A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

A history of the Gold Coast of West Africa online

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accustomed only to the petty kings of the coast, were
astonished at the wealth and magnificence exhibited. Bands
of barbarous music played, hundreds of immense umbrella
canopies made of gorgeous silks were flaunted, flags and
banners were waved, and gold was displayed in profusion ;
but Mr. Bowdich's description* must be read to form any
adequate conception of the scene. The Europeans esti-
mated the number of soldiers present at 30,000.

The embassy was very favourably received by Osai
Tutu Kwamina, but at an early stage of the negotiations a
difficulty arose concerning the payment of the notes for Cape
Coast Castle and Anamabo Fort. As we have already seen,
the King had long been in the habit of receiving rents for
the Dutch fort at Elmina, and for the English, Dutch, and
Danish forts at Accra. The actual notes for these were in
his hands, but it seems that when Colonel Torrane paid the
King the arrears due on the notes for Cape Coast Castle
and Anamabo Fort, the King had not obtained possession
of the documents for these two. Some time after 1814, the
Kings of Anamabo and Mankassim, who still retained these
notes, had persuaded Mr. Hope Smith to write others,
engaging to pay the Ashanti King four ackisf per month
for the two forts, and reserving to themselves the remainder
of the rent of four ounces per fort, specified in the original
notes, which they kept. This was certainly a very curious
transaction, and the King charged the Governor with having
combined with the Fantis to defraud him, and demanded an
explanation from the embassy. Mr. James by his answers
confirmed the suspicions of the King, who broke into an
uncontrollable fit of rage. His captains were equally furious,
and swore that they would set out that night to take the
heads of the Fanti chiefs. There was such a tumult that the
lives of the Europeans were in some danger. Mr. James,

* Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashanti.
t An acki is, roughly speaking, gold to the value of one dollar.

K 2


who seems to have entirely lost his presence of mind, volun-
teered no explanation, and the assembly was breaking up in
the greatest confusion, when Mr. Bowdich asked to be heard.
He assured the King that the Governor would do what was
right, and proposed that messengers should be sent down
to Cape Coast to receive his explanation of the affair. His
evident earnestness much impressed the King, who suffered
himself to be appeased, and adopted Mr. Bowdich's proposal.

The result of this appeal to the Governor was that Mr.
James was recalled, Mr. Bowdich placed at the head of the
embassy in his stead, and the demands of the King, with
regard to the notes, complied with. Mr. Hope Smith de-
clared that he had been deceived by the two Fanti Kings,
and sent the King two new notes, promising to pay four
ounces of gold per month for each of the two forts. Accord-
ing to his version of the affair, the arrangement of the
two notes had been made between the King's messengers
and the Fanti Kings in the Ashanti camp at Arbrakampa,
after peace had been concluded at Cape Coast Castle ; and he
declared that he had only issued the notes for four ackis on
the understanding that he had nothing to do with the
arrangement, and that it was made with the mutual consent
of the Ashanti King and the Fanti chiefs. Another diffi-
culty which now arose was the conduct of the Kommendas
in a quarrel between themselves and the Elminas. This was
finally disposed of by the Kommendas acknowledging their
fealty to the King, and paying one hundred and twenty
ounces of gold dust, an arrangement which was only effected
after a great deal of negotiation, the first demand made on
the Kommendas being for two thousand ounces.

All differences being thus settled, a treaty of peace wa<
concluded on September ?th, 1817. It consisted of the
following articles :

1. There shall be perpetual peace and harmony betweei
the British subjects in this country and the subjects of th<
Kings of Ashanti and.Djuabin.

2. The same shall exist between the subjects of th
Kings of Ashanti and Djuabin and all nations of Afric;


residing under the protection of the Company's forts and
settlements on the Gold Coast, and it is hereby agreed that
there are no palavers now existing, and that neither party
has any claim upon the other.

3. The King of Ashanti guarantees the security of the
people of Cape Coast from the hostilities threatened by the
people of Elmina.

4. In order to avert the horrors of war, it is agreed, that
in any case of aggression on the part of the natives under
British protection, the King shall complain thereof to the
Governor-in-Chief, to obtain redress, and that he will in no
instance resort to hostilities, even against the other towns of
the Fanti territory, without endeavouring as much as possible
to effect an amicable arrangement, affording the Governor
the opportunity of propitiating it as far as he may with

5. The King of Ashanti agrees to permit a British
officer to reside constantly at his capital for the purpose of
instituting and preserving a regular communication with the
Governor-in-Chief at Cape Coast Castle.

6. The Kings of Ashanti and Djuabin pledge them-
selves to countenance, promote, and encourage the trade of
their subjects with Cape Coast Castle and its dependencies
to the extent of their power.

7. The Governors of the respective forts shall, at all
times, afford every protection in their power to the persons
and property of the people of Ashanti who may resort to
the water-side.

8. The Governor-in-Chief reserves to himself the right
of punishing any subject of Ashanti or Djuabin guilty of
secondary offences ; but, in case of any crime of magnitude,
he will send the offender to the King to be dealt with ac-
cording to the laws of his country.

9. The Kings agree to commit their children to the
care of the Governor-in-Chief, for education at Cape Coast
Castle, in the full confidence of the good intentions of the
British Government and of the benefits to be derived there-


By virtue of this treaty Mr. Hutchinson was left as
British Resident at the court of Ashanti, and Mr. Bowdich
returned to Cape Coast Castle.

At this point the first recognition by treaty of the right
of the British to exercise protection and control over the
natives residing in the towns under the guns of the forts it
will be convenient to trace the gradual growth of British
jurisdiction on the Gold Coast prior to this date. The
officials of the former trading .companies had not attempted
to assert any territorial jurisdiction, or any interference in
native affairs, beyond the exercise of a kind of mediatory
influence, to prevent the interruption of trade by native
quarrels. The jurisdiction of the director-generals of the
companies extended only over the officers and slaves of the
companies, and the right of the natives to the soil on which
the forts were built was acknowledged by the payment of
notes for ground rent. The first record of any treaty with
native Kings is found in the treaty of 1693, between the
Royal African Company and the Kings of Akanna, Saboe,
and Fetu; and in 1754 we find the governor of the African
Company of Merchants placing a King of Fetu on the stool.
But at the same time we have evidence of how little authority
the Company possessed, from the fact that the people of Cape
Coast, about the same period, prevented the Company's
slaves from cutting firewood in the bush, upon the grounds
that no rent had been paid to them for the use of the wood.
Under Governor Archibald Dalzel (1802) some attempts to
control the natives were made, and the first material point
gained was in 1803. Prior to that date complaints against
natives, other than the Company's servants, had to be made
before the corrupt native tribunals, where redress could never
be obtained without a bribe to the chiefs who tried the
case, and not even then if it involved the curtailment of any
custom by which the chiefs profited ; but in that year the
Governor, at the instigation of Mr. John Swanzy, imprisoned
one of the headmen of Cape Coast for passing false gold.
The natives took up arms ; it became necessary to defend
the Castle, and a fire was opened on the town by which a


number of houses were destroyed and the natives forced to
submit to the innovation. In 1805 tn ^ s jurisdiction was
further extended, when some canoemen of Accra, who had
stolen gunpowder to the value of ^100 from the Com-
mandant, were brought to trial and punished at Cape Coast
Castle. Thus, before the first invasion of Fanti, it had come
to be recognised that the native inhabitants of the towns
under the guns of the forts were amenable to British laws for
offences committed against the Company or its servants. The
invasion and destruction of Fanti by the Ashantis materially
assisted the British in bringing the natives of these towns
more under control, and the years immediately preceding
Mr. Bowdich's treaty show a gradually increasing influence.
It was British mediation that caused Cape Coast to be spared
in 1807; and there can be little doubt but that it was through
fear or respect for the British that that town was allowed to
be redeemed on such moderate terms in 1816. They were
now (1817) the means of preserving the Kommendas from
destruction, and the advantage of their protection, inadequate
as it was to secure great results, was felt and acknowledged.
But it must be carefully borne in mind that this protection
and control was limited to the towns under the guns of
the fort. The rest of Fanti was entirely independent; and
even the mediatory influence, which, under the treaty of
1817, the British could now exercise in its behalf, was a new

The abolition of the slave trade had not by any means
put a stop to the traffic in slaves on the Gold Coast, which,
through being declared illegal, was now attended with greater
violence and injustice than before. Spaniards were chiefly
engaged in the trade, and its abolition by Spain had no effect
in checking it, as the fast-sailing Spanish vessels could easily
elude the men-of-uar. In February, 1818, no less than seven
large slave ships were seen taking in cargoes near Cape Coast
Castle. Great encouragement was given to the slave trade
by Governor Daendels and the Elminas ; and panyarring, or
the forcible seizing of peaceable traders a crime which had
been little heard of when the trade was legal was now very


common. Mr. Hope Smith did his utmost to suppress the
traffic, and on several occasions acted with energy. He sent
an expedition against the people of Leggu, who had seized
some Cape Coast canoemen, and compelled them to give
them up and pay a heavy fine. He also banished from
Cape Coast a coloured man named Brew, who had been
detected in intrigues with Ashanti for the purpose of up-
holding the slave trade. About this time, too, a first attempt
was made to put a stop to human sacrifices and torture. On
the death of a chief of Cape Coast one of the headmen
was accused of having procured it by witchcraft, and was
sentenced to death by torture ; but Mr. Hope Smith was
able to rescue him from this fate, though he was obliged to
send him to Sierra Leone for safety.

1819 1823.

New difficulty with Ashanti Mr. Dupuis His treaty Skirmish at Mori
The Crown assumes the Government of the Gold Coast Seizure
of a sergeant at Anamabo Expedition to Dunkwa The Accras join
the Government.

A FEW months after the departure of Mr. Bowdich's
embassy from Kumassi a rebellion broke out in Gaman
which engaged the whole attention of the Ashantis, and as
the King did not appear to wish Mr. Hutchinson to remain
in the capital, fearing probably that he might witness some
reverse, it was thought advisable to recall him. The King
then invaded Gaman territory with a large army, all Ashantis
being withdrawn from Fanti country and the paths closed in
order that he might prosecute the war unobserved ; and during
its progress the British authorities remained in a state of
complete ignorance as to its probable result. At the close
of 1818 a few Ashanti stragglers reached the coast in a
miserable plight ; but they would not, or could not, give
any information about the state of affairs in the interior;
and this, coupled with the King's long silence, gave rise to
rumours that the Ashantis had been defeated. The people
of Cape Coast gladly believed these reports, and openly
exulted over the Ashanti resident in that town ; while Mr.
Hope Smith, not sorry perhaps to see the people of Cape
Coast inclined to free themselves from Ashanti domination


at a favourable opportunity, did not restrain or discourage

But while the Fantis were thus indulging their fancies
with reports of the King's disasters, messengers suddenly
arrived from Kumassi to demand satisfaction, under Article 4
of Mr. Bowdich's treaty, for an alleged insult offered to
the King by the people of Kommenda. The rumoured
defeats of the Ashantis had been altogether without founda-
tion. The Gamans had been totally defeated, their King
slain, and their capital, Buntuku, burned ; while, as a punish-
ment for the rebellion, Gaman itself had been reduced from
the rank of a tributary state to that of a province of Ashanti

The offence of the Kommendas was as follows : The
King had sent messengers to Kommenda to announce the
subjection of Gaman, and to demand from them a contribu-
tion of gunpowder and rum to the value of one hundrec
ounces of gold, to enable him to make a great (: custom 7
at Kumassi. The extreme poverty of the inhabitants o
Kommenda a small place rendered any compliance witl
this demand almost impossible ; and with that sturdy inde
pendence which has generally characterised them, they me
the Ashanti envoys outside their town ; which they declinec
to allow them to enter, at the same time positively refusim
to submit to any extortion. The Ashanti messengers thei
proceeded to Cape Coast, whence one of them returne<
to Kumassi to report the failure of their mission, the othe
remaining at Cape Coast, on the plea that he could no
convey to his master the insult which had been offered hinr
but really to watch the course of events and keep the Kin:
informed of all that transpired.

In a few days a message arrived from the King to th :
effect that if the people of Cape Coast did not give hir L
immediate satisfaction for the insult offered him by th :
Kommendas, whom he termed their dependents, he woul I
send down an army to destroy their town. At the palav( :
which was held in the hall of the Castle, the envoy, in tf j
name of the King, demanded redress from the Governc :
by virtue of the treaty, which he produced. He hande I


it to Mr. Hope Smith, desiring that it might be publicly
read, and he added that he had the King's instructions to
leave it with the Governor, if the latter should refuse to abide
by its provisions, as the King could not retain it and go
to war. The treaty was then read, and when the fourth
article was reached the envoy rose and demanded satis-
faction under its provisions.

Mr. Hope Smith had not endeavoured to persuade
the Kommendas to comply with the King's extortionate
demand, and for this he has been considered to blame ; but
on a more careful consideration of the question it will
be seen that he acted wisely. The fourth article of Mr.
Bowdich's treaty was framed with the object of settling, if
possible, in a peaceable manner, through the mediation of
the Governor, any differences that might arise between the
Ashantis and the inhabitants of the towns under the guns
of the forts ; the presumption, of course, being that the
Ashantis should have a bond fide cause of complaint. But
this case was quite different. The Kommendas had com-
mitted no offence beyond refusing compliance with an
unwarrantable demand that had suddenly been made upon
them ; and for the Governor to have used his authority
and influence to induce them to submit to it would, besides
being a gross injustice, have been highly impolitic, and
would only have led to the local Government being regarded
as responsible for the acceptance and fulfilment by the
protected natives of all future demands, however unreason-
able, that Ashanti might choose to make upon them. No
doubt the King wished to construe Article 4 as meaning
that the Governor was to act as his collector of fines, and
that he was in all cases, whether just or unjust, to do his
best to make the people submit to all exactions. But it
could never be so interpreted by the British ; the local
Government could never acknowledge that they were bound
by treaty to back up and enforce the exactions of an
irresponsible King. Mr. Hope Smith therefore declined to
bring any pressure to bear upon the Kommendas or to act
in any way in support of the King's unjustifiable demand.


There was present at the palaver a Mr. Dupuis, whom
the Home Government, anxious to cultivate a friendly
intercourse with Ashanti, had sent out as Consul for Kumassi.
He had arrived on the coast in the beginning of 1819, but
the constant misunderstandings between himself and the
local Government, and the unsettled state of the country,
had delayed his journey to the capital. Mr. Dupuis had
denied the right of the Governor to give him any instruc-
tions, and the latter naturally regarded with some jealousy
his independent position. The appointment of Mr. Dupuis
was very unwise, for it greatly impaired the Governor'*
authority in the eyes of the Ashantis, and also caused c
conflict of authority which destroyed the unity of action thai
was so necessary. Mr. Dupuis's views of the politics of th(
country were diametrically opposed to those of Mr. Hop<
Smith. He appears to have regarded the Ashantis as th<
personification of barbarous honour and honesty, and hi:
policy was to maintain and uphold the authority of th<
King over the coast tribes. His bias in favour of Ashant
is so marked that it seriously impairs the value of the accoun
he has left of these transactions, which is written in a strong
spirit of partisanship, and is contradicted in the most im
portant particulars by Major Ricketts and others.

While the Ashanti envoy was urging his demands upoi
the Governor, Mr. Dupuis desired that he might be informe<
of the nature of his appointment. When this was done th
envoy seemed to think that so unexpected a ciicumstanc :.
as the arrival of an agent direct from England might alte
the King's views, and he therefore, after a little consideratior ,
resolved to retain possession of the treaty for the presen ,
and to apply to the King for fresh instructions. Mr. Hop j
Smith, on his part, declared that the people of Cape Coa^ :.
could not in anyway be held responsible for the refusal of th :
Kommendas to pay the sum demanded from them, an {
that if the King endeavoured to put in force his threat t >
destroy the town, every assistance and protection shoul I
be afforded the inhabitants.

On January 5th, 1820, a nephew of the King, with i


retinue of 1,200 armed attendants, arrived at Cape Coast,
making his entry with the greatest pomp and state. He
brought a fresh demand namely, that the people of Cape
Coast should pay a fine of sixteen hundred ounces for having,
as he asserted, abetted the Kommendas in their refusal ; and
that the Governor should pay a similar fine for having, as
he alleged, broken the fourth article of the treaty by not
obtaining satisfaction for the King from the Kommendas.
The King thus arrogated to himself the privileges both of
plaintiff and judge, and Mr. Hope Smith naturally declined
to submit to any such extortion. It is probable that the
whole of this difficulty had been got up by the King d^-
signedly. He knew very well that the Kommendas could
not pay the sum asked for, and the whole affair was possibly
contrived in order to obtain pretexts for making demands
upon the Government.

Every attempt at negotiation having failed, it was at
length resolved to send Mr. Dupuis to Kumassi. He left
Cape Coast Castle on February Qth, 1820, leaving behind,
with a protest, the instructions which the Governor had given
him, and arrived at Kumassi on the 28th. The Fanti and
Assin villages along the route were still found uninhabited
and in ruins. In fact, Mr, Dupuis estimated that the Fanti
and Assin population had, from between three and four
millions, been reduced to as many hundred thousands ; but
this was the merest conjecture.

At the audiences which ensued, Osai Tutu Kwamina com-
plained of the conduct of the Cape Coast people, whom he
accused of wishing to set him at defiance. An offer from the
Governor to compromise the demand made up'on Cape Coast,
by paying one hundred ounces of gold dust, caused a violent
display of anger; and the King finally dismissed Mr. Dupuis
from the capital, saying that the palaver must be settled at
Cape Coast. It is a pity that this offer was made, for it
undoubtedly weakened the Governor's just contention that
the King had no reasonable grounds for making any demand
upon Cape Coast ; but it was doubtless made in the interests
of peace.


Mr. Dupuis reached Cape Coast Castle on April 5th, and
laid before Mr. Hope Smith what purported to be a treaty
which he had concluded with the Ashanti King. The stipu-
lations were to the following effect : That the King should
acknowledge Mr. Dupuis as Consul ; that he should, when
called upon, march his armies to any part of the country to
support the interests of Great Britain ; that he abandoned
the claim of sixteen hundred ounces from Cape Coast ; that
he should encourage trade; that the British Government
acknowledged the Fanti territories to be a part of the king-
dom of Ashanti, but that those natives residing under the
forts should have the benefit of English law, and any com-
plaint brought against the inhabitants of the towns under the
forts was to be submitted to the consul for settlement. Al
former treaties between the British and Ashanti, particular!)
the treaty of 1817, were declared null and void. To thes<
were added four supplementary articles, of which three wen
of little importance ; but by the remaining article, the secom
in order, it was stipulated that the natives of Cape Coas
were excluded from participating in the advantages of th
treaty, "as the King is resolved to eradicate from his do
minions the seeds of disobedience and insubordination "
and the King reserved to himself the right to adopt an
measures he thought fit to bring those people under subjectior ,
but promised not to destroy the town of Cape Coast. Th j
claim of sixteen hundred ounces from that town was als >
declared not to be abandoned.

This was the extraordinary document which Mr. Dupu s
produced, and he seems strangely to have misunderstood h &
position. He had been sent to Kumassi to settle, if possibl ,.
the dispute with the people of Cape Coast, and to explain ' >
the King the Governor's views of what might reasonably 1 e
asked- of him under Article 4 of Mr. Bowdich's treaty, ar d
for no other purpose. With other matters he had nothing o
do, and the treaty of 1817 was beyond his sphere of actioi ;
yet he took upon himself to declare that treaty null and voi I,
and to draw up and sign another, under which the princip il
matter it had been his business to settle was left unsettle L


In the treaty of 1817 the sovereignty of the King of
Ashanti over Fanti was not specially acknowledged ; but
Mr. Dupuis went out of his way to have it recognised ; and,
further, exempted the people of Cape Coast from the pro-
tection they had hitherto enjoyed. It was a complete
surrender. He seems to have regarded himself as a pleni-
potentiary entirely independent of the Governor and the
local officials, whom he speaks of as " the servants of a
mercantile board. " One of the stipulations of his treaty was
that his successor should be appointed by himself. He ap-
pears to have been morbidly jealous of Mr. Bowdich, and the
numerous attacks upon that gentleman which his book
contains do him little credit. Naturally, Mr. Hope Smith
declined to ratify a treaty by which the inhabitants of Cape
Coast, who had committed no offence, were to be left to the

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 12 of 34)