Joseph H. (Joseph Hankinson) Reading.

A voyage along the western coast, or, Newest Africa : a description of newest Africa, or the Africa of to-day and the immediate future online

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white captain, and sometimes a white engineer ; but the
crew are native men, and several of these vessels are at-
tached to each "agency." In order that any port-of-entry
may continue to grow, upon the present system of trade, it
is necessary that the native traders should penetrate farther
and farther into the country, so as to tap villages heretofore
not reached ; and when this is no longer possible, the limit
of the " trade " is reached. But more than that ; if the
trade of a village consists of ebony, ivory or rubber, these



soon become exhausted and the value of that village for
trade is at an end, for the ebony trees have been cut down,
the elephants driven away, and the rubber vines killed. It
is a sad fact that the bush negroes are so reckless as to kill
a rubber vine at one gathering instead of tapping it
judiciously, and so the productive territory is ever}' year
receding, and the difficulty of obtaining the rubber is
thereby increased.

All of these facts were of course well known to the
little group gathered on the piazza of Consul Lewis' house,
and they needed no discussion ; the only question was what
could be done to advance the interests of the colony and
develop its great natural resources. Mr.' Schiff again sug-
gested the importation of a large number of Irish families,
but Consul Lewis thought the colony was not yet ready for

" In my opinion," said he, " the native labor should
first be employed, and the country more opened up ; then
white peasants and other laboring people could come out
here both to their own advantage and ours. In new
countries like this where there is native labor, it is always
best for men of means to lead the way ; these by their
superior intelligence and ability can provide regular com-
munication with distant parts of the country, and open up
districts for settlement that were before too difficult to
reach, and by establishing industries suited to the country,
present an object-lesson to all new-comers far more effec-
tive than any amount of talk. Take the matter of coffee-
raising for example ; you might talk to an Irish bog-trotter
until your head turned into a cocoanut, and you could not
teach him to plant coffee and prepare it for market ; but
bring him out here and set him to work on a coffee estate ;
let his daughters work in the planter's family, or in the
cleaning and husking mill ; let him see the planter making
money raising and selling this coffee, and soon he will



want to raise and sell too, and by this time he and his
family will know how to do it, and they will do it."

" What do yon think of a railway from here np into
the interior?" inquired Mr. Alexander.

" I think it is a necessity, and ought to be built now,"
replied Consul Lewis, " railways are as much a necessity
here as in any other country in the world. No country-
can do without them ; they are now built, or being built,
in North, East and South Africa, and why not here? All
railway supplies are so cheap now that roads built at the
present time should pay their way from the start, and soon
begin to earn dividends. The companies that are first in
the field will get the best routes, and no doubt valuable
grants of land, and may consider themselves fortunate."

" In what direction would you suggest a road be first
built ? " asked Mr. Sinclair.

" I think," answered Mr. Lewis, " that at first it would
be better to start from the head of navigation on the Sierra
Leone River and run directly back to the Kong Mountains ;
this would open up a fine district of hill country that
might be settled at once and that should soon give the road
some business. Flat-bottomed, stern-wheeled steamboats,
such as we call " kickouts " on our Western rivers, could
come alongside the ocean steamer and receive the freight
and take it up the river to the railway, and when the traffic
of the line would warrant the expense of large terminal
facilities, the road could be extended to this city and piers
built out to deep water ; but for the present a terminus up
the river would be more economical. Then after a few
years, when the opening up of the country was an accom-
plished fact, the line could be run through the mountains
and down the Niger until water navigable for small steam-
boats was reached, and you would have the commerce of
the Western Soudan in your hands."



" We seemed so far away from the Niger," interrupted
Mr. Sinclair, " that I had not even thought of it."

" Its head waters," continued the Consul, " are very
near the head waters of the Sierra Leone, perhaps not
three hundred miles from where we are sitting, and it is
almost certain that a railway from here to the nearest
navigable water on the river would not need to be over
six hundred miles long, and perhaps much less."

"How about the question of fuel?" inquired Mr.

" To that question I am not able to give a very definite
answer," said Mr. Lewis, " there is of course an abundance
of wood everywhere, but I am confident an abundance of
coal will be found in the mountains, as well as many other
valuable minerals ; coal is found in almost every country,
and I have not a doubt that rich beds of it are waiting for
us to come up and help ourselves."

" It seems to me," observed Mr. King, " that in a city
of this size a system of street car lines would pay ; we
have them in Mexico, and Central American towns which
are in the same latitude as this place."

" They would pay very soon at least, if not indeed at
first," replied the Consul, " this hammock business is a
nuisance ; when I go about I like to sit up like a Christian,
and not lie on my back like a Booby to be jogged at even-
step by a couple of niggers. Small cars at frequent inter-
vals, drawn by a single mule each, and driven by stout
young women who could also collect the fares, would be a
profitable enterprise and a step forward in the right direc-
tion. Women quite capable of such work could be hired
for a shilling a day, and the keeping of the mules would
be but a slight expense."

" It takes from five to six years for a coffee plantation
to come into full bearing," said Mr. Sinclair, " and that is




a long time to wait ; are there no products that could be
profitably exported that would not take so long to grow."
" What is to hinder cotton growing on the uplands ? "
inquired Mr. Alexander, " in India large quantities are
grown and the natural conditions there are much the
same as here. I noticed in a recent number of the Pall
Mall Gazette that ' After New Orleans, Bombay is the
greatest cotton port in the world. Four million cwts.
are shipped abroad every year, and two million more are
spun and woven in the eighty-two mills of the Bombay
Presidency ; the value of all this cotton is twelve millions
of pounds sterling.' Now what is to hinder cotton being
grown, and even manufactured here ? "

"I can see no reason," replied Mr. Lewis, "what can
be done in India, can be done here ; and then you must
not forget we are much nearer to all the nations of
Northern Europe than India is."

" Do you think any of the fruits here could be shipped
to England and arrive in good condition ? " inquired Mr.

" They could beyond a question," answered the Con-
sul, " cocoanuts could go home in sailing vessels and by
using them in the husk for stowage, the freight would be
nothing at all. Limes, lemons and oranges could go by
steamer without the least difficulty, and the trade in these
might in a short time assume large proportions."

" Let me tell you, gentlemen," said Mr. King, " what
I have myself done as an experiment. I picked a basket
full of limes among the foothills of the Coast Range on the
Ogowe River, which you know is south of the equator,
and took them with me on the regular English mail
steamer to Liverpool, and they were in good condition
when I arrived ; so much so, that a few were still left
unused four weeks afterward when I left Liverpool on my



return. Another time I sent a few limes from Gaboon to
America, and they arrived safely there."

" Our steamers," observed the Consul, " are usually
fourteen days from here to Liverpool ; by using twelve to
fourteen knot boats, not calling at the islands, and running
into Plymouth, the time could easily be reduced to ten
days ; that is but two days longer than the present steamers
take from Grand Canary, home, and they carry bananas
without difficulty. The Mediterranean boats are often ten
days getting home with Palermo lemons and oranges, on
account of calling at other ports ; what then is to hinder
us from shipping such fruits ? And this trade would be a
very profitable one. You gentlemen know that a lime tree
will grow anywhere and bear luxuriantly if only the grass
and bushes be kept away from it ; the income from an acre
of lime trees would support a family. The orange requires
more care, but the trees will live and bear a life-time, and
who would wish for more agreeable employment than
picking and packing oranges?"

" These Sierra Leone oranges are not as good as those
grown on the Islands," said Mr. SchifT.

" They are much larger," replied the Consul, " and
the reason they are not so highly flavored is because they
are seedlings ; if fine budded varieties were planted they
would be as good as oranges grown anywhere. The
oranges you see in our market have not been grown in
orchards, but are from trees that came up of themselves
from chance seeds thrown about."

" At Gaboon," said Mr. King, " we have every year a
large agricultural fair, at which only the products of the
colony are allowed to be exhibited. I was for two years
one of the committee to judge of the exhibits and award
the prizes. I saw there as fine oranges as I ever saw in my
life ; they were placed on exhibition by the French Catho-
lic Mission ; and what they did at Gaboon, can be done



here. The banana industry, continued Air. King, is a
very profitable one in Central America. The number of
bananas a country like England would consume if they
could be had at a reasonable rate, is very great indeed. In
America we get them by steamer loads at a time, and there
is always a good sale for them. I can see no good reason
why Sierra Leone should not load a steamer a week with
bananas and find a read} 7 sale for them all at paying prices ;
they could be brought from the plantations along the rivers
and creeks in small steamboats and loaded on a certain day
each week, and in twelve days at the most, be on sale in
the markets of England."

" One good thing about a banana plantation," added
Mr. Sinclair, " is that there is fruit ripening all through
the year ; you do not have all your crop ready at once, and
then perhaps lose a part because you cannot employ-
sufficient labor to harvest it all ; but it comes in all through
the year with a fair degree of regularity, and so you can
give your men steady employment. In the rich soil
bananas would not need manuring as they do in the Islands,
and nearly all the cultivation could be done with mules, as
is the case with cotton and corn in America."

" Do you think Avagada pears could be sent to Eng-
land?" inquired Mr. Alexander.

" Perhaps they might," replied Mr. Lewis, " but they
ripen up rapidly when once they are taken from the tree ;
if there was a room on board fitted up with cold storage,
or even a good circulation of cool air, they might be
landed safely in London, and I know of nothing that
makes so rich and delicious a salad."

"Some of these days," said Mr. Schiff, "a single
steamer will pay between here and Stockholm. It could
bring out lumber and dried fish, for which there is a large
and increasing demand on the Coast ; and return with
coffee, sugar, palm-oil, oranges, limes, cocoanuts, and



possibly bananas — all these products would meet with a
ready sale in Sweden and Norway. 1 '

The conversation was continued until a late hour, and
then the visitors bade Consul Lewis " good night " and
walked down to the pier where the ship's boat was waiting
for them ; a few minutes later the}' were on board the
" Kisanga " and after a little nip of bitters they " turned
in " for the night.

It was the intention of the Captain to sail early in the
morning, but there were some slight repairs to make in the
engine room, and these were not completed, so it was de-
cided to start at noon, and in the meantime the five gentle-
men concluded to go ashore and attend services in the
Cathedral. The Sabbath is well observed at Sierra Leone,
quite as well as in commercial towns of its size in England
and America. The people of Sierra Leone are eminently
religious. Most white men who visit the Coast get the
impression that their religion is not more than skin deep
because there is often a wide gap between their professions
and their well known conduct ; but it must be remembered
that there are hypocrites everywhere and that the genus is
not peculiar to any country or people. No doubt many
put on a cloak of religion who possess no piety in their
hearts, and the class that knock about the steamers are the
worst of the population ; it would be a pity to judge all by

There are several places of worship, and the bells
sounded wonderfully like home ; as our friends made their
way to the Cathedral they saw the streets full of well
dressed men and women, with exquisite young swells, and
gay young ladies fitted out with the latest style of dresses
and hats, and if the faces had been white one might easily
have thought he was in one of the smaller American cities.
The congregation was a large and respectful one, the music
good, and the sermon not too long. The services were



those of the Church of England, and were conducted bya
white bishop, with the assistance of a colored brother and
a choir of colored boys.

After service Consul Lewis met the little group as
they were leaving the church and introduced them to some
of the leading merchants, and then accompanied them to
the pier to wish them bon voyage ; an hour later the
" Kisanga " turned her prow toward the sea and steamed
out of the harbor.

It is the custom of all vessels coming to the West
Coast to take on a crew of natives to handle the cargo and
do all the rough work. Formerly these crews were shipped
at Grand Cess and other villages on the Liberian coast, but
at present most captains pick them up at Sierra Leone.
These men work in gangs, under the command of a head-
man, who makes the bargains with the captain on the one
side, and the men on the other ; he guarantees the men
their wages, and he holds himself responsible to the cap-
tain for his men's good behavior. If punishment is to be
meted out, the sentence is passed by the captain and carried
into effect by the headman. These men stay with the
vessel while she is on the coast, and on her homeward
voyage they are dropped at their own village as the vessel
passes. Their pay is one shilling a day, and a ration of rice
and salt beef, with a small glass of grog at noon and sun-
down. They eat and sleep on the deck and except when
it rains are a jolly, happy set of fellows, always ready and
willing to do anything they are told so long as they arc
fairly treated, but morose and disobedient when they think
they are imposed upon.

It was an entertaining sight to watch these people eat.
Rice is cooked for them in large stationary kettles heated
by steam supplied by the boilers; when done each grain
stands out distinct by itself and the whole mass looks won-
drously white and attractive. The ship's cook now gives



to each headman an amount of rice proportioned to the num-
ber of his men, and also a piece of salt beef or pork. The
men then gather into messes of five or six, and the head-
man gives each mess its share ; the division is made with
great fairness, and not infrequently the head man retainsless
for himself than he gave to others, so as to avoid the charge
of favoring himself. Each group then choose a place upon
the deck where they sit down in a circle about the pan of
rice and watch with silent interest the division of their little
chunk of meat, which, alas, is always to small for their vig-
orous appetites and strong digestion. The little bundle of
red peppers is then unrolled, and if any one of the mess has
succeeded in picking up a few bones or stray pieces of food
about the pantry or the gallery, it is brought forth from its
hiding-place and contributed to the common stock. When
all is in readiness the little piece of meat is drawn through
the lips to get a taste of its richness, the right hand is thrust
into the central dish and a large handful of the steaming
white rice is taken and firmly pressed into a solid ball ; the
head is thrown far back, the mouth is opened to its great-
est extent, the great ball of rice drops in, the jaws close on
it — and the patient is ready to repeat the operation. After
eating, the hands and mouth are washed and the teeth well
rubbed ; nothing is drunk during the meal, but when it is
over, all take a drink of water. All Africans take a drink
of water just as they are about to " turn in " for the night.
Besides the native crew, quite a number of deck pas-
sengers were taken on at Sierra Leone ; some of these were
going to various ports south and east on engagements with
traders and missionaries to work as cooks, carpenters, ma-
sons, clerks, and Jack-washers, but most of them were ad-
venturers going forth to seek their fortune. Many of these
suppose the best way to make friends with strangers is to
make it appear they have been converted to their religion,
consequently they read the Bible aloud and pray in an os-



teutatious manner, and as a sailor places but light value
upon religion in every day life, so they look with anything
but favor upon these black " Christians," and are forever
finding fault with them. It may however admit of some
doubt whether a white Christian who attends divine ser-
vice while his men are " firing up " so as to get ready to
run on Sabbath afternoon, is doing much better than his
black brother. There is no good reason for running steam-
ers on Sunday on the Coast, and it is to be hoped a change
will soon take place in this respect.


Chapter III


ABOUT ten o'clock the next morning, Monday,
September, 22nd, the " Kisanga " was abreast of
Cape Mount, an elevation of some fifteen hun-
dred feet that marks the northern limit of the
Republic of Liberia. The Liberians have settlements
along the coast from here to Cape Palmas, a distance of
three hundred miles, and the government claims jurisdic-
tion as far as the Kong Mountains, but it is safe to say that
no Americo-Liberian has ever set his foot on one square
mile in twenty of the territory named, and, left to himself,
he never will. It was a beautiful idea to send our negroes
back to the land of their fathers, from which we had ruth-
lessly torn them, to carry the Gospel to their sable brothers
and sisters, to irradiate their heathen darkness with the
light and peace of Christianity and fill the land with the
blessings of an advanced civilization, while the sagacious
white man remained at ease in his own country, being at
once rid of the il niggers " who might become a trouble-
some element in the body politic, and at the same time
have them do a work in Africa that he ought to do. But
like many another brilliant theory, it failed to produce the
desired result.






The experience of this political experiment has been
repeated in the Church. Every now and then a denomi-
nation becomes alarmed at the death rate among: its African
missionaries, or else enough men cannot be found to
" carry the banner of the Cross " to those benighted shores,
and so the proposition is made to send out black men, and
let them bear the burden and endure the hardships, while
the white brother "lays himself upon the altar' 1 in the
shape of a comfortable pastorate at home at a good salary.
The Republic of Liberia is a great object-lesson to teach
the foolishness of trying to make the black man do the
white man's work. Here are three hundred miles of coast
line of one of the richest countries in all the world, with
an average of three steamers a week each way (not count-
ing the Cape boats) passing within sight of its shores, and
yet it is a rare thing for any cargo to be landed, or produce
shipped from its ports.

The reason for this is not far to seek. The American
negro bears the climate but little better than an European ;
being an " American," he thinks himself entirely above
work, nothing short of a professional life will befit his
dignity ; being a black man, and a foreigner, the native
people will have nothing to do with him, especially as he
would lord it over them if he could ; and so he sits there in
idleness, tinkering with the "government," levying duties
upon imports, taxing foreigners when one is foolish enough
to land, and spoiling the country for others who might be
willing to do something to develop it. Those who are not
high government officials are " professors " in various
universities, or Doctors of Divinity, or preachers connected
with various missionary societies.

And yet Liberia, as has already been observed, is one
of the richest countries in natural resources in the world.
The air from the equatorial region of the Atlantic, heavy
with vapors, is borne over the land by the south-west

iv 49


breeze until it strikes the Kong Mountains, when it parts
with its moisture in copious showers that refresh the
country and keep vegetation ever green and luxuriant.
With the exception of one or two bold headlands, the
coast-line is low but denselv wooded to the verv edg-e of
the water ; back from the coast the land is level for some
distance, when it becomes rolling, then hilly, and finally
the Kong Mountains are reached whose summits rise to a
height of from three thousand to six thousand feet.
Throughout this entire region even- product of the tropics
will not only grow, but flourish luxuriantly, and under the
fostering care of a strong and liberal government it could
be made almost the garden spot of the world.

This rich territory should be at once taken possession
of by the United States Government and placed under the
care of the Naval Department until it be sufficiently de-
veloped to admit of a Territorial form of government. It
is true it was once the policy of the United States to own
no colonies, but this great country of ours may well feel
she is past the stage of littleness when it was best for her
to stay at home and leave the formation of colonies to those
who had a surplus population. " Policy " is that line of
conduct which it is best to pursue under the circumstances,
and as circumstances change, so the " policy " of a country
must change also. It was well enough fifty years ago to
decide to form no colonies, but the question before us now
is, " what is best for the present and the future? "

This is the only portion of Africa that is not already
taken possession of by some foreign power. It is the only
portion the United States can get without war or purchase.
It is always recognized abroad as an American colony, and
in taking full possession of it we have no one to deal with
but the Liberians, who are just as much our own people as
any of the colored race in the South. It is directly across
the ocean from our entire Atlantic sea-board, and is, con-



sequently, easy of access. It would be the greatest blessing
that could happen to the country itself ; and our influence,
united to that of the English at Sierra Leone on the one
side, and on the Gold Coast on the other, would be a most
important factor in the future development of Northern
Central Africa, and would do more to advance the cause of
Christianity than all the present efforts of the missionary
societies combined. This appropriation of Liberia by the
United States is a most important matter ; it should be
speedily acted upon, and the development of the country
proceeded with in an intelligent and energetic manner.

Liberia does not possess any great open pathway to
the interior, but she is as near as Senegambia or Sierra
Leone. The Niger River, or the flooded Sahara, are either
of them better pathways to the Soudan than can be found
in Liberia, but the latter is worth developing for her own

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Online LibraryJoseph H. (Joseph Hankinson) ReadingA voyage along the western coast, or, Newest Africa : a description of newest Africa, or the Africa of to-day and the immediate future → online text (page 4 of 17)