A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

A history of the Gold Coast of West Africa online

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lasting impression, either from precept or example. I havt
been myself an eye-witness to the truth of this remark, in
the circumstance I am about to relate. A gentleman of my
acquaintance, who had purchased at the same time ter

* Mansu (Water Town) is about thirty miles to the north of Cape

t " History of the West Indies."


Koromantyn and the like numbers of Ibos (the eldest of
the whole apparently not more than thirteen years of age)
caused them all to be collected and brought before him in
my presence, to be marked on the breast. This operation is
performed by heating a small silver brand, composed of one
or two letters, in the flame of spirits of wine, and applying it
to the skin, which is previously anointed with sweet oil.
The application is instantaneous, and the pain momentary.
Nevertheless, it may easily be supposed that the apparatus
must have a frightful appearance to a child. Accordingly,
when the first boy, who happened to be one of the Ibos,
and the stoutest of the whole, was led forward to receive the
mark, he screamed dreadfully, while his companions of the
same nation manifested strong symptoms of sympathetic
terror. The gentleman stopped his hand ; but the Koroman-
tyn boys, laughing aloud, and immediately coming forward
of their own accord, offered their bosoms undauntedly to the
brand, and receiving its impression without flinching in the
least, snapped their fingers in exultation over the poor Ibos."
From the testimony of Phillips (1693) we find that Gold
Coast slaves would always yield in the West Indies ^3 or
4. a head more than those of Whydah, who were generally
called Popo, or Pawpaw, negroes. These latter again were
preferred to the Ibos, and the Awuna slaves were con-
sidered the worst of all. Snelgrave,* who made voyages to
the Gold Coast in 1721 and 1722, confirms this, and says
that the Koromantees were the most dangerous slaves to
deal with. He gives particulars of two mutinies of slaves
on board slave-ships, one at Anamabo, which were planned
and carried out by Koromantees ; and remarks that such
slaves were " desperate fellows, who despised punishment,
and even death itself." Some mutineers, when asked why
they had mutinied, boldly told him that he was a great
scoundrel to have bought them for the purpose of taking
them away from their native country, and that they were
resolved to obtain their liberty if they could.

* Astley's '' Collection of Voyages."


The large majority of the slaves exported from the Gold
Coast were prisoners of war, of both sexes, and of all ages ;
the residue being persons who were slaves in their own
country, and those who under the customs of the country
had become liable to enslavement for debt or crime. Many
young men, it is said, were entrapped by the wives of men
of rank, who, instructed by their husbands, formed intrigues
with them, and then denounced them. By native law such
an offence could only be expiated by the payment of a sum
proportionate to the rank of the injured husband, with the
alternative of slavery ; and as the youths entrapped were
commonly such as could not pay, numbers thus became
enslaved and were sold out of the country.

The slaves, before being brought to market by theii
native owners, were close-shaven and anointed with palm-
oil, so as to give the skin a glossy appearance, and it was
no easy matter to distinguish a young from a middle-agec
slave, except by the decay of the teeth. Various artifice.'
were resorted to by native slave-dealers to give an appear-
ance of youth and health to slaves of an inferior quality
and there was as much chicanery brought into play ovei
the sale and purchase of slaves as there is at the present day
in horse-dealing. Hence, all slaves bought for exportatior
were carefully examined by a surgeon, to see if they wen
sound in wind and limb", and were put through variou:
performances. Such as passed the surgeon's examinatior
were then branded on the breast or shoulder ; the men wen
coupled together with irons, and all were consigned to th(
dungeons or slave-rooms of the various forts, till such tim<
as a ship arrived to convey them to the West Indies.

The slaves so dreaded leaving their native country fo
an unknown fate in a strange land, that they often, unles
most carefully watched and secured, leaped overboard fron
the canoe or ship, and kept under water till they wen
drowned ; while others starved themselves to death. Deatl
had for them no terrors; there was no uncertain future t
be faced. There was simply a more or less prolonge<
struggle and then a change of residence to a spirit world


similar in all respects to this, where they would continue
the old life amongst their own people ; and it is not sur-
prising that they should prefer this to a life of unknown,
and consequently dreaded, terrors in another sphere. The
natives of the Gold Coast were so confident that after .death
they would rejoin their own people in their own spirit world,
that during the suppression of every rebellion of slaves in
Jamaica, numbers of Koromantees committed suicide ; and
dozens were sometimes found hanging to the branches of
the silk-cotton trees. By some tribes it was held that dis-
memberment prevented this return, and it appears that
the masters of some slave vessels, who had reason to an-
ticipate wholesale suicides, did not hesitate to cut off the
arms or legs of one or two slaves to terrify the rest.

On board the slave-ships, slaves were fed twice a day,
and allowed in fair weather to be on deck from seven in
the morning till sunset. The women and children were
allowed to go about free ; but the men were usually kept
in irons, at all events till some days after the African coast
had been left, and were invariably separated from the
women. Every Monday they were allowed the luxury of
pipes and tobacco. Although there were, no doubt, indi-
vidual cases of cruelty here and there, yet, on the whole,
it seems that this monstrous traffic was carried on with as
much humanity as the circumstances and the system allowed.
The traders had a pecuniary interest in the well-being of
each human chattel, and therefore they did not ill-treat them,
or so act as to cause their value to be lessened. The slave-
ships were usually roomy and well found, and at this time,
while the trade was lawful, not half the hardships were
experienced that afterwards fell to the lot of slaves exported
when the trade was declared to be illicit.

Any account of the Gold Coast at this time would be
incomplete without some reference to the pirates who
infested the whole West Coast of Africa. The breaking up
of the haunts of the buccaneers in the West Indies had led
those gentry to adopt a change of scene, and their vessels,
two or three of which usually sailed in company, roamed


up and down the whole African coast, and committed the
greatest depredations. Some of the pirates made a business
of waylaying slave-ships, transferring the human cargoes to
their own vessels, and selling them in the West Indies ;
while others plundered and burned every peaceable mer-
chantman they met. They were sufficiently formidable to
capture some of the Royal African Company's forts. For
instance, James Fort,, in the River Gambia, was taken by
Davis, the pirate, in 1719, and Bunce Island Fort, Sierra
Leone, by Roberts, in 1720; and, as already mentioned,
the two Danish men-of-war, each of 26 guns, sent out tc
recover Christiansborg from the natives, were taken by
Avery in 1693. In one year Roberts destroyed over
hundred sail of ships along the coast, and at last commerce
became so crippled that the English Government, in 1721
sent out the Swallow and Weymoutk, men-of-war, to pu
an end t6 these depredations. The Swallow fell in wit!
Roberts, with three pirate vessels, at Cape Lopez. In th<
action which ensued Roberts was killed, and the pirates
some tjjree hundred in number, nearly all Englishmen
surrendered after a very feeble resistance. The prisoner
were conveyed for trial to 'Cape Coast Castle, where fifty
two of them were executed ; and when Smith, surveyor o
the Royal African Company, visited Cape Coast in 172;
the remains of several of these were still hanging in chains.

1751 1804.

Affairs in Ashanti during the reign of Osai Kwadjo First mention of
Ashanti in the Records of Cape Coast Castle War between England
and Holland Extraordinary affair at Mori Reigns of Osai
Kwamina and Osai Apoko II. Accession of Tutu Kwamina
Position of Ashanti at the commencement of the nineteenth

OSAI AKWASI, King of Ashanti, died in 1752, of a wound
which he had received in an attack upon Banna. The
natives of the Gold Coast, like the large majority of the
uncivilised peoples of the earth, trace descent through the
mother instead of through the father, and the crown now
descended to a sister's son, Osai Kwadjo, the three pre-
ceding Kings having been brothers.

The new King no sooner succeeded to the stool than
he demanded payment of tribute from the tributaries,
who were some years in arrear. The Gamans, Denkeras,
and Tshiforos, or Tufels, used this as a pretext for taking
up arms, and, upon war breaking out, were joined by the
Wassaws. Two invasions of Gaman by the Ashantis
proved disastrous, principally because the people of that
state were assisted by a large contingent from the Mo-
hammedan state of Kong, armed with muskets; but a
third invasion proved successful, and Osai Kwadjo returned
to Kumassi with thousands of captives. Of these, the
children were spared to recruit the army, which had

H 2


suffered heavily, and the adults of both sexes were either
sacrificed as thank-offerings to the gods, or sent to the
great slave mart at Mansu to be sold into West Indian
slavery. Gaman, Denkera, and Tshiforo having been
reduced, Wassaw soon fell before the Ashanti army, and
several large districts were entirely depopulated.

The defeat of Gaman and its allies laid open the Sarem
country to the conqueror, and he might, had he chosen,
have carried his victorious arms as far as Cape Palmas,
but he satisfied himself with receiving the submission of
the neighbouring Kings. Dahomi, alarmed at the rapid
successes of Ashanti, and fearing that the King might be
tempted to revenge the defeat which his predecessor had
sustained, sent a friendly embassy to Kumassi, which was
received in the most flattering manner, and an embassy
sent to Dahomi in return, to cement the friendliness
between the two monarchs.

Towards the end of his reign Osai Kwadjo was com-
pelled by ill-health and the infirmities of age to confine
himself to his palace, and his enemies circulated a report
that he was dead. Assin, Akim, and Akwapim at once
seized the opportunity to throw off the Ashanti yoke, and
broke out in a fresh rebellion. Ambassadors sent by the
King to recall them to obedience were murdered, and, as
the rebels threatened to march upon Kumassi, the Ashanti
at once prepared for war ; but before the army could take
the field Osai Kwadjo died. This was in 1781.

Cruickshank, the author of " Eighteen Years on the
Gold Coast," who wrote in 1853, tells us that it was
during the reign of this King that the first notice made
of Ashanti was found in the Records of Cape Coast Castle
which, it may be remarked, have long since disappeared
On July loth, 1765, the Council took into consideratior
the state of the country. It was represented that th(
Ashantis and Fantis having in conjunction destroyed Akim
were on the point of commencing hostilities with eacl
other ; and the Council fearing that if the Fantis pre-
vailed trade would be injured, and if the Ashantis wen


victorious the settlements would ; be ^endangered, J deter-
mined to observe a strict neutrality in concert with the
Dutch Governor. In 1767 the attitude of the Fantis and
Ashantis was still hostile, and the Council stated that the
Dutch were instigating the latter to conquer the country.
They resolved to improve the fortifications, and applied
to the Committee in London for ships of. war to remain
on the coast while this state of affairs lasted. In 17/2
the Council were again anxious about an Ashanti invasion,
and resolved to give all the assistance they could to the
Fantis, but without leaving their forts or taking any active
part in the struggle. The trade appears to have been
greatly interrupted during the whole reign of Osai Kwadjo,
who kept the Fantis in a state of continual alarm by
threats of invasion.

On December 2Oth, 1780, England declared war against
Holland, and in the following year an attack was made
upon Elmina by a combined land and sea force. The
former consisted of a few of the Company's soldiers and
a body of some three hundred natives of Cape Coast,
commanded by Robert Joseph McKenzie, captain of an
independent company in the African service; and the
latter of the fifty-gun ship Leander, Captain Shirley, and
a sloop of war. There appears to have been a great want
of cordial co-operation between the two commanders, and
Captain Shirley cannot be acquitted of an exhibition of
that jealousy of military commanders which unfortu-
nately seems to have been then common, and which led
Admiral Vernon, under somewhat similar circumstances,
to passively regard the slaughter of General Wentworth's
troops at Carthagena in 1741. Instead of attacking Elmina
from the sea, in co-operation with the land forces, he waited
until they were repulsed before commencing the bombard-
ment ; with the result that the Dutch, able to bestow their
undivided attention upon him, beat him off also. Early
in the following year (1782) Captain Shirley, reinforced
by H.M.S. Argo, succeeded in taking the small Dutch
forts of Mori, Cormantine, Appam, and Barraku, which


were "not 1 in' a position to 'offer any s,erious resistance ; while
Governor Mills, assisted by fifty men from the Argo, took
Kommenda Fort. As a set-off to this, the Dutch captured
the English fortified trading lodge at Sekondi.

These conquests were mutually restored at the peace
of 1784, but while Mori was still in British hands, an
affair took place there which will give some idea of
the extraordinary events that sometimes occurred on the
Gold Coast. From the "Annual Register" of 1784 we
learn that, on December loth of that year, Captain Robert
Joseph McKenzie was tried in London for the murder of
Kenneth Murray McKenzie, a soldier under his command,
at Mori Fort, on August I4th, 1782. The murdered man,
who had previously acted as adjutant, had, it seems, been
placed in open arrest by his captain for some breach of
discipline, and was not allowed to quit the fort ; but one
day he disobeyed this order and went out. On this
coming to the knowledge of the captain, he sent out a
sergeant and three men to bring him back; and it being
supposed that the deserter had gone to join the Dutch
at Elmina, the party went in that direction as far as they
dared, and returned without having seen or heard anything
of the fugitive. Captain McKenzie then concluded thai
the man must be in the native town of Mori, the inhabitants
of which were all in the Dutch interest and covertly hostih
to the English. It was probably on this account that
instead of sending to demand his man, he opened fin
upon the town, the inhabitants of which at once fled, bu
returned next morning and surrendered the deserter ; who
within an hour of his surrender was, by his captain's order
blown from the muzzle of one of the guns. This act wa
committed without any trial having been held, and withou
the captain having either seen or spoken to his victim. Th<
latter had declared to his comrades that he had no intention
of deserting, and said that the reason of his not returnin;
the same night was that he had been drunk, and ha
been detained by the natives. He had pleaded to b
allowed to see his commander, and to defend himself, bu


Captain McKenzie had refused to hold any communica-
tion with him. For the defence of Captain McKenzie it
was shown that the murdered man was of bad character,
he having, when a private in the 3rd Regiment of Foot
Guards, been on three different occasions sentenced to
death for robbery, but had each time been reprieved, and
had finally been drafted as a convict into the African
service. Since that time he had deserted twice, and evidence
was called to show that he had on several occasions used
mutinous language, and was plotting to murder his
captain and surrender the fort to the Dutch. It was
shown that the proportion of convicts to volunteers in the
garrison was as sixteen to five, and it was urged that it
was absolutely necessary to make some example in order
to overawe the insubordinate soldiers. Judge Willes, in
summing up, said that Captain McKenzie was not justified
by martial law, and should have tried the soldier by court-
martial, or at least have called upon him to make some
defence. He left the question of justification to the jury,
and the latter found the prisoner guilty, but recommended
him to mercy. Captain McKenzie had previously dis-
tinguished himself at the defence of Jersey, and great
efforts were made to obtain a reprieve. These were suc-
cessful, for in the "Annual Register" for 1785 we find that
he received His Majesty's pardon for the murder, but was
detained in Newgate to be tried at the next Admiralty
Sessions for piracy, in cutting out from under the guns
of a Dutch fort on the Gold Coast a Portuguese ship with
Dutch colours, of which complaint had been made by the
Portuguese Ambassador. From the same source we learn
that Government detained ^"11,000 worth of his gold-dust
till he gave an account of the stores, etc., that had been
in his charge. After this we hear no more of him.

To return to affairs in Ashanti. We left an Ashanti
army about to take the field against the rebellious Assins,
Akims, and Akwapims, when the death of Osai Kwadjo in
1781 delayed active operations for a time. Osai Kwamina,
who succeeded to the stool, as soon as the ceremonies of his


installation were completed, took an oath never to enter the
walls of the palace, or visit his wives, till he had obtained
the heads of the two principal rebels. He overran the
revolted provinces with a large army, took the Akims by
surprise by a forced march, and the rebellion was soon
entirely crushed, while the skulls of the two rebel leaders
found a place amongst similar trophies preserved in Kumassi.

Osai Kwamina also extended his conquests inland, and
invaded Banna. Odrarsi, the King, opposed him for a
while ; but at last, perceiving that resistance was hopeless,
he committed suicide, after having given orders that his
head should be cut off and sewn up in the stomach of a
dead woman, in order that it might not fall into the hands
of the enemy. This order was obeyed, but the Ashantis
discovered the head and carried it to Kumassi. Nsuta
was also subjected in this reign, and Koransa became
tributary after a struggle that lasted ten years and was
carried on principally by Gaman auxiliaries.

The reputation of Ashanti was now so well established
that, in 1792, the Danish Governor of Christiansborg applied
to Osai Kwamina for a force to punish . the people of Popo,
on the Slave Coast, who had committed some outrages on
Danish subjects. The request was granted, and a force
was actually on its way to the coast, when the Governor,
becoming alarmed at the approach of such dangerous allies,
bought their return to their own country with two hundred
and fifty ounces of gold-dust. On hearing of this proposed
expedition, the Governor and Council at Cape Coast Castle
had sent messengers to Kumassi to prevail upon the King
not to send the force asked for, being naturally alarmed
at the prospect of Ashanti interference in the affairs of the
seaboard ; but the mission was not attended with any success.
This, it may be remarked, is the first time any direct com-
munication took place between the English and the King
of Ashanti.

In 1797 Osai Kwamina was deposed, he having given
offence to the chiefs by prohibiting many festivals at which
it was customary to offer human sacrifices. It was, more-


over, suspected that he was at heart a Mohammedan, and
was endeavouring to establish the law of the Koran in his
kingdom. He was succeeded by his brother, Osai Apoko II.
The chiefs of Gaman, instigated by the Mohammedans of
Kong, used the dethronement of Osai Kwamina as a pretext
for rebellion, and the King of Gaman transferred his tribute
to the King of Kong. The war that ensued lasted fifteen
months, during which the entire force of Kong, joined with
that of Gaman, crossed the Tando River and advanced into
Ashanti territory. The Ashanti King, whose force was only
a fourth of that of the enemy, acted for some months on
the defensive, till the arrival of the tributary forces from
Koransa, Banna, and Djuabin enabled him to act. He then
gave battle to the foe on the Tando, and after several days'
fighting routed them with great slaughter, returning to
Kumassi laden with spoil and captives, amongst whom were
upwards of five thousand Mohammedans.

A few months after his victory on the Tando, Apoko II.
died, after a lingering illness, which was attributed by the
natives to the magical practices of his deposed brother. His
brother, Tutu Kwamina, succeeded him in 1799, and shortly
after his elevation to the throne, commenced a war against
the Mohammedan kingdom of Ghofan, to the north-east of
Ashanti. The fortunes of war at first favoured the Moham-
medans ; but before long they were driven back, and finally
defeated in a sanguinary engagement near the Volta. Two
Kings fell alive into the hands of the Ashantis, and the King
of Ghofan was killed. By this victory the Ashantis acquired
a considerable increase of territory; but the war was scarcely
successfully terminated when a fresh rebellion in Gaman
occurred. This was rapidly suppressed, and for five years
peace ensued, till those disturbances commenced in Assin
which ultimately led to the first invasion of Fanti.

At this point it will be convenient to note the position of
Ashanti at the commencement of the nineteenth century.
Since, the reign of Osai Tutu, Nsuta, Gaman, Koransa, and
Banna to the north; Denkera, Sefwhi, Tshiforo, Wassaw,
and Awuin to the west and south-west ; Assin to the south ;


and Akim, Akwapim, Kwao, and Akwamu to the east had
all been subjected ; and the whole of the Gold Coast was
now under Ashanti rule, with the exception of the states on
the seaboard. But though the Ashantis could conquer they
could not govern, and their authority over the tributary
states was more nominal than real. It was their custom
after subduing a kingdom to leave to the King a species of
semi-independence, merely exacting a fixed annual sum as
tribute, and military service in time of war. They estab-
lished no garrisons in the conquered territories, appointed
no governors or residents, and did not attempt in the least
to blend with the people. Hence, whenever a tributary
King conceived himself strong enough to throw off his
allegiance to Ashanti he did so ; and the Ashanti kingdom
resembled a loosely united bundle of sticks, which any
severe shock might cause to fall to pieces. Since their
conquest, the Denkeras had rebelled twice; the Akims and
the Gamans three times ; and the Assins and the Akwapims
once; and all this within about fifty years. The authority
of the Ashanti King was in fact only maintained by re-
peated invasions of the tributary states, the people of which
were not bound to their conquerors either by sentiment or



Disturbances in Assin Condition of Fanti First invasion of Fanti
Defence of Anamabo Fort Torrane's convention His dis-
honourable transactions Continuation of the war End of the

IN 1805 Assin was divided into three chieftainships, under
Tchibbu, Kwaku Aputeh, and Amu, the two former ruling
over the western, and the latter over the eastern half. This
division had been effected by Osai Kwamina, after the
rebellion of Assin, in 1781. Towards the close of 1805
a dispute arose between Amu and Kwaku Aputeh, the
origin of which was as follows. One of Amu's captains
had died, and as he was a rich man, a considerable quantity

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisA history of the Gold Coast of West Africa → online text (page 9 of 34)