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which this work was composed, that it deserves to be transcribed. After
a description of the state of slavery in Africa, which the author
represents as a sort of necessary evil, deeply rooted in the habits and
manners of that country (but without in the least alluding to the great
aggravation of the evil arising from the European Slave Trade), the
author concludes his remarks as follows: "Such are the general outlines
of that system of slavery which prevails in Africa; and it is evident,
from its nature and extent, that it is a system of no modern date. It
probably had its origin in the remote ages of antiquity, before the
Mahomedans explored a passage across the Desert. How far it is
maintained and supported by the Slave Traffic which, for two hundred
years, the nations of Europe have carried on with the natives of the
coast, it is neither within my province, nor in my power, to explain. If
my sentiments should be required concerning the effect which a
discontinuance of that commerce would produce on the manners of the
natives, I should have no hesitation in observing, that in the present
unenlightened state of their minds, my opinion is, the effect would
neither be so extensive nor beneficial as many wise and worthy persons
fondly expect." (Park's Travels, p. 297.)

On reading this passage, it is impossible not to be struck both with the
opinion itself and the manner in which it is expressed. The proposition,
literally taken, is a mere _truism_, undeniably just, but of no
practical value or importance. For, who doubts that the probable good
effects of the Abolition may have been overrated by men of warm and
sanguine benevolence? Or, who would assert, that such exaggerations
ought to have any weight in argument, except as inducements to greater
caution and deliberation? - But, the evident intention of the passage is,
to convey a meaning beyond what "meets the ear"; to produce an
_impression_ on the reader, independent of any proofs or principles by
which his opinion ought to be governed; and to insinuate, what it is not
thought proper to assert, that the zeal manifested in favour of the
Abolition originated solely in ignorance and enthusiasm.]

It is a remarkable circumstance, that while the supposed _opinions_ of
Park have always been appealed to by the advocates of the Slave Trade,
his _facts_ have as constantly been relied on by their opponents; and
that in the various discussions which have taken place upon that subject
since this work has appeared, the principal illustrations of the
arguments in favour of the Abolition, have always been derived from the
statements contained in Park's Travels. This circumstance deserves
particular attention, considering the evident bias under which the work
was composed; and affords a strong presumption of the truth and fidelity
of the narrative. [Footnote: For an enumeration of the various facts
contained in Park's Travels, which are relied on as favourable to the
cause of the Abolition, accompanied by the proper references, see _A
concise statement of the question regarding the Abolition of the Slave
Trade._ 3d Ed. 1804, p. 99-106. A work, containing the most complete
summary of the arguments upon this great subject, which has yet

The fair result of the foregoing enquiry, relative to Park's opinions
with regard to the Abolition, appears to be shortly this; that he was at
no time the friend or deliberate advocate of the Slave Trade; but that,
his respect and deference for Mr. Edwards led him, in a certain degree,
to sacrifice his own opinions and feelings upon that subject; and that
he became, perhaps almost unconsciously, the supporter of a cause of
which he disapproved. That he should have been under any temptation to
suppress or soften any important opinion, or to deviate in any respect
from that ingenuousness and good faith which naturally belonged to his
character, is a circumstance which cannot be sufficiently lamented. But
if there are any who feel disposed to pass a very severe censure upon
Park's conduct, let his situation at the time when he was preparing his
Travels for the press, be fairly considered. He was then a young man,
inexperienced in literary composition, and in a great measure dependent,
as to the prospects of his future life, upon the success of his intended
publication. His friend and adviser, Mr. Edwards, was a man of letters
and of the world, who held a distinguished place in society, and was,
besides, a leading member of the African Association, to which Park owed
every thing, and with which his fate and fortunes were still intimately
connected. It is difficult to estimate the degree of authority which a
person possessing these advantages, and of a strong and decisive
character, must necessarily have had over the mind of a young man in the
situation which has now been described. Suggestions coming from such a
quarter, must have been almost equivalent to commands; and instead of
animadverting very severely on the extent of Park's compliances, we
ought perhaps rather to be surprised, that more was not yielded to an
influence which must have been nearly unlimited.

Before we dismiss this subject, it may be proper to add, that some time
subsequent to the publication of his Travels, Park appeared to be fully
sensible that the manner in which he had treated the question of the
Slave Trade, was liable to some objections; and evidence now exists,
that upon some occasions when his authority had been appealed to as
being favourable to that system, he expressed his regret that an
improper stress had been laid upon certain passages in his Travels, and
that a meaning had been attributed to them, which it was not intended
that they should bear.

It remains to be enquired, whether there is any just foundation for the
opinion which has prevailed with regard to the degree of assistance
given by Mr. Edwards in the actual composition of Park's work; as to
which very few remarks will be necessary. The intimate connection of Mr.
Edwards with Park, the interest which he took in the success of his
publication, and the influence which he appears to have exerted with
respect to its contents, make it quite evident, that he must have seen,
and been consulted upon, every part of the work; and there can be no
question but that he, at least, revised and corrected the whole
manuscript before it was sent to the press. It was avowed by Park
himself, that as occasion offered, he had incorporated into different
parts of his work, by permission of Mr. Edwards, the _whole_ of the
narrative prepared by the latter for the use of the Association.
[Footnote: Park's Travels. Preface, p. ix.] A person accustomed to
literary composition, and confident of his own powers, would hardly have
chosen to avail himself of this assistance; which would be attended only
with a slight saving of labour, and might probably have the unpleasant
effect of a mixture of different styles. No such disadvantage, it maybe
observed, has in fact resulted from the course pursued in the present
instance. No inequalities are apparent in Park's narrative; nor are the
passages which have been inserted from Mr. Edwards's Memoir, to be
distinguished from the rest of the work. The style is throughout
uniform, and bears all the marks of a practised pen. Generally speaking
indeed, it is more simple, and consequently more pleasing, than that of
Mr. Edwards's avowed compositions. But, notwithstanding its general
merits, it is altogether perhaps too much laboured; and in particular
passages, betrays too much of the art of a professed writer. [Footnote:
It would be easy, but invidious, to produce passages from Park's work
more or less marked with some of the characteristics of Mr. Edwards's
style, and, in particular, with that tendency to ambitious ornament,
which is so conspicuous in many parts of the _History of the West
Indies_. - The following extract from Park's chapter on the state of
Slavery in Africa, may be sufficient. "In a country divided into a
thousand petty states, mostly independent, and jealous of each other,
where every freeman is accustomed to arms, and fond of military
achievements; where the youth who has practised the bow and spear from
his infancy, longs for nothing so much as an opportunity to display his
valour, it is natural to imagine, that wars frequently originate from
very frivolous provocation. When one nation is more powerful than
another, a pretext is seldom wanting for commencing hostilities. Thus,
the war between Kajaaga and Kasson was occasioned by the detention of a
fugitive slave: - that between Bambarra and Kaarta by the loss of a few
cattle. Other cases of the same nature perpetually occur, _in which the
folly or mad ambition of their princes and the zeal of their religious
enthusiasts give full employment for the scythe of desolation_." (Park's
Travels, p. 290.) - On reading this passage, and the chapter from which
it is taken, it may deserve to be remarked, (with reference to former
observations as to the bias under which Park's work was written) that in
enumerating the causes of the wars which desolate Africa, the Slave
Trade is never once mentioned.]

From these observations, combined with the several facts before stated,
it seems clearly to follow, that Mr. Edwards had a large share in Park's
work; and, without attempting to ascertain in what degree he assisted in
the composition, it may safely be affirmed that the assistance afforded
was considerable and important. [Footnote: See Appendix, No. III.]

It would be a subject of sincere regret to the author of this
biographical sketch, if he thought that this opinion (which he does not
feel himself at liberty to suppress,) was likely to detract in any
material degree from Park's well-earned reputation. But he is satisfied
that there is no just cause for such an apprehension. It is
unquestionably most desirable, that the adventures and discoveries of
distinguished travellers should be given to the public, as far as
circumstances will permit, in the language of the parties themselves;
and there is no judicious reader, who would not decidedly prefer the
simple, but authentic, narrative of an eye-witness, to any account of
the same transactions from a different hand, however superior in
literary merit. But the custom of employing professional writers upon
similar occasions, has become so frequent, that the resorting to such
assistance in any particular instance can no longer be considered as a
just subject of animadversion; and, in forming our judgment upon books
of voyages and travels (in which this practice is most common), we must
in general rest satisfied, if we can obtain a reasonable assurance, that
the compiler has made a correct and proper use of his materials. That
this duty has been faithfully and conscientiously performed in the case
of Park's Travels, there is not the slightest reason to doubt. The
authenticity of the work is apparent, not only, as has been already
stated, from the internal evidence of many parts of the narrative, but
from the known character of Park, as well as of Mr. Edwards, his
associate; who (there is every reason to believe) was a man of honour
and veracity, and incapable of concealing or wilfully misrepresenting
any important fact or circumstance.

It must further be recollected, that the essential merit of works of
this description, consists in the authenticity and importance of the
information they contain; compared with which, the beauties of style and
composition are only of secondary and very inferior importance. The
literary character of Park forms a small part of his general reputation.
This must always rest upon grounds altogether independent of the merits
of his work as a composition; and whatever may be hereafter thought of
his claims to distinction as a writer, his fame as a geographical
discoverer, an explorer of unknown countries, and a man of courage and
capacity in the most arduous and trying situations, must ever remain

* * * * *

After the publication of his Travels, Park began to think of settling
himself in life. During his last residence in Scotland in the Summer and
Autumn of 1798, he had formed a matrimonial engagement with the eldest
daughter of Mr. Anderson of Selkirk, with whom he had served his
apprenticeship. He returned therefore to Scotland in the Summer of 1799,
and was married on the 2d of August in that year. This union, which
connected him still more closely with a family with which he had long
lived in friendship, contributed in a high degree to his future comfort
and happiness.

For more than two years after his marriage, he resided with his mother
and one of his brothers, who lived together and carried on the farm at
Fowlshiels. The reason of his continuing there so long a time does not
very distinctly appear, nor is any thing particular related as to the
manner in which he employed himself during this period. The profits of
his publication, and the liberal compensation which he had received from
the African Association for the services rendered to them, had placed
him, for the present, in easy circumstances: and he remained for a long
time altogether doubtful and unsettled as to his future plan of life.
During part of the year 1799 he appears to have been engaged in a
negotiation with government (which finally proved unsuccessful) relative
to some public appointment in the colony of New South Wales. At another
time he had partly determined to look out for a farm; and at last came,
somewhat reluctantly, to the determination of practising his profession,
to which he was perhaps at no time much attached, and which was now
become more irksome from disuse.

The uncertainty in the state of his affairs during this period was much
encreased by the hope, which he constantly entertained, of being sent
out on another expedition, either by the African Association or by
Government. This clearly appears from a letter which he wrote to Sir
Joseph Banks, dated 31st of July, 1800; in which, he alludes to the late
capture of Goree, which he considers as introductory to opening a
communication with the Interior of Africa; and after entering into some
details relative to that subject, he proceeds as follows: "If such are
the views of Government, I hope that my exertions in some station or
other, may be of use to my country. I have not as yet found any
situation in which I could practise to advantage as a surgeon; and
unless some of my friends interest themselves in my behalf, I must wait
patiently, until the cloud which hangs over my future prospects is

An opportunity for medical practice, which was thought sufficiently
promising, having offered itself at Peebles, he went to reside at that
town in the month of October, 1801, and betook himself in good earnest
to the exercise of his profession. Within no great length of time he
acquired a good share of the business of the place and its
neighbourhood: but this being very limited, his profits were at no time
considerable. He was however very fully employed; for he was greatly
distinguished by the kindness which he shewed towards the poor, and by
that disinterested attention to the lower classes, which is one of the
great virtues of the medical profession.

Under these circumstances, it cannot be thought surprising that he was
dissatisfied with his situation, and looked anxiously forward to some
other establishment. His former habits of life had indeed in a great
measure disqualified him for his present humble occupations. The
situation of a country practitioner in Scotland, attended with great
anxiety and bodily fatigue, and leading to no distinction or much
personal advantage, was little calculated to gratify a man, whose mind
was full of ambitious views, and of adventurous and romantic
undertakings. His journies to visit distant patients - his long and
solitary rides over "cold and lonely heaths" and "gloomy hills assailed
by the wintry tempest," seem to have produced in him feelings of disgust
and impatience, which he had perhaps rarely experienced in the deserts
of Africa. His strong sense of the irksomeness of this way of life broke
out from him upon many occasions; especially, when previously to his
undertaking his second African mission, one of his nearest relations
expostulated with him on the imprudence of again exposing himself to
dangers which he had so very narrowly escaped, and perhaps even to new
and still greater ones; he calmly replied, that a few inglorious winters
of country practice at Peebles was a risk as great, and would tend as
effectually to shorten life, as the journey which he was about to

It might have been expected, that a person who had been so much
accustomed to literary and scientific society, and who had lately been
in some degree admitted into the fashionable circles of the metropolis,
in which he had become an object of much interest and attention, would
have felt great repugnance to the solitude and obscurity of a small
market town. But this does not appear to have been the case. General
society, for which indeed he was not particularly suited, was not much
to his taste; and during every period of his life, he always looked
forward to a state of complete retirement and seclusion in the country,
as the object and end of all his labours. He had great enjoyment however
in his own domestic circle, and in the society of select friends; and
his residence at Peebles was, in this respect, highly fortunate for him,
since it was the occasion of his becoming acquainted with two
distinguished residents in that neighbourhood; Colonel John Murray of
Kringaltie, a very respectable old officer, then retired from the
service, and Dr. Adam Ferguson; with both of whom he became intimate,
and passed much of his time. The latter of these, then residing at
Hallyards in Tweedsdale, is the well-known author of the _Essay on Civil
Society_, and _History of the Roman Republic_, and was formerly
Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh; where, during many years, he
was one of that distinguished literary circle, of which Hume, Smith,
Black, and Robertson, were the principal ornaments. At the venerable age
of ninety-one, he is still living, the last survivor of that illustrious

The friendship of a man thus interesting and distinguished, was highly
honourable to Park, who was duly sensible of its value. Nor was this
instance singular. The papers transmitted by his family speak of other
testimonies of respect, which, subsequently to Park's return to Scotland
in 1799, he received from various distinguished individuals of his own
country; and they mention, in particular, that he was very highly
gratified by some personal attentions which he received about this time
from Mr. Dugald Stewart.

In the midst of these occupations Park's thoughts were still turned upon
Africa. Soon after the signature of the Preliminary Articles of Peace
with France, in October, 1801, he received a letter from Sir Joseph
Banks, acquainting him, "that in consequence of the Peace, the
Association would certainly revive their project of sending a mission to
Africa; in order to penetrate to, and navigate, the Niger; and he added,
that in case Government should enter into the plan, Park would certainly
be recommended as the person proper to be employed for carrying it into
execution." But the business remained for a considerable time in
suspense; nor did any specific proposal follow this communication till
the autumn of the year 1803; when he received a letter addressed to him
from the Office of the Colonial Secretary of State, desiring his
attendance without delay. On his arrival in London he had an interview
with the present Earl of Buckinghamshire, then Lord Hobart, and
Secretary of State for the Colonial department, who acquainted him with
the nature of an expedition to Africa, which was about to take place,
and in which it was proposed, that Park should bear a principal part. To
this offer he declined giving an immediate answer, requesting a short
time to deliberate and consult with his friends. He returned home for
this purpose about ten days afterwards.

On his return to Scotland he formally consulted a few of his friends;
but, in his own mind, the point was already decided. From the time of
his interview with Lord Hobart, his determination was in fact taken. His
imagination had been indulging itself for some years past upon the
visions of discoveries which he was destined to make in the Interior of
Africa; and the object of his ambition was now within his grasp. He
hastily announced to Lord Hobart his acceptance of the proposal;
employed a few days in settling his affairs and taking leave of his
friends; and left Scotland in December, 1803, with the confident
expectation of embarking in a very short time for the coast of Africa.
But many delays were yet to take place previously to his final

The principal details of the intended expedition had been fully
considered, and in a great measure arranged, in the Colonial department,
before the application was made to Park; and he had therefore flattered
himself that the business was in a state of considerable forwardness.
But on his arrival in London, he was much disappointed to find that the
sailing of the expedition had been postponed; and it was not till after
two months that his departure was finally appointed for the end of
February, 1804. But, unfortunately, when this period arrived, the
apprehension of important political changes, which eventually took place
by the resignation of Mr. Addington a short time afterwards, caused some
embarrassment in the measures and proceedings of the Administration.
After all was ready at Portsmouth for the embarkation, and part of the
troops destined for the service were actually on board, the expedition
was suddenly countermanded; and the question, whether it should finally
proceed to Africa or not, was reserved for the decision of Lord Camden,
who shortly afterwards succeeded to Lord Hobart in the Colonial

In consequence of this change, Park was informed at the Colonial Office,
that the expedition could not possibly sail before September; and it was
suggested to him by some person in authority, that he might employ the
interval with great advantage in improving himself in the practice of
taking astronomical observations, and in acquiring some knowledge of the
Arabic language. He was at the same time informed, that any reasonable
expence which he might incur in acquiring this instruction would be
reimbursed to him by Government. In consequence of this intimation, he
engaged a native of Mogadore, named Sidi Omback Boubi, then residing in
London, who had served as the interpreter of Elphi Bey, (the ambassador
of the Mamelukes from Cairo) to accompany him to Scotland, for the
purpose of instructing him in Arabic. They immediately left London
together, and arrived early in March at Peebles; where Park continued to
reside together with his African instructor, till about the middle of
May. He then finally quitted his house at Peebles, and took his family
to the farm at Fowlshiels, where he quietly waited the expected summons
of the Secretary of State. During all this time he employed himself with
great diligence in acquiring a familiar use of astronomical instruments,
and in the study of the Arabic language, in which he became a tolerable

Early in September he received a letter from the Under Secretary of
State for the Colonial department, desiring him to set off without delay
for London, and to present himself on his arrival at the Colonial
Office. He accordingly lost no time in settling his affairs; and taking
an affectionate leave of his family, wife, and children, quitted
Fowlshiels, and arrived in London towards the latter end of September,

In the course of Park's communications with the Colonial Office, Lord
Camden had intimated a desire to be furnished with a written statement
of Park's opinions, both as to the plan of the expedition, and the
particular objects towards which he conceived that his attention ought
to be chiefly directed during the intended journey. In compliance with
this request, he had, during his leisure in the country, drawn up a
Memoir upon these subjects, which he presented at the Colonial Office
within a few days after his arrival in London. As this paper formed the
ground work of the official instructions which were afterwards given to
Park, and is in other respects interesting and important, it is here
inserted at length.

Memoir _delivered by_ Mungo Park, _Esq. to Lord_ CAMDEN, _on the 4th of

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Online LibraryMungo ParkThe Journal of a Mission to the Interior of Africa, in the Year 1805 → online text (page 3 of 21)