A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

A history of the Gold Coast of West Africa online

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again brought forward to show that they ought not to
take it. It was once more reasserted that British territory
on the Gold Coast consisted only of the ground upon
which the forts actually stood, although, by usage and
sufferance, the Coast towns had for years been British
possessions, in which policemen, who were paid by the
Colonial Government, patrolled the streets, and arrested
persons who committed offences against English law, who
were then tried by English magistrates, and imprisoned
in Colonial gaols. Now it was said that these towns were
foreign territory, in which the British had no jurisdiction,
and where, consequently, they could not abolish slavery ;
but this quibble was brushed aside, with many others,
and the ordinances disposing of the question of slavery
were sent out from England to be passed by the Legislative
Council of the Colony. And, indeed, it was quite time
that something was done, for Colonial officials had not


hesitated to accept slaves in payment of debts contracted
by natives, and several officers of the Government had,
when Captain Glover was enlisting- recruits at Accra, flatly
refused to allow their Odonko slaves to be enrolled.

On the 3rd of November, 1874, a meeting of all the
Kings and chiefs of the western and central portions of the
Gold Coast was held in the Castle at Cape Coast, and Captain
Strahan informed them in a lengthy address that slavery,
whether domestic or other, and the custom of pawning, were
to be at an end. Pawning was a custom under which the
head of a family could give any subordinate member of it to
a creditor, to be retained by the latter as a temporary slave,
until the debt and interest, which continued to run, were
paid. A father could likewise, with the consent of the
mother, pawn his children, and a mother could pawn therr
without the consent of the father, provided that he refused tc
give her the sum she required. As the debts for which pawn:
were given as security were rarely, if ever, paid, numbers o
people were thus given into perpetual bondage, which wa
transmitted from generation to generation, for if a pawn dice
without being redeemed, another, usually one of his childrer
*liad to be substituted.

The chiefs consulted together, and, after a short interva
Adu, chief of Mankassim, asked permission for them to b
allowed to retire till next day, in order that they migr ; |
deliberate as to the answer to be returned ; but this wz
refused, and "the Governor withdrew to allow them fu 1.
freedom of debate. In an hour he returned, and the Kings an 1J
chiefs then said they were willing to cease buying and sellin
slaves, but objected to those slaves they now had beir
permitted to go free without payment, or any cause beir
shown. They also objected to the custom of pawning beir
prohibited. After some discussion, however, the question
pawning was settled by the debtor being held responsible f
the amount for which the pawn had been pledged ; and wh< n
it was explained to the chiefs that it was not intended
compel slaves to leave their owners, but only to give a:
slave who wished to leave his owner liberty to do so, th


expressed themselves as satisfied. To have endeavoured to force
every slave, willing or unwilling, to leave his owner would
have been an unwarrantable interference with individual
freedom of action, and would besides have been a severe blow
to the chiefs and influential natives, whose property largely
consisted of slaves. The chiefs were perfectly satisfied when
the conditions of the abolition of slavery were explained,
because they knew that most slaves would rather remain with
their owners, who fed them and supplied their daily wants,
than go out into the world to seek the means of existence ;
and in the end it was only the idle and disorderly slaves who
availed themselves of their freedom, and, it may be said, thus
added seriously to the criminal population. Slavery as it
existed on the Gold Coast had none of the degrading
characteristics of slavery in the West Indies or America, for
a slave was always regarded as one of the family, and not
unfrequently married into it. Sometimes even the social
position of the slave was superior to that of his owner, and
as the slave had the right to acquire and hold property, it
was possible to see a master swelling the retinue of a slave
who had amassed wealth.

On December I7th, 1874, a proclamation was issued
forbidding slavery and the dealing in slaves, and declaring
that all children born after November 5th, 1874, were free.
The proclamation concluded thus : " But it is not intended by
any of the aforesaid laws or otherwise to offer inducement
to any persons to leave any master in whose service they may
be desirous of remaining, or to forsake the kru'm where they
have been accustomed to inhabit, and that it is intended to
permit the family and tribal relations to continue in all
respects according as used and wont, except only that of
slavery, and such customs as arise therefrom, and are thereon
necessarily dependent."

2 A



Affairs in Ashanti Secession of Djuabin Conquest of Djuabin by
Ashanti Fresh "troubles in Awuna Ashanti intrigues in Adansi
The Golden Axe An invasion of Assin threatened Protracted

SHORTLY after the termination of the Ashanti War, the
Kotoko Council of Kumassi dethroned Kwoffi Kari-kari
placing his brother, Mensa, on the stool in his stead, anc
about the same time Asafu Agai, King of Djuabin, definitel}
seceded from the Ashanti kingdom, and with the chiefs o
Assuri, Affidguassi,and Nsuta formed an independent kingdom
This example was soon followed by others, the distan
province of Kwao first declaring its independence, and th
chiefs of Bekweh and Kokofu shortly after. All these forme
feudatories of Ashanti made overtures to the Colonial
Government, being desirous of having British protectio i
extended to them, but the Imperial Government, anxious ru
to increase its responsibilities on the Gold Coast, rejected th >
offers. This was a great mistake if it was the policy of tl
Government to put it out of the power of Ashanti to ever aga x
make aggressions on the Protectorate, for though the Ashan i
kingdom had now fallen to pieces, yet it was certain that tl a
Ashantis would by diplomacy, intrigue, or force do everythii ga
in their power to reconstruct it, and probably with succes >J
It would therefore have been politic to have taken at lea ;t|
Djuabin under British protection, for that kingdom \v J


now as powerful as what remained of Ashanti, and would
iave proved a useful ally in the event of any future disturb-
mce, while our recognition of its independence Avould have
guaranteed it against attack from Ashanti. However, in
accordance with the rule that had been laid down of strict
non-intervention in the affairs of the tribes beyond the
Protectorate, nothing was done, with the result that Mensa
very soon endeavoured to win back to their allegiance the
seceded districts. At first, apparently, he met with little
success, but about July, 1875, the chief of Mampon, acting
inder Mensa's instructions, commenced negotiations with one
of the principal chiefs of Djuabin, who for some reason was
dissatisfied with his position. This chief promised to assist
the Ashantis should they invade Djuabin, but Asafu Agai
discovered his treachery and put him to death, and then, in
revenge for Mensa's intrigues, kidnapped and plundered a
number of Ashantis. Upon this Mensa demanded of the
Colonial Government that the King of Djuabin should be
called upon to pay a fair proportion of the indemnity which
had been claimed from the whole kingdom ; and in July,
1875, he addressed a letter to the European merchants of
Cape Coast, complaining of the action of the King of Djuabin,
whom he accused of kidnapping Ashantis who lived near the
Djuabin frontier, and of closing the roads to trade. He
further complained that Asafu Agai had boasted that several
of the tribes of the Protectorate, especially the Eastern and
Western Akims, had promised to support him in a war with
Ashanti, and stated that he had patiently borne a number of
insults without retaliating, in order to prove to the Govern-
ment his good faith and his desire for peace. He therefore
appealed to the merchants to use their influence with the
Government to restrain the King of Djuabin, and declared
that, if the Government would not do this, war would ensue,
as the Ashantis could no longer submit to such outrages.
This important letter was duly forwarded by the merchants
to the Governor, but only drew from him the reply that he
would act in reference to the affairs of the interior as seemed
to him advisable.

2 A 2


In making this declaration Mensa acted in good faith, and
it is much to be regretted that the Government did not send
a message to restrain Asafu Agai, for, though there were
faults on both sides, he was chiefly to blame. It is probable
that his head had been turned by his sudden accession to
power, for he sent insulting messages to Mensa, and invited
the protected tribes to come and share the spoils of Kumassi
with him; with the result that by August, 1875, the tensior
had become so great that war was inevitable. In view o
the approaching conflict, some of the former feudatories o
Ashanti found themselves obliged to take one side or th<
other, and the chiefs of Bekweh and Kokofu returned t<
their allegiance. The first step towards the reconstructioi .
of the Ashanti kingdom was thus directly caused by th
inaction of the Colonial Government.

Matters were now further complicated by M. Bonnat, wh )
was engaged in a scheme for opening a trade route wit i
Salagha, a large and populous Mohammedan town, said to t ;
situated eight days' journey to the north-east of Kumassi. '. tl
had formerly been to some extent subject to Ashanti, but ' r
1873 all the Ashantis had been killed or driven out of tl u
country. In pursuance of his scheme, M. Bonnat visit< 5j
the Ashanti capital in company with Prince Ansa, ai ;
apparently forgetting all he had suffered at the hands of t ej
Ashantis during his captivity, was won over to their interes sj
and became a strong partisan. In this capacity he went (
Djuabin and tried to induce Asafu Agai to go to Kuma m
and make submission, but failed, and was regarded with >(1
much suspicion that his own life was in some danger, wh 1 j
about sixty Ashantis who were in his following were actua 1
put to death. In extenuation of this massacre Asafu A; si
afterwards explained that he had no voice in the matter, iJ
the slaughter of these men was ordered by the Keratchi g< cl
the chief deity of Djuabin ; but the priests had really o 11
issued the order after consultation with him, and it :
probable that he suggested it. Notwithstanding this outre jl
Mensa was so afraid that the Colonial Government wo ill
interpose if he invaded Djuabin, that he still delayed act : )i|


but towards the end of September a fresh cause of quarrel
arose. In that month the inhabitants of five villages on the
borders of Djuabin notified their desire to become subject
to Ashanti, and Mensa accordingly sent some court officials
to them ; but the Djuabins strove to prevent the secession,
and a skirmish ensued, which resulted in the defeat of
the Djuabins and the emigration of the people of the villages
to Ashanti.

When the news of this affair reached Cape Coast, the
Colonial Government at last awoke to the fact that some-
thing ought to be done, and they sent Dr. Gouldsbury on
a mission to the interior, with instructions, first, to proceed
to Eastern Akim and warn the King of that tribe, who had
been tampered with by the Djuabins, not to take part in the
impending hostilities ; and, secondly, to proceed from Akim
to Djuabin and Kumassi and forbid the war. Dr. Goulds-
bury left Accra on October 23rd, 1875, but his mission had
been kept so little secret that his approaching departure had
been known for some time, and, long before he started,
Prince Ansa had sent warning to Mensa that if he intended
to fight he must do so at once before the white man arrived
" to palaver." Mensa acted upon this advice, and on October
3Oth Djuabin messengers reached Dr. Gouldsbury at Kibbi,
in Eastern Akim, with the news that the Ashantis had in-
vaded their country in two armies, one of which was, when
they left, encamped within a few miles of the capital. On
October 3ist the town of Djuabin was attacked ; the conflict
raged during the two succeeding days, and on November
3rd the Djuabins fled in all directions, completely routed.
Dr. Gouldsbury now proceeded to Djuabin, which he found
in the hands of the Ashantis, and foreseeing that the prestige
of this conquest would do much to restore Ashanti to its
old position, and undo the work of Sir Garnet Wolseley's
expedition, he wrote to the Governor strongly recommending
that Djuabin should be occupied by a British force. This
proposal was not entertained, and, unless the Government
wanted a new Ashanti war on its hands, it would have been
madness, with the handful of troops at its disposal, to have


tried to snatch the fruits of victory from the Ashantis in their
hour of triumph. The Governor had allowed the proper
moment for intervention to escape him, and now it was too
late to remedy it.

With the conquest of Djuabin, Assuri, Affidguassi, and
Nsuta returned to their allegiance, and the results were soor
perceptible in the altered tone adopted by Mensa ; for wher
Dr. Gouldsbury went on from Djuabin to Kumassi, he wa<
treated with scant courtesy and could effect nothing, whil<
the constabulary officer who had been sent with an escort tc
receive an instalment of the war indemnity, was hustled b\
a Kumassi mob and his men pelted with mud. The office
marched out of the capital with his men in high dudgeor ,
and the King, thinking that he had perhaps gone too fa: ,
sent the gold after him ; but this experience was so alarmin. j
that the Colonial Government never applied for the paymer :!
of another instalment, and out of the 50,000 ounces of gol I
promised by the treaty of Fomana not more than 4,000 wei %
ever paid. Thus, within less than two years after the bun I
ing of Kumassi the Ashantis had, thanks to the Governmei t;
policy of non-intervention, recovered the whole of their lo t:
territory except Kwao and Adansi, and escaped the paymei ii
of the greater part of the indemnity.

As the Djuabins were driven across the Prah they we I
disarmed by a party of Houssa constabulary under Capta :
J. S. Hay, and settled in a tract of country to the north > I
Accra, where they founded a town called New Djuabin. rJ
1877, the ex-King of Djuabin was discovered plotting wi l!
some of the chiefs of the eastern districts to recover his Ic ;
kingdom, and on i6th July a meeting of chiefs was conven cj
at Accra by the Governor, Mr. Sandford Freeling, at whi :]
they were told that they could not be allowed to use t i
Protectorate as a base for making attempts against Ashai t:j
Chief Tacki, of Accra, who was one of the principal offende ,
was fined, and all were warned that any future offence woi l<ij
be punished with transportation.

In 1878 Geraldo de Lema was again the cause of J
outbreak among the Awunas. When we last left t ii;


person, a reward of ,200 had been offered by Sir Arthur
Kennedy for his apprehension, but he was never taken, and
owing to the rapid change of Governors and officials, the
fact that he was a disturber of public peace whose arrest
was necessary, seems to have been lost sight of, as,
though he visited Cape Coast and Accra after 1874, he
was not apprehended. Under the treaty of Jella Koffi
the Gold Coast Colony had been extended to the east as
far as the village of Adaffia, about eighteen miles beyond
Kittah, and the usual import duties were levied on goods
landed between the Volta and that place. The district, which
was termed the Kittah district, was of peculiar formation.
The sea-coast consisted of a ridge of sand, or rather a suc-
cession of ancient sea-beaches, varying in breadth from about
three miles near the town of Awuna to about two hundred
yards at Kittah, and behind it lay the broad sheet of water
known as the Kittah Lagoon. This lagoon contained many
islands, of which the most important was Anyako, and
extended on the east to within a few miles of Adaffia ; so
that persons desirous of avoiding payment of customs dues
could land goods just beyond the boundary of the Colony,
and transport them a short distance by land to the lagoon,
which afforded every facility for their concealment and
distribution. The Awunas of the sea-coast, equally with
those of the islands and northern shores of the lagoon, were
not slow to avail themselves of this easy mode of smuggling,
and the European merchants also connived at it, for they
established stores and factories at Danu, about a mile beyond
the frontier, and gave the native traders orders for goods to
be delivered at this place, in return for the palm oil and palm
kernels delivered at Kittah. By this arrangement, while con-
tinuing to enjoy the protection of the Colonial Government
at Kittah for the storage of native produce, they evaded the
payment of dues on imported goods, and at the same time
left all the risks of smuggling to their native correspondents.
Geraldo de Lema, who, now that there was no longer
any market for slaves, had abandoned slave dealing, and
engaged in the profitable business of supplying the Awunas


with spirits, tobacco, gunpowder, and muskets, was one of the
chief offenders against the revenue laws, and had stores on
the north side of the lagoon, to which goods were regularly
smuggled from Danu.

In consequence of these practices the revenue of the
district was not sufficient to meet the expenditure, and this
condition lasted till 1878, when Lieutenant A. B. Ellis, ist
West India Regiment, was appointed District Commissioner.
That officer, seeing that there was no prospect of improve-
ment as long as the natives were suffered to smuggle with
impunity, took vigorous measures, and organised and led
by night surprise parties of Houssa Constabulary, who made
so many seizures between the end of the lagoon and Adaffia
that the trade of Danu was virtually ruined, the natives
rinding the risks of smuggling too great to be incurred. The
revenue of Kittah at once became trebled, but, however
satisfactory this might be to the Government, the natives
did not at all appreciate the change, and rumours of dis-
affection were soon heard from various quarters. Geraldo de
Lema, who was one of the chief sufferers by the suppression
of smuggling, incited the Awunas to rebel, and at his
instigation a meeting of the chiefs was held at the town of
Awuna, about the middle of October, 1878, to discuss the
advisability of making war upon the Government. The
feeling of hostility, however, was directed more against the
District Commissioner personally, than against the Govern-
ment, and on the 23rd October, an attempt was made to
murder him, the Awunas hoping that if he were removed,
matters would drift back into their old course. He had
crossed the lagoon in company with another European, and
was just about to land near a village on the northern shore,
when a number of men armed with swords, who had been
concealed in a dense growth of reeds, rushed upon the boat.
A hand-to-hand struggle ensued, in which in the course
of two or three minutes both Europeans and one of the boat's
crew were wounded, but four or five of the Awunas were shot
down, and the remainder, cowed by this unexpected resis-
tance, paused. The boat was at once pushed off into deep


water, and although it was pursued by several canoes filled
with armed men, succeeded in reaching Kittah in safety.
This incident precipitated matters ; the different Constabulary
detachments were called in ; and the whole force of the
district, amounting only to 120 men, was concentrated at
Kittah, which next day was blockaded by the Awunas. On
the night of the 26th an attempt to surprise the place was
made by a flotilla of canoes, but every precaution against
surprise had been taken, and the enemy were driven off by
the discharge of a few rockets. On the 2Qth a reinforcement
of some ninety Houssa Constabulary, that had been asked
for from Accra, arrived, and with them the acting Colonial
Secretary, Captain J. S. Hay, who at once sent messages to
the Awuna chiefs to come to a meeting. The next night,
however, a desultory fire was opened on the fort during a
heavy tornado, and on the night of 6th November, the out-
posts on the western side of the town were attacked, and
several houses, the property of the Government, or occupied
by the civil police, were fired by disaffected natives in the
town itself. On the 8th, Mr. Jackson, the Chief Justice of
the Colony, arrived to hold an inquiry into the cause of the
disturbances, and through the exertions of one or two chiefs,
who were engaged in trade, and had a good deal to lose by
war, the Awuna forces were induced to withdraw from the
sea-board ; but though an inquiry was held, nothing was
done, and the 'affair died a natural death. Inconsequence
of the outbreak, however, and in order to render smuggling
less easy, the boundary of the Colony was moved to Aflao,
about eight miles beyond Adaffia, the sea-board of Agbosomi
and Aflao being incorporated with the Colony by proclama-
tion on December 2nd, 1879.

No sooner had the Ashantis firmly re-established their
rule in Djuabin, than they turned their attention to Adansi,
and commenced intrigues with some of the chiefs to persuade
them to return to their allegiance to Kumassi. As the Adansi
tribe was numerically weak, King Mensa could easily have
compelled it to submit to his rule, but he thought that the
British Government was, if called upon, bound by the Treaty



of Fomana to guarantee its independence, and therefore
instead of proceeding openly against the Adansis by force
arms, strove to attain his end by bribes and promises.
the spring of 1879 these methods had so far prevailed that a
considerable section of the Adansi tribe had been won over
to Ashanti interests, and the King of Adansi, who was not by
any means desirous of resigning his lately gained independence,
sent messengers to the Colonial Government, complaining of
Mensa's conduct. At this time the administration of the
Government was in the hands of Mr. C. C. Lees, who had
had the advantage of many years' experience of native affairs
and he saw clearly that however well a policy of non-inter-
vention beyond the Protectorate might look in theory, it wa<
practically impossible, when dealing with barbarous tribes, tc
say that south of an imaginary line we had certain duties anc
interests, but that north of it we had neither. The Ashanti: I
had so far repaired the disastrous effects of the campaign o
1874 that the independence of Adansi was now almost th< |
only remaining evidence of their defeat, and he saw that t<
allow them to erase it would have the worst possible effec
upon the protected tribes. He therefore, in response to th
complaint of the King of Adansi, sent Captain J. S. Hay t
Kumassi, to demand that the Ashantis should respect th
third article of the Treaty of Fomana, with respect to Adans
and withdraw their emissaries to their own country. Th:
straightforward course had the desired effect, and Mensa
agents were recalled from Adansi, but so wedded was th
Colonial Office to its policy of non-intervention, that thoug
this mission was the only political success that had been secure
since the Ashanti War, the Secretary of State found fault wit
Mr. Lees. He declared that the question of requiring tl
observance of the third article of the treaty was one -
external policy, and that the Government of the Gold Coa
ought not to have taken action without consulting the Hon

Though the Ashantis were checked for the moment th
did not abandon all hope of reducing Adansi to the conditi<
of a tributary state, and when, in 1880, Mr. Ussher, accordii


to the established usage, sent presents to the Ashanti King
on taking up his appointment of Governor, Mensa availed
himself of the opportunity to send messengers down to the

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 30 of 34)