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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danger, which had to be conducted at the personal risk
of the leaders whose services were secured to command

It was in 1884 that Mr. Joseph Thomson was com-
missioned to negotiate the first treaty of the Company
with Sokoto. In 1894 my husband, then Captain Lugard,
made his first experience of West Africa by conducting
an expedition into Borgu, and negotiated the last treaties
of the Company upon that frontier.

In the ten years which elapsed between these two
expeditions, the action of the Company in the interior
led to the further declaration of a British Protectorate
over territories lying on the Middle Niger, and to the
definition by successive international agreements of British
frontiers round a territory covering an area of about
500,000 square miles, of which a considerable part was
situated in some of the richest, most healthy, and most
thickly populated regions of Western Africa.

The most important of these agreements were those
with Germany of 1886 and 1893, ^^^ ^^^^ '^^ 1890 with
France, to be followed a few years later by the agreement
of 1898.

By the German agreements the eastern frontier of the
territory was defined from the coast to the borders of
Lake Chad. By the first of the French agreements the
northern frontier, separating British territory from the
southern extension of the French hinterland of Algeria, was
fixed at a line of some 800 miles in length, to be drawn,
with the necessary deviations for local political boundaries,
near to the fourteenth parallel of latitude, and continued
from a point upon the western shore of Chad to another
selected point upon the Niger. The points chosen were
Barrua upon Lake Chad, and Say upon the Niger, but
these were altered by subsequent modifications. This
line, when the details of its delimitation are finally fixed,
will form the northern frontier of Nigeria. It runs now
from Ilo on the Niger, and making a curve northward


to include the territories of Sokoto, is deflected to the
western shore of Chad, With the frontiers fixed by
the Anglo-German agreement of 1893 it determined in
principle the boundaries of British territories to the
north and east. In addition to the ao-reements refer-
ring to these frontiers, there were some other minor
agreements with France and Germany, by which various
details relating chiefly to the inland development of
other West Coast colonies were determined.

The five years from 1893 to 1898 were marked by a
tension on both sides of the then undetermined frontier
on the west, which threatened at times to break out
into open hostility. National interests, as well as per-
sonal honour, were held by local representatives to be
involved in the maintenance of a forward movement
which was, perhaps, to be excused if it sometimes dis-
regarded lines of latitude and longitude too pedantically
laid down by the distant Foreign Offices of London,
Paris, and Berlin. In 1893 France formally assumed
the Protectorate of Dahomey, a native kingdom bor-
dering upon the English colony of Lagos upon the
coast, and carried her inland frontier to the parallel of
9° N. latitude. Numerous French expeditions were then
pushed into the territory extending towards the Niger,
directly south of the point which had been chosen at
Say for the terminus of the northern frontier line of
British Nigeria.

The contention of the Royal Niger Company was
that the effect of the Anglo-French agreement of 1890,
which drew the Say-Barrua line, was to give to France
everything which lay north of that line, and to give to
Great Britain everything which lay south of it, with the
exception of the French territory of Dahomey, for which
special arrangement had been made. Under this con-
tention the meridian of Say became automatically the
western frontier of British Nigeria, and gave the native
kingdom of Borgu and part of Gurma, lying on the
western bank of the river Niger, to Great Britain. It


was of great importance to British trade that both banks
of the river should be British, and the Niger Company
had not neglected to affirm the position assigned to it
under the agreement by negotiating treaties of commerce
and protection with the trans-riverine potentates. French
diplomacy denied the British contention, and French
officers on the spot, gallantly acting upon, or exceeding,
their instructions, endeavoured to create an aro-ument of
the fait accompli by the negotiation of treaties with native
chiefs, whose powers they asserted to be greater than
those of the chiefs with whom the British treaties had
been signed.

The Borgu chief, with whom the Niger Company
negotiated the principal treaty on the western side of
the river, had his headquarters at Boussa. French
authorities asserted that he was the vassal of another
and more important chief, who had his residence at
Nikki, a town lying in the back country of Dahomey,
farther west. By the middle of 1894 it came to be
generally understood that the possession of the provinces
lying on the western bank of the river was to be deter-
mined by the negotiation of a treaty with Nikki. On
the 24th of July a strong French expedition under
Captain Decoeur suddenly left France for Dahomey.
Dahomey was favourably situated for penetrating into
the territory in dispute. M. Ballot, the Governor, had
already pushed a friendly reconnaissance to the borders
of Borgu, only fiifty miles from Nikki. The Niger
Company could ' not mistake the intention of Captain
Decoeur's mission. Four days later, on July 28, Captain
Lugard, fresh from a long struggle to assert British
supremacy in East Africa, left London, having accepted
a mission on behalf of the Company to reach Nikki,
if possible, before Captain Decoeur, and to negotiate a

Throughout the progress of these discussions, Ger-
many, who held the territory of Togoland, adjoining
the French colony of Dahomey upon the coast, had not


been indifferent to the extension of its own back country,
and the condition of affairs in Borgu was described at
the time in the French press as a "veritable steeple-
chase, to which France, England, and Germany are
devoting themselves, in order to gain that part of the
'Bend of the Niger' which impinges on the lower river."
In this steeplechase the, till then, unknown town of Nikki
had become the winning-post. The odds were against
Captain Lugard. He had started later than Captain
Decoeur. He had to go round through the Niger
Company's territories, which involved ascending the river
to Jebba, situated in latitude 9.10°, and marching thence
some 200 miles westwards throuofh the unsettled terri-
tory of Borgu, whence it was the boast of the natives
that no white man had ever come out alive. It was
essential also that the expedition should be proceeded
with at once in the season of the rains, when every
natural difficulty was increased. This is not the place
in which to recount the adventures of the expedition.
African experience served its leader in good stead. He
reached Nikki with his little escort of forty men, and
successfully negotiated the required treaty, w^hich was
signed on November loth. Five days later, Captain
Decoeur arrived with a force of 500 Senegalese, only
to hear that Captain Lugard had already left the town,
taking with him the British treaty duly signed. Other
treaties, securing the northern territory behind Lagos,
had been negotiated for Great Britain on the way to
Nikki, and passing southwards, the British expedition
on the return journey concluded treaties with the frontier
chiefs of Northern Yoruba. The British position was thus
secured upon the western bank of the Middle Niger.

Captain Decoeur loyally acknowledged his defeat. It
was not accepted in the same spirit by other represen-
tatives of French interests, and during the two following
years there was a further development of semi-responsible
expeditionary activity, of which the manifest dangers
could not be ignored.


The hazardous nature of the position thus created
led, in the year 1897, to a decision on the part of
the British Government to raise a local military force,
of which the primary duty should be the defence, under
proper control, of the inland frontiers of the British
settlements. It was decided to raise this regiment, which
was to be known as the West African Frontier F"orce,
from native Haussa material, to be officered by picked
white officers selected from the regular army for the
purpose. In addition to the duty of defending the
frontier, the force was to be available for all local
military service in West Africa,

The duty of raising and organising this frontier force
was entrusted to Captain, or, as he shortly became,
Lieut.-Colonel Lugard, who was recalled from private
work in South Africa for the purpose. Among the
officers selected by Colonel Lugard to help him in the
work, was Major, now Sir James Willcocks, by whom,
as well as by other members of the first English staff,
he was most loyally assisted.

It was thought desirable, chiefly for military reasons,
to fix the headquarters of the force at Jebba, a point
upon the Niger nearly 500 miles inland. The regiment,
of which the formation was successfully accomplished,
under conditions not likely to be forgotten by any of
the officers who were engaged in it, has since then
done conspicuous honour to its founders in the Ashantee
War of 1900, as well as in many local campaigns. Its
strength, first fixed at two battalions of infantry, each 1 200
strong, and three batteries of artillery, has since been
increased by the addition of a battalion of mounted
infantry 700 strong.

The strained situation was fortunately not prolonged.
In June of the following year the Anglo-French agree-
ment of 1898, perhaps the most important of all the
international agreements by which the position taken
for Great Britain by the Niger Company was affirmed,
happily brought to an end the ambiguities of the political


situation. By this agreement, which gave to France the
back country of the colony of Dahomey, and accepted
a point near Ilo instead of Say as the point of separa-
tion between French and EngHsh spheres upon the
Middle Niger, the western frontier of Nigeria was fixed
at its present limits. These include, on the western
bank of the Niger, the eastern half of Borgu, and carry
the British frontier from the junction between Lagos
and Dahomey to join the northern line at its terminus
upon the Middle Niger.

The formation of a new military force at public
expense, designed chiefly for local service in the interior,
was not only an indication of the very remarkable
change in public opinion, which, contemporaneously with
the movements in Nigeria, operated to bring about a
gradual enlargement and expansion towards the interior
of the territories of the other West Coast colonies ; it
also indicated approaching change in the government
of the territories of the Niger Company.

During the whole of the period which elapsed
between the grant of the charter of the Royal Niger
Company and the formation of the West African
Frontier Force, the Company had carried on the fight
for British extension in the interior on the gallant but
unequal terms of a private corporation contending with
two foreign Governments. In the events which pre-
ceded the agreement of 1898, when officially organised
French expeditions were directed against the territories
secured by treaty to the Company, and a French gun-
boat did not scruple, in the excitement of local rivalry,
to enter the waters of the river which were open by
international agreement to merchant vessels alone, it
became evident that a stage had been reached in which
the adventurous energy of a trading company, however
well directed, could no longer suffice for the efficient
protection and necessary development of the territories
which had been brought under British rule.

Obviously it was undesirable that territories, of which


the defence was provided at public expense, should be
administered at private discretion. The Company had
not, of course, attained the accomplishment of its ambi-
tions without exciting many jealousies, and giving rise
to widespread criticism at home and abroad. By foreign
Powers its too successful methods were made the object
of vituperative campaigns in the press, and of more dis-
creet but not less urgent diplomatic remonstrance in the
Cabinet. At home complaints were frequent that the
concentration of administrative and commercial powers in
the same hands gave advantages to the Niger Company
over its commercial rivals which amounted to a virtual
monopoly of trade which was nominally free. An internal
campaign against the Mohammedan chiefs of Nupe and
Ilorin, which was forced upon the Company in the
opening months of 1897, successfully executed as it
was, had also served to give some indication in respon-
sible quarters of the probable development of adminis-
trative difficulties on an increasing scale, as soon as
any serious attempt should be made to establish white
authority, for practical purposes, over vast territories
where the thorny questions which mark the difference
between civilised and semi-civilised administration were
as yet untouched.

For these and other reasons it was recognised that
the pioneer work of acquisition had been accomplished,
and that the time had come, more swiftly than in the
case of other great British companies, on whose prece-
dent the Niger Company had been founded, to abolish
a charter which had served its purpose, and to incor-
porate the territories acquired by the Company with the
other colonies and dependencies of the Empire. The
charter of the Company was surrendered to the Crown.
Its territories were divided : the lower reaches of the
river south of Ida being included, under the name of
Southern Nigeria, with the Protectorate of the Oil Rivers,
extending from the colony of Lagos to the German
frontier ; while the interior cut off from the sea was


erected, under the name of Northern Nigeria, into a
separate Protectorate. The transfer of authority from
the Company to the Imperial Government took place
on Januar}' ist, 1900. on which day Colonel Lugard
assumed office as the first High Commissioner of
Northern Nigeria.

In summing up the service rendered to the Empire
by the Company, it will hardly be disputed that by the
ability, the foresight, and the activity of a single man,
who in the first instance united, and subsequently for
twenty years directed with laborious care, the principal
British interests upon the Niger, a territory- was added
to the British Empire, and a field secured for all time
to British trade, which, without his personal exertions,
would assuredly have passed into the possession of
France and Germany. In the execution of his work
Sir George Goldie was very loyally supported by the
shareholders of the Royal Niger Company ; but it was
by his personal qualities that he won and retained the
confidence of those whose interests he took into his
charge, and it was by his personal perception of the
opportunities inherent to the situation that he was able
to use the force acquired by that confidence for great
purposes of public utility.

The commercial success of the Company is some-
times quoted in disparagement of the merit of its public
service ; but that its Governor was able, without injustice
to private interests, to carry out the important scheme
of policy in which they were involved, gave, in fact, a
substantial value to his work, which no mere reckless-
ness of political annexation, however generous, would
have possessed. When the relative positions of France
and England were finally adjusted in 189S, British in-
terests had been created in the interior, which it was
impossible for either government to ignore. The
enlightened view that the prosperity of coast trade
depended on the extension of civilised relations to the
interior, which led to the expansion of the sphere of


operations of the Niger Company, has been illustrated,
not only by the commercial success of that Company,
but by the remarkable development in the prosperity
of all the coast colonies which has followed upon the
extension of their protected areas towards the interior,
and the greater security which the establishment of
British administration has carried with it.

In acting as the pioneer of this policy for Great
Britain, Sir George Goldie was in part the originator,
in part the interpreter, of the great change which had
come over modern sentiment. He was not alone in
desiring to reverse the policy of abandonment dictated
by a sentiment of distaste and discouragement, which
amounted almost to public remorse. Other nations, as
we have seen, were quicker than Great Britain to per-
ceive that the true solution of the problem of European
relations with uncivilised Africa lay in accepting, not
in abandoning, the responsibilities of civilised adminis-
tration. Many influences were at work to foster and
to direct the forward movement, which, not in West
Africa alone, but on every frontier of the Empire, took
the place, during the last quarter of the nineteenth
century, of the concentrating and restrictive tendencies
of an earlier period. What Sir George Goldie did
was that which has been done by all original and
successful workers. He gave personality to a great
idea, and by the exercise of qualities which belonged
to himself alone he was able to bring his interpreta-
tion of the idea to a distinguished practical success.
In doing so he added to the Empire a territory of
which the area is no less than half the size of British
India, and for this service his name will deservedly
be ranked among the unforgotten names of English



It was a necessity of commercial success, and there-
fore of existence to the Company, that the greater part
of its practical work should be done upon the lower
reaches of the river. The waterways of this part of
Africa, as they approach the coast, pass through a
forest belt rich in valuable forms of sylvan produce.
Palm oil and palm kernels, which form one of the most
important staples of West African trade, are obtained
in such quantities from the palm trees of this belt that
the strip of coast through which the rivers of the dis-
trict flow to the sea was for a long time known by
the name of the "Oil Rivers" Protectorate. Little
industry or ingenuity is required on the part of the
natives in order to collect the wild products of the
forest, which they are willing to exchange for European
goods, and the mere numbers of the population, in con-
junction with the fertility of the soil, constitute the ele-
ments of a valuable export trade. The primitive nature
of the needs of the natives unfortunately gave to the
return trade from Europe the low character which it
has always borne.

The Niger Company was so situated as to have no
coast area beyond the main mouth of the Niger, and
a small portion of the delta which attached to it. Its
sphere of commercial activity lay in the valley of the
river. Here, for upwards of 150 miles, the banks on
both sides served as frontage to numerous tribes whose

back country extended into the network of lesser water-



ways which irrigate the forest area of the coast. It
was with these tribes that the main trade of the Com-
pany was done, and for the protection of this trade
that its treaties were in the first instance negotiated.

Coincidently with the growth of trade it was found
necessary to establish some form of political control,
and as the operations of Mohammedan slave-raiders
from the north, year by year, extended the circle of
their devastation, and destroyed flourishing markets by
the wholesale depopulation of areas in which they
were situated, the further necessity was forced upon the
Company of giving some form of military protection
to threatened districts. For this purpose a constabu-
lary was formed, and military outposts were advanced to
Lokoja, at the confluence of the Niger and the Benue.
Trading stations under the protection of Lokoja were sub-
sequently established upon the Lower Benu6 and upon
the Niger between the Boussa Rapids and Lokoja.

The ninth parallel of latitude may be taken as the
farthest northerly extension reached by the outposts of
the Company, and the Company's stations upon the
rivers east and west from the confluence marked the
meeting ground of the pagan states they desired to
protect, and the militant Mohammedan civilisation of
the north.

The great difference which existed between this
civilisation and the primitive condition of the peoples of
the lower river will have been gathered from what has
been already written in the earlier sections of this book.
The difference from the point of view of European trade
was no less marked than from the more general point of
view of political history. The Governors of the Company
had always expressed the opinion that ultimately their
most valuable trade would be done with the northern
territories. In a speech made by the Governor at the
annual meeting of 1889 he informed the shareholders
that, after long and persistent research, palm oil and
kernels appeared to form the only considerable resources


of the maritime districts, and that the Directors felt
that the "ultimate and permanent prosperity of the
territories must depend still more on a widely spread
and properly directed culture of indigo, tobacco, cotton,
and other products," which were grown in the interior.
The trade with the south was prosperous ; but, while the
Company did its principal work on the coast, it looked
forward to opening the northern territories.

"We can hardly impress too strongly on our share-
holders," the Governor said in the same speech of 1889,
" the fact that our hopes of future prosperity rest far
less on the lower regions of the Niger . . . than upon the
higher and inner and recently explored regions acquired
at great expense of money and of energy." Throughout
the political life of the Company this view was constantly
impressed upon the shareholders, and at a very early
period the Company marked, in a manner which did
credit alike to its foresight and its enlightenment, its
perception of the difference between the two divisions of
its territories. The consumption of liquor by the pagan
natives of the coast has been, through the whole period
of European intercourse with them, a hardly less prolific
source of demoralisation than the slave trade itself. In
the lower river the Company yielded to circumstances,
and cheap European spirits formed one of the principal
articles of importation for purposes of the barter trade.
But among the Mohammedan peoples of the north
the use of alcoholic liquor is forbidden by their religion,
and in 1887, before prohibition within certain latitudes
became general under the rules agreed to by the Brussels
Conference, the Niger Company, desirous of defending
the markets of the interior from the invasion of this
curse, fixed a line at the back of its coast territories
beyond which it absolutely forbade the importation of

But though the trade of the northern territories was
regarded from the beginning as likely to prove beyond
all comparison more valuable than that of the lower


river, it was, from artificial as well as from natural
causes, more difficult to attract into British channels, it
was, of course, of a very different order from that of
the south. Indigo, cotton, and tobacco, as well as other
exports of the northern territories, are products of
organised industry which, unlike the native products of
the palm - oil belt, demand the employment of regular
labour. Conditions of peace and security are as necessary
for their production as for the development of sustained
trade relations. The slave- raiding operations of the
Mohammedan rulers were undertaken for the purpose
of obtaining labour. But, while the industrial system
was based on slavery, the ceaseless disturbance to which
slave-raiding gave rise, coupled with political conditions
of civil war and the exactions of a practically uncurbed
foreign tyranny, of which some account has yet to be
given, operated to prevent the prosperous development
of all industry. In addition to these disturbed conditions,

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 29 of 41)