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tees, however, made several successful incursions in 1811 and 1816; and on the last occasion the Fantees were obliged to own their supremacy, and engage to pay an annual tribute. The British government judiciously kept aloof from these feuds; but in 1817 a mission was sent, under Messrs. James, Bowdich, and Hutchinson, to visit the capital of that powerful kingdom, and to adjust some trifling dissensions which had unavoidably arisen.
The mission having set out on the 22d April, 1817, passed over a country covered, in a great measure, with immense and overgrown woods, through which a footpath had with difficulty been cut, though in some parts it presented the most beautiful scenery. Being delayed by Mr. James's illness, they did not arrive at Coomassie, the capital, till the 19th May, when they were surprised at its unexpected splendour. It was four miles in circumference, built not indeed with European elegance, but in a style considerably superior to any of the maritime towns. The houses, though low, and constructed only of wood, were profusely covered
with ornament and sculpture. The array of the caboceers, or great war-chiefs, was at once brilliant, dazzling, and wild. They were loaded with fine cloths, in which variouslycoloured threads of the richest foreign silks were curiously interwoven; and both themselves and their horses were covered with decorations of gold beads, Moorish charms, or amulets, purchased at a high price, and the whole intermingled with strings of human teeth and bones. Leopards' skins, red shells, elephants' tails, eagle and ostrich feathers, and brass bells were among the favourite ornaments. On being introduced to the king, the English found all these embellishments crowded and concentrated on his own person and that of his attendants, who were literally oppressed with large masses of solid gold. Even the most common utensils were composed of that metal. At the same time, the executioner, with his hatchet on his breast, and the execution-stool clotted with blood, gave a thoroughly savage character to all this pomp. The manners of the king, however, were marked by a dignified courtesy; he received the strangers cordially, and desired them to come and speak their palaver in the market-place. On the presents being carried to the palace, he expressed high satisfaction, as well as great admiration of the English workmanship. After several other interviews, he entered on the subjects under discussion, which related to some annual payments formerly made to the Fantees for permission to erect forts, as well as for the ground on which they stood; and the king now demanded, as conqueror of the country, that these payments should be transferred to himself. The claim was small, and seems, according to African ideas, to have been reasonable; but Mr. James thought himself bound to remain intrenched in the rules of European diplomacy, and simply replied, that he would state the demand to the governor of Cape Coast. The king then told them that he expected they had come to settle all palavers, and to stay and be friends with him; but now he found that their object was to make a fool of him. Considering himself insulted, he broke through the ceremo nious politeness which he had before studiously maintained. He called out," The white men join with the Fantees to cheat me, to put shame upon my face." Mr. James having remained firm, the king became more incensed, and exclaimed, "The English come to cheat me; they come to spy the
country; they want war, they want war!" Mr. James merely replied, "No; we want trade;" but the monarch's wrath increased to such a degree, that he started from his seat, and bit his beard, calling out, "Shantee foo! Shantee foo!" and added, "If a black man had brought me this message, I would have had his head cut off before me." A singular manœuvre now took place in the diplomatic party. Mr. Bowdich, with two junior members, conceiving that Mr. James's too rigid adherence to rule was endangering the preservation of peace with this powerful sovereign, resolved to supersede him, and undertake the charge of the negotiation. They conducted it entirely to the satisfaction of his Ashantee majesty, who concluded a treaty with the English, and even made a proposal of sending two of his sons to be educated at Cape Coast Castle.
During their stay at Coomassie, the commissioners witnessed dreadful scenes, which seem to sink the Ashantee character even below the ordinary level of savage life. The customs, or human sacrifices, are practised on a scale still more tremendous than at Dahomey. The king had lately sacrificed on the grave of his mother 3000 victims, 2000 of whom were Fantee prisoners; and at the death of the late sovereign the sacrifice was continued weekly for three months, consisting each time of two hundred slaves. The absurd belief here entertained that the rank of the deceased in the future world is decided by the train which he carries along with him, makes filial piety interested in promoting by this means the exaltation of a departed parent. On these occasions, the caboceers and princes, in order to court royal favour, often rush out, seize the first person they meet, and drag him in for sacrifice. While the customs last, therefore, it is with trembling steps that any one crosses his threshold; and when compelled to do so, he rushes along with the utmost speed, dreading every instant the murderous grasp which would consign him to death.
To cultivate the good understanding now established, the British government very judiciously sent out M. Dupuis, who, during his residence as consul at Mogadore, had acquired a great knowledge of Africa and its people. But, before his arrival, the ardour of their mutual affection had been cooled by the intervention of some clouds, which he had set out in the hope of dispelling. This mission, which
arrived at Coomassie early in 1820, was well conducted, and succeeded in its object. The king renewed, in the most ample measure, his professions of desire to cultivate a friendly intercourse with the British nation; withdrew such of his demands as were shown to be inadmissible; and while he claimed full dominion over the coast, agreed that the English should exercise jurisdiction within, and even in the immediate vicinity of their own forts.
M. Dupuis found this monarch deeply impressed with respect for white men, and also with a desire to imitate and rival the pomp of European kings. He was erecting a palace, the outside of which consisted only of large logs of timber; but the interior was to be adorned with brass, ivory, and gold. He said, "Now white men know me, I must live in a great house as white kings do; then I shall not be ashamed when white people come ;" and on another occasion, "I must have every thing suitable, and live like a white king." He had procured architects from Elmina to give instructions to his own subjects, who, however, performed the task in so awkward a manner, that he himself laughed at them, exclaiming, "Ashantees fools at work." But the want of skill was compensated by their numbers; and while engaged at work, they suggested to M. Dupuis the singular image of a legion of devils attempting to construct a tower of Babel.
The envoy had the unhappiness of being resident during the "Little Adai Custom," as it was called, and understood that in one day upwards of seventy victims had been sacrificed in the palace alone. He was not present; but waiting on the king immediately after, saw his clothes stained with blood, the royal death-stool yet reeking, various amulets steeped in gore, while a spot on the brow of his majesty and his principal chiefs indicated the work in which they had been engaged.
The government of Cape Coast Castle unfortunately did not ratify the treaty concluded by M. Dupuis, but undertook to support the Fantees in an attempt to throw off the Ashantee yoke. They were thus involved in hostilities with the latter people, whose sovereign, in January, 1824, entered Fantee with a force of 15,000 men. Sir Charles M'Carthy, newly appointed governor, being ill-informed as to the strength of the enemy, marched out to meet him
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