Imatges de pàgina
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Other powers of still higher name held sway over the deiuded minds of the people of Congo. Some ladies of rank went about beating a drum before them, with dishevelled hair, and pretending to work magical cures. There was also a race of mighty conjurers, called Scingilli, who had the power of giving and withdrawing rain at pleasure; and they had a king called Ganja Chitorne, or God of the Earth, to whom its first-fruits were regularly offered. This person never died; but when tired of his sway on earth, he nominated his successor and killed himself,-a step doubtless prompted by the zeal of his followers, when they saw any danger of his reputation for immortality being compromised. This class argued strongly in favour of their vocation, as not only useful, but absolutely essential; since without it the earth would be deprived of those influences by which alone it was enabled to minister to the wants of man. The people accordingly viewed with the deepest alarm any idea of giving offence to beings whose wrath might be displayed in devoting the land to utter sterility.

We do not possess any record of the period or the manner in which the Portuguese and their missionaries were expelled from Congo; but a late expedition did not find on the banks of the Zaire any trace or even recollection of either.


Early English Discoveries.

THE Portuguese, while they bore away the palm of maritime enterprise from all other nations, considered Africa most especially as a region which they had won for themselves, and had covered with trophies of discovery and victory. But after being subjected to the cruel and degrading yoke of Philip II. of Spain, they lost all their spirit and energy. Under the same influence, they became involved in hostility with the Dutch, who had risen to the first rank as

naval people, and whose squadrons successively stripped

them of their most important possessions in this continent as well as in the East Indies. In 1637, Elmina itself, their capital, fell into the hands of these bold and successful rivals; and at present, the boasted lords and rulers of Guinea have not an acre left of their extensive dominions along the whole western coast; they retain only the Madeiras, Canaries, and other islands, which certainly are not destitute of beauty, and even of some degree of political and commercial value.

The Dutch did not remain long undisputed masters of the seas. The glorious and splendid results which had arisen from the discovery of the East and West Indies caused the ocean to be generally viewed as the grand theatre where wealth and glory were to be gained. The French and English nations, whose turn it was to take the lead in European affairs, pressed eagerly forward in this career, endeavouring at once to surpass their predecessors and each other. Many of their African settlements were formed with the view of securing a supply of slaves for their West India possessions. But a more distant, more innocent, and more brilliant object also attracted their attention. Flattering reports had reached Europe of the magnitude of the gold trade carried on at Timbuctoo and along the Niger. Letters were even received from Morocco, representing its treasures as surpassing those of Mexico and Peru. On that side, indeed, the immense Desert and its barbarous inhabitants rendered these central regions almost inaccessible; but there was another channel which appeared to open the fairest and most tempting prospects. According to all the geographical systems of that age, the great river Niger, which flowed through the interior of the continent, and by whose alluvion its plains were covered with gold, was understood to empty itself into the Atlantic either by the Senegal or Gambia, or, as was more commonly supposed, by both these rivers, imagined to be branches proceeding from the great stream. By ascending either the Senegal or Gambia, it therefore seemed possible to reach Timbuctoo and the country of Gold; and this became a favourite object with several European nations.

In 1618, a company was formed in England for the pur pose of exploring the Gambia. They sent out, that same year, Richard Thompson, a person of spirit and enterprise

In charge of the Catherine of 120 tons, with a cargo worth nearly two thousand pounds sterling. In the month of December he entered the river; and proceeding as high as Kassan, a fortified town, where he left most of his crew, he pushed on in boats. The Portuguese, who were still numerous in that district, and retained all their lofty claims, were seized with bitter jealousy at this expedition made by a foreign and rival power. Led on by Hector Nunez, they furiously attacked the party which had been left at Kassan, and succeeded in making a general massacre of the English. Thompson, on learning these dreadful tidings, although unable to make any effort to avenge the slaughter of his countrymen, still maintained his station on the river, and sent home encouraging accounts of the general prospects of the undertaking. The company listened to his statement, and sent out another vessel, which unfor tunately arrived at an improper season, and lost most of the crew by sickness. Even yet they were not dismayed, but, retaining their ardour unabated, fitted out a third and larger expedition, consisting of the Sion of 200 tons, and the St. John of 50, and gave the command to Richard Jobson, to whom we are indebted for the first satisfactory account of the great river-districts of Western Africa.

Jobson entered the Gambia in November, 1620; but what was his dismay on receiving the tidings that Thomp son had perished by the hands of his own men! Mutiny was then a frequent occurrence on these hard and distant services; but how it arose in this case, or who was to blame, was never duly investigated. The crew are said to have been unanimous in representing the conduct of their leader as oppressive and intolerable; but, in regard to a man of undoubted spirit and enterprise, and who fell the first of so many victims in the cause of African discovery, we should not receive too readily the report of those who had so deep an interest in painting his character in the darkest colours.

Jobson, notwithstanding the shock caused by this intelli gence, did not suffer himself to be discouraged, but pushing briskly up the river, soon arrived at Kassan. The Portu guese inhabitants in general had fled before his arrival, while the few who remained professed, in respect to Hector Nunez and the massacre of the English crew, an ignorance,

and even a horror, for which he gave them very little credit. He had reason, on the contrary, to believe that they were forming a scheme of attack, and even urging the natives to rise against the English; and such was the dread of their machinations that scarcely any one could be prevailed on to act as his pilot. Notwithstanding these suspicions and alarms, he still pursued his course; but after passing the falls of Barraconda he found himself involved in great difficulties. The ascent was to be made against a rapid current the frequency of hidden rocks made it dangerous to sail in the night; and the boat often struck upon sand-banks and shallows, when it was necessary for the crew to strip and go into the water, in order to push it over these obstacles. They were once obliged to carry it a mile and a half, till they found a deeper channel.


The English now beheld an entirely new world, and a new aspect of nature. On every side there were immense forests of unknown trees, while both the land and the water were inhabited by multitudes of savage animals, whose roarings every night filled the air. Sometimes twenty crocodiles were seen together in the stream, and their voices, calling as it were to each other, resembled the "sound of a deep well," and might be heard at the distance of a league. Sea-horses also were observed tossing and snorting in every pool; while elephants appeared in huge herds on the shore at one place there were sixteen in a single troop. These last animals were an object of great terror to the natives, of whom only a few durst attack them with their long poisoned lances and assagays; but whenever the English made a movement against them, they fled like forest-deer, while, by their swiftness, they eluded all pursuit. Three balls were lodged in one individual, yet he made off, but was afterward found dead by the negroes. Lions, ounces, and leopards were also seen at a little distance; but, amid the alarms inspired by these formidable creatures, the sailors were amused by observing the various evolutions of the monkey tribe. The baboons marched along, sometimes in herds of several thousands, with several of the tallest in front, under the guidance of a principal leader, the lesser following behind, while a band of larger size brought up the rear. "Thus do they march on, and are very bold." At night, as they took their stand upon the hills, filling the air with con

fused cries, "one great voice would exalt itself, and the rest were all hushed." They mounted the trees to look at the English, the sight of whom seemed to inspire dissatis faction; they grinned, shook the boughs violently, uttered angry cries, and when any overtures were made towards acquaintance, ran off at full speed. The crew shot one; but before they could reach the spot, the rest had carried it off. On tracing these creatures to their haunts in the depths of the forest, recesses were found, where the foliage had been so intertwined above, and the ground beaten so smooth beneath, as made it difficult to believe that these "bowers for dancing and disport" had not been framed by human hands.

Amid these difficulties and adventures, the party arrived at Tenda on the 26th January, 1621, where they expected to meet with Buckar Sano, the chief merchant or the Gambia. This personage accordingly waited on them; but being treated with brandy, used it so immoderately that he lay all night dead drunk in the boat. However, he seems on this occasion to have been merely off his guard, as he acted ever after a very discreet and prudent part. He not only carried on traffic himself, but was employed as an agent in managing all the transactions of others. His good faith, however, seems to have been rendered somewhat doubtful by the accounts which he gave to Jobson of a city four months' journey in the interior, the roofs of which were covered with gold.

The report of a vessel come up to trade caused a great resort from the neighbouring districts; and the natives, rearing temporary hovels, soon formed a little village on each side of the river. Speedily there appeared five hundred of a ruder race, covered with skins of wild animals, "the tails hanging as from the beasts." The women, who had never before seen a white man, ran away; but the sight of a few beads soon allured them to return. Unluckily, the universal cry was for salt,—a commodity deficient and much desired through all Central Africa; but Jobson, not duly apprized of this, had not laid in a sufficient stock. Every thing else was lightly prized in comparison; and many who were coming to swell the market, on learning this omission, instantly turned back. He obtained in exchange gold and ivory, and could have got hides in abundance, had they not been too bulky a commodity to bear the expense of conveyance.


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