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 8 of 17)
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is a panacea for all ills ; but they quite mistake the nature
and scope of this wonderful power. It can produce its
beneficient results only under favorable conditions ; there


must be good government, and steady industrious habits in
order that religion should flourish. These conditions are
within our power, and God never does for us what we can
do for ourselves. Let us apply these conditions to Africa,
and then the Gospel will win its way among her dark sons
and daughters, and the Prince of Peace will indeed have
risen upon the land with healing in His wings.

In Christian lands we come and go somewhat at will,
and call it freedom ; but our very civilization compels us to
work. Our freedom of movement, even-thing we have, our
very existence, demands that we shall labor. The time has
come when this yoke, which we ourselves wear, must be
laid upon the dusky sons of Africa. They are no better
than we are ; let them be set to work. We are not better
than they, that we should retain the rewards of the diligent
all to ourselves. Let them partake of the blessings we
enjoy, those blessings that flow from civilization and Chris-
tianity ; the channel through which these come to us, is pa-
tient, persevering industry. Our advanced civilization, that
compels us to " pay ' for all we enjoy, lays upon us the
necessity to labor, and so it will the African when his
country has advanced to where ours is now ; in the mean-
while let the powers that rule over him set him to work and
teach him to be first useful, and then self-reliant, nothing
else will preserve his race from extinction ; nothing else
will make the preaching of the Gospel effective to his
salvation. Christianity makes no progress among the
idle and the lazy. Christianity is an active, vital, moving
power ; it impels its subject forward in the path of duty ;
its motto is onward, upward ; it is a life, a growth, ever
developing, even expanding ; but the idle and lazy do not
heed its commands, and it soon dies out within them.
This has ever been the experience of missionary workers ;
keep your people employed ; give them plenty of hard work
to do, and they are not likely to fall. Let the colonial



governments there, and the great companies that may rule
over the land, gather the people together and set them to
work ; not making their tasks too difficult ; paying them
fair wages ; keeping intoxicants from them, and encourag-
ing them to accept the Protestant religion ; giving them
the benefit of a common school education, and ruling them
with a firm hand, and the result will be large profits to the
companies, and the land will become a garden вАФ the delight-
ful home of millions of happy people.

This is no fancy day-dream, the result of a disordered im-
agination ; it has been largely realized in Java ; it can be fully
realized in West Africa. Let the reader spend the greater
part of fifteen years in this wondrous land, as the writer has
done, and he will see this, and far more, to be among the pos-
sibilities. If the civilized world realized the boundless re-
sources of this country, ships enough could not be spared from
the world's commerce to carry the crowds who would wish
to go there.

We left our friends sitting on the deck of the Kisanga
enjoying their afternoon tea, and looking shoreward at the
surf as it broke in from upon the rocks at the foot of the
castle walls. They did not go ashore, for the steamer was
going- to remain but a short time. A small fleet of canoes
soon came alongside, from one of which the steward pur-
chased some pineapples. This lead to a discussion about
this fruit. It is not a native of Africa, but was taken
thither by the early settlers, and is now common along the
coast, and in many places has penetrated some distance into
the interior. It grows on a long stalk like a cabbage, and
produces one fruit a year. Like the banana, a stalk bears
fruit but once, and the plant is continued by a new shoot
that comes up from the ground beside the parent stalk, and
bears fruit the following year. When the fruit is ripe, it is
best to cut away the old stalk and let the new one have all



the strength of the roots. It will grow in thin sandy soil,
but of course, does better in alluvial and other deep soils.

" I see," said Captain Thompson, addressing Mr. King,
" that whole cargoes of pineapples are sent from the West
Indies to the Atlantic seaports ; do you think they could be
sent from here to England ? "

" I cannot say," replied Mr. King, whether they could
be or not. The pineapple is easily bruised, and does not
long save when once it is cut from the stalk ; but it may
be that a room fitted up with cold storage might preserve
them. Of course, it would not do to freeze them, but only
to cool the air so as to retard the ripening, and then it
might be they could be safely landed in England. But if
they could not be shipped, they could at least be preserved
here and sent home in that state, and would then find a
large and ready sale."

" Do you think the raising of pineapples might become
a profitable industry?" inquired Mr. Alexander.

" I do not see why it should not," answered Mr. King,
u for it is profitable in other countries, and is as easily
raised as corn. Planted four feet apart each way, which
would give abundant room for mule cultivation, there would
be two thousand, seven hundred plants to an acre ; at three
cents each for the fruit it would amount to eighty-one dol-
lars a year, besides the fibre. You know the negroes make
their thread from the fibre of the leaves, and that it is even
stronger than our own linen thread. The fibre would
amount to several hundred pounds per acre, and should at
least be as valuable as flax, perhaps more so. As a planta-
tion will last several years, I have no doubt the fibre would
pay all the expenses of cultivation, and leave the receipts
from the fruit a profit."

The Captain inquired how the fibre could be extracted.

" The natives," continued Mr. King, " remove the
pulp by scraping the leaves with a knife ; the fibre is then



laid in the sun to dry, and is twisted into thread and twine
by rubbing it over the thigh. A machine could easily be
made to macerate the leaf and wash away the pulp, and
then dry the fibre in a hot room, or by running it over
cylinders heated by steam. The fibre, as the negroes pre-
pare it, is almost white, very soft and silky, and might be
used with silk in the manufacture of many fabrics. As the
staple is from two to three feet long, it has a great advan-
tage in weaving, over cotton, which is only two or three
inches in length."

" You spoke," said Mr. Alexander, " of preserving
pineapples ; are there any other fruits that could be pre-
served here and then sent to our home markets?"

" Yes," answered Mr. King, " mango jelly and sauce
could be made in almost unlimited quantity, and would find
a ready sale in every northern town. At the agricultural
fair in Gaboon, to which I referred the other day, the Sisters
of the Catholic mission exhibited jellies made from this
fruit, as beautiful in appearance, and delicious in taste as
anything I ever came across in the way of preserves. In
addition to jelly, the mango, before it is fully ripe, makes a
sauce that is superior to apple-sauce, and that keeps per-
fectly, for I have taken it from Gaboon to America, and
found the journey did not injure it ; but it is better to put
it in glass than in tin. Guava jelly is another article that
could be made in large quantities. The guava is like the
lime, it will grow well, and bear abundantly in poor soil,
so that wherever there is any light ground it could be
profitably occupied by guava trees. Thousands of people
could find employment in raising and preserving pineapples,
mangos and guavas, and there would be an abundant
market for all they could produce."

The conversation was interrupted by the dinner-bell, a
call that was always welcome, and in a few minutes the



table was surrounded by a double row of strong, healthy
men, discussing the merits of hot pepper soup.

At eight P. M. when the watch was changed, the
Captain put the ship at half-speed, and before bedtime the
lights of Cape Coast were far astern. The distance to
Accra is seven hours steaming at full-speed, but sailors
prefer to start at such a time that half-speed will bring
them a little short of their destination by dawn, and they
can make port at full-speed by the light of the morning sun.
During the night the Kisanga passed Anamaboe, Winnebah
and Barracoe, and by the time our friends had taken their
coffee, she anchored off Accra, the second most important
settlement of the English on the Gold Coast. Looking
ashore from the steamer's deck Accra was seen nestling
comfortably in the lap of palm-clad hills. Along the edge
of the bluff which forms the sea-shore was an irregular line
of white-washed stone houses, with the governor's house far
away to the left. The surf, as at Cape Coast, was heavy,
and our friends did not care to go ashore. There were a
few packages to send ashore, and some dispatches, and when
this was accomplished the Kisanga resumed her course,
having taken some fifty deck passengers who were going
south to seek their fortune.


Chapter V


ROM Accra on the Gold Coast, to Bonny in the
Niger delta, is two days steaming. There are
many places of interest along- the way, but it so
happened that the Kisanga did not call at any of
them. The first of these is the Volta river, six hours
steaming beyond Accra. This stream, which is a mile and
a half wide at its mouth, rises in the Kong mountains, and
is in many respects such a river as our own Hudson. Near
the sea the banks are lined with the usual fringe of man-
groves common to all tropical rivers. Above the mangroves
the country becomes more open, and the stately cotton
trees, bamboos, and oil-palms diversify the landscape.
Back from the river is an open country interspersed with
hills, which gradually form ranges as they approach the
Kong mountains. These hills are wooded with tall, open
forests, making travelling pleasant and agreeable ; the
traveler being protected from the sun, while at the same
time free from the annoyances of the jungle. This delight-
ful land is wondrously diversified by open plains, wooded
hills, and cool and shady dells through which flow streams
of crystal water hastening away to join the Volta which
forms an open pathway from the sea. Throughout this



district there is a sufficient population to work coffee, sugar,
cotton and tobacco estates, and the hills would make de-
lightful homes for happy families from the dark and
cheerless North. At the present time there is considerable
game in the lower course of the river, crocodiles, hippopot-
ami, divers, cranes, pelicans, storks, whydahs, ibis, paddy-
birds, and many others. Any one fond of sporting could
here find shooting to his heart's content.

The Volta separates the Gold Coast from what is
known as the Slave Coast, of which Whydah is one
of the principal ports. The French have seized the coast
in the neighborhood of Whydah, and at the present time
are at war with the king of Dehomy, but as yet have not
obtained much advantage in the contest.

Beyond Whydah is the English settlement of Lagos,
on an island of the same name in a large lagoon which
connects by means of tide-water creeks with the Niger.
Lagos is a large shipping port, and will compare favorably
with other tropical cities ; its wharves, piers, warehouses,
and public buildings presenting a fine appearance from the
water. The city is well drained, has good local police and
a systematic government. Palm oil and kernels are the
great staples of export, particularly the latter, it being
nothing unusual for a single house to load a ship with
kernels, and whenever the steamers cannot fill up with
cargo, they know if they go to Lagos all their spare room
will soon be taken for kernels. Back of Lagos is the
country of Yoruba, which is represented as being healthy,
and in every way a desirable land. The capital of Yoruba
is called Abeokuta, a walled city with a population of fifty
thousand. It is surprising that England has not extended
her rule over this kingdom, for if it were formed into a
British colony it might in a few years become a civilized
land. Yoruba extends as far East as the Niger, beyond
which is the kingdom of Nufi. On Sabbath morning the



Kisanga steamed through the break in the sandy key which
marks the outlet of the Bonny river, and by i P. m. she
anchored abreast of the English factories.

The Bonny river is one of the outlets of the Niger, there
being five others, called Akassa, Brass, Benin, Opobo and
New Calabar. This vast delta of the Niger is one great
swamp composed of low islands, covered with a dense
growth of mangrove and other water loving trees, and wide
reaches of open water with deep crooked channels winding
among the mud-banks. Like all similar tracts of alluvial
land, the scenery is monotonous and dreary, but the gentle-
men in the factories scarcely notice this, they are kept so
busy buying palm oil and kernels.

Sunday being a " day off " when no steamer is in port
to be loaded, the Kisanga had hardly anchored and swung
to the tide, before boats pushed off from shore and the
agents came to hear the news and have a friendly chat. In
former years the trading was all done on " hulks ". Old
vessels that could be bought cheap were sailed out in the
summer-time and on their arrival in Bonny were stripped of
masts, sails and spars, and roofed over with a thatch made
of palm leaves. These made cool, comfortable homes, and
the traders felt secure from the attacks of natives, for in
approaching the hulk they would be greatly exposed in
their open canoes on the water. Twenty years ago trade
was thus carried on in all the African rivers, but it has
long since outgrown such narrow quarters and now the
great commercial establishments are on shore, some of them
so large as to cover several acres of ground.

The foreign settlement at Bonny is built on an island
twenty miles in from the sea. Like all the land in this
great delta it is not more than a foot or two above high
water mark, but by covering it with a good coating of
gravel has become sufficiently firm and solid for building
purposes. Long piers have been run out to deep water so

vii 97


that surf-boats, and even small steamers can come along-
side. These trading factories are busy places, and a large
force of men are employed. Contrary to what might be
supposed, the Niger delta, notwithstanding its low marshy
soil, is not particularly unhealthy ; at the same time it
cannot be looked upon as a desirable place of residence.

At the present time trade is carried on in West Africa
by wealthy firms in Liverpool, Glasgow, Bristol and Ham-
burg. The members of these firms seldom visit the Coast,
and in some cases never do, but they send out " General
Agents " to represent their interests, to each of whom a
considerable territory is given as his field of operations.
This general agent, upon carefully looking over the ground,
establishes factories at favorable points and places them in
charge of agents who are responsible to him, as he himself
is to the firm. These factor}- agents usually have one or
more white assistants under them, and a force of blacks of
from twenty to one hundred men, according to the amount
of work there is to be done. The general agent establishes
a central depot where goods are received and produce
shipped, and where all the accounts of the Agency are kept.
Each agent makes out an " indent," or list of the goods he
wants, and also of the " stores " or other supplies he needs.
These indents, if the}' are approved by the general agent,
are sent to the firm, who forward the goods to the central
station, from which they are distributed to the factories by
small steamers or sailing vessels. In like manner the pro-
duce is sent to the central depot, and each agent credited
with what he sends. In cases of misunderstanding the
agents cannot appeal to the firm, being entirely under the
control of the general agent.

When an agent receives his goods they are carefully
piled away in a store-house and a part of them unpacked
and placed on exhibition in the shop. It is seldom, how-
ever, that many of the goods can be directly exchanged

9 S


with the natives, that being entirely too straightforward to
suit the negro mind. For some unaccountable reason the
African will not bestir himself to collect the forest products
except trade-goods be first brought to his town. When a
large canoe laden with goods reaches a village, all is excite-
ment over the auspicious event ; guns are fired, drums
beaten, and the inhabitants give themselves up to no end
of rejoicing, especially if a barrel of rum be divided among
them. Each chooses the articles he prefers, at least a por-
tion of which is paid over to him at once. The next day
there is a great time getting ready to go to the forest, and
soon the village is quite deserted ; by night they come
home tired and cross, and thereafter enthusiasm dies out
rapidly. In the meantime, the native trader who brought
the goods must give out one article after another to keep
the people in good humor, and the result is that he never
gets all the produce that is his due, and must finally return
to his master with an unfavorable report, of course roundly
abusing the villagers for their knavery. There are very
few communities where a cash business can be done, and
this system of trust, with all its losses and evils, is neces-
sary in order to get the produce at all. Under these dis-
couraging circumstances it is a wonder that trade can be
made to pay, and the fact that it does argues well for the
energy of the traders and their care in all matters of detail.
What may yet be made of the African race under
favorable circumstances, it is hard to say, but one thing is
certain, and that is that savages will not labor steadily at
any useful occupation except under some sort of compul-
sion. Unfortunately the educated and Christianized negro
will not, as a rule, work either, and certainly not, if he can
help it, at any kind of manual labor. There is no escaping
the conclusion that these people must be brought into
industrious ways before they are fitted to become citizens
and to be benefitted by complete liberty.



At Bonny the Kisanga began to unload her cargo in
good earnest. A heavy spar was rigged to each mast in
such a way that the upper end was directly over the hatch-
way. A steam " winch " turning an iron drum, wound
around it a heavy chain which ran along the under side of
the spar, over a wheel at its end, and so hung down the
hatchway into the hold. The ship's Kru-boys were divided
into two gangs, one of which worked the forward hatch,
and the other the after hatch. These nimble fellows clam-
bered over the piles of bales and boxes in the dark hold,
selecting such as were marked for Bonny, and fastening
them to the chain which drew them forth and deposited
them on deck. The rattle of the steam winches and chains,
the shout of the workmen, who always do best when mak-
ing a noise, with all the bustle and excitement of working
cargo, make an animated scene, and one that is highly
entertaining to new-comers, but tiresome enough to old
coasters, to whom such scenes are no novelty. The spars
were rigged, and preparations made during the afternoon,
but the hatches were not taken off until Monday morning.

After the agents had finished their chat they returned
to shore, and our friends went with them, partly for a
change, and partly to send home a cablegram announcing
their safe arrival. The West African Submarine Cable
Company have a line of cable running the entire length of
the West African Coast, and connecting all the principal
ports with each other and with Europe ; the business is
increasing every year, and land lines will doubtless soon be
put up to important points. It may, perhaps, not be known
to all readers of this volume that a telegram may be sent
from any town in the United States to any of the large
ports in Western Africa ; the time occupied in transit is
from three to four hours, and the cost from two to three
dollars a word, with a discount of seventy-five per cent, on
dispatches for the press.


Bright and early on Monday morning a small fleet of
surf-boats and lighters gathered beneath the open gang-
ways of the ship to receive the cargo for the factories, and
the din and activity on deck gave promise of a busy and
noisy day. After breakfast our friends gladly accepted the
invitation of Mr. Stirley to spend the day at his factory,
and it was not very long before they were seated in com-
fortable chairs on the veranda of the second-story of his
house. Mr. Stirley is a thorough disciplinarian, systematic
in all he does, and as may easily be guessed, a successful
trader. His establishment is at the upper end of the set-
tlement, near the corner of the island, and is advantageously
located. Mr. Stirley has been many years on the Coast,
and his health is excellent. He informed our friends that
trade had about attained its fullest development along the
present lines, and that it could scarcely be expected to
increase much in value until the soil was cultivated in a
systematic way.

" At present," said he, " it is just the same as it is
down the Coast, where you gentlemen live, we purchase
only the natural products of the forest, palm oil and kernels.
All our supplies come from a strip of country not over one
hundred miles wide, for the oil-palm does not grow in quan-
tities farther in the interior. Within this hundred-mile
strip it is fair to say that three-fourths of the area does not
produce this palm, as there is either open water, or else the
ground is occupied by mangroves and other trees ; even
where the oil-palm does grow there are no continuous
forests of it, but trees singly and in groups are found grow-
ing in the jungle. Nor are all the nuts gathered that
grow, for the improvident people allow a large percentage
to go to waste. If our people were only industrious, work-
ing regularly every day under intelligent direction, and
especially if they would cultivate the soil, we might load
ten steamers where now we load one."


" That is just the way it is in Ogowe," said Mr. Schiff,
" I have lived there several years, and it seems a pity to
see so much good labor go to waste, especially when the
men themselves would be so much benefitted by a life of
industry and thrift. Now look at those fellows there in
that canoe ; ever}' one of them are slaves except the one in
the middle, and he might as well be for he is the worst one
in the lot. How much better for them if they worked for
some intelligent white man at fair wages, and had each of
them a little cottage and garden like our workingmen at
home, and go to church decently dressed every Sunday ?
As they are now, they are idle, worthless vagabonds, no
good to themselves nor any one else, and will always remain
so, too, until they are set to work.' 1

" Come now, Schiff, don't get excited," said Mr.

" Well, I can't help it," retorted Mr. Schiff, " it makes
my bile run into my blood to see such a lot of lazy scala-
wags around when they have the finest land there is in the
world, and if they would work they might make every foot
of it produce like a garden."

" I think," said Mr. King, " that we will all agree
with you in the main, and for my Own part, I think the
time will soon come when your wish will be largely

Mr. Stirley changed the subject of the conversation by
calling attention to the extended view to be enjoyed from
where they sat. Far as the eye could reach it rested upon
low islands covered with mangroves and bamboo jungle,
sometimes separated by narrow creeks, and sometimes by
wider reaches of water. " These islands," said he, " would
make the best of rice fields, and those who come after us
are destined to make greater fortunes here in raising this
grain, than we now make from palm oil and kernels."


" The delta of the Mekong in French Cochin China,"
said Mr. King, " is much like this of the Niger, and there

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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 8 of 17)