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Lander's Travels - The Travels of Richard Lander into the Interior of Africa
by Robert Huish
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For some time, no information which could be relied upon reached this country, relative to the progress of the expedition, although some sinister reports were afloat relative to the fatal termination of it. At length, however, all suspense was extinguished by the arrival of an individual belonging to the expedition, who gave the following account of the melancholy manner in which Richard Lander met his death, and which was subsequently corroborated by Mr. Moore, a medical gentleman attached to the expedition, and who was himself an eyewitness of the whole murderous scene. The particulars of the mournful event of Lander's death are thus given:

"Richard Lander and his associates entered the Brass River, and began ascending it in excellent spirits. With them were two or three negro musicians, who, when the labours of the day were over, cheered their countrymen with their instruments, at the sound of which they danced and sang in company, while the few Englishmen be longing to the party, amused themselves with angling on the banks of the stream, in which, though not very expert, they were tolerably successful. In this pleasing manner, stemming a strong current by day, and resting from their toil at night, Richard Lander and his little band, totally unapprehensive of danger, and unprepared to overcome or meet it, proceeded slowly up the Niger. At some distance from its mouth, and on his way thither, they met King Jacket, a relative of King Boy, and one of the heartless and sullen chiefs, who rule over a large tract of marshy country on the banks of the Brass River. This individual was hailed by our travellers, and a present of tobacco and rum was offered to him, he accepted it with a murmur of dissatisfaction, and his eyes sparkled with malignity, as he said in his own language, 'White man will never reach Eboe this time.' This sentence was immediately interpreted to Lander by a native of the country, a boy, who afterwards bled to death from a wound in the knee, but Lander made light of the matter, and attributed Jacket's prophecy, for so it proved, to the petulance and malice of his disposition. Soon, however, he discovered his error, but it was too late to correct it, or evade the danger which threatened him. On ascending as far inland as sixty or seventy miles, the English approached an island, and their progress in the larger canoe was effectually obstructed by the shallowness of the stream. Amongst the trees and underwood that grew on this island, and on both banks of the river in its vicinity, large ambuscades of the natives had previously been formed, and shortly after the principal canoe had grounded, its unfortunate crew, busily employed to heave it into deep water, were saluted with irregular but heavy and continued discharges of musketry. So great was Lander's confidence in the sincerity and good will of the natives, that he could not at first believe that the destructive fire, by which he was literally surrounded, was any thing more than a mode of salutation they had adopted in honour of his arrival. But the Kroomen who had leaped into the boat, and who fell wounded by his side, soon convinced him of his mistake, and plainly discovered to him the fearful nature of the peril into which he had fallen so unexpectedly, and the difficulty he would experience in extricating himself from it. Encouraging his comrades with his voice and gestures, Lander prepared to defend himself to the last, and a loud and simultaneous shout from his little party assured him that they shared his feelings, and would follow his example. Meanwhile, several of the savages having come out of their concealment, were brought down by the shots of the English, but Lander whilst stopping to pick up a cartridge from the bottom of the canoe, was struck near the hip by a musket ball. The shock made him stagger, but he did not fall, and he continued cheering on his men. Soon finding, however, his ammunition expended, himself seriously wounded, the courage of his Kroomen beginning to droop, and the firing of his assailants, instead of diminishing become more general than ever, he resolved to attempt getting into the smaller canoe, afloat at a short distance, as the only remaining chance of preserving a single life. For this purpose, abandoning their property, the survivors threw themselves into the stream, and with much difficulty, for the strength of the current was incredibly strong, most of them succeeded in accomplishing their object. No sooner was this observed by the men in ambush, than they started up and rushed out with wild and hideous yells; canoes that had been hidden behind the luxuriant foliage which overhung the river, were in an instant pushed out into the middle of the stream, and pursued the fugitives with surprising velocity; whilst numbers of people, with savage antics and furious gesticulations, ran and danced along the beach, uttering loud and startling cries. The Kroomen maintained on this occasion, the good reputation which their countrymen have deservedly acquired; their lives depended on their energy and skill, and they impelled their slender bark through the water with unrivalled swiftness. The pursuit was kept up for four hours, and poor Lander, without ammunition or any defensive weapon whatever, was exposed to the straggling fire, as well as the insulting mockery of his pursuers. One incident, which occurred in the flight, deserves to be recorded. A white man named T——, completely overpowered by his fears, refused to fire on the savages, who were within a paddle's length of him, but stood up in the canoe, with a loaded musket in his hand, beseeching them by his gestures to take him prisoner, rather than deprive him of his life. While in the act of making this dastardly appeal, a musket ball from the enemy entered his mouth, and killed him on the spot. The others behaved with the greatest coolness and intrepidity. The fugitives gained on their pursuers, and when they found the chase discontinued altogether, Lander stood up for the last time in the canoe, and being seconded by his remaining associates, he waved his hat, and gave a last cheer in sight of his adversaries. He then became sick and faint from loss of blood, and sank back exhausted in the arms of those who were nearest to him. Rallying shortly afterwards, the nature of his wound was communicated to him by Mr. Moore, a young surgeon from England, who had accompanied him up the river, and whose conduct throughout this disastrous affray was most admirable. The ball could not be extracted, and Lander felt convinced his career would soon be terminated. When the state of excitement to which his feelings had been wrought, gave place to the languor which generally succeeds powerful excitement of any kind, the invalid's wound pained him exceedingly, and for several hours afterwards, he endured with calmness the most intense suffering. From that time he could neither sit up, nor turn on his couch, nor hold a pen, but while he was proceeding down the river in a manner so melancholy, and so very different from the mode in which he was ascending it only the day before, he could not help indulging in various reflections, and he talked much of his wife and children, his friends, his distant home, and his blighted expectations. It was a period of darkness, and distress, and sorrow to him, but his natural cheerfulness soon regained its ascendancy over his mind, and freely forgiving all his enemies, he resigned himself into the hands of his Maker, and derived considerable benefit from the consolations of religion. He arrived with his surviving companions at Fernando Po on the 25th January. It was there found that the ball had entered his hip, and worked its way down to the thick of the thigh. He died on the 2nd February. His clothes and papers were all lost.

"Various conjectures have been urged as to the probable cause of this cold-blooded and heartless attack on Lander and his party. Some persons imagine that the natives had been stimulated to the perpetration of this disgraceful deed by the Portuguese and South American slave dealers, who have considerable influence in the country, and whose interests would unquestionably decline by the introduction into the interior of British subjects and British manufactures. It is, however, generally supposed that the hostility of the natives may be in some degree traced to the shameful and scandalous conduct of some of the Liverpool merchants, who had used their private influence to poison the minds of the natives by attributing particular motives to the travellers, which were at variance with the interests of the country, and subversive of the authority of the chiefs. Nor is this scarcely a matter of doubt, when we peruse the following extract from a letter addressed by John Lander to the editor of the Literary Gazette.

"I cannot close this letter, without apprising you of a fact, which will appear incredible to you. Can you believe me when I assert, on the most unquestionable authority, that there are merchants here (the letter was dated from Liverpool) so heartless and inhuman as to instruct the masters of their vessels who trade to the African coast to refuse any assistance to the expedition of which it may stand in need; to reject all letters that may be sent from the parties connected with it, and, in fine, to hold no communication whatever with the steamers or the brig, does it not startle you, that jealousy and selfishness can go so far? Believe me, I blush at the reflection of a crime so hideous and un-English like as this?" In a postscript, John Lander says, "The fact of the merchants' instructions to the masters of their vessels may be safely depended on. Nothing can be more true. They have gone even farther than I have ventured to hint. They have taken measures to prejudice the minds of the natives against the expedition."

Thus is human life, thus are the interests of science sacrificed on the shrine of a sordid love of gain and pelf. It is true that the merit of the fitting out of the expedition belongs to the enterprising spirit and the liberality of a few Liverpool merchants, but greatly indeed is that merit eclipsed, in a general point of view, when it is considered, that in the same town could be found a set of individuals, who, for the purpose of enabling them to carry on an illegal and infamous traffic, could be the instruments of circumventing the life of an individual, who was nobly employed in the extension of geographical science, and who was perhaps actually laying the foundation of the civilization of the countries through which he might pass, and extending the commercial relations of his country. An indelible stain will it be upon the merchants of Liverpool, who could so far forget that they were Englishmen, as to make a horde of barbarous savages their instruments for the destruction of an expedition by which the general interests of the human race might be promoted, our commercial relations extended, and ultimately, the blessings of Christianity diffused over the dark and unenlightened children of Africa.

As a palliative to the statement of John Lander, and as some relief to the dark picture which we have just exhibited, it must be confessed, that when the circumstances are taken into consideration, which have already been detailed, when Lander first visited the Eboe country, his conduct was not exactly regulated by prudence or policy, in proceeding towards a country, not in the simple guise and unostentatious manner of the solitary traveller, but attended by a force sufficient to excite the fears and jealousy of the native chiefs, and to instil into their suspicious minds the belief, that the travellers, whom they had formerly seen in their country, had returned, equipped with the means of subjugating the country, and reducing the chiefs themselves, perhaps to a state of slavery. The very vessels in which they presented themselves, were sufficient to strike terror and alarm into the minds of the superstitious natives. They knew not by what character to describe them; to their ignorant and untutored understandings, they appeared to be impelled by some power of witchcraft, for which they could not in the least account; to behold a large vessel impelled even against the stream with no inconsiderable velocity, and no power manifested by which that speed could be obtained, set their minds a wondering, and obtained for Lander the character of the devil. As the devil, therefore, had arrived in their country, it became an act of the most imperious duty to force him to abandon it, by any means which could suggest themselves, and no one certainly could be more effectual than to put themselves in ambuscade, and take the first opportunity of killing him at once. It must also be taken into consideration, that the report of the destruction of the town and the murder of some of the natives by the crew of the Alburkha, had spread itself all along the banks of the river, and had spread consternation and alarm amongst the natives, who apprehended that the same fate might befal themselves. Another opinion was entertained, that the Brass people, perceiving that their lucrative carrying trade between the coast and the inland countries would be annihilated, if they suffered the English to trade with the natives of the interior in their own vessels, formed a coalition with the people of Bonny, whose interests would likewise be affected by the new order of things, and that these men, aided by the savage inhabitants of the country residing in the vicinity of the spot, where the ruthless and cowardly assault was made, met together and resolved on the destruction of the unoffending Englishmen.

From what cause soever it originated, this much is certain, that the attack had been premeditated, that the arrangements of the assassins had been made in a methodical and skilful manner, and that Brass and Bonny canoes were engaged in the assault. Those who have had the best means of knowing the character and disposition of the Brass people, and their neighbours of Bonny, whose treacherous manoeuvering can only be equalled by their insatiable rapacity, consider the last as by far the most probable hypothesis, and believe that King Boy, notwithstanding his affectation of sympathy for the sufferers, and his apparent distress on beholding his friend and benefactor mortally wounded, was nevertheless at the bottom of the plot, and had exerted his influence to bring that plot to maturity, in conjunction with the malignant wretch, who foretold the eventful catastrophe. Boy having with alacrity joined the party on all former occasions, when they ascended the river, and having obstinately refused to accompany them on this, strengthens the supposition that he was well aware of the formidable danger, which awaited them, but in which it is plain he had no ambition to participate.

The fate of Lander, on whom the eyes of all England were directed as the individual most likely to extend the benefits of civilization to the benighted Africans, and to open fresh sources of wealth to his enterprising countrymen, excited in all breasts the most unfeigned regret; to the honour of the inhabitants of Truro, the native place of the Landers, it must be recorded that the intelligence of the premature death of Richard Lander, no sooner reached that town, than a meeting of his fellow townsmen took place, which was held at the council hall, at which Humphry Willyams, Esquire, presided. After expressing their extreme regret, the assembly resolved:

"To express its sincere sympathy with the sorrowing family, and its sense of the loss which science, commerce, and civilization had sustained by the death of this enterprising traveller. Further that the sum of L84 having been raised for the purpose of presenting pieces of plate to Messrs. Richard and John Lander, and the altered circumstances of the case having induced the survivor generously to decline any participation in the fund so raised, and to request that the same might be appropriated to some other memorial of the respect and esteem of his native town, for his lamented brother; it was their opinion that if an adequate amount be obtained, a column should be erected in their native town, to commemorate the intrepidity of the two brothers, and that an appeal be made to the county to co-operate in their object."

About ten days after, a second meeting took place, when the following address was printed, and unanimously adopted:

TO THE INHABITANTS OF CORNWALL.

"The lamentable fate of the African traveller, Richard Lander, calls for some marked expression of public sympathy and respect, and more especially does it behove Cornishmen to show their esteem and sorrow for their adventurous countryman. Whether to testify this natural sentiment, or to declare our admiration at the energy of mind, which raised the departed and his enterprising brother from humble station to such enviable pre-eminence, or to evince that deep interest, which every philanthropist and Christian must feel, in all that concerns the civilization of Africa, we are assured there can be but one opinion as to the propriety of raising some lasting memorial of the travellers. The effects likely to result from their discoveries, followed up by such indomitable resolution as characterized Richard Lander, may be inferred from the melancholy circumstance that this courageous man has in all probability fallen a victim to the suspicion of those concerned in the atrocious slave trade. But the grand object has been accomplished, though great the cost: the path now opened for mercantile enterprise, will make plain the way, for civilization, freedom, and religion. PARK, DENHAM, RITCHIE, CLAPPERTON and LANDER, have led the forlorn hope, against the seemingly impregnable fastnesses of African barbarism, and though each has perished, the cause of humanity has been advanced. At once, therefore, to celebrate the progress of discovery, and to record individual merit, it is proposed to erect a Column in some conspicuous part of Truro, the birth place of the Landers, which, while it commemorates the fate of one brother, will render a just tribute to both, and to this end it is intended to apply the amount already obtained for a testimonial of respect of another description, which sum, however, being inadequate, the committee appeals to the liberality of the county, confident that contributions will be immediately forthcoming to render the memorial worthy of the occasion."

Notwithstanding this forcible appeal to the compatriots of Landers it was some time before a sufficiency could be collected for the erection of the monument; success, however, at last attended the exertions of the committee, and the monument was erected; and although no blazoned escutcheon is engraved upon it, nor pompous epitaph declares the virtues of the departed, yet to the ages yet unborn it will rouse the spirit of compatriot pride, when the traveller views the memorial, and with exultation he will exclaim, Richard Lander was my countryman.

In investigating the advantages which may be supposed to flow to the country by the discoveries of the Landers, we fear that they have been much over-rated, for great and almost insuperable obstacles have to be surmounted, before the savages of Africa can be brought to relinquish their usual habits, or in any manner to forego those advantages which the traffic in human flesh so bountifully presents to them. The chiefs, who rule over the uncivilized hordes, who are located on the banks of the Quorra, are all engaged in a kind of commercial relation with the Europeans, by whom it is found necessary to conciliate them, by sometimes, the most obsequious conduct, degrading to a man of civilization, when shown towards an ignorant, tyrannical, and despotic tyrant. Any attempt to force a channel of commerce, beyond the territories of these savage chiefs, without having first, either by presents or other means, obtained their co-operation, is too visionary a scheme for even the most enterprising adventurer to dare to undertake. King Jacket and King Boy, with the king of Eboe, may be said to be in the command of the estuary of the Niger, and, therefore, any attempt to establish a channel of commerce without allowing them to participate in the profits, or to be permitted to exact a duty on all goods passing by water through their territory, must necessarily prove abortive. The jealousy of their character would be aroused, they would see in the traffic of the European a gradual decline of their own emoluments, and by degrees a total exclusion from those branches of commerce, from which they had hitherto derived the greatest profit. That the commerce of the interior of Africa offers the most tempting advantages to the enterprising British merchant cannot be doubted, for the two articles alone of indigo and ivory would repay the speculator with a profit of nearly 1000 per cent. This circumstance was sufficient to arouse the commercial spirit of the merchants of Glasgow, who, on the return of the Landers with the information of the discovery of the termination of the Niger, proceeded immediately to form a company, having a capital of L10,000, for establishing a commercial intercourse with the chiefs of the interior of Africa, forgetting at the time, that before they could reach the territories of those chiefs, they had in the persons of King Boy, King Jacket, and King Forday, and the king of the Eboe country, a gauntlet to run through, and a kind of quadruple alliance to extinguish, without which all their efforts would be in vain. The death of Lander put an end to this speculation, as it was then clearly seen that unless the actual constitution of the countries situate on the banks of the Quorra, could be placed under a different authority, and the people brought to a state of positive submission, it were futile to expect any solid or permanent advantages from any commercial relations they might form. The insalubrity of the climate, so very injurious to a European constitution, was also a great drawback to the prosecution of those commercial advantages, which the discovery of the termination of the Niger offered to this country; it was literally sending men to die a premature death to embark them on board of an African trader, and we have the authority of the late Captain Fullerton for stating, that he scarcely ever knew an individual who, although he might escape the pestilential fevers of the country for the second, and even the third or fourth time, that did not eventually die. Notwithstanding, however, the latter serious drawback to the prosecution of our geographical knowledge of the interior of Africa, there are yet to be found amongst us some hardy, gallant spirits, who, fearless of every danger, and willing to undergo every privation which the human constitution can endure, are still anxious to expose themselves to such appalling perils, for the promotion of science and the general welfare of the human race. Amongst those individuals, a young gentleman of the name of Coulthurst has rendered himself conspicuous. He was the only surviving son of C. Coulthurst, Esquire, of Sandirvay, near Norwich, and was thirty-five years of age at the time of his death. He was educated at Eton, studied afterwards at Brazen Nose College, Oxford, and then went to Barbadoes, but from his infancy his heart was set on African enterprise. His family are still in possession of some of his Eton school books, in which maps of Africa, with his supposed travels into the interior, are delineated; and at Barbadoes he used to take long walks in the heat of the day, in order to season himself for the further exposure, which he never ceased to contemplate. His eager desires also took a poetical form, and a soliloquy of Mungo Park, and other pieces of a similar description, of considerable merit, were written by him at different times. The stimulus that at length decided him, however, was the success of the Landers. He feared that if he delayed longer, another expedition would be fitted out on a grand scale, and leave nothing which an individual could attempt.

It was in December 1831, that Messrs. Coulthurst and Tyrwhitt were introduced to the council of the Geographical Society, as being about to proceed at their own expense to the mouth of the Quorra, with the view of endeavouring to penetrate thence eastward to the Bahr-Abiad; and although their preparations were not on such a scale as to warrant any very sanguine hopes of success, yet it was felt to be a duty on the part of the society to patronize so spirited an undertaking. They were accordingly placed in communication with Colonel Leake, and other members of the late African Association, whose advice it was thought could not fail to be of service to them. They were also introduced to Captain Owen and to Mr. Lander, the value of whose experience in planning their operations was obvious. And the expedition being brought under the notice of his majesty's government, the loan of a chronometer was obtained for it, with strong letters of introduction and recommendation to the officers commanding the naval and military forces of the crown along the African coast.

The party sailed from the Downs on the 1st January 1832, and arrived at Bathurst St. Mary's on the Gambia on the 28th of the same month. Both travellers were somewhat indisposed during the voyage, and the sun after their arrival so seriously affected Mr. Tyrwhitt, that he here yielded to the repeated representations of his companion and others, and returned home. The following is an extract of a letter received from Mr. Coulthurst, dated Bathurst, 1st February 1832, and the style is clearly indicative of the superior qualifications of his mind:

"After a conference and palaver with some of the native chiefs, amongst whose grotesque forms and equipments you would have laughed to have seen me perched this morning, sipping palm wine; I have made up my mind to take the southern bank of this river, through Fooladoo to Sego. A messenger from the Almana of Bondou, who has undertaken to bring the gum trade here from the Senegal, is now at Bathurst, and the merchants are willing to assist in making up a coffila, which will enable us I trust to prosecute our journey in safety. Though I shall not thus reach the main object of Funda so directly as if I had had the good fortune to overtake the Pluto, it would be scarcely possible for me to do this now before the rainy season; and though I shall be a few weeks later in reaching my destination, I shall have the satisfaction of tracing the whole river, and giving the position of all the remarkable places, which neither Caillie nor Lander were able to do. There is now no earthly chance of the observations made by Park seeing the light, for Mr. Ainslie showed me yesterday his last letter from Sansanding, which I perused with much interest. You are aware that nothing but the unfortunate occurrence of the Fellatas' conquests with the period of his expedition, and his being mistaken for one of their parties, occasioned its unhappy result; and by striking across the mountains, which we shall do at Baranco, about four hundred miles up, we shall have only twenty-four days' land journey to the mighty Niger, where he has scarcely command of water enough to float a canoe.

"The climate here is so very superior to that in the Bights of Benin and Biafra, that after Barbadoes, where shade is unknown, it really seems comparatively cold; I took a stroll of half a dozen miles to-day before breakfast, which I could not have done, without feeling languid afterwards, in the West Indies, but Tyrwhitt never could have borne the breathing oven of the Gold Coast. Everything reminds me here of the near neighbourhood of the desert; the toke and turban very general, every man, not a Christian, a Musselman, and what seems strange to European eyes, persons in the coarsest checks with gold ornaments to the value of hundreds of dollars.

"The beautiful harnessed antelope, which it is really a sin to shoot, is common in the bush, and milk, honey, and rice, are to be had in most of the negro villages, this being quite the dairy country of Africa. But then there are mosquitoes, that madden the best-tempered folk, and holy men with their eyes on the Koran, ready to dirk you for the slightest subject of difference, and it is curious to see the strangest characters of this sort well received and admitted to a familiarity at government house, because they have much interest in the country, and it is politic just now to speak them fair."

Having concluded his arrangements for proceeding through the Enyong and Eboe countries, he intended to proceed up the Calebar River, and thence over land to Funda. He arrived without any particular accident in the Eboe country, but the king of that people refused to let him pass, and he was, therefore, obliged to return to Calebar, and thence it was his intention to take a passage on board the Agnes for Fernando Po. The refusal of the king of the Eboe country, did not proceed from any distrust or jealousy on his part, but a most sanguinary war was raging in the interior, and he, therefore, considered the life of the traveller to be in danger. He had not been exposed to any very severe fatigue, but his disappointment was great, and he laboured under considerable debility and depression of spirits. He died without much suffering on the second day after embarking on board the Agnes.

Thus perished another victim in the cause of African discovery, but still there are hearts to be found, who are willing in the cause of science to brave every peril, for the purpose of enlarging our knowledge of the interior of the African continent, and opening fresh sources to the skill and industry of our merchants. The Rev. Mr. Wolf is now on his journey to Timbuctoo, and Lieutenant Wilkinson is following up the discoveries of Lander; of them we may say with the poet:—

"Fortuna audaces juvat."

FINIS.

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