A Voyage Round the World, Vol. I (of ?)
by James Holman
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Saturday, 26.—We got under weigh, and dropped down with the ebb tide, abreast of Duke's Town, a distance of three miles, where we anchored. We had not been long here before the Duke, attended by a number of his black gentlemen, and followed by Captain Cumings, of the Kent, came on board to have a grand palaver with Lieutenant Badgeley, concerning the attempted assassination of Captain Cumings' mate, on the preceding day. The Frenchman's name was Ferrard, and this monster was no less than the Captain of a slave-vessel. The cause of this palaver, was an imperative demand, on the part of Captain Cumings, that the Duke should deliver the Frenchman into our hands, in order that he should be given up to justice in the event of the mate's death: but the Duke made great difficulties concerning the practicability of securing this man, and offered many excuses to escape the acknowledgment of any responsibility in the matter. It was clear enough that he wished to protect the assassin, as indeed it was his policy to shield the slavers, whose trade was more lucrative to him, than that of any other class of persons. Finding himself somewhat embarrassed in the conversation, he made an apology for leaving the vessel, saying he would go on shore and see what could be done, inviting us at the same time to finish the palaver at his house. Accordingly we all went on shore, after breakfast, attended by two marines. A second palaver took place, which was merely a repetition of the first, and when it terminated, he presented us with some excellent Champagne, and then exhibited a quantity of fine clothes, with a variety of other articles, all of which he said he had received as presents. The only dress His Majesty wore, when he came on board, was a cotton cloth round his middle, and a fine white beaver hat, bound with broad gold lace. Captain Cumings, at our request, asked permission of the Duke to allow us to see his wives, who live in a square formed of mud huts, with a communication from the back part of his house. The Duke very courteously complied with our wishes, and sent persons to attend us. There were about sixty Queens, besides little Princes and Princesses, with a number of slave-girls to wait upon them. His favourite Queen, the handsomest of the royal party, was so large that she could scarcely walk, or even move, indeed they were all prodigiously large, their beauty consisting more in the mass of physique, than in the delicacy or symmetry of features or figure. This uniform tendancy to en bon point, on an unusual scale, was accounted for, by the singular fact, that the female upon whom His Majesty fixes his regards, is regularly fattened up to a certain standard, previously to the nuptial ceremony, it appearing to be essential to the Queenly dignity that the lady should be enormously fat. We saw a very fine young woman undergoing this ordeal. She was sitting at a table, with a large bowl of farinaceous food; which she was swallowing as fast as she could pass the spoon to, and from, the bowl, and her mouth; and she was evidently taking no inconsiderable trouble to qualify herself for that happy state, which Pope tell us is the object of every woman's ambition, that of being Queen for life, the royal road to which, in this country, lies through a course of gormandizing. The same custom extends to the wives of the great men, who undergo a similar operation before marriage. On the morning of their wedding-day they are seated at a table, to receive presents from their relations and friends; a yard of cloth from one, some silk from another, some beads from a third, according to the taste incapacity of the donors. My companions were not much struck with the beauty of the Queens, for they declared that some of the pretty young slave-girls had much more lovely looks. Each of the Duke's wives bring, or send, a jug of water for his large brass-pan bath every morning, and his favourite wife remains to assist in his ablutions.

On leaving the Queens' Square, we were invited to go over the Duke's English house, as it was called, which, in fact it was, having been sent out in frame, from Liverpool, with carpenters to erect it, by Mr. Bold, formerly a merchant of that town. This wooden edifice stood by the side of his mud hut, in which, by the bye, such was the force of habit, he preferred residing. In the English house there was a grand display of European articles, consisting of furniture, mirrors, pictures, a quantity of cut-glass on the sideboard, and to crown all, there was a large brass arm-chair, weighing 160 pounds, a present from Sir John Tobin, with an inscription engraved on it, to that effect.

About two o'clock we took leave of the Duke, and went on board the Kent, where the poor mate was lying dangerously ill, and we all apprehended the worst result, not having any medical man to dress the wound, or tell the exact nature of it. After dining with Captain Cumings, we returned to the Duke's house, to learn if he had ascertained the name of the vessel the Frenchman commanded. The reply was unsatisfactory, as he still declared his ignorance on the subject. It is not unusual for the blacks (like the Chinese) to identify the ship in the Captain, for instance, if they want to speak of the Jane, Captain Brown, they say, 'that Brown's ship.' It was, therefore, possible that the Duke might really have spoken the truth in protesting that the name of the vessel was unknown to him.

Finding there was nothing more to be done with the Duke that evening, we left him, with an assurance that we should persist in our demand of having either the Captain, or his vessel, delivered up to us; that we should go and report the circumstance to the Governor of Fernando Po, who would send a frigate to blockade the port, stop all the trade of the river, and perhaps come and burn the town. These threats were not apparently without their effect, although his Majesty was as much afraid of opposing the slavers, as he was of quarrelling with us. The following morning at daylight we left Duke's Town, and proceeded down the river, not however, with the intention of going to Fernando Po, but merely to visit all the rivers between the Calabar and Cape Formosa, in quest of slavers, first going to the celebrated Bonny, off which river we arrived on Thursday, 31. Here we saw a brig at anchor, which proved to be the Neptune, of and from Liverpool. She had been lying here ten days, waiting for clear weather to enable her to pass the bar, and get into the river.

On the day we left Old Calabar town, I had all the symptoms of approaching fever, such as headache, foul tongue, hot and dry skin, loss of appetite, prostration of strength, &c. I, therefore, took calomel, and adopted prompt measures of regimen, abstaining from all food, taking nothing but diluents, keeping myself quiet, and occupying the mind with amusing thoughts. By following this practice, at the expiration of three days, I found myself quite convalescent, after which I soon recovered my former health and spirits.

At noon, we parted from the Neptune, and stood to the westward, for the river St. Nicholas, having had information that two Spanish vessels, trading for slaves, were in that river. At six, we passed the entrance of the Sombrero river, and, at midnight, that of St. Bartholomew's river.

Friday, February 1.—In the afternoon, the Eden's pinnace went to examine a small river, which was found to be the Sta. Barbara, but there were no vessels there, and about sunset, we anchored off the river St. Nicholas.

Saturday, 2.—At daylight, the Eden's pinnace, the schooner's boat, and a canoe, manned with Kroomen, all well armed, left the schooner to go in search of the two vessels said to be in the river; but they returned on board, having examined a large river, three creeks, and one town, without success. All they saw on the banks of the river, was a large dog, and a rattle, like those at Fernando Po.

Sunday, 3.—At daylight, weighed and stood to the westward. About nine o'clock we anchored off a long line of breakers, but no land in sight, in consequence of the haziness of the weather. That peculiar state of the atmosphere, which we call hazy, is, perhaps, more characteristically designated "the smokes," on these coasts. Lieutenant Badgeley and Capt. Smith, went in the schooner's boat to sound, and trace the passage into the river St. John, at the entrance of which we supposed ourselves to be situated. In the afternoon, the party returned, having not only found the entrance of the river St. John, but also one of the vessels of which we were in search. At half-past four, the pinnace, schooner's boat, and Kroo canoe, were despatched, well manned and armed, to bring the schooner out of the river. At eleven, Captain Smith returned on board, and informed us, that, at sunset, they boarded the Spanish schooner Victoria Felicita, armed with one long nine-pounder and twenty men, and that they took possession of her with scarcely a show of resistance. The Spaniards endeavoured to get the gun ready, but the boats came so suddenly upon them, by rounding a point close to their moorings, that they were completely taken by surprise, and boarded before they could carry their measures of defence into effect. There were but two slaves and a part of the crew on board, the rest of the slaves and the remainder of the crew, being at the Barakoom, or Slave-yard, to which place they are always consigned so soon as they are purchased, and left until the vessel is ready for sea, to escape from the responsibility which would fall upon the commander of the vessel, in case any slaves were discovered on board. There were many slave-dealers on the schooner's deck when the boats came in sight, but they all jumped overboard, and swam to the shore.

Monday, 4.—At daylight, Captain Smith left us to assist in bringing the prize out of the river, but the day being calm, she was not removed. We burnt blue lights, at intervals, during the night, as signals to the prize, or any boat that might be sent from her.

Tuesday, 5.—At nine, we saw the Spaniard under weigh; and, at ten, she anchored close beside us. She was well supplied with water, of which we stood in need, and of which we availed ourselves. A midshipman, with some men, was then appointed to take charge of her to Fernando Po. We parted company, and proceeded on our further examination of the rivers on this coast, when we stood to the westward, anchoring off Nun River,[34] at nine in the evening.

Wednesday, 6.—After breakfast, we sent on shore to procure information of slavers, in consequence of having seen the smoke of a fire, which is a well-known signal on the coast, to invite vessels to trade with them. The fire is made by night, and the smoke forms the signal by day. Our boat returned, bringing a poor Spaniard from a small town, just within the entrance of the river, called Pilot's Town.[35] He was a native of Manilla, and had been left behind by his vessel, but from what cause he did not state. He told us, the blacks informed him, that there had been a man of war on the coast, but that she had left some days since.

Thursday, 7.—Light airs. At daylight we got under weigh, and came to an anchor, off the mouth of the Bonny river again, soon after sunset.

We had now examined the entrances of all the rivers between the Bonny, and Cape Formosa; all of which communicate with each other in the interior; some being navigable by vessels, but all by canoes; for instance, a vessel may go in at St. Nicholas, and by passing through a creek, come out at the St. John's. This piece of intelligence had the effect of occasionally placing us in some perplexity as to our movements; for, according to one person, a vessel freighted with slaves was on the point of coming out of one river; while, at the same time, agreeably to another informant, the same vessel was stated to be coming out of another river.

There is, however, but little doubt that the interior of the country is intersected by very extensive water communications lying between the bight of Benin and Biafra, and I heard Captain Owen say, that, in his opinion, the Niger would be found to discharge itself in one of these bights, a fact, which I have the satisfaction to learn, is now proved by the recent discovery of the Landers.

Friday, 8.—At daylight, we made sail. At ten, we received a pilot on board, and in three hours, entered the channel of the New Calabar river, which must be passed, before an entrance into the Bonny can be effected. This position of the Calabar is, however, on the coast usually denominated the Bonny, in reference to the superior trade of that river.

The pilot here requested the Captain's permission to make a "jhu jhu," which is a superstitious rite performed by the natives in these rivers. The object of the ceremony is to propitiate their deity for a safe passage and a good trade; the operation consists of spilling a wine glass full of rum, twice on the bowsprit (upon which the operator stands), and once on each side of it, into the water. They practise a similar rite when they anchor, cutting some bread and meat into small pieces, scattering it in like manner on the bowsprit, into the river, and also on the deck, while those who stand around, mingle in the act, by tasting their offerings. The objects worshipped by the people of the New Calabar, are the tiger and the shark; while the Bonny people worship the shark and the guana.

At half-past four, we anchored, for the night, off Foche Island, inside the first bar of the river, and the pilot went on shore. The town on this island had been burnt to the ground only a few days before we arrived, owing to the carelessness of some new slaves, and the people of the town had determined upon selling the woman to whom the slaves belonged, as a punishment for her own neglect.

The dogs on Foche Island were observed to bear a close resemblance to those of Fernando Po, (a common sort of small cur.) I mention this, because it has been thought that the Fernandians have had very little connection with the people of the Continent, as a proof of which, we have never found any one (out of all the varieties of the African nations) who could speak with, or understand, the language of the natives of Fernando Po.

Saturday, 9.—Soon after daylight the pilot returned on board. We found the natives of Foche Island very cautious in coming off, even the pilot would not reply to our signals, until we had sent a messenger to tell him what we were, nor would he even then consent to sleep on board. I have little doubt, from the timidity he exhibited, that the slave-vessels have occasionally enticed pilots and their people on board, and carried them off for slaves.

Our breakfast this morning consisted of smoked and dried herrings, corned mackerel, fresh prawns, beef steaks, cold roast beef, cold ham, roast and boiled yams, eggs, and toast: a supply that will not be thought despicable for the passengers of a merchant schooner, in the Bight of Biafra, where the sun was so powerful, that our anchor was hot enough to serve the purposes of a heated oven.

At four in the afternoon I accompanied Lieut. Badgeley, with six Kroomen in a small boat, to visit the town of Bonny, and the English shipping in the river. Soon after dark we went on board the Neptune, which was lying off the town of Bonny, and was the same vessel we had boarded outside the river. After refreshing ourselves with tea, we accompanied the Surgeon on shore, to look for Captain Cudd, whom we found visiting one of King Peppel's great men. We wished to call upon the King, but were informed that we could not be allowed to do so, as his Majesty was too drunk to receive company, and exceedingly dangerous in his cups; a state of bliss to which he commonly arrived by that hour, every evening. We, therefore, contented ourselves by passing the night at the house of the prime minister, with the intention of waiting upon his Majesty the following morning. I slept in the same apartment with the Doctor. Our beds, by courtesy so called, were made on a mud floor; they consisted merely of a mat spread for each, with a coya-cushion (the outside shell of the cocoa nut) for a pillow; fortunately the climate is too hot to require any covering; we therefore lay down without removing our nether garments; sleep was, however, quite out of the question, for so soon as the lights were out, the rats and mice came in, and assisted by myriads of cockroaches and ants, contrived to keep us constantly employed driving them away from our bodies, until we were in so feverish and exhausted a state that we anxiously longed for the return of day.

On the following morning, Sunday, 10, I was invited to take a Bonny warm bath, which I accepted with pleasure, for after such a night the very name of a bath was refreshing; the Doctor therefore kindly conducted me into the open space where I was informed that every thing was prepared. I was seated in an arm chair, with a large brass-pan before me full of tepid water, about two feet deep, into which I was requested to put my legs: two or three attendants provided with bowls of warm water, soap and cloths, now began to operate on my body; the sensation produced by this process, was similar to the effect of champooing. After they thought they had sufficiently polished me with their cloths, they began to pour cold water over me, which was the most refreshing part of the business; but the reader may imagine what my feelings were, when to my utter surprise I discovered that the whole ceremony had been performed by women, many of whom, although black, were both young and handsome. I had detected a good deal of giggling from the beginning, and objected to the presence of so many persons; but I was indifferently told, 'Oh! it was the custom of the country.'

We accompanied Captain Cudd on board his vessel to breakfast, after which we all came on shore, to wait upon the King, to whom we were conducted by our friend Bill Peppel, at whose house we passed the night, and whom I understood to be the King's most confidential minister. His Majesty received us in a very easy friendly manner, and in what he perhaps considered a fine dress, consisting of a neat striped fine calico shirt, a pair of white trowsers, and a silk cap with a long tassel. We talked on a variety of subjects, selecting those which we supposed were interesting to him, such as the regular trade in palm-oil, and the illicit one in slaves, but our conversation principally turned on England, in courtesy to the King who had been at Liverpool, in the capacity of cabin boy, with one of the Captains of the palm-oil vessels. He ordered some Membo (palm-wine) to be presented to us; we found it flavoured with a strong bitter, produced by the use of a native nut. To our European palate, this taste was by no means agreeable. It is with palm-wine so prepared, however, that his Majesty contrives to get tipsy with such punctuality. When this liquor first exudes from the tree, and before the process of fermentation has drawn its intoxicating qualities into action, it is a sweet and not unpleasant beverage.

Our interview lasted about an hour, when we took leave of the King, to return on board. In passing through one of the streets, we saw a guana climbing up a tree, the Doctor advanced and seized it by the tail, a proceeding by no means dangerous as regarded the animal, whose nature is extremely gentle. The natives, however, witnessed this act with horror, this creature being to them an object of worship. As these animals are protected by the superstition of the people, and are allowed to enter their houses at pleasure, they become extremely bold, and frequently help themselves to a chicken, or any thing else for which they have a fancy, upon which occasion the owner feels himself highly favoured, and imagines that some good fortune will attend him in consequence. I was informed that they have been known to devour young infants. A guana was once killed on board an English vessel, upon which the trade with that vessel was immediately stopped, and a grand palaver held, when the Captain was sentenced to pay a fine of 500 bars, this was afterwards commuted to 200; and when it was paid the ship was permitted to recommence trading.

The ceremony of opening the trade with each vessel is as follows: a day being appointed by the King, a dinner is prepared, and His Majesty is entertained by the Captain and his officers, on board the trader. The black gentlemen who form the royal suite are obliged, upon this occasion, to trust to chance, and the good-nature of the ship's crew, for their share of the feast. In order that no point of courtesy may be wanting, it is requisite to send a boat from the ship to meet His Majesty, as he comes out of the creek in his own canoe. The King, upon joining his entertainers, immediately enters their boat; which condescension is acknowledged by a salute of seven guns, fired from the ship. On arriving alongside, His Majesty throws an egg at the vessel's hull; he then ascends to the deck, which is usually covered, from the gangway to the cabin, with a piece of cloth; an arm chair, covered and ornamented with the same material, being placed ready for his accommodation.

The only beverage used by King Peppel is his favourite Membo, which is brought on board by his attendants. His Majesty commonly returns about sunset to the shore, when a second salute of seven guns is fired from the ship, and the trade is declared free to all his subjects.

Shortly before our arrival a circumstance occurred which serves to illustrate King Peppel's good-nature and forbearance. About the middle of December, 1826, Capt. Lawrenson, a slave agent, arrived at the Bonny, to purchase a cargo of slaves, which he accomplished in about two months, and sent them away to the West Indies, remaining behind himself, with a quantity of goods to make further purchases, having written his owners to send vessels, and take the slaves away. In the meantime he contrived to ingratiate himself so much with King Peppel, that His Majesty allowed him to live in his house, and consulted his opinion, upon all matters of importance, relative to the white people. Many months elapsed before any vessel arrived, but when they did, the slaves were not ready, and the King continued to delude him with promises for two months longer, at the end of which period, finding his hopes still unrealized, the impatient Frenchman became enraged at what he considered the King's deceit, and resolved on taking summary vengeance. Accordingly, one evening, he went on shore with a cigar in his mouth, and a few squibs in his pocket, when he deposited the latter in the thatch of several houses, and set fire to them. The huts being composed of bamboo, palm-leaves, and reeds, soon burst into a flame, which spread so rapidly in all quarters, that nearly the whole town was destroyed. The people were greatly exasperated and wished to kill the Frenchman, who had not attempted to effect his escape, but King Peppel forbade them to injure a hair of his head, permitting him to return to his vessel, which immediately sailed for France; the Captain still vowing vengeance against the King, and threatening to return with a much larger vessel, well armed, to commit greater ravages, and to carry off all he could lay his hands on, until he considered that he had received compensation for the fraud which he averred had been practised upon him.

There is a superstitious ceremony performed at the Bonny river, about once in three years, which consists of offering the most beautiful virgin they can find, as a sacrifice to their Jhu Jhu, whereby they hope to propitiate the evil spirit, and avert the dangers to which vessels are liable in crossing the bar. The victim is taken in a boat to the mouth of the river, where, after a preparatory ceremonial, she is made to walk to the extremity of a plank, from which she is precipitated into the water, where in a few seconds she is devoured by sharks. The mind of the poor wretch is prepared for this fate: which, indeed, appears to be a source of pleasure, rather than of terror, from the idea that she is going at once to Paradise, to become the wife of Jhu Jhu; and towards the conclusion of the ceremony, it is not uncommon for the victim to display extravagant transports of joy. One of the English captains remonstrated with a native for going to witness such an exhibition. "What?" replied the indignant black,—"What you tink?—Why! she now married to Jhu Jhu—got large house—more big than any in Liverpool—plenty copper-bar—plenty rum—plenty clothes—what you tink she want?—noting!" These articles being the principal objects of the trade from England, are consequently most desired; and as the majority of the trading vessels come from Liverpool, where some few of the Bonny people have been, they consider that town the ultimatum of magnificence and splendour.

We went on board the Neptune about noon, where we took an early dinner, and returned to the schooner about sunset, when we learnt that a grand deputation of black gentlemen, from New Calabar Town, had arrived, to invite Capt. Smith to bring his schooner up their river to trade; they requested him to lose no time, and offered to leave a large canoe for our use, when we returned from the Bonny; however, Captain Smith would not agree to their request; and when they discovered, that, instead of being a trader, we were looking out for slavers, they were glad to get away. Our pilot partook of their alarm, and, on the following morning, he sent back the casks empty, with a message, that he could not come on board again.

There is much enmity between the Bonny and the New Calabar people, arising principally out of their rivalship in the trade with foreign vessels. A short time ago, they had a fight on board an English ship, under the following circumstances.

The New Calabar people had got on board the ship Huskinson, and were taking her up to their town. On the passage, they were attacked by a number of large canoes, well manned and armed, from the Bonny: a desperate struggle ensued; the Bonny people lost many lives, but they succeeded in boarding the vessel, dislodging their opponents, and triumphantly carried the ship into their river; thus securing all her trade to themselves. This fight did not, on the present occasion, produce war between the rival people, as such incidents usually do; it merely had the effect of suspending their intercourse for a short period. Their war canoes are very large, and will carry from 50 to 100 men, well armed with muskets, pistols, sabres, and sometimes a small gun in the bow.

We got under weigh in the afternoon, without a pilot, and worked the schooner over the bar, which is very narrow, and stood out to sea that evening, notwithstanding there was a fresh breeze against us, through a very intricate navigation. It was at the entrance of this river that one of the boats of H.M.S. Maidstone was upset. She had come to an anchor in the evening, with the tide running in, which made the water very smooth; but, in the middle of the night, at the turn of the tide, they found the boat rolling about very uneasily. This very much surprised them, because the wind had not arisen; the sea soon began to break over them, when the boat upset, and the surgeon's assistant, with several other persons, was drowned. This proceeded from the ebb tide encountering the ordinary set on the land. We left the Bonny with the intention of visiting our friends in the Old Calabar, in the hope of meeting the Frenchman, who had shot the mate of the Kent.

Tuesday, 12.—At five this morning, we came to an anchor. The weather had been squally during the night, and at daylight the wind increased; the squalls becoming more frequent and heavy, with continued thunder and lightning; and so heavy a swell, that if we had not taken in the boat from the stern, she would have been washed away. At daylight, we discovered that Tom Shot's Point bore N.E. by N. six or seven miles.

Wednesday, 13.—At daylight, saw a vessel at anchor, outside of us, which proved to be H.M.S. North-Star, and immediately after, Lieut. Mather came on board to examine us. On that officer's return, Lieutenant Badgeley and myself went on board the North-Star, to wait on Captain Arabin, who gave us a most friendly reception. He pressed us to remain and dine, but Lieutenant Badgeley's anxiety to return to Fernando Po, obliged us to decline an invitation which otherwise would have proved extremely agreeable, and as Captain Arabin had sent his boats up the river (under the command of his first lieutenant) in search of slavers, it superseded the necessity of our going; we therefore got under weigh, and sailed to rejoin Captain Owen.

————— [34] "The river Nun, or First Brass River, is the main branch of the Quorra, from whence you pass (in about two hours) through a creek, in an easterly direction, into the Second Brass River, which is also a large branch of the Quorra."—Lander, vol. iii. p. 224. "Brass, properly speaking, consists of two towns of nearly equal size, containing about a thousand inhabitants, and built on the borders of a kind of basin, which is formed by a number of rivulets, entering it from the Niger, through forests of mangrove bushes. One of them is under the domination of a noted scoundrel called King Jacket, who has already been spoken of; and the other is governed by a rival chief, named King Forday. These towns are situated directly opposite to each other, and within the distance of eighty yards, and are built on a marshy ground, which occasions the huts to be always wet."—Lander, vol. iii. p. 234.

[35] "A place, called Pilot's Town by Europeans, from the number of pilots that reside in it, is situated nearly at the entrance of the First Brass River (which, we understand, is the Nun River of Europeans), and at the distance of sixty or seventy miles from hence. This town acknowledges the authority of both kings, having been originally peopled by settlers from each of their towns."—Lander, vol. iii. p. 234.


Reverence for Beards—Native Shields—Petty Thefts—Tornado Season— Author departs for Calabar—Waterspout—Palm-oil Vessels—Visit to Duke Ephraim—Escape of a Schooner with Slaves—Calabar Sunday— Funeral of a Duke's Brother—Egbo Laws—Egbo Assembly—Extraordinary Mode of recovering Debts—Superstition and Credulity—Cruelty of the Calabar People to Slaves—Royal Slave Dealer—Royal Monopoly—Manner of Trading with the Natives—Want of Missionaries—Capt. Owen's Arrival—Visit Creek Town with King Eyo—The Royal Establishment— Savage Festivities—Calabar Cookery—Old Calabar River

Thursday, 14.—ARRIVED in Maidstone Bay, at ten o'clock, when we learnt that Commodore Collier, in the Sybille, with the Esk and Primrose, had been in the bay, and left it only on the preceding day. We also heard of the decease of Captain Clapperton, Richard Lander, who was the bearer of the melancholy tidings, being on board the Esk, for a passage to England. Received some letters and papers from England, that had been left for me by my old friend Captain Griffenhooffe, of the Primrose, and whom I was unfortunately doomed never to meet again in this sublunary scene; for having suffered from fever, he was invalided, and died at Ascension, on his way home. We found the Diadem transport here, which had arrived a few days before, with government stores from Cape Coast Castle. A remarkable occurrence took place between the agent (Lieutenant Woodman) and the natives, on their first interview. That gentleman had, like Captain Owen, and some of his officers, allowed his beard to grow from the time he had left England, having been induced to do so for the sake of the advantages, which, from experience. Captain Owen considered were to be derived from it. In the first place, all the Arabs wear long beards, and they are held in much respect wherever they sojourn among the various African nations: not altogether for their beards, but from their intelligence; however, the beard is naturally identified with their character. They also command respect, because they are generally worn by the old men of their own country, and, on our first arrival, the chiefs of Fernando Po advanced with delight to rub beards, with all those among us who wore them. When Lieutenant Woodman left the island for Cape Coast, his beard was of considerable length, but meeting with Commodore Collier at Accra, that officer would not receive him in his Fernando Po costume; and being unequal to contend with the higher powers, yielded to the alternative of removing his beard, in preference to subjecting himself to the consequences of his superior officer's displeasure. But, mark the effect!—when he came back to Fernando Po, the native chiefs turned from him with contempt, believing that he could not have lost so dignified an appendage, without having committed some crime. This reminds me of a passage in the 15th chapter of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, viz. "The practice of shaving the beard excited the pious indignation of the Fathers of the Church, which practice (according to Tertullian) is a lie against our own faces, and an impious attempt to improve the works of the Creator."

I was sorry to learn, that there had been some altercation between Commodore Collier, and Captain Owen, on the subject of wearing beards.

Saturday, 16.—Went on shore at day light, and remained till evening, when I returned on board in the midst of a tornado, which, however, did not last long, and fortunately had no great strength. We observed a glare in the mountain, which the natives informed us proceeded from a fire of considerable extent, made by them for the purpose of driving the wild oxen, or buffalos, to a certain spot, where they are hamstrung, and afterwards slain. We never saw any animals in the island, larger than sheep or goats. I have more than once, in a native hut, found a shield made of hide, about four feet high and two broad, with a stick passed longitudinally through each end; but whether they procured these shields from vessels touching at the island, or from the wild animals described as being in the mountains, we had no means of ascertaining.

Sunday, 17.—Captain Owen had some of the officers of the Eden, as well as civilians from the establishment, to dine with him to-day: our dinner consisted of green turtle, a variety of fish, small mutton, fowls, &c. all the produce of the island.

Monday, 18.—The weather was now getting very close, hazy, and oppressive, as the season approached for the hot winds from the Continent, named, on this coast, the Hermattan, similar to the Sirocco of the Mediterranean; yet, the thermometer was only 88 deg. F. in the shade.

Tuesday, 19.—Mr. Galler ran after, and secured, a native who was making off with an iron hoop.

But, lo! what dangers doth environ, The man that meddleth with cold iron,

for, on the following day, Captain Owen ordered the thief to have his head shaved, for the purpose of shaming him out of the repetition of his crime, thus making him an object of ridicule, among his own, as well as our people; and, as the natives display no small degree of dandyism in dressing their hair, he hoped that this 'rape of the locks,' would have a beneficial effect: he, however, considered an additional punishment necessary, in consequence of the frequency of the offence, iron-stealing having become a very common practice; he, therefore, ordered the offender to receive thirty-nine lashes; but at the twenty-fifth he fainted, from fear, no doubt, certainly not from the severity of the chastisement; however, he was immediately taken down and carried into the guard-house, where he continued bellowing, in a most frightful manner, for a long time.

Monday, 25.—We have had very close weather for several days, with much thunder and lightning during the whole of last night. At eight o'clock this morning, a heavy tornado came on, the rain and wind continuing for more than three hours; the greatest force of the hurricane was, however, expended in the first hour, from which time it gradually diminished; this produced a very agreeable change in the state of the atmosphere, the thermometer having fallen, during the tornado, from 91 deg. to 78 deg. F. being the lowest degree we have yet experienced.

Wednesday, 27.—The Diadem, transport, Lieut. Woodman, agent, sailed this morning for Sierra Leone, and England, by which conveyance I sent letters, and a few curiosities.

Friday, 29.—Mr. Wood was sent, with a party of men, to assist the gunner in erecting a battery on Adelaide Island. Having made bankrupts of the natives in the yam market, the African, schooner, sailed to-day for the purpose of procuring them, in other parts of the island.

Saturday, March 1.—Some days since, a native having been detected stealing a knife out of Capt. Smith's store, he was sent on board the Eden to have his head shaved, and be kept in irons for a week; the time having expired this morning, he was ordered to receive thirty-nine lashes previously to his dismissal. He bore his punishment well, and was going away, when, about 300 yards from the place, he fell down in a fainting fit, doubtless from the apprehension that he was not yet quite out of our power. Mr. Cowan, the surgeon, ran to his assistance, but the natives surrounded the patient, and would not allow him to receive medical aid from us; this was of the less consequence, as their method of proceeding proved completely effectual. They first bound a strong narrow leaf around the sufferer's body, stuffing as many more leaves within the bandage as it would contain: they then chewed some vegetable substance until it was reduced to a pulp, and when this preparation was blown up into the nose and ears of the patient, it almost immediately produced the desired effect.

There had been much thunder in the distance, and we had seen a good deal of lightning playing about the Camaroon mountain for several days past; but more particularly towards the morning.

Saturday, 8.—This being the tornado season, we have experienced one almost daily, lasting however only a few hours, the rest of the twenty-four being in part, very cloudy; and in part, very fine. The Lady Combermere, of Liverpool, which anchored here last night, sailed this afternoon to prosecute her voyage along the coast.

The African, schooner, Captain Smith, intending to sail this evening on a trading voyage up the Calabar river, principally to procure bullocks for our little colony, I was glad to avail myself of the opportunity of going as a passenger, for the purpose of making further observations on the habits and peculiarities of the people.

We left Maidstone bay about ten o'clock in the evening, taking with us, by way of experiment, three native youths from the island, an event which certainly augured well for the future advancement and civilization of these islanders.

Sunday, 9.—We this morning saw a very large waterspout, which broke within 200 yards of the vessel, and it is remarkable, that before it broke, we observed it raining in five or six different parts of the horizon, while it was quite fair, with the sun shining, in the intermediate spaces. Soon after four in the afternoon, we entered the Old Calabar river, and at sunset we anchored in three and a half fathoms water; east end of Parrot Island, N.N.W. four or five miles.

Monday, 10.—Weather still variable. Got under weigh at daylight, but it soon fell calm, and we made use of our sweeps. At noon, abreast of James's Island; and at three, we anchored off Old Calabar, or Duke's Town.

We found the brig Kent, Captain Cumings, still here; also, the ship Agnes, Captain Charles, from Liverpool, for palm-oil; and a Spanish schooner, from the Havannah, waiting for slaves. Captain Smith and I accompanied Captain Cumings on shore to pay a visit to Duke Ephraim, with whom Capt. Cumings was a great favourite, which proved a fortunate circumstance for us. The schooner having last visited the place as a man of war, she was received with suspicion, and it was extremely difficult to convince the Duke and his people, that there was not a ruse de guerre intended by her reappearance as a mere trader.

Tuesday, 11.—A fine but very hot day. Paid a visit to the Duke after breakfast, and in the afternoon went three miles down the river to visit the Lady Combermere on her way up the river. In the evening we paid another visit to the Duke, at which period, every day, he holds a sort of levee for supercargoes, and Captains of vessels, to talk over "news." Upon these occasions he discovers an acute knowledge of his own interest. Remained on shore, and passed the night in the Duke's English house, where his visitors always sleep, but none of his family, except a few domestics in charge of it. This evening a tornado came on with heavy rain.

Wednesday, 12.—A schooner, that had secreted herself further up the river; dropped down and anchored off the town last night, after it became dark, intending to take in her cargo of slaves during the night. She completed her object before daylight, when she got under weigh, and sailed down the river, without shewing any colours.

This day was the Calabar Sunday, but it was not kept as the usual holiday, in consequence of the recent death of the Duke's favourite brother. The funeral ceremony is horrible, but I feel bound to describe it for the sake of shewing the extraordinary superstition and bigotry that still exists among a people, who have not only been visited, but regularly traded with, by European nations, for nearly two centuries. I shall introduce this individual case by premising that human sacrifices are lavishly made, not only in honour of the blood royal, but in a more or less degree upon the death of great (or I should more properly say rich) men; for riches constitute greatness here, even in a higher ratio than they do in more civilized countries; the riches of these parts consisting in the possession of slaves.

At the funeral obsequies of the Duke's brother, six human victims were destined to the sacrifice; namely, three men and three women, who, however, were, with a strange mixture of mercy and cruelty, rendered insensible to the terrors of their fate by previous intoxication. Five of these poor creatures were hung, and placed in the grave of the Prince, while the sixth, a young and favourite wife, was reserved for a destiny still more horrible; being thrown alive into the grave, which was immediately closed over the whole.

These people practise many other superstitious customs, equally dreadful, and I am persuaded it needs but a recital of them, to prove how much they stand in want of the benevolent instructions of Christian missionaries.

The laws of the country are worthy of attention, being, perhaps, the most curious, as well as the most prompt, and effectual, of any that we are acquainted with, amongst the African nations. The whole of the Old Calabar country is governed by what are termed the "Egbo laws." These are laws, enacted by a secret meeting, called the Egbo assembly, which is held in a house set apart for that purpose, called the Palaver house; of this assembly the Duke, by virtue of his sovereignty, officiates as the chief, with the title of Eyamba. There are different degrees of rank in the subordinate Egbo members, and each step must be purchased successively. They sometimes admit Englishmen into this assembly: Captain Burrell of the ship Haywood, of Liverpool, held the rank of Yampai, which is one of considerable importance, and he found it exceedingly to his advantage, as it enabled him to recover all debts due to him by the natives.

The following are the names, and prices, of each step:

1. Abungo 125 Bars. 2. Aboko 75 Bars. 3. Makaira 400 White copper rods. 4. Bakimboko 100 Bars. 5. Yampai 850 White copper rods,

also some rum, goats, membo, &c. &c.

The Yampai is the only class of Egbo men that are allowed to sit in council. The sums paid for the different titles of Egbo are divided among the Yampai only, who are not confined to a single share, for a Yampai may have his title multiplied as often as he chooses to purchase additional shares, which entitles the person so purchasing to a corresponding number of portions in the profits arising out of the establishment.

Their mode of administering justice is as follows: When a person cannot obtain his due from a debtor, or when any injury has been received, personally or otherwise, the aggrieved party applies to the Duke for the Egbo drums; acquainting him at the same time with the nature of his complaint: if the Duke accedes to the demand, the Egbo assembly immediately meet, and the drums are beat about the town; at the first sound of which every woman is obliged to retreat within her own dwelling, upon pain of losing her head for disobedience: nor until the drum goes round the second time, to shew that council is ended, and the Egbo returned, are they released from their seclusion. If the complaint be just, the Egbo is sent to the offending party to warn him of his delinquency, and to demand reparation, after which announcement no one dares move out of the house inhabited by the culprit, until the affair is settled, and if it be not soon arranged, the house is pulled down about their ears, in which case the loss of a few heads frequently follows. This extremity, however, rarely occurs, for if the offender be not able to settle the matter himself, it is generally made up by his relations and friends.

The Egbo man—that is the executive person wears a complete disguise, consisting of a black network close to the skin from head to foot, a hat with a long feather, horns projecting from his forehead, a large whip in his right hand, with a bell fastened to the lower part of his back, and several smaller ones round his ankles. Thus equiped he starts from the Egbo-house, runs through the streets with his bells ringing, to the house of the offender, followed by half a dozen subordinate personages fantastically dressed, each carrying either a sword or stick.

I one day asked King Eyo who this Egbo was, who ran about with the bells, "What? you tink Egbo be man, no, he be debil, come up from bush, nobody know him," was his reply.

It is their custom upon the death of a great man, to have one of his slaves, male or female, taken down to the side of the river to make what they call a devil, which means, I presume, an offering to the Evil Spirit; this is done in the following manner. A stake is driven into the ground close to the water's edge, to this the poor wretch is fastened, the head being pulled as high as possible to stretch the neck for the sword, by which he is to be decapitated, and after the deed is accomplished they carry the head through the town rejoicing.

These frightful orgies used to take place in the daytime, but in consequence of the repeated remonstrances from the Captains of vessels, who were shocked by the frequency of these horrid scenes, performed in sight of all the ships in the river, they now take place in the night; for my own part I think that the noise occasioned by their savage merriment, and their running about during the stillness of night, produces a more appalling picture to the imagination, than even the reality of the scene in broad day; the only difference is that there are fewer spectators, as the greater number of those on board the vessels are wrapt in profound repose.

The practice of burying the youngest and favourite wives with the corpse is by no means uncommon,[36] and they resort to a variety of cruel practices for maiming and destroying their slaves; thus they cut off parts or the whole of their ears, a part of the nose, a finger or a hand. One of the servants who waited upon us at the King's house, had lost an ear in this way, for some trifling offence.

After a recital of these facts, it is scarcely necessary to observe that the Calabar people are extremely cruel, indeed I am informed that they frequently cause their slaves to be put to death for a mere whim; a practice which they endeavour to excuse, by saying, that if the slaves were not thus kept in awe of their masters, they would rise in rebellion: they also plead the necessity of it, for preventing them becoming too numerous. These reasons form also their apology for countenancing the slave-trade, a traffic which is most strenuously supported by the Duke, who also trades largely in palm-oil.

His method of procuring slaves is worthy of remark. He induces the Captains to deposit a quantity of goods in his hands, which he sorts into such portions as would form an ordinary load for a man to carry on his head. He then sends his agents into the country with the goods to purchase slaves, promising the Captains their cargoes, amounting to any given number, within a stated time; in the meanwhile he employs other persons to collect in his own town and neighbourhood, and if he is very hard pressed, (for the Captains of slavers are always very impatient), he obliges his great men to furnish him with a certain number each. This is done by sending him every individual from the neighbouring villages, who have committed any crime or misdemeanor; and should he still continue unable to make up the specified demand, they sell their own servants to him. The Duke has profited largely by this system, for he has several warehouses full of goods, some of which he has had in store for years, such as wines, spirits, liqueurs, sail-cloth, cordage, manufactured goods, copper rods, iron bars, &c. &c.

The palm-oil he collects in small quantities from his subjects, in the neighbourhood of the Calabar, and other small rivers that fall into it. The Duke, however, does not engross the whole trade, for the commerce being once regularly opened, may be carried on by any person who has property to barter. Their mode of proceeding is as follows:—Those who desire to traffic, come on board and select whatever they want, making their agreement with the captain as to what they are to bring in return. If the captain knows them to be honest men, they are allowed to take the goods away at once; but if they have not sufficient credit with him, they must get the Duke, or some trustworthy person, to be responsible for them. I was fortunate enough to be present during the time they were carrying on business.

The principal part of the cargoes of the Liverpool vessels who trade for palm-oil, is salt, of which the natives are very fond; but they consider it more a luxury, than a necessary condiment; the article next in estimation is rum; after which, they eagerly desire all descriptions of manufactured articles; such as cotton cloths, especially those printed with fancy patterns: all sorts of beads, glass or china-ware, umbrellas, hats, &c. for which they frequently send orders on board the vessels, written in the following style.


(NO. 1.)

"Captain Cummins Sir please Let the Bearer have fifteen and the 13 Crew Cask to fill at Toby Creek.

"Duke Epbraim."

(NO. 2.)

"Captain Image Sir Please Give King Eyo Trust for 800 Crews of Oil be down for it if his no pay I will pay.

"Duke Ephraim."

(NO. 3.)

"Dear my good friend Captain Halmaga Sir I have send you this letter to let you know that I send you 1 Goat and I send my Dear John to send me that Rum you promised me yeseday and I thank you to let me know what Hour you want me to come down to take my Trust.

"I am your Best friend

"King Eyo Honesty at Old Creek Town."

(NO. 4.)

"Dear friend Captain Cummins Sir I have to thank you to send me 8 Empett Cask for to go for Market.

"I remain your friend Eyo Eyo Honesty."[37]

(NO. 5.)

"My friend Captain Commins if you please send me that Rum I been beg you and thank you for lettle Beef too if you got any.

"Toby Tom Narrow."

(NO. 6.)

"Captain R. Commings Sir I mush obliged to you for please spear me some nails for make door do my friend I remain Sir

"Tom Duke."

(NO. 7.)

"Captain Cummins Sir I let you know but I want to go to Market for me self in I send you Book to give me 50 Iranba for 110 Crew Salt then now I want 70 Crew Salt in them Bring me Book for 40 Crew Salt again then now I thank you to Down hose head for my 2 small hatt I am your Humble Servant

"Antega Ambo."

If the Christian Missionaries were to establish schools in the towns on the banks of these rivers, they would be very likely to prove eminently beneficial to the people, who are very desirous of, receiving every kind of instruction, more particularly a knowledge of writing, which, at present, the head men teach each other in an imperfect manner, of which the above notes form an example. There is not one of them who ever read English, or any other language in print; and I have heard the Duke express great regret at not being able to read the newspapers, of the contents of which, although he had seen many, he still remained ignorant.

Thursday, 13.—The Eden's prize (a Spanish schooner taken last voyage by the African) arrived this evening from Fernando Po, with Capt. Owen on board, to whom Captain Smith and myself immediately went to pay our respects.

Friday, 14.—Captain Owen visited the Spanish slave schooner, the ship Agnes, the brig Kent, and mustered the crews of the two palm-oil vessels, when he met with several volunteers for the Eden. In the afternoon, he went on shore to see the Duke, who received him very civilly, but suspiciously, for, notwithstanding their great professions of friendship for the English in general, and their real regard for some particular individuals, who are regular traders to the country, the consideration of the profits they derive from the slave-trade, prompts them to feel no little annoyance at our interference in their lucrative commerce. They already perceive that our new settlement at Fernando Po, is calculated to interfere with their proceedings, and they have clearly expressed their sentiments upon the subject; not, however, without clothing their observations so cunningly as to avoid giving offence.

"What for," said one, "white man come to live in black man's country? What for can't white man stop in own country? Much better for white man, than black man's country."

Mr. Cowan, the hospital assistant at Fernando Po, and myself, accompanied King Eyo, this evening, in his large canoe, up the river, to Creek Town, a distance of twelve miles, where his Majesty resides.

The town is built on the edge of a creek, a short distance from the river. On our arrival, we found that King Eyo had a larger wooden framed English house, than the King of the Old Calabar, but not in such good repair: it was also sent from England by Mr. Bold, of Liverpool, to the King's father. In the largest room there was an elevated seat, in humble imitation of a throne, where the King sat to hear and give judgment in cases of dispute, and other causes that required his interference. He had a number of articles of English furniture, for instance, drawers, sofas, chairs, &c. The principal articles in glass, were a chandelier, suspended in the centre of the room, several mirrors, glass shades, for lamps or candles; rummers, wine-glasses, &c.; but, like the Duke, his Majesty does not sleep in his English house, preferring a native hut, where he was surrounded by his wives and domestics; the latter, of course, being his slaves. King Eyo is more moderate in his conjugal establishment than the Duke, having only twenty wives, while Duke Ephraim's number amounts to sixty.

The captain of an English vessel calling on the Duke one day, he exclaimed, "Oh, my friend, you come very good time, I just send away some of my wives, that I have had to entertain me!"—The captain replying, that he regretted he had not come sooner, as he should have liked to see them. The Duke answered, "Oh! no, my friend; you could not; it is not Calabar fashion!" How many were there? questioned the captain—"Oh!" replied the Duke, "only twenty-five!"

Saturday, 15.—There was so much noise in the town all night, that we imagined it must proceed from drunkenness, or else some desperate rencounter; indeed, it was impossible to think otherwise, for they were screaming, hallooing, and blowing cows-horns, or conchs, which produced so horrid a din, that there was no possibility of sleeping, and we expected no less than that a party would rush into the house where we were. The uproar, however, died away towards morning, and we learned afterwards, that it was nothing more than the ordinary savage enjoyment of the natives.

Captain Owen arrived this morning to pay King Eyo a visit; he remained a couple of hours, and then returned to Old Calabar Town.

In the afternoon, we left Creek Town, with the King, in Tom Eyo's canoe, to return to Old Calabar; we had been very hospitably entertained by his Majesty, who gave us what is called Calabar chop, a dish consisting of any sort of meat stewed in palm-oil, and highly seasoned with pepper.

The idea of palm-oil may be unpleasant to an English reader, but when it is fresh, it is not unpalatable, and I must confess, that I greatly relished a dish of fish and yams which was brought on board the Kent, as a present to the captain: of course it was cooked in their best style. I remember, at one time, having as much prejudice as any of my countrymen against oil; but when I went to France, I partook of it insensibly, until I began to like it; and, when in Italy, I fell into the custom of using it with vegetables, as a substitute for melted butter: fresh oil, in warm climates, being generally preferred to butter, even where both are to be had, which is not always the case in southern latitudes.

There are very few good fish in the Old Calabar river; the best I met with was a species of sole, but very thin, which, I suppose, is owing to the muddiness of the river itself, and to the extensive mud-banks which flank the channel. The water in the river is also so bad as to be unfit for use, in consequence of the quantity of decayed animal and vegetable matter that must constantly be mixed with it, in a climate where the progress of putrefaction is so rapid; however, fortunately for the shipping, there is a good spring on the bank of the river, about a mile below the town, where it is usual to send for supplies.

King Eyo went on board the African, schooner, and remained with Captain Smith to select goods, equal in value to twenty bullocks.

————— [36] It is the custom here to bury their dead in their own houses.

[37] Brother to King Eyo.


Captain Owen's Departure—Runaway Slave—Egbo again—Duke's Sunday— Superstitious Abstinence—Anecdote of a Native Gentleman—Breaking Trade—Author's Visit to Creek Town—Bullocks embarked—Departure from Calabar—Chased by mistake—Dangerous Situation—Mortality at Fernando Po—Detection of a Deserter—Frequency of Tornados—Horatio hove down—Capture of a Slave Vessel—Loss of Mr. Morrison—Another Slave Vessel taken—Landing a part of the Slaves—Author's Daily Routine— Garden of Eden—Monstrous Fish—Continued Mortality—Market at Longfield

Monday, 17.—After breakfast, Captain Owen sailed in the Victoria for Fernando Po. The Lady Combermere also departed for the same destination; the latter vessel, being on a trading voyage along the coast, contained a number of articles in her freight, much required by the people at the settlement.

Soon after these vessels were out of sight, two parties of slaves came down from the Baracoons, to wash themselves in the river; they were chained in pairs, the right leg of one to the left leg of another. Before the Victoria arrived, they were brought down daily; but were not seen during the time she remained, notwithstanding there were several depots for slaves in the town.

Some black gentlemen came on board to-day to barter for bullocks.

The brig James, from Liverpool, arrived this afternoon. About eight in the evening, a Calabar man was brought on board from the Kent's oil-house; he wanted to be secreted until we sailed, as he wished to make his escape; for, he said, his master wanted to cut his head off, or to make him chop nut, i.e. to oblige him to eat a poisonous nut, which produces speedy death, because he had free-mason (meaning witchcraft), and that his master had been sick ever since he had last flogged him.

Picked up floating about the harbour, the long-boat of a French slaver, that had been taken while at anchor here, by a French man-of-war brig.— Ther. at 1 P.M. 93 deg. F. in the shade.

Wednesday, 19.—We saw from the vessel to-day, that Egbo was running about the town. A small canoe, with a couple of the Eden's Kroomen, came up the river this evening with a letter from the Eden's tender, for information respecting the Spanish slave-vessel that was expected to sail.

Thursday, 20.—Fine day, with a fresh sea breeze, which felt quite reviving after several hot days. Egbo again in action to-day, having been sent from Old Calabar to Robin's Town, a distance of three miles, to recover a debt for the Duke.

Friday, 21.—Old Calabar being yesterday, this was Duke's Sunday; but neither of these holidays were kept with the usual festivity, in consequence of the prescribed time of the mourning for the Prince, not having yet expired. When these holidays are observed, it is usual for the Duke to invite all the captains and super-cargoes of vessels in the river, when he gives them an excellent dinner, with plenty of palm-wine. The dinner consists, generally, of goats, wild pigs, monkeys, fish, plain yams, foofoo, &c. The latter dish is a preparation of boiled yams, which are pounded in a mortar until they obtain a tenacity that will admit of being drawn out like birdlime. While the Duke is at dinner, or breakfast, he usually has some foofoo before him. This he rolls in his hands into small balls, of about two inches in diameter, before he partakes of it: it is, however, but justice to remark, that his Majesty always washes his hands both before and after each meal.

There is a superstition, prevalent among these people, concerning food that is forbidden, which is pointed out to them from time to time by their doctor, or rather by the fetish men, who are the interpreters of his supposed will; the doctor himself being a mere wooden image; one of which is always carried about in the suite of the Duke. At the time of our visit, the Duke was forbidden to eat beef or fowls, consequently he never allowed them to be put on his table. He was occasionally permitted to eat fish, because, I presume, he was supposed to have a fancy for it. At these times, the Duke's attendants are forbidden to taste fish. Although the Duke does not eat beef or fowls, he occasionally orders the animals to be sacrificed as an offering to the devil: for the Calabar people say, that "God is a good man, and will not hurt them; but the devil is a bad man, and it is therefore necessary to appease him."

The natives of this country all shave on the day previous to Calabar Sunday; and it is curious enough that they all do so according to the Mahommedan mode, excepting when they make devils, that is, go into mourning, at which period, they not only omit shaving, but put on their worst clothes.

The captain of an English vessel, calling one day on a black gentleman, with whom he was on very friendly terms, opened the door suddenly, without ceremony, breaking a slight fastening, and found his friend under the hands of one of his wives, who was performing for him the office of a barber; a discovery which so offended the prejudices of the native, that he could never summon courage after that circumstance, to look the captain full in the face.

The Duke, King Eyo, and several black gentlemen, breakfasted, and began their trade, on board the James to-day. The form of breaking trade here is not so ceremonious as at the Bonny, being merely done by the Duke's visit a few days after the arrival of a vessel, when refreshments are provided for him and his suite, after which he selects whatever goods he wants, and the trade is then open to all his subjects.

Sunday, 23.—There were four guns fired in the town this afternoon, the object of which was to announce the death of a rich old lady; as they were not minute-guns one would suppose her relations were rejoicing at the event which had taken place.

Monday, 24.—This evening I accompanied Captains McGhar, Charles, Coxenham, and Smith, (all commanding English vessels in the river) to visit King Eyo at Creek Town, but our visit was rather of a different character to that which would be paid to crowned heads in Europe; in this instance our host was the gainer, as well as the honoured party, for his guests came amply provided with the luxuries of life, and he was only required to furnish a few necessaries, which are also presented to him by his subjects, or his particular slaves. The excursion, however, procured us a little variety, and terminated satisfactorily to all parties, but after the novelty of a first visit has passed away, there is little interest to be found in a black town, the huts are all on the same plan; and the streets rugged and narrow.

Tuesday, 25.—About noon we left Creek Town, to return on board our respective vessels. Early in the evening we experienced a slight touch of a tornado, which in a few hours after was followed by a very violent one, and a good deal of heavy rain.

Friday, 28.—We completed our cargo of bullocks this afternoon, which we began to receive on board the preceding day. Our whole deck was now crowded with these animals, divided into compartments, with bamboo and other spars, leaving only a small space in the fore and after parts to work the vessel. There was also a platform made in the hold for a further number. Took leave of our friends at Old Calabar, and dropped down the river just below seven fathom point, where we anchored for the night. Had a slight tornado this evening.

Saturday, 29.—Got under weigh at daylight, but were obliged to anchor again before noon, both wind and tide being against us. We here found the Haywood, Captain Burrel, at anchor; she was from Liverpool, bound to Old Calabar, for palm-oil. The larger Liverpool vessels have generally a small one, for a tender, to collect palm-oil, ebony, and ivory,[38] at different places on the coast, as the ships generally remain in one river until their cargoes are complete. There was a dreadful accident happened to one of these tenders. She was boarded by a number of piratical blacks in canoes, belonging to an island near the mouth of the Camaroon river, when they murdered all the trader's crew, and after plundering the vessel of every thing they thought worth carrying away, they got clear off with their booty.

At 5 in the afternoon we got under weigh, and at 8 crossed the bar, where there was a heavy surf and only 15 feet water, so that we and our live stock were in some danger. Soon afterwards we were chased, and had two shots fired at us, being taken for a slaver escaping under cover of the night, and when the vessel was ranging up alongside, with the intention of pouring in a heavy fire and boarding us in the smoke, our assailants, to their great mortification, heard the bellowing of our oxen, and we discovered the vessel to be the Eden's tender, commanded by our friend Lieutenant Badgeley, who came on board, when we enjoyed a good laugh at his disappointment, in taking our horned cattle for slaves. We soon parted company, leaving him our best wishes.

Sunday, 30.—Soon after midnight the weather, from being very calm and clear, became overcast, and at 2 o'clock a tornado came on, which continued with frequent, and most violent gusts of wind, rain, thunder and lightning, till between five and six in the morning; our situation was not at all enviable, as we had both the deck, and hold, crowded with cattle. The violence and variableness of the wind soon raised a very rough and cross sea, which frequently broke over us, making every thing fly from side to side, and producing the greatest disorder. All this time I was in a small moveable bed-place on deck, expecting every instant that the sea would overwhelm us, and wash me and my bed-place overboard, for I was in no danger of being washed out of my bed, as it required no little management to emerge from it at pleasure. This berth of mine was commonly called a doghouse (a box about six feet long, four high, and two broad,) containing a mattress fitted about 18 inches from the deck, above which there was a sliding door and curtain, scarcely large enough to admit an ordinary sized man. I found it, however, much more pleasant in fine weather than sleeping below, where the cockroaches were so numerous that a large dishful might be obtained in a few minutes, by putting a little treacle in it, to serve both for bait and trap. I used to think, that if the old story were a fact instead of a fiction, namely, that the Chinese make Soy of these animals, a very lucrative trade might be carried on between them and the natives of these coasts.

Our schooner was a low, sharp, fast sailing vessel, but in an irregular sea she was tossed about like a cork. At daylight the weather cleared up, and the day turned out fine with a moderate breeze, which died away towards noon, when being in sight of the vessels at anchor in Maidstone Bay, Captain Smith and I left the schooner, to pull thither in a boat, and got on board the Eden about two in the afternoon: we also went on board the Louisa, from Sierra Leone.

The accounts we received of our infant settlement were not so favourable as we could have desired, not with regard to the progress of operations, for that was greater than could be reasonably expected, but from the sickness that had prevailed, and the consequent loss of several valuable lives. Mr. Glover, the master of the house-carpenters, died only the preceding evening, and it is much to be feared that the panic which took place on the first symptom of illness, (from a deficiency of that moral courage which every Christian ought to possess) proved more fatal than the disease itself. This morning we had a most convincing illustration of this fact. One of the stoutest and healthiest of our Plymouth artificers, who exhibited no previous symptoms of illness, on hearing of the death of Mr. Glover burst into a fit of crying, and exclaimed, "Oh my wife! my children! I shall never see you again!" From that moment he drooped, and in a few days died from despondency.

Good Friday, April, 4.—About 11 o'clock last night, the sentinel over the provision store at Newmarket, observed a man lying on the ground, tearing away the watling off one side of the store. On being challenged, he rose up, either to make his escape, or to resist the sentinel, who was advancing with fixed bayonet. In the scuffle that followed, the culprit was wounded in his left breast, notwithstanding which he succeeded in releasing himself from the grasp of his adversary. The sentinel, however, returned to the charge, and following him up closely, felled him to the earth with a blow from the butt-end of his musket. Still, however, the thief struggled violently, and prostrate as he was, endeavoured to bring down his opponent by seizing his legs: the soldier was now compelled, in self-defence, to transfix his prisoner to the ground, by running his bayonet through his left arm, until the serjeant came up, who took him to the guard-house, whither he walked, notwithstanding his severe wounds, and great loss of blood. His appearance was that of a native, his body being coated with red clay, and the fore part of his head shaved, while he wore the usual ornaments, a girdle, and armlets, of beads: but he was soon discovered to be a soldier of the African Corps, named Gott, who had run away four months before, taking with him his arms, accoutrements, and clothes.

The African, schooner, sailed this afternoon, for the purpose of procuring yams and live stock from other parts of the island, our people having bought up the whole stock of the natives in the neighbourhood of the settlement. We found here a few oysters on the Mangrove trees near the sea-shore, within reach of the tide.

Saturday, 5.—The Eden's tender, Victoria, returned from the Old Calabar this afternoon. A heavy tornado this evening, but as it is almost a daily occurrence, it is scarcely worth noticing.

Sunday, 6.—The Eden's tender, Horatio, with Captain Harrison on board, returned this afternoon from a week's trading voyage for stock round the island. A seaman belonging to the Eden was drowned through carelessness, in upsetting a small boat on leaving the Horatio. The Victoria sailed this evening, under the command of Lieutenant Robinson, to blockade several slave-vessels that were daily expected to sail from the Old Calabar river.

Monday, 7.—The armourer of the Eden died this afternoon. I had been myself affected with feverish symptoms during the last fortnight, but, although so many persons were dying around me, I still maintained my cheerful spirits, to which circumstance I attribute the restoration of my health, which was now daily improving. I mention this solely for the sake of impressing upon others the importance which cannot be often urged, of not giving way to despondency in this insalubrious climate.

Thursday, 10.—The Fame, brigantine, arrived here on her way from the Camaroon river, bound to Liverpool with palm-oil, which afforded us an opportunity of sending letters to England: she sailed on Saturday, on which day the Horatio filled, and sunk in Clarence Cove while in the act of heaving down. This event occasioned much trouble, and it required the assistance of two vessels to get her up again. The weather had been very unsettled throughout the past week, with a tornado during some part of each day or night.

Monday, 14.—The African sailed for the island of Bimbia to procure as much stock and vegetables as they could obtain. I regretted that a temporary indisposition prevented me from going, occasioned by a large boil in a highly irritable state, which is very common on this coast.

Tuesday, 15.—Mr. Mercer, midshipman of the Eden, who had sailed from hence in the Victoria, returned to-day in charge of the Elizabeth schooner under French colours, with upwards of 100 slaves on board. He had taken possession of her from the Eden's pinnace, while Lieutenant Robinson in the Victoria, went in chase of a suspicious vessel in another direction.

The Elizabeth was said to be from Guadaloupe, but from the testimony of her crew, and other circumstances, it appeared, that she had only got her French captain and papers from thence, and that she had sailed from St. Thomas's, under Spanish colours, where she engaged a part of her crew; the rest, with her Spanish captain, having previously joined her at Porto Rico. The Spaniard, who acted as captain in the outward bound voyage, remained at Old Calabar, to go back in another vessel, while he sent the Frenchman, with false papers, for the voyage home, knowing that the Eden's tender and boat were on the look-out for him at the mouth of the river.

Wednesday, 16.—Captain Owen employed himself in the examination of the papers and crew of the schooner brought in by Mr. Mercer. A short time before midnight, there was an alarm that a man had fallen overboard: every exertion was made to pick him up, without success. On inquiry, the unfortunate person proved to be Mr. Morrison, who had left England as schoolmaster of the Eden, and who, after the death of Mr. Abbott, was appointed acting store-keeper to the settlement. For want of lodging on shore, he used to come on board every night to sleep. Upon this occasion, he had laid down in the hammock netting on the gangway, a favourite place with the young gentlemen, as most of the ship's company, as well as the Kroomen, and black labourers, slept on the deck. It is supposed, that on awaking, he intended going below, but being drowsy, he mistook the outside for the inside rail, and fell into the water. He struggled a very short time before he sunk, and it was therefore thought, that he must have struck himself against a gun, or the side of the vessel, in his fall.

Thursday, 17.—We this day hove the Horatio down alongside the Eden to a pinnace filled with iron ballast: the pinnace sunk during the night in a squall, in consequence of her iron ballast not having been taken out at sunset. Eighty-one adult female slaves, and some female children, were landed this afternoon from the Elizabeth.

Sunday, 20.—About two o'clock in the afternoon, Lieutenant Badgeley arrived in a Brazilian schooner, Ou Voador (The Flying-fish), which he had taken with 230 slaves on board.

Monday, 21.—The Victoria, Lieutenant Robinson, returned from Old Calabar to-day, without having met with any further success. Landed this afternoon, at the settlement, from the Voador, sixty male slaves, with forty-two women and children, who were to be employed, with an allowance of sixpence per day, and their provisions.

Wednesday, 23.—Fired a royal salute from Adelaide Island, in honour of St. George's day. The African returned with stock from the island of Bimbia. Landed sixty-four sick children, of both sexes, from the Voador, their complaints being sore eyes, scurvy, craw-craws (itch), &c. The black mechanics and labourers, and their wives, shewed the greatest anxiety to take one, two, or more of these children under their protection, although they had been previously told that they would not receive any additional allowance for their support. One woman remarked, that as she had left her child at Sierra Leone, she wanted another in its place, to carry at her back; and before they obtained the Governor's permission for the indulgence of their wishes, they took the beads off their own necks to decorate their newly-adopted favourites. This philanthropic disposition was happily not confined to people of colour, (most of whom had fallen under the protection of the British flag, from similar situations, i.e. the holds of slave-vessels), as most of the naval, military, and civil officers, who resided on shore, also received boys under their protection.

Thursday, 24.—The Wanderer, transport, Lieutenant Young, agent, from Deptford, arrived this afternoon, with stores for this and Ascension island; and in the evening, the sloop Lucy, from Sierra Leone, with provisions for the settlement.

Friday, 25.—This afternoon, the two prizes, Ou Voador and Elizabeth, sailed for adjudication at Sierra Leone. The African left this evening for Old Calabar.

Saturday, 26.—This evening the Victoria sailed to blockade the Old Calabar river.

Monday, 28.—The French captain of the Elizabeth, having offered his services to superintend one of the working parties of black labourers on shore, commenced the performance of that duty this morning. The last of the two horses brought from Sierra Leone, died to-day from a disease in the mysenteric glands. The Munroe, an American whaling brig, arrived this evening. Two men, who were taken ill with fever, were ordered on board the Eden, and there were still five of the Plymouth artificers ill with the fever on shore; one of whom was in a state of delirium. We had likewise several seamen suffering from fever on board.

Wednesday, 30.—Ware, a fine boy, about fourteen years of age, whom Captain Owen had appointed to attend me, was unfortunately taken ill with fever to-day, which gave me great uneasiness.

Thursday, May, 1.—Went on shore soon after daylight, with the working parties, attended by a new servant, and returned to breakfast. Went on shore again before dinner, this being my accustomed routine. I occasionally remained on shore the whole day, and sometimes at night; but I preferred sleeping on the deck of the Eden, where, on the top of the Captain's skylight, I weathered out many a tornado. In this situation, I was tolerably protected by the sloped awning from the violence of the wind and the heavy rain, by which it is always accompanied: but even a wetting, now and then, would have been preferable to sleeping in a close cabin, between decks, where, in spite of every precaution, the heat was intolerable.

Saturday, 3.—We have had either a tornado, or heavy rain, with thunder and lightning, at some part of every twenty-four hours since I last noticed the weather. Another of the artificers departed this life. We had cucumbers from the Garden of Eden for dinner.

The following is a list of the seeds that have been sown there by the order of Captain Owen, who gave it its poetical appellation.

Many of them were planted in December, 1827.

Early York Cabbage. Emperor ditto. American Cabbage. Custard Apple. Sour Sop. Sierra Leone Plum. Tomato. Orchilla Weed, from St. Vincent's. Do. St. Antonio. Do. The Cape. Do. Madeira. Fruit Stones, from England. Canna, or Indian Shot. Large and small Pepper. Balsams. Pride of Barbadoes. Madeira Broom. Rose Apple. Dahlia. Sunflower. Four o'Clock. St. Jago Lilac. Marigold. Malta Turnip. Spanish Onion. Kidney Bean. Lettuce. Mustard and Cress. American Cress. Leek. Cucumber. Pumpkin. Lime. Lemon. Orange. Cocoa-nut.

Sunday, 4.—The American brig, Munroe, whaler, sailed to-day, on her return to her fishing ground.

Monday, 5.—The African, schooner, arrived from Old Calabar, with a cargo of bullocks, seventy-six in number; also a small cutter from Sierra Leone, with rice, &c. for the settlement.

Tuesday, 6.—Captain Hurst, of the Wanderer, towed a very large fish on shore, and hauled it up on the beach for examination, the mate of that ship, after some difficulty, having killed it with a harpoon. The sailors called it a Devil Fish, because, perhaps, they had never seen one so ugly, or so large of its kind before. They endeavoured to describe it to me, as I was too late to examine it myself; many of our black labourers having carried away pieces of it immediately after it was brought to land. The head was formed like the concave of a crescent, with an eye near the end of each point, and a small orifice just behind each eye, like an ear. In breadth, it measured fourteen feet and a half, that is, from the extremities of the fins, or flaps, which resembled those of a skate; in length, seven feet in the body, and six feet in the tail.

A very pretty young native girl, about fifteen years of age, took refuge in our settlement this afternoon, and placed herself under the care of a fine strapping young Krooman, servant to Capt. Smith, of the African.

Wednesday, 7.—Forster, the marine, who was superintending a party on shore, was sent on board in a high fever to-day; and Thomas Welling, another of our Plymouth artificers, died this morning. We also found that our bullocks began to die very fast, without our being able to discover the immediate cause.

My poor servant lad has continued in a high fever ever since he was first taken; and this evening, about nine o'clock, his respiration became very low and quick (the rattles), and for a full hour no hope was entertained; but, at the end of that time, the alarming symptoms subsided; his respiration became more easy and natural, and after a composing sleep of several hours, he awoke with every prospect of recovery.

Saturday, 10.—The Lucy, cutter, sailed this afternoon to procure stock from the opposite coast.

Monday, 12.—Forster, the marine, died last night, after five days illness; and, although the sailmaker was called to sew him up in his hammock before he was quite cold, the work of decomposition had already commenced, and the corpse was so offensive, that he had much difficulty in completing his object. This was a case of remarkable despondency. He entertained an opinion, from the moment he was attacked, that his illness would terminate fatally, and it was impossible to inspire him with the least hope; a state of mind which certainly tended greatly to the accomplishment of his prophecy.

The Victoria returned from Old Calabar to-day.

Tuesday, 13.—In the middle of the night, a heavy tornado came on; after which it continued to blow very hard from the eastward till noon, when the wind died away to a light breeze, and we had a very fine afternoon. In the evening, the Horatio sailed for Old Calabar.

Wednesday, 14.—A tornado in the middle of the night.

Friday, 16.—A market opened to-day at Longfield, where our people were allowed to purchase what they pleased from the natives, paying a small duty for this privilege to the Colonial Government. Hitherto an officer had been appointed to make the purchases, and distribute the articles, gratis, to the establishment. The following were the rates of the impost:—

s. d. For every Gallon of Palm-Wine 0 8 Ditto Ditto of Oil 0 2 100 Yams 2 0 Fowl 0 1-1/2 Sheep, or Goat 2 0 Kid, or Lamb 0 9

For my own part, I cannot perceive the policy of imposing duties upon such trifling articles, the whole of which would amount to a very inconsiderable sum, when collected, and it had the bad effect of rendering the people dissatisfied: God knows, there were sufficient privations for those living in this infant colony, without imposing duties upon the few additional comforts of life, that were so scantily supplied by the inhabitants.

————— [38] Ebony is plenty in this country, but the high duty that is imposed upon its importation, renders it an unprofitable article in the English market. At Liverpool it sells for no more than L4 per ton, the duty out of which is L2 per ton.


Scarcity of Provisions in Fernando Po—Diet of the Natives—Their Timidity—Its probable Cause—The Recovery of a Liberated African Deserter—Departure from Fernando Po—Reflections on the Uses of the Settlement—Causes of Failure—Insalubrity of the Climate— Probabilities of Improvement—Arrival off the mouth of the Camaroon River—Chase of a Brigantine—Her Capture—Her suspicious Appearance— Slave Accommodations—Pirates of the North Atlantic Ocean—Prince's Island—Visit to the Governor—Drunken Frolic of a Marine—Provisions —Delicious Coffee—Account of the Town—Population—Varieties of Colour in the Inhabitants—West-bay—Inhospitality of the Governor and Merchants—Visit to a Brazilian Brigantine—Difficulty of obtaining a Passage to Angola—Departure of the Emprendadora—The Eden leaves Prince's Island—Crossing the Equinoctial Line—Dolphin and Flying-fish—Trade-winds—Ascension Island at Daybreak—Landing— Description of the Settlement—Turtle—Goats' Flesh—Abundant Poultry —Island Game—Aboriginal Foes—Unfaithful Friends—Gladiatorial Sports—Privileges of Settlers—Traffic—Roads—Water—Culture of Soil—Produce—Vegetables—Live Stock—Population—Employments—Hours of Labour—Recreations—Departure from the Island—Recollections of Ascension on a former Voyage—Dampier, the Navigator—The Variables— An Affidavit on Crossing the Line—Change of Weather—Dutch Galliot— Passage for the Brazils—Parting of Friends

Saturday, May 17, 1828.—Mr. Craig, who had come from Sierra Leone to set up a store, went into the country with a native chief this afternoon, for the purpose of procuring palm-oil. He returned, however, the next evening, very much fatigued and disappointed; for he not only found the journey very harassing, in consequence of the badness of the paths, but discovered that his mercantile project was fruitless, owing to the poverty of the natives. Indeed, the people of Fernando Po are less abundantly supplied with provisions than the nations of Africa in general; their principal dependance being on yams, which are, of course, liable to occasional failure. They have very little live stock of any kind, and the chiefs alone appear to indulge in the luxury of animal food. It is only on particular occasions, however, that they treat themselves to a goat, or sheep, as they are principally confined to fowls. That they are not plentifully supplied with fish, is owing solely to their own negligence, as there are abundance to be had by those who take the trouble of toiling for them; but for many days together, not a canoe was to be seen. It is difficult to ascertain the cause of this strange indifference; it may be that they are afraid to venture out to sea, and this is not unlikely, as they appeared, on our first arrival, to entertain much apprehension at the sight of a strange vessel on their coast; but, as they became accustomed to our presence, and began to entertain a feeling of confidence and protection in our friendship, this diffidence gradually wore off. It cannot be doubted, that their island has often been visited by vessels engaged in the slave-trade, as well as by men-of-war. A circumstance occurred a few years ago, which proves that they are not without hostile visitors; and which, in some measure, justifies the suspicions with which they regard all strangers. In the year 1820, or 1821, a Spanish vessel came over from the Camaroon river to this island, accompanied by King Aqua, with a number of war canoes, for the purpose of decoying the natives, or, in the event of failing in their artifice, to adopt hostile measures, with the ultimate view of seizing upon all they could capture, and selling them for slaves. They accordingly landed well armed, but met with a stout resistance, which proved, however, unavailing, the invaders succeeding in making about 150 prisoners, whom they carried off to the West Indies, and killing as many more in the skirmish. It is supposed that King Aqua received very little reward for his services on the occasion, or for the loss his subjects sustained in the fight. This anecdote was related to me by Captain Cumings, of the Kent, who was trading on the opposite coast for palm-oil, at the time it occurred.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse