Life and Travels of Mungo Park in Central Africa
by Mungo Park
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With a full narrative of

Subsequent Adventure in Central Africa.

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Knowledge of the Ancients concerning Africa. Herodotus. Strabo. The Arabs. Early discoveries of the Portuguese and English. Ledyard. Lucas. Houghton. Park's birth and parentage. His education. Serves his apprenticeship as a surgeon. Sails for Bencoolen. African association engage Park's services. His preparations and departure.


Park's motives for undertaking the voyage—his instructions and departure—arrives at Jillifree, on the Gambia River—proceeds to Vintain. Some account of the Feloops. Proceeds up the river for Jonkakonda—arrives at Dr. Laidley's. Some account of Pisania, and the British factory established at that place. The Author's employment during his stay at Pisania—his sickness and recovery—the country described—prepares to set out for the interior.


Description of the Feloops, the Jaloffs, the Foulahs, and Mandingoes. Some account of the trade between the nations of Europe and the natives of Africa by the way of the Gambia, and between the native inhabitants of the coast and the nations of the interior countries—their mode of selling and buying, &c.


The Author sets out from Pisania—his attendants—reaches Jindy. Story related by a Mandingo Negro. Proceeds to Medina, the capital of Woolli. Interview with the King. Saphies or charms. Proceeds to Kolor. Description of Mumbo Jumbo—arrives at Koojar—wrestling match—crosses the wilderness, and arrives at Tallika, in the Kingdom of Bondou.


Some account of the inhabitants of Tallika. The Author proceeds for Fatteconda—incidents on the road. Crosses the Neriko, arrives at Koorkarany—reaches the River Faleme—Fishery on that river—proceeds along its banks to Naye or Nayemow—crosses the Faleme, and arrives at Fatteconda. Has an interview with Almami, the Sovereign of Bondou. Description of the King's dwelling—has a second interview with the King, who begs the Author's Coat. Author visits the King's wives—is permitted to depart on friendly terms. Journey by night—arrives at Joag. Some account of Bondou and its inhabitants, the Foulahs.


Account of Kajaaga. Serawoollies—their manners and language. Account of Joag. The Author is ill treated, and robbed of half of his effects, by order of Batcheri, the king. Charity of a female slave.—The Author is visited by Demba Sego, nephew of the King of Kasson, who offers to conduct him in safety to that kingdom. Offer accepted. The Author and his protector, with a numerous retinue, set out and reach Samee, on the banks of the Senegal. Proceed to Kayee, and, crossing the Senegal, arrive in the kingdom of Kasson.


Arrival at Teesee. Interview with Tiggity Sego, the king's brother. The Author's detention at Teesee. Some account of that place and its inhabitants. Incidents which occurred there. Rapacious conduct of Tiggity Sego toward the Author on his departure. Sets out for Kooniakary, the capital of the kingdom. Incidents on the road, and arrival at Kooniakary.


The Author admitted to an audience of the King of Kasson, whom he finds well disposed towards him. Incidents during the Author's stay at Kooniakary. Departs thence for Kemmoo, the capital of Kaarta. Is received with great kindness by the King of Kaarta, who dissuades him from prosecuting his journey, on account of approaching hostilities with the King of Bambarra. The Author determines, notwithstanding, to proceed: and the usual route being obstructed, takes the path to Ludamar, a Moorish kingdom. Is accommodated by the king with a guide to Jarra, the frontier town of the Moorish territories; and sets out for that place, accompanied by three of the king's sons, and 200 horsemen.


Journey from Kemmoo to Funingkedy. Some account of the Lotus. A youth murdered by the Moors—interesting scene at his death. Author passes through Simbing. Some particulars concerning Major Houghton. Author reaches Jarra—situation of the surrounding states at the period of his arrival there, and a brief account of the war between Kaarta and Bambarra.


Some account of Jarra, and the Moorish inhabitants. The Author applies for and obtains permission from Ali, the Moorish chief or sovereign of Ludamar, to pass through his territories. Departs from Jarra, and arrives at Deena. Ill treated by the Moors. Proceeds to Sampaka. Finds a Negro who makes gunpowder. Continues his journey to Samee, where he is seized by some Moors, who are sent for that purpose by Ali. Is conveyed a prisoner to the Moorish camp at Benowm, on the borders of the Great Desert.


Various occurrences during the Author's confinement at Benowm—is visited by some Moorish ladies. A funeral and wedding. The Author receives an extraordinary present from the bride. Other circumstances illustrative of the Moorish character and manners.


Occurrences at the camp continued. Information collected by the Author concerning Houssa and Tombuctoo; and the situation of the latter. The route described from Morocco to Benowm. The Author's distress from hunger. Ali removes his camp to the northward. The Author is carried prisoner to the new encampment, and is presented to Queen Fatima. Great distress from want of water.


Containing some further miscellaneous reflections on the Moorish character and manners. Observations concerning the Great Desert, its animals, wild and domestic.


Ali departs for Jarra, and the Author allowed to follow him thither. The Author's faithful servant, Demba, seized by Ali's order, and sent back into slavery. Ali returns to his camp, and permits the Author to remain at Jarra, who, thenceforward, meditates his escape. Daisy, King of Kaarta, approaching with his army towards Jarra, the inhabitants quit the town, and the Author accompanies them in their flight. A party of Moors overtake him at Queira. He gets away from them at daybreak. Is again pursued by another party, and robbed; but finally effects his escape.


The Author feels great joy at his deliverance, and proceeds through the wilderness; but finds his situation very deplorable. Suffers greatly from thirst, and faints on the sand.—Recovers, and makes another effort to push forward. Is providentially relieved by a fall of rain. Arrives at a Foulah village, where he is refused relief by the Dooty, but obtains food from a poor woman. Continues his journey through the wilderness, and the next day lights on another Foulah village, where he is hospitably received by one of the shepherds. Arrives on the third day at a Negro town called Wawra, tributary to the King of Bambarra.


The Author proceeds to Wassiboo. Is joined by some fugitive Kaartans, who accompany him in his route through Bambarra. Discovers the Niger. Some account of Sego, the capital of Bambarra. Mansong the king refuses to see the Author, but sends him a present. Great hospitality of a Negro woman.


Departure from Sego, and arrival at Kabba. Description of the shea, or vegetable butter tree. The Author and his guide arrive at Sansanding. Behaviour of the Moors at that place. The Author pursues his journey to the eastward. Incidents on the road. Arrives at Modiboo, and proceeds for Kea, but obliged to leave his horse by the way. Embarks at Kea in a fisherman's canoe for Moorzan: is conveyed from thence across the Niger to Silla—determines to proceed no further eastward. Some account of the further course of the Niger, and the towns in its vicinage towards the East.


The Author returns westward. Arrives at Modiboo, and recovers his horse. Finds great difficulty in travelling in consequence of the rains and the overflowing of the river. Is informed that the King of Bambarra had sent persons to apprehend him. Avoids Sego, and prosecutes his journey along the banks of the Niger. Incidents on the road. Cruelties attendant on African wars. The Author crosses the river Frina, and arrives at Taffara.


Inhospitable reception at Taffara. A Negro funeral at Sooha. The Author continues his route through several villages along the banks of the Niger, until he comes to Koolikorro. Supports himself by writing saphies—reaches Maraboo—loses the road; and, after many difficulties, arrives at Bammakoo. Takes the road for Sibidooloo—meets with great kindness at a village called Kooma;—is afterwards robbed, stripped, and plundered by banditti. The Author's resource and consolation under exquisite distress. He arrives in safety at Sibidooloo.


Government of Manding. The Author's reception by the Mansa, or chief man of Sibidooloo, who takes measures for the recovery of his horse and effects. The Author removes to Wonda. Great scarcity, and its afflicting consequences. The Author recovers his horse and clothes. Presents his horse to the Mansa, and prosecutes his journey to Kamalia. Some account of that town. The Author's kind reception by Karfa Taura, a slatee, who proposes to go to the Gambia in the next dry season, with a caravan of slaves. The Author's sickness, and determination to remain and accompany Karfa.


Of the climate and seasons. Winds. Vegetable productions. Population. General observations on the character and disposition of the Mandingoes; and a summary account of their manners and habits of life; their marriages.


The account of the Mandingoes continued. Their notions in respect of the planetary bodies, and the figure of the earth. Their religious opinions, and belief in a future state. Their diseases and methods of treatment. Their funeral ceremonies, amusements, occupations, diet, art, manufactures.


Observations concerning the state and sources of slavery in Africa.


Of gold-dust, and the manner in which it is collected. Process of washing it. Its value in Africa. Of ivory. Surprise of the Negroes at the eagerness of the Europeans for this commodity. Scattered teeth frequently picked up in the woods. Mode of hunting the elephant. Some reflections on the unimproved state of the country, &c.


Transactions at Kamalia resumed. Arabic MSS. in use among the Mahomedan Negroes. Reflections concerning the conversion and education of the Negro children. Return of the Author's benefactor, Karfa. Further account of the purchase and treatment of slaves. Fast of Rhamadan, how observed by the Negroes. Author's anxiety for the day of departure. The Caravan sets out. Account of it on its departure, and proceedings on the road, until its arrival at Kinytakooro.


The coffle crosses the Jallonka Wilderness. Miserable fate of one of the female slaves. Arrives at Sooseeta. Proceeds to Manna. Some account of the Jallonkas. Crosses the main stream of the Senegal. Bridge of a singular construction. Arrives at Malacotta. Remarkable conduct of the King of the Jaloffs.


The caravan proceeds to Konkadoo, and crosses the Faleme River. Its arrival at Baniserile, Kirwani, and Tambacunda. Incidents on the road. A matrimonial case. The caravan proceeds through many towns and villages, and arrives at length on the banks of the Gambia. Passes through Medina, the capital of Woolli, and finally stops at Jindey. The Author, accompanied by Karfa, proceeds to Pisania. Various occurrences previous to his departure from Africa. Takes his passage in an American ship. Short account of his voyage to Great Britain by way of the West Indies.


Horneman's journey from Egypt to Fezzan. Attempts to penetrate to the south. Nicholls—Roentgen—Adams.


Park's arrival at Pisania. Returns to England. Reception from the African Association. Visits Scotland. Publication of his travels. Popularity of the work. Settles as a surgeon at Peebles. Proposed Expedition to Africa. Sir Walter Scott's account of Park. Park's arrangements completed. Receives his instructions, and sets sail.


Arrival at St. Jago. Reaches Goree. Letters from that place. Arrival at Kayee—hires a guide, and sets out. Difficulties. Woolo-Bamboo. Tornado. Sickness of the soldiers. Park's situation. Bambarra. Attacked by lions at night at Koena. Isaaco attacked by a crocodiles. Depredations of the natives. Cross the Ba-Woolima, Nummasoolo. Illness of Messrs Scott and Martyn, and of Mr. Anderson. Reach the Niger at Bambakoo.


Distressed state of Park. Mortality in the expedition. Negociations with Mansong. Interview with Modibinnie. Park's speech. Reaches Sansanding. Death of Mr. Anderson. Park builds a schooner. Letters from Sansanding. Departs from Sansanding. Uncertainty respecting his fate. Isaaco's narrative. Confirmed by subsequent travellers. Account of Park's death. His character.


Expedition of Tuckey—of Peddie—and Gray.


Major Denham, Captain Clapperton, and Dr. Oudney arrive at Mourzouk. Boo-Khaloom. The desert. Tibboos and Tuaricks. Lake Tchad. Shiek of Bornou. Expedition to Mandara. Attack on Dirkulla. Defeat of the army. Major Denham's escape. Death of Boo-Kaloom. Major Denham visits Loggun. Fishing on the river Yeou. The Shouaa Arabs. Death of Dr. Oudney. Arrival at Kano. Sockatoo. Denham and Clapperton return by Kouka.


Captain Clapperton sets out on a second journey. Death of three principal members of the expedition. Clapperton and Lander reach Eyeo. Arrive at Kacunda. Enter the Borgoo country. Lander's escape from Lions. Kiama. Boussa. Nyffe. Zeg-Zeg. Attack of Coonia. Residence in Sockatoo. Death and burial of Clapperton. Lander's return.


Major Laing—his murder. Caillie reaches Timbuctoo. His march across the Desert.


Richard and John Lander set out. Badagry. Journey to Kiama. African horse race. Kakafungi. Boussa. Sail up the Niger to Yaoorie. Embark at Boussa. Island of Zagoshi. Dangerous situation of the travellers. Egga. Hostile demonstration of the natives. The Landers attacked. Carried to Eboe. King Obie. Conduct of Captain Lake. Arrive at Fernando Po. Remarks on the discovery of the Niger's termination.


Messrs Laird, Oldfield, and Lander, set out in the Quorra and Alburkah. Attack of the natives. Leave Eboe. Mortality on board the vessels. Capture of an alligator. Aspect of the Niger near the Kong Mountains. The Quorra aground. Fundah. Mr. Laird returns to the coast. Richard Lander wounded. His death. Return of the Alburkah. Conclusion.

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Progress of African Discovery, before Park's first Expedition.—Park's Early Life.

The first information we have respecting the interior of Africa is derived from Herodotus, who, during his residence in Egypt, endeavoured to collect as much intelligence as possible respecting the general aspect of the country. He describes it as far less fertile than the cultivated parts of Europe and Asia, and much exposed to drought, with the exception of a few verdant spots. To the northern coast, he gives the name of the forehead of Africa; and says that immediately south from it, the comparative fertility of the soil rapidly decreases. There are natural hills of salt, out of which the inhabitants scoop houses to shelter themselves from the weather; rain they have not to fear, as scarcely a drop ever alights upon that sultry region. Farther south still, there is no food to support man or beast—neither shrub, nor a single drop of water; all is silence and utter desolation. Herodotus then proceeds to relate a number of monstrous fables, which bear an overwhelming proportion to the parts of his narrative which are now known to be true. He also describes a large inland river, which some have supposed to be the Niger, flowing from west to east. He acquired this information from the reports of various travellers, who stated that after a long journey to the interior, they had themselves seen it. This account was confirmed by several other ancient authors; but for a long time the question was agitated by modern writers as to whether the Gambia or the Senegal was not the river spoken of; some even denying the existence of the Niger altogether.

The fables of Herodotus were repeated, with a number of additions, by Diodorus; but the narrative of Strabo, in regard to the northern and western coasts, is somewhat more particular and authentic: it adds nothing, however, to our acquaintance with the interior. The Greeks, under the government of the Ptolemies, navigated the Red Sea, and carried on a trade with Egypt; and some settlements were made by them in that country. Ptolemy Euergetes conquered part of Abyssinia, and established a kingdom, of which Axum was the metropolis; and remains of Grecian architecture have since been found in that quarter. To the two districts we have mentioned, the knowledge which the ancients possessed of Africa was almost exclusively confined; though Herodotus speaks of two voyages which had been undertaken with a view to determine the shape of the continent; but as nothing interesting can be gleaned from his indistinct narrative, and as the reality even of these voyages has been disputed, it seems unnecessary to give any account of them.

As in this brief sketch we are to confine ourselves entirely to discoveries made in the interior of Africa, we shall not mention either the various voyages made along the shores, or the different settlements formed upon the coast, as this would lead us far beyond our narrow limits.

The Arabians were the first who introduced the camel into Africa, an animal whose strength and swiftness peculiarly suited it for traversing the immense expanse of burning sands. By means of caravans, the Arabians were enabled to hold intercourse with the interior, whence they procured supplies of gold and slaves; and many of them migrated to the south of the Great Desert. Their number rapidly increased, and being skilled in the art of war, they soon became the ruling power. They founded several kingdoms; the principal one, called Gano, soon became the greatest market for gold, and, under the name of Kano, is still extensive and populous, being the chief commercial place in the interior of Africa. The Arabian writers of the twelfth century, give the most gorgeous, and we fear overrated, accounts of the flourishing state of these kingdoms.

In the fourteenth century, Ibn Batuta, an abridged account of whose travels has been recently translated by Professor Lee of Cambridge, made a journey into Central Africa. After having travelled twenty-five days with a caravan, he came to a place which Major Rennel supposes to be the modern Tisheet, containing the mine whence Timbuctoo is supplied with salt. The houses he describes as built of slabs of salt, roofed with camels' hides. After other twenty days he reached Tashila, three days' journey from which he entered a dreary desert, where was neither sustenance nor water, but only plains and hills of sand. Ten days brought him to Abu Latin, a large commercial town much frequented by merchants. This place Mr. Murray conjectures to have been Walet, the only large city in that quarter.

In twenty-four days Ibn Batuta reached Mali, which it has been found impossible to identify with any modern city. He found a haughty potentate residing there, whose subjects paid him the greatest deference, approaching prostrate to the throne, and casting dust upon their heads. The trees in this neighbourhood were of immense bulk; and in the hollow cavity of one he saw a weaver carrying on his occupation. Near this he saw the Niger, but conjectured it to be the Nile, and supposed it to flow by Timbuctoo, Kakaw, (Kuku), Yuwi, and thence by Nubia to Egypt.

Leo Africanus penetrated into the interior of Africa about two centuries after Ibn Batuta. From his description, it would appear that the aspect of Central Africa had considerably changed during this interval. Timbuctoo was a powerful and opulent kingdom; and Gago (evidently the Eyeo of Clapperton), and Ghinea, (probably the Jenne of Park), were flourishing cities. The merchants of Timbuctoo were opulent, and two of them were married to princesses. Science and literature were cultivated, and manuscripts bore a high price. The king was wealthy, and maintained an army of 3000 horse, and a large body of infantry. His courtiers shone resplendent with gold; his palace, and several of the mosques, were handsome edifices of stone; but his subjects dwelt in oval huts, formed of stakes, clay, and reeds.

From this period till the formation of the African Association in 1788, no certain information was obtained concerning Central Africa. While British enterprise and courage had made most important discoveries in every other quarter of the world, the ignorance which prevailed concerning Africa was felt to be most discreditable. A few public-spirited individuals, desirous of wiping away this stigma, formed themselves into an Association, and subscribed the requisite funds for the purpose of sending out intelligent and courageous travellers upon this hazardous mission. The management was intrusted to a committee, consisting of Lord Rawdon, afterwards Marquis of Hastings, Sir Joseph Banks, the Bishop of Landaff, Mr. Beaufoy, and Mr. Stuart.

The first individual whom they employed was Mr. Ledyard, the greater part of whose life had been spent in travelling; he had circumnavigated the globe along with Captain Cook, and had resided for a number of years among the American Indians. On his return he presented himself to Sir Joseph Banks, who was at that time anxiously looking out for a fit person to be sent out under the auspices of the Association. He immediately saw that Ledyard was a suitable person for them, and introduced him to Mr Beaufoy, who was much struck with his resolute and determined appearance. When Ledyard was asked when he could be ready to depart, he replied, "to-morrow!" Soon after he sailed for Alexandria, intending to proceed from Cairo to Sennaar, and thence to traverse the breadth of the continent. While at Cairo, he sent home some excellent observations concerning Egypt; and announced that his next communication would be dated from Sennaar. But tidings of his death soon after reached England. It appeared that some delays in the starting of the caravan which he was to have accompanied, working on his impatient and restless spirit, had brought on a bilious distemper, to check which he had applied improper remedies at the outset, so that the disorder cut him off in spite of the assistance of the most skilful physicians in Cairo.

The next traveller whom the Association engaged was Mr. Lucas. When a boy, he had been sent to Cadiz, to be educated as a merchant. On his return he was taken prisoner by a Sallee rover, and remained three years in captivity at Morocco. He was afterwards appointed vice-consul at Morocco, and spent there sixteen years, during which he acquired a great knowledge of the chief African languages. On his return to England, he was made oriental interpreter to the British court. Upon his expressing a desire to set out on a journey in furtherance of the objects of the Association, his Majesty not only granted his request, but also promised to continue his salary as oriental interpreter during his absence. He set out by Tripoli, and obtained from the Bey some promise of assistance. He likewise made an arrangement with two Shereefs, or followers of the Prophet, whose persons are held sacred, to join a caravan with which they travelled. He went with them as far as Mesurata; but the Arabs of the neighbourhood being in a state of revolt, the party could obtain neither camels nor guides. Mr. Lucas therefore returned to Tripoli without making further efforts to penetrate into the interior. He, however, obtained from one of the Shereefs some particulars respecting the countries to the south of Tripoli, and a memoir from his notes was drawn up by Mr. Beaufoy, which, though in many respects imperfect and erroneous, nevertheless threw a little additional light upon the condition of Africa. No correct information was obtained concerning the Niger.

Enough of knowledge, however, was possessed to show that the districts along the Gambia, stretching into the interior, afforded the most direct method of reaching the Niger, and the countries through which it rolled. Accordingly this was the route taken by the next adventurer, Major Houghton, who seemed qualified for the task by the most ardent courage, and by a considerable acquaintance with the manners both of the Moors and negroes during his residence as consul at Morocco, and afterwards as fort-major at Goree. But it would appear that this gallant officer was strikingly deficient in the prudent and calculating temper which such an arduous journey demanded. Having set out early in 1791, he speedily reached Medina, the residence of the king of Wooli, who gave him information respecting the best route to Timbuctoo, and promised to furnish him with guides. During his residence Medina was entirely destroyed by a conflagration, and Major Houghton was forced, along with the inhabitants, to flee into the fields, carrying with him only a few such articles as he could hastily snatch up. Thence he journeyed on to Bambouk, and after crossing the Faleme arrived at Ferbanna, where the king sent a guide along with him, and likewise furnished him with money to defray the expenses of the journey. He was imprudent enough to carry with him a quantity of merchandise, and thereby excited the cupidity off the natives, with whom he was engaged in constant disputes. After a complication of difficulties, he took a northern route, intending to penetrate through Ludamar. The last intelligence received from him was dated from Simbing, the frontier village of this state, and was merely comprised in the following brief note, addressed to Dr. Laidley of Pisania:—"Major Houghton's compliments to Dr. Laidley, is in good health, on his way to Timbuctoo; robbed of all his goods by Fenda Bucar's son." Soon after this, rumours of his death reached Pisania; but the particulars were not known till Mr. Park's return, who brought certain intelligence. It appeared that at Jarra he had engaged some Moorish merchants to accompany him. They persuaded him to go to Tisheet, a place frequented for its salt mines, without informing him that it was much out of the direct road to Timbuctoo, intending to rob him by the way. In a few days he suspected their treachery, and resolved to return to Jarra, but, upon refusing to advance, he was stripped of every article, and then deserted. He wandered about the desert, alone, and famishing, till, utterly exhausted, he lay down under a tree and expired.

The next person who offered his services to the Association was Mungo Park, who has acquired such celebrity by the important acquisitions which he made to African Geography. As introductory to the narrative of his first expedition, we present our readers with a brief sketch of his early life.


Mungo Park, the celebrated African traveller, was born at Fowlshiels, near the town of Selkirk, on the 10th September 1771. His father was a respectable farmer on the Duke of Buccleuch's estate; and his mother, the daughter of a neighbouring farmer of the name of Hislop, a woman of great good sense and prudence, who anxiously and faithfully discharged the duties which she owed to a large family of thirteen children, of whom Mungo, the subject of this memoir, was the seventh. Park's father died before his son had won that renown which so honourably distinguishes his name, though not without the satisfaction of witnessing a fair promise of his future distinction; but his mother, after hearing with much pride of her offspring's early achievements, had to lament his untimely fate; consoled, however, by the recollection of his unblemished character, and virtuous conduct, and by the thought of the legacy of fame which he had bequeathed, not to his family alone, but to his country.

With a solicitude for the education of his children, then by no means common among the Scottish farmers, Mr. Park hired a tutor to superintend their education, being anxious not to leave them to such chance instruction as they might receive before they were of a proper age for going to school; thus shewing that he was alive to the advantage of early habits of application and study. The boyhood of Mungo Park was not distinguished by any marks of peculiar talent, though he appears, when sent to Selkirk school, to have paid more than an average share of attention to his studies. Of a thoughtful and reserved disposition, he seldom took a share in the mirthful sports of his school-fellows. He was fond of reading and solitude, often wandering for hours among the hills, and along the banks of his native Yarrow. The legends of border chivalry, many of which still lingered in the district, had not been poured into an unwilling ear; they made a strong impression upon his imagination, and probably contributed, in no inconsiderable degree, to fire his spirit, and excite that love of adventure which so strongly marked his future life. Moreover, occasional gleams of ambition broke forth from amid his quiet thoughtfulness, which shewed, that beneath a cold exterior there lurked a mind of no ordinary cast. This constitutional reserve made him select in his choice of friends, but with those to whom he granted the privilege of intimacy, he was all confidence and frankness.

The limited cost of an education for the Church of Scotland renders it an object of ambition to many in the middle ranks of life; and the parents of Mungo Park, judging that his peculiar disposition fitted him for the ministry, were anxious that he should enter upon the initiatory course of education. Park, however, manifested a decided repugnance to this choice, and resolved upon qualifying himself for the medical profession. Accordingly, at the age of fifteen, he was bound apprentice to Mr. Thomas Anderson, a respectable surgeon in Selkirk, with whom he remained for the space of three years, during which, at leisure hours, he continued to prosecute his classical studies, and also acquired a knowledge of the elementary principles of mathematics. Mr. Anderson's practice, which was pretty extensive, enabled him to obtain a considerable acquaintance of the rudiments of his profession, and formed a suitable preparation for his academical studies. In the year 1789, he removed to Edinburgh, and attended the usual course of lectures for three successive sessions. Though a persevering and attentive student, he does not seem to have manifested much love for the healing art. Botany was his favourite study, which he pursued with much ardour during the summer months. And, fortunately, his brother-in-law, Mr. James Dickson, who published an elaborate work on the Cryptogamic plants, was well calculated to aid him in this pursuit. This meritorious individual had in early life removed to London, and for some time followed the humble occupation of a working gardener. Having distinguished himself by a diligent and zealous discharge of the duties of his calling, he attracted the notice of Sir Joseph Banks, who, ever anxious to reward merit, generously opened to him his library. Of this privilege Mr. Dickson availed himself so successfully, that he soon distinguished himself as a botanist, and enlarged materially the boundaries of the science. But, with rare prudence, he still carried on his original business as a seeds man, while he lived on terms of intimacy and friendship with many of the most distinguished literary characters of his time.

With Mr. Dickson young Park made a summer ramble through the Highlands, principally for the sake of adding to his botanical treasures, and, under under the guidance of his relative, pursued enthusiastically his favourite science. After Park had completed his medical studies, Mr Dickson advised him to go to London, in search of professional employment, in the expectation of advancing his prospects, through the interest of his scientific acquaintance. Nor was he disappointed in this hope, for, through Sir Joseph Banks's recommendation, he obtained the appointment of assistant surgeon to the Worcester East Indiaman. He sailed in February 1792; and after a voyage to Bencoolen, in the island of Sumatra, returned to England in the following year. No incident of importance occurred during this voyage, but Mr. Park made some collections in botany and natural history, which were submitted to the Linnaean Society, and an account of them printed in the third volume of their Transactions.

It does not appear whether Park had come to any determinate conclusion to quit the company's service; at all events, he continued to shew a decided preference for studies in natural history; and the circle of acquaintances to which Sir Joseph Banks had introduced him after his return to England, contributed much to strengthen this preference. At this time, no doubt, he was disposed, upon a suitable opening being presented, to free himself from the duties of his profession, and enter upon some more congenial employment. His mind was soon to be directed to loftier objects—to scenes of stirring interest and varied adventure—to an enterprise for which he was well qualified by his enthusiastic zeal for discovery, his scientific acquirements, vigorous constitution, and patient and persevering disposition. The African Association, consisting of a number of individuals distinguished by their ardent zeal for the promotion of geographical discovery in the unknown regions of that vast continent, had been formed a few years before this period. Their investigations had brought to light some leading facts relative to Northern Africa; and with the assistance of Major Rennel, they were endeavouring to lay down as accurately as possible upon the map, the principal geographical outlines. But they were most anxious to acquire correct information concerning the river Joliba, or Niger, and also to collect some particulars concerning the interior of the country. Under their auspices several travellers had already gone forth, who had either fallen victims to the climate, or been murdered by the natives;—and recent intelligence had been brought to England of the death of Major Houghton, who had set out with the intention of penetrating to Timbuctoo and Houssa. Deterred by his fate, no individual for a considerable period seemed willing to undertake the mission, though liberal offers of compensation had been made. Here was the very enterprise which possessed irresistible charms for Park's romantic and daring mind: in him the Association found an individual well qualified for the task. They were fully satisfied with the answers which he gave to all their inquiries: his mind had been already directed towards geographical research; he had the matured strength of manhood, and his constitution had in some measure, been inured to a hot climate; his medical knowledge would not only contribute to the preservation of his own health, but would also secure him the respect and veneration of the natives. At the commencement of his narrative, he relates the feelings which animated him in deciding on this perilous journey. The prospects of personal advantage held out, even should he prove successful, were so inconsiderable, that in his acceptance of the offer, he was evidently actuated by an ardent desire of adding to the slender knowledge possessed of that interesting country, as well as by the hope of having his name joined to the list of those who have distinguished themselves by active enterprise.

A considerable time elapsed ere everything was ready for his departure; and two years had passed away since his return from India. During that period, with the exception of a short visit paid to his friends in Scotland, he had chiefly resided in London; partly engaged with his favourite studies, and enjoying the pleasures of cultivated society; but devoting his chief time and attention to acquiring the knowledge, and superintending the preparations necessary for his journey. At length he received his final instructions from the Association, and set sail from Portsmouth, on the 22d of May 1795, on board the Endeavour, an African trader, bound for the Gambia, where he arrived on the 21st of the following month. He was furnished with a letter of recommendation to Dr. Laidley, who resided at the English factory of Pisania, on the Gambia, and on whom he had a letter of credit for L. 200.

In the reprint which follows, the reader will find, in Mr. Park's own words, a full narrative of the various incidents which befel him during this eventful journey.

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The author's motives for undertaking the voyage—his instructions and departure—arrives at Jillifree, on the Gambia River—proceeds to Vintain,—Some account of the Feloops.—Proceeds up the river for Jonkakonda—arrives at Dr. Laidley's.—Some account of Pisania, and the British factory established at that place.—The Author's employment during his stay at Pisania—his sickness and recovery—the country described—prepares to set out for the interior.

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 L.200, I took my passage in the brig Endeavour, a small vessel trading to the Gambia for bees-wax 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 the 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 Tombuctoo 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 22d 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 Jillifree, a town on the northern bank of the river Gambia, opposite to James' Island, where the English had formerly a small port.

The kingdom of Barra, in which the town of Jillifree 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. The number of canoes and people constantly employed in this trade, make 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 L. 20 on every vessel, great and small. These duties, or customs, are generally collected in person by the Alkaid, or governor of Jillifree, 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 every thing 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 23d we departed from Jillifree, and proceeded to Vintain, a town situated about two miles up a creek on the southern side of the river. This is much resorted to by Europeans, on account of the great quantities of bees-wax 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. The numerals are as follow:

One ......... Enory. Two ......... Sickaba, or Cookaba. Three ....... Sisajee. Four ........ Sibakeer. Five ........ Footuck. Six ......... Footuck-Enory. Seven ....... Footuck-Cookaba. Eight ....... Footuck-Sisajee. Nine ........ Footuck-Sibakeer. Ten ......... Sibankonyen.

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. The latter might with more propriety be called the river-elephant, being of an enormous and unwieldy bulk, and its teeth furnish good ivory. This animal is amphibious, with short and thick legs, and cloven hoofs: it feeds on grass, and such shrubs as the banks of the river afford, boughs of trees, seldom venturing far from the water, in which it seeks refuge on hearing the approach of man. I have seen many, and always found them of a timid and inoffensive disposition.

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 the cargo; and the captain dispatched 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 my 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, who, by a long residence in the country, and constant intercourse with the natives, had made himself completely master of it. Next to the language, my great object was to collect information concerning the countries I intended to visit. On this occasion I was referred to certain traders called Slatees. These are free black merchants, of great consideration in this part of Africa, who come down from the interior countries chiefly with enslaved negroes for sale; but I soon discovered that very little dependance could be placed on the accounts they gave; for they contradicted each other in the most important particulars, and all of them seemed extremely unwilling that I should prosecute my journey. These circumstances increased my anxiety to ascertain the truth from my own personal observations.

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 3d 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, in 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, 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 traveller 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 woods, 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 cow's 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 prepares 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.

For gratifying a taste for variety, another sort of pudding, called nealing, is sometimes prepared from the meal of corn; and they have also adopted two or three different modes of dressing their rice. Of vegetable food, therefore, the natives have no want, and although the common class of people are but sparingly supplied with animal food, yet this article is not wholly withheld from them.

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 Mahomet has spread itself among the Pagans. Poultry of all kinds (the turkey excepted) is every where 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 fire-arms; 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.

The usual beast of burthen in all the Negro territories is the ass. The application of animal labour to the purposes of agriculture is no where adopted; the plough, therefore, is wholly unknown. The chief implement used in husbandry is the hoe, which varies in form in different districts; and the labour is universally performed by slaves.

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 every where 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,[1]) 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.

[1] Dr. Laidley, to my infinite regret, has since paid the debt of nature. He left Africa in the latter end of 1797, intending to return to Great Britain by way of the West Indies; and died soon after his arrival at Barbadoes.


Description of the Feloops, the Jaloffs, the Foulahs, and Mandingoes.—Some account of the trade between the nations of Europe and the natives of Africa by the way of the Gambia, and between the native inhabitants of the coast and the nations of the interior countries—their mode of selling and buying.

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 Mahomet 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 Mahomedans 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 those 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 avenging 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 civilized 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 in this part of the Continent.

They are divided into several independent states or kingdoms; which are frequently at war either with their neighbours, or with each other. In their manners, superstitions, and government, however, they have a greater resemblance to the Mandingoes (of whom I shall presently speak) than to any other nation; but excel them in the manufacture of cotton cloth, spinning the wool to a finer thread, weaving it in a broader loom, and dyeing it of a better colour.

Their language is said to be copious and significant; and is often learned by Europeans trading to Senegal. I cannot say much of it from my own knowledge; but have preserved their numerals, which are these:

One ......... Wean. Two ......... Yar. Three ......... Yat. Four ......... Yanet. Five ......... Judom. Six ......... Judom Wean. Seven ......... Judom Yar. Eight ......... Judom Yat. Nine ......... Judom Yanet. Ten ......... Fook. Eleven ......... Fook aug Wean, &c.

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. Their numerals are these:[2]

One ......... Killin. Two ......... Foola. Three ......... Sabba. Four ......... Nani. Five ......... Looloo. Six ......... Woro. Seven ......... Oronglo. Eight ......... Sie. Nine ......... Conunta. Ten ......... Tang. Eleven ......... Tan ning killin, &c.

[2] In the Travels of Francis Moore the reader will find a pretty copious vocabulary of the Mandingo language, which in general is correct.

They are called Mandingoes, I conceive, as having originally migrated from the interior state of Manding, of which some account will hereafter be given; but, contrary to the present constitution of their parent country, which is republican, it appeared to me that the government in all the Mandingo states, near the Gambia, is monarchical. The power of the sovereign is, however, by no means unlimited. In all affairs of importance, the king calls an assembly of the principal men, or elders, by whose councils he is directed, and without whose advice he can neither declare war nor conclude peace.

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 Mahomet 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 Sharru, containing, as I was told, a complete exposition or digest of the Mahomedan 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 Mahomedan 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 Mahomedan 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 its 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 they wrap round the waist, which, hanging down to the ancles, 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 stripe 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 sea-shells. 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 on 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 stakes, 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 dispute) 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 inclosure is called a sirk or surk. A number of these inclosures, 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 townhouse; 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 Mahomedans 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 of 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 preceding remarks concerning the several nations that inhabit the banks of the Gambia, are all that I recollect as necessary to be made in this place, at the outset of my journey. With regard to the Mandingoes, however, many particulars are yet to be related; some of which are necessarily interwoven into the narrative of my progress, and others will be given in a summary at the end of my work; together with all such observations as I have collected on the country and climate, which I could not with propriety insert in the regular detail of occurrences. What remains of the present chapter will therefore, relate solely to the trade which the nations of Christendom have found means to establish with the natives of Africa, by the channel of the Gambia; and the inland traffic which has arisen in consequence of it between the inhabitants of the coast and the nations of the interior countries.

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 time James' 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 L. .20,000. 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 fire-arms and ammunition, iron ware, spirituous liquors, tobacco, cotton caps, a small quantity of broad cloth, 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, bees-wax, 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 16 to 25 years of age, may be estimated on the spot from L. 18 to L. 20 sterling.

The Negro slave merchants, as I have observed in the former chapter, are called Slatees; who, besides slaves, and the merchandize 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. This commodity is extracted by means of boiling water from the kernel of a nut, as will be more particularly described hereafter; it has the consistence and appearance of butter; and is in truth an admirable substitute for it. It forms an important article in the food of the natives, and serves also for every domestic purpose in which oil would otherwise be used. The demand for it is therefore very great.

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 thus bartering one commodity for another, many inconveniences must necessarily have arisen at first from the want of coined money, or some other visible and determinate medium, to settle the balance, or difference of value, between different articles, to remedy which, the natives of the interior make use of small shells called kowries, as will be shown hereafter. On the coast, the inhabitants have adopted a practice which, I believe, is peculiar to themselves.

In their early intercourse with Europeans, the article that attracted most notice was iron. Its utility, in forming the instruments of war and husbandry, made 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 to a bar of iron, constituted, in the trader's phraseology, a bar of that particular merchandize. 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 L. 15, 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 vicinage 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.


The Author sets out from Pisania—his attendants—reaches Jindy.—Story related by a Mandingo Negro.—Proceeds to Medina, the capital of Woolli.—Interview with the king—Saphies or charms.—Proceeds to Kolor.—Description of Mumbo Jumbo—arrives at Koojar—wrestling match—crosses the wilderness, and arrives at Tallika, in the Kingdom of Bondou.

On the 2d 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 convoyed 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 L.7, 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 freeman (a Bushreen or Mahomedan) named Madiboo, who was travelling to the kingdom of Bambarra, 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 Mahomedan,) 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 two first 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 chere amie 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 Jemafoo Mamadoo, 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. I shall here abridge one of them for the reader's amusement. "Many years ago, (said the relator,) the people of Doomasansa (a town on the Gambia) were much annoyed by a lion, that came every night, and took away some of their cattle. By continuing his depredations, the people were at length so much enraged, that a party of them resolved to go and hunt the monster. They accordingly proceeded in search of the common enemy, which they found concealed in a thicket; and immediately firing at him, were lucky enough to wound him in such a manner, that, in springing from the thicket towards the people, he fell down among the grass, and was unable to rise. The animal, however, manifested such appearance of vigour, that nobody cared to approach him singly; and a consultation was held, concerning the properest means of taking him alive; a circumstance, it was said, which, while it furnished undeniable proof of their prowess, would turn out to great advantage, it being resolved to convey him to the coast, and sell him to the Europeans. While some persons proposed one plan, and some another, an old man offered a scheme. This was, to strip the roof of a house of its thatch, and to carry the bamboo frame, (the pieces of which are well secured together by thongs,) and throw it over the lion. If, in approaching him, he should attempt to spring upon them, they had nothing to do but to let down the roof upon themselves, and fire at the lion through the rafters.

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