BLTC Press Titles


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The Bhagavad Gita

Anonymous


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

A. Conan Doyle


Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley


Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi


Imperial Africa

by Augustus Ferryman Mockler-Ferryman

Excerpt:

From the Gambia the Portuguese sailed along the coast, and their intercourse with the natives led them to believe that, somewhere inland, there existed a veritable Eldorado in the shape of an unlimited supply of gold. No sooner did this information reach England than tbe idea was entertained of penetrating into the interior by way of the Gambia, and in 1618a Company2 was formed to equip an expedition, with the object of reaching the land of gold, and of entering into commercial relations with Timbuctoo. The command was given to one, George Thompson, who successfully ascended the river for some distance, but only eventually to be murdered, together with all his party, by the natives. He had, however, reached Tenda, a point in the interior hitherto unexplored by Europeans, and his successor, Richard Jobson, whom the Company despatched from England, in 1020, with reinforcements, found that Thompson had established a trading station at Oranto, and had everywhere left behind him marks of his great energy and dogged determination. Jobson pursued his wray up stream, and overcoming the almost insuperable difficulties of navigation, finally arrived, at the end of January, 1620, at the scene of Thompson's murder. Here he made inquiries about the gold country, and was informed that " four-moons' journey " into the interior there were cities roofed with solid gold, but for some inexplicable reason Jobson pushed no further ahead, contenting himself with the knowledge that he had acquired from vague native reports.

1 In 1588, Queen Elizabeth granted a charter to a British Company to trade with Gambia.

- The Company of Adventurers of London trading into Africa, promoted by Sir Robert Rich, afterwards Earl of Warwick.

His stay at Tenda was marked by a friendly intercourse established with the natives, and before he left, he had bought the kingdom outright " for a few bottles of his best brandy." Jobsou's reign was of short duration, for he decided to return forthwith to the coast, and communicate his explorations to the Company. He reached England in safety (but not without the loss of most of his companions), and doubtless the exaggerated accounts which he brought home commenced that extraordinary belief in the possibilities of "Timbuctoo, the Mysterious," which has hardly yet faded away. Whether Jobson, himself, honestly shared this belief in a golden Africa it is impossible to say, though it is perhaps noteworthy that he never had sufficient enterprise to return to the country which he had explored, or to the kingdom which had been ceded to him.1

Although for a century no attempt was made to continue the investigations of Jobson, the Gambia had gradually be.come a rendezvous of British trading vessels, and when, in 1723, the Royal African Company turned its attention to the river, a well-established trade existed with the natives on its banks; trading stations had grown up at various points, and this African river bade fair to rival the East Indies in the matter of commerce. A fort had been built on a rocky island in the river, and named, after the reigning sovereign, Fort James; moreover, the British Government, without going so far as appropriating the country, deputed certain official* to look after the interests of our countrymen, who already had rivals in the French and Portuguese. The first expedition sent out by the Royal African Company was entrusted to Captain Bartholomew Stibbs, who, on reaching Fort James1 at the end of 1723, found many difficulties placed in his way; Governor Glynn, to whom he had been recommended, was dead; Governor Willy, his successor, was suffering from mental disease, which within a few days proved fatal; and it" was not until much time had been wasted, that Mr. Orfeur, the new governor, provided Stibbs with the canoes necessary to navigate the upper waters of the Gambia. At length the little party, consisting of some sixteen Englishmen, got away, and, after the usual difficulties, reached Tenda, where, following the example of Jobson, Stibbs remained for a short while and then retraced his steps, without adding anything of value to our knowledge of the country.2 From that time the African Company confined itself to improving the trade and opening up factories in the better-known parts of the river, and Moore, the Company's chief agent, appears to have been a man of very considerable ability, to whom his employers were indebted for many a successful undertaking.

1 Voyage for the Ditcorery of the Hirer (iambra, and the Golden Trade of Tombi'tto, In \(:'20-'2\. By Captain R. Jobson. Astloy's *Collection, vol. ii., 174'.-".

From this time, trade on the Gambia increased year by year, and if gold were not forthcoming, at any rate there was no scarcity of slaves for shipment to the plantations of the New World and the West Indies, and there was a fair quantity of ivory and other valuable produce to be exchanged for the goods of British merchants. Unfortunately, however, the men trading with the natives of the Gambia were not, as a rule, of the stamp who do credit to their mother country, and as years went on, their standard of morality grew lower; so that, towards the close of the last century, we find that drunkenness and even robbery from their employers were not the worst evils to which the British factors were addicted. What Gambia might have been if things had been otherwise, it is impossible to say, though, as long as the inhuman traffic in slaves was legitimate, it was only natural that traders of all nationalities should become debased and depraved in their habits. The horrors attendant on this nefarious trade will be fully discussed later on, suffice it to say here that the enrichment of the planters of America and the West Indies by the importation of African negroes had much, if not everything, to say to the backwardness of Africa. What was it possible for the savage to think of the European, whose only apparent object in visiting Africa was to carry off himself and his relations into slavery? Could he see any advantages to be derived from a civilization whose votaries stooped to every mean device in order to enrich themselves, stirring up strife where hitherto peace had existed, and inducing the black man by the introduction of vile spirits to sell not only his best friends, but oftentimes himself and, his country for the sake of a few bottles of brandy? w But Englishmen were beginning to tire of the oftrepeated stories of the wealth of West Africa; a century and a half had passed since Jobson had brought home the tales of the cities of gold, and, so far, little or no gold had been forthcoming. Gambia had gradually become the resort of men who could do no good anywhere else, and who, in nine cases out of ten, succumbed to the climate and rum, without making any attempt to increase the trade of the river with the interior. Matters were thus at stagnation point, when


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