, the converts to that faith have gradually introduced, with the religious tenets, many of the civil institutions of the prophet; and where the Koran is not found sufficiently explicit, recourse is had to a commentary called Al Sharra, containing, as I was told, a complete exposition or digest of the Mohammedan laws, both civil and criminal, properly arranged and illustrated.

This frequency of appeal to written laws, with which the pagan natives are necessarily unacquainted, has given rise in their palavers to (what I little expected to find in Africa) professional advocates, or expounders of the law, who are allowed to appear and to plead for plaintiff or defendant, much in the same manner as counsel in the law-courts of Great Britain. They are Mohammedan negroes, who have made, or affect to have made, the laws of the prophet their peculiar study; and if I may judge from their harangues, which I frequently attended, I believe, that in the forensic qualifications of procrastination and cavil, and the arts of confounding and perplexing a cause, they are not always surpassed by the ablest pleaders in Europe. While I was at Pisania, a cause was heard which furnished the Mohammedan lawyers with an admirable opportunity of displaying their professional dexterity. The case was this:- An ass belonging to a Serawoolli negro (a native of an interior country near the river Senegal) had broke into a field of corn belonging to one of the Mandingo inhabitants, and destroyed great part of it. The Mandingo having caught the animal in his field, immediately drew his knife and cut his throat. The Serawoolli thereupon called a palaver (or in European terms, brought an action) to recover damages for the loss of his beast, on which he set a high value. The defendant confessed he had killed the ass, but pleaded a SET-OFF, insisting that the loss he had sustained by the ravage in his corn was equal to the sum demanded for the animal. To ascertain this fact was the point at issue, and the learned advocates contrived to puzzle the cause in such a manner that, after a hearing of three days, the court broke up without coming to any determination upon it; and a second palaver was, I suppose, thought necessary.

The Mandingoes, generally speaking, are of a mild, sociable, and obliging disposition. The men are commonly above the middle size, well-shaped, strong, and capable of enduring great labour. The women are good-natured, sprightly, and agreeable. The dress of both sexes is composed of cotton cloth of their own manufacture: that of the men is a loose frock, not unlike a surplice, with drawers which reach half-way down the leg; and they wear sandals on their feet, and white cotton caps on their heads. The women's dress consists of two pieces of cloth, each of which is about six feet long and three broad. One of these they wrap round their waist, which, hanging down to the ankles, answers the purpose of a petticoat; the other is thrown negligently over the bosom and shoulders.

This account of their clothing is indeed nearly applicable to the natives of all the different countries in this part of Africa; a peculiar national mode is observable only in the head-dresses of the women.

Thus, in the countries of the Gambia, the females wear a sort of bandage, which they call jalla. It is a narrow strip of cotton cloth wrapped many times round, immediately over the forehead. In Bondou, the head is encircled with strings of white beads, and a small plate of gold is worn in the middle of the forehead. In Kasson the ladies decorate their heads in a very tasteful and elegant manner with white seashells. In Kaarta and Ludamar, the women raise their hair to a great height by the addition of a pad (as the ladies did formerly in Great Britain), which they decorate with a species of coral brought from the Red Sea by pilgrims returning from Mecca, and sold at a great price.

In the construction of their dwelling-houses the Mandingoes also conform to the general practice of the African nations in this part of the continent, contenting themselves with small and incommodious hovels. A circular mud wall, about four feet high, upon which is placed a conical roof, composed of the bamboo cane, and thatched with grass, forms alike the palace of the king and the hovel of the slave. Their household furniture is equally simple. A hurdle of canes placed upon upright sticks, about two feet from the ground, upon which is spread a mat or bullock's hide, answers the purpose of a bed; a water jar, some earthen pots for dressing their food; a few wooden bowls and calabashes, and one or two low stools, compose the rest.

As every man of free condition has a plurality of wives, it is found necessary (to prevent, I suppose, matrimonial disputes) that each of the ladies should be accommodated with a hut to herself; and all the huts belonging to the same family are surrounded by a fence constructed of bamboo canes, split and formed into a sort of wicker- work. The whole enclosure is called a sirk, or surk. A number of these enclosures, with narrow passages between them, form what is called a town; but the huts are generally placed without any regularity, according to the caprice of the owner. The only rule that seems to be attended to is placing the door towards the south- west, in order to admit the sea-breeze.

In each town is a large stage called the bentang, which answers the purpose of a public hall or town house. It is composed of interwoven canes, and is generally sheltered from the sun by being erected in the shade of some large tree. It is here that all public affairs are transacted and trials conducted; and here the lazy and indolent meet to smoke their pipes, and hear the news of the day. In most of the towns the Mohammedans have also a missura, or mosque, in which they assemble and offer up their daily prayers, according to the rules of the Koran.

In the account which I have thus given of the natives, the reader must bear in mind that my observations apply chiefly to persons of FREE CONDITION, who constitute, I suppose, not more than one-fourth part of the inhabitants at large. The other three-fourths are in a state of hopeless and hereditary slavery, and are employed in cultivating the land, in the care of cattle, and in servile offices of all kinds, much in the same manner as the slaves in the West Indies. I was told, however, that the Mandingo master can neither deprive his slave of life, nor sell him to a stranger, without first calling a palaver on his conduct, or in other words, bringing him to a public trial. But this degree of protection is extended only to the native or domestic slave. Captives taken in war, and those unfortunate victims who are condemned to slavery for crimes or insolvency—and, in short, all those unhappy people who are brought down from the interior countries for sale—have no security whatever, but may be treated and disposed of in all respects as the owner thinks proper. It sometimes happens, indeed, when no ships are on the coast, that a humane and considerate master incorporates his purchased slaves among his domestics; and their offspring at least, if not the parents, become entitled to all the privileges of the native class.

The earliest European establishment on this celebrated river was a factory of the Portuguese, and to this must be ascribed the introduction of the numerous words of that language which are still in use among the negroes. The Dutch, French, and English afterwards successively possessed themselves of settlements on the coast; but the trade of the Gambia became, and continued for many years, a sort of monopoly in the hands of the English. In the travels of Francis Moore is preserved an account of the Royal African Company's establishments in this river in the year 1730; at which the James's factory alone consisted of a governor, deputy-governor, and two other principal officers; eight factors, thirteen writers, twenty inferior attendants and tradesmen; a company of soldiers, and thirty-two negro servants; besides sloops, shallops, and boats, with their crews; and there were no less than eight subordinate factories in other parts of the river.

The trade with Europe, by being afterwards laid open, was almost annihilated. The share which the subjects of England at this time hold in it supports not more than two or three annual ships; and I am informed that the gross value of British exports is under 20,000 pounds. The French and Danes still maintain a small share, and the Americans have lately sent a few vessels to the Gambia by way of experiment.

The commodities exported to the Gambia from Europe consist chiefly of firearms and ammunition, iron-ware, spirituous liquors, tobacco, cotton caps, a small quantity of broadcloth, and a few articles of the manufacture of Manchester; a small assortment of India goods, with some glass beads, amber, and other trifles, for which are taken in exchange slaves, gold dust, ivory, beeswax, and hides. Slaves are the chief article, but the whole number which at this time are annually exported from the Gambia by all nations is supposed to be under one thousand.

Most of these unfortunate victims are brought to the coast in periodical caravans; many of them from very remote inland countries, for the language which they speak is not understood by the inhabitants of the maritime districts. In a subsequent part of my work I shall give the best information I have been able to collect concerning the manner in which they are obtained. On their arrival at the coast, if no immediate opportunity offers of selling them to advantage, they are distributed among the neighbouring villages, until a slave ship arrives, or until they can be sold to black traders, who sometimes purchase on speculation. In the meanwhile, the poor wretches are kept constantly fettered, two and two of them being chained together, and employed in the labours of the field, and, I am sorry to add, are very scantily fed, as well as harshly treated. The price of a slave varies according to the number of purchasers from Europe, and the arrival of caravans from the interior; but in general I reckon that a young and healthy male, from sixteen to twenty-five years of age, may be estimated on the spot from 18 pounds to 20 pounds sterling.

The negro slave-merchants, as I have observed in the former chapter, are called slatees, who, besides slaves, and the merchandise which they bring for sale to the whites, supply the inhabitants of the maritime districts with native iron, sweet-smelling gums and frankincense, and a commodity called shea-toulou, which, literally translated, signifies tree-butter.

In payment of these articles, the maritime states supply the interior countries with salt, a scarce and valuable commodity, as I frequently and painfully experienced in the course of my journey. Considerable quantities of this article, however, are also supplied to the inland natives by the Moors, who obtain it from the salt pits in the Great Desert, and receive in return corn, cotton cloth, and slaves.

In their early intercourse with Europeans the article that attracted most notice was iron. Its utility, in forming the instruments of war and husbandry, make it preferable to all others, and iron soon became the measure by which the value of all other commodities was ascertained. Thus, a certain quantity of goods, of whatever denomination, appearing to be equal in value to a bar of iron, constituted, in the traders' phraseology, a bar of that particular merchandise. Twenty leaves of tobacco, for instance, were considered as a bar of tobacco; and a gallon of spirits (or rather half spirits and half water) as a bar of rum, a bar of one commodity being reckoned equal in value to a bar of another commodity.

As, however, it must unavoidably happen that, according to the plenty or scarcity of goods at market in proportion to the demand, the relative value would be subject to continual fluctuation, greater precision has been found necessary; and at this time the current value of a single bar of any kind is fixed by the whites at two shillings sterling. Thus, a slave whose price is 15 pounds, is said to be worth 150 bars.

In transactions of this nature it is obvious that the white trader has infinitely the advantage over the African, whom, therefore, it is difficult to satisfy, for conscious of his own ignorance, he naturally becomes exceedingly suspicious and wavering; and, indeed, so very unsettled and jealous are the negroes in their dealings with the whites, that a bargain is never considered by the European as concluded until the purchase money is paid and the party has taken leave.

Having now brought together such general observations on the country and its inhabitants as occurred to me during my residence in the vicinity of the Gambia, I shall detain the reader no longer with introductory matter, but proceed, in the next chapter, to a regular detail of the incidents which happened, and the reflections which arose in my mind, in the course of my painful and perilous journey, from its commencement until my return to the Gambia.


On the 2nd of December, 1795, I took my departure from the hospitable mansion of Dr. Laidley. I was fortunately provided with a negro servant who spoke both the English and Mandingo tongues. His name was Johnson. He was a native of this part of Africa, and having in his youth been conveyed to Jamaica as a slave, he had been made free, and taken to England by his master, where he had resided many years, and at length found his way back to his native country. As he was known to Dr. Laidley, the Doctor recommended him to me, and I hired him as my interpreter, at the rate of ten bars monthly to be paid to himself, and five bars a month to be paid to his wife during his absence. Dr. Laidley furthermore provided me with a negro boy of his own, named Demba, a sprightly youth, who, besides Mandingo, spoke the language of the Serawoollies, an inland people (of whom mention will hereafter be made) residing on the banks of the Senegal; and to induce him to behave well, the Doctor promised him his freedom on his return, in case I should report favourably of his fidelity and services. I was furnished with a horse for myself (a small but very hardy and spirited beast, which cost me to the value of 7 pounds 10s), and two asses for my interpreter and servant. My baggage was light, consisting chiefly of provisions for two days; a small assortment of beads, amber, and tobacco, for the purchase of a fresh supply as I proceeded; a few changes of linen, and other necessary apparel; an umbrella, a pocket sextant, a magnetic compass, and a thermometer; together with two fowling- pieces, two pair of pistols, and some other small articles.

A free man (a bashreen, or Mohammedan) named Madiboo, who was travelling to the kingdom of Bambara, and two slatees, or slave merchants, of the Serawoolli nation, and of the same sect, who were going to Bondou, offered their services, as far as they intended respectively to proceed, as did likewise a negro named Tami (also a Mohammedan), a native of Kasson, who had been employed some years by Dr. Laidley as a blacksmith, and was returning to his native country with the savings of his labours. All these men travelled on foot, driving their asses before them.

Thus I had no less than six attendants, all of whom had been taught to regard me with great respect, and to consider that their safe return hereafter to the countries on the Gambia would depend on my preservation.

Dr. Laidley himself, and Messrs. Ainsley, with a number of their domestics, kindly determined to accompany me the first two days; and I believe they secretly thought they should never see me afterwards.

We reached Jindey the same day, having crossed the Walli creek, a branch of the Gambia, and rested at the house of a black woman, who had formerly been the paramour of a white trader named Hewett, and who, in consequence thereof, was called, by way of distinction, seniora. In the evening we walked out to see an adjoining village, belonging to a slatee named Jemaffoo Momadoo, the richest of all the Gambia traders. We found him at home, and he thought so highly of the honour done him by this visit, that he presented us with a fine bullock, which was immediately killed, and part of it dressed for our evening's repast.

The negroes do not go to supper till late, and, in order to amuse ourselves while our beef was preparing, a Mandingo was desired to relate some diverting stories, in listening to which, and smoking tobacco, we spent three hours. These stories bear some resemblance to those in the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, but, in general, are of a more ludicrous cast.

About one o'clock in the afternoon of the 3rd of December, I took my leave of Dr. Laidley and Messrs. Ainsley, and rode slowly into the woods. I had now before me a boundless forest, and a country, the inhabitants of which were strangers to civilised life, and to most of whom a white man was the object of curiosity or plunder. I reflected that I had parted from the last European I might probably behold, and perhaps quitted for ever the comforts of Christian society. Thoughts like these would necessarily cast a gloom over my mind; and I rode musing along for about three miles, when I was awakened from my reverie by a body of people, who came running up, and stopped the asses, giving me to understand that I must go with them to Peckaba, to present myself to the king of Walli, or pay customs to them. I endeavoured to make them comprehend that the object of my journey not being traffic, I ought not to be subjected to a tax like the slatees, and other merchants, who travel for gain; but I reasoned to no purpose. They said it was usual for travellers of all descriptions to make a present to the king of Walli, and without doing so I could not be permitted to proceed. As they were more numerous than my attendants, and withal very noisy, I thought it prudent to comply with their demand; and having presented them with four bars of tobacco, for the king's use, I was permitted to continue my journey, and at sunset reached a village near Kootacunda, where we rested for the night.

In the morning of December 4th I passed Kootacunda, the last town of Walli, and stopped about an hour at a small adjoining village to pay customs to an officer of the king of Woolli; we rested the ensuing night at a village called Tabajang; and at noon the next day (December 5th) we reached Medina, the capital of the king of Woolli's dominions.

The kingdom of Woolli is bounded by Walli on the west, by the Gambia on the south, by the small river Walli on the north-west, by Bondou on the north-east, and on the east by the Simbani wilderness.

The inhabitants are Mandingoes, and, like most of the Mandingo nations, are divided into two great sects—the Mohammedans, who are called bushreens, and the pagans, who are called indiscriminately kafirs (unbelievers) and sonakies (i.e., men who drink strong liquors). The pagan natives are by far the most numerous, and the government of the country is in their hands; for though the most respectable among the bushreens are frequently consulted in affairs of importance, yet they are never permitted to take any share in the executive government, which rests solely in the hands of the mansa, or sovereign, and great officers of the state. Of these, the first in point of rank is the presumptive heir of the crown, who is called the farbanna. Next to him are the alkaids, or provincial governors, who are more frequently called keamos. Then follow the two grand divisions of free-men and slaves; of the former, the slatees, so frequently mentioned in the preceding pages, are considered as the principal; but, in all classes, great respect is paid to the authority of aged men.

On the death of the reigning monarch, his eldest son (if he has attained the age of manhood) succeeds to the regal authority. If there is no son, or if the son is under the age of discretion, a meeting of the great men is held, and the late monarch's nearest relation (commonly his brother) is called to the government, not as regent, or guardian to the infant son, but in full right, and to the exclusion of the minor. The charges of the government are defrayed by occasional tributes from the people, and by duties on goods transported across the country. Travellers, on going from the Gambia towards the interior, pay customs in European merchandise. On returning, they pay in iron and shea-toulou. These taxes are paid at every town.

Medina, the capital of the kingdom, at which I was now arrived, is a place of considerable extent, and may contain from eight hundred to one thousand houses. It is fortified in the common African manner, by a surrounding high wall built of clay, and an outward fence of pointed stakes and prickly bushes; but the walls are neglected, and the outward fence has suffered considerably from the active hands of busy housewives, who pluck up the stakes for firewood. I obtained a lodging at one of the king's near relations, who apprised me that at my introduction to the king I must not presume to SHAKE HANDS WITH HIM. "It was not usual," he said, "to allow this liberty to strangers." Thus instructed, I went in the afternoon to pay my respects to the sovereign, and ask permission to pass through his territories to Bondou. The king's name was Jatta. He was the same venerable old man of whom so favourable an account was transmitted by Major Houghton. I found him seated upon a mat before the door of his hut; a number of men and women were arranged on each side, who were singing and clapping their hands. I saluted him respectfully, and informed him of the purport of my visit. The king graciously replied, that he not only gave me leave to pass through his country, but would offer up his prayers for my safety. On this, one of my attendants, seemingly in return for the king's condescension, began to sing, or rather to roar an Arabic song, at every pause of which the king himself, and all the people present, struck their hands against their foreheads, and exclaimed, with devout and affecting solemnity, "Amen, amen!" The king told me, furthermore, that I should have a guide the day following, who would conduct me safely to the frontier of his kingdom—I then took my leave, and in the evening sent the king an order upon Dr. Laidley for three gallons of rum, and received in return great store of provisions.

December 6.—Early in the morning I went to the king a second time, to learn if the guide was ready. I found his Majesty seated upon a bullock's hide, warming himself before a large fire, for the Africans are sensible of the smallest variation in the temperature of the air, and frequently complain of cold when a European is oppressed with heat. He received me with a benevolent countenance, and tenderly entreated me to desist from my purpose of travelling into the interior, telling me that Major Houghton had been killed in his route, and that if I followed his footsteps I should probably meet with his fate. He said that I must not judge of the people of the eastern country by those of Woolli: that the latter were acquainted with white men, and respected them, whereas the people of the east had never seen a white man, and would certainly destroy me. I thanked the king for his affectionate solicitude, but told him that I had considered the matter, and was determined, notwithstanding all dangers, to proceed. The king shook his head, but desisted from further persuasion, and told me the guide should be ready in the afternoon.

About two o'clock, the guide appearing, I went and took my last farewell of the good old king, and in three hours reached Konjour, a small village, where we determined to rest for the night. Here I purchased a fine sheep for some beads, and my Serawoolli attendants killed it with all the ceremonies prescribed by their religion. Part of it was dressed for supper, after which a dispute arose between one of the Serawoolli negroes, and Johnson, my interpreter, about the sheep's horns. The former claimed the horns as his perquisite, for having acted the part of our butcher, and Johnson contested the claim. I settled the matter by giving a horn to each of them. This trifling incident is mentioned as introductory to what follows, for it appeared on inquiry that these horns were highly valued, as being easily convertible into portable sheaths, or cases, for containing and keeping secure certain charms or amulets called saphies, which the negroes constantly wear about them. These saphies are prayers, or rather sentences, from the Koran, which the Mohammedan priests write on scraps of paper, and sell to the simple natives, who consider them to possess very extraordinary virtues. Some of the negroes wear them to guard themselves against the bite of snakes or alligators; and on this occasion the saphie is commonly enclosed in a snake's or alligator's skin, and tied round the ankle. Others have recourse to them in time of war, to protect their persons against hostile weapons; but the common use to which these amulets are applied is to prevent or cure bodily diseases—to preserve from hunger and thirst—and generally to conciliate the favour of superior powers, under all the circumstances and occurrences of life. {1}

In this case it is impossible not to admire the wonderful contagion of superstition, for, notwithstanding that the majority of the negroes are pagans, and absolutely reject the doctrines of Mohammed, I did not meet with a man, whether a bushreen or kafir, who was not fully persuaded of the powerful efficacy of these amulets. The truth is, that all the natives of this part of Africa consider the art of writing as bordering on magic; and it is not in the doctrines of the prophet, but in the arts of the magician, that their confidence is placed. It will hereafter be seen that I was myself lucky enough, in circumstances of distress, to turn the popular credulity in this respect to good account.

On the 7th I departed from Konjour, and slept at a village called Malla (or Mallaing), and on the 8th about noon I arrived at Kolor, a considerable town, near the entrance into which I observed, hanging upon a tree, a sort of masquerade habit, made of the bark of trees, which I was told, on inquiry, belonged to Mumbo Jumbo. This is a strange bugbear, common to all the Mandingo towns, and much employed by the pagan natives in keeping their women in subjection; for as the kafirs are not restricted in the number of their wives, every one marries as many as he can conveniently maintain—and as it frequently happens that the ladies disagree among themselves, family quarrels sometimes rise to such a height, that the authority of the husband can no longer preserve peace in his household. In such cases, the interposition of Mumbo Jumbo is called in, and is always decisive.

This strange minister of justice (who is supposed to be either the husband himself, or some person instructed by him), disguised in the dress that has been mentioned, and armed with the rod of public authority, announces his coming (whenever his services are required) by loud and dismal screams in the woods near the town. He begins the pantomime at the approach of night; and as soon as it is dark he enters the town, and proceeds to the bentang, at which all the inhabitants immediately assemble.

December 9.—As there was no water to be procured on the road, we travelled with great expedition until we reached Tambacunda; and departing from thence early the next morning, the 10th, we reached in the evening Kooniakary, a town of nearly the same magnitude as Kolor. About noon on the 11th we arrived at Koojar, the frontier town of Woolli, towards Bondou, from which it is separated by an intervening wilderness of two days' journey.

The guide appointed by the king of Woolli being now to return, I presented him with some amber for his trouble; and having been informed that it was not possible at all times to procure water in the wilderness, I made inquiry for men who would serve both as guides and water-bearers during my journey across it. Three negroes, elephant-hunters, offered their services for these purposes, which I accepted, and paid them three bars each in advance; and the day being far spent, I determined to pass the night in my present quarters.

The inhabitants of Koojar, though not wholly unaccustomed to the sight of Europeans (most of them having occasionally visited the countries on the Gambia), beheld me with a mixture of curiosity and reverence, and in the evening invited me to see a neobering, or wrestling-match, at the bentang. This is an exhibition very common in all the Mandingo countries. The spectators arranged themselves in a circle, leaving the intermediate space for the wrestlers, who were strong active young men, full of emulation, and accustomed, I suppose, from their infancy to this sort of exertion. Being stripped of their clothing, except a short pair of drawers, and having their skin anointed with oil, or shea butter, the combatants approached each other on all-fours, parrying with, and occasionally extending a hand for some time, till at length one of them sprang forward, and caught his rival by the knee. Great dexterity and judgment were now displayed, but the contest was decided by superior strength; and I think that few Europeans would have been able to cope with the conqueror. It must not be unobserved, that the combatants were animated by the music of a drum, by which their actions were in some measure regulated.

The wrestling was succeeded by a dance, in which many performers assisted, all of whom were provided with little bells, which were fastened to their legs and arms; and here, too, the drum regulated their motions. It was beaten with a crooked stick, which the drummer held in his right hand, occasionally using his left to deaden the sound, and thus vary the music. The drama is likewise applied on these occasions to keep order among the spectators, by imitating the sound of certain Mandingo sentences. For example, when the wrestling-match is about to begin, the drummer strikes what is understood to signify ali bae see (sit all down), upon which the spectators immediately seat themselves; and when the combatants are to begin, he strikes amuta! amuta! (take hold! take hold!)

In the course of the evening I was presented, by way of refreshment, with a liquor, which tasted so much like the strong beer of my native country (and very good beer too), as to induce me to inquire into its composition; and I learnt, with some degree of surprise, that it was actually made from corn which had been previously malted, much in the same manner as barley is malted in Great Britain. A root yielding a grateful bitter was used in lieu of hops, the name of which I have forgotten; but the corn which yields the wort is the holcus spicatus of botanists.

Early in the morning (the 12th) I found that one of the elephant- hunters had absconded with the money he had received from me in part of wages; and in order to prevent the other two from following his example, I made them instantly fill their calabashes (or gourds) with water; and as the sun rose, I entered the wilderness that separates the kingdoms of Woolli and Bondou.

We continued our journey without stopping any more until noon, when we came to a large tree, called by the natives neema taba. It had a very singular appearance, being decorated with innumerable rags or scraps of cloth, which persons travelling across the wilderness had at different times tied to the branches, probably at first to inform the traveller that water was to be found near it; but the custom has been so greatly sanctioned by time, that nobody now presumes to pass without hanging up something. I followed the example, and suspended a handsome piece of cloth on one of the boughs; and being told that either a well, or pool of water, was at no great distance, I ordered the negroes to unload the asses, that we might give them corn, and regale ourselves with the provisions we had brought. In the meantime, I sent one of the elephant-hunters to look for the well, intending, if water was to be obtained, to rest here for the night. A pool was found, but the water was thick and muddy, and the negro discovered near it the remains of a fire recently extinguished, and the fragments of provisions, which afforded a proof that it had been lately visited, either by travellers or banditti. The fears of my attendants supposed the latter; and believing that robbers lurked near as, I was persuaded to change my resolution of resting here all night, and proceed to another watering-place, which I was assured we might reach early in the evening.

We departed accordingly, but it was eight o'clock at night before we came to the watering-place; and being now sufficiently fatigued with so long a day's journey, we kindled a large fire and lay down, surrounded by our cattle, on the bare ground, more than a gunshot from any bush, the negroes agreeing to keep watch by turns to prevent surprise.

I know not, indeed, that any danger was justly to be dreaded, but the negroes were unaccountably apprehensive of banditti during the whole of the journey. As soon, therefore, as daylight appeared, we filled our soofroos (skins) and calabashes at the pool, and set out for Tallika, the first town in Bondou, which we reached about eleven o'clock in the forenoon (the 13th of December).


Tallika, the frontier town of Bondou towards Woolli, is inhabited chiefly by Foulahs of the Mohammedan religion, who live in considerable affluence, partly by furnishing provisions to the coffles, or caravans, that pass through the town, and partly by the sale of ivory, obtained by hunting elephants, in which employment the young men are generally very successful. Here an officer belonging to the king of Bondou constantly resides, whose business it is to give timely information of the arrival of the caravans, which are taxed according to the number of loaded asses that arrive at Tallika.

I took up my residence at this officer's house, and agreed with him to accompany me to Fatteconda, the residence of the king, for which he was to receive five bars; and before my departure I wrote a few lines to Dr. Laidley, and gave my letter to the master of a caravan bound for the Gambia. This caravan consisted of nine or ten people, with five asses loaded with ivory. The large teeth are conveyed in nets, two on each side of the ass; the small ones are wrapped up in skins, and secured with ropes.

December 14.—We left Tallika, and rode on very peaceably for about two miles, when a violent quarrel arose between two of my fellow- travellers, one of whom was the blacksmith, in the course of which they bestowed some opprobrious terms upon each other; and it is worthy of remark, that an African will sooner forgive a blow than a term of reproach applied to his ancestors. "Strike me, but do not curse my mother," is a common expression even among the slaves. This sort of abuse, therefore, so enraged one of the disputants, that he drew his cutlass upon the blacksmith, and would certainly have ended the dispute in a very serious manner, if the others had not laid hold of him and wrested the cutlass from him. I was obliged to interfere, and put an end to this disagreeable business by desiring the blacksmith to be silent, and telling the other, who I thought was in the wrong, that if he attempted in future to draw his cutlass, or molest any of my attendants, I should look upon him as a robber, and shoot him without further ceremony. This threat had the desired effect, and we marched sullenly along till the afternoon, when we arrived at a number of small villages scattered over an open and fertile plain. At one of these, called Ganado, we took up our residence for the night; here an exchange of presents and a good supper terminated all animosities among my attendants, and the night was far advanced before any of us thought of going to sleep. We were amused by an itinerant SINGING MAN, who told a number of diverting stories, and played some sweet airs by blowing his breath upon a bow-string, and striking it at the same time with a stick.

December 15.—At daybreak my fellow-travellers, the Serawoollies, took leave of me, with many prayers for my safety. About a mile from Ganado we crossed a considerable branch of the Gambia, called Neriko. The banks were steep and covered with mimosas; and I observed in the mud a number of large mussels, but the natives do not eat them. About noon, the sun being exceedingly hot, we rested two hours in the shade of a tree, and purchased some milk and pounded corn from some Foulah herdsmen, and at sunset reached a town called Koorkarany, where the blacksmith had some relations; and here we rested two days.

Koorkarany is a Mohammedan town surrounded by a high wall, and is provided with a mosque. Here I was shown a number of Arabic manuscripts, particularly a copy of the book before mentioned, called Al Sharra. The maraboo, or priest, in whose possession it was, read and explained to me in Mandingo many of the most remarkable passages, and, in return, I showed him Richardson's Arabic Grammar, which he very much admired.

On the evening of the second day (December 17) we departed from Koorkarany. We were joined by a young man who was travelling to Fatteconda for salt; and as night set in we reached Dooggi, a small village about three miles from Koorkarany.

Provisions were here so cheap that I purchased a bullock for six small stones of amber; for I found my company increase or diminish according to the good fare they met with.

December 18.—Early in the morning we departed from Dooggi, and, being joined by a number of Foulahs and other people, made a formidable appearance, and were under no apprehension of being plundered in the woods. About eleven o'clock, one of the asses proving very refractory, the negroes took a curious method to make him tractable. They cut a forked stick, and putting the forked part into the ass's mouth, like the bit of a bridle, tied the two smaller parts together above his head, leaving the lower part of the stick of sufficient length to strike against the ground, if the ass should attempt to put his head down. After this the ass walked along quietly and gravely enough, taking care, after some practice, to hold his head sufficiently high to prevent stones or roots of trees from striking against the end of the stick, which experience had taught him would give a severe shock to his teeth. This contrivance produced a ludicrous appearance, but my fellow-travellers told me it was constantly adopted by the slatees, and always proved effectual.

In the evening we arrived at a few scattered villages, surrounded with extensive cultivation, at one of which, called Buggil, we passed the night in a miserable hut, having no other bed than a bundle of corn-stalks, and no provisions but what we brought with us. The wells here are dug with great ingenuity, and are very deep. I measured one of the bucket-ropes, and found the depth of the well to be twenty-eight fathoms.

December 19.—We departed from Buggil, and travelled along a dry, stony height, covered with mimosas, till mid-day, when the land sloped towards the east, and we descended into a deep valley, in which I observed abundance of whinstone and white quartz. Pursuing our course to the eastward, along this valley in the bed of an exhausted river-course, we came to a large village, where we intended to lodge. We found many of the natives dressed in a thin French gauze, which they called byqui; this being a light airy dress, and well calculated to display the shape of their persons, is much esteemed by the ladies. The manners of these females, however, did not correspond with their dress, for they were rude and troublesome in the highest degree; they surrounded me in numbers, begging for amber, beads, &c., and were so vehement in their solicitations, that I found it impossible to resist them. They tore my cloak, cut the buttons from my boy's clothes, and were proceeding to other outrages, when I mounted my horse and rode off, followed for half-a-mile by a body of these harpies.

In the evening we reached Soobrudooka, and as my company was numerous (being fourteen), I purchased a sheep and abundance of corn for supper; after which we lay down by the bundles, and passed an uncomfortable night in a heavy dew.

December 20.—We departed from Soobrudooka, and at two o'clock reached a large village situated on the banks of the Faleme river, which is here rapid and rocky. The natives were employed in fishing in various ways. The large fish were taken in long baskets made of split cane, and placed in a strong current, which was created by walls of stone built across the stream, certain open places being left, through which the water rushed with great force. Some of these baskets were more than twenty feet long, and when once the fish had entered one of them, the force of the stream prevented it from returning. The small fish were taken in great numbers in hand- nets, which the natives weave of cotton, and use with great dexterity. The fish last mentioned are about the size of sprats, and are prepared for sale in different ways; the most common is by pounding them entire as they come from the stream, in a wooden mortar, and exposing them to dry in the sun, in large lumps like sugar loaves. It may be supposed that the smell is not very agreeable; but in the Moorish countries to the north of the Senegal, where fish is scarcely known, this preparation is esteemed as a luxury, and sold to considerable advantage. The manner of using it by the natives is by dissolving a piece of this black loaf in boiling water, and mixing it with their kouskous.

On returning to the village, after an excursion to the river-side to inspect the fishery, an old Moorish shereef came to bestow his blessing upon me, and beg some paper to write saphies upon. This man had seen Major Houghton in the kingdom of Kaarta, and told me that he died in the country of the Moors.

About three in the afternoon we continued our course along the bank of the river to the northward, till eight o'clock, when we reached Nayemow. Here the hospitable master of the town received us kindly, and presented us with a bullock. In return I gave him some amber and beads.

December 21.—In the morning, having agreed for a canoe to carry over my bundles, I crossed the river, which came up to my knees as I sat on my horse; but the water is so clear, that from the high bank the bottom is visible all the way over.

About noon we entered Fatteconda, the capital of Bondou, and in a little time received an invitation to the house of a respectable slatee: for as there are no public-houses in Africa, it is customary for strangers to stand at the bentang, or some other place of public resort, till they are invited to a lodging by some of the inhabitants. We accepted the offer; and in an hour afterwards a person came and told me that he was sent on purpose to conduct me to the king, who was very desirous of seeing me immediately, if I was not too much fatigued.

I took my interpreter with me, and followed the messenger till we got quite out of the town, and crossed some corn-fields; when, suspecting some trick, I stopped, and asked the guide whither he was going. Upon which, he pointed to a man sitting under a tree at some little distance, and told me that the king frequently gave audience in that retired manner, in order to avoid a crowd of people, and that nobody but myself and my interpreter must approach him. When I advanced the king desired me to come and sit by him upon the mat; and, after hearing my story, on which be made no observation, he asked if I wished to purchase any slaves or gold. Being answered in the negative, he seemed rather surprised, but desired me to come to him in the evening, and he would give me some provisions.

This monarch was called Almami, a Moorish name, though I was told that he was not a Mohammedan, but a kafir or pagan. I had heard that he had acted towards Major Houghton with great unkindness, and caused him to be plundered. His behaviour, therefore, towards myself at this interview, though much more civil than I expected, was far from freeing me from uneasiness. I still apprehended some double-dealing; and as I was now entirely in his power, I thought it best to smooth the way by a present. Accordingly, I took with me in the evening one canister of gunpowder, some amber, tobacco, and my umbrella; and as I considered that my bundles would inevitably be searched, I concealed some few articles in the roof of the hut where I lodged, and I put on my new blue coat in order to preserve it.

All the houses belonging to the king and his family are surrounded by a lofty mud wall, which converts the whole into a kind of citadel. The interior is subdivided into different courts. At the first place of entrance I observed a man standing with a musket on his shoulder; and I found the way to the presence very intricate, leading through many passages, with sentinels placed at the different doors. When we came to the entrance of the court in which the king resides, both my guide and interpreter, according to custom, took off their sandals; and the former pronounced the king's name aloud, repeating it till he was answered from within. We found the monarch sitting upon a mat, and two attendants with him. I repeated what I had before told him concerning the object of my journey, and my reasons for passing through his country. He seemed, however, but half satisfied. When I offered to show him the contents of my portmanteau, and everything belonging to me, he was convinced; and it was evident that his suspicion had arisen from a belief that every white man must of necessity be a trader. When I had delivered my presents, he seemed well pleased, and was particularly delighted with the umbrella, which he repeatedly furled and unfurled, to the great admiration of himself and his two attendants, who could not for some time comprehend the use of this wonderful machine. After this I was about to take my leave, when the king, desiring me to stop a while, began a long preamble in favour of the whites, extolling their immense wealth and good dispositions. He next proceeded to an eulogium on my blue coat, of which the yellow buttons seemed particularly to catch his fancy; and he concluded by entreating me to present him with it, assuring me, for my consolation under the loss of it, that he would wear it on all public occasions, and inform every one who saw it of my great liberality towards him. The request of an African prince, in his own dominions, particularly when made to a stranger, comes little short of a command. It is only a way of obtaining by gentle means what he can, if he pleases, take by force; and as it was against my interest to offend him by a refusal, I very quietly took off my coat, the only good one in my possession, and laid it at his feet.

In return for my compliance, he presented me with great plenty of provisions, and desired to see me again in the morning. I accordingly attended, and found in sitting upon his bed. He told me he was sick, and wished to have a little blood taken from him; but I had no sooner, tied up his arm and displayed the lancet, than his courage failed, and he begged me to postpone the operation till the afternoon, as he felt himself, he said, much better than he had been, and thanked me kindly for my readiness to serve him. He then observed that his women were very desirous to see me, and requested that I would favour them with a visit. An attendant was ordered to conduct me; and I had no sooner entered the court appropriated to the ladies, than the whole seraglio surrounded me—some begging for physic, some for amber, and all of them desirous of trying that great African specific, BLOOD-LETTING. They were ten or twelve in number, most of them young and handsome, and wearing on their heads ornaments of gold, and beads of amber.

They rallied me with a good deal of gaiety on different subjects, particularly upon the whiteness of my skin and the prominency of my nose. They insisted that both were artificial. The first, they said, was produced when I was an infant, by dipping me in milk; and they insisted that my nose had been pinched every day, till it had acquired its present unsightly and unnatural conformation. On my part, without disputing my own deformity, I paid them many compliments on African beauty. I praised the glossy jet of their skins, and the lovely depression of their noses; but they said that flattery, or, as they emphatically termed it, honey-mouth, was not esteemed in Bondou. In return, however, for my company or my compliments (to which, by the way, they seemed not so insensible as they affected to be) they presented me with a jar of honey and some fish, which were sent to my lodging; and I was desired to come again to the king a little before sunset.

I carried with me some beads and writing-paper, it being usual to present some small offering on taking leave, in return for which the king gave me five drachms of gold, observing that it was but a trifle, and given out of pure friendship, but would be of use to me in travelling, for the purchase of provisions. He seconded this act of kindness by one still greater, politely telling me that, though it was customary to examine the baggage of every traveller passing through his country, yet, in the present instance, he would dispense without ceremony, adding, I was at liberty to depart when I pleased.

Accordingly, on the morning of the 23rd, we left Fatteconda, and about eleven o'clock came to a small village, where we determined to stop for the rest of the day.

In the afternoon my fellow-travellers informed me that, as this was the boundary between Bondou and Kajaaga, and dangerous for travellers, it would be necessary to continue our journey by night, until we should reach a more hospitable part of the country. I agreed to the proposal, and hired two people for guides through the woods; and as soon as the people of the village were gone to sleep (the moon shining bright) we set out. The stillness of the air, the howling of the wild beasts, and the deep solitude of the forest, made the scene solemn and oppressive. Not a word was uttered by any of us but in a whisper; all were attentive, and every one anxious to show his sagacity by pointing out to me the wolves and hyaenas, as they glided like shadows from one thicket to another. Towards morning we arrived at a village called Kimmoo, where our guides awakened one of their acquaintances, and we stopped to give the asses some corn, and roast a few ground-nuts for ourselves. At daylight we resumed our journey, and in the afternoon arrived at Joag, in the kingdom of Kajaaga.

Being now in a country and among a people differing in many respects from those that have as yet fallen under our observation, I shall, before I proceed further, give some account of Bondou (the territory we have left) and its inhabitants, the Foulahs, the description of whom I purposely reserved for this part of my work.

Bondou is bounded on the east by Bambouk, on the south-east and south by Tenda and the Simbani wilderness, on the south-west by Woolli, on the west by Foota Torra, and on the north by Kajaaga.

The country, like that of Woolli, is very generally covered with woods, but the land is more elevated, and, towards the Faleme river, rises into considerable hills. In native fertility the soil is not surpassed, I believe, by any part of Africa.

From the central situation of Bondou, between the Gambia and Senegal rivers, it is become a place of great resort, both for the slatees, who generally pass through it on going from the coast to the interior countries, and for occasional traders, who frequently come hither from the inland countries to purchase salt.

These different branches of commerce are conducted principally by Mandingoes and Serawoollies, who have settled in the country. These merchants likewise carry on a considerable trade with Gedumah and other Moorish countries, bartering corn and blue cotton cloths for salt, which they again barter in Dentila and other districts for iron, shea-butter, and small quantities of gold-dust. They likewise sell a variety of sweet-smelling gums, packed up in small bags, containing each about a pound. These gums, being thrown on hot embers, produce a very pleasant odour, and are used by the Mandingoes for perfuming their huts and clothes.

The customs, or duties on travellers, are very heavy; in almost every town an ass-load pays a bar of European merchandise, and at Fatteconda, the residence of the king, one Indian baft, or a musket, and six bottles of gunpowder, are exacted as the common tribute. By means of these duties, the king of Bondou is well supplied with arms and ammunition—a circumstance which makes him formidable to the neighbouring states.

The inhabitants differ in their complexions and national manners from the Mandingoes and Serawoollies, with whom they are frequently at war. Some years ago the king of Bondou crossed the Faleme river with a numerous army; and, after a short and bloody campaign, totally defeated the forces of Samboo, king of Bambouk, who was obliged to sue for peace, and surrender to him all the towns along the eastern bank of the Faleme.

The Foulahs in general (as has been observed in a former chapter) are of a tawny complexion, with small features and soft silky hair; next to the Mandingoes, they are undoubtedly the most considerable of all the nations in this part of Africa. Their original country is said to be Fooladoo (which signifies the country of the Foulahs); but they possess at present many other kingdoms at a great distance from each other; their complexion, however, is not exactly the same in the different districts; in Bondou, and the other kingdoms which are situated in the vicinity of the Moorish territories, they are of a more yellow complexion than in the southern states.

The Foulahs of Bondou are naturally of a mild and gentle disposition, but the uncharitable maxims of the Koran have made them less hospitable to strangers, and more reserved in their behaviour, than the Mandingoes. They evidently consider all the negro natives as their inferiors; and, when talking of different nations, always rank themselves among the white people.

Their government differs from that of the Mandingoes chiefly in this, that they are more immediately under the influence of Mohammedan laws; for all the chief men, the king excepted, and a large majority of the inhabitants of Bondou, are Mussulmans, and the authority and laws of the Prophet are everywhere looked upon as sacred and decisive. In the exercise of their faith, however, they are not very intolerant towards such of their countrymen as still retain their ancient superstitions. Religious persecution is not known among them, nor is it necessary; for the system of Mohammed is made to extend itself by means abundantly more efficacious. By establishing small schools in the different towns, where many of the pagan as well as Mohammedan children are taught to read the Koran, and instructed in the tenets of the Prophet, the Mohammedan priests fix a bias on the minds, and form the character, of their young disciples, which no accidents of life can ever afterwards remove or alter. Many of these little schools I visited in my progress through the country, and I observed with pleasure the great docility and submissive deportment of the children, and heartily wished they had had better instructors and a purer religion.

With the Mohammedan faith is also introduced the Arabic language, with which most of the Foulahs have a slight acquaintance. Their native tongue abounds very much in liquids, but there is something unpleasant in the manner of pronouncing it. A stranger, on hearing the common conversation of two Foulahs, would imagine that they were scolding each other. Their numerals are these:-

One, Go. Two, Deeddee. Three, Tettee. Four, Nee. Five, Jouee. Six, Jego. Seven, Jedeeddee. Eight, Je Tettee. Nine, Je Nee. Ten, Sappo.

The industry of the Foulahs, in the occupations of pasturage and agriculture, is everywhere remarkable. Even on the banks of the Gambia, the greater part of the corn is raised by them, and their herds and flocks are more numerous and in better condition than those of the Mandingoes; but in Bondou they are opulent in a high degree, and enjoy all the necessaries of life in the greatest profusion. They display great skill in the management of their cattle, making them extremely gentle by kindness and familiarity. On the approach of the night, they are collected from the woods and secured in folds called korrees, which are constructed in the neighbourhood of the different villages. In the middle of each korree is erected a small hut, wherein one or two of the herdsmen keep watch during the night, to prevent the cattle from being stolen, and to keep up the fires which are kindled round the korree to frighten away the wild beasts.

The cattle are milked in the mornings and evenings: the milk is excellent; but the quantity obtained from any one cow is by no means so great as in Europe. The Foulahs use the milk chiefly as an article of diet, and that not until it is quite sour. The cream which it affords is very thick, and is converted into butter by stirring it violently in a large calabash. This butter, when melted over a gentle fire, and freed from impurities, is preserved in small earthen pots, and forms a part in most of their dishes; it serves likewise to anoint their heads, and is bestowed very liberally on their faces and arms.

But although milk is plentiful, it is somewhat remarkable that the Foulahs, and indeed all the inhabitants of this part of Africa, are totally unacquainted with the art of making cheese. A firm attachment to the customs of their ancestors makes them view with an eye of prejudice everything that looks like innovation. The heat of the climate and the great scarcity of salt are held forth as unanswerable objections; and the whole process appears to them too long and troublesome to be attended with any solid advantage.

Besides the cattle, which constitute the chief wealth of the Foulahs, they possess some excellent horses, the breed of which seems to be a mixture of the Arabian with the original African.


The kingdom of Kajaaga, in which I was now arrived, is called by the French Gallam, but the name that I have adopted is universally used by the natives. This country is bounded on the south-east and south by Bambouk, on the west by Bondou and Foota-Torra, and on the north by the river Senegal.

The air and climate are, I believe, more pure and salubrious than at any of the settlements towards the coast; the face of the country is everywhere interspersed with a pleasing variety of hills and valleys; and the windings of the Senegal river, which descends from the rocky hills of the interior, make the scenery on its banks very picturesque and beautiful.

The inhabitants are called Serawoollies, or (as the French write it) Seracolets. Their complexion is a jet black: they are not to be distinguished in this respect from the Jaloffs.

The government is monarchical, and the regal authority, from what I experienced of it, seems to be sufficiently formidable. The people themselves, however, complain of no oppression, and seemed all very anxious to support the king in a contest he was going to enter into with the sovereign of Kasson. The Serawoollies are habitually a trading people; they formerly carried on a great commerce with the French in gold and slaves, and still maintain some traffic in slaves with the British factories on the Gambia. They are reckoned tolerably fair and just in their dealings, but are indefatigable in their exertions to acquire wealth, and they derive considerable profits by the sale of salt and cotton cloth in distant countries. When a Serawoolli merchant returns home from a trading expedition the neighbours immediately assemble to congratulate him upon his arrival. On these occasions the traveller displays his wealth and liberality by making a few presents to his friends; but if he has been unsuccessful his levee is soon over, and every one looks upon him as a man of no understanding, who could perform a long journey, and (at they express it) "bring back nothing but the hair upon his head."

Their language abounds much in gutturals, and is not so harmonious as that spoken by the Foulahs. It is, however, well worth acquiring by those who travel through this part of the African continent, it being very generally understood in the kingdoms of Kasson, Kaarta, Ludamar, and the northern parts of Bambarra. In all these countries the Serawoollies are the chief traders. Their numerals are:-

One, Bani. Two, Fillo. Three, Sicco. Four, Narrato. Five, Karrago. Six, Toomo. Seven, Nero. Eight, Sego. Nine, Kabbo. Ten, Tamo. Twenty, Tamo di Fillo.

We arrived at Joag, the frontier town of this kingdom, on the 24th of December, and took up our residence at the house of the chief man, who is here no longer known by the title of alkaid, but is called the dooty. He was a rigid Mohammedan, but distinguished for his hospitality. This town may be supposed, on a gross computation, to contain two thousand inhabitants. It is surrounded by a high wall, in which are a number of port-holes, for musketry to fire through, in case of an attack. Every man's possession is likewise surrounded by a wall, the whole forming so many distinct citadels; and amongst a people unacquainted with the use of artillery these walls answer all the purposes of stronger fortifications. To the westward of the town is a small river, on the banks of which the natives raise great plenty of tobacco and onions.

The same evening Madiboo, the bushreen, who had accompanied me from Pisania, went to pay a visit to his father and mother, who dwelt at a neighbouring town called Dramanet. He was joined by my other attendant, the blacksmith. As soon as it was dark I was invited to see the sports of the inhabitants, it being their custom, on the arrival of strangers, to welcome them by diversions of different kinds. I found a great crowd surrounding a party who were dancing, by the light of some large fires, to the music of four drums, which were beat with great exactness and uniformity. The dances, however, consisted more in wanton gestures than in muscular exertion or graceful attitudes. The ladies vied with each other in displaying the most voluptuous movements imaginable.

December 25.—About two o'clock in the morning a number of horsemen came into the town, and, having awakened my landlord, talked to him for some time in the Serawoolli tongue; after which they dismounted and came to the bentang, on which I had made my bed. One of them, thinking that I was asleep, attempted to steal the musket that lay by me on the mat, but finding that he could not effect his purpose undiscovered, he desisted, and the strangers sat down by me till daylight.

I could now easily perceive, by the countenance of my interpreter, Johnson, that something very unpleasant was in agitation. I was likewise surprised to see Madiboo and the blacksmith so soon returned. On inquiring the reason, Madiboo informed me that, as they were dancing at Dramanet, ten horsemen belonging to Batcheri, king of the country, with his second son at their head, had arrived there, inquiring if the white man had passed, and, on being told that I was at Joag, they rode off without stopping. Madiboo added that on hearing this he and the blacksmith hastened back to give me notice of their coming. Whilst I was listening to this narrative the ten horsemen mentioned by Madiboo arrived, and coming to the bentang, dismounted and seated themselves with those who had come before—the whole being about twenty in number—forming a circle round me, and each man holding his musket in his hand. I took this opportunity to observe to my landlord that, as I did not understand the Serawoolli tongue, I hoped whatever the men had to say they would speak in Mandingo. To this they agreed; and a short man, loaded with a remarkable number of saphies, opened the business in a very long harangue, informing me that I had entered the king's town without having first paid the duties, or giving any present to the king; and that, according to the laws of the country, my people, cattle, and baggage were forfeited. He added that they had received orders from the king to conduct me to Maana, {2} the place of his residence, and if I refused to come with them their orders were to bring me by force; upon his saying which all of them rose up and asked me if I was ready. It would have been equally vain and imprudent in me to have resisted or irritated such a body of men; I therefore affected to comply with their commands, and begged them only to stop a little until I had given my horse a feed of corn, and settled matters with my landlord. The poor blacksmith, who was a native of Kasson, mistook this feigned compliance for a real intention, and taking me away from the company, told me that he had always behaved towards me as if I had been his father and master, and he hoped I would not entirely ruin him by going to Maana, adding that as there was every reason to believe a war would soon take place between Kasson and Kajaaga, he should not only lose his little property, the savings of four years' industry, but should certainly be detained and sold as a slave, unless his friends had an opportunity of paying two slaves for his redemption. I saw this reasoning in its full force, and determined to do my utmost to preserve the blacksmith from so dreadful a fate. I therefore told the king's son that I was ready to go with him, upon condition that, the blacksmith, who was an inhabitant of a distant kingdom, and entirely unconnected with me, should be allowed to stay at Joag till my return. To this they all objected, and insisted that, as we had all acted contrary to the laws, we were all equally answerable for our conduct.

I now took my landlord aside, and giving him a small present of gunpowder, asked his advice in such critical a situation. He was decidedly of opinion that I ought not to go to the king: he was fully convinced, he said, that if the king should discover anything valuable in my possession, he would not be over scrupulous about the means of obtaining it.

Towards the evening, as I was sitting upon the bentang chewing straws, an old female slave, passing by with a basket upon her head, asked me IF HAD GOT MY DINNER. As I thought she only laughed at me, I gave her no answer; but my boy, who was sitting close by, answered for me, and told her that the king's people had robbed me of all my money. On hearing this, the good old woman, with a look of unaffected benevolence, immediately took the basket from her head, and showing me that it contained ground nuts, asked me if I could eat them. Being answered in the affirmative, she presented me with a few handfuls, and walked away before I had time to thank her for this seasonable supply.

The old woman had scarcely left me when I received information that a nephew of Demba Sego Jalla, the Mandingo king of Kasson, was coming to pay me a visit. He had been sent on an embassy to Batcheri, King of Kajaaga, to endeavour to settle the disputes which had arisen between his uncle and the latter; but after debating the matter four days without success, he was now on his return, and hearing that a white man was at Joag, on his way to Kasson, curiosity brought in to see me. I represented to him my situation and distresses, when he frankly offered me his protection, and said he would be my guide to Kasson (provided I would set out the next morning), and be answerable for my safety. I readily and gratefully accepted his offer, and was ready with my attendants by daylight on the morning of the 27th of December.

My protector, whose name was Demba Sego, probably after his uncle, had a numerous retinue. Our company, at leaving Joag, consisted of thirty persons and six loaded asses; and we rode on cheerfully enough for some hours, without any remarkable occurrence until we came to a species of tree for which my interpreter Johnson had made frequent inquiry. On finding it, he desired us to stop, and producing a white chicken, which he had purchased at Joag for the purpose, he tied it by the leg to one of the branches, and then told us we might now safely proceed, for that our journey would be prosperous.

At noon we had reached Gungadi, a large town where we stopped about an hour, until some of the asses that had fallen behind came up. Here I observed a number of date-trees, and a mosque built of clay, with six turrets, on the pinnacles of which were placed six ostrich eggs. A little before sunset we arrived at the town of Samee, on the banks of the Senegal, which is here a beautiful but shallow river, moving slowly over a bed of sand and gravel. The banks are high, and covered with verdure—the country is open and cultivated— and the rocky hills of Fellow and Bambouk add much to the beauty of the landscape.

December 28.—We departed from Samee, and arrived in the afternoon at Kayee, a large village, part of which is situated on the north and part on the south side of the river.

The ferryman then taking hold of the most steady of the horses by a rope, led him into the water, and paddled the canoe a little from the brink; upon which a general attack commenced upon the other horses, who, finding themselves pelted and kicked on all sides, unanimously plunged into the river, and followed their companion. A few boys swam in after them; and, by laving water upon them when they attempted to return, urged them onwards; and we had the satisfaction in about fifteen minutes to see them all safe on the other side. It was a matter of greater difficulty to manage the asses; their natural stubbornness of disposition made them endure a great deal of pelting and shoving before they would venture into the water; and when they had reached the middle of the stream, four of them turned back, in spite of every exertion to get them forwards. Two hours were spent in getting the whole of them over; an hour more was employed in transporting the baggage; and it was near sunset before the canoe returned, when Demba Sego and myself embarked in this dangerous passage-boat, which the least motion was like to overset. The king's nephew thought this a proper time to have a peep into a tin box of mine that stood in the fore part of the canoe; and in stretching out his band for it, he unfortunately destroyed the equilibrium, and overset the canoe. Luckily we were not far advanced, and got back to the shore without much difficulty; from whence, after wringing the water from our clothes, we took a fresh departure, and were soon afterwards safely landed in Kasson.


We no sooner found ourselves safe in Kasson than Demba Sego told me that we were now in his uncle's dominions, and he hoped I would consider, being now out of danger, the obligation I owed to him, and make him a suitable return for the trouble he had taken on my account by a handsome present. This, as he knew how much had been pilfered from me at Joag, was rather an unexpected proposition, and I began to fear that I had not much improved my condition by crossing the water; but as it would have been folly to complain I made no observation upon his conduct, and gave him seven bars of amber and some tobacco, with which he seemed to be content.

After a long day's journey, in the course of which I observed a number of large loose nodules of white granite, we arrived at Teesee on the evening of December 29th, and were accommodated in Demba Sego's hut. The next morning he introduced me to his father, Tiggity Sego, brother to the king of Kasson, chief of Teesee. The old man viewed me with great earnestness, having never, he said, beheld but one white man before, whom by his description I immediately knew to be Major Houghton.

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