British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

might be advisable to obtain possession of two or three Dutch forts situated on the same coast, which I apprehend would be a work of little difficulty. If this were effected, we should possess almost the entire control of that line of coast which extends from Cape Three Points to the Rio Volta. It is important here to remark that at this moment the laws of this district of Africa are administered in a great degree by the Governors of these forts, who ordinarily proceed in administering them on the principles not of British but of African legislation. That is to say, the guilt of African criminals is tried, not by the received rules of evidence, but by the application of some ordeal which is regarded, according to [the] effect which it produces, as decisive [of] guilt or innocence. Persons thus found guilty being liable to be sold as slaves, and the Governors of the forts being generally slave traders, it might be presumed that some degree of oppression has arisen from this source. It is obvious however that the power which has been thus employed, and that without being resisted, may be convened into an instrument of great good to Africa; and that the Governors who may now be appointed, being instructed to substitute equitable principles of law, and benevolent maxims of policy, in place of those which have given up under the former system, may by that change alone operate a very considerable amelioration in the civil condition of the inhabitants of a part of the coast which extends from three to four hundred miles in length. . . .

[Much of the success of any plan for West Africa will depend on international suppression of the slave trade.]


7
THE COMMITTEE OF THE COMPANY OF MERCHANTS TRADING TO AFRICA, TO LORD BATHURST, 5 December 18151

. . . The Committee of the Company of merchants trading to Africa, having had under frequent consideration the means of removing the interruption experienced by the British trade on the Gold Coast; of complying with the desire expressed by His Majesty's Ministers to contract the number of forts on that coast; and at the same time to render the whole as efficient as possible, for the great purpose of extending and improving the knowledge of, and commerce with, the interior; --avail themselves of the earliest opportunity of soliciting the attention of your Lordship to the present state of that coast, as they conceive the re-establishment of peace affords an important opportunity of promoting these desirable objects.

Previous to the year 1806 a considerable intercourse existed with the

____________________
1
Parl. Papers, 1817 (431), vol. vi, pp. 61-62.

-486-

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