Travels in Africa - Park Denham, Clapperton, Lander, and Others

The kingdom of Dahomey, situated eastward from Ashantee, resembles it in the general aspect of the soil, and in many other particulars. It appears to be a recent negro state, formed by the conquest of a number of tribes by a powerful race from the interior. The government of the Dahomans, like that of the Ashantees, is an absolute monarchy; but the Dahoman king seems to be still more despotic in practice than his Ashan tee neighbor. When, in obedience to some superstitious freak, he wishes to send a message to some of his deceased relatives in the other world, he delivers the message to some attendant negro, whose head is immediately cut off, as a means of forwarding him to his destination; and if the mon arch has forgot any part of his communication, he immediately adds a postscript by a second messenger. The bloody custom of sacrificing a number of victims on the occasion of a great man's funeral is practiced at Dahomey as well as Ashantee. The Dahomans have similar religious beliefs with the Ashantees: their principal object of worship, appropriately enough, is the tiger. Of late years some improvement is said to have taken place in the habits of this fierce African race.

Passing from Upper Guinea, of which Ashantee and Dahomey are the principal territories, we come next to Lower or South Guinea, which extends from the Bight of Benin to the commencement of Southern Africa, and includes the provinces or districts of Loango, Congo, Angola and Benguela. The whole of this tract of coast presents the aspect of a country degraded and deteriorated by intercourse with Europeans, to a condition worse than its original negro barbarism. Here, more than three centuries ago, the Portuguese established themselves partly as missionaries of Christianity, and partly as traders in slaves; and while their efforts in the former capacity, directed as they are by the most absurd and wretched bigotry, produced almost no beneficial effect, the curse of the slave traffic which they imported has adhered to the country with a tenacity which all the rigors of modern philanthropy cannot overcome. It is from these coasts that the exportation of negroes is said to go on at the present time more busily than it did before the abolition of the slave trade. The characteristics of the coast, and of the population which inhabit it, are determined by the brutal traffic of which it is the scene. It is impossible, within our limits, to give a description of the whole line of shore, of the small porttowns scattered along it, with their motley population of negroes, mulattoes, and slave-dealing Portuguese; or of the negro districts in the interior, where the natives fight and kidnap each other to supply the demand for s laves on the coast.

SOUTHERN AFRICA. Occupied with their commerce on the coasts of Western Africa, the Portuguese scarcely give a thought to the southern extremity of the continent, the aspect of which was less promising; and accordingly, for a century and a half after the famous voyage of Vasco de Gama, the district round the cape of Good Hope remained a blank waste to Europeans. The prudent and enterprising Dutch, however, having embarked in the East India trade, soon discovered the importance of the cape as a commercial station, and in the year 1650 they founded Cape Town, the capital of Cape Colony, the most flourishing of all the European settlements in Africa. Encroaching, without the least scruple, on the territories of the natives, the Dutch extended their possessions so as to -include an area of upwards of 120,000 square miles, some spots of which were cultivated and planted with vines, or laid out in corn fields, but the greater part of which was converted into immense grazing farms. Under the Dutch the natives suffered dreadfully, numbers of them being reduced to bondage, and others driven into the interior to find subsistence as they best could. In 1795 the colony was taken by the English; it was again restored to the Dutch in 1800; a second time, however, it was taken by the English, to whom it was finally ceded in the year 1815, and is now, accordingly, art English possession. Both before and after the cession of Cape Colony to the British, various travelers have undertaken journeys among the tribes inhabiting this extremity of Africa; and no accounts are more full and interesting than those of the various missionaries, who, since the beginning of the present century, have employed themselves in the arduous task of carrying the doctrines of Christianity into the heart of the native tribes. The native tribes of Southern Africa are two in number - the Hottentots and the Caffres; the former, so far as not extirpated, inhabiting the tract of country adjacent to Cape Colony on the western coast, and the other the tract adjacent to the colony on the eastern coast.