Mungo Park.

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Among the characteristic qualities of Park which were so apparent in his
former travels, none certainly were more valuable or contributed more to
his success than his admirable prudence, calmness and temper; but it has
been doubted whether these merits were equally conspicuous during his
second expedition. The parts of his conduct which have given occasion to
this remark, are, his setting out from the Gambia almost at the eve of
the rainy season, and his voyage down the Niger under circumstances so
apparently desperate. On the motives by which he may have been
influenced as to the former of these measures, something has been said
in the course of the foregoing narrative. [Footnote: See p. lxvi.] With
regard to his determination in the latter instance, justice must allow
that his situation was one of extreme difficulty, and admitted probably
of no alternative. In both cases our knowledge of the facts is much too
imperfect to enable us to form a correct opinion as to the propriety of
his conduct, much less to justify us in condemning him _unheard_.

In all the relations of private life, he appears to have been highly
exemplary; and his conduct as a son, a husband, and a father merited
every praise. To the more gentle and amiable parts of his character the
most certain of all testimonies may be found in the warm attachment of
his friends, and in the fond and affectionate recollections of every
branch of his family.

There are some moral defects very difficult to be avoided by those
persons, who from a situation comparatively obscure, rise to sudden
distinction and celebrity. From these failings Park was happily exempt.
He was a stranger to all vanity and affectation; and notwithstanding his
great popularity and success, appears to have lost no portion of the
genuine simplicity of his character and manners. This simplicity
originated perhaps in a considerable degree from a certain coldness and
reserve, which, as was before remarked, rendered him very indifferent,
and perhaps somewhat averse, to mixed or general society. It was
probably owing to the same cause that his conversation, for a man who
had seen so much, had nothing remarkable, and was rarely striking or
animated. Hence, although his appearance was interesting and
prepossessing, he was apt to disappoint the expectations of strangers;
and those persons who estimated his general talents from his powers of
conversation, formed an erroneous and inadequate opinion of his merits.

In his person he was tall, being about six feet high, and perfectly well
proportioned. His countenance and whole appearance were highly
interesting; and his frame active and robust, fitted for great exertions
and the endurance of great hardships. His constitution had suffered
considerably from the effects of his first journey into Africa, but
seems afterwards to have been restored to its original vigour, of which
his last expedition afforded the most ample proofs.

Park's family consisted of three sons and one daughter, all of whom,
together with Mrs. Park their mother, are now living. He also left a
mother, four brothers (of whom one is lately dead), and three sisters.

* * * * *

In the death of Mungo Park we have to lament not only the loss of the
most distinguished traveller of modern times, but the failure of an
expedition, honourable to Great Britain and highly interesting to
humanity and science. For a time this unfortunate event has had the
effect of damping the ardour of geographical enquiry, and of
discouraging all ideas of farther endeavours to explore the interior of
Africa. But we may hope that the publication of Park's Journal will
revive the attention of enlightened men to this subject; and that the
prospect of future discoveries in that quarter of the globe will not be
hastily abandoned.

It has been seen that Park's failure was entirely owing to the improper
season at which his journey was undertaken, and that this circumstance
was occasioned by a series of unforeseen delays arising from a great
variety of causes. A slight difference in some of those accidents which
retarded his progress to the Niger, might obviously have had a most
material influence on the ultimate success of the expedition. Thus, for
example, if he could have sailed for Africa immediately after receiving
his official instructions, if his passage had been quicker, if fewer
causes of delay had occurred on the coast and afterwards during the
journey, and finally, if the rainy season, which is subject to some
slight variations, had commenced a little later; - he might perhaps have
been able to reach the banks of the Niger in good order, and with a loss
comparatively small; and in that case might have proceeded on his
journey eastwards at the conclusion of the rainy season with some
prospect of success. But the safe arrival of Park's expedition at the
Niger, which was only just possible in the actual circumstances of the
case, would have been morally certain provided he had sailed from
England (as he ought to have done) before the month of October, and had
been ready to take his departure from the Gambia towards the interior at
the end of November; from which time there is always an uninterrupted
continuance of fine and healthy weather during a period of five months.

Hence we may safely conclude that, supposing all reasonable precautions
to be taken, an expedition similar to that of Park, may penetrate to the
Niger and along the banks of that river as far as the eastern frontier
of Bambarra, in good order and with very little loss; and this most
important fact is justly considered by Park himself as being fully
established by his own disastrous expedition. [Footnote: Journal, p.

In what degree it is practicable to penetrate _beyond Bambarra_ yet
remains to be ascertained; since it cannot be said that this question is
determined, or even materially affected, by what took place in Park's
expedition. No general inference upon this subject can be fairly deduced
from an extreme case, such as Park's evidently was; nor does it follow,
because a small party consisting of four Europeans and a few Negroes,
was attacked and overpowered, that an expedition well appointed and
properly organized, would experience a similar fate. It may be observed
also that, ill provided as Park was with the means of defence, he was
able to proceed in safety beyond Tombuctoo, where the Moors are most
numerous, and would in a short time have reached a country beyond the
Moorish territory, where the danger would probably have been much
diminished. [Footnote: See letter to Sir Joseph Banks (ante p. lxxviii)
in which Park says "that, according to the information of the guide,
they should touch on the Moors no where but at Tombuctoo."] Neither is
it altogether certain that his death was not one of those _accidents_,
to which such enterprises are peculiarly liable, but from which no
general conclusion can be drawn. [Footnote: Such, for example, as
Captain Cooke's death, which certainly affords no argument against
voyages of discovery. It may be observed that the statement in the note
annexed to Amadi Fatouma's Journal (see p. 213) gives some countenance
to the supposition mentioned in the text. From this note it appears that
certain presents which Amadi had delivered from Park to one of the
chiefs of Haoussa for the use of the king, were with-held from the
latter in consequence of the chief's being informed that Park would not
return; and that the king's resentment, occasioned by his receiving no
presents, was the cause of Park's death. - It may be proper on this
occasion to apprize the reader that the notes to Isaaco's Journal
(except in one instance, p. 181) are all of them printed from the
manuscript of the translation, and appear to be parts of the original
document transmitted from Africa. They seem to have been inserted by the
translator; and in several cases, apparently, were added from
information which he received from Isaaco.]

It will appear, upon a due consideration of these circumstances, that
reasonable and sufficient inducements still exist for attempting farther
discoveries in Africa; and that nothing really unfavourable to such
undertakings can with propriety be inferred from Park's late failure;
but on the contrary, that the events of that mission furnish additional
grounds of encouragement and new prospects of success. The proper _mode_
also of conducting such discoveries in future, may now be considered as
ascertained. Before Park's late Journey, the important question whether
an expedition of this kind should be accompanied by a military escort,
was involved in some difficulty. Apprehensions might then be entertained
lest the appearance of an armed force passing through the country might
alarm the jealousy of the natives, and produce hostile combinations, by
which any small body of European troops would sooner or later be
overpowered. It might also have been doubted, and with great appearance
of reason, whether it would be practicable on such a march to obtain
proper supplies of provisions. The history of Park's expedition appears
to furnish a clear and satisfactory solution of both these difficulties;
and experience having shewn that large tracts of the African continent
may be traversed in safety by the aid even of a small and ill organized
force under circumstances the most unfavourable, the question as to the
expediency of a military escort may now be said to be determined.

The sufferings of Park during his former journey, and the melancholy
fate of Major Houghton, Mr. Horneman, and other travellers distinguished
by their enterprise and ability, demonstrate the utter hopelessness of
such undertakings, when attempted by solitary and unprotected
individuals. Even if the two schemes of discovery were equally
practicable, the military plan (supposing always that the force employed
is strictly limited to the purposes of security and protection) would on
several accounts be entitled to a decided preference; inasmuch as it
affords more ample means of observation and enquiry, as it is calculated
to inspire the Africans with a greater respect for the European
character, and as it may be rendered far more efficacious for the
purposes of friendly and commercial intercourse. [Footnote: If the
practice of sending out single individuals on journies of discovery into
Africa is still to be continued, it would be better perhaps to employ
_Mahometan_ travellers, who might accompany some of the great caravans.
The dangers, to which European adventurers are always exposed, from the
ferocity and intolerance of the Moors, would thus in a considerable
degree be avoided. There is reason to believe that individuals
sufficiently intelligent for an expedition of this kind, and whose
constitutions would also be well suited to the climate of Africa, might
be found without much difficulty among the Mahometan inhabitants of
Hindostan. If a fair judgment can be formed of this class of the British
subjects from the _Travels of Abu Taleb_ (the genuine and highly
interesting production of a native Mahometan of the East Indies), a very
favourable opinion must be entertained of their intelligence and general

The scheme of an expedition into the interior of Africa, formed upon
these principles, has lately been proposed from high authority, which
holds out a considerable prospect of success. From the quarter in which
the suggestion has originated, a reasonable hope may be entertained that
this plan, of which the following is a short outline, will ultimately be
carried into effect. [Footnote: The particulars of the projected
expedition here alluded to, which are given in the text, are extracted
from a very interesting communication lately made to the African
Institution by Major General Gordon, Quarter Master General of the
British Forces.]

In the Royal African corps now serving at Sierra Leone there are three
companies of black men, enlisted from the slaves obtained from the
numerous slave trading vessels which have at different times been
condemned as prize upon that coast. Among these there are several
natives of Tombuctoo, Haoussa, Bornou and other countries even more
distant; some of them having been brought from parts of Africa so remote
as to have been _two, three_ and _four_ moons upon their journey to the
coast. Most of them have acquired sufficient knowledge of the English
language to express themselves so as to be understood, although they
retain their native languages, which they still speak with fluency.

These men, having been trained and disciplined with great care, are
become excellent soldiers, and are spoken of by the Governor of Sierra
Leone in the highest terms of approbation for their obedience,
steadiness and general good conduct. They are of course inured to the
climate, are accustomed to hardships and fatigues, and capable of the
greatest exertions. They are at the same time courageous and high
spirited, feeling a pride and elevation from the advantages which they
enjoy, and the comparative _rank_ to which they have attained; and they
are warmly attached to the British Government.

It is proposed that a proper and well selected detachment of these
troops should form the basis of the intended expedition; and that,
besides the person having the immediate command, one or two other
leading persons should be appointed, each properly qualified to assist
in the direction and management of the principal concerns, and (in case
of emergency) to undertake the sole charge of the expedition. The number
of the troops employed would of course be regulated by a due regard to
the probable means of subsistence; but it is proposed that they should
be sufficiently numerous to enable the leaders, in cases where it might
be expedient, to separate with small detachments, taking distinct lines
of march as local circumstances and other occasions might require.
[Footnote: The writer is well aware that, in some of the opinions which
he has expressed with regard to the black troops of Sierra Leone, he can
hardly expect the concurrence of several excellent individuals, among
the best friends of the African cause, who are known to be averse to the
employment of Negroes in the military service; and he is ready to admit
that the practice which has prevailed of enlisting captured Africans is
liable to some abuse. Let such abuses be anxiously guarded against by
all the means which legislative wisdom can devise; let every charge of
misconduct in this respect be rigorously investigated; and if it should
appear to be well founded, let it be pursued with the utmost strictness
and severity. But let not occasional abuses be urged as valid arguments
against the practice itself, if it should be ascertained to be, on the
whole, beneficial to the Africans. It has been stated by enlightened and
benevolent persons, who have witnessed the state of slavery in the West
Indies (and the assertion has every appearance of probability) that the
embodying and employment of black troops has had the happiest effect in
elevating and improving the Negro character, and in giving a greater
degree of importance to that oppressed race. In the instance of Sierra
Leone, to which these observations more immediately relate, compare the
situation of a captured Negro, when rescued from the horrors of a slave
vessel with that of the same man a short time afterwards, when serving
as a British soldier! The ordinary condition of human life has nothing
similar to this change; it is a transition from the most abject misery
to ease, comfort, and comparative dignity. - Add to this, the extreme
difficulty (which every unprejudiced enquirer must admit) attending the
management and disposal of great numbers of these captured Negroes in a
small colony like Sierra Leone; and the utter impossibility, considering
their savage ignorance and total want of habits of industry, of
providing all of them, or even any tolerable number, with agricultural

The principal objects of this expedition would be similar in all
respects to those of Park's last journey - to ascertain the course and
termination of the Niger, to acquire a geographical knowledge of the
countries through which it flows; and to procure all possible
information relative to the condition of the inhabitants, their
commercial relations and their general state of improvement. With a view
to the attainment of these objects of practical and scientific enquiry,
the leader of the expedition would be enjoined in the most strict and
positive terms by his official instructions, to avoid all acts of
aggression towards the natives, and (except in cases of absolute
self-defence) to abstain from every species of violence. He would be
farther directed to use his utmost endeavours to establish a friendly
intercourse and communication with the inhabitants; and for this purpose
to employ the most intelligent of the black troops, in all cases in
which it might be practicable, as interpreters of the expedition and
messengers of peace and conciliation.

By the plan which has thus shortly been described, every disadvantage
which attended Park's mission, would be avoided, and all its defects
supplied; and there seems to be every reasonable assurance that an
expedition, formed and conducted upon such principles (with a due
attention to the proper season for travelling), would be attended with
ultimate success.

It would be difficult to anticipate the full extent of those beneficial
consequences which may ultimately be expected from the successful result
of such an expedition. We may perhaps be justified in expecting that the
intercourse, thus formed with the interior of Africa, will eventually
open new communications of trade, and possibly create new markets; that
a certain portion of that vast commerce, which is now carried on with
Tombuctoo from Morocco and the shores of the Mediterranean, may be
diverted to the western coast; and that great quantities of European
goods, now conveyed through other channels, may be transported into the
centre of Africa through the new route of the Niger.

But without speculating too confidently upon commercial revolutions of
the nature here alluded to, which are for the most part very slow and
gradual, and seldom effected without much difficulty; we may safely
conclude that any rational and well concerted expedition to the interior
of Africa must be of great efficacy in promoting and extending the
legitimate and beneficial commerce with different parts of that vast
continent, which has been rapidly advancing since the Abolition of the
slave trade. [Footnote: See Appendix, No. VI.] We may also reasonably
expect that such enterprises, judiciously conducted, will have important
effects upon the civilization and general improvement of Africa, by
exciting industry and diffusing useful knowledge among the natives; and
that some portion of these advantages may, in due time, be extended to
those remote and sequestered countries, which are at present excluded
from all intercourse with Europe, and abandoned to hopeless ignorance
and barbarism. Let us hope that the honour of passing those barriers,
which have hitherto separated Africa from the civilized world, is
reserved for the courage and perseverance of that nation, by whose
enlightened and disinterested exertions so much has been effected in
modern times, for the advancement of geographical knowledge. The voyages
of discovery which have been undertaken by the command of His present
Majesty, unstained by the guilt of conquest, and directed exclusively
towards objects of humanity and science, have conferred a lasting
distinction on the British name and character. The attempt to explore
the interior of Africa, dictated by the same generous views, is in no
respect less interesting, nor does it promise less important results,
even than those great undertakings; and it will be peculiarly worthy of
an age and nation, rendered for ever memorable in the annals of mankind
by the Abolition of the African slave trade.

* * * * *


* * * * *


Page viii.

There is no part of Europe, in which education has been a subject of
more general attention or produced more important effects than in
Scotland. During little more than a century, a system of public
instruction established in that country, has not only had the most
beneficial influence upon industry and private morals, but has been the
principal cause of one of the most remarkable changes of national
character that has ever yet taken place during so short a period. At a
time when the public attention in this country is so laudably directed
towards providing means of instruction for the poor, a few remarks on
the effects of a system of general education in Scotland may not be
thought unseasonable. The following facts and observations relative to
this important subject are principally extracted from the interesting
Life of Burns, the poet, written by the late amiable and excellent
Doctor Currie.

The system of education in Scotland, though closely connected with its
ecclesiastical establishment, owes its first legal existence to a
statute passed in the year 1646 by the Parliament of that Kingdom for
establishing schools in every parish, at the expense of the landholders,
for the express purpose of teaching the poor. On the Restoration in 1660
this excellent statute was repealed; and nothing further was done or
attempted for the instruction of the people during the reigns of Charles
and James, which were chiefly occupied in religious persecution. But in
the year 1696, some years after the Revolution, the statute of 1646 was
re-enacted nearly in the same terms, and continues to be the law of
Scotland at the present time. Connected with this legislative provision
are many acts passed by the General Assemblies of the church of
Scotland, which are binding as to matters of ecclesiastical
jurisdiction; and the whole together forms a code of regulations, which
is eminently distinguished for the reasonableness and practical good
sense of its particular provisions, and which experience has shewn to be
perfectly effectual for the important purpose intended. So much
convinced indeed are the lower classes in Scotland of the benefits
attending this system, that, where the parishes are large, they often
form subscriptions and establish private schools of their own, in
addition to the parochial seminaries.

In the year 1698, about the time when this system was established,
Fletcher of Saltoun, in one of his _Discourses concerning the affairs of
Scotland_, describes the lower classes of that kingdom as being in a
state of the most abject poverty and savage ignorance; and subsisting
partly by mere beggary, but chiefly by violence and rapine, "without any
regard or subjection either to the laws of the land or to those of God
and nature." Some of the instances given by this writer of the disorder
and violence of that period may remind us of the effects produced by a
similar state of things during our own times, upon the _Irish peasantry_
in the disturbed parts of that unhappy country. "In years of plenty,"
says Fletcher, "many thousands of them meet together in the mountains,
where they feast and riot for many days, and at country weddings,
markets, _burials_, and other public occasions, they are to be seen,
both men and women, perpetually drunk, cursing, blaspheming, and
fighting together." [Footnote: Political Works of Andrew Fletcher, 8vo:
London 1737, p. 144.] Such was the state of Scotland at the time when
the present system of education was established.

It is justly stated by Dr. Currie that, at the present day, there is
perhaps no country in Europe, in which, in proportion to its population,
so small a number of crimes fall under the chastisement of the criminal
law, as in Scotland; and he adds, upon undoubted authority, that on an
average of thirty years preceding the year, 1797, the executions in that
division of the Island did not amount to six annually, and that more
felons have been convicted and sentenced to transportation at one
quarter sessions for the town of Manchester only, than the average
number of persons sentenced to a similar punishment during a whole year
by all the Judges of Scotland. [Footnote: Works of Robert Burns,
Liverpool 1800. vol. 1. p. 353, 8vo.]

But the influence of education in Scotland has not been merely negative
or confined to the diminution of criminal offences; it has produced in a
very eminent degree those habits of industry and frugality, upon which

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Online LibraryMungo ParkThe Journal of a Mission to the Interior of Africa, in the Year 1805 → online text (page 7 of 21)