A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

A history of the Gold Coast of West Africa online

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coast, ostensibly to thank Governor Ussher for his presents,
but really to ascertain secretly the views and position of the
Government with regard to Adansi. These messengers, after
being received at Accra, returned to Cape Coast, and re-
mained there collecting information and watching events,
explaining their delay in returning to their own country by
a number of frivolous excuses. There was at this time an
influential war party in Kumassi, which included, among
other powerful chiefs, Opoku, chief of Bekweh, and the
Ashanti General, Awua, chief of Bantama, who were desirous
of removing the ,last important trace of the national defeat
by annexing Adansi. They knew that they could easily
drive the Adansis across the Prah, and they hoped that the
Colonial Government would not interfere ; but they were
willing to take the risk, for they had for some three or four
years been purchasing breech-loading rifles, and in the con-
fidence which these new weapons inspired, they thought they
could hold their own even against another British expedition.
Mensa, who had most to lose by a reverse, was opposed to the
war party, whose hands were greatly strengthened by the in-
trigues which the ex-King of Djuabin and chief Tacki,of Accra,
were notoriously carrying on for an invasion of Ashanti by
the eastern tribes of the Protectorate ; and though the former
was banished to Lagos and the latter arrested and sent to
Elmina, the rankling effects of their actions still remained.
In December, 1880, matters looked so threatening that Mr.
Buhl, Secretary of the Basel Mission Society, reported to the
Colonial Government that there were rumours in Ashanti that
the country was going to war; and in the same month chief
Tabu, of Adansi, informed the District Commissioner of Cape
Coast that the chief of Bekweh had publicly sworn in Kumassi
that he would force Adansi to become subject to Ashanti.
On December ist, 1880, Governor Ussher died at Accra, and
Mr. W. B. Griffith, the Lieutenant-Governor, assumed the
administration of the government of the Colony.


This was the condition of affairs when, on the i8th of
January, i8Si, a fugitive from Kumassi presented himself at
Elmina Castle to claim protection, stating that he was a
Gaman prince, named Awusu, and that, having incurred King
Mensa's displeasure, he had sought safety in flight. His
grandmother was a Gaman princess who had married in
Kumassi and borne a daughter, who, in her turn, had married
Prince Kwadjo, of Ashanti. Awusu was the fruit of this
union, and according to European notions, he would be an
Ashanti, but as by native custom descent is traced solely and
exclusively through mothers, he was, in the eyes of the
natives, a Gaman, and was, in Kumassi, considered an im-
portant personage, as a possible heir to the stool of Gaman.

The day after the arrival of the fugitive at Elmina, an
embassy from Kumassi, bearing the golden axe, arrived at
Cape Coast to request his surrender. After the usual com-
pliments, the messenger told the Lieutenant-Governor, Mr.
W. B. Griffith, that Awusu had been persuaded by an Assin
trader, named Amankra, to run away from Kumassi, and
that the King had sent to ask that he might be given up.
The envoy further asked that Amankra might be surrendered,
because, although he had resided for many years in Kumassi,
and had been regarded as a friend by the King, he had
received bribes from the King of Gaman to induce Awusu to
go to that country. To this Mr. Griffith said that as Awusu
had not committed any crime, and was now under British
protection, it was not in his power to give him up to the
King. The messenger then asked if Awusu would be pre-
vented from going to Gaman, and was told in reply that the
refugee was free to go from British protection, or remain
under it, no one having any right to control his movements.
The messengers seemed much annoyed at this refusal, and,
according to one version, Engui, one of the messengers who
had been sent down to Mr. Ussher, and who had remained at
Cape Coast ever since, then said that the Assins were a tribe
who always caused trouble between Ashanti and the Pro-
tectorate, and that if Awusu were not given up the King


would invade Assin ; but, according to another version, this
statement was made to the Government interpreter, in his
own house, before the meeting with the Lieutenant-Governor.
In any case, the threat of invasion was made in the one
place or the other, so Mr. Griffith caused the treaty of 1874
to be shown and explained to the messenger.

The critical condition of affairs in Ashanti being well
known, this menace was naturally regarded as alarming, and
the alarm was accentuated by the belief that the golden
axe signified that if the demands made were not complied
with, war would ensue. This belief was altogether ill-
founded, as the emblem only indicated that the matter was
one of great importance ; but, the existence of a powerful
war party in Kumassi being well established, the Government
at once asked for reinforcements from Sierra Leone and from
England. Then a panic seems to have broken out. Nothing
being known of the history of former invasions, and the
leisurely movements of Ashanti armies, it was supposed that
in a few days an overwhelming hostile force would arrive at
the Coast ; and it was decided to abandon the whole of the
Protectorate to the enemy and only attempt the defence of
Elmina, Cape Coast, Anamabo, and Axim. The walls of
Elmina Castle were heightened with sand-bags, and earth-
works thrown up in the Government Garden and on Java
Hill, Elmina ; while the detachments of Houssa Constabulary,
which had been maintained at Prahsu and Mansu since 1875,
were withdrawn in such haste, that several thousand rounds
of Snider ammunition were left behind for want of carriers to
transport them. On the night of ist February an Ashanti
army was reported to be within a few miles of Cape Coast,
and the detachment of West India troops at Connor's Hill,
which covers the approach to the town, was hastily reinforced
from the Castle. This state of alarm was not shared by the
natives, who remained in their villages quietly engaged in
their usual avocations, and it ought to have been known that
any invasion would have been heralded by the flight of the
inhabitants of the towns along the Prah road to seek the


protection of the forts ; but public confidence was only
restored when two hundred men of the ist West India
Regiment arrived at Cape Coast on 2nd February.

The rumour of the defensive preparations undertaken by
the Government soon reached Kumassi, and the King, what-
ever his former intentions might have been, being alarmed
thereby, sent messengers, who arrived at Cape Coast on the
8th, to assure the Lieutenant-Governor that he had no hostile
designs upon the Protectorate; and on the i/th a third
embassy arrived from Kumassi, repudiating on the part of the
King any hostile intention, and declaring that, if Engui had
said he would invade Assin, the statement was altogether
unauthorised. The King protested that his only desire was to
live in peace with the English, and that he would never bring
a single gun across the Prah. Whether Mensa had really
meditated an invasion has never been decided, but what
seems most probable is that the unexpected flight of Awusu
had caused great excitement in Kumassi, and the Kotoko
Council, which was largely composed of members of the war
party, had, in an ebullition of anger, caused the threatening
message to be sent. That the Ashantis wished to invade
Adansi is certain, but it is extremely doubtful if the threat
to invade Assin was ever more than a petulant exhibition of

The newly-appointed Governor, Sir Samuel Rowe, being
expected to arrive in a few days, no answer was sent in reply
to the messages of the 8th and i/th of February; nor was
any notice taken of them after his arrival, which took place
on the 4th March. On the contrary, warlike measures
became more in the ascendant than ever, and nothing was
talked of but meetings of friendly chiefs, and the raising of
native levies. All this was, of course, duly communicated to
the King by his agents in Cape Coast, and, not unnaturally
concluding that the Colonial Government had some aggressive
action in contemplation, he sent a fourth embassy to Cape
Coast, instructed, as further appeal to the Government
appeared useless, to solicit the good offices of the merchants


both European and native, to place matters on a friendly
footing. This embassy, which was received by the merchants
on 1 8th March, was very humble and apologetic. It declared
that the King wanted peace, and that if he had done anything
wrong in the message with the axe, he asked pardon for it.
It said that he was willing to do anything to maintain peace,
and suggested that a European officer should be sent to
Kumassi so that it migkt be seen that no preparations for
war were in progress.

After being interviewed by the merchants the messengers
were received by Sir Samuel Rowe, who had an unfortunate
habit of making ambiguous speeches, a very dangerous
practice when dealing with uncivilised peoples, with whom
nothing answers so well as plain and straightforward dealing.
On this occasion, instead of saying he was pleased to hear
the King had no hostile intentions, he told the messengers
he had nothing to do with the message they brought, and
what the merchants might have said was their own affair ;
and dismissed them with the remark that the difficulty
between the King and the Government had not in any way
been cleared up. The Ashantis regarded this as a thinly-
veiled threat, and the arrival of the 2nd West India Regi-
ment on 20th March from the West Indies, confirmed in
their minds the impression that, for some reason of his own,
the Governor was bent upon making war. The difficulty,
which had hitherto been easy of solution, was thus made
serious, for there was a limit to the self-abasement to which a
proud nation like Ashanti would submit, and the danger of
it being driven into war through fear of aggression. These
dangers, and the advisability of at once settling the matter,
were urged upon the Governor by Colonel W. C. Justice,
Commanding the Troops, Captain Hope, Senior Naval Officer,
and the Chief Justice of the Colony, at a meeting held at
Elmina on 2ist March; but he overruled this sensible advice,
and two days later held a public conference with the chiefs
of Appollonia, Axim, Ahanta, Akim, Assin, Anamabo, and
Elmina, to ascertain what contingent of fighting men each


could furnish. Next, an expedition to Prahsu was talked of
and daily, after 26th March, quantities of stores and detach
ments of constabulary were sent up country.

In the meantime KingMensa had made one more attemp
to obtain peace, and had despatched an embassy, under th<
leadership of Buakji Tintin, the husband of the queen-mother
to endeavour to effect a settlement. This embassy lef
Kumassi on 3rd April, but on arriving at Akankuass
learned that an expeditionary force was encamped at Prahsu
Imagining this to be the prelude to an invasion, Buakji halted
and sent word back to Kumassi, where the mobilisation of
the warriors at once took place, and to Bekweh, the chief of
which province immediately called out his men to defend the
approach to the capital. Thus the very danger which had
been pointed out to the Governor now actually occurred, and
in all human probability an unnecessary war with Ashanti
would have ensued, had not Sir Samuel Rowe, who had
himself gone to Prahsu, fortunately received intelligence oi
what was taking place, and then done that which he ought tc
have done long before, namely, send a message to the
Ashantis to come down and put an end to the situation
Upon receiving this invitation Buakji Tintin came on a'
once, and arrived in the camp at Prahsu on the i6th. Or
the igth the camp was broken up, and the stores which hac
been brought up country at so great an expense to th<
Colony were reconveyed to Elmina, where a palaver wa.
held on the 29th. At this meeting each member of th<
embassy rose in turn and assured the Governor that the Kin^
and the nation had never contemplated war with the Pro
tectorate. They declared that the sending of the golden ax
could not be construed as a declaration of war, and mentions
several occasions on which it had been sent before with
peaceful result ; but as they had been privately informed tha
the Government would not make peace unless some mone
was paid, 2,000 ounces of gold were promised as an indemnit
for the expenses incurred. The Ashantis, and, indeed, a
the tribes of the Gold Coast, regarded the payment of th ;
sum as a kind of black-mail, extorted in accordance wit i



native practices. The Ashantis had, in bygone days, been
accustomed to foment quarrels with the tribes on the coast,
threaten war, and then demand gold as the condition of
peace ; but now, in the eyes of the natives, the parts were
changed, and it was the Government that kept a dispute
open and then asked for money as the price of a settlement.
On the 1 7th of July, Awusu, the Gaman fugitive, committed
suicide at Elmina.

2 B



Gold Mining Companies in Wassaw Human sacrifices in Kumassi
Quarrel between Ashanti and Gaman Dethronement of Mensa
Rival factions in Ashanti Election and death of Kwaku Dua II.
Renewed disturbances in Awuna Disorganisation of Ashanti War
between Bekweh and Adansi The Adansis driven across the Prah
Boundary Commissions.

DURING the three or four years immediately preceding the
Golden Axe scare, the gold-producing districts of Wassaw.
which had been neglected for nearly two centuries, wen
explored and opened up on a large scale by various mining
companies. The African Gold Coast Company had, ir
April, 1877, been the first to arrive, and had, in February
1878, obtained a concession at Tarkwa, a village situatec
in a densely-wooded valley at the foot of the Tarkw,
Mountains, in the Apinto district of Wassaw. The gold
field was distant about six hours' journey from the limi .
of boat navigation on the Bonsa River, a tributary of th
Ancobra, and twelve hours from the latter, and wa
surrounded by fetid swamps, which caused it to be ver
unhealthy for Europeans. The first assay of the ore We ;
so promising that the African Gold Coast Company We ;
soon followed by the Swanzy, Effuenta, and Gold Coa :
Mining Companies, while a French company, termed th ;
Abosso Gold Mining Company, established itself at Aboss< ,
about twelve miles from Tarkwa. These mines, howeve ,]


did not prove remunerative in consequence of the enormous
cost of transport, which amounted to about 30 a ton.
All the machinery, as it arrived from England, had to
be taken to pieces, so that no section weighed more than
four men could carry; it was then taken up the River
Ancobra to Tomento in boats, and thence carried by
men through an extensive swamp, and over several steep
hills and ravines, to the Tarkwa valley. In 1882, two new
companies appeared, and, to avoid the cost of transport,
obtained concessions nearer to the coast : the first, the
Akanko Gold Mining Company, commencing operations
at Akanko, about twenty-six miles up the Ancobra River ;
and the second, the Guinea Coast Mining Company, at
Izrah, about six miles from the sea, and to the west of
the Ancobra.

The whole 2,000 ounces of the indemnity demanded
from Ashanti having been paid, the embassy of Buakji
Tintin started on its return journey to Kumassi on
1 5th October, 1881, and was accompanied by Captain R.
La Touche Lonsdale, who had orders to remain in the
Ashanti capital for a few weeks, and then proceed to
Salagha, to endeavour to open a trade route between that
inland market and the Colony. In September of the same
year a report reached Cape Coast that King Mensa had
put two hundred young girls to death, in order to use
their blood for kneading the clay required for the repairs
of his palace, and this aroused some attention in England,
as by Article 8 of the Treaty of Fomana, the King had
promised to do all in his power to check human sacrifices.
The truth of the report was denied ; but though the
particulars were inexact, there is no doubt that human
sacrifices on a large scale had taken place, the occasion
being the death of Yah Affileh, sister of the queen-mother.
She was buried at Bantama, and for four weeks, girls and
women, in parties of ten or twelve, were put to death;
while at the termination of the funeral ceremonies, her
tomb was built up of clay kneaded with human blood. Up
to this time the 8th Article of the Treaty of Fomana had

2 B 2


really been a dead letter, and Captain Lonsdale reported
that human sacrifices frequently took place in Kumassi,
though generally in secret. The necessity of putting a stop
to these practices had been impressed upon Buakji Tintin,
who was entrusted with a message to that effect to the
King ; but it afterwards transpired that he falsely rendered
it, and told Mensa that persons who had spoken disrespect-
fully of the King and the royal family, or had broken the
great oath, or committed adultery, might be reserved for

In February, 1882, King Mensa sent to the Governor
to complain that the Gamans had invaded the Ashanti
province of Banna, and, the non-intervention policy of the
Government being now quite abandoned, instructions were
sent to Captain Lonsdale to proceed to Buntuku, the
Gaman capital, and report on the situation. He found
that the Kumassi war party was responsible for the friction
between the two nations, and that the disturbances had
been commenced by the chiefs of Banna and Inkrusima,
who, acting under orders from Kumassi, had robbed and
killed several Gaman traders. In revenge for this, the
Gamans attacked and destroyed the Ashanti town of Wonki,
taking about fifty prisoners, and Mensa thereupon sent two
armies to the Gaman frontier. These forces had marched
from Kumassi before the messenger to the Governor had
left that town, but owing to native dilatoriness no conflict
had taken place when Captain Lonsdale arrived, and he
succeeded in inducing the two Kings to refrain from hostilities
on the understanding that the Government would, at some
convenient time in the future, make a settlement of the
dispute between them. The chief contention was about
Inkrusima, which had formerly belonged to Gaman, but had
seceded and joined Ashanti when that power was dominant.

Mensa, who had lost a great deal of prestige by his
submissive attitude towards the Colonial Government in
1 88 1, and was already regarded with a feeling of contempt
by the leaders of the war party, now sank further in the
public estimation on account of the peaceful compact made


with Gaman. It appears that great deeds had been expected
of Mensa, because when he was placed on the stool of
Ashanti, he had adopted the "strong name" of Bonsu,
or Whale. This epithet had also been taken by Tutu
Kvvamina, the conqueror of Fanti, and by a confusion of
connection common amongst uncivilised peoples, it had
been anticipated that the conquests of the new holder of the
name would rival those of the old. In this the Ashantis
had been disappointed, and Mensa had also rendered himself
very unpopular by his tyrannical conduct in imposing the
t j I most exorbitant fines for very trivial offences ; by the new
impulse he had given to human sacrifices, which were much
more frequent than had been the case under his predecessor ;
and by his unrestrained licentiousness, the wife of no subject
being secure from his advances. The young men complained
that the King took their wives, and that if they made
objections they lost their heads also. The wives of chiefs
could not be taken thus openly, but he intrigued with all who
took his fancy, and it was this propensity which led to the
incident which ultimately caused his downfall. The brother of
Awua, chief of Bantama, discovered that his wife was guilty
of adultery ; without, however, discovering her paramour,
who was no other than Mensa himself. As the woman


would not divulge his name, her husband brought her before
the King's Court, in order to compel her to confess; but
when there she completely discomfited him by swearing
the King's oath that he and his brother were plotting to join
the Gamans and deliver Mensa to the white men. Probably
some conspiracy was on foot, but in any case Mensa appears
to have had no doubt that there was a design to dethrone
him, and he seized the Queen of Mampon and her son,
together with some forty members of the royal family of
Ashanti, and put to death about seventy of his councillors
and officials. Among those who suffered death was the
injured husband, whose brother, Awua, Mensa also sought to
slay, but he managed to escape to Inkwanta.*

* Inkwanta means a cross-road, or crossing. It is the name of a district.


This massacre, which took place in September, 1882
terrorised for a time the malcontents, though it added to th<
general discontent, and nothing but a leader was required t(
produce an insurrection. In January, 1883, the first step wa
taken by Amuofa, chief of Dadiassi,* a sub-province of
Kokofu, who rebelled against Assaya, chief of Kokofu and
brother to Mensa, on account of an exorbitant fine of 1,800
dollars, which the King had inflicted on his son. The
rebellion was at once joined by the chief of Daniassi,
and adherents came in so rapidly that on 24th February,
1883, messengers arrived at the coast, representing thirty-
three chiefs who had revolted against Mensa, and who
wished, together with 6,000 fighting men, to be admitted to
British territory. All the sub-chiefs of Bekweh next joined
the movement, and in March Kumassi itself rose in rebellion
and Mensa took to flight. On 3ist March the Governoi
despatched Captain Barrow, with an escort of forty HousSc
Constabulary under Assistant-Inspector Kirby, to Kumassi
to report upon the situation, and it was found that Mensa
who was living in the village of Abrodi,f near Kumassi, anc
was afraid to return to the capital, was only supported b]
the chiefs of Kokofu and Bekvveh, the latter of whom hac
been deserted by all his people. The revolt was not agains
the dynasty, but against Mensa, and the chiefs desired to plac
Kwaku Dua, a nephew of Mensa, on the stool. J

Kwoffi Kari-kari, who since his dethronement had bee
living in the village of Akrapon, thought the present .
favourable opportunity for regaining the kingdom, and ser :
towards Kumassi a small force, which Captain Barrov ,
however, succeeded in turning back. In June, 1883, whe i
Captain Barrow left Kumassi, Kwaku Dua had not yet bee i
placed on the stool, some of the provincial chiefs thinking \ *
was too young, and in August, Kwofii Kari-kari renewed h 3
attempt. He advanced with a force to the village f
Dadiem, where he encountered an armed party fro i

* Dadiassi" Under Iron." t Abrodi " Plantain Tree. ;;

% See Genealogical Table. Dadiem " Place of Iron."












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Kumassi and was driven back to Boreman,* losing some
eighty killed and sixty wounded, among the former being
the chief of the town of Aguna. His following, which had
never been large, now dispersed, and Kwoffi Kari-kari, being
pursued by a force from Kumassi, was eventually captured
near the village of Bekem, about six days' journey to the
west of Kumassi. Being of the royal blood his opponents dared
not put him to death, and he remained a prisoner at large in
one of the villages near Kumassi.

These events were duly reported to the Governor, Sir
Samuel Rowe, on 5th of September by a messenger from
Kwaku Dua and the Kumassi chiefs, who asked that an
officer might be sent to Kumassi to place the young King on
the stool. No direct reply was given to this message, and in
November Kwaku Dua was elected King by the Kumassi
chiefs, but not formally placed upon the golden stool, which
ceremony answers to a coronation. This fact was reported

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 31 of 34)