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Lander's Travels The Travels of Richard Lander into the Interior of Africa online

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manufactures. It is, however, generally supposed that the hostility
of the natives may be in some degree traced to the shameful and
scandalous conduct of some of the Liverpool merchants, who had used
their private influence to poison the minds of the natives by
attributing particular motives to the travellers, which were at
variance with the interests of the country, and subversive of the
authority of the chiefs. Nor is this scarcely a matter of doubt,
when we peruse the following extract from a letter addressed by John
Lander to the editor of the Literary Gazette.

"I cannot close this letter, without apprising you of a fact, which
will appear incredible to you. Can you believe me when I assert, on
the most unquestionable authority, that there are merchants here (the
letter was dated from Liverpool) so heartless and inhuman as to
instruct the masters of their vessels who trade to the African coast
_to refuse any assistance to the expedition of which it may stand in
need; to reject all letters that may be sent from the parties
connected with it, and, in fine, to hold no communication whatever
with the steamers or the brig_, does it not startle you, that
jealousy and selfishness can go so far? Believe me, I blush at the
reflection of a crime so hideous and un-English like as this?" In a
postscript, John Lander says, "The fact of the merchants'
instructions to the masters of their vessels may be safely depended
on. Nothing can be more true. They have gone even farther than I have
ventured to hint. _They have taken measures to prejudice the minds of
the natives against the expedition_."

Thus is human life, thus are the interests of science sacrificed on
the shrine of a sordid love of gain and pelf. It is true that the
merit of the fitting out of the expedition belongs to the
enterprising spirit and the liberality of a few Liverpool merchants,
but greatly indeed is that merit eclipsed, in a general point of
view, when it is considered, that in the same town could be found a
set of individuals, who, for the purpose of enabling them to carry on
an illegal and infamous traffic, could be the instruments of
circumventing the life of an individual, who was nobly employed in
the extension of geographical science, and who was perhaps actually
laying the foundation of the civilization of the countries through
which he might pass, and extending the commercial relations of his
country. An indelible stain will it be upon the merchants of
Liverpool, who could so far forget that they were Englishmen, as to
make a horde of barbarous savages their instruments for the
destruction of an expedition by which the general interests of the
human race might be promoted, our commercial relations extended, and
ultimately, the blessings of Christianity diffused over the dark and
unenlightened children of Africa.

As a palliative to the statement of John Lander, and as some relief
to the dark picture which we have just exhibited, it must be
confessed, that when the circumstances are taken into consideration,
which have already been detailed, when Lander first visited the Eboe
country, his conduct was not exactly regulated by prudence or policy,
in proceeding towards a country, not in the simple guise and
unostentatious manner of the solitary traveller, but attended by a
force sufficient to excite the fears and jealousy of the native
chiefs, and to instil into their suspicious minds the belief, that
the travellers, whom they had formerly seen in their country, had
returned, equipped with the means of subjugating the country, and
reducing the chiefs themselves, perhaps to a state of slavery. The
very vessels in which they presented themselves, were sufficient to
strike terror and alarm into the minds of the superstitious natives.
They knew not by what character to describe them; to their ignorant
and untutored understandings, they appeared to be impelled by some
power of witchcraft, for which they could not in the least account;
to behold a large vessel impelled even against the stream with no
inconsiderable velocity, and no power manifested by which that speed
could be obtained, set their minds a wondering, and obtained for
Lander the character of the devil. As the devil, therefore, had
arrived in their country, it became an act of the most imperious duty
to force him to abandon it, by any means which could suggest
themselves, and no one certainly could be more effectual than to put
themselves in ambuscade, and take the first opportunity of killing
him at once. It must also be taken into consideration, that the
report of the destruction of the town and the murder of some of the
natives by the crew of the Alburkha, had spread itself all along the
banks of the river, and had spread consternation and alarm amongst
the natives, who apprehended that the same fate might befal
themselves. Another opinion was entertained, that the Brass people,
perceiving that their lucrative carrying trade between the coast and
the inland countries would be annihilated, if they suffered the
English to trade with the natives of the interior in their own
vessels, formed a coalition with the people of Bonny, whose interests
would likewise be affected by the new order of things, and that these
men, aided by the savage inhabitants of the country residing in the
vicinity of the spot, where the ruthless and cowardly assault was
made, met together and resolved on the destruction of the unoffending
Englishmen.

From what cause soever it originated, this much is certain, that the
attack had been premeditated, that the arrangements of the assassins
had been made in a methodical and skilful manner, and that Brass and
Bonny canoes were engaged in the assault. Those who have had the best
means of knowing the character and disposition of the Brass people,
and their neighbours of Bonny, whose treacherous manoeuvering can
only be equalled by their insatiable rapacity, consider the last as
by far the most probable hypothesis, and believe that King Boy,
notwithstanding his affectation of sympathy for the sufferers, and
his apparent distress on beholding his friend and benefactor mortally
wounded, was nevertheless at the bottom of the plot, and had exerted
his influence to bring that plot to maturity, in conjunction with the
malignant wretch, who foretold the eventful catastrophe. Boy having
with alacrity joined the party on all former occasions, when they
ascended the river, and having obstinately refused to accompany them
on this, strengthens the supposition that he was well aware of the
formidable danger, which awaited them, but in which it is plain he
had no ambition to participate.

The fate of Lander, on whom the eyes of all England were directed as
the individual most likely to extend the benefits of civilization to
the benighted Africans, and to open fresh sources of wealth to his
enterprising countrymen, excited in all breasts the most unfeigned
regret; to the honour of the inhabitants of Truro, the native place
of the Landers, it must be recorded that the intelligence of the
premature death of Richard Lander, no sooner reached that town, than
a meeting of his fellow townsmen took place, which was held at the
council hall, at which Humphry Willyams, Esquire, presided. After
expressing their extreme regret, the assembly resolved:

"To express its sincere sympathy with the sorrowing family, and its
sense of the loss which science, commerce, and civilization had
sustained by the death of this enterprising traveller. Further that
the sum of £84 having been raised for the purpose of presenting
pieces of plate to Messrs. Richard and John Lander, and the altered
circumstances of the case having induced the survivor generously to
decline any participation in the fund so raised, and to request that
the same might be appropriated to some other memorial of the respect
and esteem of his native town, for his lamented brother; it was their
opinion that if an adequate amount be obtained, a column should be
erected in their native town, to commemorate the intrepidity of the
two brothers, and that an appeal be made to the county to co-operate
in their object."

About ten days after, a second meeting took place, when the following
address was printed, and unanimously adopted:

TO THE INHABITANTS OF CORNWALL.

"The lamentable fate of the African traveller, Richard Lander, calls
for some marked expression of public sympathy and respect, and more
especially does it behove Cornishmen to show their esteem and sorrow
for their adventurous countryman. Whether to testify this natural
sentiment, or to declare our admiration at the energy of mind, which
raised the departed and his enterprising brother from humble station
to such enviable pre-eminence, or to evince that deep interest, which
every philanthropist and Christian must feel, in all that concerns
the civilization of Africa, we are assured there can be but one
opinion as to the propriety of raising some lasting memorial of the
travellers. The effects likely to result from their discoveries,
followed up by such indomitable resolution as characterized Richard
Lander, may be inferred from the melancholy circumstance that this
courageous man has in all probability fallen a victim to the
suspicion of those concerned in the atrocious slave trade. But the
grand object has been accomplished, though great the cost: the path
now opened for mercantile enterprise, will make plain the way, for
civilization, freedom, and religion. PARK, DENHAM, RITCHIE,
CLAPPERTON and LANDER, have led the forlorn hope, against the
seemingly impregnable fastnesses of African barbarism, and though
each has perished, the cause of humanity has been advanced. At once,
therefore, to celebrate the progress of discovery, and to record
individual merit, it is proposed to erect a Column in some
conspicuous part of Truro, the birth place of the Landers, which,
while it commemorates the fate of one brother, will render a just
tribute to both, and to this end it is intended to apply the amount
already obtained for a testimonial of respect of another description,
which sum, however, being inadequate, the committee appeals to the
liberality of the county, confident that contributions will be
immediately forthcoming to render the memorial worthy of the
occasion."

Notwithstanding this forcible appeal to the compatriots of Landers it
was some time before a sufficiency could be collected for the
erection of the monument; success, however, at last attended the
exertions of the committee, and the monument was erected; and
although no blazoned escutcheon is engraved upon it, nor pompous
epitaph declares the virtues of the departed, yet to the ages yet
unborn it will rouse the spirit of compatriot pride, when the
traveller views the memorial, and with exultation he will exclaim,
Richard Lander was my countryman.

In investigating the advantages which may be supposed to flow to the
country by the discoveries of the Landers, we fear that they have
been much over-rated, for great and almost insuperable obstacles have
to be surmounted, before the savages of Africa can be brought to
relinquish their usual habits, or in any manner to forego those
advantages which the traffic in human flesh so bountifully presents
to them. The chiefs, who rule over the uncivilized hordes, who are
located on the banks of the Quorra, are all engaged in a kind of
commercial relation with the Europeans, by whom it is found necessary
to conciliate them, by sometimes, the most obsequious conduct,
degrading to a man of civilization, when shown towards an ignorant,
tyrannical, and despotic tyrant. Any attempt to force a channel of
commerce, beyond the territories of these savage chiefs, without
having first, either by presents or other means, obtained their
co-operation, is too visionary a scheme for even the most
enterprising adventurer to dare to undertake. King Jacket and King
Boy, with the king of Eboe, may be said to be in the command of the
estuary of the Niger, and, therefore, any attempt to establish a
channel of commerce without allowing them to participate in the
profits, or to be permitted to exact a duty on all goods passing by
water through their territory, must necessarily prove abortive. The
jealousy of their character would be aroused, they would see in the
traffic of the European a gradual decline of their own emoluments,
and by degrees a total exclusion from those branches of commerce,
from which they had hitherto derived the greatest profit. That the
commerce of the interior of Africa offers the most tempting
advantages to the enterprising British merchant cannot be doubted,
for the two articles alone of indigo and ivory would repay the
speculator with a profit of nearly 1000 per cent. This circumstance
was sufficient to arouse the commercial spirit of the merchants of
Glasgow, who, on the return of the Landers with the information of
the discovery of the termination of the Niger, proceeded immediately
to form a company, having a capital of £10,000, for establishing a
commercial intercourse with the chiefs of the interior of Africa,
forgetting at the time, that before they could reach the territories
of those chiefs, they had in the persons of King Boy, King Jacket,
and King Forday, and the king of the Eboe country, a gauntlet to run
through, and a kind of quadruple alliance to extinguish, without
which all their efforts would be in vain. The death of Lander put an
end to this speculation, as it was then clearly seen that unless the
actual constitution of the countries situate on the banks of the
Quorra, could be placed under a different authority, and the people
brought to a state of positive submission, it were futile to expect
any solid or permanent advantages from any commercial relations they
might form. The insalubrity of the climate, so very injurious to a
European constitution, was also a great drawback to the prosecution
of those commercial advantages, which the discovery of the
termination of the Niger offered to this country; it was literally
sending men to die a premature death to embark them on board of an
African trader, and we have the authority of the late Captain
Fullerton for stating, that he scarcely ever knew an individual who,
although he might escape the pestilential fevers of the country for
the second, and even the third or fourth time, that did not
eventually die. Notwithstanding, however, the latter serious drawback
to the prosecution of our geographical knowledge of the interior of
Africa, there are yet to be found amongst us some hardy, gallant
spirits, who, fearless of every danger, and willing to undergo every
privation which the human constitution can endure, are still anxious
to expose themselves to such appalling perils, for the promotion of
science and the general welfare of the human race. Amongst those
individuals, a young gentleman of the name of Coulthurst has rendered
himself conspicuous. He was the only surviving son of C. Coulthurst,
Esquire, of Sandirvay, near Norwich, and was thirty-five years of age
at the time of his death. He was educated at Eton, studied afterwards
at Brazen Nose College, Oxford, and then went to Barbadoes, but from
his infancy his heart was set on African enterprise. His family are
still in possession of some of his Eton school books, in which maps
of Africa, with his supposed travels into the interior, are
delineated; and at Barbadoes he used to take long walks in the heat
of the day, in order to season himself for the further exposure,
which he never ceased to contemplate. His eager desires also took a
poetical form, and a soliloquy of Mungo Park, and other pieces of a
similar description, of considerable merit, were written by him at
different times. The stimulus that at length decided him, however,
was the success of the Landers. He feared that if he delayed longer,
another expedition would be fitted out on a grand scale, and leave
nothing which an individual could attempt.

It was in December 1831, that Messrs. Coulthurst and Tyrwhitt were
introduced to the council of the Geographical Society, as being
about to proceed at their own expense to the mouth of the Quorra,
with the view of endeavouring to penetrate thence eastward to the
Bahr-Abiad; and although their preparations were not on such a scale
as to warrant any very sanguine hopes of success, yet it was felt to
be a duty on the part of the society to patronize so spirited an
undertaking. They were accordingly placed in communication with
Colonel Leake, and other members of the late African Association,
whose advice it was thought could not fail to be of service to them.
They were also introduced to Captain Owen and to Mr. Lander, the
value of whose experience in planning their operations was obvious.
And the expedition being brought under the notice of his majesty's
government, the loan of a chronometer was obtained for it, with
strong letters of introduction and recommendation to the officers
commanding the naval and military forces of the crown along the
African coast.

The party sailed from the Downs on the 1st January 1832, and arrived
at Bathurst St. Mary's on the Gambia on the 28th of the same month.
Both travellers were somewhat indisposed during the voyage, and the
sun after their arrival so seriously affected Mr. Tyrwhitt, that he
here yielded to the repeated representations of his companion and
others, and returned home. The following is an extract of a letter
received from Mr. Coulthurst, dated Bathurst, 1st February 1832, and
the style is clearly indicative of the superior qualifications of his
mind:

"After a conference and palaver with some of the native chiefs,
amongst whose grotesque forms and equipments you would have laughed
to have seen me perched this morning, sipping palm wine; I have made
up my mind to take the southern bank of this river, through Fooladoo
to Sego. A messenger from the Almana of Bondou, who has undertaken to
bring the gum trade here from the Senegal, is now at Bathurst, and
the merchants are willing to assist in making up a coffila, which
will enable us I trust to prosecute our journey in safety. Though I
shall not thus reach the main object of Funda so directly as if I had
had the good fortune to overtake the Pluto, it would be scarcely
possible for me to do this now before the rainy season; and though I
shall be a few weeks later in reaching my destination, I shall have
the satisfaction of tracing the _whole_ river, and giving the
position of all the remarkable places, which neither Caillie nor
Lander were able to do. There is now no earthly chance of the
observations made by Park seeing the light, for Mr. Ainslie showed me
yesterday his last letter from Sansanding, which I perused with much
interest. You are aware that nothing but the unfortunate occurrence
of the Fellatas' conquests with the period of his expedition, and his
being mistaken for one of their parties, occasioned its unhappy
result; and by striking across the mountains, which we shall do at
Baranco, about four hundred miles up, we shall have only twenty-four
days' land journey to the mighty Niger, where he has scarcely command
of water enough to float a canoe.

"The climate here is so very superior to that in the Bights of Benin
and Biafra, that after Barbadoes, where shade is unknown, it really
seems comparatively cold; I took a stroll of half a dozen miles
to-day before breakfast, which I could not have done, without feeling
languid afterwards, in the West Indies, but Tyrwhitt never could have
borne the breathing oven of the Gold Coast. Everything reminds me
here of the near neighbourhood of the desert; the toke and turban
very general, every man, not a Christian, a Musselman, and what seems
strange to European eyes, persons in the coarsest checks with gold
ornaments to the value of hundreds of dollars.

"The beautiful harnessed antelope, which it is really a sin to shoot,
is common in the bush, and milk, honey, and rice, are to be had in
most of the negro villages, this being quite the dairy country of
Africa. But then there are mosquitoes, that madden the best-tempered
folk, and holy men with their eyes on the Koran, ready to dirk you
for the slightest subject of difference, and it is curious to see the
strangest characters of this sort well received and admitted to a
familiarity at government house, because they have much interest in
the country, and it is politic just now to speak them fair."

Having concluded his arrangements for proceeding through the Enyong
and Eboe countries, he intended to proceed up the Calebar River, and
thence over land to Funda. He arrived without any particular accident
in the Eboe country, but the king of that people refused to let him
pass, and he was, therefore, obliged to return to Calebar, and thence
it was his intention to take a passage on board the Agnes for
Fernando Po. The refusal of the king of the Eboe country, did not
proceed from any distrust or jealousy on his part, but a most
sanguinary war was raging in the interior, and he, therefore,
considered the life of the traveller to be in danger. He had not been
exposed to any very severe fatigue, but his disappointment was great,
and he laboured under considerable debility and depression of
spirits. He died without much suffering on the second day after
embarking on board the Agnes.

Thus perished another victim in the cause of African discovery, but
still there are hearts to be found, who are willing in the cause of
science to brave every peril, for the purpose of enlarging our
knowledge of the interior of the African continent, and opening fresh
sources to the skill and industry of our merchants. The Rev. Mr. Wolf
is now on his journey to Timbuctoo, and Lieutenant Wilkinson is
following up the discoveries of Lander; of them we may say with the
poet: -

"Fortuna audaces juvat."

FINIS.









Online LibraryRobert HuishLander's Travels The Travels of Richard Lander into the Interior of Africa → online text (page 72 of 72)