William Allen's Narrative of the 1841 Niger expedition
William Allen's Narrative of the 1841 Niger expedition

Royal Navy1841 Niger expeditionBookChapter XII ◄► Appendix




On returning to the shores of our country, after an undertaking replete with danger and suffering, we found an almost universal impression that we had failed in executing the purposes for which we were sent. This we venture to submit to a considerate public, is not only severe, but unjust, in so far as it would appear to implicate those who had the conduct of the Expedition; and it is hoped that the preceding narrative of our progress will show that we succeeded in performing the duties assigned to us, until paralyzed and beaten back by an enemy against which neither skill, courage, nor forethought could avail. We might indeed be considered as having been in battle with a superior force, whose destructive and unceasing fire proved fatal to a large proportion of our crews; very few escaping injuries of such a nature, as to leave permanent traces of their debilitating effects. We in fact only retreated with strength enough to carry away our wounded; the Commander of the Expedition being the last who abandoned the field {See Appendix; statement of the crews, and Vital Statistics of the Expedition at its close}.

If this should not be considered sufficient to account for failure, other - secondary - causes may be traced to the anxious desire of the promoters of the Expedition that it should be wanting in nothing which might be conducive to the safety of the crews, or the furtherance of the great object in view. These solicitudes undoubtedly occasioned a fatal delay; especially on account of the model farm, which, though on too small a scale to justify the sanguine expectations of its benevolent founders, was much too cumbersome to be imposed on an Expedition having a mission to fulfil of more immediate importance.

We trust to be exonerated from any intention of imputing blame, especially when we know that all was done from the most praiseworthy motives; but being a fait accompli, we deem it to be our duty to point out this mistake, as it is probable that, had the detention been only to land a few agriculturists with some simple tools at the Confluence, to make a commencement, the Expedition, with the same, or perhaps with a little less, amount of mortality and suffering, might have reached Rabbah on the Niger, and some important place far up on the Chadda. But with such a primary element of failure, who can say what ought to have been accomplished with a diminution of slight secondary causes? It is useless to waste our time on hypothetical cases: - but the question, -What has been the probable effect of our abortive attempt? may be advantageously considered.

In our short intercourse with the most powerful chiefs of the interior whom we visited, bright hopes of wealth and future prosperity were held out, if they would follow our counsels. In particular, we assured them, that by employing their slaves at home, in the cultivation of the land instead of selling them, they would be enriched by the produce and consequent trade with white men. In furtherance of this, by timely gifts, we induced them to enter into treaties with us for the relinquishment of the slave trade, which they had hitherto looked on as a legitimate source of revenue. We even enforced those treaties, and inflicted the penalties of infraction in the case of Ajimba {Vol. ii. p. 85}; - but we left them to doubt our truth or our power. Surely we owe it in justice towards our oppressed and abandoned allies, and to the dignity of the British nation, to redeem the promises solemnly made when publicly invoking God's blessing on the treaties.

They strongly adverted to the performance of our stipulations, implying, as it were, that their adherence should be contingent on ours. King Obi said, "If you want me to put down the slave trade, you must send plenty of ships," - for the commerce which we assured him would be more advantageous. By failing to do this we have undoubtedly broken the treaty and have justified his return to the Slave Trade.

The deadly nature of the climate would seem to be a sufficient excuse, to the natives as well as to ourselves, for not continuing the enterprise with Europeans, although it may be questioned whether the "experiment of penetrating by the Niger to the interior of Africa has yet been fairly tried," {Captain Allen's Report to Lord Stanley} owing principally to the lateness of the season when the expeditions have commenced the ascent of the river, - by which they had to encounter both the unhealthiest season and the most difficult time for navigating.

The intelligent native chiefs and headmen with whom we conferred, who had unbounded confidence in our power, - not lessened in any respect by the magnificence of our promises, - although they were eyewitnesses of our sufferings in the unfortunate attempt, might fairly ask if the white man had exhausted all his resources; - if, one method having failed, no other could be devised by his superior wisdom?

It remains, therefore, either to make the tacit but humiliating acknowledgment that the white man has no further resources, after all his brilliant promises, - leaving the worse than useless effects of the Niger Expedition to lessen us in the estimation of the African, - or that other means should be devised for following up the benevolent intentions of Her Majesty's Government.

Before we venture to allude to those means, we think it necessary to advert to the great and perplexing question of the suppression of the Slave Trade. This we do with much diffidence, as, - although in furtherance of that great object, - we were not actually employed against slavers; so that we can only give impressions of its baneful operations in the interior, and from consideration of the broad principle of the case. Some of our readers may think this beyond our province, and others that it is superfluous, inasmuch as any person may draw his conclusions from the latter source as we have. It may, however, be of some advantage to the public to have the facts stated in a simple form, and, at all events, it will be important as preparatory to the suggestions we propose to make.

{In the year 1787, the number of slaves exported from Africa to the Western World, was 100,000. In the year 1839, it was about the same, or even very much more, as Sir F. Buxton estimated it at 150,000. It fell off to 32,600 between 1840 and 1845; but in 1846 it had reached 64,000, thus proving that the difference is a fluctation irrespective of the vigilance of the preventive force. In fact, the great falling off was the consequence of the market having been glutted in anticipation of the increased exertions meditated for the suppression; while the renewed activity of 1846 was caused by the alteration of circumstances which caused a greater demand. Further, the yearly average from 1807 to 1846, has been 77,000 and when the immense difference in the extent of the countries requiring the importation of slaves at these two periods is considered, we cannot but come to the conclusion that the trade is very much greater at the present time; and therefore that the abandonment by England of her paramount share has not diminished the traffic; for the Brazils, which at that time imported 25,000, now requires the greater proportion of that whole number.

The average tonnage of vessels employed in the trade is about 170 to 200 tons; and they are mostly inferior built American vessels; three months is the time computed for the passage to the West African coast and the return to Brazils. But by Lord Howden's letter to Viscount Palmerston, dated Rio de Janeiro, 9th February, 1848, and given in Mr. Bandinel's evidence before a Committee of the House of Commons, 18th April, 1848, one vessel had made five successful voyages within the year 1847. Any person at all acquainted with the slave trade will see that the undermentioned price of a vessel is much above the average value, thus: -

1. Cost of a vessel 170 to 200 tons - 700 l. to 1,000 1., say1,00000
2. 15 to 20 men at 100 Spanish dollars each per trip, say416134
3. Victualling 20 men for 90 days, say10000
4. Pay of captain 400 Spanish dollars8368
5. Cost of 450 slaves, each at from 2 l. 10s. to 4 l., say 3 l. each1,35000
6. Feeding 450 slaves on passage 25 to 30 days112100
7. Luxuries for the captain, &c.5000
8. Different contingencies15000

Supposing out of the 450 slaves thus purchased, only 350 reach their destination, and sell at the common market price of 50 l., you have the sum of 17,500 l.; then deduct the whole outlay of the voyage, 2,262 l. 10 s., the vessel (1,000 l.) being still forthcoming, there remains a clear profit of 15,237 l. 10 s.

According to the manner in which the slave-trade is conducted at present, the articles for the purchase of the slaves are generally sent across to the depots on the African coast in neutral bottoms. If the vessel is captured, the captain and crew lose their wages, (which are only paid on the completion of the voyage) but as an inducement to take greater interest in the adventure, the captain is generally allowed to bring a few slaves, and sometimes the crew one each, whose passage they pay for at the rate of 8 l. to 10 l. Thus a vessel captured with the slaves or slave-cargo on board involves a loss of items 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, items 2 and 4 being saved; which makes the actual loss 2762 l. 10 s. So that one successful voyage, landing 350 slaves, and realizing 15,237 l. 10 s., would cover the loss of 5 1/2 vessels with 450 slaves or slave-cargo (1,350 l.) for that number in each; and no less than 12 1/3 empty vessels, items 2, 4, 5, being saved.

Let us take the case mentioned by Lord Howden in his Lordship's letter to Viscount Palmerston, dated Rio Janeiro, 9th February, 1848 ; in which he says: "It is a well known fact that a vessel belonging to this port, made five voyages to the coast during the last year, and landed in safety all her cargoes; at a moderate computation, this single ship must have brought from 2,000 to 3,000."

Now we will suppose 2,500 were landed, each of them valued at the average price 50 l., realize 125,000 l., equivalent to loss of 45 1/3 vessels full of slaves or slave-cargo; and equivalent to loss of 89 1/4 empty vessels; items 1, 3, 6, 7, 8 only, being lost.

We must also refer to the case given by Viscount Palmerston before the Select Committee on the Slave Trade, 21 March, 1848, wherein his Lordship says, "I have before me a communication made by Sir Charles Hotham to the Admiralty, dated the 7th April, 1847, in which he states, 'On rounding Cape Lopez, the character of the slave trade changes, and the speculation on the part of the Brazilian is founded on the principle of employing vessels of little value, to be crowded to excess with slaves. It is said that one arrival in four, pays the adventure, here it is, therefore, that the traffic assumes its most horrid form ; at this moment the 'Penelope' (that was the vessel on board which he was,) has in tow a slaver, of certainly not more than 60 tons, in which 312 human beings were stowed; the excess of imagination cannot depict a scene more revolting.'"

Now we do not hesitate to say that the total cost of such a vessel, and her equipments, wages of captain and crew, provisions for them and the slaves, would not exceed the sum of 1,050 l., at very outside, and take the 312 slaves at rather more than 31. each, that makes another 1,000
Total outlay £2,050.

Now, if even one-third die, or nearly so, leaving 212 slaves to be landed and fit for market at 50 l. each, you have the sum of 10,600 l., or equivalent to the loss of 6 and a fraction of such full slavers; the items 2 and 4, i.e., wages of captain and crew, being saved to the owner (as before stated) in case of capture, or equivalent to the loss of 14 empty vessels, items 2 and 4, i.e., the wages of captain and crew, being saved to the slave-owner.

In the "Times" newspaper, dated May, 1848, there appears a statement (generally believed to be correct,) "that 5,000 slaves were landed at Bahia in two months, from 13 vessels, (average 384 each ship,) and 7,000 at other places, viz., Campos, Rio Grande, and Rio Janeiro, total 12,000;" now each of these slaves, at the average price 50 l., would realize no less a sum than 600,000 l., or equivalent to the loss of 217 1/3 vessels full of slaves or slave-cargoes for 450 slaves, are as fitted up in scale (1), items 2 and 4, being saved, or equivalent to the loss of 424 9/10 empty vessels fitted and equipped, as in scale (1), without slaves or slave-cargo, items number 2 and 4, being saved. By applying this method of calculation to the 60,000 slaves, stated in Lord Howden's letter to Viscount Palmerston, dated Rio Janeiro, 9th February, 1848, to have been landed in the Brazils during the year 1847, we find that the profits on them are equivalent to the loss of 2,124 empty vessels fitted as before shown, and 1,084 with full cargoes of 350 slaves each. Or the profits of one year are equal to the purchase money of one million of slaves! Can it be supposed that any force will arrest the progress of a torrent of such fearful magnitude? - See Dr. Thomson's Evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons, and others.}

We should much exceed our limits, by drawing largely on the evidence now before the House of Commons, but we have extracted some of the most "glaring instances" from the testimony of the best informed, which we trust will be found to confirm Lord John Russell's assertion, that "to repress the foreign Slave Trade by a marine guard, would scarcely be possible if the whole British Navy could be employed for that purpose" {Letter to the Lords of the Treasury, December 26, 1839} and also that of the late Sir T. F. Buxton, that "aggravated suffering reaches multiplied numbers" {Buxton, on the Slave Trade, p. 268}. Again, the conclusive fact that, "unless the Government of the slave-dealing states, will give their cordial aid in the suppression, the supply of slaves will be according to the demand" {Mr. Bandinel's Evidence (Parliamentary Report) on the Slave Trade, p. 257}; which, as it is for the specific purpose of labour, will he regulated by certain considerations. But to meet this, the purveyors will provide an unlimited number, in order that there may be enough to spare for death on the long and weary way to the coast, enough to die while waiting for shipment, or in the horrible middle passage, or in the repetition of it after having been taken by our cruisers - enough to be thrown overboard to avoid capture, - or to die of drowning when wrecked, - so that there may be a sufficient number of survivors, through the unparalleled sufferings of a transatlantic passage, to supply the original demand for labour, in the plantations which furnish our luxuries. No account is here taken of the surplus which cannot be exported ; humanity shudders at it, but such account will be exacted by an all-seeing God. The excess must be charged to our attempt to suppress the trade by the strong hand, and proves it to be an enormous fallacy and an aggravation of the evil.

The advocates for the continuance of the present system of marine police, persuade themselves that it is effectual; but it is to be feared that they are dazzled by partial successes, which, as compared with the result of a number of years, will be found to be only fluctuations. - The increased efforts are defeated by increased artifices. - Like an attempt to stop the torrent from a mountain, we go on, hoping that the barrier may be raised sufficiently high, but it is overleaped by every accession of flood. We are blinded to the truth by a conviction of the purity of our intentions, and the hopes of ultimate success. Our uncompromising philanthropy will not let us see that we are doing "evil, that good may result." But how great the evil! and how problematical the result! Let us imagine an allegorical picture of the subject. Two of the actors are demons ; a third would be thought to counteract their diabolical machinations, but he conspires unwittingly to the same end. They are the Purveyor, the Dealer, and the Suppressor. The two last preside each over a gulph of torture, - they rival one another in stimulating the first to provide victims; - their only contention, which shall obtain out of the increasing supply the greatest number for his particular vortex ; and the only difference between the vortices, is in the one, a certain prospect of a life of toil, with an accompanying portion of comfort, which is not fallacious because interested; - in the other, a dim, indefinable, - and to the victims who are hurried into it, - an inappreciable vista of freedom and happiness. They have no choice ; but if they had, they could see no difference in the probationary sufferings. Such anomalies should no longer exist : they recoil on ourselves.

After the sacrifices made by England, for the purpose of repairing the injuries inflicted, she has at least a right to claim the meed of sincerity in her repentance. She may also try to awaken other nations to a sense of their guilt; but remorse at the recollection of her own crimes should guard her against the assumption of infallibility : and if in our strenuous efforts to attain a blessed end we find the road leads wider and wider from it, let us have the magnanimity to retrace our steps to find a safer though a more circuitous path. If we look back on that already trodden, we shall find it too surely indicated by the blood of millions, shed in great part by our efforts, suddenly and violently to cure a gangrene which has been festering for ages.

During four hundred years the knowledge has been spreading in Africa, that the white man required her sons to spend their lives in hopeless and excessive toil to minister to his wants ; and he sanctioned the employment of treachery, rapine, depopulating wars, and the sacrifice of every principle of justice and humanity in order to gain his end. The white man comes to a tardy conviction of his injustice; but the system which has taken centuries to build up, cannot speedily be destroyed; and in the meantime, the previous requisitions are exciting the unhappy race to ruinous fulfilment.

It is only half a century since England, so proud of her exertions in this cause, was more deeply implicated in the practice, than any of the nations which we now denounce with all the virulence and want of charity, customary with those who have tardily come to a knowledge of the error of their ways. The Slave Trade was not only upheld by public opinion in England till 1788, but was encouraged by the Legislature, - enforced by treaties, - and by very stringent orders from the home authorities to the Governors of our West India Islands; who attempted to check the importation of slaves, - not from motives of humanity, but from fear that the unrestricted encouragement given to the "carrying trade" would cause the colonies to be over-supplied with slaves.

About that time, however, the people of England began to be awakened by the philanthropy of a Clarkson and a Wilberforce, to a sense of the enormity of their guilt, and felt a desire to atone for the deep injuries inflicted on the African race by the chief participation which this country had in the iniquitous traffic. The result was, first, the modification of that trade, - then its total abolition, - finally the emancipation of slaves on the part of Great Britain; with an endeavour to induce other nations to enter at once into the views which we had taken many years to mature. Great exertions by successive Governments, and pecuniary sacrifices by the people of these realms have been made to attain this end; but neither treaties, agreed to in some instances through fear, nor the vigilance of our numerous cruisers, commanded by officers of humanity, as well as talent and experience, aided by those of France and the United States of America, have been able to put a stop to this inhuman trade. On the contrary, it is proved that although it may have been checked in some points, it breaks out in others, the moment the supposed suppression has withdrawn vigilance to other quarters. While, at the same time, the risk of capture and loss has only rendered the mode of packing! in small, fast-sailing vessels, and the treatment of the poor wretches on the middle passage, more dreadful and more destructive of life.

But England acquired this conviction gradually: - in 1788 the first check was put to the Slave Trade, by the Bill of Sir William Dolben, which enacted measures for the amelioration of the condition of the victims during their long voyage, - limiting the number of slaves to the tonnage, with the humane object of securing at all events a sufficient space, instead of the crowding previously resorted to. A struggle of twenty years accomplished for England the honour of the abolition of the trade ; in twenty years more, we acceded to the principle of emancipation, which even required other ten years to be carried into effect. Thus England took fifty years to meditate and resolve on an act of justice to Africa; yet we expect other nations - implicated like ourselves - to jump at once to the conclusions we had formed, after such fierce and long struggles between obdurate selfishness and humanity. We urge upon those nations with all the force of diplomacy, backed by the knowledge of our superior power, at once to sacrifice what they believe to be their own interests, - to co-operate with us. But they are in the position which England held in that respect before 1788, when the majority here believed, as they do now in the slave-dealing countries, that our mercantile prosperity was inseparably bound up in the Slave Trade. If the voice of humanity required so many years to make itself heard in England, it is injustice to ourselves to suppose, that other nations will listen to it immediately it is propounded to them ; and injustice to them to assume that they will require longer consideration, if left to their unconstrained judgment; for hitherto our arguments have been from the strong to the weak ; and a nation "convinced against its will," is in the same position as an individual; - meanwhile we draw on ourselves all the odium of the overbearing, to the real prejudice of friendly intercourse, mutual interests, and of the question at issue.

In the present circumstances of the case, there are three discordant and antagonistic principles. A powerful nation - recently repentant - is determined at any sacrifice, violently to root out in others the guilt of the Slave Trade, and - signally fails. Certain weaker nations have promised, through fear, and against their present convictions, to co-operate, but are secretly resolved to continue the practice at all costs, and - do it successfully. Moreover, the strong nation having relinquished the compulsory ministration to its wants, will still have them supplied; and with the manifest sacrifice of consistency - her selfish ends are gained.

Since all these anomalous points cannot be reconciled, let us boldly confront the wrong and reject it; while we honestly seek a better course. Every moment that we hesitate prolongs the sufferings of thousands ; if therefore it is proved we do infinitely worse than nothing in endeavouring by force to stop the evil, the safest alternative seems to be, that we should turn all our attention towards softening the horrors which have been increased by our ineffectual though well-intended efforts. For this purpose we would humbly suggest, that other nations be exhorted to tread in our early path of amendment, in the hope that it may lead them to similar result. That treaties be made with those nations based on the Bill of 1788, with clauses providing for the gradual extinction of the slave trade, the introduction of free labour, and the progressive emancipation of their negroes.

We may have reason to hope that the first operation of such a treaty would be, to take the traffic out of the hands of the lawless wretches, who now practise it with the maddening spirit of the gamester, and to transfer it to persons more likely to allow their interests to be tempered by humanity. The lukewarm, whose self-love, or love of country, has been arrayed against the cause by our dogmatism, will gradually sympathise with our better feeling, and the high-minded will gain converts. The breathing-time and cessation of the powerful and all-pervading excitement produced by opposition, will enable the selfish to see the advantage of prolonging life by relaxing toil, over the present cruel system of working their slaves to death. Eventually they may come to the understanding that free labour will be the most productive.

Having obtained such a treaty, and measures having been adopted to enforce the provisions of it, England should frankly confess her error by withdrawing the African squadron, as soon as the existing treaties will permit. {There are some reasons for supposing that the squadron for the suppression of the Slave Trade might be made more effectual by transferring the blockade from the coast of Africa to that of Brazil, and Cuba. But would this do more than try to obtain relief by turning the victim on his bed of torture?}

But although there is a growing conviction that England is enjoying a dearly bought indulgence in her Philanthropy, - and such a change of measures begins to be loudly called for by many, let us not, after such lavish expenditure in trying an experiment, suffer it to appear that we abandon it from motives of parsimony. Of the many hundred thousands of pounds sterling which would be saved, a portion might well be devoted to some more feasible way of attaining the desired end.

{Return of expenses between December, 1838 and December, 1844 - (six years) : -

Total cost of squadron,183980,39300
" 1840101,17500
" 184173,95400
" 184294,02600
" 184388,23900
" 1844217,62700
Six years655,31400
Average annual expenditure£109,21900
Total sum in that time for Mixed Commission Courts102,899110
Illegal captures1,04526
Six years103,94444
Annual average for six years of these two last items£17,3240

Thus making altogether (without taking into calculation the tonnage bounty, bounty on slaves, &c.), an annual cost of 126,543 l. 0 s.p. while by return called for by the House of Commons, November 25th, 1847, the expense of the squadron alone for one year, without Mixed Commission Courts, prize bounty, &c., is no less than 301,823 l.}

No method can be more free from the charge of Quixotism than that of "calling forth the resources of the country." But this must be done on broad and rational principles. The Philanthropist may in his closet, sketch out brilliant schemes for the improvement of Africa, and expect her sons to tread the paths he has traced for them. He will be disappointed, if their progress keep not pace with his sanguine anticipations. As, however, the lofty soarings of philosophy are far above the narrow conceptions of the untutored mind, so is civilized man but ill calculated to enter into the feelings, and except by the most patient care to extend the views of him, on whom the light of reason has not yet dawned. The principal difficulty will always be that the enlarged and cultivated understanding cannot be satisfied with the first vacillating advances of a mind in its infancy.

The man of cold climes legislates for him of a torrid zone, without knowing his requirements, and the first thing done is to unhinge the social system, to reconstruct it on his own incompatible ideas. It is not, however, by the introduction of our uncongenial habits and customs, nor by partially encouraging commerce, nor by the establishment of a few schools, nor by the nominal conversion to Christianity of all the Africans whom we have been able to rescue from slavery, that this can be effected, but by calling forth their mental resources.

We will not moot the question of the capabilities of the African race; but this much is clear and incontrovertible, that the Great Arbiter of the destinies of man having placed the whites and the negroes in opposite regions, has given to each, feelings, desires, and energies, as diverse as their climates. We are compelled to exertion, to protect ourselves from the inclemency of the seasons, - to force abundance from the reluctant soil. Success in supplying real wants creates and stimulates the gratification of others of artificial growth. The powers which are given to us for this end remain and impel us irresistibly onwards. The essence of being in cold latitudes is necessarily action - a horror of inertion. The watchword is "onwards." With the negro, on the contrary, his climate superinduces a repugnance to exertion; he places his whole happiness in the idea of repose: - His necessities are few, and nature hardly requires solicitation to supply them, but heaps her treasures around in abundance, like trees in the Mahomedan Paradise, that require not the trouble of stretching forth the hand to pluck fruit from the bending branches. The reward of labour in a very small portion of the year, is enjoyment of repose for the remainder. The only voluntary display of energy is that which compels the humble to serve the proud, and has given rise to the ancient and universal system of domestic slavery. The negro may therefore be characterised as having means of gratification exceeding his wants, and the white man as having wants exceeding such means of gratification as are supplied to him by nature. The struggle and grand object, whether directed by humanity or not, has been to induce the former to furnish the latter with his superabundance.

Hitherto this has been done by the most unjustifiable means. The white man, in the pride of superior mental and physical endowments, has dragged the unresisting negro from his loved repose, and compelled him to minister to his inordinate demands, regardless of the expense of blood and suffering which it entailed. He is now awakened to a sense of his injustice, but his craving still remains; his talisman is still "Onwards." He thinks by persuasion to obtain the same advantages, and bases his hopes on being able to excite in his weaker brother the artificial desires which are the powerful stimuli to his own exertions.

Although the whites may guide, protect, and instruct their dark congeners in their mental minority, there must be a time when they should be suffered to "run alone." That time seems to be pointed out by the physical obstacles which prevent our entering their land, to hold them there in leading strings; and by the palpable failure of all our well-meant exertions for the suppression of the Slave Trade, which holds that land in darkness.

It becomes imperative, therefore, that we try some other means; and what can be supposed to be more likely to succeed than that of enlisting native energies in their own cause? If a race cannot be entrusted with its own regeneration, it is hopeless for one foreign in sympathies to attempt it.

If we commit the work to men of the same temperament, and with understandings enlarged by cultivation, we shall have an intermediate agency sympathising with both parties. If that fails, what hope is there for the race? {In order to carry out the principle to the fullest extent, none but Africans of pure race should be employed; but as it is doubtful at present whether such can be found sufficiently prepared for the task, it may be expedient to begin the experiment with the mixed race or Mulattos, who inherit the prestige of the white men} But we will assume, as their warmest advocates assert, that there are men to be found in our colonies capable of undertaking such a task. We come, therefore, to the means we would propose. These may appear bold, but we believe them to be easy of adoption. They are the following: - To establish
1. A colony at the Confluence of the Niger and the Chadda, and eventually on all other accessible rivers.
2. A small Native Military Force; and
3. An African Marine, one limited to ensure the peaceful intercourse of the nations on the banks of the Niger for the furtherance of legitimate commerce, and the enforcement of the treaties already entered into for the suppression of the Slave Trade in the river.

A principal feature in this plan, is the proposition to establish an African Force, the officers of which should be natives, holding commissions, with local rank, and the sons of native chiefs should be persuaded to enter our army and navy, with a view of educating them for the service. This would be offering an inducement to advance in civilization, which they never before have had; and such a boon should only be limited by their capability. As it is very clear from all the attempts that have been made, that white men cannot serve in that country without great sacrifice, we ought to use the means which are adapted to the end.

{Annual ratio of mortality from disease among seamen on different stations, viz.: -

South America 7.7 per 1000 per annum of men employed.
Mediterranean 9.3 "
Home station 9.8 "
East Indies15.1 "
West Indies18.1 "
Coast of Africa58.4 "

(Vide Dr. Bryson's Report on the Climate and Principal Diseases of the African Station, page 178.) Thus putting to one side altogether the known injury to health, and shortening of life, which results in nearly every case from service on the African coast, we find the statistical return of mortality on that station to be more than seven times as great as on the South American Coast, six times as great as the Mediterranean or home stations, four times as great as the East Indies and China, and three times as great as that of the sickly West Indies.

If we extend this to the Niger Expeditions, we shall find the first expedition, under Lander, to have lost 808.5 per annum; the second or Government expedition would not differ much from this, therefore the danger to human life in the Niger is more than thirteen times as great as on the coast, and about a hundred times as great as on healthy stations}

If the plan here proposed be good, it would be very much increased in efficiency, if carried out to an extensive scale ; that is, by pursuing a similar system on several rivers at the same time. For instance, if we had such posts on the River Volta, the Niger, the Cross or Old Calabar, the Madiba ma Dualla or Camaroons, with depots at the mouths of the rivers, - communication might be easily established between them, - the three last especially, which might in time be extended far into the interior. Other rivers might eventually be so occupied, as the Gaboon.

In order to maintain discipline among the coloured officers, &c., as well as to prevent them from falling back into the barbarism of the surrounding nations, the forces, military and naval, should be occasionally transferred from one station to another, communicating at certain seasons with some established authority, or with the Home Government; and after a certain period of service, they might be allowed to retire to whichever settlement they should choose.

We do not contemplate the establishment of a mere model farm, but the foundation of a colony; having within it all the elements of native society, acquainted with the usages and advantages of European civilization, which they might modify and assimilate to good customs of native growth, which are not wanting.

Thus, for instance, we should have a civil governor, a chaplain, with a certain number of catechists and schoolmasters; jurists, who, being acquainted with English law, should confer with the dignified Lobo, chief judge of Iddah, and others, with a view to the improvement of their laws, rather than the exclusive introduction of ours; the military and naval commanders, medical officers, &c., some merchants, artificers in various trades, with a sufficient number of agricultural and other labourers.

A society so constituted, of men of colour, who are eligible to every grade, would have all the elements to command respect and imitation.

As this is proposed to be a British colony, it should be under the strict superintendence of the Colonial Office, in order to prevent the dangerous anomalies which would creep in, by permitting on the one hand a premature independence; or, on the other, the chances of their falling back into the barbarism of the surrounding nations: and by having constantly to report their proceedings to superior authorities, the officials would be restrained in any tendency to tyranny, and encouraged in setting the example of civilization. To this end, it is indispensable that the territory and colony be under the British sovereignty.

This has been so ably shown in the letter of Dr. Lushington and Sir T.F. Buxton to Lord John Russell, 7th August, 1846, (see Appendix, vol. i.,) that it is unnecessary for us to dwell further on it, except on a point which is not adverted to by them, but in which we shall be supported by all those who know the river; namely, that all our efforts will be unavailing, unless we have the power to say, "there shall be no wars on the banks of the Niger within reach of the British flag." To attain this most desirable end, we can safely assert, that the mere declaration would be sufficient, if the existence were known of a limited force such as we propose.

Our purpose is not the acquisition of dominion, therefore the small territory purchased from the Attàh of Iddah would be amply sufficient, and would afford space enough for the experiment of cultivation by free labour, as an example to surrounding nations, - praedial slavery being completely eradicated from such territory, without attempting to interfere with it in our neighbours. For the defence of this settlement, one hundred well-disciplined men from our African regiments, together with a certain number of inhabitants - enrolled as militia - and two or three small lightly armed steamers, would not only be a sufficient force, but also to preserve all the nations within reach, from the horrors of war, and thereby be a great means of suppressing the Slave Trade, not only on the river, but to a wide extent on its banks, especially if aided by the independent chiefs, who would gladly enter into defensive alliances with us; - with the exception of the Filatahs, who might easily be kept in order, as far as their operations on the river are concerned.

"None, however, but a government establishment can pacify the river; or," as the natives say, "clean the road of the Filatahs." Most of the ills of the defenceless Pagan negroes are to be ascribed to these restless marauders ; for although, to her disgrace be it spoken, Africa has always been ready to sell her sons, yet these pests of society are the actual chief supporters of the Slave Trade, in its present aggravated state. They make excursions every season into distant as well as neighbouring nations, for the sole purpose of enslaving the unfortunate inhabitants; and the mighty Quorra affords a ready means of sending them to their destiny, the realities of which, sad as we know them to be, fall very far short of the vague anticipations of the poor victims. The example of the Filatahs is followed by other negro princes, and even by individuals, so that the from one end to the other of this noble stream the social system has been shaken to its very centre, and kept in a continual state of catalysis: for in these depopulating wars, the voice of fraternal and even parental affection is less heard than that of the fiendish excitement of the slave dealer.

The natives looked upon our presence in the river, even during the first mercantile expedition, as the means of putting a stop to this melancholy state. At Egga, for instance, the high priest called a meeting of all the principal inhabitants on the subject, at which it was readily agreed to furnish us with men, money, and provisions to any extent, - in which all the towns and villages would cheerfully have joined, - if we would remain and protect them from the Filatahs, - if we would undertake to 'clean the road.' The accomplishment of which would be as easy as it was desirable. We pointed out the impossibility, in the then exhausted state of our resources, for us to comply with, their wishes, but held out hopes that at no distant period they might be attended to; and, although they have not been in a formal manner laid at the foot of the British throne, by ambassadors from this oppressed people, praying for a defensive alliance, the appeal is not the less forcible; and it comes from a people who, of all others in Africa, would, from their industrious habits, most amply repay the protection afforded to them.

Captain Trotter, in his short intercourse with the Chief of Egga, found him so completely under the influence of the Filatahs, many of whom were, as spies about his court, that he dared not openly to discuss the subject of the abolition of the Slave Trade, though at a private interview he ardently expressed his wishes in furtherance of our object {See page 99, vol. ii.}. He doubted the concurrence of the Filatahs, as they are too much interested in the maintenance of disorder; and he would not send a message to the King, lest he should suspect him of intriguing with the white men.

Since that time Mr. Beecroft has made another visit to Rabbah, and found it in ruins. The coalition which Dr. McWilliam {See page 107, vol. ii.} heard was meditated had been successfully planned and executed. The branch of the Filatah bandits which had their stronghold at Rabbah has been humbled. But the snake was only "scotched," and probably ere this they have, with the assistance of their lawless compatriots at Sakatùh, taken fearful vengeance on the less warlike Nufi people, their depopulating "razzias" may be carried on to a greater extent than ever, and they may even have marched to conquest of Iddah, as they have long threatened.

The plan for a colony which we have sketched may perhaps give alarm to some of our economists; but if it should be decided, - what appears to us to be absolutely necessary, in order to stay the course of the gigantic evil - to withdraw the squadron from the Coast of Africa, an immense saving will be made annually; and if only a very small portion of this be devoted to the payment of salaries of the officials, there will be an amount of capital never before circulated in that part of Africa; moreover if to this we add the expenses of works to be undertaken by Government, - such as the erection of a fort, church, school-house, government-house, barracks, hospital, and a bazaar, - an immense but natural stimulus would be given to internal legitimate commerce. As the only medium at present known in Africa is by cowries or barter, it would be advantageous and economical to adopt this method at first in payment, and salt would be found, perhaps, the simplest and most profitable article.

Unfortunately we have always met the African with our own preconceived notions, and in requiring his adoption of them, we have remained in utter ignorance of what he may have of good, inherent in his own institutions. It is but fair to imagine that they may be suited to him, as he is to the condition in which it has pleased God to place him.

The several expeditions into the interior of Africa have proved that the people there, are far from being devoid of civilization. That they have, in fact, institutions and tendencies which, if fully developed, would aid much in healing the wounds which have been inflicted by the perversion of them. They have justice, which lends its hallowed name to the worst of purposes; - and they have commerce, which is absorbed by the most ruinous of all speculations, - the sale of their fellows.

In endeavouring "to call forth the resources of the country," we should therefore ascertain what materials we have to work upon, which are not inconsiderable if rightly developed. First, a way has been opened to the heart of the continent, whereby there is easy communication with a great variety of nations hitherto known hardly by name, and among the tendencies of the people there is an established idea of justice, and the essential character of all is decidedly commercial. "Kings, priests, warriors, down to the meanest slaves, all are traders in Africa, and although this ruling propensity has been perverted to the worst of purposes, it may be turned to the best. Every important consequence, therefore, that we can hope to attain, whether it be the encouragement of industry, the extension of useful arts, or the propagation of true religion, must attend our endeavours in proportion as we strike powerfully, but with judgment, on that chord which already vibrates in the whole length and breadth of the land {Captain Allen's MS. Narrative of the First Expedition.}.

While it cannot be too strongly asserted that man in a state of bondage will never arrive at the dignity for which he was intended by his Creator, - it may be a subject of prudent consideration, - of expediency, - whether the very mitigated form in which it is exhibited in Africa may not be used as a transition between the aggravated state it has been brought to by civilized man, and perfect emancipation in the land which gave it birth ; where the sudden accomplishment of such an object, if possible, would be attended by a complete dissolution of every social tie, a paralysis of all incentive to good, and leading inevitably towards anarchy. Whereas by exciting the native chiefs and possessors of domestic slaves to employ them in the cultivation of cotton, sugar, &c., a powerful competition might be raised against the cruel exactions of the foreign slave-owner: and although as a necessary consequence of the less amount of exertion under his mild native task-masters, the individual produce would be less, the amount might be made up by the greater extent of country, and by a population not requiring the artificial means of keeping up, resorted to in the Brazils, where at the same time their supplies would be cut off. The example of free labour in the British settlement would not be lost on the surrounding nations, but might be the means gradually to remove the blot of slavery altogether from Africa.

The establishment of a large and commodious bazaar at one settlement would ensure protection to commerce, and would render it the emporium of Central Africa. For a long while, however, we believe that there would not be such a remunerative trade as to justify the immediate intervention of speculators in England. But the petty dealings of the settlers and the stimulus given to native merchants or Dilals, by buying up all the produce they bring, would cause accumulations that might be worth their attention, especially if a company of philanthropists, such as composed the former agricultural society would enter into it with this prospect of loss in the outset.

A better system of canoe-traffic might be introduced with the assistance of Krumen, and a small steamer to run up and down, and facilitate their transit by towing. It is true that this practice would be running counter to the prejudices of the natives, who never allow the traders of other nations to trespass on their waters; but it might, by an occasional payment of "port dues," be broken through; or by a few trifling presents, the freedom of the navigation of the river might be secured for all nations. A clause to that effect was indeed introduced in our treaties with Obi and the Attàh of Iddah.

"With regard to commercial transactions {Captain Allen's MS. Narrative of the First Niger Expedition} on a large scale, it is our firm belief that in the present state of the manners and customs of the people, and the imperfectly known resources of the country, the hopes of speculators will be inevitably wrecked unless their enterprizes be based on very different principles, and with a view to remote repayment. Our arts and manufactures must be introduced to the interior not by the present tardy and demoralizing means of intercourse with the coast, nor by dazzling the natives with a transient display of them in short-lived and disastrous attempts to penetrate to nations which have been heretofore cut off from the knowledge of them. But the advantages which may result to and from the population of Africa by our intercourse with them, must be prospective, remote, and dependent on the manner of opening such intercourse."

"Under all these circumstances it is quite evident that no undertaking formed by private individuals for purposes purely commercial can prosper in the interior of Africa. That consequently no establishment there can thrive unless it originate with Government, and be under its immediate protection and authority."

"The prejudices of the Africans will doubtless eventually give way; the talents and energies they may possess will be developed when they witness among themselves-a community formed of their own countrymen, rescued by humanity from a condition the peculiar nature of which is invested by their superstitious fears, with vague and indescribable terrors. The very existence of such a community, exalted as it would be in its own estimation, and in the enjoyments of the benefits of civilization, would excite among its neighbours a desire to participate in those blessings and would be at once a normal or model society, gradually spreading to the most remote regions and calling forth the resources of a country rich in so many things essential to commerce, might change the destinies of the whole of Western Central Africa, and would not be liable to the local disadvantages which may interfere with the prosperity of the colony of free blacks which the Americans have established at Liberia."

Another great and glorious effect of the existence of such a colony would be to counteract the horrible Slave Trade, which still rears its hydra head, assuming a more atrocious aspect from every endeavour to put it down. The same local advantages which have facilitated the transit of slaves from all parts of the interior will afford the most effectual means of putting a stop to it, viz.: the two noble rivers which traversing so large a portion of Soudan, give ready means of communication with the coast, to all the nations on their borders.

The idea of the colony which has here been laid before our readers was conceived on the spot which is recommended for its location - surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the Confluence of the Chadda and Niger - during the first Niger Expedition, and laid before the Admiralty, by Captain Allen, on his return {Report to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, October 1, 1834.} to England, though it is here more fully developed; and it differs from the original in the proposition to employ the African race only, if any can be found qualified for undertaking so great a task. It may by some be considered a hopeless experiment, but unless the friends of Africa are much deceived, it will give an opportunity for the expansion of native intellect, which must be productive of benefit on the race generally. But whether capable or incapable, the agency of the native African has never yet been fairly tried. Hitherto benevolent legislators for Africa have sketched by their firesides, some very plausible theories and plans, and they have found, - in the hot-bed of premature culture, - plants which seemed fitting instruments to warrant the warmest hopes of success ; but like infant prodigies these have generally failed in the result, to justify their anticipations. The fault appears to us to be iii the fact, that we have constrained the precocious and half-formed agents to see with our understandings, and to work with our methods, expecting at the same time that the race to be benefited should readily appreciate the good we propose to them.

It is, however, of no use attempting to work on the untutored mind with abstract principles. We submit that the converse of this method would be more likely to succeed, namely, that we should take the African and his institutions as they are, and after ascertaining what is good in them, bestow our utmost exertions on their full development and improvement.

The success will depend on circumstances, on which we cannot now decide the value ; - the failure will only be the loss of some few thousands of English money in a cause in which we have lavished millions; but at all events it will be carried out on a grand principle of justice hitherto denied ; and as such we submit it with all deference to higher judgments.

Top↑Chapter XII ◄► Appendix 
Valid HTML 5.0