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with the requisite qualifications, to engage in journeys so long and beset with so many perils; yet such is the native enterprise of Britons, that men eminently fitted for the task presented themselves, even in greater numbers than the Society could receive.
The first adventurer was Mr Ledyard, who, born a traveller, had spent his life in passing from one extremity of the earth to another. He had sailed round the world with Captain Cook, had lived for several years among the American Indians, and had made a journey with the most scanty means from Stockholm round the Gulf of Bothnia, and thence to the remotest parts of Asiatic Russia. On his return he presented himself to Sir Joseph Banks, to whom he owed many obligations, just as that eminent person was looking out for an African discoverer. He immediately pronounced Ledyard to be the very man he wanted, and recommended him to Mr Beaufoy, who was struck with his fine countenance, frank conversation, and an eye expressive of determined enterprise. Ledyard declared this scheme to be quite in unison with his own wishes; and on being asked how soon he could set out, replied, "To-morrow." Affairs were not yet quite so matured; but he was soon after provided with a passage to Alexandria, with the view of first proceeding southward from Cairo to Sennaar, and thence traversing the entire breadth of the African continent. He arrived at Cairo on the 19th August, 1788, and while preparing for his journey into the interior, transmitted some bold, original, though somewhat fanciful observations upon Egypt. He represents the Delta as an unbounded plain of excellent land miserably cultivated; the villages as most wretched
assemblages of poor mud-huts, full of dust, fleas, flies, and all the curses of Moses; and the people as below the rank of any savages he ever saw, wearing only a blue shirt and drawers, and tattooed as much as the South Sea islanders. He bids his correspondents, if they wish to see Egyptian women, to look at any group of gipsies behind a hedge in Essex. The Mohammedans he describes as a trading, enterprising, superstitious, warlike set of vagabonds, who, wherever they are bent upon going, will and do go; but he complains that the condition of a Frank is rendered most humiliating and distressing by the furious bigotry of the Turks. It seemed inconceivable that such enmity should exist among men, and that beings of the same species should think and act in a manner so opposite. By conversing with the Jelabs, or slave-merchants, he learned a good deal respecting the caravan-routes and countries of the interior. Every thing seemed ready for his departure, and he announced that his next communication would be from Sennaar; but, on the contrary, the first tidings received were those of his death. Some delays in the departure of the caravan, working upon his impatient spirit, brought on a bilious complaint, to which he applied rash and violent remedies, and thus reduced himself to a state from which the care of Rossetti, the Venetian consul, and the skill of the best physicians of Cairo, sought in vain to deliver him.
The Society had, at the time they engaged Ledyard, entered into terms with Mr Lucas, a gentleman who, being captured in his youth by a Sallee rover, had been three years a slave at the court of Morocco, and after his deliverance had been employ
ed as vice-consul in that empire. Having spent sixteen years there, he had acquired an intimate knowledge of Africa and its languages. He was sent, by way of Tripoli, with instructions to accompany the caravan, which is understood to take the most direct route into the interior of the continent. Being provided with letters from the Tripolitan ambassador, he obtained the Bey's permission, and even promises of assistance, for this expedition. At the same time he made an arrangement with two Shereefs, or descendants of the prophet, under which character their persons are sacred, to join a caravan of which they intended to make a part. He proceeded with them to Mesurata; but the Arabs in the neighbourhood, being in a state of rebellion, refused to furnish camels and guides, which, indeed, could scarcely be expected, as the Bey had declined to grant them a safe conduct through his territories. Mr Lucas was therefore obliged to return to Tripoli, without being able to penetrate farther into the continent. He learned, however, from Imhammed, one of the Shereefs, who had been an extensive traveller, a variety of particulars respecting the interior regions. The Society had at the same time made very particular inquiries of Ben Ali, a Morocco caravan-trader, who happened to be in London. From these two sources Mr Beaufoy was enabled to draw up a view of Central Africa, very imperfect indeed, yet superior to any that had ever before appeared.
According to the statements thus obtained, Bornou and Kashna were the most powerful states in that part of the continent, and formed even empires holding sway over a number of tributary kingdoms; a statement at that time correct, though affairs
have since greatly changed. The Kashna caravan often crossed the Niger, and went onwards to great kingdoms beyond the Gold Coast, Gongah or Kong, Asiente or Ashantee, Yarba or Yarriba, through which last Clapperton recently travelled. Several extensive routes across the Desert were also delineated. In regard to the Niger, the report of Imhammed revived the error which represented that river as flowing westward towards the Atlantic. The reason on which this opinion was founded will appear when we observe, that it was in Kashna that Ben Ali considered himself as having crossed that river. His Niger, then, was the Quarrama or river of Zirmie, which flows westward through Kashna and Sackatoo, and is only a tributary to the Quorra or great river, which we call the Niger. He describes the stream as very broad and rapid, probably from having seen it during the rainy season, when all the tropical rivers that are of any magnitude assume an imposing appearance.
Mr Lucas made no farther effort to penetrate into Africa. The next expedition was made by a new agent, and from a different quarter. Major Houghton, who had resided for some time as consul at Morocco, and afterwards in a military capacity at Goree, undertook the attempt to reach the Niger by the route of the Gambia, not, like Jobson and Stibbs, ascending its stream in boats, but travelling singly and by land. He seems to have been endowed with a gay, active, and sanguine spirit, fitted to carry him through the boldest undertakings, but without that cool and calculating temper which is necessary for him who endeavours to make his way amid scenes of peril and treachery. He began his journey early in
1791, and soon reached Medina, the capital of Woolli, where the venerable chief received him with extreme kindness, promised to furnish guides, and assured him that he might go to Timbuctoo with his staff in his hand. The only evil that befell him at Medina arose from a fire which broke out there, and, spreading rapidly through buildings roofed with cane and matted grass, converted in an hour a town of a thousand houses into a heap of ashes. Major Houghton ran out with the rest of the people into the fields, saving only such few articles as could be carried with him. He writes, that by trading at Fattatenda a man may make 800 per cent., and may live in plenty on ten pounds a-year. Quitting the Gambia, he took the road through Bambouk, and arrived at Ferbanna on the Faleme. Here he was received with the most extraordinary kindness by the king, who gave him a guide and money to defray his expenses. A note was afterwards received from him, dated Simbing, and which contained merely these words," Major Houghton's compliments to Dr Laidley; is in good health on his way to Timbuctoo; robbed of all his goods by Fenda Bucar's son." This was the last communication from him; for soon afterwards the negroes brought down to Pisania the melancholy tidings of his death, of which Mr Park subsequently learned the particulars. Some Moors had persuaded the Major to accompany them to Tisheet, a place in the Great Desert, frequented on account of its salt-mines. In alluring him thither, their object, as appears from the result, was to rob him; for it was very much out of the direct route to Timbuctoo. Of this in a few days he became sensible, and insisted upon returning; but they would