Visit a deserted Convent — Favorable Report of Jesuits and their Teaching — Gradations of native Society — Punishment of Thieves — Palm-toddy; its baneful Effects — Freemasons — Marriages and Funerals — Litigation — Mr. Canto’s Illness — Bad Behavior of his Slaves — An Entertainment — Ideas on Free Labor — Loss of American Cotton-seed — Abundance of Cotton in the country — Sickness of Sekeletu’s Horse — Eclipse of the Sun — Insects which distill Water — Experiments with them — Proceed to Ambaca — Sickly Season — Office of Commandant — Punishment of official Delinquents — Present from Mr. Schut of Loanda — Visit Pungo Andongo — Its good Pasturage, Grain, Fruit, etc. — The Fort and columnar Rocks — The Queen of Jinga — Salubrity of Pungo Andongo — Price of a Slave — A Merchant-prince — His Hospitality — Hear of the Loss of my Papers in “Forerunner” — Narrow Escape from an Alligator — Ancient Burial-places — Neglect of Agriculture in Angola — Manioc the staple Product — Its Cheapness — Sickness — Friendly Visit from a colored Priest — The Prince of Congo — No Priests in the Interior of Angola.
While waiting for the recovery of my men, I visited, in company with my friend Mr. Canto, the deserted convent of St. Hilarion, at Bango, a few miles northwest of Golungo Alto. It is situated in a magnificent valley, containing a population numbering 4000 hearths. This is the abode of the Sova, or Chief Bango, who still holds a place of authority under the Portuguese. The garden of the convent, the church, and dormitories of the brethren are still kept in a good state of repair. I looked at the furniture, couches, and large chests for holding the provisions of the brotherhood with interest, and would fain have learned something of the former occupants; but all the books and sacred vessels had lately been removed to Loanda, and even the graves of the good men stand without any record: their resting-places are, however, carefully tended. All speak well of the Jesuits and other missionaries, as the Capuchins, etc., for having attended diligently to the instruction of the children. They were supposed to have a tendency to take the part of the people against the government, and were supplanted by priests, concerning whom no regret is expressed that they were allowed to die out. In viewing the present fruits of former missions, it is impossible not to feel assured that, if the Jesuit teaching has been so permanent, that of Protestants, who leave the Bible in the hands of their converts, will not be less abiding. The chief Bango has built a large two-story house close by the convent, but superstitious fears prevent him from sleeping in it. The Portuguese take advantage of all the gradations into which native society has divided itself. This man, for instance, is still a sova or chief, has his councilors, and maintains the same state as when the country was independent. When any of his people are guilty of theft, he pays down the amount of goods stolen at once, and reimburses himself out of the property of the thief so effectually as to be benefited by the transaction. The people under him are divided into a number of classes. There are his councilors, as the highest, who are generally head men of several villages, and the carriers, the lowest free men. One class above the last obtains the privilege of wearing shoes from the chief by paying for it; another, the soldiers or militia, pay for the privilege of serving, the advantage being that they are not afterward liable to be made carriers. They are also divided into gentlemen and little gentlemen, and, though quite black, speak of themselves as white men, and of the others, who may not wear shoes, as “blacks”. The men of all these classes trust to their wives for food, and spend most of their time in drinking the palm-toddy. This toddy is the juice of the palm-oil-tree (‘Elaeis Guineensis’), which, when tapped, yields a sweet, clear liquid, not at all intoxicating while fresh, but, when allowed to stand till the afternoon, causes inebriation and many crimes. This toddy, called malova, is the bane of the country. Culprits are continually brought before the commandants for assaults committed through its influence. Men come up with deep gashes on their heads; and one, who had burned his father’s house, I saw making a profound bow to Mr. Canto, and volunteering to explain why he did the deed.
There is also a sort of fraternity of freemasons, named Empacasseiros, into which no one is admitted unless he is an expert hunter, and can shoot well with the gun. They are distinguished by a fillet of buffalo hide around their heads, and are employed as messengers in all cases requiring express. They are very trustworthy, and, when on active service, form the best native troops the Portuguese possess. The militia are of no value as soldiers, but cost the country nothing, being supported by their wives. Their duties are chiefly to guard the residences of commandants, and to act as police.
The chief recreations of the natives of Angola are marriages and funerals. When a young woman is about to be married, she is placed in a hut alone and anointed with various unguents, and many incantations are employed in order to secure good fortune and fruitfulness. Here, as almost every where in the south, the height of good fortune is to bear sons. They often leave a husband altogether if they have daughters only. In their dances, when any one may wish to deride another, in the accompanying song a line is introduced, “So and so has no children, and never will get any.” She feels the insult so keenly that it is not uncommon for her to rush away and commit suicide. After some days the bride elect is taken to another hut, and adorned with all the richest clothing and ornaments that the relatives can either lend or borrow. She is then placed in a public situation, saluted as a lady, and presents made by all her acquaintances are placed around her. After this she is taken to the residence of her husband, where she has a hut for herself, and becomes one of several wives, for polygamy is general. Dancing, feasting, and drinking on such occasions are prolonged for several days. In case of separation, the woman returns to her father’s family, and the husband receives back what he gave for her. In nearly all cases a man gives a price for the wife, and in cases of mulattoes, as much as £60 is often given to the parents of the bride. This is one of the evils the bishop was trying to remedy.
In cases of death the body is kept several days, and there is a grand concourse of both sexes, with beating of drums, dances, and debauchery, kept up with feasting, etc., according to the means of the relatives. The great ambition of many of the blacks of Angola is to give their friends an expensive funeral. Often, when one is asked to sell a pig, he replies, “I am keeping it in case of the death of any of my friends.” A pig is usually slaughtered and eaten on the last day of the ceremonies, and its head thrown into the nearest stream or river. A native will sometimes appear intoxicated on these occasions, and, if blamed for his intemperance, will reply, “Why! my mother is dead!” as if he thought it a sufficient justification. The expenses of funerals are so heavy that often years elapse before they can defray them.
These people are said to be very litigious and obstinate: constant disputes are taking place respecting their lands. A case came before the weekly court of the commandant involving property in a palm-tree worth twopence. The judge advised the pursuer to withdraw the case, as the mere expenses of entering it would be much more than the cost of the tree. “Oh no,” said he; “I have a piece of calico with me for the clerk, and money for yourself. It’s my right; I will not forego it.” The calico itself cost three or four shillings. They rejoice if they can say of an enemy, “I took him before the court.”
My friend Mr. Canto, the commandant, being seized with fever in a severe form, it afforded me much pleasure to attend HIM in his sickness, who had been so kind to ME in mine. He was for some time in a state of insensibility, and I, having the charge of his establishment, had thus an opportunity of observing the workings of slavery. When a master is ill, the slaves run riot among the eatables. I did not know this until I observed that every time the sugar-basin came to the table it was empty. On visiting my patient by night, I passed along a corridor, and unexpectedly came upon the washerwoman eating pine-apples and sugar. All the sweetmeats were devoured, and it was difficult for me to get even bread and butter until I took the precaution of locking the pantry door. Probably the slaves thought that, as both they and the luxuries were the master’s property, there was no good reason why they should be kept apart.
Debarred by my precaution from these sources of enjoyment, they took to killing the fowls and goats, and, when the animal was dead, brought it to me, saying, “We found this thing lying out there.” They then enjoyed a feast of flesh. A feeling of insecurity prevails throughout this country. It is quite common to furnish visitors with the keys of their rooms. When called on to come to breakfast or dinner, each locks his door and puts the key in his pocket. At Kolobeng we never locked our doors by night or by day for months together; but there slavery is unknown. The Portuguese do not seem at all bigoted in their attachment to slavery, nor yet in their prejudices against color. Mr. Canto gave an entertainment in order to draw all classes together and promote general good-will. Two sovas or native chiefs were present, and took their places without the least appearance of embarrassment. The Sova of Kilombo appeared in the dress of a general, and the Sova of Bango was gayly attired in a red coat, profusely ornamented with tinsel. The latter had a band of musicians with him consisting of six trumpeters and four drummers, who performed very well. These men are fond of titles, and the Portuguese government humors them by conferring honorary captaincies, etc.: the Sova of Bango was at present anxious to obtain the title of “Major of all the Sovas”. At the tables of other gentlemen I observed the same thing constantly occurring. At this meeting Mr. Canto communicated some ideas which I had written out on the dignity of labor, and the superiority of free over slave labor. The Portuguese gentlemen present were anxiously expecting an arrival of American cotton-seed from Mr. Gabriel. They are now in the transition state from unlawful to lawful trade, and turn eagerly to cotton, coffee, and sugar as new sources of wealth. Mr. Canto had been commissioned by them to purchase three sugar-mills. Our cruisers have been the principal agents in compelling them to abandon the slave-trade; and our government, in furnishing them with a supply of cotton-seed, showed a generous intention to aid them in commencing a more honorable course. It can scarcely be believed, however, that after Lord Clarendon had been at the trouble of procuring fresh cotton-seed through our minister at Washington, and had sent it out to the care of H. M. Commissioner at Loanda, probably from having fallen into the hands of a few incorrigible slave-traders, it never reached its destination. It was most likely cast into the sea of Ambriz, and my friends at Golungo Alto were left without the means of commencing a new enterprise.
Mr. Canto mentioned that there is now much more cotton in the country than can be consumed; and if he had possession of a few hundred pounds, he would buy up all the oil and cotton at a fair price, and thereby bring about a revolution in the agriculture of the country. These commodities are not produced in greater quantity, because the people have no market for those which now spring up almost spontaneously around them. The above was put down in my journal when I had no idea that enlarged supplies of cotton from new sources were so much needed at home.
It is common to cut down cotton-trees as a nuisance, and cultivate beans, potatoes, and manioc sufficient only for their own consumption. I have the impression that cotton, which is deciduous in America, is perennial here; for the plants I saw in winter were not dead, though going by the name Algodao Americana, or American cotton. The rents paid for gardens belonging to the old convents are merely nominal, varying from one shilling to three pounds per annum. The higher rents being realized from those in the immediate vicinity of Loanda, none but Portuguese or half-castes can pay them.
When about to start, the horse which the governor had kindly presented for Sekeletu was seized with inflammation, which delayed us some time longer, and we ultimately lost it. We had been careful to watch it when coming through the district of Matamba, where we had discovered the tsetse, that no insect might light upon it. The change of diet here may have had some influence in producing the disease; for I was informed by Dr. Welweitsch, an able German naturalist, whom we found pursuing his arduous labors here, and whose life we hope may be spared to give his researches to the world, that, of fifty-eight kinds of grasses found at Loanda, only three or four species exist here, and these of the most diminutive kinds. The twenty-four different species of grass of Golungo Alto are nearly all gigantic. Indeed, gigantic grasses, climbers, shrubs and trees, with but few plants, constitute the vegetation of this region.
NOVEMBER 20TH. An eclipse of the sun, which I had anxiously hoped to observe with a view of determining the longitude, happened this morning, and, as often took place in this cloudy climate, the sun was covered four minutes before it began. When it shone forth the eclipse was in progress, and a few minutes before it should (according to my calculations) have ended the sun was again completely obscured. The greatest patience and perseverance are required, if one wishes to ascertain his position when it is the rainy season.
Before leaving, I had an opportunity of observing a curious insect, which inhabits trees of the fig family (‘Ficus’), upward of twenty species of which are found here. Seven or eight of them cluster round a spot on one of the smaller branches, and there keep up a constant distillation of a clear fluid, which, dropping to the ground, forms a little puddle below. If a vessel is placed under them in the evening, it contains three or four pints of fluid in the morning. The natives say that, if a drop falls into the eyes, it causes inflammation of these organs. To the question whence is this fluid derived, the people reply that the insects suck it out of the tree, and our own naturalists give the same answer. I have never seen an orifice, and it is scarcely possible that the tree can yield so much. A similar but much smaller homopterous insect, of the family ‘Cercopidae’, is known in England as the frog-hopper (‘Aphrophora spumaria’), when full grown and furnished with wings, but while still in the pupa state it is called “Cuckoo-spit”, from the mass of froth in which it envelops itself. The circulation of sap in plants in our climate, especially of the graminaceae, is not quick enough to yield much moisture. The African species is five or six times the size of the English. In the case of branches of the fig-tree, the point the insects congregate on is soon marked by a number of incipient roots, such as are thrown out when a cutting is inserted in the ground for the purpose of starting another tree. I believe that both the English and African insects belong to the same family, and differ only in size, and that the chief part of the moisture is derived from the atmosphere. I leave it for naturalists to explain how these little creatures distill both by night and day as much water as they please, and are more independent than her majesty’s steam-ships, with their apparatus for condensing steam; for, without coal, their abundant supplies of sea-water are of no avail. I tried the following experiment: Finding a colony of these insects busily distilling on a branch of the ‘Ricinus communis’, or castor-oil plant, I denuded about 20 inches of the bark on the tree side of the insects, and scraped away the inner bark, so as to destroy all the ascending vessels. I also cut a hole in the side of the branch, reaching to the middle, and then cut out the pith and internal vessels. The distillation was then going on at the rate of one drop each 67 seconds, or about 2 ounces 5–1/2 drams in 24 hours. Next morning the distillation, so far from being affected by the attempt to stop the supplies, supposing they had come up through the branch from the tree, was increased to a drop every 5 seconds, or 12 drops per minute, making 1 pint (16 ounces) in every 24 hours. I then cut the branch so much that, during the day, it broke; but they still went on at the rate of a drop every 5 seconds, while another colony on a branch of the same tree gave a drop every 17 seconds only, or at the rate of about 10 ounces 4–4/5 drams in 24 hours. I finally cut off the branch; but this was too much for their patience, for they immediately decamped, as insects will do from either a dead branch or a dead animal, which Indian hunters soon know, when they sit down on a recently-killed bear. The presence of greater moisture in the air increased the power of these distillers: the period of greatest activity was in the morning, when the air and every thing else was charged with dew.
Having but one day left for experiment, I found again that another colony on a branch denuded in the same way yielded a drop every 2 seconds, or 4 pints 10 ounces in 24 hours, while a colony on a branch untouched yielded a drop every 11 seconds, or 16 ounces 2–19/20 drams in 24 hours. I regretted somewhat the want of time to institute another experiment, namely, to cut a branch and place it in water, so as to keep it in life, and then observe if there was any diminution of the quantity of water in the vessel. This alone was wanting to make it certain that they draw water from the atmosphere. I imagine that they have some power of which we are not aware, besides that nervous influence which causes constant motion to our own involuntary muscles, the power of life-long action without fatigue. The reader will remember, in connection with this insect, the case of the ants already mentioned.
DECEMBER 14TH. Both myself and men having recovered from severe attacks of fever, we left the hospitable residence of Mr. Canto with a deep sense of his kindness to us all, and proceeded on our way to Ambaca. (Lat. 9° 16’ 35” S., long. 15° 23’ E.)
Frequent rains had fallen in October and November, which were nearly always accompanied with thunder. Occasionally the quantity of moisture in the atmosphere is greatly increased without any visible cause: this imparts a sensation of considerable cold, though the thermometer exhibits no fall of the mercury. The greater humidity in the air, affording a better conducting medium for the radiation of heat from the body, is as dangerous as a sudden fall of the thermometer: it causes considerable disease among the natives, and this season is denominated “Carneirado”, as if by the disease they were slaughtered like sheep. The season of these changes, which is the most favorable for Europeans, is the most unhealthy for the native population; and this is by no means a climate in which either natives or Europeans can indulge in irregularities with impunity.
Owing to the weakness of the men who had been sick, we were able to march but short distances. Three hours and a half brought us to the banks of the Caloi, a small stream which flows into the Senza. This is one of the parts of the country reputed to yield petroleum, but the geological formation, being mica schist, dipping toward the eastward, did not promise much for our finding it. Our hospitable friend, Mr. Mellot, accompanied us to another little river, called the Quango, where I saw two fine boys, the sons of the sub-commandant, Mr. Feltao, who, though only from six to eight years old, were subject to fever. We then passed on in the bright sunlight, the whole country looking so fresh and green after the rains, and every thing so cheering, one could not but wonder to find it so feverish.
We found, on reaching Ambaca, that the gallant old soldier, Laurence Jose Marquis, had, since our passing Icollo i Bengo, been promoted, on account of his stern integrity, to the government of this important district. The office of commandant is much coveted by the officers of the line who come to Angola, not so much for the salary as for the perquisites, which, when managed skillfully, in the course of a few years make one rich. An idea may be formed of the conduct of some of these officials from the following extract from the Boletin of Loanda of the 28th of October, 1854:
“The acting governor-general of the province of Angola and its dependencies determines as follows:
“Having instituted an investigation (Syndecancia) against the commandant of the fort of — — a captain of the army of Portugal in commission in this province, — — on account of numerous complaints, which have come before this government, of violences and extortions practiced by the said commandant, and those complaints appearing by the result of the investigation to be well founded, it will be convenient to exonerate the captain referred to from the command of the fort of — — to which he had been nominated by the portfolio of this general government, No. 41, of 27th December of the past year; and if not otherwise determined, the same official shall be judged by a council of war for the criminal acts which are to him attributed.”
Even this public mention of his crimes attaches no stigma to the man’s character. The council of war, by which these delinquents always prefer to be judged, is composed of men who eagerly expect to occupy the post of commandant themselves, and anticipate their own trial for similar acts at some future time. The severest sentence a council of war awards is a few weeks’ suspension from office in his regiment.
This want of official integrity, which is not at all attributable to the home government of Portugal, would prove a serious impediment in the way of foreign enterprise developing the resources of this rich province. And to this cause, indeed, may be ascribed the failure of the Portuguese laws for the entire suppression of the slave-trade. The officers ought to receive higher pay, if integrity is expected from them. At present, a captain’s pay for a year will only keep him in good uniform. The high pay our own officers receive has manifest advantages.
Before leaving Ambaca we received a present of ten head of cattle from Mr. Schut of Loanda, and, as it shows the cheapness of provisions here, I may mention that the cost was only about a guinea per head.
On crossing the Lucalla we made a detour to the south, in order to visit the famous rocks of Pungo Andongo. As soon as we crossed the rivulet Lotete, a change in the vegetation of the country was apparent. We found trees identical with those to be seen south of the Chobe. The grass, too, stands in tufts, and is of that kind which the natives consider to be best adapted for cattle. Two species of grape-bearing vines abound every where in this district, and the influence of the good pasturage is seen in the plump condition of the cattle. In all my previous inquiries respecting the vegetable products of Angola, I was invariably directed to Pungo Andongo. Do you grow wheat? “Oh, yes, in Pungo Andongo.” — Grapes, figs, or peaches? “Oh, yes, in Pungo Andongo.” — Do you make butter, cheese, etc.? The uniform answer was, “Oh, yes, there is abundance of all these in Pungo Andongo.” But when we arrived here, we found that the answers all referred to the activity of one man, Colonel Manuel Antonio Pires. The presence of the wild grape shows that vineyards might be cultivated with success; the wheat grows well without irrigation; and any one who tasted the butter and cheese at the table of Colonel Pires would prefer them to the stale produce of the Irish dairy, in general use throughout that province. The cattle in this country are seldom milked, on account of the strong prejudice which the Portuguese entertain against the use of milk. They believe that it may be used with safety in the morning, but, if taken after midday, that it will cause fever. It seemed to me that there was not much reason for carefully avoiding a few drops in their coffee, after having devoured ten times the amount in the shape of cheese at dinner.
The fort of Pungo Andongo (lat. 9° 42’ 14” S., long. 15° 30’ E.) is situated in the midst of a group of curious columnar-shaped rocks, each of which is upward of three hundred feet in height. They are composed of conglomerate, made up of a great variety of rounded pieces in a matrix of dark red sandstone. They rest on a thick stratum of this last rock, with very few of the pebbles in its substance. On this a fossil palm has been found, and if of the same age as those on the eastern side of the continent, on which similar palms now lie, there may be coal underneath this, as well as under that at Tete. The asserted existence of petroleum springs at Dande, and near Cambambe, would seem to indicate the presence of this useful mineral, though I am not aware of any one having actually seen a seam of coal tilted up to the surface in Angola, as we have at Tete. The gigantic pillars of Pungo Andongo have been formed by a current of the sea coming from the S.S.E.; for, seen from the top, they appear arranged in that direction, and must have withstood the surges of the ocean at a period of our world’s history, when the relations of land and sea were totally different from what they are now, and long before “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy to see the abodes prepared which man was soon to fill.” The imbedded pieces in the conglomerate are of gneiss, clay shale, mica and sandstone schists, trap, and porphyry, most of which are large enough to give the whole the appearance of being the only remaining vestiges of vast primaeval banks of shingle. Several little streams run among these rocks, and in the central part of the pillars stands the village, completely environed by well-nigh inaccessible rocks. The pathways into the village might be defended by a small body of troops against an army; and this place was long the stronghold of the tribe called Jinga, the original possessors of the country.
We were shown a footprint carved on one of these rocks. It is spoken of as that of a famous queen, who reigned over all this region. In looking at these rude attempts at commemoration, one feels the value of letters. In the history of Angola we find that the famous queen Donna Anna de Souza came from the vicinity, as embassadress from her brother, Gola Bandy, King of the Jinga, to Loanda, in 1621, to sue for peace, and astonished the governor by the readiness of her answers. The governor proposed, as a condition of peace, the payment by the Jinga of an annual tribute. “People talk of tribute after they have conquered, and not before it; we come to talk of peace, not of subjection,” was the ready answer. The governor was as much nonplussed as our Cape governors often are when they tell the Caffres “to put it all down in writing, and they will then be able to answer them.” She remained some time in Loanda, gained all she sought, and, after being taught by the missionaries, was baptized, and returned to her own country with honor. She succeeded to the kingdom on the death of her brother, whom it was supposed she poisoned, but in a subsequent war with the Portuguese she lost nearly all her army in a great battle fought in 1627. She returned to the Church after a long period of apostasy, and died in extreme old age; and the Jinga still live as an independent people to the north of this their ancient country. No African tribe has ever been destroyed.
In former times the Portuguese imagined that this place was particularly unhealthy, and banishment to the black rocks of Pungo Andongo was thought by their judges to be a much severer sentence than transportation to any part of the coast; but this district is now well known to be the most healthy part of Angola. The water is remarkably pure, the soil is light, and the country open and undulating, with a general slope down toward the River Coanza, a few miles distant. That river is the southern boundary of the Portuguese, and beyond, to the S. and S.W., we see the high mountains of the Libollo. On the S.E. we have also a mountainous country, inhabited by the Kimbonda or Ambonda, who are said by Colonel Pires to be a very brave and independent people, but hospitable and fair in their dealings. They are rich in cattle, and their country produces much beeswax, which is carefully collected, and brought to the Portuguese, with whom they have always been on good terms.
The Ako (Haco), a branch of this family, inhabit the left bank of the Coanza above this village, who, instead of bringing slaves for sale, as formerly, now occasionally bring wax for the purchase of a slave from the Portuguese. I saw a boy sold for twelve shillings: he said that he belonged to the country of Matiamvo. Here I bought a pair of well-made boots, of good tanned leather, which reached above the knee, for five shillings and eightpence, and that was just the price given for one pound of ivory by Mr. Pires; consequently, the boy was worth two pairs of boots, or two pounds of ivory. The Libollo on the S. have not so good a character, but the Coanza is always deep enough to form a line of defense. Colonel Pires is a good example of what an honest industrious man in this country may become. He came as a servant in a ship, and, by a long course of persevering labor, has raised himself to be the richest merchant in Angola. He possesses some thousands of cattle; and, on any emergency, can appear in the field with several hundred armed slaves.
While enjoying the hospitality of this merchant-prince in his commodious residence, which is outside the rocks, and commands a beautiful view of all the adjacent country, I learned that all my dispatches, maps, and journal had gone to the bottom of the sea in the mail-packet “Forerunner”. I felt so glad that my friend Lieutenant Bedingfeld, to whose care I had committed them, though in the most imminent danger, had not shared a similar fate, that I was at once reconciled to the labor of rewriting. I availed myself of the kindness of Colonel Pires, and remained till the end of the year reproducing my lost papers.
Colonel Pires having another establishment on the banks of the Coanza, about six miles distant, I visited it with him about once a week for the purpose of recreation. The difference of temperature caused by the lower altitude was seen in the cashew-trees; for while, near the rocks, these trees were but coming into flower, those at the lower station were ripening their fruit. Cocoanut trees and bananas bear well at the lower station, but yield little or no fruit at the upper. The difference indicated by the thermometer was 7° The general range near the rocks was 67° at 7 A.M., 74° at midday, and 72° in the evening.
A slave-boy belonging to Colonel Pires, having stolen and eaten some lemons in the evening, went to the river to wash his mouth, so as not to be detected by the flavor. An alligator seized him and carried him to an island in the middle of the stream; there the boy grasped hold of the reeds, and baffled all the efforts of the reptile to dislodge him, till his companions, attracted by his cries, came in a canoe to his assistance. The alligator at once let go his hold; for, when out of his own element, he is cowardly. The boy had many marks of the teeth in his abdomen and thigh, and those of the claws on his legs and arms.
The slaves in Colonel Pires’ establishments appeared more like free servants than any I had elsewhere seen. Every thing was neat and clean, while generally, where slaves are the only domestics, there is an aspect of slovenliness, as if they went on the principle of always doing as little for their masters as possible.
In the country near to this station were a large number of the ancient burial-places of the Jinga. These are simply large mounds of stones, with drinking and cooking vessels of rude pottery on them. Some are arranged in a circular form, two or three yards in diameter, and shaped like a haycock. There is not a single vestige of any inscription. The natives of Angola generally have a strange predilection for bringing their dead to the sides of the most frequented paths. They have a particular anxiety to secure the point where cross-roads meet. On and around the graves are planted tree euphorbias and other species of that family. On the grave itself they also place water-bottles, broken pipes, cooking vessels, and sometimes a little bow and arrow.
The Portuguese government, wishing to prevent this custom, affixed a penalty on any one burying in the roads, and appointed places of public sepulture in every district in the country. The people persist, however, in spite of the most stringent enforcement of the law, to follow their ancient custom.
The country between the Coanza and Pungo Andongo is covered with low trees, bushes, and fine pasturage. In the latter, we were pleased to see our old acquaintances, the gaudy gladiolus, Amaryllis toxicaria, hymanthus, and other bulbs in as flourishing a condition as at the Cape.
It is surprising that so little has been done in the way of agriculture in Angola. Raising wheat by means of irrigation has never been tried; no plow is ever used; and the only instrument is the native hoe, in the hands of slaves. The chief object of agriculture is the manioc, which does not contain nutriment sufficient to give proper stamina to the people. The half-caste Portuguese have not so much energy as their fathers. They subsist chiefly on the manioc, and, as that can be eaten either raw, roasted, or boiled, as it comes from the ground; or fermented in water, and then roasted or dried after fermentation, and baked or pounded into fine meal; or rasped into meal and cooked as farina; or made into confectionary with butter and sugar, it does not so soon pall upon the palate as one might imagine, when told that it constitutes their principal food. The leaves boiled make an excellent vegetable for the table; and, when eaten by goats, their milk is much increased. The wood is a good fuel, and yields a large quantity of potash. If planted in a dry soil, it takes two years to come to perfection, requiring, during that time, one weeding only. It bears drought well, and never shrivels up, like other plants, when deprived of rain. When planted in low alluvial soils, and either well supplied with rain or annually flooded, twelve, or even ten months, are sufficient to bring it to maturity. The root rasped while raw, placed upon a cloth, and rubbed with the hands while water is poured upon it, parts with its starchy glutinous matter, and this, when it settles at the bottom of the vessel, and the water poured off, is placed in the sun till nearly dry, to form tapioca. The process of drying is completed on an iron plate over a slow fire, the mass being stirred meanwhile with a stick, and when quite dry it appears agglutinated into little globules, and is in the form we see the tapioca of commerce. This is never eaten by weevils, and so little labor is required in its cultivation that on the spot it is extremely cheap. Throughout the interior parts of Angola, fine manioc meal, which could with ease have been converted either into superior starch or tapioca, is commonly sold at the rate of about ten pounds for a penny. All this region, however, has no means of transport to Loanda other than the shoulders of the carriers and slaves over a footpath.
Cambambe, to which the navigation of the Coanza reaches, is reported to be thirty leagues below Pungo Andongo. A large waterfall is the limit on that side; and another exists higher up, at the confluence of the Lombe (lat. 9° 41’ 26” S., and about long. 16° E.), over which hippopotami and elephants are sometimes drawn and killed. The river between is rapid, and generally rushes over a rocky bottom. Its source is pointed out as S.E. or S.S.E. of its confluence with the Lombe, and near Bihe. The situation of Bihe is not well known. When at Sanza we were assured that it lies nearly south of that point, and eight days distant. This statement seemed to be corroborated by our meeting many people going to Matiamvo and to Loanda from Bihe. Both parties had come to Sanza, and then branched off, one to the east, the other to the west. The source of the Coanza is thus probably not far from Sanza.
I had the happiness of doing a little good in the way of administering to the sick, for there are no doctors in the interior of Angola. Notwithstanding the general healthiness of this fine district and its pleasant temperature, I was attacked by fever myself. While confined to my room, a gentleman of color, a canon of the Church, kindly paid me a visit. He was on a tour of visitation in the different interior districts for the purpose of baptizing and marrying. He had lately been on a visit to Lisbon in company with the Prince of Congo, and had been invested with an order of honor by the King of Portugal as an acknowledgment of his services. He had all the appearance of a true negro, but commanded the respect of the people; and Colonel P., who had known him for thirty years, pronounced him to be a good man. There are only three or four priests in Loanda, all men of color, but educated for the office. About the time of my journey in Angola, an offer was made to any young men of ability who might wish to devote themselves to the service of the Church, to afford them the requisite education at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. I was informed, on what seemed good authority, that the Prince of Congo is professedly a Christian, and that there are no fewer than twelve churches in that kingdom, the fruits of the mission established in former times at San Salvador, the capital. These churches are kept in partial repair by the people, who also keep up the ceremonies of the Church, pronouncing some gibberish over the dead, in imitation of the Latin prayers which they had formerly heard. Many of them can read and write. When a King of Congo dies, the body is wrapped up in a great many folds of cloth until a priest can come from Loanda to consecrate his successor. The King of Congo still retains the title of Lord of Angola, which he had when the Jinga, the original possessors of the soil, owed him allegiance; and, when he writes to the Governor of Angola, he places his own name first, as if addressing his vassal. The Jinga paid him tribute annually in cowries, which were found on the island that shelters Loanda harbor, and, on refusing to continue payment, the King of Congo gave over the island to the Portuguese, and thus their dominion commenced in this quarter.
There is not much knowledge of the Christian religion in either Congo or Angola, yet it is looked upon with a certain degree of favor. The prevalence of fever is probably the reason why no priest occupies a post in any part of the interior. They come on tours of visitation like that mentioned, and it is said that no expense is incurred, for all the people are ready not only to pay for their services, but also to furnish every article in their power gratuitously. In view of the desolate condition of this fine missionary field, it is more than probable that the presence of a few Protestants would soon provoke the priests, if not to love, to good works.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57