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In 1821, Major Laing was sent on a mission from Sierra Leone, through the Timannee, Kooranko, and Soolima countries, with the view of forming some commercial arrangements. On this journey he found reason to believe that the source of the Niger lay much farther to the south than Park had supposed. At Falaba, he was assured that it might have been reached in three days, had not the Kissi nation, in whose territory it was situated, been at war with the Soolimanas, with whom Major Laing then resided. He was inclined to fix the source of this great river a very little above the ninth degree of latitude.
The British government were, meantime, indefatigable in their endeavours to find out other channels for exploring the interior of Africa. The bashaw of Tripoli, though he had usurped the throne by violent means, showed a disposition to improve his country by admitting the arts and learning of Europe; while the judicious conduct of Consul Warrington inclined him to cultivate the friendship of Britain. Through his tributary kingdom of Fezzan he held close and constant communication with Bornou and the other leading states of Central Africa; and he readily undertook to promote the views of any English expedition which might proceed in that direction. Such an opportunity was not to be lost. The usual means were supplied by the ministry, and the ordinary inducements held forth by the Association. Mr. Ritchie, a young man of scientific acquirements and zeal for discovery, undertook the direction of this adventure. Captain Marrayat of the navy proposed to accompany him; but, being prevented by private considerations, his place was taken by Lieutenant Lyon, who, as a naval officer, was expected to be useful in navigating the Niger when the party should reach that river. The mission were perfectly well received at Tripoli, and set out on the 22d March, 1819, for Fezzan, with Mukni, the sultan, who gave them the most solemn assurances of protection. This chief, however, was a ruffian, who had made his way to power by the massacre of the late sovereign and his brother, and who supported his favour at Tripoli by annual slave-hunts, which he extended over the whole Desert to the trontier of Soudan. Thus he brought annually to Tripoli 4000 or 5000 of those unhappy victims, a large proportion of whom were bestowed in presents to his liege lord. Under
such guardianship the mission could not be sure of that support of which they soon stood very much in need. Mourzouk was found extremely unhealthy, being intensely hot, and surrounded by pools of stagnant water, which rendered even the natives liable to fever and ague. The members of the expedition soon felt its effects, Lieutenant Lyon being seized with dysentery, and Mr. Ritchie with bilious fever, under which they languished during the whole summer. The treacherous Mukni not only withheld all aid, but studiously prevented others from giving them assistance. At length Mr. Ritchie, overwhelmed by disease and anxiety, died on the 20th November, 1819; after which Mr. Lyon found himself without the means of penetrating farther than to the southern frontier of Fezzan. He obtained indeed a good deal of information respecting the remoter countries, which, however, has been rendered less important by the fuller and more recent intelligence received through Denham and Clapperton. He passes a very unfavourable judgment upon the territory of Fezzan, which he considers nearly as barren as any part of the surrounding Desert. The cultivation is confined to a few gardens, into which water is raised by immense labour from wells of considerable depth.
Journey of Denham and Clapperton.
NOTHING Could shake the determination of the British government to obtain, by some means or other, a competent degree of information respecting the unknown countries of Africa. The great favour and influence enjoyed at the court of Tripoli was still regarded as a favourable circumstarice. It was chiefly due, as already observed, to the prudence and ability of Mr. Warrington, without whose advice scarcely any thing of importance was transacted. The bashaw was therefore disposed to renew his protection to any mission which Britain might send. Nor could the protec
tion of any sovereign have been more efficient; for the influence of this petty prince and the terror of his name are almost unbounded in the greatest kingdoms of Central Africa. One weapon, the gun, in the hands of his troops, gives him all this superiority; for the remoter nations, from the Nile to the Atlantic, scarcely know any other arms besides the spear, the bow, and the javelin. A musket among those tribes is an object of almost supernatural dread; individuals have been seen kneeling down before it, speaking to it in whispers, and addressing to it earnest supplications. With troops thus armed, the bashaw of Tripoli is esteemed in Northern Africa the most potent monarch on earth; and it is a matter of surprise among the natives that he has not ere now compelled all Europe to embrace the Mohammedan faith. He could therefore assure the English, that for any but physical obstacles, they might travel as safely from Tripoli to Bornou, as from Edinburgh to London.
Under the confidence inspired by these circumstances, government prepared another expedition, and without difficulty procured a fresh band of adventurers, who undertook to brave all its perils. Major Denham, Lieutenant Clapperton of the navy, and Dr. Oudney, a naval surgeon possessing a considerable knowledge of natural history, were appointed to this service. Without delay they proceeded to Tripoli, where they arrived on the 18th November, 1821. They were immediately introduced to the bashaw, whom they found sitting cross-legged on a carpet, attended by armed negroes. After treating them to sherbet and coffee, he invited them to a hawking party, where he appeared mounted on a milk-white Arabian steed superbly caparisoned, having a saddle of crimson velvet richly studded with gold nails, and with embroidered trappings. He was preceded by six chaoushes, or officers, in white silk robes; while two favourite negro slaves, in glittering vest, light burnouse, and white turban, supported him on each side. The hunt began on the borders of the Desert, where parties of six or eight Arabs dashed forwards quick as lightning, fired suddenly, and rushed back with loud cries. The skill with which they manœuvred their steeds, whirling the long musket over their heads as they rode at full gallop, appeared quite surprising.
Although the English were personally well treated at Tri
poli, they could not shut their eyes to the reigning barbarism. The sheik, Belgassum Khalifa, a fine old Arab, understood to be high in the favour of the bashaw, had been one evening at an elegant entertainment in the palace, when on reaching his own door a pistol-shot wounded him in the arm, and on his entering the passage a second penetrated his body. He staggered into the house, denouncing his own nephew as the author of the assassination. The murderers rushed in, and completed their crime by stabbing him seven times with their daggers, while his wife received two wounds in endeavouring to save him. The three actors in this tragedy instantly fled for protection to the British consulate; but Mr. Warrington sent notice to the bashaw, "that the murderers of Khalifa would find no protection under the flag of England." That chief, however, either privy to the crime, or disposed to wink at its commission, expressed his regret that the guilty persons had found shelter in the consulate; but added, that he could not think of violating such a sanctuary. Repeated assurance was given that he might send any force, or use any means, to drag them from beneath a banner that never was disgraced by giving protection to assassins. The bashaw at length, ashamed of his apathy, sent sixteen stout fellows, by whom the ruffians were seized; and in less than an hour the murderers were seen hanging from the castle-walls.
The mission, fortified with recommendations to the sultan of Fezzan, now entered upon their long and dreary pilgrimage to Mourzouk, where they arrived on the 8th April, 1822. This prince received them with courtesy and affa bility, but gave himself very little trouble in making provision for the continuance of their journey. He even intimated his intention of visiting Tripoli, and the necessity of their remaining till his return. This arrangement was most disheartening; nor did they know what reliance to place in the sincerity of Boo Khalloom, a great merchant, who invited them to accompany an expedition which he was preparing for Soudan. The sultan and he soon after departed, each with large presents for the bashaw, to intrigue against one another at the court of Tripoli. After this there was scarcely a camel left in Fezzan, or any other means of prosecuting discovery. Major Denham then saw no alternative but that he himself should hasten back to Tripoli, and
remonstrate with the bashaw on this apparent violation of his promise. After a tedious journey of twenty days, with only three attendants, he arrived, and waited on the barbarian, who received him with his usual courtesy ; but, not giving that full satisfaction which was expected, the Major lost no time in setting sail for England, to lodge a complaint with his own court. This step was painfully felt by the bashaw, who sent vessel after vessel, one of which at last overtook Major Denham while performing quarantine at Marseilles, and announced that arrangements were actually made with Boo Khalloom for escorting him to the capital of Bornou. Accordingly, on the Major's return to Tripoli, he found the Arab chief already on the borders of the Desert.
This trader, who was now to be a guide to the English into the immense regions of the south, was a personage of a very different character from what we in this country can form any idea of. The African caravan-merchant has nothing in common with that respectable class of men who, seated in counting-houses at London or Amsterdam, direct the movement of their ships over the ocean, and count the silent accumulation of their profits. He, on the contrary, must accompany his merchandise from one extremity to the other of a great continent, and across its immense deserts, the scene of much suffering, and frequently of death itself. Nor is it from a parched wilderness and a burning climate that he has most to apprehend. His path is every where beset by bands whose trade is plunder, and who find amusement in assassination. He must therefore have his pro. perty guarded by armed men, ready to defend with their blood what his money has purchased. These followers, peing in continual service, and exposed to frequent fighting, become practised soldiers, and are more than a match for the roving barbarians who infest the Sahara. Even the greatest princes view these merchant-chiefs with fear and jealousy; and though they contrive to draw considerable advantage from their trade, scarcely consider the kingdom as their own while their troops are within its boun daries. The merchants, unhappily, do not confine them. selves to self-defence; but, seeing robbery practised on every side against themselves, begin to retaliate, and soon find it cheaper, and, according to African ideas, not less