Samuel Abraham Walker.

The Church of England mission in Sierra Leone: including an introductory ... online

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from Goa as a sentence equivalent to death." *

Yet the following pages will too fatally shew that death sometimes
makes sad havoc among the new arrivals in the Colony. It certainly
has done so in the case of our missionaries^ as the sad calendar which
we have to exhibit, but too painfully attests ; but it might not be unpro-
fitable to enquire into the deaths connected with the mission, for the
purpose of ascertaining whether such precautions as the climate im-
peratively demands for the preservation of health, had been taken in all,
or the majority of these cases ; or whether the duties of the clerical office
do not sometimes involve hazardous exposure to weather, mental and
physical exertion, sudden changes of temperature &c., all of which
greatly militate against health, and predispose the system to the disor-
ders endemic in a tropical climate.

Mr. W. Singleton, who was deputed by the Society of Friends in
1820 to make some enquiry into the native languages spoken on this
coast, arrived in Sierra Leone early in 1821. In his Journal, speaking
of the cUmate there, he says : —

" That a considerable number of Europeans die here is a fact ; but
it is my opinion that not one fourth of them die merely from the effect
of the climate. If those who complain so loudly of the bad effects of
the climate, were fuUy persuaded of the truth of their own complaints
and desirous of life, would they not endeavour to counteract, instead of
accelerating, the progress of those effects ?

" A good manager here rises early, (six o'clock) takes a plate of
roo-e, (Uke our oatmeal gruel) proceeds to business till eight — eats a
sufficient breakfast — ^keeps as much in the shade as possible, at his
books or other mercantile business, during the heat of the day— dines at
four — always has a sallad on the table — sdrinks moderately — arises soon
after dinner to walk till six, when he takes coffee, and, after sitting a
while over a glass of wine and water, retires early to rest — and repeats,
on the morrow, the routine of to-day. Thus he is able to reside
twenty or thirty years on the continent, with a good portion of
health."

The Deputy Inspector of hospitals at West Africa ascribes the pre-
valence of disease among Europeans to their mode of hving, which he
thus represents, ** Breakfast is taken at rising — at eleven they sit down
to * relish,' consisting of soups, meats, and the highest seasoned dishes ;
wine is drunk as at dinner, and afterwards sangaree or brandy and wa-
ter, which too frequently they continue sipping and drinking till late
in the afternoon, sometimes to the dinner hour, '(6 p.m.) ** In all the
countries," says Dr. Nicholl, '' which I have visited, I never saw so
much eating and drinking."

• Conder'B " Modem Traveller."



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Xlii INTRODUCTION.

A passage in the annual medical Report from the West Africa Sta*
tion for 1832, falls strangely on our ears, accustomed as they are to
hear of Sierra Leone as a Colony supported by British money for the
murder of British subjects.

** Sierra Leone. — This station has continued this year, as during
the two preceding years to maintain its character for salubrity"

That Sierra Leone is healthy, when compared with other parts of this
coast, cannot be denied. The West coast of Africa is, for the most part,
low and swampy, while this peninsula consists of a bold headland, rising
in consecutiye hills backed by a chain of lofty mountains. Freetown,
the capital, as we have already obserredf stands upon a piece of ground
which rises abruptly from the water^s edge to Hie hcngfat of at least
fifty feet. The greater part of the Colony is bathed by the salt water
of the ocean. The Atlantic washes the entire coast from Cape Sierra
Leone to its southern limit, and the waves of the estuary or river Sierra
Leone lave its southern shore. In consequence of these advantages,
the temperature of the Colony is moderate in relation to that of the
neighbouring country. At Senegal the thermometer has stood at 131°,
of Fahrenheit, and on the Gold Coast at 134°, while at Sierra Leone it
ranges from 95° to 71°. At Senegal and at Guinea too the range is
much greater.

The unhealthiness of this coast is ascribed to the rapid changes which
take place at certain seasons of the year from heat to moisture and
vice versd : for four or five months the country is deluged with almost
uninterrupted rain ; according to a table drawn up by Dr. Winter-
bottom for one year, out of 122 days in the months of June, July»
August and September, it rained 1 10. In July there was only one day
dry, and in August two. The rainy season usually begins in May, and
ends in September or October.'*' The stagnation of so much water in
low grounds, together with the miasmata from rapidly decaying vege-
table matter, which the rains call into sudden existence, are a fruitful
source of fever, dysentery, &c., but from the elevated position of Sierra
Leone, its freedom from swamps, and the natural barrier which its
mountains and estuary present to the pestilential vapours of the neigh-
bouring coast, it would appear to be comparatively exempt from these
evils, and therefore ought to be proportionably healthy. "The moun-
tams,'* says Mr. Martin, " in the vicinity of Freetown, are now gene-
rally cleared and cultivated, and the settlement is as healthy for Euro-
pean residents as any other tropical climate."

In the year 1817, Sir Charles MacCarthy, governor of Sierra Leone,

divided the Colony into parishes, of which Freetown and its vicinity

formed one, called St. George's parish: the other parishes, with

their corresponding Negro towns, were St. Andrew's, Gloucester ;

• See pp. 8, 9, of the former volainc.



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INTRODUCTION. xlui

St. James's, Bathurst ; St. Peter* s, Leopold ; St. John's, Charlotte ;
St. Charles's, Regent; St. Paul's, Wilberforce ; and St. Patrick's,
Kissej. The reader will become sufficiently familiar with the names
of these Tillages of liberated A^cans as we advance. We shall add
here the dates of the formation of these, and others, for the advan-
tage of reference : Leicester, 1809. Regent, 1812. Gloucester, 1816.
Kissey, 1817. Leopold, 1817. Charlotte, 1818. Wilberforce, 1812,
reorganised 1818. Bathurst, 1818. Kent, 1819. Isle de Loss, 1819.
Banana Isles, 1820. Waterloo, 1820. Allen Town, 1826. Calmont,
1826. Grassfield, 1826. There are besides these, of more recent
formation, Newland, Denham, Frasertown, Rokelle, Hamilton,
Goderich, Aberdeen, Murray, &c.

The Governors of this Colony have been very nnmerous. The
following gentleman have successively filled that office down to a recent
date: — J. Clarkson, Esq. March 16, 1792; W. Dawes, Esq. Decem-
ber 31, 1792. Z. Macaulay, Esq. pro tem, April 1, 1794. W. Dawes,
Esq. returns 1795. Z. Macaulay, Governor, 1796. T. Ludlam, pro
tem, 1799. W. Dawes, January 4, 1801. Captain W. Day, R. N.
February 15, 1803. J. Ludlam, Esq. August 28, 1803 : J. Ludlam,
pro tem, January 1808. T. Perronet Thompsoo, Esq. July 27, 1808.
Captain Columbine, R. N. Feb. 12, 1810; Lieut. R. Bones, R. N.
pro tem, May 1811 ; Lieut. Col. Maxwell, Governor in chief, July 1,
1811 ; lieut. Col. MacCarthy, (Lieut. Gov.) July 11, 1814; Lieut.
Col. MacCarthy, Governor in Cldef, Nov. 29, 1815; Captain Grant,
2nd W. India Regiment, pro tem, July 25, 1820; Brig. Gen. Mac
Carthy, Governor in Chief, from 20^ N. to 20® S. lat. November 28,
1824. Major Gen. Turner; Major Gen. Sir Niel Campbell; Col.
Denham ; Lieut. Col. Lumley : Major Ricketts ; Col. Findlay ; Mr.
Temple ; Major Campbell ; Col. Dogherty ; Col. MacDonald ; Dr.
Ferguson ; N. MacDonald, Esq.

With a few desultory notices of African life and manners as
exhibited in the Colony, our introductory sketch must conclude.

In the article of clothing, the n^ro's love for finery is pro-
verbial. Men and women, especially among the liberated class,
earnestly aspire afler such attractions as a gaudy style of dress can
bestow, and often the most grotesque and ludicrous adoption of
fashionable usages in this respect, meets the eye, especially on the
Sabbath-day, and in the house of God, where at least such vanities
should not intrude, proving how readily Satan can adapt his weapons
of antichristian warfare, to any clime or species of humanity. While
the Maroons, Settlers, and liberated Africans affect the English style
of dress ; the Mahommedan tribes, such as the Foulahs, and Man-
dingoes, tread the streets of Freetown, in the elegant simplicity of



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Xli? INTRODUCTION.

their native costume.* The Kroos content themselyes for the most
part, with the absence of all clothing, except the oountiy cloths of
their native land. There is perhaps no town of similar dimensions^
where so great a variety of costume is exhibited as in Freetown.
• The hberated Africans anoint their bodies with palm or nut oil,
and sometimes with a species of vegetable butter : f and besides the
national marks before mentioned, various figures are frequently cat
and scored on their face, arms, breast, and back, exhibiting the
appearance of raised stripes, or as if threads were passed under the
cuticle.

The negroes are great smokers of tobacco, they also take snufi^
but by the mouth instead of the nose, — a more offensive and injurious
mode than the orduiary one, since the breath is materially affected,
and the teeth and gums decay. The snuff is placed either between
the lower lip and teeth, or on the tongue. Both sexes indulge in this
odious practice.

Their food consists principally of yams, rice (their fevorite food)
cocoa, cassada, maize &c. with meat or fish, which they are said not
to object to when a little high in flavor. Palm-oil flavored with
shallots, capsicums &c., is always eaten with it. But their favorite
dish is palaver sauce, which is composed of smoked meat or fish, or
both together, and vegetables seasoned with various spices, and
pungent plants. Palm oil is an indispensable ingredient, imparting
to the dish the peculiar relish for which it is celebrated.

Various articles of diet composed of vegetables, spices, and the
never -failing palm oil, are hawked about the streets of Freetown, and
meet a ready sale. The principal vegetables employed are cassada,
maize, or Indian com, rice, different kinds of leaves, shallots, &c.

Drunkenness is not a common vice among the negro race, although
unhappily its European prevalency is fully exemplified in the case of
British sailors, and others of like class in the Colony, and the number
of rum shops in Freetown, affords abundant facihty for its indulgence ;
but Africans are said to prefer beer to rum, and they have several
exhilarating beverages of home manufacture, to which they" are very^
partial. The principal of these is palm wine, which is procured after
the maimer stated in the note at page xxi. Besides this, they make

* See preceding Tolume p. 14. The converts, of these Mussulman negroes, of whom
unfortunately there are many in the Colony, especially among the Akus, adopt their garb
though after a more humble fashion.

+ It is a curious fact which may just be noticed here, that the Rev. T. MUUer, chap-
Iain to the Niger Expedition, conceived the idea of anointing his body with oil, as a
protection against the river fever, and that he was one of the few persons who were ex-
empted from an attack of that deadly pestilence. Whether there was anything of cause
and effect in the experiment, and the worthy chaplain^s immunity from the fever, is a
question for *' the profession.**



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INTRODUCTION. xlv

an intoxicatiiig drink, called jin-jin-billy, more properly jin-jin-Burrahy
which 18 of Soosoo origin,'*' and a species of country beer called otto,
or according to Winterbottom, pitto : prepared from the Indian com,
Guinea com, or the pine apple.

Dancing is a favourite amusement, and is pursued with great avidity
during the moonlight nights. Each tribe has its own peculiar measure,
but the universal musical-instrument employed on the occasion, is the
torn torn ; a small drum, shaped like an hour-glass. A song composed
for the occasion, is at the same time sung by some young femdes, and the
whole party of dancers join in the chorus : these songs are very simple,
consisting often of the repetition of a single word or sentiment, but
sometimes celebrating some person or incident of general notoriety.
Dancing is often continued all night, and proves very inconvenient to
the European residents, by the disturbance which it occasions during the
hours devoted to rest. There is much fear hkewise, that these moon-
light meetmgs are the fruitftil source of evils> of a more serious
character to the younger participants in such nocturnal and exciting
orgies. Strong drink being frequently indulged in on such occasions,
and the dancers, under the double stimulants, often arriving at a perfect
delirum of mental and physical intoxication. This dance is called by
the Maroons, a Tallala, and by the settlers, a Kon King. The liberated
Africans call it simply a play. As might be expected, the Christian
Missionaries have set their faces against this amusement, not without
success, as regards their own people at least. The native Mahomme-
dans look with disdain on such frivolities.

The liberated Africans as a class, are not remarkable for their honesty.
They often go on thieving expeditions, and on such occasions, adopt
the ingenious expedient of greasing their skin, that they may the more
readily slip through the fingers of their captors: of course these
practices are repudiated by such of them as make a profession of
Christianity.

Many of the Hberated negroes have made skilful and industrious
artisans ; they, in their several capacities, as carpenters, masons, &c.
have erected the houses and other buildings in Freetown, and several of
them, as has already been observed, have secured for themselves an in-
dependence, by their frugahty and suecess in business. The meat
markete^are supplied by the Foulahs, who are, par excellence, the graziers
of Western Africa, and the women of all tribes are the fishmongers of
the Colony.

Capital pumshments are said to be of rare occurrence. Murder and

* Winterbottom calls the plant from which this liquor is produced Yin-ying, and says,
" It is first burnt for a certain time, and the ashes are afterwards infused in water ; a
fermentation is thus produced, which renders it (the liquor) intoxicating when taken in
large quantities.'*



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Xlvi INTRODUCTION.

Iddnapping,"^ seem to be the eidiie» for which the extreme penalty of
the law has ordinarily been incurred, b«| it is to be h(^ped, that these
offences are on the decline. Testimony will be borne in the following
pages, to the ability and uprightness with which th« liberated Africans
promote the ends of justice, both as constables to detect^ and jurymen
to try offenders against the law in the Colony. The Court of Justice
at Freetown, forms the uppermost story of the jail, which is a large
building, situated at the west end of the town ; in which there are
twenty cells in the basement story for persons accused of capital crimes,
OTcr these is the debtor department, and a prison for delinquents
charged with minor offences. Above all is the court used for Civil,
Admiralty and Criminal business, in which the Chief Justice and two
members of Council, as assessors, preside.

The Hberated Africans are subject to numerous diseases, chiefly en-
gendered on board the slave-ships, in which they are literally packed
for exportation. After capture and relanding at Sierra Leone, dysentery-
carries off many, fever dispatches others, and some become, or have become
insane. Incurable distortions of the spine and limbs are not uncommon,
and cutaneous diseases f of every variety and degree of obstinacy, mark
the emancipated slave. The small pox often commits great ravages
among these people, and vaccination, that most blessed antidote of the
white man, frequently fails in the cure of the negro, either from some
effect of the climate upon the lymph, or some other unascertained
cause. In the years 1837 and 1839, the small pox raged with much
virulence in the Colony. Dropsical disorders are of frequent occurrence,
and the usual remedy, tapping, most commonly fails in the case of the
African. Scorbutic affections of the groins, and relaxed uvula are very
prevalent, so are ophthalmic, paralytic, and rheumatic complaints. All
the Africans of the Colony are subject to an affection, which exhibits
itself in an unconquerable drowsiness, medical men call it Lethargus,
of the class Neurotica, but the negroes designate it " sleepy sickness,"
or "sleepy dropsy." "At the commencement of the disease, the
patient has commonly a ravenous appetite, eating twice the quantity
of food he was accustomed to when in health, and becoming very
fat. When the disease has continued some time, the appetite de-
clines, and the patient gradually wastes away." % Even while eating,

♦ Kidnapping oonsiste in inveigling or forcing the liberated Africans across the estuary
to the Bullom shore, and reselling them into slavery ; a practice it would appear of com-
mon occurrence at a not remote period. The Mahommedan nations, especially the
Foulahs, are suspected of having been deeply implicated in this ne&rious procedure,
by which it is said thootands of emancipated negroes, have been from time to time ab-
ducted from the colony.

t The principal of these are Kra Kra, a species of itch. Leprosy, Elephantiasis, Noli
me tangere and Frambrosia, or Yaws i to this last disease we have briefly referred in a
note at p. 489, of the last volume. f Winterbottom.



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INTRODUCTION. xlvii

the sufferers will fall asleep, although many of them will not sleep well
at night. When once £urly developed, this disease invariably proves
fatal.

A most commodious hospital has been erected in the village of Eissey,
four miles from Freetown ; it consists of an upper and lower hospital, a
Lunatic Asylum, apartments for the medical attendant, hospital ac-
countant, and matron, &c., and accommodation* for several hundred
patients. The hospitals are under the medical superintendence of the .
Colonial and assistant Colonial surgeons. There is also a hospital
apothecary, with the usual staff of matrons, dressers, &c. Besides
Africans, natives of various countries, usually British and foreign sea-
men, are among the patients admitted. The foreigners are generally
natives of Spain, Portugal, France, America, Italy, Denmark, &c., and
the A^cans represent at least thirty different tribes. Each liberated
African patient is allowed three pence per day for diet, and the articles
usually purchased, are rice, palm oil, salt, beef and vegetables. The
allowance to distressed European seamen is generally hmited to a shilling.
In the year 1838, there were admitted into this hospital, including
adults and in&nts, male and female 2>744 patients, of whom more than
one half, or 1,509 died, and 1,264 were discharged (we presume cured) .^
In 1839, the nuqibers stood thus : admitted 2,773 : died : 1,635 ; and,
in 1840, when an evident improvement appears, the deaths were 541,
out of 1181 admitted.

Mr. Clarke, assistant surgeon, accounts for this vast mortality on
various grounds. For example, the exhausted state in which the
liberated captives arrive — ^many even expiring on the way to the hos-
pital ; the aversion to have recourse to European remedies for their
complaints, until they have tried all those of a native kind with which
they or their countrymen are acquainted, and the difficulty of obtain-
ing such information from the patients as will enable the medical
officer to arrive at a true diagnosis of the cases presented for treatment.
Still it is melancholy to contemplate the immense annual sacrifice of
human life which die above numbers exhibit, and the question arises,
without impugning the skill of the medical gentlemen whose pain-
ful duty it is to witness such wholesale mortality, whether the science
of therapeutics has not some yet undeveloped resources to avert the fatal
antagonism to human life, both native and European, that lurks in the
soil and climate of AMca.

The Negroes dread to sleep in the open air, being sensible of the
least variation of temperature, and much subject to rheumatic attacks.
The floor of a hut covered with mats serves all the members of the

* For these and seyeral other interesting details, the writer will again acknowledge
hia obligation to Assistant Surgeon Clarke, recently—and wo believe still — attached to
the Sierra Leone medical department.



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Xlviii INTRODUCTION.

family for a bed, where they lie huddled together with no coyering
aaye the country doth during the dry weather, — ^but wrapped up in all
the garments they can procure^ and with a fire in the midst of them,
when the rainy season arriyes.

We need not extend these observations, as the social condition of the
liberated AMcans, both in Freetown and throughout the seyeral vil-
lages of the Colony, will come frequently under review in the follow-
. ing pages. What is here said« will, we trust, lend an interest to the
subsequent Missionary statements, and assist with them in eaUing'
forth from British Christians a more enlarged development of sympa-
thy for Africa, than has yet been exhibited ; and substantiating the
claim of the Negro, which has often been denied, to the blessings of
moral and intellectual cultivation, on the uncontrovertible ground o€
successful result in the case of any attempts yet made to confer them.
Intercessory appeals have often been made to the Christian world for
Africa ; she is now able to plead for herself — so far have Missionary-
efforts been successful. In one sense Ethiopia stretches out her hands
unto God, in another she stretches them out to the Churches o€
Christendom for patronage and support. May she so faith^illy and
perseveringly plead in every sense, as soon to be able to ''lengthen her
cords and strengthen her stakes !"



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CHURCH MISSIONS



IN



SIERRA LEONE.



CHAPTER I.



Among the subjects of inquiry to which the Committee of the Church
Missionary Society directed the attention of the Rev. Edward Bicker-
steth, previous to his departure for Africa at the beginning of the year
1816, were the following : —

" The state of education in the colony of Sierra Leone.

" The number of children therein.

*' The most promising measures for providing for the education of all
the children in the colony.

*' The number of schoolmasters and schoolmistresses required for the
entire education of the colony and settlements.

" The preparation which may have been made for the erection of the
Christian Institution, with the further measures which should be pur-
sued for accomplishing this work with all convenient despatch.

'* The suitableness, or otherwise, of the plans sent out from this
country, of the principal buildings, and of settlers* habitations.

*' The best arrangements which can be made for the regulation of
the Institution, and for the estabhshment of the children after they
shall have been educated.

" The towns and villages within the colony ; the number of inhabi-
tants under the British government ; their languages and religion ; the

w B



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2 ' CHURCH MISSIONS IN SIERRA LEONE.

proTision made for their religious instruction, and the education of their
children ; and the measures which the Society may pursue with puhlic
advantage in these respects."

On these subjects much valuable information is contained in Mr.
Bickersteth's journal, which is inserted at large in the preceding volume.
But besides this journal, Mr. Bickersteth furnished to the Committee
a special report of his visit to M^'estcm Africa, in which he enters more
minutely into the circumstances of the colony, furnishing the most
satisfactory replies to the inquiries of the Committee. That part of the
report which refers especially to Sierra Leone is as follows : —

'* The number of inhabitants in the colony is calculated, I am told,
on a moderate scale, at between 9,000 and 10,000. But there being no
census, I could not obtain an accurate return of the number of adults
or children. I should think the entire education of the colony would
require, including the teachers now there, twelve schoolmasters and
twelve schoolmistresses.

" In the colony we have no difficulty, but the want of teachers, in



Online LibrarySamuel Abraham WalkerThe Church of England mission in Sierra Leone: including an introductory ... → online text (page 5 of 73)