THE ASHANTEE WAR, AND THE DISASTER ON THE PRAH.
-fr HE disaster on the Prah may prove eventually to be very
• far from a disaster, if it helps to teach the English nation how fatal a policy of immediate conciliation and nego- tiation with such a people as the Asbantees would be. Some of our leading journals were doing all in their power last week to convince the world that any dramatic and heroic -remedy for the Ashantee invasion was quite unnecessary, that wae might patch up a treaty with the Ashantees by virtue of conceding their fair demands, without punishing them for their invasion of our territory, while those who had foreseen -that in dealing with barbarians like the Africans some con- -spicuous evidence of our overwhelming power would be requi- site before any lasting peace could be possible, were sneered at, as advocating a superfluously dangerous and expensive policy, of which they had not counted the cost. We, at least, are by no-means disposed to underrate the possible cost of the war in which we must now engage. But we do maintain that by far the least costly kind of war in the end will be that which will -most definitively display to the barbarous tribes who have witnessed the check we have sustained, the great resources of which we can dispose and our power to wield them. If ever proof of this were needed, it has been given in the disaster on the Prah. There we have seen how even weak tribes of natives, who were friendly enough till they saw us sustain a severe check, have turned round like the weather cock with the change of wind, and lent their aid to our Ashantee foes. Barbarous tribes like those of West Africa have no power of realising the invisible strength of a nation which, like -ours, is represented by so very slender a force under their -own eyes. It requires a trained mind and imagination to realise that Great Britain can apply just as much strength as is needed to make her rule efficient, and has yet so -underrated her needs as to incur a severe defeat. It seems probable from the accounts that the King of Chamah was only trying to gain time for his ambuscade when he professed com- plete neutrality, and endeavoured, as one account states, to -persuade the Commodore to put off his expedition up the Prah till the next day. It is certain that he was convinced that the Ashantee power was far the greater of the two, and that this was why he was determined to aid it. And as the King of Chamah reasoned, so the King of Ashantee and the kings of all the tribes between Coomassie and Cape Coast Castle are sure to reason. The English have been assailed in their stronghold. They have beaten off the enemy, but they have been quite unable to attempt any serious reprisals. In the only effort they have since made they have shown not only their weak- ties, but their simplicity, and been outwitted by the commonest • native craft. How are these poor creatures to know that all we need is time to swell our forces into a strength before which the hundred thousand Ashantees will be as dust before the wind Barbarians live in the present, and judge by what they see ; and a drawn battle, followed by what they -would deem quite a childish absence of suspicion on the eve
of a dangerous expedition with a very thin force, are just the kind of evidences of inadequate power which would im- press the native mind with the notion that our star is on the wane. To attempt to negotiate till after we had proved our strength in the only way which these poor people can appre- ciate, by utterly defeating and showing the ease with which we could crush, our enemies, would be to invite contempt, disloyalty, and hostile intrigues on every side. There is no policy more merciful, in the case of such a Protectorate as ours over barbarous tribes, than a prompt and severe punish- ment of all armed resistance. They have neither the knowledge nor the habits of mind requisite to understand a policy of reticence and magnanimity unless accompanied by a crush- ing display of force. They could not interpret a wish to compromise matters except as a proof of self-distrust ; they could not conceive a love of moderation which was
not born of cowardice or weakness. If only, then, for the sake of the tribes which, like the people of Chamah, will always measure power by success, it is for the interest of all our Gold Coast possessions that we should teach the Ashantees that our soldiers, however weak they may have seemed, have unlimited resources beyond the sea which it is quite hopeless for any native power to resist. By what military stroke our power may be best asserted and displayed it is for Sir Garnet Wolseley- to determine. But we shall not hear much more, we trust, of the profoundly silly policy of asking the Ashantees to make it up with us, on condition that they are given free access to the Coast, and have all their other grievances redressed, —in other words, of leading them to think that they have gained their petition of rights by attacking Cape Coast Castle and Elmina. In dealing with such neighbours as those of the Gold Coast, kindness and clemency are very good qualities when displayed on a solid background of unmistakable, unassailable, inexhaustible force. Without that background, they are but in- vitations to treachery and rebellion. The Ashantee War may cost much money, and spoil a budget ; but a premature attempt to buy an Ashantee peace would cost far more money, spoil more than one budget, and do* a gross injustice besides, both to the European settlements on the Gold Coast, and the native auxiliaries whora we have undertalleu to protect.