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on to Ashantee by rumours of a wonderful El Dorado at
Coomassie, whence also the problem of the Niger, it was

The West African Settlements 93

thought, could be best unfolded. Then in 1822-23 Oudney,
a naval surgeon, Clapperton, a naval lieutenant, and Major
Denham, an old Peninsular campaigner, set out from Tripoli,
and, marching southwards, reached Lake Tsaad. The Bashaw
of Tripoli had signified to Lord Bathurst, always ready to take
up projects of exploration, his readiness to help and escort an
expedition as far as Bornou. The result of this expedition
was to throw much light upon the hydrography of the interior ;
still the Niger remained a puzzle.

Clapperton, said to be a perfect Bayard of African travel,
undertook a second expedition from the Bight of Benin to
Soccatoo (1825), accompanied by Pearce, Morrison, and
Richard Lander; but only Lander lived to return. The addi-
tions made by Clapperton to the geography of these regions
were immense. He had measured every degree of latitude
from the Mediterranean to the Bight of Benin, and of longi-
tude from Lake Tsaad to Sokoto ; and, although he had not
discovered the termination of the Niger, he had shown that it
was utterly impossible that it could be the Niger of Ptolemy or
of Pliny, or the great river of Herodotus.

In 1824 M. Caillie, the celebrated French traveller, per-
formed the great feat of reaching Timbuctoo. An American
sailor, Robert Adams, who sailed from New York in 1810, and
after being shipwrecked on the Senegal coast had lived as a
captive for more than three years in North-West Africa, had
given an account of the city of Timbuctoo, which was deemed
worthy of credence. His deposition was read before Lord
Bathurst and Sir Joseph Banks, and the Quarterly Review of
May 1816 contains a notice of the whole adventure. But it
is only fair to take the Frenchman's account as the first
authoritative and descriptive account of this wonderful city,
although Alexander Gordon Laing had entered it the year
before (August 18), but did not live to return. M. Caillie
took a route eastwards from the French colony of Senegal,
advancing by way of Kakondy, Kankan, Timbo, and thence
northwards to Jenne. Embarking there on the Joliba, he

94 British Colonisation

noted its course, its islands, and the extensive Lake of Debo,
during a month's voyage to Timbuctoo. The list of travellers
who held this bourne before them had been a long and
brilliant one, including Houghton, Browne, Hornemann, Park,
Tuckey, Peddie, Campbell, Gray, Ritchie, Bowdich, Oudney,
Clapperton, Denham, Laing, Burckhardt, Beaufort, Mollien,
Benzoni. 1 The next great feat was to find the Niger mouth,
and to sight the Benue, or Tsadda, its eastern affluent. This
was done by the brothers Lander (1830).

The later triumphs of West African exploration belong to
Dr. Richardson, who, accompanied by Dr. Barth and Dr.
Overweg, two Prussian gentlemen, set out by way of Tripoli
and the Sahara with the object of opening up commercial
relations and concluding treaties with any native power so dis-
posed, especially with the Sultan of Bornou. The chief object
of Richardson's journey was to endeavour to lessen the horrible
evils of the slave trade. One of the first steps, in his opinion,
was to encourage legitimate traffic between Europe and the
great nurseries of slaves, which might be done by entering
into commercial relations with the most important Sates of
Central Africa an idea which has commended itself more
recently to the pioneers and merchant philanthropists of
Eastern Central Africa, to whom it is abundantly clear that a
developed and well-guarded highway which affords quick and
easy communication with the interior is the most effective
method of fighting with the slave traders and intercepting the

Mr. Richardson left England on his bold and philanthropic
enterprise ' under the orders and at the expense of Her Majesty's
Government.' He started from Tripoli on March 1850, and
followed a route southward to Lake Tsaad, parallel with that
of Oudney, Denham, and Clapperton (1822-1824), keeping,
however, more to the west. Unfortunately, Richardson did
not live to return, as he died at Unguratua in March 1851,
a year after his departure from Tripoli. But he left behind

1 Preface to Travels to Timbuctoo, by Rene Caillie, London, 1830.

The West African Settlements 95

him a diary of eight small and closely written volumes, which
formed a most exhaustive description of Saharan regions
hitherto untraversed and unexplored by Europeans.

It was more especially due to the energies of Dr. Earth
(1849-1855), the other companion of James Richardson, that
the watershed of the Niger became revealed to the long-
wondering eyes of Europe. Dr. Earth, after exploring Lake
Tsaad, entered the kingdom of Bagirmi and reached its capital,
purposing to extend his travels and to touch the Nile water-
shed. Finding this impracticable, he turned south-west, and
then chanced upon the Benue at Tepi. At this spot this
river was 800 yards wide and eleven deep, and proved to be the
eastern branch of the Niger or Quorrah. The whole of the
district traversed by Dr. Earth was very fertile, and presented
a vast field to the commerce of Europe. Men knew now that
the Joliba and the Quorrah were one river ! The Niger was
not the Nile, nor was it the Congo ! Nor did it disappear,
as some thought, by magic, swallowed up in the thirsty sands
of the vast Sahara !

The final touches to previous discoveries were given by an
exploration conducted by the Pleiad and undertaken at the
instance of the British Government. The Benue or Tsadda
(Lander) was now surveyed as the eastern branch of the Niger,
which discharges its waters into the Atlantic through several
mouths the Nun channel being found to be the best for
navigation. It should be mentioned that owing to the obser-
vance of simple hygienic rules the crew of the Pleiad enjoyed
almost a total immunity from fever a fact which told in
favour of the Niger valley, hitherto associated with so many
sad reminiscences and such gloomy tales of loss and failure
for all Europeans.

Such, in brief, were the chief expeditions made from all
quarters of the compass from the Gambia on the west, from
Tripoli on the north, and from distant Cairo on the east to
unfold the 'ambages Nigri'; and to Englishmen the tale is one
replete with national daring, hardihood, and enterprise to

96 British Colonisation

which they can refer with pride and satisfaction giving all
honour to the dead heroes who have fallen by the way.

The epics of travel are closed and the prose of commerce
begins, and England is reaping a rich harvest from the toils of
her sons.

To the merchant the Niger valley may mean a great deal,
and he may be now seen to be entering upon the labours of
the pioneer. Along the valley of the Niger and Benue the
British may be brought into closer contact with the most
intelligent races of the Western Sudan. Kuka, the capital of
Bornou, near the western shores of the Tsaad, is one of the
greatest markets of all Central Africa second only, it is said,
to that of Kano in Sokoto.

One of the most recent explorers of these regions was Dr.
Nachtigal (1872), who, in company with other Germans, greatly
extended German influence in these quarters.

The British Royal Niger Company has, according to recent in-
formation, confirmed and extended the provisions of a treaty with
the Sultan of Sokoto, and also concluded treaties with the chiefs
of Adamawa to the north-east of the Cameroons. English
expeditions have a free run from the mouth of the Niger to
Bornou and Lake Tsaad. For the moment English, German,
and French interests all seem to meet in the neighbourhood
of this lake. France from the regions of French Congo,
England by way of the Niger, Germany from her coast
territories, are rapidly converging upon the interior of West
Central Africa.

During this period of inland exploration and discovery,
carried on with so much perseverance and determination, it
must be remembered that the coast settlements were languish-
ing and decaying. The prop of slavery had been taken away,
and they had, metaphorically speaking, fallen to the ground.
England maintained them not so much for their trade value
as for the purpose of putting down or checking the slave
trade. In the year 1819 no less than ^28,000 was granted
by Parliament to the African Company. The annual value of

The West African Settlements 97

the gold-dust and ivory did not exceed ; 100,000. Of the
prospects of West Africa it was written at this date : ' The
total inadequacy of these forts to prevent the slave trade will
be obvious. The first on the Gold Coast is Apollonia,
garrisoned by a black sergeant and two soldiers; it pays a
tribute to the chief of the town, who seizes the governor's
servants or withholds provisions whenever he wishes to bring
them over to his own terms. The trade is very trifling, and
the expense of keeping it up very considerable. Dix Cove, the
next fort, has a soldier or two more ; its expense is somewhat
greater than the former, and its trade less. Seconda, the third,
is a thatched house with a governor and two black soldiers.
It has little trade, and the next, Commendah, none at all.

' The headquarters of the African Company's corps and the
residence of the Governor-in-Chief is Cape Coast Castle, a
regular and well-constructed fortress. The strength of the
garrison, composed chiefly of native blacks, officered by the
traders, consists of about 100 men. The expense of main-
taining this fort is considerable, and the trade of no conse-
quence. Nine miles to the eastward of this is Anamaboe,
a position of little importance except as a check upon the
Ashantees, who have recently destroyed the town; it has a
governor and a garrison of fifteen soldiers. It has little or no
trade. Tantumquerry follows a very insignificant fort, in a
ruinous condition, without trade, and altogether useless except
as a point in the line of communication from Cape Coast
Castle to the next fort, which is that of Accra, the easternmost
of the Gold Coast. In importance Accra ranks next to Cape
Coast. It has a small trade in ivory.'

As may be imagined, this line of forts, placed on a line of
coast extending for 200 miles, was miserably inadequate to
serve as a check upon the slave trade, which was openly
carried on under Spanish, Portuguese, and American flags. 1

In 1865 Lord Norton observed that evidence collected by
the West African Committee, of which he was Chairman,
1 Quarterly Review, January 1820.

98 British Colonisation

showed that British commerce on these coasts has thriven
better when we have established no settlement, as on the Niger.
' Our penitential plans for national redress of our injury to
West Africa by suppressing the trade in slaves, which we first
set up, have been ill-directed. The effort, money, health, life
wasted in attempting locally to staunch the supply of slaves
would probably have been better devoted to checking the extra
demand for them. A wall of English corpses round the African
shores could not stop the egress of slaves.' The slave trade
could only die a gradual death on the western coast ; and in
1865 the demand was limited to the Cubans, to whom England
paid ^400,000 to induce them to give up the slave trade.

The Committee of 1865 recommended that we should
ultimately withdraw from all West African governments, except
perhaps Sierra Leone. Lord Norton observed that the West
African squadron used to cost in round figures ^1,000,000 a
year ; and in addition we have suffered directly by the fright-
ful sacrifice of the lives of gallant men.

Many reformers of our colonial system laid great stress
thirty years ago upon the inadequate results of our occupation
of the West African coasts, and have pointed out that settle-
ments like the Gambia and Sierra Leone cannot be justified by
any just economical argument.

There was one use, however, which was suggested as follow-
ing upon their occupation and this was that they supplied a
recruiting ground for our West Indian regiments. The
Kroomen, also, make most excellent seamen, and would
furnish, in tropical countries, a most valuable contingent to
England's mercantile marine.

More recently it has been suggested that the coast of West
Africa might become the scene of a gigantic scheme of negro
repatriation, and that the descendants of the slaves of former
times might now, in these more hopeful times of emancipation,
be restored with advantage to all parties back to the shores
whence their race was sprung. The ' middle passage ' might
then be accomplished under widely different conditions, and

The West African Settlements 99

the West Indians freed of what is sometimes considered the
incubus of a redundant negro population.

Under the pressing conditions, however, of the nineteenth
century it is not likely that England, in a fit of misguided
generosity, will restore the fee-simple of the West African
littoral to hordes of repatriated negroes. Nor, indeed, is she
likely to regard J;he settlements here as simply recruiting
grounds for the West Indian regiments. A new industrial era
may yet be in store for the West Coast after years of depression.
A glance at the map will show that although explorers have
long since traversed the Hinterland, England's occupation is
chiefly limited to somewhat limited strips of littoral. Here,
more than in any other region of the world, perhaps, the in-
terests of European nations meet. British, French, Portuguese,
and Germans all have shares in the west coast of Africa.
This portion of the continent is curiously tesselated, and the
international boundaries are especially intricate. In five
different settlements or spheres of influence the red prevails.
Beginning with the nearest, these are: i. the Gambia; 2.
Sierra Leone; 3. the Gold Coast; 4. Lagos; 5. the Niger

i. The Gambia has been described as 'a small and some-
what retrograde colony, where by supineness and want of
commercial energy we have allowed the French to obtain a
considerable hold.' x

The Upper Gambia has been taken under French protection
quite recently, and by far the greater part of the commerce at
the mouth of the Gambia is French. The Gambia itself is a
waterway leading to the very heart of the French possessions
in Senegambia. The Gambia was once a great stronghold
of the slave trade, and the cessation of this traffic naturally
brought about its decay. At one time it was suggested that
England should effect an exchange with France, and give
Gambia for French territory either on the Gold Coast, Porto
Nova, or the Gaboon, or, if possible, barter it for French
1 Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute, vol. xx. p. 99.

ioo British Colonisation

fishery rights in Newfoundland ; but nothing has come of any
of these proposals. Unlike other West African settlements,
the Gambia does not possess the oil-palm. It is a very old
colony, disputing even with Newfoundland the honour of being
the oldest colony of Great Britain, dating back to 1588, the
year of the Elizabethan patent. 1

2. Sierra Leone is a younger colony than the Gambia, having
its origin in 1787 ; but it has not much to show for a century
of British rule. Its coast-line extends for a distance of 1 80
miles from the Great Scarcies River to the Liberian frontier ;
but England's influence does not reach far into the interior.
It boasts, however, of a very good harbour, and the town of
Freetown, originally a settlement for freed negro slaves, is
beautifully situated at the corner of a peninsula, and at the
base of deeply wooded mountains. The route to the interior
plateaux of West Africa has greater advantages than that by
way of the Gambia. The post is strongly fortified, and is a
coaling-station for the British navy. At the back of Sierra
Leone are the sources of the Upper Niger. Here a Moham-
medan chief named Samadu is said to have reared a native
kingdom of some power, which has been at war with France.
The greatest natural curiosity of Sierra Leone is the chimpanzee
found in the deep recesses of its forests. 2

3. The Gold Coast is not quite so ancient a settlement as
the Gambia, but its occupation dates back to 1672, when a
company was formed called the Royal African Company.
Elmina, one of its posts, was discovered by the Portuguese in
1471 during the progress of their West African explorations.
The British possessions now extend over a coast-line .of 350
miles, and are only separated by a short distance from Lagos.
The inland limits are somewhat vague. The Ashantee kingdom
may be regarded as falling within England's influence ; and
it appears to rest with England to assume, if she wishes,
a protectorate over the important kingdoms of Gyaman, of

1 For facts and figures see Appendix IV. Section A.

2 Ibid. Section B.

The West African Setttemenit iui

Salaga, and Yandi, the chiefs of which countries have sent
presents to the Governor of the Gold Coast. Mr. H. H.
Johnston has remarked that it would not be difficult to ex-
tend British influence from the Gold Coast to the great bend
of the Niger. The Gold Coast is, perhaps, best known to
England through the two Ashantee campaigns : the first in
1824, when Sir Charles Macarthy, taking the side of the Fantees
against the Ashantees, was killed and his force routed; the
second in 1872, when Sir Garnet (now Lord) Wolseley marched
up the Prah and took Coomassie, causing King Coffee to sign
a peace advantageous to England. 1

4. Lagos is the youngest but the most prosperous of all
England's West African settlements, its separate existence
commencing only in 1863. The port has been termed 'the
Liverpool of West Africa,' and is said to owe its prosperity to
able management and a wise fiscal policy. Its natural lagoons,
also, which stretch along the coast, facilitate the transport of
products very greatly ; and, as Lagos is not more than 220 miles
from the River Niger, it diverts a considerable amount of trade
to itself. The colony boasts of a Botanical Garden the first
in West Africa and this institution, in encouraging enterprise
and the scientific treatment of plants and products, may effect
as much as similar institutions in the West Indies. It has
already been pointed out what stress Mr. Morris of Kew has
laid upon the value of experimental gardens as developing in
the West Indies ' a diversity of cultural industries.' Lagos is
said to require only an improved harbour, such as would safely
admit steamers of deep draught, to send it up to a higher pitch
of prosperity than it already enjoys. 2

5. The Niger Protectorate is the most recent and valuable
acquisition of the British Crown in West Africa. It includes
the entire basin of the Lower Niger, including the Benin and
Cross Rivers, and extends along the coast of Africa from the
Benin River, where it joins the boundary of Lagos, to the mouth

1 For facts and figures see Appendix IV. Section C.

2 Ibid. Section D.

IO2 1 B'ritish Colonisation

of the Rio del Rey at 9 E. longitude. In 1886 a rtfyal
charter was granted to the Royal Niger Company by which
extensive powers were given to them, their operations ex-
tending as far inland as Gando and Sokoto, being in touch
with Darfur, Egypt, and Tripoli.

The depot on the coast is Akassa. It is deserving of notice
that along the valleys of the Nile and the Niger, as well as that
of the Zambesi, British influence is now predominant. This
influence has followed, in the first instance, as a result of a
series of those remarkable explorations, carried on, as already
pointed out, at various intervals principally since 1815 by
British explorers.

Mr. H. H. Johnston, late Vice-Consul for the Oil River and
Cameroon's, and now Consul for Portuguese East Africa, has
given a brief and interesting description of our West Coast
colonies : *

'The geography of true Western Africa I am not here
referring to the coast below the Cameroons, which may properly
be considered as coming under the designation of Central or
Southern Africa is comparatively simple. It consists of little
else than the basin of the great Niger River, with its eastern
affluent, the Benue. In fact, if you draw a short line from the
upper waters of the Senegal River to the Upper Niger a
distance of only a few miles you might with these two great
streams form the northern boundary of the districts I am
reviewing. Beyond lies the great Sahara Desert, which
separates northern, temperate, and Mediterranean Africa from
true Africa, the land of the blacks. The flora and fauna of
Western Africa which is bounded on the north, as described,
by the Senegal and Niger, and somewhat vaguely on the east
between the water-parting of the Niger and Lake Tsaad and
the River Shari, and the divide between the southern affluents
of the Benue' and the streams that flow into the Cameroons
estuary are of diverse characters. There is the Ethiopian
sub-region of tropical Africa generally, which is especially
1 Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute, vol. xx.

The West African Settlements 103

characteristic of Eastern and North Central Africa ; and there
is the remarkable West African subdivision, which is confined
to the narrow coast belt between the Gambia River and the
mouth of the Congo, stretching inland from south of the
Benue to the shores of the great equatorial lakes.

'In all the coast region between the Gambia and the
Cameroons the most extravagant development of tropical
vegetation is seen, except in such isolated spots of arid country
as are found in the vicinity of Accra and the Gold Coast.
Whereas the future wealth of the interior plateaux will most
certainly lie in their mineral deposits, the riches of the West
Coast region consist in numerous and valuable vegetable
products, such as palm-oil and oil from ground nuts, benni-
seed, shea butter, rubber, gums, spices, cotton, dyes such as
camwood, cocoa-nuts, and valuable timbers, among which
ebony occupies a prominent place. Negro races, of which the
Kroo tribes in Liberia are the best specimens, are found along
the coasts, and Mohammedans in the interior. There are
many intermediate links to connect the pure negro with the
typical Arab. Generally speaking, the West African colonies
are interesting to us as spheres within which we may carry on
a profitable trade and at the same time govern the native races.
They cannot be colonies in the true sense as homes for men
of our race.' 1

In this part of Africa, France, who subsidises the colony of
Senegal with an annual payment of two million francs, and
has launched steamers on the Niger, seems to be the rival of
England. Major Ellis in his West African Islands alludes to
the efforts made by France to block all trade from the interior
reaching our Gambia and Guinea settlements. He expects
much from the opening-up of the country, where there are
numerous rivers, along the banks of which live many Mussul-
man races who are fairly civilised, and in time may become large
purchasers of European manufactured goods. The Western
Sudan is considered a great prize by many Frenchmen, and
1 For facts and figures see Appendix IV. Section E.

IO4 British Colonisation

during the last decade Frenchmen have been making great
progress with a view of 'forming a vast African colony, ex-
tending from Algeria on the north to the peninsula of Sierra
Leone on the south ; and in order to prevent any other nation
from influencing the natives they are doing their best to isolate
the British possessions on the Gambia River and at Sierra
Leone/ St. Louis, the capital of French Senegal, is on an
island in the Senegal River; Goree, the old port, is about
100 miles north of our Bathurst settlement ; and Dakar, the
new port, is opposite Goree Island, and promises to have
a monopoly of trade. It is connected with St. Louis by a

Extension of railways is a favourite French project in West
Africa ; and if the Medine-Bammakou-Timbuctoo line is con-
structed, the French will be in a good position to hold com-
mand of all trade in this part of the world. Already we are
told there are thirteen military posts formed between the Niger
and the St. Louis. One of the most enthusiastic Frenchmen
who helped to develop French Africa was General Faidherbe.

In Senegal, French trade increased from 28 J millions of
francs in 1878 to 47 millions in 1883. The chief trade is in
ground nuts, palm-oil, nuts, rubber, and gum. In the interior
there are gold-mines, as at Bouri on the left of the Niger.
Bammakou on the Niger is 1000 miles from St. Louis and

Online LibraryWilliam Henry Parr GreswellOutlines of British colonisation → online text (page 9 of 31)