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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institutions were in active existence ; other states conquered
by the Fulani and nominally under Fulani rule, where
taxes and Mohammedan institutions were imposed in


different degree according to the amount of real authority
exercised by the conqueror ; and states which, from vary-
ing causes, were wholly independent. These last were
either states which had succeeded in always defending
their independence, and were ruled over by responsible
native rulers of their own race, such as Boussa, Kiania,
Argungu, &c., or Haussa and pagan communities which,
having been once under Fulani rule, had succeeded in
throwing it off, and were generally known by the name
of Tawai, or " Revolted Peoples." Finally, there were
independent pagan tribes, mostly in a low stage of
development — sometimes even cannibals — and owning
allegiance to no single authority. These resembled the
pagans of the coast, among whom the authority of an
individual chief is sometimes limited to the ramifications
of his own family. As the higher development of
Mohammedan institutions was to be found in the northern
states, so this lowest type of pagan was most numerous
in the southern districts lying upon both sides of the
Benue. And, correspondingly, while the low class of
pagan still held occasional fastnesses in the hills of the
Fulani states, Fulani conquerors had imposed themselves
upon the southern districts and held certain walled towns
in the pagan areas.

Through the chaos of these conflicting interests, the
practice of slave-raiding, carried on alike by the highest
and the lowest, ran like the poison of a destructive sore,
destroying every possibility of peaceful and prosperous



From time immemorial the slave trade of the ancient
world had its markets of supply in the Soudan. The
earliest Greek historians speak of slaves captured by
the native tribes of North Africa, and the monuments
of Persia and Ethiopia show that the enslavement of
the negro was a custom more ancient than any written
record. In modern times the horrors of the African
slave trade have been fully exposed by the great army
of explorers who have penetrated into the interior of
the continent. Livingstone, Baker, Stanley, Cameron,
and many others, have given the testimony of eye-wit-
nesses to the sufferings of the natives, whom the demand
for slaves caused to be hunted like wild beasts in their
homes. My husband, when he fought against the slave-
raiders of Nyassaland, was himself a witness of the
brutalities of the Mohammedan slave-hunters in East
Africa. The curse of the slave-hunt in the equatorial
regions of the continent has known no limit of time
or place. It has spread broadly from sea to sea. To
abolish it has been one of the aims which has most
strongly enlisted the sympathy of the public in the
modern movement of carrying civilisation into Africa.

During the whole period of which the principal historic
movements of the Western Soudan have been so scantily
outlined in this book, the trade in slaves was one of
the most important elements of local industry and of
foreign commerce, Spain and Portugal, North Africa and
Egypt, drew their supply of slaves through the Middle

Ages from the Soudan. We have seen at a later period



how the slave trade of Europe was conducted on the

Slave trade carried on upon an extensive scale in-
volved the practice of slave-raiding as necessarily as
the export of gold involved in West Africa the practice
of alluvial gold-mining. From the earliest times it had
been the custom, as we have seen, not only of Haussa-
land, but of all the countries of the Western Soudan,
to raid the territories of the cannibal pagans to the
south regularly once a year for slaves, and when war
offered occasion for further profitable captures, whole
armies were sometimes enslaved.

To the cannibal, whose practice it was to kill and
eat his prisoners, slavery presented itself in the light of
a merciful fate, and it was so considered by the con-
queror. The view of the Mohammedan or of the higher
class pagan with regard to the practice of raiding for
slaves, would seem to have been almost identical with
that of the Spaniards and Portuguese at the time of the
discovery of the East and West Indies. Inferior races
of a different faith did not count in the ranks of free
human beings. They were little better than cattle, and
as such might be hunted and taken without any deroga-
tion from the laws of humanity. The difference between
the humane man and the cruel man lay not in the practice
of or the abstinence from slaving, but in the manner in
which slaves were treated ; and in general the slaves
of Negroland would seem to have been governed with
tolerant good-humour. Their sufferings were not directly
intentional, but were incidental to the barbarities of the
slave-raid, by which whole villages were destroyed, and to
the horrors of transit on foot across the desert.

Were it not that human remains are destructible,
the caravan route from Tripoli to Haussaland would
be paved deep with human bones. Here is a descrip-
tion, given by Major Denham in 1822, of the condition
of that road less than a hundred years ago. He men-
tions a well within half a mile of Mesbroo. " Round


this spot," he says, " were lying more than a hundred
skeletons, some of them with the skin still remaining
attached to the bone. The Arabs laughed heartily at
my expression of horror, and said they were only blacks,
nam boo (damn their father), and began knocking their
limbs about with the butt end of their firelocks, saying :
' This was a woman ! This was a youngster ! ' " As the
road wound southwards skeletons were passed at the
rate of eighty and ninety a day, and at the wells of
El Hammar, three days farther on, the numbers of
skeletons that lay about were countless. "Those of two
women, whose perfect and regular teeth bespoke them
young, were particularly shocking; their arms still remained
clasped round each other as they had expired, although
the flesh had long since -perished by being exposed to
the burning rays of the sun." On the following day, as
Major Denham dozed on his horse about noon, over-
come by the heat of the sun, he was suddenly awakened
by "a crashing under my feet, which startled me ex-
cessively. I found that my steed had, without any sen-
sation of shame or alarm, stepped upon the perfect
skeletons of two human beings, cracking their brittle
bones under his feet, and by one trip of his foot separat-
inof from the trunk a skull which rolled on before him."
Along the greater part of the way, Major Denham says that
every few miles a skeleton was seen through the whole
day. " Some were partially covered with sand, others
with only a small mound formed by the wind ; one hand
often lay under the head, and frequently both, as if in the
act of compressing the head. The skin and membranous
substance all shrivel up and dry from the state of the air :
the thick muscular and external parts only decay." When
it is remembered that this description applies in the
beginning of the nineteenth century after Christ to a
road which has been used for the same purpose of slave
transit for perhaps as many as nineteen centuries before
Christ, the imagination quails before the total of grief and
suffering which must lie embedded in its dust.


The raids by means of which slaves are obtained
in the hunting grounds of the interior to be despatched
upon this journey across the desert, are even more pro-
ductive of human suffering, more desolating to all that
makes up the most primitive conceptions of human hap-
piness. Apart from the enslavement of prisoners of war,
which constitutes a separate branch of the same custom,
and occurs whenever a successful war gives the oppor-
tunity for it, the slave-raid, as a national habit, is still
usually directed against natives of a different religion,
who are assumed to be of a lower order of humanity.
Throughout the West of Africa, at the beginning of the
present century, the custom remained among the races
bordering northwards upon the desert to raid southwards
among the pagans and cannibals for the purpose of filling
their slave-rooms, stocking their farms, and increasing
their revenues by the surplus which could be disposed
of in the market. It was a relatively small surplus
only which experienced the pains of the desert jour-
ney for purposes of exportation, but though relatively
small it was numerically great, and the sum of misery
inflicted by the slave -hunts of countless generations
defies all computation. It is not to be supposed that
it was the Christian nor even the Mohammedan who
first invented the theory that there is no moral obliga-
tion to respect the rights of infidels. Indeed, if modern
experience may be trusted, it would seem rather that
the less is the grade of difference the more is the sense
of distance between the despiser and the despised. The
contempt of the superior pagan for the inferior fetish
worshipper is just as keen as that of the Christian for
the pagan, and from race to race in a descending scale
the theory of inferiority has been acted on as a justifica-
tion of the practice of enslavement.

In West Africa, where the superior race preyed
directly upon the inferior, the practice has probably been
peculiarly demoralising, for there the brutality of the
slave-raider was added to the despotism of the slave-


owner. The right of slave-raiding, like that of making
war, would seem to have been originally a royal preroga-
tive, and it was apparently maintained as an annual
practice, to which no sense whatever of immorality was
attached. It was simply, like elephant hunting, one of the
means by which the royal coffers were replenished, and
those who took part in the raid received their share of
spoil. Leo Africanus complains, in relation to Bornu,
in the beginning- of the sixteenth century, that merchants
who took horses there for sale were sometimes delayed
a whole year because the horses were paid for in slaves,
and the king raided only once a year.

Dr. Barth, who accompanied a slave-raid, made by
the forces of Bornu against the pagan natives of Musgu
in the winter of 1851-52, has left an account of the opera-
tion, which is interesting as applying to districts with
which the British Government has now to deal, and may
serve to show how such practices must affect the private
and public life of peoples amongst whom they are

His account is too long to quote in full, but some of
the principal points may be briefly given. The ruler
of Bornu, finding his treasury and his slave-rooms empty,
determined upon a slave-raiding expedition. There was
at first some doubt as to the exact direction in which
it should be sent. Finally, it was determined to attack
the pagans of Musgu in a territory south of Bornu, and
not far from the present German frontier in the east.
Towards the end of November a host numbering over
20,000 cavalry and a larger number on foot, including
many women, and a proportionate amount of tents and
baggage, marched southwards. So long as this force
was within the limits of friendly territory they were sup-
posed to be under discipline, and to take nothing from
the villages but corn and rice. As a matter of fact, dis-
cipline was impossible to maintain, and not only were the
crops forcibly reaped, but as the army marched towards
the frontier the friendly villages which lay upon its road


were looted. As soon as the frontier of the pagan
country was reached, a general Hcence was, of course,
given, and Dr. Barth describes day by day the progress
of this vast band of robbers, who spread Hke a swarm of
locusts over the fertile country.

The pagans were apparently in this instance of the
higher type. They were no homeless savages. On the
contrary, they were better agriculturists than the Bornu
people themselves. The whole country was rich, and
village after village of neatly built huts, having their
pagan cemeteries and rude monuments to the dead, stood
among fields of corn, tobacco, indigo, cotton, sorghum,
and rice. In one place Dr. Barth says : " The landscape
was exceedingly beautiful, richly irrigated and finely
wooded, while to our great astonishment the ground
was so carefully cultivated that even manure had been
put upon the fields in a regular manner, being spread
over the ground to a great extent, the first example of
such careful tillage that I had as yet observed in Central
Africa, either among Mohammedans or pagans,"

Throughout this district the army marched, murdering,
burning, destroying as they went. The inhabitants, know-
ing the object of their march, usually fied before them
to the forest, abandoning their property that they might
save their persons. This manoeuvre was frequently suc-
cessful, and slaves were not always obtained. The villages
were none the less burnt, and the surrounding crops de-
stroyed. When prisoners were captured, only women and
the young were kept. Full-grown men were massacred.
On one day Dr. Barth reports: "A large number of
slaves had been caught this day. Altogether they were
said to have taken a thousand, and there were certainly
not less than five hundred. To our utmost horror not
less than one hundred and seventy full-grown men were
mercilessly slaughtered in cold blood, the greater part
of them being allowed to bleed to death, a leg having
been severed from the body." On other occasions the
whole day's spoil was limited to a handful of slaves,


"unfortunate creatures whom sickness or ill-advised
courage prevented from leaving their native villages."
The pagans made occasionally a desperate and some-
times even an heroic defence, but the superior arms, and
still more the numbers of the Bornuese troops, invariably
secured the victory. The country which was the scene
of these operations is described, not only as well culti-
vated, but as densely inhabited. The villages themselves
afforded everywhere the same appearance of comfort and
cheerfulness, and in their wholesale destruction by fire,
the destruction of the granaries which they contained
was of even more importance than the destruction of the
huts themselves, for as the grain was already harvested,
this must have meant, not only starvation during the
winter, but the loss of seed corn for the ensuing season.

Scenes of fire and sword during the active days of
the expedition were succeeded at intervals by the par-
tition of the prisoners. This proceeding was accompanied,
says Dr. Barth, by the " most heartrending scenes caused
by the numbers of young children, and even infants, who
were to be distributed, many of those poor creatures
being mercilessly torn away from their mothers, never
to see them again." This comment indicates also that
the raid was carried on over the country of higher-class
pagans. The lower types part in many instances with
perfect indifference from their young. Cattle was, of
course, carried off, as well as slaves, wherever it was
met with.

The expedition returned on this occasion, after two
months, to Bornu, and when the total gains were reckoned
uo, they were found to amount to something over 3000
slaves and 10,000 head of cattle. The slaves consisted
almost entirely of women and young persons, mostly
children, and the slaughter of full-grown males was said
to have amounted to no more than 300, or one in ten.
The great majority of full-grown males had therefore
escaped, as had the more active of the full-grown young
women. Of the 3000 taken, the commander-in-chief


claimed one-third. There remained 2000 slaves and
about 7000 head of cattle to divide between the 20,000
persons who had composed the expedition. That is to say,
that if the spoil was evenly divided, each man would receive
the tenth part of a slave and the third part of a bullock
as his individual share. That such waste of life, destruc-
tion of property, and loss of time could be considered, even
from the purely practical point of view, to be compensated
by such poor results, is indication enough of how little
all these things are valued among races where practices
of this kind are countenanced.

I have quoted the account of this raid at some length,
for, as it happened to be accompanied by two trust-
worthy Europeans, the details may be accepted as correct,
and the incidents, though varying, no doubt, on every
occasion, are typical enough to illustrate vividly the ab-
solute incompatibility of slave-raiding with the mainten-
ance of civilised government in the country raided. The
more cultivated nations of West Africa, though tolerant
of the practice of slave-raiding in the territory of their
pagan neighbours, never, of course, permitted such a
practice in what may be called the home territories. It
was only in the decadence and feebleness of a multi-
plication of petty monarchs that the custom of raiding
within the narrow limits of individual provinces became
general, and it is hardly necessary to say that where it
prevails neither order, security, nor prosperity are in an
even moderate degree attainable.

Between the date of 1851 and the year of the intro-
duction of British authority into Northern Nigeria, the
practice of slave-raiding as described by Dr. Barth
had become general throughout the Protectorate. It has
already been said that the feoff-holders of the Fulani
emirates resorted at times to the expedient of selling
their own peasantry, and there was no province of which
the entire territory could be said to be free from the
curse of the slave-raid.

It will be easily understood that, however broken


might be the spirit of the raided populations, such
aggression did not pass without leading to some form of
retaliation. Roads were closed in every direction, and
the approach of the Mohammedan was resented in arms
by a peasantry who always cultivated their fields with
weapons slung upon their backs. The bow and arrow —
often the poisoned arrow — of the pagan is in dexterous
hands a more effective weapon than the clumsy and
old-fashioned musket of the local Mohammedan, and it
was by force of numbers rather than by superior
weapons or military skill that the Fulani armies over-
powered the pagan populations in their raids. It lay
with the pagans in return to close their roads to the
passage of all individual traders who might prove to be
but spies upon fertile or thickly populated lands. Nor
is it to be understood that the pagans themselves were
wholly free from the vice of slave-raiding. They paid
their tribute usually in slaves. They raided their
enemies for slaves, and, as one of the incidental results
of this preying of man on man, the roads through the
country became generally so unsafe that travelling was
only possible in well-defended caravans.

It is also to be noted, as the result of half a century
of anarchy, that the population of the Haussa States and
Bornu, described by Dr. Barth in 1854 as dense, and
estimated at about fifty millions, had, at the period of
the British occupation, entirely deserted some of the
most naturally fertile areas, and had fallen to a total
which is now believed to equal only one-fifth of the
estimated amount, or about ten to twelve millions.


It will be understood that in attempting, as I am now
about to do, to give some account of the establishment
of British administration in the midst of the conditions
which have been described, I enter upon a difficult portion
of my task. The British High Commissioner is my
husband. Many members of his staff have become my
personal friends. It is impossible for me altogether to
clear my mind of favourable prejudice, and I am forced
to realise that the detachment which gives the propor-
tion of history is no longer at my command. I can only
therefore ask beforehand for indulgence if in this last
section of my book personal sentiment tends to warp my
judgment of the relative importance of events.

The rulers of the Nigerian territories had placed
themselves nominally, for reasons which rendered a
choice of European protectors essential to them, under
the protection of Great Britain. By their treaties with
the Royal Niger Company some of them had nominally
surrendered their territory with all sovereign rights.
Others, and these the most important, including the
emirates of Sokoto and Gando, had agreed to enter
into treaty with no other white nation but the British ;
to give to Great Britain jurisdiction over all foreigners
and non-natives in their dominions, with right to tax
them ; to transfer to Great Britain sovereign rights in
the riverine territories of the Niger and the Benu6 for
a distance of ten hours' journey inland from the banks
of the two rivers ; to confer also rights of mining and
trading ; and generally, while reserving their own powers
of internal rule, to subordinate themselves in external

417 2 D


matters to the protecting power. They had, in fact, by-
treaty, accepted the recognised position of protected
native states. The equivalent which was to be given
by Great Britain was protection against external powers
and respect for internal law and custom. On one side,
as on the other, the maintenance of communication and
friendly relations was provided for.

Bornu had made no treaty with the Company, but
by virtue of international agreement it fell within the
territory allotted to the influence of Great Britain.

The relations of protecting powers to protected
states are always a question of discussion until they
have been placed by the logic of accomplished facts
outside the limits of theory. The exact measure of
responsibility accepted by Great Britain in Northern
Nigeria, at the moment of the establishment of British
administration there, would have been difficult to define.
The vague title of suzerain covered the position, and,
beyond a general desire that slave-raiding should be
suppressed and trade routes thrown open, there was
probably no wish in any quarter in England to see a
rapid advance towards the assumption of more defined
duties, or of responsibilities which would involve expense.
The public generally knew nothing of the country. Poli-
tical necessities had imposed the creation of a military
force for the defence, not only of the Nigerian, but of all
West African frontiers. A small grant in aid to meet
other administrative expenses was reluctantly added by
the Treasury to the sum required for the maintenance
of the West African Frontier Force. These concessions
were made rather by respect for the judgment and the
wishes of Mr. Chamberlain, then occupying the position
of Secretary of State for the Colonies, than by any
strong conviction on the part of the British Govern-
ment that Northern Nigeria was likely to prove a very
valuable acquisition to the Crown ; and in the absence
of a clearly expressed interest on the part of the House
of Commons, in the adoption of a new West African
policy, it seemed improbable that funds would be will-


ingly voted for any full development of the Nigerian
Protectorate. In these circumstances the wishes of the
Government and of the country, if they had to be con-
densed into one phrase of instruction to the High Com-
missioner, would perhaps best have been rendered by
the words, "Go slow!"

But events upon the spot refused to wait. From
the moment in which the British flag ran up at Lokoja
on the ist of January 1900, the High Commissioner
and his staff found themselves taxed to the utmost
limits of their capacity in the effort to keep pace with
the developments which hurried them along.

The first desire of the High Commissioner upon
taking up the duties of his position would naturally have
been to give effect to British treaty obligations by estab-
lishing residents at the native courts, and proceeding
to open friendly relations throughout the Protectorate.
He found himself face to face with a chaos of civil and
inter-tribal war, in which his immediate duty was to
endeavour to ascertain the disposition towards the Gov-
ernment which he represented of the dominant powers.
He had also everything to learn about the actual condi-
tion of the northern country.

The civil staff allotted for the purpose of founding
an administration was very small, and its numbers were

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 33 of 41)