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CH A P. II,
CHARACTER AND DISPOSITION OF THE AFRICANS,
IVIL and religious government is allowed to be the Govern
principal cause which affects (and even forms) the form national characters of nations. Climate, diet, occupation, and a variety of other less considerable causes contribute their share to the general effect. It is not, however, by abstract reasonings alone, on the separate or combined influence of those causes that the character of a nation can be ascertained; but actual observations on their genius and conduct must also be attended to. Such observations cannot be too numerous; nor can general conclusions be too cautiously drawn from them.
12. That this important moral balance may be struck Misrepresentwith perfect impartiality, the observer ought to dismiss character of every prejudice, and to leave his mind open to a full and the Africans. fair impression of all the circumstances. Every well disposed man will allow the necessity of such procedure, who knows how grossly the very people of whom we are treating, have been misrepresented by those who first made merchandize of their persons, and then endeavoured, by calumny, to justify their own conduct towards them. The accounts of African governors and other slave merchants, have been but too implicity followed by authors of no small note, who never were in Africa, and who did not suspect that the writers they quoted were interested in misleading
CH A P. them. Hence it is to be feared, that many well meaning
persons have been led to believe that the Africans are so insensible as not to feel their ill treatment, or so wicked as not to deserve better; and have therefore, without farther examination, left them to what they think a merited fate.
13. The author, aware of the disficulty of this part of his subject, has all along laboured to observe as minutely and extensively, and to judge as impartially, as he could. But, after all his diligence, he is only able to offer some short and imperfect sketches. Imperfect, however, as they are,
he is conscious they are faithfully copied from the original. Civilized na 14. He believes every man, who has made it his business ed by reafon, to compare the conduct of civilized and uncivilized nations, uncivilized by passions.
will admit that the former are governed by reason, and the latter by their will and affections, or what are commonly called their passions-or at least that, upon the whole, reason influences mankind in proportion as they are civilized.
This observation may be applied very appositely to the Africans. Their understandings have not been nearly so much cultivated as those of the Europeans; but their passions, both defensive and social, are much stronger. No people are more sensible of disrespect, contempt, or injury, or more prompt and violent in resenting them. They are also apt to retain a sense of injury, till they obtain satisfaction, or gratify revenge. In this they resemble other imperfectly civilized tribes, and even the more refined Europeans, in whom that benevolent religion, which teaches forgiveness of enemics, has not yet produced it's full elet. For was not satisfaction to offended honour; that is, was not a certain mode of revenge a distinguishing part of the system of chivalry? And do not our modern duelists, the polite successors of the ancient knights, still cherish a prin
ple which they will not allow to be called revenge; but for C HA P. which sober people cannot find a better name ? Revenge causes wars in Africa : and are there no symptoms of its producing wars in Europe? But African wars are never protracted, with cold blooded perseverance, to the length of the fiege of Troy; nor is peace ever negociated with a view to future wars.
The Africans have no particular tortures in reserve for their prisoners, like the North American Indians; nor do they ever devour them, like the natives of New Zealand.
16. But if they be charged with hatred to their enemies, kindness to their friends ought, in candour, to be stated to their credit; and their hospitality to unprotected strangers is liberal, disinterested, and free from ostentation; as I myself and many others have experienced. Their kindness, and respectful attention to white persons, with whose characters they are satisfied, arises to a degréd of partiality which, all things considered, is perfectly surprising. Persons of this description may, and often do, reside among them in perfect security, receiving the best possible proofs of their good will, namely the most pressing solicitations to settle among them. This partiality to well disposed Europeans extends also to their dress, manners, and commodities; in short, to every thing that is European-a disposition which might long ago have been improved to the best purposes.
17. On those parts of the coast and country, where the slave-trade prevails, the inhabitants are shy and reserved, as well they may! and on all occasions go armed, left they should be way-laid and carried off.
18. In maternal, filial, and fraternal affection, I scruple not to pronounce them superior to any. Europeans I ever was
CH A P.
Africans corrupted by the European traders.
among; but, as they practice polygamy, their paternal and conjugal affections
may be supposed less ardent. 19. As many of them have not sufficient employment either for their heads or their hands, they are apt to relieve liflessness by intoxication, when they can procure
the So very successful, indeed, have the European flave-dealers been, in exciting in them a thirst for spirits, that it is now become one of the principal pillars of their trade; for the chiefs, intoxicated by the liquor with which they are purposely bribed by the whites, often make bargains and give orders fatal to their subjects, and which, when fober, they would gladly retract. A desire for spirituous liquors, however, is the failing of all uncivilized people. In particular, it has greatly thinned some American tribes, and almost annihilated others.
20. Their notions and practices respecting property are not moře inaccurate or irregular than those of other men in the same stage of society; as is evident from the general conduct of such of them as are unconnected with this destructive commerce. But those who are, may be expected to be tainted with it's concomitant vices. As the whites practice every fraud upon them, in the quantity and quality of the goods delivered, and in trepanning their persons, the blacks cannot carry on this trade, on equal terms, without resorting to similar practices. As to the injustice, cruelty and rapine which, at the instigation of the whites, they practice on one another, they are not more disgraceful than the well known trades of crimps, and kidnappers, and pressgangs, carried on, without foreign instigation, in several European countries, and even protected, or connived at, by their governments. At the worst, these practices are not so
disgraceful to uncivilized men'as to their civilized, Europe. C HA P. an instigators. Menzel gives a horrid detail of the operations of the Zeelverkoopers, (soul-mongers) of Holland, whose infamous trade it is to trepan men for their East Indian settlements. By such means, the author affirms, that the population of the peftiferous city of Batavia is kept from total exstinction*.
21. Of the infamous arts of the Europeans, and the con- Instance in sequent intoxication and violence of one of the African of an African chiefs, I have had ocular proof. In order to promote the chief. slave-trade, the French governors at Goree send yearly presents to the black kings, who return a gift of slaves. In 1787, I attended an embassy of this kind to the King of Barbesin at Joal, on the coast between Goree and Gambia. That chief having been unwilling to pillage, was kept constantly intoxicated, by the French and mulattoes, till they prevailed on him to issue the dreadful mandate. When sober, he expressed extreme reluctance to harrass his people. He complained that the traders of Goree, after making him trifling presents, came upon him with long accounts, and endless pretensions ; that the governor listened too readily to their tales, thought too little of the sufferings of the negroes, and must have been imposed upon, when he allowed his name to be used on such occasions-An allegation which most probably was true; for the Chevalier de Boufflers then governor, I really believe, was ignorant of these knav. ish proceedings; but, like many other great men, was the dupe of his courtiers. I heard the king more than once hold this language, had it interpreted on the spot, and insert
* Beschreibung von Cape de Bonne Esperance, (Description of the Cape of Good Hope) Vol. I. p. 351, 357, 369. D