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British and other European Possessions in Africa.


Africa, Mediaeval and Modern.
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Until the 19th century the interior of Africa was almost unknown to the rest of the world. Modern exploration in the vast dark continent began with James Bruce, who discovered one source of the "Blue" Nile in Abyssinia in 1780, and aroused the spirit which sent Ledyard, Mungo Park, and other adventurous travellers to the basin of the Niger. In the third and fourth decades of the 19th century Denham, an old Peninsular officer, Clapperton, of the royal navy, Dr. Oudney, and the brothers Richard and John Lander, in the Sahara and Soudan, discovered Lake Tchad and the course of the Niger. About 1840, after discoveries made in South Africa by Dutchmen from Cape Colony, the eminent missionaries Moffat and Livingstone began to work in that region, the latter being one of the greatest of African discoverers. Between 1843 and his death in 1873, Livingstone made known the existence of Lakes Ngarai and Dilolo, and of the river Zambesi, and crossed the continent from the Portuguese town of St. Paul de Loanda, the capital of Angola, to Quillimane, on the northern mouth of the Zambesi, being the first European who ever traversed the continent from ocean to ocean in those latitudes, and discovering on that journey the dividing plateau, from 5,000 to 7,000 feet above sea-level, which forms the watershed between central and southern Africa. He also accurately mapped Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa, and discovered Lakes Liemba, Moero, and Bangweolo, with the head-waters of the Congo, there called the Luapula and at another point the Lualaba. It was the great United States traveller H. M. Stanley who, specially commissioned by the proprietor of the New York Herald, found Livingstone alive in November,. 1871, at Ujiji, on the eastern side of Lake Tanganyika, after false reports of his death, at the hands of natives, had reached Europe in 1867. The great Scottish explorer, Livingstone, dying at Ujiji on May 1st, 1873, was laid in Westminster Abbey in April, 1874. Mr. Stanley, in later journeys full of risk and adventure, mapped out the shores of Lake Tanganyika, settled finally the origin, course, and size of the Congo, tracing it from Nyangwe, on the Lualaba (which he proved to be the Congo), down to the sea, and made many other discoveries in the basin of that great river. We must note that Lakes Tanganyika and Victoria Nyanza were discovered by Captains Burton and Speke in 1857 and 1858, and that the successive efforts of those travellers and of Colonel Grant and Sir Samuel Baker (the discoverer of Albert Nyanza lake) made known the course of the Upper Nile, and its rise in Lake Victoria Nyanza, thus solving the problem which had been a puzzle for thousands of years to geographers. There have been many other explorers of the continent - German, French, British, and Portuguese - and the map of Africa, almost a blank in most of the interior, so far as accurate knowledge was concerned, at the beginning of the 19th century, has now been fairly filled in.

The successful exploration of the continent was followed, towards the end of the 19th century, by the remarkable "scramble" of European nations for territorial possession which ended in the "Partition of Africa," as shown on the map, making the vast region a diplomatic battle-ground of the present day, and a political, colonial, and commercial problem of the future. In the course of European rivalries we hear much of "Hinterlands," or back-regions, and of "spheres of influence"; the former being understood to represent the fields of expansion which may be regarded as geographically or politically connected with the coast-regions held by various Powers, and the latter being the territories in which it is assumed, that any European nation has exclusive political rights, by treaty with native chiefs, or with other European nations, or with both combined. Spain, in the western Sahara, and in the Canaries and some other islands, has about 200,000 square miles as her share. Portugal, in Angola, on the west coast, and Mozambique, on the east, holds about 850,000 square miles. Germany, in the Cameroons, on the west coast, and in the south-west and on the east coast, has nearly the same area. Italy, in Somali-land and Galla, in the north-east, has a large area of indefinite extent. Belgian Africa, the "Congo State," has an area exceeding 850,000 square miles. France, in Tunis, Algeria, the Sahara, the Gold and Benin Coasts, Soudan, Guinea, the French Congo territory, and Madagascar, is mistress of about 3,000,000 square miles. Great Britain claims and holds or "protects" over 2,500,000 square miles in Gambia, Sierra Leone, Gold Coast, Lagos, Niger Territories, Oil Rivers, and British South, Central, and Eastern Africa. The rest of Africa, the whole continent having about 11,500,000 square miles, is made up of Turkish territory in Tripoli and Egypt; the two Boer republics, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State; Liberia, the negro-republic, on the west coast; Morocco; Abyssinia; the native state Wadai, between Lake Tchad and Dar-Fur; the Fulah states, in the western Soudan, including Sokoto; the small sultanate of Zanzibar, on the east coast; and various native interior states of vague limits, a ready prey for the encroachments of European Powers when the time for absorption arrives. The "Partition of Africa," as above indicated, was peacefully arranged among the chief European nations between 1876, the year of the "Brussels Conference," and 1893, though, even in the summer of 1898, Anglo-French commissioners in Paris were engaged in settling disputes concerning the borders of territory in the Niger region.

British connection with territory in Africa began in 1530, with the enterprises of an "African Company," a joint-stock association. The western coast was first settled, by the Portuguese, at the close of the 15th century. They were expelled from Cape Coast Castle by the Dutch, who were ousted by the British in 1667, under the Treaty of Breda. Our traders were in Gambia as settlers before the close of the 16th century, and the French, about the beginning of the 17th, appeared on the Senegal. The Treaty of Versailles, in 1783, secured the Gambia trade for Great Britain, and France had then the sole rights in the river Senegal. Sierra Leone, discovered in 1462 by a Portuguese navigator, was occupied in 1787, under British influence, by a colony of freed negroes. The "African Company of Merchants" were in possession of the Gold Coast settlements, with a large annual parliamentary grant, from 1750 until the dissolution of the corporation in 1821, when the Crown took possession of the settlements and forts, placing them in charge of the governor of Sierra Leone.

Serious trouble soon arose with a powerful negro-people called the Ashantis, having an army of great strength, and Kumassi as the capital. A kindred people, the Fantis, allies of the British, suffered from Ashanti tyranny, and Sir Charles MacCarthy, governor of the British territory, took action against the oppressors. In January, 1824, he was defeated and killed in battle with a great host, all the British officers, except two, being taken or slain. In May a new governor, after hard fighting, drove the enemy away from the coast, and in July, with reinforcements from England, inflicted a great defeat. In August, 1826, another fierce and now a decisive battle ended in the capture of the Ashanti king's state-umbrella and of his talisman, which proved to be the skull of MacCarthy, wrapped in paper covered with Arabic characters, then in a silk handkerchief, and lastly in leopard-skin. The enemy were routed with the loss of some thousands of men. In 1850 some Danish settlements at Accra, Quittah, Addah, and elsewhere were added, by purchase, to our Gold Coast territory, and in 1872 Holland transferred all her rights in that region, with the forts at Elmina, to British possession. After trouble with the Ashantis in 1863, and the failure of a British expedition from disease, a decisive struggle came ten years later in a quarrel with King Koffee Kalkalli. In December, 1872, he invaded the British protectorate with a great army, and crossed the boundary-river Prah in January, 1873. The Fantis, our allies, were twice defeated, and the enemy marched on Elmina, to be severely repulsed by our seamen, marines, and colonial troops. An effective blow was resolved on in London, and Sir Garnet Wolseley took out some of our best regiments, including the 42nd Highlanders (the famous "Black Watch") and the 23rd or Welsh Fusiliers. In an expedition conducted with consummate ability, the Ashantis were first driven back towards the Prah by Wolseley heading West Indian troops, seamen, and marines, and native levies including the brave and faithful Haussas, Mohammedan people of the Soudan, now largely employed on the Gold Coast for defence and for the maintenance of order. In January, 1874, the British regiments and the other forces crossed the Prah, and, winning in the jungle the hard-fought battle of Amoaful, they captured and burnt Kumassi, forcing the Ashanti king to renounce all his claims on the British "protectorate," to undertake the protection of traders, the abolition of his foul and cruel human sacrifices, and the maintenance of a road from his capital to the Prah. Trouble arose with his successor, King Prempeh, in 1895, as to the non-abolition of the human sacrifices, and in January, 1896, another force from England, with native troops, crossed the Prah, and, meeting with no resistance, entered Kumassi. The British governor, Sir W. E. Maxwell, received the humble submission of Prempeh, who was at once dethroned and carried off as a prisoner, with the practical annexation of his territory, and the destruction of the fetish houses and groves for sacrifice. Malarial fever among the troops caused some loss, including the untimely and lamented death of Prince Henry of Battenberg, husband of Princess Beatrice. A British Resident was established at Kumassi, as the capital of our "protectorate," and a firm hold of the place was secured by the erection of a stone and brick fort in the centre of the town, with a clear space of 200 yards on every side, for the free action of the "Maxims" mounted on the turrets. Civilisation and Christianity were, for the first time, installed in the country, to the benefit and the delight of natives freed from a cruel tyrant, and a good firm road, with shelters at different points on the route, was made between the capital and the coast.

In 1886 "Gold Coast Colony" was finally separated from Sierra Leone, with Accra as the seat of government, and Elmina, Addah, and Cape Coast Castle as the chief places of the trade in palm-oil, palm-kernels, indiarubber, and gold, found in small grains and nuggets amidst gravel or red loam, in the sand of streams, and in quartz. Lagos, formerly a centre of the slave-trade, was annexed by our government in 1861, when the native king refused aid to our efforts to suppress the traffic. It became a distinct "Crown Colony" in 1886, increased by the annexation of districts adjacent to the island of Lagos and of some petty native kingdoms, Gambia became a separate colony in 1888, as did Sierra Leone, largely peopled by the descendants of negroes from almost every tribe on the western and south-western coasts of Africa, captured for freedom by British cruisers as they were being conveyed across the Atlantic to the markets of the United States, the foreign West Indies, and Brazil. Some of these people have shown high intelligence, one becoming a bishop, and two archdeacons, in the Anglican Church, and others rising to good positions as lawyers and civil servants. Samuel Adjai Crowther, carried off as a slave in 1819, at seven years of age, and rescued by a British cruiser in 1822, was ordained in London 20 years later, and working with great zeal and ability in the mission-field, he was consecrated as bishop of the Niger Territory in 1864, with the degree of D.D. conferred in honour by the University of Oxford. He translated the Bible into the Yoruba language, spoken by a large population north-east of Dahomey.

The "Niger Territories" is the official name of a region supposed to be 500,000 square miles in area, with a population of over 20,000,000, on the middle and the lower courses of the great river. The territory and " sphere of influence " include the native " empire " of Sokoto and the kingdom of Borgu, all being controlled by the Royal Niger Company, chartered by the Crown in 1886. The French and German spheres of influence lie to the north and east. The capital is Asaba, 70 miles above Abo, at the head of the great Niger delta, Akassa being the chief coast-port, and Lokoja, at the junction of the Niger and Binue, the headquarters of the strong Haussa military force under British officers. The Niger Company has already, under the able management of its President, Sir G. T. Goldie, "made history" with great credit. Early in 1897 they were at war with the powerful Sultan of Nupe, a chief of the Fulahs, Mohammedan conquerors and slave-raiders from the north. His daring encroachments caused the dispatch of an expedition, admirably planned by Goldie. With Lokoja as the base of operations, an advance was made on Bida, the chiefs capital and principal stronghold, and complete success was obtained. The Fulah power was annihilated in that region in the destruction of towns, the capture of vast stores, the rescue of slaves, and finally, after fierce fighting of the Haussas with immense bodies of the enemy, in the capture of Bida and of Ilorin, capital of the Yorubas, on the west of the Niger, allies of the Fulahs. On June 20th, "Diamond Jubilee" Day, 1897, a decree abolished slavery throughout the Niger Territories, and a new Emir or Sultan of Nupe was set up, in entire dependence on the Company. This brilliant little campaign has a real historical importance in being the first instance of the conquest of a Mohammedan kingdom in the Soudan, with the abolition of slave-raiding in a fine fertile territory, now free for peaceful tillage and trade.

The Oil Rivers or Niger Coast Protectorate was established, in its first form, in 1884, in a district between Lagos colony and Yoruba on the north-west, and the German boundary of Cameroons on the east. In 1891 it came under the control of the Foreign Office as an "Imperial" protectorate, with trade carried on by an "African Association" of Liverpool and other merchants engaged in the palm-oil commerce. Early in 1897 the treacherous massacre of some British officials, including Mr. Phillips, the acting Consul-General; Major Crawford, Deputy-Commissioner; Mr. Campbell, a member of the consular staff; Dr. Elliot, the medical officer; two British merchants, and a large number of native carriers, on their way, in peaceful fashion, to Benin, for an interview with the king, was promptly and severely punished. The territory of Benin was governed by a king whose fetish-priests freely indulged in human sacrifices by decapitation and crucifixion, and the mission, advancing in the face of warnings received, was to treat with him, firstly, on the subject of obstacles to interior trade. In the thick bush the party were attacked and almost destroyed by musketry and the sword, Captain Boisragon and Commissioner Locke being the sole European survivors, creeping wounded into the bush amidst the confusion, and subsisting on bananas and dew for five days until they were rescued by friendly natives on the Benin river. Admiral Rawson, of the Cape and West African squadron, then organised and led an expedition composed of Haussas of the Protectorate force, marines from England, and a naval brigade, with 7-pounder guns, "Maxims," and rocket-tubes. Proceeding first in boats up the Benin river and its branches, and overland, the British force captured several towns, and then, with severe bush-fighting, made their way to the chief town, Benin, concluding the work with a splendid charge at the "double," loudly cheering, amid cannon-shot and a hail of rifle-bullets from loopholed houses and the shelter of trees. At the end of the broad avenue thus traversed the assailants found themselves in the royal "compound" or palace-garden. The town was reeking with the blood and bodies of human sacrifices. The houses of the fetish-priests and the crucifixion-trees were destroyed.

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Pictures for British and other European Possessions in Africa.

Africa, 1898.
Africa, 1898. >>>>

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