13 APRIL 1889, Page 7


MR. STANLEY'S letters, in many ways so pleasant to read, especially in the proof they afford that all Englishmen have not lost their grit, are in one way not a little depressing. They suggest all through the terrible difficulties in the way of the civilisation of Africa. That will be the great task of the next half-century, and much of it, if not most of it, will fall to our share ; and it shows itself, as it gradually unfolds, as a job to make even Eng- lishmen grow pale. The mere territorial vastness of the different areas to be subdued daunts the imagination. We have all, no doubt, preconceived ideas of the magnitude of the Dark Continent ; but it is only when we read letters like those of the great explorer that we realise fully what such geographical spaces are; an African " river" is not a Thames, or even a Rine, but would reach from London to Constantinople ; that an African " King " often rules a tract that would hold a first-class European State ; that an African forest can be compared with nothing on our continent, but may stretch, like the forest of the Aruwhimi, in unbroken gloom and pathlessness over an area equal to five Englands. Still less do we realise that such a forest is but one among many ; that probably two-thirds of Central Africa is as yet impenetrable except to the elephant ; that the mere task of cutting arterial roads, the very beginning of our work, is five times the task it would be to build Roman roads throughout Europe. We must enter by the rivers and the lakes, and everywhere throughout the rich valleys which we must first subdue, wherever there are trees—and the trees never end— there are the twisted lianas, and an undergrowth which bars all passage till the axe has cloven a way. The endless difficulty of communication created by such magnitude of area, and such density in the forest, quintuples all other difficulties, and wastes human energy almost beyond endurance. We moderns have ceased even to think of a messenger taking six months to pass by land from point to point. The climate, though it will improve when we have learned to respond to its demands, and have ascertained what kind of constitution gives a European his best chance, will always remain more dangerous than that of tropical Asia, and in the beginning, when we most wish to succeed, it uses men up faster than India did a hundred years ago, or than Burmah did when Rangoon, one of the healthiest cities in the tropics, was considered an Aceldama. We shall have to expend cultivated men in thousands before we have made the least impression on our gigantic task, and but that we are really driven by the force stronger than ourselves which is visibly hurling Europe upon Africa on every side at once, we should abandon the enterprise uncompleted out of mere humanity.

We shall, we suppose, in the end be able to make the telegraph taboo, and so rid ourselves of the difficulty of communication—laying cables, to begin with, in the rivers, as the writer publicly proposed to do just thirty-seven years since, amidst the sneering laughter of his world— and. the forest will be beaten, if in no other way, then, as in Burmah, by fire ; but there will remain the greatest diffi- culty of all, the nature of the human material. Eastern and Central Africa are cursed, and Western Africa will be cursed, with a curse of which the modern world has no experience, though less than five hundred years ago Western Asia knew it well. A foreign race, infinitely superior to the indigenous peoples, able to slaughter them, to control them, and, strange to say, even to teach them, has entered the continent to carry out a mission which, as it is carried out by its agency, is one of such pure evil that the accounts of it almost strain one's faith in the overruling providence of God. From the East and from the North, the Arab, who, and not the " barbarian," crushed the Eastern half of the Roman world, with his matchless courage, his hereditary asceticism, and his power of enduring all deadly climates, is everywhere in Africa forcing his way on. We never read a narrative by an explorer but we hear of him in some new place, and we never hear of him save in the attitude of a destroyer, or of an enemy of Western civilisation. Devoted, like the early Spaniards in America, to two ideas, the spread of his faith in however unreal a form, and the accumulation of gain, the Arab destroys as the Spaniard did in Hispaniola—where every Carib perished —or enslaves, as he did on the American continent until Las Casas came. Aided by his half-caste son, who is as brave as himself and more ferocious, and by his "con- verted" slave, often a human tiger, the Arab has sometimes destroyed whole kingdoms which were at least peaceful— vide Mr. Johnston, in the Contemporary Review for April— and constantly turns broad regions studded with quiet villages into deserts, in which a few half-mad skeletons, deprived of their wives, their cattle, their huts, and their implements of husbandry, roam about in the forests, driven down, so to speak, to the moral and physical level of the hyaenas and the carnivores. All that the Spaniards did in South America, even as Helps and Kingsley tell their story, all that our great-grandfathers ever did on the West Coast, is being outdone by these Arab slave-stealers throughout Eastern and Central Africa. Only, says Mr. Stanley, where they have never penetrated is there food left even for Negro slaves, and wherever they have passed there is desolation. Yet these men, so utterly cruel that it seems as if they might depopulate a continent, have an energy superior to our own, press dauntless through regions we are afraid to enter, are pouring fast down the upper valley of the Congo, and will within ten years have spread their ravages and their hostility to the white men to the shore of the South Atlantic. For nothing comes out in Stanley's letters, or in those of rival explorers, or in missionary reports, so strongly as this, that in the Negro left to himself there is lio hope. If the white man will drill him, and teach him, and then keep on ruling him, he will defend himself even against the Arab. Emin. Pasha, is holding his kingdom against the whole force of the Mandists—that is, Arab force backed by entire tribes of half-castes—by aid of his drilled Negroes. Stanley, with a force of only three hundred men, dwindling daily by desertion and death, is even in the forest beyond the reach of marauders who have but just extirpated as many villages as he has men. Mr. Mackenzie, by Negro help, will rule from Mombassa like an Indian Commissioner, hardly conscious of the difficulty of his task, and spread order and security inwards from the coast at the rate of thirty miles a year. The people are utterly willing to be ruled—only read of their demeanour when Stanley, a second Columbus, pointed to the Lake in which they had disbelieved, but which lay shining before them—but without the white man they can do nothing, not even kill the slave-stealer who they know will torture them for the remainder of their lives. Something is in the Arab which is not in them, some gift from his blood, and though they are brave men and physically his equals, they are as powerless before him as the fierce Mexican was before the Spaniard. The Negroes cannot even hold together, but sell each other, desert each other, or join the conqueror in troops. Only in our patient, unswerving disciplinary guidance is there the remotest hope for them, and to afford that guidance is a task which will take more men, more energy, and more treasure than those who talk so glibly of civilising Africa have begun to suspect. We may, even in this weary time of flaccid opinion, have sufficient energy for the work, for once outside England, the Englishman is a new creature ; but it will take us a hundred Stanleys, and thirty years of strenuous and firmly directed effort. A thousand of Stanley's marches from the Congo to the Albert Nyanza !—that is about the measure of the work required of us, in which we shall have no more self-originated help from the Negro than a man has from his toes, and in which we shall be met at every step of the path by the deadly hostility of the most efficient of all the races of Asia.