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Art. VII.-1. Medical History of the Expedition to the Niger.
By James Ormiston M William, M.D., Senior Medical Officer
of the Expedition. London. 1813. 2. Is Cheap Sugar the Triumph of Free Trade ? A Letter to the
Right Hon. Lord John Russell. By Jacob Omnium. London,
1847. 3. Notes on Cuba. By a Physician. Boston, U.S. 1844. THE
HE late Sir Fowell Buxton's confessions respecting the utter
failure of the proceedings of the Friends of the African' did more credit to the candour of that gentleman than to the ability and discretion of the party of which he was the acknowledged head. In the year 1940 he frankly admitted that England, after having spent at Their instigation, and under their guidance, upwards of 15,000,000l. in her efforts to suppress the slave-trade, after having thereby seriously compromised her friendly relations with the powers whose subjects were engaged in that nefarious traffic, and having consigned to a premature grave thousands of her bravest sons in the performance of their professional duties on the shores of Africa, had but succeeded in aggravating the sufferings of the unhappy beings whom she sought to relieve.
It is not our purpose in the present paper to saturate the public mind with the horrors of the slave-irade.'*
We merely wish to lay before the self-elected champions of the negro a brief résumé of what they have effected on behalf of their wards, leaving to their own discernment, and to that of the public, to decide whether it will not be better that the sort of imperium in imperio—the Exeter Hall influence which has up to the present day pervaded the colonial counsels in Downing Street--should cease; that the duty of defending the weak and of redressing the oppressed should in future devolve on the governors, clergy, and other official servants of the colonies where such interference is required; and that every individual sheltered under the British flag, be he white, brown, red, black, or copper-coloured, should henceforward be permitted to lapse under the protection of practical government and common sense.
In making this suggestion, we by no means desire that any philanthropic body, instituted for the amelioration of the physical or moral condition of mankind, should be thrown out of work at this inclement season of the year. We could easily point out to them parishes in England where missionaries are quite as much wanted as in the most unenlightened group of ihe Cannibal Islands; we could show them, within two days' post of London
(for we have had enough of the Capital itself in a preceding article)—whole districts where ignorance and oppression, and famine-ay, and pestilence-are as rife as amongst the rocks of Patagonia or in the delta of the Niger; and if any there be amongst them (it may be deemed uncharitable to surmise it) who are stimulated in their career of benevolence rather by the thirst of fame than the pure love of humanity, we believe we may assure them that most people will honour them more for one personal effort made on behalf of distress abroad—or even at home-than for all the vicarious gallantry of which there have been from time to time such dazzling displays in the Strand. The most generous 'disregard of other men's lives and other men's interests is a claim to celebrity which, we fear, will always be open to question.
Before the slave-trade was declared illegal, the average mortality amongst the negroes during the middle passage was computed to be 9
per cent. Mr. Buxton admitted, in 1840, that the courses adopted by himself and his party had increased that ratio of deaths to 25 per cent. Slave speculators, in consequence of the augmented chances of pursuit and capture, found it their interest to carry on their trade in sharper and flimsier craft, fast sailers, run up at little cost. They likewise considered it advantageous to crowd them to an incredible degree with slaves, in order that one rapid and fortunate passage might remunerate them amply for previous losses by mortality and confiscation.* But no one could describe the failure of all that had been attempted, with a view of putting down this traffic, prior to 1840, more forcibly than Mr. Buxton has himself done :
· Millions of money and multitudes of lives have been sacrificed, and in return for all we have only the afflicting conviction that the slavetrade is as far as ever from being suppressed : nay, I am afraid that the fact is not to be disputed, that while we have thus been endeavouring to extinguish the traffic, it has actually doubled in amount.'— The SlaveTrade, p. 171.
In the year 1791 the colony of Sierra Leone was established under the same auspices, as a nucleus whence the blessings of Christianity and Agriculture were to extend their ramifications over benighted Africa. Its motto was, “The Bible and the Plough.' Officials of every grade were exported fresh and fresh from England (for they died very rapidly) at the expense of the Government. Clergymen, schoolmasters, and missionaries, simple
* The captures of the Jesus Maria, of 35 tons (the size of a Cowes pilot-boat), with 297 souls on board—of the Si, of 89 tons, with 400 souls--of the Vincedora, of 16 tons, and 71 souls (Buxton)-attest too clearly the cause of the increased proportion of deaths.
and enthusiastic men, were urged to resort thither in abundance by sleek and voluble agitators at home, who, saying nothing of the dangers they felt no call to share, announced the colony as a sort of moral model farm, whose success was already guaranteed by the energy and piety of the powerful body that supported its interests in England.
The evidence given by Colonel H. D. Campbell, one of the few
governors who had the good luck to return alive, by Dr. Madden, the Government commissioner who visited the colony in 1840, and by other witnesses before the Parliamentary Committee of 1842, enables us to judge with much accuracy of the success with which the Friends of the African have discharged the important trust of which they have so confidently monopolised the duties, and which costs the mother country nearly 100,0001. a-year. Up to that date more than 60,000 settlers had at various times been poured into Sierra Leone. These Africans, so prolific elsewhere, instead of multiplying, diminished in numbers—the actual population being estimated at 40,000: of whom 80 were Europeans; of these but six were women. White children born in the colony invariably died. Insurance offices charged an additional 25 per cent. on persons about to proceed thither. Colonel Campbell, on reaching the seat of his government, which he had been instructed was
a great annoyance to the Colonial Office, in consequence of the abuses and vile system there,' describes a social state which we believe has not been equalled by that of any other tropical colony in the worst days of slavery. He found the colonial chaplain totally ignorant of the state of religion and education,' whilst Mahomedan missionaries were making such numerous proselytes that the white Christians thought fit to check the progress of that persuasion by destroying their mosques.
The best British subjects were the Kroomen—a race of muscular, good-tempered, laborious fellows - but stone-deaf in heathendom, ardent Devilworshippers, and, says the Rev. J. Schön, • fearfully' addicted to polygamy. The liberated Africans, when turned loose in the colony, found themselves in such a destitute condition that Colonel Campbell, on subsequently visiting the interior, recognised many of his former subjects, who had returned into voluntary slavery in order to insure a subsistence. The children landed from slavers were apprenticed out to other ne. groes—as uncivilized as the children they obtained '-many of whom themselves had not been a year in the colony—and were carried off into the bush, where they lived in a state of nature. The young girls were intrusted to negro-women in the town, who grew rich on the wages of their prostitution. In the gaol Colonel
Campbell found men, women, children, lunatics, debtors, tried and untried criminals, guilty and innocent, huddled together night and day, without distinction of sex, age, or crime.* He described the European population, small as it was, as most degraded and immoral; and declared that what little had been done in civilizing the African population was to be attributed rather to the docile and imitative disposition of that race than to any efforts made on their behalf by Europeans.' Wages were from 3d. to 4d. a-day, and but scanty employment was to be obtained even at that low rate.
Capital was stated to be unknown in Sierra Leone. Money payments were rare-muskets, check-shirts, and rum having supplanted £. s. d. in the currency of the pattern colony.
Its statistics, in a commercial point of view, were all in keeping. In the various florid descriptions put forward by its patrons, much stress was generally laid on the obvious truism that all the plants and fruits which are indigenous to a tropical country could be successfully cultivated there; and as these vegetable productions are looked upon as rarities in our climate, and are only to be met with in the forcing-houses of the rich, these cominon-place statements tended to give an undue importance to the settlement, in a commercial point of view, in the minds of the ignorant and the sanguine. In 1842, the industry, or rather in. dolence, of 40,000 settlers, all either agriculturists or idlers, raised produce for exportation to the value of 45771.--something under 2s. 6d.
per head per annum for each individual. Coffee to the amount of 201. was exported in 1836: rum, tobacco, and sugar were amongst the imports. For fourteen years no progress had been made in production; and this in a country whose advances in civilization were, according to the manifestos of the Strand, unimpeded by the avarice and cruelty of speculation, or the coldblooded selfishness of trade- where the soil and climate were originally stated to be 'admirably suited for every species of tropical cultivation,'—and where labour was abundant at 4d. a-day.
Such was the condition of Sierra Leone, established and conducted under the special surveillance of the Friends of the African, after nearly half a century of their fostering care-such was the glimmer of civilization' which these doers of good by deputy had succeeded in shedding over the country of their adoption — such their practical adaptation of the Bible and the Plough. Although it is a matter of surprise to us that these persons themselves were not utterly disheartened by the deadly failures of their experiments, it is a inatter of far greater that the English nation was not disgusted and undeceived by their proved
* Jacob Omnium's description of a Cuban barracoon is paralleled, if not surpassed , by the model prison of Freetown,
incapacity, and that a ministry and a people could be found willing to endure any longer such murderous child's- play for men's lives and fortunes.
The expedition of Macgregor Laird up the Niger in 1836 had demonstrated that that river was navigable for small steamers to a considerable distance from its mouth. The Liverpool merchants with whom it had originated--persons of known capacity and humanity-were experienced in the trade and climate of the coast; moreover, the principal shareholder in that daring adventure accompanied and directeil it himself. Their object was to ascertain the practicability of ascending the Niger in steamers, to verify the tales rise ainongst the natives on the coast of the greater salubrity of the interior, and of the abundance of ivory, gold-dust, and indigo procurable there; and to establish, if the scheme appeared on examination to afford promise of success, a trading settlement at the confluence of the Niger and the Tchadda. Lieutenant Allen, R.N., accompanied Mr. Laird as passenger, with a view of making a survey of the river; but the enterprise received no aid or notice whatever from the Friends of the African or the English Government. Its sad results are well known. The two steamers Quorra and Alburkah penetrated up the Niger as far as Rabbah; the mercantile part of the speculation wholly failed; and but eight men out of forty-eightamongst whom Messrs. Laird and Oldfield, and Lieutenant Allen, were luckily included—survived to tell the tale,
Yet when, in 1810, with such appalling experience to deter him, Mr. Buxton, undismayed by the evil which be had already wrought, declared that he had hit upon a new remedy for the slave-trade-when, averting his eyes from the almost incredible inisery, idleness, and debauchery which pervaded every corner of what had been formerly his pet land of promise, Sierra Leone, he issued, in the name of a New Society for effecting the extinction of the slave-trade, and for promoting the civilization of Africa, his proposals that similar establishments should be tried on a greater scale; that efforts should be made to cultivate districts of Africa selected for that purpose, in order that her inhabitants might be convinced of the capabilities of her soil, and witness what wonders inight be accomplished by their own labour, when set in motion by our capital and guided by our skill' (The Remedy, p. 336)—when, in 1840, Mr. Buxton ventured on this new appeal, England, sensible, practical England, responded eagerly to his invitation. Lord John Russell disdained to reflect on the fatal fatuity which had hitherto characterised the undertakings of this party: he did not stoop to consider the state of the pattern colony which had been specially com