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April 28, 2010
The bitter history of sugar
A new study outlines the unbearable conditions of the slaves who worked to satisfy the world's sweet tooth
A bittersweet history
453pp. Duckworth. £20.
978 0 7156 3878 1
It is hardly news that the story of cane sugar is not all sweet. In 1788, in “The Negro’s Complaint”, William Cowper lamented the link between sugar and slavery:
Why did all-creating Nature
Make the plant for which we toil? . . .
Think how many Backs have smarted
For the sweets your Cane affords.
Of all the plantation crops of the Atlantic slave trade – tobacco, cotton, coffee – the most pernicious was sugar. Seventy per cent of slaves on New World plantations were involved in sugar production.
The problem lay partly in the nature of sugar cane itself, as Sidney Mintz wrote in his seminal work of anthropology, Sweetness and Power (1985). This giant thirsty grass, filled with sweet pulpy sap, has always been unusually labour-intensive to grow, harvest and process, requiring lots of water and sun as it grows and clamorous attention to turn the sap into crystalline sugar. As Mintz wrote, sugar cane is “inherently perishable”: it “must be cut when it is ripe, and ground as soon as it is cut. These simple facts give a special character to any enterprise dedicated to the production of sugar”. After the cane was cut, the sap on slave plantations was immediately boiled numerous times and eventually crystallized in inferno-like boiling houses. In 1700 Thomas Tryon, a colonist in Barbados, described the conditions in such houses, places of “perpetual noise and hurry” where slaves were forced to work throughout the six-month growing season:
"The Climate is so hot, and the labor so constant, that the Servants \[or slaves\] night and day stand in great Boyling Houses, where there are six or seven large Coppers or Furnaces kept perpetually Boyling; and from which heavy Ladles and Scummers they Skim off the excrementious parts of the Canes, till it comes to its perfection and cleanness, while others as Stoakers, Broil as it were, alive, in managing the Fires."
The life of a sugar slave in Barbados in the eighteenth century – Age of Enlightenment – does not bear contemplating: the cuts and abrasions from the spiky cane itself in the fields; the risk of losing fingers in the mills; the inadequate rations (despite being surrounded – taunted – by so many sticky calories); the floggings and lashings and other ill-treatment from plantation owners, including the sexual abuse of women; and surpassing all, the lack of freedom: so much misery, as Mintz described, to feed the rising appetite of the British working classes for sugary tea, a substance which mitigated the misery of their own working lives. British per capita sugar consumption was 4lbs in 1700–09; 8lb in 1720–29; 12lbs in 1780–89; and 18lbs in 1800–09.
In 1807, the slave trade in the British Empire was finally abolished. But the British appetite for sweetness continued to grow. And the world of the new “free” sugar workers in the British West Indies was not much superior to that of the slaves. One of the great strengths of Elizabeth Abbott’s readable overview of the history of sugar across the globe is the way it brings to life the continuing and varied iniquities of sugar production in a post-slavery era. In the British West Indies, a system of slavery was replaced by one of indentureship – a technical emancipation which probably did not feel much like liberty to the indentured workers.
The first influx of “coolies” from India and Madeira “died in such numbers”, writes Abbott, “that the indenture system was briefly halted and slightly modified before it was relaunched”. Desperately poor workers were recruited in India and bundled on to a twenty-six-week passage to the West Indies, where they were given flimsy living quarters still known as “nigger yards” and set to work for as much as twenty-two hours a day.
Under the system, if they did not complete their tasks, they received no money. Coolies were often cheated out of their wages, with one planter stopping a whole work gang’s wages for three months to pay for a single missing fork. Working conditions were vile: “Water was scarce and putrid, and few planters provided iron water tanks. Pigs and cattle roamed freely, and their effluvia added to the general filth”. Things were no better for the Chinese indentured workers put to work in nineteenth-century Cuba and Peru. Here, they were often kidnapped or hoodwinked and signed up for an eight-year indentureship – as against five years in the British West Indies. Visiting Chinese officials found a workforce in which “almost every Chinese met by us was or had been undergoing suffering. The fractured and maimed limbs, blindness, the heads full of sores, the skin and flesh lacerated – proofs of cruelty patent to the eyes of all”. As many as 50 per cent of Chinese indentured sugar workers – who were forced to answer to new Spanish names – died during their first year of indentureship. There is a horrible loneliness to cane-cutting, for the high grass obscures your fellow workers; the suicide rate was high among these homesick Chinese “coolies”, whether by hanging or jumping into hot sugar cauldrons.
So much for freedom. Even now, Abbott shows, the lives of cane cutters in many parts of the world are unimaginably grim. Starting in 1791, Toussaint L’Ouverture led a successful slave revolt against French rule in Saint-Domingue, the French colony which at that time produced 40 per cent of the world’s sugar; the result was the independent state of Haiti, which seemed to promise a new life for its inhabitants. Today, hundreds of thousands of black Haitians work the cane fields of the Dominican Republic in conditions not unlike those suffered by their ancestors before Toussaint’s revolt. Abbott travels to the Dominican Republic, where she finds that Haitian workers – some of them adolescents, most illegal immigrants – are not supplied with arm or shin guards “and their flesh bears the scars and gouges of their dangerous profession”. Their pay is US$1.20 per ton of sugar and they live “in shared shanties without water, toilets, or cooking facilities”. She hints at similar injustice in sugar production in El Salvador and Brazil and writes too of how sugar cane has trashed the environment, causing, according to the World Wildlife Fund, “a greater loss of biodiversity on the planet than any other single crop, due to its destruction of habitat to make way for plantations, its intensive use of water for irrigation, its heavy use of agricultural chemicals and the polluted waste-water that is routinely discharged during the sugar production process”.
Yet after listing this litany of horrors, all set in motion to satisfy the world’s sweet tooth, Abbott moves from the realm of “is” to that of “ought”, suggesting all of a sudden that biofuel in the form of sugar ethanol might enable cane sugar completely to remodel its filthy past. Instead of making us toothless and fat, sugar could be used to reduce our oil reliance. And all at once, sugar production would become a utopia. “Equitably paid workers committed to organic, environment-friendly farming will support the sustainable development [of sugar for ethanol]”, she optimistically announces: “fairly traded, environmentally sound and renewable sugarcane and beet should lead the ethanol revolution”.
After the misery of what has come before, this Pollyannaish prediction seems jarring (setting aside the question of whether biofuels are actually a good use for edible crops). Abbott lacks Sidney Mintz’s ability to link up the production of sugar with its consumption. Her chapters on the culinary uses of sugar are much weaker than those on the plantations and are marred by factual inaccuracies: for example, she states that before sugar cane was known in Europe, “people sweetened their food with the more expensive honey”, when in fact honey was far cheaper than sugar in Britain until around 1800, which was a large part (albeit only a part) of why people chose honey in preference to sugar; when sugar prices fell, honey consumption fell and sugar consumption rocketed. Another example: in a cliché of food history, Abbott contrasts British water during the Industrial Revolution (“often tainted”) with beer (“safe to drink and nutritious”). Yet beer itself during this period was often diluted with the said unsafe water and then padded with a range of nasty adulterants, including coculus indicus, a convulsive, which hardly made it “nutritious”.
A more fundamental flaw is Abbott’s inability to ask the really interesting questions about her subject. Could the world sugar trade have grown in the spectacular way it did from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries without plantation slavery? If so, how? And what would it actually take to remodel sugar production into the fair and equitable form she suggests? Scholarly opinion differs as to whether the Arab sugar trade of medieval times was free of slavery, but it certainly didn’t create the same monstrous factory-fields as British-ruled Barbados; but then, the Mediterranean view of sugar was more that of a condiment, to be used sparingly, than the working-class staple it would later become. India – where delicious jaggery is melted into rich rice puddings – provides an alternative model of sugar production, since it has never been plantation-based. In India, writes Abbott, most cane “comes from small peasant holdings and is processed in mills owned either by private capitalists or . . . peasant cooperatives”. And now there is fair-trade certified sugar, much of it produced in Africa, though Abbott, oddly, does not discuss any details of production on fair-trade sugar farms.
The sweet-toothed among us would like to hear whether a life spent in those high lonely grasses of the cane fields has ever been bearable; whether our cravings for muscovado and demerara can ever be justified; or whether we should all switch to maple syrup, tapped by happy Canadians.
Bee Wilson is the author of The Hive: The story of the honeybee and us, published in paperback in 2005. Swindled: From poison sweets to counterfeit coffee – the dark history of the food cheats, appeared in paperback earlier last year.
MARCH 31, 2010
By FERGUS M. BORDEWICH
Sugar: A Bittersweet History
By Elizabeth Abbott
Overlook, 453 pages, $29.95
Your Java Chip Frappucino at Starbucks will never taste quite the same after you've read Elizabeth Abbott's "Sugar," a sprawling, often fascinating, sometimes annoying history of the world's favorite sweetener. If you always wanted to know what kind of dessert chefs served to medieval kings, what slaves on Barbadian plantations ate for dinner, how Hershey's chocolate was invented, or how a wild plant from the Far East changed the world's eating habits and the Western economy, Ms. Abbott is ready to tell you (and tell you and tell you). "Sugar" is epic in ambition and briskly written, interweaving the invention of the global sugar industry with its far-reaching effect on New World slavery, the environment and, in Ms. Abbott's words, "the addiction of millions of people to sweetness and to unhealthy, disease-causing diets."
Sugar was unknown to ancient Europeans. When the Greeks and Romans sweetened their feasts, it was with honey. "The noble cane," as it was once called, was first domesticated in New Guinea. By the late centuries B.C. it was known in India, and from there it traveled to the Middle East, where Europeans discovered it during the Crusades. In 13th-century England it was so precious that when King Henry III ordered three pounds of it for the royal kitchens, he added, "if so much is to be had."
Everywhere man's encounter with sugar was love at first sight. In wealthy Renaissance households, it was used as a medicine, a spice, a decoration and a preservative, and of course as a food in its own right. Best of all, it enhanced the flavor of meals and drinks without altering their essential tastes. Demand for sugar climbed dramatically with the popularization of tea, coffee and chocolate in the 17th century. Suddenly naturally bitter drinks became sweet and delectable. Aristocratic diners ate from sugar dishes and drank from sugar glasses, sliced their bonbons with sugar knives, and even lit their dining rooms with sugar candles. In time, Ms. Abbott explains, sugar became "proletarianized," becoming "the crutch and delight of toiling millions" in the form of icing on wedding cakes, chocolate Easter bunnies, candy canes and a multitude of other tooth-rotting delicacies.
Though there is much to savor in "Sugar," it is not without flaws, some trivial, others less so. Ms. Abbott's fact-gathering is sometimes sloppy. At one point she says that in 18th-century England sugar sold for about sixpence per pound, "the price of a postage stamp" at the time. In fact, stamps were not introduced until the 1840s. She claims that "when the Civil War ended in 1865, one-fifth of military-age white men and hundreds of black soldiers were dead." Not exactly. Of the three million men who served in the Union and Confederate armies, 20% died during the war (perhaps 4% of the eligible male population), including 36,000 African-American soldiers.
Ms. Abbott also has a penchant for strained oracular utterances. She mars her generally excellent account of the sugar-related slave trade, for instance, by claiming that its "stranglehold monopoly over sub-Saharan external commerce stifled Africa's economic development . . . stymieing infrastructural or institutional developments that might otherwise have occurred," including "manufacturing and agriculture [that] failed to develop as they surely would have." This is well-meaning nonsense. Slaves were exported almost exclusively from the coastal regions of West Africa. Had the slave trade never existed, it is still not likely that Africa would today resemble Western Europe.
That said, the foul relationship between sugar and slavery did create the trans-Atlantic slave trade, wrecked the lives of millions of Africans, and brought fabulous wealth to white planters and absentee investors. "Sugar slavery's most insidious creation was the racialism that justified enslaving Africans and forcing them into the cane fields," Ms. Abbott accurately writes. Black slaves, in effect, became "sugar machines."
Sugar was an economic pillar of the British Empire, part of the triangular trade by which British ships carried trade goods to Africa; slaves from Africa to the West Indies; and sugar, rum and molasses from the Indies back to England. According to Ms. Abbott, field slaves could expect to survive only seven years on average; they died, remarked one 19th-century observer, like "over-driven horses." Cultivating cane in the Caribbean sun was unimaginably grueling. Failure to meet an hourly work quota might mean a flogging on the spot. "The music of the negro is the whip," remarked one Martinique planter.
If sugar was "literally polluted with slaves' blood," as Ms. Abbott arrestingly puts it, the horrors of slavery also aroused humanitarians and jump-started the abolition movement in 18th-century England. Abolitionists calculated that if every family using five pounds of sugar and rum per week refused to consume slave-grown sugar, every 21 months they would save one African from enslavement and death. Cynics scoffed. But by the 1790s, 300,000 English were abstaining from West Indian sugar, while grocers and importers sought new sources of "free sugar" in East Asia. Parliament voted to abolish slavery in Britain in 1807 and then in the West Indies in the 1830s. These victories, in turn, inspired abolitionists in the U.S.
Oh, about Hershey's chocolate. At the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Milton Snavely Hershey, a Pennsylvania Mennonite, was amazed to see a contraption that roasted, hulled and ground up chocolate beans into a liquid so that, when blended with sugar and other ingredients, it could be poured into molds and hardened into bars. Hershey bought the equipment on the spot and hurried home to his farm in Lancaster County, where he processed milk from his herd of Holsteins until it was slightly sour—"to the horror of European connoisseurs," Ms. Abbott says—then blended it with the output from his new machine. Voila! North America's first milk chocolate.
Mr. Bordewich is the author of "Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America."
Friday, 1 January 2010
Sugar: a bittersweet history, by Elizabeth Abbott
The sour taste of struggle behind a sweet sensation
By Andrea Stuart
Sugar was to the geopolitics of the 17th to 19th centuries what oil has been to the 20th and 21st. It was one of the building blocks of the British Empire, silting up vast colonial wealth and transforming our culture, diet, health, environment and economy. Sugar was the first super-commodity, and its rise has been documented by scores of cultural historians, anthropologists and medical professionals. Some notable examples are Noel Deer's influential two-part The History of Sugar in the 1940s, Sidney Mintz's seminal Sweetness and Power and John Yudkin's bestselling Sweet and Dangerous.
Elizabeth Abbott's "bittersweet history" is a worthy addition to this pantheon. This is a highly readable and comprehensive study of a remarkable product. The sugar-cane crop is indigenous to the South Pacific, where it had a starring role in the creationist myths of that region. It travelled from there to India, on to China and then via the spread of Islam to Africa, the Mediterranean and the New World.
It was introduced to Europe by returning Crusaders between the 10th and 13th centuries, and became a costly rarity used as a spice and a medicine.
For centuries the conspicuous consumption of sugar was a mark of wealth and social power; hence the extraordinary "sugar sculptures" at the court of Elizabeth I. Over time, it filtered through society - largely as a sweetener of other colonial products like tea, cocoa and coffee - until it became accessible to virtually everyone. Sugar is now so ubiquitous and cheap that we cannot imagine life without it.
But it is Abbott's handling of the "slave-sugar complex" that lifts this book into a must-read. With rare eloquence and passion she demonstrates how sugar enriched Europe while denuding the African continent of its population and retarding its economic development. Her treatment of the scarifying effects of slavery on intimate relationships is particularly enlightening. She exploits first-hand accounts, slave narratives and journals by plantation managers like Thomas Thistlewood, who kept detailed records of his sexual abuse of female slaves and the cruel punishments he inflicted on workers. She argues that sugar forged a type of slavery whose scope and brutality had never been seen before. That slavery – and its sugar profits – was justified by the development of a racist ideology that still reverberates through contemporary life.
In discussing the abolition movement, Abbott redresses the historical focus on Wilberforce et al by reminding us of the role of ordinary people – especially women and the working class – in the fight for emancipation. Abbott, who discovered while writing this book that her own Antiguan planter ancestry included African antecedents, also points out that, for many years, "blacks were the only abolitionists", struggling daily to undermine the institution of slavery.
The progress of sugar remained brutal and bloody. After emancipation, tens of thousands of Indian and Chinese indentured servants were sent to places like the Caribbean, Fiji, and Mauritius to "a new system of slavery". In Australia, one in four of the Melanesians lured into similar kinds of cane-cutting arrangements died of neglect, poverty and poor nutrition. Sugar was even implicated in the Cuban Bay of Pigs débâcle in 1961.
Sugar continues to be linked with racism, exploitation and violence. In some parts of the world planters still use child labour. In the US, workers from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands are lured to the "sugar gulags" of Florida, forced to cultivate cane in conditions Congress has declared entirely unacceptable for US nationals.
The impact of sugar on our environment has been epic and irreversible. In Barbados, the introduction of sugar cane cultivation precipitated the destruction of "a complete, natural, island ecosystem", and prompted the extermination of numerous animal species. Sugar's impact on our health is no less significant.
Quite apart from our seemingly endless hunger for soft drinks, sweets, chocolates and ice cream, sugar is also used as a condiment and preservative in virtually all other foodstuffs, including soups and ketchup. In a populace increasingly riddled with sugar-induced diabetes, one New York endocrinologist creates an apocalyptic vision of the future: "The workforce 50 years from now is going to look fat, one-legged, blind, a diminution of able-bodied workers at every level." A bittersweet legacy indeed.
Andrea Stuart's 'Josephine: the Rose of Martinique' is published by Pan
Published On Sun Mar 2 2008
Sugar: A Bittersweet History
by Elizabeth Abbott
Penguin Canada, 453 pages $24
When you hear the word "sugar," maybe you think of plum fairies.
Or Marilyn Monroe's Sugar Kane Kowalczyk character in 1959's Some Like it Hot. Or a perky dessert show on the food porn channel. Or a nickname for your loved one. Or that gooey song by the Archies, Sugar Sugar.
To Toronto author Elizabeth Abbott, the entry of "sugar" in a word association game could elicit any of the following: genocide, human rights, slavery, Caribbean dictators, corporate lobbying, environmental monoculture, obesity, diabetes or Queen Elizabeth I's black teeth. (Yes, we know. They don't dare darken Cate Blanchett's chompers in those Tudor movies.)
This is the dark side of sugar – the less glamorous story, one that Abbott, former dean of women at University of Toronto's Trinity College and author of A History of Celibacy, chronicles in Sugar: A Bittersweet History.
The story begins with Columbus bringing sugar cane from the Canary Islands on his second trip to the New World. With that one transplant (and encounter with the Taino people who then inhabited the island), the next 500 years of Caribbean history is foreshadowed. The fight to control the lucrative sugar trade redraws political maps and trade routes, sparks wars and, ultimately, becomes the rationale for one of the most brutal colonial regimes in human history.
The majority of Abbott's book is devoted to the particular conditions of sugar slavery – the practice of ripping millions of people from their homes, transplanting the survivors across the Atlantic and forcing them to labour in appalling conditions.
Among the many accounts and indications of atrocities in the plantations is the fact that, in many French and British colonies, the death rate was higher than the birth rate. This not only demonstrated the savage inhumanity, it was also the reason for a continuing slave trade and a crisis after the trade was outlawed by the Brits in 1807.
Meanwhile, back in Europe, giant sugar sculptures of laurel trees, boar and deer were on display at royal feasts, where guests ate from sugar dishes with sugar forks and knives. The conspicuous consumption of the latest aristocratic luxury dominated all the major coronations and weddings of the period, including our black-toothed virgin queen's four-day "sugar banquet," which consisted of copious trays of sweets and processions of marzipan beasts and sugar castle sculptures.
And this is all before sugar even became really popular.
Conspicuous consumption has a way of eventually filtering down to the middle classes – take that guy next door who proudly owns a Hummer. Within a couple of hundred years, everyone was using sugar, not just the royal families. Abbott points to the first person that thought to put sugar in tea as the culprit. From then on, sugar became mainstream and the consequences of its increased popularity, of course, were dire for the people involved in its production.
The land suffered too. Abbott says sugar has done more damage to flora and fauna than any other single crop on the planet. The monoculture of sugar is also responsible for the destruction of indigenous agriculture and wildlife and, what's more, has made it difficult for Caribbean populations (most notably in Cuba) to re-establish sustainable agriculture.
The last section of the book is devoted to how those little white granules grew to become corporate Big Sugar.
As sugar became an important cultural commodity, it continued to influence military and political affairs. It played a role in the Louisiana Purchase, the Spanish-American wars, Castro's rule, Haiti's underdevelopment and, strangely enough, even had a small cameo in the Clinton-Lewinsky affair – unearthed were transcripts revealing Bill's long conversation with sugar magnate Alfonso Fanjul, Jr.
As to sugar's relationship with obesity, diabetes and tooth decay, well, that's a little more controversial. Starchy food may, in fact, do far more damage to teeth than the fast-dissolving sugar, despite the evidence in Queen Elizabeth's head. Abbott also points out that most of the sweetness in our packaged cookies, soups, cereals, ketchup and pop (in North America) now comes from cheaper corn syrup. The switch from cane sugar to high fructose corn syrup is, in fact, often associated with the spike in diabetes and weight gain.
The only potentially "sweet" part of Sugar is Abbott's conclusion. She sees hope in Cuba's efforts to diversify its crops and adopt organic farming techniques. Perhaps more importantly, she also finds reason for optimism in Brazil's efforts to promote its ample sugar fields as a bio-fuel alternative to fossil fuels.
She's cautiously optimistic about both of these developments, however. Sugar has done us more harm than good. By far.
Christine Sismondo is the author of Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History (McArthur and Co.).
Tuesday 27 October 2009
by Elizabeth Abbott (Duckworth Overlook, £20)
In some smart cafes sugar is still offered as bowls of large multicoloured crystals. After reading this detailed work you might well conclude that the only colour missing from the crystals is a deep red - haemoglobin red.
Here in almost 500 pages is a wider, more intimate story of the growth of the sugar industry than most European or US writers have managed.
For the author, a former dean of women at Trinity College, University of Toronto, has deep cultural roots in the "sugar" islands of Antigua and Grenada and to the "economically depressed" Ireland of her grandfather.
In the first paragraphs of her introduction, Elizabeth Abbott introduces us to an 18th century farm labourer's wife who, by sweetening her tea with a lump of sugar, "redrew the demographic, economic, environmental, political, cultural and moral map of the world."
That may seem a sweeping claim, but by dint of painstaking research from Berlin's Zucker-Museum and Toronto's Redpath Sugar Museum to the canefields of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Abbott is fully vindicated.
The growth of the sugar industry is shown to be an integral part of the Industrial Revolution and, perhaps more importantly for us, the growth of deeply corrupt and brutal practices of "labour management" that persist into our present century.
Four sections of this book are respectively headed The Oriental Delight Conquers The West, Black Sugar, Abolition Through Resistance and Parliament & The Sweetening World. One sub-division predicts my opening suggestion of a missing colour and another suggests unexpected and ultimately unfortunate links between Cuba and Louisiana.
Illustrations are highly apposite and one, from a 1787 edition of Voltaire's Candide, is captioned: "A slave explains his mutilations to two Europeans," adding: "It is at this price that you eat sugar in Europe."
We learn from Abbott that, apart from physical mutilations, conditions are little changed in today's Haitian canefields and that so-called "wages" amount to slavery.
It is in the final chapter, Sugar's Legacies And Prospects, that we are brought up hard against the occluded realities of our times.
The Fanjul family "are Big Sugar incarnate. Scions of Cuban sugar-planting families uprooted by the revolution, they recreated their sugar world in the United States, where ... Florida Crystals owns about 180,000 acres."
As a reviewer's aside, it's interesting to note that New Scientist recently quoted an advertisement for Florida Crystal that it was "carbon free."
This last chapter instances how deeply Big Sugar still influences political realities in the US particularly, noting how Monica Lewinsky had to wait while Bill Clinton took a 20-minute call from one of the Fanjul brothers in the Oval Office and how the Florida Everglades protection measures are jeopardised by sugar interests.
They are shown to have laid out $29 million in electoral campaigns in eight years from 1990. "One beneficiary was Jeb Bush."
Within a relatively small space, Abbott has given us an invaluable up-to-date history of capitalism and, by implication, its imperialist sequel. Read it.
A Bittersweet History
By Elizabeth Abbott
Illustrated. 453 pp. Duckworth Overlook. $29.95
The most dispiriting aspect of our belated environmental consciousness is the realization that many of the delightful substances we put into our mouths — like cold bottled water and imported produce — have costs that far outweigh the immediate gratification they deliver. In “Sugar: A Bittersweet History,” her thorough, workmanlike new study, Elizabeth Abbott reminds us that this has been true for centuries. A hundred years before Pushkin described ecstasy as “a glassful of tea and a piece of sugar in the mouth,” the demands of the sugar economy had ripped apart African communities and forced slaves across the Atlantic to work sugar cane plantations. Abbott’s book, which discusses the effects of sugar on everything from the Haitian revolution to Hitler’s Germany, serves as a grim reminder that a consumer’s choices register on a gigantic scale, and are therefore as much political as personal.
Abbott, the author of “A History of Mistresses” and “A History of Celibacy,” only briefly discusses sugar cane’s impact before the last 500 years, although sugar appears in two millenniums of New Guinean and Indian legends and records. (Sugar cane was first domesticated in New Guinea.) By the middle of the 17th century, the French, English and Dutch empires were all actively competing for Caribbean land that would support their sweet tooth. Some early plantation workers were in fact poor Europeans, many of whom perished under the abusive and sickening conditions. The owners managed just fine, however: of the estimated 11 million slaves who traveled to the New World, more than half worked on sugar plantations.
Abbott’s description of the Middle Passage and the gruesome inhumanity that continued upon arrival breaks no new ground, but is appropriately powerful: “Slaves, many of them women, were then working 18 to 20 hours a day, and often fell asleep or faltered as they fed cane through the huge rollers. The rollers easily caught a careless hand and pulled its owner along through the roller, crushing her to death. This was such a frequent occurrence that many overseers kept a hatchet or saber at the ready so they could chop off the trapped limb to save the slave’s life.” Abbott also wisely circles back to the effect that the slave trade had on those Africans who stayed put; they endured social dysfunction and a commodity market that spiraled downward thanks to an influx of European goods — the same goods that had been traded for slaves.
Abbott is on shakier ground when she turns to the Haitian revolution’s relationship with sugar, failing to enliven one of history’s most dramatic chapters. She does, however, explain the process by which a “noble delicacy” trickled down to the middle classes and eventually to entire societies. She offers up a number of fascinating stories, including Hitler’s attempts to ensure a steady supply of sugar through the worst horrors of the war. (Orwell, in “1984,” was canny to present a totalitarian system that understood even its most traumatized citizens would rally at the news of an increase in chocolate rations.) Still, too much of the material about sugar’s role in domestic life is dull: “Children, too, enjoyed ice cream and soda, and accompanied their mothers and fathers to ice cream saloons and soda fountains.”
And even if Abbott’s perspective is generally sound, her overarching theory of sugar’s importance is too grand. “Sugar slavery’s most insidious creation,” she writes, “was the racialism that justified enslaving Africans and forcing them into the cane fields.” Her source here is Eric Williams, the great Caribbean historian (and first prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago), who himself was much influenced by the Marxist C. L. R. James’s groundbreaking work. Williams noted that “slavery was not born of racism; rather, racism was the consequence of slavery.” One can appreciate the economic role in the creation and perpetuation of an evil system, but it is much too glib to claim that sugar bears responsibility for racism. There was racism before slavery, and there was cruelty before the rise of the sugar economy.
Isaac Chotiner is the executive editor of The Book: An Online Review at The New Republic.
Thursday, Feb. 05, 2009
Elizabeth Abbott on the search for her family's past and the unexpected turn it took
[Editor's note: Read an excerpt from Sugar at the bottom of this essay.]
Sugar: A Bittersweet History was several lifetimes in the making. It began with the ancestral Abbott who left Northern Ireland's County Fermagh to seek his fortune as a sugarcane planter in the Leeward Island of Antigua; he married another planter's daughter and established the Abbott dynasty.
It continued with my grandfather, Stanley Abbott, who turned his back on Antigua and its struggling sugar industry in the early twentieth century and sailed away to Canada. Grandpa confided to his family that he'd like to return to Antigua for a visit, but he never did. To outsiders curious about his accent, he concealed his origins by pretending that he had emigrated from Blackpool in England.
In my late teens, years after Grandpa Abbott's premature death, I developed a fascination with my West Indian heritage. I sought out lost relatives and, in the family home in the Antiguan capital of St. John's, bunked down in the bed of my late great-grandmother, Mary Johnston Abbott.
Mary had been a very pretty but difficult woman, wiry and tense, and death had not brought her peace. Instead, she was said to wander restlessly through the courtyard in her long blue dress, a “jumby ” or restless spirit. For neighbours, she was a disquieting presence. For me, she was the only person who might answer my questions. Nobody else could or would.
What I most wanted to know was: Who were my ancestors? By then, I was convinced that I had black as well as white blood, and I believed that my great-grandmother could shed light on my lineage. Though I lay sleepless with a notebook and pencil under my pillow, peering through the mosquito netting for a glimpse of her blue dress, she never appeared.
As I continued my quest, I became increasingly aware of how pervasive sugar was in my family's history. I inherited two cups awarded to my great-great grandfather, Richard Abbott, by the Antigua Western Agricultural Society. One was for “Making the Largest Return of Sugar at the Smallest of Expense;” the other was for producing “the Best Quality of Sugar at the Least Expense.” I listened as my widowed great-aunt Millicent Abbott Sutherland described weighing cane at the Antigua Sugar Factory at Gunthropes to support her family. I came to understand that I needed to write a book about sugar, though I had no idea what sort of book it would be.
I devoured Caribbean history books. I developed and taught a course in comparative slavery. I left Canada and moved to Haiti, where I interviewed farmers who grew cane in minuscule fields and lived with their families in mud-floored shanties. I lectured at the national university, teaching comparative slavery to the descendants of sugarcane plantation slaves.
Nearly a decade later, on a clear sunlit June morning in the West African slave-trading port of Whydah, Benin, I made a pilgrimage down the Route des Esclaves, the long and eerily verdant trail that was the shackled Africans' last sight of Africa as they shuffled along in coffles to the waiting slavers.
My book had begun to take shape in my mind. In 2004 I resigned my deanship at Trinity College, University of Toronto, to write it. A few months before it was published, I submitted two sodden swab sticks to a DNA-testing company. The analysis revealed what my jumby great-grandmother had failed to: bloodlines of European, Sub-Saharan African and (a total surprise) East Asian origins. Whether writing about sugar planters, slaves or indentured coolies, I had been writing about my ancestors.
An excerpt from Sugar: A Bittersweet History
Sugar began life in Europe as an aristocrat, a luxury reserved for nobles who outdid each other with sugar-sculpted virtuosity. It was so highly valued that sycophantic officials curried favour with kings by offering them gifts of sugar loaves. Sugar symbolized wealth, and delighted those fortunate enough to have it available.
Let's peep in at a feast given by Mary of Hungary, regent of the Netherlands, in honour of Philip II, son and heir of Charles V. It's 1549, and the highlight of the evening is the “sugar collation,” a gastronomic orgy offered after both banquet and ball. Charles and Mary's other guests watch as each course is lowered to the ground on tables attached to massive pillars, followed by an outburst of thunder and lightning, with tiny pieces of candy simulating rain and hail. The tables are laden with sweets, including 100 varieties of white conserves. The most impressive boasts sugar sculptures of a deer, boar, birds, fish, a rock and a sugar-fruit laurel tree. Does Charles, under intense pressure to act decisively on the issue of New World Indian human rights, feel the slightest twinge of conscience at the human cost of so much squandered sweetness?
Whatever Charles might have thought that night, Mary of Hungary's party did not set the standard for sugary spectacles. In 1566, when Maria de Aviz married Alessandro Farnese, the Duke of Parma, the sugar platters at their wedding feast held a stunning array of sweets that guests devoured in sugar dishes and glasses, cutting larger bonbons with sugar knives and forks, mopping up syrupy ones with sugar bread. Even the candlesticks were sugar. But all that seemed quite modest when the city of Antwerp's wedding gift was revealed: more than three thousand sugar sculptures commemorating Maria's voyage from Lisbon to her new home in the Netherlands. Whales and sea serpents, storms and ships, then the cities that welcomed her en route, even Alessandro himself was replicated in stately sugar. As a parting token, each wedding guest took home a piece of the royal action.
Even this was modest compared to a “sugar banquet” thrown in 1591 for England's sweet-toothed Virgin Queen, an event so spectacular that it likely inspired Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream. We'll peep in on it, too. This midsummer's night dream takes place in Elvetham, Hampshire, and will last four days. Edward, Earl of Hertford, who was once imprisoned in the Tower of London for bigamy, is its very motivated host. Edward is in perpetual political disgrace and needs royal favour to legitimize his children and generally feel secure. So he has built several pavilions to provide suitable accommodations for Elizabeth and her five hundred courtiers, and there's already a crescent-moon-shaped artificial lake lit with exploding fireworks. Elizabeth is now sitting in a hillside gallery, looking down as the evening begins.
The entertainment is centered on sugary representations of everything Hertford has thought will impress his scary royal guest. And so the parade of two hundred gentlemen and their hundred torchbearers are laden with confections of castles, soldiers and weaponry, followed by marzipan “beastes” and “all that can flie,” “all kind of wormes” and “all sorts of fishes” and, because too modest a display might offend Her Majesty, a smorgasbord of candied delicacies including jellies and marmalades, fruits, nuts and seeds, sweetmeats, even – how daring in this fruit-fearing era – fresh fruit!
Elizabeth will nibble long and hard, for she has an insatiable sweet tooth. No wonder portraitists flatter her with closed-mouth images. Elizabeth is nearly sixty years old, attractive still and majestic. But, yes, her teeth are black, as at least one foreign courtier has reported, and yes, it likely is because she overindulges in sugar.
Lovely sugary desserts were also appearing on European tables. In France, two Italian-born Medici queens had a deep influence on French cooking. Queen Catherine, who in 1533 married the future Henri II when she was a tubby fourteen-year-old, imported Italian “virtuosi” to supervise the court's kitchens, and these men were especially adept at creating sugared desserts and treats. Catherine was both gluttonous and sugar-loving, and should be credited with popularizing the notion of climaxing meals with delightfully sweet confections.
In 1600, Marie de Medici was married off to France's Henri IV, who hated his homely blond wife and presided over a court whose courtiers mocked her as “the fat banker.” Marie escaped the tribulations of her hostile marriage and surroundings by comforting herself with food, especially sweets. She brought Giovanni Pastilla, the Medici clan's confectioner, to the French court, where his concoctions delighted the French as much as their queen. The term bonbon – good good – originated from the royal children's nickname for his wares, as did the word pastille, the small, sugared fruit tablets Pastilla specialized in.
Sugar stirred the universe and fuelled the engines of empire. The profits were huge but the costs were greater. As the imperializing sugar interests encouraged the spread of their addictive product, the African continent lost its way along the shackled path toward the future. And across the Atlantic, millions of enslaved Africans toiled in the cane fields, chained for life to the English zest for sugar. A food historian celebrates the culinary genius brought to bear on sweetness but laments its costs: “that by rights it ought to have lost its sweetness.”
From Sugar: A Bittersweet History, by Elizabeth Abbott. Copyright Elizabeth Abbott 2008.
July 1910, p. 625
ANGOLA, THE LAST FOOTHOLD OF SLAVERY
ANGOLA, the Portuguese colony on the West Coast of Africa, is a country about as large as France, Switzerland, and Italy combined. Its coast-line on the Atlantic is nearly 1,000 miles in length and has many good harbors. For every thousand people who have heard of the Congo Free State, which borders on the east and north, it is possible that two have heard of Angola, and perhaps one of those knows that from a time some score of years before the inauguration of the Congo State to the present day there has existed in that country a system of slavery which is only comparable with that of the Spaniards in the West Indies. Slaves are brought down from the far interior, often as far as 800 miles, by agents who think they have done well if one-half of their drove survive the journey. At the coast, knowing that it is impossible for them to return home, the slaves bind themselves to a term of service "indentured labor," it is called which never ends, and are shipped to the cocoa plantations of the islands of Saint Thome and Principe.
Angola is classed as a country poor in natural products of the soil and in minerals, but still moderately rich in men, in spite of having been squeezed for generations by the Portuguese. The principal agricultural products are manico, coffee, bananas, sugar-cane, and tobacco. The trade is mostly with Portugal, the chief exports being coffee, rubber, ivory, wax, fish, and palm oil.
The capital of Angola is Loanda, or Saint Paul de Loanda, as it was christened, the oldest Portuguese settlement south of the Equator and once the center of the slave trade between Africa and Brazil. Its splendid harbor offers a safe haven, and it boasts of a mixed population of about 25,000. For administrative purposes the colony is divided into five districts, and at the head is a governor appointed by the Portuguese. The population is estimated at 5,000,000, the greater portion natives, and the number of Europeans being only about 4,000. They have, however, exercised a great modifying influence on the native population inhabiting the western part of the colony as regards their customs and economic condition.
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE
Vol. I, n.º 2, 1889 p. 99-124
Annual Address of the President:
Africa, its Past and Future: Gardiner G. Hubbard
AFRICA, ITS PAST AND FUTURE.
Africa, the oldest of the continents, containing the earliest remains of man, and the birthplace of European civilization, is the last to be explored. Long before the temples of India or the palaces of Nineveh were built, before the hanging garden of Babylon was planted, the pyramids of Cheops and Cephren had been constructed, the temples of Palmyra and Thebes filled with worshipers.
Greece owes its civilization to Egypt: its beautiful orders of architecture came from the land of the Nile. The civilization of Egypt had grown old, and was in its decay, when Rome was born. Think what a vast abyss of time separates us from the days of Romulus and Remus! And yet the pyramids of Egypt were then older by a thousand years than all the centuries that have passed since then.
For ages upon ages, Africa has refused to reveal its Secrets to civilized man, and, though explorers have penetrated it from every side, it remains to-day the dark continent. This isolation of Africa is due to its position and formation. It is a vast, ill formed triangle, with few good harbors, without navigable rivers for ocean-vessels, lying mainly in the torrid zone. A fringe of low scorched land, reeking with malaria, extends in unbroken monotony all along the coast, threatening death to the adventurous explorer. Our ignorance of Africa is not in consequence of its situation under the equator, for South America in the torrid zone has long been known. There the explorer easily penetrates its recesses on its great rivers,—the Orinoco, Amazon, and La Plata,—for they are navigable from the ocean far into the interior. The Amazon, 3,000 miles from its mouth, is only 210 feet above the ocean-level, and, with its branches, is navigable for 10,000 miles. Africa also has three great rivers,—one on each side of this peninsula. On the north, the Nile, the river of the past, empties into the Mediterranean Sea, but its navigation is soon interrupted by five cataracts; so that the camel, the ship of the desert, bears the wares of Europe from the foot of the first cataract far up the river, 800 miles, to Berber, whence they are again shipped by boat 2,000 miles to Gondokoro, close to the lakes Albert and Victoria Nyanza, 4,000 feet above the sea-level, 4,200 miles by water from the Mediterranean.
On the west, the Kongo, the river of the future, empties into the Atlantic Ocean under the equatorial sun; but its navigation is also impeded by successive falls extending from its mouth to Stanley Pool. Then there is almost uninterrupted navigation on the river and its tributaries for 10,000 miles. Far inland the head waters of its north-eastern branches interlace with the waters of the Nile. Another branch rises in Lake Tanganyika in eastern Africa, while the main river finds its source higher up in the mountains, north of Lake Nyassa, 5,000 feet above the sea-level. On the east the Zambezi, the great river of southern Africa, empties into the Indian Ocean opposite Madagascar. The navigation of its main branch, the Shire, is interrupted not far from the ocean. The Zambezi itself is navigable to the rapids near Tete, 260 miles from its mouth; while one or two hundred miles higher up are the mighty falls of Victoria, only exceeded in volume of water by the Niagara, and nearly equal in height.
In whatever direction Europeans attempted to penetrate Africa, they were met by insurmountable obstacles. Communication by water was prevented by falls near the mouths of great rivers. The greater part of the coast was very unhealthy, and, where not unhealthy, a desert was behind it; but these obstacles, which formerly prevented exploration, now stimulate the traveler. The modern explorations of Africa commenced one hundred years ago, when Mungo Park crossed the Desert of Sahara, and lost his life in descending the Niger. From that time to the present, travelers in ever-increasing numbers have entered Africa from every side. Some who have entered from the Atlantic or Pacific coasts have been lost in its wilds, and two or three years after have emerged on the opposite coast; others have passed from the coast, and have never been heard from. Zanzibar has been a favorite starting-point for the lake region of Central Africa. Stanley started from Zanzibar on his search for Livingstone with two white men, but returned alone. Cameron set out by the same path with two companions, but, upon reaching the lake region, he was alone. Keith Johnson, two or three years ago, started with two Europeans: within a couple of months he was gone. Probably every second man, stricken down by fever or accident, has left his bones to bleach along the road. Drummond, a recent explorer of Africa, chose a route by the Zambezi and Shire Rivers as healthier and more desirable. Let us hear his experience. Early in his journey, at the missionary station of Livingstonia, on Lake Nyanza, he entered a missionary home: it was spotlessly clean; English furniture in the room, books lying about, dishes in the cupboards; but no missionary. He went to the next house: it was the school; the benches and books were there, but neither scholars nor teacher. Next, to the blacksmith shop: there were the tools and anvil, but no blacksmith. And so on to the next and the next, all in perfect order, but all empty. A little way off, among the mimosa groves, under a huge granite mountain, were graves: there were the missionaries.
The Niger is the only river in all Africa navigable by small steamers from the ocean; but the Niger does not give access to the interior, as it rises within 100 miles of the ocean, and, after making a great bend around the mountains of the Guinea coast, empties into the ocean only about five degrees south of its source, after a course of 2,500 miles. Its main branch, the Benue (or " Mother of Waters "), is navigable 500 or 600 miles above its junction with the Niger. The country through which it flows is thickly peopled and well cultivated; but the natives are fierce and warlike, and have until recently prevented any exploration of the Benue.
THE MOUNTAINS OF AFRICA
As mountain-ranges determine the course of rivers, influence the rainfall, and temper the climate, we must understand the mountain system of Africa before we can understand the continent as a whole.
Standing on the citadel at Cairo, and looking south, you see a sandstone ridge which gradually grows in altitude and width of base as it runs far away to the south, even to the Cape of Good Hope at the other end of Africa. Successive ranges of mountains follow the coast, sometimes near, at others two or three hundred miles inland; the land, in the latter case, ascending from the coast. The only breaks in this long chain are where the Zambezi and Limpopo force their way to the Indian Ocean.
In Abyssinia, on the Red Sea, there is a range of snowy mountains 14,000 feet in height. A few hundred miles to the southeast, and near Lake Victoria Nyanza, almost under the equator, is another snow-capped mountain, Kilima Njaro, 18,700 feet high,—the highest mountain in Africa,—and the mountains of Massai-Land, a continuation of the Abyssinian Mountains. Another range, apparently an offshoot of the long range from the Red Sea, forms a wall 100 miles long, and 10,000 feet high, on the east of Lake Nyassa, separating the waters of that lake from the Indian Ocean. This range continues to the Zambezi. South of this river the mountains rise 8,000 to 10,000 feet in height. In Cape Colony are several ranges of mountains. The highest peak is Compas Berg, 8,500 feet. In the eastern center of Africa, in the equatorial region, is an elevated plateau in which is the lake region, then there is a sudden rise, and a gradual descent towards the Atlantic. There are few continuous ranges of mountains on the western coast; but at Kamerun there is a cluster of mountains reaching an elevation of 13,100 feet; and south of Morocco some of the peaks of the Atlas Mountains reach an elevation of 12,000 to 13,000 feet, but they have little if any influence on the rainfall or temperature of the country. It will be seen from this statement that eastern Africa has high mountain-ranges rising into an elevated plateau; that the land in Equatorial Africa gradually descends toward the west and north-west until within one or two hundred miles of the Atlantic Ocean, when the descent is rapid to the low and unhealthy coast-lands. Through equatorial Africa runs the Kongo, the land north of the Kongo gradually rising to an elevation of about 2,000 feet, and then descending to 1,200 feet at Lake Chad. South of the Kongo the land rises to an elevation of 3 000 feet, and retains this elevation far south into the Portuguese territory.
Careful computations have been made to ascertain the average elevation of the continent. The mean of the most careful estimates is a little over 2,000 feet. The interior is therefore elevated above the miasmatic influences of the coast, but exactly what effect this elevation has upon the temperature can only be ascertained after careful investigation and a series of observations. North of Guinea and Senegambia the coast is less unhealthy; but, as the Desert of Sahara extends to the ocean, the country is of little value, and is therefore left to the native tribes, unclaimed by Europeans.
In the International Scientific Series it is stated that there are in Africa ten active volcanoes,—four on the west coast, and six on the east,—but I have not found any corroboration of this report, and think it very doubtful if there are any volcanoes now in eruption. The Kilima Njaro and Kamerun were formerly active volcanoes, for the craters still exist. In the south the diamond-fields are of volcanic ash formation.
The lake region of Africa stretches from the head waters of the upper Nile three degrees south, to the waters of the Zambezi, fifteen degrees south,—a lake region unequalled, in extent and volume of water, except by our lakes. Here is the Victoria Nyanza, the queen of inland seas, 4,000 feet above the sea-level; and a long series of lakes, great and small, at equal elevation. The more striking are Bangweolo to the south-west, the grave of Livingstone, and Nyassa on the south-east. In their depths the Nile, the Kongo River, and the Shire (the main branch of the Zambezi) have their source.
The great belt of equatorial Africa, situated between the 15th parallel of north latitude and the 15th parallel of south latitude, has continuous rains, is everywhere well watered, and has a rich and fertile soil. Some portions are thickly populated, and it is capable of sustaining a dense population. North and south of this belt there are two other belts of nearly equal width. In each of these belts there are wet and dry seasons, with abundant rain for the crops. The heaviest rainfall in the north belt is in June, while in the south belt it is in December. The rainfall gradually grows less toward the north, and also toward the south, until it ceases in the Desert of Sahara on the north, and in the Desert of Kalahari on the south. On the edge of these deserts are Lake Chad on the north, and Lake Ngami on the south. North of the Desert of Sahara, and south of the Desert of Kalahari, there is an abundant rainfall, a healthy climate, and fertile soil. Morocco, Algiers, and Tripoli, on the Mediterranean, are in the north region; and Zulu-Land, the Orange Free State, and Cape Colony, in the corresponding region of the south.
That portion of Africa north of the equator is three or four times greater than that south, and the Sahara Desert and Lake Chad are several times greater than the Kalahari Desert and -Lake Ngami. The Sahara Desert, the waterless ocean three times as large as the Mediterranean, extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, broken only by the narrow valley of the Nile. It is interspersed with oases, with the valleys of many dry streams, and with some mountains 8,000 feet. It has the hottest climate in the world. Travelers tell us, that, in upper Egypt and Nubia, eggs may be baked in the hot sands; that the soil is like fire, and the wind like a flame; that in other parts of the desert the sand on the rocks is sometimes heated to 200° in the day-time, while in the following night the thermometer falls below freezing- point. In crossing the desert the traveler will hardly need a guide, for the road is too clearly marked by the bones and skeletons that point the way.
Lake Chad receives the drainage of a considerable area of country. In the dry season it has no outlet, and is then about the size of Lake Erie. In the wet season it is said to be five times as large. Its level rises by twenty or thirty feet until it overflows into the Desert of Sahara, forming a stream which runs northward for several hundred miles, and is finally lost in a great depressed plain. In the southern part of Africa the level of Lake Ngami rises and falls in a similar manner.
Through the great equatorial belt runs the Kongo, one of the wonderful rivers of the world. The more we know of this river and its tributaries, the more we are impressed by its greatness and importance. Its principal source is in the mountain-range which separates Lake Nyassa from Lake Tanganika, between 300 and 400 miles west of the Indian Ocean; thence it runs southerly through Lake Bangweolo. On leaving this lake, it takes a north-west course, running from 12° south latitude to 2° north latitude, thence running south-westerly to the ocean, nearly 3,000 miles. The river Sankuru, its principal tributary, empties into the Kongo some distance above Stanley Pool on the south. The mouths of the Sankuru were discovered by Stanley, who was struck by the size and beauty of the river, and by the lakes which probably connect it by a second outlet with the Kongo; but he little realized the magnitude of the river. Even before the journey of Stanley, Portuguese explorers had crossed several large streams far to the south of the Kongo,—the Kuango, the Kassai, and the Lomami,—and explored them for several hundred miles, but were unable to follow them to their mouths. In 1885 and 1886, Wissman and the Belgian explorers sailed up the Sankuru to the streams discovered by the Portuguese. The next largest branch is the Obangi, now called the Obangi-Welle, which flows into the Kongo on the westerly side of the continent, a little south of the equator. An expedition organized by the Kongo Free State steamed up this river in the winter of 1887 and 1888, and solved the problem so long discussed, of the outlet of the Welle. The expedition left the Kongo in the steamer "En Avant," October 26, 1887. It passed several rapids, and steamed to 21° 55' east longitude, when it was stopped by the " En Avant " running on a rock, and the opposition of hostile natives. Here it was only 66 miles from the westernmost point on the Welle reached by Junker, and in the same latitude, each stream running in the same direction, leaving no room to doubt that the two waters unite.
The Little Kibali, which rises a little to the west of Wadelai in the mountains of Sudan, is the initial branch of this river, which bears successively the name of " Kibali " " Welle " and " Doru," and empties into the Kongo under the name of "Obangi," after a course of 1,500 miles.
The discharge of water from the Kongo is only a little less than that from the Amazon, and is said to be three times as great as the discharge from the Mississippi. Grenfel, the English missionary and traveler, says there is no part of the Kongo basin more than one hundred miles from navigable water. What the railroad does for America, the steamboat will do for the Kongo Free State on its seventy-two hundred miles of navigable water.
APPROPRIATION OF AFRICA BY EUROPE.
The English, French, Germans, and Belgians have within a few years planted colonies in Africa. They believe it is more for their interest to colonize Africa than to permit their surplus population to emigrate to America. These countries realize the necessity of creating new markets, if they are to continue to advance. In Africa the colonies must depend upon the home country, and open new fields for manufactures and commerce. They know that in equatorial Africa there are more than 100,000,000 people wanting everything, even clothes.
The whole coast of Africa on the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans from the Red Sea to the Isthmus of Suez, is claimed by European nations, with the exception of two or three small inhospitable and barren strips of coast, England occupies Egypt, and will hold it for an indefinite period. France has its colonies in Tripoli, Algiers, and Morocco, and on the Atlantic coast its factories in Senegambia. It seeks a route from Algiers across the desert to Lake Chad, and from Senegambia up the Senegal by steamer, thence across the country by rail to the head of navigation on the Niger, and down that river to Timbuctu.
England occupies Sierra Leone, the Gold and Slave Coasts, the delta and valley of the Niger, and its branch the Benue. It has factories on these rivers, and small steamers plying on them, and seeks Timbuctu by the river Niger. It controls almost the entire region where the palm-oil is produced.
Timbuctu, long before Africa was known to Europe, was the centre of a large trade in European and Asiatic goods. Caravans crossed the Desert of Sahara from Timbuctu north to the Mediterranean, and east to Gondokoro, carrying out slaves, gold and ivory and bringing back European and Asiatic goods.
Sandwiched between the English possessions, Liberia struggles for existence, its inhabitants fast degenerating into barbarism.
Joining the English possessions on the Gold Coast, two degrees north of the equator, are the German possessions of Kamerun, with high mountains and invigorating breezes; but the land at the foot is no more favorable to the European than the Guinea coast. One or two hundred miles in the interior of this part of the continent, the land rapidly rises to the tableland of equatorial Africa, rich and fertile, resembling the valley of the Kongo, possibly habitable by Europeans.
Next, the French occupy the Ogowe, its branches, and the coast, to the Kongo, and claim the country inland to the possessions of the Kongo Free State. Under M. Brazza, they have thoroughly explored the country to the river Kongo, and have established factories at Franceville and other places.
The Kongo Free State comes next. It holds on the coast only the mouth of the river, its main possessions lying in the interior, Belgium is the only country that has planted colonies inland. Like all the interior of equatorial Africa, the valley of the Kongo is well watered and has continuous rains. The land is rich and fertile, but is practically inaccessible, and, before any extensive commerce can be carried on, must be connected by railroad with the ocean. The Compagnie du Congo has just completed a survey for a railroad on the south side of the Kongo, from Matadi, opposite Vivi, to Stanley Pool. It did not encounter any unusual difficulties, and has submitted the plans and projects to the King of Belgium for his approval.
South of the Kongo Free State are the Portugese possessions of Angola, Benguela, and Mossamedes. Portugal, the first country to circumnavigate Africa, and the first to colonize it, has for several centui'ies had factories, and carried on a large trade with Africa, exchanging clothes and blankets for slaves, gold and ivory. It claimed the valley of the Kongo; but the claim has been reduced, and is now bounded for a considerable distance on the north by a line running due east and west on the 6th parallel of south latitude. They have good harbors at St. Paul de Loango, Benguela, and Mossamedes, on the Atlantic coast, and the best harbor of Africa, at Delagoa Bay on the Indian Ocean. The territory claimed will, I believe, prove to be the most valuable in Africa. It is well watered by numerous tributaries of the Kongo and by the Zambezi and its branches. It is higher than the Kongo valley, and is therefore more healthy. Several Portuguese, English, and German travelers have crossed and recrossed this part of the continent, and the Portuguese have some small settlements on the coast and in the interior. The Portuguese of the present generation have not the enterprise and trading spirit of their forefathers, and are doing very little for the settlement of the country.
South of the Portuguese possessions, England claims from the Portuguese possessions on the Atlantic to their possessions on the Pacific, including Namaqua-Land, Cape Colony, the Transvaal, and Zulu-Land.
Namaqua and Damai'a Land, formerly claimed by the Germans, are now put down on some of the maps as belonging to England. The only harbor on the coast is held by the English; and, from the character of the country, we are not surprised that the Germans have abandoned it, for we are told that " the coast is sandy and waterless, deficient in good harbors, devoid of permanent rivers, washed by never-ceasing surf, bristling with reefs, and overhung by a perpetual haze."
North of Zulu-Land, the Portuguese claim the coast to Zanzibar. Over Zanzibar, Germany has lately assumed the protectorate, under a treaty with the Sultan of the country, claiming the land from the ocean to the great lakes; then England again, a little to the north and far to the west of Zanzibar, the rival of Germany in its claims. The English have factories west of Zanzibar, and a regular route up the Zambezi and Shire Rivers, with a single portage to Lake Nyassa, and a road to Lake Tanganyika. They have steamers on each of the lakes, and several missionary and trading stations. The latest news from this part of Africa says the route to the lakes has been closed, and the missionaries and merchants murdered.
North of the English possessions, the coast to the Red Sea is barren and inhospitable: it has little rain and no harbors, and is so worthless that it has not been claimed by any European nation. North of this region is Abyssinia on the Indian Ocean and Red Sea,—a mountainous country with deep valleys, rich and fertile, but very unhealthy. Three or four thousand feet above the level of the sea, is a healthier country, inhabited by a race of rugged mountaineers, whom it has been impossible to dispossess of their lands. North of Abyssinia, on the Red Sea, Italy has a small colony at Massaua, and England a camp at Suakin. The only parts of the coast not claimed by Europeans are inhospitable, without population or cultivation of any kind.
The Belgians have spent many millions in the exploration of the Kongo and its tributaries. They have eighteen small steamers making trips from Leopoldville up the river to Stanley Falls, and up its branches, supplying the main stations in the basin of the Kongo, The Kongo Free State, unlike all other African colonies, is free to all. Merchants of any nation can establish factories, carry on trade, and enjoy the same privileges and equal facilities with the Belgians. The valley of the Kongo, and the plateau of the great lakes, have a similar climate and soil; but the Kongo is easier of access, provisions are cheaper, more readily obtained, and the natives are less warlike. The Kongo Free State will therefore be more rapidly settled than any other part of Africa excepting Cape Colony.
The trade with these countries is carried on by European companies under royal charter, with quasi-sovereign powers for ruling the country and governing the natives, as well as for trading with them. England, Germany, and Portugal subsidize steamship companies which make regular trips along the western coast, stopping at the different stations.
From this statement it will be seen that England occupies the healthiest portion of Africa (Cape Colony), the most fertile valleys (the Nile and the Niger), the richest gold-fields (Gold Coast and Transvaal); that Portugal comes next, claiming the most desirable portion of equatorial Africa north of Cape Colony and south of the Kongo, but that it is unable to colonize this country, which will inevitably fall under the control of England; that the French claim Algiers and Senegambia, and are contending with England for the trade of Timbuctu and the upper valley of the Niger; that Germany, after vain attempts to penetrate the interior from Kamerun and Angra Pequena, has planted her flag at Zanzibar, and has determined to contest with England the lake region and the great plateaus of Central Africa; while Italy, imitating the other states, tries in vain to obtain a footing on the Red Sea, worthless if obtained.
The population of Africa is roughly estimated at 200,000,000, —about 18 to a square mile, as against 88 in Europe. It is supposed that Africa was originally inhabited by the Hottentots, or Bushmen, who are now found only in south-western Africa, and by the Pygmies or Dwarfs scattered about Central Africa, who, some say, belong to the same group. This group is noted for its dwarfed stature, generally under five feet; but whether their size is natural, or due to privation and scanty food, is not certainly known. The Hottentot language is distinct from any other known form of speech. The Bantu occupy the greater part of Africa south of the equator. They probably formerly inhabited north-eastern Africa, but were driven from their homes by the Hamites. The Bantu resemble the Negro in their general character, color, and physique, but their language shows essential differences. There are countless tribes of Bantu, each tribe having its own language, yet there was originally a primeval Bantu mother-tongue, from which all the dialects of this immense region are undoubtedly derived. The idioms of this family are generally known as the alliteral class of languages. North of the Bantu are the Negroes proper, occupying the greater part of Africa between 5° and 15° north latitude. The negro tribes are multitudinous, and, though alike in their main physical features, are diverse in their speech.
North of the Negro are the Nuba Fulah group, apparently indigenous to Africa, but without any thing in common with the other indigenous groups. Their name, " Pullo," or " Fulah,"' means " yellow," and their color serves to distinguish them from the Negro. The Hottentot, Bantu, Negro, and Fulah, though distinct, have each of them the agglutinative forms of speech. The Hamites are found along the valley of the Nile, in Abyssinia,, and portions of the Sudan. The Shemitic tribes occupy the larger part of the Sudan, bounded on the east by the Nile, and on the north by the Mediterranean and North Atlantic.
About one-half of the population are Negroes proper, one fourth Bantu, one-fourth Shemites and Hamites, a few Nuba Fulahs and Hottentots. The Negroes and Bantu are Pagans; the Shemites and Hamites, Mohammedans. There are, almost, innumerable tribes, speaking different languages or different dialects. Over six hundred tribes and languages have been classified by Shilo, yet each is generally unintelligible to the other. Practically speaking, there are but two great divisions,—the Negroes and Bantu, occupying equatorial and southern Africa; and the Hamites and Shemites, northern Africa. But there is no clear-cut line even between the Mohammedan and Negro. For many hundred years the Negroes have been taken as slaves, and carried into the north of Africa, and have furnished the harems with wives, and the families with servants. The servants are often adopted into the families, so that the Negro blood now largely predominates even among the Shemites and Hamites.
A broader and more practical distinction than that of language or blood is made by the religion of the African. The Mohammedan religion was probably brought from Arabia by the Shemites. They conquered the country along the coast, and exterminated or pushed to the south the former inhabitants. Then, more slowly but steadily, Mohammedanism forced its way south by the sword or by proselyting. Within the last thirty years it has re-assumed its proselyting character, and is now more rapidly extending than at any previous time.
Its missionaries are of a race nearly allied to the Negro. They live among them, adopting their customs, and often intermarrying with them. They teach of one God, whom all must worship and obey, and of a future life whose rewards the Negro can comprehend. They forbid the sacrifice of human victims to appease the wrath of an offended deity. They forbid drunkenness. They give freedom to the slave who becomes a Moslem, and thus elevate and civilize those among whom they dwell. The Christian missionary is of a race too far above him. He is a white man, his lord and master. He teaches of things his mind cannot reach, of a future of which he can form no conception; he brings a faith too spiritual; he labors with earnestness and devotion, even to the laying-down of his life. Yet the fact remains that Christianity has produced but little impression in civilizing and elevating the people, while the influence of Mohommedanism is spreading on every side.
In passing from the equator south, the tribes become more degraded. Sir Henry Maine enunciated the theory of the evolution of civilization from the lowest state of the savage. In Africa he could have found all stages of civilization; in the lowest scale, man and his mate, living entirely on the fruits of the earth, in a nude condition, his only house pieces of bark hung from the trees to protect him from the prevailing wind; the vulture his guide to where, the previous night, the lion had fallen on his prey, leaving to him the great marrow-bones of the elephant or the giraffe; his only arms a stick; belonging to no tribe, with no connection with his fellow-men, his hand against every man, the family relation scarcely recognized. It is the land of the gorilla, and there seems to be little difference between the man and the ape, and both are hunted and shot by the Boers. In ascending the scale, the family and tribal relation appears,—a house built of cane and grass or the bark of the tree; a few flocks; skill in setting traps for game; the weapon a round stone, bored through, and a pointed stick fastened in the hole. Then come tribes of a low order of civilization, that cultivate a little ground, having a despotic king, who has wives without limit, numbering in some cases, it is said, 3,000; wives and slaves slaughtered at his death, to keep him company and serve him in another life. With them, cannibalism is common. Then come tribes of a higher civilization, where the power of the chief is limited, where iron, copper, and gold are manufactured, and trade is carried on with foreigners. where fire-arms have been substituted for the bow and spear; next the Mohammedan; and last of all, on the shores of the Mediterranean, the civilization of the French and English. It is a curious fact that many tribes that had made considerable advance in manufacturing iron and copper, have for some time ceased manufacturing; that others have retrograded, and have lost some of the arts they formerly possessed. This decline apparently took place after the Mohammedans had conquered North Africa, and sent their traders among the Negro tribes, who sold the few articles the Negro needed cheaper than they could manufacture them, and therefore compelled them to give up their own manufactures. Such was the effect of free trade on interior Africa. The Mohammedans also manufacture less than formerly, depending more and more upon European manufactures. The enterprise of the white race defies native competition, and stifles attempts at native manufactures: there is therefore among the natives a great falling-off in the progress of outward culture, and the last traces of home industries are rapidly disappearing.
One of the departments of this society is the geography of life. At the head of all life stands man: it is therefore within our province to investigate those questions which more intimately concern and influence his welfare.
Slavery and the slave-trade have, within the last two hundred years, affected African life more than all other influences combined; and this trade, with all its sinister effects, instead of diminishing, is ever increasing. It has had a marked effect not only on the personal and tribal characters of the inhabitants, but on their social organization, and on the whole industrial and economic life of the country. It has not only utterly destroyed many tribes, but it has made the condition of the other tribes one of restless anarchy and insecurity. It has been the great curse of Africa, and for its existence the nations of Europe have been, and are, largely responsible. The temper and disposition of the Negro make him a most useful slave. He can endure continuous hard labor, live on little, has a cheerful disposition, and rarely rises against his master.
There are two kinds of slavery,—home and foreign. The first has always prevailed in Africa. Prisoners taken in war are sacrificed, eaten, or made slaves. Slavery is also a punishment for certain offences, while in some tribes men frequently sell themselves. These slaves are of the same race and civilization as their masters. They are usually well treated, regarded as members of the family, to whom a son or daughter may be given in marriage, the master often preferring to keep his daughter in the family to marrying her to a stranger. This slavery is a national institution of native growth. It is said one half of the inhabitants are slaves to the other half. The horrors of the slave-trade are unknown in this kind of slavery.
In the other case the slave is torn from his home, carried to people, countries, and climates with which he is unfamiliar, and to scenes and civilization which are uncongenial, where his master is of a different color and of another and higher civilization, where the master and slave have nothing in common. The Spaniards made slaves of the Indians of America, but they were incapable of work, unfitted for slavery, and rapidly faded away. In pity for the Indians, the Africans were brought to supply their places. Their ability to labor was proved, and they were soon in great demand.
It is impossible to ascertain the number of slaves imported into America. The estimates vary from 4,000,000 to 5,000,000. The larger number is probably an underestimate; but these figures do not represent the number shipped from Africa, for per cent, were lost on the passage, one-third more in the " process of seasoning;" so that, out of ]00 shipped from Africa, not more than 50 lived to be effective laborers.
Livingstone, who studied the question of slavery most carefully, estimated, that, for every slave exported, not less than five were slain or perished, and that in some cases only one in ten lived to reach America. If the lowest estimate is taken, then not less than 20,000,000 Negroes were taken prisoners or slain to furnish slaves to America. No wonder, that many parts of Africa were depopulated.
Though the slave-trade with America has been suppressed, thousands are annually stolen and sold as slaves in Persia, Arabia, Turkey, and central and northern Africa. Wherever Mohammedanism is the religion, there slavery exists; and to supply the demand the slave-trade is carried on more extensively and more cruelly to-day than at- any previous time. The great harvest-field for slaves is in Central Africa, between 10° south and 10° north latitude. From this region caravans of slaves are sent to ports on the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, and thence shipped to Indo-China, the Persian Gulf, Arabia, Turkey in Asia, and even to Mesopotamia, wherever Mussulmans are found. The English at Suakin are a constant hindrance to this traffic; and therefore Osman Digna has so often within the past five years attacked Suakin, desiring to hold it as a port from which to ship slaves to Arabia. Other caravans are driven across the desert to Egypt, Morocco, and the Barbary States.- Portuguese slave-traders are found in Central Africa, and, though contrary to law, deal in slaves, and own and work them in large numbers. Cameron says that Alrez, a Portuguese trader, owned 500 slaves, and that to obtain them, ten villages, having each from 100 to 200 souls, were destroyed; and of those not taken, some perished in the flames, others of want, or were killed by wild beasts. Cameron says, " I do not hesitate to affirm that the worst Arabs are angels of mercy in comparison to the Portuguese and their agents. If I had not seen it, I could not believe that there could exist men so brutal and cruel, and with such gayety of heart." Livingstone says, " I can consign most disagreeable recollections to oblivion, but the slavery scenes come back unbidden, and make me start up at night horrified by their vividness."
If the chief or pacha of a tribe is called upon for tribute by his superior, if he wishes to build a new palace, -to furnish his harem, or fill an empty treasury, he sends his soldiers, armed with guns and ammunition, against a Negro tribe armed with bows and spears, and captures slaves enough to supply his wants.
The territory from which slaves are captured is continually extending; for, as soon as the European traveler has opened a new route into the interior, he is followed by the Arab trader, who settles down, cultivates the ground, buys ivory (each pair of tusks worth about $500 at Zanzibar or Cairo); invites others to come, and when they have become acquainted with the country, and gathered large quantities of ivory, and porters are wanted to carry the tusks to the coast, a quarrel is instigated with the Negroes, war declared, captives taken,—men for porters, women for the harem,—the villages are burned, and the caravan of slaves and ivory takes its route to the coast, where ail are sold. We are told on good authority that during the past twenty years more slaves have been sent out than formerly were exported in a century. Wissmann tells us what he has seen: —
"In January, 1882, we started from our camp,—200 souls in all,—following the road, sixty feet wide, to a region inhabited by the Basonge, on the Sankuru and Lomami Rivers. The huts were about twenty feet square, divided into two compartments, the furniture consisting of cane and wooden stools; floor, ceiling, and walls covered with grass mats. Between the huts were gardens, where tobacco, tomatoes, pine-apples, and bananas were grown. The fields in the rear down to the river were cultivated with sweet-potatoes, ground-nuts, sugar-cane, manioc, and millet. Goats and sheep and fowls in abundance, homestead follows homestead in never-ending succession. From half-past six in the morning, we passed without a break through the street of the town until eleven. When we left it, it then still extended far away to the south-east. The finest specimens in my collection, such as open-work battle-axes inlaid with copper, spears, and neat utensils, I found in this village.
"Four years had gone by, when I once more found myself near this same village. With joy we beheld the broad savannas, where we expected to recruit our strength and provisions. We encamped near the town, and in the morning approached its palm groves. The paths were no longer clean, no laughter was heard, no sign of welcome greeted us. The silence of death breathes from the palm-trees, tall grass covers every thing, and a few charred poles are the only evidence that man once dwelt there. Bleached skulls by the roadside, and the skeletons of human hands attached to the poles, tell the story. Many women had been carried off. All who resisted were killed. The whole tribe had ceased to exist- The slave-dealer was Sayol, lieutenant of Tippo-Tip."
Sir Samuel Baker was largely instrumental in the suppression of the slave-trade, and, while the rule of the English and French in Egypt was maintained, slavery was greatly diminished; but, since the defeat and death of Gen. Gordon, the slave-trade has rapidly increased, and is now carried on more actively than at any other time. The only obstacles to this traffic are the presence of Emin Pacha at Wadelai, the English and American missionaries, and English trading-stations on Lakes Victoria Nyanza and Tanganyika.
The slave-traders unite in efforts to destroy Emin Pacha, and to expel the missionaries and all -European travelers and traders, except the Portuguese, and for this purpose excite the hostility of the Negro against the foreigner. In this they are aided by the Mahdi. The work of the Mahdi is largely a missionary enterprise. The dervishes who accompany his army are religious fanatics, and desire the overthrow of the Christians and Emin Pacha as earnestly as the slave-trader. Religious fanaticism is therefore united with the greed of the slave-trader to drive out the Christians from the lake region.
Aroused by these reports, and influenced by these views. Cardinal Lavigerie, for twenty years Bishop of Algiers and now Primate of Africa, last summer started a new crusade in Belgium and Germany against slavery and the slave-trade. The cardinal has organized societies, and is raising a large fund to equip two armed steamships for Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyassa, the headquarters of the slave-trade, and offers, if necessary, to head the band himself. The Pope has engaged in the work, has contributed liberally to this fund, and sent three hundred Catholic missionaries to Central Africa. The slave-trade is carried on with arms and ammunition furnished by European traders. Without these arms, the slave-trade could not be successfully carried on, for the Negroes could defend themselves against slave-traders armed like- themselves. While the demand for slaves continues, the slave-trade will exist, and will not cease until the factories of European nations are planted in the interior of Africa.
MINERAL WEALTH OF AFRICA
We are told in Phillips's "Ore Deposits " that the precious metals do not appear to be very generally distributed in Africa. More thorough research may show that this view is incorrect, and that there are large deposits of iron, copper, gold, and other metals in many parts of the continent. Gold is found on the Gold Coast, in the Transvaal, in the Sudan, and in Central Africa, but is only worked in surface diggings, excepting in the Transvaal; but near all these washings, gold nuggets of large size, and the quartz rock, have been discovered. In Transvaal the mines were worked a long time ago, probably by the Portuguese, then abandoned and forgotten. Recently they have been rediscovered, and worked by the English. In the Kaap goldfield in the Transvaal, three years ago, the lion and zebra, elephant and tiger, roamed undisturbed in the mountain solitudes, where there is now a population of 8,000, with 80 gold-mining companies, having a capital of $18,500,000, one-third of which is paid up. Barberstown, the chief mining-town, has two exchanges, a theatre, two music-halls, canteens innumerable, several churches and hotels, four banks, and a hospital. A railroad was opened in December, 1887, from the Indian Ocean towards these mines, 52 miles, and is being rapidly constructed 100 miles farther to Barberstown.
There is reason to believe that gold deposits equal to those of, Mexico or California will yet be found in several parts of Africa. Copper is known to exist in the Orange Free State, in parts of Central and South Africa, and in the district of Katongo, southwest of Lake Tanganyika, which Dr. Livingstone was about to explore in his last journey. Rich copper ores are also found in the Cape of Good Hope, Abyssinia, and equatorial Africa. Large and excellent deposits of iron ore have been found in the Transvaal and in Algiers, and a railroad 20 miles long has been built to carry it from the Algerian mines to the sea. Very many tribes in equatorial and Central Africa work both iron and copper ores into different shapes and uses, showing that the ore-beds must be widely distributed.
One of the few large diamond-fields of the world is found in Griqua and Cape Colony, at the plateau of Kimberly, 3,000 feet above the sea. The dry diggings have been very productive; this tract, when first discovered, being almost literally sown with diamonds.
Coal has been found in Zulu-Land, on Lake Nyassa, and in Abyssinia. The latter coal-field is believed to be secondary. Iron, lead, zinc, and other minerals, have been found in the Orange Free State. Salt-beds, salt-fields, salt-lakes, and salt mines are found in different parts of Africa.
The peculiar formation of Africa, its long inland navigation, interrupted by the falls near the mouths of its large rivers, from connection with the ocean, render it necessary to connect the ocean with the navigable parts of the rivers by railroads.
The Belgians will soon construct a railroad on the southerly side of the Kongo, to the inland navigable waters of the Kongo at Leopoldville, following the preliminary surveys lately completed; the French may also construct a road from the coast to Stanley Pool; and by one or the other of these routes the interior of Africa will be opened.
South of the Kongo, the Portuguese are constructing a railroad from Benguela into the interior. In Cape Colony railroads connect the greater part of the British possessions with the Cape of Good Hope. A railroad is also being constructed from Delagoa Bay to the mines in Transvaal.
Sudan and the upper waters of the Nile can only be opened to a large commerce by a railroad from Suakin to Berber, about 280 miles. Surveys were made for this road, and some work was done upon it, just before Gen. Gordon's death. The navigation of the Nile above Berber is uninterrupted for many hundred miles. Below Berber the falls interrupt the navigation. The route from Gondokoro down the Nile is by boat to Berber, camel to Assuan, boat to Siut, and railroad to Cairo and Alexandria, making a route so circuitous that it prevents the opening of the Sudan to any extensive commerce.
In Algiers there are 1,200 miles of railroad, and more are being constructed. The French are constructing a railroad from the upper part of the Senegal River to the head waters of the Niger. The English have organized a company to construct a road from the Gold Coast to the mines in the interior.
It will thus be seen that the railroad has already opened a way into Africa that is sure to be carried on more extensively.
There are two methods of exploring Africa. One is where an individual, like a Livingstone, or a Schweinfurth, or a Dr. Junker, departs on his journey alone. He joins some tribe as far in the interior, on the line of exploration, as possible; lives with the tribe, adopting its habits and manner of life, learning its language, making whatever explorations he can; and, when the region occupied by such tribe has been fully explored, leaves it for the next farther on. This plan requires time and never failing patience; but in this way large portions of Africa have been explored. The other way, adopted by Cameron, Stanley, Wissmann, and the Portuguese explorers, has been to collect a party of natives, and at their head march across the continent.
"An immense outfit is required to penetrate this shopless land, and the traveler can only make up his caravan from the bazaar at Zanzibar. The ivory and slave-traders have made caravanning a profession, and everything the explorer wants is to be found in these bazaars, from a tin of sardines to a repeating-rifle. Here these black villains the porters—the necessity and despair of travelers, the scum of slave-gangs, and the fugitives from justice from every tribe—congregate for hire. And if there is anything in which African travelers are for once agreed, it is, that for laziness, ugliness, stupidity, and wickedness, these men are not to be matched on any continent in the world." Upon such men as these Stanley was obliged to depend.
Though traveling in this way is more rapid than the other, it is very expensive, and has many difficulties not encountered by the solitary traveler. The explorer always goes on foot, following as far as possible the beaten paths. A late traveler says: " The roads over which the land-trade of equatorial Africa now passes from the coast to the interior are mere footpaths, never over a foot in breadth, beaten as hard as adamant, and rutted beneath the level of the forest-bed by centuries of native traffic. As a rule, these foot-paths are marvelously direct. Like the roads of the old Roman, they move straight on through everything, — ridge and mountain and valley,—never shying at obstacles, nor anywhere turning aside to breathe. No country in the world is better supplied with paths. Every village is connected with some other village, every tribe with the next tribe, and it is possible for a traveler to cross Africa without being once out of a beaten track."
But if the tribes using these roads are destroyed, the roads are discontinued, and soon become obstructed by the rapid growth of the underbrush; or, if the route lies through unknown regions outside the great caravan-tracks, the paths are very different from those described by Mr. Drummond, for the way often lies through swamps and morass, or thick woods, or over high mountain- passes, or is lost in a wilderness of waters.
The great difficulty in these expeditions is to obtain food. As supplies cannot be carried, they must be procured from the natives. Very few tribes can furnish food for a force of six hundred men (the number with Stanley); and when they have the food, they demand exorbitant prices. Often the natives not only refuse food to the famished travelers, but oppose them with such arms as they have; and then it is necessary, in self-defence, to fire upon them.
The greatest difficulty the explorer meets comes either directly or indirectly from the opposition of the slave-trader. Formerly the slave-trader was not found in equatorial Africa; but, since the explorer has opened the way, the slave-trader has penetrated far into the interior, and is throwing- obstacles in the way of the entry of Europeans into Africa. When it was decided that Stanley should relieve Emin Pacha, he was left to choose his route. He met Schweinfurth, Junker, and other African travelers, in Cairo. They advised him to go by his former route directly from Zanzibar to the Victoria Nyanza. The dangers and difficulties of this route, and the warlike character of the natives, he well knew. The route by the Kongo to Wadelai had never been traveled, and he thought the difficulties could not be greater than by the old route; and, beside, he proceeded much farther into the interior by steamer on the Kongo, which left a much shorter distance through the wilderness than by the Zanzibar route. On arriving at Zanzibar, he made an arrangement with Tippo-Tip, the great Arab trader and slave-dealer, for a large number of porters. They sailed from Zanzibar to the Kongo, where Stanley arrived in February, 1887. He then sailed up the Kongo, and arrived in June at the junction of the Aruvimi with the Kongo, a short distance below Stanley Falls. Stanley believed that the Aruvimi and the Welle were the same stream, and that by following up this river he would be on the direct route to Wadelai. Subsequent investigations have shown that he was mistaken. About the 1st of July he left the Kongo, expecting to reach Emin Pacha in October, 1887. No definite information has been received from him from that time to the present. He left Tippo-Tip in command at Stanley Falls, and expected that a relief expedition would follow. There were great delays in organizing this expedition, from the difficulty of obtaining men, and it was thought that Tippo-Tip was unfaithful. The men were finally procured, and the expedition left Aruvimi in June, 1888, under command of Major Barttelot. A day or two after they started, Major Barttelot was murdered by one of his private servants. The expedition returned to the Kongo, and was re-organized under Lieut. Jamieson. He was taken ill, and died just as he was ready to start, and no one has been found to take his place; and that relief expedition was abandoned. Reports say that Stanley found the route more difficult than he anticipated; heavy rainfall, rivers, swamps, and marshes obstructed the way; that the season was sickly, and a large part of his followers died long before he could have reached Emin Pacha.
The reports of his capture, and of his safe return to the Aruvimi River, are known to all. These may or may not be true. Although we have not heard from Stanley for a year and a half, yet it by no means follows that he is dead; for Livingstone, Stanley, and other explorers have been lost for a longer time, and have afterward found their way back to the coast. No man has greater knowledge of the country through which his route lay, or of the character of the natives, or the best manner of dealing with them. Emin Pacha was encamped quietly for nearly two years at Wadelai; and Stanley, in like manner, may have been compelled to remain at some inland point and raise his own provisions.
THE FUTURE OF AFRICA
It is impossible to prophesy the future of any country, much less that of Africa, where the physical features have left so marked an impression upon its inhabitants, and where the animal life is so different from that of the other continents. It is rather by differentiating Africa from other countries that we obtain any data from which to form an opinion of its future.
Africa, as we have seen, is surrounded by a fringe of European settlements. What effect will these settlements have upon Africa? Will the European population penetrate the interior, and colonize Africa? Will it subjugate or expel the Africans, or will they fade away like the Indians of our country? If colonization by Europeans fail, will the African remain the sole inhabitant of the country as barbarian or civilized?
Egypt is now controlled by the English, but its climate is too unhealthy, and its surrounding too unfavorable, for Englishmen; and we may safely assume that their occupation will be temporary, or, if permanent, not as colonists. They will remain, as in India, foreigners and rulers, until the subjugated people rise in their power and expel them, and return to their old life. The English rule, though possibly beneficial to Egypt, is hated by the natives, who demand Egypt for the Egyptians.
Leaving Egypt, we pass an uninhabitable coast, until we come to the French colonies of Algiers. It is nearly sixty years since the French took possession of Algiers. There has been a large emigration from France; but the climate, while excellent as a winter climate for invalids and others, is unfavorable for a permanent habitation, especially for infants. The births in one year have never equaled the deaths. When Algeria was first conquered by the French, it was a wilderness, but is now a garden. The cultivation of the grape has been most successful, and extensive iron- mines have been opened. The French are gradually pushing their way from Algiers across the desert to Timbuctu, and also from Senegambia to Timbuctu. The expense of maintaining Algeria has greatly exceeded any revenue derived from it. Though many doubt the political wisdom of retaining it, yet the French have too much pride to acknowledge that the enterprise has been in any way a failure; and they will undoubtedly hold it, and perhaps found an empire. Senegambia and the coast of Guinea, claimed by the French and English, are low and moist, filled with swamps and lagoons, which will prevent any European colonization.
South of the Kongo, the Portuguese claim a wide section of country running across Africa. They have occupied this country over two hundred years. They have done little towards colonizing, and only hold a few trading-posts on the coast and in the interior, dealing principally in slaves, ivory, and gold; and it may well be doubted whether they have the stamina or ability to colonize this country, or to produce any permanent impression upon it.
The south portion of Africa, from the 18th parallel on the Atlantic to the 26th parallel on the Indian Ocean, is generally fertile; and the climate is favorable to Europeans, and is capable of sustaining a large population. The growth of Cape Colony has been very slow, but a more rapid growth is anticipated. We believe it will be permanently occupied by the English, who will disposses the aborigines, and form a great and permanent English State. The coast of Zanzibar, occupied by the Germans and English, is rich and fertile, the climate unhealthy; but when the mountain-ranges are crossed, and the elevated plateaus and lake regions are reached, the interior resembles the Kongo region. Massaua and Suakin, on the Red Sea, are unhealthy and worthless, unless connected by railroad with the upper Nile.
There remains equatorial Africa, including the French settlements on the Ogowe, the region about Lake Chad, the Kongo and its tributaries, and the lake region. The more we learn of equatorial Africa, the greater its natural advantages appear to be. The rivers open up the country in a favorable manner for trade and settlement. Its elevation from 2,000 to 3,000 feet will render it healthy, though this elevation is only equal to from ten degrees to fourteen degrees of north latitude. Here all the fruits of the torrid zone, the fruits and most of the grains of the temperate zone, cotton, India-rubber, and sugar-cane, are found.
The country has been unhealthly, a great many Europeans have died, and few have been able to remain more than two or three years without returning to Europe to recuperate. These facts seem to show that the climate is not healthy for Europeans. But the mortality has been much greater than it will be when the country is settled and the unhealthy stations have been exchanged for healthier localities. Every new country has its peculiar dangers, which must be discovered. When these obstacles are understood and overcome, Europeans will probably occupy all this region, and it will become a European colony.
If European colonization is successful, European civilization will come into contact with African barbarism. Where such a contest is carried on in a country where the climate is equally favorable to the two races, it can only result in the subjugation or destruction of the inferior race. If the climate is unfavorable to the white population, then, unless the inferior is subjected to the superior, the white population will fail in colonizing the country, and the Negro will either slowly emerge from barbarism, or return to his original condition.
The Negro has never developed any high degree of civilization; and even if, when brought into contact with civilization, he has made considerable progress, when that contact ceased he has deteriorated into barbarism. But, on the other hand, he has never faded away and disappeared, like the Indian of America and the natives of the Southern Archipelago.
Nature has spread a bountiful and never-ending harvest before the Negro, and given to him a climate where neither labor of body or mind, neither clothing nor a house, is essential to his comfort. All nature invites to an idle life; and it is only through compulsion, and contact with a life from without, that his condition can be improved.
In Africa a contest is going on between civilization and barbarism, Christianity and Mohammedanism, freedom and slavery, such as the world has never seen. Who can fail to be interested in the results of this conflict? We know that Africa is capable of the very highest civilization, for it was the birthplace of all civilization. To it we are indebted for the origin of all our arts and sciences, and it possesses to-day the most wonderful works of man. Let us hope that Africa, whose morning was so bright, and whose night has been so dark, will yet live to see the light of another and higher civilization.