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British and other European Possessions in Africa. page 2


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The king escaped for the time beyond reach of pursuit, but he came in from the bush in August, and was carried round the coast-towns in fetters and exhibited among the natives who had declined to believe in his conquest and capture. A great moral effect was produced by this instance of just and signal punishment. Benin was left in charge of a strong Haussa garrison, with "Maxims" and field-guns, and the former scene of hideous cruelty is now a civilised centre, in perfect peace and order, with a fortnightly post to and from England. The above narratives concerning Ashanti, Bida, and Benin illustrate at once the conditions of warfare in western Africa, and the benefits of European conquest. We note that above 700 cases of malarial fever, contracted during the expedition to Benin, occurred afterwards on board the vessels of the British squadron.

The only history of importance, as regards French possessions in this part of the world, is connected with Senegambia, Timbuktu, and Dahomey. The French colonial dominion in that quarter, after a long period of inactivity or decline, began a new career with the appointment as governor, in 1854, of General Faidherbe, a man who afterwards took a distinguished part, as we have seen, in the Franco-German war of 1870-71, He adopted a vigorous policy, subduing chiefs who stayed the French advance inland, and annexing their territories, and his successors, pursuing the same course, made rapid advances, annexing districts, and proclaiming "protectorates." In December, 1893, a French column occupied and held Timbuktu, long a goal of their country's ambition in that region. The place, containing a mosque dating from 1325, lies on the southern edge of the Sahara, on an important trade-route between the interior and the west and south. Probably founded in the nth century, and first known outside Africa in the 14th, it had only been visited, up to 1892, by six or seven Europeans. It was in 1862 that France gained a foothold on the Guinea coast by assuming a protectorate over the trading-post of Porto Novo and the adjacent territory. The region had been considered a part of the kingdom of Dahomey, a realm dating from early in the 18th century, which became powerful in the first half of the 19th, with a large army of warriors and a battalion of brave women, devoted to celibacy, and ferocious in fight, the famous "Amazons." The fetish-worship involved the wholesale murder of foreign captives and others as sacrifices, as many as 500 human victims being slain at one of the grand "customs" in October of each year. The power of the despotic king had greatly declined at the time of French aggression, and his attack on Porto Novo in 1890 was easily repulsed. The monarch then began to purchase European artillery and breechloading rifles, in the hope that these weapons would place his men on an equality with their foes. In the summer of 1892 his forces invaded the Porto Novo district, burning some villages and carrying off prisoners for sacrifice or slavery. A French gunboat was fired on in one of the streams, and the French settlements were soon threatened by bodies of Dahomeyan negroes, mostly armed with modern rifles and in some cases several thousands strong. The receipt of a letter, in French, expressing insolent defiance, by the governor of the Benin coast, from the king of Dahomey, was quickly followed by the arrival of reinforcements from France and Senegal, including some companies of excellent African troops - Senegalese tirailleurs - officered by Frenchmen. The force was under the command of the able Colonel Dodds, of English extraction, born in Senegal, and in no fear of the West African climate. Trained at a French military college, he had seen much service in campaigns on the Upper Senegal and in the western Soudan. The Dahomey capital, Abomey, lay about 70 miles direct from the coast, in a region of fertile undulating plains, guarded from an invader's approach by swamps and a broad belt of forest. The king of Dahomey was supposed to be able to bring forward about 12,000 male warriors and 1,500 Amazons. Dodds had, of European troops, 150 marines and 800 of the "Foreign Legion," in addition to 1,500 Senegalese riflemen and 300 Haussas, with engineers, mountain-guns, a few cavalry, and a transport and ambulance detachment, making in all 113 officers and 3,350 men. He had wisely made a careful study of Wolseley's successful Ashanti campaign, and all sanitary precautions against the deadly climate were taken, with quinine daily served out to the troops, and the very small quantity of brandy always drunk diluted with water or tea. On August 1710, 1892, after coast-garrisons had been provided, a column of 2,000 men, with 2,000 native porters, started from Porto Novo up the eastern bank of the river Oueme, with gun boats and barges in attendance. Much difficulty was encountered in the passage of streams with swampy banks, and in cutting down underwood and coarse grass, the latter being often six feet high. On September 14th, at Dogba, a point on the river 35 miles above Porto Novo, due north, a strong stockaded post was erected on a knoll, defended by a gunboat with machine-guns, and a fierce attack of the Dahomeyans in force was severely repulsed. The advance on Abomey was then resumed, and some fighting on the river took place between the gunboats and the enemy's cannon and rifles on the banks. By a clever retreat at the right time, the French commander, evading a strong force entrenched in his front, and turning its flank, passed his men safely across to the western bank of the Oueme, about 50 miles from the coast, and then struck out for Abomey, 35 miles away to the north-west. The way lay through tropical forest, and the difficulties of the march and the resistance were such that six weeks were needed to reach the capital, at a rate of less than a mile per day. On October 4th a sharp two-hours' action, at close quarters, amid the trees and long grass, ended in the retreat of the enemy, among the slain left on the ground being 17 "Amazons," tall, athletic young women, each with a breechloader and plenty of ammunition. More fighting came, and in six days only three miles of ground had been won. After a few days' delay to establish another fortified post, the advance was resumed, and on the march through a jungle of bush, long grass, and thickets of large trees, much fighting had to be done. On October 14th an attempt to turn another fortified position, defended by rifled guns served by trained men, ended in the forced retreat of a French column before masses of men and Amazons, including hundreds of good marksmen, professional hunters of big game. Water was lacking, and Dodds was hampered by 140 wounded and 60 fever-patients. A downpour of rain in the night staved off the chief peril; an attack on the French camp was sharply repulsed; and then for a week the two adversaries remained face to face. During this time the French sent their sick and wounded down to the coast, accumulated stores, found a good supply of water near their position, and received a reinforcement of 400 men from Porto Novo. On October 27th the king of Dahomey sent in a letter with a flag of truce, offering to evacuate a position in front, and drew the French, on the following day, into an ambuscade, where they met a severe artillery and rifle-fire. Furious at this treachery, Colonel Dodds' men carried the position with the bayonet, after a desperate struggle, and the victors, recruited by the week's rest, drove off the Amazons and the royal guard. The main line of defence was thus broken, and Abomey was now only n miles away to the front. The French, advancing in square, had four days' almost continuous bush-fighting near Cana, the sacred city and favourite residence of the kings, and in front of that town a real entreaty for peace was made. The end of this interesting contest between barbarism and civilisation was dramatic. General Dodds, as he had now become, demanded the kings unconditional surrender, and, when delay occurred, he resolved to occupy the capital. On November 15th, as he and his men approached the city through a pleasant country where tilled fields, pastures, and groves of palm had replaced the tropical forest, a column of smoke shot up from the midst of Abomey; fires broke out in various quarters, and loud explosions shook the air. The king, Behanzin, had fled northwards, with a few hundred warriors, leaving a Dahomeyan "Moscow," the scene for a century of human sacrifices on a vast scale, to the victors. In a brief campaign at the close of 1893 and early in 1894 the deposed monarch was hunted down and taken, and the success of operations carefully planned prudently and skilfully carried out, and displaying much courage both in the invaders and invaded, was complete. Since that time the French have virtually ruled Dahomey, as a "protectorate" under a new king chosen by the chiefs.

Cape Colony, settled by the Dutch in 1652, under the auspices of their East India Company, was founded in a region inhabited by low-type races named Hottentots and Bushmen (Bosjesmans) by Europeans, with whom the new-comers were soon at war. To the north-east and north lay various tribes of the great Bantu race, including several races of Kaffirs (Caffres or Kaffres, from the Arabic Kafir, unbeliever) - the Pondos, Fingos, Zulus, Swazi - and, extending northwards almost to the Somali and Swahili country of the east coast, were the Bechuanas, Basutos, Matabele, and many other nations. The Kaffirs are a fine, athletic race, whose highest form, in modern days, is found in the Zulus. The Bechuanas and Basutos, in the 19th century, have proved to be more advanced in civilisation than other peoples of South Africa. The Dutch colony at the Cape made slow progress, under the tyrannical rule of the Company, who greatly restricted private trade. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in 1688, by Louis XIV., brought a valuable accession of immigrants in about 300 Huguenot refugees, the ancestors of a large element of the present South African Dutch, or "Africanders." About the middle of the 18th century, the colonists began to occupy large tracts of land in the interior, laying them out as "cattle-runs," and some trade was done in the export of wine to Europe, wheat to Batavia, in Java, and of skins and ostrich-feathers. The best days of the Dutch period of supremacy ended in 1771, with the death of the excellent governor Tulbagh, after a rule of 20 years. The cruel treatment of slaves, and the hunting-down of Bushmen and Hottentots for compulsory service as herdsmen and domestics, were evil features, and under the Company's rule the colonists near Cape Town were devoid alike of prosperity and freedom. In 1795, after the conquest of the home-country by France, a British expedition forced a capitulation, but in 1802, under the Treaty of Amiens, the territory was restored, though the chief purpose of conquest had been, in 1797, declared to be the occupation of Cape Town as commanding the ocean-route to India. In 1805 a census showed the colonists of European descent, exclusive of some thousands of Dutch troops, to be about 26,000, in addition to 30,000 slaves and 20,000 Bushmen, Hottentots, and half-breeds in semi-servitude. Little had been done to develop the resources of the country, and there were neither roads nor bridges worthy of the name. British conquest alone prevented a rising against the Company's rule, which had been a curse to the whole community. The seven years of British occupation from 1795 to 1802 had brought much improvement, and a new era opened with the arrival of a strong expedition, in January, 1806, off Cape Town. The Dutch troops, under General Janssens, the governor, with a battalion of French seamen and marines, were defeated with severe loss by our Highland regiments, and British possession of the colony began, confirmed in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna.

The history of the colony was henceforth one of continuous progress. In 1812 Graham's Town was founded. In 1820 and 1821 a body of 4,000 new settlers landed in Algoa Bay and founded Port Elizabeth. In 1828 a great judicial reform came in the establishment of a Supreme Court of four judges appointed by the Crown, and of resident magistrates in place of the old Dutch officials in country-districts. In 1833 the Act abolishing slavery throughout the British colonial dominions, with compensation to the slave-owners, angered the Dutch "boers" or farmers, who grumbled at the amount awarded. In the same year partial representative government was conceded in the election by the people of some members of a new Legislative Council. In 1835 a series of "Kaffir wars" began with an invasion of the colony on the southeastern frontier. The garrison of Cape Town, under the governor, Sir Benjamin D'Urban, and Colonel Smith, afterwards Sir Harry Smith, the victor of Aliwal and Sobraon, in the Sikh wars, aided by large numbers of the Boers, soon compelled the invaders to submit and pay compensation, in many thousands of cattle and 1,000 horses, for the losses incurred by the settlers. A people called the Fingos, enslaved by the Kaffirs, were rescued at this tune, and joyfully passed into the colony, where they became loyal and useful subjects. More Kaffir warfare was due to the folly of the Colonial Office in London, in checking D'Urban's plan for the establishment of a strong frontier after driving the natives beyond the Kei river. In 1846 a struggle occurred with the chief Sandili, and a British force was somewhat roughly handled in a sudden attack. Reinforcements from England restored affairs, and in 1847 Sandili and another chief, Macomo, came into the British lines by voluntary surrender. Sir Harry Smith, as governor and "High Commissioner," then proclaimed our rule over the region between the Kei and the Keiskama rivers as "British Kaffraria." In 1850 a representative government of two elective Chambers was established. In the same year Sandili started another long and a serious Kaffir war, in which our troops had many difficulties to overcome. The enemy were severely dealt with at the close of 1851 and early in 1852, and in this latter year, on the retirement of Sir Harry Smith, the new governor, Sir George Cathcart, a Waterloo veteran who afterwards fell at Inkermann, was in command of a large force of first-rate British troops. With these he swept the enemy away, and in March, 1853, received the submission of the leading Kaffir chiefs.

A new era opened for Cape Colony on the conclusion of this long and costly contest. On July 1st, 1854, the first Parliament met at Cape Town, and the close of the year saw the installation as ruler of the ablest of all our colonial governors, apart from India, in Sir George Grey, who had been already an Australian explorer, and governor of South Australia and of New Zealand. His wise treatment conciliated the beaten Kaffirs, and his eight years' rule was a period of priceless service to the colony. Between 1861 and 1870 the incorporation of British Kaffraria made the Kei river the eastern boundary, and diamonds were discovered in Griqualand West. In 1872 "responsible government" was established, and constitutional rule thus existed in its highest form. Three years later the census showed a population over 720,000, of whom about 237,000 were of European descent.

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Africa, 1898.
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