Two Trips to Gorilla Land and the Cataracts of the Congo Volume 2
Richard F. Burton
Part 4 out of 5
received with the normal objections.
"Why should not I, a king like Nessudikira, receive a ‘dash'
equal to his?"
"He is my host, I pay him for bed and board!"
"We are all cousins; why shall one be treated better than the
"As you please! you have received your due, and to-day we march."
After this I rose and returned to my hut ready for the inevitable
It was not long coming; the new arrivals set up the war-song, and
Gidi Mavunga thought it time to make a demonstration. Drawing an
old cutlass and bending almost double, he began to rush about,
slashing and cutting down imaginary foes, whilst his men looked
to their guns. The greenhorn would have expected a regular stand-
up fight, ending in half-a-dozen deaths, but the Papagayo
snatched away his father's rusty blade, and Chico Furano, seizing
the warrior's head, despite the mildest of resistance, bent it
almost to the ground. Thus valour succumbed to numbers. "He is a
great man," whispered my interpreter, "and if they chaunt their
battle-song, he must show them his bravery." The truly
characteristic scene ended in our being supplied with some
fourteen black pots full of flesh, fowl, beans, and manioc,
together with an abundance of plantains and sugar-cane; a select
dish was "put in fetish" (set aside) for Gidi Mavunga, and the
friendly foes all sat down to feast. The querelle d'Allemand
ended with a general but vain petition for "t'other bottle."
Fahrenheit showed 90° in the shade, as we bade adieu to the
little land-bay, and made for the high rugged wall to the north-
north-east separating the river valley from the inner country. On
the summit we halted to enjoy the delicious sea-breeze with its
ascending curve, and the delightful prospect far below. Some
1,300 feet beneath us appeared the Nzadi, narrowed to a torrent,
and rushing violently down its highly inclined bed, a straight
reach running east and west, in length from four and a half to
five miles. As we fronted north, the Morro (cliff) Kala fell
bluff towards its blue bight, the Mayumba Bay of the chart, on
our left; to the right a black gate formed by twin cliffs shut
out the upper stream from view. The panorama of hill-fold and
projection, each bounded by deep green lines, which argued
torrents during the rains; the graceful slopes sinking towards
the river and indenting the bed and the little tree-clad isle,
Zun gáchyá Idí (Tuckey's "Zunga Tooly Calavangoo") hugging the
northern side, where the Lufu torrent adds its tribute to the
waters, convinced me that the charms of Congo scenery had not
been exaggerated. Yet the prospect had its element of sadness;
the old ruffian, Gidi Mavunga, recounted how he had burned this
place and broken that, where palm-clumps, grass-clearings, and
plantations lying waste denoted the curse of Ham upon the land.
Our course now wound north-eastwards along hill-shoulders, rich
in flowery plants and scented mimosa. After two hours' walking,
we came suddenly upon the Morro or cliff of the river-trough, now
about 1,000 feet deep. Here the prospect again shifted; the black
gate opened, showing the lowest of the long line of rapids called
Borongwa ya Vivi, with the natives and their canoes, like flies
upon bits of straw.
On the southern bank was a small perennial influent, lined with
bright green above, and with chocolate brown below, within some
twenty yards of its mouth. It arises, they say, near S. Salvador,
and is not navigable, although in places it bears canoes. The
people call it Npozo, possibly it represents the S. Salvador
River of old travellers. The distance was three direct or five
indirect miles north of the stony cone, Zululu ke Sombe.
The descent was a malevoie, over slabs and boulders, loose stones
and clayey ground, slippery as ice after rain. The moleques
descended like chamois within twenty minutes: Selim and I, with
booted feet, took double the time, but on return we ascended it
in forty-five minutes. Viewed from below, the base rests upon
cliffs of gneiss, with debris and quartz in masses, bands and
pebbles, pure and impure, white and rusty. Upon it rises a
stratum of ferruginous clay, with large hard-heads of granite,
gneiss, and schist, blocks of conglomerate, and nodules of
ironstone. Higher still is the bank of yellow clay, capped with
shallow humus. The waving profile is backed by steep hills, with
rocky sides and long ridges of ground, the site of the palm-
Reaching the base, a heap of tumbled boulders, we crossed in a
canoe the mouth of the Npozo to a sandy cove in the southern
bank, the terminus of river navigation. The people called it
Unyenge Assiku: I cannot but suspect that this is the place where
Tuckey left his boats, and which he terms "Nomaza Cove." The name
is quite unknown, and suggests that the interpreters tried to
explain by "No majia" (water) that here the voyage must end.
Off this baylet are three rocky islets, disposed in a triangle,
slabs collected by a broken reef, and collectively known as Zunga
Nuapozo; the clear-way is between them and the southern bank,
which is partly provided with a backwater; the northern three
quarters of the bed show something like a scour and a rapid.
Zunga chya Ingololo, the northernmost and smallest, bears a
single tree, and projects a bar far into the stream: the central
and westernmost is a rock with a canoe passage between it and the
southern and largest, Zunga chya Tuvi. The latter has three tree-
clumps; and a patch of clean white sand on its western side
measures the daily rise of the water, eight inches to a foot, and
shows the highest level of the flood, here twelve to thirteen
feet. The fishermen use it as a drying-ground for their game.
They also crowd every day to two sandy covelets on the southern
bank, separated by a tongue of rough boulders. Here naked urchins
look on whilst their fathers work, or aid in drying the nets, or
lie prone upon the sand, exposing their backs to the broiling
sun. The other denizens of the place are fish-eagles, who sit en
faction upon the topmost branches of withered trees. I saw only
two kinds of fish, one small as a minnow, and the other
approaching the size of a herring. Up stream they are said to be
much larger. They are not salted, but smoked or sun-dried when
the weather serves: stuffed with chillies and fried with oil,
they are good eating as the Kinnam of the Gold Coast.
We prepared to bivouac under a fine shady Saffu, or wild fig, a
low, thick trunk whose dark foliage, fleshy as the lime-leaf, so
often hangs its tresses over the river, and whose red berries may
feed man as well as monkey. The yellow flowers of hypericum,
blooming around us, made me gratefully savour our escape from
mangrove and pandamus. About sunset a gentle shower, the first of
the season, caused the fisher-boys to dance with joy; it lasted
two good hours, and then it was dispersed by a strong westerly
breeze. Canoes and lights flashed before our eyes during half the
night; and wild beasts, answering one another from rock to rock,
hundreds of feet above us, added a savage, African feature to the
Arising early next morning, I was assured that it is necessary to
cross the stream in order to reach the Cataracts. Tuckey did so,
but further inquiry convinced me that it is a mistake to march
along the northern bank. Of course, in skirting the southern
side, we should not have approached so near the stream, where
bluffs and débris rendered travelling hopeless. The amiable
ichthyophagi agreed for two fathoms of fancy cloth to ferry us
across the river, which is here half a mile broad. The six-knot
current compels canoes to run up the left shore by means of its
backwater, and, when crossing, to make allowance for the drift
downwards. The aneroid now showed 860 feet of absolute altitude,
and about sixty-five feet above the landing-place of Banza Nokki;
the distance along the stream is fourteen miles, and thus the
fall will be about five feet per mile below the Borongwa ya Vivi.
We could see from a level the "smaller rapids of Vivi" bursting
through their black gate with angry foam, flashing white from
side to side. No canoe could shoot this "Cachoeira," but I do not
think that a Nile Dahabiyah or a Brazilian Ajôjô would find great
difficulty. Between us and the rapids, the concavity of the
southern bank forms a bight or bay. The vortices, in which
Tuckey's sloop was whirled round despite oars and sails, and in
whose hollow the punt entirely disappeared, "so that the
depression must have been three or four feet deep," were nowhere
seen at this fuller season. The aspect of the surface is that of
every large deep stream with broken bottom; the water boils up in
ever widening domes, as though a system of fountains sprang from
below. Each centre is apparently higher than its circle; it
spreads as if a rock had been thrown into it, and the outer rim
throws off little eddies and whirls no larger than a thimble. The
mirrory surface of the lower river thus becomes mottled with
light and shade, and the reflected image of the trough-cliff is
broken into the most fantastic shapes.
Fifteen minutes of hard paddling landed us at Selele, a stony
point between two sandy baylets: amongst the mass of angular
boulders a tree again showed the highest flood-mark to be 13
feet. Here for the first time I remarked the black glaze
concerning which so much has been written.[FN#28] The colour is a
sunburnt black, tinted ferruginous red like meteoric stones, and
it is generally friable, crumbling under the nails. It tastes
strongly of iron, which flavours almost every spring in the
country, yet the most likely places do not show this
incrustation. Sometimes it looks like a matrix in which pudding-
stone has been imbedded; it may be two or three lines in
thickness and it does not colour the inside. At other times it
hardly measures the thickness of paper, coating the gneiss slabs
like plumbago. Humboldt tells us ("Personal Narrative," ii. 243,
Bohn), that the "Indians" of the Atures declare the rocks to be
burnt (carbonized) by the sun's rays, and I have often found the
same black glaze upon the marly sandstones that alternate with
calcareous formations where no stream ever reached them--for
instance, on the highlands of Judea, between Jerusalem and the
Dead Sea; in inner Istria, and in most countries upon the borders
of the Mediterranean.
Leaving Selele, we ascended a steep hill with many glissadès, the
effect of last night's rain. These hammock-journeys are mostly
equivalent to walking and paying for carriage; it would be
cruelty to animals were one to ride except when entering the
villages. After threading for half an hour lanes of grass, we
were received in a little village of the Banza Vivi district by
Nessala, linguistère to King Luvungungwete. The guest room was
furnished with every luxury; hides of a fine antelope described
as the Kudu; cruets, basins, bottles, and other vases; "lustre
mugs," John Andersons and Toby Philpots. A good calabash, full of
More bounteous far than all the frantic juice
Which Bacchus pours,"
was produced, although the drought and scarcity of June rain had
dried the palms. Before I outstretched myself, the fairer half of
the population sent a message to say that they had never seen a
white man: what less could be done than to distribute a few beads
and pat the children, who screamed like sucking pigs and
"squirmed" like young monkeys?
The Chrononhotonthologus of a king came in the afternoon with a
tail of a hundred vertebræ: he was a milder specimen than usual;
he had neither Mambrino's helmet nor beadle's cloak, and perhaps
his bashfulness in the presence of strangers arose from a
consciousness that his head-gear and robes were not in keeping
with his station. But he did not fail to grumble at his "dash;"
indeed, he must be more than African who shall say, "Hold!
enough." He vouchsafed a small return in fowls and "beneficent
manioc," and sent with us three slaves, to serve, not as guides,
but as a basis for a separate charge.
After sunset all was made ready for the Batuque. The ball-room
was the village square; the decorations were the dense trees; the
orchestra consisted of two drums, a grande caisse eight feet and
a half long, placed horizontally, and a smaller specimen standing
on a foot like that of an old-fashioned champagne-glass; the
broader ends were covered with deer skins, upon which both hands
perform; and the illuminations were flaming heaps of straw,
which, when exhausted, were replaced by ground-nuts spitted upon
a bamboo splint. This contrivance is far simpler than a dip-
candle, the arachis is broken off as it chars, and, when the lamp
dims, turning it upside down causes a fresh flow of oil. The
ruder sex occupied one half of the ring, and the rest was
appropriated to dame and damsel. The Batuque is said to be the
original Cachucha; Barbot calls it a danse des filoux, and it has
the merit of perfectly expressing, as Captain Cook's companions
remarked of the performances in the South Sea Islands, what it
The hero of the night was Chico Mpamba; he must have caused a
jealous pang to shoot through many a masculine bosom. With
bending waist, arms gracefully extended forwards, and fingers
snapping louder than castanets; with the upper half of the body
fixed as to a stake, and with the lower convulsive as a scotched
snake, he advanced and retired by a complicated shuffle, keeping
time with the tom-tom and jingling his brass anklets, which
weighed at least three pounds, and which, by the by, lamed him
for several days. But he was heroic as the singer who broke his
collar-bone by the ut di petto. A peculiar accompaniment was a
dulcet whistle with lips protruded; hence probably the fable of
Pliny's Astomoi, and the Africans of Eudoxus, whose joined lips
compelled them to eat a single grain at a time, and to drink
through a cane before sherry-cobblers were known. Others joined
him, dancing either vis-à-vis or by his side; and more than one
girl, who could no longer endure being a wall-flower, glided into
the ring and was received with a roar of applause. In the
feminine performance the eyes are timidly bent upon the ground;
the steps are shorter and daintier, and the ritrosa appears at
once to shun and to entice her cavalier, who, thus repulsed and
attracted, redoubles the exciting measure till the delight of the
spectators knows no bounds. Old Gidi Mavunga flings off his upper
garment, and with the fire of a youth of twenty enters the
circle, where his performance is looked upon with respect, if not
with admiration. Wilder and wilder waxeth the "Devil's delight,"
till even the bystanders, especially the women, though they keep
their places in the outer circle, cannot restrain that wonderful
movement of haunch and flank. I laughed till midnight, and left
the dancers dancing still.
At 5 A.M. the strayed revellers found to their disgust a thick
fog, or rather a thin drizzle, damping grass and path, and
suggesting anything but a pleasant trudge. They declared that
starvation awaited us, as the "fancy cloths" were at an end, but
I stopped that objection by a reference to the reserved fund.
After an hour of sulky talk we set out towards the upper part of
Banza Vivi, passing a small but pretty hill plain, with manioc-
fields, gum-trees, and the bombax very symmetrical. We saw no
animals: here and there appeared the trail of a hyaena, the only
larger carnivor that now haunts the mountains. The song of Mkuka
Mpela, the wild pigeon, and Fungú, the cuckoo, were loud in the
brake: the Abbé Proyart makes the male cuculus chant his coo,
coo, coo; mounting one note above another with as much precision
as a musician would sound his ut, re, mi: when he reached the
third note, his mate takes it up and ascends to the octave. After
this both recommence the same song.
The stiff ascent gave us lovely views of the lake-like river and
both its banks: after three quarters of an hour we reached Vivi
of Banza Simbo. The people vainly called to us, "Wiza!"-- "Come
thou!" and "Luiza! luiza kwenu!"-- "Come, come here!" Our
moleques, disliking the dangerous proximity, advanced at a walk
which might be called a canter.
Presently we reached the dividing ridge, 1,394 feet high, between
Banza Vivi and Nkulu, whose palm-trees, thrown out against the
sky, bore 82° (M.) Looking to the north with easting, we had a
view of no less than six distinct distances. The actual
foreground, a hollow between two land-waves, could not conceal
the "Crocodile's Head:" the latter, five miles off and bearing
65° (M.), forms the southern staple of the Yellala Gate, whose
rapids were not visible, and it fronts the Quoin, which hems in
the stream on the other side. The key-stone of the inverted arch
between them was a yellow-flanked, tree-topped hill, rising
immediately above the great rapids: beyond if waved, in far
succession, three several swells of ground, each flatter and
bluer than its nearer neighbour, and capping the whole stood
Kongo de Lemba, a tall solitary sugarloaf, bearing 75° (M.), with
its outlying conelets concealing like a mass of smoke the world
that lay beyond.
The ridges appeared to trend north and south, and to approach the
river's bending bed at different angles; their sides were steep,
and in places scarped where they fell into the intervening
hollows. The valleys conducted many a water to the main drain,
and during the wet season they must be well-nigh impassable. At
the end of the dries the only green is in the hill-folds and the
basin-sinks, where the trees muster strong enough to defend
themselves from the destructive annual fires. These bush-burnings
have effectually disforested the land, and in some places
building timber and even fuel have become scarce. In the Abrus,
barely two feet high, I could hardly recognize the tall tree of
Eastern Africa, except by its scarlet "carats," which here the
people disdain to use as beads. The scorching of the leaves
stunts the shrubs, thickens the bark, and makes the growth
scrubby, so that the labourer has nothing to do but to clear away
the grass: I afterwards remarked the same effects on the
We descended the dividing ridge, which is also painfully steep,
especially near the foot, and crossed the rolling hollow with its
three chalybeate brooks, beyond which lay our destination. Tuckey
describes the hills between Boma and Nkulu as stony and barren,
which is perhaps a little too strong. The dark red clay soil,
dried almost to the consistency of laterite, cannot be loosened
by rain or sun, and in places it is hardened like that of
Brazilian Porto Seguro, where the people complain that they
cannot bury their dead. All the uplands, however, grow grass
which is sometimes ten to twelve feet tall, and in places there
are shrubs and trees. About Nkulu the highlands are rightly
described as "steep hills of quartz, ferruginous earth, and
syenite with fertile tops:" rocks and stones are rare upon the
plateaux: they are rich enough to produce everything from wheat
to coffee, and hardly a hundredth part is cultivated. Thin and
almost transparent lines of palms denote the several Banzas on
the ridges, and in the valley are rock circles like magnified and
The "termes arborum" is universal, and anthills form a prominent
feature. It has been remarked that these buildings are the most
conspicuous architectural efforts of the country, and the Abbé
Proyart observes that here more effectually than in any other
land man ought to be sent to the ant school. The material is of
dark and sometimes black earth as in the Gaboon, and the shape is
the umbrella, rarely double or pagoda-roofed. The column may be
twelve to eighteen inches high, and the diameter of the capital
attains two feet: I never saw, however, a "gigantic toadstool as
high as a one-storied house."[FN#28] Nor are the mushroom tops
now used as chafing-dishes.
The grateful tamarind grows everywhere, but nowhere so gloriously
as on the lower elevations. The only true sycomores which I saw
were stunted specimens near the Yellala. They contrasted poorly
with the growth of the Ugogi Dhun, a noble patriarch, whose
circle of shade under a vertical sun was 500 feet, and which I
thought worthy of a portrait in "Lake Regions of Central Africa"
(p. 195, vol. i.). I need hardly warn the reader that, properly
speaking, it is the "Sycamine which produces the fruit called
Syconwrus or fig-mulberry;" but we apply the term "Sycomore" to
the tree as well as to its fruit.
After three hours of actual marching (= seven miles) in an east-
north-easterly direction, we ascended a path greasy with drizzle,
parquetted by negro feet and infested with "drivers," which now
became troublesome. It led to Banza Nkulu, a shabby settlement of
unclean plantations and ragged huts of far inferior construction:
stacks of grass were piled upon the ground, and this new thatch
was greatly wanted. Here the lands of the "bush-men" begin:
instead of marching directly to the chief's house, we sat in our
wet clothes under a friendly wild fig. The women flocked out at
the cry of the hammock-bearers and, nursing their babies, sat
down to the enjoyment of a stare; they had lost, however, the
merriment of their more civilized sisters, and they hardly ever
vouchsafed a laugh or a smile. The curiosity of the "Zinkomba"
knew no bounds; all were unusually agitated by the aspect of a
man coloured like themselves; they jerked out their leafy
crinolines by forward movements of the lower body, swayed
violently from side to side, and cried "Ha-rr-rr-rr-rr!" and
"Jojolo! jojolo!" till they were hoarse. As usual, the adults
would not allow me to approach them, and I was obliged to rest
contented with sketching their absurdities. To punish this
daring, the Jinkomba brought a man masked like a white, with
beard and whiskers, who is supposed to strike the stranger with
awe: it was all in vain, I had learned to trill the R as roundly
as themselves, and they presently left me as a "perdido," an
In the days of the Expedition, Nkulu had but one ruler, of whom
Tuckey says (p. 148), that he found less pomp and noise, but much
more civility and hospitality than from the richer kings he had
visited. Now there are three who require their "dashes," and each
has his linguister, who must not be passed by without notice.
Moreover, as population and luxury have increased on the line of
route, bark-cloth has disappeared and even the slaves are dressed
in cottons. We waited, patiently hungry, till 4 P.M. because the
interpreters had gone on some "fish palaver" to the river. At
that hour a procession of some two hundred and fifty men headed
by a drum and Chingufu (cymbal-bells) defiled before us, crowding
round three umbrellas, trade-articles in the last stage of
"seediness." These comforts protected from the sun, which was
deep hid behind a purple nimbus, an equal number of great men in
absurd red nightcaps or old felt wideawakes, shirts of coloured
cotton, and second-hand waistcoats of silk or satin. The only
signs of luxury were here and there a well-carved ebony stick,
and a gunstock resplendent with brass tacks. All sat down in a
semi-circle before us, six or seven deep in front and four or
five at the sides: the women and children took their places in
the rear, and one of them fondled a prick-eared cur with an
attempt at a ribbon round its neck.
The head linguister, who, like "Persian interpreters" to
commanders in chief of India during my clay, could not speak a
word of any language but his own, after clapping hands,
congratulated us in the name of the great king Nekulu; he lives,
it appears, in a Banza at some distance to the north or north-
east, out of sight of the river, and he cannot be visited without
great outlay of gunpowder and strong waters. We returned
compliments, and after the usual complications we came to the
main point, the "dash." I had privily kept a piece of satin-
stripe, and this was produced as the very last of our viaticum.
The interpreter, having been assured that we had nothing else to
give, retired with his posse to debate; whilst we derided the
wild manners of these "bush-folk," who feared to shake hands with
us. After an hour or so the council returned, clapped palms, sat
clown, grumbled at the gift and gave formal leave to see the
Yellala--how the word now jarred in my ears after its abominable
repetition! Had these men been told a month before that a white
would have paid for permission to visit what they considered
common property, they would have refused belief: with
characteristic readiness, however, the moment they saw an
opportunity of "making money," they treated the novelty as a
matter of course.
This palaver settled, the chiefs danced within a ring formed by
their retainers; the speeches were all sung, not spoken; and
obeisances and dustings of elaborate complexity concluded the
eventful meeting, which broke up as it began with drum and
Chingufu. There was not a symptom of hospitality; we had
preserved some provaunt from our last station, or we should have
been famished. My escort forgot their disappointments in a
"ball," which lasted through the cool, clear and dewy night till
nearly dawn. It is evidently a happy temperament which can dance
off hunger and fatigue.
The Yellala of the Congo.
At dawn (September 16), I began the short march leading to the
Yellala.[FN#29] By stepping a few paces south of Nkulu, we had a
fine view of the Borongwa ya Vivi, the lowest rapids, whose
foaming slope contrasted well with the broad, smooth basin
beyond. Palabala, the village of Nekorado on the other side of
the stream, bore south (Mag.), still serving as a landmark; and
in this direction the ridges were crowned with palm orchards and
settlements. But the great Yellala was hidden by the hill-
We at once fell into a descent of some 890 feet, which occupied
an hour. The ground was red iron-clay, greasy and slippery; dew-
dripping grass, twelve to fifteen feet tall, lined the path; the
surface was studded with dark ant-hills of the mushroom shape;
short sycomores appeared, and presently we came to rough
gradients of stone, which severely tried the "jarrets." After an
hour, we crossed at the trough-foot a brook of pure water, which,
uniting with two others, turns to the north-east, and, tumbling
over a little ledge, discharges itself into the main drain. An
ascent then led over a rounded hill with level summit, and
precipitous face all steps and drops of rock, some of them six
and seven feet high, opposed to the stream. Another half hour,
and a descent of 127 feet placed us under a stunted calabash, 100
feet above the water, and commanding a full view of the Yellala.
On the whole, the impression was favourable. Old Shimbah, the
Linguister at Porto da Lenha, and other natives had assured me
that the Cataracts were taller than the tallest trees. On the
other hand, the plain and unadorned narrative of the "Expedition"
had prepared me for a second-rate stream bubbling over a strong
bed. The river here sweeps round from the north-west, and bends
with a sharp elbow first to the south-west and then to the south-
east, the length of the latter reach being between four and five
miles. As far as the eye can see, the bed, which narrows from 900
to 400 and 500 yards, is broken by rocks and reefs. A gate at the
upper end pours over its lintel a clear but dwarf fall, perhaps
two feet high. The eastern staple rises at first sheer from the
water's edge to the estimated altitude of a thousand feet,--this
is the "Crocodile's Head" which we saw on the last march, and
already the thin rains are robing its rocky surface with tender
green. The strata are disposed at angles, varying from 35° to
45°, and three streaks of bright trees denote Fiumaras about to
be filled. Opposite it is the "Quoin Hill," bluff to the stream,
and falling west with gradual incline. The noise of this higher
fall can hardly be heard at Nkulu, except on the stillest nights.
Below the upper gate, the bed, now narrowing to 300 yards, shows
the great Yellala; the waters, after breaking into waves for a
mile and a half above, rush down an inclined plane of some thirty
feet in 300 yards, spuming, colliding and throwing up foam, which
looks dingy white against the dull yellow-brown of the less
disturbed channel--the movement is that of waves dashing upon a
pier. The bed is broken by the Zunga chya Malemba, which some
pronounced Sanga chya Malemba, an oval islet in mid-stream, whose
greater diameter is disposed along the axis of the bed. The
north-western apex, raised about fifty feet above the present
level of the waters, shows a little bay of pure sand, the
detritus of its rocks, with a flood-mark fifteen feet high,
whilst the opposite side bears a few wind-wrung trees. The
materials are gneiss and schist, banded with quartz--Tuckey's
great masses of slate. This is the "Terrapin" of the Nzadi. The
eastern fork, about 150 yards broad, is a mountain-torrent,
coursing unobstructed down its sandy trough, and, viewed from an
eminence, the waters of the mid-channel appear convex, a shallow
section of a cylinder,--it is a familiar shape well marked upon
the St. Lawrence Rapids. The western half is traversed by a reef,
connecting the islets with the right bank. During August, this
branch was found almost dry; in mid-September, it was nearly
full, and here the water breaks with the greatest violence. The
right bank is subtended for some hundred yards by blocks of
granite and greenstone, pitted with large basins and pot-holes,
delicately rounded, turned as with a lathe by the turbid waters.
The people declare that this greenstone contains copper, and
Professor Smith found particles in his specimens. The Portuguese
agents, to whom the natives carefully submit everything curious,
doubt the fact, as well as all reports of gold; yet there is no
reason why the latter should not be found.
The current whirls and winds through its tortuous channels, which
are like castings of metal, in many distinct flows; some places
are almost stagnant, suggesting passages for canoes. Here the
fishermen have planted their weirs; some are wading in the pools,
others are drying their nets upon the stony ledges. During the
floods, however, this cheval-de-frise of boulders must all be
under water, and probably impassable. Tuckey supposes that the
inundation must produce a spectacle which justifies the high-
flown description of the people. I should imagine the reverse to
be the case; and Dr. Livingstone justly remarked[FN#30that, when
the river was full, the Yellala rapids would become comparatively
smooth, as he had found those of the Zambeze; and that therefore
a voyage pittoresque up the Congo should be made at that season.
Before leaving the Yellala, I wandered along the right bank, and
found a cliff, whose overhanging brow formed a fine cavern; it
remarkably resembled the Martianez Fountain under the rock near
the beautiful Puerto de Orotava. Here the fishermen were
disporting themselves, and cooking their game, which they
willingly exchanged for beads. All were of the Silurus family,
varying from a few inches to two feet. Fish-eagles sat upon the
ledges overhanging the stream, and a flight of large cranes
wheeled majestically in the upper air: according to the people,
they are always to be seen at the Yellalas.
The extent of a few hundred feet afforded a good bird's eye view
of the scene. The old river-valley, shown by the scarp of the
rocks, must have presented gigantic features, and the height of
the trough-walls, at least a thousand feet, gives the Yellala a
certain beauty and grandeur. The site is apparently the highest
axis of the dividing ridge separating the maritime lowlands from
the inner plateau. Looking eastward the land smoothens, the dorsa
fall more gently towards the counter-slope, and there are none of
the "Morros" which we have traversed.
With the members of the Congo Expedition, I was somewhat startled
by the contrast between the apparently shrunken volume of waters
and the vast breadth of the lower river; hence Professor Smith's
theory of underground caverns and communications, in fact of a
subterraneous river, a favourite hobby in those days. But there
is not a trace of limestone formation around, nor is there the
hollow echo which inevitably would result from such a tunnel.
Evidently the difference is to be accounted for by the rapidity
of the torrent, the effect of abnormal slope deceiving the eye.
At the Mosî-wa-tunya Falls the gigantic Zambeze, from a breadth
of a thousand yards suddenly plunges into a trough only forty-
five to sixty feet wide: the same is the case with the Brazilian
São Francisco, which, a mile wide above the Cachoeira de Paulo
Affonso, is choked to a minimum breadth of fifty-one feet. At the
Pongo (narrows) de Manseriche also, the Amazonas, "already a
noble river, is contracted at its narrowest part to a width of
only twenty-five toises, bounded on each margin by lofty
perpendicular cliffs, at the end of which the Andes are fairly
passed, and the river emerges on the great plain."[FN#31] Thus
the Yellala belongs to the class of obstructed rapids like those
of the Nile, compared with the unobstructed, of which a fine
specimen is the St. Lawrence. It reminded me strongly of the Búsa
(Boussa) described by Richard Lander, where the breadth of the
Niger is reduced to a stone-throw, and the stream is broken by
black rugged rocks arising from mid-channel. It is probably a
less marked feature than the Congo, for in June, after the
"Malka" or fourteen days of incessant rain, the author speaks of
whirlpools, not of a regular break.
I thus make the distance of the Yellala from the mouth between
116 and 117 miles and the total fall 390 feet, of which about one
half (195) occurs in the sixty-four miles between Boma and the
Yellala: of this figure again 100 feet belong to the section of
five miles between the Vivi and the Great Rapids. The Zambeze,
according to Dr. Livingstone ("First Expedition," p. 284), has a
steeper declivity than some other great rivers, reaching even 7
inches per mile. With 3 to 4 inches, the Ganges, the Amazonas,
and the Mississippi flow at the rate of three knots an hour in
the lowest season and five or six during the flood: what, then,
may be expected from the Nzadi?
According to the people, beyond the small upper fall where
projections shut out the view, the channel smoothens for a short
space and carries canoes. Native travellers from Nkulu usually
take the mountain-path cutting across an easterly bend of the bed
to Banza Menzi, the Manzy of Tuckey's text and the Menzi Macooloo
of his map. It is situated on a level platform 9 miles north of
Nkulu, and they find the stream still violent. The second march
is to Banza Ninga, by the First Expedition called "Inga," an
indirect line of five hours = 15 miles. The third, of about the
same distance, makes Banza Mavunda where, 20 to 24 miles above
the Yellala, Tuckey found the river once more navigable, clear in
the middle and flowing at the rate of two miles an hour--a
retardation evidently caused by the rapids beyond: I have
remarked this effect in the Brazilian "Cachoeiras."[FN#32] Above
it the Nzadi widens, and canoeing is practicable with portages at
the two Sangallas. The southern feature, double like the Yellala,
shows an upper and a lower break, separated by two miles, the
rapids being formed as usual by sunken ledges of rock. Two days'
paddling lead to the northern or highest Sangalla, which
obstructs the stream for 22 miles: Tuckey (p. 184) makes his
Songo Sangalla contain three rapids; Prof. Smith, whose
topography is painfully vague, doubles the number, at the same
time he makes Sanga Jalala (p. 327) the "uppermost fall but one
and the highest." Finally, at Nsundi (on the map Soondy N'sanga),
which was reached on Sept. 9, a picturesque sandy cove at the
opening of a creek behind along projecting point, begins a lake-
like river, three miles broad, with fine open country on both
banks: the explorer describes it as "beautiful scenery equal to
anything on the banks of the Thames."
Here the Nzadi is bounded by low limestone hills already showing
the alluvial basin of Central Africa; and the land is well
populated, because calcareous districts are fertile in the
tropics and provisions are plentiful. Prof. Smith (p. 336) was
"so much enraptured with the improved appearance of the country
and the magnificence of the river, that it was with the greatest
difficulty he was prevailed on to return." Of course, the coaster
middle-men report the people to be cannibals.
From the Vivi Rapids to Nsundi along the windings of the bed is a
total of 115 miles, about the distance of Vivi to the sea; the
direct land march was 75 miles. Captain Tuckey heard nothing of
the Lumini River entering 43 leagues above the Yellala, and he
gives no professional opinion touching the navigability of the
total of six greater rapids which, to judge from what I saw, can
hardly offer any serious obstruction to the development of the
At Nkulu an intelligent native traveller whom I examined through
the interpreters, strongly advised the line of the southern bank:
five stages would lead to Nsundi, and the ten "kings" on the road
are not such "rapacious gentlemen" as our present hosts. A glance
at Tuckey's map shows that this southern line cuts across a long
westerly deflection of the bed.
I had been warned when setting out that a shipful of goods would
not take me past Nkulu. This was soon confirmed. On the evening
after arrival I had directed my interpreter to sound the "bush-
kings" touching the expense of a march to Nsundi. They modestly
demanded 100 lbs. of beads, fifty kegs of powder, forty demijohns
of rum, twelve uniforms, ten burnuses, a few swords, and 200
whole pieces of various expensive cloths, such as Costa Finas,
Riscados, and satin stripes,--briefly, about £300 for three days'
march. It suggested the modest demand made by King Adooley of
Badagry, from the brothers Lander.
The air of Nkulu was a cordial; the aspect of the land suggested
that it is the threshold to a country singularly fertile and
delicious, in fact, the paradise which Bishop Berkeley (Gaudentio
di Lucca) placed in Central Africa. The heat of the lowlands had
"The scorching ray
Here pierceth not, impregnate with disease."
The thermometer, it is true, did not sink below 67° (F.), whilst
the "Expedition" (p. 118) had found it 60° in August, even at
Boma during the dewy nights. The lowest temperature of the water
was 75°, and the highest 79°, whereas at the mouth it is
sometimes 83°; Tuckey gives 76°-77°; 74° in the upper river above
the Falls, and 73° where there are limestone springs. The
oxydization of iron suddenly ceased; after a single day's drying,
the plants were ready for a journey to England, and meat which
wrill hardly keep one day in the lowlands is here eatable on the
Whilst the important subject of "dash" was being discussed I set
out in my hammock to visit a quitanda or market held hard by. As
we started, the women sang,
"Lungwá u telemene ko
Mwanza Ko Yellala o kwenda."
"The boat that arrives at the Mwanza (the River) the same shall
go up to the Yellala" (rapids). It is part of a chant which the
mothers of men now old taught them in childhood, and the sole
reminiscence of the Congo Expedition, whose double boats, the
Ajôjôs of the Brazil, struck their rude minds half a century ago.
These quitandas are attended by people living a dozen miles off,
and they give names to the days, which consequently everywhere
vary. Thus at Boma Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are
respectively called "Nkenge," "Sona," "Kandu," and "Konzo." This
style of dividing time, which is common throughout Pagan West
Africa, is commonly styled a week: thus the Abbé Proyart tells us
that the Loango week consists of four days, and that on the
fourth the men "rest" by hunting and going to market. Tuckey also
recognizes the "week of four days," opposed to the seven days'
week of the Gold Coast.
After half an hour's run to the north-west my bearers, raising
loud shouts of "Alii! vai sempre!" dashed into the market-place
where about a hundred souls were assembled. The women rose in
terror from their baskets and piles of vendibles; some began
hastily to pack up, others threw themselves into the bush. Order
was soon restored by the interpreter; both sexes and all ages
crowded round me with hootings of wonder, and, when they had
stared their fill, allowed me to sit down under a kind of ficus,
not unlike the banyan-tree (Ficus Indica). Tuckey (p. 181) says
that this fig is planted in all market-places and is considered
sacred; his people got into trouble by piling their muskets
against one of them: I heard of nothing of the kind. The scanty
supplies--a few fowls, sun-dried fish, kola-nuts, beans, and red
peppers--were spread upon skins, or stored in well-worked
baskets, an art carried to perfection in Africa; even the Somali
Bedawin weave pots that will hold water. The small change was
represented by a medium which even Montesquieu would not set down
as a certain mark of civilization. The horse-shoe of Loggun
(Denham and Clapperton), the Fán fleam, the "small piece of iron
like an ace of spades on the upper Nile" (Baker), and the iron
money of the brachycephalic Nyam-nyams described and drawn by
Schwein furth (i. 279), here becomes a triangle or demi-square of
bast-cloth, about 5 inches of max. length, fringed, coloured like
a torchon after a month of kitchen use, and worth one-twentieth
of the dollar or fathom of cloth. These money-mats or coin-clouts
are known to old travellers as Macuitas and Libonges (in Angolan
Libangos). Carli and Merolla make them equivalent to brass money;
the former were grass-cloth a yard long, and ten = 100 reis; in
1694 they were changed at Angola for a small copper coin worth 2
1/2 d., and the change caused a disturbance for which five
soldiers were shot. Silver was represented by "Intagas," thick
cottons the size of two large kerchiefs (=. Is. 6d.) and
"Folingas," finer sorts used for waist-cloths (=. 3s. 6d.); and
gold by Beirames (alii Biramis): Carli says the latter are coarse
Indian cottons 5 ells long and each = 200 reis; others describe
them as fine linen each piece worth 7s. 6d. to 8s. The bank-note
was the "Indian piece or Mulech, a young black about twenty years
of age, worth 20 Mil Keys (dollars) each." (Carli.) In the
Barbots' day each "coin-clout") was equivalent to 2d.; some were
unmarked, whilst others bore the Portuguese arms single or
double. The wilder Kru-men still keep up their "buyapart" (= 25
cents), a cloth 4 inches square and thickly sewn over with
The only liquor was palm wine in huge calabashes. The smoking of
Lyamba (Bhang or Cannabis sativa) seems to become more common as
we advance. I did not find the plant growing, as did Dr.
Livingstone at Linyanti and amongst the Batoka ("First
Expedition," 198, 541). The pipe is the gourd of a baobab, which
here sometimes grows a foot and a half long; it is cleared,
filled with water and provided with a wooden tube fixed in the
upper part away from the mouth, and supporting a small "chillam"
or bowl of badly baked clay. The people when smoking affect the
bunched shoulders, the deep inhalation, and the loud and body-
shaking bark, which seems inseparable from the enjoyment of this
stimulant. I have used it for months together, and my conclusion
is, that mostly the cough is an affectation. Tobacco is smoked in
the usual heavy clay pipes, with long mouthpieces of soft wood,
quite as civilized as the best European. "Progress" seems unknown
to the pipe; the most advanced nations are somewhat behind the
barbarians, and in the matter of snuff the Tupi or Brazilian
savage has never been rivalled.
The greater part of the vendors seemed to be women, of the buyers
men; there was more difference of appearance than in any European
fair, and the population about Nkulu seemed to be a very mixed
race. Some were ultra-negro, of the dead dull-black type,
prognathous and long-headed like apes; others were of the red
variety, with hair and eyes of a brownish tinge, and a few had
features which if whitewashed could hardly be distinguished from
Europeans. The tattoo was remarkable as amongst the tribes of the
lower Zambeze.[FN#33] There were waistcoats, epaulettes, braces
and cross-belts of huge welts, and raised polished lumps which
must have cost not a little suffering; the skin is pinched up
between the fingers and sawn across with a bluntish knife, the
deeper the better; various plants are used as styptics, and the
proper size of the cicatrice is maintained by constant pressure,
which makes the flesh protrude from the wound. The teeth were as
barbarously mutilated as the skin; these had all the incisors
sharp-tipped; those chipped a chevron-shaped hole in the two
upper or lower frontals, and not a few seemed to attempt
converting the whole denture into molars. The legs were
undeniably fine; even Hieland Mary's would hardly be admired
here. Whilst the brown mothers smoked and carried their babies,
the men bore guns adorned with brass tacks, or leaned upon their
short, straight, conical "spuds" and hoes, long-handled bits of
iron whose points, after African fashion, passed through the
wood. I nowhere saw the handsome carved spoons, the hafts and
knife-sheaths figured by the Congo Expedition.
We left the quitanda with the same shouting and rushing which
accompanied my appearance.
Return to the Congo Mouth.
In the evening there was a palaver.
I need hardly say that my guide, after being paid to show me
Nsundi, never had the slightest intention to go beyond the
Yellala. Irritated by sleeping in the open air, and by the total
want of hospitality amongst the bushmen, he and his moleques had
sat apart all day, the picture of stubborn discontent, and
"Not a man in the place
But had discontent written large in his face."
I proposed to send back a party for rum, powder, and cloth to the
extent of £150, or half the demand, and my factotum, Selim,
behaved like a trump. Gidi Mavunga, quite beyond self-control,
sprang up, and declared that, if the Mundele would not follow
him, that obstinate person might remain behind. The normal
official deprecation, as usual, made him the more headstrong; he
rushed off and disappeared in the bush, followed by a part of his
slaves, the others crying aloud to him, "Wenda!"-- get out!
Seeing that the three linguisters did not move, he presently
returned, and after a furious address in Fiote began a Portuguese
tirade for my benefit. This white man had come to their country,
and, instead of buying captives, was bent upon enslaving their
Mfumos; but that "Branco" should suffer for his attempt; no
"Mukanda" or book (that is, letter) should go down stream; all
his goods belonged of right to his guide, and thus he would learn
to sit upon the heads of the noblesse, with much of the same
There are times when the traveller either rises above or sinks to
the level of, or rather below, his party. I had been sitting
abstractedly, like the great quietist, Buddha, when the looks of
the assembly suggested an "address." This was at once delivered
in Portuguese, with a loud and angry voice. Gidi Mavunga, who had
been paid for Nsundi, not for the Yellala, had spoken like a
"small boy" (i.e., a chattel). I had no wish to sit upon other
men's heads, but no man should sit on mine. Englishmen did not
want slaves, nor would they allow others to want them, but they
would not be made slaves themselves. My goods were my own, and
King Nessala, not to speak of Mambuco Prata--the name told--had
made themselves responsible for me. Lastly, if the Senhor Gidi
Mafung wanted to quarrel, the contents of a Colt's six-shooter
were at his disposal.
Such a tone would have made a European furious; it had a contrary
effect upon the African. Gidi Mavunga advanced from his mat, and
taking my hand placed it upon his head, declaring me his
"Mwenemputo." The linguisters then entered the circle, chanted
sundry speeches, made little dances, then bent their knuckles to
earth, much in the position of boys preparing to jump over their
own joined hands, dusted themselves, and clapped palms. Very
opportunely arrived a present from the king of fowls, dried fish
and plantains, which restored joy to the camp. "Mwenemputo," I
must explain, primarily meaning "the King of Portugal," is
applied in East Central Africa to a negro king and chiefs ("The
Lands of the Cazembe," p. 17). In Loango also it is the name of a
high native official, and, when used as in the text, it is
equivalent to Mfumo, chief or head of family.
At night Gidi Mavunga came to our quarters and began to talk
sense. Knowing that my time was limited, he enlarged upon the
badness of the road and the too evident end of the travelling
season, when the great rains would altogether prevent fast
travel. Banza Ninga, the next stage, was distant two or three
marches, and neither shelter nor provisions were to be found on
the way. Here a canoe would carry us for a day (12 miles) to the
Sangala Rapids: then would come the third portage of two days (22
miles) to Nsundi. My outfit at Banza Nokki was wholly
insufficient; the riverine races were no longer tractable as in
the days of his father, when white men first visited the land. My
best plan was to return to Boma at once, organize a party, and
march upon Congo Grande (S. Salvador); there I should find
whites, Portuguese, Englishmen and their "Kru-men" the term
generally applied on the southern coast to all native employés of
foreign traders. If determined upon bring "converted into black
man" I might join some trading party into the interior. As
regards the cloth and beads advanced by me for the journey to
Nsundi, a fair proportion would be returned at Banza Nokki. And
so saying the old fox managed to look as if he meant what he
All this, taken with many a grain, was reasonable. The edge of my
curiosity had been taken off by the Yellala, and nothing new
could be expected from the smaller formations up stream. Time
forbade me to linger at Banza Nkulu. The exorbitant demand had
evidently been made by express desire of Gidi Mavunga, and only a
fortnight's delay could have reduced it to normal dimensions. Yet
with leisure success was evident. All the difficulties of the
Nsundi road would have vanished when faced. The wild people
showed no feeling against foreigners, and the Nkulu linguisters
during their last visit begged me to return as soon as possible
and "no tell lie." I could only promise that their claims should
be laid before the public. Accordingly a report of this trip was
at once sent in to Her Majesty's Foreign Office, and a paper was
read before the British Association of September, 1864.
Early on Thursday morning (Sept. 17) we began the down march. It
was a repetition of the up march, except that all were bent upon
rushing home, like asses to their stables; none of those posés,
or regular halts on the line of march, as practised by well-
trained voyageurs, are known to Congo-land. There was some reason
for the hurry, and travellers in these regions will do well to
remember it, or they may starve with abundance around them. The
kings and chiefs hold it their duty to entertain the outward
bound; but when cloth, beads, and rum have been exhausted, the
returning wanderer sits under a tree instead of entering the
banza, and it is only an exceptional householder who will send
him a few eggs or plantains. They "cut" you, as a rule, more
coolly than ever town man cut a continental acquaintance.
Finally, the self-imposed hardships of the down march break men's
spirits for further attempts, and their cupidity cannot
neutralize their natural indolence thus reinforced.
We entered on the next afternoon Gidi Mavunga's village, where
the lieges received him with shouts and hand-clappings: at the
Papagayo's there was a dance which lasted through that night and
the next. I stayed three days at Chinguvu finishing my sketches,
but to have recovered anything from the guide would have required
three weeks. The old villain relaxed his vigilance over the
women, who for the first time were allowed to enter the doors
without supervision: Merolla treats of this stale trick, and
"Ah pereat! didicit fallere si qua virum."
I was reminded of the classical sentiment upon the Rio de S.
Francisco ("Highlands of the Brazil," ii. chap, xiv.), where,
amongst other sentiments, the boatmen severely denounce in song
"Mulher que engana tropeiro."
As a rule throughout West Africa, where even the wildest tribes
practise it, the "panel dodge" served, as Dupuis remarked, to
supply the slave-trade, and in places like Abeokuta it became a
nuisance: the least penalty to which it leads is the confiscation
of the Lothario's goods and chattels. Foiled in his benevolent
attempt, the covetous senior presently entered the hut, and began
unceremoniously to open a package of cloth which did not belong
to him. Selim cocked his revolver, and placed it handy, so the
goods were afterwards respected.
At length, on Sept. 19, a piece of cloth (=48 yards) procured a
canoe. But calico and beads are not removed from an African
settlement without disturbance: my factotum has given a detailed
account of the scene.[FN#35] Gidi Mavunga so managed that the
porters, instead of proceeding straight to the stream, marched
upon Banza Nokki where his royal son was awaiting us. Worse
still, Nessudikira's royal mother was there, a large old virago,
who smoked like a steam-engine and who "swore awful." The
moleques were armed, but none liked proceeding to extremes; so,
after an unusually loud quarrel, we reached the river in three
hours, and at 9.45 A.M. we set out for Boma.
The down voyage was charming. Instead of hugging the southern
bank, we raced at a swinging pace down mid-stream. A few showers
had wonderfully improved the aspect of the land, where
"Every tree well from his fellow grew
With branches broad, laden with leaves new,
That springen out against the sunny sheen,
Some very red and some a glad light green;"
and the first breath of spring gave life to the queer
antediluvian vegetation--calabash and cactus, palmyra, bombax,
and fern. An admirable mirage lifted the canoes which preceded us
clean out of the river, and looking down stream the water seemed
to flow up hill, as it does, according to Mrs.---, in the
aqueducts of Madeira. Although the tide began to flow up shortly
after 10 A.M., and the sea-breeze wafe unusually strong, we
covered the forty-five miles in 7 hrs. 15 m. Amidst shouts of
"Izakula Mundeh,"--white men cum agen!--we landed at Boma, and
found that the hospitable Sr. Pereira had waited dinner, to which
I applied myself most "wishedly."
Once more in civilization, we prepared for a march upon S.
No white man at Boma knew anything of the road to the old
Capital; but, as a letter had been received from it after three
days' march, there was evidently no difficulty. I wrote to Porto
da Lenha for an extra supply of "black money," which was
punctually forwarded; both Chico Furano and Nihama Chamvu
volunteered for the journey, and preparations were progressing as
rapidly as could be expected in these slow-moving lands, when
they were brought to the abruptest conclusion. On the 24th Sept.
a letter from the Commodore of the station informed me that I had
been appointed H. M.'s Commissioner to Dahome, and that, unless I
could at once sail in H.M.S. "Griffon," no other opportunity
would be found for some time. The only step left was to apply for
a canoe, and, after a kindly farewell to my excellent host, I
left Boma on the evening of Sept. 25.
With a view of "doing" the mosquitoes, we ran down the Nshibul or
central arm of the Nzadi, and found none of the whirlpools
mentioned by the "Expedition" near Fetish Rock. The bright clear
night showed us silhouettes of dark holms, high and wooded to the
north, and southwards banks of papyrus outlying long straggling
lines of thin islands like a huge caterpillar. The canoe-men
attempted to land at one place, declaring that some king wanted
"dash," but we were now too strong for them: these fellows, if
allowed, will halt to speak every boat on the river. The wind
fell to a dead calm, and five hours and a half sufficed to cover
the thirty miles between Boma and Porto da Lenha. Here Mr. Scott
supplied me with a fine canoe and a fresh crew of seven paddles.
The noon was grey and still as we left the Whydah of the south,
but at 2 P.M. the sea-breeze came up stiff and sudden, the tide
also began to flow; the river roared; the meeting of wind and
water produced what the Indus boatmen call a "lahar" (tide rip),
and the Thalweg became almost as rough as the Yellala. Our canoe
"Laying her whole side on the sea,
As a leaping fish does."
Unwilling to risk swamping my instruments, I put into the
northern bank, where our friend, the palhabote Espérance, passed
under a tricolour, and manned only by Laptots. As we waved a
signal to them, they replied with a straggling fire of musketry
to what they considered a treacherous move on the part of
plundering Musurungus. At sunset a lump of scirrhus before the
sun was so dense that its dark shadow formed a brush like the
trabes of a comet. This soon melted away, and a beautifully
diaphanous night tempted us to move towards the dreary funnel of
darkness which opened ahead. The clouds began to pour; again the
stream became rough, and the swift upper or surface current
meeting the cross-tide below represented an agitated "Race of
Portland." Wet and weary we reached Banana Point on Sunday, Sept.
27, 1863, fortunately not too "late for the mail," and, next day,
I was on board "Griffon," ready for Dahome and for my late host
The Slaver and the Missionary in the Congo River.
In the preceding pages some details have been given concerning
domestic slavery upon the Congo River. Like polygamy, the system
of barbarous and semi-barbarous races, it must be held
provisional, but in neither case can we see any chance of present
end. Should the Moslem wave of conquest, in a moral as well as a
material form, sweep--and I am persuaded that it will sweep--from
North Africa across the equator, the effect will be only to
establish both these "patriarchal institutions" upon a stronger
and a more rational basis.
All who believe in "progress" are socially anti-slavers, as we
all are politically Republicans. But between the two extremes,
between despotism, in which society is regimented like an army,
and liberty, where all men are theoretically free and equal,
there are infinite shades of solid rule and government which the
wisdom of nations adapts to their wants. The medium of
constitutional monarchy or hereditary presidentship recommends
itself under existing circumstances to the more advanced peoples,
and with good reason; we nowhere find a prevalence of those manly
virtues, disinterestedness and self-sacrifice to the
"respublica," which rendered the endurance of ancient republics
possible. Rome could hardly have ruled the world for centuries
had her merchants supplied Carthage with improved triremes or
furnished the Parthians with the latest style of weapons. We must
be wise and virtuous before we can hope to be good republicans,
and man in the mass is not yet "homo sapiens;" he is not wise,
and certainly he is not virtuous.
The present state of Africa suggests two questions concerning the
abolition of the export slave-trade, which must be kept
essentially distinct from domestic servitude. The first is, "Does
the change benefit the negro?" Into this extensive subject I do
not propose to enter, contenting myself with recording a negative
answer. But upon the second, "Is the world ready for its
abolition?" I would offer a few remarks. They will be ungrateful
to that small but active faction which has laboured so long and
so hard to misinform the English public concerning Africa, and
which is as little fitted to teach anything about the African as
to legislate for Mongolian Tartary. It has prevailed for a time
to the great injury of the cause, and we cannot but see its
effects in almost every step taken by the Englishman, civilian or
soldier, who lands his British opinions and prejudices on the
West Coast, and who, utterly ignoring the fact that the African,
as far as his small interests are concerned, is one of the
clearest sighted of men, unhesitatingly puts forth addresses and
proclamations which he would not think of submitting to
Europeans. But I have faith in my countrymen. If there be any
nation that deserves to be looked upon as the arbiter of public
opinion in Europe, it is England proper, which, to the political
education of many generations, adds an innate sense of
moderation, of justice, and of fair play, and a suspicion of
extreme measures however theoretically perfect, which do not
exist elsewhere. Heinrich Heine expressed this idea after his
Maccabean fashion, "Ask the stupidest Englishman a question of
politics, and he will say something clever; ask the cleverest
Englishman a question of religion and he will say something
stupid." Hence the well-wishers of England can feel nothing but
regret when they find her clear and cold light of reason
obscured, as it has been, upon the negro question by the mists
and clouds of sentimental passion, and their first desire is to
see this weakness pass away.
I unhesitatingly assert--and all unprejudiced travellers will
agree with me--that the world still wants the black hand.
Enormous tropical regions yet await the clearing and the draining
operations by the lower races, which will fit them to become the
dwelling-place of civilized man.
But slave-exportation is practically dead; we would not revive
it, nor indeed could we, the revival would be a new institution,
completely in disaccord with the spirit of the age. It is for us
to find something which shall take its place, and which shall
satisfy the just aspirations of those who see their industry and
energy neutralized by want of labour. I need hardly say that all
requirements would be met by negro-emigration; and that not only
Africa, but the world of the east as well as of the west, call
for some measure of the kind. The "cooly" from Hindostan may in
time become a valuable article, but it will be long before he can
be induced to emigrate in sufficient numbers: the Chinese will be
a mistake when the neglected resources of the mighty "Central
Empire," mineral and others, shall be ready to be developed, as
they soon must, under the supervision of Europeans. It remains
only for us to draw upon the great labour-bank of Negro-land.
A bonâ fide emigration, a free engagé system, would be a boon to
Western and Inner Africa, where the tribes live in an almost
continual state of petty warfare. The anti-slavers and the
abolitionists, of course, represent this to be the effect of the
European trade in man's flesh and blood; but it prevails, and has
ever prevailed, and long will prevail, even amongst peoples which
have never sent a head of negro to the coast. And there is a
large class of men captured in battle, and a host of those
condemned to death by savage superstition, whose lives can be
saved only by their exportation, which, indeed, is the African
form of transportation. "We believe," says the Abbé Proyart
(1776), "that the father sells his son and the prince his
subjects; he only who has lived among them can know that it is
not even lawful for a man to sell his slave, if he be born in the
country, unless he have incurred that penalty by certain crimes
specified by law."
It will be objected that any scheme of the kind must be so
involved in complicated difficulties that it cannot fail to
degenerate into the old export slave-trade. This I deny.
Admitting that such must at first be its tendency, I am persuaded
that the details can so be controlled as to secure the use
without the abuse. Women and children, for instance, should never
be allowed on board ship, unless accompanying husbands and
parents. Those who speak some words of a foreign tongue, English,
French, Spanish, or Portuguese, and on the eastern coast
Hindostani, might lead the way, to be followed in due time by the
wilder races. Probably the best ground for the trial would be the
Island of Zanzibar, where we can completely control its
operations. And what should lend us patience and courage to meet
and to beat down all difficulties is the consideration that
success will be the sole possible means, independent of El Islam,
of civilizing, or rather of humanizing, the Dark Continent. The
excellent Abbé Proyart begins his "History of Loango" with the
wise and memorable words: "Touching the Africans, these people
have vices,--what people is exempt from vice? But, were they even
more wicked and more vicious, they would be so much the more
entitled to the commiseration and good offices of their fellow-
men, and, should the missionary despair of making them
Christians, men ought still to endeavour to make them men."
The "Free Emigration" schemes hitherto attempted have been mere
snares and delusions; chiefly, I hold, because the age was not
ripe for them. In 1844 three agencies were established at Sierra
Leone for supplying hands to British Guiana, Trinidad and
Jamaica. As wages they offered per diem $0.75 to $1, with leave
to return at pleasure; the "liberated" preferred, however, to
live upon sixpence at home, suspecting that the bait was intended
as a lure to captivity. Nor were their fears lulled by the fact
that the agents shipped amongst 250 "volunteers" some seventy-six
wild slaves, fresh captives, who were not allowed to communicate
with their fellow-countrymen ashore. In 1850 certain
correspondents from Liverpool inquired of King "Eyo Honesty" if
he could provide for service in the West Indies 10,000 men,
women, and children, as the "quotum from the Old Calabar River,"
which would mean 100,000 from the West Coast. "He be all same ole
slave-trade," very justly remarked that knowing potentate: he
added, that he would respect the Suppression Treaty with England,
and that he personally preferred palm-oil, but that all the
"Calabar gentlemen" and the neighbouring kings would be glad to
supply slaves at a fixed price, four boxes of brass and copper
Followed, in 1852-3, the gigantic scheme of MM. Régis et Cie,
which began operations upon the East as well as the West Coast of
Africa. Having studied it on both sides of the continent, I could
not help forming the worst opinion of the attempt. The agents
never spoke of it except as a slave- trade; the facetiæ touching
"achat" and "rachat" were highly suited to African taste, and I
have often heard them declare before the people that "captives"
are the only articles which can profitably be exported from the
coasts--in fact, as old Caspar Barlé said, "precipuæ merces ipsi
Ethiopes sunt." I subjoin to this chapter the form of French
passport; it will serve, when a bonâ fide emigration shall be
attempted, to show "how not to do it." Happily this "emigration"
has come to an end": M. Régis, seeing no results, gave orders to
sell off all the goods in his factories, and to retain only one
clerk as housekeeper. The ouvriers libres deserted and fled in
all directions, for fear of being "put in a cannibal pot" and
being eaten by the white anthropophagi.
The history of missionary enterprise in the Congo regions is not
less interesting than the slave-trade. The first missioners
sailed in December, 1490, under Goncalo de Sousa; of the three
one were killed by the heat, and another having made himself
"Chaplain to the Congolan Army," by a "Giaghi" chief. The seed
sown by these friars was cultivated by twelve Franciscans of the
Order of Observants. The Right Reverend Fathers of the Company
appeared in 1560 with the Conquistador Paulo Dias de Novaes.
According to Lopez de Lima, who seems to endorse the saying, "Si
cum Jesuitis, non cum Jesu itis," they worried one captain-
general to death, and they attempted to found in Congo-land
another Uruguay or Paraguay. But here they totally failed, and,
as yet indeed, they have not carried out, either in East or West
Africa, the celebrated boast popularly attributed to their
general, Borgia (1572):
"We shall come in like the lambs;
We shall be driven out like the dogs,
We shall rush like the wolves;
We shall be icnewed like the eagles."
The baptism of D. Alvaro I. (1491), the founding of the cathedral
at S. Salvador (1534), the appointment of the Bishop and Chapter,
and their transfer to São Paulo de Loanda (1627), have already
been alluded to.
According to Fathers Carli and Merolla, Pope Alexander VII. sent
twelve to fifteen Capuchins and apostolic missioners, who
baptized the King and Queen of Congo and the Count of Sonho.
Between A.D. 1490 and 1690 were the palmy days of Christianity in
Congo-land, and for two centuries it was more or less the state
religion. After this great effort missionary zeal seems to have
waxed cold, and disestablishment resulted, as happens in such
cases, from unbelief within and violent assaults from without.
Under the attacks of the Dutch and French the Church seems to
have lost ground during the eighteenth century. In A.D. 1682 the
number of propagandists in Sonho fell from a father superior and
six missioners to two (Merolla). In A.D. 1700 James Barbot found
at Sonho only two Portuguese friars of the Order of Bernardins.
In A.D. 1768 the Loango Mission was established, and in A.D. 1777
the fathers were followed by four Italian priests sent by the
Propaganda for the purpose of re-christianizing Sonho. Embarking
at La Rochelle they entered the Nzadi, where one died of poison,
and the survivors escaped only by stratagem. Christianity fell
before the old heathenism, and in 1814 we find the King of Congo,
D. Garcia V., complaining to His Most Faithful Majesty that
missioners were sadly wanted. Captain Tuckey's "Expedition" (A.D.
1816) well sets forth the spiritual destitution of the land. He
tells us that three years before his arrival some missionaries
had been murdered by the Sohnese; the only specimen he met was an
ignorant half-caste with a diploma from the Capuchins of Loanda,
and a wife plus five concubines. In 1863 I found that all traces
of Christianity had disappeared.
These reverends--who were allowed to dispense with any
"irregularity" except bigamy or wilful murder, and "to read
forbidden books except Machiavel,"--took the title of Nganga
Mfumo[FN#35]--Lord Medicine-man. In the fulness of early zeal
they built at S. Salvador the cathedral of Santa Cruz, a Jesuit
College, a Capuchin convent, the residence of the father
superior, maintained by the King of Portugal; a religious house
for the Franciscans, an establishment for the Bishop and his
Chapter, and half-a-dozen stone churches. All these edifices have
long been in ruins.
Father Cavazzi da Monte Cuccoli, Denis de Carli, and Merolla,
themselves missioners, have left us ample accounts of the
ecclesiastical rule which, during its short tenure of office,
bore a remarkable family resemblance to that of the Jesuit
missions in South America. The religious despotism was complete,
a tyranny grossly aggravated by the credulity, the bigotry, and
the superstition,--I will not say of the age, because such things
are of all ages, but of the imperfect education which the age
afforded. There was no improvement, but rather a deterioration
from the days of Pliny. One father tells the converts that comets
forbode ill to the world. Another describes a bird not much
unlike a sparrow, at first sight it seems wholly black, but upon
a nearer view it looks blue; the excellency of its song is that
it harmoniously and articulately pronounces the name of Jesus
Christ. A third remarks, "they (the heathen) are excited by the
heavens forming a cross under the zone; they are excited by the
mountains which have the cross carved on them, without knowing by
whom; they are excited by the earth which draws the crucifix in
its fruit called Nicefo." Yet all these things are of little
force to move the hearts of those Gentiles who scoffingly cry,
"When we are sick, forsooth, the wood of this cross will cure
us!" Another father, resolving to denounce certain heathen
practices, placed on the Feast of Purification an image of the
Virgin in relievo upon the altar, and "with a dagger struck
through her breast on which the blood followed:" like Mark
Antony, he "improved the occasion," and sent home the fathers of
families to thrash their wives and daughters who were shut up in
the "paint houses." It is gravely related how a hungry friar
dines copiously on fish with an angel; how another was saved by
the "father of miracles, the glorious Saint Anthony of Padua,"
whom another priest, taking as his patron, sees before his
hammock. A woman, bearing a child in her arms and supposed to be
the Virgin, attends the Portuguese army, and she again appears in
the shape of a "beautiful beggar." The miraculous resurrection of
a boiled cock is gravely chronicled. A certain man lived 380
years "at the intercession of Saint Francis d'Assise." Of course,
the missioners saw water-monsters in the Congo River. A child
"came from his mother's womb with a beard and all his teeth,
perhaps to show he was born into the world grown old in vice." A
certain scoffer "being one day to pass a river with two
companions, was visibly taken up by an invisible hand into the
air. One of his companions, going to take hold of him by the
feet, had such a cuff given him that he fell down in the boat,
and the offender was seen no more." Father Merolla talks of a
breed in the Cabo Verde Islands "between bulls and she-asses,
which they compassed by binding a cow's hide upon the latter:" it
would be worth inquiring if this was ever attempted, and it might
add to our traditions about the "Jumart." And the tale of the
elephant-hunters deceiving the animals by anointing themselves
with their droppings deserves investigation. Wounds of poisoned
arrows are healed by that which produced them. A woman's milk
cures the venomous foam which cobras spit into the eyes. A snake
as big as a beam kills and consumes men with its look. An "ill
liver," reprimanded by his father for vicious inclinations, fires
a pistol at him; the rebound of the bullet from the paternal
forehead, which remains whole, severely wounds the would-be
parricide: the ablest surgeons cannot heal the hurt, and the
flesh ever continues to be sore and raw upon the forehead, acting
like the brand of Cain.
It is said that two of a trade never agree, and accordingly we
find the hottest wrath of the missioners vented upon their rival
brethren, the Ngangas or medicine-men in Africa, and the Pages or
Tupi doctors in South America. The priestly presence deprives an
idol of all its powers, the sacerdotal power annihilates all
charms and devices, "thereby showing that the performances of
Christ's ministers are always above those of the devil's." These
"Scinghili," or "Gods of the Earth" (magicians), can sink boats,
be ferried over rivers by crocodiles, and "converse with tigers,
serpents, lions and other wild animals." The "great ugly wizards"
are "sent martyrs to the devil" on all possible occasions. One
father soundly belabours one of these "wicked Magi" with the cord
of his order, invoking all the while the aid of Saint Michael and
the rest of the saints: he enters the "hellish tabernacle, arming
himself frequently with the sign of the cross," but he retreats
for fear of a mischief from the "poor deluded pagans,"--showing
that he is, after all, but an "unbelieving Thomas." On the other
hand, the wizards solidly revenged themselves by killing and
eating Father Philip da Salesia. And the deluded ones must have
found some difficulty in discovering the superiority of exotic
over indigenous superstitions. When there is a calm at sea the
sailors stick their patron against the mast, and kneeling before
him say, "Saint Antony, our countryman, you shall be pleased to
stand there, till you have given us a fair wind to continue our
voyage!" A certain bishop of Congo makes the sign of the cross
upon a "banyan-tree," whereupon it immediately died, like the
fig-tree cursed by our-Saviour. A ship is "sunk in a trice" for
not having a chaplain on board her. The missioners strongly
recommend medals, relics, Agni-Dei, and palm-leaves consecrated
on Palm Sundays. They rage furiously against and they flog those
who wear "wizards' mats," against magic cords fastened round
young children as amulets, and against the teeth and bones of
animals, and cloth made from the rind of certain trees carried as
preservatives from disease and supernatural influences: even
banners in burial-places are "superstitious and blamable." They
claim the power of stopping rain by cursing the air, and of
producing it by prayer, and by "a devout procession to Our Lady
of Pinda," a belief truly worthy of the Nganga; and a fast ship
is stranded that "men may learn to honour holidays better." When
the magicians swear falsely they either burst like Judas or
languish and die--"a warning to be more cautious how they jest
with God." An old hag, grumbling after a brutish manner, proceeds
to bewitch a good father to death by digging a hole and planting
a certain herb. The ecclesiastic resolved to defeat her object by
not standing long in one place. He remembers the saying of the
wise man, "Mulier nequam plaga mortis;" and at last by ordering
her off in the name of the Blessed Trinity and the Holy Virgin,
"withal gently blowing towards her," she all of a sudden giving
three leaps, and howling thrice, flies away in a trice. The
Bolungo or Chilumbo oath or ordeal is, of course, a "hellish
ceremony." Demons play as active a part in Africa as in China.
The Portuguese nuncio permits the people in their simplicity to
light candles before and to worship the so-called "Bull of the
Blessed Sacrament," that by which Urban VIII. allowed the Congo
kings to be crowned after the Catholic manner by the Capuchins,
because the paper bears the "venerable effigies."
Priests may be good servants, but they are, mundanely speaking,
bad masters. The ecclesiastical tyranny exercised upon the people
from the highest to the lowest goes far to account for the
extinction of Christianity in the country where so much was done
to spread it. The kings of Congoland, who "tread on the lion in
the kingdom of their mothers" must abjectly address their
spiritual lords. "I conjure you, prostrate at your holy feet, to
hearken to my words." Whilst the friars talk of "that meekness
which becomes a missioner," their unwise and unwarrantable
interference extends to the Count of Sonho himself; whose
election was not valid unless published in the church, owning
withal that, "though a Black, he is an absolute Prince; and not
unworthy of a Crown, though he were even in Italy, considering
the number of his Servants and the extent of his Dominions." They
issue eight ordinances or "spiritual memorandums" degrading
governors of cities and provinces who are not properly married,
who neglect mass, or who do not keep saints' festivals. Flogging
seems to have been the punishment of all infractions of
discipline, for those who used "magic guards" to their fields
instead of "setting the sign of the Cross;" and for all who did
not teach their children "to repeat, so many times a day, the
Rosary or the Crown, in honour of the Blessed Virgin, to fast on
Saturdays, to eat no flesh on Wednesdays, and such things used
among Christians." One of the Mwanis (governors) refuses to grub
up and level with his own hands a certain grove where the
"hellish trade" (magic) was practised; he is commanded to
discipline himself in the church during the whole time of
celebrating mass. If the governor is negligent in warning the
people that a missioner has arrived, "he will receive a deserved
punishment, for we make it our business to get such a person
removed from his employment, even within his year,"--a system of
temporal penalties affixed to spiritual lâches not unknown
elsewhere. The following anecdote will show the style of reproof.
Father Benedict da Belvedere, a Neapolitan who had preached at
Rome and was likewise confessor to the nuns, heard the chief
elector, one of the principal nobles, asking the heretical
question, "Are we not all to be saved by baptism?" A "sound box
on the ear" was the reply, and it led to a tumult. The head of
the mission sent for the offended dignitary, and offered him
absolution if he would sincerely recant his words and beg pardon
of the churchman militant. The answer was, "That would be
pleasant indeed; he was the aggressor, yet I must make the
excuse! Must I receive a blow, and, notwithstanding, be thought
to have done wrong?" But the peace-maker explained that the blow
was given not to offend, but to defend from hearkening to
heresies; that it was administered, moreover, out of paternal
affection by a spiritual father, whom it did not mis-become, to a
son who was not dishonoured by receiving it. The unfortunate
elector not only suffered in the ear, but was also obliged to
make an abject apology, and to kiss the offender's feet before he
was re-admitted to communion. At Maopongo the priests lost favour
with the court and the women by whipping the queen, and, by the
same process they abated the superhuman pretensions of the
When the chiefs and princes were so treated, what could the
subjects expect? The smallest ecclesiastical faults were punished
with fining and a Talmudic flogging, and for disobedience, a man
was sent "bound to Brazil, a thing they are more than ordinarily
afraid of." A man taking to wife, after the Mosaic law, a woman
left in widow-hood by his kinsman, is severely scourged, and the
same happens to a man who marries his cousin, besides being
deprived of a profitable employment. Every city and town in Sonho
had a square with a central cross, where those who had not
satisfied the Easter command or who died unconfessed were buried
without privilege of clergy. The missioners insist upon their
privilege of travelling free of expense, and make a barefaced use
of the corvée. The following is the tone of a mild address to the
laity: "Some among you are like your own maccacos or monkeys
amongst us who, keeping possession of anything they have stolen,
will sooner suffer themselves to be taken and killed, than to let
go their prey. So impure swine wallow in their filth and care not
to be cleansed."
A perpetual source of trouble was of course the slave-trade:
negroes being the staple of the land, and ivory the other and
minor item, the great profits could not fail to render it the
subject of contention. The reasons why the Portuguese never
succeeded in making themselves masters of Sonho are reduced by
the missioner annalists to three. Firstly, the opposition of the
people caused by fear; secondly, the objections of the Sonhese to
buying arms and ammunition; and, thirdly, the small price paid by
the Portuguese for "captives." The "Most Reverend Cardinal Cibo,"
writing in the name of the Sacred College, complained that the
"pernicious and abominable abuse of slave-selling" was carried on
under the eyes of the missioners, and peremptorily ordered them
to remedy the evil. Finding this practically impossible, the holy
men salved their consciences by ordering their flocks not to
supply negroes to the heretical Hollanders and English, "whose
religion is so very contrary to ours," but to the Portuguese, who
would "withdraw the poor souls out of the power of Lucifer." One
father goes so far, in his fear of heretical influences, as to
remunerate by the gift of a slave the dealer Ferdinando Gomez,
who had supplied him with "a flask of wine for the sacrament and
some other small things," yet he owns F. Gomez to be a rogue.
As the Portuguese would not pay high prices like the heretics,
disturbances resulted, and these were put down by the desperate
expedient of shutting the church-doors--a suicidal act not yet
quite obsolete. Whereupon the Count of Sonho, we are told,
"changed his countenance almost from black to yellow," and
complained to the bishop at Loanda that the sacraments were not
administered: the appeal was in vain, and, worse, an extra aid
was sent to the truculent churchmen. Happily for them, the small-
pox broke out, and the ruler was persuaded by his subjects to do
the required penance. Appearing at the convent, unattended, with
a large rope round his neck, clad in sackcloth, crowned with
thorns, unshod, and carrying a crucifix, he knelt down and kissed
the feet of the priest, who said to him, "If thou hast sinned
like David, imitate him likewise in thy repentance!"
The schismatics caused abundant trouble Captain Cornelius Clas
"went about sowing heretical tares amidst the true corn of the
Gospel;" amongst other damnable doctrines and subtleties, this
nautical and volunteer theologian persuaded the blacks, whom he
knew to be desirous of greater liberty in such matters, that
baptism is the only sacrament necessary to salvation, because it
takes away original sin, as the blood of the Saviour actual sin.
He furthermore (impudently) disowned the real presence in the
consecrated Host; he invoked Saint Anthony, although his tribe
generally denies that praying to saints can be of any use to man;
and he declared that priests should preach certain doctrines
(which, by the way, were perniciously heretical). Thus in a
single hour he so prevailed upon those miserable negroes that
their hearts became quite as black as their faces. An especially
offensive practice of the Hollanders, in the eyes of the good
shepherds, was that of asking the feminine sheep for a whiff of
tobacco--it being a country custom to consider the taking a pipe
from a woman's mouth a "probable earnest of future favours." When
an English ship entered the river, the priests forbade by
manifesto the sale of slaves to the captain, he being a Briton,
ergò a heretic, despite the Duke of York. The Count of Sonho
disobeyed, and was excommunicated accordingly: he took his
punishment with much patience, although upon occasions of reproof
he would fly into passions and disdains; he was reconciled only
after obliging 400 couples that lived in concubinage to lawful
wedlock, and thus a number of "strayed souls was reduced to
We can hardly wonder that, under such discipline, a large
ecclesiastical body was necessary to "maintain the country in its
due obedience to the Christian faith," and that, despite their
charity in alms and their learning, no permanent footing was
possible for the strangers. Nor can we be astonished that the
good fathers so frequently complain of being poisoned. On one
occasion a batch of six was thus treated near Bamba. In this
matter perhaps they were somewhat fanciful, as the white man in
India is disposed to be. One of them, for instance cured himself
with a "fruit called a lemon" and an elk-hoof, from what he took
to be poison, but what was possibly the effect of too much pease
and pullet broth. In "O Muata Cazembe "(pp. 65-66), we find that
the Asiatic Portuguese attach great value to the hoof of the
Nhumbo (A. gnu), they call it "unha de grãbesta," and use it even
in the gotta-coral (epilepsy).
And yet many of these ecclesiastics, whom Lopez de Lima justly
terms "fabulistas," were industrious and sensible men, where
religion was not concerned. They carefully studied the country,
its "situation, possessions, habitations, and clothing." They
formed always outside their faith the justest estimate of their
black fellow-creatures. I cannot too often repeat Father
Merolla's dictum, "The reader may perceive that the negroes are
both a malicious and subtle people that spend the most part of
their time in circumventing and deceiving."
Nor has spiritual despotism been confined to the Catholic
missions in West Africa: certain John Knoxes in the Old Calabar
River have repeated, especially in the case of the king "young
Eyo," whom they excluded from communion, all the abuses and the
errors of judgment of the seventeenth century with the
modifications of the nineteenth. And we must not readily endorse
Dr. Livingstone's professional opinion. "In view of the desolate
condition of this fine missionary field, it is more than probable
that the presence of a few Protestants would soon provoke the
priests, if not to love, to good works." Such is not the history
of our propagandism about the Cape of Good Hope. Dr. Gustav
Fritsch ("The Natives of South Africa," 1872), thus speaks of the
missionary Livingstone, who must not be confounded with the great
explorer Livingstone: "A man who is borne onward by religious
enthusiasm and a glowing ambition, without our being able to say
which of these two levers works more powerfully in his soul.
Certain it is that he endured more labours and overcame more
geographical difficulties than any other African traveller either
before or after him; yet it is also sure that, on account of the
defective natural-historical education of the author, and the
indiscreet partisanship for the natives against the settlers, his
works have spread many false views concerning South Africa."
This, I doubt not, will be the verdict of posterity. See
"Anthropologia," in which are included the Proceedings of the
London Anthropological Society (inaugurated 22 January, 1873. No.
1, October, 1873. London: Baillière, Tindall, and Co.) The Review
(pp. 89-102), bears the well-known initials J. B. D., and it is
not saying too much that no man in England is so well fitted as
Dr. Davis to write it. I quote these passages without any feeling
of disrespect for the memory of the great African explorer. Truth
is a higher duty even than generous appreciation of a heroic
name, and the time will come when Negrophilism must succumb to
I have thus attempted to trace a picture of the Congo River in
the latter days of the slave-trade, and of its lineal descendant,
"L'Immigration Africaine." The people at large are satisfied, and
the main supporters of the traffic--the chiefs, the "medicine-
men," and the white traders--have at length been powerless to
arrest its destruction.
And here we may quote certain words of wisdom from the "Congo
Expedition" in 1816: "It is not to be expected that the effects
of abolition will be immediately perceptible; on the contrary, it
will probably require more than one generation to become
apparent: for effects, which have been the consequence of a
practice of three centuries, will certainly continue long after
the cause is removed." The allusion in the sentence which I have
italicized, is of course, to the American exportation--domestic
slavery must date from the earliest ages. These sensible remarks
conclude with advocating "colonization in the cause of
civilization;" a process which at present cannot be too strongly
That the Nzadi is capable of supplying something better than
slaves may be shown by a list of what its banks produce. Merolla
says in 1682: "Cotton here is to be gathered in great abundance,
and the shrubs it grows on are so prolific, that they never
almost leave sprouting." Captain Tuckey ("Narrative," p. 120)
declares "the only vegetable production at Boma of any
consequence in commerce is cotton, which grows wild most
luxuriantly, but the natives have ceased to gather it since the
English have left off trading to the river," I will not advocate
tobacco, cotton and sugar; they are indigenous, it is true, but
their cultivation is hardly fitted to the African in Africa.
Copper in small quantities has been brought from the interior,
but the mineral resources of the wide inland regions are wholly
unknown. If reports concerning mines on the plateau be
trustworthy, there will be a rush of white hands, which must at
once change, and radically change, all the conditions of the
riverine country. Wax might be supplied in large quantities; the
natives, however, have not yet learnt to hive their bees. Ivory
was so despised by the slave-trade, that it was sent from the
upper Congo to Mayumba and the other exporting harbours; demand
would certainly produce a small but regular supply.
The two staples of commerce are now represented by palm-oil,
which can be produced in quantities over the lowlands upon the
whole river delta, and along the banks from the mouth to Boma, a
distance of at least fifty direct miles. The second, and the more
important, is the arachis, or ground-nut, which flourishes
throughout the highlands of the interior, and which, at the time
of my visit, was beginning to pay. As the experience of some
thirty years on different parts of the West Coast has proved,
both these articles are highly adapted to the peculiarities of
the negro cultivator; they require little labour, and they
command a ready, a regular, and a constant sale.
When time shall be ripe for a bonâ fide emigration, the position
of Boma, at the head of the delta, a charming station, with
healthy air and delicious climate, points it out as the head-
quarters. Houses can be built for nominal sums, the neighbouring
hills offer a sanatorium, and due attention to diet and clothing
will secure the white man from the inevitable sufferings that
result from living near the lower course.
With respect to the exploration of the upper stream, these pages,
compared with the records of the "First Congo Expedition," will
show the many changes which time has brought with it, and will
suggest the steps most likely to forward the traveller's views.
At some period to come explorers will follow the line chosen by
the unfortunate Tuckey; but the effects of the slave-trade must
have passed away before that march can be made without much
obstruction. When Lieutenant Grandy did me the honour of asking
my advice, I suggested that he might avoid great delay and
excessive outlay by "turning" the obstacle and by engaging
"Cabindas" instead of Sierra Leone men. At the Royal Geographical
Society (Dec. 14th, 1874) he thus recorded his decision: "For the
guidance of future travellers in the Congo country, I would
suggest that all the carriers be engaged at Sierra Leone, where
any number can be obtained for 1s. 3d. a day. From my experience
of them I can safely say they will be found to answer every
requirement, and the employment of them would render an
expedition entirely independent of the natives, who, by their
cowardice and constant desertion, entailed upon us such heavy
expenses and serious delays. My conviction, after nearly four
years of travel upon the West African coast, is this: if Sierra
Leone men be used, they must be mixed with Cabindas and with
Congoese "carregadores," registered in presence of the Portuguese
authorities at S. Paulo de Loanda.
I conclude with the hope that the great Nzadi, one of the
noblest, and still the least known of the four principal African
arteries, will no longer be permitted to flow through the White
Blot, a region unexplored and blank to geography as at the time
of its creation, and that my labours may contribute something,
however small, to clear the way for the more fortunate explorer.
Instruments used for altitudes:--
Pocket aneroid, corrected +0.55, "R.G.S"
Casella's Alpine Sympiesometer, corrected to 67° (F.).
N.B.-- Returning to Fernando Po, found that part of the liquid has lodged in upper
bulb, and therefore corrected index error by standard aneroid 1.15 (Symp. =
29.258, and standard, 30.400).
Observations at the Congo mouth in February, 1863 (from log of H.M.S. "Griffon").
Thermometer Barometer Winds Place
Engine in sea. Force & Direction
Room. A.M. P.M.
86° 76° 29.90 (1) S.E. (1) N.N.W. Loanda.
92° 77° 29.92 (1) S.W. (2) W.N.W. En route to Congo.
108° 76° 29.90 (1) S. (3) S.S.W. En route to Congo.
86° 78° 29.90 (2) S. (3) W. En route to Congo.
88° 78° 29.90 (2) S.W. (2) S.S.W. En route to Congo.
94° 80° 29.90 (2) S.E. (2) S.W. En route to Congo.
90° 83° 29.90 (2) S. (2-3)S. Congo.
90° 80° 29.90 (0) Calm (1) W. Congo.
(Signed) F. F. Flynne,
Assistant-Surgeon in Charge.
Place and Date. Time of Day. Thermometer. Symp. Remarks.
9th September 6 a.m. 65° 28.00 cor. 29.12 Cold morning, light wind from N.N.E.,
Banza nokki 9 a.m. 72° 27.70 cor. 28.82 threatened rain, 8 a.m.; noon misty,
on hills above Noon. 78° 27.90 cor. 29.02 day hazy; 3 p.m., sun hot, wind cooler
river 3 p.m. 80.5° 27.85 cor. 28.97 from west; evening, stiff sea-breeze,
6 p.m. 72° 27.90 cor. 29.02 people complain of cold; night, heavy
10th Sept. 6 a.m. 67° 27.90 cor. 29.02 Misty morning, warm at 9 a.m., wind; noon,
Same place, 9 a.m. 75° 27.75 cor. 28.87 hot sun, high sea-breeze; 3 p.m., hot
Nokki. Noon. 83° 27.85 cor. 28.97 sun, cool west wind; cloudy evening;
3 p.m. 85° 27.75 cor. 28.87 windy night, dew cold and heavy.
6 p.m. 74° 27.85 cor. 28.97
Altitude of Nokki above sea, 1,430 feet.
11th Sept. 9 a.m. 77° 27.70 cor. 28.82 Misty morning, warm but clouding over;
Banza Noon. 87° 27.55 cor. 28.67 at noon high sea-breeze, glare and hot
Chingufu 3 p.m. 83° 27.45 cor. 28.57 sun, when clouds break 97° in sun,
above Nokki; 6 p.m. 73° 27.50 cor. 28.62 2 p.m.; 3 p.m., high sea-breeze up
see also 18th river; 6 p.m., cold sea-breeze, cloudy
and 19th Sept. sky.
Altitude of Chingufu, 1,703 feet.
12th Sept. 6 a.m. 65° 27.70 cor. 28.82 Clear fine morning; high west wind
First observation Nekolo. at 6 a.m.; pocket aneroid 29.00
Chingufu, 9 a.m. 76° 28.50 cor. 29.62 Shady verandah facing to west; at
others at Nekolo Noon. 84° 28.35 cor. 29.47 noon aneroid 30.05; 3 p.m., hot
lower down & near 3 p.m. 85° 28.40 cor. 29.52 sun, westerly breeze, few clouds;
river. 6 p.m. 77° 28.30 cor. 29.42 6 p.m., very clear, east wind
strong; no dew at night.
13th Sept. 6 a.m. 70° 28.45 cor. 29.57 Close cloudy morning; 9 a.m.,
Negolo and near 9 a.m. 77° 28.50 cor. 29.62 alternately clear and cloudy,
Congo River. Noon. 90° 28.45 cor. 29.57 glare, no wind; noon bright and
sultry, no clouds; 3 p.m., in shady
cove 10 feet above river; rain at
5.30 p.m., lasted two hours;
dispersed by westerly breeze.
Cove near river.
3 p.m. 94° 29.10 cor. 30.22
Height of Negolo, 828 feet.
14th Sept 6 a.m. 74° 29.30 cor 30.50 Dull, warm, and cloudy.
Banza Vivi on 9 a.m. 84° 29.35 cor. 30.57 Aneroid 30.60, dull day.
hills above right Noon. 80° 28.95 cor. 30.07 Anerodi 30.10 dull day, very little
bank. 3 p.m. 84° 28.35 cor. 29.47 breeze, village shut in, clouds
6 p.m. 79° 28.85 cor. 29.97 from west
15th Sept. 6 a.m. 74° 29.15 cor. 30.25 Thick drizzle from west, no wind.
At Banza Simbo, half way up Vivi range, aneroid 29.42.
Banza Nkulu Noon 78° 28.10 cor. 29.22 Under tree facing north; puffs of
above rapids. west wind, threatened rain, none
6 p.m. 75° 28.10 cor. 29.22 In veranda facing north-east; clear
night, heavy dew.
16th Sept. 6 a.m. 69° 28.20 cor. 29.32 Grass wet, heavy dew, rain
threatened, aneroid 29.50.
100 feet above rapids.
7.30 a.m. 73° 29.25 cor. 30.37 Aneroid 30.55.
Banza Nkulu again Noon. 80° 28.10 cor. 29.22 Aneroid 29.55, dull, cloudy, rain
3 p.m. 75° 28.00 cor. 29.12 Dull day, clearer towards evening,
6 p.m. 75° 28.00 cor. 29.12 very heavy dew.
Altitude of Nkulu, 1212 feet.
Altitude of Yellala Rapids, 390 feet.
17th Sept. 5.30 a.m. 67° 28.15 cor. 29.27 Grey, cool; threatens sunny day.
Right bank of river.
9.20 a.m. 77° 29.30 cor. 30.42 Cool west wind.
In canoe on river below Little Rapids.
10.50 a.m. 81° 20.20 cor. 30.32 Aneroid 30.57(59)
Left bank 20 feet above water, under fig-tree facing north.
Noon. 81° 29.20 cor. 30.32 Aneroid 30.50.
Negolo Town 3 p.m. 83° 28.30 cor. 29.42 Day hot, aneroid in verandah 30.50.
6 p.m. 71° 27.55 cor. 28.67 Clear evening, misty towards night,
young moon with halo.
Height of river below Vivi Fall, 195 feet.
18th Sept. 6 a.m. 65° 27.60 cor. 28.72 Cool, grey, no wind.
At Chingufu as 9 a.m. 76° 27.65 cor. 28.77 Strong land wind, from east, no
before. sun, heavy clouds N.E.
Noon. 90° 27.50 cor. 28.62 High west wind, hot sun.
3.30 p.m. 88° 27.35 cor. 28.47 Clear at 1 p.m., thermometer 100°
little wind, sun hot.
6 p.m. 77° 27.45 cor. 28.57 Clear evening, no dew, misty moon,
high sea-breeze at night.
19th Sept. 6 a.m. 67° 27.70 cor. 28.82 Still grey morning, no wind.
At Chingufu. 9.30 a.m. 76° 27.65 cor. 28.77 Lighter, wind from west.
Noon. 81° 27.60 cor. 28.72 Dull, light west wind.
3 p.m. 88° 27.45 cor. 28.57 Cloudy and sunny, west wind.
6 p.m. 72° 27.50 cor. 28.62 Clear, fine, little wind.
How do these agree with September 11?
20th Sept. 6 a.m. 69° 27.70 cor. 28.82 Fine, clear, and still morning.
Down river 9 a.m. 82° 29.35 cor. 30.47 Hot day, aneroid 30.55; at 10 a.m.
Off Chacha village on river.
Noon. 87° 29.35 cor. 30.47 Sea-breeze, sun hot, but obscured
by smoke of bush fires.
3 p.m. 86° 29.20 cor. 30.32 Aneroid 30.40, stiff sea breeze.
Last observation taken about 5 miles above Boma.
21 Sept. 9 a.m. 76° 29.30 cor. 30.42 Cool, cloudy, pleasant.
At Boma. Noon. 81.5° 29.25 cor. 30.37 Dull, threatens rain.
3 p.m. 86° 29.25 cor. 30.37 Dull, muggy, cloudy.
22nd Sept. 6 a.m. 77° 29.10 cor. 30.22 Dull, cloudy, cool; instrument in
Boma. verandah facing south-west.
9 a.m. 76° 20.30 cor. 30.42
Noon. 84° 29.30 cor. 30.42 Dull and warm.
3 p.m. 84° 29.10 cor. 30.22 Very dull, strong sea-breeze comes
up in afternoon, and lasts till
6 p.m. 79° 29.20 cor. 30.32 Dull night.
Mean altitude of Boma (commonly called Embomma), 73 feet.
23rd Sept. 6 a.m. 70.5° 29.20 cor. 30.32 Dull morning
Boma. 9 a.m. 81.75° 29.25 cor. 30.37 Clear and sunny.
3 p.m. 92° 29.10 cor. 30.22 Clear, hot, and sunny.
6 p.m. 79° 29.15 cor. 30.27 High wind, sun.
24th Sept. 6 a.m. 74° 29.20 cor. 30.32 Cool and clear.
Boma. 9 a.m. 81° 29.30 cor. 30.42 Hot and clear.
12.30 p.m. 93.75° 29.10 cor. 30.22 Hot and clear.
3 p.m. 93.57° 29.05 cor. 30.17 Very strong sea-breeze till late at
6 p.m. 79.5° 29.15 cor. 30.27 Very strong sea-breeze till late at
25th Sept. 6 a.m. 74° 29.20 cor. 30.32 Dull, no sun, rain threatened.
Noon. 81° 29.20 cor. 30.32
3 p.m. 83° 29.19 cor. 30.31 Aneroid 30.15.
6 p.m. 78° 29.10 cor. 30.22 Dull, no sun, wind subsided at
Porto da Senha at factory.
26th Sept. 6 a.m. 78° 29.25 cor. 30.37 Aneroid 30.62, day clear.
9 a.m. 76° 29.30 cor. 30.42 Aneroid 30.40, hot sun.
On passage in canoe down river.
Noon. 87° 29.20 cor. 30.32 Aneroid 30.45.
3 p.m. 95.5° 29.00 cor. 30.12 Aneroid 30.52.
Mean altitude of Porto da Lenha, 38 feet.
28th Sept. 6 a.m. 71.25° 29.15 cor. 30.27 Dry, cloudy morning.
Banana factory, 9 a.m. 75° 29.20 cor. 30.32 Calm, land and sea breezes very
mouth of river, regular.
60 feet above Noon. 81° 29.10 cor. 30.22 At noon thermometer at seaside in
sea level. sun (overcast) 83.5°.
3 p.m. 75.5° 29.05 cor. 30.17
6 p.m. 74° 29.05 cor. 30.17 Symp. (corrected) 30.32°.
29th Sept. 6 a.m. 73° 29.20 cor. 30.32 Weather calm; at seaside in sun
same place. 9 a.m. 80° 29.20 cor. 30.32 (overcast) thermometer 74.5°.
Noon. 83° 29.10 cor. 30.22
3 p.m. 80° 29.15 cor. 30.27 Symp. (corrected) 30.32°.
6 p.m. 74° 29.05 cor. 30.17 Night cold and windy.
30th Sept. 6 a.m. 71° 29.20 cor. 30.32 Clear weather, high wind.
same place. 9 a.m. 79° 29.15 cor. 30.27
Plants Collected in the Congo, at Dahome, and the Island of
Annabom, by Mr. Consul Burton.
Received at the Herbarium, Royal Gardens, Kew,
Argemone Mexicana Dahome.
Cleome Guineensis, Hf. Congo.
Gynardropsis pentaphylla, D. C. Ditto.
Ritcheia fragrans. Br. Dahome.
Alsodeia sp. Congo.
Flacourtia sp. Dahome.
Polygala avenaria, Willd. Congo.
Polycarpæa linearifolia Dahome (not laid in).
Seda cordifolia, L. Congo.
Seda an S. humilis (?) Ditto.
Seda urens, L. Ditto.
Abutilon sp. Ditto.
Urena lobata, L. Annabom and Congo.
Hibiscus cannabinus, L. Dahome.
Hibiscus vitifolius, L. Congo.
Hibiscus (Abelmoschus) Moschatus, Moench Ditto.
Hibiscus aff. H. Sabdariffæ Dahome.
Gossypium sp. Congo.
Walthenia Indica, L. Dahome.
Walthenia (?) Congo.
Triumfetta rhomboidea (?) Congo, Annabom, Dahome.
Acridocarpus sp. Congo.
Citrus Aurantium (?) Annabom (not laid in).
Citrus sp. Annabom (not laid in).
Cardiospermum Helicacabum, L. Annabom.
Anacardium occidentale, L. Congo and Annabom.
Spondias dubia? Reich. Annabom.
Cnestis(?) sp. Dahome.
Cnestis(?) sp. Congo.
(?)Spondias sp. (very young) Ditto (not laid in).
(?)Soindeia sp. fl. ft. Congo.
Rosa sp. Ditto (not laid in).
Jussieua acuminata, Jno. Congo.
Jussieua linifolia(?) Vahl. Ditto.
Mollugo Spergula, L. Ditto.
Combretum spinosum(?) Dahome (fl. only).
Combretum sp. Congo.
Quisqualis ebracteata(?) Ditto.
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