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

. (page 9 of 17)
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 9 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

many of the islands are enclosed by embankments and
planted with rice, which makes them look as one passes
by on the steamer, like fields of fine grass on the best of
our meadows at home. There is no question but that it
will grow here just as well as there."

" I have often thought," said Mr. Stirley, " that if one
of these islands a little farther up the river where the
ground is dryer, were carefully dyked, and Spanish onions
set out at the beginning of the dry season, a tremendous
crop might be raised, for one could have all the physical
conditions quite under his control. A deep ditch could be
dug just inside the embankment, and if necessary other
ditches could be made at intervals across the field ; then
by means of a powerful pump the water could be pumped
from these ditches until the ground was dry enough to
work ; afterward if it were necessary water could be let in
through sluice-gates from the river, or pumped out at the
pleasure of the owner. By this means the proper amount
of moisture in the soil could always be maintained, and
the yield could not help being very great. When we
remember that these onions sell at home for as much as
oranges, it is easy to see how great would be the profit in
cultivating them under such favorable circumstances."

" On the Amazons," said Mr. King, " this is just the
kind of ground where rubber trees are found ; they delight
in a deep, rich, swampy soil like this. As rubber is
advancing in price yearly, and there are no extra supplies
anywhere in the world to draw from, it seems to me it
might pay a commercial company to plant a few thousand
acres with rubber trees and cultivate them carefully. The
land can now be had for next to nothing, which will not
be long the case, for fertile soil like this will soon be



wanted for rice, sugar, onions, and other crops, as has been
suggested by Mr. Stirley."

After some further conversation breakfast was an-
nounced and our friends adjourned to the cool and pleasant
dining room to do justice to Mr. Stirley 's generous hospi-
tality. Meal-time on shore does not correspond with
similar times on shipboard. At five o'clock a. m. the
watchman calls the cook and wakes up the boys. The
master is soon around and coffee with a little toast is ready
for him, after which the bell rings and by the first dawning
light the men " turn to " and the work of the day be-
gins. Very often at 8 A. m. a cup of coffee is brought to
each white man wherever he ma}' be, and affords a slight
stimulus to the stomach without giving it any work to
do. At eleven o'clock in the oil rivers the bell rings to
" knock off " and the white men have breakfast. This is
an excellent and substantial meal, with fresh fish, roast
meats, curries and stews, besides vegetables and fruits.
Usually there are one or two kinds of wine, besides ale
and beer, and black coffee at the close. At 2 p. m. the
bell rings to " turn to " and work begins again, but in the
afternoon it always lacks the push and spirit observable in
the morning. At 3 p. m. tea is brought to each white
man, and usually to the Accra and Cape Coast men, and at
six o'clock the bell rings to " knock off " and the work of
the day is ended. Dinner, the great meal of the day, is
now announced. This is served in regular courses, with
entire change of dishes each time, and goes right through
from soup to sweets like a dinner in London. The West
African traders live well, having even* sort of canned
goods at their command, as well as the fresh products of
the country. Onions and Irish potatoes are brought by
every steamer, although both might be grown in the
country. The native meats are not as good as they should
be, but fresh fish can almost always be had, and usually



very cheaply. Vegetables are not abundant, although they
ought to be, except at places like Gaboon where there are
foreigners, and are both nourishing and wholesome. Not
enough attention is paid by the commercial class to the
planting of trees ; if a little more care were exercised in
this matter it would be of great benefit to all white assist-
ants. It would be well if the great commercial companies
required each factory to plant a certain number of trees
each year and care for all those previously planted ; some
of the most delightful fruits might thus be grown. One of
the best of these is the mangosteen.

This prince of fruits grows in a bunch like a huge
cluster of grapes, and is produced by one of the palms.
Each fruit is the size of an apple, and of a purple color like
an egg-plant. The husk or rind is half an inch thick and
contains a dark aniline dye that might be made an article
of commerce. On cutting this husk right across the centre,
out comes a lump of white pulp the size of a peach which
melts away in your mouth with a most delicious taste that
cannot be described. More than all, this fruit is healthy and
it should be grown in large quantities. It does not bear
fruit all the year through like the banana, but has a season,
like our own home fruits. By making plantations of them
in the lowlands near the sea, and then again on the hills in
the interior, the season might be greatly prolonged.

The Niger delta is under English protection, and
should at once be formed into a regular colony, for the
half-and-half way of governing it that answered well enough
in the past, must now come to an end. Heretofore the
settlements in "the rivers", as Mr. Stirley has already
intimated, were simply devoted to buying the oil and
kernels produced in the tide-water region — beyond this, no
one cared a rap about either the country or its people. But
now an era of change has set in ; this fertile soil must yield
up its treasures for the benefit of humanity, and the glorious



region beyond the Coast Range will soon be needed for
homes for the ever increasing millions of earth's children.
It is time the Niger Delta had a good strong government
given it ; a government with expansive powers, that can
reach out toward the vast interior, and bring it speedily
under control. A beginning has already been made by the
creation of the Royal Niger Company, a great commercial
corporation to which has been given the sole right to trade
on, and navigate the Niger. The headquarters of this
company is on the Akassa branch, which opens more directly
into the Niger than any of the other rivers. This company
may be of great benefit in opening up communication along
the river, but its vessels should be made common carriers
so that others may enjoy the benefits of this communication,
for the country cannot thrive if one company keeps all the
lines of traffic to itself.

Great Britain being a commercial nation, had made
the mistake of supposing that all a new country needs is a
chance to trade, and then all its sources of wealth will
develop themselves. It ought to be clear enough to the
average mind that commerce is the last of the industries to
flourish. People cannot exchange what they have not. In
order to effect a trade, the articles to be traded in must first
be produced. Africa, with a moderate population of lazy
negroes, afforded some trade in forest products, it is true ;
but the limit has been reached in this direction, and now
to make her profitable to the nations, she must have first, a
strong, able government ; second, railways, carriage roads,
and river steamers ; third, great industrial (not commercial)
companies, to open up estates, and create a market for her
agricultural products ; fourth, immigration of industrious
peoples, who will make homes and add in every way to the
wealth that may now begin to flow through commercial

1 06


If the British Parliament should turn out a full-fledged
Royal Niger Company every day in the year, they could
only purchase what the present population produces. This
population in its present wild, worthless, savage condition
— made less productive every day by the rum traffic — is not
going to produce any more than it does now, until a strong
government takes affairs in hand and sets them to work.
This enforced industry — the only salvation of the African
race — can be best accomplished by large industrial com-
panies acting under a wise and strong colonial government,
and the sooner it is applied to the Niger delta, the better for
all concerned.

The Niger may be considered the key to the Great
Soudan, a section of country as great as the whole of Europe
outside of Russia ; more valuable than India ; which may
easily become the home of three hundred millions of white
colonists, and which is to-day the most hopeful, and most
valuable portion of this great continent. It is a grand
prize, worthy the best efforts of the British government to
obtain — worth more to her than India, Australia and Can-
ada combined. It is so near home ; and she has three
separate paths to it, viz. Sierra Leone, Gold Coast and the
Niger. This magnificent territory is not covered with a-
dense, impenetrable forest like some portions of the equa-
torial regions ; nor is it burned up with drought like the
plains of India too often are, but it is just the country for
colonization ; fertile, well-watered, with open plains, and
park-like forests, level prairies and low ranges of hills, a
warm climate all the year round, and, for a new country, a
comparatively healthy one — there is not to-day a more
delightful country on the face of the whole earth, nor a
more promising one.

This splendid country was the theme of conversation
in the evening when the little company of friends gathered
on Mr. Stirley's veranda after dinner. Captain Thompson



had joined them at five o'clock, and as they smoked Mr.
Stirley's cigars and drank their coffee they talked of the
changes that had taken place on the Coast during the past
few years, and especially of the settlement of the Soudan
which now seems so near.

" Yes," asserted Captain Thompson, " I believe it is
a matter of only a few years when our steamers will be
loaded with furniture and household necessities, and some
of the great Atlantic-liners will be glad to turn to this trade,
and will come out loaded with steerage passengers. I have
come out to Bonny in my own little ship many a time in
eighteen days, and such vessels as the Umbria and Etruria
will have no trouble in landing their passengers here on the
tenth day. River steamers can come at once alongside in
these quiet waters, and in twelve hours the emigrants can
be on their way up the river, and almost before they know
it they will be out of the tide-water region."

" Unless some great war or plague interferes," observed
Mr. King, " by the end of the next thirty years the popu-
lation of Great Britain will increase some fort}' millions,
and the population of Germany as much more ; here are
eighty millions of the choicest of the human race who will
want homes and a chance to make a living ; but where ?
Not in the United States surely, for that will have another
eighty million of its own by that time. Not in our over-
crowded India, nor even in Australia, for its own fast
increasing population will soon want all the room it has to
spare. Where then will this eighty millions find a home ?
Here in this Great Soudan, a country God has kept hid
from men's minds until it was wanted, but now He seems
to be saying ' haste and make ready for it will soon be
needed.' To-day this grand country can be had for the
taking ; in thirty years every acre of it will be worth as
many dollars, and all the improved portion a great deal



more ; there is no better investment to-day than these same
broad and fertile acres."

" Here," added Air. Alexander, " is the land for the
Irish ; bring them out here, keep whisky and ignorant
priests away from them ; let them build railways and other
public works, and have their little homes, each with a pig
in it, and by the time the country fills up we may hope
they will be sufficiently civilized to settle down peaceably
and make good citizens, and thus the Irish question will be
settled forever."

" Right you are," exclaimed Mr. Schiff, quite warmed
up with the pleasing prospect of the Irishmen building the
railways, "all I ask is to live to be an old man so that I
can come out here and see it."

" Well," added Mr. King, " you need not wait a great
while to see that ; I have little doubt it will be here to be
seen before ten years have passed."

" A great many cattle are raised now on the wide
pastures of the Soudan," said Mr. Stirley, addressing Mr.
King, " and I should not be surprised if one of the first im-
portant industries of this country were cattle raising, just
as has been the case in your country. The sea-coast region
is in want of fresh meat, and these cattle will find a home
market at good prices ; there will be no killing of cattle for
hides and tallow as has been the case in South America
and Australia."

" Our own experience has been," replied Mr. King,
" that cattle-raising in the way you speak of is only practi-
cable when the country is new and land abundant ; all
large cattle companies are sooner or later forced to sell
their lands to actual settlers, and so it will be here, but for
a few years there will, no doubt, be fortunes made at it, as
much by the rise in value of the land, as by the increase of



" These cattle pastures that you are speaking of,"
added Mr. Alexander, " will make the best of cotton fields.
Cotton, as we have already seen, is largely grown in India,
and as the Soudan is in the same latitude, there is no
reason why it should not grow as well here. What is to
hinder England from placing a duty upon all cotton not
grown in her own colonies ; that would help India, Egypt
and the Soudan ? There is no reason that I can see why
we should buy our cotton of America, when we can as well
raise it ourselves. Then if we thought best, we could sub-
sidize fast steamers to the Coast with the money received
as duty on cotton, and thus build up the fruit trade which
needs quick and regular transportation."

" Your scheme is a good one," answered Mr. Schiff,
" and now tell me, where will all the lumber come from to
build houses for these people when they move here ; won't
you have to bring it from Sweden and Finland ? "

"No doubt," replied Mr. Stirley, "that much will
need to be imported, especially at first, but I think local
supplies can be found without very much difficulty. The
entire slope of the Kong mountains and many of the
adjacent foot-hills are covered with forest, and as this lum-
ber would all have a local market, it ought to pay well to
saw it up. Then the level lands south of the Kong moun-
tains are mostly forest, and here is another supply. When
the railway is built in from Cape Coast it can carry this
lumber through the mountains into the Soudan by the back-
door, as it were, as most of the freight will move toward
the sea ; the companies will be glad to carry this back
freight very cheaply. But I do not think that wood will
be the main building material ; the numerous detached
hills all through the Soudan will furnish the best of sand-
stone ; and when a house is built of this material it will
last for generations. As for the natives, they will prefer to
build of bamboo and clay, just as they do now."


" How far is the Niger navigable?" inquired Captain

" As far as Brossa," replied Mr. Stirley ; " then there
are rapids that will need a railway built around them,
beyond the rapids light draft steamers can go for many
hundred miles. Settlements, of course, will follow the
rivers at first, but it will not be long, for whenever a
specially desirable locality is found, a railway will at once
be built to it, and it will quickly be settled up."

" I think," said Mr. King, " that one of the first indus-
tries to be developed will be the raising of horses and
mules. With the incoming of a large population and the
settlement of the country, there will spring up a large
demand for these animals for agricultural and other pur-

" The horses they have now in the Soudan," replied Mr.
Stirley, " are something like your American ponies, small
and tough, and well suited to work. It will require a vast
number of them to cultivate so large an extent of country,
and as you suggest, the business of breeding them cannot
fail to be profitable. It may be that some form of steam
plow that is thoroughly practical will yet be discovered,
and if it should be, then the immediate cultivation of the
Soudan prairies can be proceeded with. The principal
objection to these plows has hitherto been the weight, but
with the cheapening of aluminum that objection can be

" I think," said Mr. King, " that it will not be many
years before some sort of receiver, or storage battery will
be invented that will hold a sufficient quantity of electricity
to run a plow, and so our fields may be cultivated by this
wonderful force. The dynamos could be run by windmills
and the trouble and expense be no greater than the keep of
a horse ; especially might that be the case here near the
sea where the breezes are so constant. In our own country


a number of street-car lines are run by storage batteries,
and it will not be long before carriages and bicycles are run
in the same way."

" One of the profitable industries of the hill region of
the Soudan," said Mr. Alexander, " will be the raising of
tea. Vast quantities of tea are now produced in Ceylon and
India, particularly in Assam, and it seems to me that the
Kong country is exactly adapted to it. In Assam the
plants are grown in nursery rows for one year, and are then
set out five feet apart each way, which gives seventeen
hundred plants to an acre. The third year the leaves are
taken, and the bush continues in bearing condition for ten
years. Four pounds of the green leaves make one pound
of tea, and as the picking continues through the year, so
the plantation is always bringing in an income. I should
not be surprised if it would pay well to plant tea in connec-
tion with larger trees, such as oranges, cocoanut, breadfruit,
pear, durian, mangosteen and lemon trees ; while these
slower growing trees are coming to maturity, the tea
bushes will be paying a profit on the investment. Take
the matter of the orange ; the tree is a slow grower, and
does not bear much until eight or ten years old. That is a
long time to wait, but if the ground is well filled in with tea
bushes, they can at least defray the cost of cultivation."

" One of the fruits that can be had in perfection in the
Soudan," observed Mr. Stirley, " is the peach. Vast
orchards of this fruit might be planted, and all that was not
wanted for the local market could be dried and sent to
Europe where it will be needed. I think too that apples
might be grown on the higher elevations of the Kong
mountains and they would find a ready market on the
Coast. In the northern provinces of the Soudan a large
business might be done in raising dates and olives ; both
grow well and yield abundantly and a market for these
fruits will continue while the world lasts ; indeed there is no


end to the products of this rich region, and here it is
waiting to contribute its wealth for the benefit of mankind.
It is the finest country under the sun, and will some day
become a great empire and have a voice in the councils of
the earth. Just look at its situation, right in the centre of
this great continent, and so near Europe that many of its-
fruits and vegetables may be sent there ! I tell you, gentle-
men, it is worth more to the world to-day than half of Asia.
Three cheers for the Soudan, the finest land on which the
sun shines, and the future home of the Anglo Saxon ! "

The little party gave three rousing cheers that made
the Kru-boys and other native assistants come running to
see what was the matter. Nor need we wonder at their
enthusiasm, for although the)' know Africa far better than
we do, yet even the most careless reader can see that it is a
rich and desirable country, and with the natural increase of
population it will soon be needed for homes by millions of
people. Nor have they at all overrated the resources of
the country, but rather the contrary, for there is perhaps no
country in the world so well watered and fertile. The
party broke up shortly after ten o'clock and Captain
Thompson took his passengers back to the Kisanga where
they had a drop of bitters and then " turned in ".

One of the great advantages of the Soudan is that by
the aid of irrigation during the dry season, two crops a year
may be raised. It is also comparatively healthy, and when
fully settled will at least be as favorable for the development
of the Anglo Saxon as any country of Europe. There is
no long, hard winter here to fight, but warm and pleasant
weather all through the year. The productions include
nearly the whole range of all that is grown in both the
tropic and temperate zones ; for the valleys are warm
enough for the palms and bananas, and among the hills and
on the higher plateaus wheat and other grains flourish.



Of course there may be a few who will object to the
rose-colored opinions of onr friends, either through igno-
rance of the riches of the Soudan and its adaptability
to maintain a large European population ; or else through
sheer inability to see a thing until after it occurs. There
are multitudes who cannot see a thing until after it has
happened, and who do not fully understand it even then.
Such persons stand in the way of every enterprise and the
world must get along in spite of them, rather than with
their help. The changes foreshadowed in these pages are
not relatively greater than the writer has seen with his own
eyes on the West African coast during the last sixteen

A notable instance of how mistaken even good men
may be in their estimate of the value of new countries, is
furnished by Daniel Webster. Less than fifty years ago a
bill was brought before the United States Senate to establish
a mail route from Western Missouri to the mouth of the
Columbia river. Senator Webster opposed the measure as
a useless expense and spoke as follows : " What do we want
with this vast worthless area — this region of savages and
wild beasts, of deserts, of shifting sands and whirlwinds of
dust, of cactus and prairie dogs? To what use could we
ever hope to put these deserts, or these endless mountain
chains, impenetrable and covered to their bases with eternal
snow? What can we ever hope to do with the western
coast — a coast three thousand miles long, rock-bound,
cheerless and uninviting, and not a harbor on it ? What
use have we for such a country ? Mr. President, I will
never vote a cent from the public treasury to place the
Pacific Coast one inch nearer to Boston than it now is."

If Mr. Webster were living to-day he might be whirled
through this same region at fifty miles an hour in a Pull-
man Vestibule Sleeper, that for luxurious appointments
surpasses an}- drawing-room he ever saw in his beloved



Boston ; and in less than fifty years many who are living
to-day may ride through the length and breadth of the
Soudan in equal or even greater luxury, past the homes of
happy millions, and cities of wealth and refinement. The
world has grown so much in wealth and power, that it will
accomplish more in the next twenty-five years, than it has
in the last century. The changes and improvements of our
own North- West will be more than repeated in the Great
Soudan. This wondrous land, as soon as it is fairly in the
possession of England, will be the most hopeful for coloni-
zation of any now available.

The Kisanga continued on Tuesday to unload cargo,
and at 5 p. m. of that da)' turned her prow seaward once
more and continued her voyage to the eastward. Our
friends were sorry to leave Mr. Stirley's kind hospitality,
and the}' watched the factory buildings sink gradually
beneath the waters with genuine regret. To Mr. King this
was a symbol of the passing away of the present trade
system in simple forest products, and the dawn of a new
era of prosperity, built upon the solid foundation of in-
dustry and thrift.

In the evening the party gathered, as usual, under the

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

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 9 of 17)