John Lord.

Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14 The New Era; A Supplementary Volume, by Recent Writers, as Set Forth in the Preface and Table of Contents online

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pose before their public. One day a man stood on the north shore of
Victoria Nyanza, and looking south he saw land. When he returned to
London he published a sensational book, in which he said it was
ridiculous for Speke to assert that he had discovered a lake as large as
Scotland, one of the greatest lakes in the world. "Why," said the
writer, "I have stood on the north shore of the Victoria Nyanza and
looked south and seen the southern shore. Lake Victoria is only an
insignificant sheet of water, after all the talk of its being second
only to Lake Superior."

What he really saw was the chain of the Sesse Islands extending far out
into the lake. His book was scarcely off the press when the letters
describing Stanley's boat journeys around the shores of Victoria Nyanza
began to be published in London and New York; and the foolish fellow was
compelled to recall all the copies of his book that had not passed
beyond his reach, and eliminate the statements that made him so
ridiculous. Fortunately, there are not many explorers of this stripe.

All who watched the progress of African discovery were constantly
reminded that geographical progress is usually made only by slow and
painful steps. They saw an explorer emerge from the unknown with his
notebooks and route maps replete with most interesting facts for the
student and the cartographer. Then another explorer would enter the same
region, discover facts that had escaped the notice of the pioneer,
correct blunders his predecessor had made and perpetrate blunders of his
own; so explorer followed explorer, each adding something to
geographical knowledge, each correcting earlier misconceptions, till the
total product, well sifted by critical geographers, gave the world a
fair idea of the region explored; but not the best attainable idea, for
scientific knowledge of a region comes only with its detailed
exploration by trained observers, equipped with the best appliances for
use in their special fields of research. This is the advanced stage of
geographical study, which is now being reached in many parts of Africa.
It was Livingstone's task, in 1859, to inform us that there was a great
Lake Nyassa. It was Rhoades's task, in 1897-1901, to make a careful and
accurate survey of its coast-lines, and to sound its depths, so that we
now have an excellent idea of the conformation of the lake bottom.
Between Livingstone and Rhoades came many explorers, each adding
important facts to our knowledge of this great sheet of water nearly
twice as large as New Jersey.

As each explorer came from the wilds, our maps were corrected to conform
with the new information he supplied; and if we should examine the maps
of Africa in school geographies, atlases, and wall maps, from the time
of Livingstone to the present day, we should see that, as relates to
nearly every part of Africa, they have been in a continual state of

For years our only map of Victoria Nyanza was that which Speke made on
his second journey to the lake, in 1860-62; but Speke saw the great lake
only at one point on its south shore, and along its northwest and north
central coasts. His map, being based very largely upon native
information, was in many respects most incomplete and erroneous.

Then came Stanley's survey of the lake, made in a boat journey around
its coasts, and for years his map supplanted that of Speke. But he was
not able to follow the shore-line in all its intricate details. His
mapping was a great advance upon that of Speke, but it was necessarily
rough and imperfect. He missed entirely the deep indentation of Baumann
Gulf and the southwestern prolongation of the lake, surveyed by Father
Schynse, in 1891. Stanley's map, modified by the partial surveys of
various explorers, is still our mapping of the lake; but if the reader
will watch the maps for the next year or so, he will doubtless observe
important changes in the contours of Victoria Nyanza; for all the maps,
from Speke to those of 1902, will be placed on the shelf to serve only
as the historical record of the good, honest work which a number of
explorers have done. Commander Whitehouse has recently spent thirteen
months surveying with infinite pains these coasts and islands. "I seem
to see," writes Stanley of this important service, "the sailor, with his
small crew and his little steel boat, wandering from point to point,
crossing and recrossing, going from some island to some headland, taking
his bearings from that headland back again to the island, and to some
point far away."

Commander Whitehouse has made a new delineation of the entire 2,200
miles of coasts, and the results of his survey will be used in making
all the maps of the lake. His map in turn will undoubtedly be replaced
some day by detailed topographic surveys of the best quality, such as
the British already contemplate making of that entire region.

A wall map recently in use in one of the public schools of New York City
was a curious example of ignorant compilation. It exhibited the Victoria
Nyanza of Speke, the Bangweolo of Livingstone, and the Upper Congo of
Stanley, all obsolete for practical purposes years before this map was
printed. Most of our home map-makers were very slow in availing
themselves of the rich materials constantly supplied for the maps by the
army of explorers in Africa. But the most alert cartographers,
particularly between 1880 and 1895, could not keep their maps abreast
of the news of discovery as it came to Europe. More men and energy and
money were utilized in those fifteen years of African discovery than in
the first century and a half of American exploration. The route or
mother-maps, some covering a wide extent of country, others devoted to a
small area, or a short line of travel, were going to Europe for the
improvement of atlas sheets by nearly every steamer. Father Schynse's
chart of the southwest extension of Victoria Nyanza had hardly been
utilized in European map-houses before it was replaced by Dr. Baumann's
more accurate survey. Mr. Wauters of Belgium withdrew his large map of
the Congo Basin from the printer four times, in order to include fresh
information before it was finally issued to the public.

This process is still going on, though more slowly. The mapping we see
of Lake Tanganyika, one of the longest lakes in the world, has been in
use for seventeen years since missionary Hore made his boat journey of
one thousand miles around its coasts, but the new map of the Moore
expedition now being introduced gives the main axis of the lake a more
northeast and southwest direction. The Hore map has met the fate that
usually overtakes the early surveys of every region. It rendered good
service as long as it was the best map; but the Moore expedition had
first-rate appliances for computing longitudes, and as Captain Hore
lacked these, it is not strange that his map has been found to be

The world has been treated to many geographical surprises in the course
of this incessant transformation of the map of the continent. Many of us
may remember in our school geographies, the particular blackness and
prominence of the Kong Mountains, extending for two hundred miles
parallel with the Gulf of Guinea. They were accepted on the authority of
Mungo Park, Caillié, and Bowditch, all reputable explorers who had not
seen the mountains, but believed from native information that they
existed. The French explorer, Binger, in 1887 sought in vain for them.
Later explorers have been unable to find them. They are, in fact, a
myth, and will be remembered chiefly as a conspicuous instance of
geographic delusion. It had long been supposed that the navigation of
the Niger River, the third largest river in Africa, was permanently
impaired by the Bussa Rapids, about one hundred miles in length, where
Mungo Park was wrecked and drowned. But Major Toutée, a few years ago,
when assailed by hostile natives, made a safe journey with his boats
through the rapids; and Captain Lenfant, in 1901, carried 500,000 pounds
of supplies up the river and through the rapids to the French stations
between Bussa and Timbuktu. He had a small, flat-bottomed steamboat and
a number of little boats propelled by fifty black paddlers. He says
that by the land route he would have required 12,000 porters, and they
would have been one hundred and thirty days on the road.

It was believed that a land portage would always be necessary between
the sea and the Zambesi, above the delta, till 1889, when Mr. Rankin
discovered the Chinde branch of the delta, so broad and so deep that
ocean vessels may ascend it and exchange freight with the river craft.

It has been found that more water pours into the ocean through the
Congo's mouth, which is six miles wide, than from all the other rivers
in Africa together. It is second among the world's rivers, and the dark
detritus it carries to the Atlantic has been distinctly traced on the
ocean bed for six hundred miles from the land. Some geographers still
believed thirty years ago that all the waters of its upper basin might
be tributary to the Nile. Map-makers have been kept very busy recording
discoveries on the Congo. About one hundred explorers, some of them
missionaries and many employees of the Congo Free State, have mapped the
whole basin along its water-courses, and discovered the ultimate source
of its main stream. Our ideas of the hydrography of this great basin
have been revolutionized since Stanley, second only to Livingstone among
the great African explorers, in 1877 revealed the course of the
main river.

On his map, for example, he showed the southern tributaries as probably
flowing nearly due north; but all except one of these rivers rise in the
east and flow far to the west. When Wissmann was sent to the Upper
Kassai to follow it to the Congo, he was greatly surprised to find
himself floating westward week after week. When he reached the Congo a
steamboat was waiting for him at Equatorville, two hundred miles further
up the river, where he was expected to emerge. Schweinfurth believed the
Welle Makua flowed north to Lake Chad on the edge of the Sahara;
seventeen years later, after six or seven explorers had tried to solve
the problem, the river was found to be the upper part of the Mobangi
tributary of the Congo, larger than any rivers of Europe, excepting the
Volga and Danube. While Stanley was for five years planting his stations
on the Congo, he knew nothing of this great tributary, 1,500 miles long,
whose mouth was hidden by a cluster of islands which his steamers
repeatedly passed. Missionary Grenfell, on his little steamer, was
ascending the Congo one day, when accidentally he got into the mouth of
the Mobangi and went on for one hundred miles before he discovered that
he had left the main river. Few explorers have unwittingly stumbled upon
so rich a geographical prize.

While exploratory enterprises have been centred largely in tropical
Africa, no part of the continent has been neglected. We now know that
large areas of the Sahara are underlaid by waters which need only be
brought to the surface to cover the desert around them with verdure;
that most of the rain falling on the south slopes of the Atlas Mountains
sinks into the earth to impermeable strata of rock, along which it makes
its way far out into the desert; that where the surface is depressed so
that these waters come near to it, there are wells for the refreshment
of the camel caravans, and oases, blooming islands of green, in the
sterile wastes; and that artesian wells bring inexhaustible supplies of
water within reach, so that millions of date palms have been planted
along the northern edge of the desert in southern Algiers and Tunis,
making these regions the largest sources of the world's supply of dates.

It has also been discovered why there are very large areas of dry or
desert lands in Africa. The Sahara and the southwest of Africa are
deserts because the prevailing winds, the carriers of moisture, blow
towards the sea instead of away from it, and consequently are always
dry. The winds from the Indian Ocean crossing the highlands of Abyssinia
are wrung nearly dry while passing the mountains, and so Somaliland and
the lowlands to the south of Abyssinia are parched.

It has been found that the most of South Africa stands so high above the
sea that the influences of a temperate climate are projected far
towards the Equator; so that many white men, women, and children are
living and thriving on farms in Mashonaland, seven degrees of latitude
nearer the equator than the south end of Florida. This fact will
profoundly influence the development of South Africa. It is to be the
home of millions of the white race, the seat of a highly civilized
empire, whose business relations with the rest of the world will be to
the advantage of every trading nation. The presence of these millions of
toilers will vitally affect the work of developing tropical Africa which
is now absorbing such enormous treasure and energy; for South Africa is
to be brought by railroads to the very doors of the tropical zone.

It is hoped that such facts as these, even though very briefly stated,
may convey broadly a correct impression of the magnitude of African
exploration, since its revival about the time that Livingstone died. It
is impossible in brief space to signalize the good work that many of the
most conspicuous pioneers have done. The world rendered tardy tribute to
the notable achievements of some of them. When Rebmann discovered
Kilimanjaro, not far from the equator, and told of the snows that crown
the loftiest of African summits, it was decided by British geographers
that Rebmann's snow was probably an imaginary aspect. The snow was
there, and plenty of it, but Rebmann died before justice was done to
his faithful labors. When Paul du Chaillu described the Obongo dwarfs of
West Africa, his narrative was discredited; but four or five groups of
dwarfs, probably numbering many thousands, are now known to be scattered
from the lower border of Abyssinia to the Kalahara desert in the far
south. The ancients had heard of the dwarfs, but the geographers of the
eighteenth century expunged from the maps of Africa about all that the
geographers of Greece and Rome, as well as those of later times, placed
on them; and the nineteenth century was slow in crediting the early
investigators even with statements that were wholly or approximately

A curious history is connected with the discovery of the northeastern
group of pygmies, a little south of Abyssinia. No white man had ever
seen them, but about fifteen years ago Dr. Henry Schlichter, of the
British Museum, collected all the information which natives had given to
missionaries, traders, and explorers of the existence of these little
people some hundreds of miles from the sea. Sifting all this evidence,
he concluded that these dwarfs really existed, and that they lived in a
region which he marked on the map north of Lake Stefanie. Donaldson
Smith had not heard of Schlichter's paper, and knew nothing of these
dwarfs, but he found them in 1895 in the region which Schlichter had
indicated as their probable habitat.

The broadest generalization with regard to the African tribes is that
which separates most of the peoples south of the Sahara Desert into two
great groups, - the Negro tribes, whose habitat may be roughly indicated
as extending between the Atlantic and Gallaland in East Africa, with the
Sahara as their northern, and the latitude of the Cameroons as their
southern, boundaries; and the Bantu tribes, occupying nearly all of
Africa south of the Negroes. The distinction between these two great
groups is not based upon special differences as to physical structure,
mental characteristics, habits, or development, but depends solely upon
philological considerations, the languages of the Negroes and the Bantus
forming two distinct groups. Most of the slaves who were brought to our
country were Negroes, while most of those transported to Latin America
were from the Bantu tribes.

One fact that stood out above all others in the study of the African
natives, was the remarkable prevalence of cannibalism in the Congo
basin. In all his wanderings, Livingstone met only one cannibal
tribe, - the Manyema living between Tanganyika and the Upper Congo; but
though they are not found near the sources of the river, nor near its
mouth, they occupy about one-half of the Congo basin. They are regarded
with fear and abhorrence by all tribes not addicted to the practice.
They number several millions. Instead of being the most debased of
human creatures, many of them, in physical strength and courage, in
their iron work, carving, weaving, and other arts, are among the most
advanced of African tribes. The larger part of the natives in the
service of the Congo Free State are from the cannibal tribes. The laws
now impose severe penalties for acts of cannibalism, and the evil is
decreasing as the influence of the state is extended over wider areas. A
few isolated tribes along the Gulf of Guinea are also cannibals.

There is no doubt that the helpful influences of the Caucasian in every
part of Africa so far outweigh his harmful influences that the latter
are but a drop in the bucket in comparison. It is most unfortunate that
a certain admixture of blundering, severity, brutality, and wickedness
seems inseparable from the development of all the newer parts of the
world. The demoralizing drink traffic, the scandalous injustice and
cruelty of some of the agents of civilized governments, are not to be
belittled or condoned. But there is also a very bright side to the story
of the white occupancy of Africa.

The family of a deceased chief in Central Africa recently preserved his
body unburied for fourteen months, in the hope that they might prevail
upon the British Government to permit the sacrifice of women and slaves
on his grave, that he might have companions of his own household in the
other world. He was buried at last, without shedding a drop of blood.
Human sacrifices are now punishable with death throughout a large part
of barbarous Africa, and the terrible evil is being abated as fast as
the influence of the European governments is extended over new regions.
The practice of the arts of fetichism, a kind of chicanery, most
injurious in its effects upon the superstitious natives, is now
punishable throughout the Congo Free State and British Rhodesia. Arab
slave-dealers no longer raid the Congo plains and forests for slaves,
killing seven persons for every one they lead into captivity.
Slave-raiding has been utterly wiped out in all parts of Africa, except
in portions of the Sudan and other districts over which white rule has
not yet been asserted. The Arabs of the Congo, who went there from East
Africa solely that they might grow rich in the slave trade, are now
settled quietly on their rice and banana plantations. The sale of strong
drink has been restricted by international agreement to the coast
regions, where the traffic has long existed, and its evils are somewhat
mitigated there by the regulations now enforced. Fifty thousand Congo
natives who would not carry a pound of freight for Stanley in 1880, are
now in the service of the white enterprises, many of them working, not
for barter goods, but for coin. Many of the missionary fields are
thriving, and wonderful results have been achieved in some of them. In
Uganda, where Stanley in 1875 saw King Mtesa impaling his victims, there
are now ninety thousand natives professing Christianity, three hundred
and twenty churches, and many thousands of children in the schools.
Fifty thousand of the people can read. Between 1880 and 1882 Stanley
carried three little steamboats around 235 miles of rapids to the Upper
Congo. Eighty steamers are now afloat there, plying on nearly 8,000
miles of rivers, and connected with the sea by a railroad that has paid
dividends from the day it was opened. At the end of 1890 there were only
5,813 miles of railroad in Africa. About 15,000 miles are now in
operation, and the end of this decade is certain to see 25,000 miles of
railroads. Trains are running from Cairo to Khartum, the seat of the
Mahdist tyranny, in the centre of a vast region which, until recently,
had been closed for many years to all the world.

These wonderful results are the fruits of the partition of Africa among
the European states. With the exception of some waste regions in the
Libyan desert, which no one has claimed, Morocco, Abyssinia, and
Liberia, every square mile of African territory has been divided among
European powers, either as colonies or as spheres of influence. The
scramble of twenty years for African lands is at an end, there now being
no valuable areas that are not covered by the existing agreements. It
is no mere love of humanity that has impelled the European countries to
divide these regions among themselves. We can scarcely realize the
intensity of the struggle for existence in many of the overcrowded parts
of Europe. Their factories are enormously productive, but their people
will suffer for food unless they can export manufactures. The crying
need for new markets, for new sources of raw material, drove these
states into Africa. And we should be glad, for Africa's sake, that they
have gone there, even though the desire to make money is one of the most
powerful incentives.

It is under the protective aegis of these governments that explorers are
settling down in smaller areas to see what may be found between the
explored water-courses, to study the continent in detail, to give to our
knowledge of Africa the scientific quality now required. The greatest
geographical work there in recent years is the extension of a line of
stations across tropical Africa by Commander Lemaire, each position
astronomically fixed by the most careful methods, constituting a
base-line east and west through Africa to which the scientific mapping
of a very large area will be referred.

The day of the minuter study of the whole continent has now dawned, and
we are witnessing a most notable work. All the colonial powers, and the
Germans most conspicuously, are studying the economic questions relating
to their African possessions. The suitability of climates for
colonists, the essential rules of hygiene, the development of
agriculture, labor supplies, transportation and commercial facilities,
and many other problems are receiving the most careful attention.
Experiment stations are maintained in the colonies and colonial schools
at home, to fit young men for service in the field. The Germans have
already proved that cotton and tobacco are certain to become profitable
export crops.

The mine-owners of the Witwatersrand, on which Johannesburg stands, have
begun a movement which they hope will result in the immigration of
100,000 white laborers to the mining field. We may look for remarkable
development in South Africa, whose promise is larger than that of any
other part of the continent. Whatever may be said of some of the methods
by which the British have enlarged their empire, their rule has blessed
the barbarous peoples whose countries they have absorbed. The task of
improving the few millions of blacks in South Africa, and of developing
the large and in some respects wonderful resources of that region, will
be greatly assisted by the incoming of hundreds of thousands of
Europeans, bringing with them the arts and other blessings of
civilization. The future of none of the newer parts of the world is
brighter with the hope of great development than the region between the
Zambesi and the Cape of Good Hope.

In order to observe intelligently the progress of South Africa in
coming years, the limitations as well as the advantages of the country
must be kept in view. More than half of it, including the entire western
half, is deficient in rainfall and can never be the home of a dense
white population. Some mining will develop on those broad, dry plains
and sandy wastes; some agriculture where irrigation is possible; and
great wool-growing wherever thrive the nutritious grasses on which
13,000,000 sheep, scattered over the Karroo of Cape Colony, and
4,000,000 in the little Orange Free State, were grazing before the
recent war. Wool-growing will always be the greatest grazing industry,
though cattle and horses are raised in large numbers, and the fine, soft
hair of the Angora goat is second only to wool in export importance.

A narrow strip of fine farm lands across the south end of Africa,
another along the southern border of the former Boer republics, and a

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Online LibraryJohn LordBeacon Lights of History, Volume 14 The New Era; A Supplementary Volume, by Recent Writers, as Set Forth in the Preface and Table of Contents → online text (page 18 of 26)