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LITTELL'S LIVING AGE.—No. 229.—7 OCTOBER, 1848.
From the Spectator. much more deadly than the upper parts of the CAPTAIN ALLEN AND DR. THOMPSON ON THE river ; and indeed, fever among the natives seems NIGER EXPEDITION. *
more rife in the higher regions than the lower ;
while the diplomacy, by delaying the ascent, kept For purposes of adventitious popularity, the the vessels nearer the sea, and possibly saved them Narrative of the Erpedition to the Niger in 1841-2 from being entangled in the interior among the difshould have appeared some years ago, before the ficulties of navigation which, after the close of the public at large had recovered from the shock which rainy season, would have arisen from the decreasihe disastrous failure of such a vaunted scheme ing waters. However, there is no doubt but that with its terrible loss of life had produced. “Bet- the formal and elaborate negotiations, with the ter late than never” will, however, properly apply moral and political exposés, tedious as these latter to the work. The publications of Doctors M'Wil- seem to have been to the victims of them, bring liam and Pritchetit were chiefly limited to the the courtly life and great men of Niger's banks facts of the fever, which defeated the expedition, more distinctly before us than would have been the or to hypotheses connected with its origin and case in a common expedition. The authority of treatment; but, however important those accounts the diplomatists, rendered evident by the force and discussions might be, they wanted the general at their disposal, (credentials seem to have been interest of descriptions of African scenery, sketches dispensed with,) also gave facilities for observation of African peoples and their rulers, with the in- and exploration, which private individuals without cidents attendant upon an expedition into a region the same physical power would not possess. so little known and so long a wonder to the world Hence, though Lander and Laird had already as the mysterious river. This voyage, too, was passed along the line of the river, and indeed furnot like that of a geographical explorer or a mere ther than the government expedition with all its colonial or mercantile adventurer: the four com- appliances, there is a good deal of freshness and missioners had a sort of “roving commission” for novelty of view in the subject-matter, from the all and sundry. They were to lecture the naked different circumstances under which her majesty's and half naked chiefs and headmen on ethics, phi- commissioners appeared. lanthropy, politics, and political economy, more es- In these volumes there is much more than the pecially free labor, and finance. They were to Niger. The authors give a sketch of the voyage negotiate treaties for the abolition of the internal out; and, though Madeira and similar islands slave-trade with the different chieftains they met ; might have been dispensed with, the notices of and if they could get up a sort of Holy Alliance Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the condition and charon the banks of the Niger for this purpose, so acter of the Negro races along the coast, are inmuch the better. They were to introduce the forming. Not the least interesting part of the subject of human sacrifices and discourse there- book is the narrative after the failure of the expeupon ; they were to buy land, with permission to dition. Thoroughly broken down in health by the build a fort or forts, paying what is called “ ear-distressful scenes around him, the anxieties of his nest-money' down, but leaving the completion of position, and the severity of the fever which at the purchase to the option of her majesty: and last attacked him, Captain Trotter, the commander "31. If the sovereignty over any country or place of the expedition, returned home from Fernando should be offered to Great Britain through you, Po, leaving Captain Allen in his place to wait for you will engage to submit the proposal to your orders from England. To keep the men employed sovereign.” That the delay occasioned by the and change their air, the interval was occupied in diplomatic “palavers" consequent on these in- cruising round Fernando Po, the adjacent islands, structions contributed to the fatal catastrophe, can- and the Cameroon coast, as well as some other not be affirmed. Although the Delta of the Niger districts. In the course of these various trips, is said to be the place where the seeds of the dis- Captain Allen ascended the Cameroon river for ease are sown, there is no proof of its being some little distance, and made excursions through
* A Narrative of the Expedition sent by her Majesty's several of the islands ; and he gives many striking Government to the River Niger, in 1841, under the com- sketches of their physical features, as well as of mand of Captain H. D. Trotter, R. N., By Captain the customs, condition, and character of the colWilliam Allen, R. N., &c.; and T. H. Thompson ored people, both individual and national. M. D., Surgeon, R. N., one of the medical officers of the expedition, &c. Published with the sanction of the Colo- The narrative is animated, and agreeably writnial Office and the Admiralty. In two volumes.
The authors have observed the social conSpectator for 1843 ; page 568. Page 689. : Lord John Russell's Instructions to the Commission- dition of the Negro race, and the forms of govers, paragraph 14.
ernment that obtain among them ; they have more s Ditto, paragraphs 12, 13, and indeed frequently literature than commonly belongs to travellers in throughout.
uncivilized countries, with enough of skill to pre- I had been given by Captain Allen to go no further sent the characteristics of scenes and persons with than “ palaver.” out obtruding the efforts of the writer.
The “model farm" was a more egregious faildepicts in a lifelike manner the richness of tropi- ure. At the time of the occurrences, a paragraph cal vegetation, the broad expanse of the flowing from the coast of Africa went the round of the Niger glittering in sunshine and animated by papers, representing that no sooner was white African traffic, the grotesque pretensions and bur- superintendence removed by fever and accident, lesque pomp of black and barbaric royalty, com- than the colored philanthropists, who were to set bined with some common sense, a good deal of an example to Africa in morals and freedom, fell cunning, and no small amount (we fear) of roguery. into the “domestic institution,” and possessed The darker scenes of the gloomy-looking channels themselves of the driver's badge of authority, the of the Delta, with their slimy mangroves and mi- whip. There was a tone about the narrative that asına-breeding swamps—the distressing scenes of suggested the idea of some exaggeration ; but it sickness, death, and failing hope-with, last of seems to have been too well founded. Here is all, the burials and the burial-ground at Fernando the softened official narrative. Po-are equally successful. Although Captain Allen accompanied Laird's
On strict inquiry into the conduct of the settlers
generaily, it was ascertained that, except Thomas expedition by desire of the Admiralty, in order to King, who had been left in command of the Amelia survey the river, and consequently knew by expe- schooner, they had been guilty of continued insuborrience the deadly nature of the climate, he yet dination, and gross indulgence in the worst vices of seems to have been an enthusiast in the cause of the natives. They were lazy and indolent, not one the African Civilization Society. But his own of them willing or disposed to manual labor, yet ready narrative, notwithstanding his obvious leanings, enough to exercise authority over the negroes they shows that a wilder or more ill-founded scheme trifling occasion rather than exert ihemselves. As
had hired, and whom they employed on the most never was conceived, putting climate out of the a proof of their love of power and proneness to question. Had a philanthropic power analogous abuse it, it may be mentioned that a number of the to Great Britain existed in the days of the Hep- surrounding natives had been hired to assist the tarchy, she might as well have supposed that Saxon people at the farm, in transporting the stores from England might have been metamorphosed into mod- the hill to the vessels ; and two of the settlers were ern England by treaties against serfdom and in found to have furnished themselves with whips, apfavor of commerce, with a 6 mnodel farm” and
parently for the purpose of urging those under them
to greater exertion. These instruments were imfactory. The distance which the slave kaflas mediately laid aside by Lieutenant Webb's injunctravel was well known. If the three principal tion ; and although he had not seen them actually chiefs of the Niger had signed the treaties in good applied in punishing the natives, yet he had every faith, they might have stopped the traffic on the reason to believe that they were in the habit of carmain stream ; but, intersected as is the whole of rying these instruments, which even if never used the western coast of Africa from the Senegal to alienate their good feelings, to the great injury of
could not fail to inspire the natives with terror, and the Congo and even still more south ward by riv- the British character, inasmuch as they were reers or branches, the sole effect would have been putedly under the English flag. Of the whole to turn a river trade into a land trade, and divert number (thirty-two) who had been left there in the present business from the Niger to its branches charge of the model farm and the Amelia tender, or to other countries—that is, if much foreign nine were willing to remain, but only on condition slave-trade exists upon the Niger, which does not of receiving increased wages and having an Euseem to be the case.
ropean superintendent to protect them. All these The potentates, however, were not in earnest : to act on the discretionary power vested in him,
circumstances combined, obliged Lieutenant Webb they signed under a species of duress at the sight and to abandon the settlemeni. of the fire-ships, and of temptation at the prospect of the presents. The whole thing was a piece
But even had the plan had a direct successof humbug, apparently seen through by the com- that is, had the chiefs exerted themselves to put missioners ; if not, they soon had proof of it. down the slave-trade, had the “ model farm” really Within a month from the agreement with the king been an example, and the climate admitted of an of Iddah, something like a slave-trade was found English commerce up the river- African habits going on : the slaves were seized and carried to and character, if not human nature itself, seem to Fernando Po. Further search was stopped by interpose an obstacle to civilization and industry
What African free labor is, we see the progress of the fever, and the necessity of es- per saltum. cape from the region. On the ascent of one of in the West Indies ; what it is at home may be the steamers the following year to bring away the seen in the neighborhood of the Cameroons. This settiers at the “ model farm,” the trade seemed to is comparatively a healthy spot : Mr. Jamieson of be going on as usual ; but nothing beyond remon- Liverpool had an establishment there ; and a constrance was then attempted. Time was too pre-siderable trade had grown up, to fall back again. cious ; the experience of 1641 had shown the dangers to which the vessels were exposed from eroons towns rose rapidly into importance by the
On the suppression of the slave-trade, the Caman attack of the natives should the white crew export of palm-oil; and for some years there was be prostrated by sickness ; and very proper orders a flourishing trade, which might be increased to any amount if the energies of the people were career at which, unless some more energetic measequal to the resources of ihe country and the favor-ures be adopted to carry forward the original design, able position of the place. It had, however, re- its usefulness must cease and its retrogression will cently been on the decline, owing to the listlessness be rapid. Already it wears the aspect of premaand rapacity of the people and chiefs, who are as ture decrepitude. An abundant population neglects insolent as they are exacting. This is probably its resources; and in addition to the natural increthe result of, to them, a useless prosperity, since ment, it receives large numbers every year, in they appear to be gorged with wealth, of which recaptured slaves ; yet its wealth and means of adthey neither feel the want nor comprehend the use. vancement do not keep pace with even a natural The naturally dilatory transactions of the native increase in population. traders are prolonged with a fraudulent intention. Thus the practice appears to be, on the arrival of a In fact, these various projects for civilizing the ship, to trust the goods in advance to purchase a Africans in Africa, have ended in nothing but cargo, originally with the view of forestalling other death to those who were ordered to attempt them; ships; but as this becomes general, there is occa- and the last vaunted scheme, which implicated the sionally a regular scramble for the palm-oil as it is brought down the river in canoes. The delay is prince consort in its hobbies, combined rival parties most injurious, and sometimes the captain falls a in a common movement, and really controlled the sacrifice to the climate or to disappointment; when resources and opinion of the government, not only his death is considered by the natives to absolve did nothing, but did a public mischief. Though ther from all obligations. The mate not being no direct pledges were made, the very presence able to procure his cargo, takes away an empty ship of the commissioners, and, above all, the treaties, This gives rise to arbitrary and summary proceedings on the part of the whites, and continual dis- spoke of forts, settlements, British residents, and
an extensive trade. When not one iota of all putes—"bad bobs.” Some of these Captain Allen had to settle ; but in one case his decision was these understood promises were fulfilled, or had reversed by a fight on shore, in which there was even an appearance of fulfilment, what must the gain to both parties of numerous broken heads. residents on the Niger think of the British govAgain turn to Sierra Leone, where for a quar
ernment, but as animated by some ulterior objects ter of a century the philanthropists dictated, and mysteriously baffled, or as triflers without purpose where they are still powerful. What is the result and without faith. of all their schemes, and of the lives and money
But let us pass from the main to the miscellathat have been sacrificed to carry them out? Let neous matter of the book. The following descrip
tion of the mouth of the Niger has an interest from Captain Allen, in principle though not in ignorance
the associations with the name. one of themselves, answer. It must appear a matter of surprise that this
Nothing can be more deceiving than the outlets thickly-peopled colony should not produce anything of the mighty Niger. While broad and imposing fit for exportation. The trade in African oak and branches are seen in various directions, the only camwood seems to be a wanton neglect of the rich navigable channel hitherto discovered is so narrow capabilities with which this region is endowed by that our vessels could not turn in it. Yet the emnaiure. This surely is a subject for deep consid- bouchure which we had entered would appear to eration. The Africans collected here in such mul- justify the most extravagant anticipations that could titudes ought to furnish abundant and cheap labor; be formed of the river. This is, however, a mere and yet there is no cultivation on a grand scale, reservoir, of which nature has provided no less such as to create a staple in the colony. Much than twenty along a coast of more than one hundred diligence is excited in converting and educating, to and fifty miles in extent—the delta, in fact, formed a certain extent, the liberated Africans, but without by the deposit brought down by the floods. The any beneficial influence on the mass, nor on the small rise and fall of the sea in this part-hardly neighboring tribes. This is not very satisfactory ; six feet-appears to require such reservoirs to coland it proves that the original and main object con- lect the prodigious volume of water which is detemplated on the formation of the colony, namely, posited on so large a surface of Africa, and of which to form a nucleus of civilization, and to rear a body ihe river is the drainage, in order to discharge it at of free laborers, whence they might be diffused to several points into the universal receptacle. the surrounding nations, has not been advanced. The water of the river is of a loamy color, and is
The liberated Africans, on their arrival, are ap- sweet to the taste. Mr. Roscher tested it chemiprenticed to a planter till their twentieth year ;cally with the nitrate of silver, and other reagents, after that a piece of land is apportioned to them, in order to detect sulphureted hydrogen, and did which procures a maintenance, scanty it is true, not find it to be in the least discolored by them. but sufficient for their absolute wants; and thus After having been exposed two days to the atmosthey fall back into a state of animal existence, little phere, it was quite clear, but then began to smell if anything better than their original barbarism. of sulphureted hydrogen, which he discovered by
No Englishman can visit the settlement without the above-mentioned agency. After having been a feeling of honest pride that his country should kept a greater length of time, the odor ceased, the have been the first to attempt to atone for the deep taste was good, and there was no indication of this miseries inflicted on Africa by the inhuman traffic gas. in her children. But while he also reflects how In the swampy parts of the right bank, the manmuch reparation he owes her for his more extensive grove rhyzophora abounds, with its peculiar fruccomplicity, he will not fail to confess that in this tification. There are two species of this tree; one attempt the result falls infinitely short even of the growing very low, and having a white wood ; the instalment proposed to be given.
other is a rather high tree, with a fine red wood, Sierra Leone has in fact reached that point in its, which burns well as fuel. The bark is very astrin
gent. The numerous arching roots of this tree are power to make an agreement with the commisfavorable for the deposition of sand and mud. sioners in the name of all your subjects?"
In the woods on this bank, which were visited Obi-"I am the king ; what I say is law. Are for the purpose of procuring specimens, the water there two kings in England ?—There is only one was upwards of two feet deep in most parts, and here." the air close and confined. The greater portion of The commissioners requested Mr. Schön, the the underwood was rhyzophora or mangrove. The respected missionary, to state to King Obi, in a stillness of this solitary region was occasionally concise manner, the difference between the Chrisbroken by the halcyon Senegalensis, or grey-headed tian religion and heathenism, together with some king-hunter; which, its rich blue and cinereous description of the settlement at Sierra Leone. grey plumage, fitted from tree to tree, almost the Mr. Schön-" There is but one God." sole occupant of the place.
Obi—" I always understood there were two." The discussions between the two principal por leading truths of the Christian faith, and then asked
Mr. Schön recapitulated the decalogue and the tentates with whom treaties were entered into are Obi if this was not a good religion ; to which he reported pretty fully, in the form of question and replied, with a snap of the fingers, “. Yes, very
We give some extracts from that between good, (makka.)" the commissioners and King Obi, the chief on the
We need not quote the treaty with its seventeen lower part of the river.
articles, but the conclusion is quite dramatic. Commissioners_“Does Obi sell slaves for his
The important treaty having been at length sufown dominions?"
ficiently explained, was signed by the commissionObi—"No; they come from countries far ers on the part of her majesty, properly witnessed;
and hy Obi, witnessed by his eldest son and two Commissioners—“Does Obi make war to procure brothers. Captain Trotter then requested the Rev. slaves?”
Theodore Müller, chaplain to the commissioners, to Obi—“When other chiefs quarrel with me and ask a blessing of Almighty God on this successful make war, I take all I can as slaves."
commencement of our labors. The nature of the Commissioners—“What articles of trade are best ceremony we were about to perform having been suited to your people, or what would you like to be explained to Obi, with an intiination that he might brought to your country?”
remain or retire, he signified his wish to join us, Obi—" Čowries, cloih, muskets, powder, hand- and imitated our example in kneeling to the Chriskerchiefs, coral beads, hats--anything from the tian's God—to him an unknown and inappreciable white man's country will please.'
being. 05—"I will agree to discontinue the slave-trade,
In that solemn moment, when the stillness was but I expect the English to bring goods for traffic.” unbroken save by the reverential voice of the cler
Commissioners—". The queen's subjects cannot gyman, and all were devoutly engaged, Obi become here to trade unless they are certain of a
came violently agitated. On the conclusion of the proper supply of your produce. Obi—"I have plenty of palm-oil.”.
ceremony, he started up, and uttering a sudden,
fearful exclamation, called aloud for his Ju-ju man Commissioners—"Mr. Schön, a missionary, will to bring his protecting “ Arrisi," or idol; being evi, explain to you in the Ibu language what the queen dently under the impression that we had performed wishes; and if you do not understand, it shall be some incantation to his prejudice, the adverse tenrepeated."
dencies of which it would be necessary to counterMr. Schön began to read the address drawn up act by a sacrifice on his part. He stood trembling for the purpose of showing the different tribes what with fear and agitation ; the perspiration streamed the views of the expedition were ; but Obi soon down his face and neck, showing how great was the appeared to be tired of a palaver which lasted so agony of mind he endured. The priest had heard much longer than those to which he was accus- the cry of his sovereign, and, rushing into the cabin tomed. He manifested some impatience, and at with the idol—a piece of blackened wood enveloped last said —“I have made you a promise to drop this in cloth-which the king placed between his feet, slave-trade, and do not wish to hear anything more was about to offer the customary libation of palmabout it."
wine, &c., when Captain Trotter, also much disObi—“I believe everything you have said, and concerted at the idea of a heathen ceremony being I once more consent to give up the slave-trade.”
performed in our presence and in opposition to the Some of the presents were now brought in ; rites of our holy religion, interrupted him, and called which Obi looked at with evident pleasure. His for Captain Bird Allen, who had just left the cabin. anxiety to examine them completed his inattention It was an interval of breathless anxiety; the king to the remainder of the palaver.
became every moment more alarmed, and desirous Cominissioners—" These are not all the presents to continue his sacrifice, till it was explained to him that will be given to you. We wish to know if you that we had asked the great God, who was Father are willing to stop boats carrying slaves through the of us all, to bestow his blessing alike on the black waters of your dominions."
people and on us. This immediately pacified him ; Obi—“Yes, very willing; except those I do not he desisted from the operations, and his good-humor
as quickly returned. The remainder of the visit Commissioners—“ Also, to prevent slaves being was spent very much to his gratification, in pouring carried over your land ?”
down his own throat the palm-wine, intended for Obi—“Certainly; but the English must furnish Ju-ju, as well as that of good Spanish growth, me and my people with arms, as my doing so will which was placed before him, and afterwards in nvolve me in war with my neighbors.”
visiting every part of the vessel. Obi then retired for a short time, to consult with The fever is not treated at length; a reference s head men.
being made to the works of Doctors Pritchett and Commissioners—(on his return.) “Have you M’William. What there is, partakes of a general