JOURNAL OF AN AFRICAN CRUISER
JOURNAL OF AN AFRICAN CRUISER
Produced by Eric Eldred S.R. Ellison
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
COMPRISING SKETCHES OF THE CANARIES THE CAPE DE VERDS LIBERIA MADEIRA
SIERRA LEONE AND OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST ON THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA.
* * * * *
BY AN OFFICER OF THE U. S. NAVY.
EDITED BY NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE.
* * * * *
LONDON: WILEY AND PUTNAM 6 WATERLOO PLACE 1845
[ENTERED AT STATIONERS' HALL.]
The following pages have afforded occupation for many hours which might
else have been wasted in idle amusements or embittered by still idler
regrets at the destiny which carried the writer to a region so little
seductive as Africa and kept him there so long. He now offers them to the
public after some labor bestowed in correction and amendment but
retaining their original form that of a daily Journal which better
suited his lack of literary practice and constructive skill and was in
fitter keeping with the humble pretensions of the work than a
re-arrangement on artistic principles. At various points of the narrative
however he has introduced observations or disquisitions from two or three
common-place books which he kept simultaneously with the Journal; and
thus in a few instances remarks are inserted as having been made early
in the cruise while in reality they were perhaps the ultimate result of
his reflection and judgment upon the topics discussed.
If in any portion of the book the author may hope to engage the
attention of the public it will probably be in those pages which treat of
Liberia. The value of his evidence as to the condition and prospects of
that colony must depend not upon any singular acuteness of observation
or depth of reflection but upon his freedom from partizan bias and his
consequent ability to perceive a certain degree of truth and inclination
to express it frankly. A northern man but not unacquainted with the slave
institutions of our own and other countries--neither an Abolitionist nor a
Colonizationist--without prejudice as without prepossession--he felt
himself thus far qualified to examine the great enterprise which he beheld
in progress. He enjoyed moreover the advantage of comparing Liberia as
he now saw it with a personal observation of its condition three years
before and could therefore mark its onward or retreating footsteps and
the better judge what was permanent and what merely temporary or
accidental. With these qualifications he may at least hope to have spoken
so much of truth as entirely to gratify neither the friends nor enemies of
this interesting colony.
The West Coast of Africa is a fresher field for the scribbling tourist
than most other parts of the world. Few visit it unless driven by stern
necessity; and still fewer are disposed to struggle against the enervating
influence of the climate and keep up even so much of intellectual
activity as may suffice to fill a diurnal page of Journal or Commonplace
Book. In his descriptions of the settlements of the various nations of
Europe along that coast and of the native tribes and their trade and
intercourse with the whites the writer indulges the idea that he may add
a trifle to the general information of the public. He puts forth his work
however with no higher claims than as a collection of desultory sketches
in which he felt himself nowise bound to tell all that it might be
desirable to know but only to be accurate in what he does tell. On such
terms there is perhaps no very reprehensible audacity in undertaking the
history of a voyage; and he smiles to find himself so simply and with so
little labor acquiring a title to be enrolled among the authors of books!
APRIL 5 1845.
Departure--Mother Carey's Chickens--The Gulf Stream--Rapid Progress--The
French Admiral's Cook--Nautical Musicians--The sick Man--The Burial at
Sea--Arrival at the Canaries--Santa Cruz--Love and Crime--Island of Grand
Canary--Troglodytes near Las Palmas.
Nelson's Defeat at Santa Cruz--The Mantilla--Arrival at Porto
Grande--Poverty of the Inhabitants--Portuguese Exiles at the Cape de
Verds--City of Porto Praya--Author's Submersion--Green Turtle--Rainy
Season--Anchor at Cape Mesurado.
Visit of Governor Roberts &c.--Arrival at Cape Palmas--American
Missionaries--Prosperity of the Catholic Mission--King Freeman and his
Royal Robe--Customs of the Kroo-People--Condition of Native Women.
Return to Monrovia--Sail for Porto Praya--The Union Hotel--Reminiscences
of Famine at the Cape de Verds--Frolics of Whalemen--Visit to the Island
of Antonio--A Dance--Fertility of the Island--A Yankee Clockmaker--A
Mountain Ride--City of Poverson--Point de Sol--Kindness of the Women--The
handsome Commandant--A Portuguese Dinner.
Arrival of the Macedonian--Return to the Coast of Africa--Emigrants to
Liberia--Tornadoes--Maryland in Liberia--Nature of its Government--Perils
of the Bar--Mr. Russwurm--The Grebo Tribe--Manner of disposing of their
Settlement of Sinoe--Account of a Murder by the Natives--Arrival at
Monrovia--Appearance of the Town--Temperance--Law-Suits and
Pleadings--Expedition up the St. Paul's River--Remarks on the Cultivation
of Sugar--Prospects of the Coffee-culture in Liberia--Desultory
observations on Agriculture.
High Character of Governor Roberts--Suspected Slaver--Dinner on
Shore--Facts and Remarks relative to the Slave-Trade--British
Philanthropy--Original cost of a Slave--Anchor at Sinoe--Peculiarities and
distinctive Characteristics of the Fishmen and Bushmen--The King of
Appollonia--Religion and Morality among the Natives--Influence of the
Palaver at Sinoe--Ejectment of a Horde of Fishmen--Palaver at Settra
Kroo--Mrs. Sawyer--Objections to the Marriage of Missionaries--A
Centipede--Arrival at Cape Palmas--Rescue of the Sassy-wood
drinker--Hostilities between the Natives and Colonists.
Palaver with King Freeman--Remarks on the Influence of
Missionaries--Palaver at Rock-Boukir--Narrative of Captain Farwell's
murder--Scene of Embarkation through the Surf--Sail for Little Berebee.
Palaver at Little Berebee--Death of the Interpreter and King Ben Cracko
and burning of the Town--Battle with the Natives and Conflagration of
several Towns--Turkey Buzzards--A Love-Letter--Moral Reflections--Treaty
of Grand Berebee--Prince Jumbo and his Father--Native system of
Expresses--Curiosity of the Natives.
Madeira--Aspect of the Island--Annual races--"Hail Columbia!"--Ladies
Cavaliers and Peasants--Dissertation upon Wines--The Clerks of
Funchal--Decay of the Wine-Trade--Cultivation of Pine-Trees--A Night in
the Streets--Beautiful Church--A Sunday-evening Party--Currency of
Passage back to Liberia--Coffee Plantations--Dinner on shore--Character of
Colonel Hicks--Shells and Sentiment--Visit to the Council-chamber--The
New-Georgia Representative--A Slave-ship--Expedition up the St.
Paul's--Sugar Manufactory--Maumee's beautiful grand-daughter--The Sleepy
The Theatre--Tribute to Governor Buchanan--Arrival at Settra Kroo--Jack
Purser--The Mission School--Cleanliness of the Natives--Uses of the
Palm-tree--Native Money--Mrs. Sawyer--Influence of her character on the
Natives--Characteristics of English Merchant-Captains--Trade of England
with the African Coast.
American Trade--Mode of Advertising and of making Sales--Standard of
Commercial Integrity--Dealings with Slave-Traders--Trade with the
Natives--King's "Dash"--Native Commission-Merchants--The Gold Trade--The
Ivory Trade--The "Round Trade"--Respectability of American
Merchant-Captains--Trade with the American Squadron.
Jack Purser's wife--Fever on board--Arrival at Cape Palmas--Strange figure
and equipage of a Missionary--King George of Grand Bassam--Intercourse
with the Natives--Tahon--Grand Drewin--St. Andrew's--Picaninny
Lahoo--Natives attacked by the French--Visit to King Peter--Sketches of
Scenery and People at Cape Lahon.
Visit from two English Trading-Captains--The invisible King of
Jack-a-Jack--Human sacrifices--French fortresses at Grand Bassam at
Assinoe and other points--Objections to the locality of
Liberia--Encroachments on the limits of that Colony--Arrival in
Axim--Sketches of that Settlement--Dixcove--Civilized Natives--An
Dutch Settlement at El Mina--Appearance of the Town--Cape Coast
Castle--Burial-place of L. E. L.--An English dinner--Festivity on
shipboard--British Dutch and Danish Accra--Native wives of Europeans--A
Royal Princess--An Armadillo--Sail for St. Thomas--Aspect of the Island.
Excursion to St. Anne de Chaves--Mode of drying Coffee--Black
Priests--Madam Domingo's Hotel--Catering for the Mess--Man swallowed by a
Shark--Letters from home--Fashionable equipage--Arrival at the
Gaboon--King Glass and Louis Philippe--Mr. Griswold--Mr. and Mrs.
Wilson--Character of the Gaboon People--Symptoms of illness.
Recovery from Fever--Projected Independence of Liberia--Remarks on Climate
and Health--Peril from Breakers--African Arts--Departure for the Cape de
Glimpses of the bottom of the Sea--The Gar-fish--The Booby and the
Mullet--Improvement of Liberia--Its prospects--Higher social position of
its Inhabitants--Intercourse between the White and Colored. Races--A night
on shore--Farewell to Liberia--Reminiscence of Robinson Crusoe.
Sierra Leone--Sources of its Population--Appearance of the Town and
surrounding Country--Religious Ceremonies of the Mandingoes--Treatment of
liberated Slaves--Police of Sierra Leone--Agencies for Emigration to the
West Indies--Colored Refugees from the United States--Unhealthiness of
Sierra Leone--Dr. Fergusson--Splendid Church--Melancholy Fate of a Queen's
Chaplain--Currency--Probable Ruin of the Colony.
Failure of the American Squadron to capture Slave-Vessels--Causes of that
Failure--High character of the Commodore and Commanders--Similar
ill-success of the French Squadron--Success of the English and
why--Results effected by the American Squadron.
Departure--Mother Carey's Chickens--The Gulf stream--Rapid Progress--The
French Admiral's Cook--Nautical Musicians--The Sick Man--The Burial at
Sea--Arrival at the Canaries--Santa Cruz--Love and Crime--Island of Grand
Canary--Troglodytes near Las Palmas.
_June_ 51843.--Towed by the steamer Hercules we go down the harbor of
New York at 7 o'clock A.M. It is the fourth time the ship has moved
since she was launched from the Navy Yard at Portsmouth. Her first
experience of the ocean was a rough one; she was caught in a wintry gale
from the north-east dismasted and towed back into Portsmouth harbor
within three days after her departure. The second move brought us to New
York; the third from the Navy Yard into the North river; and the fourth
will probably bring us to an anchorage off Sandy Hook. After a hard winter
of four months in New Hampshire we go to broil on the coast of Africa
with ice enough in our blood to keep us comfortably cool for six months at
At 10 A.M. the steamer cast off and we anchored inside of Sandy Hook; at
12 Meridian hoisted the broad pennant of Commodore Perry and saluted it
with thirteen guns. At 3 P.M. the ship gets under way and with a good
breeze stands out to sea. Our parting letters are confided to the Pilot.
That weather-beaten veteran gives you a cordial shake with his broad hard
hand wishes you a prosperous cruise and goes over the side. His life is
full of greetings and farewells; the grasp of his hand assures the
returning mariner that his weary voyage is over; and when the swift pilot
boat hauls her wind and leaves you to go on your course alone you feel
that the last connecting link with home is broken. On our ship's deck
there were perhaps some heart-aches but no whimpering. Few strain their
eyes to catch parting glimpses of the receding highlands; it is only the
green ones who do that. The Old Salt seeks more substantial solace in his
dinner. It is matter of speculation moreover whether much of the misery
of parting does not with those unaccustomed to the sea originate in the
disturbed state of their stomachs.
7.--We are in the Gulf-stream. The temperature of the water is ten degrees
above that of the air. Though the ship is deep being filled with stores
and therefore sailing heavily we are yet taken along eleven knots by the
wind and two or three more by the current. Swiftly as we fly however we
are not quite alone upon the waters. Mother Carey's chickens follow us
continually dipping into the white foam of our track to seize the food
which our keel turns up for them out of the ocean depths. Mysterious is
the way of this little wanderer over the sea. It is never seen on land;
and naturalists have yet to discover where it reposes and where it
hatches its young; unless we adopt the idea of the poets that it builds
its nest upon the turbulent bosom of the deep. It is a sort of nautical
sister of the fabled bird of Paradise which was footless and never
alighted out of the air. Hundreds of miles from shore in sunshine and in
tempest you may see the Stormy Petrel. Among the unsolvable riddles which
nature propounds to mankind we may reckon the question Who is Mother
Carey and where does she rear her chickens?
9.--We are out of the Gulf-stream and the ship is now rolling somewhat
less tumultuously than heretofore. For four days we have been blest with
almost too fair a wind. A strong breeze right aft has been taking us
more than two hundred and forty miles a day on our course. But the
incessant and uneasy motion of the ship deprives us of any steady comfort.
In spite of all precautions tables chairs and books have tumbled about
in utter confusion and the monotony is enlivened by the breaking of
bottles and crash of crockery. As some consolation our Log Book shows
that we have made more than half of a thousand miles within the last
forty-eight hours. Land travelling with all the advantages of railroads
can hardly compete with the continual diligence of a ship before a
11.--Spoke an American brig from Liverpool bound for New York. Though the
boat was called away and our letters were ready it was all at once
determined not to board her; and after asking the captain to report us
we stood on our course again. The newspapers will tell our friends
something of our whereabouts; or at least that on a certain day we were
encountered at a certain point upon the sea.
13.--Wind still fair and weather always fine. We have not tacked ship
once since leaving Sandy Hook and are almost ready to quarrel with the
continual fair wind. There is nothing else to find fault with except the
performances of our French cook in the wardroom who came on board just
before we left New York and made us believe that we had obtained a
treasure. He told us that he had cooked for a French Admiral. We swore him
to secrecy on that point lest the Commodore should be disposed to engage
the services of so distinguished an artist for his own table. But our
self-congratulations were not of long continuance. The sugared omelet
passed with slight remark. The beefsteak smothered in onions was merely
prohibited in future. But when on the second day the potatoes were
served with mashed lemon-peel the general discontent burst forth; and we
scolded till we laughed again at the dilemma in which we found ourselves.
Next to being without food is the calamity of being subjected in the
middle of the Atlantic to the diabolical arts of the French Admiral's
cook. At sea the arrangements of the table are of far more importance
than on shore. There are so few incidents that one's dinner becomes what
Dr. Johnson affirmed it always to be the affair of which a man thinks
oftenest in the course of the day.
16.--All day the wind has been ahead and very light. This evening a
dead calm is upon the sea; but the sky is cloudless and the air pure and
soft. All the well are enjoying the fine weather. The commodore and
captain walk the poop-deck; the other officers except the lieutenant and
young gentlemen of the watch are smoking on the forecastle or
promenading the quarter-deck. A dozen steady old salts are rolling along
the gangways; and the men are clustered in knots between the guns
talking laughing or listening to the yarns of their comrades--an
amusement to which sailors are as much addicted as the Sultan in the
Arabian Nights. But music is the order of the evening. Though a band is
not allowed to a ship of our class there are always good musicians to be
found among the reckless and jolly fellows composing a man-of-war's crew.
A big landsman from Utica and a dare-devil topman from Cape Cod are the
leading vocalists; Symmes the ship's cook plays an excellent violin; and
the commodore's steward is not to be surpassed upon the tambourine. A
little black fellow whose sobriquet is Othello manages the castanets
and there is a tolerable flute played by one of the afterguard. The
concerts usually commence with sentimental songs such as "Home sweet
Home" and the Canadian Boat Song: but the comic always carries off the
palm; "Jim along Josey" "Lucy Long" "Old Dan Tucker" and a hundred
others of the same character are listened to delightedly by the crowd of
men and boys collected round the fore-hatch and always ready to join in
the choruses. Thus a sound of mirth floats far and wide over the twilight
sea and would seem to indicate that all goes well among us.
But the delicious atmosphere and the amusements of the ship bring not
joy to all on board. There are sick men swinging uneasily in their
hammocks; and one poor fellow whose fever threatens to terminate fatally
tosses painfully in his cot. His messmates gently bathe his hot brow and
watching every movement nurse him as tenderly as a woman. Strange that
the rude heart of a sailor should be found to possess such tenderness as
we seldom ask or find in those of our own sex on land! There we leave
the gentler humanities of life to woman; here we are compelled to imitate
her characteristics as well as our sterner nature will permit.
22.--The sick man died last night and was buried to-day. His history was
revealed to no one. Where was his home or whether he has left friends to
mourn his death are alike unknown. Dying he kept his own counsel and
was content to vanish out of life even as a speck of foam melts back into
the ocean. At 11 A.M. for the first time in a cruise likely to be fatal
to many on board the boatswain piped "all hands to bury the dead!" The
sailor's corpse covered with the union of his country's flag was placed
in the gangway. Two hundred and fifty officers and men stood around
uncovered and reverently listened to the beautiful and solemn burial
service as it was read by one of the officers. The body was committed to
the deep while the ship dashed onward and had left the grave far behind
even before the last words of the service were uttered. The boatswain
"piped down" and all returned to their duties sadly and with thoughtful
23.--At 4 A.M. the island of Palma and the Peak of Teneriffe are in full
sight though the lofty summit of the mountain is one hundred miles
24.--At 5 A.M. anchored at Santa Cruz capital of the island of
Teneriffe. The health-officer informed us that we must ride out a
quarantine of eight days. A fine precaution considering that we are
direct from New York! After breakfast I went to the mole to see the
Consular Agent on duty. While waiting in our boat we were stared at by
thirty or forty loafers (a Yankee phrase but strictly applicable to these
foreign vagabonds) of the most wretched kind. Some were dressed in coarse
shirts and trowsers and some had only one of these habiliments. None
interested me except a dirty swarthy boy with most brilliant black
eyes who lay flat on his stomach and gazed at us in silence. His
elf-like glance sparkles brightly in my memory.
One of the seamen in our boat spoke to the persons on shore in Spanish. I
inquired whether that were his mother-tongue and learned that he was a
native of Mahon. On questioning him further I ascertained that he was
concerned in a tragedy of which I had often heard while on the
Mediterranean station two or three years ago. A beautiful girl of
sixteen of highly respectable family fell in love with a young man her
inferior in social rank though of reputable standing. The affair was kept
secret between them. At length the lover became jealous and one
evening called his mistress out of her father's house and stabbed her
five or six times. She died instantly and her murderer fled. It was
believed in Mahon that he was drowned by falling overboard from the vessel
in which he escaped. Nevertheless that murderer was the man with whom I