Imatges de pÓgina
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scale, and is attached to a state of society much more decidedly savage.

In regard to the social aspect of this continent, the unimproved condition in which it appears may be regarded as that perhaps in which violence and wrong have the widest field, and cause the most dreadful calamities to the human race. The original simplicity, founded on the absence of all objects calculated to excite turbulent desires and passions, has disappeared, while its place is not yet supplied by the restraints of law and the refinements of civilized society. War, the favourite pursuit, is therefore carried on with the most unrelenting fury; and robbery, on a great and national scale, is generally prevalent. Brilliant and costly articles already exist; but these are distributed with an inequality which the needy warrior seeks by his sword to redress. African robbery is not perpetrated by concealed or proscribed ruffians, who shrink from the eye of man, and are the outcasts of social life. It is not even confined to the poor tribes of the Desert, who see caravans laden with immense wealth pass along their borders. Princes, kings, and the most distinguished warriors, consider it a glory to place themselves at the head of an expedition undertaken solely for the purposes of plunder.

Slavery seems also to belong to the barbarian state. Man has emerged from the limited wants of savage life, and sees productions of art, which he eagerly covets, without having acquired those habits of steady industry by which he might earn them for himself. His remedy is to compel those whom his superior strength, or any other advantage, enables him to bring under subjection, to labour in sup.

plying his wants. Often the blind and spontaneous veneration of those tribes for their chiefs causes them to sink into voluntary slavery; many again are made captive in war; and generally a great part of the population of every barbarous society is placed in a state of bondage.

From the two evils above described arises a third, still darker, the stealing of human beings in order to make them slaves. This is perpetrated widely throughout Africa, and attended with every circumstance of crime and horror. It is an enormity also in which the greatest sovereigns do not scruple to participate. Their troops surround a town in the dead of night, watching till the first dawn, when the gates are opened ;-they then rush in, set fire to it, and while the victims, with shrieks and cries, are seeking to escape, bind and carry them off into slavery. It must be confessed, at the same time, that the unrelenting and atrocious spirit of this warfare has been in a great measure produced by foreign connexion, either with the European powers, or with Northern Africa, Turkey, and other Mohammedan states.

Notwithstanding so many evils, however, we may again repeat, that an unvaried cloud of moral darkness does not hang over Africa. The negro character appears to be distinguished by some features unusually amiable, by a peculiar warmth of the social affections, and by a close adherence to kindred ties. If some travellers have been ill treated and plundered, others have been relieved with the most signal and generous hospitality. The negro, unless when under the influence of some violent excitement, is, on the whole, more mild, hospitable, and

liberal than the Moor; it is by the latter race that the atrocities against European travellers have been chiefly perpetrated.

In the political arrangements of the African states there occur some singular anomalies. A bold and independent spirit has been supposed to characterize man in a rude and uncivilized condition; and, accordingly, a number of petty communities here present an aristocratic, and sometimes even a republican form. But all the great kingdoms are subject to the most complete and abject despotism. Thousands of brave warriors bend down to one of their fellowmortals with a profound and servile abasement, never witnessed in polished, or, as we call them, corrupted societies. Examples so frequent and striking have occurred in the course of this narrative, that we need not adduce any other illustration. It deserves particular notice that the nations in this degrading condition are the most numerous, the most powerful, and most advanced in all the arts and improvements of life; that, if we except the human sacrifices to which blind veneration prompts them, they display even a disposition more amiable, manners more dignified and polished, and moral conduct more correct, than prevail among the citizens of the small free states, who are usually idle, turbulent, quarrelsome, and licentious. Bad, therefore, as absolute power is in itself, there appears, nevertheless, in the disposition shown by man to submit to it in this uncultivated state, something salutary, and which even tends to his ultimate improvement.

The foreign races, who have settled in Africa by migration and conquest, are found fully established in the fine country along the Mediterranean. The

inroad of the Arabs or Saracens, and the subsequent conquest by the sultans, have stamped completely their character on this vast region. The Turkish sabre, and the Moslem creed, lord it over these ancient seats of empire, light, and civilization. The remnants of the native tribes are either sunk in degradation, as the Copts, lurking in the recesses of the mountains, or wandering over desert plains, as the Brebers, the Tibboos, and the Tuaricks. The once-varied frame of society is now moulded into one gloomy monotony, such as is always produced by the influence of Mussulman habits. Turkish cities exhibit everywhere one uniform aspect; high walls of earth, without windows, border on narrow and dirty streets; and the nakedness and desolation of the exterior often form a striking contrast with the barbarian splendour within. A deep and grave solemnity, the absence of all gay and social meetings, and the entire seclusion of females, produce an effect wholly different from that of European society. In the country, the Arab population is simple and patriarchal; yet unhappily no strangers to violence and plunder in their very worst forms.

The two races, thus strikingly distinguished, native and foreign, Mohammedan and pagan, meet and mix in Central Africa, on the banks of the Niger, and on the other great rivers which water that region. Major Rennell considers the stream now named as the boundary between the Moors and negroes, as Pliny conceived it to separate the Africans from the Ethiopians; and the division, though not rigorously correct, is yet, in a general sense, conformable to fact. The Moors have made extensive conversions, and have introduced all that is known of

letters or writing into the interior regions. Yet the lurid gleam thus shed over benighted Africa serves little more than to deepen the surrounding darkness. This sublime art is prized, not as the principal means of enlightening and enlarging the human mind, but as a tool of the magic art,—an instrument for manufacturing charms and fetiches, to be sold at high prices to the deluded natives. Only a few of the great sheiks and doctors read even the koran. The most approved mode of imbibing its contents, as was formerly stated, is by tracing the characters on a smooth board with a black substance, then washing them off, and swallowing the water. Others having enclosed the koran in a large silver case, bear it constantly about, groaning under the burden, but expecting from it the greatest spiritual benefits.

Bigotry among these negro converts rises to a still higher pitch; and the future doom of the unbeliever is considered even more assured than on the shores of the Mediterranean. Meantime they subject him to the earthly miseries of foreign and distant bondage; for, while it is unlawful to enslave any true believer, the goods, the person, nay, the whole property of the Caffre are considered as rightfully belonging to the children of the prophet. This very circumstance causes a secret abatement in that eager spirit of proselytism which burns so fiercely among the adherents of the Moslem creed. They cannot be insensible that, if the eyes of this host of unbelievers were enlightened, they themselves would forfeit the ground on which they rest their only claim, now in full exercise, of driving them by thousands to the markets of Kano and Tripoli.

In general we may observe, that while the Mo

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