A FEW FACTS RELATING TO CENTRAL AFRICA AND OTHER SECTIONS OF CENTRAL AFRICA
BY ROBERT CAMPBELL,
ONE OF THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE NIGER VALLEY EXPLORING PARTY.
PHILADELPHIA. KING AND BAIRD PRINTERS,
607 SANSOM STREET
IN the following pages the Author undertakes, as the title page avows, simply to furnish a few facts relating to CENTRAL AFRICA, for the use of those who may not have opportunity to peruse a more complete narrative of the Expedition which is now in course of publication.
FACTS RELATING TO CENTRAL AFRICA
— On the 20th July, 1859, the R.M.S.S. “Ethiope,” in which I sailed from Liverpool, anchored in the roads of Lagos, calling, on the way thither, at several ports on the coast. The surf and bar were at this time very dangerous, so that we could communicate with the town only by signals,
The bar was in fact impassable for several days previous. On the next morning some natives were persuaded to come off from the beach in a canoe for the mails, which they took ashore secured in cask. I ventured to go ashore in the canoe, which, however, I would not have done, had I foreseen the risk in doing so. At any rate we landed safe. The canoe was worked by fourteen men, twelve paddling, one steering, and the other in the prow with his face seaward, watching the waves, and directing accordingly. I was fortunate in meeting on the beach Mr, Turner, a native merchant. He kindly offered me a passage to the town, distant about a mile and a half; so crossing the sand bank which lies between the quiet waters of the lagoon within, and the boisterous ocean without, we entered the boat, and within an hour after were at Lagos.
The town of Lagos is on a small island about six miles in circumference, located on the West Coast of Africa, in the Bight of Benin, Gulf of Guinea, latitude 6° 24’ North; Long. 3° 22’ East. It is very low, being formed by an accumulation of sand. In some places lower than the surface of the river it is swampy from the infiltration of water, but other parts are high and fertile. I saw some very fine sugar cane produced on the island. Like many localities
on the coast of tropical countries it is unhealthy, although many persons, even Europeans, enjoy good health. The population is estimated at about thirty thousand; there are about fifteen hundred emigrants from Sierra Leone the Brazils and Cuba. All these are themselves native Africans, brought from the interior and sold on different parts of the coast. Those from Sierra Leone are recaptured, the others redeemed slaves. Few are more than half civilized. The white inhabitants include English, German, French, Italian and Portuguese, in all about twenty-five. A few very fine houses have been erected near the water side, and others were being built at the time of our departure. They use as money, not only at Lagos, but all through this section of Africa, the small shells called cowries.
I continued six weeks at Lagos, and then left for Abbeokuta. The journey to this place is usually made by canoes, up the river Ogun. This river is navigable for steam vessels of not over five feet draft during about eight months of the year: namely, from about fortnight after the first rainy season in May to December, about a monthafter the cessation of the last rains. After this time the quantity of water diminishes rapidly. Such vessels could, during the other four months, ascend about one third the distance to Abbeokuta. It took five days from Lagos to Aro, which is four miles from Ake, the business centre of the city of Abbeobuta. By the river Ogun, Aro is only about ninety miles from Lagos, but the current is so strong that canoes have to be moved very slowly along the margin in ascending.
The passage down requires only two days, however, as the canoes are easily floated down the middle of the stream, requiring only to be steered. There are a number of small villages along the way with from twenty to two hundred inhabitants. While ascending the river we sojourned at one of these every night, and were troubled only by mosquitoes. I never saw a more beautiful country than can be seen along the margin of the Ogun, from twenty miles out of Lagos to Abbeokuta, abounding with
game, and the scenery unsurpassed. The surface of the country is so even that excellent wagon roads could be constructed to connect with any point of the river. There is in fact a road already existing between a point near Lagos, and Abbeokuta, which needs only to be straightened and widened to makeit all that is desirable. Good timber abounds along the entire way, and with a small saw and shingle mill, materials for building could be easily procured; from the same source of course, steamboats could obtain fuel. Above Abbeokuta, on account of the very rocky character of its bed, tha Ogun is not navigable even for canoes.
If the reader will permit the expression, Abbeokuta might be said to be in form an irregular circle. Thecircumference of its outer wall—for in some parts of the city there are three walls—is about twenty-three miles. It was originally formed of over one hundred townships, each independent and governed by its own chief. The people are of the Egba tribe of Akus, sometimes incorrectly called Yoruba, this last being the name of another tribe of Akus, About fifty years ago, wars with the surrounding tribes, particularly with the Yorubas, had disorganized their nation, the greatest number of the people being enslaved and sent to the Brazils, Cuba and other places; many of them were also recaptured by British cruisers and taken to Sierra Leone. A few flying before their relentless enemy and wandering from place to place at length found refuge beneath a shelve of rock now called Olumo. This hiding place is said to have been before the den of a band of robbers, Advantage was taken of the security thus afforded, by others of the Egba tribe, and their number continued to increase until they felt strong enough to form a town and build a wall. In a short time that town, as before stated, contained the remnants of over one hundred townships and became too powerful to be successfully assaulted by their enemies. They called it very appropriately “Abbeokuta,” which means “Under a Rock.” It is now estimated to
contain one hundred thousand inhabitants, and its population is still increasing by accessions not only from the surrounding tribes, but also from those who were sold away, a3 slaves, as well as their descendants.
Viewed as to its power of enforcing order and affording security for life and property, the government of Abbeokuta is as efficient as a civilized government can be, and it accomplishes these ends with the greatest ease and simplicity. The tenure of property is as it is among civilized people, except as to land which is deemed common property; every individual enjoys the right of
taking unoccupied land, as much as he can use, whenever and wherever he pleases. It is deemed his property as long as he keeps it in use, after that, it is again common property. This custom is observed by all the Akus,
Before 1889 little if anything was known of Abbeokuta. The Yorubas and Egbas recaptured and taken to Sierra Leone, were sold away before any such place existed, and no travelers had before been in the neighborhood; but at this time vague rumors began to spread along the coast that the different tribes of the Egbas had united themselves and had built a new city, powerful from its natural defences not less than from the brave hearts and strong armsof its people. These were joyful tidings indeed to the Egbas at Sierra Leone, in the bosom of most of whom was immediately kindled the strongest desire again to be united to their long lost relatives and friends, Conquering a thousand difficulties they eventually carried out the object of their desire, and in the short time between 1839 and 1842 we are told by Miss Tucker in her admirable little book* that no less than five hundred of them left Sierra Leone for this country.
Simultaneously with these occurrences, the people of the Brazils, and of Cuba, Egbas, Yorubas, and other Aku
* Abbeokuta, or sunrise within the Tropics.’? Although Miss Tucker has never been in Africa herself, yet, her statements are perfectly reliable, as they come from the best sources.
tribes, who had obtained freedom, began to return, From all sources there are now scattered throughout the country, but chiefly at Lagos and Abbeokuta, over five thousand of these people, semi-civilized generally, but in some instances highly cultivated, being engaged as teachers, catechists, clergymen and merchants, Industrious, enterprising, and carrying with them, one here and another there, a knowledge of some of the useful arts, they have, doubtless, been the means of inaugurating a mighty work, which now, that it has accomplished its utmost, must be continued in a — higher form by the more civilized of the same race, who, for a thousand reasons, are best adapted to its successful prosecution,
There are many Muasulmans among the Egbas and Yorubas, but chiefly they are heathens. They acknowledge one Supreme Being, but offer gifts and sacrifices to other inferior deities or mediators, good and evil. Of these Shango, the god of fire and thunder, seems most revered. They profess to be sometimes possessed by these deities, They believe in the spirit after death, and in its power of being present among the living for good or evil purposes, hence they frequently resort to the graves of the deceased with offerings, consulting them on affairs of importance, and imploring their protection from the dangers of life.
There are five missionary stations, with a school attached to each, at Abbeokuta, and about the same number at Lagos. The congregations of these churches consist principally of the people from Sierra Leone. There are many native pupils who also attend the services at the churches, but the number of adult converts is small, except as above remarked, from among the people from Sierra Leone.
All the people from Sierra Leone, as well as many of the natives, speak English, and some also read and write correctly. I have seen at Abbeokuta, several boys who have never been out of that town, having a pretty correct knowledge of most of the branches of a common English education, English
grammar, arithmetic, geography, &c., besides a good acquaintance with Scripture history. They make apt scholars. Three days’ easy journey from Abbeokuta, in a northeasterly direction, brings the traveler to the town of Ijaye.
The population is computed at about eighty or ninety thousand. It belongs to the Yoruba kingdom, but Kumi, the present ruler, or Are, a haughty and ambitious prince, has for several years disputed the legitimacy, and defied the authority of the king of Oyo, and has actually set up himself as his rival. When we left Africa, his town was, on account of these circumstances, besieged by hostile forces from Oyo and Ibadan, the former the capital of the Yoruba kingdom, and about one day’s journey further northeast than Ijaye; the latter, Ibadan, a powerful town, also Yoruban, with about one hundred thousand inhabitants, and nearly east of Abbeokuta. Decidedly the best market we met in Africa was at Ijaye.
Journeying from Lagos we visited successively Abbeokuta, Ijaye, Oyo, Ogbomishaw and Ilorin. Many small towns and villages are found between one and another of these places.
Returning, we found that in consequence of the war at Ijaye, it was necessary to proceed to the sea coast by some other route than that we had taken interiorward. From all the circumstances, I was induced to travel through Isehin, Awaye, Bi-olorun-pellu, and Beracudu, to Abbeokuta, while my colleague, Dr. Delany, setting out a week afterwards, and having obtained an escort from Adelu, the king of Yoruba, passed through Iwo and Ibadan, and met me at Abbeokuta.
I found the country by this route equally as undulating as it is more easterly, but differs in being much more interspersed with insulated huge masses of granite, in some instances attaining the dimensions of mountains. I am not aware of the origin of the appellation “ Mountains of the Moon,” as used in reference to some of the mountains of Central Africa, but I was struck with the resemblance of
the face of the country to the telescopic appearance of the moon, from the prevalence of these remarkable rocks. The soil is of course formed from the disintegration of these mountains, and hence, though good, is susceptible of improvement from an addition of lime; which mineral, although not found among the rocks of the country between Ilorin and Lagos, is abundantly supplied by the latter place in the form of oyster shells.
I found the road all the way infested with Ibadan soldiers, but they permitted us (myself, interpreter, and cook,) to pass on unmolested, except in one instance. At Awaye, a woman, with her son and daughter, besought me to permit them to go under our protection to Abbeokuta. I told her she was welcome to all the protection I could afford. At about 11 o'clock, when half way on our journey to Bi-olorun-pellu, we suddenly met about two hundred Ibadan soldiers. My servants, who were before me, attempted to pass by the foremost of them but were very roughly arrested. Myself and the rest of our party soon came up, and were all immediately surrounded. They kept us while discussing the fate of my people for nearly two hours. At length they demanded a present, as the condition on which they would allow us to proceed. I had nothing to give, having left Oyo with only two suits of clothes, one on my back, and the other in a small bundle. My other things consisted only of a gutta percha sheet and some cooking utensils. I told the man who carried them to open the things, and allow them to take whatever they desired. Seeing we had nothing, they informed my interpreter, after a little consultation among themselves, that we could depart peaceably, but that they must keep the woman and her two children as their captives.
It was too distressing to see these human beings thus about to be deprived of their liberty. The old woman wept bitterly, but her tears were apparently unheeded. I told them that it was impossible for me to leave these people. They had placed themselves under my protection, and, therefore, I could not permit them to be taken away except with myself
also; that they could take my horse, my watch, my money, all I had in short, but I would not permit them to take these people. They hesitated; I saw they were moved, and I kept up my entreaties. At length the balagun, or captain, to whom I addressed myself, and who remained silent all the time I spoke, with almost a tear in his eye, exclaimed, “ Oto, oto, oyibo, malo” “Enough, enough, white man, go on.” When one of his party attempted to take away a tin cup my interpreter carried, he drew his sword, declaring that it was at the peril of any one to touch us. Some of his party seemed much disappointed and dissatisfied. We hurried away, and four hours after were climbing an immense rock rising like an island from the surrounding plain, on the summit of which is situated “ Bi-olorun-pellu,” “If the Lord wills.”
The native authorities everywhere from Lagos to Ilorin, are willing to receive civilized people among them as settlers.
It is hardly fair to say merely that they are willing, they hail the event with joy. They know and appreciate the blessings which must accrue to them by such accessions. They would, however, be opposed to independent colonies, the establishment of which among them, not only on this account, would be highly inexpedient.
The sea coast, from the prevalence of mangrove swamps, is unhealthy, but it is a fact that many persons, even Europeans and Americans, enjoy good health there, and many of the deaths are more to be attributed to alcoholic indulgence than to the character of the location. Abbeokuta, and all other interior towns we visited, are healthy, but even in these an occasional attack of bilious fever must be expected for a year or two, or until the process of acclimature is completed. Emigrants should remember that in new countries it is always necessary to exercise great watchfulness and discretion.
The expense of a voyage to Lagos directly from America, should not exceed $100, for first class, and $60, for second class; via Liverpool, besides the expense of the voyage
thither, it would cost $200, for first class, and $150, for second class; $25, should include all expense of landing at Lagos, and of the journey to Abbeokuta.
The best protection on which a settler should rely in Africa, is that which all men are disposed to afford a good and honest man. The proper kind of emigrant want no protection among the natives of the Egba and Yoruba counties, We have had, however, from Lord Malmesbury, Foreign Secretary in the late British Cabinet, a letter to the Consul at Lagos, by which the protection of that functionary, as far as he can afford it, is secured for settlers.
Although land for agricultural purposes may be obtained as much as can be used, “without money and without price,” yet town lots will cost from $2 to $50 and even $100. Some fine fellows may get a very suitable lot for a trifle, or even for nothing; much depends upon the person.
The commercial and agricultural prospects are excellent, but there is much room for enterprise and energy. There is a decided demand for intelligent colored Americans, but it must be observed that one who is only prepared to roll barrels would have to compete with the natives under great disadvantages. Agriculturists, mechanics, and capitalists with suitable religious and secular teachers are most required.
Emigrants should never leave the States so as to arrive at Lagos in the months of June, July or August, the bar is then bad, and there is great risk to person and property in landing at such season. For safety I might include the last of May and first of September. During all the rest of the year there is no danger. The difficulties of the bar are not, however, insuperable; small vessels can always easily sail over it into the fine bay within, where they can load or unload with little trouble and without risk. It is not so easy to go out again, however, for then it would be necessary to “beat” against the wind, but a small steamboat could at once take them out in tow with perfect safety. I was informed that slavers used always to enter the bay—they
could, of course, afford to wait for a favorable wind with which to get out. Emigrants going to Abbeokuta, according to the second article of our treaty, will be permitted the privilege of self: government, but this can only be municipal, and affecting too only themselves. There is no doubt, however, that in time it will assume all the functions of a national government, for the people are fast progressing in civilization, and the existing laws which from their nature apply only to heathens would be found inadequate for them. Even now, as soon as any one of the people assumes the garb or other characteristics of civilization, they cease to exercise jurisdiction over him. He is thenceforward deemed an “ oyebo,” or whiteman.* The rulers, of course, will not be unaffected by those influences which can bring about such changes in their people, and thus they too will find it expedient to modify the laws to meet the emergency. But emigrants must ever remember that the existing rulers must be respected, for they only are the bona fide rulers of the place.
The effort should be to lift them up to the proper standard and not to supercede or crush them. If such a disposition is manifested, then harmony and peace will prevail; I am afraid not otherwise.
Of course the succession of seasons in northern and southern latitudes below the 24th parallel does not exist. There are two wet and two dry seasons. The first wet begins about the last of April and continues until the close of June. The second begins in the last of September, and ceases with the end of October. The period between June and September is not entirely without rain. Both the wet seasons are inaugurated by sharp thunder and lightning, and an occasional shower. The harmatan winds prevail
* This term, which literally signifies stripped off, was applied to white men, from the belief that their skin was stripped off. It is now applied indiscriminately to civilized men. To distinguish, however, between black civilized and white civilized man, the terms dudu for the former, and fufu for the latter, are respectively affixed.
about Christmas time. They are very dry and cold; I’ have seen at 8 A. M., the thermometer at 54° Far., during the prevalence of these winds. The mornings and evenings, however warm the noon might be, are always comfortable, The general range of the temperature is between 74° and 90° Far. I have experienced warmer days in New York and Philadelphia.
I never saw or heard of a bed bug in western Africa. If one’s house is not kept scrupulously clean the drivers are likely to make it a visit, and before these visitors, the occupant of a room must retire. They never take possession of more than a single room at a time, however, and quit it after about two hours, ridding it at the same time, of all vermin, &. This, probably, is the cause of the absence of bed bugs.
With due prudence, there is nothing to fear from the African fever, which is simply the bilious fever, arising from marsh miasmata common to other tropical countries, as well as to the southern sections of the United States.
I have, myself, experienced the disease, not only in Africa, but in the West Indies and Central America, and know that in all these places it is identical. Emigrants to the Western States of America, suffer severely from typhoid fever, which often renders them powerless for months together; but with the African fever which is periodical, there is always an intermission of from one to three days between the paroxysms, when the patient is comparatively well. Persons of intemperate habits, however, are generally very seriously affected. I suffered five attacks during my sojourn in Africa. The first, at Lagos, continuing about eight days, was induced by severe physical exertion in the sun. The four other attacks were in the interior; by a prompt application of suitable remedies, neither of them lasted longer than four or five days, and were not severe.
The treatment I found most efficacious was, immediately on the appearance of the symptoms, to take two or three antibilious pills, composed each of two and a half grains
comp: ext. Colocynth, and one-fourth grain Podophyllin, (ext. _ May-apple root.) For the present of a box of these pills I am indebted to Messrs. Bullock & Crenshaw, druggists, Sixth above Arch Street. This treatment always had the effect of greatly prostrating me, but the next day I was better although weak. I then took three times daily about one grain sulphate quinine, as much as will lie on a five cent piece. This quantity in my own case was always sufficient, but it must be observed that the same dose will not answer for every constitution. It should be taken in little acidulated water, or wine and water. Mr. Edward 8. Morris, 916 Arch street, has a preparation, which is, doubtless, better than the pure quinine for most persons. Quinine should not be taken during the recurrence of the fever. The practice of physicking while in health to keep well is very unwise; try to keep off disease by living carefully, and when in spite of this it comes then physic, but carefully. Many suffer more from medicines than from disease. Hard labor or unnecessary walking in the sun must be avoided, but with an umbrella one might go out for an hour or two with impunity in the warmest weather.
Cotton from Abbeokuta has been an article of export to the British market for about eight years. In the first year only 235 pounds could be procured, but from that time, through the efforts of Thomas Clegg, Esq., of Manchester, and several gentlemen connected with the Church Missionary Society, London, the export has more than doubled every year, until, in 1859, the quantity reached about 6000 bales or 720,000 pounds. The plant abounds throughout the entire country, the natives cultivating it for the manufacture of cloths for their own consumption. Its exportation is, therefore, capable of indefinite extension. In the seed, it is purchased from the natives, at something less than two cents per pound. It is then ginned and pressed by the traders, and shipped to Liverpool, where it realizes as good prices as New Orleans cotton, The gins now in use by the natives affects injuriously the fibre, so as to de-
-preciate it at least two cents per pound. Properly cleaned, it sells for a trifle more than New Orleans cotton, and even as it is, the value is about four cents more than the East India product. The plant in Africa being perennial, the expense and trouble of replanting every year, as in this country, is avoided. There are flowers and ripe cotton on the plants at all seasons of the
year, although there is a time when the yield is greatest. Free laborers for its cultivation can be employed each for about one-half the interest of the cost of a slave at the South, and land at present can be procured for nothing. These are advantages not to be despised.
The domestic animals comprise horses, which are plentiful and cheap, mules and asses at Ilorin, fine cattle, furnishing excellent milk, which can be purchased at about two cents per quart, sheep, not the woolly variety, goats, pigs, dogs, cats, turkeys, ducks, chickens, Guinea hens,(also wild ones in abundance,) pigeons, &. Of agricultural products there are cotton, palm oil and other oils, Indian corn, which is now being exported, sweet potatoes, yams, casava, rice, Guinea corn, a good substitute for wheat, beans, several varieties, arrow root, ginger, sugar cane, ground nuts, onions, as good as can be obtained any where, luscious pine apples, delectable papaws, unrivalled oranges and bananas, not to mention the locust and other fine varieties of fruit. Of minerals there is an abundance of the best building granite. I have seen no lime-stone, but Lagos furnishes, as already observed, an unlimited supply from oyster shells; plenty of rich iron ore, from which the natives extract their own iron,
Of timber there is plenty of the African oak or teak, roko, as the natives call it, which is the material commonly used for building. Of course there are other fine varieties of timber. Water is easily procured every where. In the dry season some find it convenient to procure it from wells only a few feet deep, say from three to twelve feet. The Ogun furnishes good water-power; there are also fine
brooks which could be so used, but not all the year. The sugar cane I have seen every where. From the juice the natives prepare fine “taffy,” doubtless the original article, and introduced into America and the West Indies by Africans.
There is certainly no more industrious people any where, and I challenge all the world besides to produce a people more so, or capable of as much endurance. Those who believe, among other foolish things, that the negro is accustomed lazily to spend his time basking in the sunshine, like black snakes or alligators, should go and see the people they malign. There are, doubtless, among them, as among every other race, not excepting the Anglo-American, indolent people, but this says nothing more against thé one than the other. Labor is cheap, but is rising in value from the increased demand for it.
The following is a copy of the Treaty we concluded with the native authorities of Abbeokuta:
This treaty made between his Majesty Okukenu, Alake; Somoye, Ibashorun; Sokenu, Ogubonna, and Atambala, on the first part, and Martin Robison Delany and Robert Campbell, of the Niger Valley Exploring Party, Commissioners from the African race of the United States and the Canadas in America, on the second part, covenants:
That the King and Chiefs on their part agree to grant and assign unto the said Commissioners, on behalf of the African race in America, the right and privilege of settling in common with the Egba people, on any part of the territory belonging to Abbeokuta not otherwise occupied.
That all matters requiring legal investigation among the settlers be left to themselves to be disposed of according to their own customs.
That the Commissioners on their part also agree, that the settlers shall bring with them, as an equivalent for the privileges above accorded, intelligence, education, a knowledge of the arts and sciences, agriculture, and other mechanical and industrial occupations, which they shall put into immediate operation by improving the lands and in other useful vocations.
That the laws of the Egba people shall be strictly respected by the settlers; and in all matters in which both parties are concerned, an equal number of commissioners, mutually agreed upon, shall be appointed, who shall have power to settle such matters,
As a pledge of our faith and the sincerity of our hearts, we, each of us, hereunto affix our hands and seals, this twenty-seventh day of December, Anno Domini one thousand eight hundred and fifty-nine.
OKUKENU x ALAKE,
his SOMOYE x Ibashorun,
SOKENU x Balagun,
OGUBONNA x BALAGu,
ATAMBALA x Balagu,
OGUSEYE x Anaba,
NGTABO x BALAGUN OSE,
OGUDEMU x Age, Oko,
M. R. DELANY,
Witness, SAMUEL CROWTHER, Jr.
Attest, SAMUEL CROWTHER, Snr.
On the morning of the 10th April, we bade adieu to Lagos, and easily crossing the bar, embarked on board the Royal Mail Steamship “ Athenian,” Captain Laurie, for Liverpool, The steamer, as in the outward voyage, stopped at the intermediate places on the coast, Acra, Cape Coast Castle, Cape Palmas, Freetown, (Sierra Leone,) and Bathurst on the Gambia, also at the islands of Teneriffe and Madeira.
She had on board a large number of Krumen, returning from different points of the coast, where they had been serving either on board man-of-war or trading vessels. These men are of incalculable advantage, as without them it would be impossible to work the ships, European sailors being unfit to labor in such latitudes, and not understanding so well the management of boats in heavy surfs,
At Freetown we saw a large slaver, brought in a few days before by H. M. Steamship “Triton.” The officers and crew, consisting of about thirty persons, were there set at liberty, tv be disposed of by the Spanish consul as distressed seamen. They were as such forwarded in the same ship with us to Teneriffe, the nearest Spanish port. No wonder that the slave trade should be so difficult to suppress, when no punishment awaits such wretches. What scamp would fear to embark in such an enterprise, if only assured that there was no personal risk; that he had only to destroy the ship’s flag and papers on the approach of a cruiser, not only to shield himself and his crew from the consequences of their crime, but to receive the consideration rightly accorded to distressed, honest men. These villains of course return to Havana or New York, procure a new ship, and again pursue their wicked purpose, which their previous experience enable them to accomplish with all the more impunity.
We landed at Liverpool, Dr. Delaney and myself, on the 12th May, 1860, in good health, although we had been to Africa |