10 AUGUST 1850, Page 15


SIR HENRY HUNTLEY'S SEVEN YEARS' SERVICE ON THE SLAVE COAST OF AFRICA.* IN 1831, Sir Henry Huntley, then a Lieutenant in the Navy, was ordered to the Western coast of Africa. Shortly after his arrival, he was appointed to the independent command of a small vessel ; in which he visited stations, looked out for slavers, chased them when he saw them, and captured them when he could. A few years subsequently to his return home, Sir Henry was nominated Governor of the settlements on the Gambia; the post, it would seem, having gone begging among Whig place-expectants, on ac- count of the pestiferous reputation of the climate ; so it was given to a Tory. The two volumes before us contain the author's adven- tures and observations during the whole or nearly the whole of his seven years' service upon the station; the last volume closing abruptly in the middle of preparations for a congress of Black kings.

The public is already familiar with many of the topics, from the occasional narratives of voyages and adventures along the coast. Visits to the commandants of the so-called castles— a description of the European and Native mode of life at the settlements—accounts of the slave-stations, the slave-dealers, the slaves, and the slave-trade, together with sketches of more le- gitimate commerce, and occasional trips to the islands lying off the coast, for change of air and fresh supplies—are frequent features. As Sir Henry was cruising with the position though not the name of captain, his duties sometimes brought him in contact with Na- tive chiefs, and continually with slavers, in the search, the capture, and the pursuit. During the latter part of his career, the office of Governor gave greater variety and largeness to his subjects ; con- sisting of public business, palavers with Native potentates, and matters connected with home policy, in which the Colonial Office figures as usual, or, so far as Sir Henry's estimate goes, rather worse than usual.

In point of literary character this work very closely resembles the author's Peregrine Scramble. Indeed, the Seven Years' Ser- vice is a sort of continuation of that book, without the form of fiction, and consequently the want of art and imagination is not so much felt. The study and practice necessary for novel-writing have given Sir Henry more style and skill in composition than is generally possessed by men who visit the coast of Africa : this im- parts a graphic air to his professional autobiography, though it may occasionally lead him into over-detail and give rise to a little "colouring." There is much of cheerful bonhomie and sailorlike vivacity about the author himself, except when he gets upon poli- tics, where his Toryism shows itself rampant enough. The work has no claims to a high rank as a philosophical book of travels, nor is it entitled to a plaice in the first line among graphic descrip- tions of foreign countries; but it is a series of sketches, real, various, and veracious, and that too of a region singular in itself, and not very often described, for the best of all reasons—that few go there willingly, and of those who go few return. Sir Henry Huntley's book rather confirms old conclusions than establishes new ones. His opinions and his facts both show that the whole scheme of African policy in connexion with the slave- trade is a gigantic humbug; that to blockade the whole line of coast is impossible ; that a partial blockade only has the effect of driving the trade into other quarters; and that however stringent the blockade might be made, its final result is to raise prices and profits, and, as a consequence, multiply the risks of the slaver and the sufferings of the slave. The facts, however, are most full and most conclusive as to the failure of the scheme after we have got the slaves in our possession. Whether it be the forcible removal from home and its ties, or whether the higher races of Africa can- not so readily be made slaves of, (as is known to be the case with the Kroomen,) or whether we ourselves make a species of slave of the best and leave the worst to freedom, may be difficult to decide ; but of all Africans the "liberated African " is the worst. He is less faithful to his duties, more idle, and perhaps if the truth could be got at does not in any way return the enormous cost expended upon him. The sole object in founding Sierra Leone was to pro- vide a place where the "liberated Africans" might be located : those who have means and time for working such sums, might fur- nish an answer to the question of "given the total cost of the co- lony and the total number of liberated Africans, to find the expense of the latter per head." Sometimes anoutlay maybe wasteful yet not all waste—the expense is not all thrown away ; it has realized some- thing useful, or it looks well. Sierra Leone is neither useful nor (beyond its natural features) ornamental. "From the Cape to the anchorage is but a short run, and the Tinette soon brought up in a rather spacious bay, on the East side of which stands the town. Although there are some prominent objects presenting themselves, such as the church, the barracks, commissariat, gaol, &e., these, even combined with wide streets and whitewashed houses, leave the aspect of the place to betray the absence of energy and comfort. There is a character of languor and an unhealthy prestige pervading the entire colony : enervated men listlessly lounge over their counters, or drag themselves from place to place when some business forces them into action ; large dilapidated buildings denote the failure of those prospects which were once ardently entertained with reference to this possession; huge fissures in the streets denote the heavy rains which have prevailed ; weeds, grase, and even indigo, spring up in the un- used parts ; half-famished dogs stretch out their attenuated limbs beneath the shade of some projecting corner ; in short, everything possessing life ap- pears in Sierra Leone to suffer, rather than to enjoy it, excepting the lizards and naval officers just arrived, which in every variety are seen sporting in • Seven Years' Service on the Slave Coast of Western Africa. By Sir Henry Hunt -

.ley, Author of "Peregrine Scramble." In two volumes, Published by Newby.

the hottest sun, the latter appearing disposed to rival in daring exposure to the climate even that little reptile itself.'

Whenever the Government convenience requires it, the libera- tion of the " man and the brother " would seem to be a farce. Sir Henry Huntley found at the Gambia several gangs employed on public works with as little option on the part of the Negro as if he had been engaged on a sugar-estate. The best men are " liberated" into the African corps ; the method of recruiting for which is as follows.

"A slaver with a cargo' is sent in by one of the cruisers ; the cargo ' is landed in the liberated African ' yard, previously to their being handed, ap- prenticed, or enlisted. In a day or two, some few of the soldiers ofthe African corps (they are now called West India Regiments ') are introduced into the yard, and by their dress and healthy appearance no-doubt would attract volunteers; but it is inferred that there is a latent desire for military life in the unhappy slave, and such a number as are wanted are selected from the most promising of the ' cargo.' They are then asked if they will enlist ; the meaning of which question is a perfect riddle to them ; and a low grunt from each being invested with the responsibility of an affirmative, they are marched away to the barracks, where they are initiated in all the mysteries of a soldier's life and duties."

The French on the Senegal, going more directly to work, buy their recruits out and out. The Dutch have introduced a mode of contracting with Native potentates for the military supply, similar to that openly practised by German princes in the last cen- tury and extensively patronized by this country.

"While upon the passage to that island [Ascension], one morning a large ship was descried as far to windward as she could be within eight, standing under a press of sail to the South-east : chase was immediately given, and hopes were entertained that before sunset the Lynx would ho in possession of a noble slaver ; for her apparent size justified the supposition that she was one of those large vessels fitted out expressly to light their way off the coast when laden with slaves. The Lynx had the advantage in sailing, and by noon the ship had been very materially neared; but the hopes of her being a fighting slaver were in proportion lessened; although she evidently, was a well-appointed ship, yet certain indications in the shape of her sails pro- claimed her avocations to be of a mercantile and legitimate order. By four o'clock the stranger's hull could be seen ; and as there were yet three hours of daylight, to be succeeded by a full moon, it was manifest that during the night, if not before, the Lynx would be alongside of him. This opinion appeared to prevail also on board the ship; foe on a sudden she bore up, squared her yards, and came down, steering directly for the Lynx, the latter vessel then working up to her by short tacks. "As she closed, her decks were seen to be crowded with Black men, who were sitting about on the booms, and indeed everywhere. Could it be that sho really intended to contest the possession, and handsomely determined to do so before the night had set in ? That appeared the inference; and the English ensign was hoisted, a gun being fired at the same time; upon which the stranger displayed the flag of Holland, still coming on very unconcern- edly. Although the Lynx was fully prepared for action, and her guns, two pivot eighteen-pounders, primed, and trained upon the approaching ship, yet no symptom of an intention either to offend or defend was visible on board the Dutchman : the vessel came steadily on, apparently confident in the legality of her actions, and presently hove-to close to the Lynx, lowering a boat at the same time ; the Lynx was also lying-to, and had deepatched a boat with an officer to examine the vessel which had already done so much to facilitate that object.

"An officer, by his dress belonging to the army of Holland, was seen to descend the stranger's side, and taking his seat in the boat, she was pushed off, and directed her course for the Lynx ; reaching the side, a gentleman- like young man stepped on board, and, saluting the commander as they mu- tually advanced towards each other, he presented sonic papers for examina- tion; observing, that as he saw the vessel chasing was an English cruiser and would overtake his own during the night, he deemed it most judicious to allow a meeting by daylight, and thereby remove the chances of an unto- ward collision. He then produced his commission, which showed him to be an officer in the Dutch army, and the orders under which he was acting on board the vessel now lying by the Lynx, which was a transport conveying recruits to Java under the following circumstances. The transport in ques- tion had her orders to proceed to the Dutch settlement of Elniina, on the West coast of Africa; where she would take on board about four hundred Negroes, all of whom had been sent down to Ehuina by the King of Ashantee, under the character of persons consenting to emigrate to Java in the service of the King of Holland : for each of these men the King of Ashantee had re- ceived from that power merchandise to the reputed amount of a doubloon, but which in reality was worth at most two pounds ; this money or mer- chandise was to be retained by the King of Ashantee for the benefit and use of the wives and families' of the emigrants, who had been embarked for Java ostensibly as men impelled by a thirst for glory and military renown into the Dutch military service."

Enough of hypocritical delusion. We will turn to more lively matter. The following sketches arc from a visit paid by the Governor to a neighbouring potentate with the view of preventing a Native war. The Viceroy and suite had breakfasted in. the palace, preparatory to a meeting in state.

"The almost numberless huts within the king's stockade contain the queens and the families which have blessed the many unions his majesty has been pleased to make. The fear of a prophecy confines the admiration of his majesty to ninety-nine queens—whenever he takes one hundred, he is, according to the prophecy, to meet an early death : why ninety-nine does not destroy his life it is difficult to say. Through the avenues separating the huts, myriads of little black beings are darting, and jostling each other in- cessantly; and more than one queen was frequently stealing a glance at the visiters, who were lounging about previously to arranging themselves for an interview with the king in public. These ladies especially desired to be in- formed which was the Tubabl-Mansa' ; and when certified as to his identity, three of the dozen who might be looking on bashfully requested him to ac- cept a few roots of the coco, a vegetable not unlike the Jerusalem artichoke, and which being presented intimates, as a rose does elsewhere, the existence of a flattering sentiment. "His majesty has shown much taste in the selection of his female court ; the most of the ninety-nine queens being young, beautiful figures, and pos- sessing an attractive Handing() expression of countenance. .There is not much care in the concealment of their charms : indeed, upon this question an utter carelessness seemed to reign, although it is hoped with no lurking treason to their liege lord. "The period WWI now approaching when the two 'Menus' were to meet, and an unforeseen difficulty arose with it. It was necessary to change from the light dresses adopted for the comfort of riding, to that of state and dis- play; but none of the party for a moment had supposed that the gaze of ninety-nine queens would have been struggling to witness the surprising

phsenomenon of a White man changing his apparel. The hut which the Go- vernor occupied had in it two doorways, but only one door, and that having been made of green wood, had shrunk, leaving large slits between the boards ; this frail defence was on the outside of the hut, and there was an incessant scuffling to occupy a slit, and observe the removal of one set of clothing and renewal of it by another; as each piece was changed, there ascended a de- lighted laugh, supported by clapping the hands; the curiosity of the queens rendered them bolder, and a body of them entered the very courtyard itself, and for anything the Governor knew, these might have been the advance guard of a larger force. On this side his hut was very vulnerable, having an undefended doorway only : emergency is the author of resource ; and imme- diately the Governor saw his danger, he called to Mr. Pignard the interpreter, requesting him to spread-eagle himself before the doorway, and interrupt, as far as his portly figure would permit, the view of the interior of the hut. This was amply performed by Mr. Pignard, though their majesties could not be prevented from obtaining a considerable insight into the mysteries of the dress of a ' Tubabl-Mansa,' nor could these royal ladies avoid the expression of loud approbation as, last of all, the coat, epaulettes, sword, cocked hat, and plume, assumed their respective places, and the Governor stood confessed in all his finery. * * * * "The doorways of the royal hut soon became thronged with queens, whose faces were seen peering in to catch a view of the party, careless of the squeezes they sustained from each other in the attempt, and laughing most immoderately all the time; • those outside slapping with their hands the more fortunate ladies who had possession of the apertures. The interpreter was now desired to have some presents brought in which were designed. for his majesty. This created intense curiosity amongst the queens : an open yard was judged most appropriate for this ceremony ; so the party rose and left the royal table adjourning to the appointed place. "Round this yard, his majesty, or the curiosity of the queens them- selves, had suggested the arrangement of the latter round the inside of the walls ; where they squatted, in most part of the lines three deep, leaving the - centre free for the presentation of the gifts, and for the occupation of the re- spective high personages who had now entered the square. Their majesties smiled most graciously upon the White visitors, and a merry-hearted, thought- less assemblage they appeared to be ; huts Manchester ova Spitalfields work- man would have regarded with gloomy feelings the absence of their respect- ive handiwork, not twenty yards of which could be collected from the ward- robes of the united ninety-nine queens.

"The presents consisted of some cotton prints, tobacco, two muskets, gun- powder, a large jar of ruin, a three-feet looking-glass, and lastly, it having been sent especially by the Government, the coat and three-cornered hat of a Chelsea Pensioner! The queens on seeing these gave way to a simultaneous expression of admiration' clapping their hands and screeching with delight, at the same time loudly ealling out, as said the interpreter, for the king to put them on. Giving way to this outbreak of opinion, his majesty removed the conical straw hat, allowing one of the ladies to place the other on his head ; he then stripped off his Mandingo mantle, superseding it with the huge and shapeless coat just presented; and he now stood up a confessed Chelsea Pensioner, to the extreme gratification of his numerous and laughing household. So embarrassing did the attentions of the queens appear, that in order to create a diversion in favour of the king, the interpreter was directed to advance the looking-glass; the effect of which was conclusive and sudden : in an instant the king was left, as it were, a monument, solitary, but for those who lounged or played at its base : the queens rushed forward, like the maases at a Vauxhall exhibition, from sight to sight., and now to view faces and charms they probably never before had an opportunity of contemplating. The struggle to occupy a front position of the glass was severe ; which the king observing, he very unceremoniously pushed the ladies aside, placed a mi- nister of state on each side the looking-glass., then calling the queens up in succession, allowed each a glance of herself as she passed by."