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Mr. Dupuis's work consists, first, of an introductory portion, devoted to a somewhat diffuse account of the various obstacles which were thrown in the way of his mission, on his arrival at Cape Coast Castle, the residence of the then Governor-general of the British colonies on the Gold Coast. Any detail of the intrigues and misunderstandings which are attempted (not very successfully) to be developed in this portion of the work, would not be interesting to our readers. Suffice it, that after more than a twelvemonth's delay, partly occasioned by illness and partly by the circumstances alluded to above, Mr. Dupuis, on the 9th of February 1820, departs on his mission; the whole details of which, and of its return on the 24th of March following, are included in the next six chapters; which may, therefore, be considered as the main body of the work, and to which we shall almost exclusively direct our readers' attention.
The subsequent portions consist of a sketch of the events which have happened since Mr. Dupuis's mission ; a chapter of historical memoirs of the kingdom of Ashantee; and finally, numerous geographical details connected with the whole of Western Africa.
Mr. Dupuis departs upon his journey under no very enviable or encouraging circumstances, it must be confessed; for his health appears to have been in a most precarious state, and his mission was in direct opposition to the views of those who were to afford him the necessary facilities in prosecuting it. He starts, nevertheless, attended by three subordinate officers, and a large party of natives, as guards, carriers, &c. All the immediate details of the party, the reader is, however, compelled to make out for himself, in the best manner he can ; for the great fault of our author, as an author-and a descriptive one in particular - is, that he labours under the want of a picturesque imagination, and a consequent inability to take the reader with him in his course. Instead of finding ourselves constantly in his company, we are compelled to be perpetually on the watch lest we should lose sight of him altogether, and find ourselves in the midst of a trackless forest, not unlike some of those through which the principal pirtion of his route lay.
The first noticeable person our author encounters in his first day's journey is not of a character to excite any very pleasing associations in connexion with the state that he is about to visit.
“ One of these travellers,” he says, was decorated with a very large necklace of human teeth, interwoven with charms. The teeth had the appearance of recent extraction; an opinion that was afterwards strengthened by the sight of a little ivory blowing-horn, to which he was then in the operation of fastening a human jaw-bone. To my inquiries, how he became possessed of these trophies, I could not obtain a satisfactory answer; a smile of brutal insensibility, however, convinced me the question was of a gratifying nåture, inasmuch as it was interpreted into a compliment to his military prowess. This feeling was displayed by various contortions of mockery and exultation, as he directed a sort of conversation to the relic, in a chaunting tone.” At the end of the first day the party
halted at a
considerable or village, called Doonqua ; after having traversed a path of about five and twenty miles, through great plains of underwood; villages more or less ruined by the late wars of the natives with their Ashantée lord;
and, as far as we can gather, open sandy spaces, studded here and there with the spiral* habitations of the red ant, of no less than ten feet in elevation. At Doonqua the party remained two days; and on the 12th recommenced their journey ; almost immediately entering a dense and nearly impassable forest, of which the following description will convey no bad idea.
“ Numerous plants and creepers of all dimensions chained tree to tree, and branch to branch, clustering the whole in entanglement; so that it sometimes became necessary to cut an opening as we proceeded.”—“The opacity of this forest communicated to the atmosphere and the surrounding scenery a semblance of twilight; no ray of sunshine penetrated the cheerless gloom, and we were, in idea, entombed in foliage of a character novel and fanciful. The deathlike stillness that prevailed was soon interrupted by the occasional shouting of the negroes, to put to fight, as they termed it, the evil spirits of the forest. Now and then a fight of parrots and other gregarious birds interrupted the intervals of silence ; but the richness of this vegetable canopy prevented the possibility of gaining even the most imperfect view of these feathered screechers, or indeed of any thing but those objects by which we were immediately surrounded.”
Through scenery of a similar kind to the above, and that which has been described as preceding it, the party reached the end of the third day's march. Here, however, at a croom called Acomfody, they met with a little night-adventure, comprising the unwelcome inroad of a whole army of rats—who, it seems, were the only remaining inhabitants of the village the party had chosen for its resting-place. This adventure our author relates with even more than his usual circumlocution of style, and concludes it as follows:
“Satisfied, now, of the reality of the nuisance”-(a singular source of satisfaction truly !)_" 1 again retired to seek repose, but in so doing was compelled to resort to the same weapon (a stick) in defence of my person against hutidreds of rats, who, if I attempted to lie down, ran indiscriminately over my face and body, in their nocturnal gambols. Thus finding it impossible to sleep, I relinquished the attempt.” He adds, with great probability of truth, “Even the Fantees (his negro-attendants) were distressed in this rat-croom.”
In this manner the party proceeded on its journey, passing through not less than twenty crooms or villages, more or less considerable, and some of them described as harbouring from eight to ten thousand inhabitants ; till at length, on the 28th of the month, it reaches Coomassy, the capital of the kingdom of Ashantee, and the residence of the Negroking to whom the mission is addressed. It appears that the first view of this royal capital was not very well calculated to prepare the European portion of our party for that somewhat imposing spectacle which was presently to greet them on their nearer approach to the station of the monarch.
“A prospect of the capital (if such it may be called) at last opened in front of us; it was a partial glimpse, at the distance of twenty or thirty paces, of a few mud-built hovels, surrounded in part by plantations, and some straggling walls of the same material, covering a contracted space gained from the surrounding waste.”
Such, however, as far as we can gather from the details of this part of the work, was the city in which our author presently encountered the following extraordinary scene. After a portentous salute of mus
* Qu. conical?
quetry, which our author is pleased to term" a royal blunderbuss salutation,” the description continues as follows:
“ A pause of twenty minutes sufficed for the approaching ceremony, and we again bent forward in orderly ranks to an angle that opened into the place of audience, from whence another salute was fired. Å silence, however, like that of the forest, succeeded as the echoes died away; and as the smoke dispersed, the view was suddenly animated by assembled ihousands in full costume, seated upon the ground in the form of an extensive semicircle, where the chiefs were distinguished from the commonalty by large floating umbrellas or canopies, fabricated from cloth of various hues. These officers, only, were seated upon stools, that elevated their heads just above those of their attendants. An avenue, not wider than the footway in the forest, was the space allotted for walking in the line of chiefs, leading to the station where the King was seated. The etiquette was of a character corresponding with other ceremonies."
“ All the ostentatious trophies of negro-splendour were emblazoned to view. Drums of every size, from five or six inches in length to the dimensions of as many feet, occasionally decorated with human relics, abounded in all directions; and in some, although few instances, the skulls of vanquished foemen, and strings of human h, were glaringly exposed on the persons of the youthful captains. lvory horns, similarly ornamented, reeded flutes, calabash rattles, and clanking bits of Alat iron, composed the various bands in front of the Gaboceers. (chiefs.) The salutation, as heretofore, was accompanied by an impulsive grasp of the hand with each caboceer of rank, and a waving motion afterwards in compliment to his friends, retainers, and slaves. In the act of approaching these peers of the Ashantee realm, the solemn stillness was invaded at intervals by the full chorus of each band, beating in rotation the peculiar adapted air by which each noble is known from his com-peers. A number of select young slaves, boys of fifteen and sixteen years old, stood before the war captains, and other chief-officers, in the aspect of a guard of honour, waving short scimitars and knives, which they Aourished in a threatening attitude. The deportment of the caboceers was marked with. gravity; not a smile nor a courtly glance illumined the asperity of their features, and the salutations were uttered in a low affected tone of voice. The crowd, however, did not consider themselves bound to imitate the dignified deportment of their lords; they breathed a welcome in the silent language of the features.”—“At last I approached the avenue where the King was seated. The martial instruments surrounding the throne, suddenly burst upon the hearing in heavy peals, and the household slaves advanced, 'flourishing their scimitars over my head with menacing violence. This threatening ceremony was directed with renovated vigour as I advanced to take the King's hand; but having, as it were, won the contested honour in the late struggle, my opponents * quietly suffered me to enjoy the prize, for the music ceased, the guards retired from the presence, and I was quietly permitted to pay my respects. The King extended his hand with great complacency, yet with a dig. nity that created admiration and respect, for it was even more than national.”
We have no room for further extracts relating to the ceremonies of our author's first reception—which lasted without intermission front mid-day till night-fall. But the whole account is highly curious and interesting.
With a due regard to promptitude, our envoy the next day opened what he conceives to be the chief business of his mission ; but is very speedily dismissed with a few unmeaning compliments. The next day the King received the various presents sent to him from England, and reiterated his complimentary phrases-adding, however, a few awkward questions about Mr. Dupuis's royal master, Shorshi (as he calls him), to
What opponents? It does not appear that he had any at the Court of Ashantee.
report which in becoming terms must have puzzled our envoy not a little. He inquires, for example, "the number of his women (wives), slaves, &c.” He declares, moreover, his entire persuasion that the King of England is very nearly, if not quite, as great a monarch as himself
, and that this act of his, in sending out Mr. Dupuis, " has chained his heart: to him.". Still, however, he studiously avoids a too near approach to the immediate object of the mission—which he seems all along somewhat shy of entertaining. And to say the truth, his sable majesty manages this part of his duty throughout with a very considerable share of cunning, not to say cleverness and address-contriving to gain all that he wants from the mission of the English to his court, without in return according any thing that is sought of him, And the mission, in fact, departs pretty nearly in the situation in which it arrived, as far as regards its political or commercial views.
But we are anticipating our abstract of this portion of the work.
It appears that on the 28th of April Mr. Dupuis arrived at the capital of Ashantee. We find him from this time, day after day, making and accepting presents, interchanging little pleasing acts of savage civility, receiving visits from the lords and ladies of the court, and almost every day having an interview with the King himself; but, as far as we can gather, his objects, at the end of a fortnight, being exactly as distant from attainment as they were on the first day of his arrival. We are speaking now of the objects which Mr. Dupuis seemed wholly and exclusively disposed to further. But we cannot help observing here, that, judging by the details contained in the volume before us, it strikes us that, in point of fact, Mr. Dupuis, from the moment he set his foot in the Ashantee capital, seemed to have entirely forgotten the express character in which he was sent there. According to the written instructions of his government-portions of which he gives in the introductory pages of his book- he was despatched to Coomassy, not as an enroy, to obtain any express and immediate object, connected with the Cape Coast people, but as a resident Consul, to further the general commercial views of England in any way that circumstances might from time to time suggest. Instead of which, however, he devotes every moment of his time, and all his efforts, to the attainment of some paltry local or pecuniary object connected with the immediate government of Cape Coast (every portion of which, and its views, he loses no opportunity of vituperating); -and when he finds, after three weeks residence, that there is little chance of obtaining these objects, he makes a solemn demand of permission to departe-having previously, however, confessed half a dozen times, to the reader, that the object in question could not in common justice be sought for! All this does strike us as very extraordinary.—The truth, if it must be spoken, is that Mr. Dupuis either found or fancied himself (we should be disposed to think the latter,) in a rather ticklish situation at the “court" of the Ashantee monarch. In fact, he seems to have imbibed a notion that his black majesty had taken so great a liking to him, that he
was determined to keep him there, till certain demands of his on the Cape Coast natives were satisfied: for which supposition, however, we cannot detect the slightest ground, in any thing our author relates. Certain it is, however, that after repeated fruitless attempts to make the king agree to certain stipulations of a treaty, no mention of which is made in
the official instructions of the consul,--the latter demands and receives his permission to depart; which departure, however, the negro chief never showed the least disposition to prevent, or even to delay, except from a real liking which he seems to have taken to his visitor.
We shall now merely refer to a few of the co-lateral matters connected with our author's brief residence at the capital of a powerful : savage chief.—The most striking point we collect, as to the habits of this people, is the fact of the horrible human butcheries that seem, to be almost daily going on within the walls of the “Royal Palace” itself. It appears that these human sacrifices were in some degree concealed, (though by no means studiously or carefully) from the English visitors; but that they were in no degree relinquished in consequence of their presence.-European ears cannot listen without horror to such accounts as the following:
My entry into Coomassy they (some Moslems who were residing there) affirmed was signalized by the sacrifice of a number of human victims ; slaves and inalefactors who had been reserved by the King and his chiefs for many days previous. The number of victions offered up at the palace, they added, were nine, and every chief was compelled to furnish an additional quota to the sanguinary offerings; but the king, knowing the abhorrence with which the white men view these butcheries, had conducted the sacrifices in secret, and had prohibited all the chiefs from exercising the like barbarity in public during my stay in Coomassy.”—Again, “ The king (on his return from a successful war) prepared to enter the palace, and in the act of crossing the threshold of the outer gate, was met by several of his wives, whose anxiety to embrace their sovereign lord impelled them thus to overstep the bounds of female decorum in Ashantee."-" But being afterwards told, by some of the superintendents, that they (the said wives) were more or less indisposed from a natural female cause, he was inflamed to the highest pitch of indignation, and in a paroxysm of anger caused these unhappy beings to be cut in pieces before his face; giving orders at the time to cast the fragments into the forest to be devoured by birds and beasts of prey."
We shall only give one more instance of these horrible doings; premising, however, that the facts rest on report alone,-the author himself never having witnessed these butcheries.
“On the 13th, this custom (a grand religious festival) was ushered in by. the discharge of fire-arms, and the sound of barbarous instruments. Numbers of victims were offered up to the gods, although secretly, in the palace, and in the houses of the chieftains. The poorer classes sacrificed catile and poultry. The city itself exhibited the most deplorable solitude, and the few human beings who were courageous enough to show themselves in the streets, fled at the approach of a captain, and barricadoed the doors of their huts, to escape the dangers of being shot or sacrificed. The doleful cries of the women vibrated from several quarters of the city, and the death-horns and drums within the palace seemed to stupify the obnoxious prisoners and foreign slaves with horror, as they contemplated the risk they were exposed to. I wandered about during this awful day, until fatigue and disgust led me to seek my quarters. The Fantees now did not care to stir abroad, and my Moslem acquaintance kept within their houses, as they afterwards assured me, to avoid the sight of the butcheries. The business of the day was not over at my return, and my efforts to gain access to the palace were ineffectual
• The following day one of a similar train of horrors succeeded, &c.”—“ By these people (the Moslems) I was given to understand that seventy men and women had been put to death the day previous in the palace only; besides those who were sacrificed in private houses, and in the forest.”
Now it will be observed, in regard to this horrible relation, that our