Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome/Chapter IV
A WALK ROUND WHYDAH.
THE three following days enabled us to study the topography of Whydah. The present town stands about T .^ 2 direct miles north of the sea ; separated from the shore by a broad leek-green swamp, by a narrow lagoon, and by a high sandbank, whose tufted palms and palmyras, of a deep invisible green approaching black, form a hogsback, over which the masts of shipping only can be seen from the houses. The site wears the tricolour of S'a Leone, light and milky-blue sky, verdigris grass, and bright red argillaceous soil, with a blending shade of grey. The " ferruginous-looking clay," which in India and China has been suspected of emitting a " pestiferous mineral gas," and of causing the " cachexia loci," seems here to lose part of its injurious power. The town is not exceedingly unhealthy, despite its extreme filth, and although the deep holes from which the building material has been extracted are as great a nuisance as in Abeo- kuta and Sokoto. Indeed, as a rule, it is less deadly than other places on the Slave Coast, especially Lagos and Badagry. The nights are cool, and the day-breeze is, if anything, somewhat too strong for safety. At this season the people do not sufferfrom mosquitoes, " much provoking the exercise of a man's nails," as the old trav- eller has it.
Beneath the surface soil there is a substratum of
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 37
pure white sand overlying argil deeply tinctured with iron oxide from the northern hills ; and another bed of pure sand is supported by white clay to a depth of thirty- five feet : it is supposed that below this figure marine deposits would occur. The highest part of the town, that is to say the west end, is not more than forty feet above the sea, and this we may assume to be the height of the first floor of the English Fort, which lies about the centre. After a shower the land is as viscid and muddy as that about Upper Norwood, and such indeed is the condition of the whole country, especially at Kana and in the capital. The earth when powdered, puddled, and exposed to the sun, becomes hard like bricks, which could be made, but which are not \vanted. The old English fort has lasted upwards of a century.
The greatest length of the town, which extends from south-east to north-west, is about two miles by half a mile in depth. There is no attempt at fortification, as there is in the capital ; but every house could be held against musketry. From the beach a few of the tallest habitations, backed by giant trees, meet the view, and prepare the visitor for something grandiose. The squalor within, however, contrasts sharply with the picturesque aspect from without. Whydah is a ruined place, every- thing showing decay, and during the last three years, it has changed much for the worse. As in all Yoruba towns, the houses are scattered, and, except round the principal market-place, there is far more bush than build- ing. The environs are either marshes or fields, palm- orchards, or bosquets of great but savage beauty ; the fine and highly-cultivated farms found near Whydah by Mr. Duncan l no longer exist.
The population of the town, which could accom- modate 50,000 souls, is variously estimated. Some have
i Travels in Western Africa in 1845-1846. By John Duncan, late of First Life Guards. Vol. i. p. 185.
38 A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
raised it to 30,000. Dr. M'Leod (1803) calculates 20,000. M. Wallon (1858) proposes 20,000 25,000, but he is by no means a correct observer. The French Mission, which has perhaps the best chance of ascertaining the truth, lays down the number at 12,000 ; and during war this may be reduced to half. The Christians (Catholics) exceed 600 ; about 200 boys are known to the mission- aries, and on an average during the year the latter baptise no. The fathers are also of opinion that the population diminishes.
The word " Whydah " is a compound of blunders. It should be written Hwe-dah, 1 and be applied to the once prosperous and populous little kingdom whose capital was Savi. A "bush town" to the westward, sup- posed to have been founded and to be still held by the aboriginal Whydahs, who fled from the massacres of Dahome, still retains the name Hwe-dah. The cele- brated slave-station which we have dubbed " Whydah," is known to the people as Gre-hwe or Gle-hwe, 2 " Planta- tion-house."
A very brief resume of its stirring past is here neces- sary. According to tradition, Whydah, as I shall still call it, was originally a den of water-thieves and pirates, who paid unwilling allegiance to the kings of Savi. About the middle of the seventeenth century it rose to the rank of a prosperous ivory mart and slave port. In 1725, it was first attacked by Agaja the Conqueror, fourth
1 Hwe, in the Ffon dialect, means a house and grounds, as in Grehwe, for which see the next note. No one, however, could ex- plain to me the etymological meaning of Hwe-dah.
2 Gre, or Gle it is hard to know which to write is a "planta- tion," not a " garden," as it is often translated; Gre-ta, or Gle-ta, is a bush or uncleared ground; and Gre-ta-nun, or Gle-ta-nun, is a bush man. Mr. Duncan (vol. i. p. 141) says, " The former name of Why- dah was Grihwee, or Grighwee, but since its subjection to Dahomy it has become part of that territory, and received its present name " the reverse being the case.
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 39
King of Dahome, the Guadja Trudo of the History, nominally for selling to him muskets without locks, really because, like all African monarchs, the height of his \ ambitionNvas a point on the seaboard where he could / trade direct with Europeans. The place after capture/ \v;is called by him " plantation-house," meaning that it must supply food to Agbome the capital. So the History informs us the King of Eyeo (Oyo) used to say that Ardrah (Allada) was " Eyeo's Calabash," out of which nobody should be permitted to eat but the king himself. The Europeans, ever greedy of change in these dull lands, seem at first to have favoured Dahome against Whydah. For which reason, and because they are officially called " King's Houses," the Forts receive cer- tain honours. Before the Viceroy can leave the town, and when he returns to it, 1 he must visit them officially in person, and he must pray at the Portuguese Fort, which is held to be the head-quarters of the white man's faith. He enters with his suite, and as the King's repre- sentative, he wears his sword ; this, however, as well as the fetishes with which he is hung round, must, previous to the function, be removed. Before the present estab- lishment was sent, the black priests at Whydah used to offer him holy water ; now it is refused, and he walks to the font to barbouiller his face ; the missioners perform prayers, but without their sacramental robes, and he follows suit to the best of his ability. The King often sends a message requesting the orisons of the white men, which are not refused to him ; and Christianity being a recognised religion in Dahome, on the day of S. John midsummer he transmits by his Viceroy a pot of oil and a bottle of rum as his acknowledgment of faith. These viceregal visits have at times been dangerous : in 1745,
i The Viceroy never goes to war ; he is supposed to look after Whydah. His deputy, the Sub- Viceroy, is expected to be present at all campaigns.
40 A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
the Eunuch Yevo-gan "Tanga," raising the standard of revolt, proposed to seize the English Fort, and was pre- vented only by the vigilance of the governor, Mr. Gregory. Offences committed in the " King's houses " are visited with a double penalty ; a native stealing from them will surely be put to death : on the other hand, he may take sanctuary in and cannot be ejected from the Portuguese Fort without the consent of the missioners. The English Fort has the shameful distinction of being protected by two fetishes, Dohen and Ajaruma, the Defenders of White men. 1
Whydah, like the capital, is a -Qongeries of villages divided into five " salams " or quarters, each under its own caboceer, and governed by the Viceroy, who has dwarfed the minor officials to mere captains. These are
1. Ahwanjigo, or Salam Frangais, on the north-west and west, French Town, directly under the Viceroy.
2. Ajudo, Ajido Chacha, or Brazilian Town, under the captain, Nodofre.
3. Sogbaji, or English town : it has no governor ; the King urged me to take it, but I declined, without receiv- ing orders from home.
4. Dukomen, Portuguese Town, on the east and west, under the Caboceer Bonyon. These four quarters have their forts 2 : the last is
5. Zobeme, or Market town, lately under the Cabo- ceer Nyonun, whose successor will be presently appointed.
i The History of Dahome mentions a third, now ignored, " Nab- v ^ bakou," the "titular god of the English Castle in Whydah." See chap. xvii. of this book.
i In the Dahoman tongue, "Zoj age" is a Frenchman, " Aguda- yevo" a Portuguese or Brazilian, " Kan-kan-yevo " a Dutchman, " Payonunyevo " a Spaniard, and "Glensi" an Englishman. The "English mother," an officeress at Court, is called " Glensi-no." In Mr. Duncan's time the Portuguese quarter was far superior to all the others ; it is not so now.
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 41
I now propose to conduct the reader through the town, and to describe its principal sites.
Beginning from the south-east, we remark the De- nun or toll-house which guards the entrance of every Dahoman town, and the multitude of little fetish huts, where the trader, after doing his devoir to the King, is expected to be not less dutiful to the gods. The streets are mere continuations of the bush-paths, but except in the wettest weather, they are not bad walking after Sandy Lagos. They are formed by the walls of the compounds and by the backs of the houses, which are all built in a uni- form manner. The material is the red pise of Britanny and Sind heaped up in three or four courses, but by law never more : each course is from a foot and a half to two feet high ; the material has neither straw nor stone, but sometimes, as in Popo, oyster-shell is used to strengthen it. Each layer is covered during erection with a weather thatch, and is left to dry, for three days in a harmattan, and for ten in the wet seasons : it presently hardens to the consistency of freestone, and is, in fact, the national adobe. The rain torrents wash away the softer parts, and cut cracks down the sides if not protected from above : a certain mixture of salt in the soil causes the base to crum- ble the more readily, because here they do not, as on the GoM Coast, support it by growing cactus. A careful man repairs his wall in the early " dries." The estab- lishments are extensive, sometimes covering acres. I saw only one being built, whilst many allowed me to walk over the broken-down walls, and almost all were exter- nally in ruins. As in Asiatic Turkey, however, the in- terior often belies the wretched exterior, and behind the blown-off thatch, leaving bare ribs and poles perilously protruding, there are snug inner rooms. The poorer classes have compounds of matting. The roof, not unlike that of an East Indian bungalow, is made of palm, palmyra, and thick grass, mounted on a frame of lopped
42 A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
and cleaned branches, with girders of bamboo ; and often it is raised in the " flying " form, to secure coolness. There are no windows, except in the Forts. Their places are taken by doors opening under the projecting eaves, that rest upon stout posts and trunks, especially those of the valuable and abundant palmyra.
Striking into the main street, the tolerably straight road, which, running from east to west, bisects the town, we sight the Portuguese fort, the smallest but the best situ- ated for quiet and coolness. Of these buildings there are now four at Whydah, in order of seniority, French, Bra- zilian, English, and Portuguese. The first-named people began the trade, and the second is probably erected upon the old Dutch factory, although the name is clean forgot- ten. The Brandenburgher (Prussian) African Company also built a strong factory at Whydah in 1684, but it long ago disappeared. With the exception of the Brazilian Fort, all these buildings lie in a line from E.S.E. to W.N.W. : after the stone defences of the Gold Coast, these swish establishments are by no means imposing, and, except in the case of the Frenchman, for " Fort " we must read " Factory" or " School."
The Portuguese Fort is surrounded by a moat, whose depth is concealed by a mass of vegetation : the people of the country prefer for defence a ditch in this state. The defences, a square compound bastioned at the angles, and the battery of rusty guns, are here purposely neglected. The main building, a large double-storied house, with walls thick as an old Norman castle, fronts westward. Lately repaired, it has a central saloon flanked by dormi- tories, and a long refectory on the ground-floor. It is pierced with a deep hollow gateway, protected outside by two honeycombed guns. Over it is the Lusitanian scutch- eon, minus the wooden crown, which perished during a late fire. Portuguese ordinances are still affixed to the door, and at the Southern bastion the blue and white
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 43
flag yet flies on high days and holidays. In the compound are a detached chapel and belfry with two bells, dateless, but belonging to the former occupants : both are of swish work, and their mat roofs are distinguished from afar by two little wooden crosses. On the north and fronting the chapel is a range of small ground-floor rooms and refectory. These the missionaries find less unhealthy, curious to say, than the double-storied building, where, they assert, the sea-breeze gives them fever. They have been careful, however, to dig under their plan" terreno, and to lay down a board flooring, whilst they look forward to raising houses on piles six feet high with a draught of air beneath. All is industry in this " Fort," a garden and a southern range of buildings are being made, quarters for the work- men and school-children are already available, and the church and belfry are considered to be merely temporary. The " Vicariat Apostolique de Dahome," was erected by the Holy Father in 1860, and its spiritual direction was entrusted to the new congregation of the African Missions, whose mother-house is at Lyons, 243, Rue de la Guillotiere. In 1860 the congregation of the Propaganda named as superior of this mission the priest Fra^ois Borghero, of Genoa, member of the congregation of African Missions, whose superior-general, residing at Lyons, is M. 1'Abbe Augustin Planque, of Lille. The first despatch of missionaries left Toulon, January 3rd, 1861, on board H.I. M.S. Amazone. It was composed of Messrs, les Abbes F. Borghero (Italian), Fra^ois Fernandez, a Spaniard of the diocese of Lugo, in Galicia (died in 1863, at Whydah), and Louis Edde, a Frenchman of the diocese of Chatres (he died en route at S'a Leone). The two first named arrived at Whydah April i8th, 1861 ; on May 6th of the same year they took possession of their present " Fort," by permission of the Dahoman authorities, and with the consent of the Portuguese resident at Whydah. Since the departure of M. Irene Lafitte, who is intended
44 A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
for one of the European establishments, the personnel is composed of six members. 1 There are ten boarders ; the number of the other scholars greatly varies, because the boys attend or stay away as they please. Of adults, I do not believe that a single convert has been made ; and the reverend fathers would do well to turn their attention towards Lagos and Abeokuta.
This Vicariat is not obnoxious to the charge com- monly brought against Catholic establishments, namely, that though ardent, enduring, and self-sacrificing, they are too accommodating to heathenism, and thus they are unabiding ; whilst Protestant missions, like the constitu- tion which hatches them, are respectable, comfortable, and feeble, offering salaries to married men, who in squabbles about outfit, passage, furlough, and conveyance of children, manage to spend about ^"500,000 per annum. Their uncompromising opposition of idolatry has more than once brought the members into trouble. In Novem- ber, 1 86 1, M. Borghero visited the King at Agbome, and the list of his demands may be found in the published account of his journey to the capital. 2 In March, 1863, the fort was struck by the lightning-god, Khevioso, the Shango of the Egbas ; and they are not wanting who sup- pose that the fetishes, having been worsted in dispute by the Padres, took the opportunity of a storm to commit the arson. As the inmates impiously extinguished the fire, they were heavily fined ; and, on refusing to pay, the Father-superior was imprisoned. In June of the same year occurred another dispute, about a sacred snake that was unceremoniously ejected from the mission premises, and doubtless this anti-heathenism will bring them to
1 Namely, five priests, MM. Borghero, Emile Cordioux, Verde- lot, Nodiet, and Vermorel, all French except the first, and one minor, Francis Cloud, who is about to proceed for ordination to France.
2 See Annales de la Propagation de la Foi (No. 206, January, 1863). Paris: 34, Rue Cassette.
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 45
further grief. They look upon things en noir, and naturally desire, but with little hope, to see Whydah in civilized hands. I found them intelligent, amiable, and devoted men, in whose society time sped pleasantly and profitably. To the excellent Superior especially I had reason to be grateful for the loan of vocabularies and other papers. If I say too little, it is for fear of expressing too much.
Near the French Mission, and at the south-eastern end of the town, is the establishment of M. J. Domingo Martinez, the best house in " Whydah." The compound walls are, to obviate fire, tiled, not thatched, and a small grove of orange trees enlivens the interior. There is an old ground-floor tenement, by no means uncomfortable, with large, lofty, and cool rooms, furnished with musical boxes 1 and other knick-knacks, whilst portraits and oil- painting, rarities in unartistic Africa, depend from the walls ; and near it a large double-storied tenement, also tiled, is being built as a dwelling-place and as a store for oil trading.
When I last called upon M. Martinez he had been unwell for some weeks : Mr. Cruikshank, who was con- sulted, did not think his case dangerous. He died January 25th, 1864, when we were at the capital, and the death was brought on by a fit of passion not an un- common occurrence in these hot-tempered lands. 2 He had long been virtually king of Kutunun, a little post inland of Jackin, on the Denham waters, and of late much coveted by the new " Protectors" of Porto Novo. The latter managed their dollars so well, that the King
1 These articles are one of the curses of the West African coast. Your white friend can pay you no higher compliment than to wind up the abominations, and your black friend will start, if he has them, half-a-dozen at the same time.
2 So during the late fire at Whydah, the Chacha, M. Fr. de Souza, when he saw his house destroyed, very nearly died of passion. The same uncontrollable fits of rage have been observed amongst the Hottentots and the South African bushmen.
46 A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
sent his cane to M. Martinez, and a polite message, to say that his friend would presently be joined by a brother white man. At first the recipient stared aghast ; soon understanding the trick, he was seized with a trembling of passion ; he presently fainted, and he died the same night, I presume of apoplexy.
M. Martinez was a caboceer of Dahome, entitled to the umbrella, the chair, and the other insignia of his order. During his later years he has often said and many a man has had, and will have, to say the same that he had learned these people too late. The King claiming droit d'aubaine over the property of all his defunct subjects, the key of M. Martinez's house was at once, after his death, appropriated by the Viceroy of Whydah. He has left a large family, all by native .women. His eldest son, Domingo Rafael Martinez, is a youth about twenty ; he is not uneducated, speaking English and French, although his father thought it best to keep him in irons for some years, and thus unteach him the use of the knife. It will be well for the heir if the deceased has left a "bag" at Bahia.
M. Martinez is a sore loss to the slaving interest. A dozen years ago there were at Whydah 200 Spaniards and Portuguese, including Brazilians and half-castes. By glancing his eye below, the reader will see how much the number of these "slave consumers" is reduced. 1 And
i The following is a list of the Portuguese, Brazilians, mulattos, and civilized Africans now remaining at the great mart. Five Portuguese, viz. :
1. Antonio Viera da Silva, established at Whydah, Grand-Popo, and Agwe.
2. Francisco de Souza Maciel.
3. Ignacio de Souza Magallaes : Whydah, Porto Novo, and Badagry.
4. Jacinto Joaquim Rodriguez : Whydah and Porto Novo.
5. J. Suares Pereira : Whydah and Agwe. Fourteen Brazilians :
i. Francisco Antonio Monteiro.
IV. A Walk roiwd Whydah. 47
the next decade will find all the survivors engaged in cotton or in palm-oil the " doulometer of the slave- trade" or in nothing.
M. Martinez had his good points : he was always courteous and hospitable, even to his bitterest enemies,
2. F. J. Medeiros, now at Agwe (some say he is a Portuguese, born in the United States).
3. Francisco Olimpio Silva, at Porto Seguro.
4. Marco Borges Ferras.
5. Jofto Pinheiro de Souza, commonly called Taparica.
6. Gulielme Martins do Nascimento.
7. Marcelino dos Martins Silva.
8. Ricardo Augusto Amadie : he speaks French and English.
9. JORO Victor Angelo.
10. Jos6 Francisco dos Santo, commonly called Alfaiate, i.e., the Tailor.
11. Angelo Custodio das Chagas.
12. Joao Antonio Dias.
13. Francisco Giorge.
14. Domingo Rafael Martinez, son of J. Domingo Martinez. And four Brazilian women, viz. :
1. Maria Elena do Carmo.
2. Benevinde Teresa de Jesus.
3. Leopoldina Teresa de Jesus.
4. Maria da Piedade do Nascimento.
N.B. There are a few Brazilians of minor importance attached to the above houses.
The ten following are Africans or Brazil liberateds, who are mostly Nagos (Egbas) or Whydah men. None of them is at all important, and there are a few others whose names do not deserve mention.
1. Joao Antonio de Rego.
2. Elisbao Lino.
3. Thobias Barreto Brandao.
4. Joaquim das Neves.
5. Damiao de Oliviera, who is considered the best mason at Whydah.
6. Antonio d' Almeida.
7. Jose de Fonceca Muniz, the son of the late J. C. Muniz.
8. Pedro Pinto da Silveira. This is the well-known slaver, Pedro Cogio, of Little Popo. He has a son residing at Whydah, and managing the affairs of Jose Alfaiate. His name is,
g. Domingo Francisco da Silveira. 10. Pedro Fellis d'Almeida.
All these are "God-men," which, in Anglo-African, is opposed to " devil-men," or heathenry.
48 A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
the English ; moreover, to his praise be it spoken, he invariably, like the first Chacha, de Souza, discounten- anced native cruelties and human sacrifice. He be- friended the Church Mission in 1846, when hopelessly stranded at Badagry, and, being a slaver, he gained, as might be expected, little gratitude. Peace to his manes, and may he escape the Dahoman Deadland, where I much doubt that he would be warmly welcomed ! Passing along the main street we now enter the Zobeme, 1 or Great Market, one of the Whydah " lions." It is, or rather was, a long thoroughfare, covering at least an acre, with offsets, cross streets, and here and there a cleared space. The booths are low, square, open thatch- sheds, raised upon' chabutaras or benches of well-worked red clay, about one foot above the passages. They are either joined or in broken lines, and all are kept clean with hois de vache. A detached hut proclaims the gin palace ; the material, bottles and decanters of Brazilian rum and cheap French liqueurs, with glasses of all sizes, stands on white cloths, and business seems to be brisk. Nor are the victualling arrangements less complete ; half the shops contain either raw or cooked provisions, and many a "working man" breakfasts and dines in the alley. This rude bazar is fullest at 4 P.M., when swarms of peo-
i No one could explain the meaning of this word. Z6 means the later rains, and must not be confounded with Z6, fire, which is pronounced with a depression of the voice. The Yoruban languages, like the Chinese, depend upon accents and intonations which are not ours. For instance, So and Soh, slightly aspirated, is a stick. So, with a falling of the voice, has the same signification as Khevio-so, thunder. So, with a rising of the voice, means a horse ; and with an almost imperceptible variation of voice, means bring; e.g., So, zo, wa, bring hither fire ! So (pronounced Saw), means yesterday or to-morrow, a fair specimen of linguistic poverty, and leading to numerous mistakes. But these delicacies of intonation are inherent in monosyllabic tongues. That childish form of human language also delights in imitative words, as Koklo, a " cackler " or fowl (in Prakrit Kukkur), Kra-kra, a watchman's rattle, and so on.
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 49
pie, especially women, meet to buy and sell, "swap" and barter all the requirements of semi-civilized life. For the articles most in vogue, I may refer the reader to a previous publication, 1 and almost any book of travels treating of the countries of the Upper Niger will show him how far the system is capable of being carried out. At Whydah, as at Bombay and Aden, the prices have increased, or rather have doubled, during the last ten years ; and despite the complaints of commercial depression, the value of coin still diminishes. It is a curious contrast, tli^ placidity arid impassiveness with which the seller, hardly \ taking the trouble to remove her pipe, drawls out the price of her two-cowrie lots, and the noisy excitement of the buyers, who know that they must purchase and pay the demand. There is no lack of civility to us amongst the people, and the children cheer and jeer White Face without any awe. The two normal African complexions, red-yellow and brown-black, are very distinct at Whydah, and here and there we meet features which might belong to an ugly Sinaitic Badawi. There are also palpable traces of Caucasian blood in what the Anglo- Indian lady called " European infantry," a parody upon the " Euro- pean infamy " of the garrison chaplain.
The only picturesque part of the market-place is to the Eastward, where there is a hutless space, lined with shady trees, especially the Hun-ti, or Bombax, under which the vendors congregate in the glare of the day. Conspicuous for its beauty is the Lise tree, which the Fantis of the Gold Coast call Akyen. The Portuguese have named it the " African cashew." Tall, thick, and with the darkest green foliage, it is set off by studs of scar- let apples depending from long stalks. The fruit, which is eaten at Agbome, is insipid, as are almost all wild growths, and not a little like a raw turnip. The flower
i Wanderings in West Africa. Abeokuta, chap. iii. See also Mr. Duncan, vol. i. p. 121. VOL. I. 4
5 o A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
gives a delicious perfume, and the wood supplies good potash for soap. The other trees are mostly thick-leaved oranges and limes, whilst the hedges are of the malarious croton (Croton tiglium), which here, as in Yoruba generally, attains the rankest dimensions.
It is impossible at Whydah to mistake the religious- ness of the Pagan, though we vainly look for any trace of human relics. Even in the bazar, many a hut will be girt round with the Zo Vodun, 1 a country rope with dead leaves dangling to it at spaces of 20 feet. After a conflagra- tion this Fetish fire prophylactic becomes almost univer- sal. Opposite the house-gates again we find the Vo-sisa defending the inmates from harm. It is of many shapes, especially a stick or a pole, with an empty old calabash for a head, and a body composed of grass thatch, palm leaves, fowl's feathers, and achatinae shells. These people must deem lightly of an evil influence that can mistake, even in the dark, such a scarecrow for a human being. Near almost every door stands the Legba-'gban, or Legba-pot, by Europeans called the " Devil's Dish. 2 " It is a common clay shard article, either whole or broken, and every morning and evening it is filled, generally by women, with cooked maize and palm-oil, for the benefit of the turkey-buzzard (Percnopter niger), like the Pinda offered to Hindu crows. " Akrasu, 8 " the vulture, is next
1 Vodun is Fetish in general. I hardly know whether to write it Vodun or Fodun, the sound of the two labials is so similar. New comers are apt to confound this Fetish with the Azan or fringe of dried palm-leaf, which, fastened about a tree, places it under the protection of the Bo-Fetish. When a man wears the latter round his throat, witchcraft can do him no harm; and, if a war captive, he may not be killed.
2 The food which it contains is called Legba-nun-dudu, or "eating for Legba."
3 There are two kinds, Akrasu, the common Percnopter niger, and a larger grey species, with a very hooked beak, called by the people Akkun.
x V > < \ \
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 51
to the snake, the happiest animal in Dahome. He has always an abundance of food, like storks, robins, swallows, crows, adjutant cranes, and other holy birds in different parts of the wprld. He may not be killed with impunity, and he rarely loses his life except on the most solemn occasions. The knowledge of his safety renders him so tame that he will refresh himself among the poultry ; and gorged with daily banquets, the " beast of a bird " will hardly deign to take wing before being trodden upon ; I have seen him eating amongst the crowd before the King's tent, and half ready to show fight if interrupted. When hungry, he seems always to consider you as if you were butcher's meat.
Travellers abuse this "obscene fowl," forgetting that without it the towns of Yoruba would be uninhabitable. Moreover, except after a meal of carrion, it has by no means the " foul aspect " which Commander Forbes ascribes to it, nor is its " familiarity " at all " sickening." The fact is, that officer saw human sacrifice everywhere, although the rite never takes place at Whydah^the con- demned being sent up to the capital for execution,^ The turkey-buzzard perched on the topmost stick of a blasted calabash tree, is to unromantic material Africa what the pea-fowl, weather-cocking the tall Mawri is to more engaging Asia. It always struck me as the most appro- priate emblem and heraldic bearing for decayed Dahome.
The new comer must not confound the " Vulture's dish" with another display of earthenware. Places are consecrated by planting dwarf flags round a forked stick, or round a tree cut down to a reversed tripod, which sup- ports a red clay pot or pot cover. Upon this the passers-by deposit a little food or palm-oil, and sometimes cabalistic messes, to bring luck or to ward off danger.
Legba himself is a horrid spectacle. A mass of red clay is roughly moulded by the clumsy, barbarous artist into an imitation man, who is evidently like Jupiter, A devil of a god for following the girls.
52 A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
The figure is at squat, crouched, as it were, before its own attributes, with arms longer than a gorilla's, huge feet, and no legs to speak of. The head is of mud or wood, rising conically to an almost pointed poll ; a dab of clay represents the nose ; the mouth is a gash from ear to ear, and the eyes and teeth are of cowries, or painted ghastly white. This deity almost fills a temple of dwarf thatch, open at the sides. In nine cases out of ten he has returned, human-like, to an undistinguishable heap of dust, but it would be sacrilege to remove the sacred rubbish. Legba is of either sex, but rarely feminine. Of the latter I have seen a few, which are even more horrid than the male ; the breasts project like the halves of a German sausage, and the rest is to match. In this point Legba differs from the classical Pan and the Lampsacan god, 1 but the idea involved is the same. The Dahoman, like almost all semi-barbarians, considers a numerous family the highest blessing, and fatherlessness the greatest curse in mundane life, and what men think in these lands must be minded by women. The peculiar worship of Legba consists of propitiating his or her characteristics by unctions of palm-oil. The " Anatinkpo," or knotted clubs planted around the figure with their knobs in the air, are possibly derived from Oshe, the weapon of the Egba "Shango. 2 "
Issuing from the bazar to westward, we pass on the right a large ruinous tenement, built by a quadroon mer- chant, Mr. Hutton, of Cape Coast Castle, whose " Gothic House" there has just been converted into Government quarters. After he was drowned on the Dago bar (1857), this place was sold to a Spaniard, known only as D. Juan,
1 How strong a superstition this worship is, may be gathered from the annals of the monotheistic Jews, amongst whom Maacah, the queen-mother of Asa, set up the "horror" in a grove.
2 There is also a great demon in Egba land, who uses a knob- stick, called Oggo, and who therefore is known as Agongo-Oggo.
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 53
who presently perished, of course by poison, at Badagry. As the last proprietor owed 200 dollars to the king, it then became royal demesne.
We are now at the English factory, which will require description ; it has played a conspicuous part in local poli- tics, and it may perchance do so again. Williams Fort, as it is called in old writings, was built for the Royal African Company of England, by Captain Wiburne, brother to Sir John Wiburne ; its foundation is, therefore, nearly two centuries old. In Barbot's 1 day (1700) it was 100 yards square, with four large earthen flankers, mount- ing twenty-one good guns ; the trench, crossed by a draw- bridge of boards spread on beams, was 20 ft. deep by i8ft. wide, and its establishment consisted of twenty whites and one hundred gromettos, or slaves, attached to English Town, under the orders of a governor. The old traveller places it three miles from the water-side, between the Danish fort (now quite forgotten) on the west, and within half-a-mile of the French and Dutch Forts. In its day it has sheltered, under Governor Tinker, the King of Why- dah, when Savi, his capital, was taken by Dahome ; Governor Wilson gave protection to Ossue, the leader of the Whydahs and Popos ; rash Governor Tetesole was, by orders of the Great King, murdered, and some say eaten ; Governor Gregory defended it against Tanga, the rebel ; brave Governor Goodson, by the fire of his fort won back Whydah for Dahome ; Governor Abson here lived thirty-seven years, and left behind him Sally, of tragical end ; stout Mr. Hamilton procured the release of Dr. M'Leod, and Governor James, the younger of that name, who succeeded the two former, is still known as the King's friend.
The shape of the enceinte is a square or parallelo-
i A Description of the Coasts of North and South Guinea. By John Barbot, Agent-General of the Royal African Company and Islands of America, at Paris. This old book is a mine of information.
54 A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahonie.
gram, enclosing several acres, surrounded by a well-grown moat, and formerly defended at the angles by once round bastions, with their rusty guns, a total of twenty-four car- ronades still lying there and about the court. Even in 1803, we are told that only three or four of the cannon were sound enough to be used in saluting, the others being so honeycombed and corroded that those firing them would have been in more danger than those fired at. The compound is divided into unequal parts by a wall running from east to west ; to the north where a garden should be, there is a foul Fetish figure throned amidst a mass of filth, yet the people wonder that they suffer from small- pox and measles ! The main building, fronting south, to catch the sea-breeze, is a huge half-whitewashed barn, red and crumbling below, with a ragged, tattered pent- roof thatch above ; the walls pierced with irregular shut- tered holes, are 4ft. thick, and the "great hall 1 " and five dwarf rooms inside suggest comparison with the ab externo size of the edifice. The interior is as shabby as the exterior, the floors yawn wide, and the ceiling threatens to fall. As usual in these buildings, there is but one entrance, a gloomy and cavernous gateway, like the Arab's " barzah," under the main building. The barton between the house and Fetish-ground contains out-houses and offices for servants and followers ; a well, which at times fails ; instead of "steeple house " a shingled chapel, which is also school-room ; a " cook-house " (not a kitchen) ; a bathing-place, bachelor's quarters, four rows of umbrella trees, under whose shade is the usual trellised arbour, and the old " Hog-yard," which name, however, is now for- gotten.
The Hog-yard is a square detached house in the centre of the enceinte, near the old circular powder-maga- zine ; it derives its peculiar appellation from the fact that
i It was the mess-room of the governor and his officers, with whatever strangers might be staying in the place.
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 55
white men were buried here. The founder of the fort, Captain Wiburne, was the first tenant, and it has been since used as a family vault for the servants of the " Com- pany." Captain Thomas Phillips tells us a characteristic tale of this institution. A Mr. Smith, the chief factor, being sick, one of the kings of Whydah insisted upon send- ing a Fetish priest to his relief. The reverend man, car- rying brandy, rum, rice, oil, and other creature comforts, entered the Hog-yard, and thus addressed the deaf and dumb inmates :
" O ye dead whites that live here ! you have a mind to have with you this factor that is sick, but he is a friend to the King, who loves him, and who will not part with him as yet ! "
Then, repairing to Captain Wiburne's grave, he cried out :
" O thou captain of all the dead whites that lie here ! this is thy doing : thou wouldst have this man from us to bear thee company, because he is a good man, but our King will not part with him, and thou shalt not have him yet ! "
Thus saying, the holy man made a hole over the grave, and poured in the various articles which he had brought with him, telling the ghostly tenant that if he wanted those things, they were all there for him, but the factor he must not expect and should not have.
The historian goes on to say that the Englishmen present, disgusted by this mummery, kicked the Fetisheer out of the fort, and that Mr. Smith incontinently died, a proof stronger than any Holy Writ to the negro mind that black man's " medicine he be good."
In the Hog-yard also reposes Mr. James, called by the natives " Huze-huze." In December and January, when the Whydah Fetish fetes take place, the native priests flock with drums to perform idolatrous rites at his grave.
56 A Mission to Gelek, King of Dahome.
I summoned the Caboceers, and protested against these proceedings in the capital of English Town. 1 They of course promised to report my objections to the King, and certainly thought no more about the matter. The English Fort at Whydah is a scandal, morally and physi- cally. Compared with the French Mission, it gives exactly the measure of difference between the white man and the mulatto, even in these lands, where climate is so much against the former. The Wesleyan Mission should be ashamed of it. A few hundred pounds would make the place respectable, by the expulsion of the Fetish, and by the restoration of a building which has now passed out of government's hands. The sound of psalmody is certainly not wanting, indeed, the "holloaing of anthems," as Fal- staff calls it, is satis supevque ; and besides the school-chil- dren, there are nearly a score of he-fellows schoolmaster, cook, barber, tailor, interpreter, and others loafing and lounging about the court and arbour. They should be made at least to work their cost in salt. I only hope that an English Company will, at some not distant day, take the restoration in hand.
In 1842-43, the Wesleyan Mission was nominally established at Whydah by Mr. T. B. Freeman, the "Bishop of the Gold Coast," and Mr. Dawson, the com- panion of his travels. Eleven years afterwards they were followed by the Reverend Mr. Bernasko,the present princi- pal and the sole occupant of the English Fort, accompanied by a Mr. Laing, now doing duty at Annamaboe. They began by a melange of commerce and conversion, which was far from being favourably received by King Gezo. Perhaps for that reason they have been taken en amitie by his royal son. Gelele has given over to them six youths, sons of
i English Town is one of the most populous parts of Whydah, and lies behind its fort. Like the other quarters, it is chiefly in- habited by the descendants of fort slaves, and they are bound to do corvee for English visitors. They speak a little of our language, and they muster perhaps 300 families.
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 57
the old fort slaves of the English Town ; he will not, how- ever, allow the number to be increased. The total of the congregation is a dozen men, mostly Fantis, and all coloured. The school-muster greatly varies : for when I was last there, it numbered forty-six pupils, of whom twenty-three were boarders, including the human presents given according to custom by the King to his various visitors at Agbome. Amongst others under the charge of Mrs. Bernasko, is " Jane," popularly called the Commo- dore's Wife, a huge porpoise, a female Daniel Lambert, and a fair match for three men. There also are the two girls, " one about twelve, the other sixteen, very pretty and intelligent, 1 " dashed at Agbome to Captain Wilmot for education in England. Tastes in the matter of beanty differ. I found " Amelia," the younger, aged at least sixteen, and an uncommonly plain and dingy specimen ; whilst " Emma," the elder, had passed eighteen, and wore an expression of intense stupidity, combined with the external development of a female " Legba." They are thus too old to learn, and in these days it is not so easy as it was to become African "princesses." Finally, neither of them can be termed Dahoman, the former is an Ishaggan, and the latter is a Makhi captive.
For the English name in these parts, I am sorry to see Mr. Bernasko so situated. He has small pay, a large family, and many calls upon his purse. But it draws down contempt upon a faith when its teachers are com- pelled to trade for their livelihood, and to keep within a few yards of their chapel a shop in which cloth and pottery, rum and ammunition, are sold.
Passing out of the English Fort, we see in front and on the offside of " Main Street," two brick pillars inclined
i See Appendix iii., Despatches from Commodore Wilmot, respecting his visit to the King of Dahomy, in December, 1862, and January, 1863. Presented to the House of Commons by command of Her Majesty, in pursuance of their address, June 16, 1863.
58 A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
like the leaning towers of Bologna, and showing where once was the factory garden. Here grew the orange- grove alluded to by Dr. M'Leod, and the thin tamarind under which Governor Abson was buried. It has long been abandoned to the weeds, and a dozen sheep and goats now pick a scanty meal. On the right hand and to the south-west of William's Fort, is a large ruined establish- ment that belonged to Ignacio de Souza, a son of the original Chacha. He fell into disgrace four to five years ago, under the suspicion of having reported to a British cruiser the intended departure of a slaver, and he mysteriously disappeared. His property was "broken" by the " Don-pwe people 1 " here, a sign of complete and irretrievable ruin. It is a custom borrowed from the old kings of Whydah. The house has lately been granted by the King to a Mr. Craft, a mulatto, not a negro, as his semi-scientific auditors at Newcastle firmly believe him to be. The repairs will cost about 600, but this agent to the new " Company of African Merchants" says that he will easily make it pay. Pew veremos !
Bending towards the north of the English Fort, we pass through a large empty space now being cleared of grass for the Christmas "play." It shows a big tree-grown hole whose earth has been excavated for building, and a central shed erected by the present King for his " Blue" guards to marshal, dance, drink, and settle the palavers peculiar to their corps. The "Blues" outside the palace, also called " English Company," correspond with the "Fanti company" of women inside: they are held to be body-guards, but they are not regulars. For this reason
i Don (young), and pwe (small or young, as in Pwe-vi). These are a troop of petits jeunes hommes, who must do something to dis- tinguish themselves, organized by the King for his especial service, and to counteract the lazy and crafty veterans. These moutards are under a head-man, and each great Caboceer has at least one Don- pwe.
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 59
it is called, after one of the royal houses at the capital, Jegbe.
Beyond this square is a dark circular clump of giant trees, splendid figs, calabashes, and bombaxes rising from a dense bush which doubtless has witnessed many a deed of darkness. One would suppose that they were fetished to preserve them ; but the Tree and the Ocean, as well as the Snake, formed of old the peculiar cultus of Whydah. At its eastern end is the second lion of the town, and a very minute one, the Danhhwe, 1 _or Boa Temple. It is nothing but a small cylindrical mud hut some Fetish houses are square with thick clay walls sup- porting a flying thatch roof in extinguisher shape. Two low narrow doorless entrances front each other, leading to a raised floor of tamped earth, upon which there is nothing but a broom and a basket. It is roughly white- washed inside and out, and when I saw it last a very lubberly fresco of a ship under full sail sprawled on the left of the doorway. A little distance from the entrance were three small pennons, red, white, and blue cottons tied to the top of tall poles.
The Danhgbwe is here worshipped, like the monkey near Accra and Wuru, the leopard of Agbome, the iguana of Bonny, and the crocodile at Savi, Porto Seguro, and Badagry. The reptile is a brown yellow-and-white- streaked python of moderate dimensions ; and none appears to exceed five feet. The narrow neck and head tapering like the slow-worm's, show it to be harmless ; the
i Or Danhgbwe-hwe, or Vodun-hwe, i.e., Fetish House par excel- lence. In all these words the n is highly nasal. A common snake is called Danh; the python, Danhgbwe, a purely Whydah word, which must not be confounded with Dagbwe, " good." Dr. M'Leod corrupts the word to Daboa. 'Gbwe means a bush, but according to my in- terpreters it is no component part of Danhgbwe. Hwe signifies, I have said, a house and grounds, in fact the whole establishment, as distinguished from Ho, a room (as in Za-ho, a ceiling'd or store- room).
60 A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
negro indeed says that its bite is good as a defence against the venomous species, and it is tame with constant handling. M. Wallon saw 100 in the temple, some 10 feet long, and he tells his readers that they are never known to bite, whereas they use their sharp teeth like rats. Of these "nice gods" I counted seven, including one which was casting its slough ; all were reposing upon the thickness of the clay wall where it met the inner thatch. They often wander at night, and whilst I was sketching the place a negro brought an estray in his arms: before raising it, he rubbed his right hand on the ground and duly dusted his forehead, as if grovelling before the king. The ugly brute coiled harmlessly round his neck, like a " doctored " cobra in India or Algeria. Other snakes may be killed and carried dead through the town, but strangers who meddle with the Danhgbwe must look out for " palavers," which, however, will probably now resolve themselves into a fine. In olden times death has been the consequence of killing one of these reptiles, and if the snake be abused, "serious people" still stop their ears and run away.
When under former reigns a native killed a Danhgbwe even accidentally, he was put to death ; now, the murderer is placed somewhat like the Salamanders of old Vauxhall, in a hole under a hut of dry faggots thatched with grass which has been well greased with palm-oil. This is fired, and he must rush to the nearest running water, mercilessly belaboured with sticks and pelted with clods the whole way by the Danhgbwe-no, 1 or fetish-priests. Many of course die under the gauntlet. Thus there is a bapteme de feu as well as a bapteme d'eau ; fire and water, to say nothing of the gauntlet, must combine
i No, at the end of a compound word, means primarily mother (e.g., Danhgbwe-no, snake-mother): tropically, master of, or in the Arabic sense, father of (e.g., Abu Hanash, father of snake). Its general use shows the superior dignity of the lower sex in Dahome.
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 61
to efface the god-killing crime. 1 The elder de Souza saved many a victim by stationing a number of his slaves round the deicide, with orders to hustle and beat him in semblance not in reality. This was truly the act of a " Good Samaritan."
Ophiolatry in our part of Africa is mostly confined to the coast regions ; the Popos and Windward races worship a black snake of larger size ; and in the Bight of Biafra the Nimbi or Brass River people 2 are as bigoted in boa-religion as are the Whydahs. The system is of old date : Bosnian, at the beginning of the last century, described it almost as it is at present. It well suits the gross materialism of these races, and yet here men ought to be tired of it. As will afterwards appear, the snakes lost their kingdom ; yet we are told that when the Dahomans permitted serpent-worship to continue, the Whydahs, abundantly thankful, became almost recon- ciled to the new stern rule.
Snake worship is both old and widely spread 3 ; we recognise it among the Psylli of the ancients, and in the Roman Ophiolatreia of which Livy wrote angtiem in quo ipsum numcn fuisse constabat. In the Christian Church the animal was adored by the Ophites, perhaps on the same principle that the Sheytan Parast propitiates H.S.M.,
i Mr. Duncan witnessed this " absurd and savage custom," and detailed it in vol. i. p. 195.
2 There the python has exceeded, I am told, nineteen feet in length. Dr. M'Leod says that in Dahome many have been found from thirty to thirty-six feet long, and of proportional girth, but he does not say that he saw them.
3 Man's natural sense of personal fear probably originated the many fanciful ideas concerning the saevissima vipera : it is truly said, Timor fecit decs. The surpassing subtlety of the brute, the female supposed to devour the male, and the young their parent, with the monstrous imaginative offshoots dragons.fiery snakes, the great sea-serpent, all such romantic zoology seems to have originated from one and the same source.
62 A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
or that certain ignorant Roman Catholics have burned the candle at both ends in honour of the Powers of Light and Darkness. The Ophites were thus opposed to the orthodox, who held the unfortunate animal to be the "fatal destroyer of the human race," the "type of the devil and deluder of mankind." Barbot quotes upon this subject the Golden Serpent of the first Israelites, the Brazen Snake of Moses, the Dragon of Babylon, and the Thermutis or Asp of Egypt, where it was accounted one of the most valuable symbols of religion. Erasmus Stella informs us, in his Antiquities of Borussia, that people began worship by ophiolatry. Sigismund, baron of Huberstein, in his account of Moscovy, says, " that snakes were adored in Samogitia and Lithuania." The Naga of India was the Couch of Vishnu and the type of eternity ; it is still revered by the snake-charmer. 1 Herodotus (ii. 74) mentions the sacred serpent at Thebes. The Romans during a plague brought ^Esculapius, son of Apollo, from Epidaurus, in the form of a huge serpent, and with great sacrifices and ceremonies lodged him in an island of the Tiber. Finally, I may observe that from the Slave-Coast " Vodun " or Fetish we may derive the " Vaudoux" or small green snake of the Haytian negroes, so well-known by the abominable orgies enacted before the " Vaudoux King and Queen, 2 " and the "King Snake" is still revered at S'a Leone.
On the other side of the road the devotees of the snake are generally lolling upon the tree roots in pre- tended apathy, but carefully watching over their gods. Here too are the Fetish schools, where any child touched
1 In bygone days at Baroda of Guzerat I studied snake-charming under a native professor, when some of my brother-officers after filling the house with the hugest ranae, to testify their abhorrence of frog-eaters killed in waggishness a fine cobra. The terrified Hindu would never again " darken " those doors.
2 The orgies are derived from the old Fetish practices, which may be found in Bosnian and Barbot.
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 63
by the holy reptile must be taken for a year from its parents who "pay the piper" and must be taught the various arts of singing and dancing necessary to the wor- ship. This part of the system has, however, lost much of the excesses that prevailed in the last century, when, at the pleasure of the strong-backed Fetish men, even the King's daughters were not excused from incarceration and from its presumable object. The temple is still annually visited by the Viceroy, during the interval after the Cus- toms and before the campaigning season. He takes one bullock, with goats, fowls, cloth, rum, meal, and water to the priest, who, holding a bit of kola nut, prays aloud for the King, the country, and the crops.
Close to the Boa Temple is the palace of the Yevo- gan, 1 or Viceroy of Whydah. This is an important post, and the holders the third dignitary of the kingdom^ He is proposed by the Meu, or second minister, his after
i It is an old Whydah title dating before the conquest. In the old days, the " Coke " was the head Caboceer in the absence of the Yevogan (Dr. M'Leod, p. 68). I cannot find the title now. The word is spelt with a complexity of error. The History gives Yav- oughah ; Mr. Duncan, Avogaw and Avoga ; Captain Wilmot, Yav- ogah ; and others Yavogar, showing how easily the H, the R, and the highly nasal N, may be confounded by unpractised ears. The French prefer Jevoghan. Commander Forbes, who realized the fact that Ffon is a monosyllabic tongue, but who did not take the trouble to ascertain the only important part of his discovery, namely, what the syllables are, produced the curious etymology Ee-a-boo-gan. The word is Yevo-gan, " i^hite man's captain," Whydah being held to be a white man's town. Yevo means a white man, the oibo or oyibo of the Egbas. Ye is a shadow, and vo signifies ripe or red. Can has been explained as a captain or chief, and must not be con- founded with gan, metal. Again, Commander Forbes and M. Wai Ion tell us that the P. N. of the Yevogan is Dagbah, Dagbwa, and Dagba. The phrase Da-gba implies " he holds a large gourd or calabash " Whydah being, as it were, the king's cornucopia it was a title which the present man took for himself. Mr. Duncan (vol. i. p. 117) erroneously explains the word to signify that the King would drink water with him the strongest mark of friendship.
64 A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
patron, and he is installed by the King, under whose indirect protection he is. The ^icejcoy is surrounded by the clevereit-spies and councillors ; on his own ground he is strong, but once in the capital he falls into the hands of his protector. He is ever liable to be summoned to Agbome, and etiquette compels him to ride a wretched garron, upon which he is supported by his slayes. His soldiers may amount, not to 2000, as some say, but to 200. He is at once council, jury, and judge ; he cannot, how- ever, put a Dahoman to death even for crime without sending him for examination to the KingX He has un- imited powers of imprisonment and bastinado ; indeed, the local system seems to be that which kept the old British man-of-war in such grand discipline ; all are in ranks, and the superior "sticks" every one below him. He is great at embezzlement, and woe betide the litigious wight whose cause falls into his hands. Both he and his lieutenant must be propitiated before he will forward a visitor's message to the King ; and both, though they can do little to assist, are powerful in impeding progress. 1 However, a piece of silk, and a few bottles of French " 'tafia," suffice for each, and both vouchsafed a return in provisions. I reserve a personal description of the Yevo-gan till we meet him at Kana.
The Yevo-gan's palace is a large enceinte to the north of the town, with four principal entrances. That on the north-east is the " Bwendemen. 2 " It opens upon a square or space full of Fetish huts, one of which covers the skull of the African wild buffalo, now extinct in these parts, and under the straggling trees deputations are re- ceived. To the north is " Ganhori " ; the western en-
1 The present sub- viceroy, being a cousin and a particular friend of the King, has unusual powers of persuasion ; but such is by no means always the case. The " Prince," of whom more hereafter, is considered a firm friend to the English nation.
2 The first gate made when building the house is always so named.
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 65
trance is known as " Ohongaji " ; and the southern, lead- ing to the Snake House, is " Agoli." The interior is the normal labyrinth of courts and tents, each with two door- ways ; you reach the audience chamber after some twenty turnings, though perhaps it was a few yards from the entrance passage, and it is concealed, like the owner's " wifery," by mud walls. The great man, after the usual formality of canes and compliments, causes visitors, if they allow it, to fare anticamera, till his toilet is satisfactory, in a palm-nut paved outhouse near his pony's stable. Dignity makes this demand ; the negro grandee must not appear curious or anxious to see his visitor, who will ensure a better reception next time by making the loudest demonstrations of indignation. The dignitary receives in a small clean verandah, where, as chairs may not be used by the lieges of Dahome, he is found reclining upon the uncarpeted floor. He escorts the visitor beyond his walls, and he never fails to beg that a decent horse may be sent out to him from Europe, Asia, or the other quarters of the " inhabited quarter."
Crossing Main Street from north to south, we proceed to the south-west of the town, where stands the Brazilian Fort, the residence of the de Souza family. The huge mud pile occupies the base of a rude triangle, called a square, under whose shady trees, in the mornings and evenings, black cattle muster strong. Smaller tenements, in the south of Europe style, have been added to both sides. The old man, however, would not inhabit the house on the proper right of the fort, from a superstitious fancy that it would be fatal to him. The western turret or gable of the huge central building, which faces south- wards, may be seen from the sea, affording an excellent mark to the aspiring gunner. The peculiar feature of the Uhon-nukon, 1 or Praa, is a circular wattling, six feet in
i Uhon (gate), and Nukon (before), i.e., the space before the gate. VOL. I. 5
66 A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
diameter, planted round with the tall thunder-fetish shrub. 1 No one sees the interior, and even after fires that have calcined the live hedge, it is carefully covered with leaves. It is said to contain a round shot fired from the roads, probably out of an old long carronade (32-pounder, 9 ft. 6 in. in length, and 56 cwt.), by Commander Hill, R.N., who, in 1844, succeeded Mr. Maclean as Governor of the Gold Coast. The missile fell opposite the house of M. Martinez, and was removed to this place, where it has ever since been held fetish.
The founder of the family, M. Francisco Fellis de Sousa or Souza, .left Rio Janeiro in 1810, not, as Com- mander Forbes 2 says, a fugitive for political crime, nor as Captain Canot 3 asserts, "a deserter from the arms of his imperial master," but simply as a peasant who wished to see the world. He first settled at a place which he called Ajudo, 4 near Little Popo, and presently he became
1 By the natives it is called Ayyan or Soyyan ; held in the hand, a leaf prevents the gun from bursting, and the sticks are used in thunder-worship, hence the name in the text. It is a tall shrub, with broad ensiform leaves, like a Pandanus, but of a darker green, and it grows all about the coast, extending as far as Agbome. Some- times it is pollarded, and in this state it is set round other sacred trees.
2 Vol. i. p. 196. Commander Forbes was also misinformed when he states, " When Da (de) Souza died, a boy and a girl were decapi- tated and buried with him, besides three men who were sacrificed on the beach at Whydah (vol. i. p. 33). All denominations at Why- dah deny this; nor is it probable after the deceased's life-long opposition to this particular enormity.
3 Captain Canot ; or, Twenty Years of an African Slaver. En- tertaining, but superficial ; the author manifestly does not know that "Chacha" is a title, not a name.
4 There are some four " Ajudo " hereabouts, all so called by the old De Souza, meaning " Decs me ajudo " God helped me. Some wrongly write Ajido. Others prefer Ajuda, help, aid ; the full phrase being " Com ajudade Deos" ; hence the Ajuda Palace, in Portugal. From directions of letters, I believe Ajuda and Ayuda to be the popular Portuguese and Brazilian names for Whydah.
IV. A Walk round Whydali. 67
Governor of the Portuguese Fort here. __
was raised to the Chachaship,J:he principal agency in commercial matters between the King and all strangers; Y he thus became captain of the merchants, and the second dignitary at Whydah. As he could command refusal of all articles offered for sale, and as he had the regulation of the "De" alcavala, octroi, or excise he became very wealthy. Hs was ever hospitable and generous to Mr. Duncan 1 and to other Englishmen, although he owed to us the loss of a score of ships. He won the esteem of honest men, despite his slave-trading propensities, by discourag- ing torture and death; whilst, unlike too many other whites, he systematically refused to be present at human sacrifice. When far advanced in life, he had the honour to entertain the Prince de Joinville, and he died in May, 1849.
On the elder De Souza's demise, the Chachaship was contested by three of his one hundred children. Isidore, the King's favourite, succeeded ; but, like all the juniors and African born of the family, he departed life young. Followed Antonio, commonly called Kwaku, or Wednes- day,* a debauched man, rich, prodigal, and bigoted; he had thousands of armed and trained slaves ; he built a swish-house with rum instead of water, wishing to imitate the King, who for such purpose uses blood ; and he threatened to compel Gezo perforce to become a Christian. His career was short, and he was succeeded by his
i " A more generous or benevolent man perhaps never existed." says that traveller vol. i. p. 194. See also vol. ii. p. 295).
U So called from the clay of his birth, a Gold Coast custom. The word is here corrupted to Coco. Kwabna (Tuesday) and Wednes- day are "strong days" of birth; children that appear on Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays are " weak as water." Mr. Duncan (vol. i. p. 193) remarks, "On no account will a native sleep with his head towards the sea, nor enter a new house to take possession as a dwelling on a Tuesday or Friday, both those days being reckoned unlucky."
A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
uterine brother, 1 Ignacio, whose mysterious fate has been mentioned. The present Chacha, popularly called S'or Chico, is " Francisco," also a son of the old De Souza, aged about forty, tinted between a mulatto and a quad- roon, with features European in the upper half, and African below, a scant beard, and a not unpleasant ex- pression of countenance. He has little power, and thus the whole authority of the place has been centered, much to the detriment of commerce, in the hands of the wicked old Yevo-gan.
The family is charged with exercising a pernicious influence over the minds of the King and of the people of Dahome. It is still numerous. 2 The daughters of the
i The mother was a large woman from Agwe, dashed to the old Chacha. Her name was Akho-'si, i.e., King's wife, but she had no connection with royalty.
2. The following is a list of the present heads of the De Souza family, all being " Hijos de Whydah" : -
1. Francisco Fellis de Souza.
9. Julio 10. Lino n. Jose
The names of the sisters who are at all distinguished are :
1. Maria Amalia Fellis de Souza.
2. Sabina ,, ,,
3. Francisca ,, ,,
4. Antonia ,,
There are many young children ; about a hundred are known. The only grandson of any importance is Antonio Francisco de Souza, son of " Kwaku," and aged about twenty-eight. The late Isidore left two boys, Leandro Sancho and Sicinio Agripo, and two girls, Maria das Doses and Joanna Isidora, who are looked upon as Africans.
vulgarly called Pito.
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 6<j
house being too high to marry, temporarily honour the man who has the fortune to please them, and are said to reproduce in the Brazilian factory the state of morals that prevailed in the palaces of the old Persian kings and the Incas of Peru.
Passing up the Ajudo Akhi 'men, or Adjudo Market, by which we entered the town, we turn to the north-west, and once more pass into Main Street. Here we find the third bazar, Zo mai 'khi men, " Curfew Market. 1 " It was so called by the old Chacha, who would not allow the grass to be burned hereabouts, having a large store of gunpowder in Zomai House, a big swish building, now in ruins. There is nothing remarkable in this market.
Bending northwards, we find the French Fort, as usual in these days, at least the finest building in the place, with all the military air proper to the Grande Nation : it is, indeed, the only tenement that does not cry for repair. Still, it is a peaceful establishment, be- longing to M. Regis (Aine), of Marseille, the well-known emigrationist now reduced to palm-oil. It occupies the site of the old French Fort, whose governor, in the days of Louis XVI., had such influence over the country, and which in its career was twice destroyed by the Dahomans, whilst several governors lost their lives. Barbot 2 gives a detailed history of its original foundation in 1669-1671, by MM. Du Bourg and Caralof, with the consent of the King of Whydah, for the French West Indian Company. The old traveller places the factory at " Pilleau or Pelleau " names now unknown " a little beyond the swamp, and two miles from the sea." It is badly situated ; the air hereabouts is malarious, and hotter
i Zo (fire), Ma (not), I (come), 'Khi (from akhi, market), Men (in).
^ Book 4, chap. i. Where also may be found a long account of the squabbles of the two founders, and of the disputes with their seniors, the Dutch Company.
jo A Mission -to Gelele, King of Dahome.
than at the other three forts. Behind, or northwards, is Salam Fran9ais, or French Town, peopled, like the rest, by the descendants of the Fort grumettos. They are now reduced from 1500 to a very small number, and they are considered a treacherous runaway race, the worst hammock-bearers at Whydah. 1
A marble tablet over the drawbridged gateway of the French Fort informs us that it was restored by M. Regis, in 1842, and it is said that the repairs cost as much as though it had been re-made with stone. The main building fronting the sea southwards is tiled, not thatched, a neces- sary precaution, as will be seen, against the fires here frequent, and it has a tall central belvedere. The two bastions to the north-east and south-west have been whitewashed and repaired ; the former, being nearer the town, mounts six guns, not including four fixed in the swish ; and the latter had a telegraph for signalling to the ships in the roads. Besides which, a battery without affuts lies on the ground opposite the entrance. The ditch is uncleaned and efficient, whilst the three remaining walls of the enceinte are of coarse red clay, and by no means in good order, suggesting the idea of a " dicky," which is also characteristic. The immense compound contains a well, a cooperage, a smithy, a trellised arbour, and other necessaries. Outside the gateway it was pro- posed to found an establishment for the French mis- sioners, who sensibly went eastwards, and found a site one to three degrees (F.) cooler. Here one of the agents attempted to plant cotton, and necessarily failed for want of regular labour.
i The French factory is composed as follows :
1. M. Marius Daumas, agent en chef of the factories of M. Regis,
since 1863 French Consul for Whydah and Porto Novo (where he mostly resides), and chief of the Whydah factory.
2. M. Beraud.
3. M. Ardisson.
4. M. Pellegrin.
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 71
It is not unamusing to compare with fact M. Wallon's account of this factory. Its disinterestedness in supplying rival barraconnicrs with Zanzibar cowries, its high sense of honour, provoking the hostility of the Yevo-gan, and its grand prospects as a civilizing and Christianizing agent, are dreams not of the wise. The connection of France with Whydah has not been, and is not, a credit to our rivals ; nor is he their friend who tells them the contrary. The Maison Regis is a barracoon, a slave-yard, where, with detestable hypocrisy, " emi- grants 1 " and "free labourers" were lodged in jail 11 they could be transported a loisir. Such is the estab- lishment which a French naval officer pretends to praise. But M. Wallon himself, when in the " Dialmat," had proceeded to the capital in order to procure 40,000 hands. If the house has become a centre of licit commerce, it has not to thank its proprietor, his agents, or the officers that aided and abetted him. Finally, after the death of King Gezo, who mightily affected Frenchmen, it has fallen into utter contempt ; the present ruler treats its gerant en chef as a servant. M. Daumas, although calling himself French consul, was, after his last visit to Kana, in 1863, ordered not to quit Whydah, and he was com- pelled to fly on board a French man-of-war.
We now resume our route westwards, passing sundry fine houses, especially those of M. Nobre, a friend of Gezo, who during the same year followed his royal patron to the dark world, and of M. J. C. Muniz, whose African son has just come into possession of his property. Issuing from the habitations, we visit the westernmost point of Whydah Town, the Zo Mai 'Khimen Kpota, or " Fire Come not in Market Hillock. 2 " It is a swell in the open
1 Most people know that with the profession, "emigrant," like "captive," means a purchased slave.
2 Kpota means a gentle rise of ground, opposed to So, a hill, and to So daho (literally big hill), a mountain.
72 A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
ground, which commands a full view of the shipping. Here we may see the coffee-like shrub which produces the fruit known on the Gold Coast as the " miraculous berry. 1 " A little to the N.W. are two huge cotton trees; that nearer the town is called Foli Hun, or Foil's Bom- bax, with the following legend attached to it.
The Whydahs, assisted by the Popos, had made many a stout-hearted but vain attempt to recover their city, especially under their brave leader Shampo, a refugee Dahoman. This general, growing old, was succeeded in the command by his son Foli or Fori (the " Affurey " of the History), and, in 1763, when Tegbwesun (Bossa Ahadi) was on the throne, the fugitives once more attacked his garrison.
At first the Whydahs were successful ; they marched in without opposition: and when old "Honnou, 1 " the viceroy, attempted to defend his town, they wounded him and repulsed his troops. " Baddely," the second in com- mand, fought bravely, till, pressed by a superior force, he was compelled to shelter himself under the guns of
1 The Fantis call it Sabla or Sambala (which the Preface to the History, p. viii., and Introduction, p. 5, turn into Assabah, and opine to be an oxyglycus) and the Ffon terms it Sisnah. It is the Ossess- ossa of the Bonny R., and grows everywhere on the Gold Coast and in the Bights. The fruit is a brab-like berry, cherry-red and yellow, with a thin white pulp and a large black stone. It is hardly capable of making "a lime taste like a very ripe china orange, or vinegar like sweet wine" (loc. cit.), but it sweetens water with a cloying taste, and remains long upon the palate. Perhaps it might be useful in sugar-making. Dr. M'Leod exaggerates still further its peculiar- ities : " Whoever eats this berry in the morning, must be content, at least for that day, to forego the natural flavour of very kind of food, whether animal or vegetable " (pp. 21-22).
2 These names are from the History, which ignores the Governor's "wife," merely saying that Mr. Goodson had prepared to give the rebels a very warm reception, and had fired into them accordingly. On the other hand, King Gezo has often told the tradition as above narrated. The " wife" might have been, and ten to one was, some fair mulatress.
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 73
the French Fort, and the latter, although the enemy had begun to burn down the suburbs, ungratefully politic, fired nothing but blank cartridge to defend their friends.
The Whydahs and Popos, inspirited by this treach- erous proceeding, advanced through the town; after another action to the S.E. of, and just outside, the suburbs, where the Godome entrance now is, they drove the enemy into the bush. When passing the English factory, one of the savage soldiery espied a white woman, Governor Goodson's "wife," combing her long hair, and protruding her head from the window, to see, I suppose, the "fun." Exclaiming, " What animal can that be ? " the man pierced her throat with a musket-ball; upon which the English- man let fly a storm of grape-shot and musket-bullets, which made a prodigious havoc amongst the friendly Whydahs. The Portuguese Fort, suspecting some treach- ery, took up the fire, and all the others followed suit, thus completing the discomfiture of the townspeople. The Dahomans, who, under "Baddely," were lurking near, and collecting their men from the plantations, resumed the offensive with such fury, that they killed thirty out of thirty-two hostile umbrellas, or general officers. Foli, overwhelmed with grief and shame, sat down under that Bombax and shot himself. In memory of his deeds, the fourth market-day at Whydah is called Foli-'hun-glo. 1
This was the second occasion upon which the English gave Wfiydah to the Dahomans. Tegbwesun acknow- leged that his good son had the sole merit of the victory, and the memory of "Ajangan" is still green in the land. To the present day the King always remarks officially to Englishmen who do not understand him, that from the
i Commander Forbes (vol. i. p. 114) says, "This was market-day at the four-day market at Forree." The / in Foli is sounded some- what like the peculiar Sanskrit (95 ).
74 A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome.
first the British were the greatest friends of his family. 1 There is now no society in Whydah 2 ; the quondam millionaires retain their hospitality, but not the means of gratifying it. The old days of sporting, picnics, and processions, of dancing, loving, drinking, and playing, are gone, probably never to return. The place is tem- porarily ruined, and dull as dull can be, except when the occasional breaking of the blockade gives it a kind of galvanic life. Such was the casein October, 1863; the roads were stopped on the yth, and three days afterwards a fine steamer, carrying 900 souls, got off between Go- dome and Jackin. 3 All the principal venturers gave a banquet, ending in a tripotage, which began at 4 P.M., and ended ten hours afterwards ; none but the members of the Lyons Mission were exempted from attendance; even the non-slaving traders and others were there drink- ing pro-slavery toasts which would have given a philan- thropist "fits."
All here is now in transition state. Slave exporting is like gambling, a form of intense excitement which becomes a passion ; it is said that after once shipping a man, one must try to ship another. And the natives of Whydah give the licit dealer scanty encouragement.
1 See in Commodore Wilmot's Despatch the usual garbled account of this affair ; such as it is, however, people believed it in Whydah till I collected the true details. Some, indeed, and they were not few, re- ferred it to the first capture of Whydah by the Dahomans.
2 Dr. M'Leod (A Voyage to Africa), in 1803, considers Whydah the "Circassia of Africa, not from the fairness, but from the glossy blackness of the ladies' skins, and the docility of their dispositions." Commander Forbes (1849) seems to have suffered from the " mere- tricious gaze of the females," which he attributes to the " personal de- pravity of the slave merchants." I saw no signs of this debauchery ; the people were civil and respectful the one thing needful in the African.
3 According to some, in the preceding month a brig had cleared from Grand Popo, carrying 300 head.
IV. A Walk round Whydah. 75
Having lived so long without severer toil than kidnap- ping, they are too old to learn labour, they allow their houses to fall, their plantations to re-become bush, their streets to be half-grown with rank grass, and their swamps to reek undrained.
Let us hope that a step in advance is now being taken. Much might be expected from the soldier-like discipline of Dahoman despotism, if compulsorily applied to honest labour.