A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

A history of the Gold Coast of West Africa online

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Coast, which presented a scene of extraordinary excitement,
every street being crowded with people. The chiefs had
hoped by the display of force to deter the Governor from
compelling Adu to submit to the decision of the judicial


assessor; but any act of violence they might have contem-
plated was baffled by the measures taken. A party of
gunners was stationed in Fort William, ready to open fire
upon a preconcerted signal, the garrison was under arms,
the gates of the Castle closed, and only a small wicket left
open for the admission of the chiefs and principal men.
Fully six hundred of the chief men of the country were
assembled in the Palaver Hall, and before them Adu formally
made submission, and acknowledged his error. He did not,
he said, regard the question as his own, but rather as that
of the whole Fanti nation, by the chiefs of which he had
been appointed guardian of the honour of the god. He
still protested against the sentence of the assessor, but
expressed his willingness to abide by the decision of the
Governor. The latter upheld the former judgment, and the
amount being at once paid, this troublesome affair, which
had threatened to involve the whole of Fanti in insurrection,
and had been caused simply by the unseemly acts of a few
fanatical converts, was happily settled.

About 1850 the King of Denmark became desirous of
disposing of his possessions on the Gold Coast, and made
overtures to the British Government for their purchase.
These possessions consisted of Christiansborg Castle, and
three small forts at Ningo, Addah, and Kittah,* of which
Kittah Fort was the only one habitable. After some
negotiations they were purchased for ; 10,000, and handed
over in 1851, the natives making no difficulty about trans-
ferring their allegiance. The purchase of these forts was
considered a favourable opportunity for imposing customs
duties on certain imported goods in order to create a
revenue to defray the expenses of the Government, and
negotiations were opened with the Dutch to induce them
to adopt a similar course. They, however, declined to
enter into any fiscal arrangements, and their possessions
being so interspersed amongst those of the British that it

* Commonly spelt "Quittah," but always pronounced "Kittah." It
means "Sand-hill."


would be impossible to collect duties in the latter if the
former were free, it became necessary to abandon the

Governor Winniett died at the end of 1851, and was
succeeded in the government by Major S. Hill, during whose
administration an important change took place. The Home
Government considered that the natives ought to contribute
either directly or indirectly towards the cost of the Govern-
ment that protected them, and it having being found im-
practicable to raise a revenue by import duties, a poll-tax
was now proposed, on the recommendation of Lord Grey.
The protected tribes, well understanding the advantages
they derived from British protection, raised no objection,
and in 1852 a meeting of all the chiefs of the Protectorate
was held to discuss the matter. The meeting first resolved
itself into a legislative assembly, with power to enact laws ;
and then, " having taken into consideration the advantage
of British protection, considered it reasonable that the natives
should contribute to the support of the Government/' and
agreed to a poll-tax. The ordinance at once received the
sanction of the Home Government, and by it the natives
acquired a positive and definite recognition of their right
to protection. They had undertaken to pay a tax in con-
sideration of that protection, and the obligations of the
Government were no longer doubtful. The treaty concluded
by Mr. Bowdich in 1817 having been cancelled by the one
made by Governor Maclean in 1831, that document, with
the treaty of 1844 and this new ordinance, now defined the
position of the British Government, Ashanti, and the Pro-
tected Tribes. The latter had consented to submit to British
control, to modify their laws, and to contribute to the support
of the Government, which on its part was bound to preserve
order, to protect from aggression, and to guarantee their inde-
pendence of Ashanti.

The Gold Coast, since the resumption of the government
by the Crown, had been garrisoned by one company of the
ist West India Regiment, but this force being altogether


inadequate, and the imposition of the poll-tax having placed
the Government in a better financial position, it was now
decided to raise a local corps to garrison the forts, and to
dispense with the services of the imperial troops. This new
force, which was to consist of natives trained as gunners, was
to be termed the Gold Coast Corps. Its formation nearly
caused a serious disturbance. The Governors of the Gold
Coast had been instructed not to deliver to their owners
runaway slaves, who were considered to have recovered their
freedom as soon as they entered a British fort; and by a
diplomatic fiction no slavery was supposed to exist within
the British jurisdiction. There was no authority for thus
withholding slaves from their owners, and to do so was a
violation of implied engagements ; but the instructions had
been issued in deference to the clamour of the anti-slavery
party in England. As a rule, slaves had not taken advantage
of the asylum offered by the British forts, for unless they
could obtain employment they would starve ; but now the
formation of the new corps offered an opportunity for ob-
taining both freedom and the means of existence. The
corps was to consist of three hundred men, and numbers of
slaves presented themselves at Cape Coast Castle for enlistment,
whom Major Hill, in accordance with his instructions, refused
to deliver to their masters. These slaves, it may be re-
marked, were not native-born, for such slaves rarely, if
ever, sought to leave their owners, they being considered
a part of the family, and inheriting, in default of other heirs,
the family property. They were generally Odonkos, men
of a tribe living to the north of Ashanti, a regular trade in
whom had existed for a long time past between the Ashantis
and the protected tribes, and from which tribe the present
Houssa Constabulary was at one time largely recruited.
The property of the well-to-do natives consisted largely, if
not chiefly, of slaves, and no reasoning could convince them
that this forcible detention of their property was not an act
of robbery. The greatest excitement prevailed, and several
of the principal chiefs adopted an almost hostile attitude.


They appeared determined to defend their rights, and had
the Governor persisted in acting up to his instructions, an
outbreak would certainly have taken place ; but he prudently
effected a compromise. The chiefs promised to procure the
required number of men, provided they were paid for ; and
the Governor allowed the recruits to arrange to pay their
late masters a small sum monthly, until the sum of eight
pounds, the price of an Odonko slave, was paid. Under this
arrangement the new corps became completed about the
middle of 1852, and the company of the ist West India
Regiment, which had been reduced by deaths to only fifty
rank and file, proceeded to Sierra Leone early in 1853.

Ashanti, which had for a long time abstained from
meddling with the affairs of the Protectorate, now recom-
menced its old policy, and bribed Kwadjo Tchibbu, a chief
of Assin who had defied the authority of the Government, and
committed a number of offences, to bring his people under
Ashanti rule. For this Tchibbu was arrested and brought
to Cape Coast, where he was tried before a native court
under the presidency of the Governor, convicted, sentenced
to imprisonment for life, and confined in the Castle. There
was at this time a strong war-party in Ashanti, whose people
could not forget the former sway they had exercised over the
coast tribes, and the large revenue they had extorted from
them ; and it was only the peaceful disposition of Osai
Kwaku Dua, who had succeeded to the stool at the death of
Osai Okoto in 1838, that prevented an immediate collision.
At the urgent request of the chiefs, Governor Hill after a
time liberated Kwadjo Tchibbu, but before so doing he
exacted hostages from all the Assin chiefs for their future
good behaviour, and required that all the Assins still re-
maining north of the Prah should cross over to the south side
and live under British rule. He also stipulated that the
Assins and Fantis should at once make a military road from
Cape Coast to Prahsu, a stipulation which was unfortunately
never enforced. But by accepting bribes from the Ashanti
King, Kwadjo Tchibbu had, according to native custom


brought himself under Ashanti rule, and early in 1853 the
Ashantis crossed the Prah to seize him and another chief.
He was accordingly brought to Cape Coast for safety, and
troops were moved into the Assin country, while the pro-
tected tribes were called out and camps formed at Mansu
and Dunkwa. The King made various excuses for the
invasion, but the chief in command of the small body of
men who had crossed the frontier acknowledged that his
orders were to seize Kwadjo Tchibbu and the other chief.
This first force having failed to effect its object, a larger
body was soon despatched from Kumassi, to meet which a
small detachment was sent to Prahsu under Ensign Brownell,
of the Gold Coast Corps, with orders not to fire a shot
except in self-defence, and to do all in his power to induce
the Ashantis to retire peaceably. He succeeded so well
in this that the Ashantis, seven thousand in number, returned
to Kumassi, promising to preserve the peace ; but Governor
Hill still feared their return, and stated in his despatches
that he could place no reliance upon their promises.

At the close of 1853 disturbances arose amongst those
nations near Christiansborg who had formerly been under
Danish rule, and the disaffection soon spread as far as the Volta.
The outbreak was partly due to the enforcement of some new
laws governing the sale and transfer of slaves, and partly to
the suppression of human sacrifices, which the Danish
authorities had been much too weak to interfere with. By
the end of December a body of some four thousand natives
from the sea-coast villages to the east of Christiansborg was
in arms, but they made no attack, and Governor Hill, who
arrived from Sierra Leone early in January, 1854, thinking it
probable that if left to itself the force would melt away, made
no movement against it. The result fully justified his ex-
pectations, for by January I9th the force dispersed, and the
leaders, who asked for pardon, were punished by the infliction
of a small fine.

Though this outbreak had died a natural death, great
dissatisfaction still prevailed in the eastern districts, and


difficulties were thrown in the way of the collection of the
poll-tax. The natives of this portion of the Gold Coast, of a
different race to those of the western districts, were by nature
unruly, and they would have declared themselves independent
of the Government had they been able to do without its pro-
tection from Ashanti. In August, 1854, they again rose in
arms and blockaded Christiansborg Castle, in consequence of
which their villages were bombarded and destroyed by H.M.S.
Scourge. The immediate cause of the outbreak on this
occasion was the seizure by Captain Bird, Gold Coast Corps,
of some rum which had been smuggled into Christians-
borg ; when an excited mob had attacked and severely
beaten the men, and stoned a party of soldiers under Lieu-
tenant Brownell. On August I3th the Scourge bombarded
Labaddi, the head-quarters of disaffection, and the town of
Christiansborg was reduced to ruins by the guns of the
Castle ; but the natives kept up so hot a fire that the men
at the guns suffered heavily, three men being killed, and
Captain Bird and twenty-three men wounded, out of the
garrison of one hundred and thirty-one. After the destruc-
tion of Christiansborg town the natives remained in occupa-
tion of the ruins, whence they kept up a desultory fire upon
the Castle, particularly at night; and the siege being still
pressed and an attack on James Fort, Accra, threatened,
reinforcements 4 were asked for from Sierra Leone. They
arrived on October 27th, and the blockading force there-
upon retired some miles into the interior, where it gradually
dispersed ; and the chiefs, abandoned by their followers,
were compelled to ask for terms.

The disaffection in the eastern districts slumbered until
August, 1858, when a rebellion broke out in Krobo. The
country of Krobo consists of a vast undulating plain,
traversed by several isolated ranges of abrupt and rocky
heights of small extent, one of which, known as the Krobo
Mountain, can be distinguished from the sea at a distance of
forty miles. This mountain, which is almost perpendicular
on the east and south-east, and is everywhere inaccessible,


except at one point on the northern side, where a narrow,
steep path leads to the summit, is regarded as the cradle
of the Krobo tribe, and was the stronghold to which the
women and children were sent in time of war, and where
the men retired when defeated. All Krobos were, and still
are, buried on the mountain, on which a yearly mourning
custom for the dead is held. Under another custom, called
Otofo, all Krobo girls of respectable parents are sent to
the mountain at nine or ten years of age, and remain there
for about six years, under the care of the priestesses, per-
forming certain ceremonies ; and no girl is considered really
eligible for marriage unless she has gone through this period
of tutelage and instruction. During the Ashanti invasion
of 1814, the whole Krobo tribe had withdrawn to this
mountain fastness, and had beaten off every assault of
the enemy by rolling down masses of granite upon them.
At the present time there are twelve villages on its summit,
but in 1858 there were only two, situated on almost inac-
cessible crags about one mile apart.

The leader of the outbreak was Ologo Patu, chief of South-
western Krobo, aud the whole district was so unsettled that
Major Bird, who was administering the government, determined
to take prompt measures and stamp out the rebellion before
it had time to assume more serious proportions. The Gold
Coast Corps was accordingly concentrated at Accra, and
strong contingents having been furnished from Accra, Akwa-
pim, Akwamu, and Eastern Krobo, the whole force moved to
Prampram early in September. On the I ith it advanced from
Prampram, and on the 1 3th encamped under the Krobo
Mountain without meeting with any opposition, but on the
previous night the whole Akwapim contingent had deserted.
On the 1 8th a small party under Captain Brownell, which
attempted to occupy a height commanding the town, was
driven back, and in the afternoon the Krobos made a vigorous
onslaught on the camp, which was only repulsed after two
hours' fighting, and then with so much difficulty that it was
thought advisable to withdraw the expeditionary force to


Assabi, and await additional native levies. The operations
then dragged wearily, and it was not until October iQth that
sufficient reinforcements had come in to justify a fresh
advance ; but on that day nearly fifteen thousand men were
concentrated at Saddle Hill, about a mile and a half to the
south of the Krobo Mountain, and Ologo Patu, convinced
that further resistance was hopeless, surrendered.



Dispute with Ashanti The Protectorate invaded Engagements a
Essikuma and Bobikuma Military mismanagement Native feelin
Mr. Pine's proposals Expedition to the Prah The Home Go
vernment puts an end to the operations Effects of the campaign-
Delusive proclamation War with the Awunas Ashanti intrigue i
Awuna Governor BlackalPs treaty.

AT the close of the year 1862 the Gold Coast was in a
condition of prosperity such as it had never before reached
Interior disturbances had ended with the termination of the
Krobo war, the Ashantis were on most friendly terms with
the Government and the protected tribes, and every week
dozens of their traders, laden with the commodities of the
interior, arrived at the sea-coast towns. Never before had
trade been so prosperous and the outlook so peaceable,
when suddenly, without any warning, a misunderstanding
with Ashanti arose and ultimately resulted in hostilities.
The matter was as follows.

-An Ashanti chief, Kwaku Djanin, was charged with
appropriating to his own use, contrary to the laws of the
kingdom, certain nuggets of gold that he had found, and
was summoned to Kumassi by Osai Kwaku Dua to answer
the charge ; but being, perhaps, conscious of guilt, he, aftei
at first feigning compliance, fled from Ashanti with some
eighty followers, subjects of the King, and took refuge ir
the protected territory. As soon as this escape was dis


covered an ambassador of high rank was despatched to
Cape Coast to inform the Governor, Mr. Richard Pine, of
all the circumstances of the case, and to request the extra-
dition of the runaways, and that of a slave boy who had
also escaped into the Protectorate. This embassy arrived
at Cape Coast in December, 1862, and a meeting, which
was attended by the Governor and Council, the naval and
military commanders on the station, the principal merchants
of the town, and the chief and head-men of Cape Coast,
was at once held in the Palaver Hall of the Castle. The
Ashanti ambassador, who had brought with him the golden
axe to show that ,the matter was important, set forth the
case for the King in a speech remarkable for its clearness,
and concluded by demanding the surrender of the fugitives
on the ground that there was an agreement between the
Government and the King of Ashanti that criminals should
be mutually given up. Kwaku Djanin had broken the
law of his country ; he was therefore a criminal and should
be surrendered.

Although there is now no evidence of the existence
of any such agreement as that alleged, there is presumptive
proof that such a compact did exist. The demand was
evidently made in all sincerity as a demand that the King
was entitled to make; and it cannot be supposed that he
had the hardihood to invent an imaginary agreement to
suit a present need. It was generally believed on the Coast
that there was such an agreement. Mr. Brodie Cruickshank,
whose work on the Gold Coast was published in 1853,
that is, nine years before these events, refers to it in the
following terms : " It was stipulated in our treaties with
the King that his fugitive subjects should be re-delivered
to him in the same way that Fantis, flying into his
dominions, were to be restored to the Governor. This
arrangement was necessary to prevent malefactors escaping
punishment." In the case of the runaway being merely a
fugitive slave and not a criminal, he adds that the Governor,
before surrendering him, always required security that his
life should be spared. Colonel Nagtglas, Netherlands Com-



missioner on the Gold Coast in 1869-70, and who had
served on the Gold Coast for many years prior to that
date, also gives similar evidence. He says in a letter
dated February, 1874: "There is an agreement in existence
between the local British Government and the King of
Ashanti, either oral or in writing, that on both sides
runaway prisoners for crime should be delivered."

It seems, then, reasonably certain that there was such

an agreement, and that the King of Ashanti, in demanding

the surrender of Djanin, was making a demand he was

entitled to make ; but Governor Pine did not go into that

question at all. It was well known that to surrender Djanin

would be to consign him to certain death, and the question

simply was whether, knowing what the consequences would

be, they should surrender him. On this point the meeting

was divided in opinion. Many of the merchants, with

Commodore Wilmot, strongly supported the claim of the

King, but the head-men of Cape Coast, who it was said

had been bribed by Djanin, and others of the merchants,

were against it. The Governor also was of opinion that

the fugitives should not be surrendered, so, as a matter

of course, the official members of the Council voted with

him, and it was finally decided by a considerable majority

to reject the King's demand. This decision met with the

approval of the Home Government; and the Duke of

Newcastle, in a despatch upon the subject, said : " I entirely

approve of your having refused to surrender to the King

of Ashanti the old man and the boy who had been brought

into British territory. No person once brought within the

limits of a British possession can be then seized and handed

over to a foreign power except with the sanction of the law

of the colony ; and no law should authorise such delivery

to the authorities of a country in which justice is not fairly

administered, except in the case of heinous crimes/'

It was well known on the Gold Coast that the result of
this refusal would be war. It was true that Osai Kwaku Dua
was the most pacific ruler that had ever sat on the stool of
Ashanti, but even if he were disposed to overlook what must


have appeared to him to be a breach of contract, the chiefs of
Ashanti would not have suffered him to do so. In fact, if he
did not declare war his throne would be endangered. Con-
sequently, at a grand palaver held at Kumassi, the King
asked the assembled chiefs if it was to be submitted to, that
a subject, having violated the laws of his country, should find
protection in a neighbouring state, and the King have no
power to demand his surrender ; and in a scene of the
greatest excitement it was universally agreed that such an
insult could only be avenged by war. The King, however,
had not then a sufficient stock of gunpowder for such a
struggle, so to gain time he sent a second message to
Governor Pine complaining strongly of his action, and im-
mediately began purchasing large quantities of arms and
ammunition at Elmina. The dispute was soon further
complicated by the action of the Fantis, who seeing that war
was inevitable, and considering it the height of folly to quietly
allow the Ashantis to complete their preparations, seized and
put in log a large number of Ashantis who were returning
with ammunition from Elmina. The reasoning of the Fantis
was undoubtedly sound, but as war had not been yet declared
with Ashanti the Government was supposed to be at peace
with it, and the prisoners were ordered to be released and
their goods restored to them.

The preparations for war being at last completed, an
Ashanti army crossed the Prah early in 1864; one division
of some two thousand men being despatched to the frontier of
Wassaw, with orders to keep the Wassaws and Denkeras in
check, but to avoid as much as possible any general engage-
ment ; and a second division, eight thousand strong, being
sent, with similar orders, down the main road from Prahsu to
push into the middle of the Protectorate. The main body,
twenty thousand strong, under Awusu Kokkor, the King's
uncle, soon followed and marched on the east of Fanti,
through Akim. At this time almost the whole of the troops
on the Gold Coast, consisting of the Gold Coast Corps and
small detachments of the 2nd and 3rd West India Regiments,
were stationed in the eastern districts of the Protectorate, at

Q 2



Accra, Prampram, Kwantanan,* and Kpong,f to effect the
settlement of the fine which had been imposed upon the
Krobos for their rebellion of 1858. From these stations they
were at once withdrawn as soon as the news of the invasion
reached the Governor, and a detachment of the 2nd West
India Regiment, which opportunely arrived in a transport
from Lagos, was detained and landed at Cape Coast. The
protected natives also came forward in considerable numbers
to offer their services, and were formed into two bodies, the
Agunas and Gomoas being encamped at Essikuma, and the
Denkeras, Arbras, Assins, and people of Cape Coast and
Anamabo at Mansu.

While these defensive measures were still being taken, the
main Ashanti army under Awusu Kokkor traversed Western
Akim, the inhabitants of which fled before it, and falling sud-

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 19 of 34)