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1661 it was demolished by the English under Admiral Holmes ; and by the treaty of Breda, it was made over to our Government. The latitude of Cape Coast Castle is 5° 6' north ; the longitude 1° 51' west. The capital of the kingdom of Ashantee is Coomassie, the latitude of which is about 6° 30' 20" north, and the longitude 2° 6' 30" west. The mission quitted Cape Coast Castle on the 22nd of April, and arrived at Coomassie about the 16th of May-halting two or three days on the rout, and walking the whole distance, or carried by hammock-bearers at a foot-pace. The distance between the fort and the capital is not more than 150 miles, or about as far as from Durham to Edinburgh ;-and yet the kingdom of Ashantee was, before the mission of Mr. Bowdich, almost as much unknown to us as if it had been situated in some other planet. The country which surrounds Cape Coast Castle belongs to the Fantees; and about the year 1807 an Ashantee army reached the coast for the first time. They invaded Fantee again in 1811, and, for the third time, in 1816. To put a stop to the horrible cruelties committed by the stronger on the weaker nation ; to secure their own safety, endangered by the Ashantees; and to enlarge our knowledge of Africa the Government of Cape Coast Castle persuaded the African Committee to send a deputation to the kingdom of the Ashantee : and of this embassy the publication now before us is the narrative. The embassy walked through a beautiful country, laid waste by the recent wars, and arrived, in the time we have mentioned, and without meeting with any remarkable accident, at Coomassie the capital. The account of their first reception there we shall lay before our readers.
“We entered Coomassie at two o'clock, passing under a fetish, or sacrifice of a dead sheep, wrapped up in red silk, and suspended between two lofty poles. Upwards of 5,000 people, the greater part warriors, met us with awful bursts of martial music, discordant only in its mixture: for horns, drums, rattles, and gong-gongs were all exerted with a zeal bordering on frenzy, to subdue us by the first impression. The smoke which encircled us from the incessant discharges of musketry, confined our glimpses to the foreground; and we were halted whilst the captains performed their Pyrrhic dance, in the centre of a circle formed by their warriors: where a confusion of flags, English, Dutch, and Danish, were waved and flourished in all directions; the bearers plunging and springing from side to side, with a passion of enthusiasm only equalled by the captains, who followed them, discharging their shining blunderbusses so close that the flags now and then were in a blaze; and emerging from the smoke with all the gesture and distortion of maniacs. Their followers kept up the firing around us in the rear. The dress of the captains was a war cap, with gilded ram's horns projecting in front, the sides extended beyond all proportion by immense plumes of eagles' feathers, and fastened under the chin with bands of cowries. Their vest was of red cloth, covered with fetishes and saphies in gold and silver; and embroidered cases of almost every colour, which flapped against their bodies as they moved, intermixed with small brass bells, the horns and tails of animals, shells, and knives; long leopards' tails, hung down their backs, over a small bow covered with fetishes. They wore loose cotton trowsers, with immense boots of a dull red leather, coming half way up the thigh, and fastened by small chains to their cartouch or waist belt; these were also ornamented with bells, horses' tails, strings of amulets, and innumer. able shreds of leather ; a small quiver of poisoned arrows hung from their right wrist, and they held a long iron chain between their teeth, with a scrap of Moorish writing affixed to the end of it. A small spear was in their left hands, covered with red cloth and silk tassels; their black countenances heightened the effect of this attire, and completed a figure scarcely human.
This exhibition continued about half an hour, when we were allowed to proceed, encircled by the warriors, whose numbers, with the crowds of people, made our movement as gradual as if it had taken place in Cheapside ; the several streets branching off to the right presented long vistas crammed with people ; and those on the left hand being on an acclivity, innumer. able rows of heads rose one above another; the large open porches of the houses, like the fronts of stages in small theatres, were filled with the better sort of females and children, all impatient to behold white men for the first time ; their exclamations were drowned in the firing and music, but their gestures were in character with the scene. When we reached the palace, about half a mile from the place where we entered, we were again halted, and an open file was made, through which the bearers were passed, to deposit the presents and baggage in the house assigned to us. Here we were gratified by observing several of the caboceers (chiefs) pass by with their trains, the novel splendour of which astonished us. The bands,
osed of horns and flutes, trained to play in concert, seemed to soothe our hearing into its natural tone again by their wild melodies ; whilst the immense umbrellas, made to sink and rise from the jerkings of the bearers, and the large fans waving around, refreshed us with small currents of air, under a burning sun, clouds of dust, and a density of atmosphere almost suffocating. We were then squeezed, at the same funeral pace, up a long street, to an open-fronted house, where we were desired by a royal messenger to wait a further invitation from the king.”—(Pp. 31-33.)
The embassy remained about four months, leaving one of their members behind as a permanent resident. Their treatment, though subjected to the fluctuating passions of barbarians, was, upon the whole, not bad; and a foundation appears to have been laid of future intercourse with the Ashantees, and a mean opened, through them, of becoming better acquainted with the interior of Africa.
The Moors, who seem (barbarians as they are) to be the civilisers of internal Africa, have penetrated to the capital of the Ashantees : they are bigoted and intolerant to Christians, but not sacrificers of human victims in their religious ceremonies ;-nor averse to commerce ; and civilised in comparison to most of the idolatrous natives of Africa. From their merchants who resorted from various parts of the interior, Mr. Bowdich employed himself in procuring all the geographical details which their travels enabled them to afford. Timbuctoo they described as inferior to Houssa, and not at all comparable to Boornoo. The Moorish influence was stated to be powerful in it, but not predominant. A small river goes nearly round the town, overflowing in the rains, and obliging the people of the suburbs to move to an eminence in the centre of the town, where the king lives. The king, a Moorish negro called Billabahada, had a few double-barrelled guns, which were fired on great occasions; and gunpowder was as dear as gold. Mr. Bowdich calculates Houssa to be N. 8. from the Niger 20 days' journey of 18 miles each day; and the latitude and longitude to be 18° 59' N. and 3° 59'E. Boornoo was spoken of as the first empire in Africa. The Mahometans of Sennaar reckon it among the four powerful empires of the world ; the other three being Turkey, Persia, and Abyssinia.
The Niger is only known to the Moors by the name of the Quolla, pro. nounced as Quorra by the negroes, who, from whatever countries they come, all spoke of this as the largest river with which they were acquainted; and it was the grand feature in all the routes to Ashantee, whether from Houssa, Boornoo, or the intermediate countries. The Niger, after leaving the lake Dibbri, was invariably described as dividing into two large streams; the Quolla, or the greater division, pursuing its course south-eastward, till it joined the Bahr Abiad ; and the other branch running northward of east, near to Timbuctoo, and dividing again soon afterwards—the smaller division running northwards by Yahoodee, a place of great trade, and the larger running directly eastward, and entering the lake Caudi, under the name of Gambaroo. “ The variety of this concurrent evidence respecting the Gambaroo made an impression on my mind,” says Mr. Bowdich, “almost amounting to conviction.” The same author adds that he found the Moors very cautious in their accounts; declining to speak unless they were positive and frequently referring doubtful points to others whom they knew to be better acquainted with them.
The character of the present king is, upon the whole, respectable; but he is ambitious, has conquered a great deal, and is conquering still. He has a love of knowledge ; and was always displeased when the European objects which attracted his attention were presented to him as gifts. His motives, he said, ought to be better understood, and more respect paid to his dignity and friendship. He is acute, capricious, and severe, but not devoid of humanity; and has incurred unpopularity on some occasions, by limiting the number of human sacrifices more than was compatible with strict orthodoxy. His general subjects of discourse with the Mission were war, legislation, and mechanics. He seemed very desirous of standing well in the estimation of his European friends; and put off a conversation, once, because he was a little tipsy, and at another time because he felt himself cross and out of temper
The king, four aristocratical assessors, and the assembly of captains, are the three estates of the Ashantee government. The noble quartumvirate, in all matters of foreign policy, have a veto on the king's decisions. They watch, rather than share, the domestic administration ; generally influencing it by their opinion, rather than controlling it by their authority. In exercising his judicial function, the king always retires in private with the aristocracy to hear their opinions. The course of succession in Ashantee is the brother, the sister's son, the son and the chief slave.
The king's sisters may marry, or intrigue with any person they please, provided he is very strong and handsome; and these elevated and excellent women are always ready to set an example of submission to the laws of their country. The interest of money is about 300 per cent. A man may kill his own slave; or an inferior, for the price of seven slaves. Trifling thefts are punished by exposure. The property of the wife is distinct from that of the husband—though the king is heir to it. Those accused of witchcraft are tortured to death. Slaves, if ill-treated, are allowed the liberty of transferring themselves to other masters.
The Ashantees believe that a higher sort of god takes care of the whites, and that they are left to the care of an inferior species of deities. Still the black kings and black nobility are to go to the upper gods after death, where they are to enjoy eternally the state and luxury which was their portion on earth. For this reason a certain number of cooks, butlers, and domestics of every description, are sacrificed on their tombs. They have two sets of priests : the one dwell in the temples, and communicate with the idols ; the other species do business as conjurors and cunning men, tell fortunes, and detect small thefts. Half the offerings to the idols are (as the priests say) thrown into the river, the other half they claim as their own. The doors of the temples are, froni motives of the highest humanity, open to runaway slaves; but shut, upon a fee paid by the master to the priest. Every person has a small set of household gods, bought of the Fetishmen. They please their gods by avoiding particular sorts of meat; but the prohibited viand is not always the same. Some curry favour by eating no veal; some seek protection by avoiding pork ; others say, that the real monopoly which the celestials wish to establish is that of beef—and so they piously and prudently rush into a course of mutton. They have the customary nonsense of lucky days, trial by ordeal, and libations and relics. The most horrid and detest. able of their customs is their sacrifice of human victims, and the tortures, preparatory to it. This takes place at all their great festivals, or Customs, as they are called. Some of these occur every twenty-one days; and there are not fewer than a hundred victims immolated at each. Besides these, there are sacrifices at the death of every person of rank, more or less bloody according to their dignity. On the death of his mother, the king butchered no less than three thousand victims; and on his own death this number would probably be doubled. The funeral rights of a great captain were repeated weekly for three months ; and 200 persons, it is said, were slaughtered each time, 2,400 in all. The author gives an account of the manner of these abominations, in one instance of which he was an unwilling spectator.
On the funeral of the mother of Quatchie Quofie, which was by no means a great one,
"A dash of sheep and rum was exchanged between the king and Quatchie Quofie, and the drums announced the sacrifice of the victims. All the chiefs first visited them in turn; I was not near enough to distinguish wherefore. The executioners wrangled and struggled for the office: and the indifference with which the first poor creature looked on, in the torture he was from the knife passed through his cheeks, was remarkable. The nearest executioner snatched the sword from the others, the right hand of the victim was then lopped off, he was thrown down, and his head was sawed rather than cut off ; it was cruelly prolonged, I will not say wilfully. Twelve more were dragged forward, but we forced our way through the crowd, and retired to our quarters. Other sacrifices, principally female, were made in the bush where the body was buried. It is usual to 'wet the grave' with the blood of a freeman of respectability. All the retainers of the family being present, and the heads of all the victims deposited in the bottom of the grave, several are unsuspectingly called on in a hurry to assist in placing the coffin or basket; and just as it rests on the heads or skulls, a slave from behind stuns one of these freemen by a violent blow, followed by a deep gash in the back part of the neck, and he is rolled in on the top of the body, and the grave instantly filled up."- (Pp. 287-288.)
“About a hundred persons, mostly culprits reserved, are generally sacrificed, in different quarters of the town, at this custom (that is, at the feast for the new year). Several slaves were also sacrificed at Bantama, over the large brass pan, their blood mingling with the various vegetable and animal matter within (fresh and putrefied), to complete the charm, and produce invincible fetish. All the chiefs kill several slaves, that their blood may flow into the hole from whence the new yam is taken. Those who cannot afford to kill slaves, take the head of one already sacrificed and place it on the hole."-(P. 279.)
The Ashantees are very superior in discipline and courage to the water-side Africans : they never pursue when it is near sunset : the general is always in the rear, and the fugitives are instantly put to death. The army is prohibited, during the active part of the campaign, from all food but meal, which each man carries in a small bag by his side, and mixes in his hands with the first water he comes to ; no fires are allowed, lest their position should be betrayed ; they eat little select bits of the first enemy's heart whom they kill; and all wear ornaments of his teeth and bones.
In their buildings, a mould is made for receiving the clay, by two rows of stakes placed at a distance equal to the intended thickness of the wall: the interval is then filled with gravelly clay mixed with water, which, with the outward surface of the framework, is plastered so as to exhibit the appearance of a thick mud wall. The captains have pillars, which assist to support the roof, and form a proscenium, or open front. The steps and raised foors of the rooms are clay and stone, with a thick layer of red earth, washed and painted daily.
" While the walls are still soft, they formed moulds or frameworks of the patterns in delicate slips of cane, connected by grass. The two first slips (one end of each being inserted in the soft wall) projected the relief, commonly mezzo : the interstices were then filled up with the plaster, and assumed the appearance depicted. The poles or pillars were sometimes cncircled by twists of cane, intersecting each other, which, being filled up with thin plaster, resembled the lozenge and cable ornaments of the Anglo-Norman order; the quatre-foil was very common, and by no means rude, from the symmetrical bend of the cane which formed it. I saw a few pillars (after they had been squared with the plaster) with numerous slips of cane pressed perpendicularly on to the wet surface, which being covered again with a very thin coat of plaster, closely resembled fluting. When they formed a large arch, they inserted one end of a thick piece of cane in the wet clay of the floor or base, and, bending the other over, inserted it in the same manner; the entablature was filled up with wattle-work plastered over. Arcades and piazzas were common. A whitewash, very frequently renewed, was made from a clay in the neighbourhood. Of course, the plastering is very frail, and in the relief frequently discloses the edges of the cane, giving, however, a piquant effect, auxiliary to the ornament. The doors were an entire piece of cotton wood, cut with great labour out of the stems or buttresses of that tree; battens variously cut and painted were afterwards nailed across. So disproportionate was the price of labour to that of provision that I gave but two tokoos for a slab of cotton wood, five feet by three. The locks they use are from Houssa, and quite original : one will be sent to the British Museum. Where they raised a first floor, the under room was divided into two by an intersecting wall, to support the rasters for the upper room, which were generally covered with a framework thickly plastered over with red ochre. I saw but one attempt at flooring with plank; it was cotton wood shaped entirely with an adze, and looked like a ship's deck. The windows were open wood-work. carved in fanciful figures and intricate patterns, and painted red; the frames were frequently cased in gold, about as thick as cartridge paper. What surprised me most, and is not the least of the many circumstances deciding their great superiority over the generality of negroes, was the discovery that every house had its cloacæ, besides the common ones for the lower orders without the town."--(Pp. 305-306.)
The rubbish and offal of each house are burnt every morning at the back of the street ; and they are as nice in their dwellings as in their persons. The Ashantee loom is precisely on the same principles as the English : the fineness, variety, brilliancy, and size of their cloths is astonishing. They paint white cloths not inelegantly, as fast as an European can write. They excel in pottery, and are good goldsmiths. Their weights are very neat brass casts of almost every animal, fruit, and vegetable, known in the country. The king's scales, blow-pan, boxes, weights and pipe-tongs were neatly made of the purest gold. They work finely in iron, tan leather, and are excellent carpenters.
Mr. Bowdich computes the number of men capable of bearing arms to be 204,000. The disposable force is 150,000 ; the population a million; the number of square miles 14,000. Polygamy is tolerated to the greatest extent; the king's allowance is 3,333 wives ; and the fulls complement is always kept up. Four of the principal streets in Coomassie are half a mile long, and from 50 to 100 yards wide. The streets were all named, and a superior captain in charge of each. The street where the Mission was lodged was called Apperemsoo, or Cannon Street; and another street was called Daebrim, or Great Market Street ; another Prison Street, and so on. A plan of the town is given. The Ashantees persisted in saying that the population of Coomassie was above 100,000 ; but this is thought, by the gentlemen of the Mission, to allude rather to the population collected on great occasions than the permanent residents, not computed by them at more than 15,000. The markets were daily; and the articles for sale beef, mutton, wild hog, deer, monkeys' flesh, fowls, yams, plaintains, corn, sugar-cane, rice, peppers, vegetable butter, oranges, papans, pine-apples, bananas, salt and dried fish, large snails smoke-dried; palm wine, rum, pipes, beads, looking-glasses ; sandals, silk, cotton cloth, powder, small pillars, white and blue thread, and calabashes. The cattle in Ashantee are as large as English cattle; their sheep are hairy. They have no implement but the hoe ; have two crops of corn in the year; plant their yams at Christ. mas, and dig them up in September. Their plantations, extensive and orderly, have the appearance of hop-gardens well fenced in and regularly planted in lines, with a broad walk around, and a hut at each wicker-gate, where a slave and his family reside to protect the plantation. All the fruits mentioned as sold in the market grew in spontaneous abundance, as did the sugar-cane. The oranges were of a large size and exquisite flavour. There were no cocoa-trees. The berry which gives to acids the flavour of sweets, making limes taste like honey, is common here. The castor-oil plant rises to a large tree. The cotton tree sometimes rises to the height of 150 feet.
The great obstacle to the improvement of commerce with the Ashantee people (besides the jealousy natural to barbarians) is our rejection of the slave trade, and the continuance of that detestable traffic by the Spaniards. While the Mission was in that country, one thousand slaves left Ashantee for two Spanish schooners on the coast. How is an African monarch to be taught that he has not a right to turn human creatures into rum and tobacco ? or that the nation which prohibits such an intercourse, are not his enemies ? To have free access to Ashantee would command Dagwumba. The people of Inta and Dagwumba being commercial, rather than warlike, an intercourse