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cc ^\'2_,S'I3 

Ex Libris 

Henry H. Bucher, Jr. 
Cat Garlit Bucher 








«> ' : ■••^ 


1023 N GRm;:] 









All rights reserved 

Richard Clav and Sons. Limited, 
london and bungav. 





I PRAY you who may come across this book to dis- 
tinguish 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, pub- 
lished this year, we have practically had no reliable informa- 
tion 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 deal- 
ing 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 ^ opened up that still 
little-known Qua I bo river, another region of Negroes, also 
requires no apology. I am confident that the quite uncon- 
scious 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 

I most sincerely wish that the whole of this book had 
been written by such men as the authors of Appendices I. 
and II. '^Ve 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 Urstiiff and 
rely only on expert observers, whose lives and property 

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. 


depend on their observing well, or whose science trains 
them to observe carefully. 

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 
soHtary 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 ethno- 
logical questions, and has permitted me to go through his 
collections of African things most generously. It is, how- 
ever, 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 

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 



o 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 stuffi 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 
lau'nch 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 our- 
selves, 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 super- 
heated 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 — m\- superiors. 
like the purser — would rise to, if they knew it : but at the 
same time, I ma\- 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 carrj- out the orders given them by the 

Plotinus verj' 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 \ou things are impossible, but I am 
particularly hopeful in this matter. England has an excellent 
idea regarding her dut>- 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 ci\alisation and advance there 
you have travelled on a cabbage leaf. 

I have now only the pleasant dut>- 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 demon- 

PREFACE x\-ii 

strated to me the fearless honesty and the perfect chivalrj- 
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 anjiJiing I 
regard as rather wrong in missionarj' 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 point 














































C. N. DE CARDI 443 





INDEX 635 



SANTA CRUZ, TENERIFFE To face page 12 



SETTE CAMMA, NOVEMBER 9, 1888* „ 69 







YORUBA „ 141 










* By permission of R. B. N. Walker, Esq. 


IN AN ANGOLA MARKET To face -page 297 













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 con- 
cerning 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 com- 
pared to the problem of the West Coast Boat. 

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 practic- 
ally know no part of the West Coast whatsoever. 

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 go- 
ing 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 watch- 
man'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 state- 
ment one day that everything is quite satisfactory, say 
in Uganda, and in the next issue that there has been a 

B 2 


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 v/hich 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 Nacional simply superb for a Portuguese West 
Coast Possession, but for the Bights, especially for the terri- 
ble 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 

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 com- 


merdal spirit I am not by nature a commercial mao 
myself jret under her influence I found myself selling 
paraffin ofl in cases in the Bights : and even to missionaries 
and Goremment (^cials travelling on her in between ports. 
she suggested the advisability of having out churches. 
booses, &c^ in sections cardully mariced with her name. 

As we ran down the Irish Channel and into the Bay of 
Biscay, the wearier was what the mariners termed '• a bit 
fresh " Our craft was e\-idently a wet ship, either because 
d>e 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, 
^le hatxtnally sat down in the rise of those waves, whereby, 
:r: ~ - itever motive, she managed to ship a good deal of 
ihr .-. - : Ocean in various sized sections. 

1- : : --- aforesaid, was aft, and I observed it was the 

duty. ir. leep it dr>-, of any one near the main door 

who m^it notice a ton ex* so of ihe fourth elemoit coming 
aboard, to seize up three cocoa-fibre mats, ^ut three cabin 
doors and yell " Bill ! " After doing this thej- were seemin^y 
at full liberty to retire into the saloon and dam the Atlantic 
Ocean, and retriark, " It's z dog's life at sea.' I never 
r. : : : 1 1 1 .. : : ~ t tr to this performance, so I 

^ Li r. - ^ : :_ -:i " Biii ' as an invocation to a weather 
Ju Ju; b_: :r..: ls hast>-, for one night in the Bay I was 
roused b}- i ' - — - - ' - gmng into the saloon to see 

what it WL irF: siziHarly oigaged ; mu- 

toallywe i ;: ;:ti . _ - — she wasn't the boat 

to go and throw away 21 : ' : - - : : :r! ; — iha : i: -.vai the 
piano adrift off its dais, and we steered for iL Ver\- cleverly 
we fidded at rout: " - — - " ~ - - ~ - ' rte, but shipped some 
beer and Worcss-... , _ 1 : : . - : -. came at us from the 


rack over :hr :E.^r >trt: - ^'t rres-y i-^ --'z'rr 

about the hi: l' L ^ :: r^ ::: ' l r 

held our : :: : l :: ::i tht :i3::, * 

shoating "Biii, and " Biii came, in the form oi l iir.iv- 
haired steward, amiable in natoie and striking in : - r v: 

After the first three or foor days, a calm deq»ir r: j :- r 
the fate of my various lost belongings and myse : r l rg 
come on me, and the weather having rr:;cer^:t_ - i :Z'=s. to 
make observations on vhit —ir.r.rr ::' ~e- cr.y :e-:w- 
passengers were. I fcur.f :r. : .-^tries of the 

genus Coaster, the Goverr-r-r'.: —.1. ir 1 :'r.~ t^^ding 
Agent, were represented; ;: ;-: t . li r; M 35 :-- 
aries. I decided to observe those -^ties e hid =.-""; 
having heard awful accounts of the— :t:'::t ei .r.^ 
England, but to reserve final judgme- : : : -r. : : t 

had quite recovered firom sea-sicknesi ir. 1 -ii r.-:^ i : : 
ashore. Some of the Agoits sooo revived suit, zitzziy : : ^ 
copious information on the dangers ani rr^zn^-.v/ of \\ est 
Afirica to those on board who were gcrinr 1 : r : i - : 
tl^ first time, and the captain and doctc: e tr 

and anon with a particularly ccmvindng : : : 

support of their statements. This D>ez : -:r: :: 

thing. Oneofthe Agents would look i: :.; . . :i r. --:r.2g: a 
meal-time, and say. " You re~e~'rer J . C^zz^r. ? _-v" e nr 

hifn weU," ssys :d:e Captain ; -^ why I : ^ : ^ :s 

last time, poor : it :hen follows :_.. 1::;. "r 

pegging-out of J ;. :: :. r. - : - =" ": S:c T ~ : :" t 

ofi&dal who had re. re re e .- : a 

colleague out :':r the ~:-: : ~" ; r . ~ :: ught any dress 

clothes withyoo?' T/: :r : e :: er. scenting 

an allusion to a r:.::: ; ::: e .rc :: _ :^r: e : .z.y 
answers in the amrmative. 


" 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, nervously. 

" Haven't time as a general rule, but I have known some 
fellows get kraw 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 Cap- 
tain, 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, sweep- 
ing 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 con- 
versation 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 con- 
versation, 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 remark- 
ing 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 antennae at it with evident satis- 
faction ; in fact it's the lively nights those cockroaches 
have that keep them abed during the day. They are some- 
times of great magnitude ; I have been assured by ob- 
servers 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. After- 
wards 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 camea 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 popula- 
tion 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 centi- 
pedes 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 pre- 


vious 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 ex- 
plained that they had regarded me at first as a lady 
missionary, until my failure, during a Sunday service in 

[To face page 12. 

Santa Cruz, Teneriffe 


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 re- 
gard 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 

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 days. 

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 mer- 
chants 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 ad- 
vised, 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 ashore. 

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 con- 
versation 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 wander- 


ing 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 great- 
est 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 

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 conver- 
sation 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 alarm- 
ingly 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 aesthetic 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 collect- 
ing ! 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, home- 
ward 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 any- 
thing 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 excur- 
sions 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 

C 2 


stood triumphantly on a heap of them, Hke 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 incHned 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 com- 
pound 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 roust- 
about 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 con- 
sists 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 associa- 
tion 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 en- 
gineer 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 no. 

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 considera- 
tion 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 swish- 
ing, 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 con- 
templative 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 ThougJits 
and My Health, gave much information, curious and 
interesting, on earwigs and wasps, omitted this interesting 
insect. So, perhaps, a precis 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 them. 

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 avcens. 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 institiita 
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 brilh'ant 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 dread- 
ful language. Barricading the house with a rim of red hot 
ashes, or a river of burning paraffin, merely adds to the incon- 
venience 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 Hvely concern, and such unmis- 
takable signs of anguish at having left something behind 
them in the hut, that I thought it must be the baby. Al- 
though 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 swarm- 
ing 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 bis- 
cuits. 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 re- 
morse he said, as I passed him, " Drivers." Inwardly 
apologising, I outwardly commiserated him, and we dis- 
coursed. 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 fol- 
lowed. 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 masterly. 

Before closing these observations I must just 
mention that tiny, sandy-coloured abomination Myviaica 
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 thunderstorm. 

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 circum- 
stances. 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 environment. 

pmpitT'M *0 apnjri»7 "S 



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 un- 

D 2 


veiled. 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 informa- 
tion 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 privateer- 
ing, 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 think.s 
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 there. 

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 talk- 
ing 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 consign- 
ment 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 them- 
selves 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 un- 
mitigated 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 accu- 
sations, 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. Cer- 
tainly 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 

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-prognosti- 
cated attack of fever. All day long we steamed onwards, 
passing the Banana Isles and Sherboro Island and the 
sound usually called Sherboro River .^ 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 out- 
ward 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, how- 
ever, 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 carry- 
ing on the local conversation, had by now enabled me to 

1 This word is probably a corruption of the old name for this district, 


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 1 encountered the third 
officer similarly shod. When I recovered from these suc- 
cessive 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 

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, 

The new-comers went on deck "just to look round ; " and 
as there was nc^hing 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 now." 

" 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. " Na- 
turally," 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 sooth- 
ingly, " 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 observa- 
tion made in a scientific spirit." I had noticed that when- 
ever 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 Free- 
town harbour in fog. But never before had I seen more than 
one officer wearing them at a time, while to-night 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 character- 
istic 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 same- 
ness 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 Ogowe do not get Hke 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 
5urf 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, in- 
tensely 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,^ rising about 200 feet, seems from seaward to be 
another island. 

The capital of the Liberian Republic, Monrovia, is situ- 
ated 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 ; com- 
municating with each other and overflowing by shallow 

^ The derivation of this name given by Barbot is from niisericordia. 
" 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 
niisericordia, from which by corruption mesurado." 


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. 1 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 occa- 
sionally 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, 

1 Tornado is possibly a corruption from the Portuguese tro'-jado, 
a thunderstorm ; or from tornado, signifying returned ; but most 
likely it comes from the Spanish torneado, signifying thunder. 


the tornado-rain ironing the ocean down ; so if, accord- 
ing 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 2h 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 i^ miles from Sestos 
Point; within 5 miles of it is the rock which The Corisco dis- 
covered 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 way." 

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 unac- 
quainted 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 passen- 
gers on a West Coast boat will receive with open derision 
and contempt, holding him to be a spendthrift thereof; but 
I mysislf 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 sur- 
veying 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 sub- 

E 2 


sidence 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 depth. 

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 pur- 
chase from the chiefs of the native tribes. The idea of restor- 
ing 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 New- 
port, Rhode Island, in 1770, but it was 18 16 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 them- 
selves 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 EngHsh 
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 Afri- 
cans 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 evi- 
dence ready for his investigation. The mortaHty 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 Beige, while the original inten- 
tion 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 English- 
men." They have never asked in vain of me or any 
Englishman in West Africa, but recognition of their ser- 
vices 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 
Imperiahsm 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 ySthiopia : 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 expe- 
ditions in the 15th century, first came across grains of 
paradise, a circumstance that much excited those navi- 
gators 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 

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 1 364, 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 isWaizanzag. 
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 corrup- 


tion 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 malegejis 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 south- 
east 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 sur- 
rounded 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 i inch in breadth, is 
more oval than that of the other kind, and the grains 
in it are round and bluntly angular, bright brown out- 
side, 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 JavanAmojmnn 
maximum, which it is sometimes used to adulterate. This 
common capsule is only about i| inches long and | 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 withered. 

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 ;^Soo 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, adultera- 
tion 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 sequelae 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 fear- 
fully 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 ]u Ju, and go and mistake a person who is merely 
attending to his body for one who is attending to his 



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 

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 pre- 
pared, 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 

For Palm Wine. 

[ I'o Jacc p-igc 63. 


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 direc- 
tions 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 com- 

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 remem- 
ber 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 unfor- 
tunately 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- 


torn 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 xylo- 
phonic 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 key- 
board. 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 key- 
board 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 re- 
mains 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, 
sines 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 Africa. 

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, can- 

F 2 


not 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 1 5 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, 

Secret Society Leaving the Sacred Grove 

[T^/aic J' age 
Jengu Devil Dance of King William's Slaves, Sette Camma, Nov.g , i88§. 


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 
1 5 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. 

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 w^ell, 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 investiga- 
tion, 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 
ha/ing 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 prevaiHng wind here, for 
they tell you bright and clear, as they lean N.E., that the 
S.W. wind brought them up to do so. 

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 

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 genera- 
tions, 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 
^thiope, 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 ;^ 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 nowa- 
days 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 naturaL/, and one of the most amus- 
ing features of West African trade you can see on a steam- 
boat 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 

^ No connection with the Colony of Lagos. 


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 there- 
fore, 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 play- 
ing, 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 my- 
self, 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 per- 
manently 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 

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 contem- 
plation 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 com- 
panions. 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 deter- 
mination 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 Cam-wood 
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 diflficulties 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 

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 Ogowe 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 
Ogowe 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 cus- 
tomarily 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 hydro- 
phobia 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 sub- 
sequently 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 hydro- 
phobia 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 turn- 
ing 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, particu- 
larly in places — Cameroons, for example. If you see a 
man who seems to you to have a Hjiorbid 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 know. 

The inhabitants of the French Ivory Coast are an ex- 
ceedingly 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 con- 
cerned have passed over the trade of the Ivory Coast 
recently, but the way, even in my time, trade was car- 
ried on was thus. The native traders deal with the cap- 
tains of the English sailing ves.sels and the French fac- 
tories, 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 some- 
thing he can put his wealth into when he wants to store 
it for a time. 

They have a singular system of commercial corre- 
spondence 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 Anama- 
quoa, 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 fac- 
tories. 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 

G 2 


lay week out and week in short alike of wind and 

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 pro- 
duce. This arrangement being made, off sailed the Guinea- 
man 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 pro- 
mised 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 coast- 
ing 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 

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 arives. 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 grati- 
tude, 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 advantageously. 

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, i 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 i 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. 



There is one distinctive charm about fishing — its fascina- 
tions 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 temper- 
ate 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. 

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 ex- 
periences, 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 

Corisco Island is about three miles long by if wide : its 
latitude 0"56 N., long. 9°2o| 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 under- 
standing 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 centi- 
pedes, 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 con- 
templation 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 ^ of the island, and the fact that they are sur- 

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


rounded 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,^ 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 
1 Clarias laviaps. 


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 enorm- 
ous 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 ; (&) 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) grumbT \ about, "There is no 
sport." He has only got himself co 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 excitement. 

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. Giinther'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 /, 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 mangrov '^.-^ek, and then went up against 
the black mud-bank, wit' 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 frater- 
nally 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," ^ 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 C^sar 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 occu- 
pant 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 ; fortu- 
nately 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 embedded. 

Now it's my belief that the most difficult thing in the 

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


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 beeia 
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 pro- 
ducing 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 

H 2 


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 com- 
panion 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 

Falls on the Tongue River. 

\To face page loi. 

LoANUA Canoe with Mat Sails. 


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. 

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, resem- 
bling 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 


siiells, 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 
©n 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 Ogow6, 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 Ogowe 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 sea- 
faring 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 float- 
ing islands, with their trees still flourishing. The Ogowe 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 Ogowe and remain there, collecting all sorts of debris 
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. Thou- 
sands 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 catches. 

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 en- 
tangled 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 

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 collected. 

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 

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,! 
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 


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. Giinther'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 com- 
mon-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 under- 
lying 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 Ogowe 
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 Kingsley<2) and very 

bold, for when you put your hand down in the water, with 

some crumbs, they first make two orthree 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, Sec, 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." ^ 

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 begin- 
ning 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 flies. 

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 
^ Translation : " All fishermen are thieves." 


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 grad- 
ually 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. 



Wherein the student of Fetish determines to make things quite clear 
this time, with resuUs 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 

The final object of all human desire is a knowledge of 
the nature of God. The human methods, or religions, em- 
ployed 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 phenomena. 

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." ^ 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 know- 
ledge of the nature of God, and " Ein giiter Mensch in seinem 
dunkeln Drange 1st sick des rechten Weges wohl bezvuszt." 
Nevertheless the most tolerant human mind is subject to a 
feeling of irritation over the methods whereby a fellow-crea- 
ture 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 fur- 
ther 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 influ- 
enced either by Christianity or Mohammedanism. I sin- 

^ Of the Divine Law, Tractatus Theologico Politicus^ Spinoza. 



cerely wish there were another name than Fetish which we 
eould 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 modifica- 
tion of the French word for toy or <\o\S.,joiijou. 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 Feitiqo 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 
Feiti^o, 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 Fetichisme was introduced by De Brosses in his 
remarkable book, D71 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 unfor- 
tunately 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.^ 

I do not in the least deny Professor Tylor's right to use 
the word Fetish ^ 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 

Take, for example, the gods of the Ewe and Tshi.^ 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 

^ Primitive Culture^ E. B. Tylor, p. 144. 

2 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 in- 
fluences, 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 

3 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. 

I 2 


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 

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 appari- 
tions 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 Sasa- 
bonsum, 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 Ogowe 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 listen- 
ing 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 poss- 
essing 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 Hnes 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 identi- 
cal 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." 1 

Now both these utterances are magnificent Fetish, and 
1 The Vocation of the Hebrews^ Spinoza. 


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 dis- 
tinguished 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 II 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 1 " " Fit," said 1. " 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 him- 
self across the path, out of the way of ground ants, to sleep 
off a heavy meal. My eminent friend, in the inky dark- 
ness 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 suffer- 
ing 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 Httle 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 Moham- 
medan 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 

Another and more fundamental point to be considered 
is the influence of physical environment on religions, par- 
ticularly 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 pheno- 
mena, 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, un- 
doubtedly, 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 im- 
possible 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 re- 
ligions ; it is also the explanation of the fact that white 
men who live in districts where death and danger are every- 
day 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 distress- 
ing 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 ser\-ices 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 satis- 
faction 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 re- 
ligion he has been taught until it fits in with Fetish, and is 
gradually absorbed by it. 

It is often asked whether Christianity or ]\Iohammedan- 
ism is to possess Africa — as if the choice of Fate lay be- 
tween 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 bliith-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 Islam. 

It is, I am quite aware, not doctrlnally 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 ne- 
cessarily 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 con- 
science, 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 con- 
science 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 

What strikes a European when studying it is the lack 
of gaps between things. To the African there is per- 
haps 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 them- 
selves, 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 im- 
portant 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 patiently. 

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.^ 

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.^ An eminent authority, when criticising 
my statements,^ dwelt upon their heterodoxy on this 
point, saying however, " We may throw out the con- 
jecture 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 

1 See Travels in ^ifj^ yi/nVa,byM. H. Kingsley. Macmillan & Co. 

^ For further details see Travels in West Africa^ p. 444. 

3 " Origins and Interpretations of Primitive Religions." Edinburgh 
Review^ July, 1897, p. 219. 

K 2 


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 unani- 
mous 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 relations. 

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 Sasa- 
bonsum 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 fre- 
quently 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 hurt- 
ing 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 senti- 
mental 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 an- 
cestors 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 .^ 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 Yoritba Speakifig 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 

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-dis- 
posed ones. And these are ancestors undoubtedly. They 
do not show up clearly in those districts where reincarna- 

^ The Tshi Speakmg, Ewe Speaking and Yoruba Speaking People 
of West Africa.— K. B. Ellis. 


tion 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 out- 
break of small-pox in the whole district. 



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 re- 
ligion 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 under- 
lying 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 

yfo face page 137. 

Fantee Natives of the Gold* Coast. 


only existing in the minds of cabinet ethnologists from a 
want of recognition of the fact of the existence of these 

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 : (i) 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 con- 
cerned 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 ; ctlso 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 con- 
dition 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 

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 


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 distri- 
bution 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 informa- 
tion 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. 

But there is a remarkable point that you cannot fail to 
notice in the Fetish of these three divisions of true Negro 

[To ^ace fage 141. 



Fetish studied by Ellis, namely, that what is one god 
in Yoruba you get as several gods exercising one par- 
ticular 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 ^ 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 advan- 
tages 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. 

^ History of Loango^hy the Abb^ Proyart, 1776. Pinkerton, vol. 
xvi., p. 587. 


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 Birming- 
ham, 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 

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 any- 
where 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 

A Calabar Chief. 

[TV /ace page 145. 


is care taken to send a soul down, but means are taken to 
see whether or no it has duly returned ; for keeping a valu- 
able 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 
S^ 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 matter. 

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 circum- 
stances, 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 

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 pre- 
decessor 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 sus- 
picion as to where those goods went. Their proper destina- 
tion, of course, should be the under-world. Thither un- 
doubtedly 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 intro- 
ducing 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 pre- 
decessor, 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 un- 
principled 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 diplo- 
matic 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, 

L 2 


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 domestic- 
ally, 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 for. 

Then we have left very interesting sections of the com- 
munity 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 com- 
mitted 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 im- 
pressive 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 modera- 
tion 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. 

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 ven- 
tured to term the Mpongwe school. To the brief considera- 
tion of this school we will now turn. 

In between the strongly-marked Calabar school and the 
strongly-marked school of Nkissism of LoangoKacongo,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 Came- 
roon 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 ha^'e 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 sup- 
planters 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 Fetish, 

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 classi- 
fication 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.^ 

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-ordi- 
nated 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 study- 
ing 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 ex- 
1 Travels in West Africa. Fetish Chapters. 


ample, 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 Kiiste und Besuck 
in San Salvadoj% 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 

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 Nzambr 
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 sub- 
ject 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 
^ Sampson Low and Co. 

\ To fa, I- /'age i55- 

P'joKT Natives of Kacongo and Loango. 


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 south- 
ern 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 bearinof on witchcraft. 



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 posi- 
tion 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 

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." ^ This is evi- 
dently a serious affair for West Africa and me, so I must 
deal with it carefully, and first quote my critic's words fol- 
lowing 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 low- 
est stage of aboriginal superstition wherever it prevails, 
for it has been held that, although the line between abject 
1 July, 1897, p. 221. 


fetishism and witchcraft may be difficult to trace in the 
elementary stages, yet from the beginning a true distinc- 
tion 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, wor- 
ship, 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 import- 
ant statement of Dr. Nassau : " Observe, these were dis- 
tinctly prayers, appeals for mercy, agonising protests ; but 
there was no praise, no love, no thanks, no confession of 
sin." 1 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 
^ Travels in West Africa. (Macmillan, 1897, p. 453.) 


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 organisa- 
tion 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 " Ntia 
tchV 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 inter- 
vened, 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, pro- 
perty, 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. Every- 
one does it ; there is not a man, woman, or child who has not 
several attached spirits for help and preservation from dan- 
ger 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 destruc- 
tion. 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 priest- 
hood of an imported religion are anxious to stamp out ; and 
there is that aversion to witchcraft one might call the Pro- 
testant 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 

M 2 


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 Kufong. 

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, be- 
cause 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 establish- 


ing the personal connection between the victim and the 
charm by means of making him look on the charm and call- 
ing 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 in- 
digenous 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 environ- 
ment — going outdoors, coming in, going on a journey, mix- 
ing 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 un- 
doubtedly true African, but there is a sort of imaginative 
touch which makes me suspect Mohammedan infusion ; any- 
how, 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 witch- 
craft. 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 in- 
carnation 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 with- 
out 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, par- 
ticularly 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, re- 
membering 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 pro- 
fessional 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 pro- 
fessionally, 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 them- 
selves 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 cer- 
tain 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 

" 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 

" 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 con- 
sulted 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 ex- 
pedient, 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 door- 
posts of his house and everything that is around him until 
he has ceased to breathe." 

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 pre- 
parations 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 followmg 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 Fantec 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 adjoin- 
ing 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 ex- 
ultingly 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 vege- 
tables, 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 import- 
ance 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 possess- 
ing this view of the equal, if not greater importance of 
many of the things he sees round him, the African con- 
ceives 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 obtrud- 
ing 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, there- 
fore 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 con- 
stitutes 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 protec- 
tion 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 im- 
portant 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 sympathetic- 
ally, 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 

N 2 




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 


Tierbs. 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 in- 
comprehensible, 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 apothe- 
cary, 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 confreres, for African surgery is 

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 rapidly. 

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, particu- 
larly 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 A^^j^, while ordinary rheumatism is called Macongo. 
They generally try to cure this disease by giving the 
sufferers vapour baths, Theyputthe 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 
patientoverwiththe 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 Loj/ia, and is skilfully 
extracted by many of the natives by means of a needle or 
piece of wood cut to a sharp point. 

" 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 to. 

" 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 
tny 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 fas- 
tened 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 pos- 
sess 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 o^ 
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 pro- 
vided. 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 know- 
ledge 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. Never- 


theless 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 Okyon, has 
the bush round her compound fairly studded with little 
temporary huts, each with a patient in. You see, distin- 
guished 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 con- 
founded with another disease, held to be a curse from an 
aggrieved Nature spirit. There was at Okyon 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 con- 
tinuous 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-hypo- 
-chondria, 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 back- 
wards into water when they attempted a drowning form of 
suicide,^ They do not, however, confine themselves to 

^ 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 


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 rela- 
tions, who point out elaborately to him the advantages of 
life over death, and enquire of him his reasons for hanker- 
ing 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 re- 
quiring a course of sensational rescues from drowning. 

The sleep disease ^ 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 ^ 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 

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. 

^ Negro lethargy ; Maladie du sommeil ; Enfermedad del sueno ; 
Nelavane (Oulof) ; Dadane (Sereres) ; Toruahebue (Mendi) ; Ntolo 

"^ Syste7n of Medicine. Volume II. Edited by Dr. Clifford Allbutt. 
Macmillan & Co., 1897. 


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 
Fran^ais, or the much-abused mangrove swamps of the 
Niger Delta. 

Dr. Manson says, " The sleeping sickness has been at- 
tributed 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 Persians may in some way be responsible 
for the sleeping sickness. I know that this parasite is ex- 
tremely 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 — includ- 
ing 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- 

" 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 sickness. 

" 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 Malaziy literally meaning thousands {Kulazi=onQ 
thousand, the verb Koiila 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 

" 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 

" As a child, it appeared afterwards, she had suffered 
from the disease, and had been cured by the good French 
doctorthen resident in Landana(Dr. Lucan). I knewnothing 
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. 

" Joao (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 

" The native doctors appear to know when the disease has 
become incurable and the life of the patient is merely a ques- 
tion 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 

o 2 


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 ta 
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." 1 

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 

^ Angola and the River Congo. Macmillan. Vol. i., p. 144. 


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 bank. 

Before quitting the apothecary part of this affair, 1 
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, 7iever prescribe hot 
poultices. An esteemed medical friend, since dead, told me 

igS AFRICAN MEDICINE chap, viir 

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. 



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 exist- 
ent 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 in- 
dividual we call a human being is usually held to be four — 
(i) 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-lark- 
ing, 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. Occa- 
sionally, however, this fresh soul slips through the medical 
man's fingers, and before you can say " Knife " is on top of 
some loo-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 dis- 
mally, 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 sur- 
viving soul of a person who has not been properly buried — 
not had his devil made, in fact. And as every human sur- 
viving 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 siscis 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. In- 
convenient as this is, the far greater danger you are 
exposed to by having a sisa in you lies in the chances 
being 10 to i 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 arinis, 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 szsa 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 some- 
times 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 it. 

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 com- 
plaints of the dream-soul connected with physic and pass 
on to those connected with surgery. 

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 symp- 
toms 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 witch- 
craft 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 in, 

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 

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 witch. 

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 her- 
self" — 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 sup- 
posed 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 

P 2 


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 per- 
sonal 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 unfor- 
tunate 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 prac- 
tice 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 pre- 
viously 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 

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 ehnntup — 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 parapher- 
nalia 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 suc- 
cessor 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 ex- 
pectorates 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 some- 
thing 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 kaleido- 
scopic 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 dis- 
cover which of my authors had been doing the heaviest 
amount of lying. It seemed clear to the meanest intelli- 
gence 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 publi- 
cation 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 with. 


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 Bluth-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 Bluth-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 scat- 
tered 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 contri- 
bution to our knowledge in Mr. Sarbar's Fanti Customary 
Laws} I think that every student of the African form of 
^ Clowes and Sons, 1897. 


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 ethno- 
logist 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 

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 gentle- 
men 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 character- 
istically 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 him- 
self, 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 com- 
patriot 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, Portu- 
guese, 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 yElian, and consists of a con- 
versation 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."^ 

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 
1 Melpomene^ IV. 41. 

Q 2 


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 men- 
tion of 1 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 
^ Melpome7ie^ IV. 43. 


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 Alex- 
andria 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 expedi- 
tion, 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 Brave.^ 

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 

^ 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. 


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 won- 
derful 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 every- 
thing 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 com- 
mercial 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.i Hanno, it seems, was a chief magistrate at Car- 
thage, and Pliny says his voyage was undertaken when 
Carthage was in a most flourishing condition.^ From the 
Periplus we learn that the expedition to the West Coast 
consisted of sixty ships of fifty oars each, and 30,000 per- 
sons of both sexes, ample provisions and everything neces- 
sary 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 

1 There is doubt as to whether this Periplus is the entire one with 
which the classic writers were conversant. 

2 " Et Hanno Carthaginis potentia florente circumvectus a Gabibus 
ad finem Arabiae navigationem earn 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. Ixvii. 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 
^lian ; 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. 


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 reach- 
ing 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 Meduse drifted in 18 16, 
the tragedy of which is familiar to us all from Gericault'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 Cartha- 
ginians 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 ^ they refilled their 

^ 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. 


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 cap- 
tured and taken aboard, but so savage and unmanageable 
did they prove that they were killed and the skins pre- 
served. 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 any- 
thing of chariots ; and I think this Chariot of the Gods must 
have been an error of Hanno's in translating his interpre- 
ter'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 know- 
ledge 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-appre- 
ciated 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 Frangais, 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 beenable to get stores; but alsodown 
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 observa- 
tions 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 get- 
ting an unrepaying honour. One sees this so much in 
studying the next period of this history — the early Portu- 
guese 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 Egyp- 
tians 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 com- 
merce, — then a pause. Then the Portuguese, French, Eng- 
lish, 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 suppres- 
sion, 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 ener- 
getic 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 Bliith- 
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 inter- 
esting — 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 trade. 

Herodotus gives us the first description of it,^ 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 

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 
^ Melpomene^ IV. 96. 



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,^ 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 re- 
turned home with the gold they had been paid in. The se 
merchants reckoned it forty days' journey on horseback 
from Tagazza to " Timbuk " as Mostro, while from Tim- 
buk 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 exces- 
sive, 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 

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


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 MelH ; 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 sticks. 

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 inhabitantsof 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 

R 2 


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, con- 
cealing 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 

[To /'ace pa^!;e 245, 

Oil River Natives. 


would be sufficient to satisfy the Imperial curiosity. Un- 
fortunately 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 black- 
ness. 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 gold. 

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 Tim- 
bucto, where it was again divided up, some of it going 
to Toet,^ 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 Chris- 
tians, 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 Tombak, which is our last author's Timbuk, by 
way of the Gambia, then held by many to be a mouth 
of the Niger. 

^ Ato, according to the version given in Grynaeus. 


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 per- 
centage 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 thick- 
ness 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, ac- 
cording 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 me- 
thod 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 mar- 
ket 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.^ 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 under- 
stand 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. 

1 Mr. Ling Roth kindly informs me of further instances of this 
silent trading to ht found in Lander' s /oKrna/, 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 Branden- 
burgers ; 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 archi- 
tects 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.^ When on my last voyage out I was 

1 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 


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 Cao 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 Cao or 
Lopez ; and so as a distraction from the consideration of the 
private characters of people still living, I started discours- 
ing on what I considered a safer and more interesting sub- 
ject, and began to recount how I had had the honour of 
being personally mixed up in the monument to Diego Cao 
at the mouth of the Congo, and what fine fellows — I got 
no farther than that, when, to my horror, 1 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 

him on the value of the absence of evidence in disproving the 
French claim I am deeply indebted to him for the mention of refer- 
ences on the point. 


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 Prinee Henry ; and as this book is 
fully accepted as correct by the highest Portuguese authori- 
ties, 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 gentle- 
man'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 hopeof profit,) and seeing also that noother 
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 

" 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 ; there- 
fore 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 saved." 

According to the Portuguese, Gil Eannes was the first 
emissary of Prince Henry who succeeded in passing Cape 
Bodajor, 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 Gon- 
salves 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 shallowbay called by them 
Angra des Ruives.^ They then returned to Portugal, and the 

I 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 Portu- 
guese because of the quantity of this fish found there. In the JVesf 
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. 


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 appar- 
ently 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,^ and the 
French claim to have been down the West Coast trad- 
ing 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 
1 Prince Henry the Navigator j Major. 


Labat, at Dieppe, in the conflagration of 1694.^ 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 patron- 
age 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 com- 
manded by Joao 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 Afifonso V. ; but his son, who 
succeeded him as Joao 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 
^ Labat, Afrique occidentale^ vol. iv. p. 8. 1724. 



throne had been derived from it and its fisheries. Joao II. 
energetically pushed on the enterprise founded by his father 
Afifonso v., who had in 1469 rented the trade of the Guinea 
Coast to Fernam Gomez for five years at 500 equizodas a 
year/ 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 Joao, com- 
manded 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 re- 
ported 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 repre- 
senting 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 
^ Equal to nearly ^30 English per annum. 


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 Joao 
granted many franchises and privileges to people who 
would go and live at San Gorge da Mina, and aid in ex- 
panding 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 monu- 
ments King Joao 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 Joao's days included a 

S 2 


considerable cargo of ready-dressed stones and materials for 
monuments, and that from the quantity of discoveries these 
expeditions made, the sixteenth century Portuguese home- 
ward 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 C intra 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 fac- 
tories 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,^ 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 141 3, 
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 

1 A Relation of the Coasts of Africa called Guinea collected by 
Sieur Villault, Escuyer, Sieur de Bell fond, in the years 1666- 1667. 
London : John Starkey, 1670. 


French in ever having abandoned it owing to certain pre- 
judices 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 in- 
habitants 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 exist- 
ence 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 alto- 
gether, 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." ^ 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 un- 
known 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 
^ Vas Conselo's Life of King Jodo. 


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 mo- 
ments when it seems to me clear enough why she has done 
it all ; but these moments only come when I am in an at- 
mosphere reeking of La Gloire or La France — a thing I 
own I much enjoy ; but when I am back in the cold intel- 
lectual 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 per- 
sonally 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 communica- 
tions 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, Sail, 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 prob- 
ability 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 inter- 
ference 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 ; ^ 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 Govern- 
ment 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 English- 
woman 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 petrifica- 
tion sets in, and a policy of international amiability and 
1 Duke of Devonshire's speech at Liverpool, June, 1897. 


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 ad- 
mire 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 consider- 
ation 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 suc- 
ceeded 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.^ 

1 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. 


This French settlement is to this day one of the main 
French ports in Africa, and it has remained in their posses- 
sion, 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 Occidentales ; 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 pre- 
decessor. 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 be- 


tween Cape Verde and the Gambia ; ^ 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 S^- i" 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 diffi- 
cult 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 responsi- 
bilities 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 com- 
panies, — 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 com- 
pagnie 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 

^ An extent of thirty leagues and six leagues within the land. — 
Labat, p. 19. 


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 Govern- 
ment assistance if those Dutch should come and attempt 
to reinstate themselves to the incommodation of French 

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 Cote d'Afrique." It did not prosper ; never- 
theless 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 Briie. 

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 
17 1 7. 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 inter- 
national 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' vil- 
lainies and returned the booty to the prior owner on paper. 
The aggrieved Power then engaged in the difficult under- 
taking 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,^ who raised himself to the dignity of comp- 

^ John Law was the eldest son of an Edinburgh goldsmith, born 
about 1681. "Bred to no business, but possessed of great abilities, 


troller-general of the finance of France by a specious scheme 
for a bank, an East India Company and a Mississippi Com- 
pany, 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 en- 
couragement, and in 1716 he opened the bank; in 17 19 
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 18 17, 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 18 14 she handed 
back those in Senegal, save the Gambia. The French 

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 diaining 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 Due d'Orleans, they 
found favour with Louis XIV. When his crash came he was exiled, 
and died in Venice in 1729. 


vessel sent out to take over the territory was the ill-starred 
and ill-navigated Meduse. 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 repre- 
sented 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 unsatis- 
factory state. Colonel Smaltz, in 18 19, 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 be- 
tween 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 Briie 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 

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 at- 
tention, 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 Euro- 
peans ; 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 un- 
pleasant, 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 quan- 
tities. He does not mind them himself, oh dear no ! being 
a sort of savage, he says, totally indifferent to the impres- 
sion 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 suffi- 
ciency 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 suc- 
cessfully 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 ; ^ 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 in- 
augurated 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 be- 
tween St. Louis and Goree (1862) ; the construction of the 
harbour at Darkar and the erection of a first-class light- 
house 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 
^ Notice de Senegal, Paris, 1859, p. 99. 

T 2 


mismanagement that followed Faidherbe's rule in com- 
mercial 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 proportion- 
ately 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 dif- 
ferences 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 159 1. 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 con- 
fusion, 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/ 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 I'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 

^ For an interesting account of Timbuctoo and its history, see 
Timbuctoo the Mysterious, by M. Felix Dubois. 1897. 


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 pacifica- 
tion 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 in- 
carnate in the parliamentary resolution of 1865 ; that 
the achievements of France in exploration in the West- 


ern 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. Never- 
theless, 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 there- 
fore 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 Commerce. 



Concerning the reasons that deter this writer from entering here on 
a general history of the EngHsh, 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 hogs- 
head 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 with. 

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. Never- 
theless, 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 photo- 
graphs 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 light- 
ing she relied on the private enterprise of her citizens.^ 
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 expens- 
ive (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 

^ Loanda has now a gas company, and the installation is well undei' 
way, under Belgian supervision. 

■Bfcg^',Mw-«->. ^^.MgMBm. ^f"'!*"^^* 


r--- ■ -*.■ - '• ••^ ,j«f^*t-*><&-- '-'W" ^^^ ■" 

* .■'^^>t«a*^~^^ ^'*^'^— .' '•'i'^' ^^' ■ 

^ '- '"i^'- a>»— 

\To /ace />age 285. 

Cliffs at Loanda. 


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 under- 
gone, 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. 

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 Fran^ais and the Congo Beige. 

The interesting point — painfully interesting — is the sup- 
planting of English manufactures, and the way in which 
the English shipping interest^ at present suffers from 
the differential duties favouring the Portuguese line, the 
Empreza Nacional de Navigacao 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 Re- 
dondo, Benguella, Mossamedes and Port Alexander, every 

1 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. 

DoNUO Angola. 

{To face ^nge 28 


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 ^ 
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 i^200,ooo sterling, to-day 
would not realise ^10,000." I may remark in this con- 
nection, 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 loco- 
motives 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 

Angola also has a small railway from Catumbella to Benguella, 
a distance of 1 5 kiloms. and is contemplating constructing an important 
line from either Benguella or Mossamedes up to Caconda. 


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 work- 
ing 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 repre- 
sentative 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 

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 Govern- 
ment 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,^ and gunpowder, are all sad items in Mr. 

^ The imports in 1896 from England being 978,745 kilos, against 
2,644,455 ill 1S91 — 3. difference of 1,665,710 kilos against Manchester. 
— Foreign Office Annual Series, Consular Report, No. 1949. 

To face page 289. 

Trading Stores. 


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 dimi- 
nution of i,665,7iokilos. 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 
1 89 1 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! milreis. Taking the ex- 
change at 3^. 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 ^^56,2 18, 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 

'( "• vV/ 


attract the attention of busy practical men to the ques- 
tion of the proper system to employ in the administra- 
tion 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. 

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 interfer- 
ing 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 inex- 
tricably 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 ; (d), pressure reasons. 
These pressure reasons are divisible into two sub- classes — 
(i) 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. 

U 2 


Such being the case,^ 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 : — (i) the necessity of supplying restless and ambi- 
tious 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 Pros- 
perity, of producing more men to the acre than the 
acre can keep. Being among themselves a kindly, com- 
mon-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. 

1 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. 


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 pro- 
duction, — 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 manu- 
facturing nations, England and Germany, wherein they 
can foster and expand their surplus production of manu- 
factured articles, (i) 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 manu- 
factured 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 

In an Angola Market. 

A Man of South Angola. 

[To face page 297. 


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. 

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 en- 
deavours 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 pros- 
perity of the native races with whom it deals. 

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 re- 
ligious 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 yester- 
day, 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 warrior. 

But, you will say, we will not be tied down to this com- 
mercial 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 com- 
mercial 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 ad- 
ministering tropical Africa, governmentally, to the benefit 
of all concerned. 



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 Hke 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 pos- 
sible for any system of English administration to fail any- 
where, 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 fortifica- 
tions 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, pfif 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 care- 
fully 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 ;£"i,ooo, ;£^20,ooo — 
and all for what? Only for the sake of a system — a 
system intrinsically alien to all English ideals of govern- 
ment — 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 mem- 
bers 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." ^ 

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 

^ See Lucas's Historical Geography of the British ColoJiies, Oidord, 



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 cen- 
turies — 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 dissen- 
sions, 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 power- 
ful 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 1865. 

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 

X 2 


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 ex- 
peditions. 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." ^ 1 should rather think she hadn't ! Let alone the 
fact that France did not expand mainly by military opera- 
tions, 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 dis- 
posed, 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 
^ Parliamentary Paper, C 6701,92. 


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 manu- 
facturing 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, like- 
wise, 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 manufac- 
turing 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 repre- 
sented 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 markets, 

Alas ! in England the necessity for things grows up in a 
dumb way, though providentially it is irresistibly power- 
ful ; 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 exter- 
nal 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 com- 
mercial 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 states- 
men 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." 



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 unsuitedfor 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 re- 
mains 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 


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, incon- 
ceivable 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 

" 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 per- 
sonally 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 Traders. 

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 justi- 
fied 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 inform- 
ation 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 ^ — 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 
^ IVatiderings in West Africa, vol. i., 1863. 



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 IVesf 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 disad- 
vantages 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 i^6oo 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 unhealthi- 
ness 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 dis- 
placed 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 know- 
ledge 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 fight- 
ing 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 

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 de- 
scribed 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 
EngHsh 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 out- 
sider 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 mis- 
sionary, 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 prospec- 
tive 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 govern- 
mental 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 estrange- 
ment 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 recog- 
nise the benefit they now enjoy of having informa- 
tion 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 

Y 2 



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 

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, con- 
fident 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 descrip- 
tion 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 premises. 

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^ 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 

^ Industrial and Social Life of the Empire. Macmillan and Co. 


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 pro- 
vide 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 popu- 
lation 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 induce- 
ment 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 enthusi- 
astic 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 posses- 
sion. 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 an- 
other 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/ 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 adminis- 
tration 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 stand- 
point 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 

1 For Lagos, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia from 1892 to 
1896, ^2,364,266. 


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"^; 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 

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 un- 
healthiness 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, 

^ Forty-eighth annual report Liverpool Chamber of Commerce,. 


I confess it i s 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 govern- 
ment 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 police. 

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 

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, „ „ „ i:368,855 

1885, „ „ „ ^^386,848 

1890. „ „ „ ;^333,390 

1895, ., » „ A35,i75 

These figures show for the twenty-five years an increase 
of less than 10 per cent., or about h 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 ;^48 1,894, ^" 
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 arrange- 
ment 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 lo per cent, cheaper in the French territory than 
in the adjacent English Gold Coast. 

Up to the present time it has paid the native hinter- 
land 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 con- 
tracted 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 Conven- 
tion 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 

But to return to the Sierra Leone finances and the re- 
lationship 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, iJ^i9,59i, 
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 ;^i 16,183, being 
an increase at the rate of 99* i per cent., whereas the 
exports during the same period have increased at the rate 
of 34-8 per cent, or from ;^333,i57 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 ; ^ and if this is to be the normal rate of 

£ 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 4°, 579 


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 remem- 
bered 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 ap- 
proaches 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.^ 

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 Commission."^ 

Regarding mineral, the report states "that the only 

1 " The Liquor Traffic in West Africa," Fortnightly Review, April, 

2 Colonial Reports, Miscellaneous, No. 3, 1893. G. F. Scott Elliott, 
M.A., F.L.S., and C. A. Raisin, B.Sc. 

Z 2 


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 : 

" I. That of the plateaux and hills above 2,000, or some- 
times descending to 1,000 feet, which is due to the dis- 
integration of gneiss and granite rocks. 

" 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 man- 
groves 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 regionsthat are densely popu- 
lated 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 sufificient 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 Fran^ais, 
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, prefer- 
ring hair instead and that of poor quality — need not I think 
be looked forward to from West Africa at all. 

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 intention- 
ally, not vindictively nor wickedly, but just from ignor- 
ance. 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 ex- 
pected 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.^ 

^ 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 f 190,000 t 

* For nine months only. f 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. 

^ * \ ,- * s 

1895. 1896. 1897. 1895. 1896. 1897. 

X^ Aj Aj Aj Aj Xj 

Togoland ... 117,000 94,000 99,000 152,000 83,000 39,000 
Cameroons 283,000 268,000 * 204,000 198,000 * 

Total... 400,000 362,000 * 356,000 281,000 * 

* No figures available for calendar year. Board of Trade Journal , 
September, 1898. 


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 lOO 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 ;^i 17,518 representing the Ivory 
Coast trade for the first quarter of this year, over £y6poo 
was English trade, and of the Dahomey ;^I56,835 for the 
same period, ^131,705. In reading the imports figures for 
these French colonies in Upper Guinea, you must remem- 
ber 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 ist of January, 1891, there 


was a sum of ;^75,i8i 4s. ^d. standing to the credit of the 
colony, which was increased to ;^i 27,796 2s. id. on the ist of 
January, 1892, and to ^152,766 i6s. yd. on the ist 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 popu- 
lation, for he says : " In Sierra Leone and Lagos the 
taxation per head is very much higher (than 2s. ^d. per 
head), in the former nine times, and in the latter seven 
times." 1 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 progress- 
ing rapidly, the trade of it amounting in value to 
£i,66i,iyi igs. gd., of which ^812,830 ^s. lod. represented 
the imports, and ;^850,343 los. iid. the exports. The 
expenditure showed a large increase as compared with 
previous years. It amounted to ;^226,93i I9J-. ^d., being 
£S,6yo I is. yd. in excess of the revenue for the year, and 
£47^997 7^- ii'^- more than in 1893. The principal items 
of increase were public works, upon which the sum of 
;^54,i63 OS. id. was spent, and the expedition in defence 
of the protected district of Attabubu against an Ashanti 
invasion, which cost ;^ 1 0,778 lis. The Gold Coast assets 
on 31st of December, 1894, stood at i^ 166,944 8i-. yd.^ 
Then came the last Ashanti war, regarding which I beg 
to refer you to Dr. Freeman's book.^ No one can deny that 
he has both experience and intelligence enough to justify 

1 Colonial Annual, No. 88, Gold Coast for 1892, published 1893. 

2 Ditto, No. 188. •' Ashanti and Jamaft. Constable, 1898. 


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 
;^237,46o6i-. 7(/., the expenditure ^^282, 277 15.^. 9^. The ex- 
ports ;^792,iii, against ;^877,8o4 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 profit- 
able 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 

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 invest- 
ment. 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 Govern- 
ment 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 abandon- 
ment 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 


This Tarquah railway is estimated to cost i^5,ooo 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,ooo per mile will not represent one- 
third of its final cost from demonstrations by the Uganda,. 
Congo Beige, and Senegal railways ; more particularly are 
we so assured from the knowledge that the railway's con- 
struction 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 instruc- 
tion 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 im- 
proving 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/odof 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 
valueof ;^347,72i. 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 1 897 
showing a decrease on those of 1895 by ^67,474. The 
Board of Trade Journal, quoting from the Lagos Weekly 
Record oi 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 

A A 


^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 ;^I93,745 ; this is due to the great 
falhng off which is perceptible in the palm oil and kernel 
trade, which together show a decrease in 1897 of 
£162,^80 as compared with the quantities exported in 
1895 ; while as compared with the exports in 1896 the 
decrease amounts to £1 14,773. 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 ;^47,8o7, the decrease had risen in 1897 ^^ com- 
pared 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 £6y,ooo. 
This manifest excessive diminution in what must be 
regarded as the staple commodities of the trade is un- 
doubtedly 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 com- 
modities 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 ap- 
pointed 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 govern- 
mentally 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 

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 con- 
stantly increasing death rate, which has caused the ceme- 
teries 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 is. per diem, and the 
rest at the rate of lod. 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 

A A 2 


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 over- 
worked staff," ^ 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." ^ 

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 

^ Lagos Standard, September 7, 1898. 

2 Lagos Weekly Record, September 10, 1898. 


;^62,735 15^. lid. 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 ;^i 5,932, 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 i^ 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 super- 
abundance of assistants and clerks who crowd the depart- 
ment, and the practical expression of whose work is more 
discernible on the public revenue than anything else." ^ 
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 
^ Lagos Weekly Record, August 27, 1 898. 


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 ; — 










Cape Coast 









An awful percentage of clerks is 3 1 1 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 — increas- 
ing 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 extinc- 
tion 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 un- 
touched. 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 dis- 
organises 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 English- 
men 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 represent- 
atives 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 repre- 
sented 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 share- 
holders 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 under- 
stood them, and knew them personally. It is the con- 
tinuous 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 essen- 
tially trading during recent years. This association 
of trade and government is, to my mind, an absolutely 
necessary restraint on the Charter Company form of govern- 
ment ; 1 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 Com- 
pany 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 

^ See Introduction to Folk Lore of the Fjort. R. E. Dennett. David 
Nutt, 1898. 


really an association of African merchants, desire its down- 
fall ; 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 mis- 
represented 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 
aee of Victoria ? 



Wherein this student, realising as usual, when too late, that the environ- 
ment 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 com- 
mercially 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 atten- 
tion. 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 

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 deplor- 
able 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 sud- 
denly 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 know- 
ledge 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 Morn- 
ing 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 butter- 
man's nigger butcher." " Oh ! you're all right here then," I 
said ; " you're out now for Exeter Hall, the plane of civilisa- 
tion, 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 England. 

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,^ 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 
1 Ashantee andjaman, Freeman (Constable and Co., i< 


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 pro- 
claimed 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 inten- 
tion, 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 

B B 


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 incom- 
prehensible 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, hope- 
less, 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 war-healing. 

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 middle- 
men 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 recon- 
struction 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 dis- 
grace 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. 

B B 2 


A- It is the toxin produced by the microbe. It is the conse- 
quence 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 indi- 
viduals, 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 English- 
man 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. 

'I 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." ^ 

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. 
1 Western Africa, Wilson, 1856, p. 116. 


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 approach- 
ing 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 un- 
doubtedly 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 favour- 
ably 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, un- 
touched 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 civiHsation ; 
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 people. 

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. (i) The law of miitterrecht 
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 un- 
cultured African is absurd. 

Then again both he and his mother see the fearful effects 
of white culture on the young women, who cannot be pre- 
vented 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 know- 
ledge ; 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 Perak and 
Selangor, that these native states are now onl)^ 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 Perak 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 some- 
what apt to disregard the effect their actions have upon 
the natives and labour under the common European in- 
ability 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 
s}"mpathise 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." ^ 

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, 
^ East Coast Efthirii^s. H. Clifford, Singapore, 1896. 


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 them- 
selves 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 inten- 
tions ; 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 strength- 
ening from the European hand would by their operation now 
stamp out the evil that exists under the native state. What 
you are doing now, hovvever, 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 do. 

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 satis- 
faction, "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 Muham- 
medan, 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 en- 
vironment, 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 palaeolithic 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 

C C 


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 English- 
man 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 

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 EngHshman or the 
African. The EngHshman 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. 

C C 2 


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 

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 un- 
derstand 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 to. 

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 reason- 
able 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 institu- 
tions. 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 com- 
mitted, 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 Man- 
chester, 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 that. 

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. 



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 satis- 
factorily. 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 misunderstand- 
ings, — things removable, not things of essence, barring 
only fever. 

Also I feel convinced that no one of our English govern- 
mental 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 

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 govern- 
ment 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 inter- 
ested 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 formu- 
lated 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 Liver- 
pool called divers things. 

I shall go to my grave believing that Liverpool had 
reasons for attacking the Company, but neglected funda- 
mental 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 adapta- 
tion 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 ex- 
tended 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 com- 
pelled 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, neverthe- 
less, 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 Liver- 
pool or the Brass men have profited by the R.N.C. as they 
would have done if there had been a better system avail- 
able 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 indi- 
vidual 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 

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 v/ith 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 Com- 
panies 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 advo- 
cate 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 Com- 
pany, 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 ceme- 
tery — 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 ;^I4,000,000, 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 
squaremiles; yetits 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 sover- 
eignty or ' Landes Hoheit,' is conceded, they invariably 
stipulate that their local customs and systems of govern- 
ment 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 under- 
stand. 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 consid- 
erable 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." ^ 

There are a good many points in the above classic 
passage on which I would fain become diffuse, but I 

^ Preface by Sir George Goldie to Vandeleur's Campaigning on the 
Upper Nile and Niger, 1 898. 

D D 


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 un- 
fortunate native catspaw chief, and so all round unsatis- 
factory that no really self-respecting native chief will take 
it on. 

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 repre- 
sentative 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 com- 
mittee 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 

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,ooo a 
year ; he must spend six months on the Coast on a tour 

D D 2 


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 in- 
spectors. 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, ex- 
perienced 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,ooo 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.^ 

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 OberHoheit 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 

^ 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. 


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 be- 
longings, or to assist a chief in a domestic crisis. It is 
impossible to say how large a military staff a sub-com- 
missioner 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 reorganisa- 
tion. 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 bar- 
gain. 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 permit. 

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 ascer- 
tained. This should be the business of the sub-commis- 
sioner'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 

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 

Each municipality should occupy in the system an identi- 
cal 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, ;6^i,ooo 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 organisa- 
tion. This you could easily supply. If, for example, you 
were to direct those energies of yours which are now em- 
ployed 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 

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 Depart- 
ment 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 re- 
cruits 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 em- 
ployed in the transport work required by the Government, 
or let out by the Government to private individuals re- 
quiring 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 piece- 
work 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 repre- 
sentatives 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 in- 
creasing 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 


y 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 im- 
mense 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 govern- 
mental control, both for the sake of providing the Govern- 
ment 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 weaken- 
ing 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 Ogowe. 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 belong- 
ing 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 

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-com- 
missioner, 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 represen- 
tatives 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 
Hne 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 com- 
petition 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 con- 
sequences 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 

E E 


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 com- 
pletely 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. 

E E 2 



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 development. 

The distribution zoneof this true Negro stock cannot yetbe 
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 

{Tc f.uY f'.i^e 42c 

A HousA. 


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. 

In the fringe regions of the West Soudan you have an 
adulterated form of him — adulterated in idea with Moham- 
medanism, 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 inter- 

The Negro languages are poor, and, moreover, they differ 
among themselves so gravely that one tribe cannot under- 
stand 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 oppor- 
tunities 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 hap- 
pened 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 lan- 
guages 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 cul- 
tures 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 differ- 
ent from each other, which I need not detain you with 
now. All these points in Bantu domestic culture the true 

House Property in Kacongo. 

BuBiEs OF Fernando Po. 

\To face page 423. 


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. 

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 
Cao 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 

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 dif- 
ferent 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 i6th 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 develop- 
ment 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 Lazv, 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 collec- 
tion 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 pro- 
tection 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.^ 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 

^ See " Lecture on African Religion and Law," published by leave 
of the Hibbert Trustees in the National Review. September, 1897. 


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 work- 
ing 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 arriere 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 chief 

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 

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 creditors. 

Now, according to African law, if you take a man's life, 
or, for the matter of that, his body, dead or alive, in settle- 
ment of a debt, your claim is satisfied. You have got legal 
tender for it. I remember coming across an amusing de- 
monstration 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 bank- 
ruptcy. 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 pay- 
ment ; enraged at this, and determined to show the Came- 
roon 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 remon- 
strating 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 climb- 
ing 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 be- 
yond 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, 33I 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 differ- 
ent 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 utter- 
most farthing out of the person who has killed their kins- 
man. 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 

F F 


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 

p ut 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 


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 ac- 
count 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 

F F 2 


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 be- 
come 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 dis- 
posal of effects. The common practice of gifts there sup- 
plies 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 great- 
ness 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 

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 con- 
sider 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 

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. 


]a 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 

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 re- 
ceptacle, 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. 

Theirdevotions 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 natives. 

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 Avith a bottle or two of beer or gin, care- 
fully 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 them- 
selves 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 " ^ is now to be got through, and the 
" dashing " ^ 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 him- 
self could think of allowing such a state of things to con- 
tinue 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 

^ " 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. 

■2 "Dashing"— native word for making presents. This word is a 
corruption of a Portuguese word. 


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 intima- 
tion 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 



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 separ- 
ately ; 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 pro- 
ducers 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 inter- 
course with Europeans, now some four hundred years, been 
renowned for their barbaric customs. 

The earlier travellers who visited Benin City do not men- 
tion 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. 

G G 


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 

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 

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 Benin. 

G G 2 


Now commences trouble for the non-successful claim- 
ants ; 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 funeral. 

Whilst on the subject of funerals I think I had better 
tell you something about the funeral customs of the 

When a king dies, it is said, his domestics solicit the 
honour of being buried with him, but this is only accorded toa 
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 accompani- 
ment 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 em- 
ployment 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, accom- 
panying 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 man- 
aged 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 in- 
formed both mother and children were sacrificed to a 
demon, who resided in a wood in the neighbourhood of this 

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 descend- 
ants of the Yoruba tribes, the Yoruba tribes being de- 
scended from six brothers, all the sons of one mother. 
Their names were Ikelu, Egba, Ijebu, If^ 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 in- 
variably 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 houses. 


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 posi- 
tion 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 ethnolo- 
gists 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 

The principal towns of the Jakri men were : — Brohemie ^ 
(destroyed by the English in 1894): this town was gene- 
rally 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 follow- 
ing towns : — Bateri, or Chief Numa's town, lying about 
half an hour's pull in a boat from Deli Creek. 
Chief Numa, was the son of the late Chief Chinome, a 
rival in his day to Allumah, the father of Nana, the late 
Governor ; Chinome 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 

1 Brohemie, founded by the late chief AUuma between fifty and 
sixty years ago. Chinome, a powerful chief, fought with Allumah in 
1864-5 foi* 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. 


Forcados for their principal trading station ; but the old 
Chief AUumah 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 Chinome, has a small town in the 
Deli Creek. This man, though the eldest son of the late 
Chief Chinome, is not a chief, though his younger brother 
Numa is. Here is a knotty point in Jakri law of inherit- 
ance, 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 repu- 
tation 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 as- 
certain, 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 primo- 
geniture — 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 back- 
ground 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-pro- 
ducing 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 

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 

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 ex- 
perience 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 in- 
formed 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 pro- 
cured, 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 canoe. 

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 fore- 
most 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 con- 
fident 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 morn- 
ing, 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 journey. 

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 P.oyal Niger 
Company's territory and the other portion of the Niger 
Coast Protectorate otherwise than stating that it com- 
mences on the seashore at the eastern point of the 

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 

H H 


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 con- 
>,inued their evil practices ; then came the frightful Benin 
massacre of Protectorate officials and European traders, 
besides a number of Jakris and Kruboys in the employ- 
ment 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 expedi- 
tions 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 

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 Cologne, 
I was once under fire for twelve hours against European 

H H 2 


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 boundary. 

The inhabitants of Brass call their country Nimbe and 
themselves Nimbe 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 Nimbe 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 enjoyed. 

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 cheese. 

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 EngHsh 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 arrange- 
ments 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 Brass- 
men 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 dehvery 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 satis- 
faction 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 con- 
taining 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 yvho 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 con- 
trary, 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 mis- 
use, 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 Niger. 

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 com- 
posed of a king and a number of chiefs. Each chief has a 
number of petty chiefs under him. Perhaps a better defini- 
tion for the latter would be, a number of men who own a 
few slaves and a few canoes of their own, and do an inde- 
pendent 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 neigh- 
bouring 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 dis- 
pose 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 establish- 
ment 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 
chiefs bile ; in the latter case, if the chief was a very power- 
ful 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 inherit- 
ance, 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 " top- 
side " 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 malver- 
sation 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 chiefs 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 wrong- 
fully 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 few. 

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 alone. 

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 

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 mak- 
ing 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 anec- 
dote 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 stagger- 
ing 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 Nimbe ; 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 pro- 
mised 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 con- 
cerned, 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 

I I 


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 chiefs 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 


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 dictii, 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 

I I 2 


it would be a pity to iiand down to posterity the fact that 
England was ever represented by such an idiot. 

Besides the python the Brass men had several other se- 
condary 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 aniversaries 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 con- 
sisted 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 harm. 

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 assist- 
ing 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 in- 
definite 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 rem- 
nant 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 passee 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 current- 
less water allowed them to use their preparation^ for stupe- 
fying 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 be- 
spattered 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 decomposed. 

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 

^ 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. 


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 Obu- 
lambri 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 fish- 
ing 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. 1 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 correct.^ 

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 

1 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. 


to how he intends the ordeal shall demonstrate, then, draw- 
ing 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 break- 
ing 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 gene- 
rally 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 boister- 
ous rainy season, the price may be two shillings and six- 
pence, 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 be- 
cause 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, con- 
nected 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,^ 
branches off from the main river. 

^ 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 


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 

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 gun- 
boats 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 in- 
side 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. 


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 Bar- 
boys 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 dis- 

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 to- 
gether,and they discuss the means that are to be used to com- 
pass the doomed one's fall. If he be a man of mettle, with 
many sub-chiefs and aspiring trade boys, the system re- 
sorted 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 send- 
ing 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 fo 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 con- 
venient 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 con- 
siderable 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 agree- 
ment 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 i88i, 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 

K K 


dress, nor have they retained the elaborate form of secret 
society or native freemasonry peculiar to the Efik ^ 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 

1 Efik race — the inhabitants of Old Calabar, said to have come 
from the Ibibio country, a district lying between Kwo coimtry and the 
Cross River. 


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 super- 
natural 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. 

K K 2 


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 Osukii 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 

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 con- 
sidering 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 wonder- 
ful, 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 eventu- 
ally led to his being deposed and exiled from his country 
for some years. 

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 ^ 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 

' Jamming, a trade term, meaning making an agreement to buy or 
sell anything at an agreed price. 


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 in- 
herited in a marked degree all the good qualities of his 
father ; so, travellers to West Africa, if you want a com- 
fortable 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 countenance. 

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 satis- 
faction 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 /eceptacle, having 
the appearance of a large soup plate, fashioned in the clay 
of the ground immediately in front of the altar arrange- 
ment. 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 re- 
sembling 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 them. 


The present king of New Calabar ^ 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 objec- 
tionable 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 appear- 
ance, a very shrewd trader, clear and concise in his speech, 
honourable in all his dealings, of a very reserved tempera- 

' 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. 


ment ; 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 Cala- 
bar 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 im- 
mensely 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 uncon- 
sciously 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 Fouche 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 Calabar. 

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 con- 
sisted 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 prisoners. 

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 abo- 
lition 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 

It is a well-known fact that for about two hundred 
years ths average annual output of slaves through the 
Bonny River was about 16,000 (this included the ship- 
ments from New Calabar), totalling up to the immense 
number of 3,200,00 souls taken out of this part of Africa 
during two centuries. 

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 teh 
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 

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. 


Whatev^er 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 say- 
ing 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 
eveiy 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 demand- 
ing an annual human sacrifice. If at this time they 
happened to be at peace with their neighbours, and con- 
sequently without any prisoner to be sacrificed, the Ju-ju 
men would disguise themselves in some fantastic dress 

L L 


(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 some- 
thing 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 sup- 
plied 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 wine. 

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. 

L L 2 


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 tribes. 

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 door- 
ways 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 care- 
fully 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, 
1 86 1, there was a dearth of current coin in the royal 

The following is King Pepple's address in verse, which, 


he asserted, he spoke when seeking funds to estabHsh a 
mission in his country. He only asked for a modest i^20,000. 
I never heard what he got, but one thing I do know, what- 
ever 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 1 80 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 difificulty made 
to find £\o 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 
1 86 1, 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 : — 

yj r TT Native Name of Chief in Name of Chief in 

Name of House. „ • • ,0,, d • • o^ 

■' Fossession in I055. Possession tn 1809. 

Annie Pepple . . Elolly Pepple. . . . Ja Ja. 

Captain Hart . . Apho Dappa . , . Still alive. 

A ,, A,,- Generally called 

Adda Allison . . 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 un- 
interrupted 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 
£2S 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, 
= I 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 1 869 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 

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 respon- 
sibility, 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-chiefs 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 J a J a 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 chiefs 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 paid. 

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 tthe^ 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 

M M 


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 J a 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 humilia- 
tion 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 tb 
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 

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 

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 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 

M M 2 


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 

Conde 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 


Being shortly after joined by these two white 

traders trade was opened in the Ekomtoro, and on 

Christmas Day, 1870, Ekomtoro was named the Opobo 

River, after Op6b5, the founder of the town of " Grand 

Bonny," as Bonny men delight to call their mud and 

thatch capital. 

The name of Opobd 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 recognised. 

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 advance- 
ment 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 un- 
bearable 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 ; extrac- 
tion 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 croco- 
diles 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 


One often hears people who know a httle about West 
Africa talk about native law, but they forget to mention, 
if they happen to know it, that in a powerful chiefs 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 (?) some- 
times 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 scent- 
ing something terrible was going to befall him, he at- 
tempted 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 with- 
out 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 Protec- 
torate 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 know- 

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, further- 
more 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 house. 

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 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 communi- 
cation 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 neigh- 
bours, 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 
Conde 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 descend- 
ants 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 

Ja Ja making Ju Ju. 

{To fucc page 540 


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 J a J a 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 metaphori- 
cally 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 Hip- 
popotamus 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 

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 com- 
menced. 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 y 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 diffi- 
culties 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 culmi- 
nated 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 ;^8oo 
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 

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 drunken- 
ness — 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 

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 treat- 
ment 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 

N N 


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,