« AnteriorContinua »
meetings, and the entire seclusion of females, produce an effect wholly different from that of European society. In the country, the Arab population is simple and patriarchal ; yet unhappily no strangers to violence and plunder in their very worst forms.
The two races, thus strikingly distinguished, native and foreign, Mohammedan and pagan, meet and mix in Central Africa, on the banks of the Niger, and on the other great rivers which water that region. Major Rennell considers the stream now named as the boundary between the Moors and negroes, as Pliny conceived it to separate the Africans from the Ethiopians; and the division, though not rigorously correct, is yet, in a general sense, conformable to fact. The Moors have made extensive conversions, and have introduced all that is known of letters or writing into the interior regions. Yet the lurid gleam thus shed over benighted Africa serves little more than to deepen the surrounding darkness. This sublime art is prized, not as the principal means of enlightening and enlarging the human mind, but as a tool of the magic art,-an instrument for manufacturing charms and fetiches, to be sold at high prices to the deluded natives. Only a few of the great sheiks and doctors read even the Koran. The most approved mode of imbibing its contents, as was formerly stated, is by tracing the characters on a smooth board with a black substance, then washing them off, and swallowing the water. Others, having enclosed the Koran in a large silver case, bear it constantly about, groaning under the burden, but expecting from it the greatest spiritual benefits.
Bigotry among these negro converts rises to a still higher pitch; and the future doom of the unbeliever is considered even more assured than on the shores of the Mediterranean. Meantime they subject him to the earthly miseries of foreign and distant bondage; for, while it is unlawful to enslave any true believer, the goods, the person, nay, the whole property of the Caffre are considered as rightfully belonging to the children of the prophet. This very circumstance causes a secret abatement in that eager spirit of proselytism which burns so fiercely among the adherents of the Moslem creed. They cannot be insensible, that if the eyes of this host of unbelievers were enlightened, they themselves would forfeit the ground on which they rest their only claim,
now in full exercise, of driving them by thousands to the markets of Kano and Tripoli.
In general we may observe, that while the Mohammedan converts in Central Africa are so intensely bigoted in respect to dogmas, they are more lax in practice than their brethren of Cairo and Tripoli. The females are not so closely immured; and the men seldom adhere to that precept of the Koran which enjoins abstinence from fermented liquors. The bouza, or acid beer, circulates briskly in Moslem as well as in pagan circles. It is true that the sovereigns, who are usually zealous Mussulmans, are occasionally seized with a paroxysm of zeal, and denounce dreadful penalties against all who indulge in this beloved liquor. But this proceeding, being extremely unpopular, causes only a transitory emotion, which soon subsides, and affairs resume their wonted course.
The Mohammedan religion, wherever it is established, has abolished the horrors of human sacrifice,- —a great and important good. In all other respects, the introduction of this foreign race and foreign creed seems only to have deepened the evils under which Africa had formerly suffered.
Colonization, which in America has been carried to so vast an extent, filling that continent almost entirely with an European population, has never been attempted in Africa, except on the most limited scale. By much the largest colony is that founded by the Dutch at the Cape of Good Hope, which was transferred to the English by the events of the last war. In 1827, it was estimated to contain a population of 120,000, being nearly double the amount in 1798; about 47,000 were Europeans, 28,000 Hottentots, and 35,000 slaves. Cape Town, which in 1824 comprised a population of 18,668, has probably increased to upwards of 20,000, and is now quite an English city, having newspapers, a "South African Journal" devoted to literature and science, and many intelligent inhabitants.
Ten years ago, under the severe pressure felt in Britain from the scarcity of employment and subsistence, several thousands were sent out to occupy the district of Albany in the eastern part of the colony. This settlement has not been prosperous; and the expectation that it would prove a thriving agricultural station has, for the present, been dis
appointed. The severe droughts, and periodical inundations to which it is subject, have been found to render the raising of grain of every kind very precarious, and obliged the colonists to have recourse to pasturage; while the lots are too small to render the latter mode of industry sufficiently productive. They consist, according to Mr. Thompson, of only 100 acres, which are not capable of supporting above twelve oxen and cows. The Dutch settlers usually held 6000 acres, for which they paid merely the expenses of measur ing and survey, amounting to between 300 and 600 dollars, with a quit-rent of from thirty to fifty. To obtain this quantity of land, the British settlers must carry out fiftynine servants (who it is true have their passage paid by government), depositing 101. for each; which, with their support for three years, would exceed six times the value of the property. In 1825, after three unfavourable harvests, the distress of the colony became extreme, and a subscription of not less than 3000l. was raised in Cape Town for their relief. A number then left the settlement; after which, the condition of those who remained gradually improved, and is now becoming comfortable. Mr. Thompson, however, recommends to emigrants who possess any capital to purchase land from the Dutch boors in the vicinity of the Cape; many of whom, possessing lots of nearly 100,000 acres, would willingly dispose of part of their grants for money.
To make head against the irruption of the Caffres, a body of military are stationed at the eastern boundary of the colony, who, in conjunction with the Albany settlers, have formed Graham's Town, the inhabitants of which amount to about 3000. Mr. Rose, who was lately there, describes it as "a large, ugly, ill-built, straggling place, containing a strange mixture of lounging officers, idle tradesmen, drunken soldiers, and still more drunken settlers." Its situation is romantic, being a deep hollow surrounded by high green hills, separated by glens overhung by steep and wooded precipices. These glens form the roads, which branch off like rays from a centre, and through them are seen labouring heavy wagons, drawn by oxen, frequently coming from very remote districts. They bring not only provisions and necessaries, but the rude products of the surrounding regions,-skins of the lion and leopard, horns of the buffalo,
eggs and feathers of the ostrich, tusks of the elephant and hippopotamus, and rich fur mantles.
It would be improper to omit mentioning in this place the benevolent and persevering exertions of the Moravian and other missionaries, who, in that distant quarter of the continent, have made indefatigable exertions for the instruction and improvement of the miserable natives. They have not only communicated to them the light of true religion, but have successfully laboured to better their temporal circumstances, and communicate habits of order, cleanliness, and industry. The missionary stations now extend northward to Lattakoo, and eastward into the country of the Caffres; and they are daily assuming a wider range.
By far the most persevering attempt made by Britain to form a colony in Africa applies to that founded at Sierra Leone, originating in the most benevolent motives, and conducted under the patronage of highly distinguished characters. It had for its object the improvement of the continent, as well as the diminution and final abolition of the African slave-trade. In 1772, a celebrated decision by Lord Mansfield established the principle, that a negro, from the moment he sets foot on British ground, becomes free. A strong interest was thus excited on the subject; and a great number of black servants having, in consequence of the above judgment, left their masters, were rambling in a somewhat desolate condition in the streets of the British metropolis. On learning their circumstances, Mr. Granville Sharp, an individual of unwearied benevolence, with the advice of Mr. Smeathman, who had spent a considerable time in Africa, formed the plan of transporting them into their native country, to lay the foundation of a colony. Government having concurred in the undertaking, the settlers were sent out in the Nautilus, Captain Thompson, and landed on the 9th May, 1787, upon a district of about twenty square miles, purchased from Naimbanna, the king of Sierra Leone. Unfortunately these negroes, as well as about sixty whites, chiefly females, sent along with them, were of mixed and very indifferent characters. A great proportion soon fell a sacrifice to the climate, the others showed themselves destitute of all habits of industry, and were besides severely harassed by the hostility of the neigh bouring tribes; so that, by the year 1791, the whole number
was reduced to sixty-four. But the philanthropic zeal which prevailed in Britain for the colonization of Africa suffered no abatement. An association was formed under the titles of the St. George's Bay, and afterward of the Sierra Leone Company, with a capital of 250,000l., for the prosecution of this interesting object; and they soon found another quarter whence a supply of colonists might be drawn. During the American war, a number of negro slaves in the revolted colonies, on the invitation of the British government, had deserted their masters and joined her standard. After the unfortunate issue of the contest, these fugitives claimed the fulfilment of a promise said to have been made, that they should have lands allotted for their subsistence. The proffer now made of grants on their native shore, and in a more congenial climate, was cordially accepted. In March, 1792, they were landed at Sierra Leone, to the amount of 1131, in addition to 100 Europeans who had arrived in the preceding month. A fever, however, which the negroes had brought with them, aggravated by the unhealthy nature of the climate, carried off a considerable number; and to this latter cause of mortality half of the European settlers fell victims. The improvement of the colony was also much retarded by a very general spirit of insubordination; and, in 1794, it was barbarously plundered by a French squadron, which caused losses amounting to upwards of 50,000l. However, the settlement had gradually recovered, and was beginning to make some progress, when, in 1800, it was recruited with 550 maroons, or insurrectionary negroes from Jamaica, who had been originally transported to Nova Scotia. They arrived at a very seasonable moment, when a disturbance had just broken out among the original body of negroes, which the British crews were busily employed in suppressing.
Notwithstanding all that had been done for the improvement of Sierra Leone, which had more than absorbed the original capital of the company, very little progress was yet made towards fulfilling its objects. No spirit of industry had been infused into the inhabitants, and no amicable connexions formed with the neighbouring states. The company had scarcely the means of supporting it any longer; but there appeared reason to hope that the more energetic and influential efforts of government might yet