Title: Journal of an African Cruiser
Author: Horatio Bridge
Editor: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Release date: April 1, 2005 [eBook #7937]
Most recently updated: May 22, 2013
Credits: Text file produced by Eric Eldred, S.R. Ellison and the Online
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The following pages have afforded occupation for many hours, which might else have been wasted in idle amusements, or embittered by still idler regrets at the destiny which carried the writer to a region so little seductive as Africa, and kept him there so long. He now offers them to the public, after some labor bestowed in correction and amendment, but retaining their original form, that of a daily Journal, which better suited his lack of literary practice and constructive skill, and was in fitter keeping with the humble pretensions of the work, than a re-arrangement on artistic principles. At various points of the narrative, however, he has introduced observations or disquisitions from two or three common-place books, which he kept simultaneously with the Journal; and thus, in a few instances, remarks are inserted as having been made early in the cruise, while, in reality, they were perhaps the ultimate result of his reflection and judgment upon the topics discussed.
If, in any portion of the book, the author may hope to engage the attention of the public, it will probably be in those pages which treat of Liberia. The value of his evidence, as to the condition and prospects of that colony, must depend, not upon any singular acuteness of observation or depth of reflection, but upon his freedom from partizan bias, and his consequent ability to perceive a certain degree of truth, and inclination to express it frankly. A northern man, but not unacquainted with the slave institutions of our own and other countries—neither an Abolitionist nor a Colonizationist—without prejudice, as without prepossession—he felt himself thus far qualified to examine the great enterprise which he beheld in progress. He enjoyed, moreover, the advantage of comparing Liberia, as he now saw it, with a personal observation of its condition three years before, and could therefore mark its onward or retreating footsteps, and the better judge what was permanent, and what merely temporary or accidental. With these qualifications, he may at least hope to have spoken so much of truth as entirely to gratify neither the friends nor enemies of this interesting colony.
The West Coast of Africa is a fresher field for the scribbling tourist, than most other parts of the world. Few visit it, unless driven by stern necessity; and still fewer are disposed to struggle against the enervating influence of the climate, and keep up even so much of intellectual activity as may suffice to fill a diurnal page of Journal or Commonplace Book. In his descriptions of the settlements of the various nations of Europe, along that coast, and of the native tribes, and their trade and intercourse with the whites, the writer indulges the idea that he may add a trifle to the general information of the public. He puts forth his work, however, with no higher claims than as a collection of desultory sketches, in which he felt himself nowise bound to tell all that it might be desirable to know, but only to be accurate in what he does tell. On such terms, there is perhaps no very reprehensible audacity in undertaking the history of a voyage; and he smiles to find himself, so simply and with so little labor, acquiring a title to be enrolled among the authors of books!
JOURNAL OF AN AFRICAN CRUISER.
Departure—Mother Carey's Chickens—The Gulf Stream—Rapid Progress—The French Admiral's Cook—Nautical Musicians—The sick Man—The Burial at Sea—Arrival at the Canaries—Santa Cruz—Love and Crime—Island of Grand Canary—Troglodytes near Las Palmas.
Nelson's Defeat at Santa Cruz—The Mantilla—Arrival at Porto Grande—Poverty of the Inhabitants—Portuguese Exiles at the Cape de Verds—City of Porto Praya—Author's Submersion—Green Turtle—Rainy Season—Anchor at Cape Mesurado.
Visit of Governor Roberts, &c.—Arrival at Cape Palmas—American Missionaries—Prosperity of the Catholic Mission—King Freeman, and his Royal Robe—Customs of the Kroo-People—Condition of Native Women.
Return to Monrovia—Sail for Porto Praya—The Union Hotel—Reminiscences of Famine at the Cape de Verds—Frolics of Whalemen—Visit to the Island of Antonio—A Dance—Fertility of the Island—A Yankee Clockmaker—A Mountain Ride—City of Poverson—Point de Sol—Kindness of the Women—The handsome Commandant—A Portuguese Dinner.
Arrival of the Macedonian—Return to the Coast of Africa—Emigrants to Liberia—Tornadoes—Maryland in Liberia—Nature of its Government—Perils of the Bar—Mr. Russwurm—The Grebo Tribe—Manner of disposing of their Dead.
Settlement of Sinoe—Account of a Murder by the Natives—Arrival at Monrovia—Appearance of the Town—Temperance—Law-Suits and Pleadings—Expedition up the St. Paul's River—Remarks on the Cultivation of Sugar—Prospects of the Coffee-culture in Liberia—Desultory observations on Agriculture.
High Character of Governor Roberts—Suspected Slaver—Dinner on Shore—Facts and Remarks relative to the Slave-Trade—British Philanthropy—Original cost of a Slave—Anchor at Sinoe—Peculiarities and distinctive Characteristics of the Fishmen and Bushmen—The King of Appollonia—Religion and Morality among the Natives—Influence of the Women.
Palaver at Sinoe—Ejectment of a Horde of Fishmen—Palaver at Settra Kroo—Mrs. Sawyer—Objections to the Marriage of Missionaries—A Centipede—Arrival at Cape Palmas—Rescue of the Sassy-wood drinker—Hostilities between the Natives and Colonists.
Palaver with King Freeman—Remarks on the Influence of Missionaries—Palaver at Rock-Boukir—Narrative of Captain Farwell's murder—Scene of Embarkation through the Surf—Sail for Little Berebee.
Palaver at Little Berebee—Death of the Interpreter and King Ben Cracko and burning of the Town—Battle with the Natives, and Conflagration of several Towns—Turkey Buzzards—A Love-Letter—Moral Reflections—Treaty of Grand Berebee—Prince Jumbo and his Father—Native system of Expresses—Curiosity of the Natives.
Madeira—Aspect of the Island—Annual races—"Hail Columbia!"—Ladies, Cavaliers, and Peasants—Dissertation upon Wines—The Clerks of Funchal—Decay of the Wine-Trade—Cultivation of Pine-Trees—A Night in the Streets—Beautiful Church—A Sunday-evening Party—Currency of Madeira.
Passage back to Liberia—Coffee Plantations—Dinner on shore—Character of Colonel Hicks—Shells and Sentiment—Visit to the Council-chamber—The New-Georgia Representative—A Slave-ship—Expedition up the St. Paul's—Sugar Manufactory—Maumee's beautiful grand-daughter—The Sleepy Disease—The Mangrove-tree.
The Theatre—Tribute to Governor Buchanan—Arrival at Settra Kroo—Jack Purser—The Mission School—Cleanliness of the Natives—Uses of the Palm-tree—Native Money—Mrs. Sawyer—Influence of her character on the Natives—Characteristics of English Merchant-Captains—Trade of England with the African Coast.
American Trade—Mode of Advertising, and of making Sales—Standard of Commercial Integrity—Dealings with Slave-Traders—Trade with the Natives—King's "Dash"—Native Commission-Merchants—The Gold Trade—The Ivory Trade—The "Round Trade"—Respectability of American Merchant-Captains—Trade with the American Squadron.
Jack Purser's wife—Fever on board—Arrival at Cape Palmas—Strange figure and equipage of a Missionary—King George of Grand Bassam—Intercourse with the Natives—Tahon—Grand Drewin—St. Andrew's—Picaninny Lahoo—Natives attacked by the French—Visit to King Peter—Sketches of Scenery and People at Cape Lahon.
Visit from two English Trading-Captains—The invisible King of Jack-a-Jack—Human sacrifices—French fortresses at Grand Bassam, at Assinoe, and other points—Objections to the locality of Liberia—Encroachments on the limits of that Colony—Arrival in Axim—Sketches of that Settlement—Dixcove—Civilized Natives—An Alligator.
Dutch Settlement at El Mina—Appearance of the Town—Cape Coast Castle—Burial-place of L. E. L.—An English dinner—Festivity on shipboard—British, Dutch, and Danish Accra—Native wives of Europeans—A Royal Princess—An Armadillo—Sail for St. Thomas—Aspect of the Island.
Excursion to St. Anne de Chaves—Mode of drying Coffee—Black Priests—Madam Domingo's Hotel—Catering for the Mess—Man swallowed by a Shark—Letters from home—Fashionable equipage—Arrival at the Gaboon—King Glass and Louis Philippe—Mr. Griswold—Mr. and Mrs. Wilson—Character of the Gaboon People—Symptoms of illness.
Recovery from Fever—Projected Independence of Liberia—Remarks on Climate and Health—Peril from Breakers—African Arts—Departure for the Cape de Verds—Man Overboard.
Glimpses of the bottom of the Sea—The Gar-fish—The Booby and the Mullet—Improvement of Liberia—Its prospects—Higher social position of its Inhabitants—Intercourse between the White and Colored. Races—A night on shore—Farewell to Liberia—Reminiscence of Robinson Crusoe.
Sierra Leone—Sources of its Population—Appearance of the Town and surrounding Country—Religious Ceremonies of the Mandingoes—Treatment of liberated Slaves—Police of Sierra Leone—Agencies for Emigration to the West Indies—Colored Refugees from the United States—Unhealthiness of Sierra Leone—Dr. Fergusson—Splendid Church—Melancholy Fate of a Queen's Chaplain—Currency—Probable Ruin of the Colony.
Failure of the American Squadron to capture Slave-Vessels—Causes of that Failure—High character of the Commodore and Commanders—Similar ill-success of the French Squadron—Success of the English, and why—Results effected by the American Squadron.
Departure—Mother Carey's Chickens—The Gulf stream—Rapid Progress—The French Admiral's Cook—Nautical Musicians—The Sick Man—The Burial at Sea—Arrival at the Canaries—Santa Cruz—Love and Crime—Island of Grand Canary—Troglodytes near Las Palmas.
June 5,1843.—Towed by the steamer Hercules, we go down the harbor of New York, at 7 o'clock A.M. It is the fourth time the ship has moved, since she was launched from the Navy Yard at Portsmouth. Her first experience of the ocean was a rough one; she was caught in a wintry gale from the north-east, dismasted, and towed back into Portsmouth harbor, within three days after her departure. The second move brought us to New York; the third, from the Navy Yard into the North river; and the fourth will probably bring us to an anchorage off Sandy Hook. After a hard winter of four months, in New Hampshire, we go to broil on the coast of Africa, with ice enough in our blood to keep us comfortably cool for six months at least.
At 10 A.M. the steamer cast off, and we anchored inside of Sandy Hook; at 12 Meridian, hoisted the broad pennant of Commodore Perry, and saluted it with thirteen guns. At 3 P.M. the ship gets under way, and with a good breeze, stands out to sea. Our parting letters are confided to the Pilot. That weather-beaten veteran gives you a cordial shake with his broad, hard hand, wishes you a prosperous cruise, and goes over the side. His life is full of greetings and farewells; the grasp of his hand assures the returning mariner that his weary voyage is over; and when the swift pilot boat hauls her wind, and leaves you to go on your course alone, you feel that the last connecting link with home is broken. On our ship's deck, there were perhaps some heart-aches, but no whimpering. Few strain their eyes to catch parting glimpses of the receding highlands; it is only the green ones who do that. The Old Salt seeks more substantial solace in his dinner. It is matter of speculation, moreover, whether much of the misery of parting does not, with those unaccustomed to the sea, originate in the disturbed state of their stomachs.
7.—We are in the Gulf-stream. The temperature of the water is ten degrees above that of the air. Though the ship is deep, being filled with stores, and therefore sailing heavily, we are yet taken along eleven knots by the wind, and two or three more by the current. Swiftly as we fly, however, we are not quite alone upon the waters. Mother Carey's chickens follow us continually, dipping into the white foam of our track, to seize the food which our keel turns up for them out of the ocean depths. Mysterious is the way of this little wanderer over the sea. It is never seen on land; and naturalists have yet to discover where it reposes, and where it hatches its young; unless we adopt the idea of the poets, that it builds its nest upon the turbulent bosom of the deep. It is a sort of nautical sister of the fabled bird of Paradise, which was footless, and never alighted out of the air. Hundreds of miles from shore, in sunshine and in tempest, you may see the Stormy Petrel. Among the unsolvable riddles which nature propounds to mankind, we may reckon the question, Who is Mother Carey, and where does she rear her chickens?
9.—We are out of the Gulf-stream, and the ship is now rolling somewhat less tumultuously than heretofore. For four days, we have been blest with almost too fair a wind. A strong breeze, right aft, has been taking us more than two hundred and forty miles a day on our course. But the incessant and uneasy motion of the ship deprives us of any steady comfort. In spite of all precautions, tables, chairs, and books, have tumbled about in utter confusion, and the monotony is enlivened by the breaking of bottles and crash of crockery. As some consolation, our Log Book shows that we have made more than half of a thousand miles, within the last forty-eight hours. Land travelling, with all the advantages of railroads, can hardly compete with the continual diligence of a ship before a prosperous breeze.
11.—Spoke an American brig from Liverpool, bound for New York. Though the boat was called away, and our letters were ready, it was all at once determined not to board her; and, after asking the captain to report us, we stood on our course again. The newspapers will tell our friends something of our whereabouts; or, at least, that on a certain day, we were encountered at a certain point upon the sea.
13.—Wind still fair, and weather always fine. We have not tacked ship once since leaving Sandy Hook, and are almost ready to quarrel with the continual fair wind. There is nothing else to find fault with, except the performances of our French cook in the wardroom, who came on board just before we left New York, and made us believe that we had obtained a treasure. He told us that he had cooked for a French Admiral. We swore him to secrecy on that point, lest the Commodore should be disposed to engage the services of so distinguished an artist for his own table. But our self-congratulations were not of long continuance. The sugared omelet passed with slight remark. The beefsteak smothered in onions was merely prohibited in future. But when, on the second day, the potatoes were served with mashed lemon-peel, the general discontent burst forth; and we scolded till we laughed again at the dilemma in which we found ourselves. Next to being without food, is the calamity of being subjected, in the middle of the Atlantic, to the diabolical arts of the French Admiral's cook. At sea, the arrangements of the table are of far more importance than on shore. There are so few incidents, that one's dinner becomes, what Dr. Johnson affirmed it always to be, the affair of which a man thinks oftenest in the course of the day.
16.—All day, the wind has been ahead, and very light. This evening, a dead calm is upon the sea; but the sky is cloudless, and the air pure and soft. All the well are enjoying the fine weather. The commodore and captain walk the poop-deck; the other officers, except the lieutenant and young gentlemen of the watch, are smoking on the forecastle, or promenading the quarter-deck. A dozen steady old salts are rolling along the gangways; and the men are clustered in knots between the guns, talking, laughing, or listening to the yarns of their comrades—an amusement to which sailors are as much addicted as the Sultan in the Arabian Nights. But music is the order of the evening. Though a band is not allowed to a ship of our class, there are always good musicians to be found among the reckless and jolly fellows composing a man-of-war's crew. A big landsman from Utica, and a dare-devil topman from Cape Cod, are the leading vocalists; Symmes, the ship's cook, plays an excellent violin; and the commodore's steward is not to be surpassed upon the tambourine. A little black fellow, whose sobriquet is Othello, manages the castanets, and there is a tolerable flute played by one of the afterguard. The concerts usually commence with sentimental songs, such as "Home, sweet Home," and the Canadian Boat Song: but the comic always carries off the palm; "Jim along Josey," "Lucy Long," "Old Dan Tucker," and a hundred others of the same character, are listened to delightedly by the crowd of men and boys collected round the fore-hatch, and always ready to join in the choruses. Thus a sound of mirth floats far and wide over the twilight sea, and would seem to indicate that all goes well among us.
But the delicious atmosphere, and the amusements of the ship, bring not joy to all on board. There are sick men swinging uneasily in their hammocks; and one poor fellow, whose fever threatens to terminate fatally, tosses painfully in his cot. His messmates gently bathe his hot brow, and, watching every movement, nurse him as tenderly as a woman. Strange, that the rude heart of a sailor should be found to possess such tenderness as we seldom ask or find, in those of our own sex, on land! There, we leave the gentler humanities of life to woman; here, we are compelled to imitate her characteristics, as well as our sterner nature will permit.
22.—The sick man died last night, and was buried to-day. His history was revealed to no one. Where was his home, or whether he has left friends to mourn his death, are alike unknown. Dying, he kept his own counsel, and was content to vanish out of life, even as a speck of foam melts back into the ocean. At 11 A.M., for the first time, in a cruise likely to be fatal to many on board, the boatswain piped "all hands to bury the dead!" The sailor's corpse, covered with the union of his country's flag, was placed in the gangway. Two hundred and fifty officers and men stood around, uncovered, and reverently listened to the beautiful and solemn burial service, as it was read by one of the officers. The body was committed to the deep, while the ship dashed onward, and had left the grave far behind, even before the last words of the service were uttered. The boatswain "piped down," and all returned to their duties sadly, and with thoughtful countenances.
23.—At 4 A.M., the island of Palma and the Peak of Teneriffe are in full sight, though the lofty summit of the mountain is one hundred miles distant.
24.—At 5 A.M., anchored at Santa Cruz, capital of the island of Teneriffe. The health-officer informed us that we must ride out a quarantine of eight days. A fine precaution, considering that we are direct from New York! After breakfast, I went to the mole, to see the Consular Agent, on duty. While waiting in our boat, we were stared at by thirty or forty loafers (a Yankee phrase, but strictly applicable to these foreign vagabonds), of the most wretched kind. Some were dressed in coarse shirts and trowsers, and some had only one of these habiliments. None interested me, except a dirty, swarthy boy, with most brilliant black eyes, who lay flat on his stomach, and gazed at us in silence. His elf-like glance sparkles brightly in my memory.
One of the seamen in our boat spoke to the persons on shore in Spanish. I inquired whether that were his mother-tongue, and learned that he was a native of Mahon. On questioning him further, I ascertained that he was concerned in a tragedy of which I had often heard, while on the Mediterranean station, two or three years ago. A beautiful girl of sixteen, of highly respectable family, fell in love with a young man, her inferior in social rank, though of reputable standing. The affair was kept secret between them. At length, the lover became jealous, and, one evening, called his mistress out of her father's house, and stabbed her five or six times. She died instantly, and her murderer fled. It was believed in Mahon that he was drowned by falling overboard from the vessel in which he escaped. Nevertheless, that murderer was the man with whom I was speaking in the boat, now bearing another name, and a common sailor of our ship. He told me his real name; and I heard, afterwards, that, when drunk, he had confessed the murder to one of his messmates.
This incident illustrates what I have often thought, that the private history of a man-of-war's crew, if truly told, would be full of high romance, varied with stirring incident, and too often darkened with, deep and deadly crime. Many go to sea with the old Robinson Crusoe spirit, seeking adventure for its own sake; many, to escape the punishment of guilt, which has made them outlaws of the land; some, to drown the memory of slighted love; while others flee from the wreck of their broken fortunes ashore, to hazard another shipwreck on the deep. The jacket of the common sailor often covers a figure that has walked Broadway in a fashionable coat. An officer sometimes sees his old school-fellow and playmate taken to the gangway and flogged. Many a blackguard on board has been bred in luxury; and many a good seaman has been a slaver and a pirate. It is well for the ship's company, that the sins of individuals do not, as in the days of Jonas, stir up tempests that threaten the destruction of the whole.
The island of Grand Canary is one of the most interesting of the group at which we have now arrived. The population of its capital, the city of Las Palmas, is variously estimated at from nine thousand inhabitants, to twice that number. The streets, however, have none of the bustle and animation that would enliven an American town, of similar size. Around the city there is an aspect of great fertility; fields of corn and grain, palm-trees, and vineyards, occupy the valleys among the hills, and extend along the shores, twining a glad green wreath about the circuit of the island. The vines of Canary produce a wine which, two or three centuries ago, was held in higher estimation than at present, and is supposed by some to have been the veritable "sack" that so continually moistened the throat of Falstaff. The very name of Canary is a cheerful one, associated as it is with the idea of bounteous vineyards, and of those little golden birds that make music all over the world.
The high hills that surround the city of Las Palmas are composed of soft stone, the yielding quality of which has caused these cliffs to be converted to a very singular purpose. The poorer people, who can find no shelter above ground, burrow into the sides of the hill, and thus form caves for permanent habitation, where they dwell like swallows in a sand-bank. Judging from the number of these excavations, the mouths of which appear on the hill-sides, there cannot be less than a thousand persons living in the manner here described. Not only the destitute inhabitants of Grand Canary, but vagabonds from Teneriffe and the other islands, creep thus into the heart of the rock; and children play about the entrances of the caverns as merrily as at a cottage-door: while, in the gloom of the interior, you catch a glimpse of household furniture, and women engaged in domestic avocations. It is like discovering a world within the world.
Nelson's defeat at Santa Cruz—The Mantilla—Arrival at Porto Grande—Poverty of the inhabitants—Portuguese Exiles at the Cape de Verds—City of Porto Prayo—Author's submersion—Green Turtle—Rainy Season—Anchor at Cape Mesurado.
July 1.—Ashore at Santa Cruz. The population of the city is reckoned at six or eight thousand. The streets are clean, and the houses built in the Spanish fashion. Camels are frequent in the streets.
The landing at the Mole is generally bad, as Nelson found to his cost. It is easy to perceive that, even in ordinary times, the landing of a large party, though unopposed, must be a work of considerable difficulty. How much more arduous, then, was the enterprise of the great Naval Hero, who made his attack in darkness, and in the face of a well-manned battery, which swept away all who gained foot-hold on the shore! The latter obstacle might have been overcome by English valor, under Nelson's guidance; but night, and the heavy surf, were the enemies that gave him his first and only defeat. The little fort, under whose guns he was carried by his step-son, after the loss of his arm, derived its chief interest, in my eyes, from that circumstance. The glory of the great Admiral sheds a lustre even upon the spot where success deserted him. In the Cathedral of Santa Cruz are to be seen two English flags, which were taken on that occasion, and are still pointed out with pride by the inhabitants. I saw them five years ago, when they hung from the walls, tattered and covered with dust; they are now enclosed in glass cases, to which the stranger's attention is eagerly directed by the boys who swarm around him. The defeat of Nelson took place on the anniversary of the patron-saint of Santa Cruz; a coincidence which has added not a little to the saint's reputation. It was by no means his first warlike exploit; for he is said to have come to the assistance of the inhabitants, and routed the Moors, when pressing the city hard, in the olden time.
We wandered about the city until evening, and then walked in the Plaza. Here the ladies and gentlemen of the city promenade for an hour or two, occasionally seating themselves on the stone benches which skirt the square. Like other Spanish ladies, the lovely brunettes of Santa Cruz generally wear the mantilla, so much more becoming than the bonnet. There are just enough of bonnets worn by foreigners, and travelled Spanish dames, to show what deformities they are, when contrasted with the graceful veil. This head-dress could only be used in a climate like that of Teneriffe, where there are no extremes of heat or cold. It is a proverb that there is no winter and no summer here. So equable and moderate is the temperature, that, we were assured, a person might, without inconvenience, wear either thick or thin clothing, all the year round. With such a climate, and with a fertile soil, it would seem that this must be almost a Paradise. There is a great obstruction, however, to the welfare of the inhabitants, in the want of water. It rains so seldom that the ground is almost burnt up, and many cattle actually perish from thirst. It is said that no less than thirty thousand persons have emigrated from the island, within three years.
The productions of Teneriffe, for export, are wine and barilla. Of the first, the greater part is sent to England, Russia and the United States. About thirty thousand pipes are made annually, of which two thirds are exported. Little or no wine is produced on the southern slope of the island. The hills around Santa Cruz are little more than rugged peaks of naked rock. The scenery is wild and bold, but sterile; and scattered around are stupendous hills of lava, the products of former volcanic eruptions, but which have, for ages, been cold and wave-washed.
14.—Arrived at Porto Grande, in the island of St. Vincent's, one of the Cape de Verds. The harbor is completely landlocked by the island of St. Antonio, which stretches across its mouth. Still, there is, at times, a considerable swell. The appearance of the land is barren, desolate, and unpromising in the highest degree; and the town is in keeping with the scenery. Eighty or ninety miserable hovels, constructed of small, loose stones, in the manner of our stone-fences, stand in rows, with some pretence of regularity. Besides the Governor and his aid, there are here five white men, or rather Portuguese (for their claim to white blood is not apparent in their complexions), viz. the Collector, the American Consular Agent, a shop-keeper, whose goods are all contained in a couple of trunks, and two private soldiers. We called to see the Governor, and were politely received; he offered seats, and did the honors of the place with dignity and affability. His pay is one dollar per diem. He has five soldiers under his command, two of them Portuguese, and three native negroes, one of whom has a crooked leg.
The people here are wretchedly poor, subsisting chiefly by fishing, and by their precarious gains from ships which anchor in the port. The Collector informed me that there had been sixty whale-ships in the harbor, within the past year. The profits accruing from thence, however, are very inadequate to the comfortable support of the inhabitants. The adults are mostly covered with rags, while many of the children are entirely naked; the cats and dogs (whose condition may be taken as no bad test of the degree of bodily comfort in the community) are lean and skeleton-like. As to religion, I saw nothing to remind me of it, except the ruins of an old church. There has been no priest since the death of one who was drowned, a few years ago, near Bird Island, a large rock, at the mouth of the harbor. At the time of this fatal mishap, the reverend father was on a drunken frolic, in company with some colored women.
The Cape de Verd Islands derive their name from the nearest point of the mainland of Africa; they are under the dominion of Portugal, and, notwithstanding their poverty, furnish a considerable revenue to that country, over and above the expenses of the Colonial Government. This revenue comes chiefly from the duties levied upon all imported articles, and from the orchilla trade, which is monopolized by the Government at home, and produces 50,000 dollars per annum. Another source of profit is found in the tithes for the support of the Church, which, in some, if not all the islands, have been seized by the Government (under a pledge for the maintenance of the clergy), and are farmed out annually. These islands supply the Portuguese with a place of honorable exile for officers who may be suspected of heresy in politics, and hostility to existing institutions. They are advanced a step in rank, to repay them (and a poor requital it is) for the change from the delicious climate of Portugal, and the gaieties of Lisbon, to the dreary solitude, the arid soil, and burning and fever-laden air of the Cape de Verds. It is a melancholy thought, that many an active intellect—many a generous and aspiring spirit—may have been doomed to linger and perish here, chained, as it were, to the rocks, like Prometheus, merely for having dreamed of kindling the fire of liberty in their native land.
22.—We have spent some days at Porto Praya, the capital of St. Jago, the largest of the Cape de Verd islands; whence we sail to-day. A large part of the population is composed of negroes and mulattoes, whose appearance indicates that they are intemperate, dissolute, and vile. The Portuguese residing here are generally but little better; as may be supposed from the fact, that most of those who were not banished from Portugal, for political or other offences, came originally to engage in the slave-trade.
Going ashore to-day, we beached the boat, and a large negro, with a ragged red shirt, waded out and took me on his shoulders. There is no position so absurd, nor in which a man feels himself so utterly helpless, as when thus dependant on the strength and sure-footedness of a fellow-biped. As we left the boat, a heavy "roller" came in. The negro lost his footing, and I my balance, and down we plunged into the surf. My sable friend seemed to consider it a point of duty to hold stoutly by my legs, the inevitable tendency of which manoeuvre was to keep my head under water. Having no taste for a watery death, under these peculiar circumstances, I freed myself by a vigorous kick, sprang to my feet, and seizing the negro by the "ambrosial curls," pushed his head in turn under the surf. But seeing the midshipmen and boat's crew laughing, noiselessly but heartily, at my expense, the ludicrousness of the whole affair struck me so forcibly that I joined in their mirth, and waded ashore as fast as possible. An abolitionist, perhaps, might draw a moral from the story, and say that all, who ride on the shoulders of the African race, deserve nothing better than a similar overthrow. Sailed from Porto Praya. The bay of this port is a good one, except in south-east gales, when the anchorage is dangerous. The town, called Villa de Praya, contains about two thousand inhabitants of every shade, the dark greatly predominating. Many vessels from Europe and the United States, bound to India, Brazil, or Africa, find this a convenient place to procure water and fresh provisions, and bring, in return, much money into the city. There are three hundred troops here, nearly all black, and commanded by forty Portuguese officers. The men are under severe discipline, are tolerably well dressed, and make a soldierly appearance. It is said that a St. Jago soldier formerly wore only a cocked hat, being otherwise in a state of nature; but I cannot pretend to have seen any instance of this extreme scantiness of equipment.
23.—Saw a large green turtle asleep on the surface of the water. One of our boats went alongside of him, and two men attempted to turn him over with boat-hooks. He struggled successfully, however, to keep himself "right side up," and, in a few moments, plunged beneath the surface. Once upon his back, he would have been powerless and a prisoner, and we might have hoped for the advantage of his presence at our mess-table.
24.—At noon, the first rain came. It continued heavy and unremitting, for twenty-four hours, after which there was a glimpse of the blue sky. Two startling thunder-claps burst over the ship, at about 9 o'clock, A.M. Last night, at 10, a heavy plunge carried away both our chain bobstays at once, and all hands were turned up in the rain, to secure the bowsprit.
The sanitary regulations of the squadron, induced by the commencement of the rainy season, cause considerable mirth and some growling. One rule is, that every man shall protect himself with flannel next his person, and at night shall also wear a cloth-jacket and trowsers. Stoves are placed on the berth-deck, to dry the atmosphere below. It is a curious fact, that, in March last, at Portsmouth, N. H., with the thermometer at zero, we were deprived of stoves the moment the powder came on board; while now in the month of July, on the coast of Africa, sweltering at eighty degrees of Fahrenheit, the fires are lighted throughout the ship.
27.—Continual rain for the last three days. All miserable, but getting used to it.
29.—A clear day, and comfortably cool. Wind fair.
30.—Made land, and saw an English brig of war. Commander Oakes, of the Ferret, came on board.
31.—Made Cape Mount.
August 1.—At 12, meridian, anchored at Cape Mesurado, off the town of Monrovia. We find at anchor here the U. S. brig Porpoise, and a French barque, as well as a small schooner, bearing the Liberian flag. This consists of stripes and a cross, and may be regarded as emblematical of the American origin of the colony, and of the Christian philanthropy to which it owes its existence. Thirty or forty Kroomen came alongside. Three officers of the Porpoise visited us. All are anxious to get back to the United States. They coincide, however, in saying that, with simple precautions, the health of this station is as good as that of any other. They have had only a single case of fever on board; and, in that instance, the patient was a man who ran away, and spent a night ashore.
My old acquaintance, Captain Cooper, came on board, and is to be employed as pilot.
Visit of Governor Roberts, &c.—Arrival at Cape Palmas—American Missionaries—Prosperity of the Catholic Mission—King Freeman, and his royal robe—Customs of the Kroo-people—Condition of native women.
August 2.—We were visited by Governor Roberts, Doctor Day, and General Lewis, the latter being colonial secretary, and military chief of the settlement. They looked well, and welcomed me back to Liberia with the cordiality of old friendship. The Governor was received by the commodore, captain, and officers, and saluted with eleven guns. He and his suite dined in the cabin, and some of the officers of the Porpoise in the ward-room. In the evening, we brought out all our forces for the amusement of our distinguished guests. First, the negro band sang "Old Dan Tucker," "Jim along Josey," and other ditties of the same class, accompanied by violin and tambourine. Then Othello played monkey, and gave a series of recitations. The French cook sang with great spirit and skill. The entertainments of the evening, as the theatrical bills expressed it, concluded with Ma Normandie and other beautiful songs and airs well executed by the French cook, accompanied by Symmes on the violin, and a landsman on the flute.
5.—Sailed for Cape Palmas, in company with the Porpoise.
9.—Anchored at Cape Palmas. We were boarded by Kroo-men, in eight or ten canoes. While the thermometer stood at 75 or 80 degrees, these naked boatmen were shivering, and seemed absolutely to suffer with cold; and such is the effect of the climate upon our own physical systems, that we find woollen garments comfortable at the same temperature.
Visited and lunched with Governor Rasswurm. Called on Mr. James, a colored missionary, now occupying the house of Mr. Wilson, who has lately removed to Gaboon river. Mr. James presented us with some ebony, and a few Grebo books. He informed us that the fever had visited him more or less severely, as often as once in four weeks during seven years. This may truly be called a feverish life! He is about to remove to Gaboon.
The Catholic Mission seems to have driven the Presbyterian from the ground. We called on Mr. Kelly, a Catholic priest from Baltimore, and the only white man of the Mission at present in Africa. Preparations, however, have already been made for twenty more, principally French, whose arrival is expected within a year, and who will establish themselves at different points along the coast. Mr. Kelly is now finishing a very commodious house, on a scale of some magnitude, with piazzas around the whole. There is evidently no lack of money. The funds for the support of the Catholic mission are derived principally through Lyons, in France; and the enterprise is said to be under the patronage of the king. The abundant pecuniary means which the priests have at command, and the imposing and attractive ceremonies of their mode of worship—so well fitted to produce an effect on uncultivated natures, where appeals either to the intellect or the heart would be thrown away—are among the chief causes of their success. It is said, too, and perhaps with truth, that as many converts are made, among the natives, by presents, as by persuasion. But no small degree of the prosperity of the mission must be attributed to the superior shrewdness and ability of the persons engaged in it—to their skilful adaptation of their precepts and modes of instruction to the people with whom they have to deal, and to their employment of the maxims of worldly policy in aid of their religious views. These qualities and rules of conduct have characterized the Catholic missionaries in all ages, in all parts of the world, and in their dealings with every variety of the human race; and their success has everywhere been commensurate with the superiority, in a merely temporal point of view, of the system on which they acted.
Before returning on board, we called on King Freeman, who received us, seated on a chair which was placed in front of his house. His majesty's royal robe was no other than an old uniform frock, which I had given him three years ago. We accepted the chairs which he offered us, and held a palaver, while some twenty of his subjects stood respectfully around. He remembered my former visit to the colony, and appeared very glad to see me again. His town was nearly deserted, the people having gone out to gather rice. About the royal residence, and in the vicinity, I saw thirty or forty cattle, most of them young, and all remarkably small. It is said, and I believe it to be a fact, that cattle, and even fowls, when brought from the interior, take the coast-fever, and often perish with it. Certain it is that they do not flourish.
11.—King Freeman came on board, dressed in his uniform frock, with two epaulettes, a redcap, and checked trowsers. He received some powder and bread from the Commodore, and some trifles from the ward-room.
12.—Joe Davis brought his son on board to "learn sense." In pursuit of this laudable object, the young man is to make a cruise with us. The father particularly requested that his son might be flogged, saying, "Spose you lick him, you gib him sense!" On such a system, a man-of-war is certainly no bad school of improvement.
13.—A delightful day, clear sky, and cool breeze. We sailed from Cape Palmas yesterday, steering up the coast.
I have been conversing with young Ben Johnson, one of our Kroomen, on the conjugal and other customs of his countrymen. These constitute quite a curious object of research. The Kroomen are indispensable in carrying on the commerce and maritime business of the African coast. When a Kroo-boat comes alongside, you may buy the canoe, hire the men at a moment's warning, and retain them in your service for months. They expend no time nor trouble in providing their equipment, since it consists merely of a straw hat and a piece of white or colored cotton girded about their loins. In their canoes, they deposit these girdles in the crowns of their hats; nor is it unusual, when a shower threatens them on shore, to see them place this sole garment in the same convenient receptacle, and then make for shelter. When rowing a boat, or paddling a canoe, it is their custom to sing; and, as the music goes on, they seem to become invigorated, applying their strength cheerfully, and with limbs as unwearied as their voices. One of their number leads in recitative, and the whole company respond in the chorus. The subject of the song is a recital of the exploits of the men, their employments, their intended movements, the news of the coast, and the character of their employers. It is usual, in these extemporary strains, for the Kroomen attached to a man-of-war to taunt, with good-humored satire, their friends who are more laboriously employed in merchant vessels, and not so well fed and paid.
Their object in leaving home, and entering into the service of navigators, is generally to obtain the means of purchasing wives, the number of whom constitutes a man's importance. The sons of "gentlemen" (for there is such a distinction of rank among them) never labor at home, but do not hesitate to go away, for a year or two, and earn something to take to their families. On the return of these wanderers—not like the prodigal son, but bringing wealth to their kindred—great rejoicings are instituted. A bullock is killed by the head of the family, guns are fired, and two or three days are spent in the performance of various plays and dances. The "boy" gives all his earnings to his father, and places himself again under the parental authority. The Krooman of maturer age, on his return from an expedition of this kind, buys a wife, or perhaps more than one, and distributes the rest of his accumulated gains among his relatives. In a week, he has nothing left but his wives and his house.
Age is more respected by the Africans than by any other people. Even if the son be forty years old, he seldom seeks to emancipate himself from the paternal government. If a young man falls in love, he, in the first place, consults his father. The latter makes propositions to the damsel's father, who, if his daughter agree to the match, announces the terms of purchase. The price varies in different places, and is also influenced by other circumstances, such as the respectability and power of the family, and the beauty and behavior of the girl. The arrangements here described are often made when the girl is only five or six years of age, in which case she remains with her friends until womanhood, and then goes to the house of her bridegroom. Meantime, her family receive the stipulated price, and are responsible for her good behavior. Should she prove faithless, and run away, her purchase-money must be refunded by her friends, who, in their turn, have a claim upon the family of him who seduces or harbors her. If prompt satisfaction be not made (which, however, is generally the case), there will be a "big palaver," and a much heavier expense for damages and costs. If, after the commencement of married life, the husband is displeased with his wife's conduct, he complains to her father, who either takes her back, and repays the dowry, or more frequently advises that she be flogged. In the latter alternative, she is tied, starved, and severely beaten; a mode of conjugal discipline which generally produces the desired effect.
Should the wife be suspected of infidelity, the husband may charge her with it, and demand that she drink the poisonous decoction of sassy-wood, which is used as the test of guilt or innocence, in all cases that are considered too uncertain for human judgment. If her stomach free itself from the fatal draught by vomiting, she is declared innocent, and is taken back by her family without repayment of the dower. On the other hand, if the poison begin to take effect, she is pronounced guilty; an emetic is administered in the shape of common soap; and her husband may, at his option, either send her home, or cut off her nose and ears.
There is one sad discrepancy in the moral system of these people, as regards the virtue of the women. No disgrace is imputed to the wife who admits the immoral advances of a white man, provided it be done with the knowledge and consent of her husband. The latter, in whose eyes the white man is one of a distinct and superior order of beings, usually considers himself honored by an affair of this nature, and makes it likewise a matter of profit. All proposals, in view of such a connection, must pass through the husband; nor, it is affirmed, is there any hazard of wounding his delicacy, or awakening his resentment, whatever be his rank and respectability. The violated wife returns to the domestic roof with undiminished honor, and confines herself as rigidly within the limits of her nuptial vow, as if this singular suspension of it had never taken place. In spite of the degradation indicated by the above customs, the Kroo-women are rather superior to other native females, and seem to occupy a higher social position. The wife first married holds the purse, directs the household affairs, and rules the other women, who labor diligently for the benefit of their common husband and master. Their toil constitutes his wealth. It is usual for a man to live two, three, or four days, with each of his wives in turn. As old age advances, he loses the control of his female household, most of the members of which run away, unless he is wise enough to dispose of them (as usage permits) to his more youthful relatives. As a Krooman of sixty or seventy often has wives in their teens, it is not to be wondered at that they should occasionally show a disposition to rove.
Return to Monrovia—Sail for Porto Praya—The Union Hotel—Reminiscences of famine at the Cape de Verds—Frolics of Whalemen—Visit to the island of St. Antonio—A dance—Fertility of the island—A Yankee clock-maker—A mountain ride—City of Poverson—Point de Sol—Kindness of the women—The handsome commandant—A Portuguese dinner.
August 14.—Passed near Sinoe, a colonial settlement, but did not show our colors. An English merchant brig was at anchor. Our pilot observed, that this settlement was not in a flourishing condition, because it received no great "resistance" from the Colonization Society. Of course, he meant to say, "assistance;" but there was an unintentional philosophy in the remark. Many plants thrive best in adversity.
Anchored at the river Sesters, and sent a boat ashore. Two canoes paddled alongside, and their head-men came on board. One was a beautifully formed man, and walked the deck with a picturesque dignity of aspect and motion. He had more the movement of an Indian, than any negro I ever saw. Two men were left in each boat, to keep her alongside, and wait the movements of their master. They kneel in the boat, and sit on their heels. When a biscuit is thrown to them, they put it on their thighs, and thence eat it at their leisure.
16.—Ashore at Monrovia. The buildings look dilapidated, and the wooden walls are in a state of decay. Houses of stone are coming into vogue. There is a large stone court-house, intended likewise for a Legislative Hall. What most interested me, was an African pony, a beautiful animal, snow white, with a head as black as ebony. I also saw five men chained together, by the neck; three colonists and two natives, with an overseer superintending them. They had been splitting stone for Government.
A gun from the ship gave the signal for our return. Going on board, we got under way, and sailed for Porto Praya. 20.—For four days, we have had much rain; and I have seldom visited the deck, except when duty called me. Fortunately, Governor Roberts had lent me the report of the Committee of Parliament, on the Western Coast of Africa, the perusal of which has afforded me both pleasant and profitable occupation. It is an excellent work, full of facts, from men who have spent years on the coast.
21.—Wind still favorable. The day is sunny, and all are on deck to enjoy the air. Damp clothes hang in the rigging to-day, and mouldy boots and shoes fill the boats.
24.—We find ourselves again off the harbor of Porto Praya. I landed in quest of news, and heard of the death of Mr. Legare, and the loss of the store-ship, at this port. All hands were saved, but with the sacrifice of several thousand dollars' worth of property, besides the vessel.
On approaching the shore, three flags are observed to be flying in the town. One is the consular flag of our own nation; another is the banner of Portugal; and the third, being blue, white, and blue, is apt to puzzle a stranger, until he reads UNION HOTEL, in letters a foot long. When last at Porto Praya, a few friends and myself took some slight refreshment at the hotel, and were charged so exorbitantly, that we forswore all visits to the house in future. To-day, the keeper stopt me in the street, and begged the favor of our patronage. On my representing the enormity of his former conduct, he declared that it was all a mistake; that he was the master of the hotel, and was unfortunately absent at the time. I was pleased with this effrontery, having paid the exorbitant charge into his own hands, not a month before. It is delightful, in these remote, desolate, and semi-barbarous regions, to meet with characteristics that remind us of a more polished and civilized land.
The streets are hot and deserted, and the town more than ordinarily dull, as most of the inhabitants are out planting. The court has gone to Buonavista, on account of the unhealthiness of Porta Praya, at this season of the year. A few dozen scrubby trees have been planted in the large square, but, though protected by palings and barrels, have not reached the height of two feet. In the centre stands a marble monument, possibly intended for a fountain, but wholly destitute of water.
25.—The boat went ashore again, and brought off the consul, and some stores. We then made sail, passing to the windward of all the islands, and reached our former anchorage at Porto Grande.
28.—There are one barque and three brigs, all American whalers, in the harbor of Porto Grande. They have been out from three to six months, and are here for water, bad though it be, and fresh provisions. Their inducements to visit this port, are the goodness of the harbor, and the smallness of the port charges. No consular fee has been paid until now, when, an agent being appointed, each vessel pays him a perquisite of four dollars.
This group of islands is chiefly interesting to Americans, as being the resort of our whale-ships, to refit and obtain supplies, and of other vessels trading to the coast of Africa. Little was generally known of them, however, in America, until 1832, when a long-continued drought parched up the fields, destroyed the crops, and reduced the whole population to the verge of death, by famine. Not less than ten thousand did actually perish of hunger; and the remainder were saved only by the timely, prompt and bountiful supplies, sent out from every part of the United States. I well remember the thrill of compassion that pervaded the community at home, on hearing that multitudes were starving in the Cape de Verd islands. Without pausing to inquire who they were, or whether entitled to our assistance, by any other than the all-powerful claim of wretchedness, the Americans sent vessel after vessel, laden with food, which was gratuitously distributed to the poor. The supplies were liberal and unremitted, until the rains returned, and gave the usual crops to the cultivators.
Twelve years have passed since that dismal famine; but the memory of the aid extended by Americans has not yet faded, nor seems likely to fade, from the minds of those who were succored in their need. I have heard men, who were then saved from starvation, speak strongly and feelingly on the subject, with quivering lip and faltering voice. Women, likewise, with streaming eyes, to this day, invoke blessings on the foreign land that fed their children, when there was no other earthly help. England, though nearer, and in more intimate connection with these islands, sent not a mouthful of food; and Portugal, the mother country, shipped only one or two small cargoes to be sold; while America fed the starving thousands, gratuitously, for months. Our consul at Porto Praya, Mr. Gardner, after making a strong and successful appeal to the sympathies of his own countrymen, distributed his own stores to the inhabitants, until he was well-nigh beggared. He enjoys the only reward he sought, in the approval of his conscience, as well as the gratitude of the community; and America, too, may claim more true glory from this instance of general benevolence, pervading the country from one end to the other, than from any victory in our annals.
29.—Ashore again. An ox for our ship was driven in from the mountains by three or four horsemen and as many dogs, who chased him till he took refuge in the water. A boat now put off, and soon overtaking the tired animal, he was tied securely. When towed ashore, one rope was fastened round his horns, and another to his fore-foot, each held by a negro, while a third took a strong gripe of his tail. In this manner, they led and drove him along, the fellow behind occasionally biting the beast's tail, to quicken his motions; until at length the poor creature was made fast to an anchor on the beach, there to await the butcher.
There is here a miserable church, but no priest. Passing the edifice to-day, I saw seven or eight women at their devotions. Instead of kneeling, they were seated, with their chins resting on their knees, on the shady side of the church.
30.—The crews of the whale-ships, when ashore, occasionally give no little trouble to the colonial police. This evening, one of their sailors came up to us, quite intoxicated, and bleeding from a hurt in his head. He was bent upon vengeance for his wound, but puzzled how to get it; inasmuch as a female hand had done the mischief, by cutting his head open with a bottle. His chivalry would not allow him to strike a woman; nor could he find any man who would acknowledge himself her relative. In this dilemma, he was raving through the little village, accompanied by several of his brother whale-men, mostly drunk, and ready for a row. The Portuguese officer on duty called out the guard, consisting of two negroes with fixed bayonets, and caused them to march back and forth in the street. Fifty paces in the village would bring them to the country; when the detachment came to the right about, and retraced its steps. These two negroes formed precisely two-fifths of the regular military force at Porto Grande; but, besides this formidable host, there are some thirty officers and soldiers of the National Guard, comprising all the negro population able to bear clubs.
The women here have a peculiar mode of carrying children, when two or three years old. The child sits astride of the mother's left hip, clinging with hands and feet, and partially supported by her left arm. The little personage being in a state of total nudity, and of course very slippery, this is doubtless the most convenient method that could be adopted.
The gait of the women is remarkably free and unembarrassed. With no constraint of stays or corsets, and often innocent of any covering, the shoulders have full play, and the arms swing more than I have ever seen those of men, in our own country. Their robes are neither too abundant, nor too tight, to prevent the exhibition of a very martial stride. The scanty clothing worn here is owing partly, but not entirely, to the warmth of the climate. Another cogent reason is the poverty of the inhabitants; so, at least, I infer from the continual petitions for clothes, and from remarks like the following, made to me by a mulatto woman:—"You very good man, you got plenty clothes, plenty shirt."
September 3.—The Cornelia, of New Bedford, came in and anchored. She has been out fifteen months, and has only 400 barrels of oil.
4.—Left the ship in the launch on an expedition to the neighboring island of St. Antonio; being despatched by the Commodore to procure information as to the facilities for anchoring ships, and obtaining water and refreshments. Our boat was sloop-rigged, and carried three officers, a passenger, and ten men. At 11 A.M. we "sheeted home," and stood out of the harbor with a fair breeze, and all canvass spread: but, within an hour, the wind freshened to a gale, and compelled us to take in everything but a close reefed mainsail. The sea being rough, and the weather squally, our boat took in more water than was either agreeable or safe, until we somewhat improved matters by constructing a temporary forecastle of tarpaulins. Finding it impossible, however, to contend against wind and current, we bore up for an anchorage called Santa Cruz. This was formerly a notorious haunt for pirates; but no vestige of a settlement remains, save the ruins of an old stone house, which may probably have been the theatre of wild and bloody incidents, in by-gone years. The serrated hills are grey and barren, and the surrounding country shows no verdure. Anchoring here, we waited several hours for the wind to moderate, and tried to get such sleep as might perchance be caught in an unsteady boat.
By great diligence in working against wind and current, we succeeded in reaching Genella at 9 o'clock in the evening of the second day. Our mulatto pilot, Manuel Quatrine, whistled shrilly through his fingers; and, after a brief delay, the response of a similar whistle reached our ears from shore. A conversation was sustained for some moments, by means of shouts to-and-fro in Portuguese; a man then swam off to reconnoitre; and, on his return, the people launched a canoe and carried us ashore, weary enough of thirty-six hours' confinement in an open boat. We took up our quarters in the house of a decent negro, who seemed to be the head man of the village, and, after eating such a supper as the place could supply, sallied out to give the women an opportunity of preparing our beds.
Meanwhile, the pilot had not been idle. Though a married man, and the father of six children, he was a gay Lothario, and a great favorite with the sex; he could sing, dance, and touch the guitar with infinite spirit, and tolerable skill. Being well known in the village, it is not surprising that the arrival of so accomplished a personage should have disturbed the slumbers of the inhabitants. At ten o'clock, a dance was arranged before the door of one of the huts. The dark-skinned maidens, requiring but little time to put on their ball-costume, came dropping in, until, before midnight, there were thirty or forty dancers on foot. The figures were compounded of the contra-dance and reel, with some remarkable touches of the Mandingo balance. The music proceeded from one or two guitars, which, however, were drowned a great part of the time, by the singing of the girls and the clapping of each individual pair of hands in the whole party. A calabash of sour wine, munificently bestowed by a spectator, increased the fun, and it continued to wax higher and more furious, as the night wore away. Our little pilot was, throughout, the leader of the frolic, and acquitted himself admirably. His nether garments having received serious detriment in the voyage, he borrowed a large heavy pea-jacket, to conceal the rents, and in this garb danced for hours with the best, in a sultry night. Long before the festivity was over, my companions and myself stretched ourselves on a wide bag of straw, and fell asleep, lulled by the screaming of the dancers.
The next morning we were early on foot, and looked around us with no small interest. The village is situated at the point where a valley opens upon the shore. The sides of this vale are steep, and, in many places, high, perpendicular, and rocky. Every foot of earth is cultivated; and where the natural inclination of the hill is too great to admit of tillage, stone walls are built to sustain terraces, which rise one over another like giant steps to the mountain-tops. It was the beginning of harvest, and the little valley presented an appearance of great fertility. Corn, bananas, figs, guavas, grapes, oranges, sugar-cane, cocoa-nuts, and many other fruits and vegetables, are raised in abundance. The annual vintage in this and a neighboring valley, appertaining to the same parish, amounts to about seventy-five pipes of wine. It is sour and unpalatable, not unlike hard-cider and water. When a cultivator first tries his wine, it is a custom of the island for him to send notice to all his acquaintances, who invariably come in great force, each bringing a piece of salt-fish to keep his thirst alive. Not unfrequently, the whole produce of the season is exhausted by a single carouse.
The people are all negroes and mulattoes. Male and female, they are very expert swimmers, and are often in the habit of swimming out to sea, with a basket or notched stick to hold their fish; and thus they angle for hours, resting motionless on the waves, unless attacked by a shark. In this latter predicament, they turn upon their backs, and kick and splash until the sea-monster be frightened away. They appear to be a genial and pleasant-tempered race. As we walked through the village, they saluted us with "Blessed be the name of the Lord!" Whether this expression (a customary courtesy of the islanders) were mere breath, or proceeded out of the depths of the heart, is not for us to judge; but, at all events, heard in so wild and romantic a place, it made a forcible impression on my mind. When we were ready to depart, all the villagers came to the beach, with whatever commodities they were disposed to offer for sale; a man carrying a squealing pig upon his shoulders; women with fruits and fowls; girls with heavy bunches of bananas or bundles of cassada on their heads; and boys, with perhaps a single egg. Each had something, and all lingered on the shore until our boat was fairly off.
Five or six miles further, we landed at Paolo, where reside several families who regard themselves as the aristocracy of St. Antonio, on the score of being connected with Señor Martinez, the great man of these islands. Their houses are neatly built, and the fields and gardens well cultivated. They received us hospitably, principally because one of our party was a connection of the family. I was delighted with an exhibition of feeling on the part of an old negro servant-woman. She came into the parlor, sat down at the feet of our companion, embraced his knees, and looked up in his face with a countenance full of joy, mingled with respect and confidence. We saw but two ladies at this settlement. One was a matron with nine children; the other a dark brunette, very graceful and pleasing, with the blackest eyes and whitest teeth in the world. She wore a shawl over the right shoulder and under the left arm, arranged in a truly fascinating manner.
The poorer classes in the vicinity are nearly all colored, and mostly free. They work for eight or ten cents a day, living principally on fruit and vegetables, and are generally independent, because their few wants are limited to the supply. The richest persons live principally within themselves, and derive their meats, vegetables, fruits, wine, brandy, sugar, coffee, oil, and most other necessaries and luxuries, from their own plantations. One piece of furniture, however, to be seen in several of the houses, was evidently not the manufacture of the island, but an export of Yankee-land. It was the wooden clock, in its shining mahogany case, adorned with bright red and yellow pictures of Saints and the Virgin, to suit the taste of good Catholics. It might have been fancied that the renowned Sam Slick, having glutted all other markets with his wares, had made a voyage to St. Antonio. Nor did they lack a proper artist to keep the machine in order. We met here a person whom we at first mistook for a native, so identical were his manners and appearance with those of the inhabitants; until, in conversation, we found him to be a Yankee, who had run away from a whale-ship, and established himself as a clock and watch-maker.
After a good night's rest, another officer and myself left Paolo, early, for a mountain ride. The little pilot led the way on a donkey; my friend followed on a mule, and I brought up the rear on horseback. We began to ascend, winding along the rocky path, one by one, there being no room to ride two abreast. The road had been cut with much labor, and, in some places, was hollowed out of the side of the cliff, thus forming a gallery of barely such height and width as to admit the passage of a single horseman, and with a low wall of loose stones between the path and the precipice. At other points, causeways of small stones and earth had been built up, perhaps twenty feet high, along the top of which ran the path. On looking at these places from some projecting point, it made us shudder to think that we had just passed, where the loosening of a single one of those small stones might have carried us down hundreds of feet, to certain destruction. The whole of the way was rude and barren. Here and there a few shrubs grew in the crevices of the rocks, or wild flowers, of an aspect strange to our eyes, wasted their beauty in solitude; and the small orchilla weed spread itself moss-like over the face of the cliff. At one remarkable point, the path ran along the side of the precipice, about midway of its height. Above, the rock rose frowningly, at least five hundred feet over our heads. Below, it fell perpendicularly down to the beach. The roar of the sea did not reach us, at our dizzy height, and the heavy surf-waves, in which no boat could live, seemed to kiss the shore as gently as the ripple of a summer-lake. This was the most elevated point of the road, which thence began to descend; but the downward track was as steep and far more dangerous. At times, the animals actually slid down upon their haunches. In other places, they stept from stone to stone, down steep descents, where the riders were obliged to lie backwards flat upon the cruppers.
Over all these difficulties, our guide urged his donkey gaily and unconcernedly. As for myself, though I have seen plenty of rough riding, and am as ready as most men to follow, if not to lead, I thought it no shame to dismount more than once. The rolling of a stone, or the parting of stirrup, girth, or crupper, would have involved the safety of one's neck. Nor did the very common sight of wooden crosses along the path, indicating sudden death by accident or crime, tend to lessen the sense of insecurity. The frequent casualties among these precipitous paths, together with the healthfulness of the climate, have made it a proverb, that it is a natural death, at St. Antonio, to be dashed to pieces on the rocks. But such was not our fate. We at length reached the sea-shore, and rode for a mile along the beach to the city of Poverson, before entering which metropolis, it was necessary to cross a space of level, sandy ground, about two hundred yards in extent. Here the little pilot suddenly stuck his heels into the sides of his donkey, and dashed onward at a killing pace; while mule and horse followed hard upon his track, to the great admiration of ragamuffins, who had assembled to witness the entrée of the distinguished party.
Poverson is the capital of the island, and contains about two thousand inhabitants, who, with few exceptions, are people of color. The streets are crooked and narrow, and the houses mean. We called upon the military and civil Governors, and, after accepting an invitation to dine with the former, left the place for a further expedition. Passing over a shallow river, in which a number of women and girls were washing clothes, we ascended a hill so steep as to oblige us to dismount, and from the summit of which we had a fine view of the rich valley beneath. It is by far the most extensive tract of cultivated land that we have seen in the island, and is improved to its utmost capacity. We thence rode three miles over a path of the same description as before, and arrived at the village and port of Point-de-Sol. The land about this little town is utterly barren, and the inhabitants are dependent on Poverson for food, with the exception of fish. A custom-house, a single store, a church, and some twenty houses of fishermen, comprise all the notable characteristics of the principal seaport of the island.
It was a part of our duty to make an examination of the harbor, for which purpose we needed a boat. Two were hauled up on the beach; but the smallest would have required the power of a dozen men to launch her;—whereas, the fishermen being absent in their vocation, our party of three, and a big boy at the store, comprised our whole available masculine strength. The aid of woman, however, is seldom sought in vain; nor did it fail us now. Old and young, matron and maid, they all sallied forth to lend a hand, and, with such laughing and screaming as is apt to attend feminine efforts, enabled us to launch the boat. In spite of their patois of bad Portuguese, we contrived to establish a mutual understanding. A fine, tall girl, with a complexion of deep olive, clear, large eyes, and teeth beautifully white and even, stood by my side; and, like the Ancient Mariner and his sister's son, we pulled together. She was strong, and, as Byron says, "lovely in her strength." This difficulty surmounted, we rowed round the harbor, made our examination, and returned to the beach, where we again received the voluntary assistance of the women, in dragging the boat beyond the reach of the waves. We now adjourned to the store, in order to requite their kindness by a pecuniary offering. Each of our fair friends received two large copper coins, together equal to nine cents, and were perfectly satisfied, as well they might be—for it was the price of a day's work. Two or three individuals, moreover, "turned double corners," and were paid twice; and it is my private belief that the tall beauty received her two coppers three times over.
After a lunch of fried plantains and eggs, we rode back to Poverson. On the way, we met several persons of both sexes with burdens on their heads, and noticed that our guide frequently accosted them with a request for a pinch of snuff. With few exceptions, a horn or piece of bone was produced, containing a fine yellow snuff of home-manufacture, which, instead of being taken between the thumb and finger, was poured into the palm of the hand, and thence conveyed to the nose. Arriving at the city, we proceeded at once to the house of the Commandant, and in a little time were seated at dinner.
Our host was fitted by nature to adorn a far more brilliant position than that which he occupied, as the petty commander of a few colored soldiers, in a little island of the torrid zone. He was slightly made, but perfectly proportioned, with a face of rare beauty, and an expression at once noble and pleasing. His eyes were large, and full of a dark light; his black hair and moustache were trimmed with a care that showed him not insensible of his personal advantages; as did likewise his braided jacket, fitting so closely as to set off his fine figure to the best effect. His manners were in a high degree polished and graceful. One of the guests, whom he had invited to meet us, understood English; and the conversation was sustained in that language, and in Spanish. The dinner was cooked and served in the Portuguese style; it went off very pleasantly, and was quite as good as could be expected at the house of a bachelor, in a place so seldom visited by strangers. Each of the Portuguese gentlemen gave a sentiment, prefaced by a short complimentary speech; and our party, of course, reciprocated in little speeches of the same nature. The Commandant did not fail to express the gratitude due from the people of the Cape de Verd islands to America, for assistance in the hour of need. Time did not permit us to remain long at table, and we took leave, highly delighted with our entertainment.
Mounting again, we rode out of town more quietly than we had entered it. A sergeant was drilling some twenty negro soldiers in marching and wheeling. His orders were given in a quick, loud tone, and enforced by the occasional application of smart blows of a rattan to the shoulders of his men. Suspecting that the blows fell thicker because we were witnesses of his discipline, it seemed a point of humanity to hasten forward; especially as the approach of night threatened to make our journey still more perilous than before. After riding about three miles, we met two well-dressed mulatto women on donkeys, accompanied by their cavaliers. Of course, we allowed the ladies to pass between us and the rock; a matter of no slight courtesy in such a position, where there was a very uncomfortable hazard of being jostled headlong down the precipice. We escaped, however, and spurring onward through the gloom of night, passed unconsciously over several rough spots where we had dismounted in the morning. The last mile of our mountain-ride was lighted by the moon; and, as we descended the last hill, the guide gave a shrill whistle, to which the boat's crew responded with three cheers for our return.
A good night's rest relieved us of our fatigue. The following morning, with a fair breeze and a six hours' sail, we reached our floating-home, and have ever since entertained the mess-table with the "yarn" of our adventures; until now the subject is beginning to be worn thread-bare. But, as the interior of the island of St. Antonio is one of the few regions of the earth as yet uncelebrated by voyagers and tourists, I cannot find in my heart to spare the reader a single sentence of the foregoing narrative.
Arrival of the Macedonian—Return to the Coast of Africa—Emigrants to Liberia—Tornadoes—Maryland in Liberia—Nature of its Government—Perils of the Bar—Mr. Russwurm—The Grebo Tribe—Manner of disposing of their Dead.
September 9.—Weighed anchor, and stood out to sea. At 8 o'clock A.M., made the frigate Macedonian. She saluted the broad pennant, and both ships bore up for Porto Grande, where we anchored, and read the news from home.
11.—The Commodore left the ship, and hoisted his broad pennant on board the Macedonian.
16.—Sailed at 6 o'clock P.M., for Porto Praya.
17.—Anchored at Porto Praya, where we find the Decatur, which arrived yesterday, after a passage of forty-five days from Norfolk.
22.—Sailed in the evening for the coast.
October 7.—Off Cape Mount.
8.—Ashore at Monrovia. It being Sunday, we attended the Methodist Church. Mr. Teage, editor of the Liberia Herald, preached an appropriate and well-written discourse, on occasion of admitting three men and a woman to church-membership. One of the males was a white, who had married a colored woman in America, and came out to the colony with Mr. McDonough's people, some time ago. His wife being dead, he has married another woman of color, and is determined to live and die here.
10.—Dined with the Governor. Visited the house of a poor colonist, a woman with two children and no husband. She endeavors to support her family by washing. Two or three, other women of the neighborhood dropped in. It is said that the proportion of female emigrants to males is as three and a half to one. Unless it be expected that these women are to work in the fields, it is difficult to imagine how they are to earn a subsistence. A little chance washing and sewing, not enough to employ one in ten, is all they have to depend upon. The consequence is, that every person, of even moderate means of living, has two or three women to feed and clothe. They do not need their services, but cannot let them starve. This is one of the drawbacks upon Colonization.
Even the able-bodied men are generally unfit for promoting the prosperity of the colony. A very large proportion of them are slaves, just liberated. Accustomed to be ruled and taken care of by others, they are no better than mere children, as respects the conduct and economy of life. In America, their clothes, food, medicines, and all other necessaries, have been furnished without a thought on their own part; and when sent to Liberia, with high notions of freedom and exemption from labor (ideas which with many are synonymous), they prove totally inadequate to sustain themselves. I perceive, in Colonization reports, that the owners of slaves frequently offer to liberate them, on condition of their being sent to Liberia; and that the Society has contracted debts, and embarrassed itself in various ways, rather than let such offers pass. In my opinion, many of the slaves, thus offered, are of little value to the donors, and of even less to the cause of Colonization. Better to discriminate carefully in the selection of emigrants, than to send out such numbers of the least eligible class, to become burdens upon the industrious and intelligent, who might otherwise enjoy comfort and independence. Many a colonist, at this moment, sacrifices his interest to his humanity, and feels himself kept back in life by the urgent claims of compassion.
The Society allows to new emigrants provisions for six months. After that period, if unable to take care of themselves, they must either starve, or be supported by the charitable. Fifty young or middle-aged men, who had been accustomed to self-guidance in America, would do more to promote the prosperity of the colony, than five hundred such emigrants as are usually sent out. The thievish propensity of many of the poor and indolent colonists is much complained of by the industrious. On this account, more than any other, it is difficult to raise stock. The vice has been acquired in America, and is not forgotten in Africa.
13.—A rainy morning. Last night we were all roused from sleep by the sea coming into the starboard air-ports. We of the larboard side laughed at the misfortune of our comrades, and closed our own ports, without taking the precaution to screw them in. Half an hour afterwards, a very heavy swell assailed us on the larboard, beat in all the loose ports, and deluged the rooms. I found myself suddenly awakened and cooled by a cataract of water pouring over me. Out jumped the larboard sleepers, in dripping night-gear, and shouted lustily for lights, buckets, and swabs; while the starboard gentlemen laughed long and loud, in their turn.
14.—Sailed for the leeward.
17.—Beautiful weather. This afternoon all hands were called to shorten sail, in those earnest, startling tones, which are prompted by the sense of danger alone. Every man sprang to his station with the instinctive readiness of disciplined seamen. The idlers were all on deck, and looked about for the cause. Had a man fallen overboard? No! Nor was there any particular appearance of a squall. But the earnest gaze of the commander and a passenger, towards the shore, drew all eyes in the same direction; and, behold! a smoke was seen rising from the land, which had been mistaken for the cloud that precedes the tornado. It is necessary to prepare for many blows that do not come. In the tornado-seasons (which may be estimated at four or five weeks, about the months of March and November), there are frequent appearances of squalls, sometimes as often as twice or thrice in twenty-four hours. The horizon grows black, with very much the aspect of a thunder-shower in America. Generally, the violence of the wind does not equal the apprehensions always entertained. We could have carried royals through nineteen out of twenty of the tornadoes that assailed our ship; but the twentieth might have taken the sticks out of us. The harmless, as well as the heavy tornadoes, have the same black and threatening aspect. They usually blow from the land, although once, while at anchor, we experienced one from seaward.
19.—Anchored at Cape Palmas. This colony is independent, of Liberia proper, and is under the jurisdiction and patronage of the Maryland State Colonization Society. Its title is Maryland in Liberia. The local government is composed of an agent and an assistant agent, both to be appointed by the Society at home, for two years; a secretary, to be appointed by the agent annually; and a vice-agent, two counsellors, a register, a sheriff, a treasurer, and a committee on new emigrants, to be chosen by the people. Several minor officers are appointed by the agent, who is entrusted with great powers. The judiciary consists of the agent, and a competent number of justices of the peace, who are appointed by him, and two of whom, together with the agent, constitute the Supreme Court. A single justice has jurisdiction in small criminal cases, and in all civil cases where the claim does not exceed twenty dollars.
Male colored people, at twenty years of age, are entitled to vote, if they hold land in their own right, or pay a tax of one dollar. Every emigrant must sign a pledge to support the constitution, and to refrain from the use of ardent spirits, except in case of sickness. By a provision of the constitution, emigration is never to be prohibited.
Our boat attempted to land at some rocks, just outside of the port, in order to avoid crossing the bar; but as the tide was low, and the surf troublesome, we found it impracticable. I hate a bar; there is no fair play about it. The long rollers come in from the sea, and, in consequence of the shallowness of the water, seem to pile themselves up so as inevitably to overwhelm you, unless you have skilful rowers, a good helmsman, and a lively boat. At one moment, your keel, perhaps, touches the sand; the next, you are lifted upon a wave and borne swiftly along for many yards, while the men lie on their oars, or only pull an occasional stroke, to keep the boat's head right. Now they give way with a will, to escape a white-crested wave that comes trembling and roaring after them; and now again they cease rowing, or back water, awaiting a favorable moment to cross. Should you get into a trough of the sea, you stand a very pretty chance to be swamped, and have your boat rolled over and over upon its crew; while, perchance, a hungry shark may help himself to a leg or arm.
Pulling across this ugly barrier, we landed at the only wharf of which the colony can boast. There is here a stone warehouse, but of no great size. In front of it lay a large log, some thirty feet long, on which twelve or fourteen full grown natives were roosting, precisely like turkeys on a pole. They are accustomed to sit for hours together in this position, resting upon their heels. A girl presented us with a note, informing all whom it might concern, that Mrs. —— would do our washing; but, as the ship's stay was to be short, we turned our attention to the cattle, of which a score or two were feeding in the vicinity. They are small, but, having been acclimated, are sleek and well-conditioned. As I have before observed, it is a well-established fact, that all four-footed emigrants are not less subject to the coast fever than bipeds. Horses, cattle, and even fowls, whether imported or brought from the interior to the coast, speedily sicken, and often die.
I dined with Mr. Russwurm, the colonial agent, a man of distinguished ability and of collegiate education. He gave me, some monkey-skins and other curiosities, and favored me with much information respecting the establishment. The mean temperature of the place is eighty degrees of Fahrenheit, which is something less than that of Monrovia, on account of its being more open to the sea. The colony comprises six hundred and fifty inhabitants, all of whom dwell within four miles of the Cape. Besides the settlement of Harper, situated on the Cape itself, there is that of Mount Tubman (named in honor of Mr. T. of Georgia), which lies beyond Mount Vaughan, and three and a half miles from Cape Palmas. There is no road to the interior of the country, except a native path. The agent, with a party of twenty, recently penetrated about seventy miles into the Bush, passing through two tribes, and coming to a third, of large numbers and strength. The king of the latter tribe has a large town, where many manufactures are carried on, such as iron implements and wooden furniture of various kinds. He refused Mr. Russwurm an escort, alleging that there was war, but sent his son to the coast, to see the black-white people and their improvements.
A large native tribe, the Grebo, dwells at Cape Palmas in the midst of the colonists. Their conical huts, to the number of some hundreds, present the most interesting part of the scene. Opposite the town, upon an uninhabited island at no great distance, the dead are exposed, clad in their best apparel, and furnished with food, cloth, crockery, and other articles. A canoe is placed over the body. This island of the dead is called by a name, which, in the plainest of English, signifies "Go-to-Hell;" a circumstance that seems to imply very gloomy anticipations as to the fate of their deceased brethren, on the part of these poor Grebos. As a badge of mourning, they wear cloth of dark blue, instead of gayer colors. Dark blue is universally, along the coast, the hue indicative of mourning.
The Fishmen, at Cape Palmas, as well as at most other places on the coast, refuse to sell fish to be eaten on board of vessels, believing that the remains of the dead fish will frighten away the living ones.
21.—Sailed at 5 o'clock A.M., with a good wind, and anchored at Sinoe at 6 P.M.
Settlement of Sinoe—Account of a murder by the natives—Arrival at Monrovia—Appearance of the town—Temperance—Law-suits and Pleadings—Expedition up the St. Paul's river—Remarks on the cultivation of sugar—Prospects of the coffee-culture in Liberia—Desultory observations on agriculture.
October 22.—At Sinoe. Mr. Morris, the principal man of the settlement, came on board, in order to take passage with us to Monrovia. He informs us that there are but seventy-two colonists here at present, but that nearly a hundred are daily expected. Such an accession of strength is much needed for the natives in the vicinity are powerful, and not very friendly, and the colony is too weak to chastise them. Our appearance has caused them some alarm. This is the place where the mate of an American vessel was harpooned, some months since, by the Fishmen. We shall hold a palaver about it, when the Commodore joins us.
We left Sinoe at 7 o'clock, P.M.
23. Mr. Morris has been narrating the circumstances of the murder of the American mate, at Sinoe, in reference to which we are to "set a palaver." "Palaver," by-the-by, is probably a corruption of the Portuguese word, "Palabra." As used by the natives, it has many significations, among which is that of an open quarrel. To "set a palaver," is to bring it to a final issue, either by talking or fighting.
The story of the murder is as follows. A Fishman agreed to go down the coast with Captain Burke, who paid him his wages in advance; on receiving which, the fellow jumped overboard, and escaped. The captain then refused to pay the sums due to two members of the same tribe, unless the first should refund the money. Finding the threat insufficient, he endeavored to entice these two natives on board his vessel, by promises of payment, but ineffectually. Meanwhile, the mate going ashore with a colonist, his boat was detained by the natives, during the night, but given up the next morning, at the intercession of the inhabitants. The mate returned on board, in a violent rage, and sent a sailor to catch a Fishman, on whom to take vengeance. But the man caught a Tartar, and was himself taken ashore as prisoner. The mate and cook then went out in a boat, and were attacked by a war-canoe, the men in which harpooned the cook, and stripping the mate naked, threw him overboard. They beat the poor fellow off, as he attempted to seize hold of the canoe, and, after torturing him for some time, at length harpooned him in the back. Captain Burke, having but one man and two passengers left, made sail, and got away as fast as possible.
23.—Arrived at Monrovia, where we find the Porpoise, with six native prisoners on board, who were taken at Berebee, as being concerned in the murder of Captain Farwell and his crew, two years ago. To accomplish their capture, the Porpoise was disguised as a barque, with only four or five men visible on deck, and these in Scotch caps and red shirts, so as to resemble the crew of a merchant-vessel. The first canoe approached, and Prince Jumbo stepped boldly up the brig's side, but started back into his boat, the moment that he saw the guns and martial equipment on deck. The Kroomen of the Porpoise, however, jumped into the water and upset the canoe, making prisoners of the four natives whom it contained. Six or eight miles further along the coast, the brig being under sail, another canoe came off with two natives, who were likewise secured. The Kroomen begged to be allowed to kill the prisoners, as they were of a hostile tribe.
28.—Leaving the ship in one of our boats, pulled by Kroomen, we crossed the bar at the mouth of the Mesurado, and in ten minutes afterwards, were alongside of the colonial wharf. Half-a-dozen young natives and colonists issued from a small house to watch our landing; but their curiosity was less intrusive and annoying, than would have been that of the same number of New-York boys, at the landing of a foreign man-of-war's boat. On our part, we looked around us with the interest which even common-place objects possess for those, whose daily spectacle is nothing more varied than the sea and sky. Even the most ordinary shore-scenery becomes captivating, after a week or two on shipboard. Two colonists were sawing plank in the shade of the large stone store-house of the colony. Ascending the hill, we passed the printing-office of the Liberia Herald, where two workmen were printing the colonial laws. The publication of the newspaper had been suspended for nearly three months, to enable them to accomplish work of more pressing importance. Proceeding onward, we came to the Governor's house, and were received with that gentleman's usual courtesy. The house is well furnished, and arranged for a hot climate; it is situated near the highest point of the principal street, and commands from its piazza a view of most of the edifices in Monrovia town.
The fort is on the highest ground in the village, one hundred feet above the sea; it is of stone, triangular in shape, and has a good deal the appearance of an American pound for cattle, but is substantial, and adequate for its intended purposes. From this point, the street descends in both directions. About fifty houses are in view. First, the Government House, opposite to which stand the neat dwellings of Judge Benedict and Doctor Day. Further on, you perceive the largest house in the village, erected by Rev. Mr. Williams, of the Methodist mission. On the right is a one-story brick house, and two or three wooden ones. A large stone edifice, intended for a Court-House and Legislative Hall, has recently been completed. The street itself is wide enough for a spacious pasture, and affords abundance of luxuriant grass, through which run two or three well-trodden foot-paths. Apart from the village, on the Cape, we discerned the light-house, the base of which is about two hundred feet above the sea.
We dined to-day at the New Hotel. The dinner was ill-cooked (an unpardonable fault at Monrovia, where good cooks, formerly in the service of our southern planters, might be supposed to abound), and not served up in proper style. But there was abundance to eat and drink. Though the keeper of the house is a clergyman and a temperance-man, ale, porter, wine, and cherry-brandy, are to be had at fair prices. Three years ago, a tavern was kept here in Monrovia by a Mr. Cooper, whose handbill set forth, that "nothing was more repugnant to his feelings than to sell ardent spirits"—but added—"if gentlemen will have them, the following is the price." Of course, after such a salvo, Mr. Cooper pocketed the profits of his liquor-trade with a quiet conscience. He used to tell me that a little brandy was good for the "suggestion;" but I fear that he made, in his own person, too large a demand upon its suggestive properties; for his house is now untenanted and ruinous, and he himself has carried his tender conscience to another settlement.
30.—Went ashore in the second cutter. The Kroomen managed her so bunglingly, that, on striking the beach, she swung broadside to the sea. In this position, a wave rolled into her, half-filled the boat, and drenched us from head to foot. Apprehending that she would roll over upon us, and break our limbs or backs, we jumped into the water, and waded ashore.
While in the village, I visited the Court House, to hear the trial of a cause involving an amount of eight hundred dollars. Governor Roberts acted as judge, and displayed a great deal of dignity in presiding, and much wisdom and good sense in his decision. This is the highest court of the Colony. There are no regularly educated lawyers in Liberia, devoting themselves exclusively to the profession; but the pleading seems to be done principally by the medical faculty. Two Doctors were of counsel in the case alluded to, and talked of Coke, Blackstone, and Kent, as learnedly as if it had been the business of their lives to unravel legal mysteries. The pleadings were simple, and the arguments brief, for the judge kept them strictly to the point. An action for slander was afterwards tried, in which the damages were laid at one hundred dollars. One of the medico-jurisconsults opened the cause with an appeal to the feelings, and wrought his own sensibilities to such a pitch as to declare, that, though his client asked only for one hundred dollars, he considered the jury bound in conscience to give him two. The Doctor afterwards told me that he had walked eighty miles to act as counsel in this court. A tailor argued stoutly for the defendant, but with little success; his client was fined twenty dollars.
On our return, a companion and myself took passage for the ship in a native canoe. These little vessels are scooped out of a log, and are of even less size and capacity than the birch-canoes of our Indians, and so light that two men, using each a single hand, may easily carry them from place to place. Our weight caused the frail bark to sit so deep in the water, that, before reaching the ship, we underwent another drenching. Three changes of linen in one day are altogether too expensive and troublesome.
November 1.—Went up the St. Paul's river on a pleasure excursion, with the Governor, and several men of lesser note. We touched at the public farm, and found only a single man in charge. The sugar-cane was small in size, was ill-weeded, and, to my eye, did not appear flourishing. The land is apparently good and suitable, but labor is deficient, and my impressions were not favorable in regard to the manner of cultivation. The mill was exposed to the atmosphere, and the kettles were full of foul water. We landed likewise at New Georgia, a settlement of recaptured Africans. There was here a pretty good appearance, both of people and farms. We called also at Caldwell, a rich tract of level land, of which a space of about two miles is cultivated by comfortable and happy-looking colonists. A very pleasant dinner was furnished by the Governor at what was once a great slave station, and the proprietor of which is still hostile to the colonists, and to both English and Americans, for breaking up the trade. We saw several alligators. One of them, about three feet in length, lay on a log, with his mouth wide open, catching flies.
From the whole course of my observation, I cannot but feel satisfied that the colonists are better off here than in America. They are more independent, as healthy, and much happier. Agriculture will doubtless be their chief employment, but, for years to come, the cultivation of sugar cane cannot be carried to any considerable extent. There are many calls upon the resources of the Colonization Society and the inhabitants, more pressing, and which promise a readier and greater return. A large capital should be invested in the business, in order to render it profitable. The want of a steam-mill, to grind the cane, has been severely felt. Ignorance of the most appropriate soil, and of the most productive kind of cane, and the best methods of planting and grinding it, have likewise contributed to retard the cultivation of sugar. But the grand difficulty is the want of a ready capital, and the high price of labor. The present wages of labor are from sixty to seventy-five cents per day. The natives refuse to work among the canes, on account of the prickly nature of the leaves, and the irritating property of a gum that exudes from them. Yet it may be doubted whether the colony will ever make sugar to any important extent, unless some method be found to apply native labor to that purpose. Private enterprise is no more successful than the public efforts. A plantation has been commenced at Millsburg, and prosecuted with great diligence, but with no auspicious results. Sugar has been made, indeed, but at a cost of three times as much, per pound, as would have purchased it.
Hitherto, the plantations of Coffee trees have not succeeded well. Coffee, it is true, is sometimes exported from Liberia; and doubtless the friends of Colonization drink it with great gusto, as an earnest of the progress of their philanthropic work. The cup, however, will be less grateful to their taste, when they learn that nearly all this coffee is procured at the islands of St. Thomas and St. Prince's, in the Bight of Benin, and entered as the produce of Liberia, ad captandum. The same game has been played in England, by entering their coffee as from Sierra Leone or Gambia, to entitle it to the benefit of the lower duties on colonial produce. But the English custom-house officers are now aware of the deception, and the business is abandoned.
The mode of forming a coffee-plantation is simply to go into the woods (where the tree abounds), select the wild coffee tree, and transport it into the prepared field. The indigenous coffee-tree of Liberia produces fruit of a superior quality, larger and finer flavored, than that of the West Indies. But the cultivation, I think, is conducted upon wrong principles. Instead of having large plantations, with no other vegetables on the land, let every man intermingle a few coffee trees with the corn, cassada, and other vegetables in his garden or fields. These few trees, having the benefit of the hoeing and manuring bestowed on the other crops, will produce much more abundantly and with less trouble, than by separate culture. In fact, after setting out the trees, there will be no trouble, except that of gathering and preparing the berries for market. In this burning climate, the shade afforded by the tree will be beneficial to most vegetables.
The want of success, hitherto, in the cultivation of coffee, has been attributed by some to the custom of transplanting the trees from the forest, instead of raising them from seed. The colonial Secretary is now making trial of the latter method. He has several thousand young trees in his nursery, and will soon be able to test the comparative efficiency of the different systems. Not improbably, the cultivation of seedlings may be found preferable to that of transplanted trees; but, in my opinion, the great obstacle to success has been the deficiency of care and proper manuring. In order to bear well, trees require to have the ground enriched, and kept free from weeds. Failing this, the plant often dies, and never flourishes so well as in its native woods. The inhabitants of Liberia have not the means of bestowing the requisite care upon the cultivation of coffee, on an extended scale; and I say boldly, that large plantations, in that region, cannot compete with those of Brazil and the West Indies, where the plantations are well-stocked, and cultivated by slave-labor. Free labor in Africa will not soon be so cheap as that of slaves in other countries. Even in Cuba, the planters can barely feed themselves and their slaves, by the culture of coffee. How, then, can it be made profitable in Liberia, where labor commands so high a price, and is often impossible to be procured?
As incidental, however, to other branches of agriculture, coffee may be advantageously raised. The best trees are those seen in gardens, where, from ten or twelve, more berries are gathered than from hundreds in a plantation. A single tree, in the garden of Colonel Hicks, is said to have produced sixteen pounds at a gathering; and I have seen several very fine trees in similar situations. Fifty or a hundred trees, well selected, and properly distributed through the fields, would yield several hundred pounds of coffee, which, being gathered and dried by the women and children, would be gratuitous as regards the cost of labor. Thus, the coffee culture, in Liberia, must be considered far more eligible than that of sugar; inasmuch as the latter requires a large capital and extensive operations, while the former succeeds best on a very moderate scale.
Judge Benedict has probably bestowed more attention on this business, than any other person in Liberia. He is a man of excellent sense and information, and has the means to carry out his views, as well as the patriotism to exert himself for the advantage of the commonwealth. With these qualifications, he has employed five or six years in the experiment of raising coffee, and thus far, with little success, although his plantation comprises some thousands of growing trees. In the spring of 1841, he made presents, to myself and other officers, of genuine Liberian coffee, in small native bags, containing two or three pounds each. The Judge is still giving away little bags of the same kind; but I do not yet learn that his crop is more than sufficient for his own use, and for distribution as specimens; certainly, it is not so abundant as to render the sale of it an object. As for the plantation itself, I must confess that it appeared to me more flourishing three years ago, than at present. Most of the trees, on the spot originally planted, are dead, and the rest in a sickly condition; while the most thriving trees are to be seen on the lower and damper land adjacent, which, at my former visit, was covered with a dense forest. Beyond a doubt, the coffee tree is as well adapted to this soil and climate as to those of Cuba, and produces a larger and better flavored berry; but I repeat my opinion, that the Liberian, hiring laborers at sixty cents a day, cannot compete with the West Indian, who has his hundreds of slaves already paid for, and his trees growing in well-weeded land. The mere feeding, I might almost say, of a dozen laborers in Liberia, will cost more than all the coffee they raise would re-imburse, at the Cuba prices.
The cultivation of rice is universal in Africa. The natives never neglect it, for fear of famine. For an upland crop, the rice-lands are turned over and planted in March and April. In September and October, the rice is reaped, beaten out, and cleaned for market or storing. The lowland crop, on the contrary, is planted in September, October, and November, in marshy lands, and harvested in March and April. Lands will not produce two successive crops without manuring and ploughing. About two bushels of seed are sown to the acre; and the crop, on the acre of upland, is about thirty bushels, and from forty to forty-five bushels on the lowlands. The rice is transported to market on the backs of natives, packed in bundles of about three feet long and nine inches in diameter. The wrappers are made of large leaves, bound together by cords of bark. The load is sustained by shoulder-straps, and by a band, passing round the forehead of the bearer.
Cassada is a kind of yam, and sends up a tall stalk, with light green leaves. It has a long root, looking like a piece of wood with the brown bark on; the interior is white and mealy, rather insipid, but nutritious, and invaluable as an article of food. It is raised from the seed, root, or stem; the latter being considered preferable. Its yield is very great. In six months, it is fit to dig, and may be preserved fifteen or eighteen months in the ground, but ceases to be eatable in three or four days after being dug. Tapioca is manufactured from this root.
Indian corn is planted in May and harvested in September; or, if planted in July, it ripens in November and December. Sweet potatoes constitute one of the main reliances of the colonists; they are raised from seeds, roots or vines, but most successfully from the latter. The season of planting is in May, or June, and the crop ripens four months later. Plantains and bananas are a valuable product; they are propagated from suckers, which yield a first crop in about a year. The top is cut down, and new stalks spring from the root. Ground nuts are the same article peddled by the old women at our street-corners, under the name of pea-nuts; so called from the close resemblance of the bush to the tops of the sweet pea. This nut is used in England for making oil. The Cocoa is a bulbous root of the size of a tea-cup, and has some similarity to the artichoke. Pine-apples, small, but finely flavored, grow wild in the woods, and are abundant in their season.
In concluding these very imperfect and miscellaneous observations on the agriculture and products of Liberia, it may be remarked that the farmer's life and modes of labor are different from those of the same class, in other countries; inasmuch as there is here no spring, autumn, or winter. The year is a perpetual summer; therein, if in nothing else, resembling the climate of the original Paradise, to which men of all colors look back as the birth-place of their species. The culture of the soil appears to be emphatically the proper occupation of the Liberians. Many persons have anticipated making money more easily by trade; but, being unaccustomed to commercial pursuits, and possessing but little capital, by far the greater number soon find themselves bankrupt, and burthened with debt. With these evidences of the inequality, on their part, of competition with vessels trading on the coast, and with the established traders of the colony, the inhabitants are now turning their attention more exclusively to agriculture.
High character of Governor Roberts—Suspected Slaver—Dinner on shore—Facts and remarks relative to the slave trade—British philanthropy—Original cost of a slave—Anchor at Sinoe—Peculiarities and distinctive characteristics of the Fishmen and Bushmen—The King of Appollonia—Religion and morality among the natives—Influence of the women.
November 3.—Ashore, botanizing. In this region, where all the plants are strange, and many of them beautiful, it is easy work to form a collection. With a Kroo-boy to carry my book, I cut leaves and flowers as they came to hand.
4.—Governor Roberts, General Lewis, and Doctor Day, dined with us in the ward-room. The Governor is certainly no ordinary person. In every situation, as judge, ruler, and private gentleman, he sustains himself creditably, and is always unexceptionable. His deportment is dignified, quiet, and sensible. He has been tried in war as well as in peace, has seen a good share of fighting, and has invariably been cool, brave, and successful. He is a native of Virginia, and came from thence in 1828. The friends of Colonization can hardly adduce a stronger argument in favor of their enterprise, than that it has redeemed such a man as Governor Roberts from servitude, and afforded him the opportunity (which was all he needed) of displaying his high natural gifts, and applying them to the benefit of his race.
To-night we had a Kroo-dance on the forecastle. It was an uncouth and peculiar spectacle, characterized by singing, stamping, and clapping of hands, with a great display of agility. National dances might be taken as no bad standard of the comparative civilisation of different countries. A gracefully quiet dance is the latest flower of high refinement.
5.—Two vessels descried standing in; and bets were five to one that they were the Macedonian and Decatur. It proved otherwise; they were a British gun-brig and French merchant-schooner.
8.—It has been raining for three days, almost incessantly. No Macedonian yet.
10.—Dined on shore. Our captain and five officers, the master and surgeon of an English merchantman, and the captain of the French schooner, were of the party. It was a pleasant dinner. The conversation turned principally upon the trade and customs of the coast. The slave-trade was freely discussed; and the subject had a peculiar interest, under the circumstances, because this identical Frenchman, at table with us, is suspected to have some connection with it. It is merely a surmise. The French captain speaks a little English; but, after dinner, as a matter of courtesy, we all adopted his native language. Our friend Colonel Hicks, as usual, did most of the talking; he is as shrewd, agreeable, and instructive a companion, as may often be met with in any society.
The dinner-conversation, above alluded to, suggests some remarks in reference to the slave-trade. There is great discrepancy in the various estimates as to the number of slaves annually exported from Africa. Some authorities rate it as high as half a million. Captain Bosanquet, R.N., estimates that fifteen thousand are annually sent to the West Indies, and a greater number to Arabia, all of which are from Portuguese settlements. He affirms that the trade has increased very much between the years 1832 and 1839, and particularly in the latter part of that period; an effect naturally consequent upon the great number of captures made by the English cruisers. A trader, for instance, contracting to introduce a given number of slaves into Cuba, must purchase more on the coast to make up for those lost by capture. Captain Brodhead, another British officer, says that the number of slaves carried off is grossly exaggerated, and that the English papers told of thousands being shipped from a port, where he lay at anchor during the period indicated, and for fifty days before and afterwards; in all which time, not a slave vessel came in sight. Doctor Madden states, that, during his residence in Cuba, the number of slaves annually imported was twenty-five thousand. Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton calls it one hundred and fifteen thousand! Her Majesty's Commissioners say that the number is as well known as any other statistical point, and that it does not exceed fifteen thousand. The slave-trade rose to a great height in 1836, owing principally to the high price of colonial produce. I was in Cuba in that year, and witnessed the great activity that prevailed in buying negroes, and forming plantations, especially those of sugar. The prices have since fallen, and the slave-trade decreased, on the plain principle of political economy, that the demand regulates the supply.
The English cruisers are doubtless very active in the pursuit of vessels engaged in this traffic. The approbation of government and the public (to say nothing of £5 head-money for every slave recaptured, and the increased chance of promotion to vacancies caused by death) is a strong inducement to vigilance. But, however benevolent may be the motives that influence the action of Great Britain, in reference to the slave-trade, there is the grossest cruelty and injustice in carrying out her views. Attempts are now being made to transport the rescued slaves in great numbers to the British West India islands, at the expense of government. It is boldly recommended, by men of high standing in England, to carry them all thither at once. The effect of such a measure, gloss it over as you may, would be to increase the black labor of the British islands, by just so much as is deducted from the number of slaves, intended for the Spanish or Brazilian possessions. "The sure cure for the slave-trade" says Mr. Laird, "is in our own hands. It lies in producing cheaper commodities by free labor, in our own colonies." And, to accomplish this desirable end, England will seize upon the liberated Africans and land them in her West India islands, with the alternative of adding their toil to the amount of her colonial labor, or of perishing by starvation. How much better will their condition be, as apprentices in Trinidad or Jamaica, than as slaves in Cuba? Infinitely more wretched! English philanthropy cuts a very suspicious figure, when, not content with neglecting the welfare of those whom she undertakes to protect, she thus attempts to made them subservient to national aggrandizement. The fate of the rescued slaves is scarcely better than that of the crews of the captured slave-vessels. The latter are landed on the nearest point of the African coast, where death by starvation or fever almost certainly awaits them.
I am desirous to put the best construction possible on the conduct as well of nations as of individuals, and never to entertain that cold scepticism which explains away all generosity and philanthropy on motives of selfish policy. But it is difficult to give unlimited faith to the ardent and disinterested desire professed by England, to put a period to the slave-trade. If sincere, why does she not, as she readily might, induce Spain, Portugal, and Brazil, to declare the traffic piratical? And again, why is not her own strength so directed as to give the trade a death-blow at once? There are but two places between Sierra Leone and Accra, a distance of one thousand miles, whence slaves are exported. One is Gallinas; the other New Sesters. The English keep a cruiser off each of these rivers. Slavers run in, take their cargoes of human flesh and blood, and push off. If the cruiser can capture the vessels, the captors receive £5 per head for the slaves on board, and the government has more "emigrants" for its West India possessions. Now, were the cruisers to anchor at the mouths of these two rivers, the slavers would be prevented from putting to sea with their cargoes, and the trade at those places be inevitably stopped. But, in this case, where would be the head-money and the emigrants?
It has been asserted that the colonists of Liberia favor the slave-trade. This is not true. The only places where the traffic is carried on, north of the line, are in the neighborhood of the most powerful English settlements on the whole coast; while even British authority does not pretend that the vicinity of the American colonies is polluted by it. Individuals among the colonists, unprincipled men, may, in a very few instances, from love of gain, have given assistance to slavers, by supplying goods or provisions at high prices. But this must have been done secretly, or the law would have taken hold of them. Slavers, no doubt, have often watered at Monrovia, but never when their character was known. On the other hand, the slave stations at St. Paul's river, at Bassa, and at Junk, have undeniably been broken up by the presence of the colonists. Even if destitute of sympathy for fellow-men of their own race and hue, and regardless of their deep stake in the preservation of their character, the evident fact is, that self-interest would prompt the inhabitants of Liberia to oppose the slave-trade in their vicinity. Wherever the slaver comes, he purchases large quantities of rice at extravagant rates, thus curtailing the supply to the colonist, and enhancing the price. Moreover, the natives, always preferring the excitement of war to the labors of peace, neglect the culture of the earth, and have no camwood nor palm-oil to offer to the honest trader, who consequently finds neither buyers nor sellers among them.
The truth is, the slave-traders can dispense with assistance from the Liberian colonists. They procure goods, and everything necessary to their trade, at Sierra Leone, or from any English or American vessel on the coast. If the merchantmen find a good market for their cargoes, they are satisfied, whatever be the character of their customers. This is well understood and openly avowed here. The English have no right to taunt the Americans, nor to claim higher integrity on their own part. They lend precisely the same indirect aid to the traffic that the Americans do, and furnish everything except vessels, which likewise they would supply, if they could build them. It is the policy of the English ship-masters on the coast to represent the Americans as engaged in the slave-trade; for if, by such accusations, they can induce British or American men-of-war to detain and examine the fair trader, they thus rid themselves of troublesome rivals.
The natives are generally favorable to the slave-trade. It brings them many comforts and luxuries, which the legitimate trade does not supply. Their argument is, that "if a man goes into the Bush and buys camwood, he must pay another to bring it to the beach. But if he buy a slave, this latter commodity will not only walk, but bring a load of camwood on his back." All slaves exported are Bushmen, many of whom are brought from two or three hundred miles in the interior. The Fishmen and Kroomen are the agents between the slave-traders and the interior tribes. They will not permit the latter to become acquainted with the white men, lest their own agency and its profits should cease. A slave, once sold, seldom returns to his home.
If transported to a foreign country, his case is of course hopeless; and even if recaptured on the coast, his return is almost impossible. His home, probably, is far distant from the sea. It can only be reached by traversing the territories of four or five nations, any one of whom would seize the hapless stranger, and either consign him to slavery among themselves, or send him again to a market on the coast. Hence, those recaptured by the English cruisers are either settled at Sierra Leone, or transported to some other of the colonies of Great Britain.
The price paid to the native agents for a full grown male slave, is about one musket, twelve pieces of romauls, one cutlass, a demijohn of rum, a bar of iron, a keg of powder, and ten bars of leaf-tobacco, the whole amounting to the value of thirty to thirty-five dollars. A female is sold for about a quarter less; and boys of twelve or thirteen command only a musket and two pieces of romauls. Slave-vessels go from Havana with nothing but dollars and doubloons. Other vessels go out with the above species of goods, and all others requisite for the trade. The slaver buys the goods on the coast, pays for them with specie, and lands them in payment for the slaves, money being but little used in traffic with the natives.
13.—The Decatur arrived this evening, after a passage of thirty days from Porto Praya. She left the Macedonian on the way, the winds being light, the current adverse, and the frigate sailing very badly.
17.—The Macedonian arrived.
Coming off from town, to-day, I took a canoe with a couple of Kroomen, who paddled down the river, till we arrived at a narrow part of the promontory. On touching the shallows, one of the Kroomen took me on his back to the dry land. The two then picked up the canoe, carried her across the cape, perhaps a hundred yards, and launched her, with myself on board, through the heavy surf.
21.—Sailed at daylight for Sinoe, leaving the Macedonian and Decatur, an American ship and barque, an English brig, and two Hamburg vessels, at anchor.
25.—Anchored at Sinoe at noon.
26.—Ashore. Visited Fishtown, a well-built native village, containing probably four hundred inhabitants. It is within about two hundred yards of the colonial dwellings. The people are said to have committed many depredations upon the colonists; and there is an evident intention of driving them off. This is the tribe with which we are to hold a palaver.
There are two grand divisions of native Africans on the Western Coast, the Fishmen and the Bushmen; the latter being inhabitants of the interior; and the former comprising all the tribes along the sea-shore, who gain a subsistence by fishing, trading between the Bushmen and foreign vessels, and laboring on shipboard. The Kroomen, so often mentioned, are in some respects a distinct and separate people; although a large proportion, probably nine-tenths of those bearing that name, are identical with the Fishmen. The latter are generally treacherous and deceitful; the Kroomen are much more honest, but still are not to be trusted without reserve and discrimination.
The government of these people, and of the natives generally, is nominally monarchical, but democratic in substance. The regal office appears to be hereditary in a family, but not to descend according to our ideas of lineal succession. The power of the king is greatly circumscribed by the privilege, which every individual in the tribe possesses, of calling a palaver. If a man deems himself injured, he demands a full discussion of his rights or wrongs, in presence of the rulers and the tribe. The head-men sit in judgment, and substantial justice is generally done. There are persons, celebrated for their power and copiousness of talking, who appear as counsel in behalf of the respective parties. The more distinguished of these advocates are sometimes sent for, from a distance of two or three hundred miles, to speak at a palaver; and, in such cases, they leave all other employment, and hurry to the scene of action.
It would appear that, on other parts of the coast, or farther in the interior, the native kings possess more power and assume greater state, than those who have come under my notice. The King of Appollonia, adjoining Axim Territory, is said to be very rich and powerful. If the report of his nearest civilized neighbor, the Governor of Axim, is to be credited, this potentate's house is furnished most sumptuously in the European style. Gold cups, pitchers, and plates, are used at his table, with furniture of corresponding magnificence in all the departments of his household. He possesses vast treasures in bullion and gold dust. The Governor of Dixcove informed me, that, about four years ago, he accompanied an English expedition against Appollonia, which is still claimed by England, although their fort there has been abandoned. On their approach, the King fled, and left them masters of the place. Some of the English soldiers opened the sepulchre of the King last deceased, and took away an unknown amount of gold. Afterwards, by order of the Governor, the remainder was taken from the grave, amounting to several hundred dollars. Together with the treasure, numerous articles had been buried, such as a knife, plate, and cup, swords, guns, cloth, goods of various kinds, and, in short, every thing that the dead King had required while alive. There were also four skeletons, two of each sex, buried beneath the royal coffin. It is said that sixty victims were sacrificed on occasion of the funeral, of whom only the most distinguished were allowed, even in death, to approach their master so nearly, and act as his immediate attendants in the world of spirits. The splendor of an African funeral, on the Gold Coast, is unparalleled. It is customary for persons of wealth to smear the corpses of their friends with oil, and then to powder them with gold-dust from head to foot, so as to produce the appearance of bronzed or golden statues.
The present King of Appollonia deposited six hundred ounces of gold (about ten thousand dollars) with the Governor of Cape Coast Castle, as security for his good behavior. His cellar is well supplied with rare wines, which he offers liberally to strangers who land at his residence. All these circumstances, and this barbaric magnificence, indicate a far different condition from that of the native Kings in the vicinity of Liberia, who live simply, like their subjects, on vegetables and fish, and one of whom was proud to array himself in a cast-off garment of my own. Their wealth consists not in gold, plate, or bullion, but in crockery and earthenware. Not only the Kings, but all the rich natives, accumulate articles of this kind, until their dwellings resemble warehouses of crockery. Perhaps fifty white wash-bowls, with as many pitchers, mugs, and plates, may be seen around the room; and when these utensils become so numerous as to excite the envy of the tribe, the owners are said to bury them in the earth. In the house of King Glass (so named, I presume, from the transparency of his character), I noticed the first indications of a taste for the Fine Arts. Seventy coarse colored engravings, glazed and framed, were suspended on the wall; and, what was most curious, nearly all of them were copies of the same print, a portrait of King William the Fourth.
It is to be desired that some missionary should give an account of the degree and kind of natural religion among the native tribes. Their belief in the efficacy of sassy-wood to discover guilt or innocence, indicates a faith in an invisible Equity. Some of them, however, select the most ridiculous of animals, the monkey, as their visible symbol of the Deity; or, as appears more probable, they stand in spiritual awe of him, from an idea that the souls of the dead are again embodied in this shape. Under this impression, they pay a kind of worship to the monkey, and never kill him near a burial-place; and though, in other situations, they kill and eat him, they endeavor to propitiate his favor by respectful language, and the use of charms. Other natives, in the neighborhood of Gaboon, worship the shark, and throw slaves to him to be devoured.
On the whole, their morality is superior to their religion—at least, as between members of the same tribe—although they scarcely seem to acknowledge moral obligations in respect to strangers. Their landmarks, for instance, are held sacred among the individuals of a tribe. A father takes his son, and points out the "stake and stones" which mark the boundary between him and his neighbor. There needs no other registry. Land passes from sire to son, and is sold and bought with as undisputed and secure a title as all our deeds and formalities can establish. But, between different tribes, wars frequently arise on disputed boundary questions, and in consequence of encroachments made by either party. "Land-palavers" and "Women-palavers" are the great causes of war. Veracity seems to be the virtue most indiscriminately practised, as well towards the stranger as the brother. The natives are cautious as to the accuracy of the stories which they promulgate, and seldom make a stronger asseveration than "I tink he be true!" Yet their consciences do not shrink from the use of falsehood and artifice, where these appear expedient.
The natives are not insensible to the advantages of education. They are fond of having their children in the families of colonists, where they learn English, and the manners of civilized life, and get plenty to eat. Probably the parents hope, in this way, to endow their offspring with some of the advantages which they suppose the white man to possess over the colored race. So sensible are they of their own inferiority, that if a person looks sternly in the face of a native, when about to be attacked by him, and calls out to him loudly, the chances are ten to one that the native runs away. This effect is analogous to that which the eye of man is said to exert on the fiercest of savage beasts. The same involuntary and sad acknowledgment of a lower order of being appears in their whole intercourse with the whites. Yet such self-abasement is scarcely just; for the slave-traders, who constitute the specimens of civilized man with whom the natives have hitherto been most familiar, are by no means on a par with themselves, in a moral point of view. It is a pity to see such awful homage rendered to the mere intellect, apart from truth and goodness.
It is a redeeming trait of the native character, so far as it goes, that women are not wholly without influence in the public councils. If, when a tribe is debating the expediency of going to war, the women come beneath the council-tree, and represent the evils that will result, their opinion will have great weight, and may probably turn the scale in favor of peace. On the other hand, if the women express a wish that they were men, in order that they might go to war, the warriors declare for it at once. It is to be feared, that there is an innate fierceness even in the gentler sex, which makes them as likely to give their voices for war as for peace. It is a feminine office and privilege, on the African coast, to torture prisoners taken in war, by sticking thorns in their flesh, and in various other modes, before they are put to death. The unfortunate Captain Farwell underwent three hours of torture, at the hands of the women and children. So, likewise, did the mate of Captain Burke's vessel, at Sinoe.
The natives are very cruel in their fights, and spare neither age nor sex; they kill the women and female children, lest they should be the mothers of future warriors, and the boys, lest they should fight hereafter. If they take prisoners, it is either to torture them to death, or to sell them as slaves. The Fishmen have often evinced courage and obstinacy in war, as was the case in their assaults upon the Liberian settlers, in the heroic age of the colony, when Ashman and his associates displayed such warlike ability in defeating them. The Bushmen are as cruel as the former, but appear to be more cowardly. I have heard the Rev. Mr. Brown, himself an actor in the scene, relate the story of the fight at Heddington, in which three colonists, assisted by two women, were attacked at daybreak by five hundred natives, many of whom were armed with muskets. Zion Harris and Mr. Demery were the marksmen, while the clergyman assumed the duty of loading the guns. The natives rushed onward in so dense a crowd, that almost every bullet and buckshot of the defenders hit its man. The besieged had but six muskets, one hundred cartridges, and a few charges of powder. Their external fortifications consisted only of a slight picket-fence, which might have been thrown down in an instant. But, fortunately, when there were but three charges of powder left in the house, a shot killed Gotorap, the chief of the assailants, at whose fall the whole army fled in dismay. One of the trophies of their defeat was the kettle which they had brought for the purpose of cooking the missionaries, and holding a cannibal feast. The battle-field is poetically termed the bed of honor: but the bravest man might be excused for shrinking from a burial in his enemy's stomach! Poetry can make nothing of such a fate.
Rude and wretched as is the condition of the natives, it has been affirmed that many of the Liberian colonists have mingled with them, and preferred their savage mode of life to the habits of civilisation. Only one instance of the kind has come to my personal knowledge. We had on board, for two or three months, a party of Kroomen, among whom was one, dressed like the rest, but speaking better English. Being questioned, he said that he had learned English on board of merchant-vessels, where he had been employed for several years. We took this young man into the ward-room, where he worked for three months, associating chiefly with the Kroomen on deck, speaking their language, and perfectly resembling them in his appearance and general habits. About the time of discharging him, we discovered that he was a native of North Carolina, had resided many years in Liberia, but, being idle and vicious, had finally given up the civilized for the savage state. His real name was Elijah Park; his assumed one, William Henry.
Palaver at Sinoe—Ejectment of a Horde of Fishmen—Palaver at Settra Kroo—Mrs. Sawyer—Objections to the Marriage of Missionaries—A Centipede—Arrival at Cape Palmas—Rescue of the Sassy Wood-Drinker Hostilities between the Natives and Colonists.
November 27.—At Sinoe. The settlement here is in a poor condition. The inhabitants are apparently more ignorant and lazy than the colonists on any other part of the coast. Yet they have a beautiful and fertile situation.
28.—The Macedonian and Decatur arrived. Governor Roberts, and other persons of authority and distinction among the colonists, were passengers, in order to be present at the intended palaver.
29.—At 9 A.M., thirteen boats left the different ships, armed, and having about seventy-five marines on board, besides the sailors. Entering the river, with flags flying and muskets glittering, the boats lay on their oars until all were in a line, and then pulled at once for the beach, as if about to charge a hostile battery. The manoeuvre was handsomely executed, and seemed to give great satisfaction to some thirty colonists and fifty naked natives, who were assembled on the beach. The officers and marines were landed, and formed in line, under the direction of Lieutenant Rich. The music then struck up, while the Commodore and Governor Roberts slept ashore, and the whole detachment marched to the palaver-house, which, on this occasion, was the Methodist Church.
The Commodore seated himself behind a small table, which was covered with a napkin. The officers, with Governor Roberts and Doctor Day, occupied seats on his right, and the native chiefs, as they dropped in, found places on the left. If the latter fell short of us in outward pomp and martial array, they had certainly the advantage of rank, there being about twenty kings and headmen of the tribes among them. Governor Roberts opened the palaver in the Commodore's name, informing the assembled chiefs, that he had come to talk to them about the slaughter of the mate and cook, belonging to Captain Burke's vessel. Jim Davis, who conducted the palaver on the part of the natives, professed to know nothing of the matter, the chiefs present being Bushmen, whereas the party concerned were Fishmen. After a little exhibition of diplomacy, Davis retired, and Prince Tom came forward and submitted to an examination. His father is king of the tribe of Fishmen, implicated in the killing of the two men. The prince denied any personal knowledge on the subject, but observed that the deed had been done in war, and that the tribe were not responsible. When asked where Nippoo was (a chief known to have taken a leading part in the affray), he at first professed ignorance, but, on being hard pressed, offered to go and seek him. He was informed, however, that he could not be permitted to retire, but must produce Nippoo on the spot, or be taken to America.
The council went on. The depositions of three colonists were taken, and the facts in the case brought out. They were substantially in accordance with the narrative already given in this Journal; and, upon full investigation, Captain Burke was decided to have been the aggressor. The proceedings of the Fishmen had been fierce and savage, but were redeemed by a quality of wild justice, and exhibited them altogether in a better light than the white men.
This affair being adjusted, the business of the palaver might be considered at an end, so far as the American squadron had any immediate connection with it. But there were points of importance to be settled, between the natives and the colonists. It was the interest of the latter, that the Fishmen, residing in the neighborhood of the settlement, should be ejected from their land, which would certainly be a very desirable acquisition to the emigrants. It seems, that the land originally belonged to the Sinoe tribe, whose head-quarters are four miles inland. Several years ago, long before the arrival of the emigrants, this tribe gave permission to a horde of Fishmen to occupy the site, but apparently without relinquishing their own property in the soil. Feeble at first, the tenants wore a friendly demeanor towards their landlords, and made themselves useful, until, gradually acquiring strength, they became insolent, and assumed an attitude of independence. Setting the interior tribe, of whom they held the land, at defiance, these Fishmen put an interdict upon their trading with foreigners, except through their own agency. Eight or ten years ago, however, the inland natives sold the land to the Colonization Society, subject to the incumbrance of the Fishmen's occupancy, during good behavior; a condition which the colonists likewise pledged themselves to the Fishmen to observe, unless the conduct of the latter should nullify it.
For the last two or three years, the settlement at Sinoe, being neglected by the Mississippi Society, under whose patronage it was established, has dwindled and grown weaker in numbers and spirit. The Fishmen, with their characteristic audacity, have assumed a bolder aspect, and, besides committing many depredations on the property of the colonists, have murdered two or three of their number. The murderers, it is true, were delivered up by the tribe, and punished at the discretion of the Monrovian authorities; but the colonists at Sinoe felt themselves too feeble to redress their lighter wrongs, and therefore refrained from demanding satisfaction. About a month since, an addition of sixty new emigrants was made to the seventy, already established there. Considering themselves now adequate to act on the offensive, they determined to drive off the Fishmen. In this purpose they were confirmed by the Monrovian government; and it was a part of the governor's business, at the palaver, to provide for its execution.
Governor Roberts exhibited much sagacity and diplomatic shrewdness in accomplishing his object. It was obviously important to obtain the assistance of the Bushmen, in expelling and keeping away the Fishmen. They, however, were unwilling to take part in the matter, alleging their fears as an excuse; although it might probably be a stronger reason, that they could trade more advantageously with merchant-vessels, through the medium of the Fishmen, than by the agency of the colonists.
But the interposition of the American Commodore, and the affair of the murder, afforded the Governor the advantage of mixing up that question with the colonial one; so as to give the natives the impression that everything was done at the instance and under the authority of our armed force. This vantage-ground he skilfully made use of, yet not without its being perceived, by the native politicians, that the question of expelling the Fishmen was essentially distinct from that of the murder of Captain Burke's seamen. Davis the interpreter, and one of the headmen of the Sinoe tribe, inquired why the Commodore did not first talk his palaver, and then the Governor in turn talk his. It did not suit his excellency's views to answer; and the question was evaded. By this ingenious policy, the Bushmen were induced to promise their aid in ridding the settlement of its troublesome neighbors; while the Fishmen, overawed by the presence of a force friendly to the colonists, submitted to their expulsion with a quietude that could not, under other circumstances, have been expected. Doubtless, they had forfeited their claim to the land by non-observance of the conditions on which they held it; yet, in some points, the affair had remarkably the aspect of a forcible acquisition of territory by the colonists.
No time was lost in carrying the decree of the palaver into execution. Apprehending hostilities from the squadron, the Fishmen had already removed most of their property, as well as their women and children, and had evacuated the town. Governor Roberts, Mr. Brown, Doctor Day, late government agent, together with a few colonists, repaired to the place and directed its demolition. This was partially effected by the natives, of whom some hundreds from the interior were present. They cut down and unroofed many of the dwellings; and the Governor left directions to burn every house, if the Fishmen should attempt to re-occupy the town. This wild horde, therefore, may be considered as permanently ejected from the ground which they held on so singular a tenure; and thus terminated an affair which throws a strong light on many of the characteristics of the natives, and likewise on the relations between them and the emigrants.
December 3.—We sailed, at two o'clock A.M., for Settra Kroo, fifteen miles down the coast. Anchored at eleven A.M. A boat being sent ashore, brought news of the death of Mr. Sawyer, the missionary. He left a wife, now the only white person at the place.
4.—The boats landed at Settra Kroo, to settle a palaver. The matter in question was the violence offered by the natives to Captain Brown, master of an American vessel, in striking and attempting to kill him. They admitted the fact, begged pardon, and agreed to pay ten bullocks, four sheep, and some fowls, or the value thereof, to Captain Brown, and further to permit him to trade without payment of the usual "dash." This town is said to be very superior to any other native settlement on the coast; and the people are the best informed, most intelligent, and the finest in personal appearance, that we have met with.
Dined on shore. Mrs. Sawyer presided at the table, although her husband was buried only yesterday. It is impossible not to look with admiration at this lady, whose husband and only child have fallen victims to the climate, yet who believes it her duty to remain alone, upon a barbarous coast, in a position which perhaps no other woman ever voluntarily occupied. She is faithful to her trust, as the companion of him who fell at his post, and is doubtless happy in obedience to the unworldly motives that guide her determination. Yet I cannot reconcile myself to the idea of a woman sharing the martyrdom, which seems a proper, and not an undesirable fate (so it come in the line of his duty) for a man. I doubt the expediency of sending missionary ladies to perish here. Indeed, it may well be questioned whether a missionary ought, in any country, to be a married man. The care of a family must distract his attention and weaken his efficiency; and herein, it may be, consists one great advantage which the Catholic missionary possesses over the Protestant. He can penetrate into the interior; he can sleep in the hut, and eat the simple food of a native. But, if there be a wife and children, they must have houses and a thousand other comforts, which are not only expensive and difficult to obtain, but are clogs to keep the missionary down to one spot. I know how much the toil and suffering of man is alleviated, in these far-off regions, by the tenderness of woman. But the missionary is, by his profession, a devoted man; he seeks, in this life, not his own happiness, but the eternal good of others. Compare him with the members of my own profession. We are sustained by no such lofty faith as must be supposed to animate him, yet we find it possible to spend years upon the barren deep, exposed to every variety of climate, and seeking peril wherever it may be found—and all without the aid of woman's ministrations. Can a man, vowed to the service of a Divine Master, think it much to practise similar self-denial?
5.—This morning, while performing my ablutions with a large sponge, a centipede, four and a half inches long, crawled out of one of the orifices, and, ran over my hand. The venomous reptile was killed, without any harm being done. It had probably been hidden in one of a number of large land-shells, which I brought on board a day or two ago. His touch upon my hand was the most disagreeable sensation that I have yet experienced in Africa.
For a month past it has rained almost every night, but only three or four times during the day. The tornadoes have not troubled us, and the regular land and sea-breezes prevail.
6.—At 4 P. M., anchored off Cape Palmas. The Decatur had hardly clewed up her top-sails, when she was directed by signal to make sail again. Shortly afterwards, a boat from the frigate brought us intelligence that there is trouble here between the natives and the colonists. The boats are ordered to be in readiness to go ashore to-morrow, in order to settle a palaver. The Decatur has gone to Caraway to protect the missionaries there. Thus we are in a fair way to have plenty of work, palavering with the natives and protecting the colonists. Not improbably, the latter have felt encouraged, by the presence of our squadron, to assume a higher tone towards the natives than heretofore. But we shall see.
8.—We landed, this morning, with nine armed boats, to examine into the difficulties above alluded to. The first duty that it fell to our lot to perform, was one of humanity. We had scarcely reached Governor Russwurm's house, when, observing a crowd of people about a mile off, on the beach, we learned that a man was undergoing the ordeal of drinking sassy-wood. The Commodore, with most of the officers, hastened immediately to the rescue. On approaching the spot, we saw a woman with an infant on her back, walking to and fro, wailing bitterly, and throwing up her arms in agony. Further on, we met four children, from eight to twelve years of age, crying loudly as they came towards us, and apparently imploring us to save their father. Beyond them, and as near the crowd as she dared go, stood a young woman, supporting herself on a staff, with the tears streaming down her cheeks, while she gazed earnestly at the spot where her husband was suffering. Although she took no notice of us, her low moans were more impressive than the vociferous agony of the former woman; and we could not but suppose that the man was peculiarly amiable in the domestic relations, since his impending fate awakened more grief in the hearts of two wives, than, in civilized life, we generally see exhibited by one. Meeting a colonist, with intelligence that the victim was nearly dead, we quickened our pace to a fast run.
Before we could reach the spot, however, the man had been put into a canoe, and paddled out into a lagoon by one of the party, while the remainder moved on to meet us. The Commodore ordered two of the leaders to be seized and kept prisoners, until the drinker of sassy-wood should be given up. This had the desired effect; and, in half an hour, there came to the Government House a hard-featured man of about fifty, escorted by a crowd, no small portion of which was composed of his own multifarious wives and children, all displaying symptoms of high satisfaction. He looked much exhausted, but was taken into the house and treated medically, with the desired success. When sufficiently recovered he will be sent to a neighboring town, where he must remain, until permitted by the customs of his people to return. He had been subjected to the ordeal, in order to test the truth or falsehood of an accusation brought against him, of having caused the death of a man of consequence, by incantations and necromantic arts. In such cases, a strong decoction of the sassy-wood bark is the universally acknowledged medium of coming at the truth. The natives believe that the tree has a supernatural quality, potent in destroying witches and driving out evil spirits; nor, although few escape, do the accused persons often object to quaffing the deadly draught. If it fail to operate fatally, it is generally by the connivance of those who administer it, in concocting the potion of such strength that the stomach shall reject it. Should the suspected wizard escape the operation of the sassy-wood, it is customary to kill him by beating on the head with clubs and stones; his property is forfeited; and the party accusing him feast on the cattle of their victim. The man whom we rescued had taken a gallon of the decoction the previous evening, and about the same quantity just before we interrupted the ordeal. His wealth had probably excited the envy of his accusers.
We had just returned to the Government House and were about to seat ourselves at the dinner-table, when an alarm-gun was heard from Mount Tubman. A messenger soon arrived to say that the natives were attempting to force their way through the settlement, to the Cape. The marines, together with all the officers who could be spared, were instantly on the march. The Commodore and Governor Russwurm led the force, on horseback; the flag-lieutenant and myself being the only other officers fortunate enough to procure animals. Mine was the queerest charger on which a knight ever rode to battle; a little donkey, scarcely high enough to keep my feet from the ground; so lazy that I could only force him into a trot by the continual prick of my sword; and so vicious that he threw me twice, in requital of my treatment. The rest of the detachment footed it four miles, on a sandy road, and under the scorching sun. On the way we overtook several armed colonists, hurrying to the point of danger. Passing the foot of Mount Vaughan we reached Mount Tubman, and, ascending a steep, conical hill, found ourselves on a level space of a hundred yards in diameter, with a strong picket-fence surrounding it, and a solitary house in the centre. Fifteen or sixteen armed men were on the watch, as conscious of the neighborhood of an enemy; the piazza was crowded with women and children; and from the interior of the house came the merry voices of above a score of little boys and girls, ignorant of danger, and enjoying a high frolic. Apart, by the wall, sat a blind man, grasping his staff with a tremulous hand; and near him lay a sick woman, who had been brought in from a neighboring farm-house. All these individuals, old and young, had been driven hither for refuge by the alarm of war.
Not far off, we beheld tokens that an attack had been made, and sternly resisted by the little garrison of the stockade. On the side opposite the Cape, a steep path rose towards the gate. Some twenty yards down this passage lay a native, dead, with an ugly hole in his scull; and, in a narrow path to the right, was stretched another, who had met his death from a bullet-wound in the centre of his forehead. The ball had cut the ligature which bound his "greegree" of shells around his head, and the faithless charm lay on the ground beside him. Already, the flies were beginning to cluster about the dead man's mouth. The attacking party, to which these slain individuals belonged, were of the Barroky tribe. It is supposed that, knowing King Freeman to be at variance with the colonists, and hearing the salute in honor of the Commodore's landing, they mistook it for the commencement of hostilities, and came in to support the native party and gather spoil.
As their repulse had evidently been decisive, we looked around us to enjoy the extensive and diversified view from the summit of the hill. Casting our eyes along the road which we had just passed, the principal settlement was visible, consisting of two separate villages, intermingled with large native towns, the dwellings in which greatly outnumbered those of the colonists. On one side of the rude promontory ran a small river; on the other, the sea rolled its unquiet waves. At a short distance from the shore was seen the rocky islet, bearing the name of Go-to-Hell, where the natives bury their dead. Northward, were the farms of those whom the recent hostile incursion had driven to this place of refuge. In various directions, several spurs of hills were visible, on one of which, glittering among the trees, appeared the white edifices of the Mount Vaughan Episcopal Mission.
On our return, some of the party halted at the Mission establishment; but I urged my little donkey onward, and, though this warlike episode had cost me a dinner, made my re-appearance at the Governor's table in time for the dessert.
Palaver with King Freeman—Remarks on the Influence of Missionaries—Palaver at Rock Boukir—Narrative of Captain Farwell's Murder—Scene of Embarkation through the Surf—Sail for Little Berebee.
December 9.—At Cape Palmas. We again landed, as on the preceding day, and met the redoubtable King Freeman, and twenty-three other kings and headmen from the tribes in the vicinity. The palaver, like that at Sinoe, was held in the Methodist Church; the Commodore, the Governor, and several officers and colonists, appearing on one side, and the natives on the other. There were several striking countenances among the four-and-twenty negro potentates, and some, even, that bore the marks of native greatness; as might well be the case, in a system of society where rank and authority are, in a great measure, the result of individual talent and force of character. One head man was very like Henry Clay, both in face and figure. It is remarkable, too, that one of the chiefs at Sinoe not only had a strong personal resemblance to the same distinguished statesman—being, as it were, his image in ebony, or bronze—but, while not speaking, moved constantly about the palaver-house, as is Mr. Clay's habit in the senate-chamber. The interpreter, on the present occasion, Yellow Will by name, was dressed in a crimson mantle of silk damask, poncho-shaped, and trimmed with broad gold lace.
The palaver being opened, the colonists complained that the chiefs had raised to double what it had been, or ought to be, the prices of rice and other products, for which the settlements were dependent upon the natives; also, that they would permit no merchant vessels to communicate with the colonial town. On representation of these grievances, the Kings agreed to rescind the obnoxious regulations. This, however, did not satisfy the Governor, who had hoped to induce King Freeman to remove his town to another site, and allow the colonists more room. As matters at present stand, the King's capital city is within three hundred yards of Governor Russwurm's house, and entirely disunites the colonial settlements on the Cape. In case of war, the communication between these two sections of the town of Harper would be completely broken off. The Governor, therefore, proposed that King Freeman should sell his land on the Cape, receiving a fair equivalent from the colony, and should transplant his town across the river, or elsewhere. But the King showed no inclination to comply; nor did the Commodore, apparently, deem it his province to support Governor Russwurm, or take any part in the question. The point was accordingly given up; the Governor merely requesting King Freeman to "look his head," that is, consider—and let him know his determination.
There was also a complaint made, on the part of the missionaries, that the natives had cut off their supplies, and had attempted to take away the native children, who had been given them to educate. I was subsequently informed, however, by the Rev. Mr. Hazlehurst, that the missionaries had no difficulty with the natives, and did not wish their affairs to be identified with those of the colonists. The above representation, therefore, appears to have been unauthorized by the mission establishment. And here, without presuming to offer an opinion as respects their conduct at this particular juncture, I must be allowed to say, that the missionaries at Liberia have shown themselves systematically disposed to claim a position entirely independent of the colonies. They are supported by wealthy and powerful societies at home; they have been accustomed to look upon their own race as superior to the colored people; they are individually conscious, no doubt, in many cases, of an intellectual standing above that of the persons prominent among the emigrants; and they are not always careful to conceal their sense of such general or particular superiority. It is certain, too, that the native Africans regard the whites with much greater respect than those of their own color. Hence, it is almost impossible but that jealousy of missionary influence should exist in the minds of the colonial authorities. The latter perceive, in the midst of their commonwealth, an alien power, exercised by persons not entitled to the privileges of citizenship, and to whom it was never intended to allow voice or action in public affairs. By such a state of things, the progress of Christianity and civilisation must be rather retarded than advanced.
There is reason, therefore, to doubt whether the labors of white missionaries, in the territory over which the colonists exercise jurisdiction, is, upon the whole, beneficial. If removed beyond those limits, and insulated among the natives, they may accomplish infinite good; but not while assuming an anomalous position of independence, and thwarting the great experiment which the founders of Liberia had in view. One grand object of these colonies is, to test the disputed and doubtful point, whether the colored race be capable of sustaining themselves without the aid or presence of the whites. In order to a fair trial of the question, it seems essential that none but colored missionaries should be sent hither. The difficulties between the Government and the Methodist Episcopal mission confirm these views. At a former period, that mission possessed power almost sufficient to subvert the Colonial rule.
Let it not be supposed, that these remarks are offered in any spirit of hostility to missionaries. My intercourse with them in different parts of the world, has been of the most friendly nature. I owe much to their kindness, and can bear cheerful testimony to the laborious, self-devoting spirit in which they do their duty. At Athens, I have seen them toiling unremittingly, for years, to educate the ignorant and degraded descendants of the ancient Greeks, and was proud that my own country—in a hemisphere of which Plato never dreamed—should have sent back to Greece a holier wisdom than he diffused from thence. In the unhealthy isle of Cyprus, I have beheld them perishing without a murmur, and their places filled with new votaries, stepping over the graves of the departed, and not less ready to spend and be spent in the cause of their Divine Master. I have witnessed the flight of whole families from the mountains of Lebanon, where they had lingered until its cedars were prostrate beneath the storm of war, and only then came to shelter themselves under the flag of their country. Everywhere, the spirit of the American Missionaries has been honorable to their native land; nor, whatever be their human imperfections, is it too much to term them holy in their lives, and often martyrs in their deaths. And none more so than the very men of whom I now speak, in these sickly regions of Africa, where I behold them sinking, more or less gradually, but with certainty, and destitute of almost every earthly comfort, into their graves. I criticise portions of their conduct, but reverence their purity of motive; and only regret, that, while divesting themselves of so much that is worldly, they do not retain either more wisdom of this world, or less aptness to apply a disturbing influence to worldly affairs.
But it is time to return from this digression. Matters being now in a good train at Cape Palmas, we go to use our pacific influence elsewhere.
10.—We sailed at daylight, and anchored this evening at Rock Boukir.
11.—In the morning, twelve armed boats were sent ashore from the three ships. We landed on an open beach, all in safety, but more or less drenched by the dangerous surf. One or two boats took in heavy seas, broached to, and rolled over and over in the gigantic surf-wave. On landing, we found a body of armed natives, perhaps fifty in number, drawn up in a line. Their weapons were muskets, iron war-spears, long fish-spears of wood, and broad knives. They made no demonstrations of opposing us, but stood stoutly in their ranks, showing more independence of bearing and less fear, than any natives whom we have met with. They were evidently under military rule, and, as well as the remainder of the tribe, evinced a degree of boldness, amounting almost to insolence, which, it must be owned, would have made our party the more ready for a tustle, on any reasonable pretext.
The town of Rock Boukir is enclosed by palisades, about eight feet high, with small gates on every side. It was not the purpose of the natives to admit us within their walls; but a rain made it desirable that the palaver should be held in a sheltered place, instead of on the beach, as had been originally intended.
We therefore marched in, took possession of the place, and stationed sentinels at every gate. The town was entirely deserted; for the warriors had gone forth to fight, if a fight there was to be; and the women and children were sent for security into the "bush." In the central square stood the Palaver House, beneath the shadow of a magnificent wide-spreading tree, which had perhaps mingled the murmur of its leaves with the eloquence of the native orators, for at least a century. Here we posted ourselves, and awaited the King of Rock Boukir.
The messengers announced, that he wished to bring his armed men within the walls, and occupy one side of the town, while our party held the other. As this proposition was not immediately acceded to, and as the King would not recede, it seemed doubtful whether there would be any palaver, after all. At length, however, the Commodore ordered the removal of our sentinels from the gates, on one side of the town, and consented that the native warriors should come in. A further delay was accounted for, on the plea that the King was putting on his robes of state. Finally, he entered the Palaver House and seated himself; an old man of sinister aspect, meanly dressed, and having for his only weapon a short sword, with a curved blade, six inches wide. Governor Roberts now opened the palaver, by informing the king that his tribe were suspected of having participated in the plunder of the Mary Carver, and the murder of her captain and crew. I subjoin a brief narrative of this affair.
Two years since, the schooner Mary Carver, of Salem, commanded by Captain Farwell of Vassalboro', was anchored at Half Berebee, for the purpose of trading with the natives. Her cargo was valued at twelve thousand dollars. Captain Farwell felt great confidence in the people of Half Berebee, although warned not to trust them too far, as they had the character of being fierce and treacherous. One day, being alone on shore, the natives knocked him down, bound him, and delivered him to the women and children, to be tortured by sticking thorns into his flesh. After three hours of this horrible agony, the men despatched him. As soon as the captain was secured, a large party was sent on board the vessel, to surprise and murder the mate and crew. In this they were perfectly successful; not a soul on board escaped. They then took part of the goods out, and ran the schooner ashore, where she was effectually plundered. Within a space of twelve miles along the beach, there are five or six families of Fishmen, ruled by different members of the Cracko family, of which Ben Cracko of Half Berebee is the head. All these towns were implicated in the plot, and received a share of the plunder. A Portuguese schooner had been taken, and her crew murdered, at the same place, a year before. The business had turned out so profitably, that other tribes on the coast began to envy the good fortune of the Crackos, and declared that they likewise were going to "catch" a vessel.
The object of our present palaver was to inquire into the alleged agency of the tribe at Rock Boukir in the above transaction. The King, speaking in his own language, strenuously denied the charge; at the same time touching his ears and drawing his tongue over his short curved broad-sword. By these symbols and hieroglyphics, I supposed him to mean, that he had merely heard of the affair, and that his sword was innocent of the blood imputed to him. It seems, however, that it is the native form of taking an oath, equivalent to our kissing the book. The King agreed to go to Berebee, and assist in the grand palaver to be held there; complying with a proposal of the Commodore, to take passage thither in the Macedonian. Matters being so far settled, the council was broken up, and the party re-embarked.
Several of the boats having been anchored outside of the surf, the officers and men were carried off to them in the native canoes. The scene on the beach was quite animated. Hundreds of natives, having laid aside their weapons, crowded around to watch the proceedings. The women and children came from the woods in swarms, all talking, screaming, laughing, and running hither and thither. The canoes were constantly passing from the shore to the boats, carrying two persons at a time. Our men, being unaccustomed to such rough water and unsteady conveyances, often capsized the canoes and were tumbled ashore by the surf, perhaps with the loss of hats, jackets, or weapons. Here was visible the head of a marine, swimming to one of the boats, with his musket in his hand. Another, unable to swim, was upheld by a Krooman. Here and there, an impatient individual plunged into the surf and struck out for his boat, rather than await the tedious process of embarkation. All reached the vessels in safety, but few with dry jackets. His majesty of Rock Boukir, too, went on board the frigate, according to agreement, and probably, by this mark of confidence, saved his capital from the flames. If all stories be true, he little deserves our clemency; and it is even said, that the different tribes held a grand palaver at this place, for the division of the spoil of the Mary Carver.
We set sail immediately.
12.—Anchored at half past five P.M., off Little Berebee.
Palaver at Little Berebee—Death of the Interpreter and King Ben Cracko, and burning of the Town—Battle with the Natives, and Conflagration of several Towns—Turkey Buzzards—A Love-Letter—Moral Reflections—Treaty of Grand Berebee—Prince Jumbo and his Father—Native system of Expresses—Curiosity of the Natives.
December 13.—At nine A.M., the boats of the squadron repaired to the flag-ship, where they were formed in line, and then pulled towards the shore abreast. The landing-place is tolerably good, but contracted. Four or five boats might easily approach it together; but when most of the thirteen attempted it at once, so narrow was the space, that one or two of them filled. They were hauled up, however, and secured. Our force, on being disembarked, was stationed in line, opposite the town of Little Berebee, and the wood in its immediate vicinity. Many of the officers went up to the Palaver House, a temporary shed erected for the occasion, about fifty yards from the town-gate. King Ben Cracko now making his appearance, with five or six headmen or kings of the neighboring tribes, the palaver began.
The interpreter, on this occasion, was well known to have been, in his own person, a leading character in the act of piracy and murder, which it was the object of the palaver to investigate. He had therefore a difficult part to act; one that required great nerve, and such a talent of throwing a fair semblance over foul facts, as few men, civilized or savage, are likely to possess. With the consciousness of guilt upon him, causing him to startle at the first aspect of peril, it is singular that the man should have had the temerity to trust himself in so trying a position. His version of the Mary Carver affair was a very wretched piece of fiction. He declared that Captain Farwell had killed two natives, and that old King Cracko, since deceased, had punished the captain by death, in the exercise of his legitimate authority. He denied that the tribe had participated in Captain Farwell's murder, or in those of the mate and crew, or in the robbery of the vessel; affirming that the schooner had gone ashore, and that everything was lost. All this was a tissue of falsehood; it being notorious that a large quantity of goods from the wreck, and portions of the vessel itself, were distributed among the towns along the coast. It was well known, moreover, that these people had boasted of having "caught" (to use their own phrase), an American vessel, and that the neighboring tribes had threatened to follow Ben Cracko's example.
Governor Roberts, who conducted the examination on our part, expressed to the man his utter disbelief of the above statements. The Commodore, likewise, stept hastily towards him, sternly warning him to utter no more falsehoods. The interpreter, perceiving that the impression was against him, and probably expecting to be instantly made prisoner, or put to death, now lost the audacity that had hitherto sustained him. At this moment, it is said, a gun was fired at our party, from the town; and, simultaneously with the report, the interpreter sprang away like a deer. There was a cry to stop him—two or three musket-bullets whistled after the fugitive as he ran—but he had nearly reached the town-gate, when his limbs, while strained to their utmost energy, suddenly failed beneath him. A rifle-shot had struck him in the vertebra of the neck, causing instantaneous death. Meanwhile, King Ben Cracko had made a bolt to escape, but was seized by his long calico robe; which, however, gave way, leaving him literally naked in the midst of his enemies. A shot brought him to the ground; but he sprang to his feet, still struggling to escape. He next received two bayonet wounds, but fought like a wild beast, until two or three men flung themselves upon him, and held him down by main force. Finding himself overpowered, he pretended to be dead, but was securely bound, and taken to the beach. A lion of the African deserts could not have shown a fiercer energy than this savage King; and those who gazed at him, as he lay motionless on the sand, confessed that they had never seen a frame of such masculine vigor as was here displayed. His wounds proved mortal.
The melée had been as sudden as the explosion of gunpowder; it was wholly unexpected, but perhaps not to be wondered at, where two parties, with weapons in their hands, had met to discuss a question of robbery and murder. When the firing commenced, about two hundred natives were on the spot, or in the vicinity; they were now flying in all directions, some along the beach, a few into the sea itself, but by far the greatest number to the woods. Many shots were fired, notwithstanding the Commodore's orders to refrain. We were now directed to break down the palisades, and set fire to the town. A breach of twenty or thirty feet was soon made in the wall, by severing the withes that bound together the upright planks. Before this could be effected, another party crept through the small holes, serving the purpose of gates, and penetrated to the centre of the town, where, assembling around the great council-tree, they gave three cheers. The houses were then set on fire, and, within fifteen minutes, presented one mass of conflagration. The palisades likewise caught the flames, and were consumed, leaving an open space of blackened and smoking ruins, where, half an hour before, the sun had shone upon a town.
The natives did not remain idle spectators of the destruction of their houses. Advancing to the edge of the woods, they discharged their muskets at us, loaded not with Christian bullets, but with copper-slugs, probably manufactured out of the spikes of the Mary Carver. A marine was struck in the side by one of these missiles, which tumbled him over, but without inflicting a serious wound. A party from our ship penetrated the woods behind the town, where one of them fired at an object which he perceived moving in the underbrush. Going up to the spot, it proved to be a very aged man, apparently on the verge of a century, much emaciated, and too feeble to crawl further in company with his flying towns-people. He was unharmed by the shot, but evidently expected instant death, and held up his hand in supplication. Our party placed the poor old patriarch in a more sheltered spot, and left him there, after supplying him with food; an act of humanity which must have seemed to him very singular, if not absurd, in contrast with the mischief which we had wrought upon his home and people. Meantime, the ships were disposed to have a share in the fight, and opened a cannonade upon the woods, shattering the great branches of the trees, and adding to the terror, if not to the loss, of the enemy. Little Berebee being now a heap of ashes, we re-embarked, taking with us an American flag, probably that of the Mary Carver, which had been found in the town. We also made prizes of several canoes, one of which was built for war, and capable of carrying forty men. The wounded King Cracko, likewise, was taken on board the frigate, where, next morning, he breathed his last; thus expiating the outrage in which, two years before, he had been a principal actor. We afterwards understood that the natives suffered a loss of eight killed and two wounded.
15.—The season for palavers and diplomacy being now over, we landed at seven o'clock this morning, ten or twelve miles below Berebee, in order to measure out a further retribution to the natives. On approaching the beach, we were fired upon from the bushes, but without damage, although the enemy were sheltered within twenty yards of the water's edge. The boat's crew first ashore, together with two or three marines, charged into the shrubbery and drove off the assailants. All being disembarked, the detachment was formed in line, and marched to the nearest town, which was immediately attacked. Like the other native towns, it was protected by a wall of high palisades, planted firmly in the soil, and bound together by thongs of bamboo. Cutting a passage through these, we entered the place, which contained perhaps a hundred houses, neatly built of wicker-work, and having their high conical roofs thatched with palmetto-leaves. Such edifices were in the highest degree combustible, and being set on fire, it was worth while for a lover of the picturesque to watch the flames, as they ran up the conical roofs, and meeting at the apex, whirled themselves fiercely into the darkened air.
While this was going on, the war-bells, drums, and war-horns of the natives were continually sounding; and flocks of vultures (perhaps a more accurate ornithologist might call them turkey-buzzards) appeared in the sky, wheeling slowly and heavily over our heads. These ravenous birds seemed to have a presentiment that there were deeds of valor to be done: nor was it quite a comfortable idea, that some of them, ere nightfall, might gratify their appetite at one's own personal expense. To confess the truth, however, they were probably attracted by the scent of some slaughtered bullocks; it being indifferent to a turkey-buzzard whether he prey on a cow or a Christian. After destroying the first town, we marched about a mile and a half up the beach, to attack a second. On our advance, the marine drummer and fifer were ordered from the front of the column to the rear, as being a position of less danger. They of course obeyed; but the little drummer deeming it a reflection upon his courage, burst into tears, and actually blubbered aloud as he beat the pas de charge. It was a strange operation of manly spirit in a boyish stage of development.
As we approached the second town, our boat-keepers, who watched the scene, distinctly saw a party of thirty or forty natives lying behind a palisade, with their guns pointed at our advanced guard. Unconscious that the enemy were so near, we halted for an instant, about forty yards from the town, and then advanced at a run. This so disconcerted the defenders that they fled, after firing only a few shots, none of which took effect. In fact, the natives proved themselves but miserable marksmen. They can seldom hit an object in motion, although, if a man stand still, they sometimes manage to put a copper-slug into his body, by taking aim a long time. After firing, the savage runs a long distance before he ventures to load. Had their skill or their hardihood been greater, we must have suffered severely; for the woods extended nearly to the water's edge, and exposed us, during the whole day, to the fire of a sheltered and invisible enemy.
After the storm and conflagration of the second town, we took a brief rest, and then proceeded to capture and burn another, situated about a mile to the northward. This accomplished, we judged it to be dinner-time. Indeed, we had done work enough to ensure an appetite; and history does not make mention, so far as I am aware, of such destruction of cities so expeditiously effected. Having emptied our baskets, we advanced about three miles along the beach—still with the slugs of the enemy whistling in our ears—and gave to the devouring element another town. Man is perhaps never happier than when his native destructiveness can be freely exercised, and with the benevolent complacency of performing a good action, instead of the remorse of perpetrating a bad one. It unites the charms of sin and virtue. Thus, in all probability, few of us had ever spent a day of higher enjoyment than this, when we roamed about, with a musket in one hand and a torch in the other, devastating what had hitherto been the homes of a people.
One of the sweetest spots that I have seen in Africa, was a little hamlet of three houses, standing apart from the four large towns above-mentioned, and surrounded by an impervious hedge of thorn-bushes, with two palisaded entrances. Forcing our way through one of these narrow portals, we beheld a grassy area of about fifty yards across, overshadowed by a tree of very dense foliage, which had its massive roots in the centre, and spread its great protecting branches over the whole enclosure. The three dwellings were of the same sort of basket-work as those already described, but particularly neat, and giving a pleasant impression of the domestic life of their inhabitants. This small, secluded hamlet had probably been the residence of one family, a patriarch, perhaps, with his descendants to the third or fourth generation—who, beneath that shadowy tree, must have enjoyed all the happiness of which uncultivated man is susceptible. Nor would it be too great a stretch of liberality, to suppose that the green hedge of impervious thorns had kept out the vices of their race, and that the little area within was a sphere where all the virtues of the native African had been put in daily practice. These three dwellings, and the verdant wall around them, and the great tree that brooded over the whole, might unquestionably have been spared, with safety to our consciences. But when man takes upon himself the office of an avenger by the sword, he is not to be perplexed with such little scrupulosities, as whether one individual or family be less guilty than the rest. Providence, it is to be presumed, will find some method of setting such matters right. In fine, when the negro patriarch's strong sable sons supported their decrepit sire homeward, with their wives, "black, but comely," bearing the glistening, satin-skinned babies on their backs, and their other little ebony responsibilities trudging in the rear, there must have been a dismal wail; for there was the ancestral tree, its foliage shrivelled with fire, stretching out its desolate arms over the ashes of the three wicker dwellings.
The business of the day was over. Besides short excursions, and charges into the bush, the men had marched and countermarched at least twelve miles upon the beach, with the surf sometimes rolling far beyond our track. Some hundreds of slugs had been fired at us; and, on our part, we had blazed away at every native who had ventured to show his face; but the amount of casualties, after such a day of battle, reminds one of the bloodless victories and defeats of an Italian army, during the middle ages. In a word, we had but two men wounded; and whether any of the enemy were killed or no, it is impossible to say. At all events, we slew a number of neat cattle, eight or nine of which were sent on board the ships, where they answered a much better purpose than as many human carcasses. The other spoil consisted of several canoes, together with numerous household utensils—which we shall bring home as trophies and curiosities. There was also a chain cable, and many other articles belonging to the Mary Carver, and a pocket-book, containing a letter addressed to Captain Robert McFarland. The purport of the epistle is not a matter of public interest; but it was written in a lady's delicate hand, and was probably warm with affection; and little did the fair writer dream that her missive would find its way into an African hut, where it was probably regarded as a piece of witchcraft.
Thus ended the warfare of Little Berebee. The degree of retribution meted out had by no means exceeded what the original outrage demanded; and the mode of it was sanctioned by the customs of the African people. According to their unwritten laws, if individuals of a tribe commit a crime against another tribe or nation, the criminal must either be delivered up, or punished at home, or the tribe itself becomes responsible for their guilt. An example was of peremptory necessity; and the American vessels trading on the coast will long experience a good effect from this day's battle and destruction. The story will be remembered in the black man's traditions, and will have its due weight in many a palaver. Nevertheless, though the burning of villages be a very pretty pastime, yet it leaves us in a moralizing mood, as most pleasures are apt to do; and one would fain hope that civilized man, in his controversies with the barbarian, will at length cease to descend to the barbarian level, and may adopt some other method of proving his superiority, than by his greater power to inflict suffering. For myself personally, the "good old way" suits me tolerably enough; but I am disinterestedly anxious that posterity should find a better.
16.—We sailed at day-light for Grand Berebee. Nearing the point on which it is situated, the ships hoisted white flags at the fore, in token of amity. A message was sent on shore to the King, who came off in a large canoe, and set his hand to a treaty, promising to keep good faith with American vessels. He likewise made himself responsible for the good conduct of the other tribes in the vicinity.
On board the Macedonian, there were five prisoners, who had been taken two months ago, by the brig Porpoise. One was the eldest son of this King, and the others belonged to his tribe. The meeting between the King and prince was very affecting, and fully proved that nature has not left these wild people destitute of warmth and tenderness of heart. They threw themselves into each other's arms, wept, laughed, and danced for joy. To the King, his son was like one risen from the dead; he had given him up for lost, supposing that the young man had been executed. The prisoners were each presented with a new frock and trowsers, besides tobacco, handkerchiefs, and other suitable gifts. The prince received a lieutenant's old uniform coat; and when they got into their canoe, it was amusing to see how awkwardly he paddled, in this outlandish trim. He made two or three attempts to get the coat off, but without success. One of his companions then offered his assistance; but as he took the prince by the collar, instead of the sleeve, it was found impracticable to rid him of the garment. The more he pulled, the less it would come off; and the last we saw of Prince Jumbo, he was holding up his skirts in one hand, and paddling with the other. There will be grand rejoicings to-night, on the return of the prisoners. All will be dancing and jollity; plays will be performed; the villages will re-echo with the report of fire-arms and the clamor of drums; and the whole population will hold a feast of bullocks.
20.—Anchored at Cape Palmas. The natives here were alarmed at the return of the three ships; and many of them carried away their moveables into the woods. News of the destruction of the towns below had reached them several days since. They have a simple, but very effective system of expresses. When information of great interest is to be conveyed from tribe to tribe, one of their swiftest runners is despatched, who makes what speed he can, and, when tired, entrusts his message to another. Thus it is speeded on, without a moment's delay. Should the runner encounter a river in his course, he shouts his news across; it is caught up on the other side, and immediately sent forward. In this manner, intelligence finds its way along the coast with marvellous celerity.
23.—We sailed two days ago. Yesterday, there came off from the shore, some six or eight miles, a couple of canoes, paddled by six men each, who exerted themselves to the utmost to overtake us. They had nothing to sell; and their only object seemed to be, to obtain the particulars of the fight and conflagration at Little Berebee, a hundred and fifty miles below.
25.—Anchored at Monrovia, and landed Governor Roberts, who, with Dr. Johnson, had been a passenger from Cape Palmas.
28.—Sailed for Porto Praya, with the intention of visiting Madeira, before returning to the coast.
Madeira—Aspect of the Island—Annual races—"Hail Columbia!"—Ladies, Cavaliers, and Peasants—Dissertation upon Wines—The Clerks of Funchal—Decay of the Wine-Trade—Cultivation of Pine-Trees—A Night in the Streets—Beautiful Church—A Sunday-evening Party—Currency of Madeira.
January 19, 1844.—We made Madeira yesterday, but, the weather being thick and squally, stood off and on until to-day.
20. Our ship rides gently at her anchor. The Loo rock rises fifty feet perpendicular from the water, at so short a distance, that we can hear the drum beat tattoo in the small, inaccessible castle, on its summit. This rock is the outpost of the city of Funchal. The city stretches along the narrow strip of level ground, near the shore, with vine-clad hills rising steeply behind. On the slopes of these eminences are many large houses, surrounded with splendid gardens, and occupied by wealthy inhabitants, chiefly Englishmen, who have retired upon their fortunes, or are still engaged in business. On a height to the left, stands a castle of considerable size, in good repair. High up among the hills, in bold relief, is seen the church of Our Lady of the Mount, with its white walls and two towers. The hills are rugged, steep, and furrowed with deep ravines, along which, after the heavy rains of winter, the mountain torrents dash headlong to the sea.
My remarks on Madeira will be thrown together without the regularity of a daily journal; for our visit to the island proves so delightful, that it seems better worth the while to enjoy, than to describe it.
The annual races are well attended. During their continuance, throngs of passengers, on foot, on horseback, and in palanquins, are continually proceeding to the course, a little more than a mile and a half from town. The road thither constantly ascends, until you find yourself several hundred feet above the sea, with an extensive prospect beneath and around. A tolerable space for the track is here afforded by an oblong plain, seven-eighths of a mile in length. Near the judges' stand was a large collection of persons of all classes, ladies, dandies, peasants, and jockeys. Here, too, were booths for the sale of eatables and drinkables, and a band of music to enliven the scene.
These musicians saw fit to honor us in a very particular manner. They had all agreed to ship on board our vessel; and, with a view to please their new masters, when three or four of our officers rode into the course, they played "Hail Columbia." We took off our caps in acknowledgment, and thought it all very fine. Directly afterwards, two other officers rode in, and were likewise saluted with "Hail Columbia!" Anon, two or three of us dismounted and strolled about among the people, thinking nothing of the band, until we were reminded of their proximity by the old tune again. In short, every motion on our part, however innocent and unpretending, caused the hills of Madeira to resound with the echoes of our national air. Finding that our position assumed a cast of the ridiculous, we gave the leader to understand, that, if the tune were played again, the band's first experience of maritime life should be a flogging at the gangway. The hint was sufficient; not only did we hear no more of "Hail Columbia," but none of the musicians ever came near the ship.
With few exceptions the running was wretched. One or two of the match-races (which were ten in number, all single heats, of a mile each) were well contested. The first was run by two ponies; a fat black one with a chubby boy on his back, and a red, which, as well as his rider, was in better racing condition. The black was beaten out of sight. The second race was by two other ponies, one of which took the lead, and evidently had the heels of his antagonist. Suddenly, however, he bolted, and leaped the wall, leaving the track to be trotted over by the slower colt. Two grey horses succeeded, and made pretty running; but their riders, instead of attending to business, joined hands, and rode a quarter of a mile in this amiable attitude. Rather than antagonists, one would have taken them for twin brethren, like two other famous horsemen, Castor and Pollux. To the ladies this mode of racing appeared delightful; but the remarks of our party, consisting of several English and American officers and gentlemen, were anything but complimentary. The last quarter of this heat was well run, one of the horses winning apparently by a neck. The judge, however, a Portuguese, decided that it was a dead heat.
At one extremity of the course, the hill rises abruptly; and here were hundreds of persons of both sexes, in an excellent position to see the running, and to impart a pretty effect to the scene. A large number of peasantry were present, dressed in their peculiar costume, and taking great interest in the whole matter. Both men and women wear a little blue cap lined with scarlet, so small that one wonders how it sticks on the head. In shape it is like an inverted funnel, running up to a sharp point. The women have short, full dresses, with capes of a dark blue, trimmed with a lighter blue, or of scarlet with blue trimming. These colors form a sectional distinction; the girls of the north side of the island wearing the scarlet capes, and those of the south side, the blue. In the intervals of the races, ladies and gentlemen cantered round the course, and some of them raced with their friends. Three Scottish ladies, with more youth than beauty, and dressed in their plaids, made themselves conspicuous by their bold riding, and quite carried off the palm of horsemanship from their cavaliers.
A sketch of Madeira would be incomplete indeed, without some mention of its wines. Three years ago, when it was more a matter of personal interest, I visited this island, and gained considerable information on the subject. Madeira then produced about thirty thousand pipes annually, one third of which was consumed on the island, one-third distilled into brandy, and the remainder exported. About one-third of the exportation went to the United States, and the balance to other parts of the world. The best wines are principally sent to our own country—that is to say, the best exported—for very little of the first-rate wine goes out of the island. The process of adulteration is as thoroughly understood and practised here, as anywhere else. The wine sent to the United States is a kind that has been heated, to give it an artificial age. The mode of operation is simply to pour the wine into large vats, and submit it for several days to a heat of about 110º. After this ordeal, the wine is not much improved by keeping.
There are other modes of adulteration, into the mysteries of which I was not admitted. One fact, communicated to me by an eminent wine-merchant, may shake the faith of our connoisseurs as to the genuineness of their favorite beverage. It is, that, from a single pipe of "mother wine," ten pipes are manufactured by the help of inferior wine. This "mother wine" is that which has been selected for its excellence, and is seldom exported pure. The wines, when fresh from the vintage, are as various in their flavor as our cider. It is by taste and smell that the various kinds are selected, after which the poorer wines are distilled into brandy, and the better are put in cases, and placed in store to ripen. The liquor is from time to time racked off, and otherwise managed until ready for exportation. It is invariably "treated" with brandy. French brandy was formerly used, which being now prohibited, that of the island is substituted, although of an inferior quality.
Besides the "Madeira wine," so famous among convivialists, there are others of higher price and superior estimation. There is the "Sercial," distinguished by a kind of Poppy taste. There is the Malmsey, or "Ladies' wine," and the "Vina Tinta," or Madeira Claret, as it is sometimes called. The latter is made of the black grapes, in a peculiar manner. After being pressed, the skins of the grapes are placed in a vat, where the juice is poured upon them and suffered to stand several days, until it has taken the hue required. The taste of this wine is between those of Port and Claret. There is a remarkable difference in the quality of the vintages of the north and south sides of the island; the former not being a third part so valuable as the latter. The poorer classes drink an inferior and acid wine.
The vineyards are generally owned by rich proprietors, by whom they are farmed out to the laborer, who pays half the produce when the wine has been pressed; the government first taking its tenth. The grape-vines run along frame-work, raised four or five feet from the ground, so as to allow the cultivator room to weed the stalks beneath. The finest grapes are those which grow upon the sunny side of a wall. At the season of vintage, the grapes are placed in a kind of canoe, where they are first crushed by men's feet (all wines, even the richest and purest, having this original tincture of the human foot), and then pressed by a beam.
Perhaps the very finest wines in the world are to be found collected at the suppers given by the clerks, in the large mercantile houses of Madeira. By an established custom, when one of their corps is about to leave the island, he gives an entertainment, to which every guest contributes a bottle or two of wine. It is a point of honor to produce the best; and as the clerks know, quite as well as their principals, where the best is to be found, and as the honor of their respective houses is to be sustained, it may well be imagined that all the bon-vivants on earth, were they to meet at one table, could hardly produce such a variety of fine old Madeira, as the clerks of Funchal then sip and descant upon. In no place do mercantile clerks hold so respectable a position in society as here; owing to the tacit understanding between their principals and themselves, that, at some future day, they are to be admitted as partners in the houses. This is so general a rule, that the clerk seems to hold a social position scarcely inferior to that of the head of the establishment. They prove their claim to this high consideration, by the zeal with which they improve their minds and cultivate their manners, in order to fill creditably the places to which they confidently aspire.
At my second visit to Madeira, I find the wine trade at a very low ebb. The demand from America, owing to temperance, the tariff, and partly to an increased taste for Spanish, French, and German wines, is extremely small. Not a cargo has been shipped thither for three years. The construction given to the tariff, by the Secretary of the Treasury, will infuse new life into the trade.
The hills around the city of Funchal are covered with vineyards, as far up as the grape will grow; then come the fields of vegetables; and the plantations of pine for the supply of the city. The island took its name from the great quantity of wood which overshadowed it, at its first discovery. This being long ago exhausted, considerable attention is paid to the cultivation of the pine-tree, which produces the most profitable kind of wood. In twelve or thirteen years, it is fit for the market, and commands a handsome price. Far up the mountains, we saw one plantation, in which fifty or sixty acres had been covered with pines, within a few years; some of the infant trees being only an inch high. Thus in the course of a morning's ride, we ascend from the region of the laughing and luxuriant vine, into that of the stately and sombre pine; it is like being transported by enchantment from the genial clime of Madeira into the rugged severity of a New England forest.
In going up the mountain, the traveller encounters many peasants, both men and women, with bundles of weeds for horses, and sticks for fire-wood, which are carried upon the head. Thus laden, they walk several miles, and perhaps sell their burthens for ten or twelve cents apiece. Articles cannot easily be conveyed in any other manner, down the steep declivities of the hills. In the city, burthens are drawn by oxen, on little drags, which glide easily over the smooth, round pavements. The driver carries in his hand a long mop without a handle, or what a sailor would term a "wet swab." If any difficulty occur in drawing the load, this moist mop is thrown before the drag, which readily glides over it.
The beggars of Funchal are numerous and importunate, and many of them wretched enough, as, in one instance, I had occasion to witness. With a friend, I had quitted a ball at two o'clock in the morning. The porter of our hotel, not expecting us at so late an hour, had retired; and, as all the family slept in the back part of the house, we were unable to awaken them by our long and furious knocking. Several Englishmen occupied the front apartments, but scorned to give themselves any trouble about the matter, except to breathe a slumberous execration against the disturbers of their sleep. On the other hand, our anathemas were louder, and quite as bitter upon these inhospitable inmates. Finally, after half an hour's vigorous but ineffectual assault upon the portal, we retreated in despair, and betook ourselves to walk the streets. The night was beautifully clear, but too cool for the enervated frame of an African voyager. We were tired with dancing, and occasionally sat down; but the door-steps were all of stone, and, though we buttoned our coats closely, it was impossible to remain long inactive.
Near morning, we approached the door of the Cathedral, and were about to seat ourselves, when we perceived a person crouching on the spot, and apparently asleep. The slumber was not sound; for when we spoke, a young girl, a mere rose-bud of a woman, about fourteen years of age, arose and answered. She was very thinly clad; and, with her whole frame shivering, the poor thing assumed an airy and mirthful deportment, to attract us. It was grievous to imagine how many nights like this the unhappy girl was doomed to pass, and that all her nights were such, unless when vice and degradation procured her a temporary shelter. Ever since that hour, when I picture the pleasant island of Madeira, with its sunshine, and its vineyards, and its jovial inhabitants, the shadow of this miserable child glides through the scene.
One of the most beautiful houses of worship I have ever seen, is the English church, just outside of the city of Funchal. The edifice has no steeple or bells, these being prohibited by the treaty between Portugal and Great Britain, which permits the English protestants to erect churches. You approach it through neat gravel walks, lined with the most brilliant flowers, and these in such magnificent profusion, that the building may be said to stand in the midst of a great flower-garden. The aspect is certainly more agreeable, if not more appropriate, than that of the tombstones and little hillocks which usually surround the sacred edifice; it is one method of rendering the way to Heaven a path of flowers. On entering the church, we perceive a circular apartment, lighted by a dome of stained glass. The finish of the interior is perfectly neat, but simple. The organ is fine-toned, and was skilfully played. Pleasant it was to see again a church full of well-dressed English—those Saxon faces, nearest of kin to our own—and to hear once more the familiar service, after being so long shut out from consecrated walls!
Sunday is not observed with much strictness, in Madeira. On the evening of that day, I called at a friend's house, where thirty or forty persons, all Portuguese, were collected, without invitation. Music, dancing, and cards, were introduced for the entertainment of the guests. The elder portion sat down to whist; and, in a corner of the large dancing room, one of the gentlemen established a faro-bank, which attracted most of the company to look on, or bet. So much more powerful were the cards than the ladies, that it was found difficult to enlist gentlemen for a single cotillion. After a while, dancing was abandoned, and cards ruled supreme. The married ladies made bets as freely as the gentlemen; and several younger ones, though more reserved, yet found courage to put down their small stakes. I observed one sweet girl of sixteen, standing over the table, and watching the game with intense interest. Methought the game within her bosom was for a more serious stake than that upon the table, and better worth the observer's notice. Who should win it?—her guardian angel? or the gambling fiend? Alas, the latter! She bashfully drew a little purse from her bosom, and put her stake down with the rest.
The currency of Madeira is principally composed of the old-fashioned twenty cent pieces, called cruzados, which pass at the rate of five for a dollar. Payments of thousands of dollars are made in this coin, which, not being profitable to remit, circulates from hand to hand.
Passage back to Liberia—Coffee Plantations—Dinner on Shore—Character of Col. Hicks—Shells and Sentiment—Visit to the Council Chamber—the New Georgia Representative—a Slave-Ship—Expedition up the St. Paul's—Sugar Manufactory—Maumee's beautiful Grand-Daughter—the Sleepy Disease—the Mangrove-Tree.
February 29.—We are on our return to Liberia. The ship is destined to cruise along the whole coast, from Cape Mesurado to the river Gaboon, touching at all important and interesting points. It will present the best opportunity yet enjoyed, to observe whatever things worthy of notice the country can present. Hourly, as we approach the coast, we perceive the difference in temperature. It is a grateful change, that of winter to summer. Last night was as mild as a summer evening at home. I remained on the forecastle till midnight, enjoying the moonlight, the soft air, and the cheerful song of a cricket, which had been, in some manner, brought on board at Porto Praya, a week ago. He seems to be the merriest of the crew, and now nightly pipes to the forecastle men.
Our ship slides along almost imperceptibly, yet gets over the sea wonderfully well. She is a noble ship, stiff, fast, and dry. Her motion is very easy, and her performance, whether in strong or light breezes, is always excellent. Her grating-deck has been taken off, as it made her a little top-heavy and uneasy, and detracted from her speed; and she is infinitely better for the change.
March 2.—Anchored at Monrovia, in less than eight days from Porto Praya, although the winds were light, most of the time. Several of our Kroomen, who left us, two months ago, completely dressed in sailor-rig, came on board with only a hat and a handkerchief, and forthwith proceeded to haul upon the ropes, as before.
6.—I have been walking through Judge Benedict's coffee-plantation, from the condition of which I find little encouragement to persons disposed to engage in the business. The trees are certainly not so thrifty, and are apparently less in number than they were three years ago. There is little or no weeding done; consequently, the plantation is overgrown with grass and bushes, and looks as if the forest might, at no distant day, reclaim its children. All the trees have been transplanted from the neighboring woods, and, it is said, do not flourish so well as those raised from seed, in nurseries. General Lewis has several thousand coffee-plants growing from the seed, and, in two or three years, will have tested the comparative advantages of this plan.
I dined ashore to-day. At the table were a Dutchman, a Dane, four American officers, and Colonel Hicks. All, except myself, were good talkers, and composed a delightful dinnerparty. Colonel Hicks, of whom I have before spoken in this Journal, is one of the most shrewd, active and agreeable men in the colony. Once a slave in Kentucky, and afterwards in New-Orleans, he is now a commission-merchant in Monrovia, doing a business worth four or five thousand dollars per annum. Writing an elegant hand, he uses this accomplishment to the best advantage by inditing letters, on all occasions, to those who can give him business. If a French vessel shows her flag in the harbor, the Colonel's Krooman takes a letter to the master, written in his native language. If an American man-of-war, he writes in English, offering his services, and naming some person as his intimate friend, who will probably be known on board. Then he is so hospitable, and his house always so neat, and his table so good—his lady, moreover, is such a friendly, pleasant-tempered person, and so good-looking, into the bargain—that it is really a fortunate day for the stranger in Liberia, when he makes the acquaintance of Colonel and Mrs. Hicks. Every day, after the business of the morning is concluded, the Colonel dresses for dinner, which appears upon the table at three o'clock. He presides with genuine elegance and taste; his stories are good, and his quotations amusing. To be sure, he occasionally commits little mistakes, such, for instance, as speaking of America as his Alma Mater; but, on the whole, even without any allowance for a defective education, he appears wonderfully well. One circumstance is too indicative of strong sense, as well as good taste, not to be mentioned;—he is not ashamed of his color, but speaks of it without constraint, and without effort. Most colored men avoid alluding to their hue, thus betraying a morbid sensibility upon the point, as if it were a disgraceful and afflicting dispensation. Altogether the Colonel and his lady make many friends, and are as apparently happy, and as truly respectable as any couple here or elsewhere.
Coming to the beach, we found no boat; and nearly half an hour passed before one arrived to take us on board. In the interim, I strolled along the shore, picking up the small shells, which the waves had thrown in abundance upon the sand. In the eye of a conchologist, they would have been of little value, as all of them were common, and none possessed more than a single valve. But the purple blush of the interior pleased me; and what is more, I was gathering these trifles for a lady whom I have never seen, yet whom I trust that I may venture to count among my friends. I know that she will be pleased with the poor offering and its giver; for each of these shells is linked with a thought that flew over the sea—from the sunset shore of Africa to a fireside in New England—and returned thence to the wanderer, bringing grateful fancies, reminiscences, and hopes. It was a smiling half-hour.
9.—Ashore, and in the council-chamber. It is a spacious apartment on the second floor of the stone building recently erected for the purposes of a Legislative Hall and Court-House. The Governor presided, sitting in a high backed rocking-chair; which, by the by, the natives call a "Missionary Horse." The colonial Secretary acted as chief-clerk, and Doctor Prout, in gold-bowed spectacles, as his assistant. An ungainly lad, with big feet and striped hose, seemed to engross in his own person the offices of door-keeper, sergeant-at-arms, and page. The council proper consisted of ten members, who sat at separate desks, arranged semi-circularly in front of the Governor. The spectators occupied rude benches in the rear of the members.
The question before the council related to the building of a market-house in Monrovia, at the expense of the commonwealth, as proposed in one of the sections of a bill to form a city government. This being a matter of some interest, each member expressed his views, but with such brevity that the whole debate occupied scarcely forty minutes, although several individuals spoke twice. This conciseness was less a virtue of choice than necessity, being attributable chiefly to the fact, that the presiding officer set his face against all vagaries of eloquence, and kept the speakers strictly to the point. If one wandered in the least, he was instantly called to order, and compelled to take his seat, upon the slightest deviation from the rules of the house. One of the members was a wilder specimen of humanity than even our legislative bodies at home have ever presented to an admiring world. He was a re-captured African, representing New Georgia, an uncouth figure of a man, who spoke very broken English, with great earnestness, and much to the amusement of his brother counsellors and the audience generally. I regret my inability to preserve either the matter or the manner of so original an orator.
Here, as in the various other situations in which I have seen him placed, Governor Roberts acquitted himself as a dignified, manly, and sensible person. Deriving his appointment from the Society at home, he can act with more independence, in an official capacity, than if indebted to the voices of the members for his position.
15.—At sea again, on our way to Gallenas.
17.—Fell in with the English brig-of-war Ferret. Our captain went on board, and was told that she had been engaged with a large slaver, four days ago. Previous to the action, the slave-ship went to Gallenas, where the Ferret's pinnace was at anchor. She ran alongside of the boat, with three guns out on a side, and her waist full of musketeers—a superiority of force in view of which the pinnace did not venture to attack her; and the ship took in nine hundred or a thousand slaves, and went off unmolested. At sea, she encountered the Ferret, and was fired into repeatedly by that vessel, during the night, but succeeded in making her escape. The slaver was under Portuguese colors, and is said to have been formerly the American ship Crawford, now owned by Spaniards, and bearing a Spanish name.
18.—Again came to an anchor at Monrovia.
19.—Just returned from an excursion up the St. Paul's river. Three officers, in company with Dr. Lugenbeel, left Monrovia seasonably in the forenoon, in one of our boats, rowed—and well rowed too—by five Kroomen. Near the village, we passed from the Mesurado river through Stockton's creek, seven or eight miles, to the St. Paul's. Our first landing was at the public farm, where the manufacture of sugar was going on. Twelve Kroomen (whose power, in this country, is applied to as great a variety of purposes as those of steam and water in our own) were turning the mill by two long levers, walking round and round in one interminable circle, like the horse in an old-fashioned bark-mill. Three or four boys fed the mill with cane, which about a score of colonists were employed in cutting and bringing in by small armsfull, from a field in the immediate vicinity. The overseer, Mr. Moore, and a few other persons, were occupied in boiling the cane-juice. Mr. Moore informed me that sixteen Kroomen were employed on the premises, at three dollars per month, and twenty-five colonists at sixty-two and a half cents a day, besides their food. This year, they make about thirty barrels of sugar (which will cost at least twenty-five cents per pound), and two pipes of molasses. The cane, now in process of manufacture, is very small and unprofitable, all of the larger kind having been already ground. The sugar-house is a wretched building, with a thatched roof, and the sides roughly boarded like a cow-shed. There were four boilers in full bubble, and ten thousand bees in full buzz about the establishment; the insects bidding fair to hoard up more profit than the sugar-manufacturers.
Mr. Moore had accompanied the Niger expedition in the capacity of farmer, and resided nine or ten months on the model farm, without undergoing the prevalent sickness. While almost every white man perished, the colored colonists all survived. A large amount of property was left in the charge of Mr. Moore, and he returned with the expedition to England. As superintendent of the public farm, he now receives from the Colonization Society a salary of three hundred dollars.
Leaving the farm, we soon entered the St. Paul's, a noble river, which comes rolling onward from the yet unexplored interior of the country. Following its course a mile or more towards the sea, we arrived at Maumee's Town, a village of thirty or forty huts, where a considerable slave-trade was carried on, until broken up by the colonists under Governor Ashman. Old Maumee still resides here, and cherishes a bitter hatred against the Liberians, and all Americans and Englishmen, as having caused the ruin of her profitable commerce. The old hag was not now at home, having obeyed the custom of the country by retiring to a more secluded spot, for the purpose of nursing a sick granddaughter. The persons who remained were quite uninteresting. The only noticeable group was composed of two women, one lying flat on her face, with her head in the other's lap. Her hair being combed out as straight as the tenacity of its curls would allow, her friend was arranging it in that fine braid with which it is customary to cover the head.
Having procured a guide, we crossed the river, and, at the mouth of Logan's creek, exchanged our boat for a large canoe, in which we followed the windings of the deep and narrow inlet for nearly two miles. This brought us to a village of six huts. Without ceremony, we entered the dwelling of the old Queen (who was busied about her household affairs), and looked around for her grand-daughter, to see whom was the principal object of our excursion. On my former visit to Maumee's town, four or five months ago, this girl excited a great deal of admiration by her beauty and charming simplicity. She was then thirteen or fourteen years of age, a bright mulatto, with large and soft black eyes, and the most brilliantly white teeth in the world. Her figure, though small, is perfectly symmetrical. She is the darling of the old Queen, whose affections exhaust themselves upon her with all the passionate fire of her temperament—and the more unreservedly, because the girl's own mother is dead.
We entered the hut, as I have said, without ceremony, and looked about us for the beautiful grand-daughter. But, on beholding the object of our search, a kind of remorse or dread came over us, such as often affects those who intrude upon the awfulness of slumber. The girl lay asleep in the adjoining apartment on a mat that was spread over the hard ground, and with no pillow beneath her cheek. One arm was by her side—the other above her head—and she slept so quietly, and drew such imperceptible breath, that I scarcely thought her alive. With some little difficulty she was roused, and awoke with a frightened cry—a strange and broken murmur—as if she were looking dimly out of her sleep, and knew not whether our figures were real, or only the phantasies of a dream. Her eyes were wild and glassy, and she seemed to be in pain. While awake, there was a nervous twitching about her mouth and in her fingers; but, being again extended on the mat, and left to herself, these symptoms of disquietude passed away; and she almost immediately sank again into the deep and heavy sleep, in which we found her. As her eyes gradually closed their lids, the sunbeams, struggling through the small crevices between the reeds of the hut, glimmered down about her head. Perhaps it was only the nervous motion of her fingers; but it seemed as if she were trying to catch the golden rays of the sun and make playthings of them—or else to draw them into her soul, and illuminate the slumber that looked so misty and dark to us.
This poor, doomed girl had been suffering—no, not suffering, for, except when forcibly aroused, there appears to be no uneasiness—but she had been lingering two months in a disease peculiar to Africa. It is called the "sleepy disease," and is considered incurable. The persons attacked by it are those who take little exercise, and live principally on vegetables, particularly cassady and rice. Some ascribe it altogether to the cassady, which is supposed to be strongly narcotic. Not improbably, the climate has much influence, the disease being most prevalent in low and marshy situations. Irresistible drowsiness continually weighs down the patient, who can be kept awake only for the few moments needful to take a little food. When this lethargy has lasted three or four months, death comes—with a tread that the patient cannot hear, and makes the slumber but a little more sound.
I found the aspect of Maumee's beautiful grand-daughter inconceivably affecting. It was strange to behold her so quietly involved in sleep—from which it might be supposed she would awake so full of youthful life—and yet to know that this was no refreshing slumber, but a spell in which she was fading away from the eyes that loved her. Whatever might chance, be it grief or joy, the effect would be the same. Whoever should shake her by the arm—whether the accents of a friend fell feebly on her ear, or those of strangers, like ourselves, the only response would be that troubled cry, as of a spirit that hovered on the confines of both worlds, and could have sympathy with neither. And yet, withal, it seemed so easy to cry to her—"Awake! Enjoy your life! Cast off this noon-tide slumber!" But only the peal of the last trumpet will summon her out of that mysterious sleep.
On our return, we passed under the branches of the mangrove tree, and pulled some of the long fruit or seed. This singular seed is about fifteen or sixteen inches long, and in its greatest diameter not more than an inch. It is round, heavy, and pointed at both ends. When ripe, it detaches itself from a sort of acorn, to which the smaller end has been firmly joined, and falls with sufficient force to implant itself deeply in the mud. After a few days, it begins to shoot, and soon becomes a tall mangrove. This tree has many strings to its bow; for, while the seed is growing, as here described, the branches send down slender and cord-like shoots, perhaps thirty feet long, and less than an inch in thickness. These strike into the mud, and aid in giving sustenance to the tree. Thus the Mangrove presents the appearance of a large tree, supported by hundreds of lesser trunks, standing so thickly together as to be impassable for even small animals. Therein it differs from the tree described by Milton, to which it otherwise seems to bear an analogy:—
"In the ground The bended twigs take root, and daughters grow About the mother-tree, a pillar'd shade, High overarched, and echoing walks between!"
Returning to the ship, we found it lighted up, and the Theatre about to open. The scenery has been much improved, since the last performance, and the actors are more perfect in their parts.
The Theatre—Tribute to Governor Buchanan—Arrival at Settra Kroo—Jack Purser—The Mission-School—Cleanliness of the Natives—Uses of the Palm-Tree—Native Money—Mrs. Sawyer—Influence of her Character on the Natives—Characteristics of English Merchant-Captains—Trade of England with the African Coast.
March 21.—The scenery of the theatre having been damaged by the rain, the other night, it is spread out to dry, and will be re-painted. Much interest is felt in the Drama, and the exertions of the performers are rewarded with full houses nightly. Some of the actors have evidently trodden other boards than these. Among two hundred men, many of whom have led wild and dissipated lives on shore, it is easy to suppose that enough are familiar with the theatre in front of the curtain, and a few behind it. Thus a tolerable company has been collected, needing only a few female recruits to render it perfect. The dresses and scenery were procured by general subscription, and are showy as well as appropriate; and many a manager might deem himself fortunate to engage the whole corps, with wardrobe and decorations included, for a summer campaign. On board ship, our buskined heroes are of more importance than Booth, Forrest, or Macready ashore, as affording amusement to a set of fellows who would have precious little of it, without this resource.
22.—At 3 P.M. up anchor for the leeward, and stand off with a good breeze.
23.—We have passed Bassa Cove, merely sending in some letters by a Kroo-canoe, which boarded us. A considerable settlement of colonists is established here. Many of their houses are visible along the shore, while two smaller villages, in the immediate vicinity, are concealed by the woods. The bar at this place has a bad reputation; several boats having been swamped in passing it. In 1836, ten persons, including a midshipman and purser's clerk, were drowned here, by the capsizing of a boat belonging to the frigate Potomac.
At Bassa Cove, in 1842, died Thomas Buchanan, Governor of Liberia; a man who has identified his name with the existence of the colony, by his successful exertions to promote its strength and respectability. No other person had done so much to impress the natives with awe and respect for the colonists, and to give Liberia an independent position in the eyes of foreigners. A year before his death, it was my good fortune to be a shipmate of this great and excellent man; for great and excellent I do not hesitate to call him, although the remoteness of his sphere of action has left his name comparatively obscure. Like all who came in contact with him, I was deeply impressed with his pure, high, determined, and chivalric character. In a grove, near the village, he selected a spot for his burial; and there rest the remains of a finished gentleman, an accomplished scholar, a fearless soldier, a wise legislator, an ardent philanthropist, and a sincere Christian. So long as Liberia shall have a history, Governor Buchanan will be remembered in it. Honor to his ashes!
24.—Sunday. No service to-day, in consequence of a heavy rain, which commenced at nine in the morning, and continued till one in the afternoon. In the evening, four or five miles from land, we were boarded by the mate of an English brig, at anchor off Grand Botton. He seemed a well-disposed, off-hand man, telling us, among other things, that he had run away from the U.S. schooner Enterprise, in the Pacific ocean, four years ago. This was rather a hazardous communication to make, on the deck of a national vessel; and it so happened that one of our lieutenants was in the Enterprise, at the time referred to, and remembered the circumstance and the man. However, as he had put confidence in us, we did not molest him.
25.—Anchored at Settra Kroo.
26.—Ashore, and dined upon roasted oysters, in a native hut. A large, shrewd Krooman, Jack Purser by name, seems to be the most important private individual here. He is the great tradesman of the place, and very accommodating in his mode of transacting business. We saw a specimen of his dealings with the natives. Being told that we wanted wood, he sent intelligence through the town; and, directly, many women and girls flocked to his house, each with a bundle of wood upon her head, which she deposited near the door. After twenty or thirty loads had been brought, Jack Purser came forth with a bundle of tobacco under his arm, and threw the price of each load upon the wood, one, two, or three leaves of tobacco, according to its size. There was no haggling, as is invariably the case when a white man is the customer, but all assented to the decision of the trademan. Jack Purser is a man of fortune, if the number of his wives, twenty-nine, be a criterion.
I saw a native doctor making his "greegree," or charm, for rain. There were two large mortars, with leaves, bark, and roots, in each, and a long vine extending from one to the other. Into these mortars he poured water, until it ran over.
27.—Dined on shore, at Mrs. Sawyer's. The repast consisted of bits of mutton in palm-butter, mutton roasted, rice, palm-cabbage, chicken, and papaw, with coffee, but no wine. There are thirty children in the Mission-school, mostly boys, who show considerable aptitude for learning. It is an obstacle in the way of educating girls, that many of them are betrothed before entering school, and, just when their progress begins to be satisfactory, their husbands claim them and take them away. Mr. Wilson adopted the plan of taking the pair of betrothed ones; and, after pursuing their studies in unison (doubtless including the conjugation of the verb, to love), they left the school together.
One of the scholars, a little fellow called Robert Soutter, took a strange fancy to me, and followed everywhere at my heels, expressing a strong wish to accompany me to Big America. When we returned to the ship, he actually jumped into the boat, without saying a word, and came off, ready for the voyage. To be sure, there were few preparations requisite to rig him out. A handkerchief about his loins comprised all the earthly goods of Robert Soutter.
The houses at Settra Kroo are often two stories high, with piazzas round the whole. The entrance to the upper story is by a ladder from without. Like other native houses, they are built with bamboo, and thatched. There being a war with other portions of the Kroo-people, the Beachmen have been obliged to plant cassada in the town itself, instead of the neighboring fields. Hence high fences are necessary to keep out the cattle; and these, being irregular, make it a kind of labyrinth for a stranger. The place is one of the best on the coast for watering ships, in the dry season. A large stream of sweet and clear water runs through a grove of palm-trees, to the sea. Hither come all the women of the village, in the old scriptural fashion, with the water-jar, holding three or four gallons, on the head. The consumption of water by the natives is very great. Whether it be part of their religious ritual, I know not—although cleanliness is in itself a religion—but the whole population wash themselves from head to foot, at least twice a day, in fresh water, when to be procured. These naked people, however, are as much averse as ourselves to being wet by the rain; and every man of consequence has his umbrella, to protect him both from sun and shower.
Palm-trees are more abundant here, than in any place which I have visited on the coast. No tree, as has been said a thousand times, is so useful as the palm. It gives a good shade, and is pleasing as an ornamental tree. The palm-nut is very palatable and nutritious for food, and likewise affords oil, the kernel as well as the pulpy substance being available for that purpose. Palm-wine is the sap of the tree; and its top furnishes a most delicious dish, called palm-cabbage. The trunk supplies fire-wood, and timber for building fences. From the fibres of the wood is manufactured a strong cordage, and a kind of native cloth; and the leaves, besides being used for thatching houses, are converted into hats. If nature had given the inhabitants of Africa nothing else, this one gift of the palm-tree would have included food, drink, clothing, and habitation, and the gratuitous boon of beauty, into the bargain.
I have procured some of the country-money. It is more curious than convenient. The "Manilly," worth a dollar and a half, would be a fearful currency to make large payments in, being composed of old brass kettles, melted up, and cast in a sand-mould. The weight is from two to four pounds; so that the circulation of this country may be said to rest upon a pretty solid metallic basis. The "Buyapart," valued at twenty-five cents, is a piece of cloth four inches square, covered thickly over with the small shells called cowries, sewed on. The other currency consists principally in such goods as have an established value. Brass kettles, cotton handkerchiefs, tobacco, guns, and kegs of powder, are legal tender. [Footnote: Specimens of the native money have been presented by the author to the National Institute at Washington.]
29.—Mrs. Sawyer was on board yesterday. It is not without regret that we part with this interesting, energetic, and truly Christian woman. She is the only white person here, and lives alone among a tribe of savages, as safe, and perhaps more so, than in a civilized city. The occasional visits of vessels of war prevent any evil-minded person from molesting her; but she has little need of guardianship of this nature; for her own kind acts, and purity of character, will always ensure her the respect of the natives. Mrs. S. told us, that, before her husband died, the war-king of the Settra Kroos had quarrelled with him, and was his enemy at the time of his death. Not long afterwards, this war-king came to Mrs. Sawyer, and assured her of his protection and assistance to the utmost of his power, which is very great, as he commands all the fighting-men of the tribe. I know not that the power of feminine excellence has ever been more strikingly acknowledged, than by this act of an incensed and barbarous warrior. Somewhat of her influence, as well as that of the missionaries generally, is probably owing to her color. Many of the natives look with contempt on the colonists, and do not hesitate to tell them that they are merely liberated slaves. On the other hand, the colonists will never recognize the natives otherwise than as heathen. Amalgamation is scarcely more difficult between the white and colored races in America, than it is in Africa, between the "black-white" colonist and the unadulterated native.
On our arrival here, we found an English brig, whose commander has been once on board of us. He has a large assortment of trade-goods of all sorts, and his vessel is fitted up with a view to comfort in living, as well as the convenience of trade.
A native colored woman has her residence on board, as his washerwoman and stewardess, and likewise, if the captain be not belied, in a more intimate relation. To-day, also, came in another English brig, the master of which has a female companion, filling the same variety of offices as the former. Many of the English trading vessels retain such persons on board, during the whole time they are on the coast. The masters, so far as we have had opportunity to observe, have generally been hard-drinking unscrupulous men. Few of them hesitate to avow their readiness to furnish slavers with goods, equally with any other purchasers, if they can make their profit, and get their pay. There is great jealousy among the traders, and much underhand work to get the business from each other. They have native trade-men in their interest, all along the coast, watching their rivals, and preparing to take any advantage that may offer. Profound secrecy is observed as to their movements and intentions. The crews of some vessels are seldom allowed to visit the shore, lest they should give information about the affairs of the master.
Not a few of the reports about American slavers spring from this jealousy of trade. The masters of English merchant-vessels, jealous of the Americans, and desirous to engross the trade to themselves, report them to the British cruisers as suspicious vessels. The cruiser, if he give too ready credence to the calumny, will probably overhaul the American, and perhaps break up his voyage; he being, nevertheless, as honest as any trader on the coast. But the ends of the Englishman are answered; he sells his cargo, and cares little about the diplomatic correspondence that may ensue, and the possible embroilment of the two nations.
English vessels far outnumber all others on the coast. Dr. Madden, the commissioner to examine the condition of the British colonial settlements, reports the total imports into England from the West Coast of Africa, in 1836, at £800,000. In 1840, the exports of British products to Africa amounted to £492,128, in the transportation of which, 72,000 tons of shipping were employed. The government and people of England are giving great attention to this coast, as an important theatre of trade.
A committee of the House of Commons, in 1842, made extensive and minute inquiries into the subject, and published a great mass of interesting information. They recommended, that the Crown should resume the jurisdiction of several forts, on the Gold Coast, which have been given up to a committee of merchants; and that there be new settlements established, and block-houses erected at various points.
The English have lost the gum-trade, by the French subsidizing the King of the Trazars, who holds the key to the gum-country; and the mahogany-trade has been destroyed by that of Honduras, the wood from which is of a better quality. The experiment on the part of the English, of carrying African rice to compete with that of America, has likewise failed.
The subject of American Trade with the west of Africa is so important, that it may be well to devote a separate chapter to some account of its nature, and the methods of carrying it on.
American Trade—Mode of Advertising, and of making Sales—Standard of Commercial Integrity—Dealings with Slave-Traders—Trade with the Natives—King's "Dash"—Native Commission-Merchants—The Gold Trade-The Ivory Trade—The "Round Trade"—Respectability of American Merchant-Captains—Trade with the American Squadron.
More vessels come to the coast of Africa from Salem than from any other port in the United States; although New York, Boston, and Providence, all have their regular traders. Some of these trade chiefly to Gambia or Sierra Leone; others to Gallinas, Monrovia and down the coast, touching at different points. Others, again, go to the Gaboon river, and the islands of Princes and St. Thomas; and some stretch still farther south, to Benguela, and beyond. Most American vessels bring provisions, such as flour, ship-bread, beef, pork, and hams, which are bought chiefly by the European or American colonists. The natives, however, are yearly acquiring a taste for them. The market being often overstocked, this part of the trade is precarious. Other exports are furniture, boots and shoes, wooden clocks, and all articles of American manufacture, or such as are used among civilized men. All the vessels bring New England rum, leaf-tobacco, powder, guns, large brass pans, and cotton cloth. On these points, a great deal of correct information has been given by Dr. Hall, and may be found in some of the numbers of the African Repository.
The mode of trading has some peculiarities. On arriving at a civilized settlement, the captain sends his "list" ashore to some resident merchant. This list contains a schedule of his cargo, with the prices of each article annexed, and the kind of pay required. Some take only cash. Most vessels, however, take the productions of the country at a stipulated price; for instance, camwood at, say, sixty dollars per ton, palm-oil, at twenty-five to thirty-three cents per gallon, ivory, ground or peanuts, gold dust, and gum. At the Cape de Verd islands, salt, goat-skins, and hides, are the chief commodities received in exchange; at Gambia, hides; at Monrovia, Cape Palmas, and other settlements in Liberia, camwood and palm-oil are the great staples. There is likewise some ivory, but not in large quantity. On the Gold Coast, the trade is in gold-dust and palm-oil; at the Gaboon, in ivory and gold-dust,—and at Benguela, in gum.
The "list" being put up conspicuously in the merchant's store (such being the method of advertising in Liberia, where the newspapers are not made use of, for this purpose), the traders, purchasers, and idlers, come to see what is for sale. The store becomes, for the time being, the public Exchange of the settlement, where people assemble, not merely with commercial views, but to hear the intelligence from abroad, and to diffuse it thence throughout the country. In due time, the captain comes on shore with his samples, and individual purchasers bargain for what they want. The captain receives payment, whether in cash or commodities, and weighs the camwood, or measures the palm-oil, at the merchant's store. If credit be given, the merchant is responsible, and receives a perquisite of five per cent on all sales. The captain takes up his residence on shore, and sends for goods from his vessel, as they are wanted; while the mate and crew remain on board, to despatch and receive the cargo. Every vessel has in its employ several Kroomen, by whom all the boat-service is performed.
When the demand for goods appears to have ceased, the captain either takes his unsold cargo away, or leaves a portion to be disposed of in his absence, and sets sail for another settlement. Here the same process is gone through with, and so on, until the cargo is sold. The captain then turns back, touching at the several places where he has left goods, to receive the proceeds, and thence home to America, for a new cargo. Regular traders have numerous orders to fill up, from persons resident on the coast; taking care, of course, to allow themselves a good profit for their trouble and freight. The trade with the colonists is easy and sufficiently plain; the only difficulty being the somewhat essential one of obtaining payment. Colonial traders, in abundance, are eager to buy on credit; but, possessing little or no capital, they often fail to satisfy their obligations at the period assigned—if, indeed, they ever pay at all. Commercial integrity is not here of so high an order as in older countries, where the great body of merchants have established a standard of rectitude, which individuals must not venture to transgress.
Another large branch of business is at places where the slave-trade is carried on; as at Gallinas and Wydah. Here, provisions, guns, powder, cotton cloths, and other goods, suitable for the purchase or subsistence of slaves, are sold at good prices for cash, or bills of exchange. The bills of Pedro Blanco, the notorious slave-dealer at Gallinas, on an eminent Spanish house in New York, and another in London, are taken as readily as cash. A large number of the vessels engaged in the African trade, whether English or American, do a considerable part of their business either with the slavers, or with natives settled at the slave-marts, and who, from their connection with the trade, have plenty of money. Some of the large English houses give orders to their captains and supercargoes not to traffic with men reputed to be slave-dealers; but, if a purchaser come with money in his hand, and offer liberal prices, it requires a tenderer conscience and sterner integrity than are usually met with, on the coast of Africa, to resist the temptation. The merchant at home, possibly, is supposed to know nothing of all this. It is quite an interesting moral question, however, how far either Old or New England can be pronounced free from the guilt and odium of the slave trade, while, with so little indirectness, they both share its profits and contribute essential aid to its prosecution.
The method of trade with the natives is more tedious than that with the colonists, and differs entirely in its character. On anchoring at a trade-place, it is necessary, first of all, to pay the King his "dash," or present, varying in value from twenty dollars to seven or eight hundred. Such sums as the latter are paid only by ships of eight hundred or a thousand tons,—and in the great rivers, as Bonny or Calebar. The "dash" may be considered as equivalent to the duties levied on foreign imports, in civilized countries; and doubtless, as in those cases, the trader remunerates himself by an enhanced price upon his merchandize.
The King being "dashed" to his satisfaction, trade commences. The canoes bring off the articles which the natives have for sale; and the goods of the vessel are exhibited in return. At first, it is a slow process; either party offering little for the commodity of the other, and asking much for his own. But, in a few days, prices becoming established on both sides, business grows brisk, and flags only when one party has little more to exchange. Native agents are employed by the stranger; some being Kroomen attached to the vessel, and others trade-men, inhabiting the native towns. These men, in addition to their small regular pay, continually receive presents, which are necessary in order to excite their activity and zeal.
There is still another mode of trading, resorted to by many masters of vessels. They entrust quantities of goods—varying in value from a trifling sum up to a thousand dollars, or even more—to native trade-men. With these, or part of them, the trade-man goes into the interior, makes trade with the Bushmen, and brings the proceeds to his employer. These native agents are sometimes trusted with large amounts, for several months together, and not unfrequently give their principal great trouble in collecting his dues. Their families, to be sure, are held responsible, and the King is bound to enforce payment. Nevertheless, if so disposed, they can procrastinate, and finally cheat their creditor out of his debt; especially as the vessel cannot remain long upon the coast, awaiting the King's tardy methods of compulsion.
On the Gold Coast, each vessel employs a native who is called its "gold-taker," and is skilful in detecting spurious metal. The gold-dust is brought for sale, wrapped up in numerous coverings, to avoid waste. It is tested by acids; or, more commonly, by rubbing the gold on the "black-stone," when the color of the mark, which it leaves upon the stone, decides the character of the metal. The gold, after its weight has been ascertained, is put by the captain into little barrels, holding perhaps half a pint, and with the top screwing tightly on. This "glittering dust" (to use the phrase which moralists are fond of applying to worldly pelf), commands from sixteen to eighteen dollars per ounce, in England and the United States. It is gathered from the sands which the rivers of Africa wash down from the golden mountains; and, when offered for sale, small lumps of gold and rudely manufactured rings are sometimes found among the dust—ornaments that have perhaps been worn by sable monarchs, or their sultanas, in the interior of the country.
In the ivory trade, small teeth (comprising all that weigh less than twenty pounds) are considered to be worth but half the price, per pound, that is paid for large teeth. From fifty cents to a dollar is the ordinary value of a pound of ivory. Some large teeth sell for a hundred dollars, or even a hundred and fifty. The sale of such a gigantic tusk, as may well be supposed, is considered an affair of almost national importance, and the bargain can only be adjusted through the medium of a "big palaver." The trade in ivory is now on the decline; the demand in England and France not being so great as formerly, and America never having presented a good market for the article.
Palm-oil is brought from the interior, on the heads of the natives, in calabashes, containing two or three gallons each. In speaking of the interior, however, a comparatively short distance from the coast is to be understood. Gold, where great value is concentrated into small bulk, and some ivory, may occasionally come from remote regions; but the vast inland tracts of the African continent have little to do, either directly or indirectly, with the commerce of the civilized world.
In dealing with the natives, there was formerly a system much in vogue, but now going out of use, called the "round trade." The method was, to offer one of each article; for instance, one gun, one cutlass, one flint, one brass kettle, one needle, and so on, from the commodity of greatest value down to the least. In all traffic there is a desire on the part of the native to obtain as great a variety as his means will compass. If the native commodity on sale be valuable, the captain offers two or more of his guns, cutlasses, flints, brass kettles, and needles; if it be small, and of trifling value, he perhaps exhibits only a flint and a needle as an equivalent. The native of course tries to get the most valuable, and the purchaser to pay the least. If the former demand a piece of cloth, and if it be refused by the captain, the native then asks what he will "room" it with. The captain, it may be, proposes to substitute a needle; and, after much talk, the troublesome bargain is thus brought to a point. English vessels usually have supercargoes; the Americans are seldom so provided. But the American captains, on the other hand, are respectable, intelligent, and trustworthy men, almost without exception. The exigencies of the trade require such men; and any defect, either of capacity or integrity, would soon be brought to light by the onerous duties and responsibilities imposed upon them. Great latitude must be allowed them, or the voyage cannot be expected to turn out profitably. They perform the double duty of master and supercargo, and perhaps with the more success, as there can be no disunion or difference of judgment. These captains are likewise often part owners of vessel and cargo.
Since the African coast has been made the cruising ground of an American squadron, the merchantmen have brought out stores, with the expectation of disposing of them to the ships of war. Some of these speculations have turned out very profitable; but now, when the Government understands and has made provisions for the wants of the station, this market is not to be relied upon. To the officers, indeed, there is a chance, though by no means a certainty, of selling mess-stores. The prices charged by merchantmen correspond with the scarcity of the article, and are sometimes enormous. I have known nine dollars a barrel asked for Irish, or rather Yankee potatoes, and have paid my share for a small quantity, at that rate. To those who see this vegetable daily on their tables, it may seem strange that men should value a potatoe five times as highly as an orange. After eating yams and cassada, however, for months together, one learns how to appreciate a mealy potatoe, the absence of which cannot be compensated by the most delicious of tropical fruits. Adam's fare in Paradise might have been much improved, had Eve known how to boil potatoes; nor, perhaps, would the fatal apple have been so tempting.
Jack Purser's wife—Fever on Board—Arrival at Cape Palmas—Strange Figure and Equipage of a Missionary—King George of Grand Bassam—Intercourse with the Natives—Tahon—Grand Drewin—St. Andrew's—Picaninny Lahoo—Natives attacked by the French—Visit of King Peter—Sketches of Scenery and People at Cape Labon.
March 30.—Got under way, at daylight, and stood down the coast.
I recollect nothing else, at Settra Kroo, that requires description, unless it be the person and garb of a native lady of fashion. Sitting with my friend Jack Purser, yesterday, a young woman came up, with a pipe in her mouth. A cloth around her loins, dyed with gay colors, composed her whole drapery, leaving her figure as fully exposed as the most classic sculptor could have wished. It is to be observed, however, that the sable hue is in itself a kind of veil, and takes away from that sense of nudity which would so oppress the eye, were a woman of our own race to present herself so scantily attired. The native lady in question was tall, finely shaped, and would have been not a little attractive, but for the white clay with which she had seen fit to smear her face and bosom. Around her ankles were many rows of blue beads, which also encircled her leg below the knee, thus supplying the place of garters, although stockings were dispensed with. Her smile was pleasant, and her disposition seemed agreeable; and, certainly, if the rest of Jack Purser's wives (for this was one of the nine-and-twenty) be so well-fitted to make him happy, the sum total of his conjugal felicity must be enormous!
31.—Sunday. An oppressively hot day. There are three new cases of fever, making fourteen in all, besides sixteen or seventeen of other complaints. There is some apprehension that we are to have general sickness on board.
April 1.—Off Cape Palmas. A canoe being sent ashore, returned with a letter from the Rev. Mr. Hazlehurst, stating that two missionaries wish for a passage to the Gaboon, and making so strong an appeal that the captain's sympathies could not resist it. So we run in and anchor.
2.—Went ashore in the gig, and amused myself by reading the newspapers at the Governor's, while the captain rode out to the mission establishment, at Mount Vaughan. During my stay, one of the new missionaries, a native of Kentucky, came in from Mount Vaughan, and rode up to the Government House, in country style. He was in a little wagon, drawn by eight natives, and sat bolt upright, with an umbrella over his head. The maligners of the priesthood, in all ages and countries, have accused them of wishing to ride on the necks of the people; but I never before saw so nearly literal an exemplification of the fact. In its metaphorical sense, indeed, I should be very far from casting such an imputation upon the zealous and single-minded missionary before me. He is a man of eminent figure, at least six feet and three inches high, with a tremendous nose, vast in its longitude and depth, but wonderfully thin across the edge. It was curious to meet, in Africa, a person so strongly imbued with the peculiarities of his section of our native land; for his manner had the real Western swing, and his dialect was more marked than is usual among educated men. With a native audience, however, this is a matter of no moment.
We were told that the Roman Catholics are about to leave Cape Palmas, and establish branches of their mission at the different French stations on the coast, under the patronage of Louis Philippe. The Presbyterians have all gone to the Gaboon river. The Episcopal Mission pines at Cape Palmas, and will probably be removed. The discord between its members and the Colonial Government continues with unabated bitterness. Mr. Hazlehurst regrets that the missionaries were identified with the colonists, in our great palaver with the four-and-twenty kings and headmen, at Cape Palmas. He believes, that, in case of any outbreak of the natives, the missionaries on the out stations would fall the first victims. His sentiments, it must be admitted, are such as it behoves a minister of religion to entertain, in so far as he would repudiate military force as an agent for sustaining the cause of missions.
We sailed at noon for the leeward without the missionaries, who declined taking passage, as it is doubtful whether the ship will proceed beyond Cape Coast Castle. We have now fifteen cases of fever, most of them mild in character. The prospect of sickness will cut short our leeward cruise.
4.—Off Tahoo. The natives have come on board, with fowls, ivory, and monkey-skins, to "make trade." Tobacco is the article chiefly sought for in exchange. A large canoe came off, with a small English flag displayed, and a native in regimentals standing erect; a most unusual and inconvenient posture to be maintained in a canoe. Mounting the ship's side, he proved to be no less a man than King George of Grand Bassam. His majesty wore a military frock trimmed with yellow, two worsted epaulettes on his shoulders, and an English hussar-cap on his head, with the motto FULGOR ET HONOS. A cloth around his loins completed his heterogeneous equipment. In the canoe was a small bullock, tied by the feet, together with several ducks, chickens, kids, and plantains. The bullock and one duck were presented to the captain by way of "dash;" always the most expensive mode of procuring provisions, for, unless you dash the donor to at least an equal extent, he will certainly importune you for more. King George remarked that the other articles in the canoe belonged to the boys, and were for sale. They refused to sell them, however, until the King, after eating and drinking his fill in the cabin, went out, and engaged in the traffic at once. The liquor brought out his real character; and this royal personage scolded and haggled like a private trader, and a sharp one too.
Having sold his stock, and received much more than its value, his majesty thought it not beneath his station to beg, and thus obtain divers odd things for his wardrobe and larder. When he could get no more, he finally took his leave, carrying off the remains of the food which had been set before him, without so much as an apology.
We have been running along that portion of the coast, where, three months ago, we burned the native towns. No attempt has yet been made to rebuild them, for fear of a second hostile visit from the ships; but the natives have indirectly applied to the Commodore for permission to do so, and it will probably be granted, on their pledging themselves to good behavior.
5.—At anchor off Grand Berebee. All day, the ship has been thronged with natives. They are civil at first, but almost universally display a bad trait of character, by altering their manners for the worse, in proportion to the kindness shown them. As they acquire confidence, they become importunate, and almost impudent. Every canoe brings something to sell. It is amusing to see these people paddling alongside with two or three chickens tied round their necks, and hanging down their backs, with an occasional flutter that shows them to be yet alive. Some of the kings hold umbrellas over their heads; rather, one would suppose, as a mark of dignity, than from a tender regard to their complexions. These umbrellas were afterwards converted into bags, to hold the bread which they received.
The weather has been cooler for two days, and the fever-patients are fast improving.
6.—This morning, our visitors of yesterday, and many more, came alongside, but only persons of distinction were admitted on board. Nevertheless, they suffice to crowd the deck. A war-canoe, with a king in it, paddled round the ship twice, all the men working for dear life, by way, I suppose, of contrasting their naval force with our own. All our guests, of whatever rank, come to trade or to beg; and it is curious to see how essentially their estimation of money differs from our own. Coin is almost unknown in the traffic of the coast, and it is only those who have been at Sierra Leone, or some of the colonial settlements, who are aware of its value. One "cut money," or quarter of a dollar, is the smallest coin of which most of the natives have any idea. This is invariably the price of a fowl, when money is offered; but a head of tobacco or a couple of fish-hooks would be preferred. Empty bottles find a ready market. Yesterday, I "dashed" three or four great characters with a bottle each; all choosing ale or porter bottles in preference to an octagonal-sided one, used by "J. Wingrove and Co." of London, in putting up their "Celebrated Raspberry Vinegar." The chiefs must have consulted about it afterwards; for, this morning, no less than three kings and a governor, begged, as a great favor, that I would give them that particular bottle, and were sadly disappointed, on learning that it had been paid away for a monkey-skin. No other bottle would console them.
After the traffic is over, the begging commences; and they prove themselves artful as well as persevering mendicants. Sometimes they make an appeal to your social affections; "Massa, I be your friend!" The rascal has never seen you before, and would cut your throat for a pound of tobacco. Another seeks to excite your compassion: "My heart cry for a bottle of rum!" and no honest toper, who has felt what that cry is, can refuse his sympathy, even if he withhold the liquor. A third applicant addresses himself to your noble thirst for fame. "Suppose you dash me, I take your name ashore, and make him live there!" And certainly a deathless name, at the price of an empty bottle or a head of tobacco, is a bargain that even a Yankee would not scorn.
7.—We passed Tahoo in the night, and are now running along a more beautiful country. The land is high and woody, unlike the flat and marshy tracts that skirt the shores to windward. These are the Highlands of Drewin. The ship has been full of Grand Drewin people, who come to look about them, to beg, and to dispose of fowls, ducks, cocoa-nuts, and small canoes. They are the most noisy set of fellows on the coast.
8. We left Grand Drewin, and anchored at St. Andrew's, six miles distant. The inhabitants, being at war with those of Grand Drewin, do not come off to us, apprehending that their enemies are concealed behind the ship. These tribes have been at war more than a year, and have made two expeditions, resulting in the death of two men on one side and three on the other. The army of Grand Drewin, having slain three, boasts much of its superior valor. It must be owned, that the absurdity of war, as the ultimate appeal of nations, becomes rather strikingly manifest, by being witnessed on a scale so ridiculously minute.
9.—A message having been sent in to inform the King of our character, three or four canoes came off to us. The inhabitants have little to sell compared with those of Grand Drewin. Indian corn, which does not flourish so well to windward, has been offered freely at both places, in the ear.
I went ashore, in company with four other officers. The bar is difficult, and, in rough weather, must be dangerous. A broad bay opens on your sight, as soon as the narrow and rocky mouth of the river is passed. Two large streams branch off, and lose themselves among the high trees upon their banks. A number of cocoa-nut trees, on the shore, made a thick shade for fifteen or twenty soldiers, who loitered about, or sat, or lay at length upon the ground, watching against the approach of the enemy. Some held muskets in their hands; others had rested their weapons against the trunks of the trees. We were first conducted to the residence of King Queah, who received us courteously, regaled us with palm-wine, and inflicted a duck upon us by way of "dash." The wine, in a capacious gourd, was brought out, and placed in the centre of the large open space, where we sat. The King, his headman, and his son, all drank first, in order to prove that the liquor was not poisonous; a ceremony which makes one strongly sensible of being among people, who have no very conscientious regard for human life. The mug was then refilled, and passed to us.
On the walls of the house there were fresco-paintings, evidently by a native artist, rudely representing persons and birds. The most prominent figures were the King, seated in a chair, and seven wives standing in a row before him, most of them with pipes in their mouths. Black, red, and white, were apparently the only colors that the painter's palette supplied. The groundwork was the natural color of the clay, which had been plastered upon the wall of wicker-work.
There seem to be two crowned heads at this place, reminding one of the two classic Kings of Brentford; for, after leaving King Queah, we were led to the house of another sovereign, styled King George. The frequent occurrence of this latter name, indicates the familiarity between the natives and the English. His Majesty received us in state; that is to say, chairs were placed for the visitors, and the King, with a black hat on his head, looked dignified. I was so fortunate as to make a favorable impression on his principal wife, by means of an empty bottle and a head of tobacco, which she was pleased to accept at my hands in the most gracious manner. Though probably fifty years of age, she had beautified herself, and concealed the touch of time by streaks of soot carefully laid on over her face and body.
The houses of each family are enclosed within bamboo walls, sometimes to the number of eight or ten huts in one of these insulated hamlets. They are generally wretched hovels, and of the simplest construction, merely a thatched roof, like a permanent umbrella, with no lower walls, and no ends. Altogether, the dwellings and their inhabitants looked miserable enough. The tribe has the reputation of being treacherous and cruel, and the aspect of the people is in accordance with their character.
I purchased a man's cloth, of native manufacture. It is said to be made of the bark of a tree, pounded together so as to be strong and durable. I also procured a hank of fine white fibre of the pine-apple leaf. Of this material the natives make strong and beautiful fishing-lines, and other cords. Before being twisted it has the appearance of hemp.
11.—We anchored, last evening, at Picaninny Lahoo. Only one canoe has come off to us. The natives are shy of all strange vessels, in consequence of a French man-of-war having fired upon one of the neighboring towns, a few days since. It seems that a French merchant-barque was wrecked here, by running ashore. The master saved his gold and personal property, and he and the crew were kindly treated; but the vessel and cargo were plundered, in accordance with the custom of the African coast, as well as of countries that boast more of their civilisation. Nevertheless, the captain of the French man-of-war demanded restitution, and kept up a fire upon the town for several successive days. An English merchant-vessel, lying there at the time, protested against the cannonade, and threatened to report the French captain to Lord Stanley!—on the plea that his measures of hostility prevented the natives from engaging in trade.
In fact, these masters of English merchant-vessels would probably consider the interruption of trade as the greatest of all offences against human rights. We boarded a brig of that nation to-day, and found her full of natives, with whom a very brisk business was going forward. Some brought palm-oil, and others gold, which they exchanged principally for guns, cloth, and powder. We here saw the gold tested by the "blackstone;" a peculiar kind of mineral, black, with a slight tinge of blue. If, when the gold is rubbed upon this stone, it leaves a reddish mark, it is regarded as a satisfactory proof of its purity; otherwise, there is more or less alloy. The trader is obliged to depend upon the judgment and integrity of a native in his employ, who is skilful in trying gold. The average profit, acquired by the foreign traders in their dealings with the natives, is not less than a hundred per cent. on the principal articles, and much more on the smaller ones. No inconsiderable portion of this, however, is absorbed by the numerous "dashes;" in the first place, to the king, then to the head trade-men, the canoe-men, and all others whose agency can anywise influence the success of the business.
The masters or supercargoes of English vessels receive, besides their regular pay of six pounds per month, a commission of five per cent. on all sales; they being responsible for any debts which they may allow the natives to contract.
12.—Ashore at Cape Lahon, the scene of the recent hostilities between the French and the natives. We landed in large heavy canoes, flat-bottomed and square-sided. The town is built upon a narrow point of land between the sea and a lake, just at the outlet of two rivers. On the side next the sea, you discern only the bamboo walls of the town, and a few cocoa-nut trees, scattered along the sandy beach; but on the lake side, there is one of the loveliest views imaginable. The quiet lake and its wooded islands; the thousand of green cocoa-nut trees, laden with fruit, and shadowing all the shore; the rivers, broad and dark, stretching away on either hand, until lost among the depths of the forest, which doubtless extends into the mysterious heart of Africa; the canoes, returning along these majestic streams with people who had fled; the hundreds of natives who reclined in the shade, or clustered around a fountain in the sand, or busied themselves with the canoes;—all contributed to form a picture which was very pleasant to our eyes, long wearied as we were with the sight of ocean and sky, and the dreary skirts of the sea-shore. It was an hour of true repose, while we lay in the shadow of the trees, and drank the cool milk of cocoa-nuts, which the native boys plucked and opened for us.
I should have narrated, in the first place, our visit to King Peter, who rules over this beautiful spot. He held his court under an awning of palm-leaves, in an area of more than a hundred feet square, around the sides of which were the little dwellings that, conjointly, composed his palace. The King received us with dignity and affability; and probably not less than two hundred of his subjects were collected in the area, to witness the interview; for it was to them a matter of national importance. They are exceedingly anxious to adjust their difficulties with the French, and hope to interest us as mediators. By their own history of the affair, which was laid before us at great length, they appear to have been only moderately to blame, and to have suffered a great deal of mischief. King Quashee and nine men were killed, and fifty or sixty houses burnt, besides other damage.
These people are a fine-looking race, well formed, and with very pleasing countenances. At our first arrival the women were all at the plantations, in the interior, whither they had fled when our ship came in sight, apprehending her to be French. Towards evening, they returned to the village, and afforded us an opportunity to see and talk with them. They are the handsomest African dames with whom I have formed an acquaintance, and the most affable. It grieves me to add, that, like all their countrymen and countrywomen, they are importunate beggars, and seem greatly to prefer the fiery liquors of the white man to their own mild palm-wine and cocoa-nut milk. One of our party offered rum to the eight young wives of Tom Beggree, our trade-man; and every soul of them tossed off her goblet without a wry face, though it was undiluted, and thirty-three per cent. above proof.
As at other places, each family resides in a separate enclosure, which is larger or smaller, according to the number of houses required. Domestic harmony is in some degree provided for, by allotting a separate residence to each wife. There is a courtyard before most of the enclosures, after traversing which, you enter a spacious square, and perceive neatly built houses on all four of its sides. They are constructed of bamboo-cane placed upright, and united by cross-pieces of the same, strongly sewed together with thongs of some tough wood. Some of the floors are not untastefully paved with small pebbles, intermingled with white shells. Doors there are none, the entrance being through the windows, in order to keep out the pigs and sheep, which abound in the enclosures. The streets or passages through the town are about five feet wide, and are bordered on either side by the high bamboo wall of some private domain. The settlement extends more than a mile in length, and is the largest and best-built that I have yet had the good fortune to see on the coast of Africa.
Visit from two English Trading-Captains—The Invisible King of Jack-a-Jack—Human Sacrifices—French Fortresses at Grand Bassam, at Assinee, and other points—Objections to the Locality of Liberia—Encroachments on the Limits of that Colony—Arrival at Axim—Sketches of that Settlement—Dix Cove—Civilized Natives—An Alligator.
April 14.—Under way from Cape Lahon at daylight. All the morning, there were light breezes and warm air; but a fine sea-breeze set in, in the afternoon, and brought us, at seven o'clock, to anchor at "Grand Jack," or "Jack-a-Jack." The distributors of names along this coast deserve no credit for their taste. The masters of two English merchantmen came on board and spent the evening. One of them was far gone with a consumption; the other was, in his own phrase, a "jolly cock," and seemed disposed to make himself amusing; in pursuance of which object he became very drunk, before taking his departure. Englishmen, in this station of life, do not occupy the same social rank as with us, and, consequently, have seldom the correct and gentlemanly manners of our own ship-masters. The master of an English merchant-vessel would hardly be considered a fit guest for either the cabin or ward-room of a British man-of-war.
These masters informed us that they had paid three hundred dollars each, for the king's "dash," at this place; in addition to which, every merchant-captain must pay eight dollars on landing, and if from Bristol, twenty-four dollars. This distinction is in consequence of a Bristol captain having shot a native, some years ago; and when the palaver was settled, the above amount of blood-money was imposed upon all ship-masters from the same place. Our two visitors have now been here for months, and will remain for months longer, without once setting foot on shore; partly to avoid incurring the impost on landing, partly from caution against the natives, and partly to keep their business secret. The jealousy between the traders is very great. Those from Bristol, Liverpool, and London, all are in active competition with each other, and with any foreigner who may come in their way; and their policy may truly be described as Machiavelian, in its mystery, craft, and crookedness. The business requires at least as long an apprenticeship as the diplomacy of nations, and a new hand has but little chance among these sharp fellows.
15.—Some canoes from the shore have been off to us. We learn from them, that there is to be a great annual festival today; on which occasion the king, who has been secluded from the sight of his subjects for eight years, will shine forth again, "like a re-appearing star." There is something very provocative to the imagination in this circumstance. What can have been the motive of such a seclusion? was it in the personal character of the king, and did he shut himself up to meditate on high matters, or to revel in physical indulgence? or, possibly, to live his own simple life, untrammelled by the irksome exterior of greatness? or was it merely a trick of kingcraft, in order to deify himself in the superstition of his people, by the awfulness of an invisible presence among them? Be the secret what it may, it would be interesting to observe the face of the royal hermit, at the moment when the sunshine and the eyes of his subjects first fall upon it again. The inhabitants from many miles around have come to witness and participate in the ceremonies. There are to be grand dances, and all manner of festivity; and one of the English captains informed us that he had sold a thousand gallons of rum, within a fortnight, to be quaffed at this celebration.
There is another circumstance that may give the festival a darker interest. It is customary, on such occasions, to sacrifice one or two slaves, who are generally culprits reserved for this anniversary. The natives on board deny that there will be any such sacrifice, but admit that a palaver will be held over a slave, who had attempted to escape. Should it be so, the poor wretch will stand little chance for mercy at the hands of these barbarians, frenzied with rum, and naturally blood-thirsty. We are all anxious to go on shore, to see the ceremonies, and try to save the destined victim; or, if better may not be, to witness the thrilling spectacle of a human sacrifice, which, being partly a religious rite, is an affair of a higher order than one of our civilized executions. But our captain has heard of an English vessel ashore and in distress, a day's sail below, and is hastening to their assistance. While taking our departure, therefore, we can only turn our eyes towards the shore, where a large town is visible, clustered under the shelter of a cocoa-nut grove.
16.—At 7 A.M., we are passing Grand Bassam, seven or eight miles from land. Our track just touches the outer edge of the semicircular line of dirty foam, indicating the distance to which the influence of the river extends. Within the verge, the water is discolored by recent contact with the earth; beyond it, ripples the uncontaminated, pure, blue ocean. One is the emblem of human life, muddied with base influences; the other, of eternity, which is only not transparent because of its depth.
Grand Bassam is one of the many places on the coast, where the French have recently established forts, and raised their flag. Three large houses are visible. The one in the centre seems to be the military residence and stronghold; the other two are long buildings, one story high, and are probably used as storehouses. A picket-fence surrounds the whole. At Assinee, likewise, which is now in sight, there is another French fort, consisting of a block-house and two store-houses, encompassed by pickets. The French government are also fortifying other points along the coast, in the most systematic manner. The general plan is, a block-house in the centre, with long structures extending from each angle, two for barracks, and two for trading-houses; the whole enclosed within a stockade. They are imposing establishments, and constructed with an evident view to durability. It is said that all but French vessels are to be prohibited from trading within range of their guns, and that a man-of-war is to be stationed at each settlement. The captain of a Bremen brig informed me, that the Danes are about to sell their fort at Accra to the French; he gave as his authority the single Danish officer remaining at Accra.
It is perhaps to be regretted that the colonies of Liberia were not originally planted in the fertile territory along which we have recently sailed, and which other nations are now pre-occupying. Liberia does not appear to possess so rich a soil as most other parts of the coast; there is more sand, and more marsh, above than below Cape Palmas. But the country between Cape Palmas and Axim is inhabited by cruel, warlike, and powerful tribes; and a colony would need more strength than Liberia has ever yet possessed, to save it from destruction. From Axim to Accra, there is a chain of forts which have been held by different European nations, for centuries; nearly all the coast is claimed by these foreigners; while the interior is occupied by such powerful kingdoms as those of Ashantee and Dahomey. On these accounts, the tract now called Liberia (extending about three hundred miles, from Cape Mesurado to Cape Palmas) was the most open for the purposes of colonization. Even within the limits just named, however, both France and England have recently betrayed a purpose of effecting settlements. It is to be hoped that these nations will hereafter transfer their titles to Liberia. Their policy doubtless is, to hold the country for its exclusive trade, or until they can obtain advantageous terms of commercial intercourse with the colonists and natives. The attention of the Society at home, as well as of the Liberian government, is now fully awake to the importance of securing territory. They are aware, that, without vigorous and prompt measures to extinguish the native title to the country between Monrovia and Cape Palmas, foreign nations will occupy the intermediate positions, and cause much embarrassment hereafter.
17.—At Assinee. We boarded a French brig-of-war, the Eglantine, last evening, and learned that the vessel, which ran ashore here, had gone to pieces; so that all our hurry was of no avail.
Sailed at 9 A.M. for Axim.
18.—Last night, we had thunder, lightning, wind, and rain. There are showers and small tornadoes, almost every night, succeeded by clear and pleasant days. We are now in sight of Cape-Three-Points, and the fort at Axim. It is pleasant, after the monotonous aspect of the shore to windward, to see a coast with deep indentations and bold promontories. The fort at Axim has a commanding appearance, and the country in the vicinity has a decidedly New-England look.
19.—Ashore at Axim, where we met with some features of novelty. The fort here is really an antique castle, having been built by the Portuguese so long ago as 1600, and taken from them by its present possessors, the Dutch, in 1639. It is of stone, built upon scientific principles, with embrasures for cannon and loop-holes for musketry. The walls are four feet thick, and capable of sustaining the assault of ten thousand natives. The fortress is three stories high, the basement story being widest, and each of the others diminishing in proportion, and surrounded by a terrace. The two lower departments are intended for the cannon and the mass of the defenders; while the Governor occupies the upper as his permanent residence, and may there fortify himself impregnably, even if an enemy should possess the fort below—unless, indeed, they should blow him into the air.
The country claimed by the Dutch, extends about thirty miles along the coast, and twenty miles into the interior, with a population estimated at about ten thousand. They seem—particularly those who reside in the villages beneath the fortress—to be entirely under the control of their European masters, and to live comfortably, and be happy in their condition. The natives possess slaves; and there are also many "pawns," of a description seldom offered to the pawnbrokers in other parts of the world; namely, persons who have pledged the services of themselves and family to some creditor, until the debt be paid. It is a good and forcible illustration of the degradation which debt always implies, though it may not always be outwardly visible, as here at Axim. The Governor himself, who is a native of Amsterdam, and apparently a mulatto, is one of those pawn-brokers who deal in human pledges. He is a merchant-soldier, bearing the military title of lieutenant, and doing business as a trader. The Governor of El Mina is his superior officer, and the fort at Axim is garrisoned by twelve black soldiers from the former place. War has existed for several years between these Dutch settlements and their powerful neighbor, the king of Appollonia, who is daily expected to attack the fortress. In that event, the people in the neighboring villages would take refuge within the walls, and there await the result.
The native houses are constructed in the usual manner, of small poles and bamboo, plastered over with clay, and thatched. They might be kept comfortable if kept in repair, but are mostly in a wretched state, although thronged with occupants. The proportion of women, as well as children, appears larger than in other places; and they wear a greater amplitude of apparel than those of their sex on the windward coast, covering their persons from the waist to the knee, and even lower. The most remarkable article of dress is one which I have vaguely understood to constitute a part of the equipment of my own fair countrywomen—in a word, the veritable bustle. Among the belles of Axim, there is a reason for the excrescence which does not exist elsewhere; for the little children ride astride of the maternal bustle, which thus becomes as useful, as it is unquestionably ornamental. Fashion, however, has evidently more to do with the matter than convenience; for old wrinkled grandams wear these beautiful anomalies, and little girls of eight years old display protuberances that might excite the envy of a Broadway belle. Indeed, fashion may be said to have its perfect triumph and utmost refinement, in this article; it being a positive fact, that some of the Axim girls wear merely the bustle, without so much as the shadow of a garment. Its native name is "tarb koshe."
Axim is said to be perfectly healthy, there being no marshes in the vicinity. The soil is fertile and the growth luxuriant. There is a fine well of water, from which ships may be supplied abundantly and easily, though not cheaply. The landing place is protected by small islands and reefs, which break the force of the swell; so that boats may land with as much safety and as little difficulty as in a river. One of our boats, nevertheless, with fifteen or sixteen persons on board, ran on a rock and bilged, in attempting to go ashore. All were happily saved by canoes from the beach. There is a great abundance of pearl-shells to be found along the shore, not valuable, but pretty.
The currency here is gold dust, which passes from hand to hand as freely as coin bearing the impress of a monarch or a republic. The governor's weights for gold are small beans; a brown one being equivalent to a dollar, and a red one to fifty cents.
22.—Ashore; and spent most of the day in the fortress; one of the cool places of Africa. Situated on a high, rocky point of land, with the sea on three sides, every breeze that stirs, however lightly, is sure to be felt on the terraces of the castle of Axim; and they bring coolness even at noontide, being tempered by the spray constantly rising from the waves that dash against the rocks below.
There is great difficulty in procuring any supplies here, except wood and water, and those at a high rate—seven dollars per cord for the former, and one dollar for each hundred gallons of the latter; this, too, including only the filling of the casks, and rolling them a short distance on the beach. We found it impossible to purchase bullocks, sheep, or pigs, and but very little poultry. The governor explained, that several men-of-war had recently visited the settlement, and taken all the live stock that could be spared, and that the war with Appollonia had cut off the large supply formerly drawn from that country. The natives at this place cannot furnish vessels with supplies, unless by the governor's express permission; which, it is said, he does not grant, except upon condition that they expend the proceeds in purchasing goods from him. One of our stewards bought a roasting-pig, on shore; and the fact coming to the ears of Governor Rhule, he notified the people that there would be a palaver after our departure, for the discovery of the offender. The fine for a transgression of this kind is two ounces of gold, or thirty-two dollars. Let us imagine a village storekeeper, in our own country, possessing supreme control over all the traffic of his neighbors—and we shall have an idea of the relative position of the Governor of Axim and the natives. Moreover, he is the general arbitrator, ex officio, and expects that all awards shall be paid in cash, and that the successful party spend the amount at his shop.
We learned from Governor Rhule, that the Dutch government, some years ago, had sent agents from El Mina to Comassee, the capital of Ashantee, for the purchase of slaves, to be employed in the wars between the Dutch East India settlements and the natives of that region. Three thousand were thus purchased, at forty dollars each, and transported to Batavia. Perhaps no circumstance, possible to be conceived, could do more to strip war of its poetry, than such a fact; and yet it is in good keeping with the character of a shrewd, commercial, business-like people, endowed with more common sense than chivalry or sensibility. A British general, in order to carry on an expedition against a French colony, once entered into a similar speculation; but it was indignantly annulled by his government. In the present case, the exportation of slaves, to fight the battles of their masters, ceased only two or three years since, on the termination of the war. These servile soldiers continued in Batavia, except a few wounded ones, who have been sent back to El Mina, and now reside there on pensions.
Between Axim and Accra, both inclusive, there are six Dutch forts now occupied and in repair, besides several which have been abandoned. I was told that the annual cost of these establishments, to the home-government, is not more than twenty thousand dollars; most of their expenses being defrayed by duties, port-charges and other revenue accruing on the spot.
24.—We left Axim yesterday, and anchored, last night, off the British settlement at Dixcove. This morning, while heaving up the anchor, a boat came off from the schooner Edward Burley of Bevaley, requesting assistance, as her spars had been shivered by lightning. Soon after, the commandant of the fort came on board, in a large and handsome canoe, paddled by ten or twelve natives. The passengers sit in the bows, using chairs or stools for seats, and protected from the surf and spray by the high sides of the canoe. We dined on shore with the Governor, Mr. Swansey, at his new residence, in the cool and refreshing atmosphere of a high hill. The house is handsomely furnished in the English style. Mr. Swansey has resided ten years on the coast, and was one of the persons examined before the Committee of Parliament in reference to the state and affairs of this region. There is a circumstance that connects this gentleman, though but slightly, with poetic annals. Being at Cape Coast Castle at the time of Mrs. McLean's death, he was one of the inquest that examined into that melancholy event. His account confirms the general impression, that her death was unpremeditated, and caused by an accidental over-dose of prussic-acid, which she was in the habit of taking for spasms. She was found alone, and nearly dead, behind the door of her apartment. Alas, poor L.E.L.! It was certainly a strange and wild vicissitude of fate that made it the duty of this respectable African merchant, in company with men of similar fitness for the task, to "sit" upon the body—say, rather, on the heart—of a creature so delicate, impassioned, and imaginative.
The native houses here are quite large; three or four being two stories high, with balconies, built of stone, in the Spanish style. They are furnished with sofas, bedsteads, and pictures. One elderly native received us in a calico surtout, and gave us ale. Another wore the native garb, with the long cloth folded around him and resting upon his shoulder, like a Roman toga. He offered champagne, Madeira, gin, brandy, ale, and cigars, and pressed us to partake, with a dignified and elegant hospitality. This was Mr. Brace. He had a clerk (of native blood, but dressed in cap, jacket, and pantaloons, in the English style), who spoke good English, and was very gentlemanly. It is interesting to meet the natives of Africa at so advanced a stage of refinement, yet retaining somewhat of their original habits and character, which is of course entirely lost in the Liberian colonists.
25.—Spent the morning on shore, at the government-house, reading the English newspapers, and enjoying the coolness of the position and the society of the intelligent governor. I was interested in observing an alligator, inhabiting a fresh-water pond, on the edge of the town. A chicken being held out to him as a lure, he came out of the pond and snapped at it, making a loud, startling noise with his teeth. He had entirely emerged from his native element, and remained some fifteen minutes on land, during which time he snapped five or six times at the fowl, which was as often drawn away by a string. At length, seizing his prey, he plunged with it into the water, dived, swam across the pond, and rose to the surface on the other side, where he masticated his breakfast, at his leisure. Three alligators inhabit this pond, and being regarded as "fetishes," or charmed and sacred creatures, are never injured by the natives. On their part, the amphibious monsters seem to cherish amicable feelings towards the human race, and allow children to bathe and sport in the pond, without injury or molestation. The reptile that I saw was seven or eight feet long, with formidable teeth and scales.
Instead of the cassada and rice of the windward coast, corn is here the principal food. After being pounded in their long mortars, it is ground fine, by hand, between two stones like those used by painters, and is mixed with palm-wine.
28.—Having repaired the American schooner, and supplied her with one of our spare topmasts, we are ready to sail to-day.
Dutch Settlement at El Mina—Appearance of the Town—Cape Coast Castle—Burial-place of L. E. L.—An English Dinner—Festivity on Ship-board—British, Dutch, and Danish Accra—Native Wives of Europeans—A Royal Princess—An Armadillo—Sail for St. Thomas—Aspect of the Island.
April 29.—At 10 A.M., anchored off the Dutch settlement of El Mina. The Governor's lieutenant boarded us in a large canoe, paddled by about a score of blacks. A salute was fired by our ship, and returned from the castle with a degree of splendor quite unexpected; for a portion of the native town, situated beneath the castle-walls, was set on fire by the wad of a cannon, and twenty or thirty houses burnt to the ground. On landing, we received a message, intimating that the Governor would be glad to see us, and consequently called upon him. He is a man of about thirty, who came out in 1832, as a clerk, and has risen to be Governor, with the military rank of lieutenant-colonel. All the civil officers have military titles, and wear the corresponding uniforms, for effect upon the natives; but the Dutch evince their shrewdness by placing practical men of business, rather than soldiers, at the head of their colonial establishments. The only officer of the regular army is a lieutenant, commanding the guard, of one hundred men.
El Mina—the Mine—was built in 1482, or thereabouts, by the Portuguese, whose early navigators have left tokens of their enterprise all along this coast; although the achievements of those adventurous men do but illustrate the nation's present supineness and decay. The settlement was taken by the Dutch about a century after its foundation. The main fortress is extensive, mounting ninety guns, and is capable of withstanding the assault of a large force of regular troops. On an eminence, above the town, is a second fort, apparently strong and in good repair; and two small batteries are placed in commanding situations.
The houses in the town are built of stone, and thatched. The streets are narrow, crooked, and dirty, imparting to the place the air of intricate bewilderment of some of the old European cities. Much of the trade is done in the streets, and entirely by women, who sit with their merchandize on the ground before them, and their gold-scales in their laps, waiting for customers. It would perhaps add to our manliness of character, if at least the minor departments of traffic were resigned to the weaker sex, among ourselves. Crossing a small river, we came to another, and by far the best section, of the town. There are long, wide streets, two of which, meeting at an obtuse angle, form together an extent of nearly a mile. A double row of trees throw their shade over the central walk of this Alameda. At intervals are seated groups of women-traders. The wares of some are deposited upon the ground, while pieces of cloth are displayed to advantage upon lines, stretching from tree to tree.
Before returning on board, we bespoke rings and chains of a native goldsmith. The fashions of Africa are less evanescent than those of Europe; and we may expect to see such ornaments as glittered on the bosom of the Queen of Sheba.
May 2.—Sailed for Cape Coast Castle with the evening breeze.
3.—At Cape Coast Castle.
The landing is effected in large canoes, which convey passengers close to the rocks, safely and without being drenched, although the surf dashes fifty feet in height. There is a peculiar enjoyment in being raised, by an irresistible power beneath you, upon the tops of the high rollers, and then dropped into the profound hollow of the waves, as if to visit the bottom of the ocean, at whatever depth it might be. We landed at the castle-gate, and were ushered into the castle itself, where the commander of the troops received us in his apartment.
I took the first opportunity to steal away, to look at the burial-place of L.E.L., who died here, after a residence of only two months, and within a year after becoming the wife of Governor McLean. A small, white marble tablet (inserted among the massive grey stones of the castle-wall, where it faces the area of the fort) bears the following inscription:—
Hic jacet sepultum Omne quod mortale fuit LETITIAE ELISABETHAE McLEAN, Quam, egregiâ ornatam indole, Musis unicè amatam; Omniumque amores secum trahentem, In ipso aetatis flore, Mors immatura rapuit, Die Octobris XV., A.D. MDCCCXXXVIII, Ætat 36.
Quod spectas viator marmor, Vanum heu doloris monumentum, Conjux moereng erexit.
The first thought that struck me was the inappropriateness of the spot for a grave, and especially for the grave of a woman, and, most of all, a woman of poetic temperament. In the open area of the fort, at some distance from the castle-wall, the stone pavement had been removed in several spots, and replaced with plain tiles. Here lie buried some of the many British officers who have fallen victims to the deadly atmosphere of this region; and among them rests L.E.L. Her grave is distinguishable by the ten red tiles which cover it. Daily, the tropic sunshine blazes down upon the spot. Daily, at the hour of parade, the peal of military music resounds above her head, and the garrison marches and counter-marches through the area of the fortress, nor shuns to tread upon the ten red tiles, any more than upon the insensible stones of the pavement. It may be well for the fallen commander to be buried at his post, and sleep where the reveille and roll-call may be heard, and the tramp of his fellow-soldiers echo and re-echo over him. All this is in unison with his profession; the drum and trumpet are his perpetual requiem; the soldier's honorable tread leaves no indignity upon the dead warrior's dust. But who has a right to trample on a woman's breast? And what had L.E.L. to do with warlike parade? And wherefore was she buried beneath this scorching pavement, and not in the retired shadow of a garden, where seldom any footstep would come stealing through the grass, and pause before her tablet? There, her heart, while in one sense it decayed, would burst forth afresh from the sod in a profusion of spontaneous flowers, such as her living fancy lavished throughout the world. But now, no verdure nor blossom will ever grow upon her grave.
If a man may ever indulge in sentiment, it is over the ashes of a woman whose poetry touched him in his early youth, while he yet cared anything about either sentiment or poetry. Thus much, the reader will pardon. In reference to Mrs. McLean, it may be added, that, subsequently to her unhappy death, different rumors were afloat as to its cause, some of them cruel to her own memory, others to the conduct of her husband. All these reports appear to have been equally and entirely unfounded. It is well established here, that her death was accidental.
We dined at the castle to-day, and met the officers of a new English brig, the Sea-Lark, among whom I was happy to recognize Lieutenant B——, an acquaintance at Mahon, and a messmate of my friend C——. All these officers are gallant fellows; and the commencement of our acquaintance promises to place them and ourselves on the most cordial terms. The dinner, like other English dinners, was rather noisy, but rendered highly agreeable by the perfect good feeling that prevailed. At eight in the evening, we returned on board, though strongly urged to sleep on shore by the Governor and all our other friends. Such hospitality, though unquestionably sincere, and kindly meant, it was far better to decline than accept; for it was much the same as if Death, in the hearty tone of good-fellowship, had pressed us to quaff another cup and spend the night under his roof. Had we complied, it would probably have cost the lives of more than one of us. Our captain took wisdom by the sad experience of the English brig, which had lost her purser and master by just such a festivity, prolonged to a late hour, and finished by the officers passing the night on shore. The fever of the climate punished their imprudence.
All vessels, except those of our own navy, allow their officers to sleep on shore. They expect to be taken sick, but hope that the first attack of fever will season them. Possibly, this is as wise a course as the British officers could adopt; for, unlike ourselves, they are compelled by duty to trust themselves in pestiferous situations, particularly in the ascent of rivers, where there is scarcely a chance of escaping the deadly influence of the atmosphere. They therefore confront the danger at once, and either fall beneath it, or triumph over it.
4.—Governor McLean, and all the officers of the castle and brig, dined on board. The table was laid on the quarter-deck, and was the scene of much mirth and friendly sentiment. In the evening, the theatre was open, with highly respectable performances; after which came a supper; and the guests took their leave at midnight, apparently well-pleased.
6.—We sailed yesterday from Cape Coast Castle, and anchored to-day at Accra, abreast of the British and Dutch forts.
7.—Early this morning, we were surrounded with canoes, filled with articles for sale. The most remarkable were black monkey-skins. There are seven vessels at anchor here, including our own, and an English war-steamer. Three of the seven, a barque, brig, and schooner, are from the United States. Landing in a canoe, we were met on the beach by the Governor and some of his gentlemen, and escorted to the castle. Thence we went to the residence of Mr. Bannerman. He is the great man of Accra, wealthy, liberally educated in England, and a gentleman, although with a deep tinge of African blood in his cheeks. But when native blood is associated with gentlemanly characteristics and liberal acquirements, it becomes, instead of a stigma of dishonor, an additional title to the respect of the world; since it implies that many obstacles have been overcome, in order to place the man where we find him. This, however, is a view not often taken by those who labor under the misfortune (for such it is, if they so consider it) of having African blood in their veins.
8.—A missionary, on his way to the Gaboon, and two American merchant-captains, Hunt and Dayley, dined with us in the ward-room. The latter are respectable men. The missionary, Mr. Burchell, seems much depressed. He has had the fever at Cape Palmas, the effects of which still linger in his constitution; while his companion, the Rev. Mr. Campbell, although but recently from America, has already finished his earthly labors, and gone to his reward. We left them only a month ago at Cape Palmas, in perfect health.
9.—My impressions of Accra are more favorable than of any other place which I have yet seen in Africa. British and Dutch Accra are contiguous. The forts of the two nations are within a mile of each other, situated on ground which, at a little distance, appears not unlike the "bluffs" on our western rivers; level upon the summit, with a precipitous descent, as if the land had "caved in" from the action of the water. The country round is level, and nearly free from woods as far as the rise of the hills, some ten miles distant. About three miles to the eastward, Danish Accra shows its neat town and well-kept fortress. I did not visit the place, but learn that it is fully equal to its neighbors. Thus, within a circuit of three or four miles, the traveller may perform no inconsiderable portion of the grand tour, visiting the territory of three different countries of Europe, and observing their military and civil institutions, their modes of business, their national characteristics, and all assimilated by a general modification, resulting from the climate and position in which they are placed. There seems to be an exchange of courtesy and social kindness among the three settlements. Seven or eight Europeans reside in the different forts; so that, together with the captains of merchant-vessels in the roads, there are tolerable resources of society.
All the Europeans have native wives, who dress in a modest, but peculiar style, of which the lady of Mr. Bannerman may give an example. She wore a close-fitting muslin chemisette, buttoned to the throat with gold buttons, a black silk tunic extending to the thigh, a colored cotton cloth, fastened round the waist and falling as low as the ankles, black silk stockings and prunella shoes. This lady is jet black, of pleasing countenance, and is a princess of royal blood. In the last great battle between the Europeans on the coast and the powerful King of Ashantee (the same who defeated and slew Sir Charles McCarthy), the native army was put to total rout by the aid of Congreve rockets. The king's camp, with most of his women, fell into the hands of the victors. Three of his daughters were appropriated by the English merchants, here and at Cape Coast, and became their faithful and probably happy wives. One of the three fell to the lot of Mr. Bannerman, and is the lady whom I have described. These women are entrusted with all the property of their husbands, and are sometimes left for months in sole charge, while the merchants visit England. The acting governor of the British fort, Mr. Topp, departs for that country to-morrow, leaving his native wife at the head of affairs.
Mr. Bannerman is of Scottish blood by paternal descent, but African by the mother's side, and English by education, and is a gentleman in manner and feeling. He is the principal merchant here, and transacts a large business with the natives, who come from two or three hundred miles in the interior, and constantly crowd his yard. There they sit, in almost perfect silence, receiving their goods, and making payment in gold-dust and ivory. Towards us Mr. Bannerman showed himself most hospitable, yet in a perfectly unostentatious manner.
Accra is the land of plenty in Africa. Beef, mutton, turkeys and chickens abound; and its supply of European necessaries and luxuries is unequalled.
10.—We got under way, yesterday, for the "Islands," a term well understood to mean those of St. Thomas and Prince's. Mr. Bushnell (one of the two missionaries who proposed to take passage with us from Cape Palmas, a month since) is now on board as a passenger to Prince's Island. The other, Mr. Campbell, is dead. He was of a wealthy and influential family in Kentucky, and is said to have been a young man of extraordinary talent and promise.
Yesterday we fired seventeen minute-guns, in obedience to an order from the Navy-Department for the melancholy death of its chief, by the explosion of the Princeton's gun. At twelve o'clock to-day, we fired thirteen minute guns, as a tribute of respect to the memory of Commodore Kennon, who fell a victim to the same disastrous accident. Alone on the waters, months after the event, and five thousand miles from the scene of his fate, we gave a sailor's requiem to a brave and accomplished officer.
11.—Calm and sunny. Oh, how sunny!—and, alas, how calm!
At Accra, I received a present of an armadillo, or ant-eater, who is certainly a wonderful animal, and well worth studying, in the tedium of a calm between the tropics. The body proper is but about nine inches, but, when stretched at length, he covers an extent of two and a half feet, from head to tail, and is wholly fortified with an impenetrable armor of bony scales. On any occasion of alarm, it is his custom to thrust his long nose between his hind-legs and roll his body and tail compactly together, so as to appear like the half of a ball, presenting no vulnerable part to an enemy. In this condition he affords an excellent example of a self-involved philosopher, defending himself from the annoyance of the world by a stoical crustiness, and seeking all his enjoyment within his own centre. His muscular strength being great, and especially that of his fore-legs, it is very difficult to unroll him. An attempt being made to force his coil, he sticks his fore-claws into the scales of his head, and holds on with a death-like grip. At night, however, or when all is quiet, he vouchsafes to unbend himself, and waddles awkwardly about on his short legs, in pursuit of cockroaches, weevils and spiders. [Footnote: The above-described ant-eater is properly the long-tailed Manis, being an African species of the Pangolin. His scaly armor will turn a musket-ball. This animal, with a few other natural and artificial curiosities from Africa, has been deposited in the National collection, attached to the Patent Office at Washington.] 18.—After many days of calm or light winds, a stiff and fair breeze, for twenty-four hours past, has been driving us rapidly on our course. We hope to see St. Thomas to-morrow.
19.—Land was discovered at daylight; but the wind had again failed us. It being Sunday, divine service was performed, and well performed, by Mr. Bushnell. He has gained the respect and regard of all on board, by his amiable, guileless disposition, and unassuming piety.
At noon the breeze freshened, and brought us within ten miles of the island, by the close of day. St. Thomas is high, and possesses strong features. One landmark is so singular as to strike every beholder most forcibly. It is a rock, apparently not less than five hundred feet high, and shaped like a light-house, towering into the air, about a third of the distance from the southern extremity of the island. We are now within a few miles of the equator; and sundry jokes, not unfamiliar to the nautical Joe Miller, are passing through the ship, touching the appearance of "the line."
20.—A heavy tornado struck us last night. We were prepared for it, however, with nothing on the ship but the topsail, clewed down, and the fore-topmast-staysail. The last mentioned sail blew away, and the ship lay over with her guns in the water. In five minutes, nevertheless, we were going before the wind and away from shore.
The appearance of the island is pleasant. A high volcanic peak, hills covered with wood, and spots of ground reminding us of the lawns or pasture-lands of our own country. On these tracts not a tree or a bush is visible for acres together; but whether the soil was left naked by nature, or rendered so by cultivation, is yet to be ascertained. A ruined chapel on the top of a hill, a large mansion, apparently unoccupied, on the shore, and a few huts among the cocoa-trees, are the only evidences that men have ever been here. Several canoes have now come off to us, bringing fruit and shells.
Excursion to St. Anne de Chaves—Mode of drying Coffee—Black Priests—Madame Domingo's Hotel—Catering for the Mess—Man swallowed by a Shark—Letters from Home—Fashionable Equipage—Arrival at the Gaboon—King Glass and Louis Philippe—Mr. Griswold—Mr. and Mrs. Wilson—Character of the Gaboon People—Symptoms of Illness.
May 22.—I have just returned from an excursion to St. Anne de Chaves, the capital of St. Thomas. Leaving the ship, yesterday, at 9 A.M., we landed, but did not find the horses which had been ordered from the city. Deeming it unadvisable to wait, three of the party started on foot, and two in the "gig" (not the land-vehicle of that name), which was to proceed on the same destination. After walking three or four miles along the beach, we met two of the six horses expected. These served to mount a pair of us, while the third, with the guide and boys, proceeded on foot; it being arranged that we should travel in the old-fashioned mode of "ride and tie." Most of the distance was across open land, without a tree or shrub, but overgrown with coarse, high grass. The whole appearance was that of a western prairie, but without the grandeur of its extent, or the flowers that attract the traveller, when wearied with the immensity of prospect. The soil, like that of the cocoa-nut groves, is a black, deep, fertile loam.
In two hours, we arrived at St. Anne de Chaves. The town is spread out upon the circular shore of the bay, nearly half a mile in extent, and is defended by a stone fort, situated on the extreme point of the cape. There are three or four hundred houses, which, with few exceptions, are small, and constructed of wood. A long stone building is appropriated as the residence of the governor, and contains the public offices. The only remarkable edifices besides, are a large wooden church, looking very like a barn, and a smaller one of stone. The streets are unpaved, but kept remarkably clean, and not without an especial reason. The great, and almost only, article of commerce is coffee, which is kept in the houses, and dried daily in the streets. As soon as the sun is up, therefore, servants sweep the streets, as carefully as if it were a parlor-floor, and bring out large quantities of coffee, which they spread upon the ground to dry. At night, it is carried in. More than half the street, at the proper season, is covered with coffee yet in the husk. The exports of this article amount annually to about a million of pounds, producing from seventy to eighty thousand dollars. The only whites residing on the island, with one exception, are about sixty Portuguese; the number of colored inhabitants is estimated at fifteen thousand.
Black priests are plenty in the streets, walking about in bombazine robes, with the crisp hair shaven from their crowns. The Jesuits invariably followed hard upon the heels of the early Portuguese adventurers, in their African discoveries; but I am not aware that their efforts to Catholicise the natives have anywhere produced such permanent results, as in this island. To be sure, the religion of the inhabitants seems to amount to little more than the practice of a few external rites; for they have both the appearance and character of dishonesty and treachery, and are said to be addicted to all sorts of vice. So far as the black priests possess any influence, however, it is believed to be used conscientiously, and with excellent effect; nor, though provoked to smile at these queer specimens of the cloth, could I indulge the impulse without being self-convicted of narrowness and illiberally. St. Augustine, and other Fathers of the church, if I have heard aright, were of the same sable hue as the priests of St. Anne de Chaves.
The currency of the island is wretched. Coppers are the sole coin in use, in all domestic transactions, and pass at ten times their intrinsic value. They are said to be introduced mainly by the American merchantmen, who do most of the trade with the island.
The foreign business is chiefly transacted by Mr. Lippitt, a Hamburgh merchant, at whose house we were hospitably received. He set his best fare before us; and some of the party not only ate at his table, but slept beneath his roof. The others took lodgings at the house of Madam Domingo, a fat black lady, whose first husband, a merchant of considerable business, had left her a large mansion, several slaves, some children, and other desirable property. A young, dandy-looking negro succeeded to the vacant place in her house and heart, and now does the honors of the establishment. The largest room had a singular aspect of familiarity to our eyes; its walls being adorned with prints of American origin, among which were portraits of all the Presidents of the United States, previous to General Harrison. These, perhaps, were the gift of some merchant-captain to his hospitable landlady; or, more probably, they had been hung up in compliment to the national sensibilities of Madam Domingo's most frequent guests. Tawdry mirrors and chandeliers completed the decoration of the apartment. A supper of coffee and hard-boiled eggs, beds harder than the eggs, and a bill equally difficult of digestion, comprise all that is further to be said of the fashionable hotel of St. Anne de Chaves. After a good breakfast with our Hamburgh friend, we all embarked in the gig, and, spreading our canvass to the breeze, reached the ship in an hour and ten minutes.
23.—Ashore with the caterer of the mess, marketing for sea-stores; a difficult task among a set of people who, though poor, care little about making a profit by selling what they have. Many of them would not take money, requiring in payment some article of clothing, especially shirts, or, as the next grand desideratum, trowsers. By careful research among the small plantations we were able to pick up a few goats, pigs, and fowls, and came off with materials to keep the mess in good humor for at least ten days. None but sea-faring men can appreciate the great truth, that amiability is an affair of the stomach, and that the disposition depends upon the dinner.
We found the soil very fertile. Groves of cocoa-nuts cover many acres together. Beneath the shade, coffee trees were in full bearing; and bananas, plantains, and corn, flourished luxuriantly. The people are all blacks, speak Portuguese, and—a circumstance that affords the voyager an agreeable variety, after seeing so much nakedness—wear clothes. Their habitations are scattered among the trees. It is usual to have one house for rainy weather, for sleeping, and for storage, and another as a kitchen, and for occupation during the day. The first is close, the other has merely corner-posts, supporting a roof sufficiently light to make a shade.
Part of the day was spent in picking up shells upon the shore. Occasionally, I unhoused a "soldier-crab," who had taken up free quarters in some unoccupied cone, and became so delighted with its shelter as never to move without dragging it at his heels along the sand.
24.—6 P.M., a horrid accident has just occurred. As the gig was coming alongside, under sail, the tiller broke, and the coxswain who was steering, fell overboard. He was a good swimmer, and struck out for the ship, not thirty yards distant, while the boat fell off rapidly to the leeward. In less than half a minute, a monstrous shark rose to the surface, seized the poor fellow by the body, and carried him instantly under. Two hundred men were looking on, without the power to afford assistance. We beheld the water stained with crimson for many yards around—but the victim was seen no more! Once only, a few seconds after his disappearance, the monster rose again to the surface, displaying a length of well nigh twenty feet, and then his immense tail above the water, as if in triumph and derision. It was like something preternatural; and terribly powerful he must have been, to take under so easily, and swallow, in a moment, one of the largest and most athletic men in the ship. Poor Ned Martin!
25.—Again visited the town, where we found an American brig, the Vintage of Salem, Captain Frye. She is from the South Coast, homeward bound, with a cargo of gum copal. The Captain had some letters for the squadron, which were now eleven months old. My own gave an account of the President's visit to Boston, the Bunker Hill Celebration, and other events of that antediluvian date. Epistolary communication is, at the best, a kind of humbug. What was new and true, when written, has become trite and false, before it can be read. It assures of nothing—not even of the existence of the writer; for his hand may have grown cold, since the characters which it traced began their weary voyage in quest of us; and all of which we can be absolutely certain is, that many unexpected events have happened, and many expected ones have failed to happen, betwixt the sealing of the letter and the unfolding it again. Until the ocean be converted into an electric telegraph, through which intelligence will thrill in an instant, there can be no real communication between the sailor and his far-off friends. And yet, after all, how pleasant it is to write letters!—how much pleasanter to receive them! I acknowledged the receipt of these musty epistles, by the same vessel that conveyed them to me.
I have seen but one equipage in the capital of St. Thomas, but that was a sufficiently remarkable one; a small, three-wheeled vehicle, like a velocipede, with a phaeton-top to it. Drawn by two negroes, and pushed by three, it rolled briskly to the door of the church, and there deposited a plump and youthful dame, as black as ebony. From the deference shown her by the priests, I inferred that it was my good fortune to behold the leading belle of St. Anne de Chaves.
After dining with Mr. Lippitt, we returned to the boats, and got safely on shipboard before dark. My impressions of St. Thomas and its delightful climate are highly favorable. A visit to an island has generally more of interest and amusement than one to a spot on the continent, because the secluded position of the inhabitants imparts an originality and raciness to their modes of life.
27.—Got under way yesterday morning for the Gaboon. Today the wind has been favorable, and we are now at anchor for the night, off the mouth of the river, five miles from land.
28.—At 4 P.M., anchored within three miles of the missionary establishment. Mr. Bushnell took his leave, respected by us all, as a pious, unpretending, sensible, and amiable man.
29.—Ashore. We found our friends well, and glad to see us. They are comfortably situated in large houses, made of bamboos, and thatched with the bamboo-leaves sewed together. These present an airy, cool, and light appearance, highly suitable to a tropical region, and yet are impervious to rain.
We visited the house of King Glass, where several of the chiefs assembled to talk a palaver. They are apprehensive of difficulties with the French, and wish the English and Americans to interpose. According to their story, the commandant of a French fort, three miles distant, had attempted, a short time ago, to procure a cession of their territory. This they constantly refused, declaring their intention to keep the country open for trade with all nations, and allow exclusive advantages to none. After several trials, the commandant apparently relinquished his purpose. A French merchant-captain now appeared, who ingratiated himself into the favor of the simple King Glass, invited him to a supper, and made his majesty and the head-man drunk. While in this condition, he procured the signatures of the King and two or three chiefs to a paper, which he declared to be merely a declaration of friendship towards the French, but which proved to be a cession of certain rights of jurisdiction. Next morning, the French fired a salute of twenty-one guns in honor of the treaty between Louis Philippe and King Glass, and sent presents which the natives refused to receive. They now apprehend a forcible seizure of their territory by the French, and desire our interposition, as calculated to prevent such a national calamity. Our captain, however, declined to interfere, or to express any opinion in the premises, on the ground that it was not his province to judge of such matters abroad, unless the interests of Americans were involved.
The missionaries have perhaps some agency in this movement. They see the probability that the Catholic priests will follow them to the Gaboon, and subvert their influence with the natives.
31.—In the morning I visited Mr. Griswold's place, about two miles from Baracca, the residence of Mr. Wilson. The former establishment was commenced only eight months ago; and already there are two buildings finished, and two more nearly so, all of bamboo. The ground is more fertile than that occupied by Mr. Wilson, and has been brought thus seasonably into a good state of cultivation. Mr. Griswold is a Vermonter, a practical farmer, and an energetic man, and doubtless turns his agricultural experience to good account, great as is the difference between the bleak hills of New England, and this equatorial region. His lady, an interesting woman, is just recovering from fever.
After an agreeable visit, we returned to the ship, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Griswold, and there found Mr. Wilson and lady, and Mr. James and his daughter. They all dined and spent the day on board. Mr. Wilson is well known in America by reputation, and is one of the most able and judicious among the three hundred missionaries, whom the American Board sends forth throughout the world. Here at Gaboon, he preaches to the natives in their own language, which he represents as being very soft, and easy of acquirement. The people frequent divine services with great regularity, and are at least attentive listeners, if not edified by what they hear. Mrs. Wilson is a lady of remarkable zeal and energy. Reared in luxury, in a Southern city, she liberated her slaves, gave up a handsome fortune to the uses of missions, and devoted herself to the same great cause, in that region of the earth where her faith and fortitude were likely to be most severely tried. It is now six years since she came to Africa; and she has never faltered for a moment. Having had the good fortune, on a former cruise, to make the acquaintance of Mrs. Wilson, at Cape Palmas, I was happy to renew it here. I have seldom met with a person so well fitted to adorn society, and never with one in whose high motives of action and genuine piety I had more confidence.
The natives at the Gaboon, to whom these excellent people are sacrificing themselves, are said to present more favorable points of character than those in most other parts of Africa. They are mild in their manners, friendly to Europeans and Americans, and disposed to imitate them in dress and customs. They own many slaves among themselves, but treat them with singular gentleness, and never sell them to foreigners. They are very indolent, and make no adequate improvement of their advantages for agriculture and trade. Their country is excellent for grazing, and the cattle of the best kind; but they take so little forethought as to sell even the last cow, should a purchaser offer. Consequently, there are hardly more than thirty cattle left in a tract of country capable, in its present state, of sustaining a thousand.
King Glass is an old man, much inclined to drink, yet more regular than any of his subjects in attendance at church. Toko, a headman, is very shrewd and intelligent, and highly spoken of by Mr. Wilson, in reference to his moral qualities. Will Glass, nephew to the King, is blessed with a couple of dozen wives, and seldom moves without a train of five or six of them in attendance. He paid a visit to our ship in a full-dress English uniform, said to have cost three hundred dollars. On the other side of the river lives King Will, a great man, and with the reputation of a polished gentleman. The slave-trade is carried on in this King's dominions; and, while I write, a Spanish slaver lies at anchor off his town, waiting for her human cargo.
June 1.—Got under way, and went down the river about three miles, when, the wind failing, we anchored. At 3 P.M., we started again, and stood out to sea. Mr. Wilson accompanied us to the mouth of the river, and there left us, bearing back our hearty good wishes for his personal prosperity and that of the mission.
2.—At 12, meridian, we have made the run to the island of St. Thomas, and are now about fifteen miles to the northward of it.
3.—The wind is still sufficiently fresh and fair to enable us to make seven knots westing; the great desideratum. Four months we have been running away from our letters; and now we go to meet them. Blow, breezes, blow, and waft us swiftly onward!
4.—A continuance of favorable winds. I am not well to-day. Slight headache, and heaviness of feeling—no great matter—but these are ominous symptoms, on the coast of Africa.
5.—One year since we left America; a year not without incident and interest. We are still on the first parallel of north latitude, and going nine. I am under the surgeon's hands, apprehending a fever, but hoping to throw it off.
6.—We have made two hundred and twenty miles within the last twenty-four hours; and still the breeze does not slacken. Much better in health. Bless the man who first invented Doctors!
Recovery from Fever—Projected Independence of Liberia—Remarks on Climate and Health—Peril from Breakers—African Arts—Departure for the Cape de Verds—Man Overboard.
June 18.—A weary blank! Since my last date, I have had the coast fever, caught by sleeping on shore, at St. Anne de Chaves, and am now just recovering my physical force. My sickness was accompanied with little bodily pain, but with great prostration of strength. Able medical advice, and kind and judicious treatment, have brought me up a little; and, with the help of God, I may again call myself well, in a week or two more. But there is great danger of relapses, caution!
We are now at Monrovia, having made the passage from the river Gaboon, hitherward, in seven days and fourteen hours, from anchorage to anchorage—an unprecedented run! The Macedonian has been here, and is gone.
19.—Still better this morning. The sky looks brighter than before; the woods seem greener, and cast a lovelier shade; the surf breaks more gracefully along the beach; and the natives, paddling their canoes around the ship, look more human—more like brethren. Returning health gives a more beautiful aspect to all things. It is almost worth while to have been brought so low by sickness, for the sake of the freshness of body and spirit, the renewed youth, the tenderer susceptibility to all good impressions, which make my present consciousness so delightful. It is like being new-created, and placed in a new world. Life, to the convalescent, looks as fair and promising as if he had never tried it, and been weary of it.
20.—Still improving. The fine weather of yesterday and to-day invigorates and cheers me. Lieutenant Governor Benedict and some friends are expected on board, by special invitation. We pay much attention to the persons in authority here; it being the policy of our government to befriend and countenance the colonies. I hear that a serious effort is now in progress, at this place, to declare Liberia independent of the Colonization Society, and set up a republic. Lieutenant Governor Benedict and Mr. Teage are said to be at the head of the movement. Both are men of talent. Mr. Teage formerly edited the Liberia Herald, and preached in the Baptist Church, where his services were most emphatically gratuitous; for he not only ministered without a stipend, but supplied a place of worship—the sacred edifice being his own private property. He is certainly one of the ablest, if not the very ablest, writer and preacher in the colony. The project above-mentioned seems to me an unwise one; but benefits, which do not now appear, may possibly be obtained by sundering the relations between the settlement and the parent society. Much is expected from England. That nation, however, can never feel a maternal interest in the colony, nor will do for it what the Society has all along done, and continues to do.
21.—Still stronger. I am now able to resume my place at the mess-table. But care is necessary to avoid a relapse. It is one of the worst features of this disease, that it appears to continue in the system for many months after the patient's recovery, and to renew its attacks upon the slightest exposure. Most persons find it necessary to leave the coast, in order to the re-establishment of their health. I am not the only convalescent on board the ship. Mr. Ewal, a young Danish supercargo, is here for a few days, to try the benefit of a change of air, and enjoy the attendance of a regular physician. He has been on shore above a month, sick of the fever, under the charge of Dr. Prout, a colored practitioner. Our captain pitied his condition, invited him on board, and, with his uniform kindness, took him into the cabin, where, in only three days, he has already improved wonderfully.
27.—A sunny day, after three or four dull and rainy ones. My health is now so far restored, that I shall insert no more bulletins. I owe much to the care of our surgeon, who is very able and attentive, and has seen much yellow-fever practice, in the West Indies. The assistant-surgeon is also an excellent and an untiring officer. My fever, like the other cases which have happened on board, was of a bilious kind. All foreigners make themselves liable to it, either in its milder or more aggravated forms, by sleeping even a single night on shore; but, according to Dr. Hall, a physician of great experience on the coast, health may be preserved for an indefinite period, by the simple precaution of sleeping always on ship-board, at a very moderate distance from land. This does not altogether coincide with my own observations. It is true, that during eight or ten months after the arrival of a ship upon the coast, the health of her crew will probably continue good, if they neither sleep on shore nor ascend the rivers. But, if exposed for a longer period to the enervating influences of the unceasing heat, and the frequent penetrating rains, it may reasonably be expected that any ship's company will be broken down, even though not a single death may occur. In our own ship, we have recently had many cases of fever, where the patients have neither slept on shore, nor been exposed to the peculiar malaria of rivers. Doubtless, however, the fever of the country, where all due precautions have been used, will be much lighter on board, than on shore. But the patients will be liable to frequent relapses, and a complete recovery will be almost out of the question, without a change of climate. It is another objection to the long continuance of ships on this station, that all wounds or injuries, however slight, have a tendency to become obstinate and dangerous sores, which incapacitate these afflicted from performing any duty.
Besides the coast fever (which, Dr. Hall remarks, he has never known an emigrant completely to escape), there is an intermittent fever, against which no acclimation will protect the colonist, any more than against the bilious fever of America. The Rev. Mr. James, a colored missionary, told me, that, for seven years, he had been accustomed to suffer attacks of fever, once in every four or five weeks.
The natives of this country are as healthy as any people under Heaven. A benignant Providence has adapted the climate, soil, and productions, of every part of the globe to the constitutions of those races of mankind which it has placed there. Nor is Africa an exception. In spite of her desolating wars, and the immense drain of her children through the slave trade which for centuries has checked the increase of population, she is still a populous country. The aboriginal natives, unless killed through superstition or cruelty, survive to an almost patriarchal longevity. The colored people of America, or any other part of the world, may be regarded as borrowed from Africa, and inheriting a natural adaptation to her soil and climate. Such emigrants, therefore, may be expected to suffer less than the whites, in the process of acclimation, and may, in due time, find their new residence more genial to their constitutions, than those which they have quitted. At all events, their children will probably flourish here, and attain a fulness of physical, and perhaps moral and intellectual perfection, which the colored race has fallen short of, in other regions.
As the country becomes cleared and cultivated, the mortality of the emigrants decreases. It is asserted to be one-third less, at this period, than it was ten years ago. The statistics of Cape Palmas show the population to be on the increase, independently of immigration. Dr. Hall affirmed (but, I should imagine, with unusual latitude of expression) that, in the sickliest season ever known at Cape Palmas, the rate of mortality was lower than that of the free colored population in Baltimore, in an ordinary year. In another generation, this may no doubt be said with perfect accuracy.
28.—Last night, the Porpoise came in, and anchored inside of us. As we lay unusually near the shore, and as the wind was rising, with a heavy swell, the brig found herself, this morning, in a dangerous position. She sent us a boat, to say that she was dragging her anchor, and to ask for a hawser. This was immediately supplied; but, before we could give her the end of it, she had drifted into the breakers. She hoisted her colors, union down, and was momentarily expected to strike. At this instant, a tremendous roller swamped one of our boats, and left the men swimming for their lives. The other boats went to their assistance, and providentially succeeded in rescuing them all. Meantime, the brig made sail, and, by the help of our hawser, was able to keep her wind, and got out to sea, leaving both her anchors behind.
Soon after the Porpoise was saved, we found ourselves likewise in equal peril. The breakers began to whiten about the ship. The wind was not violent, but the swell was terrible; and the long rollers filled the bay, breaking in forty feet of water, and covering the sea with foam. Our anchors held tolerably well; but we dragged slowly, until, from seven fathoms, we had shoaled our water to four and a half. A council of the officers being called, it was determined to get under way. A hawser and stream-anchor being sent out, in order to bring the ship's head in the proper direction for making sail, the cables were slipped. It was a moment of intense interest; for, had the rollers or the wind inclined the ship from her proper course, we must inevitably have been lost; but she stood out beautifully, and soon left all peril astern.
There were still three merchant-vessels at anchor; the American barque Reaper, a Bremen brig, and a Hamburg schooner. While we had our own danger to encounter, we thought the less of our fellow-sufferers; but, after our escape, it was painful to think of leaving them in jeopardy. To the American barque (which lay inshore of us, with her colors union down) we sent a boat, with sixteen Kroomen, by whose assistance she was saved. The Bremen brig had her colors at half-mast, appealing to us for aid. She was nearer to the shore than the other vessels, and lay in the midst of the breakers, which frequently covered her from stem to stern. Her escape seemed impossible; and her cargo, valued at thirty thousand dollars, would have been considered a dear purchase at a thirtieth of that sum. We gave her all the help in our power, and not without effect; but her salvation, under Providence, was owing to a strong tide, which was setting out of the river, and counteracted the influence of wind and swell. Finally, we had the satisfaction to see all the vessels, one after another, come off safe.
During this scene, there was great commotion on shore, the people evidently expecting one or all of us to be lost. When the Porpoise got off, the Kroomen on the beach raised a great shout of joy.
29.—There is a very heavy sea this morning, with no prospect of its immediately subsiding. The Kroomen say that it will last four days from its commencement. It must have been terrific in the bay, last night. All the vessels are in sight, keeping off till the swell abates. We have left two boats behind us, and two anchors, besides the stream-anchor. There has been nothing like this storm, since our arrival on the coast.
July 2.—Again at anchor.
As we shall soon have done with Liberia, I must not forget to insert, among the motley records of this journal, some account of its ants. The immense number of these insects, which infest every part of the land, is a remarkable provision in the economy of Africa, as well as of other tropical countries. Though very destructive to houses, fences, and other articles of value, their ravages are far more than repaid by the benefits bestowed; for they act as scavengers in removing the great quantity of decaying vegetable matter, which would otherwise make the atmosphere intolerable. They perform their office both within doors and without. Frequently, the "drivers," as they are called, enter houses in myriads, and, penetrating to the minutest recesses, destroy everything that their omnivorous appetite can render eatable. Whatever has the principle of decay in it, is got rid of at once. All vermin meet their fate from these destroyers. Food, clothing, necessaries, superfluities, mere trash, and valuable property, are alike in their regard, and equally acceptable to their digestive powers. They would devour this journal with as little compunction as so much blank paper—and a sermon as readily as the journal—nor would either meal lie heavy on their stomachs. They float on your coffee, and crawl about your plate, and accompany the victuals to your mouth.
The ants have a Queen, whom the colonists call Bugga-Bug. Her subjects are divided into three classes; the Laborers, who do nothing but work—the Soldiers, who do nothing but fight—and the Gentry, who neither work nor fight, but spend their lives in the pleasant duty of continuing their species. The habitations of these insects, as specimens of mechanical ingenuity, are far superior to the houses of the natives, and are really the finest works of architecture to be met with on the African coast. In height, these edifices vary from four to fifteen or twenty feet, and are sometimes ten or twelve feet in diameter at the base. They contain apartments for magazines, for nurseries, and for all other domestic, social, and public purposes, communicating with one another, and with the exterior, by innumerable galleries and passages. The clay, which forms the material of the buildings, is rendered very compact, by a glutinous matter, mixed with earth; and all the passages, many of which extend great distances under ground, are plastered with the same kind of stucco. Captain Tuckey, in his expedition to the river Zaire, discovered ant-hills composed of similar materials to the above, but which, in shape, precisely resembled gigantic toad-stools, as high as a one-story house. In this part of Africa, they have the form of a mound. At the present day, when the community-principle is attracting so much attention, it would seem to be seriously worth while for the Fourierites to observe both the social economy and the modes of architecture of these African ants. Providence may, if it see fit, make the instincts of the lower orders of creation a medium of divine revelations to the human race: and, at all events, the aforesaid Fourierites might stumble upon hints, in an ant-hill, for the convenient arrangement of those edifices, which, if I mistake not, they have christened Phalanxteries.
8.—At 11 A.M., got under way for the Cape de Verds.
10.—Calm in the morning, and predictions of a long passage. At noon, sprung up a ten-knot breeze; and are sanguine of making a short run. In the evening, at the tea-table, we were talking of the delights of Saratoga, at this season, and contrasting the condition of the fortunate visitors to that fashionable resort, with that of the sallow, debilitated, discontented cruisers on the African station. In the midst of the conversation, the cry of "man overboard," brought us all on deck with a rush. There was not much sea, though we were going seven knots. The man kept his head well above water, and swam steadily toward the life-buoy, which floated at a short distance from him—his only hope—while the wide Atlantic was yawning around him, eager for his destruction. We watched him anxiously, until he seized it, and then thought of sharks. We were too far at sea, however, for many of these monsters to be in attendance. In a few moments a boat picked up man and buoy, and the ship was on her course again.
21.—Anchored at Porto Praya.
The season of journalizing, to any good purpose, is over. Scenes and objects in this region have been so often presented to my eyes, that they now fail to make the vivid impressions which could alone enable me (were that ever possible) to weave them into a lively narrative of my adventures. My entries therefore, for the rest of the cruise, are likely to be "few, and far between."
Glimpses of the bottom of the Sea—The Gar-Fish—The Booby and the Mullet—Improvement of Liberia—Its Prospects—Higher social position of its Inhabitants—Intercourse between the White and Colored Races—A Night on Shore—Farewell to Liberia.—Reminiscence of Robinson Crusoe.
September 1.—At Porto Grande.
To-day, as for many previous days, the water has been beautifully clear. The massive anchor and the links of the chain-cable, which lay along the bottom, were distinctly visible upon the sand, full fifty feet below. Hundreds of fish—the grouper, the red snapper, the noble baracouta, the mullet, and many others, unknown to northern seas—played round the ship, occasionally rising to seize some floating food, that perchance had been thrown overboard. With my waking eye, I beheld the bottom of the sea as plainly as Clarence saw it in his dream; although, indeed, here were few of the splendid and terrible images that were revealed to him:—
"A thousand fearful wrecks; A thousand men that fishes gnawed upon; Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl, Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels."
Nevertheless, it was a sight that seemed to admit me deeper into the liquid element than I had ever been before. Now and then came the long, slender gar-fish, and, with his sword-like beak, struck some unhappy fish which tempted his voracity. I watched the manoeuvres of the destroyer and his victims, with no little interest. The fish (which, in the two instances particularly observed, was the mullet) came instantly to the surface, on being struck, and sprang far out of water. He swam on his side with a circular motion, keeping his head above the surface. From time to time he leaped into the air, spasmodically, and in a fit of painful agony; for it could not be from alarm, as the foe was nowhere visible. Gradually, his strength failed, and his efforts became feebler, and still more feeble.
The fates of the two mullets were different. One received a second blow from the inexorable gar-fish, which, for a moment, increased his agony and his exertions. He then lay motionless upon the surface, at rest from all trouble. The conqueror came a third time, seized his prey, and swam swiftly out of sight.
The other mullet, which rose half an hour afterwards, swam closer to the ship than his predecessor, and received no second blow. While the poor fellow was yet in the death-struggle, came two great sable birds, with bills, wings, and legs, like those of the heron. Flapping their dark wings in the air, they circled round, and repeatedly swooped almost upon the dying fish. But he was not doomed to be their victim. Presently, with his brown back, white breast, and pink bill, came flapping along a booby, and, without a moment's hesitation, stooped upon the mullet, and appeared to swallow him in the twinkling of an eye. The fish was at least six inches in length, and the bird not twice as much. How so liberal a morsel could be so quickly disposed of, was a marvel to a dozen idlers, who had been curiously observing this game of life and death to one party, and a dinner to the other. Certainly, the booby carried off the fish. Borne down by the weight of his spoil, the feathered gormandizer alighted on the water—rested himself for a moment—rose again, and re-alighted—and in this manner, with many such intervals of repose, made his way to the shore.
25.—At 1 P.M., sailed for the Coast, in company with the Truxton.
26.—Anchored off Cape Mesurado.
It is now fourteen months since our ship first visited Monrovia. Within that period there has been a very perceptible improvement in its condition. The houses are in better repair; the gardens under superior cultivation. There is an abundant supply of cattle, which have been purchased from the natives. More merchant-vessels now make this their port, bringing goods hither, and creating a market for the commodities, live stock, and vegetables, of the colonists. An increased amount of money is in circulation; and the inhabitants find that they can dispose of the products of their industry for something better than the cloth and tobacco, which they were formerly obliged to take in payment. The squadron of United States men-of-war, if it do no other good, will at least have an essential share in promoting the prosperity of Liberia.
After having seen much, and reflected upon the subject even to weariness, I write down my opinion, that Liberia is firmly planted, and is destined to increase and prosper. This it will do, though all further support from the United States be discontinued. A large part of the present population, it is true, are ignorant, and incompetent to place a just estimate on freedom, or even to comprehend what freedom really is. But they are generally improving in this respect; and there is already a sufficient intermixture of intelligent, enterprising and sagacious men, to give the proper tone to the colony, and insure its ultimate success. The great hope, however, is in the generation that will follow these original emigrants. Education is universally diffused among the children; and its advantages, now beginning to be very manifest, will, in a few years, place the destinies of this great enterprise in the hands of men born and bred in Africa. Then, and not till then, will the experiment of African colonization, and of the ability of the colonists for self-support and self-government, have been fairly tried. My belief is firm in a favorable result.
Meantime, it would be wiser in the Colonization Society, and its more zealous members, to moderate their tone, and speak less strongly as to the advantages held out by Liberia. Unquestionably, it is a better country than America, for the colored race. But they will find it very far from a paradise. Men, who expect to become independent and respectable, can only achieve their object here on the same terms as everywhere else. They must cultivate their minds, be willing to exert themselves, and not look for a too easy or too rapid rise of fortune. One thing is certain. People of color have here their fair position in the comparative scale of mankind. The white man, who visits Liberia, be he of what rank he may, and however imbued with the prejudice of hue, associates with the colonists on terms of equality. This would be impossible (speaking not of individuals, but of the general intercourse between the two races) in the United States. The colonist feels his advantage in this respect, and reckons it of greater weight in the balance than all the hardships to which he is obliged to submit, in an unwonted climate and a strange country. He is redeemed from ages of degradation, and rises to the erect stature of humanity. On this soil, sun-parched though it be, he gives the laws; and the white man must obey them. In this point of view—as restoring to him his long-lost birthright of equality—Liberia may indeed be called the black man's paradise.
It is difficult to lay too great stress on the above consideration. When the white man sets his foot on the shore of Africa, he finds it necessary to throw off his former prejudices. For my own part, I have dined at the tables of many colored men in Liberia, have entertained them on shipboard, worshipped with them at church; walked, rode, and associated with them, as equal with equal, if not as friend with friend. Were I to meet those men in my own town, and among my own relatives, I would treat them kindly and hospitably, as they have treated me. My position would give me confidence to do so. But, in another city, where I might be known to few, should I follow the dictates of my head and heart, and there treat these colored men as brethren and equals, it would imply the exercise of greater moral courage than I have ever been conscious of possessing. This is sad; but it shows forcibly what the colored race have to struggle against in America, and how vast an advantage is gained by removing them to another soil.
10.—Yesterday, Governor Roberts gave our officers a farewell dinner. We left the table early, made our adieus, and were on our way down the river half an hour before sunset. The pilot and some of our friends endeavored to dissuade us from attempting the passage of the bar, pronouncing the surf too dangerous. Some Kroomen also discouraged us, saying that the bar was "too saucy." With the fever behind us, and the wild breakers and sharks before, it was matter of doubt what course to pursue. Anxiety to be on our way homeward settled the difficulty; and we left the wharf, to make, at least, a trial. A trial, and nothing more, it proved; for, as we neared the bar, it became evident that there would be great rashness in attempting to cross. The surf came in heavily, and with the noise of thunder, and the gigantic rollers broke into foam, across the whole width of the bar. Darkness had fallen around us, with the sudden transition of a tropical climate. There was no open space visible amid the foam; and, while the men lay on their oars, we looked anxiously for the clear water, which marks the channel to the sea. Many minutes were thus spent, looking with all our eyes.
A council of war was held between the captain and myself, in which we discussed the probabilities of being swamped and eaten. Having once fairly started, we did not like to turn back, especially as it would be necessary to go through the insipid ceremony of repeating our good-bye. Then, too, the image of fever rose behind us. By the prohibition of the Commodore, and the dictates of prudence, not an officer had slept on shore on any part of the mainland of the African coast, during the whole period of our cruise; and now, at the very last moment, to be compelled to incur the risk, was almost beyond patience. On the other hand, there was the foaming surf, and the ravenous sharks, in whose maws there was an imminent probability of our finding accommodation, should we venture onward. It is a fate proper enough for a sailor, but which he may be excused for avoiding as long as possible. Our council ended, therefore, with a determination to turn back, and trust to the tender mercies of the fever.
It was a splendid moonlight night; one of those nights on which the natives deem it impossible to catch fish, saying that the sky has too many eyes, and that the fish will shun the bait. The frogs kept up an incessant chorus, reminding me of the summer evening melodies of my native land, yet as distinct from those as are the human languages of the two countries. I have observed that the notes of frogs are different in different parts of the world. On the banks of the beautiful Arno, it is like the squalling of a cat. Here, it is an exact imitation of the complaining note of young turkeys. Unweariedly, these minstrels made music in our ears, until dawn gleamed in the East, and ushered in a bright and glorious morning. The birds now took the place of the frogs in nature's orchestra, and cooed, peeped, chattered, screamed, whistled, and sang, according to their various tastes and abilities. The trees were very green, and the dew-drops wonderfully brilliant; and, amid the cheerful influence of sun-rise, it was difficult to believe that we had incurred any deadly mischief, by our night's rest on the shore of Africa.
At a later period, I add, that no bad result ensued, either to the captain, myself, or the eight seamen, who were detained ashore on the above occasion. This good fortune may be attributable to the care with which we guarded ourselves from the night-air and the damps; and besides, we left the coast immediately, and, after a brief visit to Sierra Leone, pursued our homeward course to America. On another occasion, a lieutenant, a surgeon, and six men, belonging to our squadron, were detained on shore at Cape Mount, all night, after being capsized and wet. What were their precautions, I am unable to say; but, all the officers and men were attacked by fever, more or less severely, and in one instance fatally. [Footnote: While revising these sheets for the press, the writer hears of an example which may show the necessity of the health-regulations imposed on the American squadron. The U.S. ship Preble ascended the River Gambia to the English settlement of Bathurst, a distance of fifteen miles, to protect the European residents against an apprehended attack of the natives. Although the ship remained but one or two days, yet, in that brief space, about a hundred cases of fever occurred on board, proving fatal to the master, a midshipman, and seventeen of the crew.] And now we leave Liberia behind us, with our best wishes for its prosperity, but with no very anxious desire to breathe its fever-laden atmosphere again. There is enough of interest on the African station; but life blazes quickly away, beneath the glare of that torrid sun; and one year of that climate is equivalent to half a dozen of a more temperate one, in its effect upon the constitution. The voyager returns, with his sallow visage, and emaciated form, and enervated powers, to find his contemporaries younger than himself—to realize that he has taken two or three strides for their one, towards the irrevocable bourne; and has abridged, by so much, the season in which life is worth having for what may be accomplished, or for any zest that may be found in it.
Before quitting the coast, I must not forget that our cruising-ground has a classical claim upon the imagination, as being the very same over which Robinson Crusoe made two or three of his voyages. That famous navigator sailed all along the African shore, between Cape de Verd and the Equator, trading for ivory, for gold dust, and especially for slaves, with as little compunction as Pedro Blanco himself. It is remarkable that De Foe, a man of most severe and delicate conscience, should have made his hero a slave-dealer, and should display a perfect insensibility to anything culpable in the traffic. Morality has taken a great step in advance, since that day; or, at least, it has thrown a strong light on one spot, with perhaps a corresponding shadow on some other. The next age may shift the illumination, and show us sins as great as that of the slave-trade, but which now enter into the daily practice of men claiming to be just and wise.
Sierra Leone—Sources of its Population—Appearance of the Town and surrounding Country—Religious Ceremonies of the Mandingoes—Treatment of liberated Slaves—Police of Sierra Leone—Agencies for Emigration to the West Indies—Colored Refugees from the United States—Unhealthiness of Sierra Leone—Dr. Fergusson—Splendid Church—Melancholy Fate of a Queen's Chaplain—Currency—Probable Ruin of the Colony.
October 15.—We arrived off the point of Sierra Leone, last night, and were piloted up to the town, this morning.
This is one of the most important and interesting places on the coast of Africa. It was founded in 1787, chiefly through the benevolent agency of Mr. Granville Sharp, as a place of refuge for a considerable number of colored persons, who had left their masters, and were destitute and unsheltered in the streets of London. Five years later, the population of the colony was recruited by above a thousand slaves, who had fled from the United States to Nova Scotia, during the American revolution. Again, in 1800, there was an addition of more than five hundred maroons, or outlawed negroes, from Jamaica. And finally, since 1807, Sierra Leone has been the receptacle for the great numbers of native Africans liberated from slave-ships, on their capture by British cruisers. Pensioners, with their families, from the black regiments in the West Indies, have likewise been settled here. The population is now estimated at about forty-five thousand; a much smaller amount, probably, than the aggregate of all the emigrants who have been brought hither. The colony has failed to prosper, but not through any lack of effort on the part of England. It is the point, of all others on the African coast, where British energy, capital, and life, have been most profusely expended.
The aspect of the Cape, as you approach it from the sea, is very favorable. You discern cultivated hills, the white mansions of the wealthy, and thatched cottages, neat and apparently comfortable, abodes of the poorer class. Over a space of several miles, the country appears to be in a high state of improvement. One large village is laid out with the regularity of Philadelphia, consisting of seven parallel streets, kept free from grass, with thatched huts on either side, around which are small plots of ground, full of bananas and plantain trees. The town itself is a scene of far greater activity than any other settlement on the West Coast. Great numbers of negroes, of various tribes and marks, are to be seen there. So mixed, indeed, is the colored population, that there is little sympathy or sense of fellowship among them. The Mandingoes seem to be the most numerous, and are the most remarkable in personal appearance. Almost without exception, they are very tall figures, and wear white robes, and high caps without visors.
These Mandingoes hold the faith of Mahomet, and at the time of our arrival, were celebrating the feast of the Ramazan. Several hundreds of them paraded through the streets in a confused mass, occasionally stopping before some gentleman's house, and enacting sundry mummeries, in consideration of which they expected to receive a present. In front of a house where I happened to be, the whole body were ranged in order; and two of them, one armed with a gun, and the other with a bow and arrow, ran from end to end of the line, crouching down and pretending to be on the watch against an enemy. At intervals, their companions, or a portion of them, raised a cry, like those which one hears in the mosques of Asia. The above seemed to compose nearly all the ceremony; and our liberality was in proportion to the entertainment, consisting merely of a handful of coppers, scattered broadcast among the multitude. When this magnificent guerdon was thus proffered to their acceptance, they forthwith forgot their mummery, and joined in a general scramble. The king, or chief, now stept forward, and protested energetically against this mode of distribution; it being customary to consign all the presents to him, to be disposed of according to his better judgment. However, the mob picked up the coppers, and showed themselves indifferently well contented.
When cargoes of slaves are brought to Sierra Leone, they are placed in a receptacle called the Queen's Yard, where they remain until the constituted authorities have passed judgment on the ship. This seldom requires more than a week. The liberated slaves are then apprenticed for five, seven, or nine years; the Government requiring one pound ten shillings sterling from the person who takes them. Unless applicants come forward, these victims of British philanthropy are turned adrift, to be supported as they may, or, unless Providence take all the better care of them, to starve. For the sick, however, there is admittance to the Government Hospital; and the countrymen of the new-comers, belonging to the same tribe, lend them such aid as is in their power. Food, consisting principally of rice, cassadas, and plantains, or bananas, is extremely cheap; insomuch that a penny a day will supply a man with enough to eat. The market is plentifully supplied with meats, fowls, and vegetables, and likewise with other articles, which may be tidbits to an African stomach, but are not to be met with in our bills of fare. For instance, among other such delicacies, I saw several rats, each transfixed with a wooden skewer, and some large bats, looking as dry as if they had given up the ghost a month ago. Supporting themselves on food of this kind, it is not to be wondered at, that the working-classes find it possible to live at a very low rate of labor. The liberated slaves receive from four to six pence, and the Kroomen nine pence per diem; these wages constituting their sole support.
As may be supposed, so heterogeneous and wild a population as that of Sierra Leone requires the supervision of a strict and energetic police. Accordingly, the peace is preserved, and crimes prevented, by a whole army of constables, who, in a cheap uniform of blue cotton, with a white badge on the arm, and a short club as their baton of office, patrol the streets, day and night. Their number cannot be less than two or three hundred.
There is a desire, in some quarters, to destroy the colony of Sierra Leone; and one of the means for accomplishing this end is, of procuring the emigration of the colored colonists to the West Indies. For this purpose there are three different agencies. One has over its door:—"British Guiana Emigration Office;" another is for Trinidad; and a third for Jamaica.
Great promises are made to persons proposing to emigrate; such as a free passage to the West Indies, wages of from seventy-five cents to a dollar per day, and permission to return when they choose. Very few, however, of those who have been long resident here, can be induced to avail themselves of these offers, small as are the earnings of labor at Sierra Leone. They believe that the stipulations are not observed; that emigrants, on their arrival in the West Indies, will be called upon to pay their passages, and that it will not be at their option to return. In short, they suspect emigration to be only a more plausible name for the slave-trade. The Kroomen are the class most sought for as emigrants, although negroes of any tribe are greedily received. Even the Africans just re-captured are sent off, as the authorities are pleased to term it, "voluntarily." The last emigration, consisting of somewhat less than two hundred and fifty persons, included seventy-six slaves, almost that instant landed from a prize. A respectable merchant assured me, that these men were not permitted to communicate with their countrymen, but were hurried off to the vessel, without knowing whither they were bound. The acting governor, Dr. Fergusson, denied the truth of this, although he admitted that the seventy-six liberated slaves did emigrate to the West Indies, very soon after landing from the prize.
It is to be remarked, that the white inhabitants of Sierra Leone, as well as the colored people, entertain very unfavorable notions of this scheme of procuring laborers for the West Indies. The best defence of it, perhaps, is, that neither blacks nor whites can flourish in this settlement, and that a transportation from its poor soil and sickly climate, to any other region, may probably be for the better. But, undeniably, the British government is less scrupulous as to the methods of carrying out its philanthropic projects, than most other nations in their schemes of self-aggrandizement.
In Freetown, which is the residence of all the Europeans, are to be found what remains of the emigrants from Nova Scotia, and their descendants. The whole number transported hither at several periods, was about fifteen hundred. Not more than seventy or eighty of these people, or their progeny, now survive upon the spot. Our pilot is one of the number. He affirms, that his countrymen were promised fifty acres of land, each, in Sierra Leone, on condition of relinquishing the land already in their possession in Nova Scotia. With this understanding they emigrated to Africa; but, in more than half a century which has since elapsed, the government has never found it convenient to fulfil its obligations. Only two or three acres have been assigned to each individual. Meantime, the body of emigrants has dwindled away, until the standard six feet of earth by two, the natural inheritance of every human being, has sufficed for almost all of them, as well as fifty, or five thousand acres could have done. These emigrants were the colonial slaves, who were taken or ran away from the United States, during the Revolutionary war. Considered physically and statistically, their movement was anything but an advantageous one. It would be matter of curious speculation to inquire into the relative proportions now alive, of slaves who remained upon our southern soil, and of these freed men, together with the amount of their posterity. Not, of course, that it has been in any degree a fair experiment as to the result of emancipating and colonizing slaves. The trial of that experiment has been left to America; and it has been commenced in a manner that might induce England to mistrust her own beneficence, when she contrasts Liberia with Sierra Leone.
This settlement has been known as "The White Man's Grave;" and it is certainly a beautiful spot for a grave—as lovely as one of those ornamental cemeteries, now so fashionable, and on which so much of our taste is lavished; as if only the dead had leisure for the enjoyment of shrubbery and sculpture. Sierra Leone, however, is by no means the fatal spot that it once was. Formerly, a governor was expected to die every year, although a few held the reins of power, and enjoyed the pomp and dignity of office, twice or even thrice that period. Brave and excellent men have accepted the station, on this fearful tenure. Among them was Colonel Denham, the adventurous traveller in Africa. Very great mortality likewise prevailed among the merchants, military and civil officers, and soldiers. This was partly owing to the recklessness of their mode of life. The rich were in the habit of giving champagne-breakfasts at noon, and heavy and luxurious suppers at night. The continual neighborhood and near prospect of death made them gaily desperate; so that they grew familiar with him, and regarded him almost as a boon companion. And, besides, in a sickly climate, each individual is confident of his own personal immunity against the disease which, he is ready to allow, may be fatal to those around him. I have noticed this absurd hallucination in others, and been conscious of it in myself. In battle it is the same—the bullet is expected to strike any and every breast, except one's own—and here, perhaps, is the great secret of courage.
Latterly, the Europeans at Sierra Leone practise a more temperate life. Another circumstance that has conduced to render the settlement less insalubrious, is the clearing of lands in the vicinity, and conversion of the rank jungle into cultivated fields. The good effect of this change will be readily appreciated by those who have noticed the improved health of our Western settlers, as the forest falls before the axe; or who have seen the difference between the inhabitants of old and new lands, in any country.
It is said, by the old residents here, that they do not find it very sickly, except once in seven years, when an epidemic rages, and carries off many settlers. This has happened regularly since 1823, until the present year, when, in the proper order of things, the angel of death should have re-appeared. Several persons provided for their safety by quitting the place; and others made their arrangement to retreat, on the first symptoms of danger. But the year, thus far, seems to have been distinguished by no peculiar mortality.
Life, in a climate like this, must generally be much more brief than in temperate regions, even if it do not yield at once to the violence of disease. Yet there are circumstances of Europeans attaining a good and green old age at Sierra Leone. Mr. Hornell, a Scotch merchant of great wealth and probity—which latter virtue is rare enough, in this quarter, to deserve special mention—has resided here fifteen years, and twenty-seven years in the West Indies. He lives regularly, but generously imbibing ale, and brandy-and-water, in moderate quantities, every day of his life.
The governor, Colonel George Macdonald, is now absent in England. In the interim, the duties of the office are performed by Dr. Fergusson, a mulatto in color, but born in Scotland, and married to a white lady, who now resides in that country. Dr. Fergusson was regularly educated at Edinburgh, and is a medical officer of the British army; a man of noble and commanding figure, handsome and intellectual countenance, and finished manners. He is affable, as well as dignified, in his deportment, and fluent and interesting in conversation. To him, and five or six other men of color, whom I have met on the coast, I should refer, as proofs that individuals of the African race may, with due advantages, be cultivated and refined so as to compare with the best specimens of white gentlemen.
There is a large church here, said to have cost seventy thousand pounds sterling; notwithstanding which vast expenditure, divine service has ceased to be performed. The last clergyman, a young man universally beloved and respected, lost his life, two or three years ago. He had gone with a party of friends, five in all, on board a homeward-bound vessel, which lay at a short distance from the shore. On their return the boat capsized and sunk. The five Kroomen saved themselves, by swimming, until picked up by a canoe; the five whites were lost; and the young clergyman among them. The latter swam well, and was almost within reach of a canoe, when he threw up his hands, exclaiming, "God have mercy on me!"—and disappeared. A shark had undoubtedly seized him, at the moment when he believed himself safe. This gentleman held the office of Queen's Chaplain; and since his melancholy fate, no new appointment of that nature has been made. If credit be due to the statements reciprocally made by the colonists, in reference to one another, there is great need of teachers to inculcate the principles of religion, morality, and brotherly love; although the spiritual instruction heretofore bestowed (which has cost large sums to the pious in England) has been almost entirely thrown away. There are some missionaries here, who have directed their labors principally to the business of education.
The tide runs so strongly, into and out of the river, that such accidents as that which befell the five Europeans, above-mentioned, are of no unfrequent occurrence. When boats or canoes are upset, it is impossible for the passengers to swim against the current. We had an instance of the danger, while at anchor there. The captain was seated in his cabin, with the stern windows open, when he heard a native in a canoe, under the stern, say "Man drown!" Being asked what he meant, he reiterated the words, pointing towards the sea. Just then, a cry was indistinctly heard. Two of our boats were instantly despatched, and picked up three Kroomen, whose canoe had sunk, leaving them to the mercy of the current, which was rapidly drifting them towards the ocean. The Humane Society of Sierra Leone bestows a reward for every person rescued from drowning. In this instance, of course, no claim was made upon their funds.
The currency here differs from that of all the other settlements on the coast, except those belonging to Great Britain. The Spanish and South American doubloons are valued at only sixty-four shillings sterling each, or fifteen dollars and thirty-six cents; while they are worth elsewhere, sixteen dollars. Spanish and South American dollars pass at about one per cent. discount. The English sovereign is reckoned at four dollars eighty cents; and the French five-franc piece at ninety-two cents. The gold and silver coin of the United States is not current at Sierra Leone. Bills on London, at thirty days sight, are worth from par to five per cent. premium, and may actually be sold in small sums (say, from £100 to £2000) at fair rates.
Pilotage is five shillings sterling per foot; and the port-charges are so exorbitant as to prevent the entrance of many vessels, which would otherwise stop to try the market. Of late years, the trade of Sierra Leone has suffered great diminution. Money having been lost on all the timber exported, that business is at present nearly abandoned. Another cause of decay is the withdrawal of the British squadron, which has now its principal rendezvous at Ascension. More than all, as contributing to the decline of the colony, the home-government has discontinued the greater part of the assistance formerly rendered. The governor, colonial secretary, and chief justice, are believed to be all the civil officers who now draw their salaries from England. The military force consists of a captain, five or six subalterns, and probably two or three hundred soldiers. In consequence of the failure of support from the mother-country, the colony has imposed higher duties upon certain articles, in order to try the experiment of raising a revenue from their own resources. The most sagacious and best informed residents predict that the result aimed at will not follow, and that three or four years will suffice to render the colony of Sierra Leone bankrupt.
Failure of the American Squadron to capture Slave-Vessels—Causes of that Failure—High character of the Commodore and Commander—Similar ill-success of the French Squadron—Success of the English, and why—Results effected by the American Squadron.
It will not have escaped the reader's notice, that the foregoing journal of our cruise records not the capture of a single slave-vessel, either by our own ship or any other belonging to the American squadron. Such is the fact, and such it must inevitably be, so long as the circumstances, which prevented our efficiency in that respect, shall continue to exist. The doctrines relative to the right of search, held by our Government and cordially sanctioned by the people, declare that the cruisers of no foreign nation have a right to search, visit, or in any way detain an American vessel on the high seas. Denying the privilege to others, we must of course allow the same inviolability to a foreign flag, as we assert for that of our own country. Hence, our national ships can detain or examine none but American vessels, or those which they find sailing under the American flag. But no slave-vessel would display this flag. The laws of the United States declare the slave-trade, if exercised by any of its citizens, to be piracy, and punishable with death; the laws of Spain, Portugal and Brazil, are believed to be different, or, at least, if they threaten the same penalty, are certain never to inflict it. Consequently, all slaves will be careful to sail under the flag of one of these latter nations, and thus avoid the danger of losing life as well as property, in the event of capture.
Undoubtedly, many American vessels have been sold to foreigners, by unprincipled citizens of our country, with a belief or full understanding that they were to be employed in this nefarious trade. In some instances, such vessels have been sold, with stipulations in the contract, binding the seller to deliver them at slave-stations on the coast of Africa; they have been sent out to those stations under American colors, and commanded by American captains; and there, being transferred to new masters, they have immediately taken on board their cargoes of human flesh. But how is an American cruiser to take hold of a vessel so circumstanced? On her departure from the United States, and until the transfer takes place, she is provided with regular papers, and probably sails for her destined port with a cargo which may be used in lawful, as well as unlawful trade. After the transfer, she appears under foreign colors, is furnished with foreign papers, commanded by a foreign master, and manned by a foreign crew. It is not to be presumed that this change of nationality will be effected in presence of one of our men-of-war. How then can such a vessel be taken or molested, so long as the present treaties and laws continue in force?
It is well that the public should be prepared for an inefficiency which can hardly fail to continue; and, in justice to the American squadron, it should be imputed to the true cause, and not to any lack of energy or good-will on the part of the officers. Whatever be their zeal (and hitherto they have been active and indefatigable), it is almost certain that their efforts will not be crowned with success, in the capture of a single prize. The Commodore, under whose general direction we have acted, is a gentleman of the highest professional character, persevering, sagacious, and determined, and well known as such, both in and out of the service. The commanders of the different vessels were likewise men of elevated character, zealous in performing their duty, and honorably ambitious of distinction. If the incentive of gain be reckoned stronger than considerations of duty and honor, it was not wanting; for, besides half the value of the vessel, each liberated slave would have been worth twenty-five dollars to the captors—a handsome amount of prize-money, in a cargo of six or eight hundred.
The French, like ourselves, having no reciprocal treaties with Spain, Portugal, and Brazil, are equally unsuccessful in making prizes. Eleven of their vessels of war were stationed on the coast, during the period of our cruise, but effected not a single capture. England, by virtue of her treaties with the three nations above mentioned, empowers her cruisers to take slave-vessels under either of their flags. Hence the success of the English commanders; a success which is sometimes tauntingly held up, in contrast with what is most unjustly termed the sluggishness of our own squadron.
Still, the presence of American national vessels, on the coast of Africa, has not been unattended with results that may partly compensate for the sacrifice of human life and health, which the climate renders inevitable. The trade of the United States has been protected. The natives have been taught, that the humblest American merchant-vessel sails under the shadow of a flag, which guarantees security to everything that it covers. The colonies of Liberia have been made more respectable in the eyes of the barbarian nations that surround them. This latter advantage it is creditable to our country to bestow; for the United States demand from Liberia no commercial exemptions, nor anything in return for the countenance which she lends to that growing commonwealth. Never before, perhaps, did a colony exist, so entirely free from vexatious interference on the part of the mother-country, and so carefully fostered by the benevolence that planted it. Slight as is the present political connection between the United States and Liberia, the latest advices inform us that it is in contemplation to sever the silken thread. The Colonization Society, I understand, is discussing the expediency of relinquishing its further control over the government, and allowing the infant colony to take a place among independent nations. Should this event come to pass, and Liberia either find the protection of another maritime power, or prove adequate to protect herself, there will be one reason the less for sending a squadron of gallant ships to chase shadows in a deadly climate.