Continued Sickness — Kindness of the Bishop of Angola and her Majesty’s Officers — Mr. Gabriel’s unwearied Hospitality — Serious Deportment of the Makololo — They visit Ships of War — Politeness of the Officers and Men — The Makololo attend Mass in the Cathedral — Their Remarks — Find Employment in collecting Firewood and unloading Coal — Their superior Judgment respecting Goods — Beneficial Influence of the Bishop of Angola — The City of St. Paul de Loanda — The Harbor — Custom-house — No English Merchants — Sincerity of the Portuguese Government in suppressing the Slave-trade — Convict Soldiers — Presents from Bishop and Merchants for Sekeletu — Outfit — Leave Loanda 20th September, 1854 — Accompanied by Mr. Gabriel as far as Icollo i Bengo — Sugar Manufactory — Geology of this part of the Country — Women spinning Cotton — Its Price — Native Weavers — Market-places — Cazengo; its Coffee Plantations — South American Trees — Ruins of Iron Foundry — Native Miners — The Banks of the Lucalla — Cottages with Stages — Tobacco-plants — Town of Massangano — Sugar and Rice — Superior District for Cotton — Portuguese Merchants and foreign Enterprise — Ruins — The Fort and its ancient Guns — Former Importance of Massangano — Fires — The Tribe Kisama — Peculiar Variety of Domestic Fowl — Coffee Plantations — Return to Golungo Alto — Self-complacency of the Makololo — Fever — Jaundice — Insanity.
In the hope that a short enjoyment of Mr. Gabriel’s generous hospitality would restore me to my wonted vigor, I continued under his roof; but my complaint having been caused by long exposure to malarious influences, I became much more reduced than ever, even while enjoying rest. Several Portuguese gentlemen called on me shortly after my arrival; and the Bishop of Angola, the Right Reverend Joaquim Moreira Reis, then the acting governor of the province, sent his secretary to do the same, and likewise to offer the services of the government physician.
Some of her majesty’s cruisers soon came into the port, and, seeing the emaciated condition to which I was reduced, offered to convey me to St. Helena or homeward; but, though I had reached the coast, I had found that, in consequence of the great amount of forest, rivers, and marsh, there was no possibility of a highway for wagons, and I had brought a party of Sekeletu’s people with me, and found the tribes near the Portuguese settlement so very unfriendly, that it would be altogether impossible for my men to return alone. I therefore resolved to decline the tempting offers of my naval friends, and take back my Makololo companions to their chief, with a view of trying to make a path from his country to the east coast by means of the great river Zambesi or Leeambye.
I, however, gladly availed myself of the medical assistance of Mr. Cockin, the surgeon of the “Polyphemus”, at the suggestion of his commander, Captain Phillips. Mr. Cockin’s treatment, aided by the exhilarating presence of the warm-hearted naval officers, and Mr. Gabriel’s unwearied hospitality and care, soon brought me round again. On the 14th I was so far well as to call on the bishop, in company with my party, who were arrayed in new robes of striped cotton cloth and red caps, all presented to them by Mr. Gabriel. He received us, as head of the provisional government, in the grand hall of the palace. He put many intelligent questions respecting the Makololo, and then gave them free permission to come to Loanda as often as they pleased. This interview pleased the Makololo extremely.
Every one remarked the serious deportment of the Makololo. They viewed the large stone houses and churches in the vicinity of the great ocean with awe. A house with two stories was, until now, beyond their comprehension. In explanation of this strange thing, I had always been obliged to use the word for hut; and as huts are constructed by the poles being let into the earth, they never could comprehend how the poles of one hut could be founded upon the roof of another, or how men could live in the upper story, with the conical roof of the lower one in the middle. Some Makololo, who had visited my little house at Kolobeng, in trying to describe it to their countrymen at Linyanti, said, “It is not a hut; it is a mountain with several caves in it.”
Commander Bedingfeld and Captain Skene invited them to visit their vessels, the “Pluto” and “Philomel”. Knowing their fears, I told them that no one need go if he entertained the least suspicion of foul play. Nearly the whole party went; and when on deck, I pointed to the sailors, and said, “Now these are all my countrymen, sent by our queen for the purpose of putting down the trade of those that buy and sell black men.” They replied, “Truly! they are just like you!” and all their fears seemed to vanish at once, for they went forward among the men, and the jolly tars, acting much as the Makololo would have done in similar circumstances, handed them a share of the bread and beef which they had for dinner. The commander allowed them to fire off a cannon; and, having the most exalted ideas of its power, they were greatly pleased when I told them, “That is what they put down the slave-trade with.” The size of the brig-of-war amazed them. “It is not a canoe at all; it is a town!” The sailors’ deck they named “the Kotla”; and then, as a climax to their description of this great ark, added, “And what sort of a town is it that you must climb up into with a rope?”
The effect of the politeness of the officers and men on their minds was most beneficial. They had behaved with the greatest kindness to me all the way from Linyanti, and I now rose rapidly in their estimation; for, whatever they may have surmised before, they now saw that I was respected among my own countrymen, and always afterward treated me with the greatest deference.
On the 15th there was a procession and service of the mass in the Cathedral; and, wishing to show my men a place of worship, I took them to the church, which now serves as the chief one of the see of Angola and Congo. There is an impression on some minds that a gorgeous ritual is better calculated to inspire devotional feelings than the simple forms of the Protestant worship. But here the frequent genuflexions, changing of positions, burning of incense, with the priests’ back turned to the people, the laughing, talking, and manifest irreverence of the singers, with firing of guns, etc., did not convey to the minds of my men the idea of adoration. I overheard them, in talking to each other, remark that “they had seen the white men charming their demons;” a phrase identical with one they had used when seeing the Balonda beating drums before their idols.
In the beginning of August I suffered a severe relapse, which reduced me to a mere skeleton. I was then unable to attend to my men for a considerable time; but when in convalescence from this last attack, I was thankful to find that I was free from that lassitude which, in my first recovery, showed the continuance of the malaria in the system. I found that my men, without prompting, had established a brisk trade in fire-wood. They sallied forth at cock-crowing in the mornings, and by daylight reached the uncultivated parts of the adjacent country, collected a bundle of fire-wood, and returned to the city. It was then divided into smaller fagots, and sold to the inhabitants; and as they gave larger quantities than the regular wood-carriers, they found no difficulty in selling. A ship freighted with coal for the cruisers having arrived from England, Mr. Gabriel procured them employment in unloading her at sixpence a day. They continued at this work for upward of a month, and nothing could exceed their astonishment at the vast amount of cargo one ship contained. As they themselves always afterward expressed it, they had labored every day from sunrise to sunset for a moon and a half, unloading, as quickly as they could, “stones that burn”, and were tired out, still leaving plenty in her. With the money so obtained they purchased clothing, beads, and other articles to take back to their own country. Their ideas of the value of different kinds of goods rather astonished those who had dealt only with natives on the coast. Hearing it stated with confidence that the Africans preferred the thinnest fabrics, provided they had gaudy colors and a large extent of surface, the idea was so new to my experience in the interior that I dissented, and, in order to show the superior good sense of the Makololo, took them to the shop of Mr. Schut. When he showed them the amount of general goods which they might procure at Loanda for a single tusk, I requested them, without assigning any reason, to point out the fabrics they prized most. They all at once selected the strongest pieces of English calico and other cloths, showing that they had regard to strength without reference to color. I believe that most of the Bechuana nation would have done the same. But I was assured that the people near the coast, with whom the Portuguese have to deal, have not so much regard to durability. This probably arises from calico being the chief circulating medium; quantity being then of more importance than quality.
During the period of my indisposition, the bishop sent frequently to make inquiries, and, as soon as I was able to walk, I went to thank him for his civilities. His whole conversation and conduct showed him to be a man of great benevolence and kindness of heart. Alluding to my being a Protestant, he stated that he was a Catholic from conviction; and though sorry to see others, like myself, following another path, he entertained no uncharitable feelings, nor would he ever sanction persecuting measures. He compared the various sects of Christians, in their way to heaven, to a number of individuals choosing to pass down the different streets of Loanda to one of the churches — all would arrive at the same point at last. His good influence, both in the city and the country, is universally acknowledged: he was promoting the establishment of schools, which, though formed more on the monastic principle than Protestants might approve, will no doubt be a blessing. He was likewise successfully attempting to abolish the non-marriage custom of the country; and several marriages had taken place in Loanda among those who, but for his teaching, would have been content with concubinage.
St. Paul de Loanda has been a very considerable city, but is now in a state of decay. It contains about twelve thousand inhabitants, most of whom are people of color.32 There are various evidences of its former magnificence, especially two cathedrals, one of which, once a Jesuit college, is now converted into a workshop; and in passing the other, we saw with sorrow a number of oxen feeding within its stately walls. Three forts continue in a good state of repair. Many large stone houses are to be found. The palace of the governor and government offices are commodious structures, but nearly all the houses of the native inhabitants are of wattle and daub. Trees are planted all over the town for the sake of shade, and the city presents an imposing appearance from the sea. It is provided with an effective police, and the custom-house department is extremely well managed. All parties agree in representing the Portuguese authorities as both polite and obliging; and if ever any inconvenience is felt by strangers visiting the port, it must be considered the fault of the system, and not of the men.
32 From the census of 1850–51 we find the population of this city arranged thus: 830 whites, only 160 of whom are females. This is the largest collection of whites in the country, for Angola itself contains only about 1000 whites. There are 2400 half-castes in Loanda, and only 120 of them slaves; and there are 9000 blacks, more than 5000 of whom are slaves.
The harbor is formed by the low, sandy island of Loanda, which is inhabited by about 1300 souls, upward of 600 of whom are industrious native fishermen, who supply the city with abundance of good fish daily. The space between it and the main land, on which the city is built, is the station for ships. When a high southwest wind blows, the waves of the ocean dash over part of the island, and, driving large quantities of sand before them, gradually fill up the harbor. Great quantities of soil are also washed in the rainy season from the heights above the city, so that the port, which once contained water sufficient to float the largest ships close to the custom-house, is now at low water dry. The ships are compelled to anchor about a mile north of their old station. Nearly all the water consumed in Loanda is brought from the River Bengo by means of launches, the only supply that the city affords being from some deep wells of slightly brackish water. Unsuccessful attempts have been made by different governors to finish a canal, which the Dutch, while in possession of Loanda during the seven years preceding 1648, had begun, to bring water from the River Coanza to the city. There is not a single English merchant at Loanda, and only two American. This is the more remarkable, as nearly all the commerce is carried on by means of English calico brought hither via Lisbon. Several English houses attempted to establish a trade about 1845, and accepted bills on Rio de Janeiro in payment for their goods, but the increased activity of our cruisers had such an effect upon the mercantile houses of that city that most of them failed. The English merchants lost all, and Loanda got a bad name in the commercial world in consequence.
One of the arrangements of the custom-house may have had some influence in preventing English trade. Ships coming here must be consigned to some one on the spot; the consignee receives one hundred dollars per mast, and he generally makes a great deal more for himself by putting a percentage on boats and men hired for loading and unloading, and on every item that passes through his hands. The port charges are also rendered heavy by twenty dollars being charged as a perquisite of the secretary of government, with a fee for the chief physician, something for the hospital, custom-house officers, guards, etc., etc. But, with all these drawbacks, the Americans carry on a brisk and profitable trade in calico, biscuit, flour, butter, etc., etc.
The Portuguese home government has not generally received the credit for sincerity in suppressing the slave-trade which I conceive to be its due. In 1839, my friend Mr. Gabriel saw 37 slave-ships lying in this harbor, waiting for their cargoes, under the protection of the guns of the forts. At that time slavers had to wait many months at a time for a human freight, and a certain sum per head was paid to the government for all that were exported. The duties derived from the exportation of slaves far exceeded those from other commerce, and, by agreeing to the suppression of this profitable traffic, the government actually sacrificed the chief part of the export revenue. Since that period, however, the revenue from lawful commerce has very much exceeded that on slaves. The intentions of the home Portuguese government, however good, can not be fully carried out under the present system. The pay of the officers is so very small that they are nearly all obliged to engage in trade; and, owing to the lucrative nature of the slave-trade, the temptation to engage in it is so powerful, that the philanthropic statesmen of Lisbon need hardly expect to have their humane and enlightened views carried out. The law, for instance, lately promulgated for the abolition of the carrier system (carregadores) is but one of several equally humane enactments against this mode of compulsory labor, but there is very little probability of the benevolent intentions of the Legislature being carried into effect.
Loanda is regarded somewhat as a penal settlement, and those who leave their native land for this country do so with the hope of getting rich in a few years, and then returning home. They have thus no motive for seeking the permanent welfare of the country. The Portuguese law preventing the subjects of any other nation from holding landed property unless they become naturalized, the country has neither the advantage of native nor foreign enterprise, and remains very much in the same state as our allies found it in 1575. Nearly all the European soldiers sent out are convicts, and, contrary to what might be expected from men in their position, behave remarkably well. A few riots have occurred, but nothing at all so serious as have taken place in our own penal settlements. It is a remarkable fact that the whole of the arms of Loanda are every night in the hands of those who have been convicts. Various reasons for this mild behavior are assigned by the officers, but none of these, when viewed in connection with our own experience in Australia, appear to be valid. Religion seems to have no connection with the change. Perhaps the climate may have some influence in subduing their turbulent disposition, for the inhabitants generally are a timid race; they are not half so brave as our Caffres. The people of Ambriz ran away like a flock of sheep, and allowed the Portuguese to take possession of their copper mines and country without striking a blow. If we must have convict settlements, attention to the climate might be of advantage in the selection. Here even bulls are much tamer than with us. I never met with a ferocious one in this country, and the Portuguese use them generally for riding; an ox is seldom seen.
The objects which I had in view in opening up the country, as stated in a few notes of my journey, published in the newspapers of Angola, so commended themselves to the general government and merchants of Loanda, that, at the instance of his excellency the bishop, a handsome present for Sekeletu was granted by the Board of Public Works (Junta da Fazenda Publica). It consisted of a colonel’s complete uniform and a horse for the chief, and suits of clothing for all the men who accompanied me. The merchants also made a present, by public subscription, of handsome specimens of all their articles of trade, and two donkeys, for the purpose of introducing the breed into his country, as tsetse can not kill this beast of burden. These presents were accompanied by letters from the bishop and merchants; and I was kindly favored with letters of recommendation to the Portuguese authorities in Eastern Africa.
I took with me a good stock of cotton cloth, fresh supplies of ammunition and beads, and gave each of my men a musket. As my companions had amassed considerable quantities of goods, they were unable to carry mine, but the bishop furnished me with twenty carriers, and sent forward orders to all the commandants of the districts through which we were to pass to render me every assistance in their power. Being now supplied with a good new tent made by my friends on board the Philomel, we left Loanda on the 20th of September, 1854, and passed round by sea to the mouth of the River Bengo. Ascending this river, we went through the district in which stand the ruins of the convent of St. Antonio; thence into Icollo i Bengo, which contains a population of 6530 blacks, 172 mulattoes, and 11 whites, and is so named from having been the residence of a former native king. The proportion of slaves is only 3.38 per cent. of the inhabitants. The commandant of this place, Laurence Jose Marquis, is a frank old soldier and a most hospitable man; he is one of the few who secure the universal approbation of their fellow-men for stern, unflinching honesty, and has risen from the ranks to be a major in the army. We were accompanied thus far by our generous host, Edmund Gabriel, Esq., who, by his unwearied attentions to myself, and liberality in supporting my men, had become endeared to all our hearts. My men were strongly impressed with a sense of his goodness, and often spoke of him in terms of admiration all the way to Linyanti.
While here we visited a large sugar manufactory belonging to a lady, Donna Anna da Sousa. The flat alluvial lands on the banks of the Senza or Bengo are well adapted for raising sugar-cane, and this lady had a surprising number of slaves, but somehow the establishment was far from being in a flourishing condition. It presented such a contrast to the free-labor establishments of the Mauritius, which I have since seen, where, with not one tenth of the number of hands, or such good soil, a man of color had, in one year, cleared £5000 by a single crop, that I quote the fact, in hopes it may meet the eye of Donna Anna.
The water of the river is muddy, and it is observed that such rivers have many more mosquitoes than those which have clear water. It was remarked to us here that these insects are much more numerous at the period of new moon than at other times; at any rate, we were all thankful to get away from the Senza and its insect plagues.
The whole of this part of the country is composed of marly tufa, containing the same kind of shells as those at present alive in the seas. As we advanced eastward and ascended the higher lands, we found eruptive trap, which had tilted up immense masses of mica and sandstone schists. The mica schist almost always dipped toward the interior of the country, forming those mountain ranges of which we have already spoken as giving a highland character to the district of Golungo Alto. The trap has frequently run through the gorges made in the upheaved rocks, and at the points of junction between the igneous and older rocks there are large quantities of strongly magnetic iron ore. The clayey soil formed by the disintegration of the mica schist and trap is the favorite soil for the coffee; and it is on these mountain sides, and others possessing a similar red clay soil, that this plant has propagated itself so widely. The meadow-lands adjacent to the Senza and Coanza being underlaid by that marly tufa which abounds toward the coast, and containing the same shells, show that, previous to the elevation of that side of the country, this region possessed some deeply-indented bays.
28TH SEPTEMBER, KALUNGWEMBO. — We were still on the same path by which we had come, and, there being no mosquitoes, we could now better enjoy the scenery. Ranges of hills occupy both sides of our path, and the fine level road is adorned with a beautiful red flower named Bolcamaria. The markets or sleeping-places are well supplied with provisions by great numbers of women, every one of whom is seen spinning cotton with a spindle and distaff, exactly like those which were in use among the ancient Egyptians. A woman is scarcely ever seen going to the fields, though with a pot on her head, a child on her back, and the hoe over her shoulder, but she is employed in this way. The cotton was brought to the market for sale, and I bought a pound for a penny. This was the price demanded, and probably double what they ask from each other. We saw the cotton growing luxuriantly all around the market-places from seeds dropped accidentally. It is seen also about the native huts, and, so far as I could learn, it was the American cotton, so influenced by climate as to be perennial. We met in the road natives passing with bundles of cops, or spindles full of cotton thread, and these they were carrying to other parts to be woven into cloth. The women are the spinners, and the men perform the weaving. Each web is about 5 feet long, and 15 or 18 inches wide. The loom is of the simplest construction, being nothing but two beams placed one over the other, the web standing perpendicularly. The threads of the web are separated by means of a thin wooden lath, and the woof passed through by means of the spindle on which it has been wound in spinning.
The mode of spinning and weaving in Angola, and, indeed, throughout South Central Africa, is so very like the same occupations in the hands of the ancient Egyptians, that I introduce a woodcut from the interesting work of Sir Gardner Wilkinson. The lower figures are engaged in spinning in the real African method, and the weavers in the left-hand corner have their web in the Angolese fashion.33
33 Woodcut (not yet included in this web edition). The caption reads, ‘Ancient Spinning and Weaving, perpetuated in Africa at the present day. From Wilkinson’s “Ancient Egyptians”, p. 85, 86.’ The web, or cloth on the loom, mentioned, has the vertical threads, or the warp, hanging, perhaps five feet, from a horizontal beam. The woof is passed through from side to side.
Numbers of other articles are brought for sale to these sleeping-places. The native smiths there carry on their trade. I bought ten very good table-knives, made of country iron, for twopence each.
Labor is extremely cheap, for I was assured that even carpenters, masons, smiths, etc., might be hired for fourpence a day, and agriculturists would gladly work for half that sum.34
34 In order that the reader may understand the social position of the people of this country, I here give the census of the district of Golungo Alto for the year 1854, though the numbers are evidently not all furnished:
238 householders or yeomen.
4224 patrons, or head men of several hamlets.
23 native chiefs or sovas.
292 macotas or councilors.
184 soldiers of militia.
3603 privileged gentlemen, i.e., who may wear boots.
717 old men.
54 blind men and women.
81 lame men and women.
770 slave men.
807 slave women.
9578 free women.
393 possessors of land.
300 female gardeners.
139 hunters of wild animals.
4065 males under 7 years of age.
6012 females under 7 years of age.
These people possess 300 idol-houses, 600 sheep, 5000 goats, 500 oxen, 398 gardens, 25,120 hearths. The authorities find great difficulty in getting the people to furnish a correct account of their numbers. This census is quoted merely for the purpose of giving a general idea of the employments of the inhabitants.
The following is taken from the census of Icollo i Bengo, and is added for a similar reason:
3232 living without the marriage tie. (All those who have
not been married by a priest are so distinguished.)
4 orphans — 2 black and 2 white.
9 native chiefs.
The cattle in the district are: 10 asses, 401 oxen, 492 cows, 3933 sheep, 1699 goats, 909 swine; and as an annual tax is levied of sixpence per head on all stock, it is probable that the returns are less than the reality.
Being anxious to obtain some more knowledge of this interesting country and its ancient missionary establishments than the line of route by which we had come afforded, I resolved to visit the town of Massangano, which is situated to the south of Golungo Alto, and at the confluence of the rivers Lucalla and Coanza. This led me to pass through the district of Cazengo, which is rather famous for the abundance and excellence of its coffee. Extensive coffee plantations were found to exist on the sides of the several lofty mountains that compose this district. They were not planted by the Portuguese. The Jesuit and other missionaries are known to have brought some of the fine old Mocha seed, and these have propagated themselves far and wide; hence the excellence of the Angola coffee. Some have asserted that, as new plantations were constantly discovered even during the period of our visit, the coffee-tree was indigenous; but the fact that pine-apples, bananas, yams, orange-trees, custard apple-trees, pitangas, guavas, and other South American trees, were found by me in the same localities with the recently-discovered coffee, would seem to indicate that all foreign trees must have been introduced by the same agency. It is known that the Jesuits also introduced many other trees for the sake of their timber alone. Numbers of these have spread over the country, some have probably died out, and others failed to spread, like a lonely specimen which stands in what was the Botanic Garden of Loanda, and, though most useful in yielding a substitute for frankincense, is the only one of the kind in Africa.
A circumstance which would facilitate the extensive propagation of the coffee on the proper clay soil is this: The seed, when buried beneath the soil, generally dies, while that which is sown broadcast, with no covering except the shade of the trees, vegetates readily. The agent in sowing in this case is a bird, which eats the outer rind, and throws the kernel on the ground. This plant can not bear the direct rays of the sun; consequently, when a number of the trees are discovered in the forest, all that is necessary is to clear away the brushwood, and leave as many of the tall forest-trees as will afford good shade to the coffee-plants below. The fortunate discoverer has then a flourishing coffee plantation.
This district, small though it be, having only a population of 13,822, of whom ten only are white, nevertheless yields an annual tribute to the government of thirteen hundred cotton cloths, each 5 feet by 18 or 20 inches, of their own growth and manufacture.
Accompanied by the commandant of Cazengo, who was well acquainted with this part of the country, I proceeded in a canoe down the River Lucalla to Massangano. This river is about 85 yards wide, and navigable for canoes from its confluence with the Coanza to about six miles above the point where it receives the Luinha. Near this latter point stand the strong, massive ruins of an iron foundry, erected in the times (1768) and by the order of the famous Marquis of Pombal. The whole of the buildings were constructed of stone, cemented with oil and lime. The dam for water-power was made of the same materials, and 27 feet high. This had been broken through by a flood, and solid blocks, many yards in length, were carried down the stream, affording an instructive example of the transporting power of water. There was nothing in the appearance of the place to indicate unhealthiness; but eight Spanish and Swedish workmen, being brought hither for the purpose of instructing the natives in the art of smelting iron, soon fell victims to disease and “irregularities”. The effort of the marquis to improve the mode of manufacturing iron was thus rendered abortive. Labor and subsistence are, however, so very cheap that almost any amount of work can be executed, at a cost that renders expensive establishments unnecessary.
A party of native miners and smiths is still kept in the employment of the government, who, working the rich black magnetic iron ore, produce for the government from 480 to 500 bars of good malleable iron every month. They are supported by the appropriation of a few thousands of a small fresh-water fish, called “Cacusu”, a portion of the tax levied upon the fishermen of the Coanza. This fish is so much relished in the country that those who do not wish to eat them can easily convert them into money. The commandant of the district of Massangano, for instance, has a right to a dish of three hundred every morning, as part of his salary. Shell-fish are also found in the Coanza, and the “Peixemulher”, or woman-fish of the Portuguese, which is probably a Manatee.
The banks of the Lucalla are very pretty, well planted with orange-trees, bananas, and the palm (‘Elaeis Guineensis’) which yields the oil of commerce. Large plantations of maize, manioc, and tobacco are seen along both banks, which are enlivened by the frequent appearance of native houses imbosomed in dense shady groves, with little boys and girls playing about them. The banks are steep, the water having cut out its bed in dark red alluvial soil. Before every cottage a small stage is erected, to which the inhabitants may descend to draw water without danger from the alligators. Some have a little palisade made in the water for safety from these reptiles, and others use the shell of the fruit of the baobab-tree attached to a pole about ten feet long, with which, while standing on the high bank, they may draw water without fear of accident.
Many climbing plants run up the lofty silk, cotton, and baobab trees, and hang their beautiful flowers in gay festoons on the branches. As we approach Massangano, the land on both banks of the Lucalla becomes very level, and large portions are left marshy after the annual floods; but all is very fertile. As an illustration of the strength of the soil, I may state that we saw tobacco-plants in gardens near the confluence eight feet high, and each plant had thirty-six leaves, which were eighteen inches long by six or eight inches broad. But it is not a pastoral district. In our descent we observed the tsetse, and consequently the people had no domestic animals save goats.
We found the town of Massangano on a tongue of rather high land, formed by the left bank of the Lucalla and right bank of the Coanza, and received true Portuguese hospitality from Senhor Lubata. The town has more than a thousand inhabitants; the district has 28,063, with only 315 slaves. It stands on a mound of calcareous tufa, containing great numbers of fossil shells, the most recent of which resemble those found in the marly tufa close to the coast. The fort stands on the south side of the town, on a high perpendicular bank overhanging the Coanza. This river is here a noble stream, about a hundred and fifty yards wide, admitting navigation in large canoes from the bar at its mouth to Cambambe, some thirty miles above this town. There, a fine waterfall hinders farther ascent. Ten or twelve large canoes laden with country produce pass Massangano every day. Four galleons were constructed here as long ago as 1650, which must have been of good size, for they crossed the ocean to Rio Janeiro.
Massangano district is well adapted for sugar and rice, while Cambambe is a very superior field for cotton; but the bar at the mouth of the Coanza would prevent the approach of a steamer into this desirable region, though a small one could ply on it with ease when once in. It is probable that the objects of those who attempted to make a canal from Calumbo to Loanda were not merely to supply that city with fresh water, but to afford facilities for transportation. The remains of the canal show it to have been made on a scale suited for the Coanza canoes. The Portuguese began another on a smaller scale in 1811, and, after three years’ labor, had finished only 6000 yards. Nothing great or useful will ever be effected here so long as men come merely to get rich, and then return to Portugal.
The latitude of the town and fort of Massangano is 9° 37’ 46” S., being nearly the same as that of Cassange. The country between Loanda and this point being comparatively flat, a railroad might be constructed at small expense. The level country is prolonged along the north bank of the Coanza to the edge of the Cassange basin, and a railway carried thither would be convenient for the transport of the products of the rich districts of Cassange, Pungo Andongo, Ambaca, Cambambe, Golungo Alto, Cazengo, Muchima, and Calumbo; in a word, the whole of Angola and independent tribes adjacent to this kingdom.
The Portuguese merchants generally look to foreign enterprise and to their own government for the means by which this amelioration might be effected; but, as I always stated to them when conversing on the subject, foreign capitalists would never run the risk, unless they saw the Angolese doing something for themselves, and the laws so altered that the subjects of other nations should enjoy the same privileges in the country with themselves. The government of Portugal has indeed shown a wise and liberal policy by its permission for the alienation of the crown lands in Angola; but the law giving it effect is so fenced round with limitations, and so deluged with verbiage, that to plain people it seems any thing but a straightforward license to foreigners to become ‘bona fide’ landholders and cultivators of the soil. At present the tolls paid on the different lines of roads for ferries and bridges are equal to the interest of large sums of money, though but a small amount has been expended in making available roads.
There are two churches and a hospital in ruins at Massangano; and the remains of two convents are pointed out, one of which is said to have been an establishment of black Benedictines, which, if successful, considering the materials the brethren had to work on, must have been a laborious undertaking. There is neither priest nor schoolmaster in the town, but I was pleased to observe a number of children taught by one of the inhabitants. The cultivated lands attached to all these conventual establishments in Angola are now rented by the government of Loanda, and thither the bishop lately removed all the gold and silver vessels belonging to them.
The fort of Massangano is small, but in good repair; it contains some very ancient guns, which were loaded from the breech, and must have been formidable weapons in their time. The natives of this country entertain a remarkable dread of great guns, and this tends much to the permanence of the Portuguese authority. They dread a cannon greatly, though the carriage be so rotten that it would fall to pieces at the first shot; the fort of Pungo Andongo is kept securely by cannon perched on cross sticks alone!
Massangano was a very important town at the time the Dutch held forcible possession of Loanda and part of Angola; but when, in the year 1648, the Dutch were expelled from this country by a small body of Portuguese, under the Governor Salvador Correa de Sa Benevides, Massangano was left to sink into its present decay. Since it was partially abandoned by the Portuguese, several baobab-trees have sprung up and attained a diameter of eighteen or twenty inches, and are about twenty feet high. No certain conclusion can be drawn from these instances, as it is not known at what time after 1648 they began to grow; but their present size shows that their growth is not unusually slow.
Several fires occurred during our stay, by the thatch having, through long exposure to a torrid sun, become like tinder. The roofs became ignited without any visible cause except the intense solar rays, and excited terror in the minds of the inhabitants, as the slightest spark carried by the wind would have set the whole town in a blaze. There is not a single inscription on stone visible in Massangano. If destroyed to-morrow, no one could tell where it and most Portuguese interior villages stood, any more than we can do those of the Balonda.
During the occupation of this town the Coanza was used for the purpose of navigation, but their vessels were so frequently plundered by their Dutch neighbors that, when they regained the good port of Loanda, they no longer made use of the river. We remained here four days, in hopes of obtaining an observation for the longitude, but at this season of the year the sky is almost constantly overcast by a thick canopy of clouds of a milk-and-water hue; this continues until the rainy season (which was now close at hand) commences.
The lands on the north side of the Coanza belong to the Quisamas (Kisamas), an independent tribe, which the Portuguese have not been able to subdue. The few who came under my observation possessed much of the Bushman or Hottentot feature, and were dressed in strips of soft bark hanging from the waist to the knee. They deal largely in salt, which their country produces in great abundance. It is brought in crystals of about 12 inches long and 1–1/2 in diameter. This is hawked about every where in Angola, and, next to calico, is the most common medium of barter. The Kisama are brave; and when the Portuguese army followed them into their forests, they reduced the invaders to extremity by tapping all the reservoirs of water, which were no other than the enormous baobabs of the country hollowed into cisterns. As the Kisama country is ill supplied with water otherwise, the Portuguese were soon obliged to retreat. Their country, lying near to Massangano, is low and marshy, but becomes more elevated in the distance, and beyond them lie the lofty dark mountain ranges of the Libollo, another powerful and independent people. Near Massangano I observed what seemed to be an effort of nature to furnish a variety of domestic fowls, more capable than the common kind of bearing the heat of the sun. This was a hen and chickens with all their feathers curled upward, thus giving shade to the body without increasing the heat. They are here named “Kisafu” by the native population, who pay a high price for them when they wish to offer them as a sacrifice, and by the Portuguese they are termed “Arripiada”, or shivering. There seems to be a tendency in nature to afford varieties adapted to the convenience of man. A kind of very short-legged fowl among the Boers was obtained, in consequence of observing that such were more easily caught for transportation in their frequent removals in search of pasture. A similar instance of securing a variety occurred with the short-limbed sheep in America.
Returning by ascending the Lucalla into Cazengo, we had an opportunity of visiting several flourishing coffee plantations, and observed that several men, who had begun with no capital but honest industry, had, in the course of a few years, acquired a comfortable subsistence. One of these, Mr. Pinto, generously furnished me with a good supply of his excellent coffee, and my men with a breed of rabbits to carry to their own country. Their lands, granted by government, yielded, without much labor, coffee sufficient for all the necessaries of life.
The fact of other avenues of wealth opening up so readily seems like a providential invitation to forsake the slave-trade and engage in lawful commerce. We saw the female population occupied, as usual, in the spinning of cotton and cultivation of their lands. Their only instrument for culture is a double-handled hoe, which is worked with a sort of dragging motion. Many of the men were employed in weaving. The latter appear to be less industrious than the former, for they require a month to finish a single web. There is, however, not much inducement to industry, for, notwithstanding the time consumed in its manufacture, each web is sold for only two shillings.
On returning to Golungo Alto I found several of my men laid up with fever. One of the reasons for my leaving them there was that they might recover from the fatigue of the journey from Loanda, which had much more effect upon their feet than hundreds of miles had on our way westward. They had always been accustomed to moisture in their own well-watered land, and we certainly had a superabundance of that in Loanda. The roads, however, from Loanda to Golungo Alto were both hard and dry, and they suffered severely in consequence; yet they were composing songs to be sung when they should reach home. The Argonauts were nothing to them; and they remarked very impressively to me, “It was well you came with Makololo, for no tribe could have done what we have accomplished in coming to the white man’s country: we are the true ancients, who can tell wonderful things.” Two of them now had fever in the continued form, and became jaundiced, the whites or conjunctival membrane of their eyes becoming as yellow as saffron; and a third suffered from an attack of mania. He came to his companions one day, and said, “Remain well. I am called away by the gods!” and set off at the top of his speed. The young men caught him before he had gone a mile, and bound him. By gentle treatment and watching for a few days he recovered. I have observed several instances of this kind in the country, but very few cases of idiocy, and I believe that continued insanity is rare.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57