Tuesday 19 April 2022

Central Africa : Adventures and missionary labors in several countries in the interior of Africa, from 1849 to 1856

Breaking up of the Slave Trade

Two or three days after my arrival, Badagry was visited by Consul Beecroft, and several naval officers, who were bound for Lagos with a part of the British squadron “ to make a treaty ” with Kosokkoh for the abolition of the slave trade. Kosokkoh, on his part, advised and assisted by several Brazilian and Portuguese slavers, had prepared the articles of the treaty in the form of two or three dozen heavy cannons, with plenty of powder and ball. 

One of the armed steamers and all the gun boats were to sail up the river to Lagos to conduct the negotiation. The ex-king Akitoye was present to sign the ultimatum, and thenceforward to superintend the affairs of Lagos. There was to be no fighting, however, unless Kosokkoh should fire on the English " visitors ; " for they alleged that an unprovoked attack on an African king might give umbrage to the French ; but no one of course could censure the Consul and officers for defending themselves, if fired on when they approached the town, as they intended to do with a white flag. Notwithstanding the diplomatic character of this expedition, I felt considerable desire to accompany it, but was prevented from asking permission to go by two considerations. 

In the first place, I was fearful that I might come to be recognized on this coast as an amateur ; and then I was still more fearful that Lagos would not prove to be quite manageable as the officers expected. They had evidently not reflected that six or eight thousand sturdy natives, backed by a dozen Europeans, and well provided with large and small arms, might happen to defend their houses and wives and children with something like vigor. 

After the ships were gone, I remarked to some of the English in Badagry, " Perhaps it will not be so, and I do not affirm that it will, but I should not be surprised if the English get whipped tomorrow. ” Of course this suggestion was hooted.· Before nine o'clock next morning the negotiation commenced : bang - boom - we had been listening for it some time. “ The English, " said I, " are abolishing the slave trade. ” Presently the conflict deepened. There must have been forty or fifty cannons. They were still thundering away at twelve o'clock, at one, at two ; and by this time I began to feel decidedly uneasy. 

If the negroes had fought so long they would fight to the end the day was lost. And what next ? Why perhaps in due time an overwhelming swarm of furious savages would be in Badagry to take vengeance on the English merchants and missionaries. In such a case, my presence here could be of no advantage to any one else, and it might be very inconvenient to myself. I should think myself happy if I could get far enough the start of the assailants to hide in the swamp among the crocodiles, boa constrictors, leopards and hyenas. 

Or even if there should be no danger at Badagry, the people of Adú and Otta were known to be friends of Kosokkoh, and if I should attempt to pass through their country on the heel of his victory, they would shoot me for an Englishman. The people of Adú had already laid bullets in the road to indicate that no one could pass that way without danger of being shot. 

To remain at Badagry for a month or two after Kosokkoh's victory was intolerable, for I was now ready to proceed to Yoruba, and some of the people there would soon expect to see On the whole, I thought best to beat a precipitate retreat from Badagry, and pass through the Adú bush while the people were still frightened by the roar of the cannon, and ignorant as to the result of the battle. 

After a little delay I found some Egbá acquaintances who were willing to incur the dangers of the road, and we hastened away from Badagry. It was now so late in the day that we were obliged to sleep at Mo village, but the people there were friendly. 

Early next morning the cannonade was renewed at Lagos. Without thinking of the danger to the combatants, I was so selfish as to be glad of this, because it would frighten the people of Adú and Otta, and might deter them from shooting me. Still I had a suspicion that only one party was now firing and that Kosokkoh was rejoicing over his victory. We hurried on. Near to Adú we met a small party of men in the bush, but they passed us in silence. The bullets had been removed from the road. That same day we passed through the Otta country, and breathed freely on Egbá soil. 

Soon after my arrival at Abbeokuta, the news was brought and confirmed that the English had been defeated at Lagos. About thirty days after, however, they returned and, succeeded by hard fighting in driving Kosokkoh and his party from the town. They escaped to the Ijebu country, and continued hostile for about four years, when they made peace with the English and agreed to abandon the slave trade. 

Akitoye was re-installed at Lagos, and he reigned till September, 1853, when he died and left the kingdom to Dósomu, his son.

* "The police station in Otta, about three hundred kilometers from Lagos. Today Otta is within the Lagos metropolitan area" - Pictures from West and Central Africa : The Travels of Carl Passavant (2005)

By Bowen, T.J. (1857)

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