Flora Louise Shaw Lugard.

A tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria online

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have been derived from sources similar to those that
furnished the religions of Phoenicia, Egypt, and Arabia,
seems gradually, at some very early period, to have pushed
fetishism southward before it, and to have held the
ground to the north until, in the four hundred years
between the tenth and the fourteenth centuries, Moham-
medanism was generally accepted along the northern
border. The higher form of paganism then suffered the
fate which it had itself inflicted upon fetishism. It was
driven south, and in turn drove fetishism farther before
it, until, as in the present day, the religions of West
Africa could almost be defined by latitudinal lines. If,
following the opinion quoted in the earlier portion of
this book from a distinguished French authority, we take
io° as the most southerly limit of Mohammedanism, and
give 7°, as I think we may be justified in doing, as the
farthest extension northwards of fetishism, we get three
degrees, from 7" to 10°, in which the higher forms of
paganism may be held still to prevail. As a matter of
fact, these latitudinal divisions will be proved to be too
arbitrary. M. de Lauture wrote upwards of half a century
ago, and Mohammedan influence has since his day extended
farther south. On the other hand, the higher paganism
also extends in places farther north than the limit which he
assigned. In the Nigerian Provinces of Zaria, Bautchi,
and Yola, through which the tenth parallel extremity
passes, but which extend to and even beyond 11°, many
tribes of pagans still exist. And I have little doubt that
the same observation would hold good in French territory
farther west, with which I am unacquainted.

The general drift, however, of the observation is, I
think, sound, and it is with this that we are for the


moment concerned. There have been evidently three
stages in the history of West Africa, to which three great
religious movements have corresponded. There was a first
and very early period of what I may call pure negroidism,
to which the religion of the fetish corresponded. During
this period pigmy races occupied the Middle Niger, and
fetish worship prevailed upon its banks. There was
a second period, still very early, of occupation by peoples
whose origin is variously stated to have been from
India, Babylon, Persia, ancient Egypt, and Phoenicia, and
with this occupation came a form of paganism of which
the rites, still practised, have points of similarity with what
we know of the worship of Astarte, Jupiter-Ammon, and
Isis. There was a third period of Arab influence and
subsequent conquest, of which the beginning may be
placed in the ninth or tenth century of our era, that was
accompanied by the spread of the Mohammedan religion.
The Soudan, under the higher form of paganism, attained,
as its parent nations in the north and east had attained,
to a relatively high stage of civilisation. Indeed, the
Fulani conquerors of Haussaland in the nineteenth cen-
tury put forward the unfounded claim that, up to the
period of their conquest, Mohammedanism was scarcely
known in the great cities of the Haussa States. This, as
has been shown in the chapters upon Haussaland, was
not the case, but undoubtedly paganism of the finer type
continued to flourish for a long period, and is now, after
a thousand years of Mohammedanism, still to be met with
side by side with the faith of Islam. The difference
between these two was not so great as the difference
between paganism and fetishism. It was fetishism, and
fetishism only, which was banished with the lower negroid
races to the jungle belt of the coast.

These considerations of the general movement of
civilisation in West Africa bring us to an important
development in its history. The first chapter of European
settlement in the country was opened at a critical moment.
During the latter half of the fifteenth century, while the


Turks were pressing upon Eastern Europe and interfering
with all the old routes of the Indian and Chinese trade,
the Portuguese, in their capacity of an Atlantic people,
were making courageous efforts to find another and a
safer road by sea to the Eastern markets. Already, as
has been seen, they had crept round the shoulder of the
African coast, and had made a few cautious settlements
upon its shores. In 1497 ^^^Y attained the object of
their desire, and Vasco da Gama doubled the Cape of
Good Hope. The date of the expulsion of the Moors
from Spain was 1502. Thus, within five years of each
other, there happened two events which profoundly in-
fluenced the history of the Soudan. The expulsion of
the Moors, followed during the sixteenth century by
the wars of Charles V. and his successors against
Mohammedanism upon the Mediterranean coasts, closed
the old means of approach by land to the territories of the
finer races of the Soudan. The discovery of the passage
of the Cape of Good Hope opened at the same moment
new means of approach by sea. It diverted the whole
stream of European intercourse with the far East, and
as the caravan trade of Egypt, Persia, and Arabia sank
into insignificance, the maritime trade of the Atlantic rose
in importance. The Atlantic Ocean became a highway
of the world, and while, all unaware of the change, the
peoples of the interior continued to look vainly towards
the closed avenues of the north — the west coast of
Africa fronting on the Atlantic began to face no longer
north but south to civilisation. The sea was open to
all who had ships to sail upon it. Thus, when Europe
approached West Africa, it was upon the coast that her
adventurers landed. It was with coast natives that she
had to deal — natives who had from time immemorial
been enslaved — and it was in the coast climate that her
settlements were made. The coast belt was too broad
for her to traverse. Its inhabitants were savage, its
climate was deadly, its jungle impenetrable without the
auxiHary force of steam. For upwards of 400 years


Europe held the coast. Slaves were hunted for her in
the far interior. Ivory was shot for her, gold was washed
for her; but Europe herself, the civilisation, the order,
the justice for which her name now stands, penetrated
no farther than perhaps twenty miles inland.

Thus not only did the finer races of the Soudan lose
touch with the civilised world, but the civilised world
lost also touch with them. Their records were preserved
by Arab writers, and modern Europe, in its religious
fervour, had banished Arabic from its literature. The
traditions of intercourse with the Soudan had been all
traditions of Saracen Egypt and of Moorish Spain.
Turks had destroyed the one, Ferdinand the Catholic
had obliterated the other. By the end of the sixteenth
century the mystery of Africa had closed round these
ancient races, and they were lost to history for a period
that was to last three hundred years.



The first chapters of European intercourse with the
West Coast of Africa are not chapters of which we
have any reason to be proud. I do not propose to
relate in detail the history of early European settlement
upon the coast, but the relations of civilisation with the
natives had certain general characteristics which it is
necessary very briefly to indicate. They cannot, how-
ever, be fairly indicated without a constant recollection
of the fact that the races with whom Europe had now
to deal were not those fine races of the northern terri-
tories known to ancient historians as Nigritia, but the
generally negroid inhabitants of that strip which was
for a long time included under the appellation of the
Guinea Coast. Barbot, a Frenchman, who traded with
West Africa in various capacities for upwards of twenty
years towards the end of the seventeenth century, and
who, writing both in French and English, is perhaps to
be counted as the best and most voluminous historian of
the coast, defines Nigritia as extending northward from
8° to 23°, and Guinea as extending southwards from
8° to the coast. The history of European settlement
deals exclusively with the southern strip.

The progress of the Reformation in Europe through-
out the sixteenth century tended to deprive Papal decrees
of the authority which once attached to them, and
throughout that and the succeeding century the nations
of the Atlantic coast competed eagerly with each other
for a share of the newly-opened African trade. With
the exception of France, where, however, a great in-


dustrial population professed the Protestant faith, the
countries which contested with Portugal the validity of
the papal gift to her of all countries which she might
discover to the east of the Azores, were of the Reformed
religion. France justified herself, perhaps, by the argu-
ment that she had prior claims, for it is stoutly asserted
on her behalf, and the claim is admitted by some foreign
writers, that during the fourteenth century, and before the
approach of the Portuguese, French adventurers had dis-
covered and French companies had traded with the West
Coast of Africa. Such trade had not, however, according
to the accounts which are given of it, proved successful,
and all traces of French occupation had disappeared
before the Portuguese discoverers of the middle of the
fifteenth century made Europe acquainted with the coast.

Whatever may be the truth of this story, France
was among the earliest and the most successful of the
competitors of the Portuguese upon the coast. She
was very shortly followed by the English, Dutch, Danes,
and Prussians. The first Portuguese company was
formed in 1444 for the purpose of exploring the coast,
and it initiated the European trade in slaves by sea.
Both Spain and Portugal had long been supplied with
slaves from the Soudan by land.

Spain, having its hands full elsewhere, willingly entered
into an agreement with Portugal not to interfere with its
possessions in Africa. Towards the end of the fifteenth
century the King of Portugal formed a Guinea Com-
pany, and caused forts to be built at Accra, Axim, El-
mina, and at other places up and down the coast. The
Governor-General of these forts resided at Elmina.
No attempt was made or could be made to penetrate
inland, the natives being barbarous, and most of the
way being, as Barbot tells us, "through vast, thick
forests, swarming with robbers and wild beasts." This
part of the coast, now known as the Gold Coast, was
the best part of the coast for gold, and though inland
wars often spoilt the trade, the position of Governor


at Elmina was regarded as one in which a European
could speedily accumulate vast wealth. It was as a
rule bestowed upon some king's favourite, and by the
gradual operation of this system the garrison, we are
told, came to be commonly comprised of "lewd and de-
bauched persons," intent on making speedy fortunes.
The Portuguese Government also used the West Coast
from a very early period as a place of deportation for
convicts. No wonder, therefore, says Barbot, " that the
histories of those times give an account of unparalleled
violences and inhumanities committed there by those
insatiable Portuguese."

Barbot does not over-estimate the character of the
blacks with whom the Portuguese had to deal. " They
are," he says, "generally extremely sensual, knavish,
revengeful, impudent liars, impertinent, gluttonous, ex-
travagant in their expressions, and giving ill language,
luxurious beyond expression, and so intemperate that they
drink brandy as if it were water, deceitful in their dealings
with Europeans and no less with their own neighbours,
even to the selling of one another for slaves if they have
an opportunity, and, as has been hinted before, so very
lazy that rather than work for their living they will rob
and commit murders on the highways and in the woods
and deserts. ... It is very dangerous travelling in that
country. . . . They are so very dexterous and expert at
stealing that the ancient Lacedaemonians might have learnt
from them the art." Nevertheless this certainly open-
minded judge thought that the Portuguese treated them
too badly for human nature of any sort to endure.

In 1587 the blacks rose against the barbarities of the
Portuguese, surprised the fort of Accra, and razed it to
the ground. The French, who had as yet only a very
slight footing upon the Guinea Coast, seized the occasion
for intervention, made the most of their opportunities,
and from that date the power of the Portuguese declined.
The French Senegal Company established itself success-
fully upon the Senegal, and became in the course of the


following century the principal French company in West
Africa. A French West India Company also traded to
the Slave and Ivory Coast, and the French company
on the Senegal established the tradition, well maintained
by Frenchmen in later years, of pressing further than
other Europeans into the interior. They did not, how-
ever, accomplish anything which amounted to real com-
munication with Nigritia. All that was known of the
inland country were vague rumours of Arabs and white
people riding upon mules and asses, and living in great
state at Timbuctoo and the richer of its sister cities. The
accounts of Leo Africanus and of Marmol were both, we
must remember, published during the sixteenth century.
Imperfect as they are, they represent a certain amount
of information about the interior which, though it was
not gained from the coast, must have been presumably
in the possession of all persons interested in the coast.
Some knowledge of the internal country was, of course,
felt to be very desirable, but writing at the end of the
seventeenth century, a hundred years or more after the
appearance of the latest of these publications, Barbot
explicitly states that " none of the Europeans living along
the coast have ever ventured far up the land, it being
extraordinarily difficult and dangerous, if not altogether
impossible, for Europeans to venture so far into such
wild and savage countries."

The Dutch very rapidly followed in the footsteps of
the French. The first Dutch venture was conducted by
a man of the name of Ericks in 1595. The natives, liking
his goods, became more and more restive under Portuguese
exactions, and another rising in the year 1600 practically
confined Portuguese authority within the walls of their
forts. The native chiefs entered into treaties with the
Dutch, and in 1624 allowed them to build forts at Moree
and Cape Coast. This transaction was made with the
Dutch Government, but the forts afterwards passed into
the possession of the Dutch West India Company. The
Portuguese bitterly accused the Dutch of obtaining their


inrtuence over the nations "more by wine and strong
liquors than by force of arms," and even here, on the
West Coast of Africa, we get the echo of the reHgious
controversies which were raging so furiously in the
countries at that time engaged in the Thirty Years'
War. The Portuguese had consistently sent many
Catholic missionaries among the natives of the coast,
and then, as now, commerce and conversion went hand
in hand. But the blacks, we are told by Portuguese
writers, " being a barbarous people, readily enough
swallowed Calvin's poison spread among them, inter-
mixed with merchandise."

It was not long before this attitude of mutual detesta-
tion broke out into open war, and on August 29, 1637,
the Dutch possessed themselves of the fort of Elmina.
From this period the Portuguese were gradually driven
from the trade. The Dutch took Axim from them in
1642, and by the end of the century there was only one
Portuguese fort left upon the coast. In 1664, on the
outbreak of the Dutch war, the English took from the
Dutch the fort known now as Cape Coast Castle, with
many others. But during the continuation of hostilities,
the Dutch under De Ruyter fully revenged themselves,
and took all the principal English stations upon the coast,
besides recovering their own, with the single exception
of Cape Coast Castle. The peace which shortly followed
left the Dutch in a very strong position on the coast,
where they erected a chain of forts, and, as was the
uniform outcome of all operations, "used the natives with
great severity." The influence of every European war
was, of course, felt upon the coast. As the successes of
the Dutch under De Ruyter threatened in 1665 to destroy
the English settlement's, so in 1677 the French were for
a time predominant, and captured all the more important
Dutch settlements. Under the Treaty of Nimeguen in
1678 these were, however, given back to Holland.

Denmark and the Electorate of Brandenburgh, two
small but also Protestant powers, had their share in the


coast trade, and, making friends with the blacks at two
or three points of the coast, built forts from which they
traded. These were commercial settlements of no great
importance, whose local representatives won small respect
for themselves upon the coast, and they were at a later
period bought out by the English.

The rise of English trade followed close upon the
heels of the Dutch. It may perhaps be said to have
begun with the famous slave-raiding expeditions of
which Hawkins relates the details without any shame,
and of which Queen Elizabeth was not too proud to
share the profit.

Hakluyt, in describing the initiation of the English
trade, shows clearly enough in what good esteem it was
held. "Master John Hawkins," he tells us, "having
made divers voyages to the Isles of the Canaries, and
there by his good and upright dealing being grown in
love and favour with the people, informed himself . . .
that negroes were very good merchandise in Hispaniola,
and that store of negroes might easily be had upon the
coast of Guinea." He accordingly "resolved with him-
self to make trial thereof, and communicated that devise
with his worshipful friends of London, namely, with Sir
Lionel Ducket, Sir Thomas Lodge, Mr. Gunson, his
father-in-law, Sir William Winter, Mr. Bromfield, and
others. All which persons liked so well of his intention
that they became liberal contributors and adventurers in
the action. For which purpose there were three good
ships immediately provided." These good ships sailed
under Hawkins' command in October of 1562, touching
at Sierra Leone, where Hawkins " stayed some good
time, and got into his possession, partly by the sword
and partly by other means, to the number of 300 negroes
at the least. With this praye he sailed over the ocean
sea to the island of Hispaniola." His venture proved
so profitable that, in addition to lading his own ships,
he laded two other hulks with hides, sugars, ginger,
pearls, and other commodities of the islands, " So with


prosperous success, and much gayne to himself and the
aforesaid adventurers, he came home, and arrived in the
month of September 1563."

The names quoted by Hakluyt are evidently names
to be respected, yet the account given by Hawkins
himself of his methods in a subsequent expedition of
1567 differs in nothing from the accounts given by eye-
witnesses of Arab slave-raids of the present day. He
not only traded, he raided, " There came to us," he
says, "a negro sent from a king oppressed by other
kings, his neighbours, desiring our aide, with promise
that as many negroes as by these warres might be
obtained, as well of his part as of ours, should be at
our pleasure." As a result, " I went myselfe, and with
the helpe of the king of our side assaulted the towne
both by land and sea, and very hardly with fire (their
houses being covered with dry palm leaves) obtained
the towne and put the inhabitants to flight, where we
took 250 persons, men, women, and children ; and by
our friend, the king of our side, there were taken 600
prisoners, whereof we hoped to have had our choise,
but the negro (in which nation is seldom or never
found truth) meant nothing lesse." The negro king
decamped in the night with his prisoners, and Hawkins
was left with the "few which we had gotten ourselves."
It is interesting to observe, in Hawkins' letters describ-
ing these and other expeditions, the perfect reliance of
the mariners upon the Almighty to be on their side,
and to bring them out of all their dangers with "good
store of negroes " for sale. On one occasion they were
becalmed for eighteen days, and in great danger of death
from starvation, having so great a company of negroes
on board; but "Almighty God, who never suffereth His
elect to perish," sent, we are told, a special wind to
carry the slave-raiders safe to their destination, and
when they reached it they obtained licence to sell their
cargo on the ground that their vessel was "a shippe of
the Queen's Majestie of England," and that the cargo


"pertained to our Queen's Highnesse." Church and
State watched over their operations, and they worked
in an odour of the highest sanctity.

Another famous English sailor, Drake, who as a
young man accompanied Hawkins on one of his earlier
expeditions to the coast, was more humane or more
fastidious in his tastes than his great leader, for after
one experience he never again went slave-raiding.

Except for a patent granted in 1588 to Exeter
merchants, the English trade was left during the reign
of Queen Elizabeth in the hands of individuals. The
first charter to an English company for the purpose of
trading to the coast was granted by King James in
1619. The charter was supposed to convey exclusive
rights, but the private merchants who were already
interested continued, in spite of regulations, to trade on
their own account, and with many complaints of the
" interlopers " who robbed them of their profits, the
Chartered Company acknowledged its failure and with-
drew. The Dutch West India Company, being either
better organised or more vigorous in holding its own
against "interlopers," from whom it also suffered, in the
meantime pursued with success its design of supplement-
ing the Portuguese, and became a very important power
upon the coast. Charles I. granted a fresh charter to
another English company. But England was shortly
afterwards distracted with civil and foreign war, and
this company had no better fortune. The Dutch and
the Danes profited by the opportunity to push their
West African trade. They not only increased the
number of their forts and settlements, but being well
supported by their respective Governments, and pro-
tected by what was then the best navy in the world,
they seized English merchant ships, and inflicted damage
to an extent afterwards estimated at ^300,000.

The Chartered Company being of course ruined, a
petition was presented to Parliament shortly after the
restoration of Charles II., which stated the condition of


affairs. At the same time it was represented by Ministers
to the King that his American Colonies were languish-
ing for want of labour. The King himself, therefore,
"for the purpose," as a contemporary account informs
us, "of supplying those plantations with blacks," publicly
invited subscriptions for the formation of a joint-stock
company, of which the object was to be the recovery
and carrying on of the trade to Africa. The new
company was formed under the title of " the Royal
Adventurers of England," and received a charter in
1662. But it had no better luck than its predecessors.
War broke out with Holland in 1664. It was during
this war that the Dutch Admiral de Ruyter swept the
African coast, ravaged the English settlements, destroyed
their factories, containing goods valued at ^200,000,
and took their ships. The fort known now as Cape
Coast Castle, taken by the English from the Dutch,
was alone, as has been said, successfully held, and
remained in English hands on the conclusion of the
peace. This was the third Chartered Company ruined
in the West African trade.

On the conclusion of the war. King Charles again
invited subscriptions for the formation of a new company.
His appeal was responded to, and in 1672 a company,
of which the name and fame have lingered in the
history of English trade, was formed under the title
of "the Royal African Company."

Where so many others had been foiled this company
at last succeeded, and the permanent establishment of
English influence on the West African coast was
effected by it in the latter part of the seventeenth
century. The new company opened and developed a

Online LibraryFlora Louise Shaw LugardA tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria → online text (page 26 of 41)