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2.1b(iii) Book Edited by Ann O’Hear: Letters from Nigeria, 1899‒1900: David Wynford Carnegie. Madison: African Program University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1992. Edited, with new introduction, notes, appendix, and index.

Transcript of extracts from the text of the Letters with relevance to slavery and related topics, including “elite” slavery, runaway slaves, attempts by Ilorin to interfere with marketing in villages, debt pawnage, trade in slaves, slaves conducting long-distance trade for their masters, agricultural slaves, slaves working for their freedom, marriage, status of children of slaves, dues paid by villagers

Page numbers given in the text below are to the text of Letters from Nigeria, 1899‒1900: David Wynford Carnegie, 1992 edition. Selected endnotes to the text in the 1992 edition are also included here, renumbered appropriately. 

Additions/clarifications that were provided by Ann O’Hear as she was making the transcription (July 2020) are shown in square brackets.

29. [Letter from Carnegie] (To H.M.C.) [his sister] March 28, 1900. JEBBA.

[An] interesting case [in the provincial court] was a land palaver between two Kings . . . The land went to the powerful King Ajidungari [for whom, see section 2.1b(i) in this Archive and also further references in the Letters, below; Eji or Ejidongari was identified in later sources as an elite slave of the Emir or of the Sarkin Dongari—himself an elite slave titleholder—of Ilorin].

30. For the last three Sundays I have been shooting  . . . I went alone and discovered a little village, about five miles away, where they live by selling “tombo” or “pompo” (palm wine). They are Hausas who left Illorin after it was “broken” by the Whiteman.

34. [Letter from Carnegie] (To H.M.C.) April 11, 1900.  JEBBA, N.N.

[celebrating a Muslim holiday] There was certainly great rejoicing, and this morning a great crowd, headed by Sergeant Raji and Corporal Suliman . . . and the sort of Prime Minister of the King of Illorini swarmed up to our house . . .

37. [Letter from Carnegie] (To his Mother.) April 27, 1900. ILLORIN.

39. [visiting the Emir of Ilorin] I asked to see his house, and the King showed me round . . . He has some 300 wives, not including slaves, but he would not show me these, nor indeed did he show me his private dwelling . . .

41. [Letter from Carnegie] (To his Father.) May 7, 1900, JEBBA, NORTHERN NIGERIA [sending a journal:]


April 13th. Continued along the Illorin road . . . then turned westward to Ajidungari . . .

Ajidungari is recognised as King by all villages west of, and including Eyatoro . . .

April 14th. At Ajidungari. Had talk with the King, who expressed himself as very willing to please the White man in all things. He acknowledges Illorin as King, and pays him a yearly tribute (which I find later the King of Illorin denies), but objects to the system whereby he has to send all produce to Illorin for sale, instead of sending it to Jebba, where his people would get a higher price (this also the King of Illorin denies, saying he never even sees Ajidungari).

. . . he agrees to employ a Mallam, and make a monthly report of all cases settled by him (for it has been his practice to act as Judge for his people), and to settle no important case without first consulting the proper Authority at Jebba . . ./

42.  . . .The town, including some  outlying farms, contains some 600 men, is clean and has a fairly large market.

43. April 16th . . . [the village of ] Malete has a small market; from what the people say it would appear that the King of Illorin, or his advisers, do anything but encourage country markets; their policy being to cause all produce to come for sale to Illorin.

46. [at Ilorin]

April 26th. Hearing small cases all day.

Money-lending. A man lends money to another. He charges no interest in money, but, until the debt is paid back, half the debtor’s time and labour is for the benefit of the lender, and half at his own disposal.   (?)  [interpolation by Carnegie’s sister, during her preparation of the letters for printing?]  Thus every borrower pays 100 per cent. for his loan. For by the time he has made by his half-day’s work sufficient to pay back the loan, he has also paid the lender all his other half-days in labour. In the half-days belonging to borrower he must make enough to feed and keep himself and sufficient money to pay off the debt.ii

47. [Letter from Carnegie] (To H.M.C.) May 27, 1900, KISHI, W. AFRICA.

48. On leaving Jebba, Ajidungari was our first town of any size. The old King is a great pal . . . my first acquaintance with him was through a man who had complained that his land had been taken and village robbed, so I sent for Ajidungari. Sergeant Raji said, “he be big man,” in rather a hesitating way, so I answered “I don’t care how big he is, Englishmen come here to keep order in the land, and if a man does wrong he must account for it,” and so Ajidungari was summoned, and came in and was talked to, and has been a pal ever since . . . There was a big market going on, 500 people or so . . .

52. [Letter from Carnegie] (To his Mother.) June 19,1900, ILLORIN.

53.  . . . I interviewed a gentleman who deals in slaves, quite a nice man. He is really a compact form of servants registry office. He is a Dilali, or broker, and sells slaves on commission. If you wanted a slave for your pony carriage, or the garden, I would go to Mr. Badamashi, the Dilali, and ask if he could find me a good slave for pruning roses, and he would hunt round the country until he found some one who had such a slave to get rid of, and so the bargain would be struck, he would get a commission from me and from the man who sold the slave, 1s. 9d. from each of us.iii We are accustomed to think of all slavery as diabolical, chains and blood and torture and all horrors, but here at any rate it is mild enough. A slave, taking the case of a man, often works for his master many miles away. Most of the people who pass here going to and from Lagos are slaves trading for their masters in Illorin, Kano, Sokoto, and all about. A slave on a farm works half a day for his master, and half for himself, and gets one full day to himself in every week. He can free himself by paying about £4 to his master, which sum a strong willing man can put by in say four years; but as a rule they are quite content to remain slaves; to be free is no advantage, as they have no ambition beyond a full tummy. If a slave pays for and marries a woman (who must be a slave), the children are free from birth. If, however, children occur without marriage, and without payment, then they are slaves, and belong to the master of their mother.

Of course slave raiding still goes on north of the river Niger, but not here, though I think certainly now and again, or even frequently, slaves raided north of the river are sold secretly in Illorin. There is said to be a night market, but I can’t be sure about it.

. . .

A “dash” of three goats and about 24 eggs just arrived from Sani, Bale (Chief) of Ajisai and Bode Sani (village or town of Sani). I have just returned from settling a boundary dispute between him and another neighbouring chief. The Bale is paid yearly rent in kind, as well as current provisions by all the villagers and farmers; he pays yearly rent to the Balogum (or Big Chief) who owns the land, and probably lives in Illorin; the latter in his turn pays a yearly tribute to the Emir, and he, theoretically at least, is a vassal of Sokoto.iv Any man can get farming land (or agricultural land would be more correct) for nothing, so long as he pays his rent, and is approved by the Bale.

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