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Bread and Circuses
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Jewed Faggot States of ApemuriKa
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The Negro's Place in Nature
"Vices the most notorious seem to be the portion of this unhappy race -- idleness, treachery, revenge, cruelty, impudence, stealing, lying, profanity, debauchery, and intemperance, are said to have extinguished the principles of natural law and to have silenced the reproofs of conscience. They are strangers to every sentiment of compassion, and are an awful example of the corruption of man when left to himself." - Encyclopædia Britannica. Art. "Negro" (1797).
A MISSION TO GELELE, K I N G O F D A H O M E.
WITH NOTICES OF
THE SO CALLED "AMAZONS," THE GRAND CUSTOMS, THE
YEARLY CUSTOMS, THE HUMAN SACRIFICES, THE
PRESENT STATE OF THE SLAVE TRADE, AND
THE NEGRO'S PLACE IN NATURE.
RICHARD F. BURTON,
(LATE COMMISSIONER TO DAHOME,)
AUTHOR OF "A PILGRIMAGE TO EL MEDINAH AND MECCAH."
"If a man be ambitious to improve in knowledge and wisdom, he should travel into
foreign countries." – PHILOSTRATUS IN APOLL.
"Every kingdom, every province, should have its own monographer."
IN TWO VOLUMES.
TINSLEY BROTHERS, 18, CATHERINE STREET, STRAND.
[The Right of Translation and Reproduction reserved.]
OF "THE NEGRO'S PLACE IN NATURE."
"Vices the most notorious seem to be the portion of this unhappy race -- idleness, treachery, revenge, cruelty, impudence, stealing, lying, profanity, debauchery, and intemperance, are said to have extinguished the principles of natural law and to have silenced the reproofs of conscience. They are strangers to every sentiment of compassion, and are an awful example of the corruption of man when left to himself." - Encyclopædia Britannica. Art. "Negro" (1797).
THE FOUNDER OF THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY
JAMES HUNT, Esq., Ph.D., F.S.A., etc. etc. etc.
"MY DEAR HUNT,
"I have read with pleasure and profit your able and courageous paper on the 'Negro's Place in Nature.' It shows the reason why, at the last meeting of the British Association, you were received with those encouraging sounds, which suggested a mob of Eve's tempters rather than a scientific assembly of her
descendants. Truth - especially new Truth - will ever meet with some such left handed compliment, which is, however, the sincerest homage. Those hisses would have sounded in my ears far sweeter than any cheers. In the case of your able supporter, my friend Mr. C. Carter Blake, I can only hope that he shared in your honours.
"Like other students of anthropology, I am truly grateful to you for having so graphically shown the great gulf, moral and physical, separating the black from the white races of men, and for having placed in so striking a light the physiological cause of the difference - namely, the arrested physical development of the negro. There is hardly a traveller, however unobser¬vant, who has not remarked the peculiar and pre¬cocious intelligence of the African's childhood, his 'turning stupid' as the general phrase is, about the age of puberty, and the rapid declension of his mental powers in old age, - a process reminding us of the simiad. It is pleasant to see anatomically discovered facts harmonising with, and accounting for, the pro¬visionary theories of those who register merely what they have observed. M. Gratiolet's Eureka, that in the occipital or lower breeds of mankind, the suturesof the cranium close at an earlier age than amongst the frontal races, admirably explains the phenomenon which has struck the herd of men, however incurio¬us: it assigns a physical cause for the inferiority the negro, whose psychical and mental powers become stationary at an age when, in nobler races, the perceptive and reflective principles begin to claim ascendancy.
"In the letter prefixed to your excellent paper, you have called upon me for my experience of the psycho¬logical character of the negro race. My opinions have been formed mostly by comparing, after ten years of travel, 'on and off,' the Africans with the Western Asiatics, amongst whom I have lived eight years, for the most part like one of themselves. This chapter is therefore dedicated to you, with the especial hope that your paper, which is a credit to English anthropology, may, in course of time, be expanded into a volume. The subject naturally parts itself into three: 1. The popular ¬opinion touching the negro in the pre Abolitionist times; 2. The general sentiments during that period of violent reaction; and, 3. The present state of the public mind when it is gradually settling into a middle and rational course. After being for some years "paradoxical" in my conviction of the innate and enduring inferiority of a race which has had so many an opportunity of acquiring civilisation, but which has ever deliberately rejected improvement, I find that the rising authors are beginning to express opinions far more decided than mine, and I foresee the futurity of hard compulsory labour which the negromaniac will have brought upon his African protégé. The philanthropico criminal movement that began with Howard, has at last reached, we are told, its limit of exaggera¬tion, and the pendulum begins slowly to swing back. It is the same with the negro, and as travelling be¬comes more common, and the world knows more about him, he will lose prestige every year. In his case, as with the criminal, though there is little danger of our relapsing into cruelties of which we read with shame, yet there is an ill time coming. For sons may avenge the credulity of their sires, by running into the clear contrary extremes, and the unnatural 'man and brother' of the day may relapse into the 'nigger,' the 'savage,' and the 'semi gorilla' of the morrow. Already there is a dawn of belief in a specific difference between the races, which, carried out, leads to strange conclusions. Perhaps - permit me to observe - our society could do
381 [sic; 181 – correct in 2nd ed.]
nothing more useful than to determine what signification the debated word 'species' should convey to the English anthropologist. But the committee appointed to report on the terminology of that science of which we are the humble students, will probably have done so before these lines are published.
"The following remarks were written at Agbome long before I had seen your pamphlet, and but little has been added to the original sketch. With you I deprecate any political object being attributed to them.
"I do confess it is my nature's plague
To spy into abuses."
But this inclination is not indulged, as some unwar¬rantably believe, from any 'spite' against, 'antipathy' to, or 'instinctive aversion' from the negro, whom I regard as both useful and valuable in his proper Place in Nature; nor have I any wish to 'scare or outrage' any 'class,' by 'rabid flying at anything ¬with a natural or artificial black coat.' These be Irishisms.
"Hoping that your able President ship will long con¬tinue to conduct the affairs of our young society with the unexampled success of the last two years, and believing with you that it is destined to accomplish the great and important objects for which it was established,
"I subscribe myself,
"My dear Hunt,
"Yours very faithfully,
"RICHARD F. BURTON."
When doctors are differing, and the professionally learned are disputing, about the existence or non-existence of a great structural gulf between the black and white races, it behoves the empirical student, in other words the traveller, to record his experience of, and to offer his opinion upon, the workings of the African's mental machinery. By these means we can obtain an à posteriori evidence of difference in mental and moral, and consequently in material, status; and it is only by the comparison of many testimonies that the delicate essence of truth can be evoked.* Before,
* I was not a little amused by a reviewer of "The Lake Regions of Central Africa," in a fifth rate paper, who, after thanking me for my facts, resolutely insisted upon supplanting all my deductions by his own. Writers in the (London) "Times," and the "Saturday Review," enjoy a prescriptive right to "do the thinking" for their readers; but we are apt to recalcitrate when the critical hand of a Methodistico-¬Missionary print arrogates to itself such claim.however, proceeding to the pith and marrow of the matter, a few premisses must be briefly laid down.
Touching the African,* it may be observed that there are in England at least two distinct creeds: 1. That of those who know him; 2. That of those who do not. This may be predicated of most other moot points: in the negro's case, however, the singularity is, that ignorance not knowledge, sentimentality not sense, sway the practical public mind.† Hence, at every division, non knowledge has on its side a majority, and a something inherent in the unthinking looks upon this as a test of truth, when the contrary is more often the case. For all things, true, great, and good form an imposing minority.
Of the two types - the ignorant and the non ignorant -- the former is best exampled by the north of Europe, and pre eminently so by England.‡ The southern
* Used in the sense of negro, concerning which, more presently.
† The affecting appeal, "Am I not a man and a brother?" accom¬panying on the seal of the Anti Slavery Committee a kneeling negro, who, properly speaking, should have been on all fours, has been to Africa what Pope's "Lo, the poor Indian!" has been to Anglo America, -- a power steadily influencing national policy.
‡ The leaders in the "Times" (1859), as quoted by Mr. M'Henry
nations, for instance the Spaniard, without even looking upon the negro as his equal, and convinced of his own superiority, endeavours to raise his congener in the scale of creation, and is not irritated by failure because he is prepared for it.* With us the "platform" selected during a rancorous political and property quarrel is still held immutably true. These principles are supported by the actives, the philanthropic few, between whom and Good Sense runs a broad line of demarcation, and by those personally interested in keeping up the delusion; and wonderful is the effect of English atmosphere upon unpopular ideas imported from abroad. The passives are the many listeners. To this supreme ignorance I must attribute the general failure of English missionary enterprise in Africa, and to a great extent the late lamentable occurrences, in which conversion has ended with "killing no murder." It is not a little instructive to see the effect of Africa upon the exceptional philan¬thropist - as a rule, he so loves all men, himself in
("The Cotton Trade," pp. 68, 75), ought to bring some knowledge to a "public": seemingly they have not.
* "The Spaniards and Portuguese treat their slaves in every respect better than the African slave merchants; and I know, from personal inquiry, that none of M. de Suza's slaves would accept their liberty from choice." (Mr. Duncan, Vol. I. p. 114).
cluded, that he avoids the land as a pestilence. When visiting the "Dark Continent," he finds those living amongst negroes all convinced of the African's absolute inferiority; he resists the evil influence as long as his nature permits, and he lapses usually into the extreme contrary to that with which he commenced. He begins by treating his blacks as men and brethren, he ends, perhaps, with cruelty to them; whilst he has secured their contempt by degrading himself to their level in attempting to raise them to his own.
To the home bred Englishman, who has no personal experience of the African, I would oppose the Anglo-Am¬erican. The Northerner and the Canadian see, it is true, the negro in that debased state to which his race is condemned by climate above the Missouri Compromi¬se Line.* Beginning in Pennsylvania, the Abolitionist traded his slaves down south - not liberated them - because they were not worth their hire. But he has ever kept those who live under his protectio¬n in their proper position, distinct from himself, in
* In N. Lat. 36° 30' a moral tropic, a boundary between free labour and slave labour, laid down by the hand of Nature herself.
the church as in the omnibus, whilst none but the ex¬tremest sectarians would admit them to the family circle, or marry daughters to them. On the other hand, the Southerner knows the African, and is known to him; hence in Africa he manages the negro better than other white men.* As a boy he has a black nurse and sable foster brother, and in after years he is con¬nected with the "chattels" by the tie of a common in¬terest. He laments the existence of slavery, but he finds himself fast bound to it by the law of self preservation. Having wandered through every State of the Anglo American Republic, I can safely assert that in none of the richest, namely, the centres of cotton, tobacco, and sugar, is white labour possible. If this be true, surely the Abolitionist should qualify himself by six months' work in Louisiana and the negrophile by a year of "Wandering in West Africa," before they venture upon their peculiar statements. "The South" is between the horns of the dilemma, slavery or ruin, and she necessarily prefers the former. That emancipated negroes will work willingly in genial tropical climates,
* Thus the Northerner as an overseer is notably more impatient with, and cruel to, the slaves than a Southerner.
where life is so easily supported, contradicts all our experience of the race; and after seeing the black in many parts of Africa, under his own rule, and under that of foreigners, French and English, Spanish and Portuguese, I am convinced that the serfs of a Southern plantation would not change lots with their free brethren.
Returning to public opinion at home touching the negro, we find in its present transitional state four popular errors, which are amply sufficient to confuse the whole subject.
The first, and the front of offence, is the confusion of the mixed and the mulatto with the full blooded negro. By the latter word I understand the various tribes of intertropical Africa, unmixed with European or Asiatic blood.* In Anglo America the least African taint
* In our popular works - treasuries of error - every one born in Africa is "a negro." Thus "God's Image in Ebony" (London, Partr idge and Oakley), offers in two pages (93, 94), as "convincing proofs that the negro is morally and intellectually as well as physically the equal of the white man," the following jumble of instances: Minerva (a negro princess!), Origen and Athanasius (Alexandrian), Tertullian, Augustine (Numidian), Alexandrinus and Cyril (Moors), Arius (Cyreniac and Semitic speaking), Hannibal (a Phœnician), and Terence (a Roman). Messrs. Adams, Cherson, and Armistead should learn their ethnological alphabet before quoting these as "negro representatives of
makes a man a "negro." Messrs. Nott and Gliddon -- ¬to whom Dr. Waitz has done scanty justice - were, methinks, justified in asserting that a few drops of the purer ichor produce a decided modification in the moral and physical character of the black. Had the Slave States manumitted and deported their mulattos, the present state of things might not have been. In Southern America, also, the mongrel is the canker of society and of political life. In England, every frothy spouter of hackneyed phrases, though he begins by owning to a mixture of race which, whilst subordi¬nating him to his father in intellect, and, not unfre¬quently, in physique, to his mother,* still enables him to distance his indigenous half brothers, is hearkened to as a dingy Daniel come to judgment - "a logical bomb falling amongst the Pandits" - a standing and a talking proof that the mulatto's maternal is equal, if not superior, to his paternal family. When I see such a mongrel, who everywhere hates both the purer races
science, learning, religion, war, and poetry." The Abbé Gregoire's examples are mostly mulattos, as Christophe and Dessalines. The oft-¬quoted Mr. ex President Roberts, of Liberia, is an octaroon.
* The older theory was, that in such mules the mother blood pre¬dominates (Estwick, History of Jamaica). But this is, to say the least, doubtful.
from which he sprang, stand up, backed, probably, by a philanthropic and fighting Quaker, before a learned society, ere his lips open it is known to me what parrot talk he will emit. Cicero, writing to Atticus, deemed the ancient Britons (with whom the modern English have little in common) too stupid for slavery (decidedly a compliment, according to our ideas).* The white man is not looked upon as a superior being in Black land† (the speaker well knowing that his sole merit at home in Africa is the title of "oibo dudu," or "white black"); that there are "full blooded Negroes" who have risen to distinction (quoting a few exceptions, who are not full blooded, to prove the rule), and that Paul's Epistle to Philemon (merely recommending, on ground of his conversion, the manumission of a fugitive) was concerning a "servant" (of δοΰλος, I need hardly say, he had never heard). He will probably "bring
* To my astonishment I have heard this threadbare fallacy quoted in all simplicity by Mr. Charles Sumner, the Massachusetts Abolitionist. The Britons' inaptitude to learn music and other accomplishments may still be traced in their purest descendants.
† In Africa, as in India, the aristocracy of the skin, as the French deputy tauntingly called it, or the "prejudice of colour" as the modern phrase runs, is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual difference. One of Mr. Prichard's few good generalisations is, that as a rule the darker and dingier the African tribe, the more degraded is its organization.
down the house" with something of Cowper's wishy¬ washy sentimentality, as,
Fleecy locks and black complexion,*
Cannot alter Nature's claim;
Skins may differ, but affection
Dwells in white and black the same."†
And the herd at Newcastle - how deep their studies! how extensive their experience! - will hiss a counter¬statement, and go home convinced that they have been listening to a speech by a highly intellectual negro, when the oft repeated cant is doled out from memory by a white man with a "dash of the tar brush!"
* The purely melanous complexion is rare in Africa, where, more¬over, it is generally admired. The fetor is more conclusive as a test than the colour of the skin. There is no exception to the rule of smell.
† Which I deny. Affection, like love, is the fruit of animalism refined by sentiment. The old travellers knew better than the poet. "Here paternal affections and filial love hardly exist," says the History. So Bosman declares of the Gold Coast, "The mother gives the infant suck for two or three years; which over, and they able to go, it is then 'Turn out, brutes!'" An absorbing egotism is the necessary rule of savage and barbarous humanity, and society must have made great progress before a man can think of his neighbour's interests and live. Hence the old author asserted of the negroes, "They are insensible to grief and want, sing till they die, and dance into their graves." Mr. Duncan (vol. ii. p. 79) says, "Not even the appearance of affection exists between husband and wife, or between parents and children. So little do they care for their offspring, that many offered to sell me one of their sons or daughters as slaves. They are, to speak the truth, in point of parental affection, inferior to brutes." But why multiply quotations?
The second error is the confusion of the negroid, the Semiticised, or the noble African,* with the ignoble pure negro. This is a more venial blunder than the first, because ethnological knowledge is requisite to draw the distinction; but its effects are even worse. The traveller is ever falling into this pit, and the mass of observers is as yet hardly aware of the distinction. Of the alphabet invented by the Vai or Vahie - a race cognate with the Mandenga and cognisant of the Koran - Commander Forbes (Vol. I. p. 200) remarks, "How far we must have mistaken the African's constitution!" Mr. Winwood Reade proposes to apply the term "negro" to the maritime races, and "African" to those of the interior but in the central continent there are tribes as purely negro as on the coast. Others would assume 10º N. lat., and the same line south of the equator, as the boundaries of the race; in the interior, however, it crosses both these limits, nor has any frontier been traced by travellers. As I have said, the fetor is the grand discrimen; thus we distinguish the Somali Semite and free man from his slave neigh bour, the Kisawahili, and the Asiatic Malagash from the negro Johanna man, who will call himself an
* Arab, Moorish, Abyssinian, Egyptian, Nubian, and Berber.
offset from the noble Arabian Kuraysh. By not attending to this distinction between nobles and ignobles, the Moor of Venice has been represented as a "nigger." When such men as Touissant l'Ouverture* ("The Opener") are quoted as "full blooded blacks," I must discover, before assenting to that proposition, what was their descent. They might be of Hausa, or other Semiticised blood; and this would be confounding Norman with Saxon. The negroid has taken a long step in the way of progress; for the Arab and the negro, as might be expected, combine better than the European and the black.† El Islam, by forbidding impure meats and spirituous liquors,‡ by enjoining ablutions and decent dress, and by discouraging monogamy and polyandry, has improved the African's physique, and through it, by inevitable sequence, his morale.
* His true race seems to be unknown.
† The worst melange is perhaps the Anglo Saxon and the negro. As in India, the French succeed better; there is a naïveté and coquetry in the Gallic half caste which are unknown to our homely and unattrac¬tive "Cheechees."
‡ Africans, like the lower Asiatics, ever drink to excess: "a glass or two" is a thing unknown to them. Consequently, rum has done more harm for them than the slave ship. As there is a perspective in crime, making the farthest appear the smallest, so, as the world progresses, the present acts of honest men, such as selling spirits, weapons, and ammunition to savages, will be looked upon by their grandsons as the "sum of all villanies."
It is a cognate and a congenial civilisation, not one imported from 1500 miles of latitude, and sitting grotesquely upon the black mind, as the accompanying vestments upon the sable body both being made conte¬mptible by the contrast of what is and what ought to be. The pure negro does not exist in septentrional or in Southern Africa. North of the Sahara men are more Semitic than Hamitic,* and resemble the peoples of Southern Europe more than they do the typical negro. I have elsewhere given reasons for suspecting in the great Kafir family a considerable mixture of Arab, Persian, and other Asiatic blood.
The third fallacy is that Europe, and especially England, were the means of introducing slavery into, or, at least, of increasing it in Africa, with a corollary -- ever maintained by a missionary interest, crying "Give! Give! Give!" - that the empire must expiate the delicta majorum by spending money.† It requires
* These are poor words for ethnologists, but intelligible. I use Hamitic for pure African or negro, Semitic for the Arab, and Japhetic for the Aryan, or Indo European race.
† In 1561 (the date of Sir John Hawkins' first slave voyage), England took the first of three commercial steps that raised her to her present grandeur. A charter was presently granted by Queen Eliza¬beth, who became a large shareholder, and the live produce of Africa threw 500 millions sterling into the national purse. In 1756, after the extremest illiterateness to hold such tenets. Slavery was a rule in the days of Abraham. Ezekiel (xxvii. 13) mentions "trading the persons of men" in the markets of Tyrus; and of the later classics there is not an author, from Juvenal to (Periplus) Arrian, who does not allude to it. The more we explore the African interior, and discover great races beyond the range of the white man, the more confirmed and complete is the system of serfdom and thraldom. The true African saying concerning the servile is, "Once a slave for ever a slave." And, as has been shown, the races that believe in another world, will not manumit their bondsmen even there.
The fourth delusion is that the African vends his wife - as does the Anglais in France - and his family. This is an effect of sensational oratory rather than of authority: all travellers have carefully contra¬dicted the assertion. The accurate Bosman (1698) says: "Not a few in our country fondly imagine that parents here sell their children, men their wives, and
the success of Clive, the profits of India became the "soil and crops of England." In 1800 began that enormous importation of American cotton (the first few pounds were shipped in 1784), which formed the third and culminating commercial speculation. - "The Cotton Trade," by George M'Henry. London: Saunders, Otley & Co., 1863.
brother the other; but those who think so deceive them selves, for this never happens on any other account than that of necessity or some great crime; but most of the slaves that are offered to us are prisoners of war, which are sold by the victors as their booty." The learned Barbot (book iv. chap. 1) declares that whilst the Slavonians traded with their progeny, in Africa the sale of children, wives, and relatives, "if it ever happens, is so seldom that it cannot be justly charged upon a whole nation as a custom and common practice." Commander Forbes (vol. i. p. 146) expressly asserts that "the laws of Dahomey forbid such an unnatural sale of human beings," which he seems to have found on the south western coast. The few exceptions would be considered vile by their neighbour tribes, and even they rarely part with their own blood except in dire distress or famine. I have seen the same thing done in Sindh and in Western India.* As it is, the exported are almost invariably of two kinds -- criminals
* Not to mention children sold in England as sweeps. So on December 5, 1701, Alexander Steuart, found guilty at Perth of theft, was gifted by the Justiciary, instead of being killed, to Sir John Areskin, of Alva. Cromwell sold 3000 soldiers from Drogheda to the West India planters, much as the Pacha of Egypt has lately sold a regiment or two to France.
and war captives; converted into cash when not wanted for the Customs. The absolute prevention of slave export is a very mitigated benefit - if, indeed, it be any - to the African slave; and our humanity has often acted, like sparrow clubs, in strengthening a worse plague. The History informs us that Agaja the Great, after "breaking" Whydah, slew 4000 men. Shortly afterwards, however, having taken 1800 prisoners from a nation that had offended him even more, "he con¬tented his priests with 400 of them, ships being then in the road, when he could turn the remainder to profit." And we have this excellent advice: "It is enough to show through our history that avarice can sheathe the knife even of superstition, and that her incitements to slaughter, powerful as they may be, are confined within narrow limits when self interest waits upon lenity."
I now proceed to offer the reader the result of my actual experience of the negro character. The convic¬tion that others, as competent to judge as myself, will join issue with me, is an inducement to proceed, in the hopes that truth may be elicited: whilst the suspicion that my statements will be far from popular, makes me look forward to the day when they will be.
The pure negro ranks in the human family below the two great Arab and Aryan races. In Asia he is prized as a slave for hard work; as a servant he is coarse handed, pilfering, shameless, and with much of the frowardness of a baboon. No one thinks of him a freeman; and he, "hereditary bondsman," never dreams of liberty, because no one suggests to him the idea.
The impermanency of the half breed, and the fre¬quency of sterile marriages amongst mulattos, show an approach to specific difference* between the white and black races furthest removed in climate and civili¬sation.
The negro's brain, in which Burmeister and other
* Mr. Long (History of Jamaica) has testified to the frequent infecun¬dity, and the limited prolificacy of the male and female mulatto. Geoffroy and Nott dwelt upon the sterility of mulattos, whilst Serres and others have asserted that the children of a white woman by a negro are rarely viable. Dr. Seemann observed at Panama, and in South America, that the European and the negro were not unlimitedly productive -- rarely passing the second cross. Buffon defined species to be "succession constante d'individus semblables et qui se reproduisent." Hunter's criterion is, that the parents should produce an offspring equally prolific with themselves, whereas hybrids are incapable of perpetu¬ating the breed. This fertility test was widely recognised. Cuvier, followed by Prichard, defined species to include separate origin (how proved?) and constant transmission of organic peculiarities. Judged from this view point, the negro is a sub species or permanent variety of the genus homo.
physiologists found the convolutions less numerous and more massive than in the European, is, to judge from its action, weak - a very little learning addles it. Even the Islamised Somal hold those that read and write to be less than men, because their heads are good for nothing else.
One of the principal negro characteristics is his truly savage want of veneration for God or man; - hence, the expressions which we should deem blasphemous in his wild state, and the peculiar tone of his prayer, commanding rather than supplicating, which distin¬guishes him in his semi civilisation.
In the negro the propensities and passions are tole¬rably well grown, the perceptives and reflectives are of inferior power, and the sentimental or moral regions remain almost undeveloped. This is apparently the rule of savage and barbarous races. His memory is mostly like that of the Australian - powerless, except in matters touching his self interest. His face is an index to his mind. The circumoral region is prodi¬giously developed. The lower brow, where the per¬ceptives are placed by phrenologists, denotes culture; the upper forehead and the vertex of the cranium are weak, retreating, and flattened.
The extremes of climate and the pitiless fecundity of Nature have bound down the negro to the completely material. In this point he contrasts greatly with the Hindu, in whom imagination, outrunning intellect, deg¬enerates into licence, and whose superabundance of reverence oppresses inquiry.
The negro is still at the rude dawn of faith -- fe¬tishism - and he has barely advanced to idolatry, the effect of deficient constructiveness.* He has never grasped the ideas of a personal Deity, a duty in life, a moral code, or a shame of lying. He rarely believes in a future state of rewards and punishments, which, whether true or not, are infallible indices of human progress.
The negro is, for the most part, a born servile -- not a servant.† As has been said, in Dahome and Benin all the subjects are literally the king's property. We
* The organ, not the bump.
† So in Anglo America every stranger has remarked that whilst the negro invariably chooses personal service, the American Indian, shrink¬ing from it with loathing, affords hardly a single instance. In Africa, however, he has a good time of it. The author of "The Niger Expedition" (vol. i. p. 398), justly remarks that "domestic slavery in the negro's native land is not more irksome than servitude in ours" - he might safely have said more. And it must be remembered, as Mungo Park stated in the last century, that paid service is unknown to the negro. Indeed, African languages ignore the word.
cannot, therefore, apply to him the Homeric statement that
Makes man a slave takes half his worth away."
The negro will obey a white man more readily than a mulatto, and a mulatto rather than one of his own colour.* He never thinks of claiming equality with the Aryan race, except when taught. At Whydah the French missionaries remark that their scholars always translate "white and black" by "master and slave." And he readily submits to the iron hand.
The negro has an instinctive and unreasoning aversion to increasing population,† without which there can be no progress. A veritable Malthusian, he has a variety of traditions justifying infanticide, ordeal, and sacrifice, as if, instead of being a polygamist, he were a polyandrian.
The so called civilisation of the negro is from with-
* It is not a little instructive to see the Southern slaves of Anglo¬-America, fighting as lustily for slavery as their Northern brethren are contending for liberty, and the more especially so after the dreadful pictures of plunder, rape, and murder drawn upon imagination in Europe, and devoutly expected by the good people of England, until hard facts have forced open their eyes.
† I speak of the people generally, not individually. Personally, each man desires children, and yet he is of opinion that propagation injures his tribe or nation.
out; he cannot find it within, and he has not the latent mental capacities ascribed to him by the philanthrops. As an adult he is the victim of imitation, the surest sign of deference; he freely accepts foreign customs, manners, and costumes, however incongruous.
The negro, as a rule, despises agriculture, so highly venerated by the Asiatics, Chaldæans, Chinese, Israel¬ites, and Persians, and recognised since the days of Aristotle as the most important of all the sciences. If it flourished amongst the Egyptians, Carthaginians, and Abyssinians, the battle horses of negromaniacs, these were Semitico Hamites, the noble blood of Africa. His highest ambition is to be a petty trader, whilst his thick skull, broad bones, and cold porous leathery skin, point him out as a born "hewer of wood and drawer of water."
The cruelty of the negro is, like that of a schoolboy,* the blind impulse of rage combined with want of sym¬pathy. Thus he thoughtlessly tortures and slays his prisoners, as the youth of England torment and kill cats. He fails in the domestication of the lower animals, because he is deficient in forbearance with them:
* A sensible French missioner uses the phrase "Les noirs, qui sont à peine aux blancs ce que sont les enfants aux hommes."
in a short time his violence will permanently ruin the temper of a horse; and he will starve to death the English dog, for which perhaps he has paid a high price.*
The negro has never invented an alphabet, a musical scale, or any other element of knowledge. Music and dancing, his passions, are, as arts, still in embryo. He cultivates oratory; and so do all barbarians. He is eternally singing, but he has no idea of poetry.† His painting and statuary are, like his person, ungraceful and grotesque; whilst his art, like his mind, is arrested by the hand of Nature. His year is a rainy season; his moons have no names; and of an hour he has not the remotest conception. His technology con¬sists of weaving, cutting canoes, making rude weapons, and in some places practising a rough metallurgy.
* Amongst the traders of the Bight of Biafra there are, I am glad to say, few men so base as to sell an English dog to a negro king or chief; and were a man to do so, he would be loudly blamed by his fellows.
† In Ffon there is a rude kind of assonance, e.g.: --
So nun ajilá: Agbanji ajodisá.
Take a thing and show it: on the counter 'twill be sold.
Which Commander Forbes (vol. ii. p. 100), writes with a wondrous waste of "r's."
So wae re jar,
Ah jorgee sar.
The negro, in mass, will not improve beyond a cer¬tain point, and that not respectable; he mentally remains a child, and is never capable of a generalisation. Man's character is everywhere, to some extent, the gift of climate. The tropics engender but few wants, exercise is more painful than pleasant, therefore there is little work. Our transition state in Europe has at least this consolation, that we can look forward to a permanent improvement in type; to stocking the world with a higher order of man. But in Africa, before progress can be general, it appears that the negro must become extinct by being absorbed into the negroid.*
The negro is nowhere worse than at home, where he is a curious mixture of cowardice and ferocity. With the barbarous dread and horror of death, he delights in the torments and the destruction of others, and with more than the usual savage timidity, his highest boast
* Anti slavery writers claim a concession, that if one negro has shown a character identical with that of the white man, the two families must be specifically the same: and they quote a few "living witnesses," some of whom are so white as hardly to be distinguished from the superior race: others, Mandengas, Joloffs and Hausas. But these may be numbered on a man's fingers out of many a million, and we must not found a law upon exceptions. On the other hand, those who hold the specific difference of the negro, admit of no exceptionary instances. I believe in the inferior genesis of the negro, and in his incapability of improvement, in¬dividually and en masse.
is that of heroism.* He is nought but self; he lacks even the rude virtue of hospitality, and ever, as Com¬mander Forbes has it, he "baits with a sprat to catch a mackerel."
The negro, in his wild state, makes his wives work;† he will not, or rather he cannot, labour, except by individual compulsion, as in the Confederate States; or by necessity, as in the Barbadoes. When so compelled, he labours well, and he becomes civilised and humanised to the extent of his small powers. When not com¬pelled, as S'a Leone and Jamaica prove, he becomes degraded, debauched, and depraved.‡ I conclude, therefore, with Franklin the philosopher, that the negro is still, as he has been for the last 4000 years, best when "held to labour" by better and wiser men than himself.
The removal of the negro from Africa is like sending
* The learned and acute Dr. Pruner Bey asserts, "The negro has no love for war; he is only driven to it by hunger. War, from passion, or destructiveness, is unknown to him." My personal experience has ever found destructiveness highly developed in the negro's character.
† Barbot (Book iv. chap. 5) says of Benin: "But the female sex is there, in a most peculiar way, so brisk, jolly, and withal so laborious, that they despatch all their work very fast, and with a seeming pleasure and satisfaction."
‡ Of the Sierra Leone people at Whydah, now extinct, see Mr. Duncan (Vol. I p. 139).
a boy to school; it is his only chance of improvement, of learning that there is something more in life than drumming and dancing, talking and singing, drinking and killing. After a time, colonists returned to Africa may exert upon the continent an effect for which we have as yet vainly looked.
These last two items state merely bald facts, what¬ever be the deductions from them. They by no means involve recognising the abstract lawfulness of slavery, or the right of one human being to possess and sell another. It is quite a different question to "defend the employment of the negroes, as domestic working animals, by higher organised beings called men." Still less do they affect to justify the horrors of slave driving, and of slave transporting, together with the permanent injury to the African continent, which the modern pro¬-slavery writers that have of late cropped up, slur over or ignore.*
It must be remembered, however, that almost all races have had, in religion and policy, human sacrifice and servitude; that the latter is the first step taken
* I allude more particularly to a pamphlet called "The Slavery Quarrel, &c.," by a Poor Peacemaker. London: Robert Hardwicke, 1863. It is a specimen of what is to come.
by human society, and that without it no people, from the Jews to the Brazilians, has ever risen above mere savagery. This great principle is not eliminated from the earlier acts of the social drama, till the hereditary bondsman has acquired power to free himself. The stage following slavery is the begar corvée or com¬pulsory labour - and this co exists with the highest known refinement. An Act of Parliament in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, compelled married women till thirty and spinsters till forty, to do service to the country, if they bad no other visible means of living. We im¬prison, punish, and compel to labour our beggars and vagabonds, even if they fail to prove how they subsist. We compel our children to attend schools; and, until lately, we have flogged youths of fourteen and fifteen who are to the full as intellectual as the child man negro; and the son of a king in England is not, until twenty one years old, as politically free as the Anglo-¬African of S'a Leone. I see no objection to render liberated labour forcible* until the African race is edu¬cated for wages, and such habits are not learned in a day.
* Even in 1845, Mr. Duncan (Vol. I. p. 115), was bold enough to advocate the "free transportation of slaves from the coast of Africa."
Nations are poor judges of one another; each looks upon itself as an exemplar to the world, and vents its philanthropy by forcing its infallible system or systems upon its neighbour. How long is it since popular literature has began to confess that the British Constitution is not quite fit for the whole human race, and that the Anglo Saxon has much to do at home before he sets out a colonelling to regenerate mankind? Not later than 1849, the "inevitable conclusion" went forth that "African commerce and African civilisation must be entrusted exclusively to men of African birth."*
Africa's great present want is an organised system of bonâ fide emigration. Doubtless the experiment which lately has failed, with a disgrace equalling the coolie trade from Assam and Cachar in 1861 2, is full of difficulty. But as time runs on there will be no reason why it should not succeed, and become one of the national regenerators.
* "The Negro Trade," by Sir George Stephen: the offensive tone of this pamphlet arises from its having been written for a "Review." Long before its day, Messrs. Buxton and MacQueen declared that "it is by African hands and African exertions, chiefly, that the evil [slave trade] must be destroyed." I know only one part of the outer West African coast which is at present perfectly free from the export, and that is the Bight of Biafra, which certainly was cleared by English hands and English exertions.
The opinions of Dahome touching slave export, are those learned from us in the seventeenth century, when England fought for the monopoly. They cannot master the change of sentiments in the nineteenth century, when the prized privilege is denounced as a sin, - a crime, - a causa belli, - the "sum of all villanies." I am induced to quote in its entirety the fourteenth chapter of the History, which may enlighten many upon the true state of things in Dahome.* The King, it will be observed, expresses himself with shrewdness, and even with wisdom; but in these lands the rulers are mostly a century in advance of their subjects:†
* Adahoonzou the Second's (Sinmenkpen) speech upon hearing what had passed in England upon the subject of the slave trade. (See note at the end of this chapter.) The most important part of it is confirmed by Dr. M'Leod (p. 65), who states: "The perform¬ance of the annual sacrifice is considered a duty so sacred, that no allurement in the way of gain - no additional price which the white traders can offer for slaves, - will induce the King to spare even a single victim of the established number; and he is equally inexorable with respect to the chiefs of his enemies, who are never, on any account, permitted to live if they fall into his hands."
† When King Gezo was lectured by Mr. Duncan upon the cruelty of slave exportation, the latter, to illustrate the barbarity of separating children from their parents, "pointed out a she goat with two kids, and asked him, if one were taken away, whether the young would not show symptoms of regret as well as the mother. At this be laughed heartily, but remarked that the he goat, the father of the kids referred to, would feel quite indifferent." Mr. Duncan could not help smiling in return, when the King touched his forehead with his fingers, saying, "English
nor is there any deficiency of cunning in the words of the present monarch to Commodore Wilmot (Appendix III). His polite expression, "I will abolish slave trade, and gladly, but give me another and a better traffic," merely means that Dahome will never cease selling her captives and criminals till she can employ them more profitably. And it must be owned, that her system of dealing with offenders contrasts favour¬ably in simplicity and in economy with ours.
The institution honnie, however, is one of the causes of Dahoman decline. This negro race cannot, I have said, render conquests a source of aggrandizement: they make war to lay waste, capture and. destroy, and the present king prefers two slave hunts to his father's one per annum.
At Whydah, in 1694, we are told that the price of a good "Kanumo" or slave was equal to ₤3 15s. in goods; "Mackrons," or unmerchantable articles, not being accepted. The price is now, including the Custom
man wonderful and a good man." Probably, the royal cynic meant this compliment much as the "good young man signifies in the mouth of a fast young "party." Mr. Duncan, however, rightly says of Gezo, as compared with the mob, "The King possesses talent far beyond the generality of his subjects; in fact, his noble mind seems to have been formed to govern."
House fee, ₤16 16s., and the chattel is not so sound. The annual number exported from Dahome cannot be higher than 15,000, which represents a paltry sum of ₤250,000.
Were it not for the southward progress of El Islam, the slow and silent, but sure advance of the Perfect Cure, the future of negro Africa would not be bright. The experience of three centuries teaches us, that as a rule the tropical continent cannot be colonised by Europeans. We have also learned that hitherto mari¬time intercourse with its aqua mortis and bouches à feu has done nothing but degenerate the native, and that until the long day when the Guinea Commanders -- of whom bluff old Phillips wrote, "their words and promises are the last to be depended upon of any I know use the sea; for they would deceive their fathers in their trade if they could" - shall become "virtuous," such will continue to be the result. The much talked of "reflux of the West upon the East" has yet to begin doing good: hitherto, as a rule, the semi civilized negroes, like the S'a Leone people at Abeokuta, when restored to old influences have proved themselves worse than the heathenry. They have almost to a man displayed the blackest and most odious form of ingratitude, that
which does not merely ignore benefits conferred, but which bitterly hates the benefactor for having conferred them. It is a generation of vipers that found its way from the Red Grave to Lagos and Undestone.
N O T E.
As a proof that Adahoonzou was not at a loss for arguments to defend the conduct of himself and his predecessors, when necessary, we shall close that prince's history with the heads of a speech made by him upon an occasion which is about to be taken notice of, and which took up two hours in the delivery, for the Dahomans are extremely verbose.* Governor† Abson having taken an opportunity of communicating to Adahoonzou some of the particulars respecting the slave trade, which had become the subject of conversation and parliamentary inquiry in this country; and having carried with him some of the pamphlets for and against the abolition of that traffic, which he read to him, in
* If Mr. Abson supposes long speeches are confined to Europe and Africa he is mistaken: the Brazilians were famous for this species of rhetoric long ago. When they wished to excite their people to war, their Eldermen, from their hammocks, harangued their auditors on the virtues and wrongs of their ancestors for six hours together. - "Purchas Pilgrims," 1036. [sic]
† The present Governor of Williams Fort, who has resided there since 1766, and is well acquainted with the language.
Adahoonzou's native language, the King listened with great attention, and though business several times broke in upon the narration, still requested Mr. Abson, after every interruption, to proceed. When the whole was finished, the King spoke as follows: -
"I admire the reasoning of the white men, but with all their sense it does not appear that they have thoroughly studied the nature of the blacks, whose disposition differs as much from that of the whites as their colour. The same great Being formed both; and since it hath seemed convenient for Him to distinguish mankind by opposite complexions, it is a fair conclusion to presume that there may be as great a disagreement in the qualities of their minds. There is likewise a remarkable difference between the countries which we inhabit. You Englishmen, for instance, as I have been informed, are surrounded by the ocean, and, by this situation, seem intended to hold communication with the whole world, which you do by means of your ships; whilst we Daho¬mans, being placed on a large continent, and hemmed in amidst a variety of other people, of the same complexion, but speaking different languages, are obliged, by sharpness of our swords, to defend ourselves from their incursions, and punish the depreda¬tions they make on us. Such conduct in them is productive of incessant wars. Your countrymen, therefore, who allege that we go to war for the purpose of supplying your ships with slaves, are grossly mistaken. You think you can work a reformation, as you call it, in the manners of the blacks; but you ought to consider the disproportion between the magnitude of the two countries, and then you would soon be convinced of the difficulties that must be surmounted to change the system of such a vast country as this. We know you are a brave people, and that you might bring over a great many of the blacks to your opinions, by the points of your bayonets; but to effect this, a great many must be put to death, and numerous cruelties must be committed, which we do not find to have been the practice of the whites; besides that, this would militate against the very principle which is pro¬fessed by those who wish to bring about a reformation.
"In the name of my ancestors and myself, I aver that no Dahoman man ever embarked in war merely for the sake of pro¬curing wherewithal to purchase your commodities. I, who have not been long master of this country, have, without thinking of the market, killed many thousands, and I shall kill any thousands more. When policy or justice requires that men be put to death, neither silk, nor coral, nor brandy, nor cowries, can be accepted as substitutes for the blood that ought to be spilt for example' sake. Besides, if white men choose to remain at home, and no longer visit this country for the same purpose that has usually brought them hither, will black men cease to make war? I answer, by no means. And if there be no ships to receive their captives, what will become of them? I answer for you, they will be put to death. Perhaps you may ask, how will the blacks be furnished with guns and powder? I reply by another question: Had we not clubs, and bows and arrows before we knew white men? Did you not see me make Custom for Weebaigah, the third King of Dahome? and did you not observe, on the day such ceremony was performing, that I carried a bow in my hand, and a quiver filled with arrows on my back? These were emblems of the times, when, with such weapons, that brave ancestor fought and conquered all his neighbours. God made war for all the world; and every kingdom, large or small, has practised it more or less, though perhaps in a manner unlike and upon different principles. Did Weebaigah sell slaves? No, his prisoners were all killed to a man! What else could he have done with them? Was he to let them remain in his country, to cut the throats of his subjects? This would have been wretched policy, indeed, which, had it been adopted, the Dahoman name would have been long ago extinguished, instead of becoming, as it is at this day, the terror of surrounding nations. What hurts me most is, that some of your people have maliciously represented us in books, which never die, alleging that we sell our wives and children for the sake of procuring a few kegs of brandy. No, we are shamefully belied; and I hope you will contradict, from my mouth, the scandalous stories that have been propagated, and tell posterity that we have been abused. We do, indeed, sell to the white men a part of our prisoners, and we have a right so to do. Are not all prisoners at the disposal of their captors? and are we to blame if we send delinquents to a far country? I have been told you do the same. If you want no more slaves from us why cannot you be ingenuous, and tell the plain truth, saying that the slaves you have already purchased are sufficient for the country for which you bought them; or that the artists that used to make fine things are all dead, without having taught anybody to make more? But for a parcel of men with long heads to sit down in England, and frame laws for us, and pretend to dictate how we are to live, of whom they know nothing - never having been in a black man's country during the whole course of their lives - is to me somewhat extraordinary. No doubt they must have been biassed by the report of some one who has had to do with us; who, for want of a true knowledge of the treatment of slaves, found that they died on his hands, and that his money was lost; and seeing others thrive by the traffic, he, envious of their good luck, has vilified both black and white traders.
"You have seen me kill many men at the Customs, and you often observed delinquents at Grigwee, and others of my pro¬vinces, tied and sent up to me - I kill them; but do I ever insist on being paid for them? Some heads I order to be placed at my door; others to be strewed about the market place, that people may stumble on them when they little expect such a sight. This gives a grandeur to my Customs, far beyond the display of fine things which I buy. This makes my enemies fear me, and gives me such a name in the bush.* Besides, if I should neglect this indispensable duty, would my ancestors suffer me to live? Would they not trouble me day and night, and say that I sent nobody to
* The country expression for the woods.
serve them; that I was only solicitous about my own name, and forgetful of my ancestors? White men are not acquainted with these circumstances; but I now tell you that you may hear, and know and inform your countrymen why Customs are made, and will be made, as long as black men continue to possess their own country. The few that can be spared from this necessary celebration, we sell to the white men. And happy, no doubt, are such, when they find themselves on the path for Grigwee, to be disposed of to the Europeans. 'We shall still drink water,'* say they to themselves; 'white men will not kill us, and we may even avoid punishment, by serving our new masters with fidelity.'"
"All this and much more to the same purpose," adds Mr. Abson, "was said by the Dahoman monarch, in my presence, however incredible it may appear in England;" and I can see no reason to doubt it, unless we suppose that common sense is confined within narrower limits than experience shows it to be.
* Meaning "We shall still live."
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