« AnteriorContinuar »
mo»s to the blush I Poor devils, their allowance is small, being limited to but a score or two apiece I Wives are always purchased, not courted. A large family of daughters is, therefore, a fortune of itself; and those who can afford to buy are rich, for they are his slaves, and the enjoyment of his indolence is the fruit of their labour. In most tribes the wishes of the female are not consulted at all. "All right.'" Mrs. Stowe would say, "in Africa, but very bad with us." Sometimes a wife is purchased before she is bornQtiando acciderunt. as the law would say. This is called consuming. For a more full account of the menage of an Ashantec gentleman, the reader is referred to pages 125 to 128 of Mr. Beecham. If boys become perverse, their father cuts off their ears. The man eats alone. The rest of the family wait upon him. Unfaithfulness of the wife is punished—sometimes with death—but may be paid lor by the paramour. Sometimes the nose of the wife is cut off, especially when a prudent fear of their family preserves them from the severer penalty of death. Husbands and fathers employ their wives and daughters to decoy others, who become slaves for their punishment, if they cannot pay the fine assessed by a palaver. Their palavers are their parliaments; and bills of attainder pass upon incautious ladies, as sometimes happen with the great in haughty Christian Europe. The English fix their fines and prices for their wives in their palavers, but then it is mostly in aristocratic life. Perhaps this is the secret source of the great sympathy felt by such as are of Stafford House, for sons of Africa, who show so little for their own white tenants and starving poor. Psychology shows strange fancies of the mind, and it is a deep well whenre to draw the truth. One of the most elegant and innocenl exercises in which the ladies of Africa, even of rank, take the greatest delight, is that in which they beat a particularly prominent part of their bodies against each other, with such force that the vanquished party is thrown flat on the. ground. We have seen overgrown urchins of the male sex, at the same sort of sport in Christian countries, but never the females.
If an Ashanteo's wife indulges that curiosity, thought to be so natural to the sex, and iistens to a private conversation of her husband, he crops an ear off, and thereby punishes the offending member. If she betrays a secret, he cuts off her upper lip. Heavens, how few lips would be left for kissing, if this were common law with us I Beecham says— "The sight of women who have suffered such inflictions at this day, in Coomasie (Kurnasi), may be had, as it was in the time of Bowditch.'" The majority of the males, of course, have no wives, but they are slaves and need none in Borrioboola Gha. Celibacy is the general fate of the male slaves, who, however, constitute the principal military force. Of course prostitutes are openly countenanced, and many are maintained for state occasions—again like fashionable aristocratic society of Europe—and they are set apart with formalities and religious ceremonies. Wealthy females often bequeath them to the public on their death beds, as they endow with us a church, a school, or orphan asylum. The state lends its aid, and religion its authority, to confound vice with virtue, and to sanction and legalize crime and debauchery. This is the state of their present society, and it has been the same, no doubt, for centuries. Such has been the progress of civilization and Christianity among the Africans.
In the war between Ashantee and Denkaera, one hundred thousand men perished in one engagement, and an equal number soon afterwards in another battle, when Abu Behr was taken prisoner—showing that they can rival white men in nothing but destruction, and that havoc, however great, can be committed by a savage as well as by a Buonaparte. Fantee, which not long since was supposed to possess millions of inhabitants, has been reduced by the Ashantee. invasion to some few thousands. It appears, from Beecham, that the tradition of the Creation, which we believe La Harpe takes from Bosnian, still remains prevalent in Africa. "It is believed,'' says he, "that in the beginning of the world, God having created three white and three black men, with an equal number of women of each colour, resolved, in order that they might be left without complaint, to allow them to fix their own destiny, by giving them the choice of good and evil. A large box or calabash was, in consequence, placed upon the ground, together with a sealed paper or letter. The black men had the first choice. They took the calabash, expecting that it contained all that was desirable; but, upon opening it, they found only a piece of gold, some iron and several other metals, of which they did not know the use- The white men opened the letter or paper, and it told them every thing. All this is supposed to have happened in Africa, where God kept the black men to the fate which their avarice had caused them to choose, and left them under the care of inferior deities; but conducting the whites to the water's edge, and communicating with them every night, taught them to build a vessel to take them to another country, from whence they now come to trade with the blacks, who had chosen gold instead of knowledge and letters." "In this tradition," says Beecham, " is to be found the source of those superstitions which enthral millions of their race. God certainly made them black, and we are not sure, from that circumstance alone, that they are not right in supposing that they were intended as an inferior race ; and we do not believe that they are happier for being made to rebel against their destiny and ancient belief." "We do not know," says a late writer on the Book of Job, " and cannot know, the mystery of the government of the world, and that it is not for man to seek it, or for God to reveal it." We believe that God did intend the black man to be inferior, or he would not have made him so. All inequalities of nature are of his doing, and v\ ho dares gainsay it 1 Did he not make the fool, the idiot, the dwarf, the deformed, the mute, the deaf, the blind, the leprous, the lunatic, the sound, the beautiful, the sane, the mediocre and the genius? Shall we set up one general wail and whine that the division has not been a fair one; that others have got more gold and more knowledge than falls to our lot? "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his house, nor his field, nor his servant, his ox, his ass, nor any thing that is his."
With these people even the crocodile sometimes receives divine honours, and being greatly petted, often becomes very tame; sometimes too familiar for safety, and now and then picks up a child in his great jaws. Their penates are, generally, calabashes filled with rubbish of all sorts. Any thing for Botmm. They have about one hundred and fifty or one hundred and sixty evil days in the year, when the most important and pressing things cannot be done. An incredible amount of time is thus lost. Men on journeys, no matter how important, must stop on those days. The priests there undertake, sometimes, to conceal fugitive slaves, but it is said never fail to deliver them up to their masters, upon payment of a good fee or Fetiche money. These Fetiche oracles are said to be inaccessible to the poor. Believing that all good and evil comes from the Fetiche, they are, through that medium, completely in the power of the priesthood. The arts with which the latter maintain their power, are detailed by our author at page 191. Thousands of victims are immolated to these Fetiches at the instance of this priesthood.
Scarcely has one of their barbarous and bloody customs been abandoned, from the earliest period of which any thing is known of them. They still pave their court yards, palaces, and even the streets or market places of their villages or towns, with the skulls of those butchered in wars, at feasts, funerals, or as sacrifices to Bossum- Still their wives and slaves are buried alive, with the deceased husband or master. When Adahanzen died, two hundred and eighty of his wives were butchered before the arrival of his successor; which put « stop to it only to increase the flow of blood and the number of deaths in other ways. The remaining living wives were buried alive! amidst dancing, singing and bewailing, the noise of horns, drums, muskets, yells, groans and screechings; the women, marching by headless trunks, bedaubed themselves with red earth and blood. Their victims were marched along with large knives passed through their cheeks. The executioners struggle for the bloody office, while the victims look on and endure with apathy. They were too familiar with the horrid sacrifice to show terror, or to imagine that all was not as it should be. Their hands were first chopped off, and then their heads named off, to prolong the amusement. Even some who assisted to fill the grave were hustled in alive, in order to add to the sport or solemnity of the scene. Upon the death of a king's brother, four thousand victims were thus sacrificed. These ceremonies are often repeated, and hundreds slaughtered at every rehearsal. Upon the death of a King of Ashantee, a general massacre takes place, in which there can he no computation of the victims.
At their "Yam Customs," Mr. Bowditch witnessed spectacles of the most appalling kind. Every caboceer or noble, sacrificed a slave as he entered at the gate. Heads and skulls formed the ornaments of their processions. Hundreds were slain; and the streaming and steaming blood of the victims was mingled in a vast brass pan, with various vegetables and animal matter, fresh as well as putrid, to compose a powerful Fetiche. At these Customs the same scenes of butchery and slaughter occur. The king's executioners traverse the city, killing all they meet. The next day desolation reigns over the land. The king during the bloody saturnalia looked on eagerly, and danced in his chair with delight!
The King of Dahomey paves the approaches lo his residence, and ornaments the battlements of his palace, with the skulls of his victims; and the great Fetiche Tree, at Badagry, has its wide-spread limbs laden with human carcases and limbs. There the want of chastity is no disgrace, and the priests are employed as pimps. Murder, adultery and thievery, says Bosnian, are here no sins.
The case of Quaque, given by our author, shows how vain is the hope of effecting a national regeneration by the education of Africans to the Christian ministry. In fifty years residence at Cape Coast Castle, he gained over not one of his countrymen—and dying, showed his confidence still reposed in his Fetiche and not in Christian rites. Well might Mr. Beecham remark, that " the case of this individual furnishes matter for grave consideration on the part of those who are anxious to promote the enlightenment and elevation of Africa."—(p. 258.) The English chaplains that succeeded Quaque soon died. So, the Danish Missionaries have all died. The English are all the time dying, or going home for their