THE EXPLORATION AND COLONIZATION OF AFRICA, II
Tuckey left England on the 19th March, 1816, with two vessels, the Congo and the Dorothea, a transport vessel, under his orders. On the 20th June he cast anchor off Malembé, on the shores of the Congo, in lat. 4° 39' S. The king of that country was much annoyed when he found that the English had not come to buy slaves, and spread all manner of injurious reports against the Europeans who had come to ruin his trade.
On the 18th July, Tuckey entered the vast estuary formed by the mouths of the Zaire, on board the Congo; but when the height of the river-banks rendered it impossible to sail farther, he embarked with some of his people in his boats. On the 10th August he decided, on account of the rapidity of the current and the huge rocks bordering the stream, to make his way partly by land and partly by water. Ten days later the boats were brought to a final stand by an impassable fall. The explorers therefore landed, and continued their journey on foot; but the difficulties increased every day, the Europeans falling ill, and the negroes refusing to carry the baggage. At last, when he was some 280 miles from the sea, Tuckey was compelled to retrace his steps. The rainy season had set in, the number of sick increased, and the commander, miserable at the lamentable result of the trip, himself succumbed to fever, and only got back to his vessel to die on the 4th October, 1816.
|View on the banks of the Congo.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)
An exact survey of the mouth of the Congo, and the rectification of the coast-line, in which there had previously been a considerable error, were the only results of this unlucky expedition.
In 1807, not far from the scene of Clapperton's landing a few years later, a brave but fierce people appeared on the Gold Coast. The Ashantees, coming none knew exactly whence, flung themselves upon the Fantees, and, after horrible massacres, in 1811 and 1816, established themselves in the whole of the country between the Kong mountains and the sea.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)
As a necessary result, this led to a disturbance in the relations between the Fantees and the English, who owned some factories and counting-houses on the coast.
In 1816 the Ashantee king ravaged the Fantee territories in which the English had settled, reducing the latter to famine. The Governor of Cape Coast Castle therefore sent a petition home for aid against the fierce and savage conqueror. The bearer of the governor's despatches was Thomas Edward Bowditch, a young man who, actuated by a passion for travelling, had left the parental roof, thrown up his business, and having married against the wishes of his family, had finally accepted a humble post at Cape Coast Castle, where his uncle was second in command.
The English minister at once acceded to the governor's request, and sent Bowditch back in command of an expedition; but the authorities at Cape Coast considered him too young for the post, and superseded him by a man whose long experience and thorough knowledge of the country and its people seemed to fit him for the important task to be accomplished. The result showed that this was an error. Bowditch was attached to the mission as scientific observer, his chief duty being to take the latitude and longitude of the different places visited.
Frederick James and Bowditch left the English settlement on the 22nd August, 1817, and arrived at Coomassie, the Ashantee capital, without meeting with any other obstacle than the insubordination of the bearers. The negotiations with a view to the conclusion of a treaty of commerce, and the opening of a road between Coomassie and the coast, were brought to something of a successful issue by Bowditch, but James proved himself altogether wanting in either the power of making or enforcing suggestions. The wisdom of Bowditch's conduct was fully recognized, and James was recalled.
It would seem that geographical science had little to expect from a diplomatic mission to a country already visited by Bosman, Loyer, Des Marchais, and many others, and on which Meredith and Dalzel had written; but Bowditch turned to account his stay of five months at Coomassie, which is but ten days' march from the Atlantic, to study the country, manners, customs, and institutions of one of the most interesting races of Africa.
We will now briefly describe the pompous entry of the English mission into Coomassie. The whole population turned out on the occasion, and all the troops, whose numbers Bowditch estimated at 30,000 at least, were under arms.
Before they were admitted to the presence of the king, the English witnessed a scene well calculated to impress upon them the cruelty and barbarity of the Ashantees. A man with his hands tied behind him, his cheeks pierced with wire, one ear cut off, the other hanging by a bit of skin, his shoulders bleeding from cuts and slashes, and a knife run through the skin above each shoulder-blade, was dragged, by a cord fastened to his nose, through the town to the music of bamboos. He was on his way to be sacrificed in honour of the white men!