Imatges de pàgina

with a force of scarcely a thousand British, supported by a crowd of cowardly and undisciplined auxiliaries. The two armies met near the boundary stream of the Bossompra, where the English, soon deserted by their native allies in whose cause they had taken the field, maintained the contest for some time with characteristic valour, till it was discovered, that through the negligence of the ordnancekeeper, the supply of powder was entirely exhausted. Thus deprived of the use of firearms, they were surrounded by the immensely superior numbers of a warlike and desperate enemy, and after a fearful contest, the particulars of which never fully transpired, the whole army either perished on the field, or underwent the more cruel fate of captivity in the hands of this merciless foe. Only three officers, all of whom were wounded, brought the dreadful tale to Cape Coast Castle. The Ashantees then overran the whole open country, laid siege to the castle, and pressed it closely for some months. Being repeatedly checked, however, and suffering under sickness and want of provisions, they retreated into their own country; nor has the king, distracted by the rebellion of some neighbouring states, ever since attempted to march down upon the coast.

Captain Adams, in the course of a trading voyage along the African shore, visited Benin, the capital of which is situated on a river coming from the north-east. The city is large, apparently containing about 15,000 inhabitants, and surrounded by a country extremely fertile, but not highly cultivated. The king of Benin is Fetiche,-worshipped by his subjects as a god, and must not on any account be supposed either to eat or sleep. Heresy against this creed is punished in the most prompt and summary manner, by instantly striking off the head of the unbeliever. With all his divine and royal attributes, however, the king does not disdain the occupation of a merchant, and drives a hard bargain while exchanging slaves and ivory for tobacco, which is a favourite luxury in this part of Africa. He is very accessible to strangers, provided they spread before him as a present a handsome piece of red silk damask. Human sacrifices are not practised to the same dreadful extent as in some other parts of Africa; yet a considerable number are offered on the graves of their great men, and four annually at the mouth of the river, as an amulet to attract vessels

but such is the pestilential character of the climate, that this bloody charm brings now comparatively few slave-merchants to Benin.

Captain Adams ascended also to Waree, an insular territory, enclosed by two branches of another stream flowing through this alluvial district. It is beautiful as well as fertile, is about five miles in circuit, and appears as if it had dropped down from the clouds; for all the surrounding shores consist of an impenetrable forest, rising out of a swamp. Even in the dry season the water stands on the ground a foot in depth, producing exhalations which prove excessively destructive to the European constitution, as well as to all the more delicate plants and animals that happen to be removed from the drier soils of the interior. In other respects, this intelligent navigator did not make any material addition to the knowledge of Western Africa previously derived from other sources.


Southern and Eastern Africa.

THE Southern extremity of Africa has long attracted the particular attention of modern navigators. To pass this mighty cape formed the main object of ambition with the Portuguese in their celebrated voyages of discovery along the African coast. After almost a century had been spent in successive endeavours to accomplish that undertaking, Diaz obtained a view of this great promontory; but the stormy sky in which it was enveloped, and the fearful swell produced by the conflict of the contending oceans, appalled even that stout navigator. He named it the Cape of Tempests, and immediately returned with his shattered barks to Portugal. The king, with a bolder spirit, substituted forthwith the name of Cape of Good Hope, which it has ever since retained; yet some years elapsed before the daring sails of Gama rounded this formidable barrier, and bore across the ocean to the golden shores of India.

The Portuguese, engrossed by the discovery and conquest

of the kingdoms of the East, and busied in lading their ves sels with the produce of those vast and opulent regions, scarcely deigned to cast an eye on the rude border of Southern Africa, its terraces of granite, its naked Karroo plains, or the filthy and miserable kraals of the Hottentot. Their fleets, indeed, stopped occasionally for water and refreshments; but no attempts were made to occupy, and still less to colonize, this barren and unpromising country.

The Dutch, a prudent and calculating people, having pushed their way into the Indian seas, where they first rivalled and then supplanted the Portuguese, were not long in discovering the important advantage that might be derived from the Cape as a naval station. In 1650, they founded Cape Town,-a step which led to farther improvement; for it thereby became necessary that supplies of gram and provisions should be drawn from the surrounding country. When, moreover, it was discovered that on some neighbouring hills the vine could be reared in high perfection, a new value was stamped upon the settlement. The natives, not then destitute of bravery, but ill-armed, undisciplined, and disunited, were easily driven back by the colonists, or reduced to an almost complete and hopeless bond. age; and hence the country, for several hundred miles in every direction, so far as it afforded any herbage, was soon covered with extensive grazing farms under Dutch masters.

Peter Kolben, who resided some years at the Cape, published a narrative, which, though it be liable to a few exceptions, gives us by far the fullest account of the Hottentots, before that race was completely weighed down by European oppression. This unfortunate tribe has become noted and almost proverbial for presenting man in his lowest estate, and under the closest alliance with the inferior orders of creation. It must, indeed, be admitted, that they take particular pains to render their external appearance the most hideous that the human body can possibly present. Grease is poured over their persons in copious streams, which, being exposed to the perpetual action of smoke, forms on their skin a black and shining cake, through which the native colour, a yellowish brown, is scarcely ever perceptible. Grease in Africa forms the chief distinction of rank,the rich besmearing themselves with fresh butter, while the poorer classes are obliged to tear the fa, from the bowels c

slaughtered animals. They assign as a re ison for this sin gular practice an effect which has been readily admitted by judicious travellers, namely, that such a coating has in this climate a most salutary influence in defending them from the rays of the sun, and in averting many cutaneous disorders. Nature seems to have aided the task of disfiguring them, by covering the head with irregular tufts of hard and coarse hair, and causing singular prominences, composed, of fat, to jut out in parts where they are least ornamental. Nor do their habits of life present any thing to redeem this outward deformity. Their kraals consist of a confused crowd of little conical hovels, composed of twigs and earth, in which large families sit and sleep, without having room to stand upright. The fire in the middle fills these mansions with thick smoke, the floors of which are deeply covered with every species of filth. At festivals, when an ox or a sheep is killed, the Hottentots rip open the belly, tear out the entrails, which they throw on the coals, and feast on them before the animal is completely dead. Yet they are a friendly, merry, hospitable race, living together in the greatest affection and harmony. The sluggish and senseless stupidity with which they have been so generally taxed, seems to have been in a great measure produced by their degrading subjection to the Dutch boors. In their free state they had a republican form of polity, and konquers or captains of the kraal, who led them to war, which they carried on with extreme fury. This commander usually sounded a pipe or flageolet, during which his men fought without intermission; but as soon as the music ceased they began to retreat. The Hottentots direct their darts and throwingsticks with a sure aim, surround and attack wild animals with skill and vigour, and evade their springs with a dexterity which no European can equal. They tan, dress, and shape skins; make mats of flags and bulrushes; also twist strings for their bows out of the sinews of animals; and even mould iron into cutting instruments with considerable expertness. In their free and happy state, they displayed the same passion for the dance and song which is general throughout Africa. A heavy reproach lies upon this race, as being destitute of all ideas of religion; and the atheist has even boasted of them as an exception to that universal beLief of mankind, which is urged against his unnatural tenet

Supposing this assertion correct, such ignorance, which must have sprung from profound and stupid apathy, could not form any high authority on a subject so abstruse. But the fact itself, as in every similar case, has vanished before the light of more accurate observation. The Hottentot had neither temples, images, nor the pomp of a regular priesthood; but he believed in a supreme good Being, whom he viewed with distant adoration, and also in a little deformed and malignant power, whom he sought to pacify by gifts and sacrifices. He had the usual superstitions of unenlightened men, hailing the new and full moon not only by offerings, but by shouts, cries, and dances, prolonged throughout the night. He attached a sacred character to certain woods, hills, and rivers, which he supposed haunted by departed friends or by the spirits of the ancient heroes of his tribe. Lastly, to come to the very lowest, the Hottentots had a little shining beetle which they had exalted almost into a deity.

About the close of the last century, Southern Africa excited a particular interest among the lovers of natural history, from the brilliancy of its floral productions, and from those remarkable forms of the animal kingdom, which, though generally diffused over that continent, could be most safely and easily studied in the vicinity of the Cape. In 1778, Captain Henry Hope, who, under the authority of the Dutch government, had penetrated into the interior of the colony with a caravan of eighty-nine persons, published at Amsterdam a work containing plates of the giraffe or camelopard, the zebra, the hippopotamus, the gnu, and other animals then almost unknown in Europe. Soon after, the whole region was carefully surveyed by two eminent naturalists, first Sparrman, and then Le Vaillant,the one distinguished by sound sense and accurate observation, the other by the splendid colouring which he succeeded in throwing over the narrative of his personal adventures. These travellers viewed with admiration the elegant forms of the giraffe and the zebra, the light shape and bright eye of the spring-bok, the most beautiful of antelopes, and of which herds were seen covering these desert plains as far as the eye could reach. They were struck also with the odd shapes of the gnu and the quagga, combining as it were, the most opposite natures. Sparr

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