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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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 5 of 17)
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sake, and the sooner that development is begun, the better
for her own prosperity, and the good of the whole African
lace. The opening up of a great country like this cannot
be so well effected by private enterprise, as by a strong and
wealthy government. All individual and corporate efforts
require an immediate return in the shape of profits ; this is
not necessary in a great government enterprise ; many
works are done by the governments of the earth which do
not "pay," and yet we all unite in saying that such works
are wise and necessary. So in opening up a new country,
much money needs to be spent in harbor improvements
and in constructing roads and other public works ; but
when the land has been occupied and cities and towns
built, such taxes may be imposed, either directly, or on
imports, as will reimburse the government for all its out-
lay ; this money can then be used to develop some other
region.

After taking possession of the country, the first thing
to be done is to prohibit the export of labor, and the im-

51



LIBERIA.

port of guns, powder and rum. The evils that have
attended our management of the Indians should be avoided.
The guns now owned by the people are muzzle-loading
muskets costing from one dollar and sixty cents to two
dollars and fifty cents each at wholesale. These guns are
quite unnecessary ; they are not needed to kill game, with-
out them they would be unable to make war on each other,
and it would be far better every way for them to be con-
fiscated and no more brought into the country. Owing to
the improvident nature of the negro, there are no large
accumulations of powder anywhere in their hands, and if
it was made a contraband article, the little they had would
soon be used up and the people be virtually disarmed. As
for intoxicants of every form, they should be strictly pro-
hibited, for they are productive of nothing but evil, and of
that continually. Without the ability to fight, and with
no intoxicating liquor to inflame the passions, the native
element would be easily manageable, and it is with them
that most of the work is to be done. There is one thing
more ; this native labor must be kept at home.

Liberia is the only portion of the West African coast
where labor may be obtained. Every steamer that passes
(on an average of three a week) takes a deck-load of these
strong, sturdy natives to work in the factories as coolies,
porters and boatmen. All this surplus of labor must be
kept at home, and used in the development of the new
colony. They are already accustomed to white men and
their ways, and they speak enough English to understand
all that is said to them. With such an abundant labor
supply at hand, public works could be pushed forward
without delay.

The first thing: to be done would be some landing-
facilities at Cape Mount, Basa and Cape Palmas. From
these three points roads should be made to the interior,
direct toward the Kong Mountains, for a distance of seventy

52



LIBERIA.

or eighty miles from the sea, and united by a road running
parallel with the coast. This latter road would cross the
St. Paul and Cestros Rivers somewhere near the head of
boat navigation, and with the first three roads would make
five lines of travel to the middle of the country. This
would open up the country fairly well for a beginning ; a
line of railway could then be surveyed through to the foot-
hills of the Kong Mountains where the best coffee, cotton
and tobacco plantations would be established, and the finest
fruit grown.

What treasures the Kong Mountains may hold con-
cealed can only be guessed. As gold is very plentiful not
more than three hundred miles to the eastward, it is almost
certain to be met with here, as well as other valuable
minerals. These mountains will be the finest place in the
world for manufactories, for the copious rains will produce
a superabundance of water-power, and the elevation insures
a delightful climate. Beyond the mountains lies the great
Soudan, a portion of which might be made tributary to
Liberia.

Let us see what it is that we propose :

i st. Inexpensive landing facilities at three points on
the coast.

2nd. Three roads toward the interior, each eighty
miles long.

3rd. One road connecting these, two hundred and
fifty miles long.

4th. One railway two hundred and fifty miles long.

Four hundred and ninety miles of common road, and
two hundred and fifty miles of railroad — we have railway
companies that would consider such a job a comparatively
small affair ; why should it not be done ?

Why could not an incorporated company do it ?

Because it requires the power of eminent domain,
possessed only by governments. It is absolutely necessary

53



LIBERIA.

to control customs, to prevent the export of labor, and to
apply local government to the entire country. A company
with these powers, backed by the United States Navy,
could do it ; but such companies are looked upon with dis-
trust in these days, and the world would be better satisfied to
see it done by a responsible government. There would be
plenty of opportunity for individual effort even after all
this was accomplished.

The country at present is of no more use to the
civilized world than an equal area of the Sahara, except
that it furnishes laborers to other parts of the Coast ; but
even this is no real gain, for if these men could not be
had, the traders would be compelled to employ the natives
in their own vicinity, which would be an advantage to
those communities. With the improvements proposed, and
under a strong and liberal government such as the United
States could give them, this little strip of coast-line on the
western shores of the Great Continent would become a
garden, in every way delightful, and capable of supporting
comfortably twenty millions of happy people.

On Monday afternoon the " Kisanga " passed Mon-
rovia, but although it is the capital of Liberia, it has but
little commerce, and it is seldom that an English steamer
calls there. Occasionally an American bark anchors in the
St. Paul River and loads a small quantity of camwood and
coffee, with perhaps a few casks of palm-oil ; but the trade
is far less than it would have been if left under native rule.
Monrovia is situated on the peninsula of Cape Messurado
and presents a pleasing appearance from the sea. The
houses which are scattered somewhat at random, are mostly
frame buildings of one story or one story and a half, and
raised five or six feet from the ground on brick or stone
foundations. Most of them are painted or white-washed
and present an air of neatness and comfort. There are a
great many palms growing about the town which give the

54



LIBERIA.

place an unusually cool and inviting- appearance. As the
steamer passed, our friends were drinking their three
o'clock tea, and looking shoreward Mr. Sinclair said :
" What a pity so beautiful a place as this is not of more
value to commerce and the world."

" Yes," responded Mr. King, " the coffee that is grown
here is in my opinion the best in the world. It is not as
fine flavored as the Java, but it is stronger and richer, and
is largely used to mix with poorer coffee grown in other
countries, to bring up the grade of the weaker coffee to its
proper strength ; for my own part I prefer it to any
Arabian coffee I have ever tasted."

" There is very little of it to be had," said the Captain.
" I doubt if so much as a hundred bags are ever shipped at
one time."

" The Liberian coffee," added Mr. King, " differs much
from the varieties grown elsewhere, for it does well in the
lowlands near the sea, whereas in Java, Ceylon and the
Brazils it is found necessary to grow it upon hillsides, and
it does not really flourish at a less elevation than fifteen
hundred feet. I have sometimes thought that the strength
and richness of the berry was owing to the superior fer-
tility of the lowlands, and that perhaps if the tree were
planted on the hills, the appearance of the bean, as well as
the flavor might more nearly approach that of Java coffee."

"This country," asserted Mr. Schiff, " will never be
worth anything until white men come here and make
these fellows work. It is all very well to talk about the
black man, but he will not stick steady to work unless he
has to. I have lived among them for a good many years
and I find the great trouble with them is that if left to
themselves they will not stick to anything ; they will work
some to be sure, but it is a little here, and a little there,
and in the end it amounts to a little. Ought times ought
is oughty-ought, and no matter how long a string you have

55



LIBERIA.

of them, they are of no value to you except you put a
figure in front of them ; just so with these people ; put
them under capable white men and they will do good
work, but by themselves they accomplish nothing."

" That is just the way I have found them," added Mr.
Sinclair, " if I left them to themselves they accomplished
little, but if I went with them and directed them it was
surprising how much they could do."

" And it is not direction alone they need," responded
Mr. Schiff, " they must be made to feel the pressure of
necessity. They should have a fair compensation for their
labor I grant you, but at the same time they should be com-
pelled to work. If these people were compelled to work
eight hours every day under intelligent direction, they
would soon make this land look like one great pleasure-
garden. This very Liberia, if it were properly cultivated,
could raise enough produce to load a steamer every day in
the year. I tell you, the time has come when the world
can no longer afford to let such a countrv as this go to
waste simply to supply a stamping ground for a lot of wild
niggers to idle around in. It ought to be put to some bet-
ter use."

" Well, Schiff," said Captain Thompson, " I believe
you are more than half right."

" I know I am," answered Air. Schiff, " and it won't be
long before the world sees it, too."

" In Ceylon," said Mr. Alexander, " wild land suited
for coffee estates readily commands sixty-five dollars an
acre, and when the trees have attained to full bearing it
will bring five hundred dollars an acre ; this country is not
more than half as far away as Ceylon and I see no reason
why it should not become as valuable."

" Let us make a little calculation," replied Mr. King,
" and see what this so-called Republic might be considered
worth at the valuation you have just named. It is three

56



LIBERIA.

hundred miles long ; now suppose we take a strip one hun-
dred miles wide, that would give us thirty thousand square
miles, or nineteen million, two hundred thousand acres ; and
at sixty-five dollars an acre, the price of such laud in Ceylon,
it would be worth one thousand, two-hundred and forty-eight
millions of dollars besides the seashore, and the mountain
region. I guess at that rate it would pa}- to build a few
hundred miles of common roads and railways."

" Liberia," observed Mr. Sinclair, " is only one day's
steaming farther from England than Sierra Leone, why
may not oranges and other fruit be shipped even from
here?"

" There is no reason," responded Captain Thompson,
" and not to England only, but also to the north of France,
for I have taken man}- a deck load of bananas to France
from Grand Canary, and I could do it even from here if the
' trades ' were not too strong."

" How much income would an acre of limes produce ? "
inquired Mr. Sinclair. " If we take average ground,"
replied Mr. King, " and place the trees twelve feet apart,
which would give abundance of room for mule cultivation
even after the trees were full grown, there would be three
hundred and two trees to the acre. The third year they
would bear a few fruits, and the fourth year we might
expect them to yield one peck each, or seventy-five bushels.
After the sixth year the yield would be at least half-a-bushel
of fruit to a tree, or one hundred and fifty bushels to the
acre. If each lime was wrapped in soft paper and the fruit
packed in bushel boxes, it would bring not less than eight
shillings a box in England, and sometimes more. If we
allow one shilling for box, packing and shipping ; two
shillings for freight ; and one shilling for carting and sell-
ing, it would leave four shillings, or one dollar a box for
the grower ; that would be from seventy-five dollars, to one
hundred and fifty dollars an acre."

57



LIBERIA.

" A good sized tree will bear more than half-a-bushel
of limes," said Mr. Schiff.

" Yes, I know it will," answered Mr. King. " I have
seen trees with two bushels of fine fruit on each tree ; I
always prefer to iinder-estimate rather than over-estimate,
which was why I said half-a-bushel. I should not be at all
surprised if an acre of lime trees in full bearing should
yield three hundred bushels year after year."

" How will this compare with the same amount of
land planted with bananas ? " asked Mr. Alexander.

" One acre of bananas," said Mr. King, " planted nine
feet apart, and allowing only one stalk to a hill, would pro-
duce five hundred and thirty-seven bunches of fruit a year.
The bananas shipped from the Canaries cost two shillings a
bunch to send them to market and sell them ; suppose we
allow a shilling more for expenses because of the extra dis-
tance, it would leave fifty cents a bunch for the grower, or
two hundred and sixty-eight dollars an acre, and the work
is not greater or more tiresome than the cultivation of an
acre of corn." " If we allow sixty-eight dollars an acre,"
said Mr. Alexander, " for the expense of cultivation, that
would leave two hundred dollars a year profit, which is
equal to ten per cent, on an investment of two thousand
dollars ; at that rate land out here would be pretty val-
uable."

" Well," responded Mr. King, " if the United States
would take hold of this Republic and develop its resources
with skill and energy, I see no reason why the best of this
land may not soon be worth all of that. Here is the
fertility of the soil and the requisite heat and moisture —
man must do the rest."

The conversation flowed on in a steady stream, the
shores of the so-called Republic being constantly in sight,
furnishing them continual and constant themes for discus-
sion. The coast-line here is low and covered with a rich

58



LIBERIA.

forest growth. Every two or three miles were villages of
the aborigines, the round-pointed roofs of the little huts
forming a pleasing contrast to the heavy wall of living
green. About these villages were great numbers of cocoa-
nut trees, showing that the people were fond of its fruit.

" How much do you suppose an acre of cocoanuts would
be worth ? " inquired Captain Thompson.

" I think there are other ways of growing cocoanuts,"
replied Mr. King, " that would be as well, or even better
than growing them in orchards ; but since you have asked
the question I will answer it. To give the trees ample room
for full development they should be thirty feet apart each
way ; this will give forty trees to an acre. When planted
in rows along a road, or any place where the air can freely
circulate on two sides of them, they need not be more than
half that distance ; but in an orchard they should have light
and air all around them. At my home, in Gaboon, I have
a number of cocoanut trees, and a couple of years ago I
planted nearly one hundred more. I found that my trees
averaged from ten to twelve bunches of nuts a year, with
from twelve to twenty nuts in each bunch. If we take the
average number of bunches per tree per annum, at ten ;
and the average number of nuts per bunch at fifteen, it
will give us one hundred and fifty nuts per tree per annum.
This is an entirely safe estimate, for I have one tree that
gives me more than double that number every year. These
nuts will readily bring on the Coast from ten dollars to
twenty dollars a thousand, which would be from one dollar
and fifty cents to three dollars a tree, or from sixty to
eighty dollars an acre. When these trees once come into
bearing they will bear continuously for a hundred years,
and will require no labor except gathering the fruit." " It
takes the trees a long time to come into bearing, does it
not ? " asked Mr. Alexander.



59



LIBERIA.

" From eight to ten years," replied Mr. King, " but in
the mean time the space between the trees might be filled
in with lime trees ; these would pay not "only for the culti-
vation, but a profit besides. . However, I do not advocate
planting cocoanuts in orchards, for I think orchard land
might be well reserved for other purposes ; it seems to me
the cocoanut is just the tree to plant along the side of roads,
ditches and other places where there is waste or vacant land.
The roots hold the soil well together ; the trunk is free
from branches that might impede travel or obscure the
view, and the top gives all the protection needed without
making so dense a shade as to be damp or unwholesome.
Suppose a road was bordered on either side by a row of
these noble trees planted at intervals of twenty feet ; that
would be five hundred and twenty-eight trees to a mile, and
at the lowest estimate we made as the income from one
tree, it would give the very handsome sum of seven hun-
dred and ninety-two dollars a year from the sale of the nuts ;
quite enough to keep the road in the highest state of
repair."

" But is it not true," inquired Mr. Schiff, " that the
cocoanut grows best is the sand along the sea-beach ? Why
some people say they will not grow where their toes do not
touch the salt water."

" Some people tell a great many queer stories," replied
Mr. King. " You all know that my house at Gaboon is on
the top of an iron-stone hill, and that the soil is a heavy
clay, yet the cocoanut flourishes there. When I was living
on the Ogowe river one hundred and sixty-five miles from
the sea, I planted a number of cocoanuts in 1882, all of which
are doing well, and one of them is now bearing fruit. I
think the tree needs a moist, but not a swampy soil, and
my experience on the Ogowe river leads me to believe the
cocoanut can be grown at least on all the lowland between
the sea and the hills."

*» 60



LIBERIA.

" In India," observed Captain Thompson, " the cocoa-
nnt is manufactured into oil."

" So it might be here," answered Mr. King, " and
moreover the husk makes excellent paper stock. By the
way, did you know the nut makes the best of milk for
coffee ? "

" You don't mean that miserable water in the cocoa-
nut, I hope, that some people call milk, and are always
praising so highly ? " interrupted Mr. Scruff. " No," con-
tinued Mr. King, "I do not. I quite agree with you that
this water has been greatly overpraised ; what I wanted to
tell you is this : If you will take a ripe cocoanut and grate
the meat, then pour on a very little boiling water and
squeeze the pulp in a cloth, the liquid you will get is white
like milk, as rich as cream, and gives coffee a peculiar]}'
fine flavor."

" I never heard of that before," said Mr. Sinclair.

" Well, you try it some time," added Mr. King, " and
you will be pleased with it."

The bell now rang for dinner and the group adjourned
to the cabin to discuss this important part of the day's pro-
gramme.

The next morning at eleven o'clock the Kisanga
swung her head in-shore, fired a gun from the fore-castle,
and anchored in the lee of some enormous rocks against
which the surf beat with a heavy roar, sending up clouds of
spray. This was Grand Cess, one of the principal villages
of the Kru-boys, or native people of the Liberian Republic.
The town is in two divisions, one near the shore, and the
other on a low hill a little further back ; altogether there
may be five hundred huts. These huts are circular, with
high, pointed, cone-shaped roofs made of dried grass.

The appearance of the country was very pleasing ; the
village near the shore was nearly buried amid cocoanut
trees, the shore-line beyond a deep, heavy forest, while up

61



LIBERIA.

over the hill were grass fields with heavy forest, some dis-
tance inland — as good a country as one need wish to dwell
in. Presently a large number of canoes were seen coining
off from land, and it was not long before they were along-
side and their owners clambering upon deck. They were
tall, handsome finely developed men, with dark brown
skins, woolly heads and frank, open faces. Some of the
older of them had " books " or orders from traders further
down the coast, to bring gangs of men with them, and
these orders stated that the makers would pay the passage
of such gangs to any captain who would bring them. The
Kru-boys were respectful but noisy, and had a great deal to
sav to one another and to those who had come on board at
Sierra Leone. The canoes were not more than two feet
wide and sometimes not so much as that, and they were
turned up a little at each end. There were no benches or
seats in them, but the Kru-men sat flat upon the bottom
with their legs stretched out in front of them. When the
waves slopped over into the canoes, as they would do some-
times, the men bailed the water out with one foot which
was so flat and large it could be used just like a scoop 5
indeed, they can often use their feet with as much facility
as their hands, and it is little more trouble for them to pick
up an article with their toes than for ns to pick it up with
our fingers.

In a couple of hours the Kisanga proceeded on her
course, having about a hundred of the Grand Cess " boys "
on board as passengers. These good-natured savages
brought no other liiQ-g-ag-e than the loin-cloths thev wore
and a few bundles of red peppers, and their recent parting
from home associations and friends did not appear to sit
heavily on their minds, and yet they love their fatherland,
or " we country," as they call it, and would no doubt
rather work home if there was anything to do, than to go
away for a year or more at a time.

62



LIBERIA.

There is not a more singular or interesting race to be
found anywhere on the continent of Africa. It would be
difficult to find better specimens of muscular development,
men of more manly and independent carriage, or more real
grace of manner anywhere in the world ; in fact, these are
Nature's noblemen. It is true their heads are somewhat
narrow and peaked, but they are capable of intellectual
improvement ; fully as much perhaps as other races of sav-
age men, and they are certainly capable of being exceed-
ingly useful in the development of their country, provided
their capabilities are guided by the intelligence and skill of
the white man. The present custom on the Coast is for
the trader, missionary or government officer who wants
laborers for any kind of work, to give some elderly Kru-
boy a " book " or order to give him the required number of
hands ; he then pays his passage to Liberia and gives him
a present for the head-man of his town, usuallv a keg or
barrel of rum. This book is also an order on any steamer
captain for the passage of the " boys," and is payable on
their arrival. The Kru-boy who recruited the gang is now
the head-man of the party, responsible to the chief of the
village at home for the safety and wages of the boys, and to
the employer for the obedience of the entire gang. Until
recently engagements were for three years ; but now they
will remain for one vear onlv. Thev receive as wao-es from

J j J O

one to two pounds sterling per month, and a regular daily
ration of rice and meat, while on Saturday they <ret in addi-
tion a head of tobacco and a bottle of rum. Besides this,
they receive one or two fathoms of cloth on the first Sun-
day in every month, which keeps them supplied with
clothes, so all their earnings can be sayed and taken home.
The steamer's crew that were taken on at Sierra Leone un-
paid in English silver, but the men from the Liberian
coast receive their pay in guns, powder, rum, tobacco,
cloth, beads and other merchandise.

63



LIBERIA.

When a Kru-boy reaches home with his year's pay, he
meets with a hearty and noisy reception on the part of his
friends ; guns are fired, dances gotten up, and all who are
permitted to share his rum are loud in his praise. A goat
is brought in from the plantation and killed, and a great
family feast is prepared. In a few days a family council is
held for the purpose of dividing the booty ; if the boy be
young he is given a few trifling articles and sent away
again at the first good opportunity. If, however, he be
somewhat older, a wife is purchased for him, and he feels


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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 5 of 17)