CHAPTER XVIII. THE LATEST NEWS FROM KHARTOUM.
Difficult and almost impossible is the task before the Missionary. The Austrian Mission has failed, and the stations have been forsaken; their pious labour was hopeless, and the devoted priests died upon their barren field. What curse lies so heavily upon Africa and bows her down beneath all other nations? It is the infernal traffic in slaves - a trade so hideous, that the heart of every slave and owner becomes deformed, and shrinks like a withered limb incapable of action. The natural love of offspring, shared with the human race by the most savage beast, ceases to warm the heart of the wretched slave. Why should the mother love her child, if it is born to become the PROPERTY of her owner? - to be SOLD as soon as it can exist without the mother's care. Why should the girl be modest, when she knows that she is the actual PROPERTY, the slave, of every purchaser? Slavery murders the sacred feeling of love, that blessing that cheers the lot of the poorest man, that spell that binds him to his wife, and child, and home. Love cannot exist with slavery - the mind becomes brutalized to an extent that freezes all those tender feelings that Nature has implanted in the human heart to separate it from the beast; and the mind, despoiled of all noble instincts, descends to hopeless brutality. Thus is Africa accursed: nor can she be raised to any scale approaching to civilization until the slave-trade shall be totally suppressed. The first step necessary to the improvement of the savage tribes of the White Nile is the annihilation of the slave-trade. Until this be effected, no legitimate commerce can be established; neither is there an opening for missionary enterprise - the country is sealed and closed against all improvement.
Nothing would be easier than to suppress this infamous traffic, were the European Powers in earnest. Egypt is in favour of slavery. I have never seen a Government official who did not in argument uphold slavery as an institution absolutely necessary to Egypt, thus any demonstration made against the slave-trade by the Government of that country will be simply a pro forma movement to blind the European Powers. Their eyes thus closed, and the question shelved, the trade will resume its channel. Were the reports of European consuls supported by their respective Governments, and were the consuls themselves empowered to seize vessels laden with slaves, and to liberate gangs of slaves when upon a land journey, that abominable traffic could not exist. The hands of the European consuls are tied, and jealousies interwoven with the Turkish question act as a bar to united action on the part of Europe; no Power cares to be the first to disturb the muddy pool. The Austrian consul at Khartoum, Herr Natterer, told me, in 1862, that he had vainly reported the atrocities of the slave-trade to his Government - NO REPLY HAD BEEN RECEIVED to his report. Every European Government KNOWS that the slave-trade is carried on to an immense extent in Upper Egypt, and that the Red Sea is the great Slave Lake by which these unfortunate creatures are transported to Arabia and to Suez - but the jealousies concerning Egypt muzzle each European Power. Should one move, the other would interfere to counteract undue influence in Egypt. Thus is immunity insured to the villanous actors in the trade. Who can prosecute a slave trader of the White Nile? What legal evidence can be produced from Central Africa to secure a conviction in an English Court of Law? The English consul (Mr. Petherick) arrested a Maltese, the nephew of Debono; - the charge could not be legally supported. Thus are the consuls fettered, and their acts nullified by the impossibility of producing reliable evidence; - the facts are patent; but who can prove them legally?
Stop the White Nile trade; prohibit the departure of any vessels from Khartoum for the south, and let the Egyptian Government grant a concession to a company for the White Nile, subject to certain conditions, and to a special supervision. (There are already four steamers at Khartoum.) Establish a military post of 200 men at Gondokoro; an equal number below the Shillook tribe in 13 degrees latitude, and, with two steamers cruising on the river, not a slave could descend the White Nile.
Should the slave-trade be suppressed, there will be a good opening for the ivory trade; the conflicting trading parties being withdrawn, and the interest of the trade exhibited by a single company, the natives would no longer be able to barter ivory for cattle; thus they would be forced to accept other goods in exchange. The newly-discovered Albert lake opens the centre of Africa to navigation. Steamers ascend from Khartoum to Gondokoro in latitude 4 degrees 55'. Seven days' march south from that station the navigable portion of the Nile is reached, where vessels can ascend direct to the Albert lake - thus an enormous extent of country is opened to navigation, and Manchester goods and various other articles would find a ready market in exchange for ivory, at a prodigious profit, as in those newly-discovered regions ivory has a merely nominal value. Beyond this commencement of honest trade, I cannot offer a suggestion, as no produce of the country except ivory could afford the expense of transport to Europe. IF Africa is to be civilized, it must be effected by commerce, which, once established, will open the way for missionary labour; but all ideas of commerce, improvement, and the advancement of the African race that philanthropy could suggest must be discarded until the traffic in slaves shall have ceased to exist.
Should the slave-trade be suppressed, a field would be opened, the extent of which I will not attempt to suggest, as the future would depend upon the good government of countries now devoted to savage anarchy and confusion.