John Hobbis Harris.

Africa: slave or free? online

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Africa: slave or free?

3 1924 028 589 111

gg \4 Cornell University

flgtSfr I. J T -1

f Library

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Author of
Dawn in Darkest Africa (Smith, Elder & Co.,)
Portuguese Slavery: Britain's Dilemma (Methuen & Co., Ltd.)
Ocrmany's Lost Colonial Empire (Simpkiu, Mar-
shall, Hamilton. Kent & Co., Ltd.)



K.C.M.G., C.B. (Assistant Comptroller S Auditor,
y' Formerly Governor of Jamaica)









>J 1'. !



By Sir SYDNEY OLlVIERJormerly Governor of

The war has augmented the sensible importance
of Africa and African peoples in the progress —
whether it is to be through conflict or through
co-operation — of the complex life of our world,
and especially that of the British Empire ; since
that Empire, according to the figures which Mr.
Harris gives on page 20 of this book, controls
about one-thir,d of the total population of the
continent, and not far from half the total number
controlled by all European Powers taken together.
• The African peoples — that blended tissue of
races, with all its varieties of locally adapted
civilizations-^in speaking and writing of which
we are accustomed to bandy summary generaliza-
tions about "The Negro,"' " The Black Man,"
or more vulgarly " natives " or " niggers " — have
both risen several degrees higher above the
horizon of our general insular consciousness during
the war, and have themselves, considering them
and their transplanted blood-relations in America
and the West Indies together, learnt a great deal


more than they knew ■ before about the white
man, the white man's civilization and his actual as
distinguished from his official religion and morals.

Speaking in very broad generalities about this
increased confrontation, we may note four
important characteristics in the development of
mutual relations and attitudes.

First there was, on the part of these African
and African-born peoples, a warm and spontaneous
manifestation of loyalty, goodwill and affection
towards the white States with which they were
associated. Naturally courageous and alert to the
excitement of" fighting, their men eagerly volun-
teered for enlistment in the Allied armies, and,
whether in fighting corps or labour battalions,
rendered admirable service and endured their full
share of hardships, disablement and loss of life.

And their people who stayed at home sent their
modest but not insignificant contributions of
work and money.

Though this enthusiasm has met with some
disappointments, the experience has, on the whole,
I believe, reinforced the goodwill, loyalty and
sense of solidarity out of which it sprang.

Secondly — the converse has happened. Many
intelligent and sympathetic white men and women
have had the opportunity better to realize the
qualities and capacities of the African, and there
has been much genuine increase of appreciation
and respect towards him. Further, an attitude
of enhanced goodwill and responsibility towards
African races has been officially adopted and pro-
claimed in the Peace Convention, an attitude


which will be to some extent at least embodied
in the mandates to the nations entrusted with new
sovereignties in Africa by authority of the Council
of the Allies.

So much to the good. Unfortunately there
have been correspondingly negative evolutions.

For, thirdly, because the war has thrown many
ignorant persons into positions of military or
official authority, or has brought narrow-minded
or stupid private citizens into contact or competi-
tion in various relations with coloured men, and
because colour-prejudice is a very common
attribute of ignorance or stupidity and a con-
venient stalking-horse for elementary instincts of
self-interest and jealousy, there have been both
unjust official discriminations to the prejudice of
"coloured" British subjects (some of them I am
glad to say, redressed under pressure) and some
manifestations and preaching of colour prejudice
in industrial centres and in the Press. And in the
United States there have been, as was fully to be
expected, even more violent manifestations of this
noxious social distemper.

And, fourthly, conversely to this, the African
has learnt a good deal about the seamy side of the
white man. However uprightly and admirably he
may have been dealt with by European mission-
aries, administrators and colonists, and whatever
confidence and affection these may have won
with him, it has never been possible for him to
appraise the value and efficacy of the Christian
religion, as the religion of the white ma.n, quite so
highly as the missionary and the administrator


would have had him do. And now he has seen
the British Government publicly promise self-
determination to African peoples in the Peace
Settlement and, so far, ignore that promise, having
indeed, even before it was made, assigned some of
his territories by secret conventions as counters
in a deal with its AUies, directly in the face of
the inhabitants' imploring petitions. While South
Africans were giving their services, and their women
at home their poor little contributions towards
the task of the war, they have been experiencing
the scandalous persecutions on the part of the
dominant race in South Africa which Mr. Scully
has set out with such indisputable authority in
the Edinburgh Review for July, 1919, whilst others
have experienced the injustice and cruelty with
which coloured men have been dealt with in
connection with riots at Liverpool and elsewhere.
And with regard to that excess of animalism that
so often is sniggeringly imputed to them as a
danger to white communities, they have encoun-
tered in our camps, our streets, our parks, and our
Law Courts, abundant material- for at least a
defensible judgment that white men and white
women are fully as erotic as their own people and
much more unrestrainedly and openly Hcentious.
Whilst, therefore, the white and the coloured
peoples of our Commonwealth have been brought
nearer together for co-operation by the increase
of mutual recognition and appreciation, and the
black man's appreciation of the military efficiency
of the white has probably been enhanced,
they have also been brought nearer together by


the enlightening education and discipline which
numbers of Africans have received, and by a
certain amount of disillusionment of the latter as
to the boasted superiorities of the white man. I
do not wish to over-emphasize this factor, but it
exists, and it will be a mistake to ignore it. There
has been a certain advance towards equality and
to a more outspoken belief in and claim to equality.

If the negro stock, including that most ancient
artistic race of the Western World, the Bushmen,
whose residue finally was destroyed by South
African' white men, was driven, in primitive ages,
by the more terrible and determined races, out
of the Mediterranean lands and away into the
jungles and swamps and deserts of Africa, because
they were not so fierce or so clever, or because
(beheving with Mr. W. B. Yeats, that idleness is
the divinely appointed reward of toil) they were
lazier, and preferred to find their food where
nature produced it abundantly to winning it by
hunting or cultivation — they are not incapable of
learning ; and in an age in which education can
aid their quick reasoning faculty and they have
not to depend in competition merely on unscrupu-
lous force, they are beginning to shape their own
course for progress and to refuse to be taken
solely at the white man's valuation of them as
fighters or labourers.

'There has grown up during the war, and there
is progressive^ shaping itself, a greater -common
consciousness and determination among Africans
as to the future and the rights of African races.
Some white men fear this, and would seek to hold


it in check. The tradition of British statesman-
ship is to welcome and encourage it ; and this
poUcy of welcome and encouragement is implicit
in the professions made on behalf of Great Britain
and America in the preliminaries of the Peace

But such statesmanship and its ideals have to
plough their way against heavy obstruction from
prejudice and material interests, or rather from
the short-sighted self-interest of those who would
deal with Africa and the African as mere land and
labour force to be employed for their own enrich-
ment or sustenance. Thus we see in South Africa
the deliberate adoption or advocacy of a policy
aimed at excluding the native from all skilled
occupations and binding him on the land from
which he has been dispossessed as a wage labourer
and tenant at will. Thus we have British settlers
in East Africa advocating the reduction of native
reserves in order, admittedly, to force natives to
labour on their plantations. It is encouraging to
hear, on the other hand, that the American
Federation of Labour has recently met the in-
creasing influx of coloured workers into the in-
dustrial cities of more northerly states, by admit-
ting them to the ranks of skilled workers on
condition of their joining trade unions and not
permitting themselves to be used to undersell
white labour. E fur si muove.

At such a time such a book as this of Mr. Harris
is of peculiar value and interest. Not only be-
cause problems of African administration, land
tenure and labour are bound to come far closer


into the preoccupations of many of us tlian ever
before, as a result of the events of the war, and
during the period of reconstruction and reshaping
that the coming generation has to deal with, but
because it is of essential importance and value to
humanity on the highest grounds that the domin-
ant European races should come to apprehend
more than they do of the true humanity of such
peoples, hitherto unrealized and largely passive,
as the African and the Russian.

" What," as Mr. Harris asks in his Foreword,
" is the seductive element in this, continent and
people which lures men and women on and ever
on until at last they gladly lay themselves down in
final sacrifice on the beloved altar of the African
continent ? "

Why do the white men who devote their lives
to the welfare of African people do so ? It is not
because they are fascinated, against critical
reason, by black skins, thick lips, and woolly
hair, or other characteristics in which nature and
evolution appear to European aesthetics to have
played bad jokes with some African forms of
humanity — the reason is simple and positive — ^it
is that those who have to do, disinterestedly, with
the negroid races come to love them — find them
above the average rich and responsive and sym-
pathetic in some of the most characteristic and
delicate qualities of esseatial human nature. The
negro is, of course, very far behind many other
peoples in wide fields of human florescence, but
in some of the quaHties that are best to live with
he is on the average far ahead of the average


industrialized European. He is singularly patient
afid forgiving, very delicately sensitive in all
matters of courtesy, acutely logical, warmly
sociable, humorous and kindly; and in any
physical difficulty or danger ' a most devoted,
brave and unwearied comrade.

Moreover, he is deeply and fundamentally
religious, and his religious and affectional tempera-
ment responds exceptionally to the Christian
formula. Mr. Harris briefly surveys the con-
troversy whether Islam or Christianity is the better
faith for the negro world. Islam is a fine synthesis ;
it is educational and usefully disciplinary ; but it
was not for nothing that Christian Europe threw
itself into the Crusades. Armenian massacres
are congenial to Islam : the negro has capacity
enough for mad cruelty in his animal nature ; but
he knows quite well that his humane nature is
better; and Christianity answers to this. As
between Islam and Christianity, therefore, for the
negroid African, I do not think that any intelli-
gent man, who is himself religious and knows what
religion is, can doubt for a moment which is the'
more suitable for proselytizing or encouragement.

Many years ago, when I first joined the Colonial
Office, my friend Sidney Webb, with whom, as a
Resident Clerk, I shared the decoding of African
telegrams, used to quote a text that has always
stuck in my mind, and often recurs when I inves-
tigate things that are going on in Africa : — " The
dark places of the earth are full of cruelty."

No matter how high an opinion we may enter-
tain of our fellow-subjects who colonize and


govern these dark places, they are — they are at
this moment — *' full of cruelty ! " It is always
cropping up ; only light, such as this of Mr,
Hams' book, can keep it in check. Wherever, in
a mixed community, you have a privileged class
in command of the government of people whom
they employ as workers, you wiU have exploitation
and oppressive laws to enforce it.

Democracy is our remedy in Europe. Political
Democracy of our form is not yet practicable
for these African communities ; though some are
-developing towards it. In the meantime the
British Government alone can enforce just treat-
ment of the subordinate races. And the British
Government is sometimes a good deal embarrassed
by the constitutional rights of responsible Govern-
ments or by the resistance of interests which have
grown up under their sanction, and cannot always
take a quite satisfactory line in such matters.
One most unfortunate result of such impotence
or nonchalance is that Bantu peoples, who are
commonly reputed in England to be the finest of
the negroid African races, and whose endowments
of energy and ability are unquestionable, are being,
under the authority of British power, steadily
pressed into and bound down in a position less
favourable for any development than that of
negro or negroid races in West African Crown
Colonies, in Nigeria, or in the French Possessions
: — and far less favourable than that of British or
French West Indians of African race or descent.
It is rapidly being made impossible for South
African natives outside of the Cape Colony either


to attain to any substantial position as stock-
farmers or planters, to rise out of the ranks of
common labourers into any skilled trade, or even
as common labourers to maintain their wives and
children in homes of their own.

Mr. Harris calls attention particularly to the
question of land poHcy in this aspect. I need not
here do more than invite careful attention to the
conditions which he points out as at present in
operation and springing up. Important as land
questions are in European and American communi-
ties, they are by far the most crucial matter in the
future of African civilization. Labour, political
and social problems loom dark in Africa, but at the
base of the right solution lies secure native pro-
perty in^the land. It matters little whether the
possession of the land be individual, communal, or
collective — everything depends upon security.

I understand that one of the objects Mr. Harris
has had in writing this book is that of laying before
Missionary and other students the elementary
conditions of Administration, Commerce, and
Education in Africa, and I venture to repeat with
confidence what Lord Cromer said in 1912: "It
cannot but be an advantage, more especially now
that attention is being more and more drawn to
African affairs, that the Government, Parliament,
and the general public should learn what one so
eminently qualified as Mr. Harris to instruct them
in the facts of the case has to say on this subject."*


• Dawn in Darkest Africa. By the same Author. Smith Elder.




I. Africa and her People 3

II. Political Distribution - 14

III. The Products of Africa — Vegetable 25

IV. The Products of Africa — ^Minerals 42


I. Indigenous African Labour 59

II. Modern Slavery - _ . 72

III. Modern Slavery (Portuguese) 87
IV. Indian Immigration - 94


I. The African and his Land - -'- 107

II. Tropical and Semi-Tropical Lands - 121


I. Racial Contact — The Sale of Alcohol - 145
II. Social Contact — Polygamy and the Re-
lationship of the Sexes - 154


I. African Education - 171

II. Industrial Missions - 188

III. Religious Movements in Africa - 202

IV. Critics of Christian Missions 215

Africa of To-morrow — The League of Nations 229


Why does Mary Kingsley say " Africa kills all her
lovers " ? What is the seductive element in this
continent and in its people which lures men and
women on and ever on until at last they gladly lay
themselves down in final sacrifice upon the be-
loved altar of the African Continent ?

Back they go, these men and women who have
once been bitten by Africa, back in thought and
action from every walk in Hfe — the administrator,
the traveller, the missionary, and the merchant ;
sunburnt men, pale-faced women, some with
indifferent nerves, others straight from the sur-
geon's operating room, young, middle-aged, and
grey-haired, back they go — to what ? To face
again the agonies of fever, malodorous swamps,
indifferent food, the perils of storm and flood,
torments by day and night from myriads of insects,
burning heat, chilly mist, and the monotony of a
never- varying loneliness. Ask them why they go
and they will tell you that neither storm, nor peril,
nor sickness, nor death itself, shall separate them
from the land and people they love. This
burning passion may be incomprehensible, but its-
real and abiding strength strikes the questioner


Sir Douglas ... has left his mark as the

Governor of U land ; bitten by Africa, he

rose to his high position partly through ability,
but more because of his intense attachment to his
African work ; his pay was a mere pittance, his
physique cried out not for Africa's hot plains and
swampy deltas, but for the health-restoring and
quiet influence of Davos. A visit to England led
to the offer of a lucrative directorship and the
comparative rest and comfort which the proffered
position would provide. Sir Douglas . . . scorned
the thought, back to Africa he went, back to a
modest pay, and to the fever which soon took
another life for Africa.

Mary Kingsley, traveller and scientist, ordered
a period of rest and change, soon fell victim to the
lure of Africa, and seeking advice was told :

" When you have made up your mind to go
to West Africa, the very best thing you can do
is to get it unmade again and go to Scotland
instead ; but if your intelligence is not strong
enough to do so, abstain from exposing your-
self to the direct rays of the sun, take 4 grains of
quinine every day for a fortnight before you
reach the Rivers, and get some introductions to
the Wesleyans ; they are the only people on the
coast who have got a hearse with feathers."*

Mary Kingsley went, she saw and was com-
pletely conquere'd ; never again a free agent, she
became the bondslave of Africa and paid, in her

* Travels in West Africa. Macmillan.


38th year, the final penalty, receiving as one per-
manent reward the honour of a Society founded in
her name — ^The African Society.

David Livingstone, Africa's greatest missionary,
lured into the heart of the continent, criticized
and denounced for hij foUy in surrendering mind '
and body to the seductive task of exploring the
secrets of Africa, refused to abandon his quest.
Though his physical system had broken down,
though his body had become little more than a
physical focus for African disease, he refused even
the exalted appeal of his beloved Queen to rest, if
but for a few months in the homeland. David
Livingstone went on until the very natives could
only carry the sun-dried remains of his body to
the coast, leaving his heart buried in and his soul
still hovering over Central Africa. \_

Thus does Africa capture and enthral her
lovers — ^Administrator, Missionary' and Traveller.


I. Africa and her People.
II. Political Distribution.

III. The Products of Africa — ^Vegetable.

IV. The Products of Africa — Gold and

Precious Stones.



The great pear-shaped continent, hanging like a
colossal pendant from the northern and eastern
sister continents of Europe and Asia, measures
over 11,900,000 square miles, and is occupied by
nearly 120,000,000 of people. The bald state-
ment that Africa covers 11,900,000 square miles
of the earth's surface conveys little to most of us,
but when it is remembered that this represents
an area seven times the size of India and nearly
one hundred times the size of the United King-
dom or sixty times the size of Germany before the
war, the mind is impressed with the vastness of the
country. Africa's greatest need is 'population, for
the general density is less than 12 persons per
square mile as compared with 360 per square mile
of the British Isles and 300 per square mile of

The African coastal features are minus the
Archipelagoes which characterize every other con-
tinent, but the interior is probably more capable
of varied, lucrative and self-contained industry
than either of the other undeveloped continents.
South America, Asia or Australia. It is true that
Africa embraces the Sahara and Kalahari deserts,


but she possesses within conceivable engineering
reach the never faihng and super-abundant waters
of the Nile, the Niger, the Zambesi and the Congo,
only waiting the coming day when man will har-
ness waste waters to waste land and thereby
increase the productivity of both land and water.
Africa also has her inland seas — the great lakes,
inside which, from point of size, could be placed
the British Isles. She has, too, her lofty mountain
ranges of the Atlas stretching from the Atlantic
to the Mediterranean, the Drakensberg of Basu-
toland, the towering peaks of Kenia, Kilimanjaro,
Ruwenzori in East Africa, and the snow-capped
Cameroon mountain in the west.

The vast Equatorial regions are forest-clad with
countless millions of every species of woods, soft
and hard, scented and malodorous, intertwined
with undergrowth which in one part binds tree
trunk to tree trunk, and thereby effectively denies
passage to all but the most intrepid and deter-
mined, whilst in other parts the spreading vinery
binds the trees top to top in a sort of canopy
excluding light and sun from rnan and beast.
North and South of the forests and marshesof the
tropics roll vast plains over which man and beast
still roam in the solitude and safety of past cen-

But the people, the 100,000,000 to 120,000,000

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Online LibraryJohn Hobbis HarrisAfrica: slave or free? → online text (page 1 of 15)