British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

operation, though slow, is unquestionably sure. Though it may not at once cut up by the roots this inhuman traffic, it tends to divert the stream that waters it, and destroy the principles from which it derives its nutriment. Filled with these animating ideas, the Directors grudge not the great pains they have taken in the execution of their important trust; nor will they at all relax in their exertions. It is their joy and their comfort to be the instruments of the goodness of providence, in the communication of such great and extensive benefits. Already they anticipate the happy effects of their labours. They look forward with delight to that joyful period, when, by the influence of the Company's measures, and the efficacy of its example, the continent of Africa shall have been rescued from her present state of darkness and misery, and shall exhibit a far different scene, of light and knowledge, and civilization and order, and peaceful industry, and domestic comfort.


49
FIRST REPORT OF THE AFRICAN INSTITUTION, 15 July 18O71

. . . Conquest, it must be admitted, has been the harsh and more ordinary medium by which the blessings of civilization have been conveyed from one part of the world to another; but this has been because no other has often been attempted. Polished nations have commonly been too selfish to send the plow and the loom to any country, till they have first sent the sword and the sceptre. Commerce, however, which, after the first introduction of civilization into any country, has contributed to its progressive improvement beyond any other cause, Christianity excepted, has rarely been first extended in any new direction by force, or by any grand and concurrent efforts. The peaceable enterprises of individuals, aided by encouragement less important than that which our Institution may be able to impart, have often been sufficient to explore the resources, excite the industry, and call forth the commercial faculties of distant and uncivilized nations. Let it not be supposed then that our association is chargeable with aiming at ends too vast, or too difficult for human efforts to accomplish. . . .

[Unlike the Sierra Leone Company, the Institution had no plan to found a colony or even carry on commerce. The failure of the Company was no proof of the intractability of Africa or the African: the continuation of slave-trading, the outbreak of war, the costly burden of government and defence had thwarted so grandiose a plan.]

When these circumstances are considered, even if we admit that the undertaking of the [ Sierra Leone] Company, regarded as a mere commercial enterprise, has failed, we may yet safely affirm that its failure has been less discouraging than that of the first settlers in the

____________________
1
First Report of the Committee of the African Institution, Lond. pp. 48-50.

-463-

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