Observations Upon The Windward Coast Of Africa
Part 3 out of 3
Your Lordships will perceive, that the amount of export _only_ is here
under review; and I submit to your consideration the capital vested in the
necessary shipping, also the property of British factors, resident on the
Coast, and factories belonging to merchants at home, which forms another
article of great importance.
During the present war, from the Rio Noonez to the river Sierra Leone, 660
slaves, and more than the value of 100 slaves in craft, have fallen into
the hands of the enemy; which were forcibly seized upon the premises of
factories, the property of British subjects, to the amount of 35,000_l_. at
the computation of 50 each, valuing them upon an equitable average:
moreover, about one hundred resident free people have been involved in this
violence, of incalculable importance, and ground of indefinite claims from
When your Lordships contemplate these facts, and the annual emolument
derived from this commerce by the government, and a numerous body of
merchants, it may be presumed that its magnitude is of sufficient
consequence to justify the expense of _adequate naval protection_.
British subjects connected with, and resident on, the Coast, are
consequently become deeply interested, and are earnestly solicitous for an
extension of your Lordships' paternal care towards their possessions. The
principal amount, as before shewn, necessarily in the progress of business,
passes into currency through their hands, which, with the surplus property
they have in their stores, their buildings, and people, creates a momentous
risque, which is exposed to the predatory ravages of piccaroon privateers,
and to the hostile squadrons and depredations of the enemy.
With all due retrospective reference to your Lordships' vigilance and
watchful guardianship over our commerce, I take the liberty to remind your
Lordships, that only one sloop of war, the Arab, (the Favourite being
taken) has been charged with the important office of defending an extent of
coast of upwards of 1000 miles, against the sweeping hand of the enemy; an
example of which has fatally occurred in the late destruction effected by
Commodore L'Hermitte's squadron, to the very serious injury of many British
merchants, and perhaps the ruin of many underwriters upon African risques.
From the apparent approaches the legislature appears to make towards an
abolition of the slave trade, the object of consideration for the defence
of the coast of Africa may have become of less comparative magnitude; but
when upwards of one million in export from thence, and its enumerated
appendages, are entangled, and at imminent hazard, an animated and
impressive appeal is made your Lordships for every practicable security,
while it remains in existence; and to the legislative wisdom, for a
remuneration commensurate thereto, in the event of its annihilation.
Trusting that your Lordships will deign to recognize the importance of this
subject, and will vouchsafe to pardon my temerity in assuming to suggest to
your Lordships' wisdom the expediency of establishing a more adequate and
permanent naval force for the protection of the trade and coast of Africa,
Your Lordship's most obedient
devoted humble servant,
When the foregoing narrative and observations were prepared for the press,
the original minutes from whence the following Appendix is compiled, had
not come to hand, as they remained with a part of my papers, which I have
since received from the coast of Africa.
The substance of these miscellaneous fragments I shall divide into
sections, descriptive of the different subjects to which they allude, and
it may be found that they illustrate more fully many of the foregoing
remarks upon the Windward Coast of Africa.
_Of the Purrah_.
Among the singular customs of the inhabitants of Africa, there exists in
the vicinity of the Sierra Leone, and more particularly among the mixed
tribes of the Foolahs, Soosees, Boolams, &c. an institution of a religious
and political nature. It is a confederation by a solemn oath, and binds its
members to inviolable secrecy not to discover its mysteries, and to yield
an implicit obedience to superiors, called by the natives the _Purrah_.
As it is dangerous to enquire from the natives, and consequently difficult
to procure information on this subject, conjecture must supply the want of
oral and ocular testimony; but what I have here advanced I had from an
intelligent chief, who was a member of the society, who, I am nevertheless
convinced, preserved his integrity, in communicating the following
particulars, as I never could induce him to touch upon any part of the
mysteries, which he acknowledged to exist, but spoke of them with the
The members of this secret tribunal are under the supreme control of a
sovereign, whose superior, or _head man_, commands by his council, absolute
submission and authority from the subordinate councils and members.
To be admitted into the confederacy it is necessary to be thirty years of
age; and to be a member of the grand _purrah_, fifty years; and the oldest
member of the subordinate _purrahs_ form those of the sovereign _purrahs_.
No candidate is admitted but at the recommendation and responsibility of
members, who imprecate his death, if he betrays fear during his initiation
into the ceremonies, or the sacred mysteries of the association; from which
females are entirely excluded.
Some months elapse, in the preparation for admission, and the candidate
passes through the severest trials, in which every dreadful expedient is
employed to ascertain his firmness of mind, and courage.
The candidate is conducted to a sacred wood, where a place is appointed for
his habitation, from which he dares not absent himself; if he does, he is
immediately surrounded and struck dead. His food is supplied by men masked,
and he must observe an uniform silence.
Fires, during the night, surround these woods, to preserve them inviolate
from the unhallowed steps of curiosity, into which if indiscretion tempts
any one to enter, a miserable exit is the result.
When the trials are all gone through, _initiation_ follows; the candidate
is first sworn to secrecy, to execute implicitly the decrees of the
_purrah_ of his order, and to be devoted to the commands of the _sovereign
During the process of initiation, the hallowed woods resound with dreadful
howlings, shrieks, and other horrid noises, accompanied by conflagrations
This secret and inquisitorial tribunal takes cognizance of crimes and
delinquencies, more especially witchcraft and murder; and also operates as
a mediator in wars, and dissentions among powerful tribes and chiefs. Its
interference is generally attended with effect, more particularly if
accompanied by a threat of vengeance from the _purrah_; and a suspension of
hostilities is scrupulously observed, until it is determined who is the
aggressor; while this investigation takes place by the sovereign _purrah_,
as many of the warriors are convoked, as they conceive necessary to enforce
their judgment, which usually consigns the guilty to a pillage of some
days. To execute the decree, they avail themselves of the night to depart
from the place where the sovereign _purrah_ is assembled, previously
disguising their persons with hideous objects, and dividing themselves into
detachments, armed with torches and warlike weapons; they arrive at the
village of the condemned, and proclaim with tremendous yells the decree of
the sovereign _purrah_. The affrighted victims of superstition and
injustice are either murdered or made captives, and no longer form a people
among the tribes.
The produce arising from this horrid and indiscriminate execution of the
decrees of this tribunal is divided equally between the injured tribe, and
the sovereign _purrah_; the latter share is again subdivided among the
warriors employed in the execution of its diabolical decree, as a
recompense for their zeal, obedience, and promptitude.
The families of the tribes under the dominion of this infernal confederacy,
when they become objects of suspicion or rivalry, are subjected to
immediate pillage, and if they resist, are dragged into their secret
recesses, where they are condemned, and consigned to oblivion.
Its supreme authority is more immediately confined to the Sherbro; and the
natives of the Bay of Sierra Leone speak of it with reserve and dread: they
consider the brotherhood as having intercourse with the _bad spirit_, or
devil, and that they are sorcerers, and invulnerable to human power. Of
course the _purrah_ encourages these superstitious prejudices, which
establish their authority and respect, as the members are numerous, and are
known to each other by certain signs and expressions. The Mandingos have
also their sacred woods and mysteries, where, by their delusions and
exorcisms, they prepare their children for circumcision.
The Soosees, inhabiting the borders of the Rio Pongo, have a species of
_purrah_, which gives its members great consequence among them; but their
ceremonies are kept also with inviolable secrecy, and they are bound by
horrid oaths and incantations. These people seem to delight in
disseminating improbable tales of their institution, and their invention
appears to be exhausted in superstitious legends of its mysteries.
The Timmanees have an inquisitorial institution called _bunda_, noticed in
page 72, to which women only are subjected. The season of penitence is
superintended by an elderly woman, called _bunda_ woman; and fathers even
consign their wives and daughters to her investigation when they become
objects of suspicion. Here is extracted from them an unreserved confession
of every crime committed by themselves, or to which they are privy in
others. Upon their admission they are besmeared with white clay, which
obliterates every trace of human appearance, and they are solemnly abjured
to make an unequivocal confession; which if not complied with, they are
threatened with death as the inevitable consequence. The general result is
a discovery of fact and falsehood, in proportion as their fears of
punishment are aroused, which the _bunda_ woman makes known to the people
who assemble in the village or town where the _bunda_ is instituted. If she
is satisfied with the confession, the individual is dismissed from the
_bunda_, and, as is noticed in Chapter VII. an act of oblivion is passed
relative to her former conduct; but where the crime of witchcraft is
included, slavery is uniformly the consequence: those accused as partners
of her guilt are obliged to undergo the ordeal by _red water_, redeem
themselves by slaves, or go into slavery themselves.
When the _bunda_ woman is dissatisfied with the confessions, she makes the
object sit down, and after rubbing poisonous leaves, procured for the
purpose, between her hands, and infusing them in water, she makes her drink
in proportion to its strength. It naturally occasions pain in the bowels,
which is considered as an infallible evidence of guilt. Incantations and
charms are then resorted to by the _bunda_ woman, to ascertain what the
concealed crime is, and after a _decent_ period employed in this
buffoonery, the charges are brought in conformity with the imagination or
malignity of this priestess of mystery and iniquity.
During the continuance of this engine of avarice, oppression, and fraud in
any town, the chiefs cause their great drum and other instruments of music
to be continually in action, and every appearance of festive hilarity
pervades among the inhabitants, accompanied by the song and the dance.
Contumacy, or a refusal to confess, is invariably followed by death.
In short, the bewildered natives feel the effects, and dread the power of
these extraordinary institutions; they know they exist, but their
deliberations and mysteries are impenetrably concealed from them; and the
objects of their vengeance are in total ignorance, until the annihilating
stroke of death terminates their mortal career.
It is impossible to contemplate the religious institutions, and
superstitious customs of the western nations of Africa, north of the
equator, without closely assimilating them with those of Ethiopia and
Egypt; and from hence to infer that a correspondence has existed between
the eastern and western inhabitants of this great continent.
_Of the_ Termite, Termes, _or_ Bug a Bug, _as it is called by the Natives
upon the Windward Coast of Africa._
Among the insects mentioned in page 36, the _termite, termes_, or _bug a
bug_, attracts peculiar notice. The following observations are derived from
the investigations I occasionally made upon the Island of Tasso, attached
to Bance Island, where they abound, and indeed in nearly all the western
countries of Africa.
The oeconomy of nature, and the wisdom of Providence, are wonderfully
displayed in these little animals; for although they occasion the utmost
devastation to buildings, utensils, and all kinds of household furniture
and merchandize, and indeed every thing except metal and stone, yet they
answer highly important purposes in demolishing the immense quantity of
putrid substances, which load the earth in tropical climates.
Their astonishing peculiarities cannot fail to excite the notice of an
attentive observer; the sagacity and ingenuity they display in their
buildings, their industry, and the plunder and devastation they commit, is
incredible to those who have not witnessed their communities and empires.
They are divided into innumerable societies, and acknowledge a king and
queen, the former of which I brought to Europe, but the latter was by
accident mislaid at sea. Linnaeus denominates the African _bug a bug,
Termes_, and describes it as the plague of the Indies. Every community, as
I have observed, has a king and queen, and the monarchy, if I may be
allowed the expression, forms three distinct orders of insects, in three
states of existence; of every species there are likewise three orders,
which differ very essentially in the functions they have to perform, and
are in appearance very different.
In their primitive state, they are perfectly white; they have six little
feet, three on each side, and a small head, in which I could perceive no
eyes, after a minute investigation with a microscope. In this state they
supply the community with provisions from subterraneous cavities, fabricate
their pyramidical buildings, and may with great propriety be called
In a few weeks they destroy the largest trunks of trees, carry away all
descriptions of putrid substances, and particles of vegetable decay, which,
in such a climate as Africa, amply compensates for the ruin which they
Their buildings are contrived and finished with great ingenuity and
solidity, to a magnitude infinitely beyond the erections of man, when a
comparative dimension of size is considered.
They are usually termed hills, and are generally in a conical form, from 10
to 12 feet in perpendicular height, and frequently upwards of 100 feet
square in the base.
For a considerable period, vegetation is banished from the surface of their
abode, but from the second to the third year, it becomes like the
surrounding soil. The exterior forms a crust, which shelters the interior
from the weather, and the community from the attacks of enemies. The
interior is divided into almost innumerable chambers or apartments, with
amazing regularity and contrivance; in the centre of which is the royal
residence of the king and queen, composed of solid clay, closely compacted,
and distinct from the external habitation, which accommodate their
subjects. It appears that the royal erection is the first which occupies
the attention of the labourers, as it is central in the foundation of the
hill which composes the empire at large. This makes its first appearance
above the surface of the earth in various turrets, in the form of a sugar
loaf, from which they increase their number, widening them from the base;
the middle one is the highest and largest, and they fill up the spaces as
they proceed, until the whole is formed into one.
This compact construction is admirably adapted to guard against external
violence, and to preserve a genial warmth and moisture to cherish the
hatching of the eggs, and the young.
The queen is by far the largest, and has an unwieldy body, of enormous
dimensions, when compared with her subjects; so also is the king, but
inferior in size to the queen.
The royal residence is a full constructed hill, surrounded by an
innumerable number of others, differing in shape and dimensions, arched in
various forms, circular, and elliptical, which communicate by passages,
occupied by guards and attendants, and surrounded by nurseries and
magazines. But when the community is in an infant state, these are
contiguous to the royal residence; and in proportion as the size of the
queen increases, her chamber is enlarged, and her attendants and apartments
The construction of the outward apartments which surround the central royal
residence, that of the _common father_ and _mother_ of the community, form
an intricate labyrinth of nurseries and magazines, separated by chambers
and galleries, communicating with each other, and continuing towards the
surface of the pyramid; and being arched, they support each other, and are
uniformly larger towards the centre.
The second order of _termes_ are like the first, blind and active, but they
undergo a change of form, approaching to the perfect state; they are much
larger, and increase from about a quarter of an inch in length to half an
inch, and greater in bulk; and what is still more remarkable, the mouth is
armed with sharp claws, and the head is disproportionably enlarged. They
may properly be called the nurses and warriors of the kingdom; they urge
their fellow subjects in the _first_ state to labour, they inspect the
construction of the interior apartments, repel all attacks from enemies,
and devour them with fury; and may be considered as the standing army of
In the third and last stage, they are winged; their bodies then measure
about 7/8ths of an inch in length, furnished with four brownish transparent
wings, rather large; they have eyes also of a disproportionate size,
visible to the observer. When they make their appearance in this state, it
is indicative of the approach of the rainy season. At this period they
procreate their species.
They seldom wait before they take wing for a second or third shower; and
should the rain happen in the night, the quantities of them which are found
the next morning upon the surface of the earth, and on the waters, more
particularly upon the latter, are astonishing. The term of existence at
this stage is extremely short, and frequently on the following morning
after they have taken flight, they are surprisingly weakened and decreased;
at the utmost I do not think they live more than two days; and these
insects, so industrious, courageous, and destructive in the two first
periods of their existence, become the prey of innumerable enemies.
Indolent, and incapable of resisting the smallest insects, they are hunted
by various species from place to place, and not one pair in millions get
into a place of safety, to fulfil the laws of nature and propagation.
Their wings in a short time fall from them, and the ponds and brooks are
covered with their carcases. The Negroes in many places collect them in
their calabashes, dry them, and fry them on a slow fire, which they
consider as a delicious morsel.
A few, however, escape the general dissolution, several pairs of them are
found by those of the first genus, as they are continually moving over the
surface of the earth, and are carried by them to found new kingdoms and
communities. The royal mansion is then erected, as before described, their
wings fall off, and they pass the remainder of their existence in indolence
and luxury, and in the propagation of their species. Their dimensions now
undergo a monstrous change, more especially the queen; her abdomen augments
by degrees, and increases to a prodigious size, when compared with her two
first stages of existence; and the king, although greatly augmented, yet is
diminutive compared to his enormous spouse, who sometimes exceeds three
inches in length. She is in this state extremely prolific, and the matrix
is almost perpetually yielding eggs, which are taken from her by her
attendants, and are carried into the adjoining nurseries.
The foregoing is a very imperfect delineation of this wonderful insect,
which requires the minutest description by an experienced and scientific
naturalist to illustrate clearly; and there are many secrets in the natural
history of this little animal that would amply reward his investigation
upon the different circumstances attending its existence.
Those that build in trees, or erect pyramids, have a strong resemblance to
each other, and pass through the same stages to the winged state, but they
are not of so large a size as the foregoing; and it is a very singular
circumstance, that of all these different species, neither the labourers
nor soldiers expose themselves to the open air, but travel in subterraneous
vaults, unless when they are obstructed and impelled by necessity; and when
their covered ways and habitations are destroyed, it is wonderful how
quickly they will rebuild them. I have frequently destroyed them in the
evening, and have found them re-erected on the following morning.
When a pair, in the perfect state, is rescued from the general devastation
which attends these little animals, they are by the two first species
elected king and queen, and are inclosed in a chamber, as before described,
around which a new empire is formed, and pyramids are erected.
That species which builds in trees, frequently establish their abode in
houses also, which in time they will entirely destroy, if not extirpated.
The large kind, however, are more destructive, and more difficult to guard
against, as their approaches are principally made under-ground, and below
the foundation; they rise either in the floors, or under the posts, which
in African buildings support the roof, and as they proceed, they form
cavities towards the top, similar to the holes bored in the bottom of ships
by the worms, which appear to answer the same purpose in water as the
_termites_ do upon land. How convincing is this fact of the infinitely wise
arrangements of the Creator, who has united, in the whole system of
creation, one uniform conformation of order and utility; for although the
_vermis_, or worm, which is so pernicious to shipping in tropical climates,
and the _termite_, possess so many destructive qualities, yet these very
properties serve the most important purposes and designs. Scarcely any
thing perishable on land escapes the _termite_, or in water, the worm; and
it is from thence evident, that these animals are designed by nature to rid
both of incumbrances, which in tropical climates would be attended with
putrefaction and disease.
The first object which strikes the attention, and excites admiration, upon
opening and investigating the hills of the _termites_, is, the conduct of
the armed species, or soldiers; when a breach is made by a pick-axe, or
hoe, they instantaneously sally forth in small parties round the breach, as
if to oppose the enemy, or to examine the nature of the attack, and the
numbers increase to an incredible degree as long as it continues; parties
frequently return as if to give the alarm to the whole community, and then
rush forth again with astonishing fury. At this period they are replete
with rage, and make a noise which is very distinguishable, and is similar
to the ticking of a watch; if any object now comes in contact with them,
they seize it, and never quit their hold until they are literally torn in
pieces. When the violence against their habitation ceases, they retire into
their nests, as if nothing had happened, and the observer will
instantaneously perceive the labourers at work, with a burthen of mortar in
their mouths, which they stick upon the breach with wonderful facility and
quickness; and although thousands and millions are employed, yet they never
embarrass the proceedings of each other, but gradually fill up the chasm.
While the labourers are thus employed, the greatest part of the soldiers
retire, a few only being discernible, who evidently act as overseers, and
at intervals of about a minute, make the vibrating noise before described,
which is immediately answered by an universal hiss from the labourers, and
at this signal they redouble their exertions with encreased activity.
In minutely examining these hills, great obstacles present themselves to
the observer; the apartments and nurseries which surround the royal
habitation, and the whole internal fabric, are formed of moist brittle
clay, and are so closely connected, that they can only be examined
separately, for having a geometrical dependance upon each other, the
demolition of one pulls down more; patience is therefore exhausted in the
investigation, and it is impossible to proceed without interruption; for
while the soldiers are employed in defending the breach, the labourers are
engaged in barricading the different galleries and passages towards the
royal chamber. In one apartment which I dug out from a hill, I was forcibly
struck with their attachment and allegiance to their sovereigns; and as it
is capacious enough to hold a great number of attendants, of which it has a
constant supply, I had a fair opportunity offered for experiment, I secured
it in a small box; and these faithful creatures never abandoned their
charge; they were continually running about their king and queen, stopping
at every circuit, as if to administer to them, and to receive their
Upon exposing their different avenues and chambers for a night only, before
the next morning, provided the king and queen are preserved, and their
apartments remain, it will be found that they are all shut up with a thin
covering of clay, and every interstice in the ruins, through which either
cold or wet could communicate, filled up, which is continued with
unremitting industry until the building is restored to its pristine state.
Besides these species, there are also the _marching termites_, of an
encreased size, who make excursions in large bodies, and spread devastation
in their way; but as my means of observation upon them was only accidental,
it will be intruding an imperfect description to notice them at all; but if
we form a conclusion from the immense number of _termites_ which everywhere
abound in Africa, we shall be tempted to believe that their procreation is
endless and unceasing.
When the papers came to hand which contained the substance of these remarks
upon this extraordinary insect, I did not intend to annex them to the
Observations on the Windward Coast of Africa, nor am I without some doubt
as to the propriety of so doing; the observation of the learned
_naturalist_ only can ascertain the economy of the _termite_, or _bug a
bug_, and I have therefore to apologize for obtruding these imperfect and
_Of the Cameleon_.
The cameleon is a native of the torrid zone, and is a genus of the lizard:
the faculty of assuming the colour of every object it approaches is
ascribed to it, and other singular properties; but there are many rare
phoenomena not so well understood, such as its absorption and expulsion of
air at pleasure, its property of living a considerable time without any
kind of nourishment, and its extraordinary visual advantages, which are
perhaps not to be found in any other of the wonderful works of the
I have made various experiments to ascertain these extraordinary properties
in this little animal; and I brought home one in a preserved state.
The first object which struck my attention, was the variation of colour;
and I am persuaded that it does not assume these from the surrounding
objects, but that they proceed from internal sensations of pain, or
From the moment that the liberty of my captive was infringed upon, or when
interrupted in its pursuits, it became less sensible of external objects,
the vivacity of its colour, and the plumpness of its form underwent a
visible change. Its natural colour is a beautiful green; and when in a
state of liberty it is to be found in the grass, or lodged on the branches
of some tree, ornamented with the gayest foilage; and it would appear that
its liberty, and the privilege of living in the grass, are indispensible
towards the preservation of its qualities. The colour of its skin, in a
perfect state of health, is scarcely discernible from the trees and grass,
in which it delights to conceal itself, and is not to be discovered at all
without a very minute scrutiny. It remains immoveable for a length of time,
and its motions are all cautious and slow, continuing to loll out its
tongue, which is long and glutinous, in order to secure the little insects
that are necessary to its nourishment; and I doubt not but it has an
attractive influence over its prey, for I have observed them continually
floating around the cameleon, when scarcely discernible in any other space.
When the tongue is covered with a sufficient quantity it draws it in
instantaneously, and by incessantly repeating the operation, all the
insects within its reach are taken in the snare.
That its health and existence depend upon being in the grass, I am
persuaded, from the change occasioned by placing it in gravel or sand, when
it immediately assumes a yellow tinge, its form is reduced considerably,
and the air expelled, with which the body of this animal is inflated, so as
visibly to reduce the size. If they are irritated in this situation, they
expell the air so strong as even to be heard, gradually decreasing in size,
and becoming more dull in colour, until at length they are almost black;
but upon being carried into the grass, or placed on the branches of a tree,
they quickly assume their wonted solidity and appearance.
The victims of my observation I have frequently wrapped in cloth of various
colours, and have left them for a considerable time, but when I visited
them I did not find that they partook of any of the colours, but uniformly
were of a tarnished yellow, or greyish black, the colours they always
assume when in a state of suffering and distress, and I never could succeed
in making them take any other when in a situation of constraint. The skin
of the cameleon is of a very soft and delicate texture, and appears to the
observer similar to a shagreen skin, elastic and pliable; and it may be
owing to this extraordinary construction that it changes its colours and
size with that facility which astonishes us; but what may be considered as
a more wonderful faculty is, its expanding and contracting itself at
pleasure, and, as it were, retaining the fluid in an uniform manner, when
in health, but exhaling it when in a state of suffering, so as to reduce
its dimensions to a more contracted size. Its peculiar organization is
such, that the atmospheric air which it inhales so generally throughout
every part of its body, distends and projects even its eyes and
extremities. I have frequently seen it after many days fasting become
suddenly plump, and continue so for a fortnight, when immediately it became
nothing but a skeleton of skin and bone.
The tenuity of its body is at these seasons astonishing, the spine of its
back becomes pointed, the flesh of its sides adhere to each other, and
apparently form one united subsance, when it will, in a few hours, at
pleasure, resume its rotund state; and this appears to me to be a most
extraordinary circumstance in the construction of this animal, which
invites the minutest research of the naturalist.
To convince myself how far the assertion might be admitted, that the
cameleon can exist upon air, I have placed them in a cage, so constructed,
as to exclude any thing else, even the minutest insect; when I have visited
my captives, they have opened their mouths and expelled the air towards me
so as to be felt and heard. In the first stage of their privation and
imprisonment, which has continued for more than a month, I have found them
in continual motion around their prison, but afterwards their excursions
became more circumscribed, and they have sunk to the bottom, when their
powers of distension and contraction became languid and decreased, and were
never again capable of performing their accustomed transformation. The one
which I brought to England preserved in spirits, after undergoing upwards
of two months of famine, when I carried it among the grass, or placed it in
the thick foliage of a tree, in little more than a week regained its green
colour, and power of expansion; but not contented with my experiment, and
determined to ascertain it to the utmost, I redoubled my precautions to
exclude every thing but air, and my devoted victim was doomed to another
series of trial, and continued to exist upwards of a month, when it fell a
sacrifice to my curiosity.
The eyes of the cameleon may also be considered a remarkable singularity;
they are covered with a thin membrane, which nature has given it to supply
the want of eye-lids, and this membrane is sunk in the centre by a
lengthened hole, which forms an orifice, bordered by a shining circle. This
covering follows all the motions of the eye so perfectly, that they appear
to be one and the same; and the aperture, or lengthened hole, is always
central to the pupil, the eyes moving in every direction, independant of
each other; one eye will be in motion while the other is fixed, one looking
behind while the other is looking before, and another directed above while
its companion is fixed on the earth, so that its eyes move in every
possible direction, independant of each other, without moving the head,
which is closely compacted with the shoulders.
By these quick evolutions its personal safety is guarded, and it perceives
with quickness the insects and flies, which it is always entrapping by its
Without doubt, this species of lizard possesses peculiarities well worthy
the attention of naturalists, who only can define them; what I have said I
have observed in my leisure moments, and must be considered as a very
imperfect detail of its natural history.
_Of the Interment of the Dead._
The ceremony of burial upon the Windward Coast of Africa is conducted with
great singularity, solemnity, and extravagant circumstances of condolence.
The body of the deceased is wrapped up in a cloth, closely sewed around it,
and the head is covered with a white cap of cotton, which is the colour
universally adopted in mourning. The relatives of the deceased bedaub
themselves from head to foot with white clay, upon which they form the most
disgusting figures, while scarcely a leg or an arm exhibits the same
feature. I have even seen serpents and other frightful animals delineated
with great accuracy on many parts of the body, which gives them a most
hideous appearance during the season of mourning.
When the corps has been washed, and put into a white cloth of cotton, of
the manufacture of the country, the whole is inclosed in a mat, and laid
out in state.
The corps is placed over the grave upon four sticks across, and after one
of the nearest relatives has collected all the finery with which the
deceased was accustomed to decorate himself, and that also which remains
among his family, he asks him, with expressions of sorrow, if he wants such
and such an article for his comfort in the other world, in which he is
accompanied by the remainder of his family and friends, who join in _making
cry,_ or more property speaking, in dancing and rejoicing. The following
night the dance and song is continued with demonstrations of mirth and
glee, and are kept up every successive night during that moon; and if the
deceased has been of consequence in his tribe, these extravagant acts of
lamentation continue for months together.
_On the Amusements, Musical Instruments, &c. of the Africans._
Upon all occasions of mirth or sorrow, the dance is uniformly introduced,
with monotonous songs, sometimes tender and agreeable, at other times
savage and ferocious, but always accompanied by a slow movement; and it may
with propriety be said, that all the nights in Africa are spent in dancing;
for after the setting of the sun, every village resounds with songs, and
music; and I have often listened to them with attention and pleasure,
during the tranquil evenings of the dry season.
Villages a league distant from each other frequently perform the same song,
and alternately change it, for hours together. While this harmonic
correspondence continues, and the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages
chaunt their couplets, the youth of both sexes listen with the greatest
attention and pleasure.
Among the several kinds of instruments of music which accompany the
ceremonies of mourning or mirth among the Africans, the drum is the
principal. It is made from a hard thin wood, about three feet long, which
is covered with a skin distended to the utmost. They strike it with the
fingers of the right hand collected together, which serves to beat time in
all their dances. Among the Foulahs and Soosees they have a kind of flute,
made of a hard reed, which produces sounds both unmusical and harsh: but
all the Africans of the Windward district are the most barbarous musicians
that can be conceived.
They have also a kind of guitar, formed from the calabash, which they call
_kilara_. Some of these are of an enormous size, and the musician performs
upon it by placing himself on the ground, and putting the _kilara_ between
his thighs; he performs on it with both his hands, in a manner similar to
the playing on the harp in this country.
They have another instrument of a very complicated construction, about two
feet deep, four feet long, and eighteen inches wide, which they call
_balafau_. It is constructed by parallel intervals, covered with bits of
hard polished wood, so as to give each a different tone, and are connected
by cords of catgut fastened at each extremity of the instrument. The
musician strikes these pieces of wood with knobbed sticks covered with
skin, which produces a most detestable jargon of confused noise.
Jugglers and buffoons are very common, and are the constant attendants of
the courts of Negro kings and princes, upon whom they lavish the most
extravagant eulogiums, and abject flattery. These jesters are also the
panders of concupiscense; they are astrologers, musicians, and poets, and
are well received every where, and live by public contribution.
It has already been observed that cotton and indigo are indigenous to the
Windward Coast of Africa. Tobacco grows in every direction, likewise cocoa,
coffee, and aromatic plants would no doubt succeed by cultivation. A trade
in raw hides might be carried on to a great extent; and the articles of
wax, gold, ivory, emery, dyes, &c. might be greatly increased. Substances
for making soap are to be found in great abundance; cattle, poultry,
different kinds of game, fish, and various animals, fruits, and roots,
abound, affording a great variety of the necessaries and luxuries of life:
and European art and industry are only wanting to introduce the extensive
culture of the sugar cane. The warmth and nature of the climate are
peculiarly adapted to the maturing this plant, and there are many
situations from Cape Verde to Cape Palmas, where this valuable production
might undoubtedly be raised to great amount and perfection.
In addition to the woods I have already named, there are many others for
building, viz. _todso, worsmore,_ and a fine yellow wood, called
_barzilla_, the _black_ and the _white mangrove_, boxwood of a superior
quality, _conta_, a remarkable fine wood for building, and various kinds of
mahogany, of a beautiful colour, and large dimensions.
It has also been observed in the previous section, that one of the musical
instruments used by the Africans of the Windward Coast, named by them
_kilara_, is formed from the calabash, a pumpkin which grows from the size
of a goblet to that of a moderate sized tub, and serves every purpose
almost of household utensils.
They divide this pumpkin into two hemispheres, with the utmost accuracy,
and it is excavated by pouring boiling water inside, to soften the pulp.
The inside is cleaned with great neatness, and they execute upon the
outside various designs and paintings, both fanciful and eccentric, such as
birds, beasts, serpents, alligators, &c.
In fine, the objects of commerce and enjoyment in this country are,
comparatively speaking, inexhaustible; and this is a part of the world
which England has hitherto strangely neglected, because its mysteries are
unknown. It only requires the happy influence of civilization, agriculture,
and natural commerce, to surprize and enrich those, who humanely and wisely
interfere to procure these blessings to its inhabitants.
The system of establishment to attain these important ends to our commerce,
and to the bewildered African, should be skilfully planned, and wisely
adapted to the _present condition_ of the country, for the _hasty
conclusion of the abolition of the slave trade never can, in its present
state, meet the views and objects of rational humanity_. Is the United
Kingdom, at this crisis, when the enormous power of our adversary has shut
the door of commerce against us in every direction where his influence and
dictates command, to abandon Africa, so abundant and versatile in its
natural productions and resources, to contingencies, and to the grasp of
other nations? Forbid it, humanity, and forbid it, wise policy! Let civil
laws, religion, and morality, exercise their influence in behalf of the
Negro race, whom barbarism has subjected to our dominion, and let the
beneficence and wisdom of Government devise a system of agriculture and
commercial operation, upon the maritime situations of Africa, as the most
effectual means to freedom of intercourse with its interior.
The operations of impracticable theories and misguided zeal have
accomplished an unqualified abolition of the slave trade, which I am
persuaded will be highly injurious to the commercial and manufacturing
interests of our country; and is a measure which humanity will have deeply
to deplore, while in its tendency it is pernicious to the African, and
auspicious to the views of France.
Without doubt the ability and energies of the _present administration_ will
be directed to avert these calamities; and amidst the _important
diliberations_ which now occupy their attention, the condition of Africa,
the wealth derivable from so important a quarter of the earth, and the
relations involved with it, will not be overlooked by them.
LANGUAGE OF THE PRINCIPAL NATIONS OF THE
WINDWARD COAST OF AFRICA.
|ENGLISH |JOLLIFF |SOOSEE |TIMMANEE
|One |Ben |Kiring |Pen
|Two |Yar |Faring |Prung
|Three |Niet |Shooking |Tisas
|Four |Nianett |Nari |Panlee
|Five |Gurum |Shooli |Tomat
|Six |Gurum ben |Shinie |Rokin
|Seven |Gurum yar |Shulifiring |Dayring
|Eight |Gurum Niet |Shulimashukung |Daysas
|Nine |Gurum Niant |Shulimang |Daynga
|Ten |Fue |Fooang |Tofot
|Twenty |Nill |Mahwinia |Tofot Marung
|Thirty |Fanever |Tongashukung |Tofot Masas
|Forty |Nianett Fue |Tonganani |Tofot Manlu
|Fifty |Guaum Fue |Tongashulang |Tofot Tomat
|Sixty |Gurum ben Fue |Tongashini |Tofot Rokin
|Seventy |Gurum yar Fue |Tongashulifiring |Tofot Dayring
|Eighty |Gurum Niet Fue |Tongashulimashakung |Tofot Daysas
|Ninety |Gurum Nianet Fue |Tongashulimanane |Tofot Danygah
|One Hundred |Temer |Kime |Tofot Tofot
|I | |Emtang |Eto or Munga
|Thou | |Etang |Moota or Moonga
|He | |Atang |Otto or Ken
|It | |Atang |Ree
|We | |Mackutang |Sitta or Shang
|Ye | |Wotang |Angsha
|They | |Etang |Angna
|God |Tallah | |
|The Devil |Ghine | |
|Heaven |Assaman | |
|ENGLISH |JOLLIFF |SOOSEE |MANDINGO
|The Sun |Burham Safara |Shuge |Teelee
|The Moon |Burham Safara Lion |Kige |Koro
|Gold |Ourous | |Sanoo
|Father |Bail |Taffe |Fa
|My Father |Samma Bail | |
|Mother |De |Inga |Ba
|My Mother |Samma De | |
|Man |Gour | |Mo or Fato
|Woman |Diguen | |Moosea
|Brother |Rak Gour |Tarakunjia |Ba Ding Kea
|My Brother |Samma Rak Gour | |
|Sister |Rak Diguen |Magine |Ba Ding Moosea
|My Sister |Samma Rak Diguen | |
|Head |Bop |Hung Hungji |Roon
|My Head |Samma Bop | |
|Tongue |Lamin |Ning Ningje |Ning
|Mouth |Guemin |De |Da
|Nose |Bauane |Nieue |Nung
|Bread |Bourou | |Munko
|Water |Dock | |Gee
|Teeth |Guene | |
|Bowels |Bouthet | |
|Belly |Birr | |Kono
|Fingers |Baram | |Boalla Ronding
|Arm |Lokoo | |Boalla Same for hand.
|Hair |Cayor | |
|The Beard |Jekim |Habe de Habe |Bora
|White |Toulha e |Fihe |Qui
|Black |Jolof |Foro |Fing
|Good |Bachna |Fang |Bettie
|Bad |Bahout |Niaake |Jox
|Leopard |Shuko she
|White ant, termite, &c. |Bugabuge
|(or Bug a bug) |
|The Sea |Baa
|Brass pan |Tang kue
|Door |De nade
|Health |Maie langfe
|Pain |Whondi, Whona fe
|Hot |Furi, furihe
|What are you doing? |Emung she ra falama?
|Which way are you going? |Esigama mung kirara
|To trade |Sera Shofe
|Make haste |Ara bafe mafuri
|To Kill |Fuka fe
|To Quarrel |Geri shofe
|To Sing |Shige shafe
|To beat the drum |Fare mokafe
|Have you done? |Ebanta gei?
|Are you afraid? |Egahama?
|He is not yet gone |A mu siga sending
|Stand still |Tife ira hara
|Run |Gee fe
|Leap, or Jump |Tubang fe
|Have you slept well? |Eheo keefang?
|Do you understand Soosee? |Esusee whi mema?
|I am hungry |Kaame em shukuma
|Let us go |Woem hasiga
|Will you go with me? |Esigama em fokhera
|I have no money |Nafuli muna embe
|How much do you want? |E' wama ierekong
|Sit down |Dokha
|How do you do |E'mung kee?
|Very well |Em melang hekeefang
|Give me some rice? |Malungdundundifeemma
|What is your name? |Ehili mungkee?
|I love you |Efanghe emma
|If you want rice I will give you some|Ha ewama malunghong eminda fuma ema
|Let us go together. |Meekufiring ha siga
|To dance |Faik
|To sing |Ouhai
|To-morrow |Elleck, or Mek
|A tree |Garallun
|To drink |Nan
|To eat |Leck ou leckamm
|She is remarkably handsome |Sama rafitnaloll
|Good day |Dhiarakio
|Good day Sir |Dhiarakio-Samba
|Good night |Fhanandiam
|Come here? |Kahihfie
|How do you do? |Dhya mesa?
|Very well |Dhya medal
|I will |Benguena
|I thank you |Guerum nala
|A bar of Iron |Baravin
|What did you say? |Loung a houche
|Can you speak Joliff? |Digenga Jolliff
|How much did that cost? |Niatar ladiar?
|Give me |Maniman
|I love you from my heart |Sepenata tie somo koll
|ENGLISH |TEMMANEE |BULLOM
|How do you do? |Currea |Lemmoo
|I return you service, |Ba |Ba
|or salute | |
|Are you well? |Too pay |Appay wa?
|Very well |Tai o tai |Pay chin lin
|What is your name? |Gnay see mooa? |Illil e moa?
|Give me a little rice |Song mee pilla pittun |Knamee opillay
| | |otayk
|Yes |A |A
|No |Deh |Be
|Is your father at home?|Pa ka moo oya roshaytee?|Appa moway lore
| | |ko killayee
|He is |Oeeree |Way lorre
|What do you want? |Ko nyaymaee? |Yeng yayma?
|Why do you do so? |Ko sum kingyotteeay |Yaywum layngalla
|I beg your pardon |A marree moo |Lum marra mo
|ENGLISH |TEMMANEK |BULLOM
|I love you |Ee boter moo |A marra mo
|Let me alone |Tuoy mee |Y'nfolmee
|Let me go |Teer amee |Y'mmelmee
|Sit down |Yeera |Y'nchal
|I am hungry |Durabang mee |Nrik mi a me
|Shut the door |Kanta kayraree |Ingkunta fong folootay
|Will you go with me?|Yintoo ko pey a mee?|Mo mee ko day ree
|Where are you going?|Ray mo koay. |Lomo koa
|Here |Unno |Kakee or ha
|Forward |Kihdee |Ebol
|Backward |Rarung |Wayling
|To-day |Taynung |Eenang
|To-morrow |Aneenang |Beng
|Sometimes |Olokko ollon |Lokko poom
|And |Ray |Na
|Good bye |Mang peearo |Heepeearo
** The foregoing Vocabulary, and imperfect number of words, may serve to
give some idea of a part of the languages on the Windward Coast of Africa.
From those accidents to which the traveller is continually exposed, I have
unfortunately lost what I am persuaded was a very accurate vocabulary of
the Jolliff, Foulah, Maudingo, Soosee, Bullom, and Temmanee tongues, which
I had arranged under the correction of a very intelligent trader long
resident upon the Windward Coast. Owing to this misfortune I have been
obliged to refer to scattered memoranda only, which I know to correspond
correctly with the document I allude to. As the Foulah and Mandingo nations
are of most consequence in attempts at civilization, I have to regret
exceedingly that I have not been able to give the languages of those
nations more at large.
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