« AnteriorContinua »
declares, that he arrived "at the mouth of the mine itself, and saw gold in such abundance as surprised him with joy and admiration." However, he gives no notice of the position of this famous mine, the existence of which has not been confirmed by any subsequent observer.
It was not till 1720 that the spirit of African discovery again revived in England. The Duke of Chandos, then director of the African Company, concerned at the declining state of their affairs, entertained the idea of retrieving them by opening a path into the golden regions still reported to exist in the interior of Africa. At his suggestion, the company, in 1723, furnished Captain Bartholomew Stibbs with the usual means for sailing up the Gambia. On the 7th October this navigator arrived at James Island, the English settlement, about thirty miles from the mouth of the river, whence he immediately wrote to Mr. Willy, the governor, who happened to be then visiting the factory of Joar, more than a hundred miles distant, asking him to engage canoes. He received for answer that there were none to be had, and was almost distracted to learn that Mr. Willy was giving himself no concern about the affair. Some days after, however, a boat brought down the dead body of the governor, who had fallen a victim to the fever of the climate, which had previously affected his brain. Thus, notwithstanding every exertion of Orfeur, who succeeded him, the equipment of the boats was delayed till the 11th December, when the unfavourable season was fast approaching. Stibbs had assigned to him a crew of nineteen white men, of whom one indeed was as black as coal, but being a Christian, ranked as white, and served as interpreter; likewise twenty-nine grumettas, or hired negroes, with three female cooks; and he afterward took on board a balafeu, or native musician, to enliven the spirits of the party.
Stibbs set out on the 26th of December, and the voyage proceeded for some time very agreeably. The English were every where well received, and at one place even a saphie, or charm, had been laid upon the bank for the purpose of drawing them on shore. The captain had endeavoured to conceal his object, but in vain; he found himself every where pointed out as the person who was come to bring down the gold. The native crew, however, predicted the most fearful disaster if he should attempt to proceed above
the falls of Barraconda. As the boats approached that fatal boundary, the Africans came in a body, and stated their firm determination on no account to proceed any farther. No one, they said, had ever gone beyond Barraconda,― Barraconda was the end of the world, or if there existed any thing beyond, it was a frightful and barbarous region where life would be in continual danger. A long palaver and a bottle of Stibbs's very best brandy were necessary ere they would agree to accompany him beyond this dreaded boundary of the habitable universe.
The falls of Barraconda were not found so formidable as rumour had represented; they were narrows rather than falls, the channel being confined by rocky ledges and fragments, between which there was only one passage, where the canoes rubbed against the rock on each side. In this region of the Upper Gambia, the natives, belying all slanderous rumours, proved to be a harmless, good-humoured people, who, wherever the crew landed, met them with presents of fowls and provisions.
The severest exertion now became necessary in order to pass the flats and quicksands, which multiplied in proportion as they ascended, and over which the boats in some instances could only be dragged by main force. The wild and huge animals that occupy these regions appeared still more dangerous to the present adventurers than to their predecessors. The elephants, which had fled precipitately before Jobson, struck the greatest terror into this party; one of them on a certain occasion putting to flight the whole crew. They were even seen in bands crossing from one side of the water to the other. The river-horses also presented themselves every where in numerous herds; and though this animal generally moved in a sluggish and harmless manner, yet in the shallow places, when walking along the bottom of the river, he occasionally came into collision with the boat; incensed at which, he was apt to strike a hole through it with his huge teeth, so as to endanger its sinking. If the courage of the crew against these mighty animals was not very conspicuous, their exertions in dragging the boat over the flats and shallows appear to have been most strenuous; yet so extremely unfavourable was the season, that at the end of two months Stibbs found himself, on the 22d February, when he had reached fifty-nine miles above Barraconda,
obliged to stop short even of Tenda, and consequently of the point to which Jobson had formerly attained.
The commander, on his return, after making every allowance for the inauspicious season and circumstances, could not forbear expressing deep disappointment in regard to the expectations with which he had ascended the Gambia.. He saw no appearance of that mighty channel which was to lead into the remote interior of Africa, and through so many great kingdoms. He declared his conviction that "its original or head is nothing near so far in the country as by the geographers has been represented." It did not of course appear to him to answer in any respect the descriptions given of the Niger,-it nowhere bore that name—it did not come out of any lake that he could hear of it had no communication with the Senegal or any other great river. The natives reported that at twelve days' journey above Barraconda it dwindled into a rivulet, and "fowls walked over it." These statements were received most reluctantly and skeptically by Moore, now the company's factor on the Gambia, and a man of spirit and intelligence. He had even acquired some learning on the subject, and endeavoured to overwhelm Stibbs with quotations from Herodotus, Leo, Edrisi, and other high authorities. The mariner, though quite unable to cope with him in this field of discussion, did not the less steadily assert the plain facts which he had seen with his own eyes; and a degree of discouragement was felt, which prevented any other exploratory voyage from being undertaken for a considerable time into that part of the African continent.
FRANCE did not embark so early as some of the other powers in African discovery. Louis XIV., aided by his minister Colbert, was the first prince who studied to raise his kingdom to a high rank as a commercial and maritime
power. But, unfortunately, according to the spirit of the time, the only mode in which he ever thought of promoting any branch of trade, was by vesting it in an exclusive company; and when, according to the usual fate of such associations, one was involved in bankruptcy, another immediately supplied its place. Thus four successive companies rose and fell, till at length they all merged in that greatest and most fatal delusion, the Mississippi scheme. However, these copartneries, at their first formation, attracted many individuals of opulence and talent, and generally opened with a spirited career of enterprise and discovery. While the English sought to ascend the Gambia, the Senegal was the Niger to the French-the stream by which they hoped to penetrate upwards to Timbuctoo and the regions of gold. At the mouth of this river, about the year 1626, was founded the settlement of St. Louis, which has ever since continued to be the capital of the French possessions in Africa.
The first person who brought home any accounts of French Africa was Jannequin, a young man of some rank, who, seeing, as he walked along the quay at Dieppe, a vessel bound for this unknown continent, took a sudden fancy to embark and make the voyage. The adventurers sailed on the 5th November, 1637, and touched at the Canaries; but the first spot on the continent where they landed was a part of the Sahara, near Cape Blanco. Jannequin was struck, in an extraordinary degree, with the desolate aspect of this region. It consisted wholly of a plain of soft sand, in which the feet were buried at every step; and a man, after walking fifty paces, was overwhelmed with fatigue. At Senegal the colony was found in so imperfect a state that the sailors were obliged to rear huts for their own accommodation; and, slight as these were, the labour under a burning sun was very severe. In ascending the river, however, he was delighted with the brilliant verdure of the banks, the majestic beauty of the trees, and the thick impenetrable underwood. Amid the deep solitude which distinguished the country, all the forests were filled with echoes. The natives received him hospitably, and he was much struck by their individual strength and courage, decidedly surpassing, as appeared to him, the similar qualities in Europeans. He saw & Moorish chief, called the Kamalingo, who, mounting on horseback, and brandishing three javelins and a cutlass, engaged a lion
in single combat, and vanquished that mighty king of the desert. Flat noses and thick lips, so remote from his own ideas of the beautiful, were considered on the Senegal as forming the perfection of the human visage; nay, he even fancies that they were produced by artificial processes. He was surprised by the enormous number of greegrees, or charms, in which the chiefs were enveloped. All the perils, of water, of wild beasts, and of battle, had an appropriate charm, by which the owner was secured against them. These potent greegrees were merely slips of paper, which the marabouts, or Mussulman doctors, had inscribed with Arabic characters; and being then enclosed in cases of thick cloth, or even of gold and silver, were hung round the person in such profusion that they actually formed a species of armour. In some instances they composed such a load that the possessor was unable to mount on horseback without assistance.
The Sieur Brue, who, in 1697, was appointed directorgeneral of the company's affairs, was the person who did most for their prosperity, and made the greatest efforts to penetrate into the interior. In that year he embarked on a visit to the Siratik, or king of the Foulahs, whose territory lay about 400 miles up the Senegal. In ascending that river he was struck, like Jannequin, by the magnificent forests, and the profuse and luxuriant verdure with which
hey were clothed; while it was amusing to observe the numberless varieties of the monkey tribe, which were continually leaping from bough to bough. Elephants marched in bands of forty or fifty; and large herds of cattle fed on the rich meadows, though, during the season of inundation, they withdrew to the more elevated spots. At Kahayde, he was received by a chief belonging to the Siratik, accompanied by numerous attendants, among whom were his wife, daughters, and some female slaves, all mounted upon asses. He was cordially welcomed; yet the reflection suggested by his dealings with this gay and fair train was, that European beggars, however great their effrontery, might learn much from the example of the higher circles in Africa. When they can no longer ask, they begin to borrow, with the firm resolution of never repaying; and, what is worst of all, when they make a present, they hold it a deadly offence not to receive at least double the value in return.