Page images

is something more. There are in Africa | spirits who are amenable to charms or 12two evils, widely prevalent, and specially cantations, or, as he calls them, fetishes, characteristic, the one, of all those parts and that certain unknown or half-known of Africa which have been brought, however superficially, under the influence of European civilization, the other, of that much larger part of it which is still pagan, -intemperance and the belief in witchcraft. Take intemperance first.

Wherever the European trader comes, he brings his rum-bottle; he drinks to excess himself, and, for his own selfish purposes, he encourages the natives to do the same. They fall victims to this desolating flood of ardent spirits with terrible rapidity, and the trader thus manages to introduce into Africa on an extensive scale, not only a vice which, in itself, is bestial, but the innumerable other crimes and miseries which follow in its train.* "O true believers!" said Mohammed, "surely wine, and lots, and images, and divining arrows are an abomination and the work of Satan; therefore avoid them that ye may prosper. Satan seeketh to sow dissension and hatred among you by means of wine and lots, and to divert you from remembering God and from prayer. Will ye not therefore abstain from them?' By this absolute prohibition in its sacred book, Islam has established, once and forever, a "total abstinence association" in all the countries that own its sway; in other words, in those parts of the world which least need the stimulus of alcoholic liquors, and in which indulgence in them would be most fatal. In Africa, as I have already shown, this association now stretches right across the continent from

sea to sea.

[ocr errors]

The other evil is much more widely spread, and far more deeply rooted the belief in sorcery and fetishes. What is this belief? It is one which, not many centuries ago, was prevalent, in various shapes, in many countries of Europe, and, in the most remote districts, is not wholly extinct even now; but so fast has the civilized world moved on from the atmosphere in which such beliefs luxuriate, that it is difficult, now, either thoroughly to understand them oneself, or to make them intelligible to others. The African believes that there are everywhere evil

It has been calculated by a committee of experts that 8,751,527 gallons of spirits are imported annually into Africa from Europe and America, and that of these three million gallons of rum and gin are annually consumed along the various mouths of the Niger and adjoining rivers, Brass, Calabar, Bonny, etc.; in other

words, that twenty thousand tuns are consumed on a coast of some two hundred and fifty miles. The Ger

mans are the worst offenders. (Church Missionary

Report for 1887, p. 27.)

persons whom he calls wizards, are acquainted with these charms, and use their occult knowledge for nefarious purposes. He believes, further, that certain other persons are gifted with the power of tracking or "smelling out " the offenders. So universal is this belief that almost every village of pagan Africa, particularly towards the west coast, has its fetishhouse, a grim and ghastly building, often ranged round with human skulls in every stage of decomposition, and a fetish-man who is its high priest. No human being, surely, ever had a more terrific power committed to him, and few have used it more unsparingly or unscrupulously. The fetish-man is bound by no law; he recognizes no rules of evidence. Anything which happens, even in the most ordinary course of nature, he may pronounce to be the work of a fetish or a wizard, and to need his assistance to ferret it out. A heavy rainfall or a drought, a murrain among the cattle, a pestilence or a conflagration, a child devoured by a wild animal, an illness or a death, each and all of these may be pronounced to be "fetish"- somebody has done it, and he must be detected. So possessed are the natives by this belief, it so forms part of their being, that it never occurs to any one of them, though he knows that his own turn may come next, to question the reality of this uncanny power; and, in the panic terror which waits upon the movements of the fetishman and his decisions, the negro loses, for a time, some of his most essential and amiable characteristics, his frivolity, his light-heartedness, even his family affection. A son will join in putting his father to death; a brother will help to tear in pieces a brother. If the accused dares to deny the charge - which he seldom does, however preposterous or impossible it may be

he has to submit to some terrible ordeal, such as the running at full speed under an avenue of hooped arches about half his height, when if he stumbles, or rather, as soon as he stumbles, he is hacked to death; or the drinking of some deadly decoction, such as the cascabark, when his one chance of escape is handsomely to bribe the fetish-man to give him the exact quantity or quality which will make him desperately sick, before the poison has well begun its deadly work. In Ashantee and Dahomey, at Bonny and Calabar, in the Fan country and throughout Angola, this terrible belief prevails,

and, as may well be imagined, it ramifies | often done before. He adjourned the out into every kind of villany and crime. matter till his visit to England should be over, in the faint, and I fear the forlorn, hope that something or other might, in the mean time, turn up to save the unhappy man. Now this stubborn and intractable belief, with all the horrors and loss of life which follow in its train, loss of life probably only second to that caused, at the present day, by the slave-trade itself, Islam has, somehow or other, over a large portion of north Africa, succeeded in eradicating.*

[ocr errors]

It was my happiness, last year, to have staying with me at Harrow a highly enlightened negro chief, Tetteh Agamazong by name, the hereditary chief of Quiah, a region to the north-east of Sierra Leone, and inhabited by a branch of the great Timneh tribe, the people from whom we originally purchased the peninsula on which Free Town stands, and who, though within a few miles of our settlements, are all pagans, and all, heart and soul, believers in the fetish-man. Himself a Christian, who had served the English government in various capacities, at various points along the west coast, he was about to return to his own country and assume the full sovereignty, in the hope that he might be able gradually to introduce some few elements of civilization and Christianity among his people. One incident, told me by him, will illustrate better than many pages of disquisition the intractable nature of this belief in fetishes, and the terrible impediment that it is to all improvement. His people believe that certain of their number have the power of changing themselves into crocodiles an animal which is numerous and destructive in the rivers of his country — and, in that shape, carry off those against whom they have any grudge. One day, a man was brought before him as king, charged with this offence: "I shot at and killed a crocodile the other day," said the accuser, "and this man, who was lying asleep in a hammock near, tumbled out of it at the moment when I shot. He must therefore have been inside the crocodile, and must be put to death." In vain did the king represent that if the accused was in the hammock, he could not have been in the crocodile, and if the crocodile was killed when the prisoner was concealed within it, he must have been killed too, and he could not therefore have been, at the same time, alive in his hammock. It was no use. "Why," asked the accuser triumphantly, did he tumble out of his hammock when I shot the crocodile, if he and the crocodile were not one and the same?" And, strangest thing of all, the accused agreed with the accuser, and confessed his guilt! What could be done? Habemus confitentem reum. The king could not bring himself to put to death a man for doing that of which he knew him to be innocent; nor did he dare to acquit him of having done what he had himself confessed, and what his neighbors were now more than ever convinced he had


And here, before I pass on from the subject of the terrible loss of life involved in many of the beliefs and customs of the pagan negro, I must guard myself against an inference which some might be tempted to draw from what I have said, that there is any inherent or extraordinary depravity, any "double dose of original sin," in the negro race as a whole. There is nothing of the kind, and it is well that it is not so; for, while many other native races are dying out before the encroachments or the mere presence of the white man, the negro gives no sign of so doing. His race vitality is equal to that of any race in existence, and he has many and marked virtues of his own. His receptivity, his simplicity, his kindliness, his family affection, have been borne emphatic testimony to by every great African traveller, from Adamson or Mungo Park down to Livingstone. The customs of a primitive and barbarous people are not to be judged by a European standard. There is all the difference in the world between cruelty for the sake of cruelty- the cruelty which is an end in itself—and cruel deeds done as a solemn duty, in obedience to a supposed supernatural sanction. The one argues original depravity, the other does nothing of the sort; and under this last head fall the human sacrifices of Ashantee, and the annual "customs" of Dahomey. The stories circulated by early travellers as to a wild Saturnalia of slaughter and canoes swimming in human blood have happily turned

The shape in which it survives, where it survives at all, is, chiefly, the comparatively harmless one of charm-making. The charm generally consists of a bit of paper with mysterious Arabic characters or passages from the Koran scribbled thereon, which is worn, or sometimes swallowed, as a preservative from most of the ills to which flesh is heir. It need hardly be remarked of these charms that if they do not cure, neither do they kill; a sufficient difference between them and times the charm is soaked in water till the ink is oblitthe pagan beliefs which they have supplanted. Some erated, and the Koranic mixture, well shaken before it is taken, is swallowed by the patient; a decoction, probably, when received with faith, neither more nor less salubrious than much of the doctors' medicine that is taken in England.


My subject now, however, definitely calls for an estimate of the losses as well as the gains caused by the spread of Mohammedanism in Africa. Let me enumerate some of them, always bearing in mind that it is easy to be too severe on the shortcomings of a religion which deals with a civilization so widely different from our own, and that it is also easy to forget how many of the misdeeds of Mohammedan nations have had their counterpart among Christians, at no distant time.

out to be, at all events, exaggerated. The the darker spots, or to bring into strong victims sacrificed at the death of a king relief the shortcomings which might have are, often, captives or criminals, and are been detected in what seemed to me then, supposed to become his servants in an- and seems to me still, upon the whole, to other world. Those killed at intervals have been so beneficial a revival of Eastafterwards are supposed to be messengers ern life, and thought, and energy. In any to him from this. Their despatch is con- case, others had done that part of the sidered by each successive king of Da- work sufficiently before me, and some are homey to be incumbent upon him as a doing it still, though in a much more temmatter of duty alike to his father, to theperate spirit, as the controversy awakened State, and to the gods. He walks about by Canon Taylor's paper proves. among the messengers, delivers to them his messages, and talks amicably to each of them upon the subject, as another authentic anecdote, inimitable in its humor, told me by Tetteh Agamazong will show. One day, in going his rounds, the king came to a remarkably fine-looking man, a native of the Yoruba country, and said to him, "Well, you have got to go; tell my father I am getting along pretty well, and am governing the people as he would wish me to do." Yes," said the man, "I have got to go, but I want to tell you one thing First then comes the slave-trade, that first." "What is that?" asked the king." open sore of the world," as Dr. Living"I want to tell you," replied the man, stone called it, and which remains open "that I will not deliver your message." in Africa still, chiefly because Moham"Not deliver my message?" exclaimed the king. "No, I will not!" "Why not?" asked his Majesty. "First," replied the victim, “because I don't want to go, and I don't see why I should deliver it for you; and, secondly, because I am a Yoruba man and he is of Dahomey, and the Yoruba people do not see or talk to the Dahomey people here, nor do they up there; therefore, I neither can nor will deliver your message." The king looked astonished, and turning to the executioner, who was ready to begin his bloody work and despatch the messenger, if not the message, simply said, "He is a bad mes senger - don't send him." And the man was let go scot-free; rather a dangerous precedent, one would think, under such circumstances, for the future!

Are there any drawbacks to the great and, as they appear to me, indisputable benefits conferred by Islam on those who receive it? I think that there are, although they are practically ignored in Canon Taylor's paper, and, probably, for the simple reason that it did not fall within the scope of the work which he has so closely followed, to dwell at length upon them. In the new-born enthusiasm for a noble subject, and under the influence of the revelations which each day, when I was studying it, seemed to bring me, I was, as I can now see, looking back with older and sadder, if not wiser eyes, neither very able nor very anxious to look out for

medan nations support and practise it. It is quite true that no European nation is clean-handed in the matter. It is also true that European nations have sinned against infinitely greater light, and with infinitely less temptation, and, therefore, any condemnation which they may be inclined to mete out to African and Asiatic nations must be tempered with bitter selfhumiliation. Yet it is a matter of fact that the slave-trade is now abandoned and condemned by every Christian nation, and, what is more important, is hateful to every individual who has any right to call himself a Christian. It may be true again, as reported by tradition, that Mohammed said that "the worst of men was the seller of men," but so far, no sign of any strenuous or concerted effort has been shown on the part of Mussulman rulers or Mussulman doctors to bring the traffic to an end. I am afraid that they consider, with however little reason, that they are only carrying out the Prophet's law, and doing what is inherently right and for the good of both parties, in enslaving the unbeliever. No Greek philosopher was ever more firmly convinced that the barbarian was púσɛi dovλoc-marked out by nature to be his slave-than, in defiance of the general course of history, is the Muslim convinced that such is the natural destiny of the pagan and the Christian. What is the loss of human life, the waste of human energy, the sum-total of human misery,

which are involved in the slave-trade, | Omaru-al-Haj, or, later still, like the imam some slight notion may be obtained from Samadu in the heart of the Soudan,* whom the works of Dr. Livingstone, or from the Islam in all its stages, in its decadence no narrative of any African traveller, whose less than in its vigorous youth, seems painful duty it has been to follow in the capable of throwing off. Gibbon has somefootsteps of the slave-trader. It is some where remarked that the use and abuse of satisfaction, on the other hand, to remem- religion are feeble to stem, they are irreber that the more Islam spreads over sistible to impel, the stream of national Africa, the more is the area for slave- manners. Mohammed gave a religious hunting curtailed for it is forbidden to sanction to some at least of the Arab naenslave the true believer - and it is indis- tional proclivities - the appetite for war, putable that the condition of the domestic for plunder, and for adventure—just as, slave in most Muslim countries is much four centuries later, the popes enjoined better than it used to be in most Chris- upon the Christian chivalry of Europe as tian. The example and precept of Mo- a penance, what they themselves regarded hammed are at one on this head. "See as a pastime, the armed pilgrimages to the that ye feed them with such food as ye eat Holy Land; and, in either case, the result yourselves, and clothe them with the dress was a sublime outburst of national and ye yourselves wear, for they are the ser- religious enthusiasm which it would have vants of the Lord and not to be tor- baffled all the cool calculations of a philmented." "How many times a day," asked osopher to anticipate, and all the received a follower of Mohammed, "ought I to for- maxims of the art of war to resist. But, give a slave who displeases me?" "Sev- here again, the fact remains that religious enty times a day," replied the Prophet. wars are now scouted by all Christian nations. They are sanctioned, in theory at least, by all Muslim nations; and the theory passes into fact whenever, as in Africa, circumstances are favorable. The Muslim missionaries may carry the Koran in one hand, and many, perhaps most, of the conversions to Islam in Africa are now effected by it alone; but potentially, at least, he carries the sword in the other, and, for many centuries, Islam has thus been a fertile source of war in Africa on a large scale.

Secondly, and closely connected with the former, Muslims, like other people, have the defects of their good qualities, and if it be true that the reception of Islam by a negro gives him that personal dignity and self-respect on which I have enlarged, and enrols him as one of a superior caste, all of whose members are equal and are equally eligible for all offices in the State, it is no less true that he tends to look down upon all who are outside the fold as so much dirt beneath his feet; they are Pariahs without the pale, in almost the Hindu sense of the word. There is, probably, no scorn which is so sublime, and, I would add, so withering, and so anti-social, as that with which the worshipper of the one God looks down upon the worshipper of the many.

Thirdly, religious wars. The doctrine that it ever can be right to use the sword as an instrument of conversion is one which has given rise to the most terrible | wars in all history. Here again, Christian nations cannot afford to throw stones at Muslim; but there is this enormous difference between the two, that such wars are explicitly sanctioned by the founder of Islam, they are explicitly condemned by the founder of Christianity. It may well have seemed to Mohammed that a war of religious propagandism, if an evil at all, was a less evil than the state of things which it was intended to supersede, and it may well seem so now to those half-military, half-religious geniuses, like Schamyl or Abd-el-kader, in better-known Mussulman countries, or like Soni Heli-Ischia or

Fourthly, and most important of all, polygamy and its attendant evils. Mohammed did something, according to his light, for the condition of women; but it was not very much. The limitation of the number of authorized wives to four, does not go far if, practically, there is unlimited freedom of divorce, and if, at the same time, the whole of a Muslim master's female slaves are, by the Muslim law, placed at his absolute disposal. That woman is regarded as a chattel and nothing more, is painfully evident throughout the Muslim world, and chastity, as was pointed out in a very able article in the Spectator the other day, is not, therefore, in any higher sense of the word, a Muslim virtue. It is impossible to discuss the subject adequately here. Polygamy is a gigantic evil, corrupting society at the fountain-head. How can society be even tolerably pure when the family, which is the source and school of all the gentler,

See Blvden's Christianity, Islam, and the Negro Race, pp. 10 and 358–360.

all the more saintly, all the less self-actly so far as European influence extends, regarding virtues, is tainted? Eliminate from Christendom all that the mother, the wife, the sister, and the daughter have done for it, and what would the residuum be like? The manly virtues, which are unquestionably inculcated by Islam, lose half their value, and more than half their beauty, when they are not set off and relieved by the gentler. How then can Christianity, however hopeless, at times, the struggle may appear, be expected to retire from it, and contentedly to acquiesce in the possession by Islam of so large a portion of the earth, when Islam leaves half of all its votaries - the whole female sex, that is almost in the position in which it found them?

may be regarded as, at least, a partial setoff to the degradation of women, and to the sensuality which, too often, accompanies Mohammedanism. Christianity is in no sense to blame for this, but Christian nations are. If Christian philanthropy, in which England has taken the leading part, has, at last, succeeded in abolishing the oceanic slave-trade, it has only succeeded in undoing what Christian nations themselves began; and, as our sad experience in Ireland shows, it is easier far to remove abuses than to undo the impression which those abuses have created, and which has been burned into the souls of the sufferers. What wonder, as Mr. Blyden remarks, that no single African tribe as a tribe, and no leading African chief as a chief, has, as yet, been converted to Christianity on the west coast of Africa? Not that there has been any want of effort during the last hundred years. There is is hardly a nation or a denomination in Christendom which has not done its little something towards wiping out the stain. Protestant missionaries have vied with Catholic, Nonconformists of every type with Episcopalians, Americans with Swiss, and Scotchmen with Englishmen. In no country in the world has that "enthusiasm of humanity" which, whether it is acknowledged or not, is, except in rare and isolated cases, the result of Christianity and Christianity alone, manifested it self in nobler individual efforts for the good of the suffering and the degraded. Moffat and Livingstone and Krapf and Rebmann in the front rank of all, and Bishops Mackenzie, and Steere, and Hannington, in the second, are but the betterknown and more brilliant examples of a long succession of Christian philanthropists, who, filled with burning love to man and unfaltering faith in God, and flinging to the winds all considerations of wealth, and ease, and social position, and worldly honor, have left behind them house and home, and friends and country, and everything which is ordinarily supposed to make life worth having, if, haply, they might help forward into light some of the inhabitants of the dark continent.

I now pass on to the second division of my subject, What Christianity has done, or may do, for Africa; and how, in view of the above facts and influences, she ought to regard the great kindred religion. And I shall be able to treat this part of the subject more briefly than I have done the first, partly, because much that I might be disposed to enlarge on, follows naturally from what I have already said, and partly, because I have discussed the whole subject fully, and in a spirit and with objects from which I have, as yet, seen no good reason to depart, in my lectures on Mohammed and Mohammedanism." There is no disguising the fact that, hitherto, with the exception of one or two isolated spots, such as Abbeokuta and Kuruman, Christian effort has been anything but markedly successful in Africa. No benefits comparable in extent or character to those which I have pointed out as the result of Mohammedanism have been, as yet, conferred on Africa by Christianity; and, on the other hand, the sufferings inflicted, at all events in past times, on this the most backward and the most heavily weighted, by geographical and other peculiarities, of all the great divisions of the world, by nations calling themselves Christian, bear only too close an analogy to those which have been, and still are, inflicted on them by Muslims. For many centuries, the maritime and commercial nations of Europe have torn away tens of thousands of Africans from Why, then, has Christianity failed? If their homes, with every circumstance of we can discover the causes of the failure, atrocity, and carried them off to a living then, as Lord Bacon is fond of pointing death in the New World. The horrors of out, unless the causes are altogether inthe "middle passage" and of the cotton tractable and irremovable, we have great plantation may well be set against those "grounds of hope for the future; and, of the inland slave traffic in the hands of on this subject, I would, once again, take Muslims, and intemperance in the matter the opportunity of begging every one who of intoxicating liquors, which extends ex-is interested in it, to study the first three

« PreviousContinue »