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Title: West African studies
Author: Kingsley, Mary Henrietta
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                      [Illustration: SIRIMBA PLAYERS, CONGO.]

                             WEST AFRICAN STUDIES


                              MARY H. KINGSLEY

                     AUTHOR OF "TRAVELS IN WEST AFRICA"

                       _WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS_



                           _All rights reserved_

                      RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LIMITED

                             LONDON AND BUNGAY.

                              TO MY BROTHER

                            MR. C.G. KINGSLEY

                     AND TO MY FRIEND WHO IS DEAD

                              THIS BOOK IS


                         PREFACE TO THE READER

I pray you who may come across this book to distinguish carefully
between the part of it written by others and that written by me.

Anything concerning West Africa written by M. le Comte C. de Cardi or
Mr. John Harford, of Bristol, does not require apology and explanation;
while anything written by me on this, or any subject, does. M. le Comte
de Cardi possesses an unrivalled knowledge of the natives of the Niger
Delta, gained, as all West Coasters know, by personal experience, and
gained in a way whereby he had to test the truth of his ideas about
these natives, not against things said concerning them in books, but
against the facts themselves, for years; and depending on the accuracy
of his knowledge was not a theory, but his own life and property. I have
always wished that men having this kind of first-hand, well-tested
knowledge regarding West Africa could be induced to publish it for the
benefit of students, and for the foundation of a true knowledge
concerning the natives of West Africa in the minds of the general
public, feeling assured that if we had this class of knowledge
available, the student of ethnology would be saved from many fantastic
theories, and the general public enabled to bring its influence to bear
in the cause of justice, instead of in the cause of fads. I need say
nothing more regarding Appendix I.; it is a mine of knowledge concerning
a highly developed set of natives of the true Negro stem, particularly
valuable because, during recent years, we have been singularly badly off
for information on the true Negro. It would not be too much to say that,
with the exception of the important series of works by the late Sir A.
B. Ellis, and a few others, so few that you can count them on the
fingers of one hand, and Dr. Freeman's _Ashanti and Jaman_, published
this year, we have practically had no reliable information on these, the
most important of the races of Africa, since the eighteenth century. The
general public have been dependent on the work of great East and Central
African geographical explorers, like Dr. Livingstone, Mr. H. M. Stanley,
Dr. Gregory, Mr. Scott Elliott, and Sir H. H. Johnston, men whose work
we cannot value too highly, and whom we cannot sufficiently admire; but
who, nevertheless, were not when describing Africans describing Negroes,
but that great mixture of races existing in Central and East Africa
whose main ingredient is Bantu. To argue from what you know about Bantus
when you are dealing with Negroes is about as safe and sound as to argue
from what you may know about Eastern Europeans when you are dealing with
Western Europeans. Nevertheless, this fallacious method has been
followed in the domain of ethnology and politics with, as might be
expected, bad results. I am, therefore, very proud at being permitted by
M. le Comte de Cardi to publish his statements on true Negroes; and I
need not say I have in no way altered them, and that he is in no way
responsible for any errors that there may be in the portions of this
book written by me.

Mr. John Harford, the man who first[1] opened up that still little-known
Qua Ibo river, another region of Negroes, also requires no apology. I am
confident that the quite unconscious picture of a West Coast trader's
life given by him in Appendix II. will do much to remove the fantastic
notions held concerning West Coast traders and the manner of life they
lead out there; and I am convinced that if the English public had more
of this sort of material it would recognise, as I, from a fairly
extensive knowledge of West Coast traders, have been forced to
recognise, that they are the class of white men out there who can be
trusted to manage West Africa.

I most sincerely wish that the whole of this book had been written by
such men as the authors of Appendices I. and II. We are seriously in
want of reliable information on West African affairs. It is a sort of
information you can only get from resident white men, those who live in
close touch with the natives, and who are forced to know the truth about
them in order to live and prosper, and from scientific trained
observers. The transient traveller, passing rapidly through such a
region as West Africa, is not so valuable an informant as he may be in
other regions of the Earth, where his observations can be checked by
those of acknowledged authorities, and supplemented by the literature of
the natives to whom he refers. For on West Africa, outside Ellis's
region, there is no authority newer than the eighteenth century, and the
natives have no written literature. You must, therefore, go down to
_Urstuff_ and rely only on expert observers, whose lives and property
depend on their observing well, or whose science trains them to observe

Now of course I regard myself as one of the second class of these
observers: did I not do so I would not dare speak about West Africa at
all, especially in such company; but whatever I am or whatever I do,
requires explanation, apology, and thanks.

You may remember that after my return from a second sojourn in West
Africa, when I had been to work at fetish and fresh-water fishes, I
published a word-swamp of a book about the size of Norie's _Navigation_.
Mr. George Macmillan lured me into so doing by stating that if I gave my
own version of the affair I should remove misconceptions; and if I did
not it was useless to object to such things as paragraphs in American
papers to the effect that "Miss Kingsley, having crossed the continent
of Africa, ascended the Niger to Victoria, and then climbed the Peak of
Cameroon; she is shortly to return to England, when she will deliver a
series of lectures on French art, which she has had great opportunities
of studying." Well, thanks to Mr. Macmillan's kindness, I did publish a
sort of interim report, called _Travels in West Africa_. It did not work
out in the way he prophesied. It has led to my being referred to as "an
intrepid explorer," a thing there is not the making of in me, who am
ever the prey of frights, worries, and alarms; and its main effect, as
far as I am personally concerned, has been to plunge me further still in
debt for kindness from my fellow creatures, who, though capable of doing
all I have done and more capable of writing about it in really good
English, have tolerated that book and frequently me also, with
half-a-dozen colds in my head and a dingy temper. Chief among all these
creditors of mine I must name Mrs. J. R. Green, Mrs. George Macmillan,
and Miss Lucy Toulmin Smith; but don't imagine that they or any other of
my creditors approve of any single solitary opinion I express, or the
way in which I express it. It is merely that I have the power of
bringing out in my fellow-creatures, white or black, their virtues, in a
way honourable to them and fortunate for me.

I must here also acknowledge the great debt of gratitude I owe to Mr.
John Holt, of Liverpool. A part of my work lies in the affairs of the
so-called Bubies of Fernando Po, and no one knows so much about Fernando
Po as Mr. Holt. He has also been of the greatest help to me in other
ethnological questions, and has permitted me to go through his
collections of African things most generously. It is, however, idle for
me to attempt to chronicle my debt to Mr. Holt, for in every part of my
work I owe him much. I do not wish you to think he is responsible for
any of it, but his counsels have ever been on the side of moderation and
generosity in adverse criticism. I honestly confess I believe I am by
nature the very mildest of critics; but Mr. Holt and others think
otherwise; and so, although I have not altered my opinions, I have
restrained from publishing several developments of them, in deference to
superior knowledge.

I am also under a debt of gratitude to Professor Tylor. He also is not
involved in my opinions, but he kindly permits me to tell him things
that I can only "tell Tylor"; and now and again, as you will see in the
Fetish question, he comes down on me with a refreshing firmness; in
fact, I feel that any attempt at fantastic explanations of West African
culture will not receive any encouragement from him; and it is a great
comfort to a mere drudge like myself to know there is some one who
cares for facts, without theories draping them.

I will merely add that to all my own West Coast friends I remain
indebted; and that if you ever come across any one who says I owe them
much, you may take it as a rule that I do, though in all my written
stuff I have most carefully ticketed its source.

I now turn to the explanation and apology for this book, briefly.
Apology for its literary style I do not make. I am not a literary man,
only a student of West Africa. I am not proud of my imperfections in
English. I would write better if I could, but I cannot. I find when I
try to write like other people that I do not say what seems to me true,
and thereby lose all right to say anything; and I am more convinced, the
more I know of West Africa--my education is continuous and unbroken by
holidays,--that it is a difficult thing to write about, particularly
when you are a student hampered on all sides by masses of inchoate
material, unaided by a set of great authors to whose opinions you can
refer, and addressing a public that is not interested in the things that
interest you so keenly and that you regard as so deeply important.

In my previous book I most carefully confined myself to facts and
arranged those facts on as thin a line of connecting opinion as
possible. I was anxious to see what manner of opinion they would give
rise to in the minds of the educated experts up here; not from a mere
feminine curiosity, but from a distrust in my own ability to construct
theories. On the whole this method has worked well. Ethnologists of
different theories have been enabled to use such facts as they saw fit;
but one of the greatest of ethnologists has grumbled at me, not for not
giving a theory, but for omitting to show the inter-relationship of
certain groups of facts, an inter-relationship his acuteness enabled him
to know existed. Therefore I here give the key to a good deal of this
inter-relationship by dividing the different classes of Fetishism into
four schools. In order to do this I have now to place before you a good
deal of material that was either crowded out of the other work or
considered by me to require further investigation and comparison. As for
the new statements I make, I have been enabled to give them this from
the constant information and answers to questions I receive from West
Africa. For the rest of the Fetish I remain a mere photographic plate.

Regarding the other sections of this book, they are to me all subsidiary
in importance to the Fetish, but they belong to it. They refer to its
environment, without a knowledge of which you cannot know the thing.
What Mr. Macmillan has ticketed as Introductory--I could not find a name
for it at all--has a certain bearing on West African affairs, as showing
the life on a West Coast boat. I may remark it is a section crowded out
of my previous book; so, though you may not be glad to see it here, you
must be glad it was not there.

The fishing chapter was also cast out of _Travels in West Africa_.
Critics whom I respect said it was wrong of me not to have explained how
I came by my fishes. This made me fear that they thought I had stolen
them, so I published the article promptly in the _National Review_, and,
by the kindness of its editor, Mr. Maxse, I reprint it. It is the only
reprint in this book.

The chapter on Law contains all the material I have been so far able to
arrange on this important study. The material on Criminal Law I must
keep until I can go out again to West Africa, and read further in the
minds of men in the African Forest Belt region; for in them, in that
region, is the original text. The connection between Religion and Law I
have not reprinted here, it being available, thanks to the courtesy of
the Hibbert Trustees, in the _National Review_, September, 1897.

I have left my stiffest bit of explanation and apology till the last,
namely, that relating to the Crown Colony system, which is the thing
that makes me beg you to disassociate from me every friend I have, and
deal with me alone. I am alone responsible for it, the only thing for
which I may be regarded as sharing the responsibility with others being
the statistics from Government sources.

It has been the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. I would have
given my right hand to have done it well, for I know what it means if
things go on as they are. Alas! I am hampered with my bad method of
expression. I cannot show you anything clearly and neatly. I have to
show you a series of pictures of things, and hope you will get from
those pictures the impression which is the truth. I dare not set myself
up to tell you the truth. I only say, look at it; and to the best of my
ability faithfully give you, not an artist's picture, but a photograph,
an overladen with detail, colourless version; all the time wishing to
Heaven there was some one else doing it who could do it better, and then
I know you would understand, and all would be well. I know there are
people who tax me with a brutality in statement, I feel unjustly; and it
makes me wonder what they would say if they had to speak about West
Africa. It is a repetition of the difficulty a friend of mine and myself
had over a steam launch called the Dragon Fly, whose internal health was
chronically poor, and subject to bad attacks. Well, one afternoon, he
and I had to take her out to the home-going steamer, and she had
suffered that afternoon in the engines, and when she suffered anywhere
she let you know it. We did what we could for her, in the interests of
humanity and ourselves; we gave her lots of oil, and fed her with
delicately-chopped wood; but all to but little avail. So both our
tempers being strained when we got to the steamer, we told her what the
other one of us had been saying about the Dragon Fly. The purser of the
steamer thereon said "that people who said things like those about a
poor inanimate steam launch were fools with a flaming hot future, and
lost souls entirely." We realised that our observations had been
imperfect; and so, being ever desirous of improving ourselves, we
offered to put the purser on shore in the Dragon Fly. We knew she was
feeling still much the same, and we wanted to know what he would say
when jets of superheated steam played on him. He came, and they did; and
when they did, you know, he said things I cannot repeat. Nevertheless,
things of the nature of our own remarks, but so much finer of the kind,
that we regarded him with awe when he was returning thanks to the "poor
inanimate steam launch"; but it was when it came to his going ashore,
gladly to leave us and her, that we found out what that man could say;
and we morally fainted at his remarks made on discovering that he had
been sitting in a pool of smutty oil, which she had insidiously treated
him to, in order to take some of the stuffing out of him about the
superior snowwhiteness of his trousers. Well, that purser went off the
scene in a blue flame; and I said to my companion, "Sir! we cannot say
things like that." "Right you are, Miss Kingsley," he said sadly; "you
and I are only fit for Sunday school entertainments."

It is thus with me about this Crown Colony affair. I know I have not
risen to the height other people--my superiors, like the purser--would
rise to, if they knew it; but at the same time, I may seem to those who
do not know it, who only know the good intentions of England, and who
regard systems as inanimate things, to be speaking harshly. I would not
have mentioned this affair at all, did I not clearly see that our
present method of dealing with tropical possessions under the Crown
Colony system was dangerous financially, and brought with it suffering
to the native races and disgrace to English gentlemen, who are bound to
obey and carry out the orders given them by the system.

Plotinus very properly said that the proper thing to do was to
superimpose the idea upon the actual. I am not one of those who will
ever tell you things are impossible, but I am particularly hopeful in
this matter. England has an excellent idea regarding her duty to native
races in West Africa. She has an excellent actual in the West African
native to superimpose her idea upon. All that is wanted is the proper
method; and this method I assure you that Science, true knowledge, that
which Spinoza termed the inward aid of God, can give you. I am not
Science, but only one of her brick-makers, and I beg you to turn to her.
Remember you have tried to do without her in African matters for 400
years, and on the road to civilisation and advance there you have
travelled on a cabbage leaf.

I have now only the pleasant duty of remarking that in this book I have
said nothing regarding missionary questions. I do not think it will ever
be necessary for me to mention those questions again except to
Nonconformist missionaries. I say this advisedly, because, though I have
not one word to retract of what I have said, the saying of it has
demonstrated to me the fearless honesty and the perfect chivalry in
controversy of the Nonconformist missions in England. As they are the
most extensively interested in West Africa, if on my next stay out in
West Africa I find anything I regard as rather wrong in missionary
affairs I intend to have it out within doors; for I know that the
Nonconformists will be clear-headed, and fight fair, and stick to the

                                                      MARY H. KINGSLEY.


   [1] Mr. McEachen first traded there in a hulk, but, after about two
   years, withdrew in 1873. No trade was done in this river by white men
   until Mr. Harford went in, since then it has continued.


   INTRODUCTORY                                                  1

   SIERRA LEONE AND ITS SURROUNDINGS                            35

   AFRICAN CHARACTERISTICS                                      62

   FISHING IN WEST AFRICA                                       88

   FETISH                                                      112

   SCHOOLS OF FETISH                                           136

   FETISH AND WITCHCRAFT                                       156

   AFRICAN MEDICINE                                            180

   THE WITCH DOCTOR                                            199

   EARLY TRADE IN WEST AFRICA                                  220

   FRENCH DISCOVERY OF WEST AFRICA                             250

   COMMERCE IN WEST AFRICA                                     281

   THE CROWN COLONY SYSTEM                                     301

   THE CROWN COLONY SYSTEM IN WEST AFRICA                      314

   MORE OF THE CROWN COLONY SYSTEM                             324

   THE CLASH OF CULTURES                                       363

   AN ALTERNATIVE PLAN                                         392

   AFRICAN PROPERTY                                            420


   C. N. DE CARDI                                              443

   YEARS AGO. BY JOHN HARFORD                                  567

   SEVENTEENTH CENTURY. BY M. H. KINGSLEY.                     615

   INDEX                                                       635


   SIRIMBA PLAYERS, CONGO                  _Frontispiece_.

   SANTA CRUZ, TENERIFFE                   _To face page_       12

   FOR PALM WINE                                "               63


   SETTE CAMMA, NOVEMBER 9, 1888[A]             "               69

   BATANGA CANOES                               "               89

   FALLS ON THE TONGUE RIVER                    "              101

   LOANDA CANOE WITH MAT SAILS.                 "              101

   ST. PAUL DO LOANDA                           "              102

   ROUND A KACONGO CAMP FIRE                    "              105

   FANTEE NATIVES OF THE GOLD COAST             "              137

   YORUBA                                       "              141

   A CALABAR CHIEF                              "              145

   NATIVES OF GABOON                            "              151

   FJORT NATIVES OF KACONGO AND LOANGO          "              155

   OIL RIVER NATIVES                            "              245

   ST. PAUL DO LOANDA                           "              281

   CLIFFS AT LOANDA                             "              285

   DONDO ANGOLA                                 "              287

   TRADING STORES                               "              289

   ST. PAUL DO LOANDA                           "              291

   IN AN ANGOLA MARKET                          "              297

   A MAN OF SOUTH ANGOLA                        "              297

   A HOUSA                                      "              420

   HOUSE PROPERTY IN KACONGO                    "              423

   BUBIES OF FERNANDO PO                        "              423

   JA JA, KING OF OPOBO                         "              443

   JA JA MAKING JU JU                           "              540


   [A] By permission of R. B. N. Walker, Esq.




     Regarding a voyage on a West Coast boat, with some observations on
     the natural history of mariners never before published; to which is
     added some description of the habits and nature of the ant and
     other insects, to the end that the new-comer be informed concerning
     these things before he lands in Afrik.

There are some people who will tell you that the labour problem is the
most difficult affair that Africa presents to the student; others give
the first place to the influence of civilisation on native races, or to
the interaction of the interests of the various white Powers on that
continent, or to the successful sanitation of the said continent, or
some other high-sounding thing; but I, who have an acquaintance with all
these matters, and think them well enough, as intellectual exercises,
yet look upon them as slight compared to the problem of the West Coast

Now life on board a West Coast steamer is an important factor in West
African affairs, and its influence is far reaching. It is, indeed, akin
to what the Press is in England, in that it forms an immense amount of
public opinion. It is on board the steamer that men from one part of
West Africa meet men from another part of West Africa--parts of West
Africa are different. These men talk things over together without
explaining them, and the consequence is confusion in idea and the
darkening of counsel from the ideas so formed being handed over to
people at home who practically know no part of the West Coast

I had an example of this the other day, when a lady said to me in an
aggrieved tone, after I had been saying a few words on swamps, "Oh, Miss
Kingsley, but I thought it was wrong to talk about swamps nowadays, and
that Africa was really quite dry. I have a cousin who has been to Accra
and he says," &c. That's the way the formation of an erroneous opinion
on West Africa gets started. Many a time have I with a scientific
interest watched those erroneous opinions coming out of the egg on a
West Coast boat. Say, for example, a Gold Coaster meets on the boat a
River-man. River-man in course of conversation, states how, "hearing a
fillaloo in the yard one night I got up and found the watchman going to
sleep on the top of the ladder had just lost a leg by means of one
crocodile, while another crocodile was kicking up a deuce of a row
climbing up the crane." Gold Coaster says, "Tell that to the Marines."
River-man says, "Perfect fact, Sir, my place swarms with crocodiles.
Why, once, when I was," &c., &c. Anyhow it ends in a row. The Gold
Coaster says, "Sir, I have been 7 years" (or 13 or some impressive
number of years) "on the West Coast of Africa, Sir, and I have never
seen a crocodile." River-man makes remarks on the existence of a toxic
state wherein a man can't see the holes in a ladder, for he knows he's
seen hundreds of crocodiles.

I know Gold Coasters say in a trying way when any terrific account of
anything comes before them, "Oh, that was down in the Rivers," and one
knows what they mean. But don't you go away with the idea that a Gold
Coaster cannot turn out a very decent tale; indeed, considering the
paucity of their material, they often display the artistic spirit to a
most noteworthy degree, but the net result of the conversation on a West
African steamboat is error. Parts of it, like the curate's egg, are
quite excellent, but unless you have an acquaintance with the various
regions of the Coast to which your various informants refer, you cannot
know which is which. Take the above case and analyse it, and you will
find it is almost all, on both sides, quite true. I won't go bail for
the crocodile up the crane, but for the watchman's leg and the watchman
being asleep on the top of the ladder I will, for watchmen will sleep
anywhere; and once when I was, &c., I myself saw certainly not less than
70 crocodiles at one time, let alone smelling them, for they do swarm in
places and stink always. But on the other hand the Gold Coaster might
have remained 7, 13, or any other number of centuries instead of years,
in a teetotal state, and yet have never seen a crocodile.

It may seem a reckless thing to say, but I believe that the great
percentage of steamboat talk is true; only you must remember that it is
not stuff that you can in any way use or rely on unless you know
yourself the district from which the information comes, and it must,
like all information--like all specimens of any kind--be very carefully
ticketed, then and there, as to its giver and its district. In this it
is again like the English Press, wherein you may see a statement one day
that everything is quite satisfactory, say in Uganda, and in the next
issue that there has been a massacre or some unpleasantness. The two
statements have in them the connecting thread of truth, that truth that,
according to Fichte, is in all things. The first shows that it is the
desire in the official mind that everything should be quite satisfactory
to every one; the second, that practically this blessed state has not
yet arrived--that is all.

I need not, however, further dwell on this complex phase, and will turn
to the high educational value of the West African steamboat to the young
Coaster, holding that on the conditions under which the Coaster makes
his first voyage out to West Africa largely depends whether or no he
takes to the Coast. Strange as it is to me, who love West Africa, there
are people who have really been there who have not even liked it in the
least. These people, I fancy, have not been properly brought up in a
suitable academy as I was.

Doubtless a P. & O. is a good preparatory school for India, or a Union,
or Castle liner for the Cape, or an Empereza Nacioñal simply superb for
a Portuguese West Coast Possession, but for the Bights, especially for
the terrible Bight of Benin, "where for one that comes out there are
forty stay in," I have no hesitation in recommending the West Coast
cargo boat. Not one of the best ships in the fleet, mind you; they are
well enough to come home in, and so on, but you must go on a steamer
that has her saloon aft on your first trip out or you will never
understand West Africa.

It was on such a steamer that I made my first voyage out in '93, when,
acting under the advice of most eminent men, before whose names European
Science trembles, I resolved that the best place to study early religion
and law, and collect fishes, was the West Coast of Africa.

On reaching Liverpool, where I knew no one and of which I knew nothing
in '93, I found the boat I was to go by was a veteran of the fleet. She
had her saloon aft, and I am bound to say her appearance was anything
but reassuring to the uninitiated and alarmed young Coaster, depressed
by the direful prophecies of deserted friends concerning all things West
African. Dirt and greed were that vessel's most obvious attributes. The
dirt rapidly disappeared, and by the time she reached the end of her
trip out, at Loanda, she was as neat as a new pin, for during the voyage
every inch of paint work was scraped and re-painted, from the red below
her Plimsoll mark to the uttermost top of her black funnel. But on the
day when first we met these things were yet to be. As for her greed, her
owners had evidently then done all they could to satisfy her. She was
heavily laden, her holds more full than many a better ship's; but no,
she was not content, she did not even pretend to be, and shamelessly
whistled and squarked for more. So, evidently just to gratify her, they
sent her a lighter laden with kegs of gunpowder, and she grunted
contentedly as she saw it come alongside. But she was not really
entirely content even then, or satisfied. I don't suppose, between
ourselves, any South West Coast boat ever is, and during the whole time
I was on her, devoted to her as I rapidly became, I saw only too clearly
that the one thing she really cared for was cargo. It was the criterion
by which she measured the importance, nay the very excuse for existence,
of a port. If she is ever sold to other owners and sent up the
Mediterranean, she will anathematise Malta and scorn Naples. "What! no
palm oil!" she'll say; "no rubber? Call yourself a port!" and tie her
whistle string to a stanchion until the authorities bring off her papers
and let her clear away. Every one on board her she infected with a
commercial spirit. I am not by nature a commercial man myself, yet
under her influence I found myself selling paraffin oil in cases in the
Bights: and even to missionaries and Government officials travelling on
her in between ports, she suggested the advisability of having out
churches, houses, &c., in sections carefully marked with her name.

As we ran down the Irish Channel and into the Bay of Biscay, the weather
was what the mariners termed "a bit fresh." Our craft was evidently a
wet ship, either because she was nervous and femininely flurried when
she saw a large wave coming, or, as I am myself inclined to believe,
because of her insatiable mania for shipping cargo. Anyhow, she
habitually sat down in the rise of those waves, whereby, from whatever
motive, she managed to ship a good deal of the Atlantic Ocean in various
sized sections.

Her saloon, as aforesaid, was aft, and I observed it was the duty, in
order to keep it dry, of any one near the main door who might notice a
ton or so of the fourth element coming aboard, to seize up three
cocoa-fibre mats, shut three cabin doors and yell "Bill!" After doing
this they were seemingly at full liberty to retire into the saloon and
dam the Atlantic Ocean, and remark, "It's a dog's life at sea." I never
noticed "Bill" come in answer to this performance, so I was getting to
regard "Bill" as an invocation to a weather Ju Ju; but this was hasty,
for one night in the Bay I was roused by a new noise, and on going into
the saloon to see what it was, found the stewardess similarly engaged;
mutually we discovered, in the dim light--she wasn't the boat to go and
throw away money on electric--that it was the piano adrift off its daïs,
and we steered for it. Very cleverly we fielded _en route_ a palm in pot
complete, but shipped some beer and Worcester sauce bottles that came at
us from the rack over the table, whereby we got a bit messy and sticky
about the hair and a trifle cut; nevertheless, undaunted we held our
course and seized the instrument, instinctively shouting "Bill," and
"Bill" came, in the form of a sandy-haired steward, amiable in nature
and striking in costume.

After the first three or four days, a calm despair regarding the fate of
my various lost belongings and myself having come on me, and the weather
having moderated, I began to make observations on what manner of men my
fellow-passengers were. I found only two species of the genus Coaster,
the Government official and the trading Agent, were represented; so far
we had no Missionaries. I decided to observe those species we had
quietly, having heard awful accounts of them before leaving England, but
to reserve final judgment on them until they had quite recovered from
sea-sickness and had had a night ashore. Some of the Agents soon revived
sufficiently to give copious information on the dangers and mortality of
West Africa to those on board who were going down Coast for the first
time, and the captain and doctor chipped in ever and anon with a
particularly convincing tale of horror in support of their statements.
This used to be the sort of thing. One of the Agents would look at the
Captain during a meal-time, and say, "You remember J., Captain?" "Knew
him well," says the Captain; "why I brought him out his last time, poor
chap!" then follows full details of the pegging-out of J., and his
funeral, &c. Then a Government official who had been out before, would
kindly turn to a colleague out for the first time, and say, "Brought any
dress clothes with you?" The unfortunate new comer, scenting an allusion
to a more cheerful phase of Coast life, gladly answers in the

"That's right," says the interlocutor; "you want them to wear at
funerals. Do you know," he remarks, turning to another old Coaster, "my
dress trousers did not get mouldy once last wet season."

"Get along," says his friend, "you can't hang a thing up twenty-four
hours without its being fit to graze a cow on."

"Do you get anything else but fever down there?" asks a new comer,

"Haven't time as a general rule, but I have known some fellows get kraw

"And the Portuguese itch, abscesses, ulcers, the Guinea worm and the
smallpox," observe the chorus calmly.

"Well," says the first answerer, kindly but regretfully, as if it pained
him to admit this wealth of disease was denied his particular locality;
"they are mostly on the South-west Coast." And then a gentleman says
parasites are, as far as he knows, everywhere on the Coast, and some of
them several yards long. "Do you remember poor C.?" says he to the
Captain, who gives his usual answer, "Knew him well. Ah! poor chap,
there was quite a quantity of him eaten away, inside and out, with
parasites, and a quieter, better living man than C. there never was."
"Never," says the chorus, sweeping away the hope that by taking care you
may keep clear of such things--the new Coaster's great hope. "Where do
you call--?" says a young victim consigned to that port. Some say it is
on the South-west, but opinions differ, still the victim is left assured
that it is just about the best place on the seaboard of the continent
for a man to go to who wants to make himself into a sort of complete
hospital course for a set of medical students.

This instruction of the young in the charms of Coast life is the
faithfully discharged mission of the old Coasters on steamboats,
especially, as aforesaid, at meal times. Desperate victims sometimes
determine to keep the conversation off fever, but to no avail. It is in
the air you breath, mentally and physically; one will mention a lively
and amusing work, some one cuts in and observes "Poor D. was found dead
in bed at C. with that book alongside him." With all subjects it is the
same. Keep clear of it in conversation, for even a half hour, you
cannot. Far better is it for the young Coaster not to try, but just to
collect all the anecdotes and information you can referring to it, and
then lie low for a new Coaster of your own to tell them to, and when
your own turn comes, as come it will if you haunt the West Coast long
enough, to peg out and be poor so and so yourself. For goodness sake die
somewhere where they haven't got the cemetery on a hill, because going
up a hill in shirt collars, &c., will cause your mourners to peg out
too, at least this is the lesson I was taught in that excellent West
Coast school.

When, however, there is no new Coaster to instruct on hand, or he is
tired for ten minutes of doing it, the old Coaster discourses with his
fellow old Coasters on trade products and insects. Every attention
should be given to him on these points. On trade products I will
discourse elsewhere; but insects it is well that the new comer should
know about before he sets foot on Africa. On some West Coast boats
excellent training is afforded by the supply of cockroaches on board,
and there is nothing like getting used to cockroaches early when your
life is going to be spent on the Coast--but I need not detain you with
them now, merely remarking that they have none of the modest reticence
of the European variety. They are very companionable, seeking rather
than shunning human society, nestling in the bunk with you if the
weather is the least chilly, and I fancy not averse to light; it is true
they come out most at night, but then they distinctly like a bright
light, and you can watch them in a tight packed circle round the lamp
with their heads towards it, twirling their antennæ at it with evident
satisfaction; in fact it's the lively nights those cockroaches have that
keep them abed during the day. They are sometimes of great magnitude; I
have been assured by observers of them in factories ashore and on moored
hulks that they can stand on their hind legs and drink out of a quart
jug, but the most common steamer kind is smaller, as far as my own
observations go. But what I do object to in them is, that they fly and
feed on your hair and nails and disturb your sleep by so doing; and you
mayn't smash them--they make an awful mess if you do. As for insect
powder, well, I'd like to see the insect powder that would disturb the
digestion of a West African insect.

But it's against the insects ashore that you have to be specially
warned. During my first few weeks of Africa I took a general natural
historical interest in them with enthusiasm as of natural history; it
soon became a mere sporting one, though equally enthusiastic at first.
Afterwards a nearly complete indifference set in, unless some wretch
aroused a vengeful spirit in me by stinging or biting. I should say,
looking back calmly upon the matter, that 75 per cent. of West African
insects sting, 5 per cent. bite, and the rest are either permanently or
temporarily parasitic on the human race. And undoubtedly one of the many
worst things you can do in West Africa is to take any notice of an
insect. If you see a thing that looks like a cross between a flying
lobster and the figure of Abraxas on a Gnostic gem, do not pay it the
least attention, never mind where it is; just keep quiet and hope it
will go away--for that's your best chance; you have none in a stand-up
fight with a good thorough-going African insect. Well do I remember, at
Cabinda, the way insects used to come in round the hanging lamp at
dinner time. Mosquitoes were pretty bad there, not so bad as in some
other places, but sufficient, and after them hawking came a cloud of
dragon-flies, swishing in front of every one's face, which was worrying
till you got used to it. Ever and anon a big beetle, with a terrific
boom on, would sweep in, go two or three times round the room and then
flop into the soup plate, out of that, shake himself like a retriever
and bang into some one's face, then flop on the floor. Orders were then
calmly but firmly given to the steward boys to "catch 'em;" down on the
floor went the boys, and an exciting hunt took place which sometimes
ended in a capture of the offender, but always seemed to irritate a
previously quiet insect population who forthwith declared war on the
human species, and fastened on to the nearest leg. It is best, as I have
said, to leave insects alone. Of course you cannot ignore driver ants,
they won't go away, but the same principle reversed is best for them,
namely, your going away yourself.

One way and another we talked a good deal of insects as well as fever on
the----, but she herself was fairly free from these until she got a
chance of shipping; then, of course, she did her best--with the flea
line at Canary, mixed assortment at Sierra Leone, scorpions and
centipedes in the Timber ports, heavy cargo of the beetle and
mangrove-fly line, with mosquitoes for dunnage, in the Oil Rivers; it
was not till she reached Congo--but of that anon.

We duly reached Canary. This port I had been to the previous year on a
Castle liner, having, in those remote and dark ages, been taught to
believe that Liverpool boats were to be avoided; I was, so far, in a
state of mere transition of opinion from this view to the one I at
present hold, namely, that Liverpool West African boats are quite the
most perfect things in their way, and, at any rate, good enough for me.

I need not discourse on the Grand Canary; there are many better
descriptions of that lovely island, and likewise of its sister,
Teneriffe, than I could give you. I could, indeed give you an account of
these islands, particularly "when a West Coast boat is in from South,"
that would show another side of the island life; but I forbear, because
it would, perhaps, cause you to think ill of the West Coaster unjustly;
for the West Coaster, when he lands on the island of the Grand Canary,
homeward bound, and realises he has a good reasonable chance to see his
home and England again, is not in a normal state, and prone to fall
under the influence of excitement, and display emotions that he would
not dream of either on the West Coast itself or in England. Indeed, it
is not too much to say that on the Canary Islands a good deal of the
erroneous prejudice against West Africa is formed; but this is not the
place to go into details on the subject.

It was not until we left Canary that my fellow passengers on
the ---- realised that I was going to "the Coast." They had most civilly
bidden me good-bye when they were ashore on the morning of our arrival
at Las Palmas; and they were surprised at my presence on board at
dinner, as attentive to their conversation as ever. They explained that
they had regarded me at first as a lady missionary, until my failure,
during a Sunday service in the Bay of Biscay, to rescue it from the
dire confusion into which it had been thrown by an esteemed and able
officer and a dutiful but inexperienced Purser caused them to regard me
as only a very early visitor to Canary. Now they required explanation. I
said I was interested in Natural History. "Botany," they said, "They had
known some men who had come out from Kew, but they were all dead now."

     [Illustration: SANTA CRUZ, TENERIFFE. [_To face page 12_]

I denied a connection with Kew, and in order to give an air of
definiteness to my intentions, remembering I had been instructed that
"one of the worst things you can do in West Africa is to be indefinite,"
I said I was interested in the South Antarctic Drift--I was in those

They promptly fell into the pit of error that this was a gold mine
speculation, and said they had "never heard of such a mine." I attempted
to extricate them from this idea, and succeeded, except with a deaf
gentleman who kept on sweeping into the conversation with yarns and
opinions on gold mines in West Africa and the awful mortality among
people who attended to such things, which naturally led to a prolonged
discussion ending in a general resolution that people who had anything
to do with gold mines generally died rather quicker even than men from
Kew. Indeed, it took me days to get myself explained, and when it was
accomplished I found I had nearly got myself regarded as a lunatic to go
to West Africa for such reasons. But fortunately for me, and for many
others who have ventured into this kingdom, the West African merchants
are good-hearted, hospitable English gentlemen, who seem to feel it
their duty that no harm they can prevent should happen to any one; and
my first friends, among them my fellow passengers on the----, failing
in inducing me to return from Sierra Leone, which they strongly
advised, did their best to save me by means of education. The things
they thought I "really ought to know" would make wild reading if
published in extenso. Led by the kindest and most helpful of captains,
they poured in information, and I acquired a taste for "facts"--any sort
of facts about anything--a taste when applied to West African facts,
that I fancy ranks with that for collecting venomous serpents; but to my
listening to everything that was told me by my first instructors, and
believing in it, undoubtedly I have often owed my life, and countless
times have been enabled to steer neatly through shoaly circumstances

Our captain was not a man who would deliberately alarm a new comer, or
shock any one, particularly a lady; indeed, he deliberately attempted to
avoid so doing. He held it wrong to dwell on the dark side of Coast
life, he said, "because youngsters going out were frequently so
frightened on board the boats that they died as soon as they got on
shore of the first cold they got in the head, thinking it was Yellow
Jack"; so he always started conversation at meal times with anecdotes of
his early years on an ancestral ranch in America. One great charm about
"facts" is that you never know but what they may come in useful; so I
eagerly got up a quantity of very strange information on the conduct of
the American cow. He would then wander away among the China Seas or the
Indian Ocean, and I could pass an examination on the social habits of
captains of sailing vessels that ran to Bombay in old days. Sometimes
the discourse visited the South American ports, and I took on
information that will come in very handy should I ever find myself
wandering about the streets of Callao after dark, searching for a
tavern. But the turn that serious conversation always drifted into was
the one that interested me most, that relating to the Coast.
Particularly interesting were those tales of the old times and the men
who first established the palm oil trade. They were, many of them, men
who had been engaged in the slave trade, and on the suppression thereof
they turned their attention to palm oil, to which end their knowledge of
the locality and of the native chiefs and their commercial methods was
of the greatest help. Their ideas were possibly not those at present in
fashion, but the courage and enterprise those men displayed under the
most depressing and deadly conditions made me proud of being a woman of
the nation that turned out the "Palm oil ruffians"--Drake, Hawkins, the
two Roberts, Frobisher, and Hudson--it is as good as being born a
foreign gentleman.

There was one of these old coasters of the palm oil ruffian type who
especially interested me. He is dead now. For the matter of that he died
at a mature age the year I was born, and I am in hopes of collecting
facts sufficient to enable me to publish his complete biography. He
lived up a creek, threw boots at leopards, and "had really swell
spittoons, you know, shaped like puncheons, and bound with brass." I am
sure it is unnecessary for me to mention his name.

Two of the old Coasters never spoke unless they had something useful and
improving to say. They were Scotch; indeed, most of us were that trip,
and I often used to wonder if the South Atlantic Ocean were broad enough
for the accent of the "a," or whether strange sounds would ever worry
and alarm Central America and the Brazils. For general social purposes
these silent ones used coughs, and the one whose seat was always next to
mine at table kept me in a state of much anxiety, for I used to turn
round, after having been riveted to the captain's conversation for
minutes, and find him holding some dish for me to help myself from; he
never took the least notice of my apologies, and I felt he had made up
his mind that, if I did it again, he should take me by the scruff of my
neck some night and drop me overboard. He was an alarmingly powerfully
built man, and I quite understood the local African tribe wishing to
have him for a specimen. Some short time before he had left for home
last trip, they had attempted to acquire his head for their local ju ju
house, from mixed æsthetic and religious reasons. In a way, it was
creditable of them, I suppose, for it would have caused them grave
domestic inconvenience to have removed thereby at one fell swoop, their
complete set of tradesmen; and as a fellow collector of specimens I am
bound to admit the soundness of their methods of collecting! Wishing for
this gentleman's head they shot him in the legs. I have never gone in
for collecting specimens of hominidae but still a recital of the
incident did not fire me with a desire to repeat their performance;
indeed, so discouraged was I by their failure that I hesitated about
asking him for his skeleton when he had quite done with it, though it
was gall and wormwood to think of a really fine thing like that falling
into the hands of another collector.

The run from Canary to Sierra Leone takes about a week. That part of it
which lies in the track of the N.E. Trade Winds, _i.e._, from Canary to
Cape Verde, makes you believe Mr. Kipling when he sang--

          "There are many ways to take
          Of the eagle and the snake,
          And the way of a man with a maid;
          But the sweetest way for me
          Is a ship upon the sea
          On the track of the North-East trade."

was displaying, gracefully, a sensible choice of things; but you only
feel this outward bound to the West Coast. When you come up from the
Coast, fever stricken, homeward bound, you think otherwise. I do not
mean to say that owing to a disintegrating moral effect of West Africa
you wish to pursue the other ways mentioned in the stanza, but you do
wish the Powers above would send that wind to the Powers below and get
it warmed. Alas! it is in this Trade Wind zone that most men die, coming
up from the Coast sick with fever, and it is to the blame of the Trade
Wind that you see obituary notices--"of fever after leaving Sierra
Leone." Nevertheless, outward bound the thing is delightful, and
dreadfully you feel its loss when you have run through it as you close
in to the African land by Cape Verde. At any rate I did; and I began to
believe every bad thing I had ever heard of West Africa, and straightway
said to myself, what every man has said to himself who has gone there
since Hanno of Carthage, "Why was I such a fool as to come to such an
awful place?" It is the first meeting with the hot breath of the Bights
that tries one; it is the breath of Death himself to many. You feel when
first you meet it you have done with all else; not alone is it hot, but
it smells--smells like nothing else. It does not smell all it can then;
by and by, down in the Rivers, you get its perfection, but off Cape
Verde you have to ask yourself, "Can I live in this or no?" and you
have to leave it, like all other such questions, to Allah, and go on.

We passed close in to Cape Verde, which consists of rounded hills having
steep bases to the sea. From these bases runs out a low, long strip of
sandy soil, which is the true cape. Beyond, under water, runs out the
dangerous Almadia reef, on which were still, in '93, to be seen the
remains of the _Port Douglas_, who was wrecked there on her way to
Australia in '92. Her passengers were got ashore and most kindly treated
by the French officers of Senegal; and finally, to the great joy and
relief of their rescuers the said passengers were fetched away by an
English vessel, and taken to what England said was their destination and
home, Australia, but what France regarded as merely a stage on their
journey to hell, to which port they had plainly been consigned.

It was just south of Cape Verde that I met my first tornado. The weather
had been wet in violent showers all the morning and afternoon. Our old
Coasters took but little notice of it, resigning themselves to
saturation without a struggle, previous experience having taught them it
was the best thing to do, dryness being an unattainable state during the
wet season, and "worrying one's self about anything one of the worst
things you can do in West Africa." So they sat on deck calmly smoking,
their new flannel suits, which were donned after leaving the trade
winds, shrinking, and their colours running on to the other deck,
uncriticised even by the First officer. He was charging about shouting
directions and generally making that afternoon such a wild, hurrying
fuss about "getting in awnings," "tricing up all loose gear," such as
deck chairs, and so on, to permanent parts of the----, that, as nothing
beyond showers had happened, and there was no wind, I began to feel
most anxious about his mental state. But I soon saw that this activity
was the working of a practical prophetic spirit in the man, and these
alarms and excursions of his arose from a knowledge of what that low
arch of black cloud coming off the land meant.

We were surrounded by a wild, strange sky. Indeed, there seemed to be
two skies, one upper, and one lower; for parts of it were showing
evidences of terrific activity, others of a sublime, utterly indifferent
calm. At one part of our horizon were great columns of black cloud,
expanding and coalescing at their capitals. These were mounted on a
background of most exquisite pale green. Away to leeward was a gigantic
black cloud-mountain, across whose vast face were bands and wreaths of
delicate white and silver clouds, and from whose grim depths every few
seconds flashed palpitating, fitful, livid lightnings. Striding towards
us came across the sea the tornado, lashing it into spray mist with the
tremendous artillery of its rain, and shaking the air with its own
thunder-growls. Away to windward leisurely boomed and grumbled a third
thunderstorm, apparently not addressing the tornado but the
cloud-mountain, while in between these phenomena wandered strange, wild
winds, made out of lost souls frightened and wailing to be let back into
Hell, or taken care of somehow by some one. This sort of thing naturally
excited the sea, and all together excited the----, who, not being built
so much for the open and deep sea as for the shoal bars of West African
rivers, made the most of it.

In a few seconds the wind of the tornado struck us, screaming through
the rigging, eager for awnings or any loose gear, but foiled of its prey
by the First officer, who stood triumphantly on a heap of them, like a
defiant hen guarding her chickens.

Some one really ought to write a monograph on the natural history of
mariners. They are valuable beings, and their habits are exceedingly
interesting. I myself, being already engaged in the study of other
organisms, cannot undertake the work; however, I place my observations
at the disposal of any fellow naturalist who may have more time, and
certainly will have more ability.

The sailor officer (_Nauta pelagius vel officinalis_) is metamorphic.
The stage at which the specimen you may be observing has arrived is
easily determined by the band of galoon round his coat cuff; in the
English form the number of gold stripes increasing in direct ratio with
rank. The galoon markings of the foreign species are frequently merely
decorative, and in many foreign varieties only conditioned by the extent
of surface available to display them and the ability of the individual
to acquire the galoon wherewith to decorate himself.

The English third officer, you will find, has one stripe, the second
two, the first three, and the _imago_, or captain, four, the upper one
having a triumphant twist at the top.

You may observe, perhaps, about the ship sub-varieties, having a red
velvet, or a white or blue velvet band on the coat cuff; these are
respectively the Doctor, Purser, and Chief engineer; but with these
sub-varieties I will not deal now, they are not essentially marine
organisms, but akin to the amphibia.

The metamorphosis is as clearly marked in the individual as in the
physical characteristics. A third officer is a hard-working individual
who has to do any thing that the other officers do not feel inclined
to, and therefore rarely has time to wash. He in course of time becomes
second officer, and the slave of the hatch. During this period of his
metamorphosis he feels no compunction whatever in hauling out and
dumping on the deck burst bacon barrels or leaking lime casks, actions
which, when he reaches the next stage of development, he will regard as
undistinguishable in a moral point of view from a compound commission of
the seven deadly sins. For the deck, be it known, is to the First
officer the most important thing in the cosmogony, and there is probably
nothing he would not sacrifice to its complexion. One that I had the
pleasure of knowing once lamented to me that he was not allowed by his
then owners to spread a layer of ripe pineapples upon his precious idol,
and let them be well trampled in and then lie a few hours, for this he
assured me gave a most satisfactory bloom to a deck's complexion. Yet
when this same man becomes a captain and grows another stripe round his
cuffs, he no longer takes an active part in the ship's household
affairs, that is his First officer's business, the ship's husband's
affair; and should he have an inefficient First the captain expects Men
and Nations to sympathise with him, just as a lady expects to be
sympathised with over a bad housemaid.

There are, however, two habits which are constant to all the species
through each stage of transformation from roustabout to captain. One is
a love of painting. I have never known an officer or captain who could
pass a paint-pot, with the brush sticking temptingly out, without
emotion. While, as for Jack, the happiest hours he knows seemingly are
those he spends sitting on a slung plank over the side of his ocean
home, with his bare feet dangling a few feet above the water as
tempting bait for sharks, and the tropical sun blazing down on him and
reflected back at him from the iron ship's side and from the oily ocean
beneath. Then he carols forth his amorous lay, and shouts, "Bill, pass
that paint-pot" in his jolliest tones. It is very rarely that a black
seaman is treated to a paint-pot; all they are allowed to do is to knock
off the old stuff, which they do in the nerveless way the African does
most handicraft. The greatest dissipation of the black hands department
consists in being allowed to knock the old stuff off the steam-pipe
covers, donkey, and funnel. This is a delicious occupation, because,
firstly, you can usually sit while doing it, and secondly, you can make
a deafening din and sing to it.

The other habit and the more widely known is the animistic view your
seaman takes of Nature. Every article that is to a landsman an article
and nothing more, is to him an individual with a will and mind of his
own. I myself believe there is something in it. I feel sure that a
certain hawser on board the ---- had a weird influence on the minds of
all men who associated with it. It was used at Liverpool coming out of
dock, but owing to the absence of harbours on the Coast it was not
required again until it tied our ocean liner up to a tree stump at Boma,
on the Congo. Nevertheless it didn't suit that hawser's views to be down
below in the run and see nothing of life. It insisted on remaining on
deck, and the officers gave in to it and said "Well, perhaps it was
better so, it would rot if it went down below," so some days it abode on
the quarter-deck, some days on the main, and now and again it would
condescend to lie on the fo'castle, head in the sun. It had too its
varying moods of tidiness, now neat and dandy coiled, now dishevelled
and slummocky after association with the Kru boys.

It is almost unnecessary to remark that the relationship between the
First officer and the Chief engineer is rarely amicable. I certainly did
once hear a First officer pray especially for a Chief engineer all to
himself under his breath at a Sunday service; but I do not feel certain
that this was a display of true affection. I am bound to admit that "the
engineer is messy," which is magnanimous of me, because I had almost
always a row of some kind on with the First officer, owing to other
people upsetting my ink on his deck, whereas I have never fallen out
with an engineer--on the contrary, two Chief engineers are amongst the
most valued friends I possess.

The worst of it is that no amount of experience will drive it into the
head of the First officer that the engineer will want coal--particularly
and exactly when the ship has just been thoroughly scrubbed and painted
to go into port. I have not been at sea so long as many officers, yet I
know that you might as well try and get a confirmed dipsomaniac past a
grog shop as the engineer past, say the Canary Coaling Company; indeed
he seems to smell the Dakar coal, and hankers after it when passing it
miles out to sea. Then, again, if the engineer is allowed to have a coal
deposit in the forehold it is a fresh blow and grief to the First
officer to find he likes to take them as Mrs. Gamp did her stimulant,
when she "feels dispoged," whether the deck has just been washed down or

The cook, although he always has a blood feud on with the engineer
concerning coals for the galley fire, which should endear him to the
First officer, is morally a greater trial to the First than he is to his
other victims. You see the cook has a grease tub, and what that means
to the deck in a high sea is too painful to describe. So I leave the
First officer with his pathetic and powerful appeals to the immortal
gods to be told why it is his fate to be condemned to this "dog's life
on a floating Hanwell lunatic asylum," commending him to the sympathetic
consideration of all good housewives, for only they can understand what
that dear good man goes through.

After we passed Cape Verde we ran into the West African wet season rain
sheet. There ought to be some other word than rain for that sort of
thing. We have to stiffen this poor substantive up with adjectives, even
for use with our own thunderstorms, and as is the morning dew to our
heaviest thunder "torrential downpour of rain," so is that to the rain
of the wet season in West Africa. For weeks it came down on us that
voyage in one swishing, rushing cataract of water. The interspaces
between the pipes of water--for it did not go into details with
drops--were filled with gray mist, and as this rain struck the sea it
kicked up such a water dust that you saw not the surface of the sea
round you, but only a mist sea gliding by. It seemed as though we had
left the clear cut world and entered into a mist universe. Sky, air, and
sea were all the same, as our vessel swept on in one plane, just because
she capriciously preferred it. Many days we could not see twenty yards
from the ship. Once or twice another vessel would come out of the mist
ahead, slogging past us into the mist behind, visible in our little
water world for a few minutes only as a misty thing, and then we
leisurely tramped on alone "o'er the viewless, hueless deep," with our
horizon alongside.

If you cleared your mind of all prejudice the thing was really not
uncomfortable, and it seemed restful to the mind. As I used to be
sitting on deck every one who came across me would say, "Wet, isn't it?
Well, you see this is the wet season on the Coast"--or, "Damp, isn't it?
Well, you see this is the wet season on the Coast"--and then they went
away, and, I believe slept for hours exhausted by their educational
efforts. After this they would come on deck and sit in their respective
chairs, smoking, save that irrepressible deaf gentleman, who spent his
time squirrel like between vivid activity and complete quiescence. You
might pass the smoking room door and observe the soles of his shoes
sticking out off the end of the settee with an air of perfect restful
calm hovering over them, as if the owner were hibernating for the next
six months. Within two minutes after this an uproar on the poop would
inform the experienced ear that he was up and about again, and had found
some one asleep on a chair and attacked him.

It was during one of these days, furnishing reminiscences of Noah's
flood, that conversation turned suddenly on Driver ants. One of the
silent men, who had been sitting for an hour or so, with a countenance
indicative of a contemplative acceptance of the penitential psalms,
roused by one of the deaf man's rows, observed, "Paraffin is good for
Driver ants." "Oh," said the deaf gentleman as he sat suddenly down on
my ink-pot, which, for my convenience, was on a chair, "you wait till
you get them up your legs, or sit down among them, as I saw Smith, when
he was tired clearing bush. They took the tire out of him, he live for
scratch one time. Smith was a pocket circus. You should have seen him
get clear of his divided skirt. Oh lor! what price paraffin?"

The conversation on the Driver ant now became general. As far as I
remember, Mr. Burnand, who in _Happy Thoughts_ and _My Health_, gave
much information, curious and interesting, on earwigs and wasps, omitted
this interesting insect. So, perhaps, a _précis_ of the information I
obtained may be interesting. I learnt that the only thing to do when you
have got them on you is to adopt the course of action pursued by Brer
Fox on that occasion when he was left to himself enough to go and buy
ointment from Brer Rabbit, namely, make "a burst for the creek," water
being the quickest thing to make them leave go. Unfortunately, the first
time I had occasion to apply this short and easy method with the ant was
when I was strolling about by Bell-Town with a white gentleman and his
wife, and we strolled into Drivers. There were only two water-barrels in
the vicinity, and my companions, being more active than myself, occupied

While in West Africa you should always keep an eye lifting for Drivers.
You can start doing it as soon as you land, which will postpone the
catastrophe, not avoid it; for the song of the West Coaster to his enemy
is truly, "Some day, some day, some day I shall meet you; Love, I know
not when nor how." Perhaps, therefore, this being so, and watchfulness a
strain when done deliberately, and worrying one of the worst things you
can do in West Africa, it may be just as well for you to let things
slide down the time-stream until Fate sends a column of the wretches up
your legs. This experience will remain "indelibly limned on the tablets
of your mind when a yesterday has faded from its page," or, as the
modern school of psychologists would have it, "The affair will be
brought to the notice of your sublimated consciousness, and that part of
your mind will watch for Drivers without worrying you, and an automatic
habit will be induced that will cause you never to let more than one eye
roam spell-bound over the beauties of the African landscape; the other
will keep fixed, turned to the soil at your feet."

The Driver is of the species _Ponera_, and is generally referred to the
species _anomma arcens_. The females and workers of these ants are
provided with stings as well as well-developed jaws. They work both for
all they are worth, driving the latter into your flesh, enthusiastically
up to the hilt; they then remain therein, keeping up irritation when you
have hastily torn their owner off in response to a sensation that is
like that of red hot pinchers. The full-grown worker is about half an
inch long, and without ocelli even. Yet one of the most remarkable among
his many crimes is that he will always first attack the eyes of any
victim. These creatures seem to have no settled home; no man has seen
the beginning or end, as far as I know, of one of their long trains. As
you are watching the ground you see a ribbon of glistening black, one
portion of it lost in one clump of vegetation, the other in another, and
on looking closer you see that it is an _acies instituta_ of Driver
ants. If you stir the column up with a stick they make a peculiar
fizzing noise, and open out in all directions in search of the enemy,
which you take care they don't find.

These ants are sometimes also called "visiting ants," from their habit
of calling in quantities at inconvenient hours on humanity. They are
fond of marching at night, and drop in on your house usually after you
have gone to bed. I fancy, however, they are about in the daytime as
well, even in the brightest weather; but it is certain that it is in
dull, wet weather, and after dusk, that you come across them most on
paths and open spaces. At other times and hours they make their way
among the tangled ground vegetation.

Their migrations are infinite, and they create some of the most
brilliant sensations that occur in West Africa, replacing to the English
exile there his lost burst water pipes of winter, and such like things,
while they enforce healthy and brisk exercise upon the African.

I will not enter into particulars about the customary white man's method
of receiving a visit of Drivers, those methods being alike ineffective
and accompanied by dreadful language. Barricading the house with a rim
of red hot ashes, or a river of burning paraffin, merely adds to the
inconvenience and endangers the establishment.

The native method with the Driver ant is different: one minute there
will be peace in the simple African home, the heavy-scented hot night
air broken only by the rhythmic snores and automatic side slaps of the
family, accompanied outside by a chorus of cicadas and bull frogs. Enter
the Driver--the next moment that night is thick with hurrying black
forms, little and big, for the family, accompanied by rats, cockroaches,
snakes, scorpions, centipedes, and huge spiders animated by the one
desire to get out of the visitors' way, fall helter skelter into the
street, where they are joined by the rest of the inhabitants of the
village, for the ants when they once start on a village usually make a
regular house-to-house visitation. I mixed myself up once in a
delightful knockabout farce near Kabinda, and possibly made the biggest
fool of myself I ever did. I was in a little village, and out of a hut
came the owner and his family and all the household parasites pell mell,
leaving the Drivers in possession; but the mother and father of the
family, when they recovered from this unwonted burst of activity, showed
such a lively concern, and such unmistakable signs of anguish at having
left something behind them in the hut, that I thought it must be the
baby. Although not a family man myself, the idea of that innocent infant
perishing in such an appalling manner roused me to action, and I joined
the frenzied group, crying, "Where him live?" "In him far corner for
floor!" shrieked the distracted parents, and into that hut I charged.
Too true! There in the corner lay the poor little thing, a mere inert
black mass, with hundreds of cruel Drivers already swarming upon it. To
seize it and give it to the distracted mother was, as the reporter would
say, "the work of an instant." She gave a cry of joy and dropped it
instantly into a water barrel, where her husband held it down with a
hoe, chuckling contentedly. Shiver not, my friend, at the callousness of
the Ethiopian; that there thing wasn't an infant--it was a ham!

These ants clear a house completely of all its owner's afflictions in
the way of vermin, killing and eating all they can get hold of. They
will also make short work of any meat they come across, but don't care
about flour or biscuits. Like their patron Mephistopheles, however, they
do not care for carrion, nor do they destroy furniture or stuffs. Indeed
they are typically West African, namely, good and bad mixed. In a few
hours they leave the house again on their march through the Ewigkeit,
which they enliven with criminal proceedings. Yet in spite of the
advantage they confer on humanity, I believe if the matter were put to
the human vote, Africa would decide to do without the Driver ant.
Mankind has never been sufficiently grateful to its charwomen, like
these insect equivalents, who do their tidying up at supremely
inconvenient times. I remember an incident at one place in the Lower
Congo where I had been informed that "cork fever" was epidemic in a
severe form among the white population. I was returning to quarters from
a beetle hunt, in pouring rain; it was as it often is, "the wet season,"
&c., when I saw a European gentleman about twenty yards from his
comfortable-looking house seated on a chair, clad in a white cotton
suit, umbrellaless, and with the water running off him as if he was in a
douche bath. I had never seen a case of cork fever, but I had heard such
marvellous and quaint tales of its symptoms that I thought--well,
perhaps, anyhow, I would not open up conversation. To my remorse he
said, as I passed him, "Drivers." Inwardly apologising, I outwardly
commiserated him, and we discoursed. It was on this occasion that I saw
a mantis, who is by way of being a very pretty pirate on his own
account, surrounded by a mob of the blind hurrying Drivers who, I may
remark, always attack like Red Indians in open order. That mantis
perfectly well knew his danger, but was as cool as a cucumber, keeping
quite quiet and lifting his legs out of the way of the blind enemies
around him. But the chances of keeping six legs going clear, for long,
among such brutes without any of them happening on one, were small, even
though he only kept three on the ground at one time. So, being a devotee
of personal courage, I rescued him--whereupon he bit me for my pains.
Why didn't he fly? How can you fly, I should like to know, unless you
have a jumping off place?

Drivers are indeed dreadful. I was at one place where there had been a
white gentleman and a birthday party in the evening; he stumbled on his
way home and went to sleep by the path side, and in the morning there
was only a white gentleman's skeleton and clothes.

However, I will dwell no more on them now. Wretches that they are, they
have even in spirit pursued me to England, causing a critic to observe
that _brevi spatio interjecto_ is my only Latin, whereas the matter is
this. I was once in distinguished society in West Africa that included
other ladies. We had a distinguished native gentleman, who had had an
European education, come to tea with us. The conversation turned on
Drivers, for one of the ladies had the previous evening had her house
invaded by them at midnight. She snatched up a blanket, wrapped herself
round with it, unfortunately allowed one corner thereof to trail,
whereby it swept up Drivers, and awful scenes followed. Then our visitor
gave us many reminiscences of his own, winding up with one wherein he
observed "_brevi spatio interjecto_, ladies; off came my breeches."
After this we ladies all naturally used this phrase to describe rapid

There is another ant, which is commonly called the red Driver, but it is
quite distinct from the above-mentioned black species. It is an
unwholesome-looking, watery-red thing with long legs, and it abides
among trees and bushes. An easy way of obtaining specimens of this ant
is to go under a mango or other fruit tree and throw your cap at the
fruit. You promptly get as many of these insects as the most ardent
naturalist could desire, its bite being every bit as bad as that of the
black Driver.

These red ones build nests with the leaves of the tree they reside on.
The leaves are stuck together with what looks like spiders' webs. I have
seen these nests the size of an apple, and sent a large one to the
British Museum, but I have been told of many larger nests than I have
seen. These ants, unfortunately for me who share the taste, are
particularly devoted to the fruit of the rubber vine, and also to that
of a poisonous small-leaved creeping plant that bears the most
disproportionately-sized spiny, viscid, yellow fruit. It is very
difficult to come across specimens of either of these fruits that have
not been eaten away by the red Driver.

It is a very fascinating thing to see the strange devices employed by
many kinds of young seedlings and saplings to keep off these evidently
unpopular tenants. They chiefly consist in having a sheath of
exceedingly slippery surface round the lower part of the stem, which the
ants slide off when they attempt to climb. I used to spend hours
watching these affairs. You would see an ant dash for one of these
protected stems as if he were a City man and his morning train on the
point of starting from the top of the plant stem. He would get up half
an inch or so because of the dust round the bottom helping him a bit,
then, getting no holding-ground, off he would slip, and falling on his
back, desperately kick himself right side up, and go at it again as if
he had heard the bell go, only to meet with a similar rebuff. The plants
are most forbearing teachers, and their behaviour in every way a credit
to them. I hope that they may in time have a moral and educational
effect on this overrated insect, enabling him to realise how wrong it is
for him to force himself where he is not welcome; but a few more
thousand years, I fear, will elapse before the ant is anything but a
chuckleheaded, obstinate wretch. Nothing nowadays but his happening to
fall off with his head in the direction of some other vegetable frees
the slippery plant from his attempts. To this other something off he
rushes, and if it happens to be a plant that does not mind him up he
goes, and I have no doubt congratulates himself on having carried out
his original intentions, understanding the world, not being the man to
put up with nonsense and all that sort of thing, whereas it is the plant
that manages him. Some plants don't mind ants knocking about among the
grown-up leaves, but will not have them with the infants, and so cover
their young stuff with a fur or down wherewith the ant can do nothing.
Others, again, keep him and feed him with sweetstuff so that he should
keep off other enemies from its fruit, &c. But I have not space to sing
in full the high intelligence of West African vegetation, and I am no
botanist; yet one cannot avoid being struck by it, it is so manifold and

Before closing these observations I must just mention that tiny,
sandy-coloured abomination _Myriaica molesta_. In South West Africa it
swarms, giving a quaint touch to domestic arrangements. No reckless
putting down of basin, tin, or jam-pot there, least of all of the
sugar-basin, unless the said sugar-basin is one of those commonly used
in those parts, of rough, violet-coloured glass, with a similar lid.
Since I left South West Africa I have read some interesting observations
of Sir John Lubbock's on the dislike of ants to violet colour. I wonder
if the Portuguese of Angola observed it long ago and adopted violet
glass for basins, or was it merely accidental and empirical. I suspect
the latter, or they would use violet glass for other articles. As it is,
everything eatable in a house there is completely insulated in
water--moats of water with a dash of vinegar in it--to guard it from the
ants from below; to guard from the ants from above, the same breed and
not a bit better. Eatables are kept in swinging safes at the end of coir
rope recently tarred. But when, in spite of these precautions, or from
the neglect of them, you find, say your sugar, a brown, busy mass, just
stand it in the full glare of the sun. Sun is a thing no ant likes, I
believe, and it is particularly distasteful to ants with pale
complexions; and so you can see them tear themselves away from their
beloved sugar and clear off into a Hyde Park meeting smitten by a

This kind of ant, or a nearly allied species, is found in houses in
England, where it is supposed they have been imported from the Brazils
or West Indies in 1828. Possibly the Brazils got it from South West
Africa, with which they have had a trade since the sixteenth century,
most of the Brazil slaves coming out of Congo. It is unlikely that the
importation was the other way about; for exotic things, whether plants
or animals, do not catch on in Western Africa as they do in Australia.
In the former land everything of the kind requires constant care to keep
it going at all, and protect it from the terrific local circumstances.
It is no use saying to animal or vegetable, "there is room for all in
Africa"--for Africa, that is Africa properly so called--Equatorial West
Africa, is full up with its own stuff now, crowded and fighting an
internecine battle with the most marvellous adaptations to its



     Concerning the perils that beset the navigator in the Baixos of St.
     Ann, with some description of the country between the Sierra Leone
     and Cape Palmas and the reasons wherefrom it came to be called the
     Pepper, Grain, or Meleguetta Coast.

It was late evening-time when the ---- reached that part of the South
Atlantic Ocean where previous experience and dead reckoning led our
captain to believe that Sierra Leone existed. The weather was too thick
to see ten yards from the ship, so he, remembering certain captains who,
under similar circumstances, failing to pick up the light on Cape Sierra
Leone, had picked up the Carpenter Rock with their keels instead, let go
his anchor, and kept us rolling about outside until the morning came.
Slipperty slop, crash! slipperty slop, crash! went all loose gear on
board all the night long; and those of the passengers who went in for
that sort of thing were ill from the change of motion. The mist, our
world, went gently into grey, and then black, growing into a dense
darkness filled with palpable, woolly, wet air, thicker far than it had
been before. This, my instructors informed me, was caused by the
admixture of the "solid malaria coming off the land."

However, morning came at last, and even I was on deck as it dawned, and
was rewarded for my unwonted activity by a vision of beautiful, definite
earth-form dramatically unveiled. No longer was the ---- our only
material world. The mist lifted itself gently off, as it seemed, out of
the ocean, and then separated before the morning breeze; one great mass
rolling away before us upwards, over the land, where portions of it
caught amongst the forests of the mountains and stayed there all day,
while another mass went leisurely away to the low Bullam shore, from
whence it came again after sunset to join the mountain and the ocean
mists as they drew down and in from the sea, helping them to wrap up
Freetown, Sierra Leone and its lovely harbour for the night.

It was with a thrill of joy that I looked on Freetown harbour for the
first time in my life. I knew the place so well. Yes; there were all the
bays, Kru, English and Pirate; and the mountains, whose thunder rumbling
caused Pedro do Centra to call the place Sierra Leona when he discovered
it in 1462. And had not my old friend, Charles Johnson, writing in 1724,
given me all manner of information about it during those delicious hours
rescued from school books and dedicated to a most contentious study of
_A General History of Robberies and Murders of the most Notorious
Pyrates_? That those bays away now on my right hand "were safe and
convenient for cleaning and watering;" and so on and there rose up
before my eyes a vision of the society ashore here in 1724 that lived
"very friendly with the natives--being thirty Englishmen in all; men who
in some part of their lives had been either privateering, buccaneering,
or pirating, and still retain and have the riots and humours common to
that sort of life." Hard by, too, was Bence Island, where, according to
Johnson, "there lives an old fellow named _Crackers_ (his true name he
thinks fit to conceal), and who was formerly a noted buccaneer; he
keeps the best house in the place, has two or three guns before his door
with which he salutes his friends the pyrates when they put in, and
lives a jovial life with them all the while they are there." Alas! no
use to me was the careful list old Johnson had given me of the
residents. They were all dead now, and I could not go ashore and hunt up
"Peter Brown" or "John Jones," who had "one long boat and an Irish young
man." Social things were changed in Freetown, Sierra Leone; but only
socially, for the old description of it is, as far as scenery goes,
correct to-day, barring the town. Whether or no everything has changed
for the better is not my business to discuss here, nor will I detain you
with any description of the town, as I have already published one after
several visits, with a better knowledge than I had on my first call

On one of my subsequent visits I fell in with Sierra Leone receiving a
shock. We were sitting, after a warm and interesting morning spent going
about the town talking trade, in the low long pleasant room belonging to
the Coaling Company whose windows looked out over an eventful warehouse
yard; for therein abode a large dog-faced baboon, who shied stones and
sticks at boys and any one who displeased him, pretty nearly as well as
a Flintshire man. Also in the yard were a large consignment of kola nuts
packed as usual in native-made baskets, called bilys, lined inside with
the large leaves of a Ficus and our host was explaining to my mariner
companions their crimes towards this cargo while they defended
themselves with spirit. It seemed that this precious product if not kept
on deck made a point of heating and then going mildewed; while, if you
did keep it on deck, either the First officer's minions went fooling
about it with the hose, which made it swell up and burst and ruined it,
or left it in unmitigated sun, which shrivelled it--and so on. This led,
naturally, to a general conversation on cargo between the mariners and
the merchants, during which some dreadful things were said about the way
matches arrived, in West Africa and other things, shipped at shipper's
own risk, let alone the way trade suffered by stowing hams next the
boilers. Of course the other side was a complete denial of these
accusations, but the affair was too vital for any of us to attend to a
notorious member of the party who kept bothering us "to get up and look
at something queer over King Tom."

Now it was market day in Freetown; and market day there has got more
noise to the square inch in it than most things. You feel when you first
meet it that if it were increased a little more it would pass beyond the
grasp of human ear, like the screech of that whistle they show off at
the Royal Society's Conversazione. However, on this occasion the market
place sent up an entire compound yell, still audible, and we rose as one
man as the portly housekeeper, followed by the small, but able steward,
burst into the room, announcing in excited tones, "Oh! the town be took
by locusts! The town be took by locusts!" (_D.C. fortissimo_). And we
attended to the incident; ousting the reporter of "the queer thing over
King Tom" from the window, and ignoring his "I told you so," because he

This was the first cloud of locusts that had come right into the town in
the memory of the oldest inhabitant, though they occasionally raid the
country away to the North. I am informed that when the chiefs of the
Western Soudan do not give sufficient gifts to the man who is locust
king and has charge of them--keeping them in holes in the desert of
Sahara--he lets them out in revenge. Certainly that year he let them out
with a vengeance, for when I was next time down Coast in the Oil Rivers
I was presented with specimens that had been caught in Old Calabar and
kept as big curios.

This Freetown swarm came up over the wooded hills to the South-West in a
brown cloud of singular structure, denser in some parts than others,
continually changing its points of greatest density, like one of
Thompson's diagrams of the ultimate structure of gases, for you could
see the component atoms as they swept by. They were swirling round and
round upwards-downwards like the eddying snowflakes in a winter's storm,
and the whole air rustled with the beat of the locusts' wings. They
hailed against the steep iron roofs of the store-houses, slid down it,
many falling feet through the air before they recovered the use of their
wings--the gutters were soon full of them--the ducks in the yard below
were gobbling and squabbling over the layer now covering the ground, and
the baboon chattered as he seized handfuls and pulled them to pieces.

Everybody took them with excitement, save the jack crows, who on their
arrival were sitting sleeping on the roof ridge. They were horribly
bored and bothered by the affair. Twice they flopped down and tried
them. There they were lying about in gutters with a tempting garbagey
look, but evidently the jack crows found them absolutely mawkish; so
they went back to the roof ridge in a fuming rage, because the locusts
battered against them and prevented them from sleeping.

We left Sierra Leone on the ---- late in the afternoon, and ran out
again into the same misty wet weather. The next morning the balance
of our passengers were neither up early, nor lively when they were
up; but to my surprise after what I had heard, no one had the
much-prognosticated attack of fever. All day long we steamed onwards,
passing the Banana Isles and Sherboro Island and the sound usually
called Sherboro River.[2] We being a South-West Coast boat, did not call
at the trading settlements here, but kept on past Cape St. Ann for the
Kru coast.

All day long the rain came down as if thousands of energetic--well, let
us say--angels were hurriedly baling the waters above the firmament out
into the ocean. Everything on board was reeking wet.

You could sweep the moisture off the cabin panelling with your hand, and
our clothes were clammy and musty, and the towels too damp on their own
account to dry you. Why none of us started specialising branchiae I do
not know, but feel that would have been the proper sort of breathing
apparatus for such an atmosphere.

The passengers were all at the tail end of their spirits, for Sierra
Leone is the definite beginning of the Coast to the out-goer. You are
down there when you leave it outward bound; it is indeed, the complement
of Canary. Those going up out of West Africa begin to get excited at
Sierra Leone; those going down into West Africa, particularly when it is
the wet season, begin to get depressed. It did not, however, operate in
this manner on me. I had survived Sierra Leone, I had enjoyed it; why,
therefore, not survive other places, and enjoy them? Moreover, my
scientific training, combined with close study of the proper method of
carrying on the local conversation, had by now enabled me to understand
its true spirit,--never contradict, and, if you can, help it onward.
When going on deck about 6 o'clock that evening, I was alarmed to see
our gallant captain in red velvet slippers. A few minutes later the
chief officer burst on my affrighted gaze in red velvet slippers too. On
my way hurriedly to the saloon I encountered the third officer similarly
shod. When I recovered from these successive shocks, I carried out my
mission of alarming the rest of the passengers, who were in the saloon
enjoying themselves peacefully, and reported what I had seen. The old
coasters, even including the silent ones, agreed with me that we were as
good as lost so far as this world went; and the deaf gentleman went
hurriedly on deck, we think "to take the sun,"--it was a way he had at
any time of day, because "he had been studying about how to fix points
for the Government--and wished to keep himself in practice."

My fellow new-comers were perplexed; and one of them, a man who always
made a point of resisting education, and who thought nothing of calling
some of our instructor's best information "Tommy Rot!" said, "I don't
see what can happen; we're right out at sea, and it's as calm as a

"Don't you, my young friend? don't you?" sadly said an old Coaster.
"Well, I'll just tell you there's precious little that can't happen, for
we're among the shoals of St. Ann."

The new-comers went on deck "just to look round;" and as there was
nothing to be seen but a superb specimen of damp darkness, they returned
to the saloon, one of them bearing an old chart sheet which he had
borrowed from the authorities. Now that chart was not reassuring; the
thing looked like an exhibition pattern of a prize shot gun, with the
quantity of rocks marked down on it.

"Look here," said an anxious inquirer; "why are some of these rocks
named after the Company's ships?"

"Think," said the calm old Coaster.

"Oh, I say! hang it all, you don't mean to say they've been wrecked
here? Anyhow, if they have they got off all right. How is it the 'Yoruba
Rock' and the 'Gambia Rock?' The 'Yoruba' and the 'Gambia' are running

"Those," explains the old Coaster kindly, "were the old 'Yoruba' and
'Gambia.' The 'Bonny' that runs now isn't the old 'Bonny.' It's the way
with most of them, isn't it?" he says, turning to a fellow old Coaster.
"Naturally," says his friend. "But this is the old original, you know,
and it's just about time she wrote up her name on one of these
tombstones." "You don't save ships," he continues, for the instruction
of the new-comers, attentive enough now; "that go on the Kru coast, and
if you get ashore you don't save the things you stand up in--the natives
strip you."

"Cannibals!" I suggest.

"Oh, of course they are cannibals; they are all cannibals, are natives
down here when they get the chance. But, that does not matter; you see
what I object to is being brought on board the next steamer that happens
to call crowded with all sorts of people you know, and with a lady
missionary or so among them, just with nothing on one but a flyaway
native cloth. You remember D----?" "Well," says his friend. Strengthened
by this support, he takes his turn at instructing the young critic,
saying soothingly, "there, don't you worry; have a good dinner." (It was
just being laid.) "For if you do get ashore the food is something
beastly. But, after all, what with the sharks and the surf and the
cannibals, you know the chances are a thousand to one that the worst
will come to the worst and you live to miss your trousers."

After dinner we new-comers went on deck to keep an eye on Providence,
and I was called on to explain how the alarm had been given me by the
footgear of the officers. I said, like all great discoveries, "it was
founded on observation made in a scientific spirit." I had noticed that
whenever a particularly difficult bit of navigation had to be done on
our boat, red velvet slippers were always worn, as for instance, when
running through the heavy weather we had met south of the Bay, on going
in at Puerto de la Luz, and on rounding the Almadia reefs, and on
entering Freetown harbour in fog. But never before had I seen more than
one officer wearing them at a time, while tonight they were blazing like
danger signals at the shore ends of all three.

My opinion as to the importance of these articles to navigation became
further strengthened by subsequent observations in the Bights of Biafra
and Benin. We picked up rivers in them, always wore them when crossing
bars, and did these things on the whole successfully. But once I was on
a vessel that was rash enough to go into a difficult river--Rio del
Rey--without their aid. That vessel got stuck fast on a bank, and, as
likely as not, would be sticking there now with her crew and passengers
mere mosquito-eaten skeletons, had not our First officer rushed to his
cabin, put on red velvet slippers and gone out in a boat, energetically
sounding around with a hand lead. Whereupon we got off, for clearly it
was not by his sounding; it never amounted to more than two fathoms,
while we required a good three-and-a-half. Yet that First officer, a
truthful man, always, said nobody did a stroke of work on board that
vessel bar himself; so I must leave the reader to escape if he can from
believing it was the red velvet slippers that saved us, merely remarking
that these invaluable nautical instruments were to be purchased at
Hamburg, and were possibly only met with on boats that run to Hamburg
and used by veterans of that fleet.

If you will look on the map, not mine, but one visible to the naked eye,
you will see that the Coast from Sierra Leone to Cape Palmas is the
lower bend of the hump of Africa and the turning point into the Bights
of Benin, Biafra and Panavia.

Its appearance gives the voyager his first sample of those stupendous
sweeps of monotonous landscapes so characteristic of Africa. From
Sherboro River to Cape Mount, viewed from the sea, every mile looks as
like the next as peas in a pod, and should a cruel fate condemn you to
live ashore here in a factory you get so used to the eternal sameness
that you automatically believe that nothing else but this sort of world,
past, present, or future, can ever have existed: and that cities and
mountains are but the memories of dreams. A more horrible life than a
life in such a region for a man who never takes to it, it is impossible
to conceive; for a man who does take to it, it is a kind of dream life,
I am judging from the few men I have met who have been stationed here in
the few isolated little factories that are established. Some of them
look like haunted men, who, when they are among white men again, cling
to their society: others are lazy, dreamy men, rather bored by it.

The kind of country that produces this effect must be exceedingly simple
in make: it is not the mere isolation from fellow white men that does
it--for example, the handful of men who are on the Ogowé do not get
like this though many of them are equally lone men, yet they are bright
and lively enough. Anyhow, exceedingly simple in make as is this region
of Africa from Sherboro to Cape Mount, it consists of four different
things in four long lines--lines that go away into eternity for as far
as eye can see. There is the band of yellow sand on which your little
factory is built. This band is walled to landwards by a wall of dark
forest, mounted against the sky to seaward by a wall of white surf;
beyond that there is the horizon-bounded ocean. Neither the forest wall
nor surf wall changes enough to give any lively variety; they just run
up and down a gamut of the same set of variations. In the light of
brightest noon the forest wall stands dark against the dull blue sky, in
the depth of the darkest night you can see it stand darker still,
against the stars; on moonlight nights and on tornado nights, when you
see the forest wall by the lightning light, it looks as if it had been
done over with a coat of tar. The surf wall is equally consistent, it
may be bad, or good as surf, but it's generally the former, which merely
means it is a higher, broader wall, and more noisy, but it's the same
sort of wall making the same sort of noise all the time. It is always
white; in the sunlight, snowy white, suffused with a white mist wherein
are little broken, quivering bits of rainbows. In the moonlight, it
gleams with a whiteness there is in nothing else on earth. If you can
imagine a non-transparent diamond wall, I think you will get some near
idea to it, and even on the darkest of dark nights you can still see the
surf wall clearly enough, for it shows like the ghost of its daylight
self, seeming to have in it a light of its own, and you love or hate it.
Night and day and season changes pass over these things, like
reflections in a mirror, without altering the mirror frame; but nothing
comes that ever stills for one-half second the thunder of the surf-wall
or makes it darker, or makes the forest-wall brighter than the rest of
your world. Mind you, it is intensely beautiful, intensely soothing,
intensely interesting if you can read it and you like it, but life for a
man who cannot and does not is a living death.

But if you are seafaring there is no chance for a brooding melancholy to
seize on you hereabouts, for you soon run along this bit of coast and
see the sudden, beautiful headland of Cape Mount, which springs aloft in
several rounded hills a thousand and odd feet above the sea and looking
like an island. After passing it, the land rapidly sinks again to the
old level, for a stretch of another 46 miles or so when Cape
Mesurado,[3] rising about 200 feet, seems from seaward to be another

The capital of the Liberian Republic, Monrovia, is situated on the
southern side of the river Mesurado, and right under the high land of
the Cape, but it is not visible from the roadstead, and then again comes
the low coast, unrolling its ribbon of sandy beach, walled as before
with forest wall and surf, but with the difference that between the sand
beach and the forest are long stretches of lagooned waters. Evil
looking, mud-fringed things, when I once saw them at the end of a hard,
dry season, but when the wet season's rains come they are transformed
into beautiful lakes; communicating with each other and overflowing by
shallow channels which they cut here and there through the sand-beach
ramparts into the sea.

The identification of places from aboard ship along such a coast as this
is very difficult. Even good sized rivers doubling on themselves sneak
out between sand banks, and make no obvious break in surf or forest
wall. The old sailing direction that gave as a landmark the "Tree with
two crows on it" is as helpful as any one could get of many places here,
and when either the smoke season or the wet season is on of course you
cannot get as good as that. But don't imagine that unless the navigator
wants to call on business, he can "just put up his heels and blissfully
think o' nowt," for this bit of the West Coast of Africa is one of the
most trying in the world to work. Monotonous as it is ashore, it is
exciting enough out to sea in the way of the rocks and shoals, and an
added danger exists at the beginning and end of the wet, and the
beginning of the dry, in the shape of tornadoes.[4] These are sudden
storms coming up usually with terrific violence; customarily from the
S.E. and E., but sometimes towards the end of the season straight from
S. More slave ships than enough have been lost along this bit of coast
in their time, let alone decent Bristol Guineamen into the bargain,
owing to "a delusion that occasionally seized inexperienced commanders
that it was well to heave-to for a tornado, whereas a sailing ship's
best chance lay in her heels." It was a good chance too, for owing to
the short duration of this breed of hurricane and their terrific rain,
there accompanies them no heavy sea, the tornado-rain ironing the ocean
down; so if, according to one of my eighteenth century friends, you see
that well-known tornado-cloud arch coming, and you are on a Guineaman,
for your sins, "a dray of a vessel with an Epping Forest of sea growth
on her keel, and two-thirds of the crew down with fever or dead of it,
as likely they will be after a spell on this coast," the sooner you get
her ready to run the better, and with as little on her as you can do
with. If, however, there be a white cloud inside the cloud-arch you must
strip her quick and clean, for that tornado is going to be the worst
tornado you were ever in.

Nevertheless, tornadoes are nothing to the rocks round here. At the
worst, there are but two tornadoes a day, always at tide turn, only at
certain seasons of the year, and you can always see them coming; but it
is not that way with the rocks. There is at least one to each quarter
hour in the entire twenty-four. They are there all the year round, and
more than one time in forty you can't see them coming. In case you think
I am overstating the case, I beg to lay before you the statement
concerning rocks given me by an old captain, who was used to these seas
and never lost a ship. I had said something flippant about rocks, and he
said, "I'll write them down for you, missy." This is just his statement
for the chief rocks between Junk River and Baffu; not a day's steamer
run. "Two and three quarters miles and six cables N.W. by W. from Junk
River there is 'Hooper's Patch,' irregular in shape, about a mile long
and carrying in some places only 2-1/2 fathoms of water. There is
another bad patch about a mile and a-half from Hooper's, so if you have
to go dodging your way into Marshall, a Liberian settlement, great
caution and good luck is useful. In Waterhouse Bay there's a cluster of
pinnacle rocks all under water, with a will-o'-the wisp kind of buoy,
that may be there or not to advertise them. One rock at Tobokanni has
the civility to show its head above water, and a chum of his, that lies
about a mile W. by S. from Tobokanni Point, has the seas constantly
breaking on it.

The coast there is practically reefed for the next eight miles, with a
boat channel near the shore. But there is a gap in this reef at Young
Sesters, through which, if you handle her neatly, you can run a ship in.
In some places this reef of rock is three-quarters of a mile out to sea.
Trade Town is the next place where you may now call for cargo. Its
particular rock lies a mile out and shows well with the sea breaking on
it. After Trade Town the rocks are more scattered, and the bit of coast
by Kurrau River rises in cliffs 40 to 60 feet high. The sand at their
base is strewn with fallen blocks on which the surf breaks with great
force, sending the spray up in columns; and until you come to Sestos
River the rocks are innumerable, but not far out to sea, so you can keep
outside them unless you want to run in to the little factory at Tembo.
Just beyond Sestos River, three-quarters of a mile S.S.W. of Fen River,
there are those Fen rocks on which the sea breaks, but between these and
the Manna rocks, which are a little more than a mile from shore N.W. by
N. from Sestos River, there are any quantity of rocks marked and not
marked on the chart. These Manna rocks are a jolly bad lot, black, and
only a few breaking, and there is a shoal bank to the S.E. of these for
half a mile, then for the next four miles, there are not more than 70
hull openers to the acre. Most of them are not down on the chart, so
there's plenty of opportunity now about for you to do a little African
discovery until you come to Sestos reef, off a point of the same name,
projecting half a mile to westwards with a lot of foul ground round it.
Spence rock which breaks, is W. two-thirds S., distant 1-1/4 miles from
Sestos Point; within 5 miles of it is the rock which _The Corisco_
discovered in 1885. It is not down on the chart yet, all these set of
rocks round Sestos are sharp too, so the lead gives you no warning, and
you are safer right-away from them. Then there's a very nasty one called
Diabolitos, I expect those old Portuguese found it out, it's got a lot
of little ones which extend 2 miles and more to seaward. There is
another devil rock off Bruni, called by the natives Ba Ya. It stands 60
feet above sea-level, and has a towering crown of trees on it. It is a
bad one is this, for in thick weather, as it is a mile off shore and
isolated, it is easily mistaken, and so acts as a sort of decoy for the
lot of sunken devil rocks which are round it. Further along towards
Baffu there are four more rocks a mile out, and forest ground on the

I just give you this bit of information as an example, because I happen
to have this rough rock list of it; but a little to the east the rocks
and dangers of the Kru Coast are quite as bad, both in quantity and
quality, indeed, more so, for there is more need for vessels to call. I
often think of this bit of coast when I see people unacquainted with the
little local peculiarities of dear West Africa looking at a map thereof
and wondering why such and such a Bay is not utilised as a harbour, or
such and such a river not navigated, or this, that and the other bit of
Coast so little known of and traded with. Such undeveloped regions have
generally excellent local reasons, reasons that cast no blame on white
man's enterprise or black man's savagery. They are rock-reefed coast or
barred rivers, and therefore not worth the expense to the trader of
working them, and you must always remember that unless the trader opens
up bits of West Africa no one else will. It may seem strange to the
landsman that the navigator should hug such a coast as the shoals (the
_Bainos_ as the old Portuguese have it) of St. Ann--but they do. If you
ask a modern steamboat captain he will usually tell you it is to save
time, a statement that the majority of the passengers on a West Coast
boat will receive with open derision and contempt, holding him to be a
spendthrift thereof; but I myself fancy that hugging this coast is a
vestigial idea. In the old sailing-ship days, if you ran out to sea far
from these shoals you lost your wind, and maybe it would take you five
mortal weeks to go from Sierra Leone to Cape Mount or _Wash Congo_, as
the natives called it in the 17th century.

Off the Kru Coast, both West Coast and South-West Coast steamers and
men-o'-war on this station, call to ship or unship Krumen. The character
of the rocks, of which I have spoken,--their being submerged for the
most part, and pinnacles--increases the danger considerably, for a ship
may tear a wound in herself that will make short work of her, yet unless
she remains impaled on the rock, making, as it were, a buoy of herself,
that rock might not be found again for years.

This sort of thing has happened many times, and the surveying vessels,
who have been instructed to localise the danger and get it down on the
chart, have failed to do so in spite of their most elaborate efforts;
whereby the more uncharitable of the surveying officers are led in their
wrath to hold that the mercantile marine officers who reported that rock
and gave its bearings did so under the influence of drink, while the
more charitable and scientifically inclined have suggested that
elevation and subsidence are energetically and continually at work
along the Bight of Benin, hoisting up shoals to within a few feet of the
surface in some places and withdrawing them in others to a greater

The people ashore here are commonly spoken of as Liberians and Kruboys.
The Liberians are colonists in the country, having acquired settlements
on this coast by purchase from the chiefs of the native tribes. The idea
of restoring the Africans carried off by the slave trade to Africa
occurred to America before it did to England, for it was warmly
advocated by the Rev. Samuel Hoskins, of Newport, Rhode Island, in 1770,
but it was 1816 before America commenced to act on it, and the first
emigrants embarked from New York for Liberia in 1820. On the other hand,
though England did not get the idea until 1787, she took action at once,
buying from King Tom, through the St George's Bay Company, the land at
Sierra Leone between the Rochelle and Kitu River. This was done on the
recommendation of Mr. Smeatham. The same year was shipped off to this
new colony the first consignment of 460 free negro servants and 60
whites; out of those 400 arrived and survived their first fortnight, and
set themselves to build a town called Granville, after Mr. Granville
Sharpe, whose exertions had resulted in Lord Mansfield's epoch-making
decision in the case of Somerset _v._ Mr. J. G. Stewart, his master,
_i.e._, that no slave could be held on English soil.

The Liberians were differently situated from their neighbours at Sierra
Leone in many ways; in some of these they have been given a better
chance than the Africans sent to Sierra Leone--in other ways not so good
a chance. Neither of the colonies has been completely successful.

I hold the opinion that if those American and English philanthropists
could not have managed the affair better than they did, they had better
have confined their attention to talking, a thing they were naturally
great on, and left the so-called restoration of the African to his
native soil alone. For they made a direful mess of the affair from a
practical standpoint, and thereby inflicted an enormous amount of
suffering and a terrible mortality on the Africans they shipped from
England, Canada, and America; the tradition whereof still clings to the
colonies of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and gravely hinders their
development by the emigration of educated, or at any rate civilised,
Africans now living in the West Indies and the Southern States of

I am aware that there are many who advocate the return to Africa of the
Africans who were exported from the West Coast during the slavery days.
But I cannot regard this as a good or even necessary policy, for two
reasons. One is that those Africans were not wanted in West Africa. The
local supply of African is sufficient to develop the country in every
way. There are in West Africa now, Africans thoroughly well educated, as
far as European education goes, and who are quite conversant with the
nature of their own country and with the language of their
fellow-countrymen. There are also any quantity of Africans there who,
though not well educated, are yet past-masters in the particular culture
which West Africa has produced on its inhabitants.

The second reason is that the descendants of the exported Africans have
seemingly lost their power of resistance to the malarial West Coast
climate. This a most interesting subject, which some scientific
gentleman ought to attend to, for there is a sufficient quantity of
evidence ready for his investigation. The mortality among the Africans
sent to Sierra Leone and Liberia has been excessive, and so also has
been that amongst the West Indians who went to Congo Belge, while the
original intention of the United Presbyterian Mission to Calabar had to
be abandoned from the same cause. In fact it looks as if the second and
third generation of deported Africans had no greater power of resistance
to West Africa than the pure white races; and, such being the case, it
seems to me a pity they should go there. They would do better to bring
their energies to bear on developing the tropical regions of America and
leave the undisturbed stock of Africa to develop its own.

However, we will not go into that now. I beg to refer you to Bishop
Ingram's _Sierra Leone after a Hundred Years_, for the history of
England's philanthropic efforts. I may some day, perhaps, in the remote
future, write myself a book on America's effort, but I cannot write it
now, because I have in my possession only printed matter--a wilderness
of opinion and a mass of abuse on Liberia as it is. No sane student of
West Africa would proceed to form an opinion on any part of it with such
stuff and without a careful personal study of the thing as it is.

The natives of this part of the West coast, the aboriginal ones, as Mrs.
Gault would call them, are a different matter. You can go and live in
West Africa without seeing a crocodile or a hippopotamus or a mountain,
but no white man can go there without seeing and experiencing a Kruboy,
and Kruboys are one of the main tribes here. Kruboys are, indeed, the
backbone of white effort in West Africa, and I think I may say there is
but one man of all of us who have visited West Africa who has not paid a
tribute to the Kruboy's sterling qualities. Alas! that one was one of
England's greatest men. Why he painted that untrue picture of them I do
not know. I know that on this account the magnificent work he did is
discredited by all West Coasters. "If he said that of Kruboys," say the
old coasters, "how can he have known or understood anything?" It is a
painful subject, and my opinion on Kruboys is entirely with the old
coasters, who know them with an experience of years, not with the
experience of any man, however eminent, who only had the chance of
seeing them for a few weeks, and whose information was so clearly drawn
from vitiated sources. All I can say in defence of my great fellow
countryman is that he came to West Africa from the very worst school a
man can for understanding the Kruboy, or any true Negro, namely, from
the Bantu African tribes, and that he only fell into the error many
other great countrymen of mine have since fallen into, whereby there is
war and misunderstanding and disaffection between our Government and the
true Negro to-day, and nothing, as far as one can see, but a grievous
waste of life and gold ahead.

The Kruboy is indeed a sore question to all old coasters. They have
devoted themselves to us English, and they have suffered, laboured,
fought, been massacred, and so on with us for generation after
generation. Many a time Krumen have come to me when we have been
together in foreign possessions and said, "Help us, we are Englishmen."
They have never asked in vain of me or any Englishman in West Africa,
but recognition of their services by our Government at home is--well,
about as much recognition as most men get from it who do good work in
West Africa. For such men are a mere handful whom Imperialism can
neglect with impunity, and, even if it has for the moment to excuse
itself for so doing, it need only call us "traders." I say us, because I
am vain of having been, since my return, classed among the Liverpool
traders by a distinguished officer.

This part of Western Africa from Sierra Leone to Cape Palmas was known
to the geographers amongst the classics as _Leuce Æthiopia_: to their
successors as the Grain or Pepper or Meleguetta Coast. I will discourse
later of the inhabitants, the Kru, from an ethnological standpoint,
because they are too interesting and important to be got in here. The
true limits of the Grain coast are from the River Sestros to Growy, two
leagues east of Cape Palmas according to Barbot, and its name came from
the fact that it was hereabouts that the Portuguese, on their early
expeditions in the 15th century, first came across grains of paradise, a
circumstance that much excited those navigators at the time and
encouraged them to pursue their expeditions to this region, for grains
of paradise were in those days much valued and had been long known in
European markets.

These euphoniously-named spices are the seeds of divers amomums, or in
lay language, cardamum--_Amomum Meleguetta_ (Roscoe) or as Pereira has
it, _Amomum granum Paradisi_. Their more decorative appellation "grains
of Paradise" is of Italian origin, the Italians having known and valued
this spice, bought it, and sold it to the rest of Europe at awful prices
long before the Portuguese, under Henry the Navigator, visited the West
African Coast. The Italians had bought the spice from the tawny Moors,
who brought it, with other products of West Africa across the desert to
the Mediterranean port Monte Barca by Tripoli.

The reason why this African cardamum received either the name of grains
of Paradise or of Meleguetta pepper is, like most African things, wrapt
in mystery to a certain extent. Some authorities hold they got the first
name on their own merits. Others that the Italian merchants gave it them
to improve prices. Others that the Italians gave it them honestly enough
on account of their being nice, and no one knowing where on earth
exactly they came from, said, therefore, why not say Paradise? It is
certain, however, that before the Portuguese went down into the unknown
seas and found the Pepper coast that the Italians knew those peppers
came from the country of Melli, but as they did not know where that was,
beyond that it was somewhere in Africa, this did not take away the sense
of romance from the spice.

As for their name Meleguetta, an equal divergence of opinion reigns. I
myself think the proper word is meneguetta. The old French name was
maneguilia, and the name they are still called by at Cape Palmas in the
native tongue is Emanequetta. The French claim to have brought peppers
and ivory from the River Sestros as early as 1364, and the River Sestros
was on the seaboard of the kingdom of Mene, but the termination quetta
is most probably a corruption of the Portuguese name for pepper. But, on
the other hand, the native name for them among the Sestros people is
Waizanzag. And therefore, the whole name may well be European, and just
as well called meleguetta as meneguetta, because the kingdom of Mene was
a fief of the Empire of Melli when the Portuguese first called at
Sestros. The other possible derivation is that which says mele is a
corruption of the Italian name for Turkey millet, _Melanga_, a thing
the grains rather resemble. Another very plausible derivation is that
the whole word is Portuguese in origin, but a corruption of _mala gens_,
the Portuguese having found the people they first bought them of a bad
lot, and so named the pepper in memory thereof. This however is
interestingly erroneous and an early example of the danger of
armchairism when dealing with West Africa. For the coast of the
_malegens_ was not the coast the Portuguese first got the pepper from,
but it was that coast just to the east of the Meleguetta, where all they
got was killing and general unpleasantness round by the Rio San Andrew,
Drewin way, which coast is now included in the Ivory.

The grains themselves are by no means confined to the Grain Coast, but
are the fruit of a plant common in all West African districts,
particularly so on Cameroon Mountain, where just above the 3,000 feet
level on the east and southeast face you come into a belt of them, and
horrid walking ground they make. I have met with them also in great
profusion in the Sierra del Crystal; but there is considerable
difference in the kinds. The grain of Paradise of commerce is, like that
of the East Indian cardamom, enclosed in a fibrous capsule, and the
numerous grains in it are surrounded by a pulp having a most pleasant,
astringent, aromatic taste. This is pleasant eating, particularly if you
do not manage to chew up with it any of the grains, for they are
amazingly hot in the mouth, and cause one to wonder why Paradise instead
of Hades was reported as their "country of origin."

The natives are very fond of chewing the capsule and the inner bark of
the stem of the plant. They are, for the matter of that, fond of
chewing anything, but the practice in this case seems to me more
repaying than when carried on with kola or ordinary twigs.

Two kinds of meleguetta pepper come up from Guinea. That from Accra is
the larger, plumper, and tougher skinned, and commands the higher price.
The capsule, which is about 2 inches long by 1 inch in breadth, is more
oval than that of the other kind, and the grains in it are round and
bluntly angular, bright brown outside, but when broken open showing a
white inside. The other kind, the ordinary Guinea grain of commerce,
comes from Sierra Leone and Liberia. They are devoid of the projecting
tuft on the umbilicus. The capsule is like that of the Accra grain. When
dry, it is wrinkled, and if soaked does not display the longitudinal
frill of the Javan _Amomum maximum_, which it is sometimes used to
adulterate. This common capsule is only about 1-1/2 inches long and 1/2
an inch in diameter, but the grain when broken open is also white like
the Accra one. There are, however, any quantity on Cameroons of the
winged Javan variety, but these have so far not been exported.

The plants that produce the grains are zingiberaceous, cane-like in
appearance, only having broader, blunter leaves than the bamboo. The
flower is very pretty, in some kinds a violet pink, but in the most
common a violet purple, and they are worn as marks of submission by
people in the Oil Rivers suing for peace. These flowers, which grow
close to the ground, seeming to belong more to the root of the plant
than the stem, or, more properly speaking, looking as if they had
nothing to do with the graceful great soft canes round them, but were a
crop of lovely crocus-like flowers on their own account, are followed by
crimson-skinned pods enclosing the black and brown seeds wrapped in
juicy pulp, quite unlike the appearance they present when dried or

There is only a small trade done in Guinea grains now, George III. (Cap.
58) having declared that no brewer or dealer in wine shall be found in
possession of grains of Paradise without paying a fine of £200, and that
if any druggist shall sell them to a brewer that druggist shall pay a
fine of £500 for each such offence.

The reason of this enactment was the idea that the grains were
poisonous, and that the brewers in using them to give fire to their
liquors were destroying their consumers, His Majesty's lieges. As far as
poison goes this idea was wrong, for Meleguetta pepper or grains of
Paradise are quite harmless though hot. Perhaps, however, some
consignment may have reached Europe with poisonous seeds in it. I once
saw four entirely different sorts of seeds in a single sample. That is
the worst of our Ethiopian friends, they adulterate every mortal thing
that passes through their hands. I will do them the justice to say they
usually do so with the intellectually comprehensible end in view of
gaining an equivalent pecuniary advantage by it. Still it is
commercially unsound of them; for example for years they sent up the
seeds of the _Kickia Africana_ as an adulteration for _Strophantus_,
whereas they would have made more by finding out that the _Kickia_ was a
great rubber-producing tree. They will often take as much trouble to put
in foreign matter as to get more legitimate raw material. I really fancy
if any one were to open up a trade in Kru Coast rocks, adulteration
would be found in the third shipment. It is their way, and legislation
is useless. All that is necessary is that the traders who buy of them
should know their business and not make infants of themselves by
regarding the African as one or expecting the government to dry nurse

In private life the native uses and values these Guinea grains highly,
using them sometimes internally sometimes externally, pounding them up
into a paste with which they beplaster their bodies for various aches
and pains. For headache, not the sequelæ of trade gin, but of malaria,
the forehead and temples are plastered with a stiff paste made of Guinea
grain, hard oil, chalk, or some such suitable medium, and it is a most
efficacious treatment for this fearfully common complaint in West
Africa. But the careful ethnologist must not mix this medicinal plaster
up with the sort of prayerful plaster worn by the West Africans at time
for Ju Ju, and go and mistake a person who is merely attending to his
body for one who is attending to his soul.


   [2] This word is probably a corruption of the old name for this
   district, Cerberos.

   [3] The derivation of this name given by Barbot is from _misericordia_.
   "As some pretend on occasion of a Portuguese ship cast away near the
   little river Druro, the men of that ship were assaulted by the negroes,
   which made the Portuguese cry for quarter, using the word
   _misericordia_, from which by corruption mesurado."

   [4] Tornado is possibly a corruption from the Portuguese _trovado_, a
   thunderstorm; or from _tornado_, signifying returned; but most likely
   it comes from the Spanish _torneado_, signifying thunder.



     Containing some account of the divers noises of Western Afrik and
     an account of the country east of Cape Palmas, and other things; to
     which is added an account of the manner of shipping timber; of the
     old Bristol trade; and, mercifully for the reader, a leaving off.

When we got our complement of Krumen on board, we proceeded down Coast
with the intention of calling off Accra. I will spare you the
description of the scenes which accompany the taking on of Kruboys; they
have frequently been described, for they always alarm the
new-comer--they are the first bit of real Africa he sees if bound for
the Gold Coast or beyond. Sierra Leone, charming, as it is, has a sort
of Christy Minstrel air about it for which he is prepared, but the
Kruboy as he comes on board looks quite the Boys' Book of Africa sort of
thing; though, needless to remark, as innocent as a lamb, bar a tendency
to acquire portable property. Nevertheless, Kruboys coming on board for
your first time alarm you; at any rate they did me, and they also
introduced me to African noise, which like the insects is another most
excellent thing, that you should get broken into early.

Woe! to the man in Africa who cannot stand perpetual uproar. Few things
surprised me more than the rarity of silence and the intensity of it
when you did get it. There is only that time which comes between
10.30 A.M. and 4.30 P.M., in which you can look for anything like the
usual quiet of an English village. We will give Man the first place in
the orchestra, he deserves it. I fancy the main body of the lower
classes of Africa think externally instead of internally. You will hear
them when they are engaged together on some job--each man issuing the
fullest directions and prophecies concerning it, in shouts; no one
taking the least notice of his neighbours. If the head man really wants
them to do something definite he fetches those within his reach an
introductory whack; and even when you are sitting alone in the forest
you will hear a man or woman coming down the narrow bush path chattering
away with such energy and expression that you can hardly believe your
eyes when you learn from them that he has no companion.

     [Illustration: FOR PALM WINE. [_To face page 63._]

Some of this talking is, I fancy, an equivalent to our writing. I know
many English people who, if they want to gather a clear conception of an
affair write it down; the African not having writing, first talks it
out. And again more of it is conversation with spirit guardians and
familiar spirits, and also with those of their dead relatives and
friends, and I have often seen a man, sitting at a bush fire or in a
village palaver house, turn round and say, "You remember that, mother?"
to the ghost that to him was there.

I remember mentioning this very touching habit of theirs, as it seemed
to me, in order to console a sick and irritable friend whose cabin was
close to a gangway then in possession of a very lively lot of Sierra
Leone Kruboys, and he said, "Oh, I daresay they do, Miss Kingsley; but
I'll be hanged if Hell is such a damned way off West Africa that they
need shout so loud."

The calm of the hot noontide fades towards evening time, and the noise
of things in general revives and increases. Then do the natives call in
instrumental aid of diverse and to my ear pleasant kinds. Great is the
value of the tom-tom, whether it be of pure native origin or constructed
from an old Devos patent paraffin oil tin. Then there is the
kitty-katty, so called from its strange scratching-vibrating sound,
which you hear down South, and on Fernando Po, of the excruciating mouth
harp, and so on, all accompanied by the voice.

If it be play night, you become the auditor to an orchestra as strange
and varied as that which played before Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego.
I know I am no musician, so I own to loving African music, bar that
Fernandian harp! Like Benedick, I can say, "Give me a horn for my money
when all is done," unless it be a tom-tom. The African horn, usually
made of a tooth of ivory, and blown from a hole in the side, is an
instrument I unfortunately cannot play on. I have not the lung capacity.
It requires of you to breathe in at one breath a whole S.W. gale of wind
and then to empty it into the horn, which responds with a preliminary
root-too-toot before it goes off into its noble dirge bellow. It is a
fine instrument and should be introduced into European orchestras, for
it is full of colour. But I think that even the horn, and certainly all
other instruments, savage and civilised, should bow their heads in
homage to the tom-tom, for, as a method of getting at the inner soul of
humanity where are they compared with that noble instrument! You doubt
it. Well go and hear a military tattoo or any performance on kettle
drums up here and I feel you will reconsider the affair; but even then,
remember you have not heard all the African tom-tom can tell you. I
don't say it's an instrument suited for serenading your lady-love with,
but that is a thing I don't require of an instrument. All else the
tom-tom can do, and do well. It can talk as well as the human tongue. It
can make you want to dance or fight for no private reason, as nothing
else can, and be you black or white it calls up in you all your
Neolithic man.

Many African instruments are, however, sweet and gentle, and as mild as
sucking doves, notably the xylophonic family. These marimbas, to use
their most common name, are all over Africa from Senegal to Zambesi.
Their form varies with various tribes--the West African varieties almost
universally have wooden keys instead of iron ones like the East African.
Personally, I like the West African best; there is something exquisite
in the sweet, clear, water-like notes produced from the strips of soft
wood of graduated length that make the West African keyboard. All these
instruments have the sound magnified and enriched by a hollow wooden
chamber under their keyboard. In Calabar this chamber is one small
shallow box, ornamented, as most wooden things are in Calabar, with
poker work--but in among the Fan, under the keyboard were a set of
calabashes, and in the calabashes one hole apiece and that hole covered
carefully with the skin of a large spider. While down in Angola you met
the xylophone in the imposing form you can see in the frontispiece to
this volume. Of the orchid fibre-stringed harp, I have spoken elsewhere,
and there remains but one more truly great instrument that I need
mention. I have had a trial at playing every African instrument I have
come across, under native teachers, and they have assured me that, with
application, I should succeed in becoming a rather decent performer on
the harp and xylophone, and had the makings of a genius for the tom-tom,
but my greatest and most rapid triumph was achieved on this other
instrument. I picked up the hang of the thing in about five minutes, and
then, being vain, when I returned to white society I naturally desired
to show off my accomplishment, but met with no encouragement
whatsoever--indeed my friends said gently, but firmly, that if I did it
again they should leave, not the settlement merely, but the continent,
and devote their remaining years to sweeping crossings in their native
northern towns--they said they would rather do this than hear that
instrument played again by any one.

This instrument is made from an old powder keg, with both ends removed;
a piece of raw hide is tied tightly round it over what one might call a
bung-hole, while a piece of wood with a lump of rubber or fastening is
passed through this hole. The performer then wets his hand, inserts it
into the instrument, and lightly grasps the stick and works it up and
down for all he is worth; the knob beats the drum skin with a beautiful
boom, and the stick gives an exquisite screech as it passes through the
hole in the skin which the performer enhances with an occasional howl or
wail of his own, according to his taste or feeling. There are other
varieties of this instrument, some with one end of the cylinder covered
over and the knob of the stick beating the inside, but in all its forms
it is impressive.

Next in point of strength to the human vocal and instrumental performers
come frogs. The small green one, whose note is like that of the
cricket's magnified, is a part-singer, but the big bull frog, whose
tones are all his own, sings in Handel Festival sized choruses. I don't
much mind either of these, but the one I hate is a solo frog who seems
eternally engaged at night in winding up a Waterbury watch. Many a night
have I stocked thick with calamity on that frog's account; many a night
have I landed myself in hailing distance of Amen Corner from having gone
out of hut, or house, with my mind too full of the intention of
flattening him out with a slipper, to think of driver ants, leopards, or
snakes. Frog hunting is one of the worst things you can do in West

Next to frogs come the crickets with their chorus of "she did, she
didn't," and the cicadas, but they knock off earlier than frogs, and
when the frogs have done for the night there is quiet for the few hours
of cool, until it gets too cool and the chill that comes before the dawn
wakes up the birds, and they wake you with their long, mellow,
exquisitely beautiful whistles.

The aforesaid are everyday noises in West Africa, and you soon get used
to them or die of them; but there are myriads of others that you hear
when in the bush. The grunting sigh of relief of the hippos, the strange
groaning, whining bark of the crocodiles, the thin cry of the bats, the
cough of the leopards, and that unearthly yell that sometimes comes out
of the forest in the depths of dark nights. Yes, my naturalist friends,
it's all very well to say it is only a love-lorn, innocent little
marmoset-kind of thing that makes it. I know, poor dear, Softly, Softly,
and he wouldn't do it. Anyhow, you just wait until you hear it in a
shaky little native hut, or when you are spending the night, having been
fool enough to lose yourself, with your back against a tree quite alone
and that yell comes at you with its agony of anguish and appeal out of
that dense black world of forest which the moon, be she never so strong,
cannot enlighten, and which looks all the darker for the contrast of
the glistening silver mist that shows here and there in the clearings,
or over lagoon, or river, wavering twining, rising and falling; so full
of strange motion and beauty, yet, somehow, as sinister in its way as
the rest of your surroundings, and so deadly silent. I think if you hear
that yell cutting through this sort of thing like a knife and sinking
despairingly into the surrounding silence, you will agree with me that
it seems to favour Duppy, and that, perchance, the strange red patch of
ground you passed at the foot of the cotton tree before night came down
on you, was where the yell came from, for it is red and damp and your
native friends have told you it is so because of the blood whipped off a
sasa-bonsum and his victims as he goes down through it to his
under-world home.

Seen from the sea, the Ivory Coast is a relief to the eye after the dead
level of the Grain Coast, but the attention of the mariner to rocks has
no practical surcease; and there is that submarine horror for sailing
ships, the Bottomless pit. They used to have great tragedies with it in
olden times, and you can still, if you like, for that matter; but the
French having a station 15 miles to the east of it at Grand Bassam would
nowadays prevent your experiencing the action of this phenomenon
thoroughly, and getting not only wrecked but killed by the natives
ashore, though they are a lively lot still.

Now although this is not a manual of devotion, I must say a few words on
the Bottomless pit. All along the West Coast of Africa there is a great
shelving bank, submarine, formed by the deposit of the great mud-laden
rivers and the earth-wash of the heavy rains. The slope of what the
scientific term the great West African bank is, on the whole, very
regular, except opposite Piccaninny Bassam, where it is cut right
through by a great chasm, presumably the result of volcanic action. This
chasm commences about 15 miles from land and is shaped like a V, with
the narrow end shorewards. Nine miles out it is three miles wider and
2,400 feet deep, at three miles out the sides are opposite each other
and there is little more than a mile between them, and the depth is
1,536 feet; at one mile from the beach the chasm is only a quarter of a
mile wide and the depth 600 feet--close up beside the beach the depth is
120 feet. The floor of this chasm is covered with grey mud, and some
five miles out the surveying vessels got fragments of coral rock.


               SETTE CAMMA, NOV. 9, 1888. [_To face page 69._]

The sides of this submarine valley seem almost vertical cliffs, and
herein lies its danger for the sailing ship. The master thereof, in the
smoke or fog season (December-February), may not exactly know to a mile
or so where he is, and being unable to make out Piccaninny Bassam, which
is only a small native village on the sand ridge between the surf and
the lagoon, he lets go his anchor on the edge of the cliffs of this
Bottomless pit. Then the set of the tide and the onshore breeze cause it
to drag a little, and over it goes down into the abyss, and ashore he is
bound to go. In old days he and his ship's crew formed a welcome change
in the limited dietary of the exultant native. Mr. Barbot, who knew them
well, feelingly remarks, "it is from the bloody tempers of these brutes
that the Portuguese gave them the name of Malagens for they eat human
flesh," and he cites how "recently they have massacred a great number of
Portuguese, Dutch and English, who came for provisions and water, not
thinking of any treachery, and not many years since, (that is to say,
in 1677) an English ship lost three of its men; a Hollander fourteen;
and, in 1678, a Portuguese, nine, of whom nothing was ever heard since."

From Cape Palmas until you are past the mouth of the Taka River (St.
Andrew) the coast is low. Then comes the Cape of the Little Strand
(Caboda Prazuba), now called, I think, Price's Point. To the east of
this you will see ranges of dwarf red cliffs rising above the beach and
gradually increasing in height until they attain their greatest in the
face of Mount Bedford, where the cliff is 280 feet high. The Portuguese
called these Barreira Vermelhas; the French, Kalazis Rouges; and the
Dutch, Roode Kliftin, all meaning Red Cliffs. The sand at their feet is
strewn with boulders, and the whole country round here looks fascinating
and interesting. I regret never having had an opportunity of seeing
whether those cliffs had fossils on them, for they seem to me so like
those beloved red cliffs of mine in Kacongo which have. The
investigation, however, of such makes of Africa is messy. Those Kacongo
cliffs were of a sort of red clay that took on a greasy slipperiness
when they were wet, which they frequently were on account of the little
springs of water that came through their faces. When pottering about
them, after having had my suspicions lulled by twenty or thirty yards of
crumbly dryness, I would ever and anon come across a water spring, and
down I used to go--and lose nothing by it, going home in the evening
time in what the local natives would have regarded as deep mourning for
a large family--red clay being their sign thereof. The fossils I found
in them were horizontally deposed layers of clam shells with regular
intervals, or bands, of red clay, four or five feet across; between the
layers some of the shell layers were 40 or more feet above the present
beach level. Identical deposits of shell I also found far inland in Ka
Congo, but that has nothing to do with the Ivory Coast.

Inland, near Drewin, on the Ivory Coast, you can see from the sea
curious shaped low hills; the definite range of these near Drewin is
called the Highland of Drewin; after this place they occur frequently
close to the shore, usually isolated but now and again two or three
together, like those called by sailors the Sisters. I am much interested
in these peculiar-shaped hills that you see on the Ivory and Gold Coast,
and again, far away down South, rising out of the Ouronuogou swamp, and
have endeavoured to find out if any theories have been suggested as to
their formation, but in vain. They look like great bubbles, and run from
300 to 2,000 feet.

The red cliffs end at Mount Bedford and the estuary of the Fresco River,
and after passing this the coast is low until you reach what is now
called the district of Lahu, a native sounding name, but really a
corruption from its old French name La-Hoe or Hou.

You would not think, when looking at this bit of coast from the sea,
that the strip of substantial brown sand beach is but a sort of viaduct,
behind which lies a chain of stagnant lagoons. In the wet season, these
stretches of dead water cut off the sand beach from the forest for as
much as 40 miles and more.

Beyond Mount La-Hou on this sand strip there are many native
villages--each village a crowded clump of huts, surrounded by a grove of
coco palm trees, each tree belonging definitely to some native family or
individual, and having its owner's particular mark on it, and each grove
of palm trees slanting uniformly at a stiff angle, which gives you no
cause to ask which is the prevailing wind here, for they tell you bright
and clear, as they lean N.E., that the S.W. wind brought them up to do

Groves of coco palms are no favourites of mine. I don't like them. The
trees are nice enough to look on, and nice enough to use in the divers
ways you can use a coco-nut palm; but the noise of the breeze in their
crowns keeps up a perpetual rattle with their hard leaves that sounds
like heavy rain day and night, so that you feel you ought to live under
an umbrella, and your mind gets worried about it when you are not
looking after it with your common sense.

Then the natives are such a nuisance with coco-nuts. For a truly
terrific kniff give me even in West Africa a sand beach with coco-nut
palms and natives. You never get coco-nut palms without natives, because
they won't grow out of sight of human habitation. I am told also that
one coco will not grow alone; it must have another coco as well as human
neighbours, so these things, of course, end in a grove. It's like
keeping cats with no one to drown the kittens.

Well, the way the smell comes about in this affair is thus. The natives
bury the coco-nuts in the sand, so as to get the fibre off them. They
have buried nuts in that sand for ages before you arrive, and the nuts
have rotted, and crabs have come to see what was going on, a thing crabs
will do, and they have settled down here and died in their generations,
and rotted too. The sandflies and all manner of creeping things have
found that sort of district suits them, and have joined in, and the
natives, who are great hands at fishing, have flung all the fish offal
there, and there is usually a lagoon behind this sort of thing which
contributes its particular aroma, and so between them the smell is a
good one, even for West Africa.

The ancient geographers called this coast Ajanginal Æthiope, and the
Dutch and French used to reckon it from Growe, where the Melaguetta
Coast ends. Just east of Cape Palmas, to the Rio do Sweiro da Costa,
where they counted the Gold Coast to begin, the Portuguese divided the
coast thus. The Ivory, or, as the Dutchmen called it, the Tand Kust,
from Gowe to Rio St. Andrew; the Malaguetta from St. Andrew to the Rio
Lagos;[5] and the Quaqua from the Rio Lagos to Rio de Sweiro da Costa,
which is just to the east of what is now called Assini.

It is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and nowadays least known
bits of the coast of the Bight of Benin; but, taken altogether, with my
small knowledge of it, I do not feel justified in recommending the Ivory
Coast as either a sphere for emigration or a pleasure resort.
Nevertheless, it is a very rich district naturally, and one of the most
amusing features of West African trade you can see on a steamboat is to
watch the shipping of timber therefrom.

This region of the Bight of Benin is one of enormous timber wealth, and
the development of this of late years has been great, adding the name of
Timber Ports to the many other names this particular bit of West Africa
bears, the Timber Ports being the main ports of the French Ivory Coast,
and the English port of Axim on the Gold Coast.

The best way to watch the working of this industry is to stay on board
the steamer; if by chance you go on shore when this shipping of mahogany
is going on you may be expected to help, or get out of the way, which is
hot work, or difficult. The last time I was in Africa we on the----
shipped 170 enormous bulks of timber. These logs run on an average 20 to
30 feet long and 3 to 4 feet in diameter. They are towed from the beach
to the vessel behind the surf boats, seven and eight at a time, tied
together by a rope running through rings called dogs, which are driven
into the end of each log, and when alongside, the rope from the donkey
engine crane is dropped overboard, and passed round the log by the
negroes swimming about in the water regardless of sharks and as agile as
fish. Then, with much uproar and advice, the huge logs are slowly heaved
on board, and either deposited on the deck or forthwith swung over the
hatch and lowered down. It is almost needless to remark that, with the
usual foresight of men, the hatch is of a size unsuited to the log, and
therefore, as it hangs suspended, a chorus of counsel surges up from
below and from all sides.

The officer in command on this particular hatch presently shouts "Lower
away," waving his hand gracefully from the wrist as though he were
practising for piano playing, but really to guide Shoo Fly, who is
driving the donkey engine. The tremendous log hovers over the hatch, and
then gradually, "softly, softly," as Shoo Fly would say, disappears into
the bowels of the ship, until a heterogeneous yell in English and Kru
warns the trained intelligence that it is low enough, or more probably
too low. "Heave a link!" shouts the officer, and Shoo Fly and the donkey
engine heaveth. Then the official hand waves, and the crane swings round
with a whiddle, whiddle, and there is a moment's pause, the rope
strains, and groans, and waits, and as soon as the most important and
valuable people on board, such as the Captain, the Doctor, and myself,
are within its reach to give advice, and look down the hatch to see
what is going on, that rope likes to break and comes clawing at us a
mass of bent and broken wire, and as we scatter, the great log goes with
a crash into the hold. Fortunately, the particular log I remember as
indulging in this catastrophe did not go through the ship's bottom, as I
confidently expected it had at the time, nor was any one killed, such a
batch of miraculous escapes occurring for the benefit of the officer and
men below as can only be reasonably accounted for by their having
expected this sort of thing to happen.

Quaint are the ways of mariners at times. That time they took on
quantities of great logs at the main gangway, well knowing that they
would have to go down the hatch aft, and that this would entail hauling
them along the narrow alley ways. This process was effected by rigging
the steam winches aft, then two sharp hooks connected together by a
chain at the end of the wire hawser were fixed into the head of the log,
and the word passed "Haul away," water being thrown on the deck to make
the logs slip easier over it, and billets of wood put underneath the log
with the same intention, and the added hope of saving the deck from
being torn by the rough hewn, hard monster.

Now there are two superstitions rife regarding this affair. The first
is, that if you hitch the hooks lightly into each side of the log's head
and then haul hard, the weight of the log will cause the hooks to get
firmly and safely embedded in it. The second is, that the said weight
will infallibly keep the billets under it in due position.

Nothing short of getting himself completely and permanently killed
shakes the mariner's faith in these notions. What often happens is this.
When the strain is at its highest the hooks slip out of the wood, and
try and scalp any one that's handy, and now and again they succeed.
There was a man helping that day at Axim whom the Doctor said had only
last voyage fell a victim to the hooks; they slipped out of the head of
the log and played round his own, laying it open to the bone at the
back, cutting him over the ears and across the forehead, and if that man
had not had a phenomenally thick skull he must have died. But no, there
he was on this voyage as busy as ever with the timber, close to those
hooks, and evidently with his superstitious trust in the invariable
embedding of hooks in timber unabated one fraction.

Sometimes the performance is varied by the hauling rope itself parting
and going up the alley way like a boa constrictor in a fit, whisking up
black passengers and boxes full of screaming parrots in its path from
places they had placed themselves, or been placed in, well out of its
legitimate line of march. But the day it succeeds in clawing hold of and
upsetting the cook's grease tub, which lives in the alley-way, that is
the day of horror for the First officer and the inauguration of a period
of ardent holystoning for his minions.

Should, however, the broken rope fail to find, as the fox-hunters would
say, in the alley-way, it flings itself in a passionate embrace round
the person of the donkey engine aft, and gives severe trouble there. The
mariners, with an admirable faith and patience, untwine it, talking
seriously to it meanwhile, and then fix it up again, may be with more
care, and the shout, "Heave away!"--goes forth again; the rope groans
and creaks, the hooks go in well on either side of the log, and off it
moves once more with a graceful, dignified glide towards its
destination. The Bo'sun and Chips with their eyes on the man at the
winch, and let us hope their thoughts employed in the penitential
contemplation of their past sins, so as to be ready for the consequences
likely to arise for them if the rope parts again, do not observe the
little white note--underbill--as a German would call it, which is
getting nearer and nearer the end of the log, which has stuck to the
deck. In a few moments the log is off it, and down on Chips' toes, who
returns thanks with great spontaneity, in language more powerful then
select. The Bo'sun yells, "Avast heaving, there!" and several other
things, while his assistant Kruboys, chattering like a rookery when an
old lady's pet parrot has just joined it, get crowbars and raise up the
timber, and the Carpenter is a free man again, and the little white
billet reinstated. "Haul away," roars the Bo'sun, "Abadeo Na nu de um
oro de Kri Kri," join in the hoarse-voiced Kruboys, "Ji na oi," answers
the excited Shoo Fly, and off goes that log again. The particular log
whose goings on I am chronicling slewed round at this juncture with the
force of a Roman battering ram, drove in the panel of my particular
cabin, causing all sorts of bottles and things inside to cast themselves
on the floor and smash, whereby I, going in after dark, got cut. But no
matter, that log, one of the classic sized logs, was in the end safely
got up the alley-way and duly stowed among its companions. For let West
Africa send what it may, be it never so large or so difficult, be he
never so ill-provided with tackle to deal with it, the West Coast
mariner will have that thing on board, and ship it--all honour to his
determination and ability.

The varieties of timber chiefly exported from the West African timber
ports are _Oldfieldia Africana_, of splendid size and texture, commonly
called mahogany, but really teak, Bar and Camwood and Ebony. Bar and
Cam are dye-woods, and, before the Anilines came in these woods were in
great request; invaluable they were for giving the dull rich red to
bandana handkerchiefs and the warm brown tints to tweed stuffs. Camwood
was once popular with cabinet makers and wood-turners here, but of late
years it has only come into this market in roots or twisty bits--all the
better these for dyeing, but not for working up, and so it has fallen
out of demand among cabinet makers in spite of its beautiful grain and
fine colour, a pinky yellow when fresh cut, deepening rapidly on
exposure to the air into a rich, dark red brown. Amongst old Spanish
furniture you will find things made from Camwood that are a joy to the
eye. There has been some confusion as to whether Bar and Camwood are
identical--merely a matter of age in the same tree or no--but I have
seen the natives cutting both these timbers, and they are quite
different trees in the look of them, as any one would expect from seeing
a billet of Bar and one of Cam; the former is a light porous wood and
orange colour when fresh cut, while 500 billets of Bar and only 150 to
200 of Cam go to the ton.

There are many signs of increasing enterprise in the West African timber
trade, but so far this form of wealth has barely been touched, so vast
are the West African forests and so varied the trees therein. At present
it, like most West African industries, is fearfully handicapped by the
deadly climate, the inferiority and expensiveness of labour, and the
difficulties of transport.

At present it is useless to fell a tree, be it ever so fine, if it is
growing at any distance from a river down which you can float it to the
sea beach, for it would be impossible to drag it far through the
Liane-tangled West African forest.

Indeed, it is no end of a job to drag a decent-sized log even two
hundred yards or so to a river. The way it is done is this. When felling
the tree you arrange that its head shall fall away from the river, then
trim off the rough stuff and hew the heavy end to a rough point, so that
when the boys are pully-hauling down the slope--you must have a
slope--to the bank, it may not only be able to pierce the opposing
undergrowth spearwise more easily than if its end were flat or jagged,
but also by the fact of its own weight it may help their exertions.

I have seen one or two grand scenes on the Ogowé with trees felled on
steep mountain sides, wherein you had only got to arrange these
circumstances, start your log on its downward course to the river, get
out of the fair way of it, and leave the rest to gravity, which carried
things through in grand style, with a crashing rush and a glorious
splash into the river. You had, of course, to take care you had a clear
bank and not one fringed with dead-trees, into which your mighty spear
would embed itself and also to have a canoe load of energetic people to
get hold of the log and keep it out of the current of that lively Ogowé
river, or it would go off to Kama Country express. But this work on
timber was far easier than that on the Gold or Ivory Coasts, whence most
timber comes to Europe, and where the make of the country does not give
you so fully the assistance of steep gradients.

After what I have told you about the behaviour of these great baulks on
board ship you will not imagine that the log behaves well during its
journey on land. Indeed, my belief in the immorality of inanimate nature
has been much strengthened by observing the conduct of African timber.
Nor am I alone in judging it harshly, for an American missionary once
said to me, "Ah! it will be a grand day for Africa when we have driven
out all the heathen devils; they are everywhere, not only in graven
images, but just universally scattered around." The remark was made on
the occasion of a floor that had been laid down by a mission carpenter
coming up on its own account, as native timber floors laid down by
native carpenters customarily come, though the native carpenter lays
Norway boards well enough.

When, after much toil and tribulation and uproar, the log has been got
down to the river and floated, iron rings are driven into it, and it is
branded with its owner's mark. Then the owner does not worry himself
much about it for a month or so, but lets it float its way down and
soak, and generally lazy about until he gets together sufficient of its
kind to make a shipment.

One of the many strange and curious things they told me of on the West
Coast was that old idea that hydrophobia is introduced into Europe by
means of these logs. There is, they say, on the West Coast of Africa a
peculiarly venomous scorpion that makes its home on the logs while they
are floating in the river, three-parts submerged on account of weight,
and the other part most delightfully damp and cool to the scorpion's
mind. When the logs get shipped frequently the scorpion gets shipped
too, and subsequently comes out in the hold and bites the resident rats.
So far I accept this statement fully, for I have seen more than enough
rats and scorpions in the hold, and the West Coast scorpions are
particularly venomous, but feeling that in these days it is the duty of
every one to keep their belief for religious purposes, I cannot go on
and in a whole souled way believe that the dogs of Liverpool, Havre,
Hamburg, and Marseilles worry the said rats when they arrive in dock,
and, getting bitten by them, breed rabies.

Nevertheless, I do not interrupt and say, "Stuff," because if you do
this to the old coaster he only offers to fight you, or see you
shrivelled, or bet you half-a-crown, or in some other time-honoured way
demonstrate the truth of his assertion, and he will, moreover, go on and
say there is more hydrophobia in the aforesaid towns than elsewhere, and
as the chances are you have not got hydrophobia statistics with you, you
are lost. Besides, it's very unkind and unnecessary to make a West
Coaster go and say or do things which will only make things harder for
him in the time "to come," and anyhow if you are of a cautious, nervous
disposition you had better search your bunk for scorpions, before
turning in, when you are on a vessel that has got timber on board, and
the chances are that your labours will be rewarded by discovering
specimens of this interesting animal.

Scorpions and centipedes are inferior in worrying power to driver ants,
but they are a feature in Coast life, particularly in places--Cameroons,
for example. If you see a man who seems to you to have a morbid caution
in the method of dealing with his hat or folded dinner napkin, judge him
not harshly, for the chances are he is from Cameroon, where there are
scorpions--scorpions of great magnitude and tough constitutions, as was
demonstrated by a little affair up here that occurred in a family I

The inhabitants of the French Ivory Coast are an exceedingly industrious
and enterprising set of people in commercial matters, and the export and
import trade is computed by a recent French authority at ten million
francs per annum. No official computation, however, of the trade of a
Coast district is correct, for reasons I will not enter into now.

The native coinage equivalent here is the manilla--a bracelet in a state
of sinking into a more conventional token. These manillas are made of an
alloy of copper and pewter, manufactured mainly at Birmingham and
Nantes, the individual value being from 20 to 25 centimes.

Changes for the worse as far as English trade is concerned have passed
over the trade of the Ivory Coast recently, but the way, even in my
time, trade was carried on was thus. The native traders deal with the
captains of the English sailing vessels and the French factories, buying
palm oil and kernels from the bush people with merchandise, and selling
it to the native or foreign shippers. They get paid in manillas, which
they can, when they wish, get changed again into merchandise either at
the factory or on the trading ship. The manilla is, therefore, a kind of
bank for the black trader, a something he can put his wealth into when
he wants to store it for a time.

They have a singular system of commercial correspondence between the
villages on the beach and the villages on the other side of the great
lagoon that separates it from the mainland. Each village on the shore
has its particular village on the other side of the lagoon, thus Alindja
Badon is the interior commercial centre for Grand Jack on the beach,
Abia for Anamaquoa, or Half Jack, and so on. Anamaquoa is only separated
from its sister village by a little lagoon that is fordable, but the
other towns have to communicate by means of canoes.

Grand Bassam, Assini, and Half Jack are the most important places on the
Ivory Coast. The main portion of the first-named town is out of sight
from seaboard, being some five miles up the Costa River, and all you can
see on the beach are two large but lonesome-looking factories. Half
Jack, Jack a Jack, or Anamaquoa--there is nothing like having plenty of
names for one place in West Africa, because it leads people at home who
don't know the joke to think there is more of you than there naturally
is--gives its name to the bit of coast from Cape Palmas to Grand Bassam,
this coast being called the Half Jack, or quite as often the Bristol
Coast, and for many years it was the main point of call for the
Guineamen, old-fashioned sailing vessels which worked the Bristol trade
in the Bights.

This trade was established during the last century by Mr. Henry King, of
Bristol, for supplying labour to the West Indies, and was further
developed by his two sons, Richard, who hated men-o'-war like a quaker,
and William who loved science, both very worthy gentlemen. After their
time up till when I was first on the Coast, this firm carried on trade
both on the Bristol Coast and down in Cameroon, which in old days bore
the name of Little Bristol-in-Hell, but now the trade is in other hands.

According to Captain Binger, there are now about 30 sailing ships still
working the Ivory Coast trade, two of them the property of an energetic
American captain, but the greater part belonging to Bristol. Their
voyage out from Bristol varies from 60 to 90 days, according as you get
through the Horse latitudes--so-called from the number of horses that
used to die in this region of calms when the sailing vessels bringing
them across from South America lay week out and week in short alike of
wind and water.

In old days, when the Bristol ship got to the Coast she would call at
the first village on it. Then the native chiefs and head men would come
on board and haggle with the captain as to the quantity of goods he
would let them have on trust, they covenanting to bring in exchange for
them in a given time a certain number of slaves or so much produce. This
arrangement being made, off sailed the Guineaman to his next village,
where a similar game took place all the way down Coast to Grand Bassam.

When she had paid out the trust goods to the last village, she would
stand out to sea and work back to her first village of call on the
Bristol Coast to pick up the promised produce, this arrangement giving
the native traders time to collect it. In nine cases out of ten,
however, it was not ready for her, so on she went to the next. By this
time the Guineaman would present the spectacle of a farmhouse that had
gone mad, grown masts, and run away to sea; for the decks were protected
from the burning sun by a well-built thatch roof, and she lounged along
heavy with the rank sea growth of these seas. Sometimes she would be
unroofed by a tornado, sometimes seized by a pirate parasitic on the
Guinea trade, but barring these interruptions to business she called
regularly on her creditors, from some getting the promised payment, from
others part of it, from others again only the renewal of the promise,
and then when she had again reached her last point of call put out to
sea once more and worked back again to the first creditor village. In
those days she kept at this weary round until she got in all her debts,
a process that often took her four or five years, and cost the lives of
half her crew from fever, and then her consorts drafted a man or so on
board her and kept her going until she was full enough of pepper, gold,
gum, ivory, and native gods to sail for Bristol. There, when the
Guineaman came in, were grand doings for the small boys, what with
parrots, oranges, bananas, &c., but sad times for most of those whose
relatives and friends had left Bristol on her.

In much the same way, and with much the same risks, the Bristol Coast
trade goes on now, only there is little of it left, owing to the French
system of suppressing trade. Palm oil is the modern equivalent to
slaves, and just as in old days the former were transhipped from the
coasting Guineamen to the transatlantic slavers, so now the palm oil is
shipped off on to the homeward bound African steamers, while, as for the
joys and sorrows, century-change affects them not. So long as Western
Africa remains the deadliest region on earth there will be joy over
those who come up out of it; heartache and anxiety over those who are
down there fighting as men fought of old for those things worth the
fighting, God, Glory and Gold; and grief over those who are dead among
all of us at home who are ill-advised enough to really care for men who
have the pluck to go there.

During the smoke season when dense fogs hang over the Bight of Benin,
the Bristol ships get very considerably sworn at by the steamers. They
have letters for them, and they want oil off them; between ourselves,
they want oil off every created thing, and the Bristol boat is not easy
to find. So the steamer goes dodging and fumbling about after her,
swearing softly about wasting coal all the time, and more harshly still
when he finds he has picked up the wrong Guineaman, only modified if she
has stuff to send home, stuff which he conjures the Bristol captain by
the love he bears him to keep, and ship by him when he is on his way
home from windward ports, or to let him have forthwith.

Sometimes the Bristolman will signal to a passing steamer for a doctor.
The doctors of the African and British African boats are much thought of
all down the Coast, and are only second in importance to the doctor on
board a telegraph ship, who, being a rare specimen, is regarded as,
_ipso facto_, more gifted, so that people will save up their ailments
for the telegraph ship's medical man, which is not a bad practice, as it
leads commonly to their getting over those ailments one way or the other
by the time the telegraph ship arrives. It is reported that one day one
of the Bristolmen ran up an urgent signal to a passing mail steamer for
a doctor, and the captain thereof ran up a signal of assent, and the
doctor went below to get his medicines ready. Meanwhile, instead of
displaying a patient gratitude, the Bristolman signalled "Repeat
signal." "Give it 'em again," said the steamboat captain, "those
Bristolmen ain't got no Board schools." Still the Bristolman kept
bothering, running up her original signal, and in due course off went
the doctor to her in the gig. When he returned his captain asked him,
saying, "Pills, are they all mad on board that vessel or merely drunk as
usual?" "Well," says the doctor, "that's curious, for it's the very same
question Captain N. has asked me about you. He is very anxious about
your mental health, and wants to know why you keep on signalling 'Haul
to, or I will fire into you,'" and the story goes that an investigation
of the code and the steamer's signal supported the Bristolman's reading,
and the subject was dropped in steam circles.

Although the Bristolmen do not carry doctors, they are provided with
grand medicine chests, the supply of medicines in West Africa being
frequently in the inverse ratio with the ability to administer them

Inside the lid of these medicine chests is a printed paper of
instructions, each drug having a number before its name, and a hint as
to the proper dose after it. Thus, we will say, for example, 1 was
jalap; 2, calomel; 3, croton oil; and 4, quinine. Once upon a time there
was a Bristol captain, as good a man as need be and with a fine head on
him for figures. Some of his crew were smitten with fever when he was
out of number 4, so he argues that 2 and 2 are 4 all the world over, but
being short of 2, it being a popular drug, he further argues 3 and 1
make 4 as well, and the dose of 4 being so much he makes that dose up
out of jalap and croton oil. Some of the patients survived; at least, a
man I met claimed to have done so. His report is not altogether
reproducible in full, but, on the whole, the results of the treatment
went more towards demonstrating the danger of importing raw abstract
truths into everyday affairs than to encouraging one to repeat the
experiment of arithmetical therapeutics.


   [5] No connection with the Colony of Lagos.



There is one distinctive charm about fishing--its fascinations will
stand any climate. You may sit crouching on ice over a hole inside the
arctic circle, or on a Windsor chair by the side of the River Lea in the
so-called temperate zone, or you may squat in a canoe on an equatorial
river, with the surrounding atmosphere 45 per cent. mosquito, and if you
are fishing you will enjoy yourself; and what is more important than
this enjoyment, is that you will not embitter your present, nor endanger
your future, by going home in a bad temper, whether you have caught
anything or not, provided always that you are a true fisherman.

This is not the case with other sports; I have been assured by
experienced men that it "makes one feel awfully bad" when, after
carrying for hours a very heavy elephant gun, for example, through a
tangled forest you have got a wretched bad chance of a shot at an
elephant; and as for football, cricket, &c., well, I need hardly speak
of the unchristian feelings they engender in the mind towards umpires
and successful opponents.

     [Illustration: BATANGA CANOES. _To face page 89._]

Being, as above demonstrated, a humble, but enthusiastic, devotee of
fishing--I dare not say, as my great predecessor Dame Juliana Berners
says, "with an angle," because my conscience tells me I am a born
poacher,--I need hardly remark that when I heard, from a reliable
authority at Gaboon, that there were lakes in the centre of the island
of Corisco, and that these fresh-water lakes were fished annually by
representative ladies from the villages on this island, and that their
annual fishing was just about due, I decided that I must go there
forthwith. Now, although Corisco is not more than twenty miles out to
sea from the Continent, it is not a particularly easy place to get at
nowadays, no vessels ever calling there; so I got, through the kindness
of Dr. Nassau, a little schooner and a black crew, and, forgetting my
solemn resolve, formed from the fruits of previous experiences, never to
go on to an Atlantic island again, off I sailed. I will not go into the
adventures of that voyage here. My reputation as a navigator was great
before I left Gaboon. I had a record of having once driven my bowsprit
through a conservatory, and once taken all the paint off one side of a
smallpox hospital, to say nothing of repeatedly having made attempts to
climb trees in boats I commanded, but when I returned, I had surpassed
these things by having successfully got my main-mast jammed up a tap,
and I had done sufficient work in discovering new sandbanks, rock
shoals, &c., in Corisco Bay, and round Cape Esterias, to necessitate, or
call for, a new edition of _The West African Pilot_.

Corisco Island is about three miles long by 1-3/4 wide: its latitude
0°56 N., long. 9°20-1/2 E. Mr. Winwood Reade was about the last
traveller to give a description of Corisco, and a very interesting
description it is. He was there in the early sixties, and was evidently
too fully engaged with a drunken captain and a mad Malay cook to go
inland. In his days small trading vessels used to call at Corisco for
cargo, but they do so no longer, all the trade in the Bay now being
carried on at Messrs. Holt's factory on Little Eloby Island (an island
nearer in shore), and on the mainland at Coco Beach, belonging to
Messrs. Hatton and Cookson.

In Winwood Reade's days, too, there was a settlement of the American
Presbyterian Society on Corisco, with a staff of white men. This has
been abandoned to a native minister, because the Society found that
facts did not support their theory that the island would be more healthy
than the mainland, the mortality being quite as great as at any
continental station, so they moved on to the continent to be nearer
their work. The only white people that are now on Corisco are two
Spanish priests and three nuns; but of these good people I saw little or
nothing, as my headquarters were with the Presbyterian native minister,
Mr. Ibea, and there was war between him and the priests.

The natives are Benga, a coast tribe now rapidly dying out. They were
once a great tribe, and in the old days, when the slavers and the
whalers haunted Corisco Bay, these Benga were much in demand as crew
men, in spite of the reputation they bore for ferocity. Nowadays the
grown men get their living by going as travelling agents for the white
merchants into the hinterland behind Corisco Bay, amongst the very
dangerous and savage tribes there, and when one of them has made enough
money by this trading, he comes back to Corisco, and rests, and
luxuriates in the ample bosom of his family until he has spent his
money--then he gets trust from the white trader, and goes to the Bush
again, pretty frequently meeting there the sad fate of the pitcher that
went too often to the well, and getting killed by the hinterlanders.

On arriving at Corisco Island, I "soothed with a gift, and greeted with
a smile" the dusky inhabitants. "Have you got any tobacco?" said they.
"I have," I responded, and a friendly feeling at once arose. I then
explained that I wanted to join the fishing party. They were quite
willing, and said the ladies were just finishing planting their farms
before the tornado season came on, and that they would make the
peculiar, necessary baskets at once. They did not do so at once in the
English sense of the term, but we all know there is no time south of
40°, and so I waited patiently, walking about the island.

Corisco is locally celebrated for its beauty. Winwood Reade says: "It is
a little world in miniature, with its miniature forests, miniature
prairies, miniature mountains, miniature rivers, and miniature
precipices on the sea-shore." In consequence partly of these things, and
partly of the inhabitants' rooted idea that the proper way to any place
on the island is round by the sea-shore, the paths of Corisco are as
strange as several other things are in latitude 0, and, like the other
things, they require understanding to get on with.

They start from the beach with the avowed intention of just going round
the next headland because the tide happens to be in too much for you to
go along by the beach; but, once started, their presiding genii might
sing to the wayfarer Mr. Kipling's "The Lord knows where we shall go,
dear lass, and the Deuce knows what we shall see." You go up a path off
the beach gladly, because you have been wading in fine white sand over
your ankles, and in banks of rotten and rotting seaweed, on which
centipedes, and other catamumpuses, crawl in profusion, not to mention
sand-flies, &c., and the path makes a plunge inland, as much as to say,
"Come and see our noted scenery," and having led you through a miniature
swamp, a miniature forest, and a miniature prairie, "It's a pity," says
the path, "not to call at So-and-so's village now we are so near it,"
and off it goes to the village through a patch of grass or plantation.
It wanders through the scattered village calling at houses, for some
time, and then says, "Bless me, I had nearly forgotten what I came out
for; we must hurry back to that beach," and off it goes through more
scenery, landing you ultimately about fifty yards off the place where
you first joined it, in consequence of the South Atlantic waves flying
in foam and fury against a miniature precipice--the first thing they
have met that dared stay their lordly course since they left Cape Horn
or the ice walls of the Antarctic.

At last the fishing baskets were ready, and we set off for the lakes by
a path that plunged into a little ravine, crossed a dried swamp, went up
a hill, and on to an open prairie, in the course of about twenty
minutes. Passing over this prairie, and through a wood, we came to
another prairie, like most things in Corisco just then (August), dried
up, for it was the height of the dry season. On this prairie we waited
for some of the representative ladies from other villages to come up;
for without their presence our fishing would not have been legal. When
you wait in West Africa it eats into your lifetime to a considerable
extent, and we spent half-an-hour or so standing howling, in prolonged,
intoned howls, for the absent ladies, notably grievously for On-gou-ta,
and when they came not, we threw ourselves down on the soft, fine,
golden-brown grass, in the sun, and all, with the exception of myself,
went asleep. After about two and a half hours I was aroused from the
contemplation of the domestic habits of some beetles, by hearing a
crackle, crackle, interspersed with sounds like small pistols going off,
and looking round saw a fog of blue-brown smoke surmounting a
rapidly-advancing wall of red fire.

I rose, and spread the news among my companions, who were sleeping, with
thumps and kicks. Shouting at a sleeping African is labour lost. And
then I made a bee-line for the nearest green forest wall of the prairie,
followed by my companions. Yet, in spite of some very creditable sprint
performances on their part, three members of the band got scorched.
Fortunately, however, our activity landed us close to the lakes, so the
scorched ones spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in mud-holes,
comforting themselves with the balmy black slime. The other ladies
turned up soon after this, and said that the fire had arisen from some
man having set fire to a corner of the prairie some days previously, to
make a farm; he had thought the fire was out round his patch, whereas it
was not, but smouldering in the tussocks of grass, and the wind had
sprung up that afternoon from a quarter that fanned it up. I said,
"People should be very careful of fire," and the scorched ladies
profoundly agreed with me, and said things I will not repeat here,
regarding "that fool man" and his female ancestors.

The lakes are pools of varying extent and depth, in the bed-rock[6] of
the island, and the fact that they are surrounded by thick forests on
every side, and that the dry season is the cool season on the Equator,
prevents them from drying up.

Most of these lakes are encircled by a rim of rock, from which you jump
down into knee-deep black slime, and then, if you are a representative
lady, you waddle, and squeal, and grunt, and skylark generally on your
way to the water in the middle. If it is a large lake you are working,
you and your companions drive in two rows of stakes, cutting each other
more or less at right angles, more or less in the middle of the lake, so
as to divide it up into convenient portions. Then some ladies with their
specially shaped baskets form a line, with their backs to the bank, and
their faces to the water-space, in the enclosure, holding the baskets
with one rim under water. The others go into the water, and splash with
hands, and feet, and sticks, and, needless to say, yell hard all the
time. The naturally alarmed fish fly from them, intent on getting into
the mud, and are deftly scooped up by the peck by the ladies in their
baskets. In little lakes the staking is not necessary, but the rest of
the proceedings are the same. Some of the smaller lakes are too deep to
be thus fished at all, being, I expect, clefts in the rock, such as you
see in other parts of the island, sometimes 30 or 40 feet deep.

The usual result of the day's fishing is from twelve to fifteen bushels
of a common mud-fish,[7] which is very good eating. The spoils are
divided among the representative ladies, and they take them back to
their respective villages and distribute them. Then ensues, that same
evening, a tremendous fish supper, and the fish left over are smoked
and carefully kept as a delicacy, to make sauce with, &c., until the
next year's fishing day comes round.

The waters of West Africa, salt, brackish, and fresh abound with fish,
and many kinds are, if properly cooked, excellent eating. For culinary
purposes you may divide the fish into sea-fish, lagoon-fish and
river-fish; the first division, the sea-fish, are excellent eating, and
are in enormous quantities, particularly along the Windward Coast on the
Great West African Bank. South of this, at the mouths of the Oil rivers,
they fall off, from a culinary standpoint, though scientifically they
increase in charm, as you find hereabouts fishes of extremely early
types, whose relations have an interesting series of monuments in the
shape of fossils, in the sandstone; but if primeval man had to live on
them when they were alive together, I am sorry for him, for he might
just as well have eaten mud, and better, for then he would not have run
the risk of getting choked with bones. On the South-West Coast the
culinary value goes up again; there are found quantities of excellent
deep-sea fish, and round the mouths of the rivers, shoals of bream and
grey mullet.

The lagoon-fish are not particularly good, being as a rule supremely
muddy and bony; they have their uses, however, for I am informed that
they indicate to Lagos when it may expect an epidemic; to this end they
die, in an adjacent lagoon, and float about upon its surface, wrong side
up, until decomposition does its work. Their method of prophecy is a
sound one, for it demonstrates (_a_) that the lagoon drinking water is
worse than usual; (_b_) if it is not already fatal they will make it so.

The river-fish of the Gold Coast are better than those of the mud-sewers
of the Niger Delta, because the Gold Coast rivers are brisk sporting
streams, with the exception of the Volta, and at a short distance inland
they come down over rocky rapids with a stiff current. The fish of the
upper waters of the Delta rivers are better than those down in the
mangrove-swamp region; and in the South-West Coast rivers, with which I
am personally well acquainted, the up-river fish are excellent in
quality, on account of the swift current. I will however leave culinary
considerations, because cooking is a subject upon which I am liable to
become diffuse, and we will turn to the consideration of the sporting
side of fishing.

Now, there is one thing you will always hear the Gold Coaster (white
variety) grumbling about, "There is no sport." He has only got himself
to blame. Let him try and introduce the Polynesian practice of swimming
about in the surf, without his clothes, and with a suitable large, sharp
knife, slaying sharks--there's no end of sharks on the Gold Coast, and
no end of surf. The Rivermen have the same complaint, and I may
recommend that they should try spearing sting-rays, things that run
sometimes to six feet across the wings, and every inch of them wicked,
particularly the tail. There is quite enough danger in either sport to
satisfy a Sir Samuel Baker; for myself, being a nervous, quiet, rational
individual, a large cat-fish in a small canoe supplies sufficient

The other day I went out for a day's fishing on an African river. I and
two black men, in a canoe, in company with a round net, three stout
fishing-lines, three paddles, Dr. Günther's _Study of Fishes_, some bait
in an old Morton's boiled-mutton tin, a little manioc, stinking awfully
(as is its wont), a broken calabash baler, a lot of dirty water to sit
in, and happy and contented minds. I catalogue these things because
they are either essential to, or inseparable from, a good day's sport in
West Africa. Yes, even _I_, ask my vict----friends down there, I feel
sure they will tell you that they never had such experiences before my
arrival. I fear they will go on and say, "Never again!" and that it was
all my fault, which it was not. When things go well they ascribe it, and
their survival, to Providence or their own precautions; when things are
merely usual in horror, it's my fault, which is a rank inversion of the
truth, for it is only when circumstances get beyond my control, and
Providence takes charge, that accidents happen. I will demonstrate this
by continuing my narrative. We paddled away, far up a mangrove creek,
and then went up against the black mud-bank, with its great network of
grey-white roots, surmounted by the closely-interlaced black-green
foliage. Absolute silence reigned, as it can only reign in Africa in a
mangrove swamp. The water-laden air wrapped round us like a warm, wet
blanket. The big mangrove flies came silently to feed on us and leave
their progeny behind them in the wounds to do likewise. The stink of the
mud, strong enough to break a window, mingled fraternally with that of
the sour manioc.

I was reading, the negroes, always quiet enough when fishing, were
silently carrying on that great African native industry--scratching
themselves--so, with our lines over side, life slid away like a
dreamless sleep, until the middle man hooked a cat-fish. It came on
board with an awful grunt, right in the middle of us; flop, swish,
scurry and yell followed; I tucked the study of fishes in general under
my arm and attended to this individual specimen, shouting "Lef em, lef
em; hev em for water one time, you sons of unsanctified house
lizards,"[8] and such like valuable advice and admonition. The man in
the more remote end of the canoe made an awful swipe at the 3 ft.-long,
grunting, flopping, yellow-grey, slimy, thing, but never reached it
owing to the paddle meeting in mid-air with the flying leg of the man in
front of him, drawing blood profusely. I really fancy, about this time,
that, barring the cat-fish and myself, the occupants of the canoe were
standing on their heads, with a view of removing their lower limbs from
the terrible pectoral and dorsal fins, with which our prey made such
lively play.

"_Brevi spatio interjecto_," as Cæsar says, in the middle of a bad
battle, over went the canoe, while the cat-fish went off home with the
line and hook. One black man went to the bank, whither, with a blind
prescience of our fate, I had flung, a second before, the most valuable
occupant of the canoe, _The Study of Fishes_. I went personally to
investigate fluvial deposit _in situ_. When I returned to the
surface--accompanied by great swirls of mud and great bubbles of the
gases of decomposition I had liberated on my visit to the bottom of the
river--I observed the canoe floating bottom upwards, accompanied by
Morton's tin, the calabash, and the paddles, while on the bank one black
man was engaged in hauling the other one out by the legs; fortunately
this one's individual god had seen to it that his toes should become
entangled in the net, and this floated, and so indicated to his
companion where he was, when he had dived into the mud and got fairly

Now it's my belief that the most difficult thing in the world is to
turn over a round-bottomed canoe that is wrong side up, when you are in
the water with the said canoe. The next most difficult thing is to get
into the canoe, after accomplishing triumph number one, and had it not
been for my black friends that afternoon, I should not have done these
things successfully, and there would be by now another haunted creek in
West Africa, with a mud and blood bespattered ghost trying for ever to
turn over the ghost of a little canoe. However, all ended happily. We
collected all our possessions, except the result of the day's
fishing--the cat-fish--but we had had as much of him as we wanted, and
so, adding a thankful mind to our contented ones, went home.

None of us gave a verbatim report of the incident. I held my tongue for
fear of not being allowed out fishing again, and I heard my men giving a
fine account of a fearful fight, with accompanying prodigies of valour,
that we had had with a witch crocodile. I fancy that must have been just
their way of putting it, because it is not good form to be frightened by
cat-fish on the West Coast, and I cannot for the life of me remember
even having seen a witch crocodile that afternoon.

I must, however, own that native methods of fishing are usually safe,
though I fail to see what I had to do in producing the above accident.
The usual method of dealing with a cat-fish is to bang him on the head
with a club, and then break the spiny fins off, for they make nasty
wounds that are difficult to heal, and very painful.

The native fishing-craft is the dug-out canoe in its various local
forms. The Accra canoe is a very safe and firm canoe for work of any
sort except heavy cargo, and it is particularly good for surf; it is,
however, slower than many other kinds. The canoe that you can get the
greatest pace out of is undoubtedly the Adooma, which is narrow and
flat-bottomed, and simply flies over the water. The paddles used vary
also with locality, and their form is a mere matter of local fashion,
for they all do their work well. There is the leaf-shaped Kru paddle,
the trident-shaped Accra, the long-lozenged Niger, and the long-handled,
small-headed Igalwa paddle; and with each of these forms the native, to
the manner born, will send his canoe flying along with that unbroken
sweep I consider the most luxurious and perfect form of motion on earth.

It is when it comes to sailing that the African is inferior. He does not
sail half as much as he might, but still pretty frequently. The
materials of which the sails are made vary immensely in different
places, and the most beautiful are those at Loanda, which are made of
small grass mats, with fringes, sewn together, and are of a warm, rich
sand-colour. Next in beauty comes the branch of a palm, or other tree,
stuck in the bows, and least in beauty is the fisherman's own damaged
waist-cloth. I remember it used to seem very strange to me at first, to
see my companion in a canoe take off his clothing and make a sail with
it, on a wind springing up behind us. The very strangest sail I ever
sailed under was a black man's blue trousers, they were tied waist
upwards to a cross-stick, the legs neatly crossed, and secured to the
thwarts of the canoe. You cannot well tack, or carry out any neat
sailing evolutions with any of the African sails, particularly with the
last-named form. The shape of the African sail is almost always in
appearance a triangle, and fastened to a cross-stick which is secured to
an upright one. It is not the form, however, that prevents it from being
handy, but the way it is put up, almost always without sheets, for
river and lake work, and it is tied together with tie tie--bush rope. If
you should personally be managing one, and trouble threatens, take my
advice, and take the mast out one time, and deal with that tie tie
palaver at your leisure. Never mind what people say about this method
not being seaman-like--you survive.

     [Illustration: FALLS ON THE TONGUE RIVER.]

     [Illustration: LOANDA CANOE WITH MAT SAILS. [_To face page 101._]

The mat sails used for sea-work are spread by a bamboo sprit. There is a
single mast, to the head of which the sail is either hoisted by means of
a small line run through the mast, or, more frequently, made fast with a
seizing. Such a sail is worked by means of a sheet and a brace on the
sprit, usually by one man, whose companion steers by a paddle over the
stern; sometimes, however, one man performs both duties. Now and again
you will find the luff of the sail bowlined out with another stick. This
is most common round Sierra Leone.

The appliances for catching fish are, firstly, fish traps, sometimes
made of hollow logs of trees, with one end left open and the other
closed. One of these is just dropped alongside the bank, left for a week
or so, until a fish family makes a home in it, and then it is removed
with a jerk. Then there are fish-baskets made from split palm-stems tied
together with tie tie; they are circular and conical, resembling our
lobster pots and eel baskets, and they are usually baited with lumps of
kank soaked in palm-oil. Then there are drag nets made of pineapple
fibre, one edge weighted with stones tied in bunches at intervals; as a
rule these run ten to twenty-five feet long, but in some places they are
much longer. The longest I ever saw was when out fishing in the lovely
harbour of San Paul de Loanda. This was over thirty feet and was
weighted with bunches of clam shells, and made of European yarn, as
indeed most nets are when this is procurable by the natives, and it was
worked by three canoes which were being poled about, as is usual in
Loanda Harbour. Then there is the universal hook and line, the hook
either of European make or the simple bent pin of our youth.

But my favourite method, and the one by which I got most of my fish up
rivers or in creeks is the stockade trap. These are constructed by
driving in stakes close together, leaving one opening, not in the middle
of the stockade, but towards the up river end. In tidal waters these
stockades are visited daily, at nearly low tide, for the high tide
carries the fish in behind the stockade, and leaves them there on
falling. Up river, above tide water, the stockades are left for several
days, in order to allow the fish to congregate. Then the opening is
closed up, the fisher-women go inside and throw out the water and
collect the fish. There is another kind of stockade that gives great
sport. During the wet season the terrific rush of water tears off bits
of bank in such rivers as the Congo, and Ogowé, where, owing to the
continual fierce current of fresh water the brackish tide waters do not
come far up the river, so that the banks are not shielded by a great
network of mangrove roots. In the Ogowé a good many of the banks are
composed of a stout clay, and so the pieces torn off hang together, and
often go sailing out to sea, on the current, waving their bushes, and
even trees, gallantly in the broad Atlantic, out of sight of land. Bits
of the Congo Free State are great at seafaring too, and owing to the
terrific stream of the great Zaire, which spreads a belt of fresh water
over the surface of the ocean 200 miles from land, ships fall in with
these floating islands, with their trees still flourishing. The Ogowé
is not so big as the Congo, but it is a very respectable stream even
for the great continent of rivers, and it pours into the Atlantic, in
the wet season, about 1,750,000 cubic feet of fresh water per second, on
which float some of these islands. But by no means every island gets out
to sea, many of them get into slack water round corners in the Delta
region of the Ogowé and remain there, collecting all sorts of _débris_
that comes down on the flood water, getting matted more and more firm by
the floating grass, every joint of which grows on the smallest
opportunity. In many places these floating islands are of considerable
size; one I heard of was large enough to induce a friend of mine to
start a coffee plantation on it; unfortunately the wretched thing came
to pieces when he had cut down its trees and turned the soil up. And one
I saw in the Karkola river, was a weird affair. It was in the river
opposite our camp, and very slowly, but perceptibly it went round and
round in an orbit, although it was about half an acre in extent. A good
many of these bits of banks do not attain to the honour of becoming
islands, but get on to sand-banks in their early youth, near a native
town, to the joy of the inhabitants, who forthwith go off to them, and
drive round them a stockade of stakes firmly anchoring them. Thousands
of fishes then congregate round the little island inside the stockade,
for the rich feeding in among the roots and grass, and the affair is
left a certain time. Then the entrance to the stockade is firmly closed
up, and the natives go inside and bale out the water, and catch the fish
in baskets, tearing the island to pieces, with shouts and squeals of
exultation. It's messy, but it is amusing, and you get tremendous

     [Illustration: ST. PAUL DO LOANDA. [_To face page 102._]

A very large percentage of fish traps are dedicated to the capture of
shrimp and craw-fish, which the natives value highly when smoked, using
them to make a sauce for their kank; among these is the shrimp-basket.
These baskets are tied on sticks laid out in parallel lines of
considerable extent. They run about three inches in diameter, and their
length varies with the place that is being worked. The stakes are driven
into the mud, and to each stake is tied a basket with a line of tie tie,
the basket acting as a hat to the stake when the tide is ebbing; as the
tide comes in, it lowers the basket into the current and carries into
its open end large quantities of shrimps, which get entangled and packed
by the force of the current into the tapering end of the basket, which
is sometimes eight or ten feet from the mouth. You can always tell where
there is a line of these baskets by seeing the line of attendant
sea-gulls all solemnly arranged with their heads to win'ard, sea-gull

Another device employed in small streams for the capture of either
craw-fish or small fish is a line of calabashes, or earthen pots with
narrow mouths; these are tied on to a line, I won't say with tie tie,
because I have said that irritating word so often, but still you
understand they are; this line is tied to a tree with more, and carried
across the stream, sufficiently slack to submerge the pots, and then to
a tree on the other bank, where it is secured with the same material. A
fetish charm is then secured to it that will see to it, that any one who
interferes with the trap, save the rightful owner, will "swell up and
burst," then the trap is left for the night, the catch being collected
in the morning.

Single pots, well baited with bits of fish and with a suitable stone in
to keep them steady, are frequently used alongside the bank. These are
left for a day or more, and then the owner with great care, crawls
along the edge of the bank and claps on a lid and secures the prey.

     [Illustration: ROUND A KACONGO CAMP FIRE. [_To face page 105._]

Hand nets of many kinds are used. The most frequent form is the round
net, weighted all round its outer edge. This is used by one man, and is
thrown with great deftness and grace, in shallow waters. I suppose one
may hardly call the long wreaths of palm and palm branches, used by the
Loango and Kacongo coast native for fishing the surf with, nets, but
they are most effective. When the Calemma (the surf) is not too bad, two
or more men will carry this long thick wreath out into it, and then drop
it and drag it towards the shore. The fish fly in front of it on to the
beach, where they fall victims to the awaiting ladies, with their
baskets. Another very quaint set of devices is employed by the Kruboys
whenever they go to catch their beloved land and shore crabs. I remember
once thinking I had providentially lighted on a beautiful bit of ju-ju;
the whole stretch of mud beach had little lights dotted over it on the
ground. I investigated. They were crab-traps. "Bottle of Beer," "The
Prince of Wales," "Jane Ann," and "Pancake" had become--by means we will
not go into here--possessed of bits of candle, and had cut them up and
put in front of them pieces of wood in an ingenious way. The crab, a
creature whose intelligence is not sufficiently appreciated, fired with
a scientific curiosity, went to see what the light was made of, and then
could not escape, or perhaps did not try to escape, but stood
spell-bound at the beauty of the light; anyhow, they fell victims to
their spirit of inquiry. I have also seen drop-traps put for crabs round
their holes. In this case the sense of the beauty of light in the crab
is not relied on, and once in he is shut in, and cannot go home and
communicate the result of his investigations to his family.

Yet, in spite of all these advantages and appliances above cited, I
grieve to say the West African, all along the Coast, decends to the
unsportsmanlike trick of poisoning. Certain herbs are bruised and thrown
into the water, chiefly into lagoons and river-pools. The method is
effective, but I should doubt whether it is wholesome. These herbs cause
the fish to rise to the surface stupefied, when they are scooped up with
a calabash. Other herbs cause the fish to lie at the bottom, also
stupefied, and the water in the pool is thrown out, and they are

More as a pastime than a sport I must class the shooting of the peculiar
hopping mud-fish by the small boys with bows and arrows, but this is the
only way you can secure them as they go about star-gazing with their
eyes on the tops of their heads, instead of attending to baited hooks,
and their hearing (or whatever it is) is so keen that they bury
themselves in the mud-banks too rapidly for you to net them. Spearing is
another very common method of fishing. It is carried on at night, a
bright light being stuck in the bow of the canoe, while the spearer
crouching, screens his eyes from the glare with a plantain leaf, and
drops his long-hafted spear into the fish as they come up to look at the
light. It is usually the big bream that are caught in this way out in
the sea, and the carp up in fresh water.

The manners and customs of many West African fishes are quaint. I have
never yet seen that fish the natives often tell me about that is as big
as a man, only thicker, and which walks about on its fins at night, in
the forest, so I cannot vouch for it; nor for that other fish that hates
the crocodile, and follows her up and destroys her eggs, and now and
again dedicates itself to its hate, and goes down her throat, and then
spreads out its spiny fins and kills her.

The fish I know personally are interesting in quieter ways. As for
instance the strange electrical fish, which sometimes have sufficient
power to kill a duck and which are much given to congregating in sunken
boats, causing much trouble when the boat has to be floated again,
because the natives won't go near them, to bail her out.

Then there is that deeply trying creature the Ning Ning fish, who, when
you are in some rivers in fresh water and want to have a quiet night's
rest, just as you have tucked in your mosquito bar carefully and
successfully, comes alongside and serenades you, until you have to get
up and throw things at it with a prophetic feeling, amply supported by
subsequent experience, that hordes of mosquitos are busily ensconcing
themselves inside your mosquito bar. What makes the Ning Ning--it is
called after its idiotic song--so maddening is that it never seems to be
where you have thrown the things at it. You could swear it was close to
the bow of the canoe when you shied that empty soda-water bottle or that
ball of your precious indiarubber at it, but instantly comes "ning,
ning, ning" from the stern of the canoe. It is a ventriloquist or goes
about in shoals, I do not know which, for the latter and easier
explanation seems debarred by their not singing in chorus; the
performance is undoubtedly a solo; any one experienced in this fish soon
finds out that it is not driven away or destroyed by an artillery of
missiles, but merely lies low until its victim has got under his
mosquito curtain, and resettled his mosquito palaver,--and then back it
comes with its "ning ning."

A similar affliction is the salt-water drum-fish, with its "bum-bum."
Loanda Harbour abounds with these, and so does Chiloango. In the bright
moonlight nights I have looked overside and seen these fish in a wreath
round the canoe, with their silly noses against the side, "bum-bumming"
away; whether they admire the canoe, or whether they want it to come on
and fight it out, I do not know, because my knowledge of the different
kinds of fishes and of their internal affairs is derived from Dr.
Günther's great work, and that contains no section on ichthyological
psychology. The West African natives have, I may say, a great deal of
very curious information on the thoughts of fishes, but, much as I liked
those good people, I make it a hard and fast rule to hold on to my
common-sense and keep my belief for religious purposes when it comes to
these deductions from natural phenomena--not that I display this mental
attitude externally, for there is always in their worst and wildest
fetish notions an underlying element of truth. The fetish of fish is too
wide a subject to enter on here, it acts well because it gives a close
season to river and lagoon fish; the natives round Lake Ayzingo, for
example, saying that if the first fishes that come up into the lake in
the great dry season are killed, the rest of the shoal turn back, so on
the arrival of this vanguard they are treated most carefully, talked to
with "a sweet mouth," and given things. The fishes that form these
shoals are _Hemichromis fasciatus_ and _Chromis ogowensis_.

I know no more charming way of spending an afternoon than to leisurely
paddle alone to the edge of the Ogowé sand bank in the dry season, and
then lie and watch the ways of the water-world below. If you keep quiet,
the fishes take no notice of you, and go on with their ordinary
avocations, under your eyes, hunting, and feeding, and playing, and
fighting, happily and cheerily until one of the dreaded raptorial fishes
appears upon the scene, and then there is a general scurry. Dreadful
warriors are the little fishes that haunt sand banks (_Alestis
Kingsleyæ_) and very bold, for when you put your hand down in the water,
with some crumbs, they first make two or three attempts to frighten it,
by sidling up at it and butting, but on finding there's no fight in the
thing, they swagger into the palm of your hand and take what is to be
got with an air of conquest; but before the supply is exhausted, there
always arises a row among themselves, and the gallant bulls, some two
inches long, will spin round and butt each other for a second or so, and
then spin round again, and flap each other with their tails, their
little red-edged fins and gill-covers growing crimson with fury. I never
made out how you counted points in these fights, because no one ever
seemed a scale the worse after even the most desperate duels.

Most of the West Coast tribes are inveterate fishermen. The Gold Coast
native regards fishing as a low pursuit, more particularly
oyster-fishing, or I should say oyster-gathering, for they are collected
chiefly from the lower branches of the mangrove-trees; this occupation
is, indeed, regarded as being only fit for women, and among all tribes
the villages who turn their entire attention to fishing are regarded as
low down in the social scale. This may arise from fetish reasons, but
the idea certainly gains support from the conduct of the individual
fisherman. Do not imagine Brother Anglers, that I am hinting that the
Gentle Art is bad for the moral nature of people like you and me, but I
fear it is bad for the African. You see, the African, like most of us,
can resist anything but temptation--he will resist attempts to reform
him, attempts to make him tell the truth, attempts to clothe, and keep
him tidy, &c., and he will resist these powerfully; but give him real
temptation and he succumbs, without the European preliminary struggle.
He has by nature a kleptic bias, and you see being out at night fishing,
he has chances--temptations, of succumbing to this--and so you see a man
who has left his home at evening with only the intention of spearing
fish, in his mind, goes home in the morning pretty often with his
missionary's ducks, his neighbours' plantains, and a few odd trifles
from the trader's beaches, in his canoe, and the outer world says "Dem
fisherman, all time, all same for one, with tief man."[9]

The Accras, who are employed right down the whole West Coast, thanks to
the valuable education given them by the Basel Mission as cooks,
carpenters, and coopers, cannot resist fishing, let their other
avocations be what they may. A friend of mine the other day had a new
Accra cook. The man cooked well, and my friend vaunted himself, and was
content for the first week. At the beginning of the second week the
cooking was still good, but somehow or other, there was just the
suspicion of a smell of fish about the house. The next day the suspicion
merged into certainty. The third day the smell was insupportable, and
the atmosphere unfit to support human life, but obviously healthy for

The cook was summoned, and asked by Her Britannic Majesty's
representative "Where that smell came from?" He said he "could not smell
it, and he did not know." Fourth day, thorough investigation of the
premises revealed the fact that in the back-yard there was a large
clothes-horse which had been sent out by my friend's wife to air his
clothes; this was literally converted into a screen by strings of fish
in the process of drying, _i.e._, decomposing in the sun.

The affair was eliminated from the domestic circle and cast into the
Ocean by seasoned natives; and awful torture in this world and the next
promised to the cook if he should ever again embark in the fish trade.
The smell gradually faded from the house, but the poor cook, bereaved of
his beloved pursuit, burst out all over in boils, and took to religious
mania and drink, and so had to be sent back to Accra, where I hope he
lives happily, surrounded by his beloved objects.


   [6] Specimens of rock identified by the Geological Survey, London, as
   cretaceous, and said by other geologists up here to be possibly

   [7] _Clarias laviaps._

   [8] Translation: "Leave it alone! Leave it alone! Throw it into the
   water at once! What did you catch it for?"

   [9] Translation: "All fishermen are thieves."



     Wherein the student of Fetish determines to make things quite clear
     this time, with results that any sage knowing the subject and the
     student would have safely prophesied; to which is added some
     remarks concerning the position of ancestor worship in West Africa.

The final object of all human desire is a knowledge of the nature of
God. The human methods, or religions, employed to gain this object are
divisible into three main classes, inspired--

_Firstly_, the submission to and acceptance of a direct divine message.

_Secondly_, the attempt by human intellectual power to separate the
conception of God from material phenomena, and regard Him as a thing
apart and unconditioned.

_Thirdly_, the attempt to understand Him as manifest in natural

I personally am constrained to follow this last and humblest method, and
accept as its exposition Spinoza's statement of it, "Since without God
nothing can exist or be conceived, it is evident that all natural
phenomena involve and express the conception of God, as far as their
essence and perfection extends. So we have a greater and more perfect
knowledge of God in proportion to our knowledge of natural phenomena.
Conversely (since the knowledge of an effect through a cause is the same
thing as the knowledge of a particular property of a cause), the greater
our knowledge of natural phenomena the more perfect is our knowledge of
the essence of God which is the cause of all things."[10] But I have a
deep respect for all other forms of religion and for all men who truly
believe, for in them clearly there is this one great desire of the
knowledge of the nature of God, and "_Ein guter Mensch in seinem dunkeln
Drange Ist sich des rechten Weges wohl bewuszt._" Nevertheless the most
tolerant human mind is subject to a feeling of irritation over the
methods whereby a fellow-creature strives to attain his end,
particularly if those methods are a sort of heresy to his own, and
therefore it is a most unpleasant thing for any religious-minded person
to speak of a religion unless he either profoundly believes or
disbelieves in it. For, if he does the one, he has the pleasure of
praise; if he does the other, he has the pleasure of war, but the thing
in between these is a thing that gives neither pleasure; it is like
quarrelling with one's own beloved relations. Thus it is with Fetish and
me. I cannot say I either disbelieve or believe in it, for, on the one
hand, I clearly see it is a religion of the third class; but, on the
other, I know that Fetish is a religion that is regarded by my fellow
white men as the embodiment of all that is lowest and vilest in man--not
altogether without cause. Before speaking further on it, however, I must
say what I mean by Fetish, for "the word of late has got ill sorted."

I mean by Fetish the religion of the natives of the Western Coast of
Africa, where they have not been influenced either by Christianity or
Mohammedanism. I sincerely wish there were another name than Fetish
which we could use for it, but the natives have different names for
their own religion in different districts, and I do not know what other
general name I could suggest, for I am sure that the other name
sometimes used in place of Fetish, namely Juju, is, for all the fine
wild sound of it, only a modification of the French word for toy or
doll, _joujou_. The French claim to have visited West Africa in the
fourteenth century, prior to the Portuguese, and whether this claim can
be sustained on historic evidence or no, it is certain that the French
have been on the Coast in considerable numbers since the fifteenth
century, and no doubt have long called the little objects they saw the
natives valuing so strangely _joujou_, just as I have heard many a
Frenchman do down there in my time. Therefore, believing Juju to mean
doll or toy, I do not think it is so true a word as Fetish; and, after
all, West Africa has a prior right to the use of this word Fetish, for
it has grown up out of the word _Feitiço_ used by the Portuguese
navigators who rediscovered West Africa with all its wealth and worries
for modern Europe. These worthy voyagers, noticing the veneration paid
by Africans to certain objects, trees, fish, idols, and so on, very
fairly compared these objects with the amulets, talismans, charms, and
little images of saints they themselves used, and called those things
similarly used by the Africans _Feitiço_, a word derived from the Latin
_factitius_, in the sense magically artful. Modern French and English
writers have adopted this word from the Portuguese; but it is a modern
word in its present use. It is not in Johnson, and the term _Fétichisme_
was introduced by De Brosses in his remarkable book, _Du Culte des Dieux
fetiches_, 1760; but doubtless, as Professor Tylor points out, it has
obtained a great currency from Comte's use of it to denote a general
theory of primitive religion. Professor Tylor, most unfortunately for us
who are interested in West African religion, confines the use of the
word to one department of his theory of animism only--namely to the
doctrine of spirits embodied in, or attached to, or conveying influence
through certain material objects.[11]

I do not in the least deny Professor Tylor's right to use the word
Fetish[12] in that restricted sense in his general study of comparative
religion. I merely wish to mention that you cannot use it in this
restricted sense, but want the whole of his grand theory of animism
wherewith to describe the religion of the West Africans. For although
there is in that religion a heavy percentage of embodied spirits, there
is also a heavier percentage of unembodied spirits--spirits that have no
embodiment in matter and spirits that only occasionally embody
themselves in matter.

Take, for example, the gods of the Ewe and Tshi.[13] There is amongst
them Tando, the native high god of Ashantee. He appears to his
priesthood as a giant, tawny skinned, lank haired, and wearing the
Ashantee robe. But when visiting the laity, on whom he is exceedingly
hard, he comes in pestilence and tempest, or, for more individual
village visitations, as a small and miserable boy, desolate and crying
for help and kindness, which, when given to him, Tando repays by killing
off his benefactors and their fellow-villagers with a certain disease.
This trick, I may remark, is not confined to Tando, for several other
West African gods use it when sacrifices to them are in arrears; and I
am certain it is more at the back of outcast children being neglected
than is either sheer indifference to suffering or cruelty. Because,
fearing the disease, your native will be far more likely to remember he
is in debt to the god and go and pay an instalment, than to take in that
child whom he thinks is the god who has come to punish.

But you have only to look through Ellis's important works, the
"Tshi-speaking, Ewe-speaking, and Yoruba-speaking peoples of the West
Coast of Africa," to find many instances of the gods of Fetish who do
not require a material object to manifest themselves in. And I, while in
West Africa, have often been struck by incidents that have made this
point clear to me. When I have been out with native companions after
nightfall, they pretty nearly always saw an apparition of some sort,
frequently apparitions of different sorts, in our path ahead. Then came
a pause, and after they had seen the apparition vanish, on we went--not
cheerily, however, until we were well past the place where it had been
seen. This place they closely examined, and decided whether it was an
Abambo, or Manu, or whatever name these spirit classes had in their
local language, or whether it was something worse that had been there,
such as a Sasabonsum or Ombuiri.

They knew which it was from the physical condition of the spot. Either
there was nothing there but ordinary path stuff; or there was white ash,
or there was a log or rock, or tree branch, and the reason for the
different emotion with which they regarded this latter was very simple,
for it had been an inferior class spirit, one that their charms and
howled incantations could guard them against. When there was ash, it had
been a witch destroyed by the medicine they had thrown at it, or a
medium class spirit they could get protection from "in town." But if "he
left no ash" the rest of our march was a gloomy one; it was a bad
business, and unless the Fetish authorities in town chose to explain
that it was merely a demand for so much white calico, or a goat, &c.,
some one of our party would certainly get ill.

Well do I remember our greatest terror when out at night on a forest
path. I believe him to have been a Sasabonsum, but he was very widely
distributed--that is to say we dreaded him on the forest paths round
Mungo Mah Lobeh; we confidently expected to meet him round Calabar; and,
to my disgust, for he was a hindrance, when I thought I had got away
from his distribution zone, down in the Ogowé region, coming home one
night with a Fan hunter from Fula to Kangwe, I saw some one coming down
the path towards us, and my friend threw himself into the dense bush
beside the path so as to give the figure a wide berth. It was the old
symptom. You see what we object to in this spirit is that one side of
him is rotting and putrifying, the other sound and healthy, and it all
depends on which side of him you touch whether you see the dawn again or
no. Such being the case, and African bush paths being narrow, this
spirit helps to make evening walks unpopular, for there are places in
every bush path where, if you meet him, you must brush against
him--places where the wet season's rains have made the path a narrow
ditch, with clay incurved walls above your head--places where the path
turns sharply round a corner--places where it runs between rock walls.
Such being the case, the risk of rubbing against his rotting side is
held to be so great that it is best avoided by staying at home in the
village with your wives and families, and playing the tom-tom or the
orchid-fibre-stringed harp, or, if you are a bachelor, sitting in the
village club-house listening to the old ones talking like retired
Colonels. Yet however this may be, I should hesitate to call this
half-rotten individual "a material object." Sometimes we had merry
laughs after these meetings, for he was only So-and-so from the
village--it was not him. Sometimes we had cold chills down the back, for
we lost sight of him; under our eyes he went and he left no ash.

Take again Mbuiri of the Mpongwe, who comes in the form usually of a
man; or Nkala, who comes as a crab; or the great Nzambi of the
Fjort--they leave no ash--and so on. This subject of apparition-forms is
a very interesting one, and requires more investigation. For such gods
as Nzambi Mpungu do not appear to human beings on earth at all, except
in tempest and pestilence. The great gods next in order leave no ash.
The witch, if he or she be destroyed, does leave ash, and the ordinary
middle and lower class spirits leave the thing they have been in, so
unaltered by their use of it that no one but a witch doctor can tell
whether or no it has been possessed by a spirit.

You see therefore Fetish is in a way complex and cannot be got into
"worship of a material object." There is no worship in West Africa of a
material not so possessed, for material objects are regarded as in
themselves so low down in the scale of things that nothing of the human
grade would dream of worshipping them. Moreover, apart from these
apparitions, I do not think you can accurately use the word Fetish in
its restricted sense to include the visions seen by witch-doctors, or
incantations made of words possessing power in themselves, and yet these
things are part and parcel of Fetish. In fact, not being a comparative
ethnologist, but a student of West African religion, I wish to goodness
those comparative ethnologists would get another word of their own,
instead of using our own old West Coast one.

It is, however, far easier to state what Fetish is not, than to state
what it is. Although a Darwinian to the core, I doubt if evolution in a
neat and tidy perpendicular line, with Fetish at the bottom and
Christianity at the top, represents the true state of things. It seems
to me--I have no authority to fortify my position with, so it is only
me--that things are otherwise in this matter. That there are lines of
development in religious ideas, and that no form of religious idea is a
thing restricted to one race, I will grant; but if you will make a
scientific use of your imagination, most carefully on the lines laid
down for that exercise by Professor Tyndall, I think you would see that
the higher form of the Fetish idea is Brahmanism; and that the highest
possible form it could attain to is shown by two passages in the works
of absolutely white people to have already been reached,--first in that
passage from a poem by an author, whose name I have never known, though
I have known the lines these five-and-twenty years--

          "God of the granite and the rose,
          Soul of the lily and the bee,
          The mighty tide of being flows
          In countless channels, Lord, from Thee.
          It springs to life in grass and flowers,
          Through every range of Being runs,
          And from Creation's mighty towers,
          Its glory flames in stars and suns"--

and secondly in this statement by Spinoza--"By the help of God, I mean
the fixed and unchangeable order of nature, or chain of natural events,
for I have said before and shown elsewhere that the universal laws of
nature, according to which all things exist and are determined, are only
another name for the eternal decrees of God, which always involves
eternal truth and necessity, so that to say everything happens according
to natural laws, and to say everything is ordained by the decree and
ordinance of God, is to say the same thing. Now, since the power in
nature is identical with the power of God, by which alone all things
happen and are determined, it follows that whatsoever man as a part of
nature provides himself with to aid and preserve his existence, or
whatsoever nature affords him without his help, is given him solely by
the Divine power acting either through human nature or through external
circumstances. So whatever human nature can furnish itself with by its
own efforts to preserve its existence may be fitly termed the inward aid
of God, whereas whatever else accrues to man's profit from outward
causes may be called the external aid of God."[14]

Now both these utterances are magnificent Fetish, and because I accept
them as true, I have said I neither believe nor disbelieve in Fetish. I
could quote many more passages from acknowledged philosophers,
particularly from Goethe. If you want, for example, to understand the
position of man in Nature according to Fetish, there is, as far as I
know, no clearer statement of it made than is made by Goethe in his
superb _Prometheus_. By all means read it, for you cannot know how
things really stand until you do.

This was brought home to me very keenly when I was first out in West
Africa. I had made friends with a distinguished witch doctor, or, more
correctly speaking, he had made friends with me. I was then living in a
deserted house the main charm of which was that it was the house that
Mr. H. M. Stanley had lived in while he was waiting for a boat home
after his first crossing Africa. This charm had not kept the house tidy,
and it was a beetlesome place by day, while after nightfall, if you
wanted to see some of the best insect society in Africa, and have
regular Walpurgis all round, you had only got to light a lamp; but these
things were advantageous to an insect collector like myself, therefore I
lodge no complaint against the firm of traders to whom that house
belongs. Well, my friend the witch doctor used to call on me, and I
apologetically confess I first thought his interest in me arose from
material objects. I wronged that man in thought, as I have many others,
for one night, about 11 p.m., I heard a pawing at the shutters--my
African friends don't knock. I got up and opened the door, and there he
was. I made some observations, which I regret now, about tobacco at that
time of night, and he said, "No. You be big man, suppose pusson sick?" I
acknowledged the soft impeachment. "Pusson sick too much; pusson live
for die. You fit for come?" "Fit," said I. "Suppose you come, you no
fit to talk?" said he. "No fit," said I, with a shrewd notion it was one
of my Portuguese friends who was ill and who did not want a blazing
blister on, a thing that was inevitable if you called in the local
regular white medical man, so, picking up a medicine-case, I went out
into the darkness with my darker friend. After getting outside the
closed ground he led the way towards the forest, and I thought it was
some one sick at the Roman Catholic mission. On we went down the path
that might go there; but when we got to where you turn off for it, he
took no heed, but kept on, and then away up over a low hill and down
into deeper forest still, I steering by his white cloth. But Africa is
an alarming place to walk about in at night, both for a witch doctor who
believes in all his local forest devils, and a lady who believes in all
the local material ones, so we both got a good deal chipped and frayed
and frightened one way and another; but nothing worse happened than our
walking up against a python, which had thoughtfully festooned himself
across the path, out of the way of ground ants, to sleep off a heavy
meal. My eminent friend, in the inky darkness and his hurry to reach his
patient, failed to see this, and went fair up against it. I, being close
behind, did ditto. Then my leader ducked under the excited festoon and
went down the path at headlong speed, with me after him, alike terrified
at losing sight of his guiding cloth and at the python, whom we heard
going away into the bush with that peculiar-sounding crackle a big snake
gives when he is badly hurried.

Finally we reached a small bush village, and on the ground before one of
the huts was the patient extended, surrounded by unavailing, wailing
women. He was suffering from a disease common in West Africa, but
amenable to treatment by European drugs, which I gave to the medical
man, who gave them to his patient with proper incantations and a few
little things of his own that apparently did not hinder their action. As
soon as the patient had got relief, my friend saw me home, and when we
got in, I said, Why did you do this, that and the other, as is usual
with me, and he sat down, looked far away, and talked for an hour,
softly, wordily and gently; and the gist of what that man talked was
Goethe's _Prometheus_. I recognised it after half an hour, and when he
had done, said, "You got that stuff from a white man." "No, sir," he
said, "that no be white man fash, that be country fash, white man no fit
to savee our fash." "Aren't they, my friend?" I said; and we parted for
the night, I the wiser for it, he the richer.

Now, I pray you, do not think I am saying that there is a "wisdom
religion" in Fetish, or anything like that, or that Fetish priests are
Spinozas and Goethes--far from it. All that it seems to me to be is a
perfectly natural view of Nature, and one that, if you take it up with
no higher form of mind in you than a shrewd, logical one alone, will, if
you carry it out, lead you necessarily to paint a white chalk rim round
one eye, eat your captive, use Woka incantations for diseases, and dance
and howl all night repeatedly, to the awe of your fellow-believers, and
the scandal of Mohammedan gentlemen who have a revealed religion.

Moreover, the mind-form which gets hold of this truth that is in all
things, makes a great difference in the form in which the religion works
out. For instance, to a superficial observer, it would hardly seem
possible that a Persian and a Mahdist were followers of the same
religion, or that a Spaniard and an English Broad Churchman were so.
And yet it seems to me that it is only this class of difference that
exists between the African, the Brahmanist, and the Shintoist.

Another and more fundamental point to be considered is the influence of
physical environment on religions, particularly these Nature religions.

The Semitic mind, which had never been kept quite in its proper place by
Natural difficulties, gave to man in the scheme of Creation a
pre-eminence that deeply influences Europeans, who have likewise not
been kept in their place owing to the environments of the temperate
zone. On the other hand, the African race has had about the worst set of
conditions possible to bring out the higher powers of man. He has been
surrounded by a set of terrific natural phenomena, combined with a good
food supply and a warm and equable climate. These things are not enough
in themselves to account for his low-culture condition, but they are
factors that must be considered. Then, undoubtedly, the nature of the
African's mind is one of the most important points. It may seem a
paradox to say of people who are always seeing visions that they are not
visionaries; but they are not.

The more you know the African, the more you study his laws and
institutions, the more you must recognise that the main characteristic
of his intellect is logical, and you see how in all things he uses this
absolutely sound but narrow thought-form. He is not a dreamer nor a
doubter; everything is real, very real, horribly real to him. It is
impossible for me to describe it clearly, but the quality of the African
mind is strangely uniform. This may seem strange to those who read
accounts of wild and awful ceremonials, or of the African's terror at
white man's things; but I believe you will find all people experienced
in dealing with uncultured Africans will tell you that this alarm and
brief wave of curiosity is merely external, for the African knows the
moment he has time to think it over, what that white man's thing really
is, namely, either a white man's Juju or a devil.

It is this power of being able logically to account for everything that
is, I believe, at the back of the tremendous permanency of Fetish in
Africa, and the cause of many of the relapses into it by Africans
converted to other religions; it is also the explanation of the fact
that white men who live in districts where death and danger are everyday
affairs, under a grim pall of boredom, are liable to believe in Fetish,
though ashamed of so doing. For the African, whose mind has been soaked
in Fetish during his early most impressionable years, the voice of
Fetish is almost irresistible when affliction comes on him. Sudden
dangers or terror he can face with his new religion, because he is not
quick at thinking. But give him time to think when under the hand of
adversity, and the old explanation that answered it all comes back. I
know no more distressing thing than to see an African convert brought
face to face with that awful thing we are used to, the problem of an
omnipotent God and a suffering world. This does not worry the African
convert until it hits him personally in grief and misery. When it does,
and he turns and calls upon the God he has been taught will listen, pity
and answer, his use of what the scoffers at the converted African call
"catch phrases" is horribly heartrending to me, for I know how real,
terribly real, the whole thing is to him, and I therefore see the
temptation to return to those old gods--gods from whom he never expected
pity, presided over by a god that does not care. All that he had to do
with them was not to irritate them, to propitiate them, to buy their
services when wanted, and, above all, to dodge and avoid them, while he
fought it out and managed devils at large. Risky work, but a man is as
good as a devil any day if he only takes proper care; and even if any
devil should get him unaware--kill him bodily--he has the satisfaction
of knowing he will have the power to make it warm for that devil when
they meet on the other side.

There is something alluring in this, I think, to any make of human mind,
but particularly so to the logical, intensely human one possessed by the
West African. Therefore, when wearied and worn out by confronting things
that he cannot reconcile, and disappointed by unanswered prayers, he
turns back to his old belief entirely, or modifies the religion he has
been taught until it fits in with Fetish, and is gradually absorbed by

It is often asked whether Christianity or Mohammedanism is to possess
Africa--as if the choice of Fate lay between these two things alone. I
do not think it is so, at least it is not wise for a mere student to
ignore the other thing in the affair, Fetish, which is as it were a sea
wherein all things suffer a sea change. For remember it is not
Christianity alone that becomes tinged with Fetish, or gets engulfed and
dominated by it. Islam, when it strikes the true heart of Africa, the
great Forest Belt region, fares little better though it is more recent
than Christianity, and though it is preached by men who know the make of
the African mind. Islam is in its blüth-period now in all the open
parts, even on the desert regions of Africa from its Mediterranean shore
to below the Equator, but so far it has beaten up against the Forest
Belt like a sea on a sand beach. It has crossed the Forest Belt by the
Lakes, it has penetrated it in channels, but in those channels the
waters of Islam are, recent as their inroad there is, brackish.

Therefore I make no pretence at prophesying which of these great
revealed religions will ultimately possess Africa; but it is an
interesting point to notice what has been the reason of the great power
of immediate appeal to the African which they both possess.

The African has a great over-God, and below him lesser spirits,
including man; but the African has not in West Africa, nor so far as I
have been able to ascertain elsewhere in the whole Continent, a God-man,
a thing that directly connects man with the great over-God. This thing
appeals to the African when it is presented to him by Christianity and

It is, I am quite aware, not doctrinally true to say that Islam offers
him a God-man, nevertheless in Mohammed practically it does so, and that
too in a more easily believable form--by easily I do not mean that it is
necessarily true. Moreover it minimises the danger of death in a more
definite way, more in keeping with his own desires, and it is more
reconcilable with his conscience in the treatment of life as he has to
live it. Most of the higher class Africans are traders. Islam gives an
easier, clearer line of rectitude to a trader than its great rival in
Africa--under African conditions.

There are many who will question whether conscience is a sufficiently
large factor in an African mind for us to think of taking it into
account, but whether you call it conscience, or religious bent, or fear,
the factor is a large one. An African cannot say, as so many Europeans
evidently easily can, "Oh, that is all right from a religious point of
view, but one must be practical, you know"; and it is this factor that
makes me respect the African deeply and sympathise with him, for I have
this same unmanageable hindersome thing in my own mind, which you can
call anything you like; I myself call it honour. Now conscience when
conditioned by Christianity is an exceedingly difficult thing for a
trader to manage satisfactorily to himself. A mass of compromises have
to be made with the world, and a man who is always making compromises
gets either sick of them or sick of the thing that keeps on nagging at
him about them, or he becomes merely gaseous-minded all round. There are
some few in all races of men who can think comfortably

          "That conscience, like a restive horse,
          Will stumble if you check his course,
          But ride him with an easy rein,
          And rub him down with worldly gain,
          He'll carry you through thick and thin,
          Safe, although dirty, 'till you win,"

but such men are in Africa a very small minority, and so it falls out
that most men engaged in trade revert to Fetish, or become lax as Church
members, or embrace Islam.

I think, if you will consider the case, you will see that the
workability of Islam is one of the chief reasons of its success in
Africa. It is, from many African points of view, a most inconvenient
religion, with its Rahmadhizan, bound every now and again to come in the
height of the dry season; its restrictions on alcoholic drinks and
gambling; but, on the whole it is satisfying to the African conscience.
Moreover, like Christianity, it lifts man into a position of paramount
importance in Creation. He is the thing God made the rest for. I have
often heard Africans say, "It does a man good to know God loves him; it
makes him proud too much." Well, at any rate it is pleasanter than
Fetish, where man, in company with a host of spirits, is fighting for
his own hand, in an arena before the gods, eternally.

We will now turn to the consideration of the status of the human soul in
pure Fetish, that is to say in Fetish that is common to all the
different schools of West African Fetishism.

What strikes a European when studying it is the lack of gaps between
things. To the African there is perhaps no gap between the conception of
spirit and matter, animate or inanimate. It is all an affair of
grade--not of essential difference in essence. At the head of existence
are those beings who can work without using matter, either as a constant
associate or as an occasional tool--do it all themselves, as an African
would say. Beneath this grade there are many grades of spirits, who
occasionally or habitually, as in the case of the human grade, are
associated with matter, and at the lower end of the scale is what we
call matter, but which I believe the West African regards as the same
sort of stuff as the rest, only very low--so low that practically it
doesn't matter; but it is spirits, the things that cause all motion, all
difficulties, dangers and calamities, that do matter and must be thought
about, for they are _real_ things whether "they live for thing" or no.

The African and myself are also in a fine fog about form, but I will
spare you that point, for where that thing comes from, often so quickly
and silently, and goes, often so quickly and silently, too, under our
eyes, everlastingly, that thing on which we all so much depend at every
moment of our lives, that thing we are quite as conscious of as light
and darkness, heat or cold, yet which makes a thing no heavier in one
shape than in another,--is altogether too large a subject to touch on
now. Yet, remember it is a most important part of practical Fetish, for
on it depends divination and heaps of such like matters, that are parts
of both the witch doctor and the Fetish priest's daily work.

One of the fundamental doctrines of Fetish is that the connection of a
certain spirit with a certain mass of matter, a material object, is not
permanent; the African will point out to you a lightning-stricken tree
and tell you that its spirit has been killed; he will tell you when the
cooking pot has gone to bits that it has lost its spirit; if his weapon
fails it is because some one has stolen or made sick its spirit by means
of witchcraft. In every action of his daily life he shows you how he
lives with a great, powerful spirit world around him. You will see him
before starting out to hunt or fight rubbing medicine into his weapons
to strengthen the spirits within them, talking to them the while;
telling them what care he has taken of them, reminding them of the gifts
he has given them, though those gifts were hard for him to give, and
begging them in the hour of his dire necessity not to fail him. You will
see him bending over the face of a river talking to its spirit with
proper incantations, asking it when it meets a man who is an enemy of
his to upset his canoe or drown him, or asking it to carry down with it
some curse to the village below which has angered him, and in a thousand
other ways he shows you what he believes if you will watch him

It is a very important point in the study of pure Fetish to gain a clear
conception of this arrangement of things in grades. As far as I have
gone I think I may say fourteen classes of spirits exist in Fetish. Dr.
Nassau of Gaboon thinks that the spirits commonly affecting human
affairs can be classified fairly completely into six classes.[15]

Regarding the Fetish view of the state and condition of the human soul
there are certain ideas that I think I may safely say are common to the
various cults of Fetish, both Negro and Bantu, in Western Africa.
Firstly, the class of spirits that are human souls always remain human
souls. They do not become deified, nor do they sink in grade. I am aware
that here I am on dangerous ground so I am speaking carefully.[16] An
eminent authority, when criticising my statements,[17] dwelt upon their
heterodoxy on this point, saying however, "We may throw out the
conjecture that in remote and obscure West Africa men do not reach the
necessary pitch of renown for mighty deeds or sanctity that qualifies
them in larger countries for elevation after death to high places among
recognised divinities."

This conjecture I quite accept as an explanation of the non-deification
of human beings in West Africa, and I think, taken in conjunction with
the grade conception, it fairly explains why West Africa has not what
undoubtedly other regions of the world have in their religions, deified

After having had my attention drawn to the strangeness of this
non-deification of ancestors, I did my best to work the subject out in
order to see if by any chance I had badly observed it. I consulted the
accounts of West African religions given by Labat, Bosman, Bastian and
Ellis, and to my great pleasure found that the three first said nothing
against my statements, and that Sir A. B. Ellis had himself said the
same thing in his _Ewe Speaking People_. Moreover, I sent a circular
written on this point to people in West Africa whom I knew had
opportunities of knowing the facts as at present existing,--the answers
were unanimous with Ellis and myself.

Nevertheless, mind, you will find something that looks like worship of
ancestors in West Africa. Only it is no more worship, properly so
called, than our own deference to our living, elderly, and influential

In almost all Western African districts (it naturally does not show
clearly in those where reincarnation is believed to be the common and
immediate lot of all human spirits) is a class of spirits called "the
well disposed ones," and this class is clearly differentiated from
"them," the generic name used for non-human spirits. These "well
disposed ones" are ancestors, and they do what they can to benefit their
particular village or family, acting in conjunction with the village or
family Fetish, who is not a human spirit, nor an ancestor. But the
things given to ancestors are gifts, not in the proper sense of the word
sacrifices, for the well disposed ones are not gods even of the rank of
a Sasabonsum or an Ombuiri.

In an extremely interesting answer to my inquiries that I received from
Mr. J. H. Batty, of Cape Coast, who had kindly submitted my questions to
a native gentleman well versed in affairs, the statement regarding
ancestors is, "The people believe that the spirits of their departed
relations exercise a guardian care over them, and they will frequently
stand over the graves of their deceased friends and invoke their
spirits to protect them and their children from harm. It is imagined
that the spirit lingers about the house some time after death. If the
children are ill the illness is ascribed to the spirit of the deceased
mother having embraced them. Elderly women are often heard to offer up a
kind of prayer to the spirit of a departed parent, begging it either to
go to its rest, or to protect the family by keeping off evil spirits,
instead of injuring the children or other members of the family by its
touch. The ghosts of departed enemies are considered by the people as
bad spirits, who have power to injure them."

In connection with this fear of the ancestor's ghost hurting members of
its own family, particularly children, I may remark it has several times
been carefully explained to me that this "touching" comes not from
malevolence, but from loneliness and the desire to have their company. A
sentimental but inconvenient desire that the living human cannot give in
to perpetually, though big men will accede to their ancestor's desire
for society by killing off people who may serve or cheer him. This
desire for companionship is of course immensely greater in the spirit
that is not definitely settled in the society of spiritdom, and it is
therefore more dangerous to its own belongings, in fact to all living
society, while it is hanging about the other side of the grave, but this
side of Hades. Thus I well remember a delicious row that arose primarily
out of trade matters, but which caused one family to yell at another
family divers remarks, ending up with the accusation, "You
good-for-nothing illegitimate offspring of house lizards, you don't bury
your ditto ditto dead relations, but leave them knocking about anyhow, a
curse to Calabar." Naturally therefore the spirit of a dead enemy is
feared because it would touch for the purpose of getting spirit slaves;
therefore it follows that powerful ancestors are valued when they are on
the other side, for they can keep off the dead enemies. A great chief's
spirit is a thoroughly useful thing for a village to keep going, and in
good order, for it conquered those who are among the dead with it, and
can keep them under, keep them from aiding their people in the fights
between its living relations and itself and them, with its slave spirit
army. I ought to say that it is customary for the living to send the
dead out ahead of the army, to bear the brunt in the first attack.

Ancestor-esteem you will find at its highest pitch in West Africa under
the school of Fetish that rules the Tshi and Ewe peoples. Ellis gives
you a full description of it for Ashanti and Dahomey.[18] The next
district going down coast is the Yoruba one; but Yoruba has been so long
under the influence of Mahometanism that its Fetish, judging from
Ellis's statement in his _Yoruba Speaking People_, is deeply tinged with
it. I have no personal acquaintance with Yorubaland, but have no
hesitation for myself in accepting his statements from the accuracy I
have found them, by personal experience with Tshi and Ewe people, to
possess. Below Yoruba comes a district, the Oil Rivers, where, alas,
Ellis did not penetrate, and where no ethnologist, unless you will
graciously extend the term to me, has ever cautiously worked.

In this district you have a school where reincarnation is strongly
believed in, a different school of Fetish to that of Tshi and Ewe, a
class of human ghosts called the well-disposed ones. And these are
ancestors undoubtedly. They do not show up clearly in those districts
where reincarnation is believed to be the common lot of all human
souls. Nevertheless, they are clear enough even there, as I will
presently attempt to explain.

These ancestor spirits have things given to them for their consolation
and support, and in return they do what they can to benefit and guard
their own villages and families. Nevertheless, the things given to the
well-disposed ones are not as things sacrificed to gods. Nor are the
well-disposed ones gods, even of the grade of a Sasabonsum or an
Ombuiri. It is a low down thing to dig up your father--i.e., open his
grave and take away the things in it that have been given him. It will
get you cut by respectable people, and rude people when there is a
market-place row on will mention it freely; but it won't bring on a
devastating outbreak of small-pox in the whole district.


   [10] Of the Divine Law, _Tractatus Theologico Politicus_, Spinoza.

   [11] _Primitive Culture_, E. B. Tylor, p. 144.

   [12] Professor Tylor kindly allowed me to place this statement before
   him, and he says that as the word Fetish, with the sense of the use
   of bones, claws, stones, and such objects as receptacles of spiritual
   influences, has had nearly two centuries of established usage, it
   would not be easy to set it aside, and he advises me to use the term
   West African religion, or in some way make my meaning clear without
   expecting to upset the established nomenclature of comparative

   [13] This word is pronounced by the natives and by people knowing them,
   Cheuwe, as Ellis undoubtedly knew, but presumably he spelt it Tshi to
   please the authorities.

   [14] _The Vocation of the Hebrews_, Spinoza.

   [15] See _Travels in West Africa_, by M. H. Kingsley. Macmillan & Co.

   [16] For further details see _Travels in West Africa_, p. 444.

   [17] "Origins and Interpretations of Primitive Religions." _Edinburgh
   Review_, July, 1897, p. 219.

   [18] _The Tshi Speaking, Ewe Speaking and Yoruba Speaking People of
   West Africa._--A. B. Ellis.



     Wherein the student, thinking things may be made clearer if it be
     perceived that there are divers schools of Fetish, discourses on
     the schools of West African religious thought.

As I have had occasion to refer to schools of Fetish, and as that is a
term of my own, I must explain why I use it, and what I mean by it, in
so far as I am able. When travelling from district to district you
cannot fail to be struck by the difference in character of the native
religion you are studying. My own range on the West Coast is from Sierra
Leone to Loanda; and here and there in places such as the Oil Rivers,
the Ogowe, and the Lower Congo, I have gone inland into the heart of
what I knew to be particularly rich districts for an ethnologist. I make
no pretence to a thorough knowledge of African Fetish in all its
schools, but I feel sure no wandering student of the subject in Western
Africa can avoid recognising the existence of at least four distinct
forms of development of the Fetish idea. They have, every one of them,
the underlying idea I have attempted to sketch as pure Fetish when
speaking of the position of the human soul; and yet they differ. And I
believe much of the confusion which is supposed to exist in African
religious ideas is a confusion only existing in the minds of cabinet
ethnologists from a want of recognition of the fact of the existence of
these schools.

                     [_To face page 137._]

For example, suppose you take a few facts from Ellis and a few from
Bastian and mix, and call the mixture West African religion, you do much
the same sort of thing as if you took bits from Mr. Spurgeon's works,
and from those of some eminent Jesuit and of a sound Greek churchman,
and mixed them and labelled it European religion. The bits would be all
right in themselves, but the mixture would be a quaint affair.

As far as my present knowledge of the matter goes, I should state that
there were four main schools of West African Fetish: (1) the Tshi and
Ewe school, Ellis' school; (2) the Calabar school; (3) the Mpongwe
school; (4) Nkissism or the Fjort school. Subdivisions of these schools
can easily be made, but I only make the divisions on the different main
objects of worship, or more properly speaking, the thing each school
especially endeavours to secure for man. The Tshi and Ewe school is
mainly concerned with the preservation of life; the Calabar school with
attempting to enable the soul successfully to pass through death; the
Mpongwe school with the attainment of material prosperity; while the
school of Nkissi is mainly concerned with the worship of the mystery of
the power of Earth--Nkissi-nsi. You will find these divers things
worshipped, or, rather, I would say cultivated, in all the schools of
Fetish, but in certain schools certain ideas are predominant. Look at
Srahmantin of the Tshi people, and at Nzambi of the Fjort. Both these
ladies know where the animals go to drink, what they say to each other,
where their towns are, and what not; also they both know what the
forest says to the wind and the rain, and all the forests' own small
talk in the bargain, and, therefore, also the inner nature of all these
things; and both, like other ladies, I have heard prefer gentlemen's
society. Women they have a tendency to be hard on, but either Srahmantin
or Nzambi think nothing of taking up a man's time, making him neglect
his business or his family affairs, or both together, by keeping him in
the bush for a month or so at a time, teaching him things about
medicines, and finally sending him back into town in so addlepated a
condition that for months he hardly knows who he exactly is. When he
comes round, however, if he has any sense, he sets up in business as a
medical man; sometimes, however, he just remains merely crackey. Such a
man was my esteemed Kefalla.

But look how different under different schools is the position of
Srahmantin and Nzambi. Srahmantin is only propitiated by doctors and
hunters; by all respectable, busy, family men forced to go through
forests, she is simply dreaded, while Nzambi, the great Princess,
entirely dominates the whole school of Nkissism.

From what cause or what series of causes the predominance of these
different things has come, I do not know, unless it be from different
natural environment and different race. It is certainly not a mere
tribal affair, for there are many different tribes under each school.
For example, I do not think you need make more than a subdivision
between the Tshi, the Ga or Ogi and the Ewe peoples' Fetish, nor more
than a subdivision between those of the Eboes and the Ibbibios, or those
of the Fjort and Mussurongoes; but we want more information before it
would be quite safe to dogmatise.

It is impossible in the present state of our knowledge to give exact
geographical limits of the different schools of Fetish, and I therefore
only sketch their geographical distribution in Western Africa, from
Sierra Leone to Loanda, hoping thereby to incite further research.

Sierra Leone and its adjacent districts have not been studied by an
ethnologist. We have only scattered information regarding the religion
there; and unfortunately the observations we have on it mainly bear on
the operations of the secret societies, which in these regions have
attained to much power, and are usually though erroneously grouped under
the name of Poorah. Poorah, like all secret societies, is intensely
interesting, for it is the manifestation of the law form of Fetish; but
secret societies are pure Fetish, and common to all districts. All that
we can gather from the scattered observations on the rest of the Fetish
in this region is that it is allied to the Fetish school of the
Tshi-speaking people.

Next to this unobserved district, we come to the well-observed districts
of the Tshi, Ewe, and Yoruba-speaking people--Ellis's region.

It may seem unwise for me to attempt to group these three together and
call them one school, because from this one district we have two
distinct cults of Fetish in the West Indies, Voudou and Obeah (Tchanga
and Wanga). Voudou itself is divided into two sects, the white and the
red--the first, a comparatively harmless one, requiring only the
sacrifice of, at the most, a white cock or a white goat, whereas the red
cult only uses the human sacrifice--the goat without horns. Obeah, on
the other hand, kills only by poison--does not show the blood at all.
And there is another important difference between Voudou and Obeah, and
that is that Voudou requires for the celebration of its rites a
priestess and a priest. Obeah can be worked by either alone, and is not
tied to the presence of the snake. Both these cults have sprung from
slaves imported from Ellis's district, Obeah from slaves bought at
Koromantin mainly, and Voudou from those bought at Dahomey.
Nevertheless, it seems to me these good people have differentiated their
religion in the West Indies considerably; for example, in Obeah the
spider (_anansi_) has a position given it equal to that of the snake in
Voudou. Now the spider is all very well in West Africa; round him there
has grown a series of most amusing stories, always to be told through
the nose, and while you crawl about; but to put him on a plane with the
snake in Dahomey is absurd; his equivalent there is the turtle, also a
focus for many tales, only more improper tales, and not half so amusing.

The true importance and status of the snake in Dahomey is a thing hard
to fix. Personally I believe it to be merely a case of especial
development of a local ju-ju. We all know what the snake signifies, and
instances of its attaining a local eminence occur elsewhere. At Creek
Town, in Calabar, and Brass River it is more than respected. It is an
accidental result of some bit of history we have lost, like the worship
of the crocodile at Dixcove and in the Lower Congo. Whereas it is clear
that the general respect, amounting to seeming worship, of the leopard
is another affair altogether, for the leopard is the great thing in all
West African forests, and forests and surf are the great things in
Western Africa--the lines of perpetual danger to the life of man.

     [Illustration: YORUBA. [_To face page 141._]

But there is a remarkable point that you cannot fail to notice in the
Fetish of these three divisions of true Negro Fetish studied by
Ellis, namely, that what is one god in Yoruba you get as several gods
exercising one particular function in Dahomey, as hundreds of gods on
the Gold Coast. Moreover, all these gods in all these districts have
regular priests and priestesses in dozens, while below Yoruba regular
priests and priestesses are rare. There the officials of the law
societies abound, and there are Fetish men, but these are different
people to the priests of Bohorwissi and Tando.

I do not know Yoruba land personally, but have had many opportunities of
inquiring regarding its Fetish from educated and uneducated natives of
that country whom I have met down Coast as traders and artisans.
Therefore, having found nothing to militate against Ellis's statements,
I accept them for Yoruba as for Dahomey and the Gold Coast; and my great
regret is that his careful researches did not extend down into the
district below Yoruba--the district I class under the Calabar
school--more particularly so because the districts he worked at are all
districts where there has been a great and long-continued infusion of
both European and Mohammedan forms of thought, owing to the
four-hundred-year-old European intercourse on the seaboard, and the even
older and greater Mohammedan influence from the Western Soudan; whereas
below these districts you come to a region of pure Negro Fetish that has
undergone but little infusion of alien thought.

Whether or no to place Benin with Yoruba or with Calabar is a problem.
There is, no doubt, a very close connection between it and Yoruba. There
is also no doubt that Benin was in touch, even as late as the
seventeenth century, with some kingdom of the higher culture away in the
interior. It may have been Abyssinia, or it may have been one of the
cultured states that the chaos produced by the Mohammedan invasion of
the Soudan destroyed. In our present state of knowledge we can only
conjecture, I venture to think, idly, until we know more. The only thing
that is certain is that Benin was influenced as is shown by its art
development. Benin practically broke up long before Ashantee or Dahomey,
for, as Proyart[19] remarks, "many small kingdoms or native states which
at the present day share Africa among them were originally provinces
dependent on other kingdoms, the particular governors of which usurped
the sovereignty." Benin's north-western provinces seem to have done
this, possibly with the assistance of the Mohammedanised people who came
down to the seaboard seeking the advantages of white trade; and Benin
became isolated in its forest swamps, cut off from the stimulating
influence of successful wars, and out of touch with the expanding
influence of commerce, and devoted its attention too much to Fetish
matters to be healthy for itself or any one who fell in with it. It is
an interesting point in this connection to observe that we do not find
in the accounts given by the earlier voyagers to Benin city anything
like the enormous sacrifice of human life described by visitors to it of
our own time. Other districts round Calabar, Bonny, Opobo, and so on,
have human sacrifice as well, but they show no signs of being under
Benin in trade matters, in which Benin used to be very strict when it
had the chance. In fact, whatever respect they had for Benin was a
sentimental one, such as the King of Kongo has, and does not take the
practical form of paying taxes.

The extent of the direct influence of Benin away into the forest belt to
the east and south I do not think at any time was great. Benin was
respected because it was regarded as possessing a big Fetish and great
riches. In recent years it was regarded by people discontented with
white men as their great hope, from its power to resist these being
greater than their own. Nevertheless, the adjacent kingdom of Owarie
(Warri), even in the sixteenth century, was an independent kingdom. So
different was its Fetish from that of Benin that Warri had not then, and
has not to this day, human sacrifice in its religious observances, only
judicial and funeral killings.

Considering how very easily Africans superficially adopt the religious
ideas of alien people with whom they have commercial intercourse, we
must presume that the people who imported the art of working in metals
into Benin also imported some of their religion. The relics of religion,
alien to Fetish, that show in Benin Fetish are undoubtedly Christian.
Whether these relics are entirely those of the Portuguese Roman Catholic
missions, or are not also relics of some earlier Christian intercourse
with Western Soudan Christianised states existing prior to the
Mohammedan invasion of Northern Africa, is again a matter on which we
require more information. But just as I believe some of the metal
articles found in Benin to be things made in Birmingham, some to be old
Portuguese, some to be native castings, copies of things imported from
that unknown inland state, and some to be the original inland state
articles themselves, so do I believe the relics of Christianity in the
Fetish to be varied in origin, all alike suffering absorption by the
native Fetish.

There is no doubt that up to the last twenty years the three great
Fetish kings in Western Africa were those of Ashantee, Dahomey, and
Benin. Each of these kings was alike believed by the whole of the people
to have great Fetish power in his own locality. In the time of which we
have no historical record--prior to the visits of the first white
voyagers in the fifteenth century--there is traditional record of the
King of Benin fighting with his cousin of Dahomey. Possibly Dahomey beat
him badly; anyhow something went seriously wrong with Benin as a
territorial kingdom, before its discovery by modern Europe.

I now turn to the Fetish of the Oil Rivers which I have called the
Calabar school. The predominance of the belief there in reincarnation
seems to me sufficient to separate it from the Gold Coast and Dahomey
Fetish. Funeral customs, important in all Negro Fetish, become in the
Calabar school exceedingly so. A certain amount of care anywhere is
necessary to successfully establish the human soul after death, for the
human soul strongly objects to leaving material pleasures and
associations and going to, at best, an uninteresting under-world; but
when you have not only got to send the soul down, but to bring it back
into the human form again, and not any human form at that, but one of
its own social status and family, the thing becomes more complicated
still; and to do it so engrosses human attention, and so absorbs human
wealth, that you do not find under the Calabar school a multitude of
priest-served gods as you do in Dahomey and on the Gold Coast. Mind you,
so far as I could make out while in the Calabar districts myself, the
equivalents of those same gods, were quite believed in; but they were
neglected in a way that would have caused them in Dahomey, where they
have been taught to fancy themselves to wreck the place. Not only is
care taken to send a soul down, but means are taken to see whether or no
it has duly returned; for keeping a valuable soul, like that of a great
Fetish proficient who could manage outside spirits, or that of a good
trader, is a matter of vital importance to the prosperity of the Houses,
so when such a soul has left the House in consequence of some sad
accident or another, or some vile witchcraft, the babies that arrive to
the House are closely watched. Assortments of articles belonging to
deceased members of the house are presented to it, and then, according
to the one it picks out, it is decided who that baby really is--See,
Uncle so-and-so knows his own pipe, &c.--and I have often heard a mother
reproaching a child for some fault say, "Oh, we made a big mistake when
we thought you were so-and-so." I must say I think the absence of the
idea of the deification of ancestors in West Africa shows up
particularly strongly in the Calabar school, for herein you see so
clearly that the dead do not pass into a higher, happier state--that the
soul separate from the body is only a part of that thing we call a human
being, and in West Africa the whole is greater than a part, even in this

     [Illustration: A CALABAR CHIEF. [_To face page 145._]

The pathos of the thing, when you have grasped the underlying idea, is
so deep that the strangeness of it passes away, and you almost forget to
hate the horrors of the slaughter that hang round Oil River funeral
customs, or, at any rate, you understand the tenacity you meet with here
of the right to carry out killing at funerals, a greater tenacity than
confronted us in Gold Coast or Dahomey regions, because a different idea
is involved in the affair. On the Gold Coast, for example, you can
substitute wealth for the actual human victim, because with wealth the
dead soul could, after all, make itself comfortable in Srahmandazi, but
not so in the Rivers. Without slaves, wives, and funds, how can the dead
soul you care for speak with the weight of testimony of men as to its
resting place or position? Rolls of velvet or satin, and piles of
manillas or doubloons alone cannot speak; besides, they may have been
stolen stuff, and the soul you care for may be put down by the
authorities as a mere thieving slave, a sort of mere American gold bug
trying to pass himself off as a duke--or a descendant of General
Washington--which would lead to that soul being disgraced and sent back
in a vile form. Think how you yourself, if in comfortable circumstances,
belonging to a family possessing wealth and power, would like father,
mother, sister, or brother of yours who by this change of death had just
left these things, to go down through death, and come back into life in
a squalid slum!

We meet in this school, however, with a serious problem--namely, what
does become of dead chiefs? It is a point I will not dogmatise on, but
it certainly looks as if the Calabar under-world was a most aristocratic
spot, peopled entirely by important chiefs and the retinues sent down
with them--by no means having the fine mixed society of Srahmandazi.

The Oil River deceased chief is clearly kept as a sort of pensioner. The
chief who succeeds him in his headship of the House is given to "making
his father" annually. It is not necessarily his real father that he
makes, but his predecessor in the headmanship--a slave succeeding to a
free man would "make his father" to the dead free man, and so on. This
function undoubtedly consists in sending his predecessor a big subsidy
for his support, and consolation in the shape of slaves and goods. I may
as well own I have long had a dark suspicion regarding this matter--a
suspicion as to where those goods went. Their proper destination, of
course, should be the under-world. Thither undoubtedly on the Gold Coast
they would go; but when sent in the Rivers I do not think they go so
far. In fact, to make a clean breast of it, I do not believe big chiefs
are properly buried in the Oil Rivers at all. I think they are, for
political purposes, kept hanging about outside life, but not inside
death, by their diplomatic successors. I feel emboldened to say this by
what my friend, Major Leonard, Vice-Consul of the Niger Coast
Protectorate, recently told me. When he was appointed Vice-Consul, and
was introducing himself to his chiefs in this capacity, one chief he
visited went aside to a deserted house, opened the door, and talked to
somebody inside; there was not any one in material form inside, only the
spirit of his deceased predecessor, and all the things left just as they
were when he died; the live chief was telling the dead chief that the
new Consul was come, &c.

The reason, that is the excuse, for this seemingly unprincipled conduct
in not properly burying the chief, so that he may be reincarnated to a
complete human form, lies in the fact that he would be a political
nuisance to his successor if he came back promptly; therefore he is kept

From first-class native informants I have had fragments of accounts of
making-father ceremonies. Particularly interesting have been their
accounts of what the live chief says to the dead one. Much of it, of
course, is, for diplomatic reasons, not known outside official circles.
But the general tone of these communications is well known to be of a
nature to discourage the dead chief from returning, and to reconcile
him to his existing state. Things are not what they were here. The price
of oil is down, women are ten times more frivolous, slaves ten times
more trying, white Consul men abound, also their guns are more deadly
than of old, this new Consul looks worse than the last, there is nothing
but war and worry for a chief nowadays. The whole country is going to
the dogs financially and domestically, in fact, and you are much better
off where you are. Then come petitions for such help as the ghost chief
and his ghost retinue can give.

This, I think, explains why chiefs' funeral customs in the Rivers differ
in kind, not merely in grade, from those of big trade boys or other
important people, and also accounts for their repetition at intervals.
Big trade boys, and the slaves and women sent down with them, return to
a full human form more or less promptly; mere low grade slaves, slaves
that cannot pull a canoe, _i.e._, provide a war canoe for the service of
the House out of their own private estate, are not buried at all--they
are thrown away, unless they have a mother who will bury them. They will
come back again all right as slaves, but then that is all they are fit

Then we have left very interesting sections of the community to consider
from a funeral rite point of view--namely, those in human form who are
not, strictly speaking, human beings, and those who, though human, have
committed adultery with spirits--women who bear twins or who die in
child-birth. These sinners, I may briefly remark, are neither buried nor
just thrown away; they are, as far as possible, destroyed. But with the
former class the matter is slightly different. Children, for example,
that arrive with ready cut teeth, will in a strict family be killed or
thrown away in the bush to die as they please; but the feeling against
them is not really keen. They may, if the mother chooses to be bothered
with them, be reared; but the interesting point is that any property
they may acquire during life has no legal heir whatsoever. It must be
dissipated, thrown away. This shows clearly that such individuals are
not human, and, moreover, they are not buried nor destroyed at death;
they are just thrown away. There is no particular harm in them as there
is in the sin-stained twins.

The only class in West Africa I have found that are like these spirit
humans is that strange class, the minstrels. I wish I knew more about
these people. Were it not that Mr. F. Swanzy possesses material evidence
of their existence, in the shape of the most superb song-net, I should
hesitate to mention them at all. Some of my French friends, however,
tell me they have seen them in Senegal, and I venture to think that
region must be their headquarters. I have seen one in Accra, one in
Sierra Leone, two on board steamers, and one in Buana town, Cameroon.
Briefly, these are minstrels who frequent market towns, and for a fee
sing stories. Each minstrel has a song-net--a strongly made net of a
fishing net sort. On to this net are tied all manner and sorts of
things, pythons' back bones, tobacco pipes, bits of china, feathers,
bits of hide, birds' heads, reptiles' heads, bones, &c., &c., and to
every one of these objects hangs a tale. You see your minstrel's net,
you select an object and say how much that song. He names an exorbitant
price; you haggle; no good. He won't be reasonable, say over the python
bone, so you price the tobacco pipe--more haggle; finally you settle on
some object and its price, and sit down on your heels and listen with
rapt attention to the song, or, rather, chant. You usually have
another. You sort of dissipate in novels, in fact. I do not say it's
quiet reading, because unprincipled people will come headlong and listen
when you have got your minstrel started, without paying their
subscription. Hence a row, unless you are, like me, indifferent to other
people having a little pleasure.

These song-nets, I may remark, are not of a regulation size. I have
never seen on the West Coast anything like so superb a collection of
stories as Mr. Swanzy has tied on that song-net of his--Woe is me!
without the translating minstrel, a cycle of dead songs that must have
belonged to a West African Shakespeare. The most impressive song-net
that I saw was the one at Buana. Its owner I called Homer on the spot,
because his works were a terrific two. Tied on to his small net were a
human hand and a human jaw bone. They were his only songs. I heard them
both regardless of expense. I did not understand them, because I did not
know his language; but they were fascinating things, and the human hand
one had a passage in it which caused the singer to crawl on his hands
and knees, round and round, stealthily looking this side and that,
giving the peculiar leopard questing cough, and making the leopard mark
on the earth with his doubled-up fist. Ah! that was something like a
song! It would have roused a rock to enthusiasm; a civilised audience
would have smothered its singer with bouquets. I--well, the headman with
me had to interfere and counsel moderation in heads of tobacco.

But what I meant to say about these singers was only this. They are not
buried as other people are; they are put into trees when they are
dead--may be because they are "all same for one" with those singers the
birds. I do not know, I only hope Homer is still extant, and that
some more intelligent hearer than I will meet with him.

     [Illustration: NATIVES OF GABOON. [_To face page 151._]

The southern boundary of the Calabar school of Fetish lies in narrower
regions than the boundary between it and Ellis's school in the north. I
venture to think that this may in a measure arise from there being in
the southern region the additional element of difference of race. For
immediately below Calabar in the Cameroon territory the true Negro meets
the Bantu. In Cameroon in the tribes of the Dualla stem we have a people
speaking a Bantu language, and having a Bantu culture, yet nevertheless
having a great infusion of pure Negro blood, and largely under the
dominion of the true Negro thought form.

I own that of all the schools of Fetish that I know, the Calabar school
is the one that fascinates me most. I like it better than Ellis's
school, wherein the fate of the soul after death is a life in a shadow
land, with shadows for friends, lovers, and kinsfolk, with the shadows
of joys for pleasures, the shadows of quarrels for hate--a thing that at
its best is inferior to the wretchedest full-life on earth. Yet this
settled shadow-land of Srahmandazi or Gboohiadse is a better thing than
the homeless drifting state of the soul in the school below
Calabar--namely, the school I have ventured to term the Mpongwe school.
To the brief consideration of this school we will now turn.

In between the strongly-marked Calabar school and the strongly-marked
school of Nkissism of Loango Kacongo, and Bas Congo there exists a
school plainly differing from both. This region is interesting for many
reasons, chief amongst which is that it is the sea-board region of the
great African Forest belt. Tribe after tribe come down into it, flourish
awhile, and die, uninfluenced by Mohammedan or European culture. The
Mohammedans in Africa as aforesaid have never mastered the western
region of the forest belt; and the Europeans have never, in this region
between Cameroon and Loango, established themselves in force. It is
undoubtedly the wildest bit of West Africa.

The dominant tribes here have, for as far back as we can get
evidence--some short four hundred years--been tribes of the Mpongwe
stem--the so-called noble tribes. To-day they are dying--going off the
face of the earth, leaving behind them nothing to bear testimony in this
world to their great ability, save the most marvellously beautiful
language, the Greek of Africa, as Dr. Nassau calls it, and the impress
of their more elaborate thought-form on the minds of the bush tribes
that come into contact with them. Their last pupils are the great
Bafangh, now supplanting them in the regions of the Bight of Panavia.

From their influence I think the school of Fetish of this region is
perhaps best called the Mpongwe school, though I do not altogether like
the term, because I believe the Mpongwe stem to be in origin pure Negro,
and the Fetish school they have elaborated and co-ordinated is Bantu in
thought-form, just as the language they have raised to so high a pitch
of existence is in itself a Bantu language. Yet the Mpongwe are rulers
of both these things, and they will thereby leave imprinted on the minds
of their supplanters in the land the mark of their intelligence.

I have said the predominant idea in this Mpongwe school is the securing
of material prosperity. That is to say this is the part of pure Fetish
that receives more attention than other parts of pure Fetish in this
school; but it attains to no such definite predominance as funeral rites
do in the Calabar school, or the preservation of life in Ellis's
school. One might, however, quite fairly call the Mpongwe school the
trade-charm school, great as trade charms are in all West African

This lack of a predominance sufficient to dwarf other parts of pure
Fetish makes the Mpongwe school particularly interesting and valuable to
a student; it is a magnificent school to study your pure Fetish in, as
none of it is here thrown by a predominant factor into the background of
thought, and left in a neglected state.

It is of this school that you will find Dr. Nassau's classification of
spirits, and all the other observations of his that I have quoted of
things absolutely believed in by the natives, and also all the Mpongwe,
Benga, Igalwa, Ncomi, and Fetish I have attempted to describe.[20]

It has no gods with proper priests. Human beings are here just doing
their best to hold their own with the spirit world, getting spirits
under their control as far as possible, and dealing with the rest of
them diplomatically. This state I venture to think is Fetish in a very
early form, a form through which the now elaborate true Negro Fetish
must have passed before reaching its present co-ordinated state. How
long ago it was when the true Negro was in this stage I will not venture
to conjecture. Sir Henry Maine, of whom I am a very humble follower,
says, "Nothing moves that is not Greek." This is a hard saying to
accept, but the truth of it grows on you when you are studying things
such as these, and you are forced to acknowledge that they at any rate
have a slow rate of development--sometimes indeed it seems that there is
a mere wave motion of thought among all men rising here and there when
in the hands of superior tribes, like the Mpongwe for example, to a
wave crest destined on their extinction to fall again. Now and again as
a storm on the sea, the impulse of a revealed religion sweeps down on to
this ocean of nature philosophy, elevates it or confuses it according to
the initial profundity of it. If you have ever seen the difference
between a deep sea storm and an esturial storm, you will know what I
mean. Yet this has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of the Fetish
thought-form, but merely has a bearing on the quality of the minds that
deal with it, as it must on all minds not under the influence of a
revealed religion; and I now turn, in conclusion of this brief
consideration of the schools of Fetish in West Africa, to the next
school to the Mpongwe, namely, the school of Nkissism. I need not go
into details concerning it here; you have them at your command in the
two great works of Bastian, _An Expedition under Loango Küste und Besuch
in San Salvador_, and in Mr. R. E. Dennett's _Folk Lore of the Fjorts_,
published by the liberality of the Folk Lore Society, and also his
former book, _Seven Years among the Fjorts_.[21]

                     [_To face page 155._]

The predominant feature in this school is undoubtedly the extra
recognition given to the mystery of the power of the earth, Nkissi 'nsi.
Here you find the earth goddess Nzambi the paramount feature in the
Fetish; from her the Fetish priests have their knowledge of the proper
way to manage and communicate with lower earth spirits, round her circle
almost all the legends, in her lies the ultimate human hope of help and
protection. Nzambi is too large a subject for us to enter into here. She
is the great mother, but she is not absolute in power. She is not one of
the forms of the great unheeding over-lord of gods, like Nyankupong,
or Abassi-boom; the equivalent to him, is her husband Nzambi Mpungu,
among the followers of Nkissism; but the predominance given in this
school to the great Princess Nzambi has had two effects that must be
borne in mind in studying the region from Loango to the south bank of
Congo. Firstly, it apparently led to Nzambi being confused by the
natives with the Holy Virgin, when they were under the tuition of the
Roman Catholic missionaries during the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries; hence Nzambi's cult requires to be studied with the greatest
care at the present day. Secondly, partly in consequence of the native
predominance given to her, and partly in the predominance she has gained
from the aforesaid confusion, women have a very singular position, a
superior one to that which they have in other schools; this you will see
by reading the stories collected by Mr. Dennett. I will speak no further
now concerning these schools of Fetish, for Nkissism is the most
southern of the West African schools, its domain extending over the
whole of the regions once forming the kingdom of Kongo down to Angola.
Below Angola, on the West Coast, you come to the fringing zone of the
Kalahi desert, and to those interesting people the Bushmen, of whose
religion I am unable, with any personal experience, to speak. Below them
you strike South Africa. South Africa is South Africa; West Africa is
West Africa. Of the former I know nothing, of the latter alas! only a
tenth part of what I should wish to know, so I return to pure Fetish and
to its bearing on witchcraft.


   [19] _History of Loango_, by the Abbé Proyart, 1776. Pinkerton, vol.
   xvi., p. 587.

   [20] _Travels in West Africa._ Fetish Chapters.

   [21] Sampson Low and Co.



     Wherein the student having by now got rather involved in things in
     general, is constrained to discourse on witchcraft and its position
     in West African religious thought, concluding with the conviction
     that Fetish is quite clear though the student has not succeeded in
     making it so.

Now, here we come to a very interesting question: What is witchcraft in
itself? Conversing freely with the Devil, says Christendom, firmly; and
taking the Devil to mean the Spirit of Evil, I am bound to think
Christendom is in a way scientifically quite right, though the accepted
scientific definition of witchcraft at present is otherwise, and holds
witchcraft to be conversing with Natural Science, which of course I
cannot accept as the Devil. Thus I cannot reconcile the two definitions
should they mean the same thing; and so I am here really in the position
of being at one in opinion with the Roman Catholic missionaries of the
fifteenth century, who, as soon as they laid eyes on my friend the
witch-doctor, recognised him and his goings on as a mass of witchcraft,
and went for the whole affair in an exceeding game way.

But let us take the accepted view, that first propounded by Sir Alfred
Lyall; and I humbly beg it to be clearly understood I am only speaking
of the bearing of that view on Fetish in West Africa. I was of course
fully aware of the accepted view of the innate antagonism between
religion and witchcraft when I published in a deliberately scattered
form some of my observations on Fetish, being no more desirous of giving
a mental lead to white men than to black, but only wistful to find out
what they thought of things as they are. The consequence of this action
of mine has been, I fear, on the whole a rather more muddled feeling in
the white mind regarding Fetish than ever heretofore existed; a feeling
that, if what I said was true, (and in this matter of Fetish information
no one has gainsaid the truth of it), West African religion was more
perplexing than it seemed to be when regarded as a mere degraded brutal
superstition or childish foolishness.

However, one distinguished critic has tackled my Fetish, and gallantly:
the writer in the _Edinburgh Review_. With his remarks on our heresy
regarding the deification of ancestors I have above attempted to deal,
owning he is quite right--we do not believe in deified ancestors. I now
pass on to his other important criticism, and again own he is quite
right, and that "witchcraft and religious rites in West Africa are
originally indistinguishable."[22] This is evidently a serious affair
for West Africa and me, so I must deal with it carefully, and first
quote my critic's words following immediately those just cited. "If this
is correct there can be no doubt that such a confusion of the two ideas
that in their later forms not only stand widely apart, but are always
irreconcilably hostile, denotes the very lowest stage of aboriginal
superstition wherever it prevails, for it has been held that, although
the line between abject fetishism and witchcraft may be difficult to
trace in the elementary stages, yet from the beginning a true
distinction can invariably be recognised. According to this theory, the
witch is more nearly allied with rudimentary science than with
priestcraft, for he relies not upon prayer, worship, or propitiation of
divinities, but upon his own secret knowledge and experience of the
effect producible by certain tricks and mysterious devices upon the
unseen powers, over whom he has obtained a sort of command. Instead of
serving like a priest these powers, he is enabled by his art to make
them serve him, and it is for this reason that his practices very soon
become denounced and detested by the priesthood."

Now there are many interesting points to be considered in West Africa
bearing on the above statement of Sir Alfred Lyall's theory of the
nature of witchcraft,--points which I fancy, if carefully considered,
would force upon us the strange conclusion that, accepting this theory
as a general statement of the nature of witchcraft, there was no
witchcraft whatever in West Africa, nothing having "a true distinction"
in the native mind from religion. You may say there is no religion and
it's all witchcraft, but this is a superficial view to take; you see the
orthodox Christian view of witchcraft contains in it an element not
present in the West African affair; the Christian regards the witch with
hatred as one knowing good, yet choosing evil. The West African has not
this choice in his mind; he has to deal with spirits who are not, any of
them, up to much in the way of virtue viewed from a human standpoint. I
don't say they are all what are called up here devils; a good many of
them are what you might call reasonable, respectable, easy-going sort of
people; some are downright bad; in fact, I don't think it would be
going too far to say that they are all downright bad if they get their
tempers up or take a dislike to a man; there is not one of them
beneficent to the human race at large. Nzambi is the nearest approach to
a beneficent deity I have come across, and I feel she owes much of this
to the confusion she profits by, and the Holy Virgin suffers from, in
the regions under Nkissism; but Nzambi herself is far from morally
perfect and very difficult tempered at times. You need not rely on me in
this matter; take the important statement of Dr. Nassau: "Observe, these
were distinctly prayers, appeals for mercy, agonising protests; but
there was no praise, no love, no thanks, no confession of sin."[23] He
was speaking regarding utterances made down there in the face of great
afflictions and sorrow; and there was no praise, because there was no
love, I fancy; no thanks because what good was done to the human being
was a mere boughten thing he had paid for. No confession of sin, because
the Fetish believer does not hold he lives in a state of sin, but that
it is a thing he can commit now and again if he is fool enough. Sin to
him not being what it is to us, a vile treason against a loving Father,
but a very ill-advised act against powerful, nasty-tempered spirits.
Herein you see lies one difference between the Christian and the Fetish
view,--a fundamental one, that must be borne in mind.

Then in the above-quoted passage you will observe that the dislike to
witchcraft is traced in a measure to the action of priesthoods. This
hatred is undoubted. But witchcraft is as much hated in districts in
West Africa where there are no organised priesthoods as in districts
where there are--in the regions under the Calabar and Mpongwe schools,
for example, where the father of the house is the true priest to the
family, where what looks like a priesthood, but which is a law god-cult
only--the secret society--is the dominant social thing. Now this law
god-cult affair, Purroh, Oru, Egbo, Ukukiwe, etc., etc., call it what
you please, it's all the same thing, is not the organisation that makes
war on witchcraft in West Africa. It deals with it now and then, if it
is brought under its official notice; but it is not necessary that this
should be done; summary methods are used with witches. It just appeals
at once to ordeal, any one can claim it. You can claim it, and
administer it yourself to yourself, if you are the accused party and in
a hurry. A. says to you, "You're a witch." "I'm not," you ejaculate. I
take the bean; down it goes; you're sick or dead long before the
elaborate mechanism of the law society has heard of the affair. Of
course, if you want to make a big palaver and run yourself and your
accuser into a lot of expense you can call in the society; but you
needn't. From this and divers things like it I do not think the hatred
of witchcraft in West Africa at large has anything originally to do with
the priesthood. You will say, but there is the hatred of witchcraft in
West Africa. You have only to shout "_Ifot_" at a man or woman in
Calabar, or "_Ndo tchi_" in Fjort-land, and the whole population, so
good-tempered the moment before, is turned bloodthirsty. Witches are
torn to bits, destroyed in every savage way, when the ordeal has
conclusively proved their guilt--mind you, never before. Granted; but I
believe this to be just a surging up of that form of terror called hate.

I am old enough to remember the dynamite scares up here, and the Jack
the Ripper incidents; then it was only necessary for some one to call
out, "Dynamiter" or "Jack the Ripper" at a fellow-citizen, and up surged
our own people, all same for one with those Africans, only our people,
not being so law-governed, would have shredded the accused without
ordeal, had we not possessed that great factor in the formation of
public virtue, the police, who intervened, carried away the accused to
the ordeal--the police court--where the affair was gone into with
judicial calm. Honestly, I don't believe there is the slightest mystic
revulsion against witchcraft in West Africa; public feeling is always at
bursting-point on witches, their goings-on are a constant danger to
every peaceful citizen's life, family, property, and so on, and when the
general public thinks it's got hold of one of the vermin it goes off
with a bang; but it does not think for one moment that the witch is _per
se_ in himself a thing apart; he is just a bad man too much, who has
gone and taken up with spirits for illegitimate purposes. The mere
keeping of a familiar power, which under Christendom is held so vile a
thing, is not so held in West Africa. Everyone does it; there is not a
man, woman, or child who has not several attached spirits for help and
preservation from danger and disease. It is keeping a spirit for bad
purposes only that is hateful. It is one thing to have dynamite in the
hand of the government or a mining company for reasonable reasons, quite
another to have it in the hands of enemies to society; and such an enemy
is a witch who trains the spirits over which he has got control to
destroy his fellow human beings' lives and properties.

The calling in of ordeal to try the witch before destroying him has many
interesting points. The African, be it granted, is tremendously under
the dominion of law, and it is the law that such trials should take
place before execution; but there is also involved in it another
curious fact, and that is that the spirit of the ordeal is held to be
able to manage and suppress the bad spirits trained by the witch to
destruction. Human beings alone can collar the witch and destroy him in
an exemplary manner, but spiritual aid is required to collar the witch's
devil, or it would get adrift and carry on after its owner's death.
Regarding ordeal affairs I will speak when dealing with legal procedure.

Such being the West African view of witchcraft, I venture to think there
are in this world divers reasons for hating witchcraft. There is the
fetish one, that he is an enemy to society; there is the priesthood one,
that he is a sort of quack or rival practitioner--under this head of
priesthood aversion for witchcraft I think we may class the witchcraft
that is merely a hovering about of the old religion which the priesthood
of an imported religion are anxious to stamp out; and there is that
aversion to witchcraft one might call the Protestant aversion, which
arises from the feeling that it is a direct sin against God Himself.
This latter feeling has been the cause of as violent a persecution of
witches, witness the action of King James I. and that of the Quakers in
America, as any West African has ever presented to the world. Throughout
all these things the fact remains, that whether black, white, or yellow,
the witch is a bad man, a murderer in the eyes of Allah as well as those
of humanity.

That all witches act by means of poison alone would be too hasty a thing
to say, because I think we need hardly doubt that the African is almost
as liable to die from a poisonous idea put into his mind as a poisonous
herb put into his food; indeed, I do not know that in West Africa we
need confine ourselves to saying natives alone do this, for white men
sink and die under an idea that breaks their spirit. All the vital
powers are required there to resist the depressing climate. If they are
weakened seriously in any way, death is liable to ensue. The profound
belief in the power of a witch causes a man who knows, say, that either
a nail has been driven into an Nkiss down on the South-West coast, or
the Fangaree drum beaten on him up in the Sierra Leone region, to
collapse under the terror of it, and I own I can see no moral difference
between the guilt of the man or woman who does these things with the
intent to slay a fellow-citizen and that of one who puts bush into his
chop--both mean to kill and do kill, but both methods are good West
African witchcraft. The latter may seem to be an incipient form of
natural science, but it seems to me--I say it humbly--that the West
African incipient scientist is not the local witch, but that highly
respectable gentleman or lady, the village apothecary, the _Nganga
bilongo_ or the _Abiabok_. The means of killing in vogue in West African
witchcraft without the direct employment of poison are highly
interesting, but I think it would serve no good purpose for me to give
even the few I know in detail. There is one interesting point in this
connection. I have said that in order to make a charm efficacious
against a particular person you must have preferably some of his blood
in your possession, or, failing that, some hair or nail clipping;
failing these, some articles belonging intimately to him--a piece of his
loin-cloth, or, under the school of Nkissi, a bit of his iron. This I
believe to hold good for all true fetish charms; but we have in the
Bight of Benin charms which are under the influence of a certain amount
of Mohammedan ideas--for example, the deadly charms of the Kufong
society. This class of charm does not require absolutely a bit of
something nearly connected with the victim, but nevertheless it cannot
act at a great distance, or without the element of personal connection.
Take the Fangaree charm, for example, to be found among the Mendi
people, and all the neighbouring peoples who are liable to go in for

Fangaree is the name of a small drum that is beaten by a hammer made of
bamboo. The uses of this drum are wide and various, but it also gives
its name to the charm, because the charm, like the drum, is beaten with
a similar stick. The charm stuff itself is made of a dead man's bone, of
different herbs smoked over a fire and powdered the same day, ants'-hill
earth, and charcoal. This precious mixture is made into a parcel; that
parcel is placed on a frame made of bamboo sticks. On the top of the
charm a small live animal--an insect, I am informed, will do--is secured
by a string passing over it, and the charm is fixed with wooden forks
into the ground on either side. This affair is placed by the murderer
close to a path the victim will pass along, and the murderer sits over
it, waiting for him to come. When he comes, he is allowed to pass just
by, and then his enemy breaks a dry bamboo stick; the noise causes the
victim to turn and look in the direction of the noise--_i.e._ on to the
charm--and then the murderer hits the live animal on it, calling his
victim's name, and the charm is on him. If the animal is struck on the
head, the victim's head is affected, and he has violent fits until "he
dies from breaking his neck" in one of them; if the animal is struck to
tailwards, the victim gets extremely ill, but in this latter case he can
buy off the charm and be cured by a Fangaree man. A similar arrangement
is in working order under some South-West coast murder societies I am
acquainted with. The interesting point, however, is the necessity of
establishing the personal connection between the victim and the charm
by means of making him look on the charm and calling his name. Without
his looking it's no good. Hence it comes that it is held unwise to look
behind when you hear a noise o'night in the bush; indeed, no cautious
person, with sense in his head and strength in his legs, would dream of
doing this unless caught off guard. In connection also with this turning
the face being necessary to the working of the Fangaree charm, there is
another charm that is worked under Kufong, according to several natives
from its region--the hinterland of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ivory
Coast--with whom I have associated when we have both been far from our
respective homes away in South-West Africa. It is a charm I have never
met with as indigenous in the South-West or Oil Rivers Fetish, and I
think it has a heavier trace of Mohammedan influence in it than the
Fangaree charm. The way it works is this. A man wants to kill you
without showing blood. Only leopard society men do that, and your enemy,
we will presume, is not a leopard. So he throws his face on you by a
process I need not enter into. You hardly know anything is wrong at
first; by-and-by you notice that every scene that you look on, night or
day, has got that face in it, not a filmy vision of a thing, but quite
material in appearance, only it's in abnormal places for a face to be,
and it is a face only. It may be on the wall, or amongst the roof poles,
or away in a corner of the hut floor; outdoors it is the same--the face
is first always, there just where you can see it. Some of my informants
hold that it keeps coming closer to you as time goes on; but others say
no; it keeps at one distance all the time. This, however, is a minor
point; it is its being there that gets to matter. It is in amongst the
bushes at the side of the path, or in the water of the river, or at the
end of your canoe, or in the oil in the pots, or in the Manchester
cottons in the factory shop. Wherever you look, there it is. In a way
it's unobtrusive, it does not spread itself out, or make a noise, or
change, yet, sooner or later, in every place, you cannot miss seeing it.
At first you think, by changing your environment--going outdoors, coming
in, going on a journey, mixing with your fellow-men, or avoiding
them--you can get rid of the thing; but you find, when you look
round,--a thing you are certain to do when the charm has got its
grip,--for sure that face is there as usual. Now this sort of thing
tells on the toughest in time, and you get sick of life when it has
always got that face mixed up in it, so sick that you try the other
thing--death. This is an ill-advised course, but you do not know in time
that, when you kill yourself, you will find that on the other side, in
the other thing, you will see nothing but that face, that unchanging
silent face you are so sick of. The Kufong man who has thrown his face
at you knows, and when he hears of your suicide he laughs. Naturally you
cannot know, because you are not a Kufong man, or the charm could not be
put on you. What you "can do in this here most awful go," as Mr. Squeers
would say, I am unfortunately not able to tell you. I made many
inquiries from men who know "the face," who had had it happen on people
in their families, and so on, but in answer to my inquiries as to why
the afflicted did not buy it off, what charms there were against it, and
so forth, I was always told it was a big charm, that the man who put it
on lost something of himself by so doing, so it was never put on except
in cases of great hatred that would stick at nothing and would kill;
also that it was of no real use for the victim to kill his charmer,
though that individual, knowing the pleasure so doing would afford his
victim, takes good care to go on a journey, and to keep out of the way
until the charm has worked out in suicide. There is a certain amount of
common sense in this proceeding which is undoubtedly true African, but
there is a sort of imaginative touch which makes me suspect Mohammedan
infusion; anyhow, I leave you to judge for yourself whether,
presupposing you accept the possibility of a man doing such a thing to
you or to any one you love, you think he can be safely ignored, or
whether he is not an enemy to society who had better be found out and
killed--killed in a showy way. Personally I favour the latter course.

There is but one other point in witchcraft in West Africa that I need
now detain you with, and that is why a person killed by witchcraft
suffers more than one who dies of old age, for herein lies another
reason for this hatred of witchcraft. Every human soul in West Africa
throughout all the Fetish schools is held to have a certain proper time
of incarnation in a human body, whether it be one incarnation or endless
series of incarnations; anything that cuts that incarnation period short
inconveniences the soul, to say the least of it. Under Ellis's school,
and I believe throughout all the others, the soul that lives its life in
a body fully through is held happy; it is supposed to have learnt its
full lesson from life, and to know the way down to the shadow-land home
and all sorts of things. Hence also comes the respect for the aged,
common throughout all West Africa. They are the knowing ones. Such an
one was the late Chief Long John of Bonny. Now if this process of
development is checked by witchcraft and the soul is prematurely driven
from the body, it does not know all that it should, and its condition
is therefore miserable. It is, as it were, sent blind, or deaf, or lame
into the spirit-land. This is a thing not only dreaded by individuals
for themselves, but hated for those they love; hence the doer of it is a
hated thing. You must remember that when you get keen hatred you must
allow for keen affection, it is not human to have one without the other.
That the Africans are affectionate I am fully convinced. This affection
does not lie precisely on the same lines as those of Europeans, I allow.
It is not with them so deeply linked with sex; but the love between
mother and child, man and man, brother and sister, woman and woman, is
deep, true, and pure, and it must be taken into account in observing
their institutions and ideas, particularly as to this witchcraft where
it shows violently and externally in hatred only to the superficial
observer. I well remember gossiping with a black friend in a plantation
in the Calabar district on witchcraft, and he took up a stick and struck
a plant of green maize, breaking the stem of it, saying, "There, like
that is the soul of a man who is witched, it will not ripen now."

We will now turn to the consideration of that class whose business in
life is mainly to guard the community from witchcraft and from
miscellaneous evil spirits acting on their own initiative, the Fetish
Men of West Africa, namely, those men and women who devote their lives
to the cult of West African religion. Such people you find in every West
African district; but their position differs under different schools,
and it is in connection with them that we must recognise the differences
in the various schools, remembering that the form of Fetish makes the
form of Fetish Man, not the Fetish Man the form of Fetish. He may, as it
were, embroider it, complicate it, mystify it, as is the nature of all
specialists in all professions, but primarily he is under it, at any
rate in West Africa, where you find the Fetish man in every district,
but in every district in a different form. For example, look at him
under the Ellis school. Where there are well-defined gods, there your
Fetish Man is quite the priest, devoting himself to the cult of one god
publicly, probably doing a little general practice into the bargain with
other minor spirits. To the laity he of course advertises the god he
serves as the most reliably important one in the neighbourhood; but it
has come under my notice, and you will find under Ellis's, that if the
priest of a god gets personally unwell and finds his own deity
ineffective, he will apply for aid to a professional brother who serves
another god. Below Ellis's school, in the Calabar school, your Fetish
Man is somewhat different; the gods are not so definite or esteemed, and
the Fetish Man is becoming a member of a set of men who deal with gods
in a lump, and have the general management of minor spirits. Below this
school, in the Mpongwe, the Fetish Man is even less specialised as
regards one god; he is here a manager of spirits at large, with the
assistance of a strong spirit with whom he has opened up communication.
Below this school, in that of Nkissi, the Fetish Man becomes more truly
priest-like--he is the Nganga of an Nkiss; but nevertheless his position
is a different one to that of the priest in Ellis's school; here he is
in a better position than in the Mpongwe school, but in an inferior one
to that in Ellis's, where he is not the lone servitor or manager for a
god, but a member of a powerful confraternity. You must bear in mind, of
course, that the Fetish Man is always, from a lay standpoint, a highly
important person; but professionally, I cannot but think, a priest say
of Tando in Ashantee or of Shango in Dahomey, is of a higher grade than
a Nganga to an Nkiss, certainly far higher than a Fetish Man under the
Mpongwe school, where every house father and every village chief does a
lot of his own Fetish without professional assistance. Of course chiefs
and house fathers do a certain amount in all districts--in fact, in West
Africa every man and woman does a certain amount of Fetish for himself;
but where, as in Ellis's school, you get a regular set of priests and
plenty of them, the religion falls into their hands to a greater extent.
I feel that the study of the position of Fetish-Men is deserving of
great attention. I implore the student who may take it up to keep the
Fetish Man for practical purposes distinct from the gentleman who
represents the law god-cult--the secret tribal society. If you persist
in mixing them, you will have in practical politics as fine a mess as if
you mixed up your own Bench of Bishops with the Woolsack. I beg to
contribute to the store of knowledge on this point sundry remarks sent
me on most excellent native authority from the Gold Coast:--

"The inhabitants of Cape Coast must congratulate themselves that they
enjoy the protection of seventy-seven fetishes. Every town (and this
town) has one fetish house or temple, often built in a square or oblong
form of mud or swish, and thatched over, or constructed of sticks or
poles placed in a circular form and thatched. In these temples several
images are generally placed. Every Fetish-Man or priest, moreover, has
his private fetishes in his own house, one of a bird, stones encased by
string, large lumps of cinder from an iron furnace, calabashes, and
bundles of sticks tied together with string. All these are stained with
red ochre and rubbed over with eggs. They are placed on a square
platform and shrouded from the vulgar gaze.

"The fetishes are regarded as spiritual intelligent beings who make the
remarkable objects of nature their residence or enter occasionally into
the images and other artificial representations which have been duly
consecrated by certain ceremonies. It is the belief of this people that
the fetishes not unfrequently render themselves visible to mortals. Thus
the great fetish of the rock on which Cape Coast Castle stands is said
to come forth at night in human form, but of superhuman size, and to
proceed through the town dressed in white to chase away evil spirits.

"In all the countries along the Coast (Gold) the regular fetish day is
Tuesday. The fishermen would expect that, were they to go out on that
day, it would spoil their fishing.

"The priest's office may in some cases be hereditary, but it is not
uniformly so, for the children of Fetish-Men sometimes refuse to devote
themselves to the pursuits of their parents and engage in other
occupations. Any one may enter the office after suitable training, and
parents who desire that their children may be instructed in its
mysteries place them with a Fetish-Man, who receives a premium for each.
The order of Fetish-Men is further augmented by persons who declare that
the fetish has suddenly seized on them. A series of convulsive and
unnatural bodily distortions establish their claim. Application is made
to the fetish for counsel and aid in every domestic and public
emergency. When persons find occasion to consult a private Fetish-Man,
they take a present of gold-dust and rum and proceed to his house. He
receives the presents, and either puts a little of the rum on the head
of every image or pours a small quantity on the ground before the
platform as an offering to the whole pantheon; then, taking a brass pan
with water in it, he sits down with the pan between him and the
fetishes, and his inquirers also seat themselves to await the result.
Having made these preparatory arrangements, looking earnestly into the
water, he begins to snap his fingers, and addressing the fetish, extols
his power, telling him that the people have arrived to consult him, and
requesting him to come and give the desired answer. After a time the
fetish-man is wrought up into a state of fury. He shakes violently and
foams at the mouth; this is to intimate that the fetish was come home
and that he himself is no longer the speaker, but the fetish, who uses
his mouth and speaks by him. He now growls like a tiger and asks the
people if they have brought rum, requiring them at the same time to
present it to him. He drinks, and then inquires for what purpose they
have sent for him. If a relative is ill, they reply that such a member
of their family is sick and they have tried all the means they could
devise to restore him, but without success, and they, knowing he is a
great fetish, have come to ask his aid, and beg him to teach them what
they should do. He then speaks kindly to them, expresses a hope that he
shall be able to help them, and says, "I go to see." It is imagined that
the fetish then quits the priest, and, after a silence of a few minutes,
he is supposed to return, and gives his response to the inquirers.

"In cases of great difficulty the oracle at Abrah is the last resort of
the Fantees. This notable oracle is always consulted at night. They find
a large fire made upon the ground, and the presents they have brought
they place in the hands of the priests who are in attendance. They are
then directed to elevate their presents above their heads and to fix
their eyes steadfastly upon the ground, for should they look up, the
fetish, it is said, would inflict blindness on them for their
sacrilegious gaze. After a time the oracle gives a response in a shrill,
small voice intended to convey the idea that it proceeds from an
unearthly source, and the inquirers, having obtained the end of their
visit, then depart.

"In cases of bodily affliction the fetish orders medical preparations
for the patient. If the malady of the patient does not appear to yield
to such applications, the fetish is again consulted, and in some cases,
as a further expedient, the priest takes a fowl and ties it to a stick,
by which operation it is barbarously squeezed to death. The stick is
then placed in the path leading to the house for the purpose of
deterring evil spirits from approaching it. When the patient is a rich
man, several sheep are sacrificed, and he is fetished until the last
moment arrives amidst the howls of a number of old Fetish Women, who
continue to besmear with eggs and other medicine the walls and doorposts
of his house and everything that is around him until he has ceased to

Not only does the African depart from life under the care of
Fetish-Men--and, as my valued correspondent ungallantly remarks, "old
fetish-women"--but he is met, as it were, by them on his arrival. My
correspondent says "as soon as the child is born the Fetish-Man binds
certain fetish preparations round his limbs, using at the same time a
form of incantation or prayer. This is done to fortify the infant
against all kinds of evil. On the eighth day after the birth, the father
of the child, accompanied by a number of friends, proceeds to the house
of the mother. If he be a rich man, he takes with him a gallon of ardent
spirits to be used on the festive occasion. On arriving at the house,
the friends form a circle round the father, who delivers a kind of
address in which he acknowledges the kindness of the gods for giving him
the child, and calls upon those present also to thank the fetishes on
his account; then, taking the child in his arms, he squirts upon it a
little spirit from his mouth, pronouncing the name by which it is to be
called. A second name which the child usually takes is that of the day
of the week on which it is born. The following are the names of the days
in the Fanti language, varied in their orthography according to the sex
of the child:--

                      Male.     Female.

          Sunday      Quisi     Akosua.

          Monday      Kujot     Ajua.

          Tuesday     Quabina   Abmaba.

          Wednesday   Quaku     Ekua.

          Thursday    Quahu     Aba.

          Friday      Kufi      Efua.

          Saturday    Qamina    Ama.

Those ceremonials called on the Coast "customs" are the things that show
off the Fetish-Man at the best in more senses of the word than one. We
will take the yam custom. The intentions of these yam customs are
twofold--firstly they are a thanksgiving to the fetishes for allowing
their people to live to see the new yams, and for the new yams, but they
are also institutions to prevent the general public eating the new yam
before it's ready. The idea is, and no doubt rightly, that unripe yams
are unwholesome, and the law is that no new yams must be eaten until the
yam custom is made. The Fetish-Men settle when the yams are in a fit
state to pass into circulation, and then make the custom. It generally
occurs at the end of August, but is sometimes kept back until the
beginning of September. In Fantee all the inhabitants of the towns
assemble under the shade of the grove adjoining the fetish hut, and a
sheep and a number of fowls are killed, part of their flesh is mixed
with boiled yams and palm-oil, and a portion of this mixture is placed
on the heads of the images, and the remainder is thrown about before the
fetish hut as a peace-offering to the deities.

At Winnebah, on the Gold Coast, there is an interesting modification in
the yam custom. The principal fetish of that place, it is believed, will
not be satisfied with a sheep, but he must have a deer brought alive to
his temple, and there sacrificed. Accordingly on the appointed day every
year when the custom is to be celebrated, almost all the inhabitants
except the aged and infirm go into the adjoining country--an open
park-like country, studded with clumps of trees. The women and children
look on, give good advice, and shriek when necessary, while the men beat
the bush with sticks, beat tom-toms, and halloo with all their might.
While thus engaged, my correspondent remarks in his staid way,
"sometimes a leopard starts forth, but it is usually so frightened with
the noise and confusion that it scampers off in one direction as fast as
the people run from it in another. When a deer is driven out, the chase
begins, the people try to run it down, flinging sticks at its legs. At
last it is secured and carried exultingly to the town with shoutings and
drummings. On entering the town they are met by the aged people carrying
staves, and, having gone in procession round the town, they proceed to
the fetish house, where the animal is sacrificed, and partly offered to
the fetish, partly eaten by the priests."

These yam customs are at their fullest in the Benin Bights, but you get
a custom made for the new yam in all the districts lower down. These
customs have long been credited with being stained by human sacrifices.
Not altogether unjustly. You can always read human sacrifice for goats
and fowls when you are considering a district inhabited by true Negroes,
and the occasion is an important one, because in West Africa a human
sacrifice is the most persuasive one to the fetishes. It is just with
them as with a chief--if you want to get some favour from him you must
give him a present. A fowl or a goat or a basket of vegetables, or
anything like that is quite enough for most favours, but if you want a
big thing, and want it badly, you had better give him a slave, because
the slave is alike more intrinsically valuable and also more useful. So
far as I know, all human beings sacrificed pass into the service of the
fetish they are sacrificed to. They are not merely killed that he may
enjoy their blood, but that he may have their assistance. Fetishes have
much to do, and an extra pair of hands is to them always acceptable. As
for the importance of these harvest customs to the general system of
Fetish, I think in West Africa it is small. The goings on, the
licentiousness and general jollification that accompany them, upsetting
law and order for days, give them a fallacious look of importance; but I
think far more really near the heart of the Fetish thought-form is the
lonely man who steals at night into the forest to gain from Sasabonsom a
charm, and the woman who, on her way back from market, throws down
before the fetish houses she passes a scrap of her purchases; compared
to the cult of the law-god, well, yam customs are dirty water price,
palaver, and insignificant politically.

I have dealt here with Fetish as far as the position of the human being
is concerned, because this phase may make it more comprehensible to my
fellow white men who regard the human being as the main thing in the
created universe, but I must beg you to remember that this idea of the
importance of the human race is not held by the African. The individual
is supremely important to himself, and he values his friends and
relations and so on, but abstract affection for humanity at large or
belief in the sanctity of the lives of people with whom he is unrelated
and unacquainted, the African barely possesses. He is only capable of
feeling this abstract affection when under the influence of one of the
great revealed religions which place the human being higher in the scale
of Creation. This comes from no cruelty of mind _per se_, but is the
result of the hardness of the fight he has to fight against the world;
and possessing this view of the equal, if not greater importance of many
of the things he sees round him, the African conceives these things also
have their fetish--a fetish on the same ground idea, but varying from
human fetish. The politics of Mungo mah Lobeh, the mountain, with the
rest of nature, he believes to exist. The Alemba rapid has its affairs
clearly, but the private matters of these very great people are things
the human being had better keep out of; and it is advisable for him to
turn his attention to making terms with them and go into their presence
with his petition when their own affairs are prosperous, when their
tempers are not as it were up over some private ultra-human affair of
their own. I well remember the opinions expressed by my companions
regarding the folly--mine, of course--of obtruding ourselves on Mungo
when that noble mountain was vexed too much, and the opinion expressed
by an Efik friend in a tornado that came down on us. Well, there you
have this difference. I instinctively say "us." She did not think we
were objects of interest to the tornado or the forest it was scourging.
She took it they had a sort of family row on, and we might get hit with
the bits, therefore it was highly unfortunate that we were present at
the meeting. Again, it is the same with the surf. The boat-boys see it's
in a nasty temper, they keep out of it, it may be better to-morrow, then
it will tolerate them, for it has no real palaver with them
individually. Of course you can go and upset the temper of big nature
spirits, but when you are not there they have their own affairs.

Hence it comes that we have in Fetish a religion in which its believers
do not hold that devotion to religion constitutes Virtue. The ordinary
citizen is held to be most virtuous who is least mixed up in religious
affairs. He can attain Virtue, the love and honour of his fellow-men, by
being a good husband and father, an honest man in trade, a just man in
the palaver-house, and he must, for the protection of his interests,
that is to say, not only his individual well-being, but the well-being
of those dependent on him, go in to a certain extent for religious
practices. He must associate with spirits because spirits are in all
things and everywhere and over everything; and the good citizen deals
with the other spirits as he deals with that class of spirits we call
human beings; he does not cheat the big ones of their dues; he spills a
portion of his rum to them; he gives them their white calicoes; he
treats his slave spirits honourably, and he uses his slave spirits for
no bad purpose, and if any great grief falls on him he calls on the
great over-lord of gods, mentioning these things. But men are not all
private citizens; there are men whose destiny puts them in high
places--men who are not only house fathers but who are tribe fathers.
They, to protect and further the interests of those under them, must
venture greatly and further, and deal with more powerful spirits, as it
were, their social equals in spiritdom. These good chiefs in their
higher grade dealings preserve the same clean-handed conduct. And
besides these there are those men, the Fetish men, who devote their
lives to combating evil actions through witches and miscellaneous
spirits who prey on mankind. These men have to make themselves important
to important spirits. It is risky work for them, for spirits are a risky
set to deal with. Up here in London, when I have to deal with a spirit
as manifest in the form of an opinion, or any big mind-form incarnate in
one man, or in thousands, I often think of an African friend of mine who
had troubles, and I think sympathetically, for his brother explained the
affair to me. He was an educated man. "You see," he said, "my brother's
got a strong Ju Ju, but it's a damned rocky Ju Ju to get on with."


   [22] July, 1897, p. 221.

   [23] _Travels in West Africa._ (Macmillan, 1897, p. 453.)



     Mainly from the point of view of the native apothecary, to which is
     added some account of the sleep disease and the malignant

There is, as is in all things West African, a great deal of fetish
ceremonial mixed up with West African medical methods. Underlying them
throughout there is the fetish form of thought; but it is erroneous to
believe that all West African native doctors are witch doctors, because
they are not. One of my Efik friends, for example, would no more think
of calling in a witch doctor for a simple case of rheumatism than you
would think of calling in a curate or a barrister; he would just call in
the equivalent to our general practitioner, the abiabok. If he grew
worse instead of better, he would then call in his equivalent to our
consulting physician, the witch doctor, the abiadiong. But if he started
being ill with something exhibiting cerebral symptoms he would have in
the witch doctor at once.

This arises from the ground principle of all West African physic.
Everything works by spirit on spirit, therefore the spirit of the
medicine works on the spirit of the disease. Certain diseases are
combatable by certain spirits in certain herbs. Other diseases are
caused by spirits not amenable to herb-dwelling spirits; they must be
tackled by spirits of a more powerful grade. The witch doctor who
belongs to the school of Nkissism will become more profound on this
matter still, and will tell you all herbs, indeed everything that comes
out of the Earth, have in them some of the power of the Earth, Nkissi
nisi; but the general view is the less concrete one--that it is a matter
of only certain herbs having power. This I have been told over and over
again in various West Coast tongues by various West African physicians,
and in it lies the key to their treatment of disease--a key without
which many of their methods are incomprehensible, but which shows up
most clearly in the methods of the witch doctor himself. In the practice
of the general practitioner, or, more properly speaking, the apothecary,
it is merely a theory, just as a village chemist here may prescribe blue
pill without worrying himself about its therapeutic action from a
scientific point of view.

Before I pass on to the great witch doctor, the
physician, I must detain you with a brief account of the
neglected-by-traveller-because-less-showy African village apothecary, a
really worthy person, who exists in every West African district I know
of; often, as in the Calabar and Bonny region, a doctor whose practice
extends over a fair-sized district, wherein he travels from village to
village. If he comes across a case, he sits down and does his best with
it, may be for a fortnight or a month at a time, and when he has
finished with it and got his fee, off he goes again. Big towns, of
course, have a resident apothecary, but I never came across a town that
had two apothecaries. It may be professional etiquette, but, though I
never like to think evil of the Profession whatever colour its
complexion may be, it may somehow be connected with a knowledge of the
properties of herbs, for I observed when at Corisco that an apothecary
from the mainland who was over there for a visit shrank from dining with
the local medico.

These apothecaries are, as aforesaid, learned in the properties of
herbs, and they are the surgeons, in so far as surgery is ventured on. A
witch doctor would not dream of performing an operation. Amongst these
apothecaries there are lady doctors, who, though a bit dangerous in
pharmacy, yet, as they do not venture on surgery, are, on the whole,
safer than their _confrères_, for African surgery is heroic.

Many of the apothecaries' medical methods are fairly sound, however. The
Dualla practitioner is truly great on poultices for extracting foreign
substances from wounds, such as bits of old iron cooking pot, a very
frequent foreign substance for a man to get into him in West Africa,
owing to pots being broken up and used as bullets. Almost incredible
stories are told by black men and white in Cameroons concerning the
efficiency of these poultices; one I heard from a very reliable white
authority there of a man who had been shot with bits of iron pot in the
thigh. The white doctor extracted several pieces, and declared he had
got them all out; but the man went on suffering and could not walk, so
finally a country doctor was called in, and he applied his poultice. In
a few minutes he removed it, and on its face lay two pieces of iron pot.
The white doctor said they had been in the poultice all the time, but he
did not carry public opinion with him, for the patient recovered

The Negroes do not seem to me to go in for baths in medical treatment
quite so much as the Bantu; they hold more with making many little
incisions in the skin round a swollen joint, then encasing it with clay
and keeping a carefully tended fire going under it. But the Bantu is
given greatly to baths, accompanied by massage, particularly in the
treatment of that great West African affliction, rheumatism. The Mpongwe
make a bath for the treatment of this disease by digging a suitably
sized hole in the ground and putting into it seven herbs--whereof I know
the native names only, not the scientific--and in addition in go
cardamoms and peppers. Boiling water is then plentifully poured over
these, and the patient is laid on and covered with the parboiled green
stuff. Next a framework of twigs is placed over him, and he is hastily
clayed up to keep the steam in, only his head remaining above ground. In
this bath he is sometimes kept a few hours, sometimes a day and a half.
He is liable to give the traveller who may happen suddenly on him while
under treatment the idea that he is an atrocity; but he is not; and when
he is taken out of the bath-poultice he is rubbed and kneaded all over,
plenty more hot water being used in the process, this indeed being the
palladium of West Coast physic.

The Fjort tribe do not bury their rheumatic patients until they are dead
and all their debts paid, but they employ the vapour bath. My friend,
Mr. R. E. Dennet, who has for the past eighteen years lived amongst the
Fjort, and knows them as no other white man does, and knows also my
insatiable thirst for any form of West African information, has kindly
sent me some details of Fjort medical methods, which I give in his own
words--"The Fjort have names for many diseases; aches are generally
described as _tanta ki tanta_; they say the head suffers _Ntu tanta ki
tanta_, the chest suffers _Mtima tanta ki tanta_, and so on. Rheumatism
that keeps to the joints of the bones and cripples the sufferer is
called _Ngoyo_, while ordinary rheumatism is called _Macongo_. They
generally try to cure this disease by giving the sufferers vapour baths.
They put the leaves of the _Nvuka_ into a pot of boiling water, and
place the pot between the legs of the patient, who is made to sit up.
They then cover up the patient and the pot with coverings.

"They try to relieve the local pain by spluttering the affected part
with chalk, pepper, and logwood, and the leaves of certain plants that
have the power of blistering.

"Small-pox they try to cure by smearing the body of the patient over
with the pulped leaves of the mzeuzil. Palm oil is also used. These
patients are taken to the woods, where a hut is built for them, or not,
according to the wealth and desire of their relations. If poor they are
often allowed to die of starvation. A kind of long thin worm that creeps
about under the eyelid is called _Loyia_, and is skilfully extracted by
many of the natives by means of a needle or piece of wood cut to a sharp

"Blind boils they call _Fvuma_, and they cure them by splintering over
them the pulped root _Nchechi_, mixed with red and white earth. Leprosy
they call _Boisi_, ague _Chiosi_, matter from the ear _Mafina_, rupture
_Sangafulla_. But diseases of the lungs, heart, liver, and spleen seem
to puzzle the native leeches and many natives die from these terrible
ills. Cupping and bleeding, which they do with the hollow horns of the
goat and the sharpened horn of a kid, are the remedies usually resorted

"All persons are supposed to have the power to give their enemies these
different sicknesses. Amulets, frontlets, bracelets, and waistbands
charged with medicines are also used as either charms or cures.

"A woman who was stung by a scorpion went nearly mad, and, rushing into
the river, tried to drown herself. I tried my best to calm her and cure
her by the application of a few simple remedies, but she kept us awake
all night, and we had to hold her down nearly the whole time. I called
in a native surgeon to see if he could do anything, and he spluttered
some medicine over her, and, placing himself opposite to her, shouted at
her and the evil spirit that was in her. She became calmer, and the
surgeon left us. As I was afraid of a relapse, I sent the woman to be
cured in a town close by. The Princess of the town picked out the sting
of the scorpion with a needle, and gave the woman some herbs, which
acted as a strong purge, and cured her. As the Nganga bilongo
(apothecary) is busy curing the patient, he generally has a white fowl
tied to a string fastened to a peg in the ground close to him. I have
described this in _Seven Years among the Fjort_."

I think this communication of Mr. Dennett's is of much interest, and I
hastily beg to remark that, if you have not got a devoted friend to hold
you down all night, call in an apothecary in the morning time, and then
hand you over to a Princess--things that are not always handy even in
West Africa when you have been stung by a scorpion--things that, on the
other hand, are always handy in West Africa--carbonate of soda applied
promptly to the affected part will save you from wanting to drown
yourself and much other inconvenience. The sting should be extracted
regardless of the shedding of blood, carbonate of soda in hot water
washed over the place, and then a poultice faced with carbonate of soda
put on.

Although I do not say these West African doctors possess any specific
for rheumatism, it is an undoubted fact that the South-west Coast
tribes, with their poultices and vapour baths, are very successful in
treating it, more so than the true Negroes, with their clay plaster and
baking method. Rheumatism is a disease the Africans seem especially
liable to, whatever may be the local climate, whether it be that of the
reeking Niger Delta, or the dry delightful climate of Cabinda; moreover,
my friends who go whaling tell me the Bermuda negroes also suffer from
rheumatism severely, and are "a perfect cuss," wanting to come and sit
in the blood and blubber of fresh-killed whales. Small-pox is a vile
scourge to Africa. The common treatment is to smear the body of the
patient with the pulped leaves of the mzeuzil palm and with palm oil;
but I cannot say the method is successful, save in preventing pitting,
which it certainly does. The mortality from this disease, particularly
among the South-west Coast tribes, is simply appalling. But it is
extremely difficult to make the bush African realise that it is
infectious, for he regards it as a curse from a great Nature spirit,
sent in consequence of some sin, such as a man marrying within the
restricted degree, or something of that kind. Mr. Dennett mentions
small-pox patients being sent into the bush with more or less
accommodation provided. Mr. Du Chaillu gave Mr. Fraser the idea that the
Bakele tribe habitually drove their small-pox sick into the bush and
neglected them, which certainly, from my knowledge of the tribe, I must
say is not their constant habit by any means. I venture to think that
this rough attempt at isolation among the Fjort is a remnant of the
influence of the great Portuguese domination of the kingdom of Congo in
the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, when the Roman
Catholic missionaries got hold of the Fjort as no other West African has
since been got hold of. Nevertheless the keeping of the sick in huts
you will find in almost all districts in places--_i.e._ round the house
of a great doctor. My friend Miss Mary Slessor, of Okÿon, has the bush
round her compound fairly studded with little temporary huts, each with
a patient in. You see, distinguished doctors everywhere are a little
uppish, and so their patients have to come to them. Such doctors are
usually specialists, noted for a cure of some particular disease, and
often patients will come to such a man from towns and villages a week's
journey or more away, and then build their little shantie near his
residence, and remain there while undergoing the cure.

There is a prevalent Coast notion that white men do not catch small-pox
from black, but I do not think this is, at any rate, completely true. I
was informed when in Loanda that during an epidemic of it amongst the
natives, every white man had had a more or less severe touch, and I have
known of cases of white men having small-pox in other West Coast places,
small-pox they must either have caught from natives or have made
themselves, which is improbable. I fancy it is a matter connected with
the vaccination state of the white, although there seem to be some
diseases prevalent among natives from which whites are immune--the Yaws,
for example.

Less terrible in its ravages than small-pox, because it is far more
limited in the number of its victims, is leprosy; still you will always
find a case or so in a district. You will find the victims outcasts from
society, not from a sense of its being an infectious disease, but
because it is confounded with another disease, held to be a curse from
an aggrieved Nature spirit. There was at Okÿon when I was there a leper
who lived in a regular house of his own, not a temporary hospital hut,
but a house with a plantation. He led a lonely life, having no wife or
family or slave; he was himself a slave, but not called on for
service--it was just a lonely life. People would drop in on him and
chat, and so on, but he did not live in town. There was also another one
there, who had his own people round him, and to whom people would send
their slaves, because he was regarded as a good doctor; but he also had
his house in the bush, and not in town.

Undoubtedly the diseases that play the greatest continuous havoc with
black life in West Africa are small-pox, divers forms of pneumonia,
heart-disease, and tetanus, the latter being largely responsible for the
terrible mortality among children; but the two West African native
diseases most interesting to the European on account of their
strangeness, are the malignant melancholy and the sleep sickness, and
strangely enough both these diseases seem to have their head centre in
one region--the lower Congo. They occur elsewhere, but in this region
they are constantly present, and now and again seem to take an epidemic
form. Regarding the first-named, I am still collecting information, for
I cannot tell whether the malignant melancholy of the lower Congo is one
and the same with the hystero-hypochondria, the home-sickness of the
true Negro. In the lower Congo I was informed that this malignant
melancholy had the native name signifying throwing backwards, from its
being the habit of the afflicted to throw themselves backwards into
water when they attempted a drowning form of suicide.[24] They do not,
however, confine themselves to attempts to drown themselves only, but
are equally given to hanging, the constant thing about all their
attempts being a lack of enthusiasm about getting the thing definitely
done: the patient seems to potter at it, not much caring whether he does
successfully hang or drown himself or no, but just keeps on, as if he
could not help doing it. This has probably given rise to the native
method of treating this disease--namely, holding a meeting of the
patient's responsible relations, who point out elaborately to him the
advantages of life over death, and enquire of him his reasons for
hankering after the latter. If in spite of these representations he
persists in a course of habitual suicide, he is knocked on the head and
thrown into the river; for it is a nuisance to have a person about who
is continually hanging himself to the house ridge pole and pulling the
roof half off, or requiring a course of sensational rescues from

The sleep disease[25] is also a strange thing. When I first arrived in
Africa in 1893 there had just been a dreadful epidemic of it in the
Kakongo and lower Congo region, and I saw a good many cases, and became
much interested in it, and have ever since been trying to gather further
information regarding it.

Dr. Patrick Manson in his important paper[26] states that it has never
been known to affect any one who has not at one time or another been
resident within this area, and observes on its distribution that "it
seems probable that as our knowledge of Africa extends, this disease
will be found endemic here and there throughout the basins of the
Senegal, the Niger, the Congo, and their affluents. We have no
information of its existence in the districts drained by the Nile and
the Zambesi, nor anywhere on the eastern side of the continent." As far
as my own knowledge goes the centres of this disease are the Senegal and
the Congo. I never saw a case in the Oil Rivers, nor could I hear of
any, though I made every inquiry; the cases I heard of from Lagos and
the Oil Rivers were among people who had been down as labourers, &c., to
the Congo. What is the reason of this I do not know, but certainly the
people of the lower Congo are much given to all kinds of diseases, far
more so than those inhabiting the dense forest regions of Congo
Français, or the much-abused mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta.

Dr. Manson says, "The sleeping sickness has been attributed to such
things as sunstroke, beriberi, malaria, poison, peculiar foods, such as
raw bitter manioc, and diseased grain; it is evident, however, that none
of these things explains all the facts." In regard to this I may say I
have often heard it ascribed to the manioc when in Kakongo, the idea
being that when manioc was soaked in water surcharged with the poisonous
extract, it had a bad effect. Certainly in Kakongo this was frequently
the case in many districts where water was comparatively scarce. The
pools used for soaking the root in stank, and the prepared root stank,
in the peculiar way it can, something like sour paste, with a dash of
acetic acid, and thereby the villages stank and the market-places ditto,
in a way that could be of no use to any one except a person anxious to
find his homestead in the dark; but Dr. Manson's suggestion is far more
likely to be the correct one. Against it I can only urge that in some
districts where I am informed by my medical friends that _Filaria
perstans_ is very prevalent, such as Calabar, the Niger, and the Ogowe,
sleeping sickness is not prevalent. Dr. Manson says "the fact that the
disease can be acquired only in a comparatively limited area, suggests
that the cause is similarly limited; and the fact that the disease may
develop years after the endemic area has been quitted, suggests that the
cause is of such a nature that it may be carried away from the endemic
area and remain latent, as regards its disease-producing qualities for a
considerable period; even for years." He then goes on to say, "_Filaria
perstans_, so far as is known, is limited in its geographical
distribution to Western Equatorial Africa--that is to say, it can be
acquired there only--and it may continue in active life for many years
after its human host has left the country in which alone it can be
acquired. We also know that similar entozoa in their wanderings in the
tissues by accident of location, or by disease, or injury of their
organs, not infrequently give rise to grave lesions in their hosts. I
therefore suggest that possibly _Filiaria perstans_ may in some way be
responsible for the sleeping sickness. I know that this parasite is
extremely common in certain sleeping sickness districts, and moreover, I
have found it in the blood of a considerable number of cases of this
disease--in six out of ten--including that described by Mackenzie. There
are many difficulties in the way of establishing this hypothesis, but
there is a sufficient inherent probability about it to make it well
worth following up."

The most important statement that I have been able to get regarding it
so far, has been one sent me by Mr. R. E. Dennett; who says "The
sleeping sickness though prevalent throughout Kakongo and Loango is most
common in the north of Loango and the south of Kakongo, that is north of
the river Quillou and among the Mussorongo.

"What the cause of the sickness is, it is hard to say, but it is one of
those scourges which is ever with us. The natives say any one may get
it, that it is not hereditary, and only infectious in certain stages.
They avoid the _dejecta_ of affected persons, but they do not force the
native to live in the bush as they do a person affected by small-pox.

"Pains in the head chiefly just above the nose are first experienced,
and should these continue for a month or so it is to be expected that
the disease is _Madotchila_, or the first stage of the sleeping

"In the word _Madotchila_ we have the idea of a state of being poisoned
or bewitched. At this stage the sickness is curable, but as the sick man
will never admit that he has the sickness and will suffer excruciating
pain rather than complain, and as it is criminal to suggest to the
invalid or others that he is suffering from the dreadful disease, it
often happens that it gets great hold of the afflicted and from time to
time he falls down overcome by drowsiness.

"Then he swells up and has the appearance of one suffering from dropsy,
and this stage of the disease is called _Malazi_, literally meaning
thousands (_Kulazi_ = one thousand, the verb _Koula_ to become great and
_zi_ the productive fly.)

"This appears to be the acute stage of the disease and death often
occurs within eight days from the beginning of the swelling.

"Then comes the stage _Ntolotolo_, meaning sleep or mock death.

"The next stage is called _Tchela nxela nbela_, that is the knife
cutting stage, referring to the operation of bleeding as part of the
cure; and the last stage of the disease is called _Nlemba Ngombo_.
_Lemba_ means to cease. The rites of _Lemba_ are those which refer to
the marriage of a woman who swears to die with her husband or rather to
cease to live at the same time as he does. _Ngombo_ is the name of the
native grass cloth in which, before the _Nlele_ or cotton cloth of the
white man appeared, the dead were wrapped previous to burial. Thus in
the name _Nlemba Ngombo_ we have the meaning of marriage to the deathly
winding sheet or shroud.

"I remember how poor Sanda (a favourite servant of Mr. Dennett's, a
mussorong boy) was taken sick with pains in his head which I at first
mistook for simple headache. As he was of great service to me I kept him
in the factory instead of sending him to town (the custom with invalids
in Kakongo is that they should go to their town to be doctored). I
purged him and gave him strong and continued doses of quinine and he got
better; but from time to time he suffered from recurring headache and
drowsiness, and on one occasion when I was vexed at finding him asleep
and suspecting him of dissipation, was going to punish him, I was
informed by another servant that the poor fellow was suffering from the
sleeping sickness. I at once sent him to town with sufficient goods to
pay his doctor's bill, and his relations did all in their power to have
him properly cured, taking him many miles to visit certain Ngangas famed
for the cure of this fell disease.

"He came back to me well and happy. The next year however, the malady
returned, and he went to town and gradually wasted away. They told me
that sores upon one of his arms had caused him to lose a hand, which he
lived to see buried before him. Sanda was of royal blood, so his body
was taken across from the north bank to San Antonio or Sonio, on the
south bank of the Congo, and there he was buried with his fathers.

"Another sad case was that of a woman who lived in the factory.

"As a child, it appeared afterwards, she had suffered from the disease,
and had been cured by the good French doctor then resident in Landana
(Dr. Lucan). I knew nothing of this at the time, and put her sickness
down to drink, but got a doctor to see her. He could not make out what
was the matter, but thought it might possibly be some nervous disease;
altogether we were completely puzzled.

"On one occasion during my absence she nearly tortured one of her
children to death by stabbing her with a needle. On my return, and when
I heard what she had done, I was very angry with her, and turned her out
of the factory, and shortly afterwards the poor creature died in the
swelling state of the disease.

"Joaõ (a more or less civilised native) tells me that one of his wives
was cured of this sleeping sickness. She was living with him in a white
man's factory when she had it, and on one occasion fell upon a demijohn
and cut her back open rather seriously--the white man cured her so far
as the wound was concerned. A native doctor, a Nganga or Kakamucka,
later on cured the sleeping sickness. He first gave her an emetic, then
each day he gave her a kind of Turkish bath; that is, having boiled
certain herbs in water, he placed her within the boiling decoction under
a covering of cloth, making her perspire freely. Towards nightfall he
poured some medicine up her nostrils and into her eyes, so that in the
morning when she awoke, her eyes and nose were full of matter; at the
same time he cupped and bled her in the locality of the pain in the
head. What the medicines were I cannot say, neither will the Nganga tell
any one save the man he means shall succeed him in his office.

"The native doctors appear to know when the disease has become incurable
and the life of the patient is merely a question of a few days, for once
while I was at Chemongoanleo, on the lower Congo I heard the village
carpenter hammering nails into planks, and asked my servant what they
were doing. 'Building Buite's coffin,' he said. 'What, is he dead?' said
I. 'No, but he must die soon,' he answered. This statement was confirmed
by the relations of Buite who came to me for rum as my share towards his
funeral expenses. Imagine my feelings when shortly after this Buite,
swollen out of all likeness to his former self, crawled along to the
shop and asked me for a gallon of rum to help him pay his doctor's bill.

"A doctor of the Congo Free State began to take an interest in the
sickness and asked me to persuade some one suffering from the disease to
come and place himself under his care, promising that he would have a
place apart made for him at the station, so that he could study the
sickness and try to cure the poor fellow. After a good deal of trouble I
got him a patient willing to remain with him, but owing to some red tape
difficulty as to the supply of food for the sick man this doctor's good
intentions came to nought. A Portuguese doctor here also gave his
serious attention to the sleeping sickness, and it was reported that he
had found a cure for it in some part of a fresh billy-goat. This good
man wanted a special hospital to be built for him and a subsidy so that
he might devote himself to the task he had undertaken. His Government,
however, although its hospitals are far in advance of those of its
neighbours on the Coast, could not see its way to erect such a place."

All I need add to this is that I was informed that the disease when it
had once definitely set in ran its fatal course in a year, but that when
it came as an epidemic it was more rapidly fatal, sometimes only a
matter of a few weeks, and it was this more acute form that was
accompanied by wild delirium. Another native informant told me when it
was bad it usually lasted only from twenty to forty days.

Monteiro says the sleep disease was unknown south of the Congo until it
suddenly attacked the town of Musserra, where he was told by the natives
as many as 200 died of it in a few months. This was in 1870, and curious
to say it did not spread to the neighbouring towns. Monteiro induced the
natives to remove from the old town and the mortality decreased till the
disease died out. "There was nothing in the old town to account for this
sudden singular epidemic. It was beautifully clean and well-built on
high dry ground, surrounded by mandioca plantations, the last place to
all appearance to expect such a curious outbreak."[27]

Monteiro also observes that "there is no cure known for it," but he is
speaking for Angola, and I think this strengthens his statement that it
is a comparatively recent importation there. For certainly there are
cures, if not known, at any rate believed in, for the sleeping sickness
in its own home Kakongo and Loango. There is a great difference in the
diseases, flora and fauna, of the north and south banks of the
Congo--whether owing to the difficulty of crossing the terrifically
rapid and powerful stream of the great river I do not know. Still there
was--more in former times than now--much intercourse between the natives
of the two banks when the Portuguese discovered the Congo in 1487. The
town called now San Antonio was the throne town of the kingdom of Kongo,
and had nominally as provinces the two districts Kakongo and Loango,
these provinces that are now the head centres of the sleep disease. Yet
in the early accounts given of Kongo by the Catholic missionaries, who
lived in Kongo among the natives, I have so far found no mention of the
sleep disease. It is impossible to believe that Merolla, for example,
could have avoided mentioning it if he had seen or heard of it.
Merolla's style of giving information was, like my own, diffuse.
Certainly we must remember that these Catholic missionaries were not
much in Loango and Kakongo as those provinces had broken almost entirely
away from the Kongo throne prior to the Portuguese arrival, so perhaps
all we can safely say is that in the 15-17th centuries there was no
sleep disease in the districts on the south bank of the Congo, and it
was not anything like so notoriously bad in the districts on the north

Before quitting the apothecary part of this affair, I may just remark
that if you, being white, of a nervous disposition, and merely in
possession of an ordinary amount of medical knowledge, find yourself
called in to doctor an African friend or acquaintance, you must be
careful about hot poultices. I should say, _never_ prescribe hot
poultices. An esteemed medical friend, since dead, told me that when he
first commenced practice in West Africa he said to a civilised native
who was looking after his brother--the patient--"Give him a linseed
poultice made like this"--demonstration--"and mind he has it hot." The
man came back shortly afterwards to say his brother had been very sick,
but was no better, though every bit of the stuff had been swallowed so
hot it had burnt his mouth. But swallowing the poultice is a minor
danger to its exhibition. Even if you yourself see it put on outside,
carefully, exactly where that poultice ought to be, the moment your back
is turned the patient feeling hot gets into the most awful draught he
can find, or into cold water, and the consequences are inflammation of
the lungs and death, and you get the credit of it. The natives
themselves you will find are very clever at doctoring in their own way,
by no means entirely depending on magic and spells; and you will also
find they have a strong predilection for blisters, cupping and bleeding,
hot water and emetics; in all their ailments and on the whole it suits
them very well. Therefore I pray you add your medical knowledge and your
special drugs to theirs and for outside applications stick to blisters
in place of hot poultices.


   [24] An experienced medical man from West Africa informs me that he
   considers the Africans very liable to hysterical disease, and he
   attributes the throwing backwards to the patient's desire not to spoil
   his or her face, a thing ladies are especially careful of, and says
   that turning a lady face downwards on the sand is as efficacious in
   breaking up the hysterical fit as throwing water over their clothes
   is with us.

   [25] Negro lethargy; Maladie du sommeil; Enfermedad del sueno; Nelavane
   (Oulof); Dadane (Sereres); Toruahebue (Mendi); Ntolo (Fjort).

   [26] _System of Medicine._ Volume II. Edited by Dr. Clifford Allbutt.
   Macmillan & Co., 1897.

   [27] _Angola and the River Congo._ Macmillan. Vol. i., p. 144.



     African Medicine mainly from the point of view of the Witch Doctor.

We will now leave the village apothecary and his methods, and turn to
the witch doctor, the consulting physician. He of course knows all about
the therapeutic action of low-grade spirits, such as dwell in herbs and
so on; but he knows more--namely the actions of higher spirits on the
human soul, and the disorders of the human soul into the bargain.

The dogma that rules his practice is that in all cases of disease in
which no blood is showing, the patient is suffering from something wrong
in the soul. In order to lay this dogma fairly before you, I should here
discourse on the nature of spirits unallied to the human soul--non-human
spirits--and the nature of the human spirit itself; but as on the one
hand, I cannot be hasty on such an important group of subjects, and, on
the other, I cannot expect you to be anything else in such a matter, I
forbear, and merely beg to remark that the African does not believe in
anything being soulless, he regards even matter itself as a form of
soul, low, because not lively, a thing other spirit forms use as they
please--practically as the cloth of the spirit that uses it. This
conception is, as far as I know, constant in both Negro and Bantu. I
will therefore here deal only with what the African regards as merely
one class of spirits--an important class truly, but above it there are
at least two more important classes, while beneath it in grade there
are, I think, about eleven, and equal to it, but differing in nature,
several classes--I don't exactly know how many. This class of spirits is
the human soul--the _Kla_ of the true Negro, the _Manu_ of the Bantu.
These human souls are also of different grades, for one sort is believed
to be existent before birth, as well as during life and after death,
while other classes are not. There is more interesting stuff here, but I
am determined to stick to my main point now--the medical. Well, the
number of souls possessed by each individual we call a human being is
usually held to be four--(1) the soul that survives, (2) the soul that
lives in an animal away wild in the bush, (3) the shadow cast by the
body, (4) the soul that acts in dreams. I believe that the more profound
black thinkers hold that these last-named souls are only functions of
the true soul, but from the witch doctor's point of view there are four,
and he acts on this opinion when doctoring the diseases that afflict
these souls of a man.

The dream-soul is the cause of woes unnumbered to our African friend,
and the thing that most frequently converts him into that desirable
state, from a witch doctor's point of view of a patient. It is this way.
The dream-soul is, to put it very mildly, a silly flighty thing. Off it
goes when its owner is taking a nap, and gets so taken up with
sky-larking, fighting, or gossiping with other dream-souls that
sometimes it does not come home to its owner when he is waking up. So,
if any one has to wake a man up great care must always be taken that it
is done softly--softly, namely gradually and quietly, so as to give the
dream-soul time to come home. For if either of the four souls of a man
have their intercommunication broken, the human being possessing them
gets very ill. We will take an example. A man has been suddenly roused
by some cause or other before that dream-soul has had time to get into
quarters. That human being feels very ill, and sends for the Witch
Doctor. The medical man diagnoses the case as one of absence of
dream-soul, instantly claps a cloth over the mouth and nose, and gets
his assistant to hold it there until the patient gets hard on
suffocated; but no matter, it's the proper course of treatment to
pursue. The witch doctor himself gets ready as rapidly as possible
another dream-soul, which if he is a careful medical man, he has brought
with him in a basket. Then the patient is laid on his back and the
cloths removed from the mouth and nose, and the witch doctor holds over
them his hands containing the fresh soul, blowing hard at it so as to
get it well into the patient. If this is successfully accomplished, the
patient recovers. Occasionally, however, this fresh soul slips through
the medical man's fingers, and before you can say "Knife" is on top of
some 100-feet-high or more silk cotton tree, where it chirrups gaily and
distinctly. This is a great nuisance. The patient has to be promptly
covered up again. If the doctor has an assistant with him, that
unfortunate individual has to go up the tree and catch the dream-soul.
If he has no assistant, he has to send his power up the tree after the
truant; doctors who are in full practice have generally passed the time
of life when climbing up trees personally is agreeable. When, however,
the thing has been re-captured and a second attempt to insert it is
about to be made, it is held advisable to get the patient's friends and
relatives to stand round him in a ring and howl lustily, while your
assistant also howling lustily, but in a professional manner, beats a
drum. This prevents the soul from bolting again, and tends to frighten
it into the patient.

In some obstinate cases of loss of dream-soul, however, the most
experienced medical man will fail to get the fresh soul inserted. It
clings to his fingers, it whisks back into the basket or into his hair
or clothes, and it chirrups dismally, and the patient becomes convulsed.
This is a grave symptom, but the diagnosis is quite clear. The patient
has got a _sisa_ in him, so there is no room for the fresh soul.

Now, a _sisa_ is a dreadful bad thing for a man to have in him, and an
expensive thing to get out. It is the surviving soul of a person who has
not been properly buried--not had his devil made, in fact. And as every
human surviving soul has a certain allotted time of existence in a human
body before it can learn the dark and difficult way down to Srahmandazi,
if by mischance the body gets killed off before the time is up, that
soul, unless properly buried and sent on the way to Srahmandazi, or any
other Hades, under expert instruction given as to the path for the dead,
becomes a _sisa_, and has to hang about for the remaining years of its
term of bodily life.

These _ensisa_ are held to be so wretchedly uncomfortable in this state
that their tempers become perfect wrecks, and they grow utterly
malignant, continually trying to get into a human body, so as to finish
their term more comfortably. Now, a _sisa's_ chief chance of getting
into a body is in whipping in when there is a hole in a man's soul
chamber, from the absence of his own dream-soul. If a _sisa_ were a
quiet, respectable soul that would settle down, it would not matter
much, for the dream-soul it supplants is not of much account. But a
_sisa_ is not. At the best, it would only live out its remaining term,
and then go off the moment that term was up, and most likely kill the
souls it had been sheltering with by bolting at an inconvenient moment.
This was the verdict given on the death of a man I knew who, from what
you would call faintness, fell down in a swamp and was suffocated.
Inconvenient as this is, the far greater danger you are exposed to by
having a _sisa_ in you lies in the chances being 10 to 1 that it is
stained with blood, for, without being hard on these unfortunate
unburied souls, I may remark that respectable souls usually get
respectably buried, and so don't become _ensisa_. This blood which is
upon it the devils that are around smell and go for, as is the nature of
devils; and these devils whip in after the _sisa_ soul into his host in
squads, and the man with such a set inside him is naturally very
ill--convulsions, delirium, high temperature, &c., and the indications
to your true witch doctor are that that _sisa_ must be extracted before
a new dream-soul can be inserted and the man recover.

But getting out a _sisa_ is a most trying operation. Not only does it
necessitate a witch doctor sending in his power to fetch it _vi et
armis_, it also places the medical man in a position of grave
responsibility regarding its disposal when secured. The methods he
employs to meet this may be regarded as akin to those of antiseptic
surgery. All the people in the village, particularly babies and old
people--people whose souls are delicate--must be kept awake during the
operation, and have a piece of cloth over the nose and mouth, and every
one must howl so as to scare the _sisa_ off them, if by mischance it
should escape from the witch doctor. An efficient practitioner, I may
remark, thinks it a great disgrace to allow a _sisa_ to escape from him;
and such an accident would be a grave blow to his practice, for people
would not care to call in a man who was liable to have this occur.
However, our present medical man having got the _sisa_ out, he has still
to deal with the question of its disposal before he can do anything
more. The assistant blows a new dream soul into the patient, and his
women see to him; but the witch doctor just holds on to the _sisa_ like
a bulldog.

Sometimes the disposal of the _sisa_ has been decided on prior to its
extraction. If the patient's family are sufficiently well off, they
agree to pay the doctor enough to enable him to teach the _sisa_ the way
to Hades. Indeed, this is the course respectable medical men always
insist on although it is expensive to the patient's family. But there
are, I regret to say, a good many unprincipled witch doctors about who
will undertake a case cheap.

They will carry off with them the extracted _sisa_ for a small fee, then
shortly afterwards a baby in the village goes off in tetanic
convulsions. No one takes much notice of that, because it's a way babies
have. Soon another baby is born in the same family--polygamy being
prevalent, the event may occur after a short interval--well, after
giving the usual anxiety and expense, that baby goes off in convulsions.
Suspicion is aroused. Presently yet another baby appears in the family,
keeps all right for a week may be, and then also goes off in
convulsions. Suspicions are confirmed. The worm--the father, I
mean--turns, and he takes the body of that third baby and smashes one of
its leg bones before it is thrown away into the bush; for he knows he
has got a wanderer soul--namely, a _sisa_, which some unprincipled
practitioner has sent into his family. He just breaks the leg so as to
warn the soul he is not a man to be trifled with, and will not have his
family kept in a state of perpetual uproar and expense. It sometimes
happens, however, in spite of this that, when his fourth baby arrives,
that too goes off in convulsions. Thoroughly roused now, paterfamilias
sternly takes a chopper and chops that infant's remains up extremely
small, and it is scattered broadcast. Then he holds he has eliminated
that _sisa_ from his family finally.

I am informed, however, that the fourth baby to arrive in a family
afflicted by a _sisa_ does not usually go off in convulsions, but that
fairly frequently it is born lame, which shows that it is that wanderer
soul back with its damaged leg. It is not treated unkindly but not taken
much care of, and so rarely lives many years--from the fetish point of
view, of course, only those years remaining of its term of bodily life
out of which some witchcraft of man or some vengeance of a god cheated

If I mention the facts that when a man wakes up in the morning feeling
very stiff and with "that tired feeling" you see mentioned in
advertisements in the newspapers, he holds that it arises from his own
dream-soul having been out fighting and got itself bruised; and that if
he wakes up in a fright, he will jump up and fire off his gun, holding
that a pack of rag tag devils have been chasing his soul home and
wishing to scare them off, I think I may leave the complaints of the
dream-soul connected with physic and pass on to those connected with

Now, devoted as I am to my West African friends, I am bound in the
interests of Truth to say that many of them are sadly unprincipled.
There are many witches, not witch doctors, remember, who make it a
constant practice to set traps for dream-souls. Witches you will find
from Sierra Leone to Cameroons, but they are extra prevalent on the
Gold Coast and in Calabar.

These traps are usually pots containing something attractive to the
soul, and in this bait are concealed knives or fish-hooks--fish-hooks
when the witch wants to catch the soul to keep, knives when the desire
is just to injure it.

In the case of the lacerated dream-soul, when it returns to its owner,
it makes him feel very unwell; but the symptoms are quite different from
those arising from loss of dream-soul or from a _sisa_.

The reason for catching dream-souls with hooks is usually a low
mercenary one. You see, many patients insist on having their own
dream-soul put back into them--they don't want a substitute from the
doctor's store--so of course the soul has to be bought from the witch
who has got it. Sometimes, however, the witch is the hireling of some
one intent on injuring a particular person and keen on capturing the
soul for this purpose, though too frightened to kill his enemy outright.
So the soul is not only caught and kept, but tortured, hung up over the
canoe fire and so on, and thus, even if the patient has another
dream-soul put in, so long as his original soul is in the hands of a
torturer, he is uncomfortable.

On one occasion, for example, I heard one of the Kru boys who were with
me making more row in his sleep, more resounding slaps and snores and
grunts than even a normal Kru boy does, and, resolving in my mind that
what that young man really required was one of my pet pills, I went to
see him. I found him asleep under a thick blanket and with a
handkerchief tied over his face. It was a hot night, and the man and his
blanket were as wet with sweat as if they had been dragged through a
river. I suggested to head-man that the handkerchief muzzle should come
off, and was informed by him that for several nights previously the man
had dreamt of that savoury dish, crawfish seasoned with red pepper. He
had become anxious, and consulted the head-man, who decided that
undoubtedly some witch was setting a trap for his dream-soul with this
bait, with intent, &c. Care was now being taken to, as it were, keep the
dream-soul at home. I of course did not interfere and the patient
completely recovered.

We will now pass on to diseases arising from disorders in the other
three souls of a man. The immortal or surviving soul is liable to a
disease that its body suffered from during its previous time on earth,
born again with it. Such diseases are quite incurable, and I only
personally know of them in the Calabar and Niger Delta, where
reincarnation is strongly believed in.

Then come the diseases that arise from injury to the shadow-soul. It
strikes one as strange at first to see men who have been walking, say,
through forest or grass land on a blazing hot morning quite happily, on
arrival at a piece of clear ground or a village square, most carefully
go round it, not across, and you will soon notice that they only do this
at noontime, and learn that they fear losing their shadow. I asked some
Bakwiri I once came across who were particularly careful in this matter
why they were not anxious about losing their shadows when night came
down and they disappeared in the surrounding darkness, and was told that
that was all right, because at night all shadows lay down in the shadow
of the Great God, and so got stronger. Had I not seen how strong and
long a shadow, be it of man or tree or of the great mountain itself, was
in the early morning time? Ah me! I said, the proverb is true that says
the turtle can teach the spider. I never thought of that.

Murders are sometimes committed by secretly driving a nail or knife into
a man's shadow, and so on; but if the murderer be caught red-handed at
it, he or she would be forthwith killed, for all diseases arising from
the shadow-soul are incurable. No man's shadow is like that of his own
brother, says the proverb.

Now we come to that very grave class of diseases which arise from
disorders of the bush-soul. These diseases are not all incurable,
nevertheless they are very intractable and expensive to cure. This
bush-soul is, as I have said, resident in some wild animal in the
forest. It may be in only an earth pig, or it may be in a leopard, and,
quite providentially for the medical profession no layman can see his
own soul--it is not as if it were connected with all earth pigs, or all
leopards, as the case may be, but it is in one particular earth pig or
leopard or other animal--so recourse must be had to medical aid when
anything goes wrong with it. It is usually in the temper that the
bush-soul suffers. It is liable to get a sort of aggrieved neglected
feeling, and want things given it. When you wander about the wild gloomy
forests of the Calabar region, you will now and again come across, far
away from all human habitation or plantation, tiny huts, under whose
shelter lies some offering or its remains. Those are offerings
administered by direction of a witch doctor to appease a bush-soul. For
not only can a witch doctor see what particular animal a man's bush-soul
is in, but he can also see whereabouts in the forest that animal is.
Still, these bush-souls are not easily appeased. The worst of it is that
a man may be himself a quiet steady man, careful of his diet and
devoted to a whole skin, and yet his bush-soul be a reckless blade,
scorning danger, and thereby getting itself shot by some hunter or
killed in a trap or pit; and if his bush-soul dies, the man it is
connected with dies. Therefore if the hunter who has killed it can be
found out--a thing a witch doctor cannot do unless he happens by chance
to have had his professional eye on that bush-soul at the time of the
catastrophe; because, as it were, at death the bush-soul ceases to
exist--that hunter has to pay compensation to the family of the
deceased. On the other hand, if the man belonging to the bush-soul dies,
the bush-soul animal has to die too. It rushes to and fro in the
forest--"can no longer find a good place." If it sees a fire, it rushes
into that; if it sees a lot of hunters, it rushes among them--anyhow, it
gets itself killed off.

We will now turn our attention to that other great division of
diseases--namely such as are caused only and directly by human agency.
Those I have already detained you too long over are caused by spirits
acting on their own account, for even in the case of the trapped
dream-souls they are held themselves to have shown contributory
negligence in getting hooked or cut in traps.

The others arise from what is called witchcraft. You will often hear it
said that the general idea among savage races is that death always
arises from witchcraft; but I think, from what I have said regarding
diseases arising from bush-souls' bad tempers, from contracting a
_sisa_, from losing the shadow at high noon, and from, it may be, other
causes I have not spoken of, that this generalisation is for West Africa
too sweeping. But undoubtedly sixty per cent of the deaths are believed
to arise from witchcraft. I would put the percentage higher, were it not
for the terrible mortality from tetanus among children, which sometimes
is and sometimes is not put down to witchcraft, and the mortality from
smallpox and the sleep disease down south in Loango and Kakongo, those
diseases not being in any case that I have had personal acquaintance
with imputed to witchcraft at all. Indeed I venture to think that any
disease that takes an epidemic form is regarded as a scourge sent by
some great outraged Nature spirit, not a mere human dabbler in devils. I
have dealt with witchcraft itself elsewhere, therefore now I only speak
regarding it medically; and I think, roughly speaking, not absolutely,
mind you, that the witching something _out_ of a man is the most common
iniquity of witchcraft from Cape Juby to Cameroons, the region of the
true Negro stock; while from Cameroons to Benguella--the limit of my
knowledge to the south on the western side of the continent--the most
common iniquity of witchcraft is witching something into him. As in the
diseases arising from the loss of the dream-soul I have briefly dealt
with the witching something out, I now turn to the witching something

I well remember, in 1893, being then new to and easily alarmed by the
West Coast, going into a village in Kakongo one afternoon and seeing
several unpleasant-looking objects stuck on poles. Investigation showed
they were the lungs, livers, or spleens of human beings; and local
information stated that they were the powers of witches--witches that
had been killed and, on examination, found to have inside them these
things, dangerous to the state and society at large. Wherefrom it was
the custom to stick up on poles these things as warnings to the general
public not to harbour in their individual interiors things to use
against their fellow-creatures. They mutely but firmly said, "See! if
you turn witch, your inside will be stuck on a pole."

I may remark that in many districts of the South-West coast and middle
Congo it is customary when a person dies in an unexplainable way, namely
without shedding blood, to hold a post-mortem. In some cases the
post-mortem discloses the path of the witch through the victim--usually,
I am informed, the injected witch feeds on the victim's lungs--in other
cases the post-mortem discloses the witch power itself, demonstrating
that the deceased was a keeper of witch power, or, as we should say, a

Once when I was at Batanga a woman dropped down on the beach and died.
The usual post-mortem was held, and local feeling ran high. "She no
complain, she no say nothing, and then she go die one time." The
post-mortem disclosed what I think you would term a ruptured aneurism of
the aorta, but the local verdict was "she done witch herself"--namely
that she was a witch, who had been eaten by her own power, therefore
there were great rejoicings over her death.

This dire catastrophe is, however, liable to overtake legitimate medical
men. All reasonable people in every clime allow a certain latitude to
doctors. They are supposed to know things other people need not, and to
do things, like dissections and such, that other people should not, and
no one thinks any the worse of them. This is the case with the African
physician, whom we roughly call the witch doctor, but whose full title
is the combatant of the evils worked by witches and devils on human
souls and human property. This medical man has, from the exigencies of
his profession, to keep in his own inside a power, and a good strong one
at that, which he can employ in his practice by sending it into
patients to fetch out other witch powers, _sisas_, or any miscellaneous
kind of devil that may have got into them. His position is totally
different from that of the layman. He is known to possess a witch power,
and the knowledge of how to employ it; but instead of this making him an
object of aversion to his fellow-men, it secures for him esteem and
honour, and the more terrifically powerful his power is known to be, the
more respect he gains; for suppose you were taken ill by a real bad
devil, you would prefer a medical man whose power was at least up to
that devil's fighting weight.

Nevertheless his having to keep the dangerous devil in his own inside
exposes the witch doctor to grave personal danger, for if, from a
particularly healthy season, or some notorious quack coming into his
district, his practice falls off, and his power is thereby not kept fed,
that unfortunate man is liable to be attacked by it. This was given me
as the cause of the death of a great doctor in the Chiloango district,
and I heard the same thing from the Ncomi district, so it is clear that
many eminent men are cut off in the midst of their professional career
in this way.

As for what this power is like in its corporal form, I can only say that
it is evidently various. One witch doctor I know just to the north of
Loango always made it a practice to give his patients a brisk emetic as
soon as he was called in, and he always found young crocodiles in the
consequences. I remember seeing him in one case secure six lively young
crocodiles that had apparently been very recently hatched. These were
witch powers. Again, I was informed of a witch who was killed near the
Bungo River having had found inside him a thing like a lizard, but with
wings like a bat. The most peculiar form of witch power I have heard of
as being found inside a patient was on the Ogowe from two native
friends, both of them very intelligent, reliable men, one of them a
Bible reader. They said that about two years previously a relation of
theirs had been badly witched. A doctor had been called in, who
administered an emetic, and there appeared upon the scene a strange
little animal that grew with visible rapidity. An hour after its coming
to light it crawled and got out of the basin, and finally it flew away.
It had bat's wings and a body and tail like a lizard. This catawampus,
my informant held, had been witched into the man when it was "small,
small"--namely, very small. It might, they thought, have been given to
their relation in some food or drink by an enemy, but for sure, if it
had not been disturbed by that emetic, it would have grown up inside the
man and have eaten its way out through his vitals.

From the whole of the above statements I think I have shown you that if
as a witch doctor you are called in to a patient who is ill, but who is
not showing blood anywhere, your diagnosis will be that he has got some
sort or another of devil the matter with him, and that the first
indication is to find out who put that devil in, because, in the
majority of cases, until you know this you can't get it out; the second
is to get it out; the third is to prevent its getting adrift, and into
some one else.

I have only briefly sketched the ideas and methods of witch doctors in
West Africa, in so far as treatment is concerned. The infinite variety
of methods employed in detecting who has been the witch in a given case;
the infinite variety of incantations and so on, I have no space to dwell
on here, and will conclude by giving you a general sketch of the career
of a witch doctor.

We will start with the medical student stage. Now, every West African
tribe has a secret society--two, in fact, one for men and one for women.
Every free man has to pass through the secret society of his tribe. If
during this education the Elders of this society discover that a boy is
what is called in Calabar an _ebumtup_--a person who can see
spirits--the elders of the society advise that he should be brought up
to the medical profession. Their advice is generally taken, and the boy
is apprenticed as it were to a witch doctor, who requires a good fee
with him. This done, he proceeds with his studies, learns the difference
between the dream-soul basket and the one _sisas_ are kept in--a mistake
between the two would be on a par with mistaking oxalic acid for Epsom
salts. He is then taught how to howl in a professional way, and, by
watching his professor, picks up his bedside manner. If he can acquire a
showy way of having imitation epileptic fits, so much the better. In
fact, as a medical student, you have to learn pretty well as much there
as here. You must know the dispositions, the financial position, little
scandals, &c., of the inhabitants of the whole district, for these
things are of undoubted use in divination and the finding of witches,
and in addition you must be able skilfully to dispense charms, and know
what babies say before their own mothers can. Then some day your
professor and instructor dies, his own professional power eats him, or
he tackles a disease-causing spirit that is one too many for him, and on
you descend his paraphernalia and his practice.

It is usual for a witch doctor to acquire for his power a member of one
of the higher grade spirit classes--he does not acquire a human
soul--and his successor usually, I think, takes the same spirit, or, at
any rate, a member of the same class. This does not altogether limit
you as a successor to a certain line of practice, but, as no one spirit
can do all things, it tends to make you a specialist. I know a district
where, if any one wanted a canoe charm, they went to one medical man; if
a charm to keep thieves off their plantation, to another.

This brings us to the practice itself, and it may be divided into two
divisions. First, prophylactic methods, namely, making charms to protect
your patient's wives, children, goats, plantations, canoes, &c. from
damage, houses from fire, &c., &c., and to protect the patient himself
from wild animals and all danger by land or water. This is a very paying
part, but full of anxiety. For example, put yourself in the place of a
Mpangwe medical friend of mine. You have with much trouble got a really
valuable spirit to come into a paste made of blood and divers things,
and having made it into a sausage form, and done it round with fibre
wonderfully neatly, you have painted it red outside to please the
spirits--because spirits like red, they think it's blood. Well, in a
week or so the man you administered it to comes back and says "that
thing's no good." His paddle has broken more often than before he had
the thing. The amount of rocks, and floating trees, to say nothing of
snags, is, he should say, about double the normal, whereby he has lost a
whole canoe load of European goods, and, in short, he doesn't think much
of you as a charm maker. Then he expectorates and sulks offensively. You
take the charm, and tell him it was a perfectly good one when you gave
it him, and you never had any complaints before, but you will see what
has gone wrong with it. Investigation shows you that the spirit is
either dead or absent. In the first case it has been killed by a
stronger spirit of its own class; in the second, lured away by bribery.
Now this clearly points to your patient's having a dangerous and
powerful enemy, and you point it out to him and advise him to have a
fresh and more powerful charm--necessarily more expensive--with as
little delay as possible. He grumbles, but, realising the danger, pays
up, and you make him another. The old one can be thrown away, like an
empty pill-box.

The other part of your practice--the clinical--consists in combating
those witches who are always up to something--sucking blood of young
children, putting fearful wild fowl into people to eat up their most
valued viscera, or stealing souls o' nights, blighting crops, &c.

Therefore you see the witch doctor's life is not an idle one; he has not
merely to humbug the public and pocket the fees--or I should say "bag,"
pockets being rare in this region--but he works very hard, and has his
anxieties just like a white medical man. The souls that get away from
him are a great worry. The death of every patient is a danger to a
certain extent, because the patient's soul will be vicious to him until
it is buried. But I must say I profoundly admire our West African witch
doctors for their theory of _sisas_ as an explanation of their not
always being able to insert a new soul into a patient, for by this
theory they save themselves somewhat, and do not entail on themselves
the treatment their brother medicos have to go through on the Nass River
in British Columbia. According to Mr. Fraser, in that benighted Nass
River district those native American doctors hold it possible that a
doctor may swallow a patient's soul by mistake. This is their theory to
account for the strange phenomenon of a patient getting worse instead of
better when a doctor has been called in, and so the unfortunate doctor
who has had this accident occur is made to stand over his patient while
another medical man thrusts his fingers in his throat, another kneads
him in the abdomen, and a third medical brother slaps him on the back.
All the doctors present have to go through the same ordeal, and if the
missing soul does not turn up, the party of doctors go to the head
doctor's house to see if by chance he has got it in his box. All the
things are taken out of the box, and if the soul is not there, the head
doctor, the President of the College of Physicians, the Sir Somebody
Something of the district, is held by his heels with his learned head in
a hole in the floor, while the other doctors wash his hair. The water
used is then taken and poured over the patient's head.

I told this story to all the African witch doctors I knew. I fear, that
being hazy in geography, they think it is the practice of the English
medical profession; but, anyhow every one of them regarded the doctors
of the Nass River as a set of superstitious savages, and imbeciles at
that. Of course a medical man had to see to souls, but to go about in
squads, administer rough emetics to themselves, instead of to the
patients, and as for that head washing--well, people can be fool too
much! None of them showed the slightest signs of adopting the British
Columbia method, none of them showed even any signs of adopting my
suggestion that they should go and teach those benighted brothers of
theirs the theory of _insisa_.

If you ask me frankly whether I think these African witch doctors
believe in themselves, I think I must say, Yes; or perhaps it would be
safer to say they believe in the theory they work by, for of that there
can be very little doubt. I do not fancy they ever claim invincible
power over disease; they do their best according to their lights. It
would be difficult to see why they should doubt their own methods,
because, remember, all their patients do not die; the majority recover.
I am not putting this recovery down to their soul-treatment method, but
to the village apothecary, who has usually been doctoring the patient
with drugs before the so-called witch doctor is called in. Of course the
apothecary does not get the credit of the cure in this case, but I fancy
he deserves it. Another point to be remembered is that the Africans on
the West Coast, at any rate, are far more liable than white men to many
strange nervous disorders, especially to delirium, which often occurs in
a comparatively slight illness. Why I do not pretend to understand; but
I think in these nervous cases the bedside manners of a witch
doctor--though strongly resembling that of the physician who attended
the immortal Why Why's mother--may yet be really useful.

As to the evil these witch doctors do in the matter of getting people
killed for bewitching it is difficult to speak justly. I fancy that, on
the whole, they do more good than harm, for remember witchcraft in these
districts is no parlour game; in the eyes of Allah as well as man it is
murder, for most of it is poison. Most witchcraft charms I know of among
people who have not been in contact with Mohammedanism have always had
that element of mixing something with the food or drink--even in that
common, true Negro form of killing by witchcraft, putting medicine in
the path, there is a poisoned spike as well as charm stuff. There can be
no doubt that the witch doctor's methods of finding out who has poisoned
a person are effective, and that the knowledge in the public mind of
this detective power keeps down poisoning to a great extent. Of the
safeguards against unjust accusation I will speak when treating of law.

As to their using hypnotism, I suppose they do use something of the sort
at times. West Indians, with whom I was always anxious to talk on the
differences and agreements between Vodou and Obeah and their parent West
African religion, certainly, in their description of what they called
Wanga--and translated as Glamour--seemed to point to this; but for
myself, save in the case of blood coming before, one case of which I
witnessed, I have seen nothing beyond an enormously elaborated common
sense. I dare not call it sound, because it is based on and developed
out of animism, and of that and our white elaborated view I am not the
judge, remembering you go the one way, I the other--which is the best,
God knows.



     Concerning the accounts given by classic writers of West Africa,
     and of the method of barter called the Silent Trade.

It is a generally received opinion that there are too many books in the
world already. I cannot, however, subscribe to any Institution that
proposes to alter this state of affairs, because I find no consensus of
opinion as to which are the superfluous books; I have my own opinion on
the point, but I feel I had better keep it to myself, for I find the
very books I dislike--almost invariably in one-volume form, as this one
is, though of a more connected nature than this is likely to be--are the
well-beloved of thousands of my fellow human beings; and so I will
restrict my enthusiasms in the matter of books to the cause of
attempting to incite writers to give us more. If any one wants
personally to oblige me he will forthwith write a masterly history of
the inter-relationships--religious, commercial, and cultural--of the
other races of the earth with the African, and he can put in as an
appendix a sketch of the war conquest of Africa by the white races. I do
not ask for a separate volume on this, because there will be so many on
the others; moreover, it is such a kaleidoscopic affair, and its
influence alike on both European, Asiatic, and African seems to me
neither great nor good.

For the past fifteen years I have been reading up Africa; and the effect
of the study of this literature may best be summarised in Mr. Kipling's
observation, "For to admire an' for to see, For to be'old this world so
wide, It's never been no good to me, But I can't drop it if I tried."
Wherein it has failed to be of good, I hastily remark, is that after all
this fifteen years' reading, I found I had to go down into the most
unfashionable part of Africa myself, to try to find out whatever the
thing was really like, and also to discover which of my authors had been
doing the heaviest amount of lying. It seemed clear to the meanest
intelligence that this form of the darkening of counsel was fearfully
prevalent among them, because of the way they disagreed about things
among themselves. Of course I have so far only partially succeeded in
both these matters; for, regarding the first, personal experience taught
me that things differed with district; regarding the second, that all
the people who have been to Africa and have written books on it have,
off and on, told the truth, and that what seemed to the public who have
not been there to be the most erroneous statements have been true in
substance and in fact, and that those statements they have accepted
immediately as true on account of their either flattering their vanity
or comfortably explaining the reasons of the failure of their
endeavours, have the most falsehood in them.

There is another point I must mention regarding this material for that
much wanted colossal work on the history of African relationships with
the rest of the world--which I do not intend to write, but want written
for me--and that is the superiority both in quality and quantity of the
portion which relates to the Early History of the West Coast. Yet very
little attention has been given in our own times to this. I might say no
attention, were it not for Sir A. B. Ellis, that very noble man and
gallant soldier, who did so much good work for England both with sword
and pen. Just for the sake of the work being worth doing, not in the
hope of reward; for twenty years' service and the publication of a
series of books of great interest and importance taught him that West
Africa was under a ban that it was beyond his power to remove;
nevertheless he went on with his work unfaltering, if not uncomplaining,
and died, in 1895, a young man, practically killed by the Warim
incident--the true history of which has yet to be written. For the
credit of my country, I must say that just before death he was knighted.

I do not quote Colonel Ellis's works extensively, because, for one
thing, it is the duty of people to read them first-hand, and as they are
perfectly accessible there is no excuse for their not doing so; and, for
another thing, I am in touch with the majority of the works from which
he gathered his information regarding the early history, and with the
natives from whom he gathered his ethnological information. There are
certain points, I grant, on which I am unable to agree with him, such as
the opinion he formed from his personal prejudices against the traders
in West Africa; but in the main, regarding the regions with which he was
personally acquainted and on which he wrote--the Bight of Benin
regions--I am only too glad that there is Colonel Ellis for me to agree

The fascination of West Africa's historical record is very great,
bristling as it does with the deeds of brave men, bad and good, black
and white. What my German friends would call the Blüth-period of this
history is decidedly that period which was inaugurated by the great
Prince Henry the Navigator; and no man who has ever read, as every man
should read, Mr. Major's book on Prince Henry, can fail to want to know
more still, and what happened down in those re-discovered Bights of
Benin and Biafra after this Blüth-period closed. This can be done,
mainly thanks to a Dutchman named Bosman, who was agent for the great
Dutch house of the Gold Coast for many years circa 1698, and who wrote
home to his uncle a series of letters of a most exemplary nature reeking
with information on native matters and local politics, and suffused with
a tender fear of shocking his aunt, which did not, however, seem in his
opinion to justify him in suppressing important ethnological facts.

Regarding the ethnological information we have of the Gold Coast
natives, the most important works are those by the late Sir A. B. Ellis.
His books are almost models of what books should be that are written by
people studying native customs in their native land. We have also the
results of scientific observers in the works of Buckhardt and Bastian,
besides a mass of scattered information in the works of travellers,
Bosman, Barbot, Labat, Mathews, Bowditch, Cruickshank, Winwood Reade, H.
M. Stanley, Burton, Captain Canot, Captain Binger, and others, and quite
recently a valuable contribution to our knowledge in Mr. Sarbar's _Fanti
Customary Laws_.[28] I think that every student of the African form of
thought should master these works thoroughly, and I fully grant their
great importance; but, nevertheless, I am quite unable to agree with Mr.
Jevons (_Introduction to the History of Religion_, p. 164) when he says,
regarding Fetishism, that "it is certainly amongst the inhabitants of
the Gold and Slave Coasts that the subject can best be studied." These
two Coasts are, I grant, the best place for a student who is resident in
Europe, and therefore dependent on the accounts given by others of the
things he is dealing with, to draw his information from, because of the
accuracy and extent of the information he can get from Ellis's work;
but, apart from Ellis the value of these regions to an ethnologist is
but small, and for an ethnologist who will go out to West Africa and
study his material for himself, the whole of the Coast regions of the
Benin Bight are but of tenth-rate importance, because of the great and
long-continued infusion of both Mohammedan and European forms of thought
into the original native thought-form that has taken place in these
regions. This subject I will refer to later, and I will return now to
the history, confining myself to the earlier portions of it, and to that
which bears on the early development of trade.

I sincerely wish I could go into full details regarding the whole
history of the locality here, because I know my only chance of being
allowed to do so is on paper, and it would be a great relief to my mind;
but I forbear, experience having taught me that the subject, to put it
mildly, is not of general interest. For example, person after person
have I tried to illuminate and educate in the matter of our
relationships with the Ashantees; always, alas, in vain. Before I have
got half through they "hear a voice I cannot hear that's calling them
away;" or remember something "that must be done at once;" or, worst of
all, go off straightway to sleep, after once or twice feebly enquiring,
"Where is that place?" Of course I am glad that my little knowledge has
been the comfort it has to several people. Once, when I was
homeward-bound along the Gold Coast, three gentlemen came on board very
ill from fever, and homeward-bound, too. Their worst symptom was
agonising insomnia. "Not a wink," they assured my friend the Irish
purser, had they had "for a couple of months." "We'll soon put that
right for you on board this boat," he said, in his characteristically
kind and helpful manner. To my great surprise, that same afternoon he
deliberately tackled me on the subject of the real reason that induced
Osai Kwofi Kari Kari to cross the Prah in January, 1873. I was charmed
at this unwonted display of interest in the subject, and hoped also to
gain further information on it from those recently shipped Gold Coasters
in the smoking-room. I was getting on fairly well with it; and my friend
the purser, instead of having "some manifests to write out," as was
usual with him, nobly battled with the intricacies of the subject for a
good half hour and more; and then, just when I was in the middle of some
topographical elucidation, accompanied by questions, up that purser
rose, yawned and stretched himself, and hailed the doctor, who happened
to be passing by. "What do you think of that, doctor?" he said, pointing
to the settee. "Do them a power of good," says his compatriot the
medico. Turning round, I saw the three victims of insomnia grouped
together; the middle man had his head pillowed on the oilclothed top of
the table, and reclining, more or less gracefully, against him on either
side were his two companions, their half-smoked pipes fallen from their
limp fingers--all profoundly, unquestionably asleep. "Oh, yes! of
course, I was delighted," but not flattered; and, warned by this
incident, I will here only say that should any one be really interested
in the eventful history of the long struggle between the English,
Portuguese, French, Dutch, and Brandenburgers, with each other and with
the natives, for the possession of the country where the black man's
gold came from, they will find a good deal about it in the works already
cited; and should any medical man--the remedy is perhaps a little too
powerful to be trusted in the hands of the laity--require it for the
treatment of insomnia as above indicated, I recommend that part of it
which bears on the Ashantee question in small but regular doses.

Our earliest authorities mentioning Africa with the knowledge in them
that it is surrounded by the ocean, save at Suez, are Theopompus and
Herodotus. Unfortunately all Theopompus's works are lost to us,
voluminous though they were, his history alone being a matter of
fifty-eight volumes, while before he took up history he had won for
himself a great reputation as an orator, during the reigns of Philip and
Alexander the Great. He is perpetually referred to, however, though not
always praised, by other great classical writers, Cicero, Pliny, the two
Dionysiuses and others, and was evidently regarded as a great authority;
one particular fragment of his works that refers to Africa is preserved
by Ælian, and consists of a conversation between Silenus and Midas, King
of Phrygia. Silenus says that Europe, Asia, and Africa are surrounded by
the sea, but that beyond the known world there is an island of immense
extent containing large animals and men of twice our stature. This
island Mr. Major thinks, and doubtless rightly, is connected with the
tradition of our old friend--you know what I mean, as Captain Marryat's
boatswain says--the Atlantis of Plato. This affair I will no further
mention or hint at, but hastily pass on to that other early authority,
Herodotus, who was born 484 years before Christ, and whose works, thanks
be, have survived. He says: "The Phoenician navigators under command
of Pharaoh-Necho, King of Egypt, setting sail from the Red Sea, made
their way to the Southern Sea; when autumn approached they drew their
vessels to land, sowed a crop, waited until it was ripe for harvest,
reaped it, and put again to sea." Having spent two years in this manner,
in the third year they reached the Pillars of Hercules, (Jebu Zatout,
and Gibraltar), and returned to Egypt, "reporting," says Herodotus,
"what does not find belief in me, but may perhaps in some other persons,
for they said in sailing round Africa they had the sun to the right (to
the North) of them. In this way was Libya first known."[29]

Much has been written regarding the accuracy of these Phoenician
accounts; for, as frequently happens, their mention of a thing that
seemed at first to brand their account as a lie remains to brand it as
the truth--and although I have no doubt those Phoenician gentlemen
heartily wished they had said nothing about having seen the sun to the
North, yet it was best for them in the end, as it demonstrates to us
that they had, at any rate, been South of the Equator; and we owe to
Herodotus here, as in many other places in his works, a debt of
gratitude for honestly putting down what he did not believe himself; he
also has suffered from this habit of accuracy, becoming himself regarded
by the superficial people of this world as a credulous old romancer,
which he never was. Good man, he only liked fair play. "Here," he says
as it were, "is a thing I am told. It's a bit too large for my belief
hatch, but if you can get it down yours, you're free and welcome to ship
it." Herodotus, however, accepts the fact that Africa was surrounded by
water, save at its connection with the great land mass of the earth
(Europe and Asia) by the Isthmus of Suez.

Several other attempts to circumnavigate Africa were made prior to
Herodotus's writings. One that we have mention of[30] was made by a
Persian nobleman named Sataspes, whom Xerxes had, for a then capital
offence, condemned to impalement. This man's mother persuaded Xerxes
that if she were allowed to deal with her son she would impose on him a
more terrible punishment even than this, namely, that he should be
condemned to sail round Libya. There is no doubt this good lady thought
thereby to save her son; but, as events turned out, Xerxes, by accepting
her suggestion, did not cheat justice by granting this as an alternative
to immediate execution. However, off Sataspes sailed with a ship and
crew from Egypt, out through the Pillars of Hercules, and doubling the
Cape of Libya, then named Solois, he steered south, and, says Herodotus,
"traversed a vast extent of sea for many months, and finding he had
still more to pass he turned round and returned to Egypt and then back
to Xerxes, who had him then impaled, because, for one thing he had not
sailed round Libya, and for another, Xerxes held he lied about those
regions of it that he had visited; for Sataspes said he had seen a
nation of little men who wore garments made of palm leaves, who,
whenever his crew drew their ships ashore, left their cities and flew
into the mountains, though he did them no injury, only taking some
cattle from them; and the reason he gave for his not sailing round Libya
was that his ships could go no further." Sataspes's end was sad, but one
cannot feel that he was a loss to the class of romancers of travel.

Another and a more determined navigator was Eudoxus of Cyzicus (B.C.
117). The scanty record we have of his exploration is of great interest.
While he was making a stay in Alexandria, he met an Indian who was the
sole survivor of a crew wrecked on the Red Sea coast. He is the Indian
who persuaded Ptolemy Euergetes to fit out an expedition to sail to
India, and off they went and succeeded in it greatly, but on their
return the king seized the cargo; so therefore, as a private enterprise,
the thing was a failure. However, Eudoxus was a man of great
determination, and on the death of Ptolemy VII. in the reign of his
successor, he set out on another expedition to India. On his return
voyage he was driven down the African Coast, and found there on the
shore amongst other wreckage the prow of a vessel with the figure of a
horse carved on it. This relic he took with him as a curiosity, and on
his successful return to Alexandria exhibited it there in the market
place, and during its exhibition it was recognised by some pirates from
Cadiz (Gades) who happened to be in that city, and they testified that
the small vessels which were employed in the fisheries along the West
African Coast as far as the River Lixius (Wadi al Knos) always had the
figure of a horse on their prows, and on this account were called
"horses." The fact of this wreck of a vessel belonging to Western
Europe being found on the East Coast of Africa joined with the knowledge
that these vessels did not pass through the Mediterranean Sea, gave
Eudoxus the idea that the vessel he had the figure head of must have
come round Africa from the West Coast, and he then proceeded to Cadiz
and equipped three vessels, one large and two of smaller size, and
started out to do the same thing, bar wrecking. He sailed down the known
West Coast without trouble, but when he came to passing on into the
unknown seas, he had trouble with the crews, and was compelled to beach
his vessels. After doing this he succeeded in persuading his crews to
proceed, but it was then found impossible to float the largest vessel,
so she was abandoned, and the expedition proceeded in the smaller and in
a ship constructed from the wreck of the larger on which the cargo was
shipped with the expedition. Eudoxus reached apparently Senegambia, and
then another mutiny broke out, and he had to return to Barbary. But
undaunted he then fitted out another expedition, consisting of two
smaller vessels, and once again sailed to the South to circumnavigate
Africa. Nothing since has been heard of Eudoxus of Cyzicus surnamed the

On his second voyage he fell in with natives who, he says, spoke the
same language that he had previously heard on the Eastern Coast of
Africa. If he was right in this, some authors hold he must have gone
down the West Coast, at least as far as Cameroons, because there you
nowadays first strike the language, which does stretch across the
continent, namely, the Bantu, and we have no reason to suppose that the
Bantu border line was ever further North on this Coast than it is at
present; indeed, the indications are, I think, the other way; but as far
as the language goes, it seems to me that Eudoxus could have heard the
same language as on the East African Coast far higher up than Cameroons,
namely, on the Moroccoan Coast, for in those days, prior to the great
Arab invasion, most likely the language of the Berber races had
possession of Northern Africa from East Coast to West. However, there is
another statement of his which I think points to Eudoxus having gone far
South, namely, that the reason of his turning back was an inability to
get provisions, for this catastrophe is not likely to have overtaken so
brave a man as he was until he reached the great mangrove swamps of the
Niger. The litoral of the Sahara was in those days, we may presume, from
the accounts we have far later from Leo Africanus and Arab writers, more
luxuriant and heavily populated than it is at present.

Of these voyages, however, we have such scant record that we need not
dwell on them further, and so we will return to about 300 B.C., and
consider the wonderful voyage made by Hanno of Carthage, of which we
have more detailed knowledge; although there still remains a certain
amount of doubt as to who exactly Hanno was, mainly on account of Hanno
apparently having been to Carthage what Jones is to North Wales--the
name of a number of individuals with a habit of doing everything and
frequently distinguishing themselves greatly. The Carthaginians were to
the classic world much what the English are to the modern, a great
colonising, commercial people--warlike when wanted. They planted
colonies in North Africa and elsewhere, and had commercial relationship
with all the then known nations of the world, including a trans-Sahara
trade with the people living to the South of the Great Desert. We shall
never know to the full where those Carthaginians went, from the paucity
of record; but we have record of the voyage of this Hanno in a
_Periplus_ originally written in the Punic language and then translated
into Greek.[32] Hanno, it seems, was a chief magistrate at Carthage, and
Pliny says his voyage was undertaken when Carthage was in a most
flourishing condition.[33] From the _Periplus_ we learn that the
expedition to the West Coast consisted of sixty ships of fifty oars
each, and 30,000 persons of both sexes, ample provisions and everything
necessary for so great an undertaking. The object of this expedition was
to explore, to found colonies, and to increase commerce. The expedition,
after passing the Pillars of Hercules, sailed two days along the coast
and founded their first colony, which they called Thymatirum. Just south
of this place, on a promontory called Soloeis, they built a temple to
Neptune. A short distance further on they found a beautiful lake, the
edges of which were bordered with large reeds, the country abounding in
elephants and other game; a day's sail from this place, they founded
five small cities near the sea called respectively Cariconticos, Gytte,
Acra, Millitea, and Arambys. The next most important part of their
voyage was their discovery of the great River Lixius, on the banks of
which they found a pastoral people they called the Lixitae. These seem
to have been a mild people; but there were in the neighbourhood tribes
of a ferocious character, and they were also told there were Trogloditae
dwelling in the mountains, where the Lixius took its rise, who were
fleeter than horses. Unfortunately we are not told how long the
Carthaginians took in reaching this River Lixius; but if the
Carthaginians had been keeping close in shore they would not have met
with a river that looked great until they reached the mouth of the Ouro
(23°36' N. lat), which is four miles wide, but only an estuary; but as
the Carthaginians do not seem to have gone up it, they may not have
noticed its imperfections, and so, pursuing that dangerous method of
judging a West African river from its mouth, regarded it as a great
river. However this may have been, they took with them as guides and
interpreters some of the Lixitae, and continued their voyage for three
days, when they came to a large bay, an island in it containing a circle
of five stadia, and proceeded to found another colony on that island,
calling it Cerne, where they judged they were as far from the Pillars
of Hercules as these were from Carthage. So it is held now that Cerne is
the same as the French trading station Arguin (about 240 miles north of
Senegal River), on to whose shoals the wreck of the French frigate _La
Méduse_ drifted in 1816, the tragedy of which is familiar to us all from
Géricault's great painting.

Hanno next called at a place where there was a great lake, which they
entered by sailing up a river called by them Cheretes. In this they
found three islands, all larger than the island of Cerne. One day's sail
then brought them to the extremity of the lake overhung by mountains,
which were inhabited by savages clad in wild beasts' skins, who
prevented their landing by pelting them with stones. The next point in
their voyage was a large and broad river, infested with crocodiles and
river horses; and from this place they made their way back to Cerne,
where they rested and repaired and then set forth again, sailing south
along the African shores for twelve successive days. The language of the
natives of these regions the Lixitae did not understand, and the
Carthaginians could not hold any communication with them for another
reason, that they always fled from them; towards the last day they
approached some large mountains covered with trees. They went on two
days further, when they came to a large opening in the sea, on land on
either side of which was a plain whereon they saw fires in every
direction. At this place[34] they refilled their water barrels, and
continued their voyage five days further, when they reached a large bay
which their interpreters said was called the Western Horn. In this bay
they found a large island, in the centre of which was a salt lake with a
small island in it. When they went ashore in the day time they saw no
inhabitants, but at night time they heard in every direction a confused
noise of pipes, cymbals, drums and song, which alarmed the crew, while
the diviners they had with them, equivalent to our naval chaplains,
strongly advised Hanno to leave that place as speedily as possible.
Hanno, however, being less alarmed than his companions, pushed on South,
and they soon found themselves abreast of a country blazing with fires,
streams of which seemed to be pouring from the mountain tops down into
the sea. "We sailed quickly thence," says Hanno, "being much terrified."
Proceeding four days further they found that things did not improve in
appearance from their point of view, for the whole country seemed ablaze
at night, a country full of fire, and at one point the fire seemed to
fly up to the very stars. Hanno says their interpreters told them that
this great fire was the Chariot of the Gods. Three days more sailing
South brought them to another bay, called the Southern Horn. In this bay
they found a large island, in which again there was a lake with another
island in it, having inhabitants who were savage, and whose bodies were
covered with hair. These people the interpreters called the
Gorillae--some were captured and taken aboard, but so savage and
unmanageable did they prove that they were killed and the skins
preserved. As most of the inhabitants of the Islands of the Gorillae
seemed to be females, and as these ladies had made such a gallant fight
of it with their Carthaginian captors, Hanno kept their skins to hang
up in the Temple of Juno on his return home, evidently intending to be
complimentary both to the Goddess and the Gorillae; but it is to be
feared neither of them took it as it was meant, for Hanno had no luck
from the Gods after this, having to turn back from shortness of
provisions, and finally ending his career by, some say, being killed,
and others say exiled from Carthage on account of his having a lion so
tame that it would carry baggage for him; Punic public opinion held that
this demonstrated him to be a man dangerous to the State. The Gorillae
seem to have worked out their vengeance on white men by making it more
than any man's character for truth is worth to see one of them--except
stuffed in a museum, with a label on.

How far Hanno really went down South is not known with any certainty. M.
Gosselin held he only reached the River Nun, on the Moroccoan coast.
Major Rennell fixed his furthest point somewhere north of Sierra Leone,
and held the Island of the Gorillae to be identical with the Island of
Sherboro'. Bougainville believed that he at any rate went well into the
Bight of Benin, while others think he went at any rate as far as Gaboon.
I cannot myself see why he should not have done so, considering the
winds and tides of the locality and the time taken; indeed, I should be
quite willing to believe he went down to Congo, and that in the most
terrific of the fires he witnessed an eruption of the volcanic peak of
Cameroon, a volcano not yet extinct. Indeed the name given to this high
fire "that almost reached the stars" by his interpreters--the Chariot of
the Gods--is not so very unlike the name the Cameroon Peak bears to this
day, Mungo Mah Lobeh, the Throne or Place of Thunder, and this native
name is also capable of being translated into "the Place of the Gods" or
spirits. The thing I do not believe in the affair is that the Lixitae
interpreters ever called it or any other place "a chariot"; for as Hanno
was the first white man they had seen, and they had no chariots of their
own, it is unlikely they could have known anything of chariots; and I
think this Chariot of the Gods must have been an error of Hanno's in
translating his interpreter's remarks. It is perfectly excusable in him
if it is so, because to understand what an interpreter means who does
not know your language, and whose own language you are not an adept in,
and who is translating from a language regarding which you are both
alike ignorant, is a process fraught with difficulty. I have tried it,
so speak feelingly. It is true it is not an impossibility, as those
unversed in African may hastily conjecture, because at least one-third
of an African language consists in gesture, and this gesture part is
fairly common to all tribes I have met, so that by means of it you can
get on with daily life; but it breaks down badly when you come to the
names of places. I myself once went on a long march to a place that
subsequent knowledge informed me was "I don't know" in my director's
native tongue. Still, if he did not know, I did not know, and so it was
all the same. I got there all right, therefore it did not matter to me;
but I was haunted during my stay in it by a confused feeling that
perhaps I was flying in the face of Science by being somewhere
else--being in two places at the same time.

I really, however, cannot help thinking Hanno must have got past the
Niger Delta; for there is nothing to frighten any one, as far as the
look of things go, until you go south from Calabar, and find yourself
facing that magnificent Great Cameroon and Fernando Po; and Hanno's
people were scared as they were never scared before. Yet, again, there
are those fires, which were in the main doubtless what that very wise
and not half-appreciated missionary, the late Rev. J. Leighton Wilson,
says they were, namely, fires made by the native burning down the high
grass at the end of a dry season to make his farms. Now Hanno could have
seen any quantity of these along parts of the shores of the Bight of
Benin, but is not likely to have seen them to any alarming extent on the
Biafran Bight, because the shores thereof are deeply fringed with
mangrove swamps, and the native does not start making farms in them.
Hanno might have seen what looked like the smoke of innumerable fires on
the sides of Cameroon Mountain and Fernando Po. I myself have seen the
whole mighty forest there smoking as if beneath it smouldered the
infernal regions themselves; but it is only columns and wafts of mist,
and so gives no blaze at night; if you want to see a real land of flame
with, over it, a pall of cloud reflecting back its crimson light in a
really terrifying way, you must go south of Cameroon, south of Congo
Français, south, until you reach the region of the Great Congo itself;
and there--on the grass-covered hills and plains of the Lower Congo
lands--you will see a land of fire at the end of the dry season,
terrific enough to awe any man. Of course, if Hanno passed the Congo and
went down as far as the fringing sands of the Kalahari desert, he would
certainly not have been able to get stores; but also down there he would
not have met with an island on which there were gorillas; for even if we
grant that there was sufficient dense forest south of the Congo in his
days for gorillas to have inhabited, and allow that in old days gorillas
were south of the Congo, which they are not now, still, there is no
island near the coast. So I am afraid we cannot quite settle Hanno's
furthest point, and must content ourselves by saying he was a brave man,
a good sailor, and a credit therefore to his country and the human race.

After Hanno's time I cannot find any record of a regular set of trading
expeditions down the West Coast by the Carthaginians. From scattered
observations it is certain the commerce of the Carthaginians with the
Barbary Coast and the Bight of Benin was long carried on; but it does
not seem to have been carried on along the coast of the Bight of Biafra;
and the voyage in 170 B.C. may be cited in support of this, showing that
the voyage as far south as Eudoxus went was then considered as
marvellous and new. Still, on the other hand, it must be remembered
that, prior to our own day, the navigator had no great inducement to
tell the rest of the world exactly where he had been; indeed, the
navigator whose main interest is commerce is, to this day, not keen on
so doing. He would rather keep little geographical facts--such as short
cuts by creeks, and places where either gold, or quicksilver, and buried
ivory, is plentiful--to himself, than go explaining about these things
for the sake of getting an unrepaying honour. One sees this so much in
studying the next period of this history--the early Portuguese and early
French discoveries; you will find that one of these nations knew about a
place years before the other came along, and discovered it, and claimed
it as its own--with disputes as a natural consequence.

There has, however, been one very interesting point in the dealing of
the nations of higher culture with the Africans, and that is the way
their commerce with them has had periods of abeyance. The Egyptians
have left us record of having been extensively in touch with the
interior of Africa, _via_ the Nile Valley,--then came a pause. Then came
the Carthaginian commerce,--then a pause. Then the Portuguese, French,
English, Dutch, and Dane trading enterprise, say, roughly from 1340 to
1700,--then a falling off of this enterprise; revived during the
Slave-trade days, falling off again on its suppression, and reviving in
our own days. I suppose I ought to say greatly, but--well, we will
discuss that later. These pauses have always been caused by the nations
of higher culture getting too busy with wars at home to trouble
themselves about the African, all the more so because the produce of
Africa has filtered slowly, whether it was fetched by white man or no,
into their markets through the hands of the energetic North African
tribes and the Arabs. Whenever the white man has settled down with his
home affairs, and has had time to spare, he has always gone and looked
up the African again, "discovered him," and he has always found him in
the same state of culture that the pioneers of the previous Blüth-period
found him in. Hanno does not find down the West Coast another
Carthage--he finds bush fires, and hears the tom-tom and the horn and
the shouts. He finds people slightly clad and savage. Then read Aluise
da Ca da Mostro and the rest of Prince Henry's adventures; well, you
might--save that the old traveller is more interesting--almost be
reading a book published yesterday. The only radical change made for
large quantities of Africans by means of white intercourse was made by
exporting them to America. How this is going to turn out we do not yet
know; and whether or no, after the present period of white exploitation
of Africa, there may not come another pause from our becoming too
interested in some big fight of our own to keep up our interest in the
African, we cannot tell; so I will pass on to a very interesting point
in a method of trade mentioned by the early authorities--the silent

Herodotus gives us the first description of it,[35] saying that the
Carthaginians state that beyond the Pillars of Hercules there is a
region of Libya, and men who inhabit it. When they arrive among these
people and have unloaded their merchandise they set it in order on the
shore, go on board their ships and make a great smoke, and the
inhabitants seeing the smoke come down to the sea shore, deposit gold in
exchange for the merchandise, and withdraw to some distance. The
Carthaginians then going ashore examine the goods, and if the quantity
seems sufficient for the merchandise they take it and sail away; but if
it is not sufficient they go on board again and wait; the natives then
approach and deposit more gold until they have satisfied them: neither
party ever wrongs the other, for they do not touch the gold before it is
made adequate to the value of the merchandise, nor do the natives touch
the merchandise before the Carthaginians have taken the gold.

The next description of this silent trade I have been able to find is
that given by Aluise da Ca da Mostro, a Venetian gentleman who, allured
by the accounts of the riches of West Africa given by Prince Henry the
Navigator, abandoned trading with the Low Countries, entered the
Prince's service, and went down the Coast in 1455. When in the district
of Cape Blanco, at a place called by him Hoden, he was told that six
days' journey from this place there was a place called Tagazza,
signifying a chest of gold; there large quantities of rock salt were dug
from the earth every year and carried on camels by the Arabs and the
Azanaghi, who were tawny Moors,[36] in separate companies to Timbuk, and
from thence to the Empire of Melli, which belonged to the negroes;
having arrived there they disposed of their salt in the course of eight
days, at the rate of two and three hundred mitigals the load (a mitigal
= a ducat), according to the quantity thereof, after which they returned
home with the gold they had been paid in. These merchants reckoned it
forty days' journey on horseback from Tagazza to "Timbuk" as Mostro,
while from Timbuk to Melli it is thirty days' journey. Ca da Mostro then
inquired to what use the salt taken to Melli was put; and they said that
the merchants used a certain quantity of it themselves, for on account
of their country lying near the Line, where the days and nights are of
equal length, at certain seasons of the year the heats were excessive,
and putrefied the blood unless salt was taken; their method of taking it
was to dissolve a piece in a porringer of water daily and drink it. When
the remainder of the salt reached Melli, carried thither on camels, each
camel load was broken up into pieces of a suitable size for one man to
carry. A large number of what Ca da Mostro calls footmen--whom we
nowadays call porters--were assembled at Melli to be ready to carry the
salt from thence further away still into the heart of Africa.

I have dwelt on this salt's wanderings because we have here a very
definite description of a trade route, and the importance of
understanding these trade routes is very great. We do not learn,
however, exactly where the salt goes to beyond Melli; but Melli seems to
have been, as Timbuctoo was, and to a certain extent still is, a trade
focus; and from Melli evidently the salt went in many directions, and it
is interesting to note Ca da Mostro's observations on the salt porters,
who he says carry in each hand a long forked stick, which when they are
tired they fix into the ground and rest their loads on; so to-day may
you see the West African porters doing, save that it is only the porters
who have to pass over woodless plateaux on their journeys that carry two

     [Illustration: OIL RIVER NATIVES. [_To face page 245._]

Speaking however further on the course of this salt trade Ca da Mostro
says that some of the merchants of Melli go with it until they come to a
certain water, whether fresh or salt his informant could not say; but he
holds it most likely was fresh, or there would be no need of carrying
salt there; and it is the opinion of the few people who have of late
years interested themselves in the matter that this great water is the
Niger Joliba. But be this as it may, when those merchants from Melli
arrive on the banks of this great water they place their shares of salt
in heaps in a row, every one setting a mark on his own. This done, the
merchants retire half a day's journey; then "the negroes, who will not
be seen or spoken with, and who seem to be the inhabitants of some
islands, come in large boats," and having viewed the salt lay a sum of
gold on every heap and then retire. When they are all gone the negro
merchants who own the salt return, and if the quantity of gold pleases
them they take it and leave the salt; if not, they leave both and
withdraw themselves again. The silent people then return, and the heaps
from which they find the gold has been removed they carry away, and
either advance more gold to the other heaps or take their gold from them
and leave the salt. In this manner, says Ca da Mostro, from very ancient
times these negroes have traded without either speaking to or seeing
each other, until a few years before, when he was at Cape Blanco among
the Azanaghi, who supply the negroes of Melli with their salt as
aforesaid, and who evidently get from them gossip as well as gold. They
told him that their fellow merchants among the black Moors had told them
that they had had serious trouble in consequence of the then Emperor of
Melli, a man who took more general interest in affairs than was common
in Emperors of Melli, having been fired with a desire to know why these
customers of his traders did not like being seen; he had commanded the
salt merchants when they next went to traffic with the silent people to
capture some of them for him by digging pits near the salt heaps,
concealing themselves therein and then rushing out and seizing some of
the strange people when they came to look at the salt heaps. The
merchants did not at all relish the royal commission, for they knew, as
any born trader would, that it must be extremely bad for trade to rush
out and seize customers by the scruff of their necks while they were in
the midst of their shopping. However, much as the command added to their
commercial anxieties, the thing had to be done, or there was no doubt
the Emperor would relieve them both of all commercial anxieties and
their heads at one and the same time. So they carried out the royal
command, and captured four of their silent customers. Three they
immediately liberated, thinking that to keep so many would only increase
the bad blood, and one specimen would be sufficient to satisfy the
Imperial curiosity. Unfortunately however the unfortunate captive they
retained would neither speak nor eat, and in a few days died; and so the
salt merchants of Melli returned home in very low spirits, feeling
assured that their Emperor would be actively displeased with them for
failing to satisfy his curiosity, and that the silent customers would be
too alarmed and angered with them for their unprovoked attack to deal
with them again. Subsequent events proved them to be correct in both
surmises: his Majesty was highly disgusted at not having been able to
see one of these people; and naturally, for the description given to him
of those they had captured was at least highly interesting. The
merchants said they were a span taller than themselves and well shaped,
but that they made a terrible figure because their under lip was thicker
than a man's fist and hung down on their breasts; also that it was very
red, and something like blood dropped from it and from their gums. The
upper lip was no larger than that of other people, and owing to this
there were exposed to view both gums and teeth, which were of great
size, particularly the teeth in the corners of the mouth. Their eyes
were of great size and blackness. As for the customers, for three years
went the merchants of Melli to the banks of the great water and arranged
their salt heaps and looked on them for gold dust in vain: but the
fourth year it was there; and the merchants of Melli believed that their
customers' lips had begun to putrefy through the excessive heat and the
want of salt, so that being unable to bear so grievous a distemper they
were compelled to return to their trade. Things were then established on
a fairly reasonable basis; the merchants did not again attempt to see
their customers, and they knew from their experience with their captive
that they were by nature dumb; for had there been speech in him, would
he not have spoken under the treatment to which he was subjected? And as
for the Emperor of Melli he said right out he did not care whether those
blacks could speak or no, so long as he had but the profit of their

This gold, I may remark, that was collected at Melli was divided into
three parts: the first was sent by the Melli caravans to Kokhia on the
caravan route to Syria and Cairo; the other two parts went from Melli to
Timbuctoo, where it was again divided up, some of it going to Toet,[37]
and from thence along the coast to Tunis, in Barbary. Some of it went to
Hoden, not far from Cape Blanco, and from there to Oran and Hona; thence
it went to Fez, Morocco, Azila-Azasi, and Moosa, towns outside the
Straits of Gibraltar, whence it went into Europe, through the hands of
Italians, and other Christians, who exchanged their merchandise for the
wares of the Barbary moors; and the remainder of the gold went down to
the West African Coast to the Portuguese at Arguin. This description of
the gold route is by Ca da Mostro, and is the first description of West
African trade route I have found.

But I must tear myself from the fascination of gold and its trade routes
and return to that silent trade. The next person after Ca da Mostro to
mention it is Captain Richard Jobson, who in 1620-1621 made a voyage
especially to discover "the golden trade," of what he calls Tombâk,
which is our last author's Timbuk, by way of the Gambia, then held by
many to be a mouth of the Niger.

Jobson's inquiries regarding this "golden trade" informed him that the
great demand for salt in the Gambia trade arose from the desire for it
among the Arabiks of Barbary; that the natives themselves only consumed
a small percentage of this import, trading away the main to those
Arabiks in the hinterland, who in their turn traded it for gold to
Tombak, where the demand for it was great, because that city, although
possessing all manner of other riches and commodities, lacked salt, so
that the Arabiks did a good trade therein. Jobson was also informed that
the Arabiks had, as well as the market for salt at Timbuctoo, a market
for it with a strange people who would not be seen, and who lived not
far from Yaze; that the salt was carried to them, and in exchange they
gave gold. Asking a native merchant, who was engaged in this trade, why
they would not be seen, he made a sign to his lips, but would say no
more. Jobson, however, learnt from other sources that the reason these
negroes buy salt from the tawny Moors is because of the thickness of
their lips, which hang down upon their breasts, and, being raw, would
putrefy if they did not take salt, a thing their country does not
afford, so that they must traffic for it with the Moors. The manner they
employ, according to Jobson, is this: the Moors on a fixed day bring
their goods to a place assigned, where there are certain houses
appointed for them; herein they deposit their commodities, and, laying
their salt and other goods in parcels or heaps separately, depart for a
whole day, during which time their customers come, and to each parcel of
goods lay down a proportion of gold as they value it, and leave both
together. The merchants then return, and as they like the bargain take
the gold and leave their wares, or if they think the price offered too
little, they divide the merchandise into two parts, leaving near the
gold as much as they are inclined to give for it, and then again depart.
At their next return the bargain is finished, for they either find more
gold added or the whole taken away, and the goods left on their hands.

A further confirmation of the existence of this method of trading we
find in that most interesting voyage of Claude Jannequin, Sieur de
Rochfort, 1639. He says, "In this cursed country"--he always speaks of
West Africa like that--"there is no provision but fish dried in the sun,
and maize and tobacco." The natives will only trade by the French laying
down on the ground what they would give for the provisions, and then
going away, on which the natives came and took the commodities and left
the fish in exchange. The regions he visited were those of Cape Blanco.

To this day you will find a form of this silent trade still going on in
Guinea. I have often seen on market roads in many districts, but always
well away from Europeanised settlements, a little space cleared by the
wayside, and neatly laid with plantain leaves, whereon were very tidily
arranged various little articles for sale--a few kola nuts, leaves of
tobacco, cakes of salt, a few heads of maize, or a pile of yams or sweet
potatoes. Against each class of articles so many cowrie shells or beans
are placed, and, always hanging from a branch above, or sedately sitting
in the middle of the shop, a little fetish. The number of cowrie shells
or beans indicate the price of the individual articles in the various
heaps, and the little fetish is there to see that any one who does not
place in the stead of the articles removed their proper price, or who
meddles with the till, shall swell up and burst. There is no doubt it
is a very easy method of carrying on commerce.

In what the silent trade may have originated it is hard to say; but one
thing is certain, that the dread and fear of the negroes did not result
from the evil effects of the slave trade, as so many of their terrors
are said to have done, for we have seen notice of it long before this
slave trade arose. Nevertheless, there can be but little doubt that it
arose from a sense of personal insecurity, and has fetish in it, the
natives holding it safer to leave so dangerous a thing as trafficking
with unknown beings--white things that were most likely spirits, with
the smell of death on them--in the hands of their gods. In the cases of
it that I have seen no doubt it was done mostly for convenience, one
person being thereby enabled to have several shops open at but little
working expense; but I have seen it employed as a method of trading
between tribes at war with each other.[38] We must dismiss, I fear,
bashfulness regarding lips as being a real cause; but I will not dismiss
the bleeding lips as a mere traveller's tale, because I have seen quite
enough to make me understand what those people who told of bleeding
thick lips meant; several, not all of my African friends, are a bit
thick about the lower lip, and when they have been passing over
waterless sun-dried plateaux or bits of desert they are anything but
decorative. The lips get swollen and black, and Ca da Mostro does not go
too far in his description of what he was told regarding them.


   [28] Clowes and Sons, 1897.

   [29] _Melpomene_, IV. 41.

   [30] _Melpomene_, IV. 43.

   [31] See Ellis's _History of the Gold Coast_, also Tozer's _History of
   Ancient Geography_, Beazley's _Dawn of Modern Geography_, and _Strabo_,
   B.C. 25, book xvii, edited by Theodore Jansonius ab Almelooven,
   Amsterdam, 1707.

   [32] There is doubt as to whether this _Periplus_ is the entire one
   with which the classic writers were conversant.

   [33] "Et Hanno Carthaginis potentia florente circumvectus a Gabibus ad
   finem Arabiae navigationem eam prodidit scripto"; (and Hanno, when
   Carthage flourished, sailed round from Cadiz to the remotest parts of
   Arabia, and left an account of his voyage in writing) Plinius, lib. ii.
   cap. lxvii. p.m. 220. See also lib. v. cap. i. p.m. 523, and Pomponius
   Mela, lib. iii. cap. ix. p. 63, edit. Isaici Vossii.

   There is an English version of the _Periplus_, edited by Falconer,
   London, 1797; and an Oxford edition of it, and some other works, by Dr.
   Hudson, 1698. Also there is a work on Hanno's _Periplus_ based on MS.
   in the Meyer Museum at Liverpool by Simonides, not the Iambic poet,
   who wrote a ridiculous satire against women, quoted by Ælian; nor
   yet Simonides who was one of the greatest of the ancient poets, and
   flourished in the seventy-fifth Olympia; but a modern gentleman
   connected with America, whose work I am sufficient scholar neither to
   use nor to criticise.

   [34] Major identifies this place with Cape Verde, pointing out that the
   inability of the Lixitae interpreters to understand the language accords
   with the fact that at the Senegal commences the country of the blacks;
   "the immense opening" he regards as the Gambia.

   [35] _Melpomene_, IV. 96.

   [36] The writers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries commonly
   divide up the natives of Africa into--1, Moors; 2, Tawny Moors;
   3, Black Moors, a term that lingers to this day in our word
   Blackeymoor; 4, Negroes.

   [37] Ato, according to the version given in Grynæus.

   [38] Mr. Ling Roth kindly informs me of further instances of this silent
   trading to be found in _Lander's Journal_, Lond., 1832, iii. 161-163,
   and Forbes's _Wanderings of a Naturalist_, Lond. 1886, where it is cited
   for the Kubus of Sumatra. He says it also occurs among the Veddahs, and
   that there is in no case any fetish control.



     Concerning the controversy that is between the French and the
     Portuguese as to which of them first visited West Africa, with
     special reference to the fort at Elmina.

We will now turn our attention to the other pioneers of our present West
African trade, and commence with the French, for we cannot disassociate
our own endeavours in this region from those of France, Portugal,
Holland, and the Brandenburgers; nor are we the earliest discoverers
here. When we English heard the West African Coast was a region worth
trading with, those great brick-makers for the architects of England's
majesty, the traders, went for it and traded, and have made that trading
pay as no other nation has been able to do. However, from the first we
got called hard names--pirates, ruffians, interlopers, and such like--in
fact, every bad name the other nations could spare from the war of abuse
they chronically waged against each other.

The French claim to have traded with West Africa prior to the
discoveries made there by the emissaries of Prince Henry the
Navigator.[39] When on my last voyage out I was in French territory, I
own the discovery of this claim of my French friends came down on me as
a shock, because on my previous voyage out I had been in Portuguese
possessions, and had spent many a pleasant hour listening to the recital
of the deeds of Diego Caõ and Lopez do Gonsalves, and others of that
noble brand of man, the fifteenth-century Portugee. I heard then nothing
of French discoverers, and also had it well knocked out of my mind that
the English had discovered anything of importance in West Africa save
the Niger outfalls, and I had a furious war to keep this honour for my
fellow countrymen. Then when I got into French territory not one word
did I hear of Diego Caõ or Lopez; and so as a distraction from the
consideration of the private characters of people still living, I
started discoursing on what I considered a safer and more interesting
subject, and began to recount how I had had the honour of being
personally mixed up in the monument to Diego Caõ at the mouth of the
Congo, and what fine fellows--I got no farther than that, when, to my
horror, I heard my heroes called microbes, followed by torrents of
navigators' names, all French, and all unknown to me. Being out for
information I never grumble when I get it, let it be what it may. So I
asked my French friends to write down clearly on paper the names of
those navigators, and promised as soon as I left the forests of the
Equator, and reached the book forests of Europe, I would try and find
out more about them. I have; and I own that I owe profound apologies to
those truly great Frenchmen for not having made their acquaintance
sooner; nevertheless I still fail to see why my honoured Portuguese,
Diego and Lopez, should have been called microbes, and I have no regrets
about my fights for the honour of the Niger for my own countrymen, nor
for my constant attempts to take the conceit out of my French and
Portuguese friends, as a set-off for "the conceit about England" they
were always trying to take out of me, by holding forth on what those
Carthaginians had done on the West Coast before France or Portugal were
so much as dreamt of.

The Portuguese discoveries you can easily read of in Major's great book
on Prince Henry; and as this book is fully accepted as correct by the
highest Portuguese authorities, it is safer to do so than to attempt to
hunt your Portuguese hero for yourself, because of the quantity of names
each of them possesses, and the airy indifference as to what part of
that name their national chroniclers use in speaking of them. I have
tried it, and have several times been in danger of going to my grave
with the idea that I was investigating the exploits of two separate
gentlemen, whereas I was only dealing with two parts of one gentleman's
name; nevertheless, it is a thing worth learning Portuguese for. And, in
addition to Major's book, we have now, thanks to the Hakluyt Society,
that superb thing, the Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of
Guinea, by Gomez Eanes de Zurara--a work completed in 1453. This work is
one on which we are largely dependent for the details of the early
Portuguese discoveries, because Gomez Eanes spent the later part of his
life in tidying up the Torre do Tombo--namely, the national archives, of
which he was keeper--and his idea of tidying up included the lady-like
method of destroying old papers. It makes one cold now to think of the
things De Zurara may have destroyed; but he evidently regarded himself,
as does the nineteenth century spring-cleaner, as a human benefactor;
and, strange to say, his contemporaries quite took his view; indeed,
this job was done at the request of the Cortes, and with the Royal
sanction. There is also an outstanding accusation of forgery against
Zurara, but that is a minor offence, and is one we need only take into
consideration when contemplating the question as to whether a man
capable of destroying early manuscripts and forgery might not be also
capable of leaving out of his Chronicle, in honour of the Navigator, any
mention of there being Frenchmen on the Coast, when he sent out his
emissaries to discover what might lay hidden from the eye of man down in
the Southern Seas. I do not, however, think De Zurara left out this
thing intentionally, but that he had no knowledge of it if it did exist,
for no man could have written as he wrote, unless he had a heart too
great for such a meanness. Certain it is Prince Henry never knew, for
these are the five reasons given by Zurara, in the grave, noble
splendour of his manner, why the Prince undertook the discoveries with
which his name will be for ever associated. I give the passage almost in
full because of its beauty. "And you should note well that the noble
spirit of this Prince (Henry the Navigator) by a sort of natural
constraint was ever urging him both to begin and carry out very great
deeds; for which reason after the taking of Ceuta, he always kept ships
well armed against the Infidel, both for war and because he also had a
wish to know the land that lay beyond the Isles of Canary and that Cape
called Bojador, for that up to his time neither by writings nor by the
memory of man was known with any certainty the nature of the land beyond
that Cape. Some said indeed Saint Brandan had passed that way, and
there was another tale of two galleys rounding the Cape which never
returned ... and because the said Lord Infant wished to know the truth
of this--since it seemed to him if he, or some other Lord, did not
endeavour to gain that knowledge, no mariners or merchants would ever
dare to attempt it, (for the reason that none of them ever trouble
themselves to sail to a place where there is not a sure and certain hope
of profit,) and seeing also that no other prince took any pains in this
matter, he sent out his own ships against those parts, to have manifest
certainty of them all, and to this he was stirred up by his zeal for the
service of God, and of King Dom Duarto, his Lord and brother, who then
reigned; and this was the first reason of his action."

"The second reason was that if there chanced to be in those lands a
population of Christians or some havens into which it would be possible
to sail without peril, many kinds of merchandise might be brought to
this nation which would find a ready market, and reasonably so because
no other people of these parts traded with them, nor yet people of any
other that were known; and also the products of this nation might be
taken there, which traffic would bring great profit to our countrymen."

"The third reason was that as it was said that the power of the Moors in
that land of Africa was very much greater than was commonly supposed,
and that there were no Christians among them nor any other race of men,
and because every wise man is obliged by natural prudence to wish for a
knowledge of the power of his enemy; therefore the said Lord Infant
exerted himself to cause them to be fully discovered to make it known
determinedly how far the power of those Infidels extended."

"The fourth reason was because during the one and thirty years he had
warred against the Moors he had never found a Christian King nor a Lord
outside this land, who for the love of Jesus Christ would aid him in the
said war; therefore he sought to know if there were in those parts any
Christian Princes in whom the charity and the love of Christ was so
ingrained that they would aid him against those enemies of the Faith."

"The fifth reason was the great desire to make increase of the Faith of
our Lord Jesus Christ, and to bring to Him all the souls that should be

According to the Portuguese, Gil Eannes was the first emissary of Prince
Henry who succeeded in passing Cape Bojador. This feat he accomplished
in 1434; but on this his first voyage out he contented himself with
passing the Cape: a thing which previous expeditions of Prince Henry had
failed to do, and which, so far apparently as Prince Henry knew, had not
been done before, for it was regarded as a tremendous achievement.

The next year Prince Henry's cupbearer, Affonso Gonsalves Baladaya, set
out accompanied by Gil Eannes in a caravel; and the coast to the South
of Bojador was visited; their furthest expedition was to a shallow bay
called by them Angra des Ruives.[40] They then returned to Portugal, and
the next year again went down the coast as far as a galley-shaped rock.
This place they called Pedro de Galli, from its appearance; its present
name is Pedra de Galla. Their chief achievement was the discovery of the
Rio do Oura. It is not an important river in itself, but only one of
those deceptive estuaries common on the West coast. But it was the first
West African place the Portuguese got gold dust at, hence its name. The
amount of gold was apparently not considerable, and the chief cargo that
expedition took home was sea wolves' skins; they reported quantities of
seals or sea wolves as they called them here, and this report was the
cause of the next Portuguese expedition; for the Portuguese in those
days seem to have always been anxious for sea wolves' oil and skins; and
whether this be a survival or no, it seems to me curious that the ladies
of Lisbon are to this day very keen on sealskin jackets, which their
climate can hardly call for imperatively. But, however this may be, it
is certain that we have no account of the Portuguese having passed south
of the next important cape South of Bojador, namely, Blanco, before
1443. The terrible tragedy of Tangiers and political troubles hindered
their explorations from 1436 to 1441,[41] and the French claim to have
been down the West Coast trading not only before this date, but before
Prince Henry sent a single expedition out at all, namely, as early as

The French story is that there was a deed of association of the
merchants of Dieppe and Rouen of the date 1364. This deed was to arrange
for the carrying on to greater proportions of their already existing
trade with West Africa. The original of this deed was burnt, according
to Labat, at Dieppe, in the conflagration of 1694.[42] How long before
this Association was formed that trade had been carried on, it is a
little difficult to make out, I find, from the usual hindrance to the
historical study of West Africa, namely, lack of documentary evidence
and a profusion of recriminatory lying. This association was under the
patronage of the Dukes of Normandy, then Kings of England; and its
ultimate decay is partly attributed to the political difficulties these
patrons became involved in. The French authorities say the Association
was an exceedingly flourishing affair; and it is stated that under its
auspices factories were established at Sierra Leone, and that a fort was
built at La Mina del Ore, or Del Mina, the place now known as Elmina, as
early as 1382. Now it is round the subject of this fort that most
controversy wages, for this French statement does not at all agree with
the Portuguese account of the fort. The latter claim to have discovered
the coast--called by them La Mina, by us the Gold--in 1470, with an
expedition commanded by João de Santarim and Pedro de Escobara. The
Portuguese, finding this part of the coast rich in gold, and knowing the
grabbing habits of other nations where this was concerned, determined to
secure this trade for themselves in a sound practical way, although they
were already guarded by a Papal Bull. The expedition that discovered La
Mina was the last one made during the reign of Affonso V.; but his son,
who succeeded him as João II., rapidly set about acting on the
information it brought home. This king indeed took an intelligent
interest in the Guinea trade, and was well versed in it; for a part of
his revenues before he came to the throne had been derived from it and
its fisheries. João II. energetically pushed on the enterprise founded
by his father Affonso V., who had in 1469 rented the trade of the Guinea
Coast to Fernam Gomez for five years at 500 equizodas a year,[43] on the
condition that 100 leagues of new coast should be discovered annually,
starting from Sierra Leone, the then furthest known part, and reserving
the ivory trade to the Crown. The expedition sent out by King João,
commanded by the celebrated Diego de Azambuja, took with it, in ten
caravels and two smaller craft, ready fashioned stones and bricks, and
materials for building, with the intention of building a fort as near as
might be to a place called Sama, where the previous expedition had
reported gold dust to be had from the natives. This fort was to be a
means of keeping up a constant trade with the natives, instead of
depending only on the visits of ships to the coast. Azambuja selected
the place we know now as Elmina as a suitable site for this fort. Having
obtained a concession of the land from the King Casamanca, on
representing to him what an advantage it would be to him to have such a
strong place wherein he and his people could seek security against their
enemies, and which would act as a constant market place for his trade,
and a storehouse for the Portuguese goods, Azambuja lost no time in
building the fort with his ready-fashioned materials, and not only the
fort, but a church as well. Both were dedicated to San Gorge da Mina,
and a daily mass was instituted to be said therein for the repose of the
soul of the great Prince Henry the Navigator, whose body had been laid
to rest in November, 1460. Indeed, one cannot but be struck with the
wealth of Portuguese information that we possess, regarding the
building of the castle at Elmina and by the good taste shown by the
Portuguese throughout; for, besides establishing this mass--a mass that
should be said in all Catholic churches on the West African Coast to
this day in memory of the great man whose enterprise first opened up
that great, though terrible region, to the civilised world--King João
granted many franchises and privileges to people who would go and live
at San Gorge da Mina, and aid in expanding the trade and civilisation of
the surrounding region, which is as it should be; for people who go and
live in West Africa for the benefit of their country deserve all these
things, and money down as well. Having done these, the king evidently
thought he deserved some honour himself, which he certainly did, so he
called himself Lord of Guinea, and commanded that all subsequent
discoverers should take possession of the places they discovered in a
more substantial way than heretofore; for it had been their custom
merely to erect wooden crosses or to carve on trees the motto of Prince
Henry, _Talent de bien faire_. The monuments King João commanded should
be erected in place of these transient emblems he designed himself; they
were to be square pillars of stone six feet high, with his arms upon
them, and two inscriptions on opposite sides, in Latin and Portuguese
respectively, containing the exact date when the discovery of the place
was made; by his order the cross that was to be on each was to be of
iron and cramped into the pedestal. Major says the cross was to surmount
the structure; but my Portuguese friends tell me it was to be in the
pedestal, and also that the remains of these old monuments are still to
be seen in their possessions; so we must presume that the outfit for an
exploring expedition in King João's days included a considerable cargo
of ready-dressed stones and materials for monuments, and that from the
quantity of discoveries these expeditions made, the sixteenth century
Portuguese homeward bound must have been flying as light as the Cardiff
bound collier of to-day.

Still it is remarkable that with all the wealth of detail that we have
of these Portuguese discoveries in the fifteenth century there is no
mention of the French being on the coast before Pedro do Cintra reaches
Sierra Leone and calls it by this name because of the thunder on the
mountains roaring like a lion, and so on; but he says nothing of French
factories ashore. Azambuja gives quantities of detail regarding the
building of San Gorge da Mina, but never says a word about there being
already at this place a French fort; yet Sieur Villault, Escuyer, Sieur
de Bellfond,[44] speaks of it with detail and certainty. Also M. Robbe
says that one of the ships sent out by the association of merchants in
1382 was called the _Virgin_, that she got as far as Kommenda, and
thence to the place where Mina stands, and that next year they built at
this place a strong house, in which they kept ten or twelve of their men
to secure it; and they were so fortunate in this settlement that in 1387
the colony was considerably enlarged, and did a good trade until 1413,
when, owing to the wars in France, the store of these adventurers being
exhausted, they were obliged to quit not only Mina, but their other
settlements, as Sestro Paris, Cape Mount, Sierra Leone, and Cape Verde.

Villault, who went to West Africa to stir up the French to renew the
Guinea trade, openly laments the folly of the French in ever having
abandoned it owing to certain prejudices they had taken against the
climate. His account of it is that about the year 1346 some adventurers
of Dieppe, a port in Normandy, who as descendants of the Normans, were
well used to long voyages, sailed along the coast of the negroes,
Guinea, and settled several colonies in those parts, particularly about
Cape Verde, in the Bay of Rio Fesco, and along the Melequeta coast. To
the Bay, which extends from Cape Ledo to Cape Mount they gave the name
of the Bay of France; that of Petit Dieppe to the village of Rio Corso
(between Rio France and Rio Sestro); that of Sestro Paris to Grand
Sestro, not far from Cape Palmas; while they carried to France great
quantities of Guinea pepper and elephants' tusks, whence the inhabitants
of Dieppe set up the trade of turning ivory and making several useful
works, as combs, for which they grew famous, and still continue so.
Villault also speaks of "a fair church still in being" at Elmina,
adorned with the arms of France, and also says that the chief battery to
the sea is called by the natives La Battarie de France; and he speaks of
the affection the natives have for France, and says they beat their
drums in the French manner. Barbot also speaks of the affection of the
natives for the French, and says that on his last voyage in 1682 the
king sent him his second son as hostage, if he would come up to Great
Kommondo, and treat about settling in his country, although he had
refused the English and the Dutch. Barbot, however, does not agree with
Villault about the prior rights of France to the discovery of Guinea; he
thinks that if these facts be true it is strange that there is no
mention of so important an enterprise in French historians, and
concludes that it would be unjust to the Portuguese to attribute the
first discovery of this part of the world to the French. He also thinks
it evidence against it that the Portuguese historians are silent on the
point, and that Azambuja, when he began to build his castle at Elmina in
1484, never mentions there being a castle there that had been built by
Frenchmen in 1385. This, however, I think is not real evidence against
the prior right of France. Take, for instance, the examples you get
constantly when reading the books of Portuguese and Dutch writers on
Guinea. You cannot fail to be struck how they ignore each other's
existence as much as possible when credit is to be given; indeed were it
not for the necessity they feel themselves under of abusing each other,
I am sure they would do so altogether, but this they cannot resist. Here
is a sample of what the Portuguese say of the Dutch: "That the rebels
(meaning the Dutch) gained more from the blacks by drunkenness, giving
them wine and strong liquors, than by force of arms, and instructing
them as ministers of the Devil in their wickedness. But that their
dissolute lives and manners, joined to the advantage which the
Portuguese at Mina, though inferior in numbers, had gained over them in
some rencontres, had rendered them as contemptible among the blacks for
their cowardice as want of virtue. That however the blacks, being a
barbarous people, susceptible of first impressions, readily enough
swallowed Calvin's poison (Protestantism), as well as took off the
merchandise which the Dutch, taking advantage of the Portuguese
indolence sold along the coast, where they were become absolute
pirates." Then, again, the same author says, "The quantity of
merchandises brought by the Dutch and their cheapness, has made the
barbarians greedy of them, although persons of quality and honour
assured them that they would willingly pay double for Portuguese goods,
as suspecting the Dutch to be of less value, buying them only for want
of better."[45] I could give you also some beautiful examples of what
the Dutch say of the Portuguese and the English, and of what the French
say of both, but I have not space; moreover, it is all very like what
you can read to-day in things about rival nations and traders out in
West Africa. I myself was commonly called by the Portuguese there a
pirate because I was English, and that was the proper thing to call the
English,--there was no personal incivility meant; and I quote the above
passage just to impress on you that when you are reading about West
African affairs, either ancient or modern, you must make allowance for
this habit of speaking of rival nations--it is the climate. And although
the Portuguese and the Dutch may choose to ignore the French early
discoveries, yet they both showed a keen dread of the French from their
being so popular with the natives, and did their utmost to oust them
from the West Coast, which they succeeded in doing for a long period.
And then again to this day, when a trader in West Africa finds a place
where trade is good, he does not cable home to the newspapers about it.
If it is necessary that any lying should be done about that place he
does it himself; but what he strives most to do is to keep its existence
totally unknown to other people; sooner or later some other trader comes
along and discovers it, and then that place becomes unhealthy for one or
the other of its discoverers,--and that is the climate again. Thus by
the light of my own dispassionate observations in West Africa, I am
quite ready to believe in that early French discovery; and I quite
agree with Villault about the quantity of words derived from the French
that you will find to this day among the native tongues, and even in the
trade English of the Coast, and in districts that have not been under
French sway in the historical memory of man. One of these words is the
word "ju ju," always regarded by the natives as a foreign word. Their
own word for religion, or more properly speaking for sacred beings, is
"bosum," or "woka." They only say "ju ju" so that you white man may
understand. The percentage, however, of Portuguese words in trade
English is higher than that of French.

After the fifteenth century it is not needful now to discuss in detail
the subject of the French presence in West Africa; for both Dutch and
Portuguese freely own to the presence there of the Frenchmen, and openly
state that they were a source of worry and expense to them, owing to the
way the natives preferred the French to either of themselves.

The whole subject of the French conquests in Africa is an exceedingly
interesting one, and one I would gladly linger over, for there is in it
that fascination that always lies in a subject which contains an element
of mystery. The element of mystery in this affair is, why France should
have persisted so in the matter--why she should have spent blood and
money on it to the extent she has, does, and I am sure will continue to
do, without its ever having paid her in the past, or paying her now, or
being likely to pay her in the future, as far as one can see. There are
moments when it seems to me clear enough why she has done it all; but
these moments only come when I am in an atmosphere reeking of La Gloire
or La France--a thing I own I much enjoy; but when I am back in the cold
intellectual greyness of commercial England, France's conduct in Africa
certainly seems a little strange and curious, and far more inexplicable
than it was when one was oneself personally risking one's life and
ruining one's clothes, after a beetle in the African bush. I really
think it is this sporting instinct in me that enables me to understand
France in Africa at all; and which gives me a thrill of pleasure when I
read in the newspapers of her iniquitous conduct in turning up, flag and
baggage, in places where she had no legal right to be, or, worse still,
being found in possession of bits of other nations' hinterland when a
representative of the other arrives there with the intention of
discovering it, and to his disgust and alarm finds the most prominent
object in the landscape is the blue to the mast, blood to the last,
flag of France, with a fire-and-flames Frenchman under it, possessed
of a pretty gift of writing communications to the real owner of
that hinterland--a respectable representative of England or
Germany--communications threatening him with immediate extinction, and
calling him a filibuster and an assassin, and things like that. For the
life of me I cannot help a "Go it, Sall, and I'll hold your bonnit"
feeling towards the Frenchman. It is not my fault entirely. Gladly would
I hold my own countryman's bonnet, only he won't go it if I do; so I
have to content myself with the knowledge that England has made the West
Coast pay, and that she certainly did beat the Dutch and Portuguese off
the Coast in a commercial war. Still she will never beat France off in
that way, because the French interest in Africa is not a commercial one.
France can and will injure our commerce in West Africa, in all
probability she will ultimately extinguish it, if things go on as they
are going, while we cannot hit back and injure her commercial prosperity
there because she has none to injure. There is also another point of
great interest, and that is the different effect produced by the
governmental interference of the two nations in expansion of territory.
That the expansion of trade, and spheres of influence are concurrent in
this region is now recognised by our own Government;[46] although the
Government somewhat flippantly remarks "possibly too late." It is, in my
opinion, certainly too late as regards both Sierra Leone and the Gold
Coast; but yet we see small evidence of our Government taking themselves
seriously in the matter, or of their feeling a regret for having failed
to avail themselves of the work done for England on the West Coast by
some of the noblest men of our blood. I have often heard it said it was
a sad thing for an Englishman to contemplate our West African
possessions, save one, the Royal Niger; but I am sure it is a far sadder
thing for an Englishwoman who is full of the pride of her race, and who
well knows that that pride can only be justified by its men, to see on
the one hand the splendid achievements of Mungo Park, the two Landers,
the men who held the Gold Coast for England when the Government
abandoned it after the battle of Katamansu, of Winwood Reade who, in the
employ of Messrs. Swanzy, won the right to the Niger behind Sierra
Leone, and many others; and on the other hand to see the map of West
Africa to-day, which shows only too clearly that the English
Government's last chance of saving the honour of England lies in their
supporting the Royal Niger Company.

It seems that as soon as a West Coast region falls under direct
governmental control with us a process of petrification sets in, and a
policy of international amiability and Reubenism, for which we have
Scriptural authority to expect nothing but failure. It was of course
necessary for our Government to take charge in West Africa when the
partitioning of that continent took place; but I fail to admire those
men who at the Council Board of Europe lost for England what had been
won for her by better, braver men. Still it is no use, in these weird
un-Shakespearian times, for any one to use strong language, so I'll turn
to the consideration of the advance made in West Africa by France; for
any one can understand how a woman must admire the deeds of brave men
and the backing up of those deeds by a brave Government.

The earlier history of the French occupation of Africa is that of a
series of commercial companies, who all came to a bad end. Of the
Association of the Merchants of Dieppe and Rouen in the fourteenth
century I have already spoken; and whatever may be the difficulty of
proving its existence in 1364, there is, I believe, no one who doubts
that it had an existence that terminated in 1664. The French authorities
ascribe its fall to the wars in France that succeeded the death of
Charles VI, 1392, and to the death of some of the principal merchants
belonging to it; but "the greatest cause of all was that many who had
gotten vast riches began to be ashamed of the name of traders, although
to that they owed their fortunes, and allying with the nobility set up
as quality," and neglected business in the usual way, when this happens.
The most flourishing settlements went into decay, and were abandoned all
save one, on the Isle of Sanaga, or what Labat calls the Niger, the
river we now call the Senegal.[47]

This French settlement is to this day one of the main French ports in
Africa, and it has remained in their possession, with the brief interval
of falling into the hands of the English for a few months.

The company that took over the enterprise of this Rouen and Dieppe
Association in 1664 was called the Compagnie des Indes Occidentals; it
paid for the stock and rights of the previous association the sum of
150,000 livres, and it had tremendous ambitions, for not only did it buy
up the West African enterprise, but also the rights of the lords
proprietors in the isles of Martinique, Guadaloupe, St. Christopher,
Santa Cruz, and Maria Galanta in the West Indies. This company came to a
sad end when it had still thirty years of its charter to run; in 1673 it
sold its remaining term of West African rights to a new company called
d'Afrique for 7500 livres. Its West Indian possessions the king seized
in 1674, and united them with the Crown.

Its successor, the Compagnie d'Afrique, started with its thirty years'
charter, and all the great ambitions of its predecessor. The king gave
it every assistance in the way of ships and troops to carry out its
designs; and it availed itself of these, for finding its trade
incommoded by the Dutch, who were then settled at Anguin and Goree in
1677, it got the king to remove the Dutch nuisance from Goree by an
expedition under Count d'Estras, and in 1678, by an expedition of its
own, under M. de Casse, it cleared the Dutch out of Anguin.

This company also made many treaties with the native chiefs. In 1679, by
means of treaty with the chiefs of Rio Fresco, nowadays barbarously
spelt Rufisque, and Portadali, now Portindal, and Joal, whose name is
still uninjured, it acquired rights over all the territory between Cape
Verde and the Gambia;[48] an exclusion from there of all other traders,
and an exemption from all customs; and in addition to these enterprises
it entered into a contract with the King of France to provide him with
2,000 negroes per annum for his West Indian Islands, and as many more as
he might require for use in the galleys. Shortly after this the
Compagnie d'Afrique expired in bankruptcy, compounding with its
creditors at the rate of 5_s._ in the £, which I presume was paid mainly
out of the 1,010,000 livres for which it sold its claim to its
successors. The successors were a little difficult to find at first, for
there seems to have been what one might call distaste for West African
commercial enterprise among the French public just then. However, a
company was got together to buy up its rights, accept its
responsibilities and carry on business in 1681.

In the matter of the company that succeeded the d'Afrique, confusion is
added to catastrophe, owing to the then Minister of State, M. Seignelay,
for some private end, having divided up the funds and created two
separate companies,--one to have the trade from Cape Blanco and the
Gambia--the Compagnie du Senegal; the other to hold the rest of the
Guinea trade to the Cape of Good Hope, the Compagnie du Guinea. This
arrangement, of course, left the Senegal Company with all the
responsibility of the compagnie d'Afrique, and without sufficient funds
to deal with them; and the Compagnie du Senegal complained, when, in
1694, it found its affairs in much confusion, throwing the blame on the
Government; but, says Astley, "the great are seldom without excuses for
what they do," and the division of the concession was persisted in, on
the grounds that when the company that succeeded d'Afrique was intact it
failed to fulfil the Government contract of sending 2,000 negroes
annually to the West Indies; and also that it had not imported as much
gold from Africa as it might have done. Against this the Directors
remonstrated loudly, saying that, during the two years and a half during
which they had been responsible for exporting negroes to the West
Indies, they had supplied 4,560 negroes, that the register of the Mint
proved they had sent home in three years 400 marks of gold, and that it
had cost them 400,000 livres to re-establish the trade of the Compagnie
d'Afrique, for which they had already paid more than it was worth. All
they got by these complaints was an extension of their trade rights from
Gambia to Sierra Leone and a confirmation of their monopoly in exporting
negroes to the French West Indies, and of their rights to Anguin and
Goree, that is to say, a promise of Government assistance if those Dutch
should come and attempt to reinstate themselves to the incommodation of
French commerce.

All this however did not avail to make the Compagnie du Senegal
flourish, so in 1694 it sold its remaining seventeen years of rights for
300,000 livres, to Sieur d'Apougny, one of the old Directors; and this
enterprising man secured the assistance of eighteen new shareholders,
and obtained from the Crown a new charter, and started afresh under the
name of the "Compagnie du Senegal, Cap Nord et Coté d'Afrique." It did
not prosper; nevertheless it may be regarded as having produced the
founder of modern Senegal, for it sent out to attend to its affairs,
when things were in a grievous mess, one of the greatest men who have
ever gone from Europe to Africa--namely, Sieur Brüe.

The name of this company of Sieur d'Apougny was d'Afrique; and the usual
thing happened to it in 1709, when, for 250,000 livres, it made over its
rights to a set of Rouen merchants, reserving, however, to itself the
right of carrying on certain branches of the trade for which it held
Government contracts; failing to carry these out they were taken from it
and handed over to the company of Rouen merchants, who succumbed to
their liabilities in 1717. Their rights were then bought up, for
1,600,000 livres, by the already established Mississippi Company of
Paris--a company which survived until 1758.

In 1758 the English again captured St. Louis, the French main post in
Senegal. In 1779 the French recaptured it, and it was ceded to them by
England officially in the treaty of 1783. This was merely the usual kind
of international amenity prevalent on the West Coast in those days.
Dutch, French, English, Danes, Portuguese, and Courlanders would
gallantly seize each other's property out there, while their respective
Governments at home, if the matter were brought before their notice, and
it was apparently worth their while, disowned all knowledge of their
representatives' villainies and returned the booty to the prior owner on
paper. The aggrieved Power then engaged in the difficult undertaking of
regaining possession; the said original villain knowing little and
caring less about the arrangements made on the point by his home
Government. But just at this period England dealt French trade a
frightful blow. The whole of her iniquity took the form of one John Law,
a native of Edinburgh,[49] who raised himself to the dignity of
comptroller-general of the finance of France by a specious scheme for a
bank, an East India Company and a Mississippi Company, by the profits of
which the French national debt was to be paid off, a thing then in
urgent need of doing, and every one connected with the affair was to
make their fortunes, an undertaking always in need of doing in any
country. The French Government gave him every encouragement, and in 1716
he opened the bank; in 1719 the shares of that bank were worth more than
eighty times the current specie in France; in 1720 that bank burst,
spreading commercial ruin. To this may be ascribed the period of
paralysis in the Senegal trade from 1719. The Compagnie de Senegal had
handed over their interest to the Mississippi Company involved in John
Law's bank scheme. After this, up to 1817, France like F. M. the Duke of
Wellington anent playing upon the harp, "had other things to do" than
attend to West Africa. During the Napoleonic Wars England took all the
French possessions in West Africa, but by the treaty of Paris of 1814
she handed back those in Senegal, save the Gambia. The French vessel
sent out to take over the territory was the ill-starred and
ill-navigated _Méduse_. Owing to her wreck it was not until 1817 that
France replaced officially her standard on this Coast. On the 25th of
January of that year, and represented by Colonel Smaltz, she again
entered into possession of Goree and St. Louis in the mouth of the
Senegal, which was practically all she had, and that was in a very
unsatisfactory state. Colonel Smaltz, in 1819, had to come to an
agreement with the Oulof chief of the St Louis district to pay him a
subsidy, but a mere catalogue of the wars between the French and the
Oulofs is not necessary here; they were mutually unsatisfactory until
there enters on the scene that second great founder of the French power
in Africa, General Faidherbe, in 1854. Faidherbe is indeed the founder;
but had it not been for Sieur Brüe and his travels far into the
interior, and the evidence he collected regarding the riches therein,
and of the general value of the country, it is not likely that, as
things were in 1854, France would have troubled herself so much about
extending her power in Senegal.

Faidherbe was also one of those men who get possessed by a belief in the
future of West Africa, regardless of any state of dilapidation they may
find it in, and who have the power of infusing their enthusiasm into the
minds of others; and he roused France to the importance of Senegal,
saying prophetically, "Our possession on the West Coast of Africa is
possibly the one of all our colonies that has before it the greatest
future, and it deserves the whole sympathy and attention of the Empire."

These were words more likely to inspire France or any other reasonable
Power with a desire to give Senegal attention, than those used by the
previous French visitor there, M. Sanguin, in 1785, who, speaking of
the island of St. Louis, says it consists entirely of burning sands on
whose barren surface you sometimes meet with scattered flints thrown out
among their ballast by ships, and the ruins of buildings formerly
erected by Europeans; but he remarks it is not surprising the sands are
barren, for the air is so strongly impregnated with salt, which pervades
everything and consumes even iron in a very short space of time. The
heat he reports unpleasant, and rendered thus more so by the reflection
from the sand. If the island were not all it might be, one might still
hope for better things ashore on the mainland, but not according to M.
Sanguin. The mainland is covered with sand and overrun with mangles, not
the sort, you understand, that vulgar little English boys used to state
their mothers had sold and invested the money in a barrel organ, but
what we now call mangroves; then, mentioning that the St. Louis water
supply was the cause of most of those maladies which carry off the
Europeans so rapidly, that at the end of every three years the colony
has a fresh set of inhabitants, M. Sanguin discourses on the charms of
West African night entertainments in a most feeling and convincing way,
stating that there was an infinity of gnats called mosquitoes, which
exist in incredible quantities. He does not mind them himself, oh dear
no! being a sort of savage, he says, totally indifferent to the
impression he may create in the fair sex, so that, if you please, he
smears himself over with butter, which preserves him from the
mosquitoes' impertinent stings. How he came by a sufficiency of butter
for this purpose I won't pretend to know; but he knew mosquitoes, for
impertinent is a perfect word for them. M. Sanguin, however, was not the
sort of man, with all his ability and enterprise, to advertise Senegal
successfully to France. Whatever Frenchman would care to go to a land
where he needs must be sufficiently indifferent to the fair sex to smear
himself with butter! Dire and awful dangers and miscellaneous horrors,
even to being carried off by maladies among mangles in an atmosphere
stiff with mosquitoes, but not that!

Now Faidherbe was different. Remember to the honour of the man he
started with the above-described environment, but he took the grand tone
and did not dwell on local imperfections; the burning sands of Senegal
he mentioned, as all who know them are, by a natural constraint, forced,
as Azurara would say, to do, but he said our intentions are pure and
noble, our cause is just, the future cannot fail us;[50] and with such
words, to his credit and to the credit of La France, he spoke to her
heart; and he spoke truly, for with all its failures, with all the
fearful loss of the lives of Frenchmen, Senegal is a grand thing, and it
is a great thing for France, for from it has risen her masterdom over
the Western Soudan--a work also inaugurated by Faidherbe, through his
support of Lieutenant Maze, who reached the Niger. Practical in his
work, Faidherbe was also--by rebuilding the fort at Medina--the
annexation of the Oulof country (1856); the institution of a battalion
of native Tirailleurs (1857); the telegraph line between St. Louis and
Goree (1862); the construction of the harbour at Darkar and the erection
of a first-class lighthouse at Cape Verd (1864); and the annexation of
the kingdom of Cayore (1865). A grand record! and one that would be
grander for France were it not for the mismanagement that followed
Faidherbe's rule in commercial and financial matters.

The want of financial success in her enterprise in West Africa is a
matter that has constantly irritated France. She is continually saying:
"English possessions on that Coast pay, why should not mine?" It is not
my business to obtrude on her an answer, I merely dwell on the subject
because I clearly see there are creeping nowadays into our own methods
of managing Africa, those very same causes of financial failure that
have afflicted her, namely, too high tariffs, too exaggerated views of
the immediate profits to be got from those regions, and certain unfair
methods of dealing with natives.

In attempting, however, to account for the trade from the French
possessions in West Africa being proportionately so small to the immense
area of country, the make of the country and its native inhabitants must
be taken into consideration. Enormous districts of the French
possessions are, to put it mildly, not fertile, and capable of producing
in the way of a marketable commodity only gum, which is gathered from
the stems of the acacia horrida. It is an excellent gum, and there is
plenty of this acacia, and other gum-yielding acacias, but pickers are
not so plentiful, particularly now French authorities object to native
enterprise taking the form of raiding districts for slaves to employ in
the industry. Other enormous districts, however, are as fertile as need
be, and densely forested with forests rich in magnificent timber and
rubber wealth. The inhabitants, a most important factor in the
prosperity or otherwise, of West African regions, are varied, but
roughly speaking, we may say France possesses the whole of the tawny
Moors, and tawny Moors have their good points and their bad. Their good
point, from our present point of view, is their commercial enterprise.
From the earliest historical account we have of them to the present day,
it has been their habit to suck the trade out of the rich and fertile
districts, carry it across the desert, and trade it with the white
Moors, who, in their turn, carried it to the Mediterranean and Red Sea
ports. The opening of the West Coast seaboard trade, inaugurated by the
Portuguese, has acted as a commercial loss to the tawny Moors during the
past 400 years, and must be held, in a measure, accountable for the
decay of the great towns of Timbuctoo, Jenne, Mele, and so on, though
only in a measure, for herein comes the bad point of the inhabitants of
the Western Soudan, from our point of view, namely, their devotion to
religious differences and politics, which prevents their attending to
business. As this state of internecine war came on about the same period
as the opening to the black Moors and negroes of a market direct with
European traders in the Bight of Benin, it hurried the tawny Moors to
commercial decay. Timbuctoo never recovered the blow dealt her by the
Moorish conquest in 1591. At the breaking up of the Empire of Askia the
Great, revolt and war raged through the region, Jenne revolted in the
west, an example followed by the Touaregs Fulah and Malinkase tribes.
Both north and south were thrown into confusion, and Timbuctoo, their
intermediary, finding her commerce injured, rebelled in her turn. She
was conquered and brutally repressed by the Moorish conquerors in 1594.
A terrible dearth provoked by a lack of rain visited the town, and her
inhabitants were reduced to eating the corpses of animals, and even of
men. This was followed by the pestilence of 1618,[51] but through this
arose any quantity of wars and upheavals of political authority among
the tawny Moors in the early days of European intercourse with the West
African Coast. They assumed a more acute, religious form in our own
century, or to be more accurate just at the end of the eighteenth, when
Shazkh Utham Danfodio arose among the Fulahs as a religious reformer,
and a warrior missionary. He was a great man at both, but as a disturber
of traffic still greater, a thing that cannot be urged to so great an
extent against the other great Muslam missionary Umaru l'Haji. Still his
gathering together an army of 20,000 men in 1854-55, and going about
with them on a series of proselytizing expeditions against any tribe in
the Upper Niger and Senegal region he found to be in an unconverted
state, was little better than a nuisance to the French authorities at
that time. Danfodio's affairs have fallen into the hands of England to
arrange, and very efficiently her great representative in West Africa,
the Royal Niger Company, has arranged them. But for our Danfodio and his
consequences, France has had twenty, and she has dealt with them both
gallantly and patiently. But there will always be, as far as one can
see, trouble for France with her tawny Moors, now that the sources of
their support are cut off from them by many of the districts they once
drew their trade from--the sea-board districts of the Benin Bight, like
Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast and Lagos, in the English Niger--being in
the hands of a nation whose commercial instincts enable it to see the
benefits of lower tariffs than France affects. Even were our tariffs to
be raised to-morrow, the trade would again begin to drain back into the
hands of its old owners, the tawny Moors, for the Western Soudan is
being pacified by France. If some way is not devised of providing the
tawny Moors with trade sufficient to keep them, things must go badly
there, owing to the unfertility of the greater part of their country and
the increase of the population arising from the pacification of the
Western Soudan, which France is effecting. I will dwell no longer on
this sketch of the history of the advance of France in Western Africa.
We in England cannot judge it fairly. Nationally, her honour there is
our disgrace; commercially, her presence is our ruin.

Two things only stand out from these generalisations. The Royal Niger
Company shows how great England can be when she is incarnate in a great
man, for the Royal Niger Company is so far Sir George Taubman-Goldie.
The other thing that stands out unstained by comatose indifference to
the worth of West Africa to England is her Commerce as represented by
her West Coast traders, who have held on to the Coast since the
sixteenth century with a bulldog grip, facing death and danger, fair
weather and foul. Fine things both these two things are, but they do not
understand each other; they would certainly not understand me regarding
their affairs were I to talk from June to January, so I won't attempt
to, but speak to the general public, who so far have understood neither
Sir George Goldie, nor the West Coast trader, nor for the matter of that
their mutual foe France, and I beg to say that France has not been so
destructive an enemy to England there as England's own folly has been as
incarnate in the parliamentary resolution of 1865; that the achievements
of France in exploration in the Western Soudan make one of the grandest
pages of all European efforts in Africa; that the influence of France
over the natives has been, is, and, I believe, will remain good. "Our
intentions are pure and noble, our cause is just, the future cannot fail
us," said Faidherbe. So far as the natives are concerned, this has been
the policy of France in Western Africa. So far as diplomatic relations
with ourselves, humanly speaking, it has not; but diplomacy is
diplomacy, and the amount of probity--justice--in diplomacy is a thing
that would not at any period cover a threepenny-bit. It is a form of war
that shows no blood, but which has not in it those things which sanctify
red war, honour and chivalry. Nevertheless, diplomacy is an essential
thing in this world; it does good work, it saves life, it increases
prosperity, it advances the cause of religion and knowledge, and
therefore the World must not be hard on it for its being--what it is.
Personally, I prefer contemplating other things, and so I turn to

     Illustration: ST. PAUL DO LOANDA. [_To face page 281._]


   [39] See the first edition of _Henry the Navigator_, by R. H. Major,
   who, with the enormous wealth of his knowledge, vigorously defends the
   claim to Portuguese priority; although I do not quite agree with him on
   the value of the absence of evidence in disproving the French claim I am
   deeply indebted to him for the mention of references on the point.

   [40] This is an interesting case of the alteration that has taken place
   in Portuguese place names in West Africa. Angra des Ruives in English is
   Gurnard Bay, and this name was given to it by the Portuguese because of
   the quantity of this fish found there. In the _West African Pilot_ you
   find the place called Garnet Bay, and the _Pilot_ says "fish are
   abundant"; but as it does not say that garnets abound there, nor that it
   was discovered by Lord Wolseley, I think there is reason to believe that
   its name is Gurnard Bay, in translation of Angra des Ruives.

   [41] _Prince Henry the Navigator_; Major.

   [42] Labat, _Afrique occidentale_, vol. iv. p. 8. 1724.

   [43] Equal to nearly £30 English per annum.

   [44] _A Relation of the Coasts of Africa called Guinea collected by
   Sieur Villault, Escuyer, Sieur de Bellfond, in the years 1666-1667._
   London: John Starkey, 1670.

   [45] Vas Conselo's _Life of King João_.

   [46] Duke of Devonshire's speech at Liverpool, June, 1897.

   [47] Labat. At present the Isle of St. Louis, and what is called the
   Niger, is the river Sanaga--or Senega and Senegal, as the French corrupt
   it.--Astley, 1745.

   [48] An extent of thirty leagues and six leagues within the
   land.--Labat, p. 19.

   [49] John Law was the eldest son of an Edinburgh goldsmith, born about
   1681. "Bred to no business, but possessed of great abilities, and a
   fertile invention," he, when very young, recommended himself to the
   King's ministers in Scotland to arrange fiscal matters, then in some
   confusion from the union of the Kingdoms. His scheme, however, was not
   adopted. Great at giving other people good advice on money matters, he
   failed to manage his own. After a gay career in Edinburgh, and gaining
   himself the title of "Beau Law," he got mixed up in a duel, and fled to
   the Continent. He was banished from Venice and Genoa for draining the
   youth of those cities of their money, and wandered about Italy, living
   on gaming and singular bets and wagers. He proposed his scheme to the
   Duke of Savoy, who saw by this scheme he could soon, by deceiving his
   subjects in this manner, get the whole of the money of the kingdom into
   his possession; but as Law could not explain what would happen then, he
   was repulsed, and proceeded to Paris, where, under the patronage of the
   Duc d'Orleans, they found favour with Louis XIV. When his crash came he
   was exiled, and died in Venice in 1729.

   [50] _Notice de Senegal_, Paris, 1859, p. 99.

   [51] For an interesting account of Timbuctoo and its history, see
   _Timbuctoo the Mysterious_, by M. Felix Dubois. 1897.



     Concerning the reasons that deter this writer from entering here on
     a general history of the English, Dutch and Portuguese in Western
     Africa; to which is added some attempt to survey the present state
     of affairs there.

Lack of space, not lack of interest, prevents me from sketching the
careers of other nations in West Africa even so poorly as I have that of
France; but the truth is, the material for the history of the other
nations is so enormous that in order to present it with anything
approaching clearness or fairness, folio volumes are required. I have a
theory of the proper way to write the history of all European West
African enterprises--a theory I shall endeavour to put into practice if
I am ever cast ashore on an uninhabited island, with a suitable library,
a hogshead of ink, a few tons of writing paper, accompanied by pens, and
at least a quarter of a century of uninterrupted calm at my disposal.
The theory itself is short, so I can state it here. Pay no attention to
the nasty things they say about each other--it's the climate.

The history of the Portuguese occupation of West Africa is the great
one. The material for its early geographico-historical side is in our
hands, owing to the ability of Mr. Major and his devotion to the memory
of Prince Henry the Navigator. But the history of Portugal in West
Africa from the days of the Navigator onwards wants writing. Sir A. B.
Ellis fortunately gives us, in his history of the Gold Coast, an account
of the part that Portugal played there, but, except for this region, you
must hunt it up second-hand in the references made to it by prejudiced
rivals, or in scattered Portuguese books and manuscripts. While as for
the commercial history of Portugal in West Africa, although it has been
an unbroken one from the fifteenth century to our own time, it has so
far not been written at all. This seems to me all the more deplorable,
because it is full of important lessons for those nations who are now
attempting to exploit the regions she first brought them into contact

It must be noted, for one thing, that Portugal was the first European
nation to tackle Africa in what is now by many people considered the
legitimate way, namely, by direct governmental control. Other nations
left West African affairs in the hands of companies of merchant
adventurers and private individuals for centuries. Nevertheless,
Portugal is nowadays unpopular among the other nations engaged in
exploiting Africa. I shrink from embroiling myself in controversy, but I
am bound to say I think she has become unpopular on account of
prejudice, coupled with that strange moral phenomenon that makes men
desirous of persuading themselves that a person they have treated badly
deserves such treatment.

The more powerful European nations have dealt scandalously, from a moral
standpoint, with Portugal in Africa. This one could regard calmly, it
being in the nature of powerful nations to do this sort of thing, were
it not for the airs they give themselves; and to hear them talking
nowadays about Portugal's part in African history is enough to make the
uninitiated imagine that the sweet innocent things have no past of their
own, and never knew the price of black ivory.

"Oh, but that is all forgiven and forgotten, and Portugal is just what
she always was at heart," you say. Well, Portugal at heart was never
bad, as nations go. Her slaving record is, in the point of humanity to
the cargo, the best that any European nation can show who has a slaving
West African past at all.

The thing she is taxed with nowadays mainly is that she does not
develope her possessions. Developing African possessions is the fashion,
so naturally Portugal, who persists on going about in crinoline and poke
bonnet style, gets jeered at. This is right in a way, so long as we
don't call it the high moral view and add to it libel. I own that my own
knowledge of Portuguese possessions forces me to regard those
possessions as in an unsatisfactory state from an imperialistic
standpoint; a grant made by the home government for improvements, say
roads, has a tendency to--well, not appear as a road. Some one--several
people possibly--is all the better and happier for that grant; and after
all if you do not pay your officials regularly, and they are not
Englishmen, you must take the consequences. Even when an honest
endeavour is made to tidy things up, a certain malign influence seems to
dodge its footsteps in a Portuguese possession. For example, when I was
out in '93, Portugal had been severely reminded by other nations that
this was the Nineteenth Century. Bom Dios--Bother it, I suppose it
is--says Portugal--must do something to smarten up dear Angola. She is
over 400 now, and hasn't had any new frocks since the slave trade days;
perhaps they are right, and it's time this dear child came out. So
Loanda, Angola, was ordered street lamps--stylish things street
lamps!--a telephone, and a water supply. Now, say what you please,
Loanda is not only the finest, but the only, city in West Africa.
"Lagos! you ejaculate--you don't know Lagos." I know I have not been
ashore there; nevertheless I have contemplated that spot from the point
of view of Lagos bar for more than thirty solid hours, to say nothing of
seeing photographs of its details galore, and I repeat the above
statement. Yet for all that, Loanda had no laid-on water supply nor
public street lamps until she was well on in her 400th year, which was
just before I first met her. During the past she had had her water
brought daily in boats from the Bengo River, and for street lighting she
relied on the private enterprise of her citizens.[52] The reports given
me on these endeavours to develope were as follows. As for the water in
its laid-on state, it was held by the more aristocratic citizens to be
unduly expensive (500 reis per cubic metre), and they grumbled. The
general public, though holding the same opinion, did not confine their
attention to grumbling. Stand-pipes had been put up in suitable places
and an official told off to each stand-pipe to make a charge for water
drawn. Water in West Africa is woman's palaver, and you may say what you
please about the down-troddenness of African ladies elsewhere, but I
maintain that the West African lady in the matter of getting what she
wants is no discredit to the rest of the sex, black, white, or yellow.
In this case the ladies wanted that water, but did not go so far as
wanting to pay for it. In the history given to me it was evident to
an unprejudiced observer that they first tried kindness to the guardian
officials of the stand-pipes, but these men were of the St. Anthony
breed, and it was no good. Checked, but not foiled, in their admirable
purpose of domestic economy, those dear ladies laid about in their minds
for other methods, and finally arranged that one of a party visiting a
stand-pipe every morning should devote her time to scratching the
official while the rest filled their water pots and hers. This ingenious
plan was in working order when I was in Loanda, but since leaving it I
do not know what modification it may have undergone, only I am sure that
ultimately those ladies will win, for the African lady--at any rate the
West coast variety--is irresistible; as Livingstone truly remarked,
"they are worse than the men." In the street lamp matter I grieve to say
that the story as given to me does not leave my own country blameless.
Portugal ordered for Loanda a set of street lamps from England. She sent
out a set of old gas lamp standards. There being no gas in Loanda there
was a pause until oil lamps to put on them came out. They ultimately
arrived, but the P.W.D. failed to provide a ladder for the lamplighter.
Hence that worthy had to swarm each individual lamp-post, a time-taking
performance which normally landed him in the arms of Aurora before
Loanda was lit for the night; but however this may be, I must own that
Loanda's lights at night are a truly lovely sight, and its P.W.D.'s
chimney a credit to the whole West Coast of Africa, to say nothing of
its Observatory and the weather reports it so faithfully issues, so
faithfully and so scientifically that it makes one deeply regret that
Loanda has not got a climate that deserves them, but only one she might
write down as dry and have done with it.

     [Illustration: CLIFFS AT LOANDA. [_To face page 285._]

The present position of the Angola trade is interesting, instructive,
and typical. I only venture to speak on it in so far as I can appeal to
the statements of Mr. Nightingale, who is an excellent authority, having
been long resident in Angola, and heir to the traditions of English
enterprise there, so ably represented by the firm of Newton, Carnegie
and Co. The trade of Ka Kongo, the dependent province on Angola, I need
not mention, because its trade is conditioned by that of its neighbours
Congo Français and the Congo Belge.

     [Illustration: DONDO ANGOLA. [_To face page 287._]

The interesting point--painfully interesting--is the supplanting of
English manufactures, and the way in which the English shipping
interest[53] at present suffers from the differential duties favouring
the Portuguese line, the Empreza Nacional de Navigacão a Vapor. This
line, on which I have had the honour of travelling, and consuming in
lieu of other foods enough oil and olives for the rest of my natural
life, is an admirable line. It shows a calm acquiescence in the
ordinances of Fate, a general courteous gentleness, combined with strong
smells and the strain of stringed instruments, not to be found on other
West Coast boats. It runs two steamers a month (6th and 23rd) from
Lisbon, and they call at Madeira, St. Vincent, Santiago, Principe and
San Thome Islands, Kabinda, San Antonio (Kongo), Ambriz, Loanda,
Ambrizzette, Novo Redondo, Benguella, Mossamedes and Port Alexander,
every alternate steamer calling at Liverpool. The other steamboat
lines that visit Loanda are the African and British-African of
Liverpool, which run monthly, in connection with the other South-west
African ports; and the Woermann line from Hamburg. The French
Chargeurs-Reunis started a line of steamers from Havre _via_ Lisbon to
Loanda, Madagascar, Delagoa Bay, touching at Capetown, when so disposed,
but this line has discontinued calling in on Loanda. The other
navigation for Angola is done by the Rio Quanza Company, which runs two
steamers up that river as far as Dondo; but this industry, Dondo
included, Mr. Nightingale states to be in a parlous state since the
extension of the Royal Trans-African Railway Company[54] to Cazengo, "as
all the coffee which previously came _via_ Dondo by means of carriers,
now comes by rail, the town of Dondo is almost deserted; the house
property which a few years ago was valued at £200,000 sterling, to-day
would not realise £10,000." I may remark in this connection, however,
not to raise the British railway-material makers' feelings unduly, that
all this railway's rolling stock and material is Belgian in origin. This
seems to be the fate of African railways. I am told it is on account,
for one thing, of the way in which the boilers of the English
locomotives are set in, namely, too stiffly, whereby they suffer more
over rough roads than the more loosely hung together foreign-made
locomotives; and, for another, that English-made rolling stock is too
heavy for rough roads, and that roads under the conditions in Africa
cannot be otherwise than rough, &c. It is not, however, Belgian stuff
alone that is competing and ousting our own from the markets of Angola.
American machinery, owing to the personal enterprise of several American
engineering firms, is supplying steam-engines and centrifugal pumps for
working salt at Cucuaco, and machinery for dealing with sugar-cane. Mr.
Nightingale says the cultivation of the sugar-cane is rapidly extending,
for the sole purpose of making rum. The ambition of every small trader,
after he has put a few hundreds of milreis together, is to become a
fazendeiro (planter) and make rum, for which there is ever a ready sale.
But regarding the machinery, Mr. Nightingale says: "Up to the present
time no British firm has sent out a representative to this province.
There is a fair demand for cane-crushing mills, steam engines and
turbines. A representative of an American firm is out here for the third
time within four years, and has done good business; and there is no
reason why the British manufacturers should not do as well. The American
machinery is inferior to British makes, and cheaper; but it sells well,
which is the principal thing."

     [Illustration: TRADING STORES. _To face page 289._]

It is the same story throughout the Angola trade. No English matches
come into its market. The Companhia de Mossemedes, which is only
nominally Portuguese, and is worked by German capital, has obtained from
the Government an enormous tract of country stretching to the Zambesi,
with rights to cure fish and explore mines. Cartridges made in Holland,
and an iron pier made in Belgium, an extinct trade in soap and a failing
one in Manchester goods,[55] and gunpowder, are all sad items in Mr.
Nightingale's lament. Small matters in themselves, you may think, but
straws show which way the wind blows, and it blows against England's
trade in every part of Africa not under England's flag. It would not,
however, be fair to put down to differential tariffs alone our
failing trade in Angola, because our successful competitors in
hardware and gunpowder are other nations who have to face the same
disadvantages--Germany, Holland, and Belgium. Portugal herself is now
competing with the Manchester goods. She does so with well-made stuffs,
but she is undoubtedly aided by her tariff. The consular report (1949)
says: "The falling off in Manchester cotton since 1891 shows a
diminution of 1,665,710 kilos. Cotton, if coming from Manchester via
Lisbon, 1,665,710, duties 80 per cent, or 250 reis per kilo, equal
333,144 milreis (about £51,250); cotton coming from Portugal, 1,665,710
kilos, duties 25 reis per kilo, equal to 41,642 dollars, 750 reis (about
£6,400), showing a difference in the receipts for one year of £44,850."

There is in this statement, I own, a certain obscurity, which has
probably got into it from the editing of the home officials. I do not
know if the 1,665,710 kilos, representing the difference between what
England shipped to Angola in 1891 and what she shipped in 1896, was
supplied in the latter years from Portugal of Portuguese manufacture;
but assuming such to have been the case, the position from a tariff
point of view would work out as follows: 1,665,710 kilos of cottons from
Manchester would pay duty, at 250 reis per kilo, 416,427-1/2 milreis.
Taking the exchange at 3_s._ sterling per milreis, this amounts to
£62,464. If this quantity of Manchester-made cottons had gone to Lisbon,
and there become nationalised, and sent forward to Angola in Portuguese
steamers, the duty would have been 80 per cent. of 250 reis per kilo,
or say 333,142 milreis, equal to £49,971; but if this quantity were
manufactured in Portugal, and shipped by Portuguese steamers, the duty
would be 25 reis per kilo, equal to £6,246. The premium in favour of
Portuguese production on this quantity is therefore £56,218, a terrific
tax on the Portuguese subjects of Angola, for one year, in one class of
manufactures only.

The deductions, however, that Mr. Nightingale draws from his figures in
regard to Portugal and her province are quite clear. He says, "There is
no doubt that the province of Angola is a very rich one. No advantages
are held out for merchants to establish here, and thus bring capital
into the place, which means more business, the opening up of roads, and
the development of industries and agriculture. Generally the colony
exists for the benefit of a few manufacturers in Portugal, who reap all
the profit." Again, he says, "The merchants are much too highly taxed, a
good fourth part of their capital is paid out in duties, with no
certainty when it will be realised again. Angola, with plenty of
capital, moderate taxes and low duties, might in a few years become a
most flourishing colony."

Now here we come to the general problem of the fiscal arrangements
suitable for an African colony; and as this is a subject of great
importance to England in the administration of her colonies, and errors
committed in it are serious errors, as demonstrated by the late war in
Sierra Leone,--the most serious even we have had for many years to deal
with in West Africa,--I must beg to be allowed to become diffuse, humbly
stating that I do not wish to dogmatise on the matter, but merely to
attract the attention of busy practical men to the question of the
proper system to employ in the administration of tropical possessions.
This seems to me a most important affair to England, now that she has
taken up great territories and the responsibilities appertaining to them
in that great tropical continent, Africa. There are other parts of the
world where the suitability of the system of government to the
conditions of the governed country is not so important.

     [Illustration: ST. PAUL DO LOANDA. [_To face page 291._]

It seems to me that the deeper down from the surface we can go the
greater is our chance of understanding any matter; and I humbly ask you
to make a dive and consider what reason European nations have for
interfering with Africa at all. There are two distinct classes of
reasons that justify one race of human beings interfering with another
race. These classes are pretty nearly inextricably mixed; but if, like
Mark Twain's horse and myself, you will lean against a wall and think, I
fancy you will see that primarily two classes of reasons exist--(_a_),
the religious reason, the rescue of souls--a reason that is a duty to
the religious man as keen as the rescue of a drowning man is to a brave
one; (_b_), pressure reasons. These pressure reasons are divisible into
two sub-classes--(1) external; (2) internal. Now of external pressure
reasons primarily we have none in Africa. The African hive has so far
only swarmed on its own continent; it has not sent off swarms to settle
down in the middle of Civilisation, and terrify, inconvenience, and
sting it in a way that would justify Civilisation not only in destroying
the invading swarm, but in hunting up the original hive and smoking it
out to prevent a recurrence of the nuisance, as the Roman Empire was
bound to try and do with its Barbarians. Such being the case,[56] we
can leave this first pressure reason--the war justification--for
interfering with the African--on one side, and turn to the other
reason,--the internal pressure reasons acting from within on the
European nations. These are roughly divisible into three
sub-classes:--(1) the necessity of supplying restless and ambitious
spirits with a field for enterprise during such times as they are not
wanted for the defence of their nation in Europe--France's reason for
acquiring Africa; (2) population pressure; (3) commercial pressure. The
two latter have been the chief reason for the Teutonic nations, England
and Germany, overrunning the lands of other men. This Teutonic race is a
strong one, with the habit, when in the least encouraged by Peace and
Prosperity, of producing more men to the acre than the acre can keep.
Being among themselves a kindly, common-sense race, it seems to them
more reasonable to go and get more acres elsewhere than to kill
themselves off down to a level which their own acres could support. The
essential point about the "elsewhere" is that it should have a climate
suited to the family. These migrations to other countries made under the
pressure of population usually take place along the line of least
resistance, namely, into countries where the resident population is
least able to resist the invasion, as in America and Australia; but
occasionally, as in the case of Canada and the Cape, they follow the
conquest of an European rival who was the pioneer in rescuing the
country from savagery.

I am aware that this hardly bears out my statement that the Teutonic
races are kindly, but as I have said "among themselves," we will leave
it; and to other people, the original inhabitants of the countries they
overflow, they are on the whole as kindly as you can expect family men
to be. A distinguished Frenchman has stated that the father of a family
is capable of anything; and it certainly looks as if he thought no more
of stamping out the native than of stamping out any other kind of vermin
that the country possessed to the detriment of his wife and children. I
do not feel called upon to judge him and condemn, for no doubt the
father of a family has his feelings; and as it must have been irritating
to an ancestor of modern America to come home from an afternoon's
fishing and find merely the remains of his homestead and bits of his
family, it was more natural for him to go for the murderers than strive
to start an Aborigines' Protection Society. Though why, caring for wife
and child so much as he does, the Teuton should have gone and planted
them, for example, in places reeking with Red Indians is a mystery to
me. I am inclined to accept my French friend's explanation on this
point, namely, that it arose from the Teuton being a little thick in the
head and incapable of considering other factors beyond climate. But this
may be merely thickness in my own head--a hopelessly Teutonic one.

However, the occupation of territory from population pressure in Europe
we need not consider here; for it is not this reason that has led Europe
to take an active interest in tropical Africa. It is a reason that comes
into African affairs only--if really at all--in the extreme north and
extreme south of the continent--Algeria and the Cape. The vast regions
of Africa from 30° N. to 20° S., have long been known not to possess a
climate suitable for colonising in. "Men's blood rapidly putrifies under
the tropic zone." "Tropical conditions favour the growth of pathogenic
bacteria"--a rose called by another name. Anyhow, not the sort of
country attractive to the father of a family to found a home in. Yet, as
in spite of this, European nations are possessing themselves of this
country with as much ardour as if it were a health resort and a gold
mine in one, it is plain they must have another reason, and this reason
is in the case of Germany and England primarily commercial pressure.

These two Teutonic nations have the same habit in their commercial
production that they have in their human production,--the habit of
overdoing it for their own country; and just as Lancashire, for example,
turns out more human beings than can comfortably exist there, so does
she turn out more manufactured articles than can be consumed there; and
just as the surplus population created by a strong race must find other
lands to live in, so must the surplus manufactures of a strong race find
other markets; both forms of surplus are to a strong race wealth.

The main difference between these things is that the surplus
manufactured article is in no need of considering climate in the matter
of its expansion. It stands in a relation to the man who goes out into
the world with it akin to that of the wife and family to the colonist;
the trader will no more meekly stand having his trade damaged than the
colonist will stand having his family damaged; but at the same time, the
mere fact that the climate destroys trade-stuff is, well, all the better
for trade, and trade, moreover, leads the trader to view the native
population from a different standpoint to that of the colonist. To that
family man the native is a nuisance, sometimes a dangerous one, at the
best an indifferent servant, who does not do his work half so well as in
a decent climate he can do it himself. To the trader the native is quite
a different thing, a customer. A dense native population is what the
trader wants; and on their wealth, prosperity, peace and industry, the
success of his endeavours depends.

Now it seems to me that there are in this world two classes of regions
attractive to the great European manufacturing nations, England and
Germany, wherein they can foster and expand their surplus production of
manufactured articles. (1) Such regions as India and China. (2) Such
regions as Africa. The necessity of making this division comes from the
difference between the native populations. In the first case you are
dealing with a people who are manufacturers themselves, and you are
selling your goods mainly against gold. In the second the people are not
manufacturers themselves except in a very small degree, and you are
selling your goods against raw material. In a bustling age like this
there seems to be a tendency here and in Germany to value the first form
of market above the second. I fail to see that this is a sound
valuation. The education our commerce gives will in a comparatively
short time transform the people of the first class of markets into rival
producers of manufactured articles wherewith to supply the world's
markets. We by our pacification of India have already made India a
greater exporter than she was before our rule there. If China is opened
up, things will be even worse for England and Germany; for the Chinese,
with their great power of production, will produce manufactured
articles which will fairly swamp the world's markets; for, sad to say,
there is little doubt but they can take out of our hands all textile
trade, and probably several other lines of trade that England, Germany,
and America now hold. India and China being populated, the one by a set
of people at sixes and sevens with each other, and the other by a set of
people who, to put it mildly, are not born warriors, cannot, except
under the dominion and protection of a powerful European nation,
commercially prosper. But England and Germany are not everybody. There
is France. I could quite imagine France, for example, in possession of
China, managing it on similar lines to those on which she is now
managing West Africa, but with enormously different results to herself
and the rest of the world. Her system of differential tariffs, be it
granted, keeps her African possessions poor, and involves her in heavy
imperial expenditure; but the Chinaman's industry would support the
French system, and thrive under her jealous championship. This being the
case, it is of value to England and Germany to hold as close a grip as
possible over such regions as India and China, even though by so doing
they are nourishing vipers in their commercial bosoms.

The case of the second class of markets--the tropical African--is
different. Such markets are of enormous value to us; they are,
especially the West African ones, regions of great natural riches in
rubber, oil, timber, ivory, and minerals from gold to coal. They are in
most places densely populated with customers for England's manufactured
goods. The advantages of such a region to a manufacturing nation like
ourselves are enormous; for not only do we get rid there of our
manufactured goods, but we get, what is of equal value to our
manufacturing classes, raw material at a cheap enough rate to enable the
English manufacturers to turn out into the markets of the civilised
world articles sufficiently cheap themselves to compete with those of
other manufacturing nations.

     [Illustration: IN AN ANGOLA MARKET.]

     [Illustration: A MAN OF SOUTH ANGOLA. [_To face page 297._]

The importance to us of such markets as Africa affords us seems to me to
give us one sufficient reason for taking over these tropical African
regions. I do not use the word justification in the matter, it is a word
one has no right to use until we have demonstrated that our interference
with the native population and our endeavours for our own population
have ended in unmixed good; but it is a sound reason, as good a reason
as we had in overrunning Australia and America. Indeed, I venture to
think it is a better one, for the possession of a great market enables
thousands of men, women and children to live in comfort and safety in
England, instead of going away from home and all that home means; and
this commercial reason,--for all its not having a high falutin sound in
it,--is the one and only expansion reason we have that in itself desires
the national peace and prosperity of the native races with whom it

It seems to me no disgrace to England that her traders are the expanding
force for her in Africa. There are three classes of men who are powers
to a State--the soldier, the trader, and the scientist. Their efforts,
when co-ordinated and directed by the true statesman--the religious man
in the guise of philosopher and poet--make a great State. Being English,
of course modesty prevents my saying that England is a great State. I
content myself by saying that she is a truly great people, and will
become a great State when she is led by a line of great
statesmen--statesmen who are not only capable, as indeed most of our
statesmen have been, of seeing the importance of India and the colonies,
but also capable of seeing the equal importance to us of markets.

England's democracy must learn the true value of the markets that our
fellow-countrymen have so long been striving to give her, and must
appreciate the heroism those men have displayed, only too often
unrequited, never half appreciated by the sea-wife, who "breeds a breed
of rovin' men and casts them over sea." Those who go to make new homes
for the old country in Australia and America do not feel her want of
interest keenly; but those heroes of commerce who go to fight and die in
fever-stricken lands for the sake of the old homes at home, do feel her
want of interest.

I am not speaking hastily, nor have I only West Africa in my mind in
this matter; there are other regions where we could have succeeded
better, with advantage to all concerned--Malaya, British Guiana, New
Guinea, the West Indies, as well as West Africa. If you examine the
matter I think you will see that all these regions we have failed in are
possessed of unhealthy climates, while the regions we have succeeded
with are those possessed of healthy climates. The reason for this
difference in our success seems to me to lie mainly in our deficiency of
statesmanship at home. We really want the humid tropic zone more than
other nations do; a climate that eats up steel and hardware as a rabbit
eats lettuces is an excellent customer to a hardware manufacturing town,
&c. A region densely populated by native populations willing to give raw
trade stuffs in exchange for cotton goods, which they bury or bang out
on stones in the course of washing or otherwise actively help their
local climate to consume, is invaluable to a textile manufacturing town.
Yet it would be idle to pretend that our Government has realised these
things. Our superior ability as manufacturers, and the great enterprise
of our men who have gone out to conquer the markets of the tropics, have
given us all the advantages we now enjoy from those markets, but they
could do no more; and now, when we are confronted by the expansion of
other European nations, those men and their work are being lost to
England. Our fellow-countrymen will go anywhere and win anywhere to-day
just as well as yesterday, where the climate of the region allows
England to throw enough of them in at a time to hold it independent of
the home government; but in places where we cannot do this, in the
unhealthy tropical regions where those men want backing up against the
aggression on their interests of foreign governments, well, up to the
present they have not had that backing up, and hence we have lost to
England in England the advantages we so easily might have secured.

An American magazine the other day announced in a shocked way that I
could evidently "swear like a trooper!" I cannot think where it got the
idea from; but really!--well, of course I don't naturally wish to, but I
cannot help feeling that if I could it would be a comfort to me; for
when I am up in the great manufacturing towns, England properly so
called, their looms and forges seem to me to sing the same song to the
great maker of Fate--we must prosper or England dies. And there is but
one thing they can prosper on--for there is but one feeding ground for
them and all the thousands of English men, women and children dependent
on them--the open market of the World. To me the life blood of England
is her trade. Her soul, her brain is made of other things, but they
should not neglect or spurn the thing that feeds them--Commerce--any
more than they should undervalue the thing that guards them--the

But, you will say, we will not be tied down to this commercial reason as
England's reason for taking over the administration of tropical Africa.
My friend, I really think on the whole you had better--it's reasonable.
I grant that it has not been the reason why English missionaries and
travellers have risked their lives for the good of Africa, or of human
knowledge, but as a ground from which to develop a policy of
administering the country this commercial one is good, because it
requires as aforesaid the prosperity of the African population; and your
laudable vanities in the matter I cannot respect, when I observe right
in the middle of the map of Africa an enormous region called the Congo
Free State. I have reason to believe that that region was opened up by
Englishmen--Livingstone, Stanley, Speke, Grant and Burton. If you had
been so truly keen on suppressing Arab slavery and native cannibalism,
there was a paradise for you! Yet, you hand it over to some one else.
Was it because you thought some one else could do it better? or--but we
will leave that affair and turn to the consideration of the possibility
of administering tropical Africa, governmentally, to the benefit of all


   [52] Loanda has now a gas company, and the installation is well under
   way, under Belgian supervision.

   [53] Referring to cotton goods, the Foreign Office report on the trade
   of Angola for 1896 (1949) says the same cottons coming from Manchester
   would pay 250 reis per kilo in foreign bottoms, and 80 per cent of 250
   reis if coming in Portuguese bottoms and nationalised in Lisbon.

   [54] Angola also has a small railway from Catumbella to Benguella, a
   distance of 15 kiloms. and is contemplating constructing an important
   line from either Benguella or Mossamedes up to Caconda.

   [55] The imports in 1896 from England being 978,745 kilos, against
   2,644,455 in 1891--a difference of 1,665,710 kilos against
   Manchester.--_Foreign Office Annual Series, Consular Report, No. 1949_.

   [56] In saying this I am aware of the conduct of Carthage and of the
   Barbary Moors. But neither of these were primarily African. The one was
   instigated by Greece, the other by the Vandals and the Arabs.



     Wherein it is set down briefly why it is necessary to enter upon
     this discussion at all.

Now, you will say, Wherefore should the general public in England
interest itself in this matter? Surely things are now governmentally
administered in England's West African Colonies for the benefit of all
parties concerned.

Well, that is just exactly and precisely what they are not. The system
of Crown Colonies, when it is worked by Portuguese, does, at any rate,
benefit some of the officials; but English officials are incapable of
availing themselves of the opportunities this system offers them; and
therefore, as this form of opportunity is the only benefit the thing can
give any one, the sooner the Crown Colony system is removed from the
sphere of practical politics and put under a glass case in the South
Kensington Museum, labelled "Extinct," the better for every one.

I beg you, before we go further in this matter, to look round the world
calmly, and then, when you have allowed the natural burst of enthusiasm
concerning the extent and the magnificence of the British Empire to
pass, you will observe that in the more unhealthy regions England has
failed. I say she has failed because of the Crown Colony system--failed
with them even during days wherein she has had to face nothing like what
she has to face to-day from the commercial competition of other nations.

In order to justify myself for holding the view that it is possible for
any system of English administration to fail anywhere, I would draw your
attention to the fact that the system used by us for governing unhealthy
regions is the Crown Colony system. The two things go together, and we
must assign one of them as the reason of our failure. You may, if it
please you, put it down to the other thing, the unhealthiness. I cannot,
for I know that no race of men can battle more gallantly with climate
than the English--no other race of men has shown so great a capacity as
we have to make the tropics pay. Still to-day we stand face to face with
financial disaster in tropical regions.

If you will look through a list of England's tropical unhealthy
possessions, leaving out West Africa, you will see nothing but
depression. There are the West Indies, British Guiana, and British
Honduras. All of these are naturally rich regions and accessible to the
markets of the world. There is not one of them hemmed in by great
mountain chains or surrounded by arid deserts, across which their
products must be transported at enormous cost. They are all on our
highway--the sea; nor are they sparsely populated. Their population,
according to the latest Government returns, is 1,653,832, and this
estimate is acknowledged to be necessarily imperfect and insufficient.
But with all these advantages we find no prosperity there under our
rule. Nothing but poverty and discontent and now pauperisation in the
shape of grants from the Imperial Exchequer. You say, "Oh! but that is
on account of the sugar bounties and the majority of the population not
being English;" but that argument won't do. Look at the Canary Islands.
They were just as hard hit by aniline dyes supplanting cochineal. Their
population is not mainly English; but down on those islands came an
Englishman, the Spanish Government had the sense to let him have his
way, and that Englishman, Mr. A. L. Jones, of Liverpool, has, in a space
of only fifteen years, made those islands a source of wealth to Spain,
instead of paupers on an Imperial bounty. "But," you say, "we have other
regions under the Crown Colony system that are not West Indian."
Granted, but look at them. There are the West African group; a group of
three in the Mediterranean, Gibraltar, Malta, and Cyprus, two
fortifications and a failure; away out East another group, which are
prosperous from the fact that they are surrounded by countries whose
fiscal arrangements are providentially worse than their own, and this
seems to be the only condition which can keep a Crown Colony on its
financial legs at all. For all our Crown Colonies adjacent to countries
who can compete with them in trade matters are paupers, or their
efficiency and value to the Empire is in the sphere of military and
naval affairs, as posts and coaling stations. These possessions of the
Gibraltar, Malta, and Hong-Kong brand should be regarded as being part
of our navy and army, and not confused with colonies, though essential
to them.

"Still," you say, "you are forgetting Ceylon, the Fiji Islands, the
Falklands, and the Mauritius." I am not. Ceylon is part of India and
practically an Indian province, so is out of my arguments. I present you
with the others wherefrom to build up a defence of the Crown Colony
system. Say, "See the Falklands off Cape Horn, with a population of
1,789, and heaps of sheep and a satisfactory budget." I can say nothing
against them, and may possibly be forced to admit that for such a
region, off Cape Horn, and with a population mainly of sheep, the Crown
Colony system may be a Heaven-sent form of administration. But I think
England would be wiser if she looked carefully at the West Indian group
and recognised how like their conditions are to those of the West
African group, for in their disastrous state of financial affairs you
have an object lesson teaching what will be the fate of Crown Colonies
in West Africa--Gambia, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast and Lagos--if she
will be not warned in time to alter the system at present employed for
governing these possessions. It is an object lesson in miniature of what
will otherwise be an infinitely greater drain on the resources of
England, for West Africa is immensely larger, immensely more densely
populated, and immensely more deadly in climate than the West Indies.
For one Englishman killed by the West Indies West Africa will want ten;
for every £1,000, £20,000--and all for what? Only for the sake of a
system--a system intrinsically alien to all English ideals of
government--a system that doddered along until Mr. Chamberlain expected
it to work and then burst out all over in rows, and was found to be
costing some 25 per cent. of the entire bulk of white trade with West
Africa; a system that, let the land itself be ever so rich, can lead to
nothing but heart-breaking failure.

Now I own the Crown Colony system looks well on paper. It consists of a
Governor, appointed by the Colonial Office, supported by an Executive
and Legislative Council (both nominated), and on the Gold Coast with two
unofficial members in the legislative body. These Councils, as far as
the influence they have, are dead letters, and legislation is in the
hands of the Governor. This is no evil in itself. You will get nothing
done in tropical Africa except under the influence of individual men;
but your West African Governor, though not controlled by the Councils
within the colony, is controlled by a power outside the colony, namely
the Colonial Office in London. Up to our own day the Colonial Office has
been, except in the details of domestic colonial affairs, a drag-chain
on English development in Western Africa. It has not even been
indifferent, but distinctly, deliberately adverse. In the year 1865 a
Select Committee of the House of Commons inquired into and reported upon
the state of British establishments on the western coast of Africa. "It
was a strong Committee, and the report was brief and decided.
Recognising that it is not possible to withdraw the British Government
wholly or immediately from any settlements or engagements on the West
African Coast, the Committee laid down that all further extension of
territory or assumption of government, or new treaties offering any
protection to native tribes, would be inexpedient, and that the object
of our policy should be to encourage in the natives the exercise of
those qualities which may render it possible for us more and more to
transfer to them the administration of all the governments with a view
to the ultimate withdrawal from all, except, perhaps, Sierra Leone."[57]

Remember also this. This one in 1865 was not the first of those sort of
fits the Colonial Office had in West African affairs. It was just as bad
after the Battle of Katamansu in 1827, and had it not been for the
English traders our honour to the natives we had made treaties with
would have been destroyed, and the Gold Coast lost whole and entire.

This policy of 1865 has remained the policy of the English Government
towards West Africa up to 1894. In spite of it, the English have held
on. Governor after Governor, who, as soon as he became acquainted with
the nature of the region, has striven to rouse official apathy, has been
held in, and his spirit of enterprise broken by official snubs, and has
been taught that keeping quiet was what he was required to do. It broke
many a man's heart to do it; but doing it worked no active evil on the
colony under his control, the affairs of which financially prospered in
the hands of the trading community so well, that not only had no West
African colony any public debt, except Sierra Leone, which was a
philanthropic station, but the Gold Coast, for example, had sufficient
surplus to lend money to colonies in other parts of the world. But at
last the time came when the aggression on Africa by the Continental
powers fulfilled all the gloomy prophecies which the merchants of
Liverpool had long been uttering; and one possession of ours in West
Africa after another felt the effects of the activity of other nations
and the apathy of our own. They would have felt it in vain, and have
utterly succumbed to it, had it not been for two Englishmen. Sir George
Taubman Goldie, who, when in West Africa on a voyage of exploration,
recognised the possibilities of the Niger regions, and secured them for
England in the face of great difficulties; and Mr. Chamberlain.
Concerning Sir George Goldie's efforts in securing a most important
section of West Africa for England, I shall have occasion to speak
later. Concerning Mr. Chamberlain, I may as well speak now; but be it
understood, both these men, whatever their own ideas on their work may
be, were men who came up at a critical point to reinforce Liverpool and
Bristol and London merchants, who had fought for centuries--not to put
too fine a point on it--from the days of Edward IV. for the richest
feeding grounds in all the world for England's manufacturing millions.
The dissensions, distrust and misunderstandings which have raged among
these three representatives of England's majesty and power, are no
affair of mine, as a mere general student of the whole affair, beyond
the due allowance one must make for the grave mischief worked by the
human factors. Well, as aforesaid, Mr. Chamberlain alone of all our
statesmen saw the great possibilities and importance of Western Africa,
and thinking to realise them, forthwith inaugurated a policy which if it
had had sound ground to go on, would have succeeded. It had not, it had
the Crown Colony system--and our hope for West Africa is that so
powerful a man as he has shown himself to be in other political fields,
may show himself to be yet more powerful, and formulate a totally new
system suited for the conditions of West Africa, and not content himself
with the old fallacy of ascribing failure to the individuals, white or
black, government official or merchant or missionary, who act under the
system which alone is to blame for England's present position in West
Africa; but I own that if Mr. Chamberlain does this he will be greater
than one man can ever be reasonably be expected to be, and again it is,
I fear, not possible to undo what has been done by the resolution of

Possibly the greatest evil worked by this resolution has been the
separation of sympathy between the Merchants and the Government. Since
1865 these two English factors have been working really against each
other. Possibly the greatest touch of irony in modern politics is to be
found in a despatch dated March 30th, 1892, addressed to the British
Ambassador at Paris, wherein it is said, "The colonial policy of Great
Britain and France in West Africa has been widely different. France from
her basis on the Senegal coast has pursued steadily the aim of
establishing herself on the Upper Niger and its affluents; this object
she has attained by a large and constant expenditure, and by a
succession of military expeditions. Great Britain, on the other hand,
has adopted the policy of advance by commercial enterprise; she has not
attempted to compete with the military operations of her neighbour."[58]
I should rather think she hadn't! Let alone the fact that France did not
expand mainly by military operations, but through magnificent explorers
backed up by sound sense. While, as for Great Britain "adopting the
policy of advance by commercial enterprise"--well, I don't know what the
writer of that despatch's ideas on "adoption" are, but suppression would
be the truer word. Had Great Britain given even her countenance to
"commercial enterprise," she would have given it by now representation
in her councils for West Africa, a thing it has not yet got. True, there
is the machinery for this representation ready in the Chambers of
Commerce, but these Chambers have no real power whatsoever as far as
West African affairs are concerned; they are graciously permitted to
send deputations to the Colonial Office and write letters when they feel
so disposed, but practically that is all.

Truly it is a ridiculous situation, because West Africa matters to no
party in England so much as it matters to the mercantile. I am aware I
shall be told that it is impossible that one section of Englishmen can
have a greater interest in any part of the Empire than another section,
and, for example, that West Africa matters quite as much to the
religious party as it does to the mercantile. But, to my mind, neither
Religion nor Science is truly concerned in the political aspect of West
Africa. It should not matter, for example, to the missionary whether he
works under one European Government or another, or a purely native
Government, so long as he is allowed by that Government to carry on his
work of evangelisation unhindered; nor, similarly, does it matter to the
scientific man, so long as he is allowed to carry on his work; but to
the merchant it matters profoundly whether West Africa is under English
or foreign rule, and whether our rule there is well ordered. For one
thing, on the merchants of West Africa falls entirely the duty of
supplying the revenue which supports the government of our colonies
there; and for another, it seems to me that whether the Government he is
under is English or no does matter very much to the English merchant.
His duty as an Englishman is the support of the population of his own
country, directly the support of its manufacturing classes. Everything
that tends to alienate his influence from the service of his
fellow-countrymen is a degradation to him. He may be individually as
successful in trading with foreign-made goods, but as a member of the
English State he is at a lower level when he does so; he becomes a mere
mercenary in the service of a foreign power engaged in adding to the
prosperity of an alien nation. Again, in this matter the difference
between the religious man and the commercial shows up clearly. Let the
religion of the missionary be what it may, his aim is according to it to
secure the salvation of the human race. What does it matter to him
whether the section of the human race he strives to save be black,
white, or yellow? Nothing; as the noble records of missions will show
you. Therefore I repeat that West Africa matters to no party in the
English State so much as it matters to the mercantile. With no other
party are true English interests so closely bound up.

West Africa probably will never be a pleasant place wherein to spend the
winter months, a holiday ground that will serve to recuperate the jaded
energies of our poets and painters, like the Alps or Italy; probably,
likewise, it will never be a place where we can ship our overflow
population; and for the same reason--its unhealthiness--it will be of no
use to us as a military academy, for troops are none the better for
soaking in malaria and operating against ill-armed antagonists. But West
Africa is of immense use to us as a feeding-ground for our manufacturing
classes. It could be of equal value to England as a healthy colony, but
in a reverse way, for it could supply the wealth which would enable them
to remain in England in place of leaving it, if it were properly managed
with this definite end in view. It is idle to imagine that it can be
properly managed unless commercial experts are represented in the
Government which controls its administration, as is not the case at
present. It is no case of abusing the men who at present strive to do
their best with it. They do not set themselves up as knowing much about
trade, and they constantly demonstrate that they do not. Armed with
absolutely no definite policy, subsisting on official and non-expert
trade opinion, they drift along, with some nebulous sort of notion in
their heads about "elevating the African in the plane of civilisation."

Now, of course, there exists a passable reason for things being as they
are in our administration of West Africa. England is never malign in
intention, and never rushes headlong into a line of policy. Therefore,
in order to comprehend how it has come about that she should have a
system so unsuited to the regions to which it is applied, as the Crown
Colony system is unsuited to West Africa, we must calmly investigate the
reason that underlies this affair. This reason, which is the cause of
all the trouble, is a misconception of the nature of West Africa, and it
must be considered under two heads.

The thing behind the resolution of 1865 is the undoubted fact that West
Africa is no good for a Colony from its unhealthiness. There is no one
who knows the Coast but will grant this; but surely there is no one who
knows, not only the West Coast of Africa but also the necessities of our
working classes in England, who can fail to recognise that this is only
half an argument against England holding West Africa; because we want
something besides regions whereto we can send away from England men and
women, namely, we want regions that will enable us to keep the very
backbone of England, our manufacturing classes, in a state of healthy
comfort and prosperity at home in England, in other words, we want

Alas! in England the necessity for things grows up in a dumb way, though
providentially it is irresistibly powerful; once aroused it forces our
statesmen to find the required thing, which they with but bad grace and
grievous groans proceed leisurely to do.

This is pretty much the same as saying that the English are deficient in
statesmanship, and this is what I mean, and I am convinced that no other
nation but our own could have prospered with so much of this
imperfection; but remember it is an imperfection, and is not a thing to
be proud of any more than a stammer. External conditions have enabled
England so far barely to feel her drawback, but now external conditions
are in a different phase, and she must choose between acquiring
statesmanship competent to cope with this phase, or drift on in her
present way until the force of her necessities projects her into an
European war. A perfectly unnecessary conclusion to the pressure of
commercial competition she is beginning to feel, but none the less
inevitable with her present lack of statecraft.

The second part of the reason of England's trouble in West Africa is
that other fallacious half reason which our statesmen have for years
been using to soothe the minds of those who urged on her in good time
the necessity for acquiring the hinterlands of West Africa, namely,
"After all, England holds the key of them in holding the outlets of the
rivers." And while our statesmen have been saying this, France has been
industriously changing the lock on the door by diverting trade routes
from the hinterland she has so gallantly acquired, down into those
seaboard districts which she possesses.

"Well, well, well," you will say, "we have woke up at last, we can be
trusted now." I own I do not see why you should expect to be suddenly
trusted by the men with whose interests you have played so long. I
remember hearing about a missionary gentleman who was told a long story
by the father of a bad son, who for years went gallivanting about West
Africa, bringing the family into disrepute, and running up debts in all
directions, and finally returned to the paternal roof. "Dear me! how
interesting," said the missionary; "quite the Parable of the Prodigal
Son! I trust, My Friend, you remembered it, and killed the fatted calf
on his return?" "No, Sar," said the parent; "but I dam near kill that ar
prodigal son."


   [57] See Lucas's _Historical Geography of the British Colonies_, Oxford,

   [58] Parliamentary Paper, C 6701, 92.



     Wherein is set down briefly in what manner of ways the Crown Colony
     system works evil in Western Africa.

I have attempted to state that the Crown Colony system is unsuited for
governing Western Africa, and have attributed its malign influence to
its being a system which primarily expresses the opinions of
well-intentioned but ill-informed officials at home, instead of being,
according to the usual English type of institution, representative of
the interests of the people who are governed, and of those who have the
largest stake in the countries controlled by it--the merchants and
manufacturing classes of England. It remains to point out how it acts
adversely to the prosperity of all concerned; for be it clearly
understood there is no corruption in it whatsoever: there is waste of
men's lives, moneys, and careers, but nothing more at present. By-and-by
it will add to its other charms and functions that of being, in the
early future, a sort of patent and successful incubator for hatching a
fine lively brood of little Englanders, who will cry out, "What is the
good of West Africa?" and so forth; and they will seem sweetly
reasonable, because by then West Africa will be down on the English
rates, a pauper.

It may seem inconceivable, however, that the present governing body of
West Africa, the home officials, and the English public as represented
in Parliament, can be ill-informed. West Africa has not been just shot
up out of the ocean by a submarine volcanic explosion; nor are we
landing on it out of Noah's ark, for the thing has been in touch with
Europe since the fifteenth century; yet, inconceivable as it may seem
that there is not by now formulated and in working order a method of
governing it suitable for its nature, the fact that this is so remains,
and providentially for us it is quite easy of explanation without
abusing any one; though no humane person, like myself for example, can
avoid sincerely hoping that Mr. Kipling is wrong when he sings

    "Deep in all dishonour have we stained our garments' hem.
    Yet be ye not dismayed, we have stumbled and have strayed.
    Our leaders went from righteousness, the Lord will deal with them."

For although it is true that we have made a mess of this great feeding
ground for England's manufacturing millions; yet there are no leaders on
whom blame alone can fall, whom we can make scapegoats out of, who can
be driven away into the wilderness carrying the sins of the people. The
blame lies among all those classes of people who have had personally to
deal with West Africa and the present system; and the Crown Colony
system and the resolution of '65 are merely the necessary fungi of
rotten stuff, for they have arisen from the information that has been,
and has not been, placed at the disposal of our Government in England by
the Government officials of West Africa, the Missionaries, and the

We will take the traders' blame first--their contribution to the evil
dates from about 1827 and consists in omission--frankly, I think that
they, in their generation, were justified in not telling all they could
tell about the Coast. They found they could get on with it, keep it
quiet and manage the natives fairly well under the system of Courts of
Equity in the Rivers, and the Committee of merchants with a Governor
approved of by the Home Government, which was working on the Gold Coast
up to 1843. In 1841 there arose the affair of Governor Maclean, and the
inauguration of the line of policy which resulted in the resolution of
1865. The governmental officials having cut themselves off from the
traders and taken over West Africa, failed to manage West Africa, and so
resolved that West Africa was not worth managing,--a thing they are
bound to do again.

The abuse showered on the merchants, and the terrific snubs with which
the Government peppered them, did not make the traders blossom and
expand, and shower information on those who criticised them--there are
some natures that are not sweetened by Adversity. Moreover, the
Government, when affairs had been taken over by the Offices in London,
took the abhorrent form of Customs, and displayed a lively love of the
missionary-made African, as he was then,--you can read about him in
Burton[59]--and for the rest got up rows with the traders' best
customers, the untutored African; rows, as the traders held, unnecessary
in their beginning and feeble-handed in their termination. The whole of
this sort of thing made the trader section keep all the valuable
information to itself, and spend its energies in eluding the Customs,
and talking what Burton terms "Commercial English."

Then we come to the contribution made by the Government officials to the
formation of an erroneous opinion concerning the state of affairs in
West Africa. This arose from the conditions that surrounded them there,
and the way in which they were unable, even if they desired, to expand
their influence, distrusted naturally enough by the trading community
since 1865, held in continuously by their home instructions, and
unprovided with a sufficient supply of men or money on shore to go in
for empire making, and also villainously badly quartered,--as you can
see by reading Ellis's _West African Sketches_. It is small wonder and
small blame to them that their account of West Africa has been a gloomy
one, and such it must remain until these men are under a different
system: for all the reasons that during the past have caused them to
paint the Coast as a place of no value to England, remain still in full
force,--as you can see by studying the disadvantages that service in a
West African Crown Colony presents to-day to a civilian official.

Firstly, the climate is unhealthy, so that the usual make of Englishman
does not like to take his wife out to the Coast with him. This means
keeping two homes, which is expensive, and it gives a man no chance of
saving money on an income say of £600 a year, for the official's life in
West Africa is necessarily, let him be as economical as he may, an
expensive one; and, moreover, things are not made more cheerful for him
by his knowing that if he dies there will be no pension for his wife.

Secondly, there being no regular West African Service, there is no
security for promotion; owing to the unhealthiness of the climate it is
very properly ordained that each officer shall serve a year on the
Coast, and then go home on a six months' furlough. It is a fairly common
thing for a man to die before his twelve months' term is up, and a
still more common one for him to have to go on sick leave. Of course,
the moment he is off, some junior official has to take his place and do
his work. But in the event of the man whose work he does dying, gaining
a position in another region, or promotion, the man who has been doing
the work has no reason to hope he will step into the full emoluments and
honours of the appointment, although experience will thus have given him
an insight into the work. On the contrary, it too often happens that
some new man, either fresh from London or who has already held a
Government appointment in some totally different region to the West
African, is placed in the appointment. If this new man is fresh to such
work as he has to do, the displaced man has to teach him; if he is from
a different region, he usually won't be taught, and he does not help to
develop a spirit of general brotherly love and affection in the local
governmental circles by the frank statement that he considers West
African officials "jugginses" or "muffs," although he fairly offers to
"alter this and show them how things ought to be done."

Then again the civilian official frequently complains that he has no
such recognition given him for his services as is given to the military
men in West Africa. I have so often heard the complaint, "Oh, if a man
comes here and burns half a dozen villages he gets honours; while I, who
keep the villages from wanting burning, get nothing;" and mind you, this
is true. Like the rest of my sex I suffer from a chronic form of scarlet
fever, and, from a knowledge of the country there, I hold it rubbish to
talk of the brutality of mowing down savages with a Maxim gun when it
comes to talking of West African bush fighting; for your West African is
not an unarmed savage, he does not assemble in the manner of Dr.
Watts's ants, but wisely ensconces himself in the pleached arbours of
his native land, and lets fly at you with a horrid scatter gun. This is
bound to hit, and when it hits makes wounds worse than those made by a
Maxim; in fact he quite turns bush fighting into a legitimate sport, let
alone the service done him by his great ally, the climate. Still, it is
hard on the civilian, and bad for English interests in West Africa, that
the man who by his judgment, sympathy, and care, keeps a district at
peace, should have less recognition than one who, acting under orders,
doing his duty gallantly, and all that, goes and breaks up all native
prosperity and white trade.

All these things acting together produce on the local Government
official a fervid desire to get home to England, and obtain an
appointment in some other region than the West Coast. I feel sure I am
well within the mark when I say that two-thirds of the present
Government officials in the West African English Crown Colonies have
their names down on the transfer list, or are trying to get them there;
and this sort of thing simply cannot give them an enthusiasm for their
work sufficient to ensure its success, and of course leads to their
painting a dismal picture of West Africa itself.

I am perfectly well aware that the conditions of life of officials in
West Africa are better than those described by Ellis. Nevertheless, they
are not yet what they should be: a corrugated iron house may cost a heap
of money and yet not be a Paradise. I am also aware that the houses and
general supplies given to our officials are immensely more luxurious
than those given to German or French officials; but this does not
compensate for the horrors of boredom suffused with irritation to which
the English official is subjected. More than half the quarrelling and
discontent for which English officials are celebrated, and which are
attributed to drink and the climate, simply arise from the domestic
arrangements enforced on them in Coast towns, whereby they see far too
much of each other. If you take any set of men and make them live
together, day out and day in, without sufficient exercise, without
interest in outside affairs, without dividing them up into regular
grades of rank, as men are on board ship or in barracks, you are simply
bound to have them dividing up into cliques that quarrel; the things
they quarrel over may seem to an outsider miserably petty, but these
quarrels are the characteristic eruption of the fever discontent. And
may I ask you if the opinion of men in such a state is an opinion on
which a sound policy wherewith to deal with so complex a region can be
formed? I think not, yet these men and the next class alone are the
makers of our present policy--the instructors of home official opinion.

The next class is the philanthropic party. It is commonly confused with
the missionary, but there is this fundamental difference between them.
The missionary, pure and simple, is a man who loves God more than he
loves himself, or any man. His service (I am speaking on fundamental
lines, as far as I can see) is to place in God's charge, for the glory
of God, souls, that according to his belief, would otherwise go
elsewhere. The philanthropist is a person who loves man; but he or she
is frequently no better than people who kill lapdogs by over-feeding, or
who shut up skylarks in cages, while it is quite conceivable to me, for
example, that a missionary could kill a man to save his soul, a
philanthropist kill his soul to save his life, and there is in this a
difference. I have never been able to get up any respectful enthusiasm
for the so-called philanthropist, so that I have to speak of him with
calm care; not as I have spoken of the missionary, feeling he was a
person I could not really harm by criticising his methods.

It is, however, nowadays hopeless to attempt to separate these two
species, distinct as I believe them to be; and they together undoubtedly
constitute what is called the Mission party not only in England but in
Germany. I believe this alliance has done immense harm to the true
missionary, for to it I trace that tendency to harp upon horrors and
general sensationalism which so sharply differentiates the modern from
the classic missionary reports. Take up that noble story of Dennis de
Carli and Michael Angelo of Gattina, and read it through, and then turn
on to wise, clear-headed Merolla da Sorrento, and read him; you find
there no sensationalism. Now and again, when deeply tried, they will
say, "These people live after a beastly manner, and converse freely with
the Devil," but you soon find them saying, "Among these people there are
some excellent customs," and they give you full details of them, with
evident satisfaction. You see it did not fundamentally matter to these
early missionaries whether their prospective converts "had excellent
customs" or "lived after a beastly manner," from a religious standpoint.
Not one atom--they were the sort of men who would have gone for Plato,
Socrates, and all the Classics gaily, holding that they were not
Christians as they ought to be; but this never caused them to paint a
distorted portrait of the African. This thing, I believe, the modern
philanthropist has induced the modern missionary only too frequently to
do, and the other regrettable element which has induced him to do it
has been the apathy of the English public, a public which unless it were
stirred up by horrors would not subscribe. Again the blame is with
England at home, but the harm done is paid for in West Africa. The
portrait painted of the African by the majority, not all, but the
majority of West African mission reports, has been that of a child,
naturally innocent, led away and cheated by white traders and grievously
oppressed by his own rulers. I grant you, the African taken as a whole
is the gentlest kind of real human being that is made. I do not however
class him with races who carry gentleness to a morbid extent, and for
governmental purposes you must not with any race rely on their main
characteristic alone; for example, Englishmen are honest, yet still we
require the police force.

The evil worked by what we must call the missionary party is almost
incalculable; from it has arisen the estrangement of English interests,
as represented by our reason for adding West Africa to our Empire at
all--the trader--and the English Government as represented by the Crown
Colony system; and it has also led to our present policy of destroying
powerful native States and the power of the African ruling classes at
large. Secondarily it is the cause of our wars in West Africa. That this
has not been and is not the desire of the mission party it is needless
to say; that the blame is directly due to the Crown Colony system it is
as needless to remark; for any reasonable system of its age would long
ere now have known the African at first hand, not as it knows him, and
knows him only, at its head-quarters, London, from second-hand vitiated
reports. It has, nowadays, at its service the common sense and humane
opinions of the English trade lords as represented by the Chambers of
Commerce of Liverpool and Manchester; but though just at present it
listens to what they say--thanks to Mr. Chamberlain--yet it cannot act
on their statements, but only querulously says, "Your information does
not agree with our information." Allah forbid that the information of
the party with whom I have had the honour to be classed should agree
with that sort of information from other sources; and I would naturally
desire the rulers of West Africa to recognise the benefit they now enjoy
of having information of a brand that has not led to such a thing as the
Sierre Leone outbreak for example, and to remember in this instance that
six months before the hut tax there was put on, the Chambers had
strongly advised the Government against it, and had received in reply
the answer that "The Secretary of State sees no reason to suppose that
the hut tax will be oppressive, or that it will be less easy to collect
in Sierra Leone than in Gambia." Why, you could not get a prophetic
almanac into a second issue if it were not based on truer knowledge than
that which made it possible for such a thing to be said. Nevertheless,
no doubt this remarkable sentence was written believing the same to be
true, and confiding in the information in the hands of the Colonial
Office from the official and philanthropic sources in which the Office


   [59] _Wanderings in West Africa_, vol. i., 1863.



Wherein is set down the other, or main, reason against this system.

Having attempted to explain the internal evils or what one might call
the domestic rows of the Crown colony system, I will pass on to the
external evils--which although in a measure consequent on the internal
are not entirely so, and this point cannot be too clearly borne in mind.
Tinker it up as you may, the system will remain one pre-eminently
unsuited for the administration of West Africa.

You might arrange that officials working under it should be treated
better than the official now is, and the West African service be brought
into line in honour with the Indian, and afford a man a good sound
career. You might arrange for the Chambers of Commerce, representing the
commercial factor, to have a place in Colonial Office councils. But if
you did these things the Crown colony system would still remain unsuited
to West Africa, because it is a system intrinsically too expensive in
men and money, so that the more you develop it the more expensive it
becomes. Concerning this system as applied to the West Indies a West
Indian authority the other day said it was putting an elephant to draw a
goat chaise; concerning the West African application of it, I should
say it was trying to open a tin case with a tortoise-shell paper knife.
Of course you will say I am no authority, and you must choose between
those who will tell you that only a little patience is required and the
result of the present governmental system in West Africa will blossom
into philanthropic and financial successes, and me who say it cannot do
so but must result in making West Africa a debt-ridden curse to England.
All I can say for myself is that I am animated by no dislike to any set
of men and without one farthing's financial interest in West Africa. It
would not affect my income if you were to put 100 per cent. ad valorem
duty on every trade article in use on the Coast and flood the Coast with
officials, paid as men should be paid who have to go there, namely, at
least three times more than they are at present. My dislike to the
present state of affairs is solely a dislike to seeing my country, to my
mind, make a fool of herself, wasting men's lives in the process and
deluding herself with the idea that the performance will repay her.

Personally, I cannot avoid thinking that before you cast yourself in a
whole-souled way into developing anything you should have a knowledge of
the nature of the thing as it is on scientific lines. Education and
development unless backed by this knowledge are liable to be thrown
away, or to produce results you have no use for. I remember a
distressing case that occurred in West Africa and supports my opinion. A
valued friend of mine, a seaman of great knowledge and experience, yet
lacking in that critical spirit which inquires into the nature of things
before proceeding with them, confident alone in the rectitude of his own
intentions, bought a canary bird at a Canary Island. He knew that the
men who sell canaries down there are up to the sample description of
deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. So he brought to bear
upon the transaction a deal of subtlety, but neglected fundamental
facts, whereby his triumph at having, on the whole, done the canary
seller brown by getting him to take in part value for the bird a box of
German colonial-grown cigars, was vanity. For weeks that gallant seaman
rubbed a wet cork up and down an empty whisky bottle within the hearing
of the bird, which is the proper thing to do providing things are all
right in themselves, and yet nothing beyond genial twitterings rewarded
his exertions. So he rubbed on for another week with even greater
feeling and persuasive power, and then, to drop a veil upon this tragedy
of lost endeavour, that canary laid an egg. Now, if that man had only
attended to the nature of things and seen whether it were a cock or hen
bird, he would not have been subjected to this grievous disappointment.
Similarly, it seems to me, we are, from the governmental point of view,
like that sea captain--swimming about in the West African affair with a
lot of subtle details, in an atmosphere of good intentions, but not in
touch with important facts; we are acting logically from faulty

Now, let us grant that the Crown Colony system is not fully developed in
West Africa, for if it were, you may say, it would work all right;
though this I consider a most dangerous idea. Let us see what it would
be if it were fully developed.

Mr. St. Loe Strachey[60] thus defines Crown Colonies:--"These are
possessions which are for the most part peopled by non-European races of
dark colour, and governed not by persons elected by themselves, but by a
governor and other officials sent out from England. The reason for this
difference is a very simple one. Those colonies which are peopled by men
of English and European races can provide themselves with a better
government than we can provide them with from here. Hence they are given
responsible governments.

"Those colonies in which the English or European element is very small
can best be governed, it is found, by the Crown Colony system. The
native, dark-skinned population are not fit to govern themselves--they
are too ignorant and too uncivilised, and if the government is left
entirely in the hands of the small number of whites who may happen to
live in the colony, they are apt not to take enough care of the
interests of the coloured inhabitants. The simplest form of the Crown
Colony is that found in some of the smaller groups of islands in the
West Indies. Here a governor is sent out from England, and he--helped by
a secretary, a judge, and other officials--governs the island, reporting
his actions to the Colonial Office, and consulting the able officials
there before he takes important steps. In most cases, however, the
governor has a council, either nominated from among the principal
persons in the colony, or else elected by the inhabitants. In some
cases--Jamaica or Barbadoes, for example--the council has very great
power, and the type of government may be said to approach that of the
self-governing colonies."

Now, in West Africa the system is the same as that "found in some of the
smaller groups of the West Indian islands," although these West African
colonies have each a nominated council of some kind. I should hesitate
to say, however, "to assist the governor." Being nominated by him they
can usually manage to agree with him; it is only another hindrance or
superfluous affair. Before taking any important steps the West African
governor is supposed to consult the officials at the Colonial Office;
but as the Colonial Office is not so well informed as the governor
himself is, this can be no help to him if he be a really able man, and
no check on him if he be not an able man. For, be he what he may, he is
the representative of the Colonial Office; he cannot, it is true,
persuade the Colonial Office to go and involve itself in rows with
European continental powers, because the Office knows about them; but if
he is a strong-minded man with a fad he can persuade the Colonial Office
to let him try that fad on the natives or the traders, because the
Colonial Office does not know the natives nor the West African trade.

You see, therefore, you have in the Governor of a West African
possession a man in a bad position. He is aided by no council worth
having, no regular set of experts; he is held in by another council
equally non-expert, except in the direction of continental politics. He
may keep out of mischief; he could, if he were given either time or
inducement to study the native languages, laws, and general ethnology of
his colony, do much good; but how can he do these things, separated from
the native population as he necessarily is, by his under officials, and
with his time taken up, just as every official's time is taken up under
the Crown Colony system, with a mass of red-tape clerkwork that is
unnecessary and intrinsically valueless? I do not pretend to any
personal acquaintance with English West African Governors. I only look
on their affairs from outside, but I have seen some great men among
them. One of them who is dead would, I believe, had the climate spared
him, have become a man whom every one interested in West Africa would
have respected and admired. He came from a totally different region, the
Straits Settlements. He found his West African domain in a lethargic
mess, and he hit out right and left, falling, like the rain, on the just
and the unjust. I do not wish you to take his utterances or his actions
as representing him; but from the spirit of them it is clear he would
have become a great blessing to the Coast had he but lived long enough.
I am aware he was unpopular from his attempts to enforce the ill-drafted
Land Ordinance, but primarily responsible for this ill-judged thing he
was not.

In addition to Sir William Maxwell there have been, and are still, other
Governors representative of what is best in England; but, circumstanced
as they are under this system, continually interrupted as their work is
by death or furloughs home, neither England nor West Africa gets
one-tenth part of the true value of these men.

In addition to the Governor, there are the other officials, medical,
legal, secretarial, constabulary, and customs. The majority of these are
engaged in looking after each other and clerking. Clerking is the breath
of the Crown Colony system, and customs what it feeds on. Owing to the
climate it is practically necessary to have a double staff in all these
departments,--that is what the system would have if it were perfect; as
it is, some official's work is always being done by a subordinate; it
may be equally well done, but it is not equally well paid for, and there
is no continuity of policy in any department, except those which are
entirely clerk, and the expense of this is necessarily great. The main
evil of this want of continuity is of course in the Governors--a
Governor goes out, starts a new line of policy, goes home on furlough
leaving in charge the Colonial Secretary, who does not by all means
always feel enthusiastic towards that policy; so it languishes. Governor
comes back, goes at it again like a giant refreshed, but by no means
better acquainted with local affairs for having been away; then he goes
home again, or dies, or gets a new appointment; a brand new Governor
comes out, he starts a new line of policy, perhaps has a new Colonial
Secretary into the bargain; anyhow the thing goes on wavering, not
advancing. The only description I have heard of our policy in West
African Colonies that seems to me to do it justice is that given by a
medical friend of mine, who said it was a coma accompanied by fits.

Of course this would not be the case if the Colonial Office had a
definite detailed policy of its own, and merely sent out men to carry it
out; but this the Colonial Office has not got and cannot have, because
it has not got the scientific and commercial facts of West Africa in its
possession. It has therefore to depend on the Governors it sends out;
and these, as aforesaid, are men of divers minds. One Governor is truly
great on drains; he spends lots of money on them. Another Governor
thinks education and a cathedral more important; during his reign drains
languish. Yet another Governor comes along and says if there are schools
wanted they should be under non-sectarian control, but what is wanted is
a railway; and so it goes on, and of course leads to an immense waste of
money. And this waste of money is a far more serious thing than it
looks; for it is from it that the policy has arisen, of increasing
customs dues to a point that seriously hampers trade development, and
the far more serious evil of attempting directly as well as indirectly
to tax the native population.

I am bound to say I believe any ordinary Englishman would be fairly
staggered if he went out to West Africa and saw what there was to show
for the expenditure of the last few years in our Crown Colonies
there,[61] and knew that all that money had been honestly expended in
the main, that none of it had been appropriated by the officials, that
they had only had their pay, and that none too great.

But, you will say, after all, if West Africa is as rich as it is said to
be, surely it can stand a little wasteful expenditure, and support an
even more expensive administration than it now has. All I can say is,
that it can stand wasteful expenditure, but only up to a certain point,
which is now passed; it would perhaps be more true to say it could stand
wasteful expenditure before the factor of the competition of French and
German colonies alongside came in; and that a wasteful expenditure that
necessitates unjust methods of raising revenue, such as direct taxation
on the natives, is a thing West Africa will not stand at all. Of course
you can do it; you can impose direct taxation on the native population,
but you cannot make it financially pay to do so; for one thing, the
collection of that tax will require a considerable multiplication of
officials black and white, the black section will by their oppressive
methods engender war, and the joint body will consume more than the
amount that can be collected. From a fiscal standpoint direct taxation
of a non-Mohammedanised or non-Christianised community is rank
foolishness, for reasons known to every ethnologist. As for the natural
riches of West Africa, I am a profound believer in them, and regard West
Africa, taken as a whole, as one of the richest regions in the world;
but, as Sir William Maxwell said, "I am convinced that, from causes
wholly unpreventable, West Africa is and must remain a place with
certain peculiar dangers of its own"[62]; therefore it requires most
careful, expert handling. It is no use your trying to get its riches out
by a set of hasty amateur experiments; it is no use just dumping down
capital on it and calling these goings on "Developing the resources," or
"Raising the African in the plane of civilisation;" because these goings
on are not these things, they are but sacrifices on the altars of folly
and idleness.

Properly managed, those parts of West Africa which our past apathy has
left to us are capable of being made into a group of possessions before
which the direct value to England, in England, of all the other regions
that we hold in the world would sink into insignificance.

Sir William Maxwell, when he referred to "causes wholly unpreventable,"
was referring mainly to the unhealthiness of West Africa. There seems no
escape from this great drawback. Every other difficulty connected with
it one can imagine removable by human activity and ingenuity--even the
labour difficulty--but, I fear, not so the fever. Although this is not a
thing to discourage England from holding West Africa, it is a thing
which calls for greater forethought in the administration of it than she
need give to a healthy region. In a healthy region it does not matter so
much whether there is an excess over requirements in the number of men
employed to administer it, but in one with a death rate of at least 35
per cent. of white men it does matter.

I confess it is this excessive expenditure of men which I dislike most
in the Crown Colony system, though I know it cannot help it; it is in
the make of the thing. If these men were even employed in some great
undertaking it would be less grievous; but they are many of them
entirely taken up with clerk work, and all of them have to waste a large
percentage of their time on it. Some of the men undoubtedly get to like
this, but it is a morbid taste. I know one of our possessions where the
officials even carry on their personal quarrels with each other on
government paper in a high official style, when it would be better if
they put aside an hour a week and went and punched each other's heads,
and gave the rest of their time to studying native law and languages and
pottering about the country getting up information on it at large, so
that the natives would become familiarised with the nature of Englishmen
first-hand, instead of being dependent for their knowledge of them on
interpreters and the set of subordinate native officials and native

I wish that it lay in my power to place before you merely a set of
figures that would show you the present state of our West African
affairs, but such figures do not exist. Practically speaking, there are
no reliable figures for West African affairs. They are not cooked, but
you know what figures are--unless they be complete and in their proper
stations, they are valueless.

The figures we have are those which appear in "The Colonial Annual
Series" of reports. These are not annual; for example, the Gold Coast
one was not published for three years; but no matter, when they are
published they are misleading enough, unless you know things not
mentioned in them but connected with them. However, we will just run
through the figures published for one West African Crown Colony. For
many reasons I am sorry to have to take those regarding Sierra Leone,
but I must, as at present they are the most correct available.

Now the element of error which must be allowed for in these arises from
the proximity of the French colony of French Guinea, which is next door
to Sierra Leone. That colony has been really developing its exports.
Goods have, up to last year, come out through our colony of Sierra
Leone, and have been included with the exports of Sierra Leone itself,
though Sierra Leone has not dwelt on this interesting fact. And,
equally, since 1890 goods going into French Guinea have gone in through
Sierra Leone, and though traceable with care, have been put in with the
total of the imports. So you see it is a little difficult to find out
whether it has been French Guinea or Sierra Leone that has really been
doing the trade mentioned in the figures.

Nevertheless, it has been customary to take these joint, mixed up
figures and get happy over "the increase of trade in Sierra Leone during
the past ten years"; but a little calm consideration will prevent you
from falling into this idle error.

Personally I think that if you are cautious you will try and estimate
the trade by the exports; for among the imports there are Government
stores, railway material, &c., things that will have some day to be paid
for, because it is the rule not to assist a colony under the system
until it has been reduced to a West Indian condition; whereas the
exports give you the buying power of the colony, and show the limits of
the trade which may be expected to be done under existing conditions.
Now, the annual total exports during the five years ending--

          1875, amounted in value to, £396,709
          1880,     "     "     "     £368,855
          1885,     "     "     "     £386,848
          1890,     "     "     "     £333,390
          1895,     "     "     "     £435,175

These figures show for the twenty-five years an increase of less than 10
per cent., or about 1/2 per cent, per annum; and this is not so very
thrilling when one comes to think that that 10 per cent., and probably
more, is showing the increase in the trade not of Sierra Leone, but of
French Guinea, and remembers that in 1874 the exports were £481,894, an
amount they have not since touched.

Then again even in error you are never quite sure if your Colonial
Annual is keeping line; sometimes you will get one by a careful
conscientious secretary who takes no end of trouble, and tells you lots
of things which you would like to hear about next year, only next year
you don't. For example, in Sierra Leone affairs the report for 1887 gave
you the imports for consumption in the colony, while that of 1896
represented the total imports, including those afterwards shipped to
French Guinea and elsewhere; and again, in estimating the value of the
imports Gambia adds the cost of freight and insurance to the invoice
value of imports, and the cost of package to the declared value of
exports. So far, only Gambia does this, but at any moment an equally
laudable spirit might develop in one of the other colonies, and cause
further distraction to the student of their figures.

Besides these clerking errors of omission, there is a constant
unavoidable error arising from the so-called smuggling done by the
native traders in the hinterland. Remember that colonies which you see
neatly enough marked on a map of West Africa with French, English,
German, are not really each surrounded by a set of Great Walls of China.
For example, under the present arrangement with France, if France keeps
to that beautiful Article IX. in the Niger Convention and does not tax
English goods more than she at present taxes French goods on the Ivory
coast--cottons of English manufacture will be able to be sold 10 per
cent. cheaper in the French territory than in the adjacent English Gold

Up to the present time it has paid the native hinterland trader to come
down into the Gold Coast and buy his cotton goods, for English cottons
suit his West African markets better than other makes, that is to say
they have a higher buying power; and then he went down into the French
Ivory Coast and bought his spirits and guns, which were cheaper there
because of lower duty. Having got his selection together he went off and
did business with the raw material sellers, and sold the raw material he
had purchased back to the two Coasts from which he had bought his
selection, sending the greater part of it to the best market for the
time being. Now you have changed that, or, rather, you have given France
the power to change it by selling English cottons cheaper than they can
be sold in your own possessions, and thereby rendered it unnecessary for
the hinterland traders to buy on the Gold Coast at all. It will remain
necessary for him to buy on the Ivory Coast, for spirits and guns he
must have; and if he can get his cottons at the same place as he gets
these, so much the better for him. It is doubtful, however, whether
henceforth it will be worth his while to come down and sell his raw
material in your possessions at all. He may browse around your interior
towns and suck the produce out of them, but it will be to the enrichment
of the French colony next door; and, of course, as things are even now,
this sort of thing, which goes on throughout all the various colonies of
France, England, Germany and Portugal, does not tend to give true value
to the official figures concerning trade published by any one of them.

I have no intention, however, of dwelling on the various methods
employed by native smugglers with a view to aiding their suppression. It
may be a hereditary taint contracted by my ancestors while they
sojourned in Devon, it may be private personal villainy of my own; but
anyhow, I never feel, as from an official standpoint I ought, towards
smugglers. I do not ask you to regard the African native trader as a
sweet innocent who does not realise the villainy of his doings,--he
knows all about it; but only once did I feel harshly towards him over
smuggling. A native trader had arranged to give me a lift, as it were,
in his canoe, and I noticed, with a flattered vanity and a feeling of
gratitude, how very careful he had been to make me quite comfortable in
the stern, with a perfect little nest of mats and cloths. When we
reached our destination and that nest was taken to pieces, I saw that
what you might call the backbone of the affair was three kegs of
gunpowder, a case of kerosine, and some packages of lucifer matches.
That rascal fellow black, as Barbot would call him, had expected we
should meet the customs patrol boat, and, basely encroaching on the
chivalry of the white man towards the white woman judged that I and my
nest would not be overhauled. If there had been a guardian cherub for
the Brussels Convention or for Customs doubtless I should have been
blown sky high and have afforded material for a moral tale called "The
Smuggler's Awful End," but there are no cherubs who watch over Customs
or the Brussels Convention in West Africa and I have no intention of
volunteering for such an appointment.

But to return to the Sierra Leone finances and the relationship which
the expenditure of that colony bears to the revenue. The increase in the
imports is apparently the thing depended on to justify the idea that as
the trade has increased the governmental expenditure has a right to do
so likewise. The imports increase in 1896 is given as £90,683. From this
you must deduct for railway material, £26,000, and for the increased
specie import, £19,591, which leaves you an increase of imports of
£45,092 from 1887-1896, and remember a good percentage of this remainder
of £45,092 belongs to French Guinea.

Now the expenditure on the government of Sierra Leone has increased from
£58,534 in 1887 to £116,183, being an increase at the rate of 99.1 per
cent., whereas the exports during the same period have increased at the
rate of 34.8 per cent, or from £333,157 to £449,033.

In other words, whereas in 1887 the government expenditure amounted to
17.5 per cent, the exports in 1896 amounted to 25.4 per cent. The sum of
£40,579 of this increase is credited to police, gaols, transport, and
public works;[63] and if this is to be the normal rate of increase, the
prospects of the colony are serious; for it contains no rich mineral
deposit as far as is at present known, nor are there in it any great
native states. As far as we know, Sierra Leone must for an immense
period depend on bush products collected by the natives, whose trade
wants are only a few luxuries. For it must be remembered that in all
these West African colonies there is not one single thing Europeans can
sell to the natives that is of the nature of a true necessity, a thing
the natives must have or starve. There is but one thing that even
approaches in the West African markets to what wheat is in our own--that
thing is tobacco. Next in importance to it, but considerably lower, is
the group of trade articles--gunpowder, guns, and spirits, next again
salt, and below these four staples come Manchester goods and
miscellanies; the whole of the rest that lies in the power of
civilisation to offer to the West African markets are things that are
luxuries, things that will only be purchased by the native when he is in
a state of prosperity. This subject I have, however, endeavoured to
explain elsewhere.[64]

We have for Sierra Leone, fortunately, a scientific authority to refer
to on this matter of the natural resources of the country, and the
amount of the natural riches we may presume we can take into account
when arranging fiscal matters. This authority is the report of Mr.
Scott-Elliott on the district traversed by the Anglo-French Boundary

Regarding mineral, the report states "that the only mineral of
importance is iron, of which the country appears to contain a very large
amount. There is a particularly rich belt of titaniferous iron ore in
the hills behind Sierra Leone."

Titaniferous iron is an excellent thing in its way, and good for steel
making; but it exists nearer home and in cheaper worked regions than
Sierra Leone.

The soil is grouped by the report into three classes:

"1. That of the plateaux and hills above 2,000, or sometimes descending
to 1,000 feet, which is due to the disintegration of gneiss and granite

"2. The red laterite which covers almost invariably all the lower hills
from the sea level to 1,000 or 2,000 feet.

"3. The alluvium, due either to the action of the mangroves along the
coast, or to rivers and streams inland."

These soils are capable of and do produce fine timber, rubber, oil and
rice, and the general tropical food stuffs, but these, except the three
first, are not very valuable export articles. Whether it is possible to
enhance the agricultural value of the alluvium regions by growing
tobacco, jute, coffee, cocoa, cotton and sugar, for export, is by some
authorities regarded as doubtful on account of the labour problem; but
at any rate, if these industries were taken in hand on a large scale, a
scale sufficient materially to alter the resources of a West African
colony, they would require many years of fostering, and it would be long
before they could contribute greatly to the resources of such a colony
as Sierra Leone, in the face of the organised production and cheaper
labour, wherewith the supply now in the markets of Europe could be
competed with.

I have had the advantage of associating with German and Portuguese and
French planters of coffee and cocoa. These are the planters who up to
the present have been the most successful in West Africa. I do not say
because they are better men, but because they have better soils and
better labour than there is in our colonies. By these gentlemen I have
been industriously educated in soils, &c.; and from what I have learnt
about this matter I am bound regretfully to say that most of the soil of
the English possessions is not really rich, taken in the main. There are
in places patches of rich soil; and the greater part of our soil will be
all the better this day 10,000 years hence; but at present the soil is
mainly sour clay, slime and skin soils, skin soils over rock, skin soils
over sour clay, skin soils over water-logged soil. We have, alas, not
got the rich volcanic earth of Cameroon, Fernando Po, and San Thome and
Principe. The natives who work the soil understand it fairly well, and
negro agriculture is in a well-developed state, and their farms are most
carefully tended and well kept. The rule along the Bight of Benin and
Biafra is to change the soil of the farm at least every third year; this
they do by cutting down a new bit of bush, burning the bush on the
ground at the end of the dry season, and planting the crops. The old
farm is then allowed to grow bush or long grass, whichever the
particular district goes in for, until the time comes to work back on
that piece of land again, when the bush which has grown is in its turn
cut down and the ground replanted. This burning of the trees or grass is
clearly regarded by the native agriculturist as manuring; it is
practically the only method of manuring available for them in a country
where cattle in quantities are not kept. It is a wasteful way with
timber and rubber growing on the ground of course; but not so wildly
wasteful as it looks, for your Negro agriculturist does not go to make
his farm on bits of forest that require very hard clearing work. He
clears as easily as he can by means of collecting the great fluffy seed
bunches of a certain tree which are inflammable and adding to them all
the other inflammable material he can get; he then places these bonfires
in the bit of forest he wants to clear and sets fire to them on a
favourable night, when the proper sort of breeze is blowing to fan the
flames; when the conflagration is over, he fells a few of the trees and
leaves the rest standing scorched but not killed. Moreover, of course an
African gentleman cannot go and make his farm anywhere he likes: he has
to stick to the land which belongs to his family, and work round and
round on that. This gives a highly untidy aspect to the family estate,
you might think; considering the extent of it, a very small percentage
must be kept under cultivation and the rest neglected. But this is not
really so; if you were to go and take away from him a bit of the
neglected land, you would be taking his farm, say for the year after
next and grievously inconvenience him, and he would know it.

The native method of making farms does not, indeed, do so much harm in
well-watered, densely-populated regions like those of Sierra Leone or
the Niger Delta; but it does do an immense amount of harm in regions
that are densely populated and require to make extensive farms, more
particularly in the regions of Lagos and the Gold Coast, where the
fertile belt is only a narrow ribbon, edged on the one side by the sand
sea of the Sahara, and on the other by the salt sea of the South
Atlantic. You can see the result of it in the district round Accra,
which has always been heavily populated; for hundreds of years the
forest has been kept down by agricultural enterprise. Consequences are,
the rainfall is now diminished to a point that threatens to extinguish
agriculture, at any rate, a sufficient agriculture to support the local
population; and it is not too much to say you can read on the face of
the Accra plain famines to come. There is little reason to doubt that
both the African deserts, the Sahara and the Kalahari, are advancing
towards the Equator. Round Loanda you come across a sand-logged region
of some fifty square miles, where you get the gum shed by forests that
have gone, humanly speaking, never to return; human agency is largely
responsible, it is like sawing the branch of a tree partially through,
and then the wind breaks it off. Forest destruction in lands adjacent to
deserts is the same thing; the forest is destroyed to a certain extent,
an extent that diminishes the rainfall and makes it unable to resist the
desert winds, and then--finis.

In the regions of the double rains in the great forest belt of Africa
things are different, so you cannot generalise for West Africa at large
in this matter. It is one thing for forest destruction to go on in the
Gold Coast, quite another for it to go on in Calabar or Congo Français,
where men fight back the forest as Dutchmen fight the sea.

But I apologise. This, you will say, is not connected with Governmental
expenditure, &c.; but it is to me a more amusing subject, and indirectly
has a bearing; for example, Government expenditure in the direction of
instituting a Forestry Department would be right enough in some regions,
but unnecessary in others.

To return to this agriculture in Sierra Leone. Well, it is, like all
West African agriculture, spade husbandry. It is concerned with the
cultivation of vegetables for human consumption alone. In the interior
of Sierra Leone and throughout the Western Soudan, for which Sierra
Leone was once a principal port, there is a fair cattle country, and an
old established one, as is shown by the exports of hides mentioned in
the writers of the seventeenth century. Yet it would be idle for the
most enthusiastic believer in West Africa to pretend that the Western
Soudan is coming on to compete with Argentina or Australia in the export
of frozen meat; the climate is against it, and therefore this cattle
country can only be represented in trade in a hide and horn export.
Wool--as the sheep won't wear it, preferring hair instead and that of
poor quality--need not I think be looked forward to from West Africa at

I have taken the published accounts of Sierra Leone, because, as I have
said, they are the most complete. They are also, in the main, the most
typical. It is true that Sierra Leone has not the gold wealth, nor the
developing timber industry of the Gold Coast; but if you ignore French
Guinea, and include the things belonging to it with the Sierra Leone
totals, you will get a fairly equivalent result. Lagos has not yet shown
a mineral export, but it and the Gold Coast have shown of late years an
immensely increased export of rubber. Rubber, oil, and timber are the
three great riches of our West African possessions, the things that may
be relied on, as being now of great value and capable of immense
expansion. But these things can only be made serviceable to the markets
of the world and a source of riches to England by the co-operation of
the natives of the country. In other words, you must solve the labour
problem on the one hand, and increase the prosperity of the native
population on the other, in order to make West Africa pay you back the
value of the life and money already paid for her. This solution of the
labour problem and this co-operation of the natives with you, the Crown
Colony system will never gain for you, because it is too expensive for
you and unjust to them, not intentionally, not vindictively nor
wickedly, but just from ignorance. It destroys the native form of
society, and thereby disorganises labour. It has no power of
re-organising it. You hear that people are leaving Coomassie and Benin,
instead of flocking in to those places, as they were expected to after
the destruction of the local tyrannies. English influence in West
Africa, represented as it now is by three separate classes of
Englishmen, with no common object of interest, or aim in policy, is not
a thing capable of re-organising so difficult a region. I have taken the
Sierra Leone figures because, as I have said, they are the most complete
and typical, and the state of the trade and the expenditure on the
Government are those prior to the hut tax war. So they cannot be
ascribed to it, nor can the plea be lodged that the expenditure was an
enforced one. These figures merely show you the thing that led up to the
hut tax war and the heavy enforced expenditure it has and will entail,
and my reason for detaining you with them is the conviction that a
similar policy pursued in our other colonies will lead to the same
results--the destruction of trade and the imposition on the colonies of
a debt that their natural resources cannot meet unless we are prepared
to go in for forced labour and revert to the slave trade policy.

It seems clear enough that our present policy in the Crown Colonies, of
a rapidly increasing expenditure in the face of a steadily falling
trade, must necessarily lead our Government to seek for new sources of
revenue beyond customs dues. New sources under our present system can
only be found in direct taxation of the native population; the result of
this is now known.

I will not attempt to deal fully with the figures we possess for our
remaining Crown Colonies in Western Africa,--Gambia, the Gold Coast, and
Lagos,--but merely refer to a few points regarding them that have so far
been published. When the result of the policy pursued in these colonies
leads to the inevitable row, and the figures are dealt with by competent
men, there is, to my mind, no doubt that a state equal to that of Sierra
Leone as a fool's paradise will be discovered; and the deplorable part
of the thing is, that the trade palavers of the Chambers and the
Colonial Office will give to hasty politicians the idea that West Africa
is not worthy of Imperial attention, and large quantities of the blame
for this failure of our colonies will be put down quite unjustly to
French interference. That French interference has troubled our colonies
there, no one will attempt to deny; or that if it had been acting on
them when they were in a healthy state it would merely have had a tonic
effect, as it has had on the Royal Niger Company's territories; but,
acting on the Crown Colonies in their present state, French influence
has naturally been poisonous. Even I, not given to sweet mouth as I am,
shrink from saying what has been the true effect on the Crown Colonies
of England of the policy pursued by us towards French advance. This only
will I say, that the French policy is no discredit to France. Regarding
the financial condition of Gambia it is not necessary for us to worry
ourselves. Gambia is a nuisance to France. She loves to have high dues,
and she cannot have them round Gambia way. She has had to encyst it, or
it would be to her Senegal and French Guinea possessions a regular main
to lay on smuggling. Knowing this she has encysted it; it pays better to
smuggle from French Guinea into Gambia or Sierra Leone than from Gambia
or Sierra Leone into the French possessions. This is a grave commercial
position for us, but to it is largely owing the advance of the
prosperity of these French possessions during the past three years.

The Gold Coast has on the west a French possession, the Ivory Coast, on
the east the German Togoland. Togo is a narrow strip, and to its east
and surrounding it to the north is the French colony of Dahomey, whose
recent expansion has told heavily on its next-door neighbours, both Togo
and the English colony to the east, Lagos. I give below the latest
available figures for the foreign West African possessions.[66]

Unfortunately there are no figures available for the French Sudan which
would represent the real value of the trade; the total value of trade
is, however, considerable. You must remember that in dealing with French
colonies you are dealing with those of a nation not gifted with
commercial intelligence; and that, in spite of the perpetual hampering
of trade in French colonies, the granting of concessions to French firms
who have not the capital to work them, but are only able to prevent any
one else doing so, the high differential tariffs, in some cases 100 per
cent., which up to the present time have been levied on English goods,
&c.; the English traders nevertheless work in the markets of the French
colonies, and work mainly on French goods. Of the £117,518 representing
the Ivory Coast trade for the first quarter of this year, over £76,000
was English trade, and of the Dahomey £156,835 for the same period,
£131,705. In reading the imports figures for these French colonies in
Upper Guinea, you must remember that those imports include material for
the well directed, unamiable intention of France to cut us off from what
she regards as her own Western Soudan; it is a form of investment far
more profitable than our expenditure on railways, gaols, prisons, and
frontier police. It is one that, presuming this highly unlikely
thing--France becoming commercially intelligent--would any year now
enable her entirely to pocket the West African trade down to Lagos from
Senegal. She may do it at any moment, though it is a very remote
possibility. So we will return to the Gold Coast finances, though our
authorities on them are at present meagre.

In 1892 the Gold Coast government was financially in a flourishing
condition. On the 1st of January, 1891, there was a sum of £75,181
4_s._ 4_d._ standing to the credit of the colony, which was increased to
£127,796 2_s._ 3_d._ on the 1st of January, 1892, and to £152,766 16_s._
7_d._ on the 1st of January, 1893, and the colony had no public debt.
There was no native direct taxation. The Customs dues were lower than
they are now. The extremely careful official who drew up the report
shows evidence of realising that Customs represent an indirect taxation
on the native population, for he says: "In Sierra Leone and Lagos the
taxation per head is very much higher (than 2_s._ 5_d._ per head), in
the former nine times, and in the latter seven times."[67] However, in
all three colonies, apart from the attempts at direct taxation, the
indirect taxation on the native has considerably increased by now.

The report for 1894 shows the colony still progressing rapidly, the
trade of it amounting in value to £1,663,173 19_s._ 9_d._, of which
£812,830 8_s._ 10_d._ represented the imports, and £850,343 10_s._
11_d._ the exports. The expenditure showed a large increase as compared
with previous years. It amounted to £226,931 19_s._ 4_d._, being £8,670
13_s._ 7_d._ in excess of the revenue for the year, and £47,997 7_s._
11_d._ more than in 1893. The principal items of increase were public
works, upon which the sum of £54,163 0_s._ 3_d._ was spent, and the
expedition in defence of the protected district of Attabubu against an
Ashanti invasion, which cost £10,778 11_s._ The Gold Coast assets on
31st of December, 1894, stood at £166,944 8_s._ 7_d._[68] Then came the
last Ashanti war, regarding which I beg to refer you to Dr. Freeman's
book.[69] No one can deny that he has both experience and intelligence
enough to justify him in offering his opinion on the matter. I entirely
accept his statements from my knowledge of native affairs elsewhere in
West Africa. Anyhow, the last Ashanti war absorbed a good deal of the
assets of the Gold Coast. There is no published authority to cite, but I
do not think there is an asset now standing to the credit of the Gold
Coast Colony, unless it be a loan.

The income for the Gold Coast Colony in 1896 was £237,460 6_s._ 7_d._,
the expenditure £282,277 15_s._ 9_d._ The exports £792,111, against
£877,804 in 1895; but the imports were £910,000, against £981,537. Since
1896 the Customs dues have risen; but, _per contra_, the expenditure has
also risen, in consequence of the expenses arising from the occupation
of Ashanti, and the Gold Coast railway. The occupation of Ashanti and
the railway must be looked on in the light of investments--investments
that will be profitable or unprofitable, according to their
administration, which one must trust will be careful, for they are both
things you cannot just dump your money down on and be done with, for the
up-keep expenses of both are necessarily large.

The subject of West African railways is one that all who are interested
in the future of our possessions there should study most carefully, for
two main reasons. Firstly, that there is possibly no other way in which
money can be spent so unprofitably and extensively as on railways in
such a region. Secondly, because railways are in several districts
there--districts with no water carriage possibilities--simply essential
to the expansion of trade. In other words, if you make your railway
through the right district, in the right way, it is a thing worth
having, a sound investment. If you do not, it is a thing you are better
without; not an investment, but an extravagance. The cost of its
construction must fall on the colony, alike in money and the
distraction, from ordinary trade, of the local labour supply. In both
countries the cost of a railway out there is necessarily great. I
hastily beg to observe I am not aiming at a rivalry with Martin Tupper
in saying this, but am only driven to it by so many people in their
haste saying "Oh, for goodness gracious sake! let the Government make a
railway anywhere; it's done little enough for us, and any railway is
better than none."

There has been considerable difficulty over the Gold Coast Railway
already, though it is only just now entering on the phase of actual
existence. Surveys have been made for it in all directions. Surveys are
expensive things out there. But the general idea the Government gave the
Chambers of Commerce was that, at any rate, this railway was to run up
into Ashanti, and be a great general trade artery for the Colony. The
other day Manchester found out, quite unexpected like, that the
Government whose affections Commerce had regarded as safely and properly
set on the hinterland trade was off, if you please, flirting round the
corner with a group of gold mines at Tarquah, and intended, nay, was
even then proceeding with the undertaking of running the one and only
Gold Coast railway just up to Tarquah, and no further, until this
section paid. Manchester, very properly shocked at this fickleness in
the Government and its heartless abandonment of the hinterland trade,
said things, interesting and excited things, in its _Guardian_; but,
beyond illustrating the truth of the old adage that it's "well to be off
with the old love before you are on with the new," things of no avail.

This Tarquah railway is estimated to cost £5,000 per mile. It is to be
financed by a loan, raised by the Crown Colony Agents, of £250,000. We
have ample reason to believe that this £5,000 per mile will not
represent one-third of its final cost from demonstrations by the Uganda,
Congo Belge, and Senegal railways; more particularly are we so assured
from the knowledge that the railway's construction will be in the hands
of nominees of the Crown Agents, whose method of arranging for the
construction of these railways is curious. They do not invite tenders
for material or freight in the open market, and they do not give the
taxed people in the country itself any opportunity for contracting for
the supply of as much local material as possible--things it would be
alike fair and business-like to do. Exceedingly curious, moreover, is
the fact that the nominees of the Crown Agents' employers are not
subject to the control of the local governmental authorities on the
Coast, their sole connection with the affair apparently being confined
to the passing of ordinances, as per instruction from the Colonial
Office, authorising loans for the payment of the debt incurred by making
the railway.

There is no doubt that any Gold Coast railway which is ever to pay even
for its coal must run through a rich bit of the local gold reefs.
Similarly, there is no doubt that the gold mines of the Gold Coast have
been terribly kept back by lack of transport facilities for the
machinery necessary to work them; but there is, nevertheless, evidently
much that is unsound in the present railway scheme. If the charge for
it, as some suggest, were to be thrown on the gold mines, it would be as
heavy a charge as the old bad transport was, and they would be no less
hampered. If, as is most likely, the charge for the railway be thrown
on the general finance of the colony, it will be a drain on other forms
of trade, without in any way improving them; in fact, during its
construction, it will absorb labour from the general trade--oil, rubber,
and timber--and, if it extensively increases the gold-mining industry,
it will keep the labour tied to it chronically, to the disadvantage of
other trades.

Lagos, our next Crown Colony, is a very rich possession, and under Sir
Alfred Moloney, who discovered the use of the Kicksia Africana as a
rubber tree, and Sir Gilbert Carter, who fostered the industry and
opened the trade roads, sprang in a few years into a phenomenal
prosperity. Then came the French aggression on its hinterland, the
seizing of Nikki, which was one of those _foci_ of trade routes, though
possibly, as many have said, a non-fertile bit of country in itself. To
give you some idea of the bound up in prosperity made by Lagos, the
exports in 1892 were £577,083; in 1895, £985,595. The main advance has
been in rubber, which in 1896 was exported from Lagos to the value of
£347,721. Early in this year, however, the state of the Lagos trade was
considered so unsatisfactory that a local commission to inquire into the
causes of this state of affairs was appointed.

The publication of the Government Trade Returns for 1897 supported the
long grumble that had been going on about the bad state of trade in
Lagos, the imports for 1897 showing a decrease on those of 1895 by
£67,474. The _Board of Trade Journal_, quoting from the _Lagos Weekly
Record_ of February 28th, 1898, says, "An examination of the export
returns affords a clue to the direction of such decrease. It is to be
noted that notwithstanding that the export of rubber in 1897 shows an
excess of £13,367 above that exported in 1895, yet in the aggregate of
the total exports of the two years that of 1897 shows a decrease of
£193,745; this is due to the great falling off which is perceptible in
the palm oil and kernel trade, which together show a decrease in 1897 of
£162,580 as compared with the quantities exported in 1895; while as
compared with the exports in 1896 the decrease amounts to £114,773. The
returns show a steady and increasing decline in the exports of these
products, for while the decrease in 1896 as compared with 1895 was only
£47,807, the decrease had risen in 1897 as compared with the previous
year to £114,773, as already intimated, which implies that there has
been a further falling off of the trade to the extent of nearly £67,000.
This manifest excessive diminution in what must be regarded as the
staple commodities of the trade is undoubtedly a serious indication, for
though these commodities come under the classification of jungle
products they are not liable to exhaustion as are the rubber or timber
industries, and hence they form the only reliable commodities upon which
the trade must expand. The dislocation of the labour system in the
hinterland is no doubt responsible in a large measure for the falling
off in the yield of these products, while in many instances they have
been abandoned for the more remunerative rubber business. But, be the
circumstances what they may, it is evident that there has been an actual
decrease of trade to the extent of over £114,000."

This was the state of affairs the local committee was appointed to deal
with. Its discussions were long and careful. I will not attempt to drag
you through its final report, which a grossly ungrateful public in Lagos
sniffed at because it merely seemed carefully to reproduce every one's
opinion on the causes of the falling off of trade and to agree with it
solemnly; but, like the rest of the local world, it made no sweeping
suggestion of means whereby things could be altered. Since the
committee, however, was formed, there has been a greater interest taken
in expenditure, healthy in its way, but too often ignoring the fact,
that it is not so much the amount of money that is spent governmentally
that constitutes waste, but the things on which it is expended. Large
sums have been spent in Lagos, I am informed, on building a Government
House that every valuable Governor ought to be paid to keep out of, so
unhealthy is its situation, and again on bridging a lagoon that has no
particular sound bottom to it worth mentioning.

That such forms of expenditure are not the necessary grooves into which
a place like Lagos is driven in order to get rid of its money is
undoubted. The local press at any rate indicates other grooves; for
example here is a cheerful little paragraph:

"_A propos_ of what was said in your last issue about the grave-diggers,
there is no doubt that something should be done to relieve the men from
the strain of work to which they are continuously subjected. The demands
of a constantly increasing death rate, which has caused the cemeteries
to be enlarged, make it necessary that the number of grave-diggers
should be increased. Besides, these men are poorly paid for the work
they do. Of the twenty grave-diggers, six are paid at the rate of 1_s._
per diem, and the rest at the rate of 10_d._ They have no holidays,
either, like other people. While the Government labourers, of whom there
is a host, may skulk half their time, the hard-working grave-digger is
at it from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, Sundays included, for the Grim
Reaper is ever busy. The Keeper of the graveyards, also, has much to do
for the paltry salary he receives. I would earnestly appeal to the
authorities to do something to raise the burden of this overworked
staff."[70] So would I, but rather in the direction of giving the "Grim
Reaper" and the grave-diggers fewer people to bury. I must also give you
another beautiful little bit of local colour, although it suggests
further expenditure. "It is satisfactory to note that the Chamber of
Commerce intends to take up the question of the swamp near the petroleum
magazine. Since the Government made the causeway leading to the
dead-house and cut off the tidal inflow, the upper portion of the swamp
has been formed into a most noxious disease-breeding sink, into which
refuse of all kinds is thrown, the stagnant waters and refuse combining,
under the effects of the sun, to emit a most formidable pestilential
effluvia. In the interests of humanity something should be done to abate
this nuisance."[71]

However, I leave these local questions of Lagos town. They just present
a pretty picture of the difficulties that surround dealing with a place
that has by nature swamps, that must have dead-houses, grave-diggers,
and extensive cemetery accommodation, and that is peopled by natives who
will instinctively throw refuse into any hole; with evidently a large
death rate in the native population and a published death rate in whites
of 153 per thousand. Let us now return to the higher finance.

"The total expenditure of Lagos in 1888 amounted to £62,735 15_s._
11_d._ The expenditure has risen in 1898 to £192,760, which gives an
excess of £130,025. The total cost of the staff in 1888 was £15,932,
while the present cost amounts to £41,604, which is an increase of
£25,672. This increase, apart from the augmentation in the Governor's
salary, is mainly in respect to the following departments:--Secretariat,
Harbour Department, Constabulary and Police, and the Public Works
Department. The cost of working the secretariat has been increased by
£1,074, due to the following additional officers:--Two assistant
colonial secretaries, a chief clerk, and a first clerk. It is well known
that in 1888, when the department cost the colony about one-half its
present expenses as regards the European staff, the work was performed
with efficiency and despatch; while at present it is not only difficult
to get business got through, but, what is more, if the business is not
followed up with watchful care, it will become lost in the
superabundance of assistants and clerks who crowd the department, and
the practical expression of whose work is more discernible on the public
revenue than anything else."[72] The _Lagos Record_ goes on to say,
"There is room for retrenchment in the matter of expenditure on account
of the European official staff." I do not follow it here. It is room for
retrenchment in mere routine workers, black and white, that is wanted,
and the liberation of the Europeans to do work worth their risking their
lives in West Africa for. The percentage of black officials, mainly
clerks--excellent and faithful to their duties--is increasing in all our
colonies there too rapidly; and the existence of poorly paid but
numerous posts under Government with a certain amount of prestige, is a
dangerous allurement to native young men, tempting them from nobler
careers, and forming them into a sort of wall-class between the English
official and the main body of the native population. Take, for example,
the number of Government servants at the Gold Coast, according to Sir
William Maxwell, 1897;--

                     European   Native            Civil
                     officers.  clerks.  Hausas.  police.

          Accra         35       206      432      105
          Cape Coast     8        69        0       47
          Elmina         5        36       50       19

An awful percentage of clerks is 311 for such a country, more clerks
than police, only 121 less Government native clerks than soldiers in the
army; and you may depend upon it the white officials are clerking away,
more or less, too. I always think how very apposite the answer of an
official was to the criticism of excessive expenditure: "Sir, there is
no reckless expenditure; every J pen has to be accounted for!"

No, I am quite unable to agree that anything but the Crown Colony system
is to blame, and that because it is engaged in administering a district
with no possibilities in it for England save commercial matters, in
which the Crown Colony system is not well informed. I have only quoted
these figures to show you that Lagos and the Gold Coast are merely
keeping line with Sierra Leone--increasing their expenditure in the face
of a falling trade, with a dark trade future before them, on account of
French activity in cutting them off from their inland markets, and of
their own mismanagement of the native races.

The trade and the prosperity of West Africa depend on jungle products.
There is no more solid reason to fear the extinction of West Africa's
jungle products of oil, timber, fibre, rubber, than there is to worry
about the extinction of our own coal-fields--probably not so much--for
they rapidly renew themselves. Yes, even rubber, though that is slower
at it than palm oil and kernel; and at present not one-tenth part of the
jungle products are in touch with commerce; and save gold, and that to a
very small extent, the mineral wealth of West Africa is untouched. It is
not in all regions only titaniferous iron; there are silver, lead,
copper, antimony, quicksilver, and tin ores there unexploited, and which
it would not be advisable to attempt to exploit until the so-called
labour problem is solved. This problem is really that of the
co-operation for mutual benefit of the African and the Englishman. In
the solution of this problem alone lies the success of England in West
Africa, not of England herself, for England could survive the loss of
West Africa whole, though doing so would cost her dear alike in honour
and in profit. The Crown Colony system which now represents England in
West Africa will never give this solution. It necessarily destroys
native society, that is to say, it disorganises it, and has not in it
the power to reorganise. As I have already endeavoured to show, English
influence in West Africa, as represented by the Crown Colony system,
consists of three separate classes of Englishmen with no common object
of interest, and is not a thing capable of organising so difficult a
region. All these three classes, be it granted, each represent things
for the organisation of a State. No State can exist without having the
governmental, the religious, and the mercantile factors, working
together in it; but in West Africa these representatives of the English
State are things apart and opposed to each other, and do not constitute
a State. You might as well expect to get the functions of a State, good
government, out of these three disconnected classes of Englishmen in
Africa, as expect to know the hour of day from the parts of a watch
before they were put together.

You will see I have humbly attempted to place this affair before you
from no sensational point of view, but from the commercial one--the
value of West Africa to England's commerce--and have attempted to show
you how this is suffering from the adherence of England to a form of
government that is essentially un-English. I have made no attack on the
form of government for such regions formulated in England's more
intellectual though earlier period of Elizabeth, the Chartered Company
system as represented by the Royal Niger Company. I have neither shares
in, nor reason to attack the Royal Niger Company, which has in a few
years, and during the period of the hottest French enterprise, acquired
a territory in West Africa immensely greater than the territory acquired
during centuries under the Crown Colony system; it has also fought its
necessary wars with energy and despatch, and no call upon Imperial
resources; it has not only paid its way, but paid its shareholders their
6 per cent., and its bitterest enemies say darkly, far more. I know from
my knowledge of West Africa that this can only have been effected by its
wise native policy. I know that this policy owes its wisdom and its
success to one man, Sir George Taubman Goldie, a man who, had he been
under the Crown Colony system, could have done no more than other men
have done who have been Governors under it; but, not being under it, the
territories he won for England have not been subjected to the jerky
amateur policy of those which are under the Crown Colony system. For
nearly twenty years the natives under the Royal Niger Company have had
the firm, wise, sympathetic friendship of a great Englishman, who
understood them, and knew them personally. It is the continuous
influence of one great Englishman, unhampered by non-expert control,
that has caused England's exceedingly strange success in the Niger;
coupled with the identity of trade and governmental interest, and the
encouragement of religion given by the constitution and administration
of the Niger Company. This is a thing not given by all Chartered
Companies; indeed, I think I am right in saying that the Niger and the
North Borneo Companies stand alone in controlling territories that have
been essentially trading during recent years. This association of trade
and government is, to my mind, an _absolutely necessary restraint_ on
the Charter Company form of government;[73] but there is another element
you must have to justify Charters, and that is that they are in the
hands of an Englishman of the old type.

I am perfectly aware that the natives of Lagos and other Crown Colonies
in West Africa are, and have long been, anxious for the Chartered
Company of the Niger to be taken over by the Government, as they
pathetically and frankly say, "so that now the trade in their own
district is so bad, it may get a stimulus by a freer trade in the
Niger," and the native traders not connected with the Company may rush
in; while officials in the Crown Colonies have been equally anxious, as
they say with frankness no less pathetic, so that they may have chances
of higher appointments. I am equally aware that the merchants of England
not connected with the Niger Company, which is really an association of
African merchants, desire its downfall; yet they all perfectly well
know, though they do not choose to advertise the fact, that three months
Crown Colony form of government in the Niger territories will bring war,
far greater and more destructive than any war we have yet had in West
Africa, and will end in the formation of a debt far greater than any
debt we now have in West Africa, because of the greater extent of
territory and the greater power of the native States, now living
peacefully enough under England, but not under England as misrepresented
by the Crown Colony system. I am not saying that Chartered Companies are
good; I am only saying they are better than the Crown Colony plan; and
that if the Crown Colony system is substituted for the Chartered
Company, which is directly a trading company, England will have to pay a
very heavy bill. There would be, of course, a temporary spurt in trade,
but it would be a flash in the pan, and in the end, an end that would
come in a few years' time, the British taxpayer would be cursing West
Africa at large, and the Niger territories in particular. Personally, I
entirely fail to see why England should be tied to either of these
plans, the Crown Colony or the Chartered Company, for governing tropical
regions. Have we quite run out of constructive ability in Statecraft? Is
it not possible to formulate some new plan to mark the age of Victoria?


   [60] _Industrial and Social Life of the Empire._ Macmillan and Co.

   [61] For Lagos, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia from 1892 to 1896,

   [62] Forty-eighth annual report Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, 1898.

   [63]                                            £       Increase.
         Expenditure on police and gaols, 1896   31,504       £
           "             "        "       1887    3,037     28,467

         Expenditure on transport         1896   10,091
           "             "        "       1887    3,298      6,793

         Expenditure on public works      1896    6,736
           "            "        "        1887    1,417      5,319
                   Aggregate increase                       40,579

   [64] "The Liquor Traffic in West Africa," _Fortnightly Review_, April,

   [65] _Colonial Reports, Miscellaneous, No. 3, 1893._ G. F. Scott Elliott
        M.A., F.L.S., and C. A. Raisin, B.Sc.

   [66] French colonies--

                            Imports.             Exports
                         1896.     1897.      1896.    1897.
                           £         £          £        £
        Senegal        1,047,000 1,167,000   783,000  845,000
        French Guinea    185,000   240,000*  231,000  201,000*
        Ivory Coast      186,000   188,000   176,000  189,000
        Dahomey          389,000   330,000   364,000  231,000
        French Congo     192,000     **     190,000    **

        * For nine months only.
        ** No statistics.

        Trade of Dahomey and the Ivory Coast for the first three months
        of 1898--

                      Imports.    Exports.      Total trade.
                         £           £               £
        Ivory Coast    58,658      58,560         117,518
        Dahomey        84,064      72,771         156,835

        German possessions--

                        Imports.                Exports.
                  1895.   1896.  1897.   1895.   1896.  1897.
                    £       £      £       £       £      £
        Togoland 117,000  94,000 99,000 152,000  83,000 39,000
        Cameroon 283,000 268,000   *    204,000 198,000   *
        Total    400,000 362,000   *    356,000 281,000   *

        * No figures for calendar year. _Board of Trade Journal_,
          September, 1898.

   [67] _Colonial Annual_, No. 88, Gold Coast for 1892, published 1893.

   [68] Ditto, No. 188.

   [69] _Ashanti and Jaman._ Constable, 1898.

   [70] _Lagos Standard_, September 7, 1898.

   [71] _Lagos Weekly Record_, September 10, 1898.

   [72] _Lagos Weekly Record_, August 27, 1898.

   [73] See Introduction to _Folk Lore of the Fjort_. R. E. Dennett. David
   Nutt, 1898.



     Wherein this student, realising as usual, when too late, that the
     environment of such opinions as are expressed above is boiling hot
     water, calls to memory the excellent saying, "As well be hung for a
     sheep as a lamb," and goes on.

I have no intention, however, of starting a sort of open-air steam
laundry for West African washing. I have only gone into the
unsatisfactory-to-all-parties-concerned state of affairs there not with
the hope, but with the desire, that things may be improved and further
disgrace avoided. It would be no good my merely stating that, if England
wishes to make her possessions there morally and commercially pay her
for the loss of life that holding them entails, she must abolish her
present policy of amateur experiments backed by good intentions, for you
would naturally not pay the least attention to a bald statement made by
merely me. So I have had to place before you the opinions of others who
are more worthy of your attention. I must, however, for myself disclaim
any right to be regarded as the mouthpiece of any party concerned,
though Major Lugard has done me the honour to place me amongst the
Liverpool merchants. I can claim no right to speak as one of them. I
should be only too glad if I had this honour, but I have not. There was
early this year a distressing split between Liverpool and myself--whom
I am aware they call behind my back "Our Aunt"--and I know they regard
me as a vexing, if even a valued, form of relative.

This split, I may say (remembering Mr. Mark Twain's axiom, that people
always like to know what a row is about), arose from my frank admiration
of both the Royal Niger Company and France, neither of which Liverpool
at that time regarded as worthy of even the admiration of the most
insignificant; so its _Journal of Commerce_ went for me. The natural
sweetness of my disposition is most clearly visible to the naked eye
when I am quietly having my own way, so naturally I went for its
_Journal of Commerce_. Providentially no one outside saw this deplorable
family row, and Mr. John Holt put a stop to it by saying to me, "Say
what you like, you cannot please all of us;" had it not been for this I
should not have written another line on the maladministration of West
Africa beyond saying, "Call that Crown Colony system you are working
there a Government! England, at your age, you ought to be ashamed of
yourself!" But you see, as things are, I am not speaking for any one,
only off on a little lone fight of my own against a state of affairs
which I regard as a disgrace to my country.

Well but, you may say, after all what you have said points to nothing
disgraceful. You have expressly said that there is no corruption in the
government there, and the rest of the things--the change of policy
arising from the necessity for white men to come home at the least every
twelve months, the waste of money necessary to local exigencies, and the
fact that officers and gentlemen cannot be expected to understand and
look after what one might call domestic expenses--may be things
unavoidable and peculiar to the climate. To this I can only say, Given
the climate, why do you persist in ignoring the solid mass of expert
knowledge of the region that is in the hands of the mercantile party,
and go on working your Governors from a non-expert base? You have in
England an unused but great mass of knowledge among men of all classes
who have personally dealt with West Africa--yet you do not work from
that, organise it, and place it at the service of the brand new
Governors who go out; far from it. I know hardly any more pathetic sight
than the new official suddenly appointed to West Africa buzzing round
trying to find out "what the place is really like, you know." I know
personally one of the greatest of our Governors who have been down
there, a man with iron determination and courage, who was not content
with the information derivable from a list of requisites for a tropical
climate, the shorter Hausa grammar and a nice cheery-covered little work
on diseases--the usual fillets with which England binds the brows of her
Sacrifices to the Coast--but went and read about West Africa, all by
himself, alone in the British Museum. He was a success, but still he
always declares that the only book he found about this particular part
was a work by a Belgian, with a frontispiece depicting the author, on an
awful river, in the act, as per inscription, of shouting, "Row on, brave
men of Kru!" which, as subsequent knowledge showed him that bravery was
not one of the main qualities of the Kru men, shook him up about all his
British Museum education. So in the end he, like the rest, had to learn
for himself, out there. Of course, if the Governors were carefully
pegged down to a West African place and lived long enough, and were not
by nature faddists, doubtless they would learn, and in the course of a
few years things would go well; but they are not pegged down. No sooner
does one of them begin to know about the country he is in charge of than
off he is whisked and deposited again, in a brand new region for which
West Africa has not been a fitting introduction.

Then, as for the domestic finance, why expect officers and lawyers,
doctors and gentlemen from clubland to manage fiscal matters? Of course
they naturally don't know about trade affairs, or whether the Public
Works Department is spending money, or merely wasting it. You require
professional men in West Africa, but not to do half the work they are
now engaged on in connection with red tape and things they do not
understand. Of course, errors of this kind may be merely Folly, you may
have plenty more men as good as these to replace them with, so it may
matter more to their relations than to England if they are wasted alike
in life and death, and you are so rich that the gradual extinction of
your tropical trade will not matter to your generation. But as a
necessary consequent to this amateurism, or young gentlemen's academy
system, the Crown Colony system, there is disgrace in the injustice to
and disintegration of the native races it deals with.

Now when I say England is behaving badly to the African, I beg you not
to think that the philanthropic party has increased. I come of a
generation of Danes who when the sun went down on the Wulpensand were
the men to make light enough to fight by with their Morning Stars; and
who, later on, were soldiers in the Low Countries and slave owners in
the West Indies, and I am proud of my ancestors; for, whatever else they
were, they were not humbugs; and the generation that is round me now
seems to me in its utterances at any rate tainted with humbug. I own
that I hate the humbug in England's policy towards weaker races for the
sake of all the misery on white and black it brings; and I think as I
see you wasting lives and money, sowing debt and difficulties all over
West Africa by a hut tax war in Sierra Leone, fighting for the sake of
getting a few shillings you have no right to whatsoever out of the
African,--who are you that you should point your finger in scorn at my
tribe? I as one of that tribe blush for you, from the basis that you are
a humbug and not scientific, which, I presume you will agree is not the
same thing as my being a philanthropist.

I had the honour of meeting in West Africa an English officer who had
previously been doing some fighting in South Africa. He said he "didn't
like being a butterman's nigger butcher." "Oh! you're all right here
then," I said; "you're out now for Exeter Hall, the plane of
civilisation, the plough, and the piano." I will not report his remarks
further; likely enough it was the mosquitoes that made him say things,
and of course I knew with him, as I know with you, butchery of any sort
is not to your liking, though war when it's wanted is; the distinction I
draw between them is a hard and fast one. There is just the same
difference to my mind between an unnecessary war on an unarmed race and
a necessary war on the same race, as there is between killing game that
you want to support yourself with or game that is destructive to your
interests, and on the other hand the killing of game just to say that
you have done it. This will seem a deplorably low view to take, but it
is one supported by our history. We have killed down native races in
Australasia and America, and it is no use slurring over the fact that we
have profited by so doing. This argument, however, cannot be used in
favour of killing down the African in tropical Africa, more particularly
in Western Tropical Africa. If you were to-morrow to kill every native
there, what use would the country be to you? No one else but the native
can work its resources; you cannot live in it and colonise it. It would
therefore be only an extremely interesting place for the zoologist,
geologist, mineralogist, &c., but a place of no good to any one else in

This view, however, of the profit derivable from and justifying war you
will refuse to discuss; stating that such profit in your wars you do not
seek; that they have been made for the benefit of the African himself,
to free him from his native oppressors in the way of tyrannical chiefs
and bloody superstitions, and to elevate him in the plane of
civilisation. That this has been the intention of our West African wars
up to the Sierra Leone war, which was forced on you for fiscal reasons,
I have no doubt: but that any of them advanced you in your mission to
elevate the African, I should hesitate to say. I beg to refer you to Dr.
Freeman's opinions on the Ashantee wars on this point,[74] but for
myself I should say that the blame of the failure of these wars to
effect their desired end has been due to the want of power to
re-organise native society after a war; for example, had the 1873
Ashantee war been followed by the taking over of Ashantee and the strong
handling of it, there would not have been an 1895 Ashantee war; or, to
take it the other way, if you had followed up the battle of Katamansu in
1827, you need not have had an 1874 war even. Dr. Freeman holds, that if
you had let the Ashantis have a sea-port and generally behaved fairly
reasonably, you need hardly have had Ashantee wars at all. But, however
this may be, I think that a good many of the West African wars of the
past ten years have been the result of the humbug of the previous sixty,
during which we have proclaimed that we are only in Africa for peaceful
reasons of commerce, and religion, and education, not with any desire
for the African's land or property: that, of course, it is not possible
for us to extend our friendship or our toleration to people who go in
for cannibalism, slave-raiding, or human sacrifices, but apart from
these matters we have no desire to meddle with African domestic affairs,
or take away their land. This, I own, I believe to have honestly been
our intention, and to be our intention still, but with our stiff Crown
Colony system of representing ourselves to the African, this intention
has been and will be impossible to carry out, because between the true
spirit of England and the spirit of Africa it interposes a distorting
medium. It is, remember, not composed of Englishmen alone, it includes
educated natives, and yet it knows the true native only through

But why call this humbug? you say. Well, the present policy in Africa
makes it look so. Frankly, I do not see how you could work your original
policy out unless it were in the hands of extremely expert men, patient
and powerful at that. Too many times in old days have you allowed white
men to be bullied, to give the African the idea that you, as a nation,
meant to have your way. Too many times have you allowed them to violate
parts of their treaties under your nose, until they got out of the way
of thinking you would hold them to their treaties at all, and then
suddenly down you came on them, not only holding them to their side of
the treaties, but not holding to your own, imposing on them
restrictions and domestic interference which those treaties made no
mention of at all. I have before me now copies of treaties with chiefs
in the hinterland of our Crown Colonies, wherein there is not even the
anti-slavery clause--treaties merely of friendship and trade, with the
undertaking on the native chief's part to hand over no part or right in
his territories to a foreign power without English Government consent.
Yet, in the districts we hold from the natives under such treaties, we
are contemplating direct taxation, which to the African means the
confiscation of the property taxed. We have, in fact, by our previous
policy placed ourselves to the African with whom we have made treaties,
in the position of a friend. "Big friend," it is true, but not conqueror
or owner. Our departure now from the "big friend" attitude into the
position of owner, hurts his feelings very much; and coupled with the
feeling that he cannot get at England, who used to talk so nicely to
him, and whom he did his best to please, as far as local circumstances
and his limited power would allow, by giving up customs she had an
incomprehensible aversion to, it causes the African chief to say "God is
up," by which I expect he means the Devil, and give way to war, or
sickness, or distraction, or a wild, hopeless, helpless, combination of
all three; and then, poor fellow, when he is only naturally suffering
from the dazzles your West African policy would give to an iron post,
you go about sagely referring to "a general antipathy to civilisation
among the natives of West Africa," "anti-white-man's leagues," "horrible
secret societies," and such like figments of your imagination; and
likely enough throw in as a dash for top the statement that the chief is
"a drunken slave-raider," which as the captain of the late s.s.
_Sparrow_ would say, "It may be so, and again, it mayn't." Anyhow it
seems to occur to you as an argument only after the war is begun, though
you have known the man some years; and it has not been the ostensible
reason for any West African war save those in the Niger Company's
territories, which run far enough inland to touch the slave-raiding
zone, and which are entirely excluded from my arguments because they
have been in the hands of experts on West Africa in war-making and in

Our past wars in West Africa, I mean all our wars prior to the hut-tax
war, have been wars in order to suppress human sacrifice, to protect one
tribe from the aggression of another, and to prevent the stopping of
trade by middlemen tribes. These things are things worth fighting for.
The necessity we have been under to fight them has largely arisen from
our ancestors shirking a little firm-handedness in their generation.

There is very little doubt that, owing to a want of reconstruction after
destruction, these wars have not been worth to the Empire the loss of
life and money they have cost; but this is nothing against us as
fighters nor any real disgrace to our honour, but merely a slur on our
intellectual powers in the direction of statecraft. They are wars of a
totally different character to those of the hut-tax kind, that arise
from aggressions on native property: the only thing in common between
them is the strain of poor statecraft. This imperfection, however,
exists to a far greater extent in hut-tax war, for to it we owe that
general feeling of dislike to the advance of civilisation you now hear
referred to. That, to a certain extent, this dislike already exists as
the necessary outcome of our policy of late years, and that it will
increase yearly, I fear there is very little doubt. It is the toxin
produced by the microbe. It is the consequence of our attempt to
introduce direct taxation, which seems to me to be an affair identical
with your greased cartridges for India. Doubtless, such people ought not
to object to greased cartridges; but, doubtless, such people as we are
ought not to give them, and commit, over again, a worthless blunder,
with no bad intention be it granted, but with no common sense.

It has been said that the Sierra Leone hut-tax war is "a little Indian
mutiny"; those who have said it do not seem to have known how true the
statement is, for these attacks on property in the form of direct
taxation are, to the African, treachery on the part of England, who,
from the first, has kept on assuring the African that she does not mean
to take his country from him, and then, as soon as she is strong enough,
in his eyes, deliberately starts doing it. When you once get between two
races the feeling of treachery, the face of their relationship is
altered for ever, altered in a way that no wholesome war, no brutality
of individuals, can alter. Black and white men for ever after a national
breach of faith tax each other with treachery, and never really trust
each other again.

The African, however, must not be confounded with the Indian.
Externally, in his habits he is in a lower culture state; he has no
fanatical religion that really resents the incursions of other religions
on his mind; Fetish can live in and among all sorts and kinds of
religions without quarrelling with them in the least, grievously as they
quarrel with Fetish; he has no written literature to keep before his
eyes a glorious and mythical past, which, getting mixed up with his
religious ideas, is liable in the Indian to make him take at times
lobster-like backward springs in the direction of that past, though it
was never there, and he would not have relished it if it had been.
Nevertheless, the true Negro is, I believe, by far the better man than
the Asiatic; he is physically superior, and he is more like an
Englishman than the Asiatic; he is a logical, practical man, with
feelings that are a credit to him, and are particularly strong in the
direction of property; he has a way of thinking he has rights, whether
he likes to use them or no, and will fight for them when he is driven to
it. Fight you for a religious idea the African will not. He is not the
stuff you make martyrs out of, nor does he desire to shake off the
shackles of the flesh and swoon into Nirvana; and although he will sit
under a tree to any extent, provided he gets enough to eat and a
little tobacco, he won't sit under trees on iron spikes, or hold
a leg up all the time, or fakirise in any fashion for the benefit
of his soul or yours. His make of mind is exceedingly like the make
of mind of thousands of Englishmen of the stand-no-nonsense,
Englishman's-house-is-his-castle type. Yet, withal, a law-abiding man,
loving a live lord, holding loudly that women should be kept in their
place, yet often grievously henpecked by his wives, and little better
than a slave to his mother, whom he loves with a love he gives to none
other. This love of his mother is so dominant a factor in his life that
it must be taken into consideration in attempting to understand the true
Negro. Concerning it I can do no better than give you the Reverend
Leighton Wilson's words; for this great missionary knew, as probably
none since have known, the true Negro, having laboured for many years
amongst the most unaltered Negro tribes--the Grain coast tribes--and his
words are as true to-day of the unaltered Negro as on the day he wrote
them thirty-eight years ago, and Leighton Wilson, mind you, was no blind
admirer of the African.

"Whatever other estimate we may form of the African, we may not doubt
his love for his mother. Her name, whether dead or alive, is always on
his lips and in his heart. She is the first being he thinks of when
awakening from his slumbers and the last he remembers when closing his
eyes in sleep; to her he confides secrets which he would reveal to no
other human being on the face of the earth. He cares for no one else in
time of sickness, she alone must prepare his food, administer his
medicine, perform his ablutions, and spread his mat for him. He flies to
her in the hour of his distress, for he well knows if all the rest of
the world turn against him she will be steadfast in her love, whether he
be right or wrong.

"If there be any cause which justifies a man in using violence towards
one of his fellow men it would be to resent an insult offered to his
mother. More fights are occasioned among boys by hearing something said
in disparagement of their mothers than all other causes put together. It
is a common saying among them, if a man's mother and his wife are both
on the point of being drowned, and he can save only one of them, he must
save his mother, for the avowed reason if the wife is lost he may marry
another, but he will never find a second mother."[75]

Among the tribes of whom Wilson is speaking above, it is the man's true
mother. Among the Niger Delta tribes it is often the adopted mother, the
woman who has taken him when, as a child, he has been left motherless,
or, if he is a boughten child, the woman who has taken care of him.
Among both, and throughout all the bushmen tribes in West Africa,
however, this deep affection is the same; next to the mother comes the
sister to the African, and this matter has a bearing politically.

There is little doubt that there exists a distrustful feeling towards
white culture. Up to our attempt to enforce direct taxation it was only
a distrustful feeling that a few years careful, honest handling would
have disposed of. Since our attempt there is no doubt there is something
approaching a panicky terror of white civilisation in all the native
aristocracies and property owners. It is not, I repeat, to be attributed
to Fetish priests. Certainly, on the whole, it is not attributable to a
dislike of European customs or costumes; it is the reasonable dislike to
being dispossessed alike of power and property in what they regard as
their own country. A considerable factor in this matter is undoubtedly
the influence of the women--the mothers of Africa. Just as your African
man is the normal man, so is your African woman the normal woman. I
openly own that if I have a soft spot in my feelings it is towards
African women; and the close contact I have lived in with them has given
rise to this, and, I venture to think, made me understand them. I know
they have their faults. For one thing they are not so religiously minded
as the men. I have met many African men who were philosophers, thinking
in the terms of Fetish, but never a woman so doing. Be it granted that
on the whole they know more about the details of Fetish procedure than
the men do. Yet though frightened of them all, a blind faith in any
mortal Ju Ju they do not possess. Your African lady is artful with them,
not philosophic, possibly because she has other things to do--what with
attending to the children, the farm, and the market--than go mooning
about as those men can. For another thing they go in for husband
poisoning in a way I am unable to approve of.

Well, it may be interesting to inquire into the reasons that make the
West African woman a factor against white civilisation. These reasons
are--firstly, that she does not know practically anything about it; and,
secondly, she has the normal feminine dislike to innovations. Missionary
and other forms of white education have not been given to the African
women to anything like the same extent that they have been given to the
men. I do not say that there are not any African women who are not
thoroughly educated in white education, for there are, and they can
compare very favourably from the standpoint of their education with our
normal women; but these have, I think I may safely say, been the
daughters of educated African men, or have been the women who have been
immediately attached to some mission station. I have no hesitation in
saying that, considering the very little attention that has been given
to the white education of the African women, they give evidence of an
ability in due keeping with that of the African men. But all I mean to
say is, that our white culture has not had a grasp over the womankind of
Africa that can compare with that it has had over the men; for one woman
who has been brought home to England and educated in our schools, and
who has been surrounded by English culture, &c., there are 500 men. But
into the possibilities of the African woman in the white education
department I do not mean to go; I am getting into a snaggy channel by
speaking on woman at all. It is to the mass of African women, untouched
by white culture, but with an enormous influence over their sons and
brothers, that I am now referring as a factor in the dislike to the
advance of white civilisation; and I have said they do not like it
because, for one thing, they do not know it; that is to say, they do not
know it from the inside and at its best, but only from the outside.
Viewed from the outside in West Africa white civilisation, to a shrewd
mind like hers, is an evil thing for her boys and girls. She sees it
taking away from them the restraints of their native culture, and in all
too many cases leading them into a life of dissipation, disgrace, and
decay; or, if it does not do this, yet separating the men from their

The whole of this affair requires a whole mass of elaborate explanations
to place it fairly before you, but I will merely sketch the leading
points now. (1) The law of mütterrecht makes the tie between the mother
and the children far closer than that between the father and them: white
culture reverses this, she does not like that. (2) Between husband and
wife there is no community in goods under native law; each keeps his and
her separate estate. White culture says the husband shall endow his wife
with all his worldly goods; this she knows usually means, that if he has
any he does not endow her with them, but whether he has or has not he
endows himself with hers as far as any law permits. Similarly he does
not like it either. These two white culture things, saddling him with
the support of the children and endowing his wife with all his property,
presents a repulsive situation to the logical African. Moreover, white
culture expects him to think more of his wife and children than he does
of his mother and sisters, which to the uncultured African is absurd.

Then again both he and his mother see the fearful effects of white
culture on the young women, who cannot be prevented in districts under
white control from going down to the coast towns and to the Devil:
neither he nor the respectable old ladies of his tribe approve of this.
Then again they know that the young men of their people who have
thoroughly allied themselves to white culture look down on their
relations in the African culture state. They call the ancestors of their
tribe "polygamists," as if it were a swear-word, though they are a
thousand times worse than polygamists themselves: and they are ashamed
of their mothers. It is a whole seething mass of stuff all through and I
would not mention it were it not that it is a factor in the formation of
anti-white-culture opinion among the mass of the West Africans, and that
it causes your West African bush chief to listen to the old woman whom
you may see crouching behind him, or you may not see at all, but who is
with him all the same, when she says, "Do not listen to the white man,
it is bad for you." He knows that the interpreter talking to him for the
white man may be a boughten man, paid to advertise the advantages of
white ways; and he knows that the old woman, his mother, cannot be
bought where his interest is concerned: so he listens to her, and she
distrusts white ways.

I am aware that there is now in West Africa a handful of Africans who
have mastered white culture, who know it too well to misunderstand the
inner spirit of it, who are men too true to have let it cut them off in
either love or sympathy from Africa,--men that, had England another
system that would allow her to see them as they are, would be of greater
use to her and Africa than they now are; but I will not name them: I
fight a lone fight, and wish to mix no man, white or black, up in it, or
my heretical opinions. That handful of African men are now fighting a
hard enough fight to prevent the distracted, uninformed Africans from
rising against what looks so like white treachery, though it is only
white want of knowledge; and also against those "water flies" who are
neither Africans nor Europeans, but who are the curse of the Coast--the
men who mislead the white man and betray the black.

Next to this there is another factor almost equally powerful, with which
I presume you cannot sympathise, and which I should make a mess of if I
trusted myself to explain. Therefore I call in the aid of a better
writer, speaking on another race, but talking of the identical same
thing. "In these days the boot of the ubiquitous white man leaves its
mark on all the fair places of the earth, and scores thereon an even
more gigantic track than that which affrighted Robinson Crusoe in his
solitude. It crushes down the forest, beats out roads, strides across
the rivers, kicks down native institutions, and generally tramples on
the growths of natives and the works of primitive man, reducing all
things to that dead level of conventionality which we call civilisation.

"Incidentally it stamps out much of what is best in the customs and
characteristics of the native races against which it brushes; and though
it relieves him of many things which hurt or oppressed him ere it came,
it injures him morally almost as much as it benefits him materially. We
who are white men admire our work not a little--which is natural, and
many are found willing to wear out their souls in efforts to convert the
thirteenth century into the nineteenth in a score of years. The natives,
who for the most part are frank Vandals, also admire efforts of which
they are aware that they are themselves incapable, and even the
_laudator temporis acti_ has his mouth stopped by the cheap and often
tawdry luxury which the coming of the white man has placed within his
reach. So effectually has the heel of the white man been ground into the
face of Pérak and Selangor, that these native states are now only
nominally what their name implies. The white population outnumbers the
people of the land in most of the principal districts, and it is
possible for a European to spend weeks in either of these states without
coming into contact with any Asiatics save those who wait at table,
clean his shirts, or drive his cab. It is possible, I am told, for a
European to spend years in Pérak or Selangor without acquiring any
profound knowledge of the natives of the country or of the language
which is their special medium. This being so, most of the white men who
live in the protected native states are somewhat apt to disregard the
effect their actions have upon the natives and labour under the common
European inability to view natives from a native standpoint. Moreover,
we have become accustomed to existing conditions; and thus it is that
few perhaps realise the precise nature of the work which the British in
the Peninsula have set themselves to accomplish. What we are really
attempting, however, is nothing less than to crush into twenty years the
revolution in facts and in ideas, which, even in energetic Europe, six
long centuries have been needed to accomplish. No one will, of course,
be found to dispute that the strides made in our knowledge of the art of
government since the thirteenth century are prodigious and vast, nor
that the general condition of the people of Europe has been immensely
improved since that day; but nevertheless one cannot but sympathise with
the Malays who are suddenly and violently translated from the point to
which they have attained in the natural development of their race, and
are required to live up to the standard of a people who are six
centuries in advance of them in national progress. If a plant is made
to blossom or bear fruit three months before its time it is regarded as
a triumph of the gardener's art; but what then are we to say of this
huge moral forcing system we call 'protection'? Forced plants we know
suffer in the process; and the Malay, whose proper place is amidst the
conditions of the thirteenth century, is apt to become morally weak and
seedy and lose something of his robust self respect when he is forced to
bear Nineteenth century fruit."[76]

Now, the above represents the state of affairs caused by the clash of
different culture levels in the true Negro States, as well as it does in
the Malay. These two sets of men, widely different in breed, have from
the many points of agreement in their State-form, evidently both arrived
in our thirteenth century. The African peoples in the central East, and
East, and South, except where they are true Negroes, have not arrived in
the Thirteenth century, or, to put it in other words, the true Negro
stem in Africa has arrived at a political state akin to that of our own
Thirteenth century, whereas the Bantu stem has not; this point, however,
I need not enter into here.

There are, of course, local differences between the Malay Peninsula and
West Africa, but the main characteristics as regards the State-form
among the natives are singularly alike. They are both what Mr. Clifford
aptly likens to our own European State-form in the Thirteenth century;
and the effect of the white culture on the morals of the natives is also
alike. The main difference between them results from the Malay Peninsula
being but a narrow strip of land and thinly peopled, compared to the
densely populated section of a continent we call West Africa. Therefore,
although the Malay in his native state is a superior individual warrior
to the West African, yet there are not so many of him; and as he is less
guarded from whites by a pestilential climate, his resistance to the
white culture of the Nineteenth century is inferior to the resistance
which the West African can give.

The destruction of what is good in the Thirteenth century culture level,
and the fact that when the Nineteenth century has had its way the main
result is seedy demoralised natives, is the thing that must make all
thinking men wonder if, after all, such work is from a high moral point
of view worth the Nineteenth century doing. I so often think when I hear
the progress of civilisation, our duty towards the lower races, &c.,
talked of, as if those words were in themselves Ju Ju, of that improving
fable of the kind-hearted she-elephant, who, while out walking one day,
inadvertently trod upon a partridge and killed it, and observing close
at hand the bird's nest full of callow fledglings, dropped a tear, and
saying "I have the feelings of a mother myself," sat down upon the
brood. This is precisely what England representing the Nineteenth
century is doing in Thirteenth century West Africa. She destroys the
guardian institution, drops a tear and sits upon the brood with motherly
intentions; and pesky warm sitting she finds it, what with the nature of
the brood and the surrounding climate, let alone the expense of it. And
what profit she is going to get out of such proceedings there, I own I
don't know. "Ah!" you say, "yes, it is sad, but it is inevitable." I do
not think it is inevitable, unless you have no intellectual constructive
Statecraft, and are merely in that line an automaton. If you will try
Science, all the evils of the clash between the two culture periods
could be avoided, and you could assist these West Africans in their
Thirteenth century state to rise into their Nineteenth century state
without their having the hard fight for it that you yourself had. This
would be a grand humanitarian bit of work; by doing it you would raise a
monument before God to the honour of England such as no nation has ever
yet raised to Him on Earth.

There is absolutely no perceivable sound reason why you should not do it
if you will try Science and master the knowledge of the nature of the
native and his country. The knowledge of native laws, religion,
institutions, and State-form would give you the knowledge of what is
good in these things, so that you might develop and encourage them; and
the West African, having reached a Thirteenth century state, has
institutions and laws which with a strengthening from the European hand
would by their operation now stamp out the evil that exists under the
native state. What you are doing now, however, is the direct contrary to
this: you are destroying the good portion and thereby allowing what is
evil, or imperfect, in it as in all things human, to flourish under your
protection far more rankly than under the purely native Thirteenth
century State-form, with Fetish as a state religion, it could possibly

I know, however, there is one great objection to your taking up a
different line towards native races to that which you are at present
following. It is one of those strange things that are in men's minds
almost without their knowing they are there, yet which, nevertheless,
rule them. This is the idea that those Africans are, as one party would
say, steeped in sin, or, as another party would say, a lower or degraded
race. While you think these things, you must act as you are acting. They
really are the same idea in different clothes. They both presuppose all
mankind to have sprung from a single pair of human beings, and the
condition of a race to-day therefore to be to its own credit or blame. I
remember one day in Cameroons coming across a young African lady, of the
age of twelve, who I knew was enjoying the advantages of white tuition
at a school. So, in order to open up conversation, I asked her what she
had been learning. "Ebberyting," she observed with a genial smile. I
asked her then what she knew, so as to approach the subject from a
different standpoint for purposes of comparison. "Ebberyting," she said.
This hurt my vanity, for though I am a good deal more than twelve years
of age, I am far below this state of knowledge; so I said, "Well, my
dear, and if you do, you're the person I have long wished to meet, for
you can tell me why you are black." "Oh yes," she said, with a perfect
beam of satisfaction, "one of my pa's pa's saw dem Patriark Noah wivout
his clothes." I handed over to her a crimson silk necktie that I was
wearing, and slunk away, humbled by superior knowledge. This, of course,
was the result of white training direct on the African mind; the story
which you will often be told to account for the blackness and whiteness
of men by Africans who have not been in direct touch with European, but
who have been in touch with Muhammedan, tradition--which in the main has
the same Semitic source--is that when Cain killed Abel, he was horrified
at himself, and terrified of God; and so he carried the body away from
beside the altar where it lay, and carried it about for years trying to
hide it, but not knowing how, growing white the while with the horror
and the fear; until one day he saw a crow scratching a hole in the
desert sand, and it struck him that if he made a hole in the sand and
put the body in, he could hide it from God, so he did; but all his
children were white, and from Cain came the white races, while Abel's
children are black, as all men were before the first murder. The present
way of contemplating different races, though expressed in finer
language, is practically identical with these; not only the religious
view, but the view of the suburban agnostic. The religious European
cannot avoid regarding the races in a different and inferior culture
state to his own as more deeply steeped in sin than himself, and the
suburban agnostic regards them as "degraded" or "retarded" either by
environment, or microbes, or both.

I openly and honestly own I sincerely detest touching on this race
question. For one thing, Science has not finished with it; for another,
it belongs to a group of subjects of enormous magnitude, upon which I
have no opinion, but merely feelings, and those of a nature which I am
informed by superior people would barely be a credit to a cave man of
the palæolithic period. My feelings classify the world's inhabitants
into Englishmen, by which I mean Teutons at large, Foreigners, and
Blacks. Blacks I subdivide into two classes, English Blacks and Foreign
Blacks. English Blacks are Africans. Foreign Blacks are Indians,
Chinese, and the rest. Of course, everything that is not Teutonic is, to
put it mildly, not up to what is; and equally, of course, I feel more at
home with and hold in greater esteem the English Black: a great, strong
Kruman, for example, with his front teeth filed, nothing much on but
oil, half a dozen wives, and half a hundred jujus, is a sort of person
whom I hold higher than any other form of native, let the other form
dress in silk, satin, or cashmere, and make what pretty things he
pleases. This is, of course, a general view; but I am often cornered
for the detail view, whether I can reconcile my admiration for Africans
with my statement that they are a different kind of human being to white
men. Naturally I can, to my own satisfaction, just as I can admire an
oak tree or a palm; but it is an uncommonly difficult thing to explain.
All I can say is, that when I come back from a spell in Africa, the
thing that makes me proud of being one of the English is not the manners
or customs up here, certainly not the houses or the climate; but it is
the thing embodied in a great railway engine. I once came home on a ship
with an Englishman who had been in South West Africa for seven unbroken
years; he was sane, and in his right mind. But no sooner did we get
ashore at Liverpool, than he rushed at and threw his arms round a
postman, to that official's embarrassment and surprise. Well, that is
just how I feel about the first magnificent bit of machinery I come
across: it is the manifestation of the superiority of my race.

In philosophic moments I call superiority difference, from a feeling
that it is not mine to judge the grade in these things. Careful
scientific study has enforced on me, as it has on other students, the
recognition that the African mind naturally approaches all things from a
spiritual point of view. Low down in culture or high up, his mind works
along the line that things happen because of the action of spirit upon
spirit; it is an effort for him to think in terms of matter. We think
along the line that things happen from the action of matter upon matter.
If it were not for the Asiatic religion we have accepted, it is, I
think, doubtful whether we should not be far more materialistic in
thought-form than we are. This steady sticking to the material side of
things, I think, has given our race its dominion over matter; the want
of it has caused the African to be notably behind us in this, and far
behind those Asiatic races who regard matter and spirit as separate in
essence, a thing that is not in the mind either of the Englishman or the
African. The Englishman is constrained by circumstances to perceive the
existence of an extra material world. The African regards spirit and
matter as undivided in kind, matter being only the extreme low form of
spirit. There must be in the facts of the case behind things, something
to account for the high perception of justice you will find in the
African, combined with an inability to think out a pulley or a lever
except under white tuition. Similarly, taking the true Negro States,
which are in its equivalent to our Thirteenth century, it accounts for
the higher level of morals in them than you would find in our Thirteenth
century; and I fancy this want of interest and inferiority in
materialism in the true Negro constitutes a reason why they will not
come into our Nineteenth century, but, under proper guidance could
attain to a Nineteenth century state of their own, which would show a
proportionate advance. The simile of the influence of the culture of
Rome, or rather let us say the culture of Greece spread by the force of
Rome, upon Barbarian culture is one often used to justify the hope that
English culture will have a similar effect on the African. This I do not
think is so. It is true the culture of Rome lifted the barbarians from
what one might call culture 9 to culture 17, but the Romans and the
barbarians were both white races. But you see now a similar lift in
culture in Africa by the influence of Mohammedan culture, for example in
the Hausa States and again in the Western Soudan, where there is no
fundamental race difference.

In both English and Mohammedan Berber influence on the African there is
another factor, apart from race difference; namely, that the two higher
cultures are in a healthier state than that of Rome was at the time it
mastered the barbarian mind; in both cases the higher culture has the
superior war force.

This seems to me simply to lay upon us English for the sake of our
honour that we keep clean hands and a cool head, and be careful of
Justice; to do this we must know what there is we wish to wipe out of
the African, and what there is we wish to put in, and so we must not
content ourselves by relying materially on our superior wealth and
power, and morally on catch phrases. All we need look to is justice.
Love for our fellow-man, pity, charity, mercy, we need not bother our
heads about, so long as we are just. These things are of value only when
they are used as means whereby we can attain justice. It is no use
saying that it matters to a Teuton whether the other race he deals with
is black, white, yellow--I can quite conceive that we should look down
on a pea-green form of humanity if we had the chance. Naturally, I think
this shows a very proper spirit. I should be the last to alter any of
our Teutonic institutions to please any race; but when it comes to
altering the institutions of another race, not for the reason even of
pleasing ourselves but merely on the plea that we don't understand them,
we are on different ground. If those ideas and institutions stand in the
way of our universal right to go anywhere we choose and live as honest
gentlemen, we have the power-right to alter them; but if they do not we
must judge them from as near a standard of pure Justice as we can attain

There are many who hold murder the most awful crime a man can commit,
saying that thereby he destroys the image of his Maker; I hold that one
of the most awful crimes one nation can commit on another is destroying
the image of Justice, which in an institution is represented more truly
to the people by whom the institution has been developed, than in any
alien institution of Justice; it is a thing adapted to its environment.
This form of murder by a nation I see being done in the destruction of
what is good in the laws and institutions of native races. In some parts
of the world, this murder, judged from certain reasonable standpoints,
gives you an advantage; in West Africa, judged from any standpoint you
choose to take, it gives you no advantage. By destroying native
institutions there, you merely lower the moral of the African race, stop
trade, and the culture advantages it brings both to England and West
Africa. I again refer you to the object lesson before you now, the hut
tax war in Sierra Leone. Awful accusations have been made against the
officers and men who had the collecting of this tax. In the matter of
the native soldiery, there is no doubt these accusations are only too
well founded, but the root thing was the murder of institutions. The
worst of the whole of this miserable affair is that a precisely similar
miserable affair may occur at any time in any of our West African Crown
Colonies--to-morrow, any day,--until you choose to remove the Crown
Colony system of government.

It has naturally been exceedingly hard for men who know the colony and
the natives, with the experience of years in an unsentimental commercial
way, to keep civil tongues in their heads while their interests were
being wrecked by the action of the government; but whether or no the
white officers were or were not brutal in their methods we must presume
will be shown by Sir David Chalmers's report. I am unable to believe
they were. But there is no manner of doubt that outrages have been
committed, disgraceful to England, by the set of riff-raff rascal
Blacks, who had been turned out by, or who had run away from, the
hinterland tribes down into Sierra Leone Colony, and there been turned,
by an ill-informed government, into police, and sent back with power
into the very districts from which they had, shortly before, fled for
their crimes. I entirely sympathise, therefore, with the rage of
Liverpool and Manchester, and of every clear-minded common-sense
Englishman who knows what a thing the hut tax war has been. And I want
common-sense Englishmen to recognise that a system capable of such
folly, and under which such a thing could happen in an English
possession, is a system that must go. For a system that gets short of
money, from its own want of business-like ability, and then against all
expert advice goes and does the most unscientific thing conceivable
under the circumstances, to get more, is a thing that is a disgrace to
England. Yet the Sierra Leone Colony was capable of this folly, and the
people in London were capable of saying to Liverpool and Manchester,
that no difficulty was expected from the collection of the tax. If this
is so in our oldest colony, what reason have we to believe that in the
others we are safer? Any of them, in combination with London, may
to-morrow go and do the most unscientific thing conceivable, and
disgrace England, in order to procure more local revenue, and fail at

The desire to develop our West African possessions is a worthy one in
its way, but better leave it totally alone than attempt it with your
present machinery; which the moment it is called upon to deal with the
administration of the mass of the native inhabitants gives such a
trouble. And remember it is not the only trouble your Crown colony
system can give; it has a few glorious opportunities left of further
supporting everything I have said about it, and more. But I will say no
more. You have got a grand rich region there, populated by an uncommon
fine sort of human being. You have been trying your present set of ideas
on it for over 400 years; they have failed in a heart-breaking drizzling
sort of way to perform any single solitary one of the things you say you
want done there. West Africa to-day is just a quarry of paving-stones
for Hell, and those stones were cemented in place with men's blood mixed
with wasted gold.

Prove it! you say. Prove it to yourself by going there--I don't mean to
Blazes--but to West Africa.


   [74] _Ashantee and Jaman_, Freeman (Constable and Co., 1898).

   [75] _Western Africa_, Wilson, 1856, p. 116.

   [76] _East Coast Etchings._ H. Clifford, Singapore, 1896.



     Wherein the student, having said divers harsh things of those who
     destroy but do not reconstruct, recognises that, having attempted
     destruction, it is but seemly to set forth some other way whereby
     the West African colonies could be managed.

West Africa, I own, is a make of country difficult for a power with
a different kind of culture, climate and set of institutions, and
so on, to manage from Europe satisfactorily. But, as things go,
I venture to think it presents no especial difficulty; that all the
difficulties that exist in this matter are difficulties arising from
misunderstandings,--things removable, not things of essence, barring
only fever.

Also I feel convinced that no one of our English governmental methods at
present existing is suitable for its administration. It is no use
saying, Look at our Indian system, why not just introduce that into West
Africa? I have the greatest admiration for our Indian system; it is the
right thing in the right place, thanks to its having healthily grown up,
fostered by experts, military and civil. Nevertheless it would not do
for West Africa to-day. What we want there is the sowing of a similar
system, not the transplanting of the Indian in its perfect form, for
that is to-day for West Africa infinitely too expensive. If a man
before his fortune is made spends a fortune, he ends badly; if he
measures his expenditure with his income and develops his opportunities,
he ends as a millionaire; and we must never forget that great dictum
that the State is the perfection of the individual man, and should mould
our politics accordingly.

I hold it to be a sound and healthy idea of ours that our possessions
over-sea should pay their own way, and I therefore distrust the
cucumber-frame form of financial politics that at present holds the
field in West African affairs. It has been the pride and boast of the
West African colonies that they have paid their way; let it remain so.
It seems to me unsound that our colonies there should receive loans
wherewith to carry on; for, for one thing, it makes them carry on more
than is good for them, and merely means a piling up of debt; and, for
another, it gives West Africa the notion that it is England's business
to support her, which to my mind it distinctly is not; for if we wanted
a lapdog set of colonies we could get healthier ones elsewhere.
Moreover, it pauperises instead of fostering the proper pride, without
which nothing can flourish.

Apart from our Indian system, we have, for governing those regions where
our race cannot locally produce a sufficient population of its own to
take the reins of government out of the hands of officialdom in England,
only two other systems, namely, the Chartered Company and the Crown
Colony. I beg to urge that it is high time we had a third system.
Concerning the Crown Colony system for Africa, I have spoken as
tolerantly as I believe it is possible for any one acquainted with its
working in West Africa to speak. If I were to say any more I might say
something uncivil, which, of course, I do not wish to do. Concerning
the Chartered Company system, I need only remark that there are two
distinct breeds of Chartered Companies--the one whose attention is
turned to the trade, the other whose attention is turned to the lands
over which its charter gives it dominion. The first kind is represented
in Africa by the Royal Niger Company, the second by the South African.

The second form of Chartered Company, that interested in land, we have
not in West Africa under the name of a Company; but the present Crown
Colony system represents it, and I feel certain that whatever good the
South African Company may have done for the empire in South Africa, it
has done an immense amount of harm in Western Africa. For some, to me
unknown, reason the South African Company has found favour in the sight
of officialdom in London; and, fascinated by its success in South
Africa, yet recognising its drawbacks, officialdom has attempted to
introduce what they regard as best in the South African system into West
Africa. I do not think any student can avoid coming to the conclusion
that the policy which is now driving the Crown Colonies in West Africa
is one and the same with that of Mr. Rhodes. I do not mean that Mr.
Rhodes, had he had the handling of West Africa, would himself have used
this form of policy. He formulated it for South Africa; but, with his
careful study of such things as local needs, he would have formulated
another form for West Africa, which is a totally different region.

To take only two of the differences, and state them brutally. First, in
West Africa the most valuable asset you have is the native: the more
heavily the district there is populated with Africans, and the more
prosperous those natives are, the better for you; for it means more
trade. All the gold, ivory, oil, rubber, and timber in West Africa are
useless to you without the African to work them; you can get no other
race that can replace him, and work them; the thing has now been tried,
and it has failed. Whereas in South Africa the converse is true: you can
do without the African there, you can replace him with pretty nearly any
other kind of man you like, or do the work yourself. The second
difference is, that the land in South Africa is worth your having, you
can go and domesticate on it; whereas in West Africa you cannot. A
failure to recognise these differences is at the root of our present
ill-judged West African policy, outside the Royal Niger Company's
domain; by introducing South African methods we are trying to get what
is of no use to us, the _Landes Hoheit_, and thereby devastating what is
of use to us, the trade.

However, I will not detain you over this interesting question of
Chartered Company government. I merely wish to draw your attention to
the two breeds, the Land Company, and the Trade Company; and to urge
that they are things to be applied in their respective proper
environments. I can honestly assure you, I know every blessed, single,
mortal thing that can be said against the trade form which I admire, for
I have lived under a hail of this sort of information since I was
discovered by my big juju, Liverpool, to be such an admirer of what I
called a co-ordinate system of government and trade, and Liverpool
called divers things.

I shall go to my grave believing that Liverpool had reasons for
attacking the Company, but neglected fundamental facts in its
controversy with the Trade Company, which, to it, was "a little more
than kith, and less than kind." The Royal Niger Company has
demonstrated its adaptation to its environment. Without any forced
labour, without any direct taxation, it has paid. I venture to think,
though I have no doubt it would severely hurt the feelings of the
R.N.C., that we may regard the Royal Niger Company as representing the
perfected system of native government in West Africa plus English
courage and activity. I believe that on this foundation has been built
its success. For say what you like, if the Royal Niger had not got on
well with the natives in its territories--dealt cleanly, honestly,
rationally with them--it would never have extended its influence in the
grand way it has, represented only by a mere handful of white men, in
what is, as far as we know, the most densely populated region with the
highest and most organised form of native power in all tropical Africa.
Had it not been to the natives it ruled a just, honourable, and
desirable form of government, it would long ago have been stamped out by
them, or would have been compelled to call in England's armed support to
maintain it, as the Crown Colony system has been compelled to do in
Sierra Leone and on the Gold Coast. It has not had to call in Imperial
assistance, and it has paid its shareholders--a sound, healthy conduct;
but, nevertheless, remember that all the great debt of gratitude you and
every one of the English owe the Royal Niger Company for defending the
honour of England against Continental enterprise, for maintaining the
honour of England in the eyes of the native races with whom it had made
treaties, you do not owe to the Chartered Company _system_, but to Sir
George Goldie, the man who had to use it because it was the _best_
existing system available for such a region. You have too much sense to
give all the honour to Lord Kitchener of Khartoum's sword, though a
sword is an excellent thing. I trust, therefore, you have too much sense
to give all honour to the Chartered Company, even when it is a trading
company. Trade is an excellent thing, but, in the case of the Royal
Niger, this very factor, trade, restricts the man who uses the Chartered
Company to a set of white men and a set of black. Therefore, never can I
feel that either Liverpool or the Brass men have profited by the R.N.C.
as they would have done if there had been a better system available for
dealing with what Mr. St. Loe Strachey delicately calls "a dark-skinned
population" with an insufficient local white population at hand.
Briefly, I should say that the Chartered Company system keeps its "ain
fish-guts for its ain sea-maws" too much. Therefore now, when, like many
before me who have laboured strenuously to reform, I have given up the
idea that reformation is possible for the individual on whom they have
expended their powers, and have decided that there are some people whom
you can only reform with a gun, I will start reforming myself, and say
the Chartered Company system is not good enough, taken all round as
things are, for West Africa for these reasons.

First, a Chartered Company consists of a band of merchants, ruling
through, and by, a great man. If that great man who expands the
influence and power of the Company lives long enough to establish a form
of policy, well and good. I have sufficient trust in the common sense of
a band of English merchants, provided their interest is common, to
believe they will adhere to the policy; but suppose he does not, or
suppose you do not start with a good man, you will merely have a mess,
as has been demonstrated by the perpetual failures of our French
friends' Chartered Companies. By the way, I may remark that although
France is no great admirer of the chartered system with us, she is
devoted to it for herself, sprinkling all her West African possessions
with them freely, only unfortunately, as their names are usually far
longer than their banking accounts, they do not grow conspicuous; even
apart from these private and subsidised Chartered Companies in French
possessions, France follows the chartered system imperially in West
Africa by keeping out non-French trade with differential tariffs, and so
on. But, after all, in this matter she is no worse than English critics
of the Royal Niger; and it is a common trait of all West African
palavers that those who criticise are amply well provided themselves
with the very faults they find so repulsive in others--it's the climate.

Secondly, the Chartered Company represents English trade interests in
sections, instead of completely; English honour, common sense, military
ability, and so on, the Royal Niger under Sir George Goldie has
represented more perfectly than these things have ever been represented
in West--or, I may safely say, Africa at large; but the trade interests
of England it has only represented partially, or in other words, it has
only represented the trade interests of its shareholders and the natives
it has made treaties with, and what we want is something that will
represent our trade interests there completely. Therefore, I do not
advocate it as the general system for West Africa, for under another
sort of man it might mean merely a more rapid crash than we are in for
with the Crown Colony system. To my dying day I shall honour that great
Trade Company, the Royal Niger, for representing England, that is,
England properly so-called, to the world at large, during one of the
darkest ages we have ever had since Charles II.; and, I believe that it,
with the Committee of Merchants who held the Gold Coast for England
after the battle of Katamansu, when her officials would have abandoned
alike the Gold Coast and her honour in West Africa, will stand out in
our history as grand things, but yet I say we want another system.

"Du binst der Geist der stets verneint!" you ejaculate. You do not like
Crown Colonies. You won't grovel to Chartered Companies, however good.
You prove, on your own showing, that there is not in West Africa a
sufficiently large, or a sufficiently long resident, local English
population--what with their constantly leaving for home or for the
cemetery--to form an independent colony. What else remains?

Well, I humbly beg to say that there is another system--a system that
pays in all round peace and prosperity--a system whereby a region with a
native population--a lively one in a Thirteenth century culture
state--of about 30,000,000, is ruled. The total value of exports from
the regions I refer to averages £14,000,000, out of a country of very
much the same make as West Africa; the floating capital in its trade is
some £25,000,000; its actual land area is 562,540 square miles; yet its
trade with its European country amounts, nevertheless, to at least one
half of that carried on between India and England. If you apply the
system that has built this thing up, practically since 1830, to West
Africa, you will not get the above figures out in forty years; but you
will get at least two-thirds of them; and that would be a grand rise on
your present West African figures, and in time you could surpass these
figures, for West Africa is far larger, and far nearer European markets,
and you have the advantage of superior shipping.

The region I am citing is not so unhealthy for whites as West Africa.
Still, it has a stiff death-rate of its own; even nowadays, when it has
pulled that death-rate down by Science--a thing, I may remark, you never
trouble your head about in West Africa, or think worthy of your serious

I will not insult your knowledge by telling you where this system is
working to-day, or who works it, and all that. The same consideration
also bars me from applying for a patent for this system; for although I
lay it before you altered to what I think suitable for West Africa, the
main lines of the system remain. The only thing I confess that makes me
shaky about its being applied to West Africa is, that this system
requires and must have experts black and white to work it, both at home
in England and out in West Africa. Still, you have a sufficient supply
of such experts, if only you would not leave things so largely in the
hands of clerks and amateurs; who, with the assistance of faddists and
renegade Africans, break up the native true Negro culture state, leaving
you little sound stuff to work on in the regions now under the Crown
Colony system.

Before I proceed to sketch the skeleton of the other system, I must lay
before you briefly the present political state of West Africa in the
words of the greatest living expert on the subject, as they are given in
a remarkable article in the _Edinburgh Review_ for October, 1898.

"The weighty utterance of Sir George Goldie should never be forgotten,
'Central African races and tribes have, broadly speaking, no sentiment
of patriotism as understood in Europe.' There is, therefore, little
difficulty in inducing them to accept what German jurisconsults term
'Ober Hoheit,' which corresponds with our interpretation of our vague
term 'Protectorate.' But when complete sovereignty or 'Landes Hoheit,'
is conceded, they invariably stipulate that their local customs and
systems of government shall be respected. On this point they are,
perhaps, more tenacious than most subject races with whom the British
Empire has had to deal; while their views and ideas of life are
extremely difficult for an Englishman to understand. It is therefore
certain that even an imperfect and tyrannical native African
administration, if its extreme excesses were controlled by European
supervision, would be in the early stages productive of far less
discomfort to its subjects than well-intentioned but ill-directed
efforts of European magistrates, often young and headstrong, and not
invariably gifted with sympathy and introspective powers. If the welfare
of the native races is to be considered, if dangerous revolts are to be
obviated, the general policy of ruling on African principles through
native rulers must be followed for the present. Yet it is desirable that
considerable districts in suitable localities should be administered on
European principles by European officials, partly to serve as types to
which the native governments may gradually approximate, but principally
as cities of refuge in which individuals of more advanced views may find
a living if native government presses unduly upon them, just as in
Europe of the Middle Ages men whose love of freedom found the iron-bound
system of feudalism intolerable, sought eagerly the comparative liberty
of cities."[77]

There are a good many points in the above classic passage on which I
would fain become diffuse, but I forbear; merely begging you to note
carefully the wording of that part concerning government by natives
ruling on African principles, because here is a pitfall for the hasty.
You will be told that this is the present policy in Crown Colonies--but
it is not. What they are doing is ruling on European principles through
natives, which is a horse of another colour entirely and makes it hot
work for the unfortunate native catspaw chief, and so all round
unsatisfactory that no really self-respecting native chief will take it

Well, to return to that other system: what it has got to do is to unite
English interests--administrative, commercial and educational--into one
solid whole, and combine these with native interests; briefly, to be a
system where the Englishman and the African co-operate together for
their mutual benefit and advancement, and therefore it must be a
representative system, and one of those groups of representative systems
which form the British Empire.

For reasons I need not discuss here it must be a duplicate system, with
an English and an African side, these two united and responsible to the
English Crown, but both having as great a share of individual freedom in
Africa as possible. By and by the necessity for the duplicate system may
disappear, but at present it is necessary.

I will take the English side first. There should be in England an
African Council, in whose hands is the power of voting supplies and of
appointing the Governor-General, subject to the approval of the Crown,
and to whom firms trading in Africa should be answerable for the actions
of their representatives. This council should be of nominated members,
from the Chambers of Commerce of Liverpool, Manchester, London, Bristol,
and Glasgow. Of course, they should not be paid members. This council
would occupy a similar position in West African administration to that
which the House of Commons occupies in English.

Under this Grand Council there should be two sub-councils reporting to
it, one a joint committee of English lawyers and medical men, the other
a committee of the native chiefs. Neither of these councils should be
paid, but sufficient should be granted them to pay their working
expenses. The members of these sub-councils of the Grand Council should
be appointed--the medical and legal committee by say, the Lord
Chancellor and the College of Physicians respectively, and the committee
of African chiefs by the chiefs in West Africa.

I make no pretence at believing that either of these sub-councils for
the first few years of their existence will be dove-cots--lawyers and
doctors will always fight each other: but the lawyers will hold the
doctors in and _vice versa_, and the common sense of the Grand Council
will hold them both well down to practical politics. With the council of
chiefs there will probably be less trouble, and this council will be an
ambassador to the white government at headquarters capable of
representing to it native opinion and native requirements.

Representing the Grand Council and nominated by it, subject to the
approval of the Crown, as represented by the Chief Secretary for the
Colonies and the Privy Council, there must be one Governor-General for
West Africa: he must be supreme commander of the land and sea forces,
with the right of declaring peace and war, and concluding treaties with
the native chiefs; he must be a proved expert in West African affairs;
he must be paid, say, £5,000 a year; he must spend six months on the
Coast on a tour of inspection, during which he must be accessible alike
to the European and native. He may, if he sees fit, spend more than six
months out there; but it is not advisable he should reside there
permanently, for if he does so, he will assuredly get out of touch with
the Grand Council, of which he should _ex officio_ be chairman or
president. This grand council with its sub-councils is all that is
required in England for the government of West Africa. It is not, as you
see, an expensive system _per se_: with its power to raise supplies, it
could vote itself sufficient to carry on its out-of-pocket expenses in
the matter of clerks and goods inspectors. The connecting link between
it and Africa is the Governor-General; between it and England, the Chief
Secretary for the Colonies--not the Colonial, or Foreign, or any other
existing Office: things it should be equal with, not subject to.

Out in Africa, the Governor-General should be the representative of the
English _raj_--the Ober Hoheit of England--and the head of the system of
Landes Hoheit, represented by the African chiefs; in him the two must
join. Under his control, on the European side, must be the few European
officials required to administer the country locally. These must be
carefully picked, experienced men, provided with sufficient power to
enforce their rule with promptitude when it comes to details; but the
policy of the Ober Hoheit should be the policy of the Governor and Grand
Council, not of the individual official.

Immediately in grade under the Governor-General should come a set of
district commissioners or governors, one for each of the present
colonies. These men should be the resident representatives of the
Governor-General, and responsible to him for the affairs, trade and
political, of their districts. These district commissioners should be
paid £2,000 a year each, and have a term of residence on the Coast of
twelve months, with six months' furlough at home on half pay, the other
half of the pay going to the men who represent them during their absence
at home--the senior sub-commissioners of their districts.[78]

The next grade are the sub-commissioners. These are only required in the
districts now termed Protectorates; the Europeanised coast towns to be
under a different system I will sketch later. Well, these Protectorate
districts should be divided up among sub-commissioners, who should each
reside in his allotted district. They should be responsible directly to
the district commissioner, and they should represent to him constantly
the chiefs' council of the sub-district and the trade, and on the other
hand represent trade and the Ober Hoheit things to the native chiefs.
These men, therefore, will be the backbone of the system, and primarily
on them will depend its success; so they must be expert men--well
acquainted with the native culture state, and with the trade. Each of
these sub-commissioners should have in his district, his own town, from
which he should frequently make tours of inspection round his district
at large; but this town should be what Sir George Goldie calls "a town
of refuge." English law should rule in it absolutely, administered by an
official, one of the class of men approved by the legal sub-council of
the Grand Council. The sub-commissioner should also have in his town a
medical staff of three men, nominated by the medical side of the
sub-council of the Grand Council. These three (chief medical, assistant
medical, and dispenser) should have a hospital provided, where they can
carry on their work properly. Also in this town should be the military
force sufficient to enforce rule in the district--either to go and
prevent one chief bagging another chiefs belongings, or to assist a
chief in a domestic crisis. It is impossible to say how large a military
staff a sub-commissioner would require; some districts would require no
more than fifty soldiers, while another might require 200. Details of
this kind the Governor-General must decide; but whatever size this force
may be, it should be composed of troops under efficient military
control. I believe the West Indian troops to be the best for this
service; but here again you will meet, if you take the trouble to
inquire of people who ought to know, the greatest haziness of mind
combined with an enormous difference of opinion. Some will tell you that
the West Indians are no good, that they are cowardly and unfit for bush
work, and require as many carriers as a white regiment. Others say the
opposite, and hold forth on the evil of using raw savages as troops in
such a country, and placing men who have been cast out on account of
crime into positions of power and authority in the very districts
wherein all the power they should have by rights would be to swing at
the end of a rope.

There is much to be said on both sides; the only thing I will say is
that military affairs in West Africa are in much the same scrappy mess
as civil, and require reorganisation. There is, no doubt, excellent
fighting material in many West African tribes, and turbulent native
spirits are all the better for military organisation and discipline; it
is certain, however, that such men should be deported from districts
wherein they have private scores to settle, and used elsewhere after
they have been disciplined. If it were possible for the native regiments
now being drilled in the hinterlands of our colonies out there to be
used actively to guard our people from foreign aggression, there would
be a good reason for having them, but recent events have demonstrated,
in the Gold Coast hinterland for example, that they cannot, according to
Government notions, be so employed. Therefore they are worse than
useless, for they merely add to the unjustifiable aggressions on the
native residents by aggressions of their own; such things as native
police under the white Government side for the districts of the
protectorate should not exist. They are a sort of wild fowl who will get
you and themselves into more rows than they will ever get any one out
of, and they will squeeze you and the native population into the
bargain. The chiefs of the district should be responsible for the
internal administration of justice among their own people. If a chief
fails in this he should be removed, with the assistance of the military
force at the command of the sub-commissioner. When, in fact, a chief is
found to be going astray, the fact should be promptly brought before the
council of chiefs; a definite short time, say a month, should be
allowed them to bring him to his bearings, and if at the expiration of
this time they fail to do so, without any further delay the
sub-commissioner should step in. In a very short time the chiefs'
council would see the advisability of keeping this from happening, and
also see that it can only be prevented by enforcing good government
among themselves.

Well, this West Indian guard should of course be under its proper
military officers, and at the disposal of the sub-commissioner, and well
installed in barracks, and made generally as happy as circumstances will

Then again in each town which forms the centre of a sub-commissioner's
district there should be representatives of any firms who may wish to
trade there. They can each have their separate factories, or form a
local association for working the trade of the district as it pleases
them. I think it would be advisable that in each of these towns away in
the interior there should be a warehouse, whereto all goods coming up
for the separate trading firms should be delivered, and wherein all
exports ready for transport to the coast should be lodged, and the
figures concerning these things ascertained. This should be the business
of the sub-commissioner's secretary, and he can be aided in it by a
black clerk. But it would not be a custom-house, because customs, like
native regiments, do not exist out there under this system.

If any of the firms like to establish sub-factories in the district
outside the town, they should have every facility impartially afforded
them to do so. Any attack made on them by the natives should be promptly
revenged, but outside the town in all trade matters the native law
should rule under the administration of the local chief, with a power
(in important cases--say, over £20 involved) of appeal to the chiefs'
council, and from that, if need be to the sub-commissioner.

Now in this town, acting with and directing the council of chiefs, you
will have all that the hinterland districts in West Africa at present
require for their administration and development, except, you will say,
religion and education. As for the first, as represented by the
missions, I think they will do best away from the rest, as I will
presently attempt to explain. As for education, that will be in their
hands too, and with them. The missionary stations about the district,
however, will be under the direct control and protection of the
sub-commissioner and his town. No gaol will be required there or
elsewhere in West Africa; the sort of thing a gaol represents is better
represented by a halter and convict labour gang. So much, as old Peter
Heylin would say, for the sub-commission.

The district commissioner for a colony and its hinterland should have a
residence at one of the chief towns on the coast, making tours round to
his sub-commissioners as occasion requires; and he should always be
accessible both to his sub-commissioners and to the district chiefs. At
his head town should be the headquarters of the military force required
by his colony, and the headquarters of the labour service.

We will now turn to the administration of the coast towns, places that
have been long in our possession and have a sufficient white and
Europeanised African population to justify us in regarding them as
English possessions in the Landes Hoheit sense. These towns should be
governed by municipality, and should be under English law, having
accredited magistrates approved of by the Grand Council and paid, not
by the municipalities, but by the Grand Council.

Each municipality should occupy in the system an identical position to
that occupied by the sub-commissioner in his town, and communicate with
the district commissioner direct, receive all goods, and make returns of
them to him. They should each have and be responsible for hospitals and
schools within the town, and for its police, lighting, and sanitary
affairs. Each municipality should be paid by the Government the same pay
as a sub-commissioner, £1,000 a year. They should get their extra
resources from a charge on the trade of the town at a fixed rate made by
the Grand Council for all municipalities under the system.

This system would do away with the division of our possessions, at
present so misleading and vexatious and unnecessary, into Colonies and
Protectorates, and substitute for that division the just division into
regions under our Landes Ober Hoheit (municipalities), and those under
our Ober Hoheit--(sub-commissioners' districts). Both alike would be
under the Governor-General as representing the Grand Council.

There still remains one important new development in our West African
methods--the organisation of native labour. The institution of a regular
and reliable labour supply seems to me one of the most vital things for
the progress of West Africa. There is undoubtedly in West Africa an
enormous supply of labour, and that the true negro can work and work
well the Krumen have amply demonstrated. All that is required is method
and organisation. This you could easily supply. If, for example, you
were to direct those energies of yours which are now employed in raising
native regiments in the hinterland to raising and regulating a native
labour army, it would be better. A native regiment of soldiers is a
thing you do not want in any hinterland district, whereas the native
regiment of labourers is a thing you do want very badly.

There is also in this connection another fact: while, under the present
state of affairs, one colony will be choked with men anxious for work,
and another colony will be starving for labour, if all the English
colonies were united under one system, and a regular labour department
were instituted, this would be obviated.

There exist in West Africa two sources of labour supply, but I think the
Labour Department had better deal with only one of them--the free paid
labour--the other, the convict, would be better placed under the kind
care of the municipalities.

All persons convicted of offences other than capital, should be, at the
discretion of the magistrates, sentenced to a fine, or so many weeks'
labour. The whole of this labour should be devoted to the Public Works
Department of the Municipality, not of the State, and above all, should
not be sent away up into the hinterland, where there will be no one to
look after it as convict labour requires. Quite apart from this, there
should be the State Labour Department, whose jurisdiction would extend
over both colony and hinterland, and whose white officials should be a
distinct line in the service; one or more of these officials should be
in every hinterland sub-commissioner's town. They would be recruiters
and drillers of labourers, just as you now have recruiters and drillers
of soldiers there; and a requisition should be made to all the chiefs,
to draft into this labour army any person, under their rule, who might
be anxious to serve as a labourer; and they should also have power to
enrol any labour volunteer recruits that might come into the town,
provided the chiefs could not show a satisfactory reason against their
so doing. This labour army should be divided up into suitably sized
gangs, with a head man elected by his gang, and be employed in the
transport work required by the Government, or let out by the Government
to private individuals requiring labour within the district, or drafted
to other English colonies on the Coast, if occasion required, to do
certain jobs--I do not say for certain spaces of time, because piecework
is the best system for West Africa. An attempt should be made gradually
to induce the hinterland chiefs to adopt the Kru social system, wherein
every man serves so many years as a labourer, then, about the age of
thirty, joins the army and becomes a compound soldier-policeman, ending
up in honour and glory as a local magistrate. But it must be remembered
that domestic slavery is not a great institution among the Kru tribes,
as it is amongst the hinterland tribes in our colonies; the Kru system
could not, therefore, be immediately introduced.

We now come to the question of where the revenue is to come from to
support this system. There is no difficulty about that in itself; the
difficulty comes in in the method to be employed in its collection. When
one has a chartered trading company it is, of course, a simple matter;
when you have a Crown Colony it is done by means of the custom-house
system. The alternative system, however, is not a chartered company;
under it individual firms, so long as they can show sufficient capital
and good faith, would work the details of their trade out there as
freely and privately as in England. I think every effort should be made
to do away in West Africa with the custom-house system as it exists in
English Crown Colonies. In Cameroon it is better, but in our Crown
Colonies and also in the Niger Coast Protectorate it is ruinous to the
tempers of ship masters and shippers, and the cause of a great waste of
time--decidedly one of the main causes of the undue length of voyages to
and from the Coast.

It seems to me that the revenue of our West African possessions must be
a charge on the trade; and that this charge should, as much as possible,
be collected in Europe from the shippers instead of from their
representatives on the Coast. If I were king in Babylon, I would make
all the trade to West Africa pass through Liverpool, and pay its customs
there to a custom-house of the Grand Council, or through the English
ports of the other chambers represented on the Grand Council--each
chamber being responsible for the trade of its port. I am aware that
this would cause difficulty with the increasing continental trade; but
this would be obviated by affiliating Hamburg and Havre to the Council
and giving into their hands the collections of the dues at those ports.
The Grand Council should fix annually the amount of the trade tax, and
it should have at its disposal for this matter the figures sent home by
the separate district commissioners in West Africa. The sub-commissioner
of a district should know the amount of trade his district was doing,
and be paid a commission on it to stimulate his interest. If the goods
used in his district were delivered at one warehouse in his town, he
would have little difficulty in getting the figures, which he should
pass on to the district commissioner, who should forward them to the
Grand Council with report in duplicate to the Governor-General, so that
that officer might keep his finger on the pulse of the prosperity of
each district; similarly, the municipalities should report to him the
trade done in the towns under their control.

In addition, the Government, that is to say, the Grand Council, should
take over the monopoly of the tobacco import and the timber export. By
using tobacco in the same way as European governments use coinage, an
immense revenue could be very cheaply obtained. The Grand Council should
sell the tobacco to the individual traders who work the West African
markets, allowing no other tobacco to be used in the trade; this revenue
also could be collected in Europe.

The timber industry should, I think, be under governmental control, both
for the sake of providing the Government with revenue and for the sake
of protecting the forests from destruction in those districts where
forest destruction is a danger to the common weal, by weakening the
forest barriers against the Sahara.

The return that the Government should make for these monopolies to the
independent trader should be, among other things, transport. In the
course of a few years the Government would have in hand a sufficient
surplus to build a pier across the Gold Coast surf. It is possible to
build piers across the West Coast surf, for the French have done it. I
would not advocate one great and mighty pier, that ocean-going steamers
could go alongside, for all the Gold Coast ports, but a set of
=T=-headed piers where surf boats or lighters could discharge, and the
employment of stout steam tugs to tow surf boats and lighters to and fro
between the lighters and the pier.

Then again, every mile of available waterway inland should be utilised,
and patrolled by Government cargo boats of the lawn-mower or flat-iron
brand, as the Chargeurs-Reunis are subsidised to patrol the Ogowé. On
the Gold Coast you have the Volta and the Ancobra available for this; in
Sierra Leone and Lagos you have many waterways penetrating inland.

Land transport should also be in the hands of the Government, and goods
delivered free of extra charge at the towns of the sub-commissioners;
this could be done by the Labour Department. When sufficient surplus
revenue was in hand, light railways on the French system should be
built, similarly delivering, free of freight, the goods belonging to the
inland registered traders, but charging freight for passengers and local
goods traffic. A telegraph and postal service should also be another
source of revenue, if thrown open at a low charge to the general public.
If there is a telegraph office in West Africa, where telegrams can be
sent at a reasonable rate, the general public will throw away a lot of
money on it in a fiscally fascinating way.

These various sources of revenue will place in the hands of the Grand
Council a sufficient revenue, and if that revenue is expended by them in
developing methods of transport, I am confident that the trade of the
district, in the hands of the private firms, will healthily expand,
alike rapidly and continuously, and thereby supply more revenue, which,
expended with equal wisdom, will again increase the trade and prosperity
of the region, and make West Africa into a truly great possession.

The things I depend on for the development of West Africa, are mainly
two. First, the sub-commissioner's town, acting in fellowship with the
chiefs' council of the district. The example of that town will stimulate
the best of the chiefs to emulation; it will by every self-respecting
chief, be regarded as stylish to have clean wide streets and shops, a
telegraph and post-office, and things like that. Seeing that his elder
brother, the sub-commissioner, has a line of telegraph connecting him
with the district commission town, he will want a line of telegraph too.
By all means let him have it; let him have the electric light and a
telephone, if he feels he wants it, and will pay for it; but don't force
these things, let them come, natural like. The great thing, however, in
the sub-commissioner's town is that it should be so ruled and governed
that it does not become a thing like our Coast towns now, sink-holes of
moral iniquity, that stink in the nose of a respectable African--things
he hates to see his sons and daughters and people go down into.

Secondly, I depend on municipal Government on the lines I have laid down
for the Coast towns. The Government of these municipalities would be in
the hands of the representatives of the trading firms, and the more
important native traders--people, as I hold, perfectly capable of
dealing with affairs, and having a community of interests.

The great difficulty in arranging any system for the government of West
Africa lies not in the true difficulties this region presents, but in
the fictitious difficulties that are the growth of years of mutual
misunderstanding and misrepresentation. That great mass of mutual
distrust, so that to-day down there white man distrusts white man and
black, black man distrusts black man and white, may seem on a
superficial review to be justified. But if you go deeper you will find
that this distrust is the mere product of folly and ignorance, and is
therefore removable.

The great practical difficulty lies in arranging a system whereby the
white trader can work on every legitimate line absolutely free from
governmental hindrance. I have too great a respect for the West Coast
traders to publish any criticism on them. I hold that the competition
among them is too severe for them to face the present state of West
Africa and prosper as men should who run so great a risk of early death
as the West Coast trader runs. I should like to know who profits by
their internecine war; I think no one but the native buyers of their
goods. Again now, under the present Crown Colony system, the traders,
knowing they are the people who have paid for the Government for years,
who have given it the money it lives on, naturally ask for something
back in the way of local improvements. The Government has now no money
to carry out these improvements, unless it borrows it. The Government as
at present existing must necessarily waste that borrowed money just as
it has wasted the money the traders have paid it; therefore the
consequences of improvements under the present system must be debt,
which the traders must pay in the end. I would therefore urge the
traders to abandon a policy of demanding improvements and protection in
their trade relationships with the natives, such as ordinances against
adulteration of produce, &c., and to realise that by gaining these
things they are but enslaving themselves in the future. Let them rather
adopt the policy of altering the form of government before they proceed
to urge further governmental expenditure.

If the traders require a dry-nurse system, let them formulate one in
place of the one sketched above. I do not, however, think they want
anything of the kind, unless they are indeed degenerate; but, if they
do, I beg them to bear in mind that you cannot have an Alexandra
feeding bottle and a latch key; they must choose one or the other. At
present, the Crown Colony system gives neither. Under it the trader is
treated like a child, a neglected child, one of those interesting but
unfortunate children who have to support an elderly relative, who would
be all the better for a cheap funeral.

Upon the missionary and educational side of the system I have advocated
I need not enlarge. Just as trade should go on under it free, so should
mission effort; there should be no governmental forcing of either, but
it should be steadily borne in mind that the regeneration of the
considerable amount of broken up stuff which exists in the Coast town
regions--the Africans who have lost their old culture and their old
Fetish regulation or conduct without being completely Europeanised--is a
work that can only be effected by the missionary, and therefore in the
hands of the missions should be placed the whole education department,
with the one demand on it from the Government that in their schools
every scholar should have the opportunity of acquiring a sound education
in the rudiments of English reading, writing and arithmetic. Give him
this knowledge, and your brilliant young African has demonstrated that
he can rise to any examination such as an European university offers
him. Under the system I advocate there need be no limitation as to
colour in the officials employed in the municipalities. In the
sub-commissioners' towns the head officials must be Englishmen, but
among the regions under the Landes Hoheit in the hinterland, Africans
educated as doctors or as traders could have grand careers provided they
did honest work.

The consideration of the African side of this system of administration
is a thing into which--after all the long recitation I have inflicted on
you concerning African religion and law--I am not justified in plunging
here. I will merely, therefore, lay before you a statement of African
Common Law, so that you may see the African principle through which the
Landes Hoheit--the government of Africa by Africans--would work. I am
confident that the thing--the African principle--is so sound that it
could work; there is no need for us to put our Commerce under it, any
more than there is need that we should attempt to put the African's
private property under our own law; but a healthy Commerce and a healthy
Law should co-operate, and can co-operate.


   [77] Preface by Sir George Goldie to Vandeleur's _Campaigning on the
   Upper Nile and Niger_, 1898.

   [78] The time which a man ought to be expected to remain in West Africa
   is difficult to determine--representatives of trading firms are expected
   to remain out two years, and the mortality among them is certainly no
   higher than among the officials with their twelve months' service. It is
   contended by the commercial party that it takes a man several months
   after returning from furlough to get into working order again, that
   under the twelve months' system no sooner has he done this than he is
   off on furlough again, in short that the system is foolish and wasteful
   in the extreme. On the other hand the advocates of the short service
   plan contend that a man is not fit for work at all after twelve months
   in West Africa, and that if he is not definitely ill, he has at any rate
   lost all energy. Personally, I fancy it depends on the individual, and
   that with a definite policy the short service plan will be quite safe.



     Wherein some attempt is made to set down the divers kinds of
     property that exist among the people of the true Negro race in
     Western Africa, and the law whereby it is governed.

In speaking on the subject of African property and the laws which guard
it in its native state, I must, in the space at my disposal here,
confine myself to speaking of these things as they are in one division
of the many different races of human beings that inhabit that vast
continent of Africa; and, in order to present the affair more clearly, I
must take them as they exist in their most highly developed state,
namely, among the people of the true Negro stock, for it is among these
people that pure African culture has reached so far its fullest state of

The distribution zone of this true Negro stock cannot yet be fixed with
any approach to accuracy, but we know that the seaboard of the regions
inhabited by the true Negro is that vast stretch of the African West
Coast from a point south of the Gambia River to a point just north of
Cameroon River, in the region of the Rio del Rey. We can safely say,
within this region you will find the true Negro, but we cannot safely
say how far inland, or how far down south of the Rio del Rey we shall
find him. That this stock extends through up to the Nile regions;
that it stretches far away south of the Nile in the interior of the
Upper Congo regions, appearing in the Azenghi; that it stretches south
on the coast line below the Rio del Rey, appearing as the so-called
noble tribes of the Bight of Panavia, the Ajumba, Mpongwe, Igalwa, and
also as Osheba, Befangh, will be demonstrated I believe when we have a
sufficient supply of ethnological observers in Africa. But it must be
remembered that you can only get the true Negro unadulterated in the
coast regions of Western Africa between the Rivers Gambia and Cameroon.

     [Illustration: A HOUSA. [_To face page 420._]

In the fringe regions of the West Soudan you have an adulterated form of
him--adulterated in idea with Mohammedanism, and the Berber races; to
the east and to the south with that other great African race division,
the Bantu. I venture to think that Bantu adulteration mainly takes the
form of language. We have in our own continent many instances of races
of greater strength and conquering power adopting the language of the
weaker peoples whom they have conquered, when the language has been one
more adapted to the needs of life and more widely diffused than their
own, and therefore more suited to commercial intercourse.

The Negro languages are poor, and, moreover, they differ among
themselves so gravely that one tribe cannot understand another tribe
that lives even next door to it. I know 147 such languages in the region
of the Niger Delta alone. Now this sort of thing means interpreters, and
is hindersome to commercial intercourse, and therefore you always find
the true Negro, when he is in a district where he has opportunities of
trading with other peoples, adopting their language, and making for use
in public life a corrupt English, Portuguese, or Arabic lingo.
Similarly, it seems to me, he has in the regions he has conquered in
Southern and Central Africa, adopted Bantu, and much the same thing has
happened, and is still happening, there, as happened in Southern and
Central Europe. Just as the powerful barbarian stocks adopted Latin in a
way that must keep Priscian's head still in bandages and to this day
seriously mar his happiness in the Elysian fields, so have the true
Negroes adopted the flexible Bantu languages. But it would be as
unscientific to regard a Spaniard or a Frenchman as a full-blooded
ancient Roman, as to regard many of the Negro tribes now speaking Bantu
language as Bantu men.

The Negro has, moreover, not only adopted Bantu languages in some
regions, such as the Mpongwe, for example, but he has also adopted to a
certain extent Bantu culture. I am sure those of you who have lived
among the true Negroes and true Bantu, will agree with me that these
cultures differ materially. Africa, so far as I know it, namely, from
Sierra Leone to Benguela, smells generally rather strong, but
particularly so in those districts inhabited by the true Negro. This
pre-eminence the true Negroes attain to by leaving the sanitary matters
of villages and towns in the hands of Providence. The Bantu culture
looks after the cleaning and tidying of the village streets to a
remarkable degree, though by no means more clean in the houses, which,
in both cultures, are quite as clean and tidy as you will find in
England. Again, in the Bantu culture you will find the slaves living in
villages apart: inside the true Negro they live with their owners; and
there are other points which mark the domestic cultures of these people
as being different from each other, which I need not detain you with
now. All these points in Bantu domestic culture the true Negro will
adopt, as well as language; but there seem to be two points he does not
readily adopt, or rather two points in his own culture to which he
clings. One is the religious: in Bantu you find a great female god, who,
for practical purposes, is more important than the great male god, in so
far as she rules mundane affairs. In the true Negro the great gods are
male. There are great female gods, but none of them occupy a position
equal to that occupied by Nzambi, as you find the Bantu great female god
called among the people who are undoubtedly true Bantu, the Fjort. The
other, is the form of the State, and one important part of that form is
the institution in the Negro tribes of a regular military organisation,
with a regular War Lord, not one and the same with the Peace Lord.

     [Illustration: HOUSE PROPERTY IN KACONGO.]

     [Illustration: BUBIES OF FERNANDO PO. [_To face page 423._]

This, I am aware, is not the customary or fashionable view of race
distribution in Africa, but allow me to recall to your remembrance one
of the most fascinating books ever written, _The Adventures of Andrew
Battel, of Leigh in Essex_, who for eighteen years lived among the
districts of the Lower Congo.

I do this in order to show that I am not theorising in this matter.
Andrew Battel left London on a ship sweetly named _The May Morning_, and
having a consort named the _Dolphin_--they were pinnaces of fifty tons
each--on the 20th of April, 1589. With very little delay they fell into
divers disasters, and Andrew became a prisoner in the hands of the
Portuguese at Loanda. He had a very bad time of it, the Portuguese then
regarding all Englishmen as pirates and nothing more, except heretics
and vermin. Andrew, with the enterprise and common sense of our race,
escaped several times from captivity, and, with the stupidity of our
race fell into it again, but his great escape was when he fell in with
the Ghagas. Well, these Ghagas, Andrew Battel and the Portuguese
historians say, were a fearful people, who came from behind Sierra
Leone, and when the Kingdom of Congo was discovered by Diego Caõ in
1484, the Ghagas were attacking it so severely that, but for the timely
arrival of the Portuguese and the help they gave Congo, there would in a
very short time have been no Kingdom of Congo left to discover; and to
this day Dr. Blyden, who went there on a Government mission, says that
up by Fallaba, in the Sierra Leone hinterland, you will now and then see
a Ghaga--a man feared, a man of whom the country people do not know
where his home is, nor what he eats or how he lives, but from whom they
shrink as from a superior terrible form of human being--a remnant, or
remainder over, of those people whose very name struck terror throughout
Central Equatorial Africa in the 15th century, when, for some reason we
do not know, they made a warlike migration down among the peaceful
feeble Bantu.

If you will carefully study the account given of the organisation of the
Ghagas and also of the organisation of the Kingdom of Congo, I think you
will see that in the Ghagas you have a true Negro State form, while in
the Congo Kingdom you have something different; something that is
nowadays called Bantu. What became of the Ghagas when foiled by the
Portuguese in destroying the Kingdom of Congo is not exactly known, but
there is a definite ground for thinking that, modified by intermarriage
and a different environment, they split up, and are now represented by
the warlike South African tribes and East African tribes, such as the
Matabele, and the Massai, and so on. The modification of this portion of
the true Negro stem in the south and the east is akin to the
modification the stem has undergone nearer to its true home on the West
Coast of Africa, where to the north of Sierra Leone and behind the coast
regions of the Ivory, Gold, and Slave Coasts it has, by admixture with
the Berber tribes of the Western Soudan, produced the Black Moors,
namely the Mandingo, the Hausa, and Oullaf. These Black Moors of the
Western Soudan have attained to a high pitch of barbaric culture; it
appears to be a further development of the true Negro culture, but it is
so suffused with the Mohammedan idea and law that it is not in this
state that we can best study the native culture of the pure Negro.
Neither can we study it well in those south and east regions where it
has adopted Bantu language and culture to a certain extent.

I will not, however, attempt to enter here upon the question of the
continental distribution of the Negro and Bantu stocks; I will merely
beg observers of African tribes to note carefully whether their tribe is
given to street-cleaning, to keeping slaves in separate villages, or to
venerating a great female god. If it is, it has got a Bantu culture; if,
in addition, it has a regular military organisation, or a keen
commercial spirit, or a certain ability to rule over the tribes round
it, I beg they will suspect Negro blood and do their best to give us
that tribe's migration history; and then we may in future times be able
to settle the question of race distribution on better lines than our
present state of knowledge allows of. Having said that the law and
institutions of the true Negro stock cannot best be studied in those
regions where they are adulterated by alien cultures, it remains to say
where they can best be studied. I think that undoubtedly this region is
that of the Oil Rivers.

The thing you must always bear in mind when observing institutions and
so on from Sierra Leone down to Lagos, is that the fertile belt between
the salt sea of the Bight of Benin and the sand sea of Sahara is but a
narrow band of forest and fertile country, while, when you get below
Lagos--Lagos itself is a tongue of the Western Soudan coming down to the
sea--you are in the true heart of Africa, the Equatorial Forest Belt;
and that it is in this belt that you will get your materials at their
purest. Therefore take the regions inhabited by the true Negro. In the
regions from Sierra Leone to the Gold Coast, you have, it is true, not
much white influence or adulteration, mainly because of the rock-reefed
shore being dangerous to navigators. There is in this region undoubtedly
a great and yearly increasing so-called Arab, but really Mohammedanised
Berber, influence working on the true Negro. The natives themselves have
their State-form in a state of wreckage from the destruction of the old
Empire of Meli, which fell, from reasons we do not know, some time in
the 16th century. We have, however, miserably little information on this
particular region of Sierra Leone, the Pepper and Ivory Coasts, owing to
its never having been worked at by a competent ethnologist; but the
accounts we have of it show that the secret societies have here got the
upper hand to an abnormal extent for the Negro state. Then we come to
the Gold Coast region which has been so excellently worked at by the
late Sir A. B. Ellis. Here you have a heavy amount of adulteration in
idea, and, moreover, the long-continued white influence--1435-1898--has
decidedly tended to a disorganisation of the Negro State-form, and to an
undue development of the individual chief; nevertheless the law-form now
existent on the Gold Coast is, when tested against a knowledge of the
pure Negro law-form as found in the Oil Rivers, almost unaltered, and I
think if you will carefully study that valuable book, Sarbar's _Fanti
Customary Law_, you will also see that the State-form is identical in
essence with that of the Oil Rivers--the House system.

The House is a collection of individuals; I should hesitate to call it a
developed family. I cannot say it is a collection of human beings,
because the very dogs and canoes and so on that belong to it are part of
it in the eye of the law, and capable therefore alike of embroiling it
and advancing its interests. These Houses are bound together into groups
by the Long ju-ju proper to the so-called secret society, common to the
groups of houses. The House itself is presided over by what is called,
in white parlance, a king, and beneath him there are four classes of
human beings in regular rank, that is to say, influence in council:
firstly, the free relations of the king, if he be a free man himself,
which is frequently not the case; if he be a slave, the free people of
the family he is trustee for; secondly, the free small people who have
placed themselves under the protection of the House, rendering it in
return for the assistance and protection it affords them service on
demand; the third and fourth classes are true slave classes, the higher
one in rank being that called the Winnaboes or Trade boys, the lower the
pull-away boys and the plantation hands.[79] The best point in it, as a
system, is that it gives to the poorest boy who paddles an oil canoe a
chance of becoming a king.

Property itself in West Africa, and as I have reason to believe from
reports in other parts of tropical Africa that I am acquainted with, is
firmly governed and is divisible into three kinds. Firstly, ancestral
property connected with the office of headmanship, the Stool, as this
office is called in the true Negro state, the Cap, as it is called down
in Bas Congo; secondly, family property, in which every member of the
family has a certain share, and on which he, she, or it has a claim;
thirdly, private property, that which is acquired or made by a man or
woman by their personal exertions, over and above that which is earned
by them in co-operation with other members of their family which becomes
family property, and that which is gained by gifts or made in trade by
the exercise of a superior trading ability.

Every one of these forms of property is equally sacred in the eye of the
African law. The property of the Stool must be worked for the Stool;
working it well, increasing it, adds to the importance of the Stool, and
makes the king who does so popular; but he is trustee, not owner, of the
Stool property, and his family don't come in for that property on his
death, for every profit made by the working of Stool property is like
this itself the property of the Stool, and during the king's life he
cannot legally alienate it for his own personal advantage, but can only
administer it for the benefit of the Stool.

The king's power over the property of the family and the private
property of the people under his rule, consists in the right of Ban, but
not arrière Ban. Family property is much the same as regards the laws
concerning it as Stool property. The head of the family is the trustee
of it. If he is a spendthrift, or unlucky in its management, he is
removed from his position. Any profit he may make with the assistance of
a member of his own family becomes family property; but of course any
profit he may make with the assistance of his free wives or wife, a
person who does not belong to his family, or with the assistance of an
outsider, may become his own. Private property acquired in the ways I
have mentioned is equally sacred in the eyes of the law. I do not
suppose you could find a single human being, slave or free, who had not
some private property of his or her very own. Amongst that very
interesting and valuable tribe, the Kru, where the family organisation
is at its strictest, you can see the anxiety of the individual Kruman to
secure for himself a little portion of his hard-earned wages and save it
from the hands of his family elders. The Kruman's wages are paid to him,
or changed by him, into cloths and sundry merchandise, and he is not
paid off until the end of his term of work. So he has to hurry up in
order to appropriate to himself as much as he can on the boat that takes
him back to his beloved "We" country, and industriously make for himself
garments out of as much of his cotton goods as he can; for even a man's
family, even in Kru country, will not take away his shirt and trousers,
but I am afraid there is precious little else that the Kruman can save
from their rapacity. What he can save in addition to these, he informs
me, he gives to his mother, or failing his mother, to a favourite
sister, who looks after it and keeps it for him, she being, woman-like,
more fit to quarrel if need be with the family elders than he is
himself. But all private property once secured is sacred, very sacred,
in the African State-form. I do not know from my own investigations, nor
have I been able to find evidence in the investigations of other
observers, of any king, priesthood, or man, who would openly dare
interfere with the private property of the veriest slave in his
district, diocese, or household. I know this seems a risky thing to
say, and I do not like to say it because I feel that if I were a betting
man I could make a good thing over betting on it, for experience has
taught me that every time an African's property is taken by a fellow
African under native law, and in times of peace, it is taken after it is
confiscated by its original owner, either in bankruptcy or crime. You
will hear dozens of accounts of how everything an African possessed was
seized on, etc., but if you look into them you will find in every case
that the individual so cleaned out owed it all, and frequently far more,
before he or she fell into the hands of the Official Receiver, the local

One of the most common causes of an individual's entire estate being
seized upon is a conviction for witchcraft. Every form of property in
Africa is liable to be called on to meet its owner's debts, and the
witch's is too heavy a debt for any individual's private estate to meet
and leave a surplus. For not only does the witch owe to the family of
the person, of whose murder he or she is convicted, the price of that
life, but it is felt by the Community that the witch has not been found
out in the first offence, and so every miscellaneous affliction that has
recently happened is put down to the convicted witch's account. Mind
you, I do not say _all_ these claims are _satisfied_ out of the estate
of the witch deceased, (witches are always deceased by the authorities
with the utmost despatch after conviction) because the said property has
during the course of the trial got into the hands of Officialdom and has
a natural tendency to stop there. But one thing is certain, there is no
residuary estate for the witch's own relations. Not that for the matter
of that they would dare claim it in any case, lest they should be
involved with the witch and accused as accomplices.

Still, legally, the witch's relations have the consolation of knowing
that, if things go smoothly and they evade being accused of a share in
the crime, they cannot be called on to meet the debts incurred by the
witch. From a family point of view better a dead witch than a live
speculative trader.

The reason of this delicate little point of law I confess gave me more
trouble to discover than it ought to have done, for the explanation was
quite simple, namely, the witch's body had been taken over by the

Now, according to African law, if you take a man's life, or, for the
matter of that, his body, dead or alive, in settlement of a debt, your
claim is satisfied. You have got legal tender for it. I remember coming
across an amusing demonstration of this law in the colony of Cameroon.
There was, and still is, a windy-headed native trader there who for
years has hung by the hair of loans over the abyss of bankruptcy. All
the local native traders knew that man, but there arrived a new trader
across from Calabar district who did not. Like the needle to the pole,
our friend turned to him for a loan in goods and got it, with the usual
result namely, excuses, delays, promises--in fact anything but payment;
enraged at this, and determined to show the Cameroon traders at large
how to carry on business on modern lines, the young Calabar trader
called in the Government and the debtor was gently but firmly confined
to the Government grounds. Of course he was not put in the chain-gang,
not being a serious criminal, but provided with a palm-mat broom he
proceeded to do as little as possible with it, and lead a contented,
cheerful existence.

It rather worried the Calabar man to see this, and also that his drastic
measure caused no wild rush to him of remonstrating relations of the
imprisoned debtor; indeed they did not even turn up to supply the said
debtor with food, let alone attempt to buy him off by discharging his
debt. In place of them, however, one by one the Cameroon traders came to
call on the Calabar merchant, all in an exceedingly amiable state of
mind and very civil. They said it gave them pleasure to observe his
brisk method of dealing with that man, and it was a great relief to
their minds to see a reliable man of wealth like himself taking charge
of that debtor's affairs, for now they saw the chance of seeing the
money they had years ago advanced, and of which they had not, so far,
seen a fraction back, neither capital nor interest. The Calabar man grew
pale and anxious as the accounts of the debts he had made himself
responsible for came in, and he knew that if the debtor died on his
hands, that is to say in the imprisonment he had consigned him to, he
would be obliged to pay back all those debts of the Cameroon man, for
the German Government have an intelligent knowledge of native law and
carry it out in Cameroon. Still the Calabar man did not like climbing
down and letting the man go, so he supplied him with food and worried
about his state of health severely. This that villainous Cameroon fellow
found out, and was therefore forthwith smitten with an obscure abdominal
complaint, a fairly safe thing to have as my esteemed friend Dr. Plehn
was absent from that station, and therefore not able to descend on the
malingerer with nauseous drugs. It is needless to say that at this
juncture the Calabar man gave in, and let the prisoner out, freeing
himself thereby from responsibility beyond his own loss, but returning a
poorer and a wiser man to his own markets, and more assured than ever of
the villainy of the whole Dualla tribe.

In any case legally the relatives of a debtor seized or pawned can
redeem, if they choose, the person or the body by paying off the debt
with the interest, 33-1/2 per cent. per annum, to the common rate. Great
sacrifices and exertions are made by his family to redeem almost every
debtor, and the family property is strained to its utmost on his or her
behalf; but in the case of a witch it is different, no set of relatives
wish to redeem a convicted witch, who, reduced by the authorities to a
body, and that mostly in bits and badly damaged, is not a thing
desirable. No! they say Society has got him and we are morally certain
he must have been illegitimate, for such a thing as a witch never
happened in our family before, and if we show the least interest in the
remains we shall get accused ourselves. Of course if a man or woman's
life is taken on any other kind of accusation save witchcraft, the
affair is on a different footing. The family then forms a higher
estimate of the deceased's value than they showed signs of to him or her
when living, and they try to screw that value to the uttermost farthing
out of the person who has killed their kinsman. Society at large only
regards you for doing this as a fool man to think so highly of the
departed, whose true value it knows to be far below that set on him. In
the case of a living man taken for debt, he is a slave to his creditor,
a pawn slave, but not on the same footing as a boughten slave; he has
not the advantages of a true slave in the matter of succeeding to the
wealth or position of the house, but against that he can be a free man
the moment his debts are paid. This may be a theoretical possibility
only, just as it would be theoretical for me to expect my family to bail
me out if the bail were a question of a million sterling, but in legal
principle the redemption is practicable.

In the case of taking a dead body another factor is introduced. By
taking charge of and interring a body, you become the executor to the
deceased man's estate. I have known three sets of relatives arrive with
three coffins for one body, and a consequential row, for a good deal can
be made by an executor; but if you make yourself liable for the body's
liabilities care is needed, and there is no reckless buying of bodies
with whose private affairs you are not conversant, in West Africa. It is
far too wild a speculation for such quiet commercial men as my African
friends are. Hence it comes that a Negro merchant on a trading tour away
from his home, overtaken by death in a town where he is not known, is
not buried, but dried and carefully put outside the town, or on the road
to the market, the road he came by, so that any one of his friends or
relations, who may perchance come some time that way, can recognise the
remains. If they do they can take the remains home and bury them if they
like, or bury them there, free and welcome, but the local County Council
will do nothing of the kind. A nice thing a set of respectable elders,
or as their Fanti, name goes Paynim, would let themselves in for by
burying the body of a gentleman who happened to have four murders, ten
adultery cases, a crushing mass of debt, and no earthly assets save a
few dilapidated women, bad ones at that, and a whole pack of children
with the Kraw Kraw, or the Guinea worm, or both together and including
the Yaws.

This brings us to another way besides witchcraft whereby a gentleman in
West Africa can throw away a fine fortune by paying his debts, namely,
the so-called adultery. Adultery out there, I hastily beg to remark, may
be only brushing against a woman in a crowded market place or bush path,
or raising a hand in defence against a virago. It's the wrong word, but
the customary one to use for touching women, and it is exceedingly
expensive and a constant source of danger to the most respectable of
men, the demands made on its account being exorbitant: sometimes so
exorbitant that I have known of several men who, in order to save their
family from ruin--for if their own private property were insufficient to
meet it the family property would be liable for the balance--have given
themselves up as pawn-slaves to their accusers.

There is but one check on this evil of frivolous and false accusation,
and that is that when there have been many cases of it in a district,
the cult of the Law God of that region gets a high moral fit on and
comes down on that district and eats the adultery. I need not say that
this is to the private benefit of no layman in the district, for
notoriously it is an expensive thing to have the Law God down, and a
thing every district tries to avoid. There is undoubtedly great evil in
this law, which presses harder on private and family property than
anything else, harder even than accusations of witchcraft; but it
safeguards the women, enabling them to go to and fro about the forest
paths, and in the villages and market places at home, and far from home,
without fear of molestation or insult, bar that which they get up
amongst themselves.

The methods employed in enforcing the payment of a debt are appeal to
the village headman or village elders; or, after giving warning, the
seizure of property belonging to the debtor if possible, or if not, that
of any other person belonging to his village will do. This procedure
usually leads to palaver, and the elders decide whether the amount
seized is equal to the debt or whether it is excessive; if excessive the
excess has to be returned, and there is also the appeal to the Law
Society. In the regions of the Benin Bight we have also, as in India,
the custom of collecting debts by Dharna. In West Africa the creditor
who sits at the debtor's door is bound to bring with him food for one
day, this is equivalent to giving notice; after the first day the debtor
has to supply him with food, for were he to die he would be answerable
for his life and the worth thereof in addition to the original debt. If
I mention that there is no community of goods between a man and his wife
(women owning and holding property under identical conditions to men in
the eye of the law), I think I shall have detained you more than long
enough on the subject of the laws of property in West Africa. You will
see that the thing that underlies them is the conception that every
person is the member of some family, and all the other members of the
family are responsible for him and to him and he to them; and every
family is a member of some house, and all the other members of the house
are responsible for and to the families of which it is composed.

The natural tendency of this is for property to become joint property,
family property, or to be absorbed into family property. A man by his
superior ability acquires, it may be, a considerable amount of private
property, but at his death it passes into the hands of the family. There
are Wills, but they are not the rule, and they more often refer to an
appointment of a successor in position than to a disposal of effects.
The common practice of gifts there supplies the place of Wills with us;
a rich man gives his friend or his favourite wife, child, or slave,
things during his life, while he can see that they get it, and does not
leave the matter till after his death. The good point about the African
system is that it leaves no person uncared for; there are no unemployed
starving poor, every individual is responsible for and to his fellow
men and women who belong to the same community, and the naturally strong
instinct of hospitality, joined with the knowledge that the stranger
within the gates belongs to a whole set of people who will make palaver
if anything happens to him, looks well after the safety of wanderers in
Negro land. The bad point is, of course that the system is cumbersome,
and, moreover, it tends, with the operation of the general African law
of _mutterrecht_, the tracing of descent through females, to prevent the
building up of great families. For example, you have a great man, wise,
learned, just, and so on; he is esteemed in his generation, but at his
death his property does not go to the sons born to him by one of his
wives, who is a great woman of a princely line, but to the eldest son of
his sister by the same mother as his own. This sister's mother and his
own mother was a slave wife of his father's; this, you see, keeps good
blood in a continual state of dilution with slave blood. The son he has
by his aristocratic wife may come in for the property of her brother,
but her brother belongs to a different family, so he does not take up
his father's greatness and carry it on with the help his father's wealth
could give him in the father's family. I do not say the system is unjust
or anything like that, mind; I merely say that it does not tend to the
production of a series of great men in one family.

Nevertheless, when once you have mastered the simple fundamental rules
that underlie the native African idea of property they must strike you
as just, elaborately just; and there is another element of simplicity in
the thing, and that is that all forms of property are subject to the
same law, land, women, china basons, canoes, slaves, it matters not
what, there is the law.

You will ofter hear of the vast stretches of country in Africa unowned,
and open to all who choose to cultivate them or possess them. Well,
those stretches of unowned land are not in West Africa. I do not pretend
to know other parts of the continent. In West Africa there is not one
acre of land that does not belong to some one, who is trustee of it, for
a set of people who are themselves only life tenants, the real owner
being the tribe in its past, present, and future state, away into
eternity at both ends. But as West African land is a thing I should not
feel, even if I had the money, anxious to acquire as freehold, and as
you can get under native law a safe possession of mining and cultivation
rights from the representatives living of the tribe they belong to, I do
not think that any interference is urgently needed with a system
fundamentally just.

After having said so much on African native property, it may be as well
to say what African property consists of. It is not necessary for me to
go into the affair very fully, but you will remember, I am sure, the old
statement of "women and slaves constitute the wealth of an African." The
African himself would tell you nine times in ten that women and slaves
caused him the lack of it. Still they are undoubtedly a factor in the
true Negro's wealth, but to consider them property it is necessary to
consider them as property in different classes. Here and now I need only
divide them into two classes--wives properly so-called, and male and
female slaves. The duty of the slave is to increase directly the wealth
of his or her owner--that of the wife to increase it also, but in a
different manner, namely, by bringing her influence to bear for his
advantage among her own family and among the people of the district she
lives in. A big chief will have three or more of these wives, each of
them living in her own house, or in the culture state of Calabar, in her
own yard in his house, having her own farm away in the country, where
she goes at planting and harvest times. She possesses her own slaves and
miscellaneous property, which includes her children, and the main part
of this property is really the property of her family, just as most
people's property is in West Africa. The husband will reside with each
of these wives in turn, yet he has a home of his own, with his slave
wives, and his children properly so called, similarly having his own
farm and miscellaneous property, which similarly belongs mainly to his
family, and this house is usually presided over by his mother, or
failing her a favourite sister.

The immediate rule of a husband over his wife may be likened to that of
a constitutional monarch, that of a man or woman over a slave to that of
an absolute monarch, though true absolutism is in the Negro State-form
not to be found in any individual man. The nearest approach to it is,
very properly, in the hands of the cult of the Law God, the tribal
secret society, but even from that society the individual can appeal, if
he dare, to Long Ju Ju.

The other forms of wealth possessed by an African, his true wealth, are
market rights, utensils, canoes, arms, furniture, land, and trade goods.
It is in his capacity to command these things in large quantities that
his wealth lies, it is his wives and slaves who enable and assist him to
do this thing. So take the whole together and you will see how you can
have a very rich African, rich in the only way it is worth while being
rich in, power, yet a man who possibly could not pay you down £20, but a
real millionaire for all that.


   [79] See "Lecture on African Religion and Law," published by leave of
   the Hibbert Trustees in the _National Review_. September, 1897.


     [Illustration: JA JA, KING OF OPOBO. [_To face page 443._]



It is with some diffidence I attempt this task, because many more able
men have written about this country, with whom occasionally I shall most
likely be found not quite in accord; but if a long residence in and
connection with a country entitles one to be heard, then I am fully
qualified, for I first went to Western Africa in 1862, and my last
voyage was in 1896.

Previous to 1891, the date at which this Coast (Benin to Old Calabar)
was formed into a British Protectorate under the name of the Oil Rivers
Protectorate, now the Niger Coast Protectorate, each of the rivers
frequented by Europeans for the purpose of trade was ruled over more or
less intelligently by one, and in some cases by two, sable potentates,
who were responsible to Her Britannic Majesty's Consul for the safety
and well-being of the white traders; also for the fostering of trade in
the hinterlands of their district, for which good offices they were paid
by the white traders a duty called "comey," which amounted to about 2s.
6d. per ton on the palm oil exported. When the palm kernel trade
commenced it was generally arranged that two tons of palm kernels should
be counted to equal one ton of palm oil so far as regards fiscal
arrangements. The day this duty was paid was looked upon by the king, or
kings if there were two of them, as a festival; in earlier years a
certain amount of ceremony was also observed.

The king would arrive on board the trader's hulk or sailing ship (some
firms doing their trade without the assistance of a hulk) to an
accompaniment of war horns, drums, and other savage music. With the king
would generally come one or two of his chiefs and his Ju-Ju man, but
before mounting the gangway ladder a bottle of spirit or palm wine would
be produced from some hidden receptacle, one of the small boys, who
always follow the kings or chiefs to carry their handkerchiefs and
snuff-boxes, would then draw the cork and hand a wine-glass and the
bottle to the Ju-Ju man, who would pour himself out a glass, saying a
few words to the Ju-Ju of the river, at the same time spilling a little
of the liquor into the water; he would then drink up what remained in
the glass, hand glass and bottle to the king, who would then proceed as
the Ju-Ju man had done, being followed on the same lines by the chiefs
who were with him.

Their devotions having thus been duly attended to, the king, Ju-Ju man
and his attendant chiefs would mount the ladder to the deck of the
vessel. The European trader would, as a rule, be there to receive him
and escort him on to the poop, where the king would be asked to sit down
to a sumptuous repast of pickled pork, salt beef, tinned salmon, pickles
and cabin biscuits. There would be also roast fowls and goat for the
trader and his assistants, and for vegetables yams and potatoes, the
latter a great treat for the white men, but not thought much of by the

The king with his friends making terrific onslaughts on the pork, beef
and tinned salmon, after having eaten all they could would ask for more,
and pile up a plate of beef, pork and salmon, if there was any left, to
pass out to their attendants on the main deck, at the same time begging
some biscuits for their pull-away boys in the canoe, a request always
acceded to.

Drinkables, you will observe, so far have had no part in the feed; it is
because these untutored natives follow Nature's laws much closer than
Europeans, and never drink until they have finished eating. The king,
having done justice to the victuals, now politely intimates to the
European trader that "he be time for wash mouth." Being asked what his
sable majesty would like to do it in, he generally elects "port win," as
the natives call port wine. His chiefs, not being such connoisseurs as
his majesty, are, as a rule, satisfied with a bottle or two of beer or
gin, carefully sticking to the empty bottles.

In the meantime, had you looked over the side of the ship, you would
have wondered what his majesty's forty or fifty canoe boys were doing,
so carefully divesting themselves of every rag of cloth and hiding it by
folding it up as small as possible and sitting on it. This was so as to
point out to the trader, when he came to the gangway to see the king
away, that "he no be proper for king's boys no have cloth."

The king, having duly washed his mouth, is now ready to proceed with the
business of his visit. The payment of the comey is very soon arranged,
it being a settled sum and the different goods having their recognised
value in pawns, bars, coppers or crues according to the currency of the
particular river.

But the "shake hand"[80] is now to be got through, and the "dashing"[81]
to the king; his friends who are with him want their part, and it would
surprise a stranger the number of wants that seem to keep cropping up in
a West African king's mind as he wobbles about your ship, until, finding
he has begged every mortal thing that he can, he suddenly makes up his
mind that further importunity will be useless; he decides to order his
people into his canoe, which in most cases they obey with surprising
alacrity, brought about, I have no doubt, by the thought that now comes
their turn.

Arrived at the gangway, his majesty, in the most natural way imaginable,
notices for the first time (?) that his boys are all naked, and turning
with an appealing look to the trader, he points out the bareness of the
royal pull-away boys, and intimates that no white trader who respects
himself could think of allowing such a state of things to continue a
moment longer. This meant at least a further dash of four dozen
fishermen's striped caps and about twelve pieces of Manchester cloth.

One would suppose that this was the last straw, but before his majesty
gets into his canoe several more little wants crop up, amongst others a
tot of rum each for his canoe boys, and perchance a few fathoms of rope
to make a new painter for his canoe, until sometimes the white trader
almost loses his temper. I have heard of one (?) who did on one
occasion, and being an Irishman, he thus apostrophised one of these
sable kings, "Be jabers, king, I am thinking if I dashed you my ship you
would be after wanting me to dash you the boats belonging to her, and
after that to supply you with paint to paint them with for the next ten
years." There was a glare in that Irishman's eye, and that king noticed
it, and decided the time had come for him to scoot, and history says he
scooted. In the early days of the palm oil trade, the custom inaugurated
by the slave traders of receiving the king on his visit to the ship was
by a salute of six or seven guns, and another of equal number on his
departure, the latter being an intimation to all whom it might concern
that his majesty had duly received his comey, and that trade was open
with the said ship. This was continued for some years, but as the
security of the seas became greater in those parts the trading ships
gave up the custom of carrying guns, and the intimation that the king
"done broke trade" with the last arrival was effected by his majesty
sending off a canoe of oil to the ship, and the sending round of a
verbal message by one of the king's men.

Since the year 1891 the kings of the Oil Rivers have been relieved of
the duty of collecting comey, as a regular government of these rivers
has been inaugurated by H.B.M. Government, comey being replaced by
import duties.


Though there is a great similarity in the native form of government in
these parts, it would be impossible to convey a true description of the
manners and customs of the various places if I did not treat of each
river and its people separately; I shall therefore commence by
describing the people of Benin.

The Benin kingdom, so far as this account of it will go, was said to
extend from the boundaries of the Mahin country (a district between the
British Colony of Lagos and the Benin River) and the river Ramos; thus
on the coast line embracing the rivers Benin, Escravos, and Forcados,
also the hinterland, taking in Warri up to the Yoruba States.

For the purpose of the work I have set myself, I shall treat of that
part of the kingdom that may be embraced by a line drawn from the mouth
of the river Ramos up to the town of Warri, thence to Benin City, and
brought down to the coast a little to the north of the Benin River. This
tract of country is inhabited by four tribes, viz., the Jakri tribe, the
dominant people on the coast line; the Sobo tribe, a very timid but most
industrious people, great producers of palm oil, as well as being great
agriculturists; an unfortunate people placed as they were between the
extortions of the Jakris and the slave raiding of the Benin City king
for his various sacrificial purposes; the third tribe are the Ijos,
inhabiting the lower parts of the Escravos, Forcados, and Ramos rivers;
this latter tribe are great canoe builders and agriculturists in a small
way, produce a little palm oil, and by some people are accused of being
cannibals; this latter accusation I don't think they deserve, in the
full acceptation of the word, for thirty-three years ago I passed more
than a week in one of their towns, when I was quite at their mercy,
being accompanied by no armed men and carrying only a small revolver
myself, which never came out of my pocket. Since when I have visited
some of their towns on the Bassa Creek outside the boundary I have drawn
for the purpose of this narrative, and never was I treated with the
least disrespect.

The fourth tribe is the Benin people proper, whose territory is supposed
to extend as far back as the boundaries of the Yoruba nation, starting
from the right bank of the Benin River. In this territory is the once
far-famed city of Benin, where lived the king, to whom the Jakri, the
Sobo, and the Ijo tribes paid tribute.

These people have at all times since their first intercourse with
Europeans, now some four hundred years, been renowned for their barbaric

The earlier travellers who visited Benin City do not mention human
sacrifices among these customs, but I have no doubt they took place; as
these travellers were generally traders and wanted to return to Benin
for trade purposes, they most likely thought the less said on the
subject the best. I find, however, that in the last century more than
one traveller mentions the sacrifice of human beings by the king of
Benin, but do not lead one to imagine that it was carried to the
frightful extent it has been carried on in later years.

I think myself that the custom of sacrificing human beings has been
steadily increasing of late years, as the city of Benin became more and
more a kind of holy city amongst the pagan tribes.

Their religion, like that of all the neighbouring pagans, admits of a
Supreme Being, maker of all things, but as he is supposed to be always
doing good, there is no necessity to sacrifice to him.

They, however, implicitly believe in a malignant spirit, to whom they
sacrifice men and animals to satiate its thirst for blood and prevent it
from doing them any harm.

Some of the pagan customs are of a sanitary character. Take, for
instance, the yam custom. This custom is more or less observed all along
the West Coast of Africa, and where it is unattended by any sacrificing
of human or animal life, except the latter be to make a feast, it should
be encouraged as a kind of harvest festival. When I say this was a
sanitary law, I must explain that the new yams are a most dangerous
article of food if eaten before the yam custom has been made, which
takes place a certain time after the yams are found to be fit for taking
out of the ground.

The new yams are often offered for sale to the Europeans at the earliest
moment that they can be dug up, some weeks in many cases before the
custom is made; the consequence is that many Europeans contract severe
attacks of dysentery and fever about this time.

The well-to-do native never touches them before the proper time, but the
poorer classes find it difficult to keep from eating them, as they are
not only very sweet, but generally very cheap when they first come on
the market.

The king of Benin was assisted in the government of his country and his
tributaries by four principal officers; three of these were civil
officers; these officers and the Ju-Ju men were the real governors of
the country, the king being little more than a puppet in their hands.

It was these three officers who decided who should be appointed governor
of the lower river, generally called New Benin.

Their choice as a rule fell upon the most influential chief of the
district, their last choice being Nana, the son of the late chief
Alumah, the most powerful and richest chief that had ever been known
amongst the Jakri men. I shall have more to say about Nana when I am
dealing with the Jakri tribe.

Amongst the principal annual customs held by the king of Old Benin, were
the customs to his predecessors, generally called "making father" by the
English-speaking native of the coast.

The coral custom was another great festival; besides these there were
many occasional minor customs held to propitiate the spirit of the sun,
the moon, the sky, and the earth. At most of these, if not all, human
sacrifices were made.

Kings of Benin did not inherit by right of birth; the reigning king
feeling that his time to leave this earth was approaching, would select
his successor from amongst his sons, and calling his chief civil officer
would confide to him the name of the one he had selected to follow him.

Upon the king's death this officer would take into his own charge the
property of the late king, and receive the homage of all the expectant
heirs; after enjoying the position of regent for some few days he would
confide his secret to the chief war minister, and the chosen prince
would be sent for and made to kneel, while they declared to him the will
of his father. The prince thereupon would thank these two officers for
their faithful services, and then he was immediately proclaimed king of

Now commences trouble for the non-successful claimants; the king's
throne must be secure, so they and their sons must be suppressed. As it
was not allowed to shed royal blood, they were quietly suffocated by
having their noses, mouths and ears stuffed with cloth. To somewhat take
the sting out of this cruel proceeding they were given a most pompous

Whilst on the subject of funerals I think I had better tell you
something about the funeral customs of the Benineese.

When a king dies, it is said, his domestics solicit the honour of being
buried with him, but this is only accorded to a few of his greatest
favourites (I quite believe this to have been true, for I have seen
myself slaves of defunct chiefs appealing to be allowed to join their
late master); these slaves are let down into the grave alive, after the
corpse has been placed therein. Graves of kings and chiefs in Western
Africa being nice roomy apartments, generally about 12 feet by 8 by 14,
but in Benin, I am told, the graves have a floor about 16 feet by 12,
with sides tapering to an aperture that can be closed by a single
flag-stone. On the morning following the interment, this flag-stone was
removed, and the people down below asked if they had found the King.
This question was put to them every successive morning, until no answer
being returned it was concluded that the slaves had found their master.
Meat was then roasted on the grave-stone and distributed amongst the
people with a plentiful supply of drink, after which frightful orgies
took place and great licence allowed to the populace--murders taking
place and the bodies of the murdered people being brought as offerings
to the departed, though at any other time murder was severely punished.
Chiefs and women of distinction are also entitled to pompous funerals,
with the usual accompaniment of massacred slaves. If a native of Benin
City died in a distant part of the kingdom, the corpse used to be dried
over a gentle fire and conveyed to this city for interment. Cases have
been known where a body having been buried with all due honours and
ceremonies, it has been afterwards taken up and the same ceremonies as
before gone through a second time.

The usual funeral ceremonies for a person of distinction last about
seven or eight days, and consist, besides the human sacrifices, of
lamentations, dancing, singing and considerable drinking.

The near relatives mourn during several months--some with half their
heads shaved, others completely shaven.

The law of inheritance for people of distinction differs from that of
the kings in the fact that the eldest son inherits by right of
primogeniture, and succeeds to all his father's property, wives and
slaves. He generally allows his mother a separate establishment and
maintenance and finds employment and maintenance for his father's other
wives in the family residence. He is expected to act liberally with his
younger brothers, but there is no law on this question. Before entering
into full possession of his father's property he must petition the king
to allow him to do so, accompanying the said petition with a present to
the king of a slave, as also one to each of the three great officers of
the king. This petition is invariably granted. A widow cannot marry
again without the permission of her son, if she have a son; or if he be
too young, the man who marries her must supply a female slave to wait
upon him instead of his mother.

Theft was punished by fine only, if the stolen property was restored,
but by flogging if the thief was unable to make restitution.

Murder was of rare occurrence. When detected it was punished with death
by decapitation, and the body of the culprit was quartered and exposed
to the beasts and birds of prey.

If the murderer be a man of some considerable position he was not
executed, but escorted out of the country and never allowed to return.

In case of a murder committed in the heat of passion, the culprit could
arrange matters by giving the dead person a suitable funeral, paying a
heavy fine to the three chief officers of the king and supplying a slave
to suffer in his place. In this case he was bound to kneel and keep his
forehead touching the slave during his execution.

In all cases where an accusation was not clearly proved, the accused
would have to undergo an ordeal to prove his guilt or innocence. To
fully describe the whole of these would fill several hundred pages, and
as most of them could be managed by the Ju-Ju men in such a way, that
they could prove a man guilty or innocent according to the amount of
present they had received from the accused's friends, I will pass on to
other subjects.

Adultery was very severely punished in whatever class it took place; in
the lower classes all the property of the guilty man passed at once to
the injured husband, the woman being severely flogged and expelled from
her husband's house.

Amongst the middle class this crime could be atoned for by the friends
of the guilty woman making a money present to the injured husband; and
the lady would be restored to her outraged lord's favour.

The upper classes revenged themselves by having the two culprits
instantly put to death, except when the male culprit belonged to the
upper classes; then the punishment was generally reduced to banishment
from the kingdom of Benin for life.

Amongst these people one finds some peculiar customs concerning
children. Amongst others, a child is supposed to be under great danger
from evil spirits until it has passed its seventh day. On this day a
small feast is provided by the parents; still it is thought well to
propitiate the evil spirits by strewing a portion of the feast round the
house where the child is.

Twin children, according to some accounts, were not looked upon with the
same horror in Benin as they are in other parts of the Niger Delta; as a
fact, they were looked upon with favour, except in one town of the
kingdom, the name of which I have never been able to get, nor have I
been able to locate the spot; but wherever it is, I am informed both
mother and children were sacrificed to a demon, who resided in a wood in
the neighbourhood of this town.

This law of killing twin children, like most Ju-Ju laws, could be got
over if the father was himself not too deeply steeped in Ju-Juism, and
was sufficiently wealthy to bribe the Ju-Ju priests. The law was always
mercilessly carried out in the case of the poorer class of natives--the
above refers solely to the part of Benin kingdom directly under the king
of Old Benin, and does not hold good with regard to the Sobos, Jakris,
or Ijos.


According to Clapperton the Benin people are descendants of the Yoruba
tribes, the Yoruba tribes being descended from six brothers, all the
sons of one mother. Their names were Ikelu, Egba, Ijebu, Ifé, Ibini
(Benin), and Yoruba.

According to the late Sultan Bello (the Foulah chief of Sokoto at the
time of Captain Clapperton's visit to that city), the Yoruba tribes are
descended from the children of Canaan, who were of the tribe of Nimrod.

In my opinion there is room for much speculation on this statement of
the Sultan Bello.

It is a very curious fact that the people of Benin City have been, from
the earliest accounts we have of them, great workers in brass. Might not
the ancestors of this people have brought the art of working in brass
with them from the far distant land of Canaan? Moses, when speaking of
the land of Canaan, says, "out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass"
(Deut. viii. 9). Here we must understand copper to be meant; because
brass is not dug out of the earth, but copper is, and found in abundance
in that part of the world.

Yet another curious subject for reflection, from the first information
that European travellers give us (_circa_ 1485) in their descriptions of
the city of Benin, mention has invariably made of towers, from the
summits of which monster brass serpents were suspended. Upon the entry
of the punitive expedition into Benin City in the month of February,
1897, Benin City still possessed one of these serpents in brass, not
hanging from a tower, but laid upon the roof of one of the king's

Might not these brazen serpents be a remnant of some tradition handed
down from the time of Moses? for do we not read in the Scriptures, that
the people of Israel had sinned; and God to punish them sent fiery
serpents, which bit the people, and many died. Then Moses cried to God,
and God told him to make a serpent of brass, and set it on a pole.
(Numbers xxi. 9.)

While on the subject of serpents, I may mention that in the
neighbourhood of Benin, there is a Ju-Ju ordeal pond or river, said to
be infested with dangerous and poisonous snakes and alligators, through
which a man accused of any crime passing unscathed proves his innocence.

There are some other customs connected with the position of the king of
Benin, as the head of the Ju-Juism of his country, which seem to have
some trace of a Biblical origin, but which I will not discuss here, but
leave to the ethnologists to unravel, if they can.

That they were a superior people to the surrounding tribes is amply
demonstrated by their being workers in brass and iron; displaying
considerable art in some of their castings in brass, iron, copper and
bronze, their carving in ivory, and their manufacture of cotton
cloth--no other people in the Delta showing any such ability.

The Jakri tribe, who inhabit that part of the country lying between the
Sobo country and the Ijo country, were the dominant tribe in the lower
or New Benin country. Being themselves tributary to the Benin king, they
dare not make the Sobo or Ijo men pay a direct tribute to them for the
right to live, but they indirectly took a much larger tribute from them
than ever they paid the king of Benin.

The Jakris were the brokers, and would not allow either of the
above-named tribes to trade direct with the white men.

The principal towns of the Jakri men were:--Brohemie[82] (destroyed by
the English in 1894): this town was generally called Nana's town of late
years. Nana was Governor of the whole of the country lying between a
line drawn from the Gwato Creek to Wari and the sea-coast; his
governorship extending a little beyond the Benin River, and running down
the coast to the Ramos River. This appointment he held from the king of
Benin, and was officially recognised by the British Consul as the
head-man of the Jakri tribe, and for any official business in connection
with the country over which he was Governor. Jeboo or Chief Peggy's
town, situated on the waterway to Lagos; Jaquah town or Chief Ogrie's
town. The above towns are all on the right bank of the river.

On the left bank of the river are found the following towns:--Bateri, or
Chief Numa's town, lying about half an hour's pull in a boat from Déli
Creek. Chief Numa, was the son of the late Chief Chinomé, a rival in his
day to Allumah, the father of Nana, the late Governor; Chinomé was the
son of Queen Doto of Wari, who years ago was most anxious to see the
white man at her town, and repeatedly advised the white men to use the
Forcados for their principal trading station; but the old Chief Allumah
was against any such exodus, and as he was a very big trader in
palm-oil, he of course carried the day, and the white men stuck to their
swamp at the mouth of the river Benin.

Close to Numa's town his brother Fragoni has established a small town.
At some little distance from Bateri is Booboo, or the late Chief
Bregbi's town. Galey, the eldest son of the late Chinomé, has a small
town in the Déli Creek. This man, though the eldest son of the late
Chief Chinomé, is not a chief, though his younger brother Numa is. Here
is a knotty point in Jakri law of inheritance, which differs from the
Benin City law on the subject.

Wari, the capital of Jakri, though almost if not actually as old a town
as Benin City, has never had the bad reputation that the latter city has
always had. I attribute this to the fact that the ladies of Warri have
always been a power in the land.

Sapele is a place that has come very much into notice since the country
has been under the jurisdiction of the Niger Coast Protectorate, and is
without doubt one of the best stations on the Benin territory. I am glad
to say that the Europeans have at last deserted to a great extent their
factories at the mouth of the Benin River, and are now principally
located at Sapele and Wari.

The Jakri tribe claim to be of the same race as the people of Benin City
and kingdom. This I am inclined to dispute; I think they were a coast
tribe like the Ijos. Tradition says that Wari was founded by people from
Benin kingdom and for many years was tributary to the king of Benin, but
in 1778 Wari was reported to be quite independent. They may have become
almost the same race by intermarriage with the Benin people that went
to Wari; but that they were originally the same race I say no.

The religion of the Jakri tribe and the native laws and system of
ordeals were, as far as I have been able to ascertain, identical with
those of the Benin kingdom; with the exception of the human sacrifices
and their law of inheritance which does not admit the right of
primogeniture--following in this respect, the laws of the Bonny men and
their neighbours. Twin children are usually killed by the Jakris, and
the mother driven into the bush to die.

The Jakri tribe are, without doubt, one of the finest in the Niger Coast
Protectorate; many of their present chiefs are very honest and
intelligent men, also excellent traders. Their women are noted as being
the finest and best looking for miles round.

The Jakri women have already made great strides towards their complete
emancipation from the low state in which the women of neighbouring
tribes still find themselves, many of them being very rich and great

The Sobo tribe have been kept so much in the background by the Jakris
that little is known about them. What little is known of them is to
their credit.

We now come to the Ijo tribe, or at least, that portion of them that
live within the Niger Coast Protectorate; these men are reported by some
travellers to be cannibals, and a very turbulent people; this character
has been given them by interested parties. Their looks are very much
against them as they disfigure their faces by heavy cuts as tribal
marks, and some pick up the flesh between their eyes making a kind of
ridge, that gives them a savage expression. Though I have put the limit
of these people at the river Ramos, they really extend along the coast
as far as the western bank of the Akassa river. They have never had a
chance and, with the exception of large timber for making canoes, their
country does not produce much. Though I have seen considerable numbers
of rubber-producing trees in their country, I never was able to induce
them to work it. No doubt they asked the advice of their Ju-Ju as to
taking my advice, and he followed the usual rule laid down by the
priesthood of Ju-Ju-ism, no innovations.

Whilst I was in the Ijo country I carefully studied their Ju-Ju, as I
had been told they were great believers in, and practisers of Ju-Ju-ism.
I found little in their system differing from that practised in most of
the rivers of the Delta.

In all these practices human agency plays a very large part, and this
seems to be known even to the lower orders of the people; as an
instance, I must here relate an experience I once had amongst the Ijos.
I had arranged with a chief living on the Bassa Creek to lend me his
fastest canoe and twenty-five of his people, to take me to the Brass
river; the bargain was that his canoe should be ready at Cock-Crow Peak
the following morning. I was ready at the water-side by the time
appointed, but only about six of the smallest boys had put in an
appearance; the old chief was there in a most furious rage, sending off
messengers in all directions to find the canoe boys. After about two
hours' work and the expenditure of much bad language on the part of the
old chief, also some hard knocks administered to the canoe boys by the
men who had been sent after them, as evidenced by the wales I saw on
their backs, the canoe was at last manned, and I took my seat in it
under a very good mat awning which nearly covered the canoe from end to
end, and thanking my stars that now my troubles had come to an end I
hoped at least for a time. I was, however, a very big bit too premature,
for before the old chief would let the canoe start, he informed me he
must make Ju-Ju for the safety of his canoe and the safe return of it
and all his boys, to say nothing of my individual safety.

One of the first requirements of that particular Ju-Ju cost me further
delay, for a bottle of gin had to be procured, and as the daily market
in that town had not yet opened, and no public house had yet been
established by any enterprising Ijo, it took some time to procure.

On the arrival of the article, however, my friend the old chief
proceeded in a most impressive manner to repeat a short prayer, the
principal portion I was able to understand and which was as follows: "I
beg you, I beg you, don't capsize my canoe. If you do, don't drown any
of my boys and don't do any harm to my friend the white man." This was
addressed to the spirit of the water; having finished this little
prayer, he next sprinkled a little gin about the bows of the canoe and
in the river, afterwards taking a drink himself. He then produced a leaf
with about an ounce of broken-up cooked yam mixed with a little palm
oil, which he carefully fixed in the extreme foremost point of the

At last this ceremony was at an end and we started off, but alas! my
troubles were only just beginning. We had been started about half an
hour, and I had quietly dozed off into a pleasant sleep, when I was
awakened by feeling the canoe rolling from side to side as if we were
in rough water; just then the boys all stopped pulling, and on my
remonstrance they informed me Ju-Ju "no will," _id est_, that the Ju-ju
had told them they must go back. I used gentle persuasion in the form of
offers of extra pay at first, then I stormed and used strong language,
or at least, what little Ijo strong language I knew, but all to no
avail. I then began to inquire what Ju-Ju had spoken, and they pointed
out a small bird that just then flew away into the bush; it looked to me
something like a kingfisher. The head boy of the canoe then explained to
me that this Ju-ju bird having spoken, _id est_, chirped on the
right-hand side of the canoe, and the goat's skull hanging up to the
foremost awning stanchion having fallen the same way (this ornament I
had not previously noticed), signified that we must turn back. So turn
back we did, though I thought at the time the boys did not want to go
the journey, owing to the almost continual state of quarrelling that had
been going on for years between the Ijos and the Brassmen. I was not far
wrong, for when we eventually did arrive at Brass, I had to hide these
Ijo people in the hold of my ship, as the very sight of a Brassman made
them shiver.

The following morning the same performance was gone through; we started,
and at about the same point Ju-Ju spoke again; again we returned. My old
friend the chief was very sorry he said, but he could not blame his boys
for acting as they had done, Ju-Ju having told them to return. He would
not listen when I told him I felt confident his boys had assisted the
Ju-Ju by making the canoe roll about from side to side.

However, I thought the matter over to myself during that second day, and
decided I would make sure one part of that Ju-ju should not speak
against me the next morning, and that was the goat's skull, so during
that night after every Ijo was fast asleep, I visited that skull and
carefully secured it to its post by a few turns of very fine fishing
line in such a manner that no one could notice what I had done, if they
did not specially examine it. I dare not fix it to the left, that being
the favourable side, for fear of it being noticed, but I fixed it
straight up and down, so that it could not demonstrate against my

I retired to my sleeping quarters and slept the sleep of the just, and
next morning started in the best of spirits, though continually haunted
by the fear that my little stratagem might be discovered. We had got
about the same distance from the town that we had on the two previous
mornings when the canoe began to oscillate as usual, caused by a
combined movement of all the boys in the canoe, I was perfectly
convinced, for the creek we were in was as smooth as a mill pond. Many
anxious glances were cast at the skull, and the canoe was made to roll
more and more until the water slopped over into her, but the skull did
not budge, and, strange to relate, the bird of ill omen did not show
itself or chirp this morning, so the boys gave up making the canoe
oscillate and commenced to paddle for all they were worth, and the
following evening we arrived at my ship in Brass. We could have arrived
much earlier, but the Ijos did not wish to meet with any Brassmen, so we
waited until the shades of night came on, and thus passed unobserved
several Brass canoes, arriving safely at my ship in time for dinner.

I carefully questioned the head boy of the Ijo boys all about this bird
that had given me so much trouble. He explained to me that once having
passed a certain point in the creek, the bird not having spoken and the
skull not having demonstrated either, it was quite safe to continue on
our journey, conveying to me the idea that this bird was a regular
inhabitant of a certain portion of the bush, which was also their sacred
bush wherein the Ju-Ju priests practised their most private devotions.
The same species of bird showed itself several times both on the right
of us and on the left of us as we passed through other creeks on our way
to Brass, but the canoe boys took no notice of it.

In dealing with the Benin Kingdom I have allowed myself somewhat to
encroach upon the Royal Niger Company's territory, which commences on
the left bank of the river Forcados and takes in all the rivers down to
the Nun (Akassa), and the sea-shore to leeward of this river as far as a
point midway between the latter river and the mouth of the Brass river,
thence a straight line is drawn to a place called Idu, on the Niger
River, forming the eastern boundary between the Royal Niger Company's
territory and the Niger Coast Protectorate. I have not defined the
western boundary between the Royal Niger Company's territory and the
other portion of the Niger Coast Protectorate otherwise than stating
that it commences on the seashore at the eastern point of the Forcados.

Benin Kingdom, as a kingdom, may now be numbered with the past. For
years the cruelties known to be enacted in the city of Benin have been
such that it was only a question of ways and means that deterred the
Protectorate officials from smashing up the place several years ago.

It is a very curious trait in the character of these savage kinglets of
Western Africa how little they seem to have been impressed by the
downfall of their brethren in neighbouring districts. Though they were
well acquainted with all that was passing around them. Thus the fall of
Ashantee in 1873 was well known to the King of Dahomey, yet he continued
on his way and could not believe the French could ever upset him. Nana,
the governor of the lower Benin or Jakri, could not see in the downfall
of Ja Ja that the British Government were not to be trifled with by any
petty king or governor of these rivers; though Nana was a most
intelligent native, he had the temerity to show fight against the
Protectorate officials, and of course he quickly found out his mistake,
but alas! too late for his peace of mind and happiness; he is now a
prisoner at large far away from his own country, stripped of all his
riches and position. Here was an object lesson for Abu Bini, the King of
Benin, right at his own door, every detail of which he must have heard
of, or at least his Ju-Ju priests must have heard of the disaster that
had happened to Nana, his satrap.

Nothing daunted Abu Bini and his Ju-Ju priests continued their evil
practices; then came the frightful Benin massacre of Protectorate
officials and European traders, besides a number of Jakris and Kruboys
in the employment of the Protectorate.

The first shot that was fired that January morning, 1897, by the
emissaries of King Abu Bini, sounded the downfall of the City of Benin
and the end of all its atrocious and disgusting sacrificial rites, for
scarcely three months after the punitive expedition camped in the King's
Palace at old Benin.

The two expeditions that have had to be sent to Benin River within the
last few years have been two unique specimens of what British sailors
and soldiers have to cope with whilst protecting British subjects and
their interests, no matter where situated.

I do not suppose that there are in England to-day one hundred people who
know, and can therefore appreciate at its true value, the risk that each
man in those two expeditions ran. In the attack on Nana's town the
British sailors had to walk through a dirty, disgusting, slimy mangrove
swamp, often sinking in the mud half way up their thighs, and this in
the face of a sharp musketry fire coming from unseen enemies carefully
hidden away, in some cases not five yards off, in dense bush, with
occasional discharges of grape and canister. But nothing stopped them,
and Nana's town was soon numbered with the things that had been.

It was the same to a great extent in the attack on Benin, only varied by
the swamps not being quite so bad as at Nana's town, but the distance
from the water side was much farther; in the former case one might say
it was only a matter of minutes once in touch with the enemy; in the
attack on Benin city it was a matter of several days marching through
dense bush, where an enemy could get within five yards of you without
being seen, and in some places nearer. Almost constantly under fire,
besides a sun beating down on you so hot that where the soil was sandy
you felt the heat almost unbearable through the soles of your boots, to
say nothing of the minor troubles of being very short of drinking water,
and at night not being able to sleep owing to the myriads of sand-flies
and mosquitoes; getting now and again a perfume wafted under your
nostrils, in comparison with which a London sewer would be eau de

I was once under fire for twelve hours against European trained troops,
so know something about a soldier's work, and for choice I would prefer
a week's similar work in Europe to two hours' West African bush and
swamp fighting, with its aids, fever and dysentery.

Before I quit Benin I want to mention one thing more about Ju-Ju. When
the attack was made on Benin city, the first day's march had scarcely
begun when two white men were killed and buried. After the column passed
on, the natives came and dug the bodies up, cut their heads and hands
off, and carried them up to Benin city to the Ju-Ju priests, who showed
them to the king to prove to him that his Ju-Ju, managed by them, was
greater than the white man's; in fact, the king, I am told, was being
shown these heads and hands at the moment when the first rockets fell in
Benin city. Those rockets proved to him the contrary, and he left the
city quicker than he had ever done in his life before.

To point out to my readers how all the natives of the Delta believed in
the power of the Benin Ju-Ju, I must tell you none of them believed the
English had really captured the King until he was taken round and shown
to them, the belief being that, on the approach of danger, he would be
able to change himself into a bird and thus fly away and escape.


Brass River is then the first river we have to deal with on the Niger
Coast Protectorate, to the eastward of the Royal Niger Company's

The inhabitants of Brass call their country Nimbé and themselves Nimbé
nungos, the latter word meaning people. Their principal towns were
Obulambri and Basambri, divided only by a narrow creek dry at low water.
In each of these towns resided a king, each having jurisdiction over
separate districts of the Nimbé territory; thus the King of Obulambri
was supposed to look after the district on the left hand of the River
Brass, his jurisdiction extending as far as the River St. Barbara. The
King of Basambri's district extended from the right bank of the Brass
River, westward as far as the Middleton outfalls; included in this
district was the Nun mouth of the River Niger. These two kinglets had a
very prosperous time during the closing days of the slave trade, as most
of the contraband was carried on through the Brass and the Nun River
both by Bonnymen and New Calabar men after they had signed treaties with
Her Majesty's Government to discontinue the slave trade in their
dominions. When eventually the trade in slaves was finally put down
their prosperity was not at an end, for they went largely into the palm
oil trade, and did a most prosperous trade along the banks of the Niger
as far as Onitsa.

Though these two kings always objected to the white men opening up the
Niger, and did their utmost to retard the first expeditions, they were
not slow in demanding comey from the early traders who established
factories in the Nun mouth of the Niger; this part of the Niger is also
called the Akassa.

These people are a very mixed race, and to describe them as any
particular tribe would be an error. I believe the original inhabitants
of the mouths of these rivers were the Ijos, and that the towns of
Obulambri and Bassambri were founded by some of the more adventurous
spirits amongst the men from the neighbourhood of Sabogrega, a town on
the Niger; being afterwards joined by some similar adventurers from
Bonny River. The three people are closely connected by family ties at
this day.

As a rule these people have always had the character of being a well
behaved set of men; it is a notable fact in their favour that they were
the only people that, once having signed the treaty with Her Majesty's
Government to put down slavery, honestly stuck to the terms of the
treaty; unlike their neighbours, they did so, though they were the only
people who did not receive any indemnity.

They, however, have occasionally lost their heads and gone to excesses
unworthy of a people with such a good reputation as they have generally

Their last escapade was the attack on the factory of the Royal Niger
Company at Akassa some few years ago, and for which they were duly
punished; their dual mud and thatch capital was blown down, and one
small town called Fishtown destroyed.

Impartial observers must have pitied these poor people driven to despair
by being cut off from their trading markets by the fiscal arrangements
of the Royal Niger Company. The latter I don't blame very much, they are
traders; but the line drawn from Idu to a point midway between the Brass
River and the Nun entrance to the Niger River, as being the boundary
line for fiscal purposes between the Royal Niger Company and the Niger
Coast Protectorate, was drawn by some one at Downing Street who
evidently looked upon this part of the world as a cheesemonger would a

In 1830 it was at Abo on the Niger where Lander the traveller met with
the Brassmen, who took him down to Obulambri, but no ship being in Brass
River, they took him and his people over to Akassa, at the Nun mouth of
the Niger, to an English ship lying there. History says he was anything
but well received by the captain of this vessel, and that the Brassmen
did not treat him as well as they might; however, they did not eat him,
as they no doubt would have done could they have looked into the future.
Whatever their treatment of Lander was, it could not have been very bad,
as they received some reward for what assistance they had given him some
time after.

It was amongst these people that I was enabled to study more closely the
inner working of the domestic slavery of this part of Western Africa,
and where it was carried on with less hardship to the slaves themselves
than any place else in the Delta, until the Niger Company's boundary
line threw most of the labouring population on the rates, at least they
would have gone on the rates if there had been any to go on, but
unfortunately the municipal arrangements of these African kingdomlets
had not arrived at such a pitch of civilisation; the consequence was
many died from starvation, others hired themselves out as labourers, but
the demand for their services was limited, as they compared badly with
the fine, athletic Krumen, who monopolise all the labour in these parts.
Then came the punitive expedition for the attack on Akassa that wiped
off a few more of the population, so that to-day the Brassmen may be
described as a vanishing people.

The various grades of the people in Brass were the kings, next came
the chiefs and their sons who had by their own industry, and assisted
in their first endeavours by their parents, worked themselves into
a position of wealth, then came the Winna-boes, a grade mostly
supplied by the favourite slave of a chief, who had been his constant
attendant for years, commencing his career by carrying his master's
pocket-handkerchief and snuff-box, pockets not having yet been
introduced into the native costume; after some years of this duty he
would be promoted to going down to the European traders to superintend
the delivery of a canoe of oil, seeing to its being tried, gauged, &c.
This first duty, if properly performed, would lead to his being often
sent on the same errand. This duty required a certain amount of _savez_,
as the natives call intelligence, for he had to so look after his
master's interests that the pull-away boys that were with him in the
canoe did not secrete any few gallons of oil that there might be left
over after filling up all the casks he had been sent to deliver; nor
must he allow the white trader to under-gauge his master's casks by
carelessness or otherwise. If he was able to do the latter part of his
errand in such a diplomatic manner that he did not raise the bile of the
trader, that day marked the commencement of his upward career, if he was
possessed of the bump of saving. All having gone off to the satisfaction
of both parties, the trader would make this boy some small present
according to the number of puncheons of oil he had brought down, seldom
less than a piece of cloth worth about 2s. 6d., and, in the case of
canoes containing ten to fifteen puncheons, the trader would often dash
him two pieces of cloth and a bunch or two of beads. This present he
would, on his return to his master's house, hand over to his mother (_id
est_, the woman who had taken care of him from the time when he was
first bought by his Brass master). She would carefully hoard this and
all subsequent bits of miscellaneous property until he had in his
foster-mother's hands sufficient goods to buy an angbar of oil--a
measure containing thirty gallons. Then he would approach his master
(always called "father" by his slaves) and beg permission to send his
few goods to the Niger markets the next time his master had a canoe
starting--which permission was always accorded. He had next to arrange
terms with the head man or trader of his master's canoe as to what
commission he had to get for trading off the goods in the far market. In
this discussion, which may occupy many days before it is finally
arranged, the foster-mother figures largely; and it depends a great deal
upon her standing in the household of the chief as to the amount of
commission the trade boy will demand for his services. If the
foster-mother should happen to be a favourite wife of the chief, well,
then things are settled very easily, the trade boy most likely saying he
was quite willing to leff-em to be settled any way she liked; if, on the
contrary, it was one of the poorer women of the chiefs house, Mr.
Trade-boy would demand at least the quarter of the trade to commence
with, and end up by accepting about an eighth. As the winnabo could
easily double his property twice a year--and he was always adding to his
store in his foster-mother's hands from presents received each time he
went down to the white trader with his father's oil--it did not take
many years for him to become a man of means, and own canoes and slaves
himself. Many times have I known cases where the winnabo has repeatedly
paid up the debts of his master to the white man.

According to the law of the country, the master has the right to sell
the very man who is paying his debts off for him; but I must say I never
heard a case of such rank ingratitude, though cases have occurred where
the master has got into such low water and such desperate difficulties
that his creditors under country law have seized everything he was
possessed of, including any wealthy winnaboes he might have.

Some writers have said this class could purchase their freedom; with
this I don't agree. The only chance a winnabo had of getting his freedom
was, supposing his master died and left no sons behind him old enough or
capable enough to take the place of their father, then the winnabo might
be elected to take the place of his defunct master: he would then become
_ipso facto_ a chief, and be reckoned a free man. If he was a man of
strong character, he would hold until his death all the property of the
house; but if one of the sons of his late master should grow up an
intelligent man, and amass sufficient riches to gather round him some of
the other chief men in the town, then the question was liable to be
re-opened, and the winnabo might have to part out some of the property
and the people he had received upon his appointment to the headship of
the house, together with a certain sum in goods or oil, which the elders
of the town would decide should represent the increment on the portion
handed over. I have never known of a case where the whole of the
property and people have been taken away from a winnabo in Brass; but I
have known it occur in other rivers, but only for absolute misuse,
misrule, and misconduct of the party.

Egbo-boes are the niggers or absolute lower rank of slaves, who are
employed as pull-away boys in the oil canoes and gigs of the chiefs, and
do all the menial work or hard labour of the towns that is not done by
the lower ranks of the women slaves.

The lot of these egbo-boes is a very hard one at times, especially when
their masters have no use for them in their oil canoes. At the best of
times their masters don't provide them with more food then is about
sufficient for one good square meal a day; but, when trade is dull and
they have no use for them in any way, their lot is deplorable indeed.
This class has suffered terribly during the last ten years owing to the
complete stoppage of the Brassmen's trade in the Niger markets.

This class had few chances of rising in the social scale, but it was
from this class that sprang some of the best trade boys who took their
masters' goods away up to Abo and occasionally as far as Onitsa, on the

Cases have occurred of boys from this class rising to as good a position
as the more favoured winnaboes; but for this they have had to thank some
white trader, who has taken a fancy to here and there one of them, and
getting his master to lend him to him as a cabin boy--a position
generally sought after by the sons of chiefs, so as to learn "white
man's mouth," otherwise English.

The succession laws are similar to those of the other Coast tribes one
meets with in the Delta, but to understand them it requires some little
explanation. A tribe is composed of a king and a number of chiefs. Each
chief has a number of petty chiefs under him. Perhaps a better
definition for the latter would be, a number of men who own a few slaves
and a few canoes of their own, and do an independent trade with the
white men, but who pay to their chiefs a tribute of from 20 to 25 per
cent, on their trade with the white man. In many cases the white man
stops this tribute from the petty chiefs and holds it on behalf of the
chief. This collection of petty chiefs with their chief forms what in
Coast parlance is denominated a House.

The House may own a portion of the principal town, say Obulambri, and
also a portion in any of the small towns in the neighbouring creeks,
and it may own here and there isolated pieces of ground where some petty
chief has squatted and made a clearance either as a farm or to place a
few of his family there as fishermen; in the same way the chief of the
house may have squatted on various plots of ground in any part of the
district admitted by the neighbouring tribes to belong to his tribe. All
these parcels and portions of land belong in common to the House--that
is, supposing a petty chief having a farm in any part of the district
was to die leaving no male heirs and no one fit to take his place, the
chief as head of the house would take possession, but would most likely
leave the slaves of the dead man undisturbed in charge of the farm they
had been working on, only expecting them to deliver him a portion of the
produce equivalent to what they had been in the habit of delivering to
their late master, who was a petty chief of the house.

The head of the house would have the right of disposal of all the dead
man's wives, generally speaking the younger ones would be taken by the
chief, the others he would dispose of amongst his petty chiefs; if, as
generally happens, there were a few aged ones amongst them for whom
there was no demand he would take them into his own establishment and
see they were provided for.

As a matter of fact, all the people belonging to a defunct petty chief
become the property of the head of the house under any circumstances;
but if the defunct had left any man capable of succeeding him, the head
chief would allow this man to succeed without interfering with him in
any way, provided he never had had the misfortune to raise the chief's
bile; in the latter case, if the chief was a very powerful chief, whose
actions no one dare question, the chances are that he would either be
suppressed or have to go to Long Ju-Ju to prosecute his claim, the
expenses of which journey would most likely eat up the whole of the
inheritance, or at least cripple him for life as far as his commercial
transactions were concerned. It is of course to the interest of the head
of a house to surround himself with as many petty chiefs as he possibly
can, as their success in trade, and in amassing riches whether in slaves
or goods, always benefits him; even in those rivers where no heavy
"topside" is paid to the head of the house by the white traders, the
small men or petty chiefs are called upon from time to time to help to
uphold the dignity of the head chief, either by voluntary offerings or
forced payments. Public opinion has a good deal to say on the subject of
succession; and though a chief may be so powerful during his lifetime
that he may ride roughshod over custom or public opinion, after his
death his successor may find so many cases of malversation brought
against the late chief by people who would not have dared to open their
mouths during the late chief's lifetime, that by the time they are all
settled he finds that a chief's life is not a happy one at all times.
Claims of various kinds may be brought up during the lifetime of a
chief, and three or four of his successors may have the same claim
brought against them, each party may think he has settled the matter for
ever; but unless he has taken worst, the descendants of the original
claimants will keep attacking each successor until they strike one who
is not strong enough to hold his own against them, and they succeed in
getting their claim settled. This settlement does not interfere with the
losing side turning round and becoming the claimants in their turn. Some
of these family disputes are very curious; take for instance a case of
a claim for five female slaves that may have been wrongfully taken
possession of by some former chief of a house, this case perhaps is kept
warm, waiting the right moment to put it forward, for thirty years, the
claim then becomes not only for the original five women, but for their
children's children and so on.


The Brass natives to-day are divided into two camps as far as religion
is concerned: the missionary would no doubt say the greater number of
them are Christians, the ordinary observer would make exactly the
opposite observation, and judging from what we know has taken place in
their towns within the last few years, I am afraid the latter would be

The Church Missionary Society started a mission here in 1868; it is
still working under another name, and is under the superintendence of
the Rev. Archdeacon Crowther, a son of the late Bishop Crowther.

Their success, as far as numbers of attendants at church, has been very
considerable; and I have known cases amongst the women who were
thoroughly imbued with the Christian religion, and acted up to its
teaching as conscientiously as their white sisters; these however are

With regard to the men converts I have not met with one of whom I could
speak in the same terms as I have done of the women.

Whilst fully recognising the efforts that the missionaries have put
forth in this part of the world, I regret I can't bear witness to any
great good they have done.

This mission has been worked on the usual lines that English missions
have been worked in the past, so I must attribute any want of success
here as much to the system as anything.

One of the great obstacles to the spread of Christianity in these parts
is in my opinion the custom of polygamy, together with which are mixed
up certain domestic customs that are much more difficult to eradicate
than the teachings of Ju-Ju, and require a special mission for them

Almost equal to the above as an obstacle in the way of Christianity is
what is called domestic slavery; Europeans who have visited Western
Africa speak of this as a kind of slavery wherein there is no hardship
for the slave; they point to cases where slaves have risen to be kings
and chiefs, and many others who have been able to arrive at the position
of petty chief in some big man's house. I grant all this, but all these
people forget to mention that until these slaves are chiefs they are not
safe; that any grade less than that of a chief that a slave may arrive
to does not secure him from being sold if his master so wished.

Further, domestic slavery gives a chief power of life and death over his
slave; and how often have I known cases where promising young slaves
have done something to vex their chief their heads have paid the
penalty, though these young men had already amassed some wealth, having
also several wives and children.

People who condone domestic slavery, and I have heard many
kindly-hearted people do so, forget that however mild the slavery of the
domestic slave is on the coast, even under the mildest native it is
still slavery; further, these slaves are not made out of wood, they are
flesh and blood, they in their own country have had fathers and mothers.
During my lengthened stay on the coast of Africa I never questioned a
slave about his or her own country that I did not find they much
preferred their own country far away in the interior to their new home.
Some have told me that they had been travelling upwards of two months
and had been handed from one slave dealer to another, in some cases
changing their owner three or four times before reaching the coast. On
questioning them how they became slaves, I have only been told by one
that her father sold her because he was in debt; several times I have
been told that their elder brothers have sold them, but these cases
would not represent one per cent. of the slaves I have questioned; the
almost general reply I have received has been that they had been stolen
when they had gone to fetch water from the river or the spring, as the
case might be, or while they have been straying a little in the bush
paths between their village and another. Sometimes they would describe
how the slave-catchers had enticed them into the bush by showing them
some gaudy piece of cloth or offered them a few beads or negro bells,
others had been captured in some raid by one town or village on another.

Therefore domestic slavery in its effect on the interior tribes is doing
very near the same amount of harm now that it did in days gone by. It
keeps up a constant fear of strangers, and causes terrible feuds between
the villages in the interior.

What is the use of all the missionaries' teaching to the young girl
slaves so long as they are only chattels, and are forced to do the
bidding of their masters or mistresses, however degrading or filthy that
bidding may be?

The Ju-Juism of Brass is a sturdy plant, that takes a great deal of
uprooting. A few years ago a casual observer would have been inclined
to say the missionaries are making giant strides amongst these people. I
remember, as evidence of how keenly these people seemed to take to
Christianity up to a certain point, a little anecdote that the late
Bishop Crowther once told me about the Brass men. I think it must have
been a very few years before his death. I saw the worthy bishop
staggering along my wharf with an old rice bag full of some heavy
articles. On arriving on my verandah he threw the bag down, and after
passing the usual compliments, he said, "You can't guess what I have got
in that bag." I replied I was only good at guessing the contents of a
bag when the bag was opened; but judging from the weight and the
peculiar lumpy look of the outside of the bag, I should be inclined to
guess yams. "Had he brought me a present of yams?" I continued. "No," he
replied; "the contents of that bag are my new church seats in the town
of Nimbé; the church was only finished during the week, and I decided to
hold a service in it on Sunday last; and, do you believe me, those logs
of wood are a sample of all we had for seats for most part of the
congregation! I have therefore brought them down to show you white
gentlemen our poverty, and to beg some planks to make forms for the
church." I promised to assist him, and he left, carefully walking off
with his bag of fire-wood, for that was all it was, cut in lengths of
about fifteen inches, and about four inches in diameter. Here ends my
anecdote, so far as the bishop was concerned, for he never came back to
claim the fulfilment of my promise; but later on one of my clerks
reported to me that there had been a great run on inch planks during the
week, and that the purchasers were mostly women, and the poorest natives
in the place. This fact, coupled with the fact that the bishop never
came back for the planks he had begged of me, caused me to make some
inquiries, and I found that the church had been plentifully supplied
with benches by the poorer portion of the congregation.

Yet how many of these earnest people could one guarantee to have
completely cast out all their belief in Ju-Juism? If I were put upon my
oath to answer truthfully according to my own individual belief, I am
afraid my answer would be _not one_.

What an awful injustice the missionary preaches in the estimation of the
average native woman, when he advises the native of West Africa to put
away all his wives but one. Supposing, for instance, it is the case of a
big chief with a moderate number of wives, say only twenty or thirty, he
may have had children by all of them, or he may have had children by a
half dozen of them,--what is to become of those wives he discards? are
they to be condemned to single blessedness for the remainder of their
days? Native custom or etiquette would not allow these women to marry
the other men in the chief's house; they can't marry into other houses,
because they would find the same condition of things there as in their
own husband's house, always supposing Christianity was becoming general.
These difficulties in the way of the missionary are the Ju-Ju priests'
levers, which they know well how to use against Christianity, and which
accounts for the frequent slide back to Ju-Juism, and in some cases
cannibalism of otherwise apparently semi-civilized Africans.

The Pagan portion of the inhabitants of the Brass district have still
their old belief in the Ju-Ju priests and animal worship.

The python is the Brass natives' titular guardian angel. So great was
the veneration of this Ju-Ju snake in former times, that the native
kings would sign no treaties with her Britannic Majesty's Government
that did not include a clause subjecting any European to a heavy fine
for killing or molesting in any way this hideous reptile. When one
appeared in any European's compound, the latter was bound to send for
the nearest Ju-Ju priest to come and remove it, for which service the
priest expected a dash, _id est_, a present; if he did not get it, the
chances were the priest would take good care to see that that European
found more pythons visited him than his neighbours; and as a rule these
snakes were not found until they had made a good meal of one of the
white man's goats or turkeys, it came cheaper in the long run to make
the usual present.

It is now some twenty years ago that the then agent of Messrs. Hatton
and Cookson in Brass River found a large python in his house, and killed
it. This coming to the ears of the natives and the Ju-Ju priests, caused
no little excitement; the latter saw their opportunity, worked up the
people to a state of frenzy, and eventually led them in an attack on the
factory of Messrs. Hatton and Cookson, seized the agent and dragged him
out of his house on to the beach, tied him up by his thumbs, each Ju-Ju
priest present spat in his mouth, afterwards they stripped him naked and
otherwise ill treated him, besides breaking into his store and robbing
him of twenty pounds worth of goods. The British Consul was appealed to
for redress, and upon his next visit to the river inquired into the
case, but, _mirabile dictu_, decided that he was unable to afford the
agent any redress, as he had brought the punishment on himself. I don't
mention the name of this Consul, as it would be a pity to hand down to
posterity the fact that England was ever represented by such an idiot.

Besides the python the Brass men had several other secondary Ju-Jus;
amongst others may be mentioned the grey and white kingfisher, also
another small bird like a water-wagtail, besides which, in common with
their neighbours, they believed in a spirit of the water who was
supposed to dwell down by the Bar, and to which they occasionally made
offerings in the shape of a young slave-girl of the lightest complexion
they could buy.

The burial customs of this people differed little from others in the
Niger Delta, but as I was present at the burial of two of their
kings--viz. King Keya and King Arishima, at which I saw identically the
same ceremonial take place, I will describe what I saw as far as my
memory will serve me, for the last of these took place about thirty
years ago.

The grave in this instance was not dug in a house, but on a piece of
open ground close to the king's house, but was afterwards roofed over
and joined on to the king's houses. The size of the grave was about
fourteen by twelve feet, and about eight feet deep. At the end where the
defunct's head would be, was a small table with a cloth laid over it,
upon this were several bottles of different liquors, a large piece of
cooked salt beef and sundry other cooked meats, ship's biscuits, &c. The
ceiling of this chamber was supported by stout beams being laid across
the opening, upon which would be placed planks after the body had been
lowered into position, then the whole would be covered over with a part
of the clay that had been taken out of the hole, the rest of the clay
being afterwards used to form the walls of the house, that was
eventually constructed over the grave; a small round hole about three
inches in diameter being made in the ceiling of the grave, apparently
about over the place where the head of the corpse would lay. Down this
would be poured palm wine and spirits on the anniversaries of the king's
death, by his successor and by the Ju-Ju priests. This part of the
ceremony would be called "making his father," if it was a son who
succeeded; if it was not a son, he would describe it as "making his big
father"; though he was perhaps no blood relation at all.

Previous to the burial the body of the king lay in state for two days in
a small hut scarcely five feet high, with very open trellis work sides.
I believe they would have kept the body unburied longer if they could
have done so, but at the end of the second day his Highness commenced to
be very objectionable. The king's body was dressed for this ceremony in
his most expensive robes, having round the neck several necklaces of
valuable coral, to which his chiefs would add a string more or less
valuable according to their means, as they arrived for the final
ceremony. The Europeans were expected to contribute something towards
the funeral expenses, which contribution generally consisted of a cask
of beef, a barrel of rum, a hundredweight of ship's biscuits, and from
twenty to thirty pieces of cloth. Even in this there was a certain
amount of rivalry shown by the Europeans, to their loss and the natives'
gain. One knowing trader amongst them on this occasion had just received
a consignment of imitation coral, an article at that time quite unknown
in the river, either to European trader or to natives; so he decided to
place one of these strings of imitation coral round the king's neck
himself, and thus create a great sensation, for had it been real coral
its value would have been one hundred pounds. He had, however, not
counted on the king's very objectionable state, and when he proceeded to
place his offering round the king's neck, he nearly came to grief, and
did not seem quite himself until he had had a good stiff glass of brandy
and water. The news spread like wildfire of this man's munificence, and
soon the principal chiefs waited upon him to thank him for his present
to their dead king; the other Europeans were green with jealousy, though
each had in his turn tried to outdo his neighbour; unfortunately, there
was a Scotchman there "takin' notes," and faith he guessed a ruse, but
he was a good fellow and friend of the donor, and kept the secret for
some years, and did not tell the tale until it could do his friend no

The cannons had been going off at intervals for the last two days.
Towards ten o'clock of the second night after death the king was placed
in a very open-work wicker casket, and carried shoulder high round the
town, and then finally deposited in his grave. During this time the
cannons were being continually fired off, and individuals were assisting
in the din by firing off the ordinary trade gun. I and another European
concealed ourselves near the grave, and carefully watched all night to
see if they sacrificed any slaves on the king's grave, or put any poor
creatures down into the grave to die a lingering death; but we saw
nothing of this done, though we had been informed that no king or chief
of Brass was ever buried without some of his slaves being sent with him
into the next world; as our informant explained, how would they know he
had been a big man in this life if he did not go accompanied by some of
his niggers into the next?

The firing of cannon is kept up at intervals for an indefinite number of
days after the final interment; but there is no hard and fast rule as
to its duration as far as I have been able to ascertain, and I think
myself it is ruled by the greater or less liberality of the successors,
who are the ones who have to pay for the gunpowder.

Amongst other customs that are common to all these rivers and this river
is the killing of twin children; but since the mission has been
established here the missionaries have done their utmost to wean the
people from this remnant of savagery.

A curious custom that I have heard of in most of these rivers is the
throwing into the bush, to be devoured by the wild beasts, any children
that may be born with their front teeth cut. I found this custom in
Brass, but with an exception, _id est_, I knew a pilot in Twon Town who
had had the misfortune to be born with his upper front teeth through;
whether it was because it was only the upper teeth that were through, or
whether it was that the law is not so strictly carried out in the case
of a male, I was never able to make sure of; however, he had been
allowed to live, but it appears in his case some part of the law had to
be carried out at his death, viz. he was not allowed to be buried, but
was thrown into the bush, to fall a prey to the wild beasts, and any
property he might die possessed of could not be inherited by any one,
but must be dissipated or thrown into the bush to rot. I believe the
Venerable Archdeacon Crowther has been instrumental in saving several of
these kind of children in Bonny.

The women of Brass are, like their sisters in Benin river, moving on
towards women's rights; for though they have been for many generations
the hewers of wood and drawers of water, and made to do most of the hard
work of the country, they had commenced some years ago to enjoy more
freedom than their sisters in the leeward rivers. They still do most of
the fishing, and the fishing girls of Twon Town used to present a pretty
sight as some fifteen or twenty of their tiny canoes used to sweep past
the European factories, each canoe propelled by two or three graceful,
laughing, chattering girls; with them would generally be seen a canoe or
two paddled by some dames of a maturer age. Though _passée_ as far as
their looks were concerned, they could still ply their paddle as well as
the best amongst the younger ones, as they forced their frail canoes
through water to some favourite quiet blind creek where the currentless
water allowed them to use their preparation[83] for stupefying the fish,
and in little over three hours you might see them come paddling back,
each tiny canoe with from fifty to a hundred small grey mullet,
sometimes with more and occasionally with a few small river soles.

The Brass man, like his neighbours, had his public Ju-Ju house as well
as his private little Ju-Ju chamber, the latter was to be found in any
Brass man's establishment which boasted of more than one room; those who
could not afford a separate chamber used to devote a corner of their own
room, where might be seen sundry odds and ends bespattered with some
yellow clay, and occasionally a white fowl hung by the leg to remain
there and die of starvation and drop gradually to pieces as it

The public Ju-Ju house at Obulambri was not a very pretentious affair;
it consisted of a native hut of wattle and daub, the walls not being
carried more than half way up to the eaves, roofed with palm mats; in
the centre was an iron staff about five feet high, surrounded by eight
bent spear heads; this was called a tokoi, at the foot of it was a hole
about three inches in diameter, down which the Ju-Ju priests would pour
libations of tombo or palm wine, as a sacrifice to the Ju-Ju. I was
informed that this Ju-Ju house was built over the grave of the original
founder of Obulambri town. Behind the tokoi, on a kind of altar raised
about eighteen inches from the ground, were displayed about a dozen
human skulls; at the time I visited it the Ju-Ju man explained to me
that the greater part of these had belonged to New Calabar prisoners
taken in their last war with those people; besides the skulls were
sundry odds and ends of native pottery, as also a few bowls and jugs of
European manufacture. What part this pottery played in their devotions I
could never get a Ju-Ju man to explain, some of them appeared to have
held human blood. Stacked up in one corner were a few human bones,
principally thigh and shin bones.

The Brassmen do not often sacrifice human beings to their Ju-Jus, except
in time of war, when all prisoners without exception were sacrificed.

Their Ju-Ju snake occasionally secured a small child by crawling
unobserved into a house when the elders were absent or asleep. I once
was passing through a small fishing village in the St. Nicholas river,
when most of the inhabitants were away fishing, and hearing terrible
screams went to see what was the cause of the trouble, and found several
women wringing their hands and running to and fro in front of a small
hut. For several minutes I could not get them to tell me what was the
cause of their trouble; at last one of them trembling, with the most
abject fear and quite unable to speak, pointed to the door of the hut.
I went and looked in, but it was so dark I could see nothing at first,
so stepped inside; when, getting accustomed to the semi-darkness, I saw
a large python, some ten or twelve feet long, hanging from the ridge
pole of the hut immediately over a child about two years old that was
calmly sleeping. To snatch up the child and walk out was the work of a
moment. I then found that the woman who had pointed to the door of the
hut was the mother of the child--her gratitude to me for delivering her
child from certain death can be more easily imagined than described.
Upon asking why she had not acted as I had done, she replied she dare
not have interfered with the snake in the way I had done. I afterwards
asked several of the more intelligent natives of Brass if the Ju-Ju law
did not allow a mother to save her child in such a case. Some said she
was a fool woman, and that she could have taken her child away the
moment she saw it in danger; but others said had she done so, she would
have been liable to be killed herself or pay a heavy fine to the Ju-Ju
priests; and I am inclined to believe the latter version to be

Amongst other curious customs these people make use of the feather
ordeal, to find out robbery, witchcraft, and adultery, &c. In this
ordeal it rests a great deal with the Ju-Ju man who performs it whether
it proves the party guilty or not. This ordeal is performed as
follows:--The Ju-Ju man takes a feather from the underpart of a fowl's
wing, making choice of a stronger or weaker one, according to how he
intends the ordeal shall demonstrate, then, drawing the tongue of the
accused as far out of his mouth as he can, forces the quill of the
feather through from the upper side and draws it out by grasping the
point of the feather from the under side of the tongue; if the feather
is unbroken the accused person is proved guilty, if on the contrary the
feather breaks in the attempt to pass it through the tongue it proves
the innocence of the person. It may be seen from this description how
very easy it was to prove a person innocent, the mere fact of the
feather breaking in the attempt to push it through the tongue being
sufficient; thus, when suitably approached, the Ju-Ju man could not only
prove a person's innocence, but also save him any inconvenience in
eating his mess of foo foo and palaver sauce that evening.


The intervening rivers between the Brass and New Calabar Rivers are the
St. Nicholas, the St. Barbara, the St. Bartholomew, and the Sombrero;
the influence of the king of New Calabar may be said to commence at the
St. Bartholomew River, extending inland to about five or ten miles
beyond the town of Bugama. The lower parts of the St. Bartholomew and
the numerous creeks, running between that river and New Calabar are
mostly inhabited by fishermen and their families, their towns and
villages being without exception the most squalid and dirty of any to be
found in the Delta. Beyond fishing, the males seem to do little else
than sleep; occasionally the men assist their wives and children in
making palm-leaf mats, used generally all over the Delta in place of
thatch--not a very profitable employment, as the demand varies
considerably according to the seasons. After a very rough and
boisterous rainy season, the price may be two shillings and sixpence, or
its equivalent, for four hundred of these mats, each mat being a little
over two feet in length, but falling in bad times to two shillings and
sixpence for five to six hundred. A roof made with these mats threefold
thick will last for three years.

These people call themselves Calabar men simply because they live within
the influence of the Calabarese. In the upper part of these small
rivers, about a day's journey by canoe from the mouth of St.
Bartholomew, is the chief town of a small tribe of people called the
Billa tribe, connected by marriage with the Bonny men, several of the
kings of Bonny having married Billa women. These people are producers in
a small way of palm-oil, and though they are located so close to the New
Calabar people, prefer to sell their produce to the Bonny men, who send
their canoes over to the Billa country to fetch the oil, the latter
people not having canoes large enough for carrying the large puncheons
which the Bonny men send over to collect their produce in.

The New Calabar men are now split up into three towns called Bugama,
where the king lives; Abonema, of which Bob Manuel is the principal
chief; and Backana, where the Barboy House reside. Besides they have
numerous small towns scattered about in the network of creeks connecting
the Calabar River with the Sombrero River. Previous to 1880 these people
all dwelt together in one large town on the right bank of the Calabar
River, nearly opposite to where the creek, now called the Cawthorne
Channel,[85] branches off from the main river.

For some few years previous the chief of the Barboy House, Will Braid,
had incurred the displeasure of the Amachree house, which was the king's
house. For certain private reasons the king, with whom sided most of the
other chiefs, had decided to break down the Barboy house, which had
been a very powerful house in days anterior to the present king's
father, and tradition says that the Barboys had some right to be the
reigning house. Will Braid, the head of the house at this time, had by
his industry and honourable conduct raised the position of the house to
very near its former influence. This was one of the private reasons that
caused the king to look on him with disfavour.

When one of these West African kinglets decides that one of their chiefs
is getting too rich, and by that means too powerful, he calls his more
immediate supporters together, and they discuss the means that are to be
used to compass the doomed one's fall. If he be a man of mettle, with
many sub-chiefs and aspiring trade boys, the system resorted to is to
trump up charges against him of breaches of agreement as to prices paid
by him or his people in the Ibo markets for produce, and fine him
heavily. If he pays without murmur, they leave him alone for a time; but
very soon another case is brought against him either on the same lines
or for some breach of native etiquette, such as sending his people into
some market to trade where, perchance, he has been sending his people
for years; but the king and his friendly chiefs dish up some old custom,
long allowed to drop in abeyance, by which his house was debarred from
trading in that particular market. The plea of long usance would avail
him little; another fine would be imposed. This injustice would
generally have the effect desired, the doomed one would refuse to pay,
then down the king would come on him for disregarding the orders of
himself and chiefs; fine would follow fine, until the man lost his head
and did some rash act, which assisted his enemies to more certainly
compass his ruin. Or he does what I have seen a persecuted chief do in
these rivers on more than one occasion: that is, he gathers all his
wives and children about him, together with his most trusted followers
and slaves, also any of his family who are willing to follow him into
the next world, lays a double tier of kegs of gunpowder on the floor of
the principal room in his dwelling-house and knocks in the heads of the
top tier of kegs. Placing all his people on this funeral pile, he seats
himself in the middle with a fire-stick grasped in his hand, then sends
a message to the king and chiefs to come and fetch the fines they have
imposed on him. The king and chiefs generally shrewdly guessed what this
message meant, and took good care not to get too near, stopping at a
convenient distance to parley with him by means of messengers. The
victim finding there was no chance of blowing up his enemies along with
himself and people, would plunge the fire-stick into the nearest keg,
and the next moment the air would be filled with the shattered remains
of himself and his not unwilling companions.

Having digressed somewhat to explain how chiefs are undone, I must
continue my account of the New Calabar people and the cause of their
deserting their original town. This was brought about by Will Braid, on
whom the squeezing operation had been some time at work. He turned at
bay and defied the king and chiefs; this led to a civil war, in which he
was getting the worst of the game, so one dark night he quietly slipped
away with most of his retainers and took refuge in Bonny. This led to
complications, for Bonny espoused the cause of W. Braid and declared war
against New Calabar; thus in place of suppressing Will Braid they came
near to being suppressed themselves, the Bonny men very pluckily
establishing themselves opposite New Calabar town, where they threw up
a sand battery, in which they placed several rifled cannon, and did
considerable damage to the New Calabar town, from whence a feeble return
fire was kept up for several days, during which time the Calabar men
occupied themselves in placing their valuables and people in security,
and eventually, unknown to the Bonny men, clearing out all their war
canoes and fighting men through creeks at the back of their town to the
almost inaccessible positions of Bugama and Abonema. The Bonny men
continued the bombardment, but finding there was no reply from the town,
despatched, during the night, some scouts to find out what was the
position of things in the New Calabar town; on their return they
reported the town deserted. The Bonny men lost no time in following the
New Calabar men to their new position, but found Bugama inaccessible, so
turned their attention to Abonema, which they very pluckily assaulted,
but were repulsed with considerable loss, losing one of their best war
canoes, in which was a fine rifled cannon; at the same time the Bonny
chief, Waribo, who had most energetically led the assault, barely
escaped with his life, as he was in the war canoe that had been sunk by
the New Calabar men. This victory was very pluckily gained by Chief Bob
Manuel and his people, who were greatly assisted in the defence of their
position by having been supplied at an opportune moment with a
mitrailleuse by one of the European traders in the New Calabar river.
This defeat somewhat cooled the courage of the Bonny men; the war
however continued to be carried on in a desultory manner for several
months, until both sides were tired of the game, and at last all the
questions in dispute between the king and chiefs of New Calabar and Will
Braid, and the matters in dispute between the New Calabar men and the
Bonny men were by mutual agreement left to the arbitration of the king
and chiefs of Okrika, and King Ja Ja and the chiefs of Opobo. The
arbitrators met on board one of Her Majesty's vessels in Bonny River in
1881, King Ja Ja being represented by Chief Cookey Gam and several other
chiefs, the king and chiefs of Okrika being in full force. The result of
the arbitration did not give complete satisfaction to any party, owing
to the advice of Ja Ja on the affair not having been listened to in its
entirety. However, W. Braid returned to New Calabar territory and
founded a town of his own, assisted by his very faithful Chief Yellow of
Young Town. Thus ended the last war between the old rivals Bonny and New
Calabar. It is on record that these two countries had been scarcely ever
at peace for any length of time since New Calabar was first founded some
two hundred and fifty years ago, when, tradition says, one of the
Ephraim Duke family left Old Calabar and settled at the spot from whence
they retired in 1880.

Old traders I met with in the early sixties informed me that during one
of these wars, between the years 1820 and 1830, the king Pepple, then
reigning in Bonny succeeded in capturing the king of Calabar of that
time (the grandfather of the last king Amachree), and to celebrate his
victory and royal capture, made a great feast to which he invited all
the European slave traders then in his country. The feast was a right
royal one, the king had a special dish prepared for himself which was
nothing less than the heart of his royal captive, torn from his scarcely
lifeless body.

The New Calabar people, though said to be descended from the Old Calabar
race, have not retained any of the characteristics of the latter,
neither in their language nor dress, nor have they retained the
elaborate form of secret society or native freemasonry peculiar to the
Efik[86] race called Egbo.

Their religion is the same animistic form of Ju-Juism and belief in the
oracle they call Long Ju-Ju situated in the vicinity of Bende in the
hinterland of Opobo, common to all the inhabitants of the Delta; besides
the latter, they are believers in the power of a Ju-Ju in some mystic
grove in the Oru country. The peculiar test at this latter place is said
to have been established by some ancient dame having uttered some
fearful curse or wish at the spot where the ordeal is administered. The
descriptions of this are rather vague, as no one who has undergone it
has ever been known to return, that is, if he has really seen the oracle
work, for if it works it is a sign of his guilt and drowns him; if he is
innocent it does not work, so on his return he is not in a position to
describe it. But the proprietors of this interesting Ju-Ju have for very
many years found that a nigger fetches a better price alive than when
turned into butcher's meat; they have therefore been in the habit of
selling the guilty victim into slavery in as far distant a country as
possible; but occasionally one of these men have drifted down to the
coast again, but dare not return to his own country as no one would
believe he was anything else but a spirit. One of these "spirits" I had
the pleasure to interview on one occasion, and he told me that the only
ones who were actually drowned were the old or unsaleable men; when two
men went to this Ju-Ju or ordeal well, to decide some vital question
between them, the party taking best would want to see his dead or
drowned opponent; for this purpose the Ju-Ju priests always kept a few
of the old and decrepit votaries on hand to be drowned as required, but
the opponent was never allowed to stand by and see the oracle work, but
was taken up to the well and allowed to see a dead body lying at the
bottom, and after he had glanced in and satisfied himself there was a
drowned person there, he would be hurried away by the Ju-Ju priests and
their assistants. That these priests had the supernatural power to make
the water rise up in the well, this "spirit" thoroughly believed, and
when I offered the suggestion of an underground water supply brought
from some higher elevation, he scouted the idea and gave me his private
opinion thus: "White man he no be fit savey all dem debly ting Ju-Ju
priest fit to do; he fit to change man him face so him own mudder no fit
savey him; he fit make dem tree he live for water side, bob him head
down and drink water all same man; he fit make himself alsame bird and
fly away; you fit to look him lib for one place and you keep you eye for
him, he gone, you no fit see him when he go."

Which little speech turned into ordinary English meant to say that white
people could not understand the devilish tricks the Ju-Ju priests were
able to do, they could so disguise a person that his own mother would
not recognise him, this without the assistance of any make-up but simply
from their devilish science; that they could cause a tree on the banks
of a river to bend its stem and imbibe water through its topmost
branches; that they could change themselves into birds and fly away; and
lastly, that they could make themselves invisible before your eyes and
so suddenly that you could not tell when they had done so.

I asked him why the Ju-Ju man had not altered him, so that when he sold
him it would be impossible for any one who had known him in his own
country ever to recognise him if they saw him in another. His reply was:
"Ju-Ju man savey them man what believe in Ju-Ju no will believe me dem
time I go tell dem I be dem Os[=u]k[=u] of Young Town come back from
Long Ju-Ju. He savey all man go run away from me in my own country."
"Well," I said, "how about the people amongst whom you now are? they
believe in very nearly the same Ju-Jus that your own people do, what do
they say about you?" "Oh! they say I be silly fellow and no savey I done
die one time, and been born again in some other country." I then asked
him how they accounted for his knowing about the people who were still
alive in his own country and to be able to talk about matters which had
taken place there within the previous five or six years. Then I got the
word the inquirer in this part of the world generally gets when he
wishes to dive into the inner circles of native occultism, viz.,
"Anemia," which means "I don't know."

The chiefs in New Calabar in the days of the last king's father were an
extremely fine body of men, both physically and commercially; the latter
quality they owed to the strong hand the king kept over them, and the
excellent law he inaugurated when he became the king with regard to
trade, viz., that no New Calabar chief or other native was allowed to
take any goods on credit from the Europeans. His power was absolute, and
considering that he inherited his father's place at a time when the
country was in the throes of war with Bonny--his father being the king
captured by the king of Bonny mentioned previously--the success of his
rule was wonderful, for he pulled his country together and carried on
the war with such ability that Bonny ultimately was glad to come to
terms; a peace was agreed upon which lasted many years, until the old
king of Bonny died, and his son wishing to emulate his father re-opened
hostilities, but with such ill-success and loss to his country that it
eventually led to his being deposed and exiled from his country for some

The New Calabar people are and have been always great believers in
Ju-Juism, the head Ju-Ju priest being styled the Ju-Ju king and ranking
higher than the king in any matters relating to purely native affairs.

The shark is their principal animal deity, to which they were in the
habit of sacrificing a light-coloured child every seven years. This used
to be openly and ostentatiously performed by a procession of a
half-dozen large canoes being formed up at the town of New Calabar, each
canoe being manned by forty to fifty paddlers; in the midships of each
canoe a deck some ten feet long would be placed on which the Ju-Ju
priests and a number of the younger chiefs and the grown-up sons of the
chief men would huddle together and keep up a continuous howling and
dancing, accompanied with the waving of their hands and handkerchiefs,
until they arrived down near the mouth of the river. When the water
began to be so rough that the singers and dancers could not keep their
feet, it was a sign the offering must be cast into the sea; the Ju-Ju
men and their assistants all supplicating their friend the shark to
intercede with the Spirit of the Water to keep open the entrance to
their river and cause plenty of ships to come to their river to trade.

Their Ju-Ju house in their original town was a much larger and more
pretentious edifice than that of Bonny, garnished with human and goats'
skulls in a somewhat similar manner, unlike the Bonny Ju-Ju house in the
fact that it was roofed over, the eaves of which were brought down
almost to the ground, thus excluding the light and prying eyes at the
same time; at either side of the main entrance, extending some few feet
from the eaves, was a miscellaneous collection of iron three-legged
pots, various plates, bowls and dishes of Staffordshire make, all of
which had some flower pattern on them, hence were Ju-Ju and not
available for use or trade--the old-fashioned lustre jug, being also
Ju-Ju, was only to be seen in the Ju-Ju house, though a great favourite
in Bonny and Brass as a trade article--at this time all printed goods or
cloth with a flower or leaf pattern on them were Ju-Ju. Any goods of
these kinds falling into the hands of a true believer had to be
presented to the Ju-Ju house. As traders took good care not to import
any such goods, people often wondered where all these things came from.
Had they arrived shortly after a vessel bound to some other port had had
the misfortune to be wrecked off New Calabar, they would have solved the
problem at once, for anything picked up from a wreck which is Ju-Ju has
to be carried off at once to the Ju-Ju house. I remember on one occasion
visiting this Ju-Ju house just after a large ship called the _Clan
Gregor_ bound into Bonny had been wrecked off New Calabar, and found the
Ju-Ju house decked both inside and out with yards of coloured cottons
from roof to floor; but the Ju-Ju priests did not get all their rights,
for some tricky natives on salving a bale of goods would carefully slit
the bale just sufficiently to see what were the goods inside, and
should they be Ju-Ju would not open them, but take them to their
particular friend amongst the European traders, and get him to send them
away to some other river for sale on joint account.

Every eighth day is called Calabar Sunday, the day following being
formerly the market day or principal receiving day for the white traders
of the native produce, which consisted principally, and still does, of
palm oil. The native Sunday was passed in olden days by the chief in
receiving visits from the white men and jamming[87] with them for any
produce he had the intention of selling the following day, or clearing
up any little Ju-Ju matters that he had been putting off for the want of
a slack day, not because it was his Sunday, but because that was a day
on which by custom he could not visit the ships. I remember it was on
paying a visit to old King Amachree, the father of the late king of the
same name, I saw for the first time a native sacrifice. I was then
little more than a boy as a matter of fact, I was under seventeen years
of age, but filling a man's place in New Calabar who had been invalided
home. The old king had taken me under his special protection and gave me
much good advice and counsel, which was of great use to me in my novel
position. My employers ought to have been very thankful to him, for
though I was the youngest trader in the river by some twelve years, I
held my own with them and got a larger share of the produce of the river
than my predecessor had done, all owing to the old brick of a king, who
would come and see how I was doing on the big trade days, and if he
thought I was not doing as well as my neighbours he would send off a
message to a small creek close to the shipping, where the natives used
to wait with their oil until it was jammed for, _id est_, agreed for,
and order three or four canoes of oil to be sent off to me, though I had
not seen its owner to agree with him as to what he was to get for it. I
held this appointment for a little over six months, when, my senior
having returned, I had to go back to my duties in Bonny under the chief
agent of the firm, a Captain Peter Thompson, one of the kindest-hearted
skippers that ever entered Bonny river. In those days we all had some
nickname that we were known by amongst the natives, and another amongst
the white men. Amongst the former he was called Calla Thompson, because
he was short, in contradistinction to another Thompson who was tall,
called Opo Thompson; but his name amongst the white men was Panter
Thompson, owing to his inability to pronounce the "th" in panther during
a discussion as to whether we had tigers or only panthers on the West
Coast of Africa. Poor Panter, after a most successful voyage of a little
over two years, was preparing to return home, and had only a few more
weeks to remain in Bonny, when in stepping into his boat his foot
slipped and he fell into the river at a point known to be infested with
sharks. A brother skipper jumped into the boat, and actually clutched
him by his cap at the same moment poor Panter said "I am gone, Ned!" no
doubt feeling himself being drawn down by some hungry shark.

His son now commands one of the finest steamers of the African Steamship
Company, and seems to have inherited in a marked degree all the good
qualities of his father; so, travellers to West Africa, if you want a
comfortable ship and a thorough good fellow to travel with, take your
passage in the ship commanded by Captain Willie Thompson, R.N.R.

But this is digressing. I must get back to New Calabar and tell you what
I saw at my introduction to Ju-Juism under the auspices of dear old King
Amachree. The occasion was the swearing Ju-Ju with some people in the
interior, with whom they had only lately opened up commercial relations,
and they wanted them to swear they would trade with no other people but
them. The deputation, who represented the market people, looked as wild
a lot as one could wish to see, and, as far as I could make out, the
ceremony I was watching was a kind of preliminary canter to a more
impressive, and most likely more diabolical one to be carried out at
some future date in the stranger folks' country. On this occasion the
officiating Ju-Ju priest did not seem to address any of his words to the
strangers, who looked on with a certain amount of fear depicted in their

The Ju-Ju priest was clothed (?) in a superb dark-coloured and
greasy-looking rag about his loins, barely sufficient to satisfy the
easiest going of European Lord Chamberlains; but from the expressive
grunts of satisfaction which greeted his appearance in the Ju-Ju house,
I was led to suppose his dress was quite correct and proper for the
occasion. His head was shaved on the right side, and all down his right
side and leg he had been dusted over with some greyish-white native
chalk. He said a few words in an undertone to one of his assistants, who
went out of sight for a moment or so and quickly returned with a very
fine almost milk-white goat, the poor beast seeming to anticipate its
fate from its fearfully loud bleating. The Ju-Ju priest seized the poor
beast by its muzzle with his left hand, and dexterously tossing its body
under his left arm, forced its head back towards his left shoulder until
the neck of the beast formed an arc, his assistant handing him at this
moment a very sharp white-handled spear-pointed knife, which he drew
across the animal's throat, almost severing its head from its body.
Quick as lightning he dropped on one knee and held the bleeding animal
over a receptacle, having the appearance of a large soup plate,
fashioned in the clay of the ground immediately in front of the altar
arrangement. In the centre of this plate was a hole down which the
quickly coagulating blood slowly trickled; after the interval of what
appeared to me minutes, but was in fact most likely less than a minute,
the Ju-Ju man laid the lifeless body of the goat down with its neck over
the opening in the plate, leaving it there to drain. At the moment of
the sacrifice various gongs and old ship bells were struck by young men
stationed near them for that purpose--a wrecked ship's bell being
generally presented to the Ju-Ju house, though not as in the case of
Ju-Ju goods by law prescribed. New Calabar people had been fairly well
observant of this custom, and the wrecks numerous, judging from the
number of ships' bells in the Ju-Ju house. At every movement of the
Ju-Ju priest the king and chief would grunt out a noise very much
resembling that auld Scotch word "ahum."

The Ju-Ju house had amongst its possessions several ill-shapen wooden
idols, and scattered about the affair that represented an altar were
various small idols looking very much like children's dolls; also
several large elephant's tusks, and two or three very well carved ones,
with the usual procession of coated and naked figures winding round

The present king of New Calabar[88] is a son of my old friend King
Amachree, and is called King Amachree also, but has shown little of the
ability of his late father, being completely led by the nose by his
brother George Amachree, who practically rules both king and people.

The former is a small, quiet, and rather amiable man, but of a
vacillating and unreliable character; his brother and prime minister is,
on the contrary, a tall and very fine specimen of the negro race,
endowed by nature with a very suave and not unmusical voice, a very able
speaker, clear and logical reasoner, but of a very grasping nature--an
excellent and successful trader and exceedingly nice man to deal with,
as long as he has got things moving the way that suits him and his
policy; but when thwarted in his designs, trading or political, he
becomes a difficult customer to deal with, and a very unpleasant and
objectionable type of negro "big man." Nevertheless, had he had the
fortune to have been born in a civilised Africa, I feel confident his
natural abilities, assisted by education, would have made him a man of
eminence in whatever country his lot might have been cast.

Most of the New Calabar chiefs bear a very favourable repute amongst the
white traders, and compare very favourably intellectually with the
neighbouring chiefs of the Niger Delta.

Another chief of no mean capacity is Bob Manuel, of Abonema, exceedingly
neat, almost a dandy in appearance, a very shrewd trader, clear and
concise in his speech, honourable in all his dealings, of a very
reserved temperament; but a charming man to talk with, once started on
any topic that interests him or his visitor.

Owing to some peculiarities in their dress, the New Calabar chiefs are
very different to the chiefs in other parts of the Delta. They never
appear outside of their houses unless robed in long shirts (made of real
india madras of bold check patterns, in which no other colour but red,
blue and white is ever allowed to be used) reaching down to their heels;
under this they wear a singlet and a flowing loin cloth of the same
material as their shirts. Of late years, during the rainy season, some
of them have added elastic-side boots and white socks, but the most
curious part of their get-up is their head-gear, for since about 1866
they have taken to wearing wigs. These are only worn on high days and
holidays and at special functions, but the effect sometimes is so
utterly ridiculous as to be more than strangers can look at without
laughing. Imagine an immensely stout and somewhat podgy negro with
elastic-side boots, white stockings, long shirt, several strings of
coral hung round his neck and hanging in festoons down as far as where
his waistcoat would end, did he wear one, a Charles II. light flaxen
wig, the latter topped up by an ordinary stove-pipe black silk hat!

This fashion of wearing wigs, I am afraid, was unconsciously inaugurated
by me, having taken with me in 1865 to New Calabar some wigs that I had
used in some private theatricals in England. A chief named Tom Fouché
saw them, and was enchanted with a nigger's trick wig, the top of which
could be raised by pulling a hidden silk cord, and eventually he became
the proud possessor of my stock, and produced a great sensation the
first public festival he appeared at. Previous to this I never saw a wig
in New Calabar; as a matter of fact, they have no excuse for them, a
bald-headed native being an almost unheard-of curiosity, and grey or
white heads are very scarce. Alas! like all pioneers, I did not reap the
reward I should have done, as I left the New Calabar river before the
fashion had caught on, and Messrs. Thomas Harrison and Co., of
Liverpool, became the principal purveyors of wigs to the Court of New

These people are remarkable for the bold stand they have made against
the persecution of their neighbours almost from the day their founder
planted his foot on the New Calabar soil, or mud rather, I should say;
besides their wars with the Bonny men, they were often attacked by the
Brass men, allies of Bonny. With the Okrika men they were almost
constantly at war. This latter was a kind of guerilla warfare carried on
in the creeks, and consisted in seizing any unprotected small canoe with
its crew of two or three men or women and cargo, the latter generally
being yams or Indian corn, the custom being on both sides to eat these

The Church Missionary Society established a mission here in 1875, but
during the war of 1879 and 1880 the missionary had to leave. Their
success had not been brilliant up to this date, owing, no doubt, in some
measure, to the immense power wielded by the Ju-Ju priests in New

It was not until 1887-8 that the missionaries were able to again
commence their labours amongst these people, and then not in the
principal town. Archdeacon Crowther, however, succeeded about this time
in getting a plot of ground in Bob Manuel's town, Abonema, for the
purpose of building a mission station. As to the success of this last
effort I can't speak from personal observation, as I left this river
shortly afterwards myself; in fact, it was on my last visit to Abonema
that I conveyed in my steamer, the _Quorra_, the missionary and his wife
to their new home from Brass. They were a young couple of very well
educated and most intelligent Sierra Leone natives.


This river was the most important slave market in the Delta, as a matter
of fact surpassing in numbers of slaves exported any other single
slave-dealing station on the West or South-West Coast of Africa.

According to Mr. Clarkson, the historian of the abolition of the
slave-trade, this river and Old Calabar exported more slaves than all
the other slave-dealing centres on the West and South-West Coasts of
Africa combined.

It is a well-known fact that for about two hundred years the average
annual output of slaves through the Bonny River was about 16,000 (this
included the shipments from New Calabar), totalling up to the immense
number of 3,200,000 souls taken out of this part of Africa during two

The above figures do not represent the total depletion this part of
Africa suffered during this time. To the above immense number of slaves
exported must be added the number of lives lost in the raids made on the
Ibo villages for the purpose of capturing the people to sell as slaves;
we must also add the number that died on their way down from the
interior to the coast, and to these again must be added the slaves
refused by the European trader by reason of any defect, malformation,
or incipient signs of disease. The fate of these poor souls was sad; but
perhaps many of their brethren envied them their quick release from the
cares of this world. The native slave-dealer was too practical a man to
burden himself with mouths to fill that he could not immediately turn
into cloth, rum, gunpowder or coral, so oftener than otherwise he would
simply tell his own niggers to drop their canoe astern of the slave
ship, cut the rejected slaves heads off, and cast their bodies into the
river to feed the sharks, this often taking place within sight of the
European slaver.

A very moderate allowance for loss of life between the interior and the
slave-ship from the above-mentioned causes would be at the least 40 per
cent.; thus totalling the immense number of 4,480,000 souls sent out of
this one district in about two centuries. The greater number of these
were Ibos, a slave much sought after in the olden days by planters in
the West Indies and the Southern States of America.

I have mentioned these latter facts here to point out to my readers that
the so-called benevolent domestic slavery as practised on the coast of
Western Africa and tolerated in Her Britannic Majesty's West African
Colonies, must, as a natural consequence, lead to a deplorable loss of
life, though not in so wholesale a manner as the export of slaves led to
in former days.

The Bonny people claim to be descended from the Ibo tribe, but I should
be inclined to think that their proper description to-day would be a
mixture of Ibos, Kwos, Billa, and sundry infusions of blood from
inter-marriage with the female slaves brought down by the slave-dealers
from places lying beyond and at the back of the Ibo people.

Whatever their origin may have been, a commercial spirit is, and has
been since their first intercourse with Europeans, a very highly
developed trait in their character. As I have already shown, they were
the greatest slave traders in Western Africa, and when that, for them,
lucrative trade was finally put a stop to by the treaty signed on the
21st of November, 1848, between Her Britannic Majesty's Consul and King
Pepple, whereby King Pepple was to receive an annual present of $2,000
for six years--[previous to this, one, if not two treaties had been
signed by King Pepple, with Her Britannic Majesty's representatives,
with the same object; but the greed of gain had been too much for his
dusky Majesty, combined with the continued presence on the coast of the
Spanish slave-dealers; one of the latter being established at Brass as
late as 1844]--they then turned their whole attention to the legitimate
trade of palm oil, and soon became the largest exporters of that article
on the West Coast of Africa. Their trade in this article had not been
inconsiderable since 1825, at which date the Liverpool merchants had
seriously turned their attention to legitimate trade.

In 1837-38, the export of palm oil was already about 14,200 tons, all
carried in sailing vessels principally owned in Liverpool, and mostly by
firms that had been in the slave trade.

Like the natives of Brass, many of these people have embraced the
Christian faith, the Church Missionary Society having placed one of
their stations here in 1866, some two years earlier than the Brass
Mission was commenced.

Their endeavours have certainly met with considerable success in
prevailing upon a large number of the natives to give up many of their
Ju-Ju practices; amongst others, the worship of the iguana, an immense
lizard, which from time immemorial had been the Bonny man's titular
guardian angel. They not only got them to give up worshipping this
saurian, but also, to mark a new departure in their religious ideas, the
missionaries prevailed upon the people to organise a general iguana
hunt; so, following the old saying of "the better the day, the better
the deed," one Easter Sunday, about the year 1883 or 1884, or about
twenty-two years after the establishment of the mission, the bells of
the mission church rang out the signal for the wholesale slaughter of
these reptiles. To such an extent and with such good will did the people
work that day, that by evening time not one was left alive in the town.
That day it was everybody's job to kill these reptiles, but it was
nobody's job to clear away the dead bodies, there being no County
Council in Bonny to see to the scavenger work after this animal St.
Bartholomew; the consequence was the stench was so great from the
decaying bodies that every European predicted a general sickness would
be the natural outcome of it all; but no such unlucky event happened,
and the natives did not seem to notice the extra strong perfume very
much--one of them observing, to a growl about it by a white man, that
"it be all same them trade beef you sell we people for chop."

The Bonny men until late years were steeped in all the most vile
practices of Ju-Juism--sacrificing human beings to their various Ju-Jus,
and eating all their prisoners captured in war, certain of their Ju-Ju
practices demanding an annual human sacrifice. If at this time they
happened to be at peace with their neighbours, and consequently without
any prisoner to be sacrificed, the Ju-Ju men would disguise themselves
in some fantastic dress (some Europeans have said they disguise
themselves as leopards; I have never seen this disguise used, and doubt
it very much), and prowl about the town and its byeways, seizing for
their purpose in preference some stray stranger that might be staying in
the town; failing a stranger, some noted bad character belonging to the
town in whose fate no one would be greatly interested would be seized
upon. To say these practices are completely stamped out would be,
perhaps, not quite the truth; but that they are being stamped out I feel
convinced, and considering what believers in Ju-Ju these people have
been, I think I may say fairly quick.

The common sense of the people is assisting very much, and the women are
showing themselves capable of something better than what their former
state condemned them to. The final decision to slaughter the iguana some
years ago was brought about by them in a great measure on solid common
sense grounds, for had not the iguana been their mortal enemy for years
by eating their fowls and chickens before their eyes, thus destroying
about the only means a woman of the lower class, or one who had ceased
to please her lord and master, had of making a little pin money.

The Ju-Ju house of Bonny, once the great show place of the town, has now
completely disappeared and its hideous contents are scattered; strange
to say, I saw, only a few weeks ago, in the house of a lady in London,
one of the sacrificial pots of native earthenware that had done duty for
many generations in the Bonny Ju-Ju House.

A description of this Ju-Ju house may be interesting to some of my
readers. It was an oblong building of about forty feet long by thirty
broad, surrounded by mud walls about eight or ten feet high; one portion
over where the altar stood had had sticks arranged, as if the intention
had been at some time to roof it over; at the end behind the altar the
wall had been built in a semicircle; the altar looked very much like an
ordinary kitchen plate rack with the edges of the plate shelves picked
out with goat skulls. There were three rows of these, and on the three
plate shelves a row of grinning human skulls; under the bottom shelf,
and between it and the top of what would be in a kitchen the dresser,
were eight uprights garnished with rows of goats' skulls, the two middle
uprights being supplied with a double row; below the top of the dresser,
which was garnished with a board painted blue and white, was arranged a
kind of drapery of filaments of palm fronds, drawn asunder from the
centre, exposing a round hole with a raised rim of clay surrounding it,
ostensibly to receive the blood of the victims and libations of palm

To one side, and near the altar, was a kind of roughly made table fixed
on four straight legs; upon this was displayed a number of human bones
and several skulls; leaning against this table was a frame looking very
like a chicken walk on to the table; this also was garnished with
horizontal rows of human skulls--here and there were to be seen human
skulls lying about; outside the Ju-Ju house, upon a kind of trellis
work, were a number of shrivelled portions of human flesh.

Whilst writing about the wholesale slaughter of iguanas I forgot to
mention that this was not the first time an animal that was Ju-Ju and
held in high veneration had had a general battue arranged for it. The
monkey used to hold a place in Bonny equal with the iguana, but for some
reason or another it fell from its high estate, and was as ruthlessly
slaughtered by its quondam worshippers.

Other Ju-Jus were the shark and the Spirit of the Water, or supposed
guardian angel of the Bar. The bull was at one time worshipped, but not
of late years; but still fresh beef was Ju-Ju, and twenty years ago no
Bonny gentleman would touch it.

Like fresh beef, milk of cows or goats was never used by natives,
neither were eggs eaten by Bonny men or any of the neighbouring coast

Native houses in Bonny are very little different to the general run of
native houses along this coast, as far as the external appearance goes;
but inside they are perfect Hampton Court mazes to the uninitiated. A
noticeable peculiarity is that the entrance door and all the other
doorways in a native house have a fixed barrier about eighteen inches
high between each room from whence start the doorways proper. This forms
a very favourite seat of the master of the house or his wife, but one
must never step over them while any one is sitting on them; a man
stepping over one while a man is sitting there means "poison for eye,"
as the natives express it, which means to say your action will cause
them sickness. A man doing the same when a female is sitting in this
position has a much more significant meaning, and for a slave would
entail a good flogging.

No community of natives demonstrates the peculiar workings of domestic
slavery so well as these people, for in no other place on the coast can
any one find so many instances of the rapid rise of a bought slave from
the lowest rung of the slave ladder to the topmost.

The bought slave was quite a different class to the son of a slave born
in Bonny of slave parents; for outside the direct descendants of the
Pepple family, the freemen of Bonny could be counted on one hand;
therefore, a slave born in Bonny was looked upon as being almost equal
with a freeman. These were called Bonny free; and the Bonny free, though
they boast of their birth, can't boast of the most brains, for the most
intelligent men of these people--especially during the last fifty
years--have been bought slaves, with few exceptions.

In 1837, the then reigning King Pepple had to get Captain Craigie of
H.M. Navy to assist him in asserting his rights, a slave of his having
usurped his place. A few years after, in 1854, this same King Pepple was
deposed by his chiefs for making continuous war on New Calabar, and thus
draining the wealth of the country, as well as for his cruelties to his
own people; they, at the same time, found out another charge against him
that he was an usurper, as there was a young man named Dapho Pepple, a
son of his elder brother, who was entitled to the throne, and, with the
assistance of the late Consul Beecroft, the change was made and the
fighting King Pepple was taken away to Fernando Po, and eventually found
his way to England in 1857; there he resided four years, was carefully
looked after by the temperance party, and eventually became a convert to
Christianity. Several sets of verses were strung together for and about
him by the goody goody papers of the time. He made strong appeals to the
British public for £20,000 to establish a mission in his country; but in
this matter I am afraid he was not successful, as the mission was never
started by him, and on his arrival home in Bonny River, in August, 1861,
there was a dearth of current coin in the royal pockets.

The following is King Pepple's address in verse, which, he asserted, he
spoke when seeking funds to establish a mission in his country. He only
asked for a modest £20,000. I never heard what he got, but one thing I
do know, whatever he did get, he never expended a shilling of it for the
purpose it was given him:--

          Beloved bretheren,
                      Young and old,
            I come to day to ask for gold
            To help the missionary Coons
            Who brave Bonny's hot simoons.
              Tooralooral! Rich and poor,
              A pewter plate is at the door!

            Now why must each of you decide
            Your heart and purse to open wide?
            It is because the imbued sin
            That e'en now lurks each heart within
              Tooralooral! with all its might
              Is prompting you to close them tight.

            And then it must not be forgot
            That Hell is wide and awful hot,
            And gibbering fiends around us grin
            With joy to see us tumble in.
              Tooralooral! don't forget
              The Devil he may have you yet.

            But would you from destruction turn,
            Nor 'mid sulphurous vapours burn,
            But each become a blessed spirit,
            And kingdom come with joy inherit.
              Tooralooral! tip us a bob,
              To help us on our holy job.

            Remember, friends, we are but dust,
            And die in course of time we must.
            To show the seeds have taken root
            By yielding up the proper fruit,
              Tooralooral! are you willing
              To subscribe another shilling?

            If you will help to save the nigger
            Your crown of glory shall be bigger,
            More white your robes, your sandals smarter,
            When we shall meet above herear'ter
              Tooralooral! Psalms and Hymns,
              Cherubs sweet and Seraphims.

            Fields of glory, floods of light,
            Sweet effulgence, Angels bright,
            Sounds symphoneous, jewels rare,
            Sheets of gold and perfumed air.
              Tooralooral! fellow men,
              Hallelujah! and Amen.

By what specious reasoning he succeeded in prevailing upon the
authorities at the Foreign Office to countenance his return to Bonny, or
what he described as his dominions, I know not. The fact, however, is on
record that he did get this permission, and that he found some good
friends in London to assist him with sufficient cash to pay £900 down on
account of the charter of the _Bewley_, a small vessel of only about 180
tons register, which was to carry him and his consort, the Queen
Eleanor, better known in Bonny as Allaputa, and their royal suite, which
consisted of nine English men and two English women; amongst the former
he had nominated the following officials, viz., premier, secretary, an
assistant secretary, three clerks, and one doctor, a farmer, and a valet
for himself. Mrs. Wood, the gardener's wife, was to be schoolmistress,
and the other English woman was to act as a maid of honour to the Queen
Eleanor. All these people had agreements for salaries varying from £60
to £600 per annum, some of them with an allowance of £15 for uniform;
several of the agreements contained a clause that stipulated that the
king was to supply them with suitable apartments in the royal palace.
On arriving in the Bonny river, these poor people had a rude awakening,
for they found that the king was not wanted by his people, had no royal
palace, and no revenues. However, they did not immediately quit the
service of the dusky monarch, but held on in the hope of getting
sufficient arrears of pay out of him to pay their passages home; they
had some reason for their action, for the old king still had a strong
party friendly to him in the town. The king funked landing amongst his
late subjects, and he remained on board the _Bewley_, until the 15th of
October, landing at last with many misgivings. Strange to relate, the
same day the walls of the Bonny Ju-Ju house crumbled to bits, caused, no
doubt, by the heavy rains, but the king looked upon it as an omen boding
no good to him.

When the king landed, the captain of the _Bewley_ gave the European
suite notice that he could not supply them with food any longer, as the
king was not able to pay him what he owed the ship.

These poor people now found themselves in a sad plight, but the
Liverpool supercargoes in the river gave them quarters in their
different sailing vessels and hulks. Those who wished to try their luck
in some other place on the coast had their passages paid by the
supercargoes of the river; Miss Mary, the queen's maid of honour, was
about the first to be sent home, the gardener and his wife left in
November, and by the end of December the last of the king's white suite
left the river. None were ever paid their arrears of wages, the king
being with difficulty made to find £10 towards the passage money of the
doctor. Strange to relate, though these eleven white people could not be
said to have passed their time in Bonny river under the best conditions
for health, being cooped up on board a vessel of only 180 tons
register, yet only one of them died, that one being the king's valet.
All had remained more than two months in the river, some four months, at
a time, when, according to some authorities, the coast climate is most
to be dreaded.

King Pepple never regained his ancient sway over the Bonny people, and
after lingering in very indifferent health a few years, during which
time he was every now and again springing some new intrigue on his
people, he passed away at Ju-Ju Town, where he had been living almost
ever since his return to his native land, for his health's sake, he
asserted, but rumour had it that he felt himself safer away from the
vicinity of his more powerful chiefs.

After his death, the affairs of Bonny went back into the hands of the
four regents, as they had been since the death of King Dapho up to the
time of King Pepple's return in 1861, and in a great measure remained
during the few years Pepple lived.

These regents had originally been appointed by the late Acting Consul
Lynslager on the 1st of September, 1855, and were the heads of the
following houses:--

  _Name of House._    _Native Name of Chief in_  _Name of Chief in_
                      _Possession in 1855._      _Possession in 1869._

   Annie Pepple        Elolly Pepple              Ja Ja.

   Captain Hart        Apho Dappa                 Still alive.

   Adda Allison        Generally called Addah.      "     "

   Manilla Pepple      Erinashaboo                Warrabo.

   Oko Jumbo  }        Advisers to the regents,   Still alive.
   Jim Banago }        both wealthy men.          Squeeze Banago.

The above lists show in a very marked manner the favourable side of
domestic slavery; every one of the above chiefs were bought slaves or
the sons of bought slaves, and in that case would be Bonny free. Ja Ja
was bought by Adda Allison, and by him presented to Elolly Pepple, the
name Ja Ja signifying a present in some native language in the
hinterland of Bonny. Oko Jumbo was a slave bought by Manilla Pepple.
Captain Hart was a slave bought from the Okrika people, and had been
head slave of the late King Dapho. The others I am not sure about, but
Squeeze Banago and Warrabo may have been Bonny free, though I have my
doubts, but in no case from 1855 up to this date, 1869, had a son
inherited from his father. I don't wish to be understood never did;
because cases have occurred, and did occur during this time, where the
son followed the father, but in these six principal Houses the chief was
not the son of the former head of the House. A House, in native
parlance, meant a number of petty chiefs congregated together for mutual
protection, owning allegiance generally to the richest and most
intelligent one amongst them, whom they called their father, and the
Europeans called a chief. A House could be formed as Oko Jumbo formed
his. He, as I have said above, was a bought slave, yet, by his superior
intelligence and industry, he amassed, in early life, great wealth, was
able to buy numerous slaves, some of whom showed similar aptitude to
himself, to whom he showed the same encouragement that his master had
shown him, and allowed them to trade on their own account. These men in
their turn bought slaves, and allowed them similar privileges. This kind
of evolution went on with uninterrupted success until Oko Jumbo, after
twenty years' trading, found himself at the head of five or six hundred
slaves; for, according to country law, all the slaves bought by his
favoured slaves (now become petty chiefs or head boys) belonged to him
as he belonged to Manilla Pepple; but owing to his accumulated riches
and numerous followers he was beginning to take rank as a chief and head
of a House. One must not think that the assistance given by an owner of
slaves to here and there one, as described above, is all pure
philanthropy; it is nothing of the kind, for for every hundred pounds
worth of trade the slave does on his own account nowadays means £25 into
the coffers of his master. In the early sixties this profit was not so
great, but it represented in those days a ten to fifteen per cent.
commission to the head of the House.

There were five kinds of commission paid by the European traders to the
heads of Houses. There were Ex Bar, Custom Bar, Work Bar, Gentlemen's
Dash and Boys' Dash, and as a slave who had been allowed to trade by his
master rose in the social scale he marked the different stages he passed
through by being allowed gradually to claim these various commissions on
his own oil from the Europeans; thus at first he would get only the
boys' dash, = 1 pes of small Manchester cloth, value about 2s., and a
fisherman's red cap, worth about 3d. The latter was supposed to go to
his pull-away boys to buy palm wine. The second stage in his progress
would be marked by his being allowed to take the gentlemen's dash,
consisting of two pes of cloth, value 2s. 6d. each. The third he would
be allowed to receive a portion of the work bar on his oil, sometimes
only a third, gradually increasing until he would be allowed to claim
the whole work bar. On arriving at this latter stage he would be
expected to provide a war canoe and men and arms for the same, ready at
any moment to turn out and fight for the general good of the country or
to take part in any quarrel between his master and any other chief in
Bonny, or to attend his master with it when he wished to visit any small
country and make a little naval demonstration if these people had been a
little slack in paying their debts. In course of time, this man, having
supplied a war canoe, would aspire to being recognised as a chief, and
thus be entitled to wear an eagle's feather in his hat. To arrive at
this stage he would have to make some payments to the principal Ju-Ju
men of the town, and if he never had been at war, and thus missed the
opportunity of cutting an enemy's head off, he must purchase a slave for
this purpose and cut the poor creature's head off in cold blood in the
Ju-Ju house. This function was rigorously insisted upon by the Ju-Ju
men, and under no circumstances would they allow a man to become a chief
who had not cut a man's head off, either in war or in cold blood. After
this ceremony, the new-made chief would be duly introduced, at a public
meeting, to all the other chiefs, and the next day several brother
chiefs would accompany him round to the various trading ships in the
port, to intimate to the Europeans that he was a full chief, and
entitled to receive all the work bar, ex bar, gentlemen's dash and boys'
dash that a chief was entitled to. I have previously mentioned custom
bar; this originally was paid only to the king, and consisted of one
iron bar upon every puncheon of oil bought by the European trader; in
early days the king used to put a boy on board each ship to collect this
toll, but in course of time found that he was more sure to be honestly
dealt with if he left the white man to pay him occasionally what was due
to him, than to receive it daily through his bar-boy. On the deposition
of King Pepple, the custom bar was collected by the four regents, whose
descendants demanded it as a right, even after the return of the king,
and continued to get it, until a few years ago, when all these bars were
abolished in Bonny by mutual consent, and in their place was paid
"topping," varying from time to time, according to the saneness of the
white traders, from twenty to thirty per cent. on the price of the oil,
gentlemen's and boys' dash still being continued.

Referring back to the head-cutting ceremony, I must here mention a
curious fact, when one remembers the savage state of these people, that
I have known many Bonny men who were in a position to be made chiefs,
and had conformed to all the preliminary forms, but who shirked the head
cutting in cold blood, preferring thus to continue head boys only, until
forced by the chiefs (generally instigated by the Ju-Ju men) to complete
the ceremony. One in particular, named Jungo, I remember, who at the
time of the civil war in Bonny in 1869 had been for some time eligible
to become a chief, yet shirked the head cutting; he was amongst those
who followed Ja Ja in his retreat to the Ekomtoro, afterwards called the
Opobo; it was not until some years after arriving in the Opobo that some
Ju-Ju priest remembered that Jungo had not distinguished himself during
the war, and that he had yet to perform his head cutting. Poor Jungo was
one of the mildest natured black men I have ever known, and tried all
kinds of schemes to get out of the ordeal, even offering to give up some
of his acquired rights, but public opinion and the Ju-Ju priests were
too much for him, and the slave to be sacrificed was bought, and the
ceremony carried out by Jungo; but he was such a poor performer that he
unintentionally caused considerably more pain to his victim than
necessary, for Jungo tried to do the terrible deed by striking with his
face turned the other way, the victim absolutely cursing him for his
bungling. This latter episode may, perhaps, be put down as a traveller's
yarn, but it is not at all to be wondered at, when it is known that
these poor wretches are made drunk previous to being decapitated.

Having described how a slave might become a chief, I will now describe
how one became the head of a House or chief, and afterwards made himself
a king, and one of the most powerful in this part of Africa.

When Elolly Pepple died (some say he was poisoned), shortly after the
return of King Pepple in 1861, the Annie Pepple House was for some time
left without a head. The various chiefs held repeated meetings, and the
generally coveted honour did not seem to tempt any of them; by right of
seniority a chief named Uranta (about the freest man in the House, some
asserted he was absolutely free), was offered the place, but he, for
private reasons of his own, refused. After Uranta there were Annie
Stuart, Black Foobra and Warrasoo, all men of some considerable riches
and consideration, but they also shirked the responsibility, for Elolly
had been a very big trader, and owed the white men, it was said, at the
time of his death, a thousand or fifteen hundred puncheons of oil,
equivalent to between ten and fifteen thousand pounds sterling, and none
of the foremost men of the house dare tackle the settlement of such a
large debit account, fearing that the late chief had not left sufficient
behind him to settle up with, without supplementing it with their own
savings, which might end in bankruptcy for them, and their final
downfall from the headship. At this time there was in the House a young
man who had not very long been made a chief, though he had, for a
considerable number of years, been a very good trader, and was much
respected by the white traders for his honesty and the dependence they
could place in him to strictly adhere to any promise he made in trade
matters. This young chief was Ja Ja, and though he was one of the
youngest chiefs in the house, he was unanimously elected to fill the
office. He, however, did not immediately accept, though his being
unanimously elected amounted almost to his being forced to accept.

He first visited _seriatim_ each white trader, counted book (as they
call going through the accounts of a House), and found that though there
was a very large debit against the late chief, there was also a large
credit, as a set off, in the way of sub-chief's work bars and the late
Elolly's own work bars. At the same time, he arranged with each
supercargo the order in which he would pay them off, commencing with
those who were nearing the end of their voyage, and getting a promise
from each that if he settled according to promise they would get their
successor to give him an equal amount of credit that they themselves had
given the late Elolly. A few days after, at a public meeting of the
chiefs of the Annie Pepple House, he intimated his readiness to accept
the headship of the House, distinctly informing them that, as they had
elected him themselves, they must assist him in upholding his authority
over them as a body, which would be no easy task for him when there were
so many older and richer chiefs in the House who were more entitled than
he was to the post. The older chiefs, only too delighted to have found
in Ja Ja some one to take the responsibility of the late chief's debts
and the troubles of chieftainship off their shoulders, were prepared,
and did solemnly swear, to assist him with their moral support, taking
care not to pledge themselves to assist him in any of the financial
affairs of the House.

Ja Ja had not been many months head of the Annie Pepple House before he
began to show the old chiefs what kind of metal he was made of; for
during the first twelve months he had selected from amongst the late
Elolly's slaves no less than eighteen or twenty young men, who had
already amassed a little wealth, and whom he thought capable of being
trusted to trade on their own account, bought canoes for them, took them
to the European traders, got them to advance each of these young men
from five to ten puncheons worth of goods, he himself standing guarantee
for them. This operation had the effect of making Ja Ja immediately
popular amongst all classes of the slaves of the late chief. At the same
time, the slaves of the old chief of the House began to see that there
was a man at the head of the House who would set a good example to their
immediate masters. Some of these young men are now wealthy chiefs in
Opobo, and as evidence that they had been well chosen, Ja Ja was never
called upon to fulfil his guarantee.

Two years after Ja Ja was placed at the head of the House the late
Elolly's debts were all cleared off, no white trader having been
detained beyond the date Ja Ja had promised the late chief's debts
should be paid by. In consideration for the prompt manner in which Ja Ja
had paid up, he received from each supercargo whom the late chief had
dealt with a present varying from five to ten per cent. on the amount

From this date Ja Ja never looked back, becoming the most popular chief
in Bonny amongst the white men, and the idol of his own people, but
looked upon with jealousy by the Manilla Pepple House, to which belonged
the successful slave, Oko Jumbo, who was now, both in riches and power,
the equal of Ja Ja, though never his equal in popularity amongst the
Europeans. Though there was a king in Bonny, and Warribo was the head of
the Manilla House, _id est_, the king's House, Oko Jumbo and Ja Ja were
looked upon by every one as being the rulers of Bonny. The demon of
jealousy was at work, and in the private councils of the Manilla House
it was decided that Ja Ja must be pulled down, but the only means of
doing it was a civil war. The risks of this Oko Jumbo, Warribo and the
king did not care to face, as though the Oko Jumbo party was most
numerous, each side was equally supplied with big guns and rifles up to
a short time before the end of 1868, when two European traders, on their
way home, picked up a number of old 32 lb. carronades at Sierra Leone,
and shipped the same down to Oko Jumbo. This sudden accession of war
material, of course, put him in a position to provoke Ja Ja, and he cast
about for a _causus belli_, but Ja Ja was an astute diplomatist, and
managed to steer clear of all his opponent's pitfalls. A very small
matter is often seized upon by natives as a means to provoke a war, and
in this case the cause of quarrel was found in "that a woman of the
Annie Pepple House had drawn water from some pond belonging to the
Manilla Pepple House." This was thought quite sufficient. A most
insulting message was sent to Ja Ja, intimating that the time had come
when nothing but a fight could settle their differences. His reply was
characteristic of the man; he reminded them that he had no wish to
fight, was not prepared, and, furthermore, that neither he, nor they,
had paid their debts to the Europeans. The latter part of the message
was too much for an irascible, one-eyed old fighting chief named Jack
Wilson Pepple, so off he marched to his own house, and fired the first
round shot into the Annie Pepple part of the town, and civil war was
commenced. It was a bit overdue, the last having taken place in 1855. As
a rule, they come round about every ten years, like the epidemics of
malignant bilious fever of the coast.

The Annie Pepple House was not slow to reply, but Ja Ja knew he was
over-matched, both in guns and numbers of fighting men, so he only kept
up a semblance of a fight sufficiently long to allow him to make a
retreat to a small town called Tombo, in the next creek to the Bonny
creek, only about three miles from Bonny by water, less by land.

From here he was in a better position to parley with his opponents, and
make terms if possible, but he soon saw that no arrangement less than
the complete humiliation of himself and people was going to satisfy his
enemies, for besides the jealousy of Oko Jumbo, the young King George
Pepple, son of the gentleman who had been to England and brought out the
European suite, had not forgotten that the Annie Pepple house,
represented by the late Elolly, had been the chief opponents of his late
father when he returned to Bonny in 1861 after his exile.

This young man had been educated in England, and I must say did credit
to whoever had had charge of his education. He both spoke and wrote
English correctly, and had his father been able to hand over to him the
kingship as he had received it in 1837, he might have blossomed into a
model king in West Africa; but, alas! the only thing he inherited from
his father beyond the kingship was debt--king only in name, receiving
only so much of his dues as the principal chiefs liked to allow him, not
having the means of being a large trader, looked upon with scant favour
by the Europeans, and owing to his English education lacking the rude
ability of such men as Oko Jumbo and Ja Ja to make a position for
himself, he became but a puppet in the hands of his principal chiefs; a
fate, I am afraid, which has generally befallen the native of these
parts who has attempted to retain any of the teachings of Christianity
on his return amongst his pagan brethren.

Few people can understand the reason of this. It is simply another proof
of the wonderful power of Ju-Ju amongst these people, for it is to that
occult influence that I trace the general ill-success of the educated
native of the Delta in his own country,--unless he returns to all the
pagan gods of his forefathers, and until he does so many channels of
prosperity are completely closed to him.

I am afraid I have wandered a little from my subject, but in doing so I
hope I have made some things clear that otherwise might have appeared a
little mixed from an European point of view, so will now return to Ja

From Tombo Town Ja Ja communicated with the Bonny Court of Equity, and a
truce was arranged, native meetings followed, and after several weeks of
palavering, no better terms were offered Ja Ja than had before been
offered to him. The white men interested themselves in the matter, and
held meetings innumerable, until at last they were as divided as the
natives. With the exception of one or two at the outside, they
understood so little of the occult workings of native squabbles that
they could do little to smooth matters over. In the meantime, Ja Ja had
been studying a masterly plan of retreat from Tombo Town to a river
called the Ekomtoro, also called the Rio Condé in ancient maps.

Once in this river, by fortifying two or three points he would be able
to completely turn the tables on his enemies by barring their way to the
Eboe markets, but to get there he would have to pass one, if not two,
fortified points held by the Manilla Pepple people. Besides this, what
would his position be when there, if he could not get any white men
there to trade with? Luckily for him, there dropped from the clouds the
very man he wanted. This was a trader named Charley, who had been in the
Bonny River some years before, and was now established at Brass on his
own account. At an interview with Ja Ja, that did not last half an hour,
the whole plan of campaign was arranged. Charley returned to Brass and
confided the scheme to his friend, Archie McEachan, who decided to join
him. Thus Ja Ja had the certainty of support in his new home if he could
only get there, and get there he did.

Being shortly after joined by these two white traders trade was opened
in the Ekomtoro, and on Christmas Day, 1870, Ekomtoro was named the
[)O]p[)o]b[=o] River, after [)O]p[)o]b[=o], the founder of the town of
"Grand Bonny," as Bonny men delight to call their mud and thatch

The name of [)O]p[)o]b[=o] was chosen by Ja Ja himself. To students of
the peculiar relationship existing between a bought slave and his
master, the latter looked up to and called father by his slave, this
choice of the name of a man who had been a great man in his father's
house, _id est_, his master's, demonstrates in a striking manner the
veneration a bought slave, under the system of domestic slavery in these
parts, in many cases displays, equalling in every respect that of the
free-born direct descendant.

The tables were now turned with a vengeance, and Ja Ja remained the
master of the position, and for several years kept the Bonny men out of
the Eboe and Qua markets; eventually agreeing to have the differences
between himself and the Manilla Pepple people settled by the arbitration
of the New Calabar and the Okrika chiefs with Commodore Commerell and
Mr. Charles Livingstone, Her Britannic Majesty's Consul for the Bights
of Benin and Biafra, as referees.

Evidently the arbitrators considered that Ja Ja was in no way to blame
for the civil war that had taken place in Bonny, for in the division of
the markets that had been common property when Ja Ja and his people had
formed an integral part of the Bonny nation, the greater part was given
to Ja Ja and his right to remain where he had established himself fully

Immediately on this settlement being come to, Her Britannic Majesty's
Consul entered into a commercial treaty with Ja Ja recognising him as
King of Opobo. This treaty was signed January 4th, 1873, the deed of
arbitration having been signed the day previous.

In giving my readers the history of this man up to this point, I have
always had in my mind the question of domestic slavery, being anxious to
give its most favourable side as fair an exposition as its unfavourable.

I have in previous pages mentioned some of the latter, but those remarks
only dealt with the early stages of the slave's condition after capture
in the interior and his risks of arriving alive at his destination. I
have now to deal with him as a chattel of one of the petty chiefs,
chiefs or kings of Western Africa, admitting that his chances of
improving his condition are manifold, his life until he gets his foot on
the first rung of the ladder of advancement is terrible; he never knows
from one moment to another when he may be re-sold, he is badly fed, in
fact, some masters never feed their slaves at all when they are not
actually employed pulling a canoe or doing other labour such as making
farm, cutting sticks for house-building, &c. Failing these employments,
the slave has all his time to himself. His chances of putting this time
to any profit are very few in the Oil Rivers; and should he by chance
get some employment from a white man, his owner takes good care to
receive his pay, the only thing the slave getting out of it being three
full meals a day for a few days, making the starvation fare he is
accustomed to the harder to bear afterwards. Were it not for their
adopted mother, _id est_, the woman they are given to on being bought,
their state would be absolutely unbearable in times of forced idleness;
but these women almost invariably have considerable affection for their
numerous adopted children, and though their means may be very limited,
they generally manage to supply them with at least one meal a day in
return for the many little services they perform for them, such as
fetching water, carrying firewood in from the bush, selling their few
fowls and eggs to the white men, and doing any other little matter of
trade for them.

Even those slaves who have been lucky enough to fall into the hands of a
master who sees that they at least do not starve, have along with their
less lucky brethren to put up with the ungovernable fits of temper which
some of these black slave owners display at times, in many cases
inflicting the most terrible punishment for trivial offences, as often
as not only on suspicion that the slave was guilty. Amongst the numerous
punishments I have known inflicted are the following.

Ear cutting in its various stages, from clipping to total dismemberment;
crucifixion round a large cask; extraction of teeth; suspension by the
thumbs; Chilli peppers pounded and stuffed up the nostrils, and forced
into the eyes and ears; fastening the victim to a post driven into the
beach at low water and leaving him there to be drowned with the rising
tide, or to be eaten by the sharks or crocodiles piecemeal; heavily
ironed and chained to a post in their master's compound, without any
covering over their heads, kept in this state for weeks, with so little
food allowed them that cases have been known where the irons have
dropped off them, but they, poor wretches, were too weak to escape, as
they had been reduced to living skeletons; impaling on stakes; forcing a
long steel ram rod through the body until it appeared through the top of
the skull. The above are a few of the punishments that even to this day
are practised, not only in the Niger Delta, but in the outlying
districts of the West African colonies. It is very rare that the
Government officials get to know anything about them; and when they do,
it is difficult to procure a conviction owing to the fear natives have
to come forward and act as witnesses.

Besides the punishments enumerated above, there are many others, some of
which are too horrible to be described here.

One often hears people who know a little about West Africa talk about
native law, but they forget to mention, if they happen to know it, that
in a powerful chief's house there is only one exponent of the law, and
that is the chief; for him native law only begins to have effect when it
is a matter between himself and some other chief, or a combination of
chiefs, whose power is equal or superior to his own.

As an instance of the form which native justice (?) sometimes takes, I
will relate what took place some years ago in one of the oil rivers. An
old and very powerful chief had a young wife of whom he was immoderately
jealous. Amongst his favourite attendants was a young male slave, a mere
boy, to whom he had given many tokens of his favour; but the demon of
jealousy whispered to him that his young slave boy was looked upon with
too much favour by his young wife--herself little more than a child.
That a slave of his should dare to cast his eyes on his wife was more
than this terrible old chief could stand, so he decided to put an end at
once to the love dreams of his slave, and at the same time point out to
any other enterprising slave of his how dangerous it was to aspire to
the forbidden favours of a chief's wife. So he ordered his young wife to
cook him a specially good palm oil chop, a native dish of great repute,
for his breakfast the following morning. The next morning when he sat
down to his breakfast his favourite slave was behind his chair in
attendance; his young wife was present to see her lord and master was
properly served--the wives do not sit at table with their husbands--when
suddenly the chief turned in his chair and ordered his young slave to
sit at table with him. Naturally the slave hesitated to accept such an
unheard-of honour as to sit at table with his master; quickly scenting
something terrible was going to befall him, he attempted to leave the
apartment, but other slaves quickly barred his way, and he was brought
back trembling with fright, the beads of perspiration rolling down his
face and body in little rivulets, and placed in a chair opposite his
master, who, all this time had not displayed any signs of anger;
gradually the boy began to regain somewhat his scattered senses. Finding
his master displayed no signs of anger, he began to do as he was
ordered, the chief at the same time plied him with repeated doses of
spirits, till at last the boy began to chatter, and attacked the food
with a will. At length, having eaten and drunk till he could scarcely
stand, his master asked him had he enjoyed his young mistress's cooking.
On his replying yes, the chief called for a revolver, and telling him it
was the last thing he ever would enjoy of his young mistress, he emptied
the six chambers of the revolver into the poor lad's head; then having
ordered his body to be thrown into the river, went on with the usual
occupations of the day, never having once mentioned the reason of his
act to his people nor explaining his meaning to his young wife.

To the native mind the chief's actions spoke as plainly as possible; but
not having spoken, his wife's family could not, had they wished, have
made a palaver about his wife's good fame; for though the chief was
originally a bought slave or nigger himself, his young wife was country
free, her family being sufficiently powerful to have made things
uncomfortable for him if he had accused her without proof of guilt. Had
she been a slave, the chances are she would have been slaughtered.

I do not wish to convey to my readers the idea that all chiefs in the
Niger Delta are cruel monsters, but they all have power of life and
death over their slaves; the mildest of them occasionally may find
themselves so placed that they are compelled in conformity with some
Ju-Ju right to sacrifice a slave or two. The ordinary punishments for
theft and insubordination practised amongst these people are often
terribly cruel and unnecessarily severe.

Of course the Government of the Niger Coast Protectorate is steadily
breaking down these savage customs, wherever and whenever they hear of
them being practised within their jurisdiction; but the formation of the
country, the dense forests, and the superstition of the people, all
assist in keeping most cases from coming to their knowledge.

Before taking leave of the Bonny people, I must not omit to mention that
the custom of destroying twin children and children who had the
misfortune to be born with teeth was, and is, a custom still observed
amongst them. Another custom prevalent amongst these people, and common
more or less to all other natives in the Delta, was the destroying of
any woman if she became the mother of more than four children.


This river lies a few miles to the east of Bonny River. The inhabitants
of the lower part of the river are called Andoni men, and during the
slave-dealing days these people were as well known to Europeans as the
Bonny men, but, owing in a great measure to the much deeper water at the
entrance to Bonny River than was to be found on the Andoni bar, the
former river offering thus more facilities for deep-draughted ships,
the traders gradually deserted the Andoni altogether, though these
people were, I believe, the original owners of the land now claimed by
the Bonny people as forming the Bonny kingdom. The Andoni men, being
deserted by the European traders, gradually became a race of fishermen
and small farmers. The Bonny men, having become the dominant race, and
not allowing the Andonis any intercourse with the white traders in their
river, the Andoni men protested against this treatment, and waged war
against the Bonny men on many occasions in the early part of this
century. The last war between these two peoples continued for some
years; the Bonny men not always getting the best of these encounters,
were very glad to come to terms with them in 1846, a treaty being then
signed between the two tribes, wherein the Andoni men were secured equal
rights with the Bonny men, but the commercial enterprise of these people
seems to have died out. Yet the King of Doni Town, as their principal
town is called in old maps, was reported by traders, who visited him in
1699, as being a man of some intelligence, speaking the Portuguese
language fluently, and having some knowledge of the Roman Catholic
faith, yet still adhering to all the customs of Ju-Juism, furthermore
describing the people as being such implicit believers in their Ju-Ju
that they would kill any one who touched any of the idols in their Ju-Ju

This may have been true at the time, but about five and twenty years ago
I visited the town of Doni, as also their Ju-Ju house, and handled some
of their idols, and they showed no irritation at my so doing. I had, of
course, asked permission to do so of the Ju-Ju man who was showing me
round. I have no doubt they would resent any one interfering with them
without their permission. When I visited these people they gave me the
idea that they had never seen a white man, or had any communication with
him, for I vainly searched for any evidence that the white man had ever
been established in their river. From all I was able to gather of their
manners and customs I found that they differed little from any of their
neighbours, though they are always described by interested parties as
being inveterate cannibals and dangerous people for strangers to visit.


After leaving Andoni, and continuing down the coast some ten or fifteen
miles, the Opobo discharges itself into the sea. This river, marked in
ancient maps as the Rio Condé and Ekomtoro, is the most direct way to
the Ibo palm-oil-producing country.

This river was well known to the Portuguese and Spanish slave traders,
but as Bonny became the great centre for the slave trade, this river was
completely deserted and forgotten to such an extent that, though an
opening in the coast line was shown on the English charts where this
river was supposed to be, it was never thought worth the trouble of
naming, and remained quite unknown to the English traders until it came
suddenly into repute, owing to Ja Ja establishing himself here in 1870.

The people here are the Bonny men and their descendants who followed Ja
Ja's fortunes, therefore their manners and customs are identical with
those of Bonny.

The physical appearance of these people is somewhat better than that of
the Bonny men, owing, I think, to the position of their town, which is
built on a better soil, and raised a few feet higher than that of Bonny
from the level of the river, also their uninterrupted successful trade
since their arrival in this country has doubtless not a little
contributed to their improved condition, while, on the other hand, the
Bonny men suffered severely during the years from 1869 to 1873, owing to
Ja Ja barring their way to the markets, and they seem never to have
recovered themselves.

Trading stations of the white men are at the mouth of the river and at
Eguanga, the latter a station a few miles above Opobo town.

Opobo became, under King Ja Ja's firm rule, one of the largest exporting
centres of palm oil in the Delta, and for years King Ja Ja enjoyed a not
undeserved popularity amongst the white traders who visited his river,
but a time came when the price of palm oil fell to such a low figure in
England that the European firms established in Opobo could not make both
ends meet, so they intimated to King Ja Ja that they were going to
reduce the price paid in the river, to which he replied by shipping
large quantities of his oil to England, allowing his people only to sell
a portion of their produce to the white men. The latter now formulated a
scheme amongst themselves to divide equally whatever produce came into
the river, and thus do away with competition amongst themselves. Ja Ja
found that sending his oil to England was not quite so lucrative as he
could wish, owing to the length of time it took to get his returns back,
namely, about three months at the earliest, whilst by selling in the
river he could turn over his money three or four times during that
period. He therefore tried several means to break the white men's
combination, at last hitting upon the bright idea of offering the whole
of the river's trade to one English house. The mere fact of his being
able to make this offer shows the absolute power to which he had arrived
amongst his own people. His bait took with one of the European traders;
the latter could not resist the golden vision of the yellow grease thus
displayed before him by the astute Ja Ja, who metaphorically dangled
before his eyes hundreds of canoes laden with the coveted palm oil. A
bargain was struck, and one fine morning the other white traders in the
river woke up to the fact that their combination was at an end, for on
taking their morning spy round the river through their binoculars (no
palm oil trader that respects himself being without a pair of these and
a tripod telescope, for more minute observation of his opponents'
doings) they saw a fleet of over a hundred canoes round the renegade's
wharf, and for nearly two years this trader scooped all the trade. The
fat was fairly in the fire now, and the other white traders sent a
notice to Ja Ja that they intended to go to his markets. Ja Ja replied
that he held a treaty, signed in 1873, by Mr. Consul Charles
Livingstone, Her Britannic Majesty's Consul, that empowered him to stop
any white traders from establishing factories anywhere above
Hippopotamus Creek, and under which he was empowered to stop and hold
any vessel for a fine of one hundred puncheons of oil. In June, 1885,
the traders applied to Mr. Consul White, who informed King Ja Ja that
the Protectorate treaty meant freedom of navigation and trade.

So the traders finding their occupation gone, decided amongst themselves
to take a trip to Ja Ja's markets, the only sensible thing they had done
since the trouble commenced. This was a step in the right direction,
namely, by attempting to break down the curse of Western Africa _id
est_, the power of the middle-man.

The names of the four traders who first attempted to trade in the Ibo
markets of King Ja Ja deserve to be recorded, for their action was not
without great risk to themselves. They were:

          Mr. S. B. Hall         }
          Mr. Thomas Wright      } English
          Mr. Richard Foster     }
          Mr. A. E. Brunschweiler--Swiss.

To these must be added the name of Mr. F. D. Mitchell, who, though not
in the first trip to the markets, joined in the subsequent attempt to
establish business amongst the interior tribes. Their reception at the
markets was not altogether a success, owing to the reception committee,
or whatever represented it in those parts, being packed with either Ja
Ja's own people or Ibos favourable to him.

This good beginning was continued under great difficulties by these
first traders with little profit or success for about two years, owing
to the great power of Ja Ja amongst the interior tribes and the pressure
he was able to bring to bear on the Ibo and Kwo natives.

In the meantime, clouds had been gathering round the head of King Ja Ja.
His wonderful success since 1870 had gradually obscured his former keen
perception of how far his rights as a petty African king would be
recognised by the English Government under the new order of things just
being inaugurated in the Oil Rivers; honestly believing that in signing
the Protectorate treaty of December 19th, 1884, with the _sixth_ clause
crossed out, he had retained the right given him by the commercial
treaty of 1873 to keep white men from proceeding to his markets, he got
himself entangled in a number of disputes which culminated in his being
taken out of the Opobo River in September, 1887, by Her Britannic
Majesty's Consul, Mr. H. H. Johnston, C.B., now Sir Harry Johnston, and
conveyed to Accra, where he was tried before Admiral Sir Hunt Grubbe,
who condemned him to five years' deportation to the West Indies, making
him an allowance of about £800 per annum and returning a fine of thirty
puncheons of palm oil, value about £450 in those days, which the late
Consul Hewett had imposed upon him, a fine that the Admiral did not
think the Consul was warranted in having imposed.

Poor Ja Ja did not live to return to his country and his people whom he
loved so well, and whose condition he had done so much to improve,
though at times his rule often became despotic. One trait of his
character may interest the public just now, as the Liquor Question in
West Africa is so much _en evidence_, and that is, that he was a strict
teetotaler himself and inculcated the same principles in all his chiefs.
In his eighteen years' rule as a king in Opobo he reduced two of his
chiefs for drunkenness--one he sent to live in exile in a small fishing
village for the rest of his life, the other, who had aggravated his
offence by assaulting a white trader, he had deprived of all outward
signs of a chief and put in a canoe to paddle as a pull-away boy within
an hour of his committing the offence.

During the Ashantee campaign of 1873 Sir Garnet Wolseley sent Captain
Nicol to the Oil Rivers to raise a contingent of friendly natives; on
his arrival in Bonny he was not immediately successful, so continued on
to Opobo, where he was the guest of the writer. Upon Captain Nicol
explaining his errand, Ja Ja furnished him with over sixty of his
war-boys, most of whom had seen considerable fighting in the late war
between Bonny and Opobo. The news reaching Bonny of what Ja Ja had done,
put the Bonny men upon their mettle, and when Captain Nicol reached
Bonny on his way back to Ashantee, he found a further contingent waiting
for him from the Bonny chiefs.

This combined contingent did good work against the Ashantees, being
favourably mentioned in despatches. Poor Captain Nicol, who raised them,
and commanded them in most of their engagements with the enemy, was, I
regret to say, killed whilst gallantly leading them on in one of the
final rushes just before Coomassie was taken.

In recognition of the above services of his men, Her Most Gracious
Majesty Queen Victoria presented King Ja Ja with a sword of honour, the
King of Bonny receiving one at the same time.

Shipwrecked people were always sure of kindly treatment if they fell
into the hands of Ja Ja's subjects, for he had given strict orders to
his people dwelling on the sea-shore to assist vessels in distress and
convey any one cast on shore to the European factories, warning them at
the same time on no account to touch any of their property. He was also
the first king in the Delta to restrain his people from plundering a
wrecked ship, though the custom had been from time immemorial that a
vessel wrecked upon their shores belonged to them by rights as being a
gift from their Ju-Ju--an idea held by savage people in many other parts
of the world.

It seems a pity that a man who had so many good qualities should have
ended as he did. He was a man who, properly handled, could have been
made of much use in the opening up of his country. Unfortunately, the
late Consul Hewett was prejudiced against Ja Ja from his first interview
with him, finding in this nigger king a man of superior natural
abilities to his own.

Had the late Mr. Consul Hewett had the fiftieth part of the ability in
dealing with the natives his sub and successor, Mr. H. H. Johnston,
showed, there would never have been any necessity to deport Ja Ja.
Unfortunately, between Ja Ja's stubbornness and the late Consul Hewett's
bungling, matters had come to such a pass that some decisive measures
were actually necessary to uphold the dignity of the Consular Office.

When Mr. H. H. Johnston succeeded the late Mr. Consul Hewett, the Opobo
palaver was in about as muddled a state as it was possible for it to
have got into. Matters had been in an unsatisfactory state for some
years between King Ja Ja and the late Consul. Ja Ja had over-stepped the
bounds of propriety in more ways than one. He tried the same tactics
with Mr. Johnston, who to look at, is the mildest-looking little man you
can imagine, and therefore did not fill the native's eye as a ruler of
men; but Mr. Johnston very soon let Ja Ja and the natives generally see
he was made of different stuff to his predecessor, and the first
attempts on Ja Ja's part not to act up to the lines he laid down for him
settled his fate. Mr. Johnston offered him the choice of delivering
himself up quietly as a prisoner or being treated as an enemy of the
Queen, his town destroyed and himself eventually captured and exiled for
ever. He elected to give himself up, was taken to Accra and there tried
and condemned after a fair hearing. I was present myself at the trial,
and old friend as I was to him, I don't think the verdict would have
been otherwise had I been in the judge's place, though there were many
extenuating circumstances in his case, all of which were fully
considered by Admiral Hunt Grubbe in his final sentence.

I feel confident that had Mr. Consul Johnston had the management of
affairs in the Opobo a few years earlier, Ja Ja would never have been
deported, and instead of having to censure him, he would have handled
him in such a manner as to make use of his influence in furthering
British interests. I do not think I can describe the late King Ja Ja
better than Mr. Consul Johnston did in a letter he addressed to Lord
Salisbury under date of September 24th, 1887, wherein he writes as
follows:--"Ja Ja's chief friends and supporters for years past have been
the naval officers on the coast. His generous hospitality, his frank,
engaging manner, his naïf discourse, and amusing crudities of diction
have gained the ready sympathy of these gentlemen; no doubt Ja Ja is no
common man, though he is in origin a runaway slave,[89] he was cut out
by nature for a king, and he has the instinct of rule, though it not
unfrequently degenerates into cruel tyranny.

"His demeanour is marked by quiet dignity, and his appearance and
conversation are impressive.

"Nevertheless, I know Ja Ja to be a deliberate liar,[90] who exhibits
little shame or confusion when his falsehoods are exposed. He is a
bitter and unscrupulous enemy[91] of all who attempt to dispute his
trade monopolies, and the five British firms whose trade he has almost
ruined during the past two years."

A complaint often made against the Government by merchants established
on the West Coast of Africa is want of official protection and
assistance; in many cases in the past this has been the case; but they
certainly could not make this complaint during the few months that Mr.
Consul Johnston was at the head of the Consular service in the Oil
Rivers. I will here give a summary of what exertions were made by the
Government to assist the merchants in their praiseworthy attempts to get
behind the middlemen in this one river, where Ja Ja was always given the
credit of being the head and front of the obstruction, nothing ever
being said about the king and chiefs of Bonny, who were equally
interested with Ja Ja in keeping the white men out of the markets, their
principal markets being on the River Opobo.

Owing to the energetic representations of Mr. Consul H. H. Johnston, the
British Government placed at his disposal for the settlement of the
market question and the Ja Ja palaver the following Government vessels,
viz., the _Watchful_, the _Goshawk_, the _Alecto_, the _Acorn_, the
_Royalist_, and the _Raleigh_, the latter bringing Admiral Sir Hunt
Grubbe up from the Cape of Good Hope for the trial of King Ja Ja.

Result: Within a very short time after the deportation of Ja Ja, all the
firms who had been so anxious to establish in the interior markets and
thus get behind the middlemen (without doubt the curse of the Oil Rivers
and every part of Africa where they are tolerated) gave up trading at
the interior markets that had caused the Government so much trouble to
open for them, and made an agreement with the middlemen, represented in
this case by the Bonny men and Opobo men, that they would not attempt to
trade any more in the interior markets if the middlemen would promise to
trade with no European firm that attempted to trade in the interior
markets. On the writer's last visit to the Opobo in 1896 there was only
one firm trading in the interior markets, and that firm was not one of
those that were in the river at the time of the clamour for the removal
of Ja Ja and the opening of the interior in 1887.


This river was first visited in modern days in 1871 by the late Mr.
Archie McEachan, who found the people very troublesome to deal with, and
did not long remain there. No doubt the people were not so easy to deal
with as those natives that have been for some hundreds of years dealing
with Europeans; but as he was at the same time posing as a friend and
supporter of Ja Ja, and the oil he got in Kwo Ibo was being diverted
from Ja Ja's markets, the latter no doubt exerted a certain amount of
pressure on his friend, and aided, if he did not actually cause him to
decide to withdraw from Kwo Ibo.

Kwo Ibo lay fallow for some time, then one or two Sierra Leone men
attempted to trade there, but with little success, owing to the
influence King Ja Ja had in the country. It was not until 1880-1 that
any sustained effort was made to trade in this river; but about this
time a Mr. Watts established a small trading station there, and
succeeded in creating a trade, though he had a very difficult task to
combat the opposition of King Ja Ja, who considered he was being
defrauded of some of his supposed just rights. Had Mr. Watts pushed his
way into the interior markets and dealt direct with the producers, he
would deserve the united thanks of every merchant connected with the
trade in the Niger Delta; but he did not, and contented himself with
buying his produce on a little better terms than he could have done in
Opobo or Old Calabar, and created another set of middlemen, who to-day
consider they, like their neighbours, are justified in doing their
utmost in keeping the European out of the interior. Mr. Watts eventually
sold out his interest in the trade of this river to the combination of
river firms now known under the name of the African Association of

A mission has been established here for some years and I had the
pleasure of meeting the missionary in charge, some two years ago, on his
way home after a long sojourn in the Kwo Ibo; his description of the
people and of the success of his mission work was most interesting. If
he has returned to the seat of his labours and is still alive, I can
only wish him every success in the work in which evidently his whole
heart was centred.

The name Kwo Ibo, which has been given to this river, gives one the idea
that the inhabitants are a mixture of Kwos and Ibos. This to a certain
extent may be a very good description as regards the inhabitants of the
upper reaches of the river, which takes its rise, so it is supposed, in
a lake in the Ibo country, afterwards passing through the Kwo, and
discharges itself into the sea about half-way between the east point of
the Opobo River and the Tom Shotts Point.

The lower part of the river is inhabited principally by Andoni men by
origin, but calling themselves Ibenos or Ibrons.

These people deserve a great deal of credit for the plucky manner in
which they withstood the numerous attacks the late King Ja Ja made upon
them, and their stubborn refusal to discontinue trading with the white
men established in their river, though they were but ill-provided with
arms to defend themselves. During several years they must have suffered
severely from the repeated raids the late King Ja Ja made upon them, not
only from losses in battle, but also in having their towns destroyed and
many of their people carried off as prisoners. Some of the earlier raids
made by Ja Ja, I must in fairness to him say, were to a great extent
brought on by the actions of the Ibrons themselves, who were not slow to
attack and slay any Opobo men they caught wandering about, if the latter
were not in sufficient numbers to defend themselves.

In language, these people are closely allied to the old Calabar people,
and many of their customs show them to have had more communication with
those people than they have had with the Andoni people, at any rate for
many years. I find no mention amongst the writings of the early
travellers to Western Africa of their having visited this river, nor is
it even named on any old chart that I have consulted, though on some I
have seen a river indicated at the spot where the Kwo Ibo enters the

Needless to mention, they were, and the majority are to-day, steeped in
Ju-Juism, witchcraft, and their attendant horrors.

The Kwo people, whose country lies on both sides of the Kwo Ibo, and
behind the Ibenos, are the tribe from whom were drawn the supplies of
Kwo or Kwa slaves known under the name of the Mocoes in the West Indies.


I now come to the last river in the Niger Coast Protectorate, both banks
of which belong to England, the next river being the Rio del Rey, of
which England now only claims the right bank, Germany claiming the left
and all the territory south to the river Campo, a territory almost as
large as, if not equal to, the whole of the Niger Coast Protectorate,
which ought to have been English, for was it not English by right of
commercial conquest, if by no other, and for years had been looked upon
by the commanders of foreign naval vessels as under English influence?

Owing to some one blundering, this nice slice of African territory was
allowed to slip into the hands of the Germans, hence my account of the
Oil Rivers ought to be called an account of the Oil Rivers reduced by

In speaking of the inhabitants of this river, I must also include the
people who inhabit the lower part of the Cross River. This explanation
would not have been necessary some few years ago, but I notice the more
recent hydrographers make the Cross River the main river and the Old
Calabar only a tributary of that river, which is, without doubt, the
most correct.

The principal towns are Duke Town (where are to be found nowadays the
headquarters of the Niger Coast Protectorate, the Presbyterian Mission,
and the principal trading factories of the Europeans), Henshaw Town,
Creek and Town; besides these, the various kings and chiefs have
numberless small towns and villages in the environs. In the lower part
of the Cross river are many fishing villages, the inhabitants of which
are looked upon as Old Calabar people, and owing to the latter being the
dominant race they have to-day lost, or very nearly so, any trace of
their forefathers, who I believe to have been Kwos with a strong strain
of Andoni blood.

These villages did, in days anterior to the advent of the European
traders, an immense business with the interior in dried shrimps, the
latter being used by the natives, not only as a flavouring to their
stews and ragouts, but as a substitute for the all necessary salt.

The original inhabitants of the district now occupied by the Old Calabar
people were the Akpas, whom the Calabarese drove out, and to a great
extent afterwards absorbed. This immigration of the Calabarese is said
to have taken place very little over one hundred and fifty years ago.
Originally coming from the upper Ibibio district of the Cross River,
they belong to the Efik race, and speak that language, though nowadays,
owing to numerous intermarriages with Cameroon natives and the great
number of slaves bought from the Cameroons district, they are of very
mixed blood. Most of the kings and chiefs of Old Calabar owe their rank
and position to direct descent, some of them being of ancient lineage, a
fact of which they are very proud. In this respect they differ in a
great measure from their neighbours in Bonny and Opobo, where, oftener
than otherwise, the succession falls to the most influential man in the
House, slave or free-born.

The principal town of these people boasted, some few years ago, of many
very nice villa residences, belonging to the chiefs, built of wood, and
roofed with corrugated iron, mostly erected by a Scotch carpenter, who
had established himself in Old Calabar, and who was in great request
amongst the chiefs as an architect and builder. Unfortunately, these
houses being erected haphazard amongst the surrounding native-built
houses did not lend that air of improvement to the town they might
otherwise have done if the chiefs had studied more uniformity in the
building of the town, and arranged for wide streets in place of alley
ways, many of which are not wide enough to let two Calabar ladies of the
higher rank pass one another without the risk of their finery being
daubed with streaks of yellow mud from the adjacent walls.

The native houses of the better classes are certainly an improvement
upon any others in the Protectorate, showing as they do some artistic
taste in their embellishments. They are generally built in the form of a
square or several squares, more or less exact, according to the extent
of ground the builder has to deal with and the number of apartments the
owner has need for. In some cases, I have seen a native commence his
building operations by marking out two or three squares or oblongs,
about twenty feet by fifteen, round which he would build his various
apartments or rooms. In the centre of the inner squares, which are
always left open to the sky, you almost invariably find a tree growing,
either left there purposely when clearing the ground, or planted by the
owner; occasionally you will find a fine crop of charms and Ju-Jus
hanging from the branches of these trees.

The inner walls, especially of the courtyards, are in most cases
tastefully decorated with paintings, somewhat resembling the arabesque
designs one sees amongst the Moors. No doubt this art and that of
designing fantastic figures on brass dishes, which they buy from the
Europeans and afterwards embellish with the aid of a big-headed nail and
a hammer, comes to them from the Mohammedans of the Niger, of whom they
used to see a good deal in former days.

With regard to the dress of these people, I have not anything so
interesting to relate about them as I had of the New Calabar gentlemen.
Except on high days and holidays, there is little to distinguish the
upper classes here from the same classes in any of the other rivers of
the Protectorate, except that it might be in the peculiar way they knot
the loin cloth on, leaving it to trail a little on the ground on one
side, and their great liking for scarlet and other bright coloured
stove-pipe hats. On their high festivals the kings appear in crowns and
silk garments; the chiefs, who do not stick to the native gala garments
of many-hued silks, generally appear in European clothes, not always of
irreproachable fit, their queen, as every chief calls his head wife,
appearing in a gorgeous silk costume that may have been worn several
seasons before at Ascot or Goodwood by a London belle. Sometimes you may
be treated to the sight of a dusky queen gaily displaying her ample
charms in a low-cut secondhand dinner or ball dress that may have
created a sensation when first worn at some swagger function in London
or Paris. As the native ladies do not wear stays, and one of the
greatest attributes of female beauty in Calabar is plumpness, and plenty
of it, you may imagine that the local _modiste_ has her wits greatly
exercised in devising means to fill up the gaping space between the
hooks and eyes. I once heard a captain of one of the mail steamers
describe this job as "letting in a graving piece down the back."

One of the customs peculiar to the Old Calabar people, practised
generally amongst all classes, but most strictly observed by the
wealthier people, is for a girl about to become a bride to go into
retirement for several weeks just previous to her marriage, during which
time she undergoes a fattening treatment, similar to that practised in
Tunis. The fatter the bride the more she is admired. It is said that
during this seclusion the future bride is initiated into the mysteries
of some female secret society. Many of the chiefs are very stout, and
given to _embonpoint_, a fact of which they are very proud.

The lower-class women are not troubled with too much clothing, but still
ample enough for the country and decency's sake. As one strolls through
the town to see the market or pay a visit to some chief, one often
encounters young girls, and sometimes women, in long, loose, flowing
robes, fitting tight round the neck, and on inquiring who these are, the
reply generally comes, "Dem young gal be mission gal, dem tother one he
be Saleone woman."

The mission here is the United Presbyterian Mission of Scotland,[92] and
a great deal of good has been done by it for these people, and is being
done now, and great hopes are expected from their industrial mission,
started only a few years ago, therefore, it would be unfair to make
further comment on the latter; it is a step in the right direction.

Some of the missionaries to Old Calabar have put in about forty years of
active service, most of it passed on the coast. Amongst others who have
lived to a great age in this mission should be mentioned the Rev. Mr.
Anderson, who lived to the advanced age of between eighty and ninety
years, greatly respected by both the European and native population.
Amongst the lady missionaries the name of Miss Slessor stands out very
prominently, and, considering the task she has set herself, viz., the
saving of twin children and protection of their mothers, her success has
been marvellous, for the Calabarese is, like his neighbours, still a
great believer in the custom that says twin children are not to be
allowed to live. This lady has passed about twenty years in Old Calabar,
a greater part of the last ten years all alone at Okÿon, a district
which the people of Duke Town and the surrounding towns preferred not to
visit, if they could manage any business they had with the people of
Okÿon without going amongst them. Many of these old customs will now be
much more quickly stamped out than in the past, owing to the fact that
it is in the power of the Consul-General to punish the natives severely
who practise them. The preaching and exhortation of the missionaries to
the people in the past was met by the very powerful argument, in a
native's mind, that "it was a custom his father had kept from time
immemorial, and he did not see why he should not continue it," the Ju-Ju
priests being clever enough to point out to the natives that, though the
missionaries preached against Ju-Juism, they could not punish its
votaries. But that is all changed now, and even the Ju-Ju priests begin
to feel that the power of the Consul-General is much greater than that
of their grinning idols and trickery.

Though these people have been in communication with Europeans for at
least two centuries, and under British influence for upwards of sixty
years, and a mission has been established in their principal town for
the best part of fifty years, it was a common thing to see human flesh
offered for sale in the market within a very few years of the
establishment of the British Protectorate.

In judging the result of missionary effort in this river, or, in fact,
any other part of Western Africa, one is apt to exclaim, "What poor
results for so much expenditure in lives and money!" The cause is not
far to seek if one knows the native, and has sufficiently studied his
ways and customs as to be able to understand or read what is working in
his brain.

The upper or dominant classes, consisting of the kings, the chiefs, the
petty chiefs and the trade boys (the latter being the traders sent into
the far distant markets to buy the produce for their masters, and it is
from this class that many of the chiefs in most of these rivers spring)
are all, to a man, working either openly or secretly against the
missionaries. Even when they have become converts and communicants, in
very many cases they are as much an opponent as ever of the missionary.
I can fancy I see some enthusiastic missionary jumping up with
indignation depicted in every feature to tell me I am not telling the
truth about his particular converts. Well, as I expect to be called a
liar, I have taken care to admit that a very few converts are not
opposed to the missionary, in order that I may say to any missionary
that particularly wishes to wipe the floor with me that perchance his
special converts are included in the minority that is represented by the
very few cases where the convert is wholly and solely for the mission.

What are the causes that lead these people to work against the missions?
First and foremost is Ju-Ju and its multifarious ramifications,
consisting of Ju-Ju priests of the district, the Ju-Ju priests of the
surrounding country, and the travelling Ju-Ju men, described by the
natives as witch doctors, who keep up a communication of ideas and
thought from end to end of the pagan countries of West and South-West

Secondly, not only is the teaching of Christianity opposed to Ju-Juism,
but it is also opposed to the whole fabric of native customs other than
Ju-Juism. Polygamy, for example, is an actual necessity, according to
native custom, thus a wife after the birth of an infant retires from the
companionship of her husband and devotes herself for the following two
years to the cares of nursing. Then, again, at certain times, according
to native custom, a woman is not allowed to prepare food that has to be
eaten by others than herself. This would place the man with only one
wife in a peculiar position, as it is a general custom in all these
rivers, from the kings downwards, to have their food cooked by one of
their wives. This custom arises from the fact that poisoning is known to
be very much practised amongst all the Pagan tribes, and experience has
taught the men that their greatest safety lies in the faithfulness of
their wives, for the wives are aware that they have all to lose and
nothing to gain by the death of their husbands.

Many people who have visited Western Africa will say that the reports of
secret poisoning on the coast are travellers' yarns; but to refute that
I will here describe a custom met with still in many places on the
coast, and invariably practised amongst all natives in the purely native
towns in the immediate vicinity of the coast towns. Even the coast towns
people practise it still in every case amongst themselves and in some
cases with the Europeans. Of course, I don't say that the educated negro
or coloured missionary will do it with Europeans, but many of the
educated natives will do it with the uneducated native, and this custom
is that your native host will never offer you food or drink without
first tasting it to show you it is not poisoned. While I am on this
topic, let me give any would-be travellers amongst the Pagans a bit of
advice. Once they strike in amongst the purely native, always follow
this custom; it will do no harm and may save them from unpleasant

Thirdly, the native instinct of self-preservation is as much the first
law of nature to the negro as it is to the rest of mankind. At first
sight it might be said, "Where is the link between self-preservation and
missionary effort, and how comes it to work against the missions?" I
will try to explain this point as clearly as possible.

Naturally the first people the missionary came in contact with were the
coast tribes. These people, in almost if not every case, are
non-producers, being simply the brokers between the white man and the
interior; in not a few cases behind the coast tribes are other tribes
who are again non-producers and are the brokers of the coast brokers, or
make the coast brokers pay a tribute to them for passing through their
country. No place so well illustrated this system as the trade on the
lower Niger as it used to be conducted by the Brass, New Calabar and
Bonny men. Previous to the advent of the Royal Niger Company in that
river, these people paid a small tribute to perhaps a dozen different
towns on their way up to Abo on the Niger--some of the Brass men used
even to get as far as Onicha or Onitsha. Now that the Royal Niger
Company is trading on the Niger, none of these people can go to the
Niger to trade. Well, there you have one of the great objections to
mission effort. Each of these small tribes who were non-producers have
lost the tribute they used to exact from the Brass, Bonny and New
Calabar native brokers, therefore all the non-producers are averse to
the white man passing beyond them, be he missionary or trader. Of
course, the greatest objectors to the white man penetrating into the
interior are the coast middlemen, for it strikes at once at the source
of all their riches, all the grandeur of their chieftainship, and for
the rising generation all hope of their ever arriving to be a chief like
their father or their masters, and have a large retinue of slaves, for
the favourite slaves are in no way anxious to see slavery abolished,
because with its abolition they only foresee ruin to their ambitious

Thus you will understand me when I point out to you the weak spot in
nine-tenths of the mission effort. They have been trying to look after
the negro's soul and teaching him Christianity, which in the native mind
is cutting at the root, not only of all their ancient customs, but
actually aims at taking away their living without attempting to teach
them any industrial pursuit which may help them in the struggle for
life, which is daily getting harder for our African brethren as it is
here in England.

When I am speaking of mission effort I ought to include Government
effort in the older colonies. No attempt has been made, as far as I am
aware of, to open technical schools or to assist the natives to learn
how to earn their living other than by being clerks or petty traders.


To describe all the customs of the Old Calabar people would take up more
space than I am allowed to monopolise in this work.

They have numerous plays or festivals, in which they delight to disguise
themselves in masks of the most grotesque ugliness. These masks are, in
most cases, of native manufacture, and seem always to aim at being as
ugly as possible. I never have seen any attempt on the part of a native
manufacturer of masks to produce anything passably good looking.

Egbo, the great secret society of these people, is a sort of
freemasonry, having, I believe, seven or nine grades. To attempt to
describe the inner working of this society would be impossible for me,
as I do not belong to it. Though several Europeans have been admitted to
some of the grades, none have ever, to my knowledge, succeeded in being
initiated to the higher grades. The uses of this society are manifold,
but the abuses more than outweigh any use it may have been to the
people. As an example, I may mention the use which a European would make
of his having Egbo, viz., if any native owed him money or its
equivalent, and was in no hurry to pay, the European would blow[93] Egbo
on the debtor, and that man could not leave his house until he had paid
up. Egbo could be, and was, used for matters of a much more serious
nature than the above, such as the ruin of a man if a working majority
could be got together against him. This society could work much more
swiftly than the course adopted in other rivers to compass a man's
downfall; _vide_ Will Braid's trouble with his brother chiefs in New

The country up the Cross River, which is the main stream into the
interior, improves a very few miles after leaving Old Calabar; in fact,
the mangrove disappears altogether within twenty miles of Duke Town,
being replaced by splendid forest trees and many clearings, the latter
being, in some instances, the farms of Old Calabar chiefs. On arriving
at Ikorofiong, which is on the right bank of the river, you find
yourself on the edge of the Ikpa plain, which extends away towards Opobo
as far as the eye can see. I visited this place thirty-five years ago,
and stayed for a couple of days in the mission house, the gentleman then
in charge being a Dr. Bailey. At that time this was the farthest station
of the Old Calabar mission; since then they have established themselves
in Umon, and have done great service amongst these people, who were
previously to the advent of the mission terribly in the toils of their
Ju-ju priests. The people of Umon speak a language quite different from
the Calabarese. Umon is about one hundred miles by water from Old

Twenty or thirty miles further up the Cross River you come to the
Akuna-Kuna country, inhabited by a very industrious race of people,
great producers and agriculturists, and having abundance of cattle,
sheep, goats and poultry. These people received one of Her Majesty's
consuls with such joy and good feeling, and so loaded him with presents
of farm produce, that his Kroo boatmen suffered severely from
indigestion while they remained in the Akuna-Kuna country. A little
farther up the river is the town of Ungwana, a mile or so beyond which
is now to be found a mission station. This district is called Iku-Morut,
and a few years ago the inhabitants were never happy unless they were at
war with the Akuna-Kuna people. This state of things has been much
modified by the presence in the country of protectorate officials.

About sixty miles by river beyond Iku-Morut is the town Ofurekpe, in the
Apiapam district. This place, its chief and people are everything to be
desired, the town is clean, the houses are commodious, the inhabitants
are friendly, and their country is delightful. They are a little given
to cannibalism, but, I am very credibly informed, only practise this
custom on their prisoners of war.

Beyond this point the river passes through the Atam district, a country
inhabited, so I was informed, by the most inveterate of cannibals. Not
having visited these people, I am not able to speak from personal
experience; but as I have generally found in Western Africa that a
country bearing a very bad character does not always deserve all that is
said against it, I shall give this country the benefit of the doubt, and
say that once the natives get accustomed to having white people visit
them, and have got over the fearful tales told them by the interested
middlemen about the ability of the white men to witch them by only
looking at them, then they will be as easy to deal with, if not easier,
than the knowing non-producers.

I know of one interior town, not in Old Calabar, where the principal
chief had given a warm welcome to a white man and allotted him a piece
of ground to build a factory on, which he was to return and build the
following dry season. Before the time had elapsed the chief died,
without doubt poisoned by some interested middleman. When the white man
went up to the country according to his agreement, the new chief would
not allow him to land, and accused him of having bewitched the late
chief. The white trader was an old bird and not easily put off any
object he had in view, so stuck to his right of starting trade in the
country, and by liberal presents to the new chief at last succeeded in
commencing operations, with the result that the new chief died in a very
short time and the white man, who was put in charge of the factory, was
shot dead whilst passing through a narrow creek on his way to see his
senior agent, this being done in the interior country so as to throw the
blame upon the people he was trading with. No one saw who fired the
fatal shot, and the body was never recovered, as the boys who were with
him were natives belonging to the coast people and in their fright
capsized the small canoe he was travelling in, so they reported; but
some months after the white man's ring mysteriously turned up, the tale
being it was found in the stomach of a fish.

I will here describe one other very practical custom that used to be
observed all over the Old Calabar and Cross River district, but which
has disappeared in the lower parts of the river, owing no doubt to the
efforts of the missionaries having been successful in instilling into
the native mind a greater respect for their aged relatives than formerly
existed. If it ever occurs nowadays in the Calabar district it can only
take place in some out of the way village far away in the bush, from
whence news of a little matter of this kind might take months to reach
the ears of the Government or the missionary; but this custom is still
carried on in the Upper Cross River, and consists in helping the old and
useless members of the village or community out of this world by a tap
on the head, their bodies are then carefully smoke-dried, afterwards
pulverised, then formed into small balls by the addition of water in
which Indian corn has been boiled for hours--this mixture is allowed to
dry in the sun or over fires, then put away for future use as an
addition to the family stew.

With all the cannibalistic tastes that these people have been credited
with, I have only heard of them once ever going in for eating white men,
and this occurred previous to the arrival in the Old Calabar river of
the Efik race, if we are to trust to what tradition tells us. It appears
that in 1668-9 four English sailors were captured by the then
inhabitants of the Old Calabar River; three of them were immediately
killed and eaten, the fourth being kept for a future occasion. Whether
it was that being sailors, and thus being strongly impregnated with salt
horse, tobacco and rum, their flesh did not suit the palate of these
natives I know not, but it is on record that the fourth man was not
eaten, but kindly treated, and some years after, when another English
ship visited the river, he was allowed to return to England in her.
Since that date, as far as I know, no white men have ever been molested
by the Old Calabar people.

There has been occasionally a little friction between traders and
natives, but nothing very serious, though it is said some queer
transactions were carried on by the white men during the slave-dealing


   [80] "Shake-hand" was a present given by a trader each voyage on his
   arrival on the coast to the king and the chiefs who traded with him; the
   Europeans themselves gradually increased this to such an extent that
   some of the kings began to look upon it as a right, which led to endless
   palavers; if it is not completely abolished by now, it ought to be.

   [81] "Dashing"--native word for making presents. This word is a
   corruption of a Portuguese word.

   [82] Brohemie, founded by the late chief Alluma between fifty and sixty
   years ago. Chinomé, a powerful chief, fought with Allumah in 1864-5 for
   supremacy; the former was conquered, and died some few years after.
   Chief Dudu, not mentioned in the text, founded in 1890 Dudu town, and is
   to-day a most loyal and respected chief. Chief Peggy died in 1889. Chief
   Ogrie died in 1892, Chief Bregbi also died some years ago.

   [83] This preparation is made from the pericarp of the Raphia Vinifera
   pounded up into a pulplike mass, which they mix in the water in their
   canoes and then bale out into the water in the creek.

   [84] One good thing the missionaries have done since they have been in
   Brass, and that is, that, of persuading the natives, or at least the
   greater part of them, to give up the worship of this snake; and this
   part must have included the most influential portion of Brass society,
   for since about the year 1884 the Ju-Ju snake is killed wherever seen
   without any disastrous consequences to the killer.

   [85] As an evidence of how secret the natives of these parts have always
   tried to keep, and have to a great extent kept, the knowledge of the
   various various creeks from the white men since the abolition of the
   slave trade, I may point to this creek, which is clearly marked and the
   soundings given in the old charts, _circa_ 1698, but was quite unknown
   to the present generation of traders, until Capt. Cawthorne, of the
   African Steamship Company rediscovered it about 1882-4. I well remember
   this creek being carefully described to me by Bonny men in 1862 as the
   haunt of lawless outcasts from Bonny and the surrounding countries,
   cannibals and pirates. About this time I was stationed in New Calabar,
   and in roaming about the creeks looking for something to shoot, I came
   across this beautiful wide creek and followed it until I sighted Breaker
   Island; but being only in a small shooting canoe I was forced to turn
   back the way I had come. The next morning I was favoured by the visit of
   King Amachree, the father of the present king, who said he had heard
   from his people that I had been down this creek, and he had come to warn
   me of the danger I ran in visiting that creek, giving me the same
   description that the Bonny men had done some months earlier. I laughed
   and told him I had heard the same yarn from the Bonny men. Later in the
   same year I mentioned my visit to an old freeman in Bonny, named Bess
   Pepple. He being a little inebriated at the time, let his tongue wag
   freely, and informed me that it was a creek often used by the slavers
   during the time the preventive squadron was on the coast, to take in
   their cargo. In one instance that he remembered he said there were five
   slavers up that creek when two of Her Majesty's gunboats were in Bonny,
   about the year 1837. About this time (1862) a mate of a ship who was in
   charge of a small schooner running between New Calabar and Bonny was
   forced by stress of weather to anchor inside the seaward mouth of this
   creek, and was attacked during the night by some natives, carried on
   shore, tied to a tree and flogged, the cargo of the schooner plundered,
   and the Kroomen also flogged. Complaint being made to the kings of New
   Calabar and Bonny, they both replied with the same tale: "We no done
   tell you we no fit be responsible for dem men who live for dem creek; he
   be dam pirate." This was true they had, but the mate swore he recognised
   some Bonny men amongst his assailants.

   [86] Efik race--the inhabitants of Old Calabar, said to have come from
   the Ibibio country, a district lying between Kwo country and the Cross

   [87] Jamming, a trade term, meaning making an agreement to buy or sell
   anything at an agreed price.

   [88] This king is now dead, he was the last of the kings of New Calabar,
   the country being now ruled over by a native council under the direction
   of the Niger Coast Protectorate officials.

   [89] This is an error into which the late Consul Hewett no doubt led Mr.
   Johnston, as Ja Ja had been since 1861-2 a chief in Bonny and recognised
   as one of the regents of that place; originally a slave, I will admit,
   but not a runaway one.

   [90] This failing is called diplomacy in civilised nations.

   [91] Monopolies have led Europeans on the West Coast of Africa to be
   equally as unscrupulous and bitter enemies of any one, white or black,
   who have attempted to dispute their trade monopolies.

   [92] Established in Old Calabar in 1846.

   [93] It is called blowing Egbo because notice is given of the Egbo law
   being set in motion against any one by one of the myrmidons of Egbo
   blowing the Egbo horn before the party's house.




It was in the month of December, 1872, when I with seventeen others left
our good old port of Bristol bound for one of the West African oil
rivers on a trading voyage. It was a splendid morning for the time of
year: bright, fine, and clear, when we were towed through our old lock
gates, with the hearty cheers, good-byes, and God-speed-yous from our
friends ringing in the air; and although there were some of us made sad
by the parting kiss, which to many was the last on this earth, there was
one whose heart felt so glad that he has often described the day as
being one of the happiest in his life, and that one was your humble
servant, the writer. Our first start was soon delayed, as we had to
anchor in King Road and wait a fair wind. And now a word to any hearers
who may be about to start on a new venture. Always wait for a fair
wind--when that comes make the best use you can of it. Our fair wind
came after some two weeks, and lasted long enough for us to get clear of
the English land; but before we were clear of the Irish, we encountered
head winds again. Being too far out to return, we had to beat our ship
about under close reefed topsails for another week. This was a rough
time for all on board. At last the wind changed, and we this time
succeeded in clearing the Bay of Biscay and then had a fairly fine run
until we reached St. Antonia, one of the Cape de Verde Islands. This we
sighted early one morning, and in the brilliant tropical sunshine it
appeared to me almost a heavenly sight. We soon passed on, the little
island disappeared, and once more our bark seemed to be alone on the
mighty ocean. After a week or so we sighted the mainland of that great
and wonderful continent Africa--wonderful, I say, because it has been
left as if it were unknown for centuries, while countries not nearly its
equal in any way have had millions spent upon them. Our first land fall
was a port of Liberia. Liberia, I must tell you, is part of the western
continent with a seaboard of some miles. It was taken over by the
American Republic and made a free country for all those slaves that were
liberated in the time of the great emancipation brought about by that
good man William E. Channing. Here, on their own land, these people, who
years before had been kidnapped from their homes, were once more free.

After a week's buffeting about with cross currents and very little wind
we at last reached the noted headland of Cape Palmas, a port of Liberia;
we anchored here for one night and next morning were under way again.
This time, having a fair wind and the currents with us, we soon made our
next stopping place, which was a little village on the coast-line called
Beraby. Here we had our first glimpse of African life. Directly we
dropped anchor a sight almost indescribable met the eye of what appeared
to be hundreds of large blackbirds in the water. We had not long to wait
before we knew it was something more than blackbirds, for soon the ship
was crowded from stem to stern with natives from the shore jabbering
away in such a manner very alarming to a new-comer. I am not ashamed to
confess that I was anything but sorry when the ship was cleared and we
were off once more; this was soon done as we had only to take on board
our Kroo men, or boys, as they are always called, although some of them
are as finely built as ever a man could wish to be. We took about twenty
of these boys, who engage for the voyage and become, like ourselves,
part of the ship's crew. After each one had received one month's pay
from our captain, and duly handed it over to their friends, and said
their good-byes, general good-wishes were given, and we again up anchor,
and set sail for the well-known port of Half Jack, which ought to be
called the Bristol port of Half Jack, for here we met some half-dozen
Bristol ships, who gave our captain a regular good old Bristol welcome.

A few words about this important port may be of interest, although I am
sorry to say we have managed to let it, valuable as it is, get into the
hands of the French, like many more in that part. Half Jack is a very
low-lying country with a large lagoon, as it is called running, between
it and the mainland. Along the sides of this lagoon the country villages
are situated, which produce that great product palm oil; this is sold to
the Half Jack men, who in turn sell to our Bristol men and they ship it
to all parts of Europe. We now leave Half Jack to its traders and
natives, and after our captain has paid his complimentary visits, we set
sail for the Gold Coast town of Accra; but before reaching that, we have
to pass many fine ports and splendid headlands. Axim, in particular, I
must mention, as it has recently come very much to the fore, owing to
the great quantity of mahogany that is now being exported from there, a
wood that has revolutionised the furniture industries of this
country--it has also enabled the thrifty men and women of England to
make their homes more bright and cheerful by giving them the very cheap
and beautiful furniture they could not have dreamed of years ago, when
the only mahogany procurable was the black Spanish, which was far too
expensive for ordinary persons to think about. Axim, in addition to this
great export of wood, is the port of departure for the West African gold
mines, and they will I have no doubt, in time prove of great value. The
Ancobra River empties itself here. Axim being at its mouth, this river
would be very useful in helping to develop the interior of this part,
were it not that the mouth was so shallow and dangerous, two obstacles
that the science of the future will, I expect, remove. We are now
passing some of the finest specimens of coast scenery it is possible to
see. I can better describe it by comparing it somewhat to our North
Devon and Cornwall coasts, such splendid rocks and headlands and land
that I venture to say will eventually prove very valuable.

We next come to the important town of Elmina, one of the departure ports
of the Ashantee country, and also where all noted prisoners are kept.
King Prempeh, late of Ashantee, is now awaiting her Majesty's pleasure
there; many others have found Elmina their home of detention after
attempting to disobey our gracious Queen's commands.

Cape Coast Castle is our next noted place. This is the chief departure
port for the Ashantee country, and was at one time the Government seat
for the Gold Coast Colony. It is a very fine rock-bound port, and from
the sea its square-topped, white-washed houses, and its Castle on the
higher promontory, form an imposing-looking picture. It is second to
Accra for importance in this part; much gold comes from here. It is also
a celebrated place for the African-made gold jewellery, some of which is
very beautiful in design and workmanship. The grey parrots form a great
article of barter here. Hundreds of these birds are brought to Liverpool
every week, I may almost say all from this place. The people are chiefly
of the Fantee tribe, and a fine and intelligent race they are. They have
good schools, and many of the younger men ship off to other parts of the
coast as clerks, &c. Good cooks may be engaged from here, which is a
fact I think well worth mentioning.

And now we sail on to the present seat of Government for the Gold Coast
Colony, Accra. This is a fine country, a flat, table-like land along the
front, with the hills of the hinterland rising in the background. The
landing here is somewhat dangerous in the rough season, and great care
has to be taken by the men handling the surf-boats to avoid them
capsizing. Many lives have been lost here in days gone by.

I told you before why we called at the Kroo village Beraby, and the port
of Half Jack. We now anchored at Accra to engage our black mechanics,
for which the place is noted. Here you may procure any kind of mechanic
you may mention--coopers, carpenters, gold-and silver-smiths,
blacksmiths, &c. In those early days the coopers and carpenters were
engaged to assist our Bristol men, but to-day the whole of the work is
done by the natives themselves. I do not think you would find a white
cooper or carpenter in any of the lower ports, some of the natives
being very clever with their tools. We also engaged our cooks, steward,
and laundry men, which any establishment of any size in these parts must
keep. For all these trades the natives have to thank chiefly the Basel
Mission, which is, I believe, of Swiss origin. This mission started
years ago to not only teach the boys the word of God, but to teach them
at the same time to use their hands and brains in such a way that they
were bound to become of some use to their fellow men, and command ready
employment. This mission, I cannot help feeling, has been one of the
greatest blessings they have ever had on that great continent. It has
sent out hundreds of men to all parts, and to-day the whole of the West
Coast is dependent upon Accra for its skilled labour. This way of
instructing the natives is now, I am pleased to say, being followed by
nearly all our missionary societies, and it is certainly one of the best
means of civilising a great people like the Africans are.

Not to take powder and shot and shoot them down because they don't
understand our Christian law, but teach them how to make and construct,
that they in time may become useful citizens, and that they may be
better able to learn the value of the many valuable products growing in
their midst, they will be ever thankful to us and bless our advent among
them. These Accra people are a very fine race, clean, and distinctly
above the ordinary type of negro, clearer cut features, well-built men
and women. The women, especially, are superior to any of the West
Africans I have met with up to the present. They, like their husbands,
are fond of dress, and, like their husbands too, are hard-working and
industrious; this was shown by the readiness of these people to
undertake the porterage in the prompt manner they did for the late
Ashantee Expedition, and which must have done a great deal towards
bringing about the success of the same. You will be better able to
understand this if you will suppose, we will say, six thousand men were
landed at Land's End, their destination being Bristol, and with no train
or horse to carry the food supply and ammunition, let alone the heavy
guns. For this work some thousands of porters are required, each one of
which must carry from 60 to 100 pounds in weight. This is carried on the
head, and when I tell you these people think nothing of doing twenty
miles a day, day after day, you will realise how physically strong they
must be. The manner in which they rallied round the Government--men,
women, and children--as soon as it was decided an expedition should be
sent, must have been very encouraging to those in command.

One thing, however, about these Accra people, while they have very much
improved themselves in their dress they have not improved their villages
as much as we would wish to see, but this will all come in time. Our old
towns used to abound in narrow courts and lanes, while we to-day like to
see open spaces, broad streets, &c., with plenty of fresh air, knowing
it is an absolute necessity to us, and it should be the first care of
our councillors to do away as far as possible with all dens and alleys,
so that if the cottage is small, the cottager can breathe pure, fresh
air; for, as you all know, the working man's stock-in-trade is his
health--when that goes, the cupboard is often bare.

Now, I think it is about time we hove anchor and said good-bye to Accra.
Our coopers and carpenters are engaged, and our crew being completed we
set sail for our destination.

After being some four or five days crossing the Bight of Biafra, we
sighted the island of Fernando Po. Here our captain having to do a
little business, we anchor for the night in the harbour of Santa Isabel.
The little island of Fernando Po once belonged to us, but we exchanged
it some years ago with the Spanish Government for another island in the
West Indies, which our Government thought of more value. This, as far as
the West Coast was concerned, was a pity, because at the time I am
speaking of the island was a flourishing place, with about half-a-dozen
or so English merchants, and a fairly good hotel; but not so now, for
while there is still business going on, the place is not advancing, and
a place that does not advance must go back. The chief merchants there
to-day are English. This the Spanish would not have if they could help
it, but being under certain obligations to them they suffer them to

The first view of Fernando Po when you arrive in the bay is a perfect
picture; it makes one almost feel they would never like to leave there;
its white houses all round the front on the higher level, its wharves
and warehouses at the bottom, and its beautiful mountain rising
magnificently in the background. Its whole appearance is very similar to
the island of Teneriffe. It seems strange that here, almost in the
middle of the tropics, if you have any desire to feel an English winter,
you have only to go to the top of the Fernando Po mountain, which can
easily be done in two days, or even less, for while at the foot the
thermometer is registering 85° or 90° in the shade, on the top there is
always winter cold and snow.

Now, I think we had better continue our journey. We took a few
passengers on board, and then set sail for the Cameroon River. This
being only fifty or sixty miles distant, we were not long before we came
to anchor off what is called the Dogs' Heads. Here we had to wait the
flood, and almost three-quarter tide, to enable our ship to pass safely
over a shallow part of the river called the flats. Now we come in sight
of the then noted King Bell's Town, called after a king of that name.
Here our ship is moored with two anchors, and here she has to remain
until the whole of her cargo has been purchased. This was done, and is
even to-day, by barter, that is exchanging the goods our ship has
brought out for the products of the country, which at that time
consisted only of palm oil, ivory, and cocoa-nuts; but before we
commence to trade the ship has to be dismantled--top spars and yards
taken down, and carefully put away with the rigging and running gear;
spars are then run from mast to mast, and bow to stern, forming a ridge
pole; then rafters are fastened to these coming down each side,
supported by a plate running along the side, supported by upright posts
or stanchions; the rafters are then covered with split-bamboos, over
these are placed mats made from the bamboo and palm trees. It takes, of
course, some thousands of mats to cover the ship all over, but this is
done in about a month, and all by natives who are engaged for that
particular work and belonging to that place. Our ship now being housed
in, all hands who have not been sent to assist in taking another ship to
England are given their different duties to assist the captain in
carrying on the trade.


Each ship in those days had what was then called a cask house, that was
a piece of land as nearly opposite as possible to where the ship lay
moored. This land was always kept fenced round with young mangrove props
or sticks, forming a compound; inside this compound would be two,
perhaps three, fairly good sized stores or warehouses, and also an open
shed for empty casks which had to be filled with palm oil and stowed in
the ship for the homeward voyage. Now the first work to be done after
the ship was made ready for trading, was to land as much of her cargo as
was not immediately required for trading purposes, such as salt,
caskage, earthenware, and all heavy goods. Salt in those days, as in the
present, formed one of the staple articles of trade, therefore a ship
would generally have from 200 to 300 tons of this on board, all of which
would have to be landed into one of these store houses. At that time
that meant a lot of labour, as every pound had to be carried by the
natives from the boats to the store in baskets upon the head, over a
long flat beach. To-day all this is altered, the salt is sent out in
bags, and each store has a good iron wharf running out into the river
with trolly lines laid upon it, which runs the goods right into the
store, and so saves an immense amount of labou