The New York Times, November 14, 1886, p.6:|
ARRIVAL AT THE CONGOBOMA, THE CAPITAL, AND DEATHS RECORDED THERE.
AN INTERESTING JOURNEY IN A STEAM LAUNCH--
FRENCH OBSTACLES TO TRADE--AMERICAN MISSIONARIES.
[The first half of this article, which after a brief mention of the Congo describes the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, can be found at São Tomé and Príncipe News and Links.]
...Aug. 9.--Noon to-day found us gliding up the smooth, broad gulflike mouth of the Gaboon--over which the French tricolor has fluttered since 1843--and anchoring opposite the tiny metropolis of Libreville. The little town made a very pretty picture against the sea of waving woods in the background, which outlined most effectively the dainty cluster of snow-white walls and red-tiled roofs, such as one sees in those charming old villages of Western France which tourists and painters seem leagued to neglect.
For a foreground we had a Hamburg cargo steamer a little way astern, a trim French gunboat on our starboard bow, and a huge two-decked French "woodenside" of the old school (now roofed over and used as a hospital) moored midway between us and the shore.
One of the first visitors from the shore was young American missionary who, like most of those that we met in Northern India, "hailed" from the old Keystone State. He was only making a short stay in Gaboon, his own station lying further south, at a considerable distance up the Ogoweh, that mysterious and legendary river amid whose gloomy forests M. Paul du Chaillu came face to face with King Gorilla a quarter of a century ago.
He told me--as every one else has told me whom I have questioned on the subject--that until the year before last the Gaboon settlement has been doing a very fair export business in ivory, dyewood, and ebony, (great forests of the latter being known to exist around the headwaters of the river,) but that the import trade has been greatly injured by the enormous duties--ranging in some cases as high as 60 per cent.--which the French authorities have imposed upon all merchandise but their own, as the natives evince a marked preference for British manufactured goods over those of France.
"As for our missions," he continued, "we've been very successful on the Ogoweh and in one or two other places, but here on the Gaboon we've hardly done anything at all. For one thing, there's a much larger white population here than in most of the West African stations, and as the natives are completely under the control of the white traders, of course that tells very much against us.
"Then of late the French authorities, like the Spaniards at Fernando Po, have begun objecting to our teaching English in the mission school, and say that if we want to teach at all we must do it in French; and as we cannot agree to that we're at a standstill for the present.
"Yonder's the mission house on that low hill among the woods, a little below the town, and if you have time to come ashore and look at it to-morrow before you sail I shall be very glad to show you all that there is to be seen."
Aug. 10.--The first sight that greeted me this morning was a native boatman fishing with a line attached to his great toe. But he was forced to sheer off rather hastily, for the crew of the French gunboat began to practice with their rifles at a floating target a little to his left, not wholly without success, for they hit the water every time.
Breakfast over, we went ashore to look about us, landing at a neat little jetty laid out with rails for the passage of freight trucks, probably the first attempt at a railroad ever known in this primitive region. Another token of civilization appeared in the form of a smart American buggy, standing just outside the gate through which we pass into the so-called "town."
Ascending a winding road flanked on one side by several solid white stone houses and on the other by an embankment of rum casks filled with earth, we reached the "City Hall Park" of the place, a small square of green turf in the middle of which stands a tall flag pole, sentineling the whitewashed figurehead of a vessel, which has been stuck up here as a statue!
The Post Office, with its row of arches an one side of the square, kept in countenance a meek little church on the other, with its windows picked out in bright red upon its white surface and its plated belfry shining merrily in the sunlight. A little further along the slope an ingenious native, who had picked up a few words of French, had advertised his shoe store by painting up "Chausées" in mistake for "chaussures," and thereby announcing himself as a seller of "high roads," at what price by the yard was not stated.
Beyond the church a steep curving path led down again toward the shore between which dense masses of tropical vegetation, the broad banner-like leaves of which completely shut out the breeze and stifled us with that close, damp, vapor bath heat which is so unpleasant a characteristic of all equatorial woodlands.
But once down on the beach the air changed as if we had passed from an overheated room to a breezy hilltop, and before us lay the tropical scenery of our boyish imaginings in all its fullness. The vast curving sweep of yellow sand, with its fringe of glittering foam; the stately cocoa palms, so near the water as to drop their fruit almost into it; the wall of dark leaves behind, the thatched bamboo huts peeping through the thickets, the distant hills raising their leafy ridges against the warm, dreamy sky, were all there.
And as appropriate figures to such a background there came toward us along the beach two native beauties, who eyed Mrs. Ker's costume with evident wonder, as well they might, their own consisting principally of a crimson skirt and a parasol, for from the waist upward their clothing was chiefly conspicuous by its absence.
Along the beach we found a number of long, flexible, whip-like roots, which the ship's doctor pointed out to us as the sole food of the four Kroomen who escaped in an open boat a few months ago from the island of Saõ Thomé, and were picked up off the mouth of the Calabar River by Capt. Liversedge, of the British and African Company, only two of the four then being alive.
Midway round the beach we came upon a Mpongwe village--one long, straight street of square bamboo houses, with wooden doors and shutters and projecting thatches of dried palm leaves. I peeped into one or two of them, but, like the Irish prisoner, "could see nothing clearly but darkness."
Most of the natives doffed their hats to us with a politeness that did credit to the teaching of the Roman Catholic mission, which we found in a sheltered nook among the trees a little way back from the shore, the chapel being marked with a cross and the mission house with a rude fresco of the Virgin. The two massive stone buildings, with their white walls and red tiled roofs, contrast very effectively with the little nest-like huts of the native town beyond them; but before we could proceed to a closer examination a shrill whistle from our steamer in the offing sounded the note of recall.
The New York Times, December 24, 1860, p.2:|
THE AFRICAN SLAVE-TRADE.Letter from on Board the Niagara--The French Emigrant System--
The English "Apprentices"--The Immense Profits of the Slave-Trade--
The Slaver Erie, &c.
From Our Own Correspondent.
U. S. FRIGATE NIAGARA, AT SEA
After striding down along the Coast of Southern Africa, and, as we make our first plunge into the Indian Ocean, I desire to say a few words in reference to the Slave-trade, based upon reliable information I received while at San Paulo de Loando [Luanda, Angola], from where my last letter was dated.
Saturday, Sept. 1, 1860.
It may not have escaped the recollection of philanthropists of the Wilberforce school, even on the American side of the Atlantic, that some two years ago, the firm of MM. REGIS, of Marseilles, contracted with the French Government to enlist 30,000 black emigrants on the West Coast of Africa, and to convey them to the French possessions in Cayenne and the West Indies.
It may likewise be remembered that when the first vessel dispatched under this contract was boarded on the Coast, with a pennant at her mast-head and a French navy officer on her quarter-deck, employed in shipping the negroes for transportation, there arose a violent outcry in the English Parliament against what Lord BROUGHAM very justly designated "the Slave-trade in disguise."
See also: Cameroon News - Equatorial Guinea News|
São Tomé and Príncipe News - Congo News
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