Mungo Park was born on the 10th of September 1771, at Fowlshiels, a farm occupied by his father, under the duke of Buccleugh, on the banks of the Yarrow not far from the town of Selkirk. His father, who bore the same name, was a respectable yeoman of Ettrick Forest. His mother, who is still living, is the daughter of the late Mr. John Hislop, of Tennis, a few miles higher up on the same river. The subject of this Memoir was the seventh child, and third son of the family, which consisted of thirteen children, eight of whom attained to years of maturity.
Prior to the time of Mungo Park’s birth, the father had for many years practised farming with assiduity and success on the estate at Fowlshiels, where he died in 1792, after a long and exemplary life, at the age of seventy-seven.
Among other estimable qualities which distinguished the father’s character, was a constant and unremitting attention to the education of his children; a species of merit, which is indeed of common occurrence among the Scottish farmers and peasantry, but which appears to have been exemplary and remarkable in the present instance. His family being numerous, he did not content himself with personally superintending every part of their education; but, though far from being in affluent circumstances, engaged a private teacher to reside in his house and assist in their early instruction.
It is most satisfactory to add, that these paternal cares were followed by the happiest results, and received their appropriate reward. Mr. Park had the gratification of seeing the greater part of his children respectably settled during his life, and of witnessing their success and prosperity.
After having received the first rudiments of education in his father’s family, Mungo Park was in due time removed to the Grammar School at Selkirk, where he remained a considerable number of years. He had shewn a great love of reading from his childhood, and was indefatigable in his application at school, where he was much distinguished and always at the head of his class. Even at that early age, he was remarked for being silent, studious and thoughtful: but some sparks of latent ambition occasionally broke forth: and indications might even then be discovered of that ardent and adventurous turn of mind, which distinguished him in after life, and which often lies concealed under a cold and reserved exterior.
It was the original intention of Park’s father to educate him for the Scottish church, for which he appeared to be well fitted by his studious habits and the serious turn of his mind; but, his son having made choice of the medical profession, he was readily induced to acquiesce. In consequence of this determination, Mungo Park was bound apprentice at the age of fifteen to Mr. Thomas Anderson, a respectable surgeon in Selkirk, with whom he resided three years; continuing, at the same time, to pursue his classical studies and to attend occasionally at the grammar school. In the year 1789, he quitted Mr. Anderson, and removed to the University of Edinburgh, where he pursued the course which is common to medical students, and attended the usual Lectures during three successive sessions.
Nothing particular is recorded of his academical life. He appears, however, to have applied to the studies connected with the science of medicine with his accustomed ardour and assiduity, and to have been distinguished among his fellow-students. During his summer vacations he paid great attention to botanical pursuits, for which he seems always to have had a great predilection; and a tour which he made, about this time to the Highlands, in company with his brother-inlaw, Mr. James Dickson, a distinguished Botanist, contributed greatly to his improvement in this science.
After having completed his studies at Edinburgh, Park removed to London in search of some medical employment. In this pursuit he was much assisted by his relation Mr. Dickson, to whom he had before been indebted in his botanical studies. By his means Park was now introduced to Sir Joseph Banks; whose interest or recommendation shortly afterwards procured for him the appointment of Assistant Surgeon to the Worcester East Indiaman.
From this period Park was honoured with the patronage, and indeed with the constant friendship, of Sir Joseph Banks, from which he derived many important advantages, and which had a material influence on the subsequent events of his life. For this highly valuable friendship he was originally indebted to a connection which had subsisted for many years between Sir Joseph and Mr. Dickson: and it may not therefore be improper, to describe shortly the origin and nature of this connection; which, besides its immediate influence on Park’s fortunes, was attended with several characteristic circumstances highly honourable to the parties concerned, and in themselves not uninteresting.
Mr. Dickson was born of humble parents, and came early in life, from Scotland, his native country, to London. For some time he worked as a gardener in the grounds of a considerable nurseryman at Hammersmith, where he was occasionally seen by Sir Joseph Banks, who took notice of him as an intelligent young man. Quitting this situation he lived for some years as gardener in several considerable families: after which he established himself in London as a seedsman; and has ever since followed that business with unremitting diligence and success. Having an ardent passion for botany, which he had always cultivated according to the best of his means and opportunities; he lost no time in presenting himself to Sir Joseph Banks, who received him with great kindness, encouraged him in his pursuits, and gave him access to his valuable library. He thus obtained the free use of one of the most complete collections on Botany and Natural History, which has perhaps, ever yet been formed; and which, through the liberality of its possessor, has contributed in a greater degree to the accommodation of scientific men, and the general advancement of science than many public establishments. Such leisure hours as Mr. Dickson could command from his business, he devoted to an assiduous attendance in this library or to the perusal of scientific books obtained from thence. In process of time he acquired great knowledge and became eminent among the English Botanists; and is now known in Europe among the proficients in that science as one of its most successful cultivators, and the author of some distinguished Works. At an advanced period of life he is still active in business, and continues to pursue his botanical studies with unabated ardour and assiduity.
[Footnote: Mr. Dickson is a Fellow of the Linnæan Society, of which he was one of the original founders: and also Fellow and Vice President of the Horticultural Society. Several communications from him, appear in different volumes of the Linnæan Transactions; but he is principally known among Botanists by a work entitled, “Fasciculi Quatuor Plantarum, Cryptogamicarum Britanniæ.” Lond. 1785–93; in which he has described upwards of four hundred plants not before noticed. He has the merit of having directed the attention of the Botanists of this country to one of the most abstruse and difficult parts of that science; to the advancement of which he has himself, very greatly contributed.]
Such an instance of successful industry united with a taste for intellectual pursuits, deserves to be recorded; not only on account of its relation to the subject of this narrative, but because, it illustrates in a very striking and pleasing manner, the advantages of education in the lower classes of life. The attention of the Scottish farmers and peasantry to the early instruction of their children has been already remarked, and is strongly exemplified in the history of Mr. Park’s family. The diffusion of knowledge among the natives of that part of the kingdom, and their general intelligence, must be admitted by every unprejudiced observer; nor is there any country in which the effects of education are so conspicuous in promoting industry and good conduct, and in producing useful and respectable men of the inferior and middle classes, admirably fitted for all the important offices of common life. [Footnote: See Appendix, No. I.]
In consequence of the appointment which Mungo Park had obtained as surgeon in the East India Company’s service, by the interest of Sir Joseph Banks, he sailed for the East Indies in the Worcester in the month of February, 1792; and having made a voyage to Bencoolen, in the island of Sumatra, returned to England in the following year. Nothing material occurred during this voyage: but he availed himself of all the opportunities which it afforded to obtain information in his favourite scientific pursuits, and appears to have made many observations, and collected many specimens, in Botany and Natural History. Several of these were the subjects of a communication made by him to the Linnæan Society, which was afterwards published in their printed Transactions.
[Footnote: In the Third Volume of the Linnæan Transactions, p. 83, is a paper by Park, read Nov. 4,1794, containing descriptions of eight new fishes from Sumatra; which he represents to be the fruit of his leisure hours during his stay on that coast.]
It does not sufficiently appear, whether Mr. Park, after his return from the East Indies, came to any final resolution with regard to his continuing as a surgeon in the Company’s service. But whatever might be his intention in this respect, new prospects now opened upon him, and a scene of action far more congenial to his taste and feelings, was presented to his ambition.
Some years prior to this period, a few distinguished individuals, induced by a very liberal spirit of curiosity, had formed themselves into an Association for promoting discoveries in the Interior of Africa, and were now prosecuting their researches with great activity and success. In the course of a few years they had investigated, and placed in a clearer point of view than had hitherto been done by geographers, some of the leading facts relative to the Northern part of that Continent; the characteristic differences of the principal tribes, their commercial relations, the routes of the great caravans, the general diffusion of the Mahomedan religion, and the consequent prevalence of the Arabic language throughout a considerable part of that vast continent. [Footnote: See Vol. I. of the Proceedings of African Association. London, 1810.] With the assistance of their distinguished Associate, Major Rennell, they were now proceeding to trace the principal geographical outlines of Northern Africa; and were endeavouring to ascertain the course of the great inland river Joliba or Niger, and to obtain some authentic information concerning Tombuctoo, a principal city of the interior and one of the great marts of African commerce.
In the course of these enquiries, the Association, since their first establishment in 1788, had employed several persons, well qualified for such undertakings, upon missions into various parts of the African Continent. Several of these were known to have perished, either as victims of the climate, or in contests with the natives; [Footnote: The persons who had been sent out prior to this period, were Mr. Ledyard, Mr. Lucas, Major Houghton, and Mr. Horneman: subsequently to which, several others have been employed; viz. Mr. Nichols, Mr. Bourcard, &c.] and intelligence had lately been received of the death of Major Houghton, who had been sent out to explore the course of the Niger, and to penetrate, if possible, to Tombuctoo and Houssa. The Association appear to have found considerable difficulty in supplying Major Houghton’s place; and had made known their readiness to give a liberal compensation to any person, competently qualified, who might be willing to proceed on this important and arduous mission.
The attention of Park was naturally drawn to this subject, in consequence of his connection with Sir Joseph Banks, who had received him with great kindness and cordiality on his return from the East Indies, and with whom he was now in habits of frequent intercourse. Sir Joseph Banks was one of the most active and leading members of the African Association, and with his accustomed zeal for the promotion of scientific discovery, was earnest in his endeavours to find out a proper person to undertake the mission in search of the Niger. There was nothing in Park’s previous studies which had particularly led him towards geographical pursuits; but he had a general passion for travelling; he was in the full vigour of life; his constitution had been in some degree inured to hot climates; he saw the opportunities which a new country would afford of indulging his taste for Natural History: nor was he insensible to the distinction which was likely to result from any great discoveries in African geography. These considerations determined him. Having fully informed himself as to what was expected by the Association, he eagerly offered himself for the service; and after some previous enquiry into his qualifications, the offer was readily accepted.
Between the time of Park’s return from India in 1793, and his departure to Africa, an interval elapsed of about two years. During the whole of this period (with the exception of a short visit to Scotland in 1794), he appears to have resided in London or its neighbourhood; being engaged partly in his favourite studies, or in literary or scientific society; but principally in acquiring the knowledge and making the preparations, which were requisite for his great undertaking.
Having received his final instructions from the African Association, he set sail from Portsmouth on the 22d of May, 1795, on board the Endeavour, an African trader, bound for the Gambia, where he arrived on the 21st of the following month. It is not the intention of this narrative to follow him through the details of this journey, a full account of which was afterwards published by Park, and is familiar to every reader. But it may be useful to mention the material dates and some of the principal transactions.
Having landed on the 21st of June at Jillifree, a small town near the mouth of the River Gambia; he proceeded shortly afterwards to Pisania, a British factory about 200 miles up the same river, where he arrived on the 5th of July, and was most hospitably received by Dr. Laidley, a gentleman who had resided many years at that settlement. He remained at Dr. Laidley’s house for several months, in order to learn the Mandingo language, which is in general use throughout that part of Africa, and also to collect information concerning the countries he intended to visit. During two of these months he was confined by a severe fever, caught by imprudently exposing himself during the rainy season.
He left Pisania on the 2d of December, 1795, directing his course easterly, with a view of proceeding to the River Joliba, or Niger. But in consequence of a war between two sovereigns in the Interior, he was obliged, after he had made some progress, to take a northerly direction towards the territory of the Moors. He arrived at Jarra, the frontier town of that country, on the 18th of February, 1796. Pursuing his journey from thence, he was taken and detained as a prisoner, by Ali, the chieftain or king of that territory, on the 7th of March; and after a long captivity and a series of unexampled hardships, escaped at last with great difficulty early in the month of July.
The period was now approaching when he was to receive some compensation for so many sufferings. After wandering in great misery for about three weeks through the African Wilderness, he arrived at Sego, the capital of Bambarra, a city which is said to contain thirty thousand inhabitants. He was gratified at the same time by the first sight of the Niger, the great object of his journey; and ascertained the extraordinary fact, that its course is from West to East.
After a short stay at Sego (where he did not find it safe to remain), Park proceeded down the river to Silla, a large town distant about seventy or eighty miles, on the banks of the Niger. He was now reduced to the greatest distress, and being convinced by painful experience, that the obstacles to his further progress were insurmountable, he reluctantly abandoned his design of proceeding eastwards; and came to the resolution of going back to Sego, and endeavouring to effect his return to the Gambia by a different route from that by which he had advanced into Africa.
On the 3d of August, 1796, he left Silla, and pursuing the course of the Niger, arrived at Bammakoo, the frontier of Bambarra, about the 23d of the same month. Here he quitted the Niger, which ceases to be navigable at this place; and travelling for several weeks through a mountainous and difficult country, reached Kamalia, in the territory of Manding, on the 16th of September. He performed the latter part of this journey on foot, having been obliged to leave his horse, now worn out with fatigue and unable to proceed farther.
Having encountered all the horrors of the rainy season, and being worn down by fatigue, his health had, at different times, been seriously affected. But, soon after his arrival at Kamalia, he fell into a severe and dangerous fit of sickness, by which he was closely confined for upwards of a month. His life was preserved by the hospitality and benevolence of Karfa Taura, a Negro, who received him into his house, and whose family attended him with the kindest solicitude. The same excellent person, at the time of Park’s last Mission into Africa, hearing that a white man was travelling through the country, whom he imagined to be Park, took a journey of six days to meet him; and joining the caravan at Bambakoo, was highly gratified by the sight of his friend. [Footnote: See Journal, p. 137.]
There being still a space of five hundred miles to be traversed (the greater part of it through a desert) before Park could reach any friendly country on the Gambia, he had no other resource but to wait with patience for the first caravan of slaves that might travel the same track. No such opportunity occurred till the latter end of April, 1797; when a coffle, or caravan, set out from Kamalia under the direction of Karfa Taura, in whose house he had continued during his long residence of more than seven months at that place.
The coffle began its progress westwards on the 17th of April, and on the 4th of June reached the banks of the Gambia, after a journey of great labour and difficulty, which afforded Park the most painful opportunities of witnessing the miseries endured by a caravan of slaves in their transportation from the interior to the coast. On the 10th of the same month Park arrived at Pisania, from whence he had set out eighteen months before; and was received by Dr. Laidley (to use his own expression) as one risen from the grave. On the 15th of June he embarked in a slave ship bound to America, which was driven by stress of weather to the West Indies; and got with great difficulty, and under circumstances of considerable danger, into the Island of Antigua. He sailed from thence on the 24th of November, and after a short, but tempestuous passage, arrived at Falmouth on the 22d of the following month, having been absent from England two years and seven months.
Immediately on his landing he hastened to London, anxious in the greatest degree about his family and friends, of whom he had heard nothing for two years. He arrived in London before day-light on the morning of Christmas day, 1797; and it being too early an hour to go to his brother-inlaw, Mr. Dickson, he wandered for some time about the streets in that quarter of the town where his house was. Finding one of the entrances into the gardens of the British Museum accidentally open, he went in and walked about there for some time. It happened that Mr. Dickson, who had the care of those gardens, went there early that morning upon some trifling business. What must have been his emotions on beholding at that extraordinary time and place, the vision, as it must at first have appeared, of his long-lost friend, the object of so many anxious reflexions, and whom he had long numbered with the dead!
Park’s arrival was hailed with a sort of triumph by his friends of the African Association, and in some degree, by the public at large. The nature and objects of his mission, his long absence, and his unexpected return, excited a very general interest; which was afterwards kept up by the reports which prevailed respecting the discoveries he had made. The Association, with that liberality which characterised every part of their proceedings, gave him full permission to publish his Travels for his own benefit; and it was speedily announced, that a complete narrative of the journey would be prepared by Park himself, and given to the public. But in the mean time, in order to gratify, in a certain degree, the curiosity which prevailed, an Abstract, of the Travels, prepared from Park’s own minutes, was drawn up by Mr. Bryan Edwards, secretary of the African Association, and was printed and distributed for the private use of the subscribers. [Footnote: Proceedings of African Association. Vol. I. p. 327.] This Abstract, which was written with perspicuity and elegance, formed the principal ground-work of the Book of Travels which was subsequently published.
To the Abstract or Narrative, thus circulated, was annexed an important Memoir by Major Rennell, consisting of geographical illustrations of Park’s Journey, which afterwards, by that gentleman’s permission, formed a valuable appendage to the quarto edition of the Travels.
After his return from Africa, Park remained for a considerable time stationary in London, and was diligently employed in arranging the materials for his intended publication. He had frequent occasion, also, to communicate on the subject of his discoveries with the members of the African Association, especially with Major Rennell and Mr. Edwards, whilst they were engaged in preparing the two Memoirs before alluded to. With Mr. Edwards, in particular, he seems to have lived on terms of great friendship, and to have occasionally paid him visits at his country residence near Southampton.
It was nearly about this time (the Spring of the year 1798) that Government, having it in contemplation to procure a complete survey of New Holland, made some application to Park, with a view of employing him upon that service. The particulars of this transaction are not known to Park’s family, nor is it now material to enquire; since the proposal, whatever it might be, was declined. It was afterwards repeated, and again declined, during the following year.
In June, 1798, he visited his mother, who still resided at Fowlshiels, and his other relations in Scotland, and remained with them the whole of the summer and autumn. During all this time he was assiduously employed in compiling and arranging the Account of his Travels. His materials for this work are stated to have consisted of short notes or memoranda, written on separate pieces of paper, forming an imperfect journal of his proceedings. Where these were wanting, he supplied the deficiency from his memory.
[Footnote: Enquiry has been made for the notes here alluded to, with a view to the elucidation of several points connected with this narrative, but without success; it being stated by Mr. Dickson, that a number of loose papers were left at his house by Park, and remained there for some time; but being considered of no use, were mislaid or destroyed; and that none of them are now to be found.]
His family represent him dating this period as leading the life of a severe student, employed on his papers during the whole of the mornings, and allowing himself little or no recreation, except a solitary evening walk on the banks of the Yarrow. Occasionally, however, he would indulge himself in longer excursions among the wild and romantic scenery of that neighbourhood, to which he was fondly and almost enthusiastically attached.
[Footnote: The situation of Fowlshiels on the banks of the Yarrow is said to be picturesque and striking. It is in the immediate vicinity of Bow-hill, a beautiful summer-residence of the Duke of Buccleugh; and at no great distance from the ruins of Newark Castle, and other scenes celebrated in the Lay of the Last Minstrel]
He quitted Fowlshiels, with great regret towards the latter end of 1798, when it was necessary for him to return to London, to prepare for his intended publication. He carried back with him a great mass of papers, the produce of his summer’s labour; and after his return to London, bestowed considerable pains in the correction and retrenchment of his manuscript before it was sent to the press. It was finally published in the Spring of the year 1799.
The applause with which this work was received, and the permanent reputation which it has obtained, are well known. Two impressions were rapidly sold off; several other editions have since been called for; and it continues even at the present time to be a popular and standard book. This distinguished success has been owing, not only to the interesting nature of its subject, but in a certain degree also to the merits of the work as a composition; to the clearness of the descriptions, the natural and easy flow of the narration, and the general elegance of the style.
But the essential merit of this book, and that which has conferred a lasting distinction on the name of its author, consists in the authentic and important information which it contains. Considered in this point of view, it must unquestionably be regarded as the greatest accession to the general stock of geographical knowledge, which was ever yet made by any single traveller. The claim of Park to this distinction will be apparent from a short view of his principal discoveries.
Among the great variety of facts concerning the Interior of Africa not before known, or at least not ascertained, which the labours of Park have placed beyond all doubt, the most interesting unquestionably are, those which relate to the existence of the great inland river, the Niger, as a distinct and separate stream, and its course from West to East; affording a remarkable confirmation of what had been stated concerning this river by Herodotus and the ancient writers; but which was afterwards controverted by the geographers of the middle ages, who asserted (what, independently of direct evidence, seemed more probable) that the course of the river was from East to West. This latter opinion had accordingly been followed by the greater part of the moderns; with the exception indeed of some of the most distinguished geographers of later times, particularly, D’Anville and Major Rennell, who had called in question the doctrine then prevalent, and given strong reasons for adhering to the ancient opinion. This however at the time of Park’s journey, could be considered in no other light than as a reasonable conjecture, till the fact was ascertained by the unexceptionable testimony of an eye-witness. [Footnote: See Appendix, No. II.]
Another important circumstance respecting the Niger, previously unknown, but which was fully established by Park, is the vast magnitude of that stream; an extraordinary fact, considering its situation and inland course, and which has led, as will hereafter be seen, to several interesting conjectures respecting the course and the termination of that river.
In addition to these discoveries relative to the physical state of Africa, others were made by Park scarcely less important; in what may be termed its moral geography; namely, the kind and amiable dispositions of the Negro inhabitants of the Interior, as contrasted with the intolerance and brutal ferocity of the Moors; the existence of great and populous cities in the heart of Africa; and the higher state of improvement and superior civilization of the inhabitants of the interior, on a comparison with the inhabitants of the countries adjoining to the coast.
To this it may be added, that the work in question contains many interesting details not before known, concerning the face of the country, its soil and productions, as well as the condition of the inhabitants; their principal occupations, and their manners and habits of life; and the anecdotes which are interspersed, illustrative of the character and disposition of the Negro inhabitants at a distance from the coast, and beyond the influence of the Slave Trade, are in the highest degree interesting and affecting. [Footnote: See especially the following passages in Park’s Travels, p. 82, 197, 336.]
The difficulties and dangers endured by the author in traversing this unknown continent; and the rare union of prudence, temper and perseverance, with the greatest ardour and enterprise, which distinguished his conduct in the most trying situations, give an additional value to Park’s narrative. In this important, but difficult, part of his work be appears to have been peculiarly successful. His natural and unaffected manner of describing exertions and sufferings which almost surpass the fictions of romance, carries a feeling and conviction of truth to the mind of every reader, and excites deeper and more powerful emotions than have often been produced, even by works of imagination.
It is painful, after bestowing this well-merited praise, to be under the necessity of adverting to two circumstances unfavourable to Park’s memory, connected with the history of this publication. These are, 1st. an opinion which has prevailed, that Park was a supporter of the cause of Slavery, and an enemy to the Abolition of the African Slave Trade; and 2dly. a report, equally current, that the Travels, of which he was the professed author, were composed not by Park himself, but in a very considerable degree, by Mr. Bryan Edwards. — Topics, thus personal and invidious, the writer of this Memoir would naturally wish to decline; but they are too intimately connected with the principal occurrences of Park’s life to admit of being passed over without particular enquiry and examination. For this purpose, it will be necessary to trace, more distinctly than has hitherto been done, the connection between Park and Mr. Bryan Edwards; which was a principal cause of the reports above alluded to.
Mr. Edwards was an intelligent and respectable man, of no inconsiderable literary attainments, and known as the author of the History of the British Colonies in the West Indies. Being possessed of property in Jamaica, he resided there many years as a planter; during which time he was an eloquent and leading member of the House of Assembly, or Provincial Legislature of that island. Some time about the year 1794, when the question of the Slave Trade had for several years engaged the attention of the British parliament and public, he quitted the West Indies and came to England, where he fixed his residence for the remainder of his life. He shortly afterwards obtained a seat in the House of Commons, where he established a character as a man of business, and came forward on every occasion as the advocate of the planters, and the supporter of what are called the West India interests. In all debates upon questions connected with the Slave Trade he took an active part; and during the whole of his parliamentary career was a leading and systematic opponent of the Abolition.
As secretary of the African Association, Mr. Edwards had constant intercourse and communication with Park from the time when the latter first arrived from Africa; and must immediately have seen the advantage to be gained for the Slave Trade by a skilful use of the influence which this situation gave him. His first object must naturally have been, to gain the services of Park in the direct support of the Slave Trade; or, if this should be found impracticable, he might at least hope to secure his neutrality, and prevent him from joining the ranks of his opponents. It is not meant to be insinuated that Mr. Edwards exerted any influence which was manifestly undue and improper, or that he was disposed to go greater lengths than any other man of a warm and sanguine temper, in support of a cause in which he was deeply embarked, and of the importance of which he felt the strongest conviction. The sentiments and conduct here imputed to him, arose naturally out of the situation in which he was placed; and he probably did no more than would have been done under similar circumstances, by any partizan of the Abolition, equally able and zealous.
A previous knowledge of these particulars is necessary for enabling the reader to form a judgment upon the two points connected with the publication of Park’s Travels, which were before alluded to. With respect to the first of these questions, namely, that relative to Park’s sentiments on the subject of the Abolition, the writer of this narrative, in consequence of information he has obtained from some of Park’s nearest relations, is enabled to state with great confidence, that Park uniformly expressed a great abhorrence of Slavery and the Slave Trade, whenever these subjects occurred in conversation. But the same persons farther represent, that he considered the Abolition of the Slave Trade as a measure of state policy; for which reason he thought it would be improper for him, in any work he might give to the public, to interpose his private opinion relative to a question of such importance, and which was then under the consideration of the Legislature.
Whatever may be thought of the correctness of this opinion, it is necessary to observe that the rule which he thus prescribed for his own conduct, was not strictly adhered to; or rather, that the system of neutrality which he professed, had, in a certain degree, the effect of a declaration of opinion. From the time of the publication of Park’s Travels, his name was constantly mentioned in the list of persons conversant with Africa, who were not friendly to the Abolition; and his authority was always appealed to with some triumph by the advocates of the Slave Trade: and this, apparently, with good reason. For, although the author avowedly abstained from giving an explicit opinion as to the effects of that traffic, yet the general tone of his work appeared to leave no doubt with regard to his real sentiments; and indeed the silence of so intelligent a traveller relative to a subject which must necessarily have engaged so much of his attention, was in itself a sufficient proof, of a bias existing in the mind of the writer, unfavourable to the Abolition. For to what other cause could it be attributed, that the Slave Trade was never once mentioned in Park’s book as having the smallest share in promoting the barbarism and internal disorders of the African Continent? Or, that in his pathetic description of the miseries endured by the caravan of slaves which the author accompanied from Kamalia to the Gambia (a journey of five hundred miles), not the slightest allusion was made to the obvious and immediate cause of these sufferings, the demand for slaves on the coast? — It must further be recollected, that the Slave Trade, at the time when Park wrote, had engaged universal attention, and was become the subject of much controversy and public discussion; yet this topic, of so much interest and importance, occurs only once in the course of these Travels; and is then hastily dismissed with a slight and unmeaning observation.
[Footnote: The passage here particularly alluded to, is so extraordinary, and affords such an illustration of the influence under which this work was composed, that it deserves to be transcribed. After a description of the state of slavery in Africa, which the author represents as a sort of necessary evil, deeply rooted in the habits and manners of that country (but without in the least alluding to the great aggravation of the evil arising from the European Slave Trade), the author concludes his remarks as follows: “Such are the general outlines of that system of slavery which prevails in Africa; and it is evident, from its nature and extent, that it is a system of no modern date. It probably had its origin in the remote ages of antiquity, before the Mahomedans explored a passage across the Desert. How far it is maintained and supported by the Slave Traffic which, for two hundred years, the nations of Europe have carried on with the natives of the coast, it is neither within my province, nor in my power, to explain. If my sentiments should be required concerning the effect which a discontinuance of that commerce would produce on the manners of the natives, I should have no hesitation in observing, that in the present unenlightened state of their minds, my opinion is, the effect would neither be so extensive nor beneficial as many wise and worthy persons fondly expect.” (Park’s Travels, p. 297.)
On reading this passage, it is impossible not to be struck both with the opinion itself and the manner in which it is expressed. The proposition, literally taken, is a mere truism, undeniably just, but of no practical value or importance. For, who doubts that the probable good effects of the Abolition may have been overrated by men of warm and sanguine benevolence? Or, who would assert, that such exaggerations ought to have any weight in argument, except as inducements to greater caution and deliberation? — But, the evident intention of the passage is, to convey a meaning beyond what “meets the ear”; to produce an impression on the reader, independent of any proofs or principles by which his opinion ought to be governed; and to insinuate, what it is not thought proper to assert, that the zeal manifested in favour of the Abolition originated solely in ignorance and enthusiasm.]
It is a remarkable circumstance, that while the supposed opinions of Park have always been appealed to by the advocates of the Slave Trade, his facts have as constantly been relied on by their opponents; and that in the various discussions which have taken place upon that subject since this work has appeared, the principal illustrations of the arguments in favour of the Abolition, have always been derived from the statements contained in Park’s Travels. This circumstance deserves particular attention, considering the evident bias under which the work was composed; and affords a strong presumption of the truth and fidelity of the narrative.
[Footnote: For an enumeration of the various facts contained in Park’s Travels, which are relied on as favourable to the cause of the Abolition, accompanied by the proper references, see A concise statement of the question regarding the Abolition of the Slave Trade. 3d Ed. 1804, p. 99–106. A work, containing the most complete summary of the arguments upon this great subject, which has yet appeared.]
The fair result of the foregoing enquiry, relative to Park’s opinions with regard to the Abolition, appears to be shortly this; that he was at no time the friend or deliberate advocate of the Slave Trade; but that, his respect and deference for Mr. Edwards led him, in a certain degree, to sacrifice his own opinions and feelings upon that subject; and that he became, perhaps almost unconsciously, the supporter of a cause of which he disapproved. That he should have been under any temptation to suppress or soften any important opinion, or to deviate in any respect from that ingenuousness and good faith which naturally belonged to his character, is a circumstance which cannot be sufficiently lamented. But if there are any who feel disposed to pass a very severe censure upon Park’s conduct, let his situation at the time when he was preparing his Travels for the press, be fairly considered. He was then a young man, inexperienced in literary composition, and in a great measure dependent, as to the prospects of his future life, upon the success of his intended publication. His friend and adviser, Mr. Edwards, was a man of letters and of the world, who held a distinguished place in society, and was, besides, a leading member of the African Association, to which Park owed every thing, and with which his fate and fortunes were still intimately connected. It is difficult to estimate the degree of authority which a person possessing these advantages, and of a strong and decisive character, must necessarily have had over the mind of a young man in the situation which has now been described. Suggestions coming from such a quarter, must have been almost equivalent to commands; and instead of animadverting very severely on the extent of Park’s compliances, we ought perhaps rather to be surprised, that more was not yielded to an influence which must have been nearly unlimited.
Before we dismiss this subject, it may be proper to add, that some time subsequent to the publication of his Travels, Park appeared to be fully sensible that the manner in which he had treated the question of the Slave Trade, was liable to some objections; and evidence now exists, that upon some occasions when his authority had been appealed to as being favourable to that system, he expressed his regret that an improper stress had been laid upon certain passages in his Travels, and that a meaning had been attributed to them, which it was not intended that they should bear.
It remains to be enquired, whether there is any just foundation for the opinion which has prevailed with regard to the degree of assistance given by Mr. Edwards in the actual composition of Park’s work; as to which very few remarks will be necessary. The intimate connection of Mr. Edwards with Park, the interest which he took in the success of his publication, and the influence which he appears to have exerted with respect to its contents, make it quite evident, that he must have seen, and been consulted upon, every part of the work; and there can be no question but that he, at least, revised and corrected the whole manuscript before it was sent to the press. It was avowed by Park himself, that as occasion offered, he had incorporated into different parts of his work, by permission of Mr. Edwards, the whole of the narrative prepared by the latter for the use of the Association. [Footnote: Park’s Travels. Preface, p. ix.] A person accustomed to literary composition, and confident of his own powers, would hardly have chosen to avail himself of this assistance; which would be attended only with a slight saving of labour, and might probably have the unpleasant effect of a mixture of different styles. No such disadvantage, it maybe observed, has in fact resulted from the course pursued in the present instance. No inequalities are apparent in Park’s narrative; nor are the passages which have been inserted from Mr. Edwards’s Memoir, to be distinguished from the rest of the work. The style is throughout uniform, and bears all the marks of a practised pen. Generally speaking indeed, it is more simple, and consequently more pleasing, than that of Mr. Edwards’s avowed compositions. But, notwithstanding its general merits, it is altogether perhaps too much laboured; and in particular passages, betrays too much of the art of a professed writer.
[Footnote: It would be easy, but invidious, to produce passages from Park’s work more or less marked with some of the characteristics of Mr. Edwards’s style, and, in particular, with that tendency to ambitious ornament, which is so conspicuous in many parts of the History of the West Indies. — The following extract from Park’s chapter on the state of Slavery in Africa, may be sufficient. “In a country divided into a thousand petty states, mostly independent, and jealous of each other, where every freeman is accustomed to arms, and fond of military achievements; where the youth who has practised the bow and spear from his infancy, longs for nothing so much as an opportunity to display his valour, it is natural to imagine, that wars frequently originate from very frivolous provocation. When one nation is more powerful than another, a pretext is seldom wanting for commencing hostilities. Thus, the war between Kajaaga and Kasson was occasioned by the detention of a fugitive slave:— that between Bambarra and Kaarta by the loss of a few cattle. Other cases of the same nature perpetually occur, in which the folly or mad ambition of their princes and the zeal of their religious enthusiasts give full employment for the scythe of desolation.” (Park’s Travels, p. 290.) — On reading this passage, and the chapter from which it is taken, it may deserve to be remarked, (with reference to former observations as to the bias under which Park’s work was written) that in enumerating the causes of the wars which desolate Africa, the Slave Trade is never once mentioned.]
From these observations, combined with the several facts before stated, it seems clearly to follow, that Mr. Edwards had a large share in Park’s work; and, without attempting to ascertain in what degree he assisted in the composition, it may safely be affirmed that the assistance afforded was considerable and important. [Footnote: See Appendix, No. III.]
It would be a subject of sincere regret to the author of this biographical sketch, if he thought that this opinion (which he does not feel himself at liberty to suppress,) was likely to detract in any material degree from Park’s well-earned reputation. But he is satisfied that there is no just cause for such an apprehension. It is unquestionably most desirable, that the adventures and discoveries of distinguished travellers should be given to the public, as far as circumstances will permit, in the language of the parties themselves; and there is no judicious reader, who would not decidedly prefer the simple, but authentic, narrative of an eye-witness, to any account of the same transactions from a different hand, however superior in literary merit. But the custom of employing professional writers upon similar occasions, has become so frequent, that the resorting to such assistance in any particular instance can no longer be considered as a just subject of animadversion; and, in forming our judgment upon books of voyages and travels (in which this practice is most common), we must in general rest satisfied, if we can obtain a reasonable assurance, that the compiler has made a correct and proper use of his materials. That this duty has been faithfully and conscientiously performed in the case of Park’s Travels, there is not the slightest reason to doubt. The authenticity of the work is apparent, not only, as has been already stated, from the internal evidence of many parts of the narrative, but from the known character of Park, as well as of Mr. Edwards, his associate; who (there is every reason to believe) was a man of honour and veracity, and incapable of concealing or wilfully misrepresenting any important fact or circumstance.
It must further be recollected, that the essential merit of works of this description, consists in the authenticity and importance of the information they contain; compared with which, the beauties of style and composition are only of secondary and very inferior importance. The literary character of Park forms a small part of his general reputation. This must always rest upon grounds altogether independent of the merits of his work as a composition; and whatever may be hereafter thought of his claims to distinction as a writer, his fame as a geographical discoverer, an explorer of unknown countries, and a man of courage and capacity in the most arduous and trying situations, must ever remain undiminished.
After the publication of his Travels, Park began to think of settling himself in life. During his last residence in Scotland in the Summer and Autumn of 1798, he had formed a matrimonial engagement with the eldest daughter of Mr. Anderson of Selkirk, with whom he had served his apprenticeship. He returned therefore to Scotland in the Summer of 1799, and was married on the 2d of August in that year. This union, which connected him still more closely with a family with which he had long lived in friendship, contributed in a high degree to his future comfort and happiness.
For more than two years after his marriage, he resided with his mother and one of his brothers, who lived together and carried on the farm at Fowlshiels. The reason of his continuing there so long a time does not very distinctly appear, nor is any thing particular related as to the manner in which he employed himself during this period. The profits of his publication, and the liberal compensation which he had received from the African Association for the services rendered to them, had placed him, for the present, in easy circumstances: and he remained for a long time altogether doubtful and unsettled as to his future plan of life. During part of the year 1799 he appears to have been engaged in a negotiation with government (which finally proved unsuccessful) relative to some public appointment in the colony of New South Wales. At another time he had partly determined to look out for a farm; and at last came, somewhat reluctantly, to the determination of practising his profession, to which he was perhaps at no time much attached, and which was now become more irksome from disuse.
The uncertainty in the state of his affairs during this period was much encreased by the hope, which he constantly entertained, of being sent out on another expedition, either by the African Association or by Government. This clearly appears from a letter which he wrote to Sir Joseph Banks, dated 31st of July, 1800; in which, he alludes to the late capture of Goree, which he considers as introductory to opening a communication with the Interior of Africa; and after entering into some details relative to that subject, he proceeds as follows: “If such are the views of Government, I hope that my exertions in some station or other, may be of use to my country. I have not as yet found any situation in which I could practise to advantage as a surgeon; and unless some of my friends interest themselves in my behalf, I must wait patiently, until the cloud which hangs over my future prospects is dispelled.”
An opportunity for medical practice, which was thought sufficiently promising, having offered itself at Peebles, he went to reside at that town in the month of October, 1801, and betook himself in good earnest to the exercise of his profession. Within no great length of time he acquired a good share of the business of the place and its neighbourhood: but this being very limited, his profits were at no time considerable. He was however very fully employed; for he was greatly distinguished by the kindness which he shewed towards the poor, and by that disinterested attention to the lower classes, which is one of the great virtues of the medical profession.
Under these circumstances, it cannot be thought surprising that he was dissatisfied with his situation, and looked anxiously forward to some other establishment. His former habits of life had indeed in a great measure disqualified him for his present humble occupations. The situation of a country practitioner in Scotland, attended with great anxiety and bodily fatigue, and leading to no distinction or much personal advantage, was little calculated to gratify a man, whose mind was full of ambitious views, and of adventurous and romantic undertakings. His journies to visit distant patients — his long and solitary rides over “cold and lonely heaths” and “gloomy hills assailed by the wintry tempest,” seem to have produced in him feelings of disgust and impatience, which he had perhaps rarely experienced in the deserts of Africa. His strong sense of the irksomeness of this way of life broke out from him upon many occasions; especially, when previously to his undertaking his second African mission, one of his nearest relations expostulated with him on the imprudence of again exposing himself to dangers which he had so very narrowly escaped, and perhaps even to new and still greater ones; he calmly replied, that a few inglorious winters of country practice at Peebles was a risk as great, and would tend as effectually to shorten life, as the journey which he was about to undertake.
It might have been expected, that a person who had been so much accustomed to literary and scientific society, and who had lately been in some degree admitted into the fashionable circles of the metropolis, in which he had become an object of much interest and attention, would have felt great repugnance to the solitude and obscurity of a small market town. But this does not appear to have been the case. General society, for which indeed he was not particularly suited, was not much to his taste; and during every period of his life, he always looked forward to a state of complete retirement and seclusion in the country, as the object and end of all his labours. He had great enjoyment however in his own domestic circle, and in the society of select friends; and his residence at Peebles was, in this respect, highly fortunate for him, since it was the occasion of his becoming acquainted with two distinguished residents in that neighbourhood; Colonel John Murray of Kringaltie, a very respectable old officer, then retired from the service, and Dr. Adam Ferguson; with both of whom he became intimate, and passed much of his time. The latter of these, then residing at Hallyards in Tweedsdale, is the well-known author of the Essay on Civil Society, and History of the Roman Republic, and was formerly Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh; where, during many years, he was one of that distinguished literary circle, of which Hume, Smith, Black, and Robertson, were the principal ornaments. At the venerable age of ninety-one, he is still living, the last survivor of that illustrious society.
The friendship of a man thus interesting and distinguished, was highly honourable to Park, who was duly sensible of its value. Nor was this instance singular. The papers transmitted by his family speak of other testimonies of respect, which, subsequently to Park’s return to Scotland in 1799, he received from various distinguished individuals of his own country; and they mention, in particular, that he was very highly gratified by some personal attentions which he received about this time from Mr. Dugald Stewart.
In the midst of these occupations Park’s thoughts were still turned upon Africa. Soon after the signature of the Preliminary Articles of Peace with France, in October, 1801, he received a letter from Sir Joseph Banks, acquainting him, “that in consequence of the Peace, the Association would certainly revive their project of sending a mission to Africa; in order to penetrate to, and navigate, the Niger; and he added, that in case Government should enter into the plan, Park would certainly be recommended as the person proper to be employed for carrying it into execution.” But the business remained for a considerable time in suspense; nor did any specific proposal follow this communication till the autumn of the year 1803; when he received a letter addressed to him from the Office of the Colonial Secretary of State, desiring his attendance without delay. On his arrival in London he had an interview with the present Earl of Buckinghamshire, then Lord Hobart, and Secretary of State for the Colonial department, who acquainted him with the nature of an expedition to Africa, which was about to take place, and in which it was proposed, that Park should bear a principal part. To this offer he declined giving an immediate answer, requesting a short time to deliberate and consult with his friends. He returned home for this purpose about ten days afterwards.
On his return to Scotland he formally consulted a few of his friends; but, in his own mind, the point was already decided. From the time of his interview with Lord Hobart, his determination was in fact taken. His imagination had been indulging itself for some years past upon the visions of discoveries which he was destined to make in the Interior of Africa; and the object of his ambition was now within his grasp. He hastily announced to Lord Hobart his acceptance of the proposal; employed a few days in settling his affairs and taking leave of his friends; and left Scotland in December, 1803, with the confident expectation of embarking in a very short time for the coast of Africa. But many delays were yet to take place previously to his final departure.
The principal details of the intended expedition had been fully considered, and in a great measure arranged, in the Colonial department, before the application was made to Park; and he had therefore flattered himself that the business was in a state of considerable forwardness. But on his arrival in London, he was much disappointed to find that the sailing of the expedition had been postponed; and it was not till after two months that his departure was finally appointed for the end of February, 1804. But, unfortunately, when this period arrived, the apprehension of important political changes, which eventually took place by the resignation of Mr. Addington a short time afterwards, caused some embarrassment in the measures and proceedings of the Administration. After all was ready at Portsmouth for the embarkation, and part of the troops destined for the service were actually on board, the expedition was suddenly countermanded; and the question, whether it should finally proceed to Africa or not, was reserved for the decision of Lord Camden, who shortly afterwards succeeded to Lord Hobart in the Colonial department.
In consequence of this change, Park was informed at the Colonial Office, that the expedition could not possibly sail before September; and it was suggested to him by some person in authority, that he might employ the interval with great advantage in improving himself in the practice of taking astronomical observations, and in acquiring some knowledge of the Arabic language. He was at the same time informed, that any reasonable expence which he might incur in acquiring this instruction would be reimbursed to him by Government. In consequence of this intimation, he engaged a native of Mogadore, named Sidi Omback Boubi, then residing in London, who had served as the interpreter of Elphi Bey, (the ambassador of the Mamelukes from Cairo) to accompany him to Scotland, for the purpose of instructing him in Arabic. They immediately left London together, and arrived early in March at Peebles; where Park continued to reside together with his African instructor, till about the middle of May. He then finally quitted his house at Peebles, and took his family to the farm at Fowlshiels, where he quietly waited the expected summons of the Secretary of State. During all this time he employed himself with great diligence in acquiring a familiar use of astronomical instruments, and in the study of the Arabic language, in which he became a tolerable proficient.
Early in September he received a letter from the Under Secretary of State for the Colonial department, desiring him to set off without delay for London, and to present himself on his arrival at the Colonial Office. He accordingly lost no time in settling his affairs; and taking an affectionate leave of his family, wife, and children, quitted Fowlshiels, and arrived in London towards the latter end of September, 1804.
In the course of Park’s communications with the Colonial Office, Lord Camden had intimated a desire to be furnished with a written statement of Park’s opinions, both as to the plan of the expedition, and the particular objects towards which he conceived that his attention ought to be chiefly directed during the intended journey. In compliance with this request, he had, during his leisure in the country, drawn up a Memoir upon these subjects, which he presented at the Colonial Office within a few days after his arrival in London. As this paper formed the ground work of the official instructions which were afterwards given to Park, and is in other respects interesting and important, it is here inserted at length.
“A particular account — 1st. of the objects to which Mr. Park’s attention will be chiefly directed in his journey to the Interior of Africa: 2dly. of the means necessary for accomplishing that journey; and 3dly. of the manner in which he proposes to carry the plans of Government into execution.
“The objects which Mr. Park would constantly keep in view are, the extension of British Commerce, and the enlargement of our Geographical Knowledge.
“In directing his enquiries with respect to commerce, he would propose to himself the following subjects as worthy of particular investigation.
“1st. The route by which merchandize could be most easily transported to the Niger. This would be accomplished by attending to the nature of the country, whether wooded or open; having water or not, being abundant in provisions, or otherwise, and whether capable of furnishing the necessary beasts of burden.
“2dly. The safety or danger of that route. This, by considering the general character of the natives, their government, &c.; the jealousies that European merchants would be likely to excite, and the guard that would be necessary for the protection of the caravan.
“3dly. The return of merchandize. This by making out lists of such articles as are produced in each district, and of such as are imported from the neighbouring kingdoms.
“4thly. The value of merchandize. This could only be done by comparing the articles with each other; with gold as a standard, and with European articles in exchange.
“5thly. Profits of trade. This could be ascertained by bartering one African article for another; an European article for an African, or an African or European article for gold.
“6thly. The extent to which such a commerce might be carried. This, by a careful and cautious comparison of the above, connected with habits of industry in the natives.
“Mr. Park would likewise turn his attention to the general fertility of the country, whether any part of it might be useful to Britain for colonization, and whether any objects of Natural History, with which the natives are at present unacquainted, might be useful to Britain as a commercial nation.
“Mr. Park would propose to himself the following subjects in conducting his geographical researches.
“1st. To ascertain the correct latitude and longitude of the different places he visits in going to the Niger.
“2dly. To ascertain, if possible, the termination of that river.
“3dly. To make as accurate a survey of the river as his situation and circumstances will admit of.
“4thly. To give a description of the different kingdoms on or near the hanks of the river, with an account of the manners and customs of the inhabitants.
“Means necessary for accomplishing the journey.
30 European soldiers.
6 European carpenters.
15 or 20 Goree Negroes, most of them artificers.
50 Asses, to be purchased at St. Jago
6 Horses or mules, to be purchased at St. Jago.
“Articles of dress, &c. for the soldiers and Negros, exclusive of their common clothing.
1 Musquito veil.
1 Hat with a broad brim.
2 Flannel under vests with sleeves.
2 Pair of Mosquito trowsers.
1 Pair of long leather gaiters.
1 Additional pair of shoes.
1 Great coat for sleeping, similar to what is worn by the cavalry.
Knapsack and canteen for travelling.
“Arms and Ammunition.
6 Rifle pieces.
8 or ten blunderbusses.
1 Gun and bayonet.
1 Pair of pistols, and belt.
1 Cartridge box and belt.
Small shot of different sizes.
“Articles necessary for equipping the asses.
“100 Strong sacking bags.
50 Canvass saddles.
Girths, buckles, halters.
6 Saddles and bridles for horses.
“Articles necessary for building and rigging two boats on the Niger of the following dimensions, viz.
“40 Feet keel — 8 feet beam, to draw 2–1/2 feet water.
Carpenters tools, including hatchets and long saws.
Iron work and nails.
Pitch and oakum.
Cordage rigging, and sails.
2 Boat compasses.
2 Spying-glasses for day or night.
2 Small union flags.
6 Dark lanterns.
2 Tons of Carolina rice.
Medicines and instruments.
“List of Merchandize for purchasing provisions and making the necessary presents to the Kings of Woolli, Bondou, Kajaaga, Fooladoo, Bambarra, and the Kings of the Interior.
“Best blue India bafts, 150 yards
White ditto, 50 yards
Scarlet cloth, 200 yards
Blue ditto, 30 yards
Green ditto, 20 yards
Yellow ditto, 10 yards
Scarlet Salisbury flannel, red night caps, &c.
Mock coral, £50
White garnets, £50
Black points, £50
Small black beads, £50
5 Double-barrelled guns.
5 Pairs of ditto pistols.
5 Swords with belts.
“A brief account of the manner in which Mr. Park proposes to carry the plans of Government into execution.
“Mr. Park would touch at St. Jago, in order to purchase the asses and mules, and a sufficient quantity of corn to maintain them during the voyage to Goree and up the Gambia. At Goree he proposes receiving on board the soldiers and Negroes formerly mentioned, and would then proceed to Fattatenda, five hundred miles up the Gambia; where, having first obtained permission from the King of Woolli, he would disembark with the troops, asses, &c. After having allowed time for refreshment, and the necessary arrangements being made, he would then proceed on his journey to the Niger. The route he intends pursuing would lead him through the kingdoms of Bondou, Kajaaga, Fooladoo, and Bambarra.
“In conducting an expedition of this nature through such an extent of country, Mr. Park is sensible that difficulties will unavoidably occur; but he will be careful to use conciliatory measures on every occasion. He will state to the native princes the good understanding that has always subsisted between them and the English, and will invariably declare that his present journey is undertaken solely for the extension of commerce and promotion of their mutual interests.
“On his arrival at the Niger his attention will be first directed to gain the friendship of the King of Bambarra. For this purpose he will send one of the Bambarra Dooties forward to Sego with a small present. This man will inform Mansong of our arrival in his kingdom, and that it is our intention to come down to Sego with presents to him, as soon as he has given us permission, and we have provided the necessary means of conveying ourselves thither.
“In the mean time we must use every possible exertion to construct the two boats before mentioned with the utmost possible despatch. When the boats are completed, and every thing is ready for embarking, Mr. Park would dispose of the beasts of burthen; giving some away in presents, and with the others purchasing provisions. If the King of Bambarra’s answer is favourable, he would proceed immediately to Sego, and having delivered the presents, solicit Mansong’s protection as far as Jinnie. Here Mr. Park’s personal knowledge of the course of the Niger ends.
“Proceeding farther, Mr. Park proposes to survey the lake Dibbie, coasting along its southern shore. He would then proceed down the river by Jimbala and Kabra (the port of Tombuctoo), through the kingdoms of Houssa, Nyffe, and Kashna, &c. to the kingdom of Wangara, being a direct distance of about one thousand four hundred miles from the place of embarkation.
“If the river should unfortunately end here, Mr. Park would feel his situation extremely critical; he would however be guided by his distance from the coast, by the character of the surrounding nations, and by the existing circumstances of his situation.
“To return by the Niger to the westward he apprehends would be impossible; to proceed to the northward equally so; and to travel through Abyssinia extremely dangerous. The only remaining route that holds out any hopes of success, is that towards the Bight of Guinea. If the river should take a southerly direction, Mr. Park would consider it as his duty to follow it to its termination; and if it should happily prove to be the river Congo, would there embark with the troops and Negroes on board a slave vessel, and return to England from St. Helena, or by way of the West Indies.
“The following considerations have induced Mr. Park to think that the Congo will be found to be the termination of the Niger.
“1st. The total ignorance of all the inhabitants of North Africa respecting the termination of that river. If the Niger ended any where in North Africa, it is difficult to conceive how the inhabitants should be so totally ignorant of it; and why they should so generally describe it as running to the Nile, to the end of the world, and in fact to a country with which they are unacquainted.
“2dly. In Mr. Horneman’s Journal the Niger is described as flowing eastwards into Bornou, where it takes the name of Zad. The breadth of the Zad was given him for one mile, and he was told that it flowed towards the Egyptian Nile, through the land of the Heathens. [Footnote: Proceedings of African Association. Vol. II. p. 201.] The course here given is directly towards the Congo. Zad is the name of the Congo at its mouth, and it is the name of the Congo for at least six hundred and fifty miles inland.
“3dly. The river of Dar Kulla mentioned by Mr. Browne [Footnote: Browne’s Travels. 2d edit. 4to. p. 354.] is generally supposed to be the Niger; or at least to have a communication with that river. Now this is exactly the course the Niger ought to take in order to join the Congo.
“4thly. The quantity of water discharged into the Atlantic by the Congo cannot be accounted for on any other known principle, but that it is the termination of the Niger. If the Congo derived its waters entirely from the south side of the mountains which are supposed to form the Belt of Africa, one would naturally suppose that when the rains were confined to the north side of the mountains, the Congo, like the other rivers of Africa, would be greatly diminished in size; and that its waters would become pure. On the contrary, the waters of the Congo are at all seasons thick and muddy. The breadth of the river when at its lowest is one mile, its depth is fifty fathoms, and its velocity six miles per hour.
“5thly. The annual flood of the Congo commences before any rains have fallen south of the equator, and agree correctly with the floods of the Niger, calculating the water to have flowed from Bambarra at the rate of three miles per hour.
“Mr. Park is of opinion, that when your Lordship shall have duly weighed the above reasons, you will be induced to conclude that his hopes of returning by the Congo are not altogether fanciful; and that his expedition, though attended with extreme danger, promises to be productive of the utmost advantage to Great Britain.
“Considered in a commercial point of view, it is second only to the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope; and in a geographical point of view, it is certainly the greatest discovery that remains to be made in this world.
“(Signed) MUNGO PARK.”
The circumstance most deserving of attention in this Memoir, is the opinion expressed respecting the course and termination of the Niger; a geographical question of great difficulty and importance. In a treatise written by Major Rennell expressly on the discoveries of Park, that distinguished geographer, on comparing the various accounts of the progress of the Niger beyond Houssa, had given a distinct opinion that its waters had no communication either with the river Nile or the Sea; but were spread out into a great lake in Wangara and Ghana, and were evaporated by the heat of the sun. [Footnote: Proceedings of African Association, vol. i. p. 533.] Park’s attention had of course been much directed to the same subject; and he had omitted no opportunity of collecting information which might throw light on this obscure and difficult question. During his residence in Scotland he had become acquainted with a Mr. George Maxwell, formerly an African trader, who had a great knowledge of the whole western coast of Africa, especially south of the equator, and had published a chart of the river Congo. Before Mr. Maxwell had heard any particulars of the Niger, many circumstances had induced him to conjecture that the source of the Congo lay considerably inland, and very far to the north. The publication of Park’s Travels confirmed him in his opinion, and led him to conclude that the Congo and the Niger were one and the same stream. Mr. Maxwell’s reasonings appear to have produced a great impression upon Park, who adopted his sentiments relative to the termination of the Niger in their utmost extent, and persevered in that opinion to the end of his life.
The sources of great rivers have often been the object of popular and even of scientific curiosity; but it is peculiar to the Niger to be interesting on account of its termination. Those who recollect the emotions which Park describes himself to have experienced during his former journey, on the first view of that mighty river, [Footnote: “While we were riding together, and I was anxiously looking around for the river, one of the Negroes called out, Geo affilli (see the water); and looking forwards, I saw with infinite pleasure, the great object of my mission, the long sought for, majestic Niger, glittering to the morning sun, as broad as the Thames at Westminster, and flowing slowly to the eastward. I hastened to the brink and having drank of the water, lifted up my fervent thanks in prayer to the great Ruler of all things for having thus far crowned my endeavours with success.” Park’s Travels, p. 194.] will be enabled to form some idea of the enthusiasm on this subject which he intimates at the close of the foregoing Memoir, and which was now become his ruling passion. Nor can we be surprised that the question, respecting the termination of the Niger, associated as it was, with so many personal feelings, had such entire possession of Park’s mind; since the subject itself, considered as a matter of geographical enquiry, is one of the most interesting that can easily be conceived. The idea of a great river, rising in the western mountains of Africa and flowing towards the centre of that vast continent; whose course in that direction is ascertained for a considerable distance, beyond which information is silent, and speculation is left at large to indulge in the wildest conjectures — has something of the unbounded and mysterious, which powerfully attracts curiosity and takes a strong hold of the imagination. [Footnote: See Appendix, No. IV.]
A short time after Park had delivered his Memoir at the Colonial Office, he had an audience of Lord Camden, who expressed his general approbation of its contents and acquainted him with the plan of the expedition, so far as it was then determined upon. The amount of the compensation which he was to receive for this service, was likewise agreed upon and settled about the same time, with a commendable liberality on the part of Government, and entirely to Park’s satisfaction; and it was also very properly stipulated that, in the event either of his dying before the completion of the service, or of his not being heard of within a given period after his setting out on the journey, a certain sum should be paid by Government as a provision for his wife and family.
But before all the details of the plan were finally determined upon, Park was desired by Lord Camden, to consult Major Rennell, and obtain his opinion both with regard to the scheme and objects of the expedition, and Park’s own sentiments relative to the Niger, as stated in his Memoir. For this purpose he went to Brighthelmston, where Major Rennell then was, and remained with him several days; during which time, the subjects proposed by Lord Camden were repeatedly discussed between them. With respect to the supposition relative to the termination of the Niger, Major Rennell was unconvinced by Park’s reasonings, and declared his adherence to the opinion he had formerly expressed with regard to the course of that river. As to the plan of the intended expedition, he was so much struck with the difficulties and dangers likely to attend its execution, that he earnestly dissuaded Park from engaging in so hazardous an enterprize. His arguments, urged with all the warmth and sincerity of friendship, appear to have made a great impression upon Park; and he took leave of Major Rennell with an apparent determination to relinquish the undertaking. But this conviction was little more than momentary, and ceased almost as soon as the influence and authority from which it proceeded were withdrawn. On Park’s return to London, his enthusiasm revived; and all doubts and difficulties were at an end.
The doubts expressed by Major Rennell were of course, communicated by Park to the Secretary of State; but, as he accompanied the communication with his own answers and remarks, the objections were not deemed of sufficient weight to produce any material change in the intended arrangements.
It must be observed however with regard to the opinions both of Major Rennell and other intelligent persons among Park’s friends, who disapproved of the expedition, that their objections appear for the most part to have been too general and indiscriminate; proceeding perhaps too much upon vague and indefinite ideas of the dangers which experience had shewn to be incidental to such a journey, and being therefore equally conclusive against any new attempt to explore the interior of Africa. To these objections it may be sufficient to oppose the authority of Sir Joseph Banks, who was of course much consulted by Park, and also by the Secretary of State; and whose opinion on this subject appears to have been equally temperate and judicious. Without in the least extenuating the dangers of the intended expedition, which he regarded as one of the most hazardous ever undertaken, he still thought that the dangers were not greater than might reasonably be encountered for the sake of very important objects; justly observing that it was only from similar risks of human life that great geographical discoveries were in general to be expected. The correctness of his opinion was sufficiently shewn by the event; since it will hereafter appear that the failure of the undertaking was owing rather to accidental circumstances than to any defect in the original plan of the expedition itself.
After due consideration, it was at length finally determined that the expedition should consist of Park himself, his brother in law Mr. Alexander Anderson, who was to be next to Park in authority, and Mr. George Scott, who was to act as a draftsman; together with a few boat builders and artificers. They were not to be accompanied by any troops from England; but were to be joined at Goree by a certain number of soldiers of the African corps stationed in that garrison, who might be disposed to volunteer for the service.
Mr. Anderson and Mr. Scott, the associates of Park in this expedition, were intelligent and excellent young men; the former a surgeon of several years’ experience, the latter an artist of very promising talents. They were both of them friends and fellow countrymen of Park (being natives of the county of Selkirk), and inspired by him with a great ardour for the undertaking in which they were about to engage.
The expedition being thus limited as to its nature and objects, and nothing more being necessary than to procure a proper assortment of stores and commercial articles, and provide the means of conveying the party with their small cargo to the coast of Africa; it was to be expected that the mission might be sent out immediately, or with very little delay. This indeed was an object of great importance, considering the advanced time of the year; it being obvious that if the expedition should be detained for any considerable time, it might have the effect of postponing the journey into the interior to the period of the rainy season, and thus perhaps, of rendering the whole plan abortive. Fully aware of this danger, Park was anxious and earnest in his endeavours to obtain the necessary orders from the several public departments. But, partly from unforeseen circumstances, and partly from official forms and the pressure of business deemed of greater importance, he was destined to experience a long succession of delays; which, though certainly unintentional, and perhaps in some degree unavoidable, were ultimately productive of very unfortunate results. Nor was it till after waiting two months, (a period of great uneasiness and mortification) that he received his official instructions: after which nearly another month elapsed before he could set sail from England.
The instructions given to Park were communicated to him in a Letter addressed to him by the Secretary of State, in the following terms.
Downing-street, 2d January, 1805.
“It being judged expedient that a small expedition should be sent into the interior of Africa, with a view to discover and ascertain whether any, and what commercial intercourse can be opened therein for the mutual benefit of the natives and of His Majesty’s subjects, I am commanded by the King to acquaint you, that on account of the knowledge you have acquired of the nations of Africa, and from the indefatigable exertions and perseverance you displayed in your travels among them, His Majesty has selected you for conducting this undertaking.
“For better enabling you to execute this service His Majesty has granted you the brevet commission of a captain in Africa, and has also granted a similar commission of lieutenant to Mr. Alexander Anderson, whom you have recommended as a proper person to accompany you. Mr. Scott has also been selected to attend you as draftsman. You are hereby empowered to enlist with you for this expedition any number you think proper of the garrison at Goree, not exceeding forty-five, which the commandant of that Island will be ordered to place under your command, giving them such bounties or encouragement, as may be necessary to induce them cheerfully to join with you on the expedition.
“And you are hereby authorised to engage by purchase or otherwise, such a number of black artificers at Goree as you shall judge necessary for the objects you have in view.
“You are to be conveyed to Goree in a transport convoyed by His Majesty’s sloop Eugenie, which will be directed to proceed with you in the first instance to St. Jago, in order that you may there purchase fifty asses for carrying your baggage.
“When you shall have prepared whatever may be necessary for securing the objects of the expedition at Goree, you are to proceed up the river Gambia; and thence crossing over to the Senegal to march by such route as you shall find most eligible, to the banks of the Niger.
“The great object of your journey will be to pursue the course of this river to the utmost possible distance to which it can be traced; to establish communication and intercourse with the different nations on the banks; to obtain all the local knowledge in your power respecting them; and to ascertain the various points stated in the Memoir which you delivered to me on the 4th of October last.
“And you will be then at liberty to pursue your route homewards by any line you shall think most secure, either by taking a new direction through the Interior towards the Atlantic, or by marching upon Cairo by taking the route leading to Tripoli.
“You are hereby empowered to draw for any sum that you may be in want of, not exceeding £5000. upon the Lords of His Majesty’s Treasury, or upon such mercantile banking-house in London as you may fix upon.
“I am, &c.
“To Mungo Park, Esq. &c. &c. &c.”
The preparations for the expedition being now entirely completed, Park, together with Mr. Anderson and Mr. Scott, proceeded to Portsmouth, where they were joined by four or five artificers, from the dock-yards appointed for the service; and after waiting some time for a wind, they at last set sail in the Crescent transport, on the 30th of January, 1805, and arrived at Port Praya Bay in the Cape Verd Islands about the 8th of March. The transactions of Park from the time of his embarkation in England to his departure from Kayee on the Gambia for the Interior of Africa (a period of about seven weeks) will be best described by the following letters, and extracts selected from his correspondence.
To Mr. Dickson
Port Praya Bay, St. Jago, March 13, 1805.
“We have had a very tedious passage to this place, having been pestered with contrary winds, strong gales, and French privateers. We have all of us kept our health remarkably well, considering the very great change of climate. Mr. Anderson has the rheumatism in his knee, but is getting better. Mr. Scott is off this morning for the Interior of the Island, to take sketches; and as soon as I have finished this letter I am going on shore to finish my purchase of asses. I bought all the corn, &c. last night, and twenty-four asses, and I shall purchase thirty-two more to day; so you see we shall not be detained here. We shall have taken in all the water today, and the first division of the asses will come on board tomorrow. We expect to sail for Goree on Saturday or Sunday.
“I have been so much employed that I have had no time as yet to look after plants; indeed this seems a very unfavourable season of the year for natural history, the whole country being quite dry and withered. I have collected some observations on the present state of the Cape Verd Islands, which I will send home by the sloop of war.
“If Sir Joseph enquires after me, tell him that I am going on as well as I could wish; and if I have as little trouble at Goree as I am likely to have here, I hope to be able to date a letter from the Niger by the 4th of June.”
To Mrs. Park.
Goree, 4th April, 1805.
“I have just now learnt that an American ship sails from this place for England in a few days; and I readily embrace the opportunity of sending a letter to my dearest wife. We have all of us kept our health very well ever since our departure from England. Alexander had a touch of the rheumatism at St. Jago, but is now quite recovered; he danced several country dances at the ball last night. George Scott is also in good health and spirits. I wrote to you from St. Jago, which letter I hope you received. We left that place on the 21st of March, and arrived here with the asses on the 28th. Almost every soldier in the Garrison, volunteered to go with me; and with the Governor’s assistance I have chosen a guard of the best men in the place. So lightly do the people here think of the danger attending the undertaking, that I have been under the necessity of refusing several military and naval officers who volunteered to accompany me. We shall sail for Gambia on Friday or Saturday. I am happy to learn that Karfa, my old friend, is at present at Jonkakonda; and I am in hopes we shall be able to hire him to go with us.
“We have as yet been extremely fortunate, and have got our business both at St. Jago and this place finished with great success: and I have hopes, almost to certainty, that Providence will so dispose the tempers and passions of the inhabitants of this quarter of the world, that we shall be enabled to slide through much more smoothly than you expect.
“I need not tell you how often I think about you; your own feelings will enable you to judge of that. The hopes of spending the remainder of my life with my wife and children will make every thing seem easy; and you may be sure I will not rashly risk my life, when I know that your happiness, and the welfare of my young ones depend so much upon it. I hope my Mother does not torment herself with unnecessary fears about me. I sometimes fancy how you and she will be meeting misfortune half way, and placing me in many distressing situations. I have as yet experienced nothing but success, and I hope that six months more will end the whole as I wish.”
“P.S. We have taken a ride this morning about twelve miles into the country. Alexander is much pleased with it; the heat is moderate, and the country healthy at present.”
To Edward Cooke, Esq. Under Secretary of State for the Colonial Department.
Jillifree, River Gambia, April 9th, 1805.
“It is with great pleasure that I embrace this opportunity of sending you a general account of our proceedings since leaving England.
“We had a very tedious passage to the Cape Verd Islands, being detained by storms and contrary winds in the Bay of Biscay, so that we did not reach St. Jago till the 8th of March. I immediately set about purchasing the asses, corn, hay, &c. and succeeded so well that on the 18th I had embarked forty-four asses with plenty of corn and hay. The master of the transport declared that he could not receive any more consistently with the safety of the vessel. We sailed for Goree on the 21st. While we were getting under way, six English ships of the line, one of them a three decker, came into the Bay. They did not hail us; one of them had an Admiral’s blue flag at the mizen.
“We made the coast of Africa on the 25th, and anchored in Goree roads on the morning of the 28th. I immediately went on shore, and having delivered the dispatches to Major Lloyd, consulted with him respecting the proper encouragement to be offered to the troops. We agreed that nothing would be so great an inducement as double pay during the journey, and a discharge on their return. A Garrison order to this effect was accordingly made out; and in the course of a few days almost every soldier in the Garrison had volunteered his services. Lieutenant Martyn of the Royal Artillery Corps having likewise volunteered, I thought it would be of consequence to have an officer who was acquainted with the men, and who could assist me in choosing such as were best able to stand fatigue. I therefore accepted his services on the conditions mentioned in Lord Camden’s letter. Captain Shortland, of the Squirrel Frigate, has allowed two of his best seamen to go with me as volunteers in order to assist in rigging and navigating our Nigritian Men of War. I have given them the same encouragement as the soldiers, and have had the four carpenters whom I brought from England attested, in order to put the whole under the same discipline and regulations.
“On the morning of the 6th of April we embarked the soldiers, in number thirty-five men. They jumped into the boats in the highest spirits, and bade adieu to Goree with repeated huzzas. I believe that every man in the Garrison would have embarked with great cheerfulness; but no inducement could prevail on a single Negro to accompany me. I must therefore trust to the Gambia for interpreters, and I expect to be able to hire or purchase three or four in going up the river. I will send a particular account of all money matters by the return of the Transport.”
To Sir Joseph Banks.
Kayee, River Gambia, April 26th, 1805.
“My Dear Friend,
“I know that you will be pleased to hear that I am in good health, and going forwards with as much success as I could reasonably expect. In my letter to Lord Camden, I have given a short statement of my transactions since I left England, which I have requested his Lordship to shew to you. By that you will see that I have had but little time to attend to objects of natural history; but lest you should think that I have neglected this pursuit entirely, I have sent a few specimens in a trunk, which I hope will come safe; the most remarkable are,
“1st. The Fang jani, or self-burning tree of Gambia. This grows plentifully on the banks of the Gambia betwixt Yanimaroo and Kayee, and no where else. It is certainly burnt by some internal process, of which I am ignorant. Few of the natives have seen it actually burning; but every person who has sailed up the Gambia will allow that these bushes are burnt in places where no human being could set them on fire, and where the grass around them was not burnt. I have sent you a burnt stump, two tops, and a fruit.
“2d. The Kino, (so called by the natives), a branch and fruit of the original gum kino tree and a paper of the real gum; none of this gum is at present exported from Gambia, though it might be collected in some quantity.
“3d. The Tribo, a root with which the natives dye their leather of a yellow colour. It is not in flower at this season. [Footnote: See Appendix, No. V.]
“The wars which at present prevail in Bondou and Kasson, have prevented the merchants from bringing down the Shea butter; otherwise I would have sent you a pot of it. I have sent you as a specimen of African manufactures, a Mandingo cloth dyed from the leaves of the indigo, half a dozen small pots, and some Lefa’s or calabash covers. I regret that I have not been able to procure any Bondou Frankincense. — Give my compliments to Major Rennell, and tell him that I hope to be able to correct my former errors. The course of the Gambia is certainly not so long as is laid down in the charts. The watch goes so correctly that I will measure Africa by feet and inches.
“In case any unfavourable reports should be raised respecting the termination of our journey, I request that you will endeavour as much as you can to prevent them from finding their way into the newspapers, or by any other manner reaching the ears of my dear wife and mother.”
To Mrs. Park.
Kayee, River Gambia, April 26, 1805.
“I have been busy these three days in making preparations for our journey, and I feel rather uneasy when I think that I can receive no letters from you till I return to England; but you may depend on this, that I will avail myself of every opportunity of writing to you, though from the very nature of the undertaking these opportunities will be but few. We set off for the Interior tomorrow morning; and I assure you, that whatever the issue of the present journey may be, every thing looks favourable. We have been successful thus far, beyond my highest expectations.
“The natives instead of being frightened at us, look on us as their best friends, and the kings have not only granted us protection, but sent people to go before us. The soldiers are in the highest spirits; and as many of them (like me) have left a wife and family in England, they are happy to embrace this opportunity of returning. They never think about difficulties; and I am confident, if there was occasion for it, that they would defeat any number of Negroes that might come against us; but of this we have not the most distant expectation. The King of Kataba (the most powerful King in Gambia) visited us on board the Crescent on the 20th and 21st; he has furnished us with a messenger to conduct us safely to the King of Woolli.
“I expect to have an opportunity of writing to you from Konkodoo or Bammakoo, by some of the slave traders; but as they travel very slowly, I may probably have returned to the coast before any of my letters have reached Goree; at any rate, you need not be surprised if you should not hear from me for some months; nay, so uncertain is the communication between Africa and England, that perhaps the next news you may hear, may be my arrival in the latter, which I still think will be in the month of December. If we have to go round by the West Indies, it will take us two months more; but as Government has given me an unlimited credit, if a vessel is coming direct, I shall of course take a passage in her. I have enjoyed excellent health, and have great hopes to bring this expedition to a happy conclusion. In five weeks from the date of this letter the worst part of the journey will be over. Kiss all my dear children for me, and let them know that their father loves them.”
In a letter to Mr. Dickson dated Kayee, April 26th, 1805, the day before his embarkation, Park writes as follows;
“Every thing, at present, looks as favourable as I could wish, and if all things go well, this day six weeks I expect to drink all your healths in the water of the Niger. The soldiers are in good health and spirits. They are the most dashing men I ever saw; and if they preserve their health, we may keep ourselves perfectly secure from any hostile attempt on the part of the natives. I have little doubt but that I shall be able with presents and fair words to pass through the country to the Niger; and if once we are fairly afloat, the day is won. — Give my kind regards to Sir Joseph and Mr. Greville; and if they should think that I have paid too little attention to natural objects, you may mention that I had forty men and forty-two asses to look after, besides the constant trouble of packing and weighing bundles, palavering with the Negroes, and laying plans for our future success. I never was so busy in my life.”
On reading this correspondence it is impossible not to be struck with the satisfaction expressed by Park, and the confidence with which he appears to have looked forward to a favourable termination of his journey. Yet in reality nothing could be much less promising than his actual situation and prospects at the time of writing these letters.
The detachment of the Royal African Corps, which was to escort the expedition, consisted of a Lieutenant and thirty-five privates. It was not to be expected that troops of a very superior quality could be furnished from a regiment which had been serving for any considerable time at a tropical station, such as Goree. But there is too much reason to believe that the men selected on the present occasion, notwithstanding the favourable opinion of them expressed by Park, and although they were the best that the Garrison could supply, were below the ordinary standard even of troops of this description; and that they were extremely deficient both in constitutional strength and vigour, and in those habits of sobriety, steadiness and good discipline which such a service peculiarly required.
But besides the indifferent quality of the troops, there was another and more serious cause of alarm, from the unfavourable period at which, owing to a series of unforeseen delays, Park found himself obliged to enter on this expedition. This he was about to do, not actually during the rainy season; but with a great probability of being overtaken by it in the course of his journey; and with a positive certainty of encountering in the mean time, not only the great tropical heats, but also the tornadoes, or hurricanes, which always precede and follow the rainy season. These hurricanes, of which no idea can be formed from the experience of our temperate climates, occur more frequently, and with greater violence as the rainy period approaches; and are attended with considerable inconvenience, and occasionally with danger, to caravans travelling at that season.
Whatever might be the opinion of Park as to the quality of his troops, of which he appears to have formed a very erroneous estimate, he must at least have been fully aware of the disadvantage arising from the near approach of the great tropical rains. But his situation was critical; and he had only a choice of difficulties. He might either attempt (what he might perhaps consider as being just possible) to reach the Niger before the rainy season should be completely set in; or he might postpone his journey till the return of the proper season for travelling, which would be in November or December following. The event has shewn that he would have acted more wisely in deferring the expedition. But the motives which might lead him to a contrary determination, were obvious and powerful; and will be found, on the whole, sufficient for the justification of his conduct. He must naturally have considered that the postponement of the expedition for seven months, besides being in the greatest degree irksome both to himself and the companions of his journey, would occasion a great additional expense, and disappoint the expectations of Government; and he might perhaps entertain doubts, since the case was not provided for by his official instructions, whether he should altogether escape censure, if he should postpone his journey for so long a period, under any circumstances much short of a positive and undoubted necessity.
In this difficult situation, he adopted that alternative which was most congenial to his character and feelings; and having once formed this resolution, he adhered to it with tranquillity and firmness; dismissing from his own mind all doubts and apprehensions, or at least effectually concealing them, from the companions of his journey, and from his friends and correspondents in England.
For the particulars of this second expedition, the reader must be referred to the Journal now published, which commences from this period. But in order to give a general view of the extent of Park’s labours, it may be useful on this, as on the former occasion, to note the more important dates, and some of the principal circumstances of the journey.
The persons composing the expedition, being assembled at Kayee, a small town on the Gambia a little below Pisania, Park engaged a Mandingo priest, named Isaaco, who was also a travelling merchant and much accustomed to long inland journies, to serve as the guide to his caravan. On the 27th of April 1805, he took his departure from Kayee, and arrived in two days at Pisania, from whence he had set out for the interior of Africa nearly ten years before. Some of the practical difficulties of the march were apparent during this short journey: and he found it necessary to stop at Pisania six days (a delay which must have been highly inconvenient), to purchase additional beasts of burden, and make other arrangements for the expedition.
He quitted Kayee on the 4th of May, and arrived on the 11th at Madina, the capital of the kingdom of Woolli. The effects of the season had already become apparent; two of the soldiers having fallen ill of the dysentery on the 8th. On the 15th he arrived on the banks of the Gambia; and about this time lost one of his soldiers, by an epilepsy.
On the 26th, the caravan experienced a singular accident (almost unintelligible to an European) from the attack of a large swarm of bees; in consequence of which, besides that many of the people were most severely stung, seven of their beasts of burden perished or were lost; and owing to an accidental fire which was kindled in the confusion, the whole baggage was near being burnt. For half an hour it seemed as if the bees had put an end to the expedition.
[Footnote: A similar accident from an attack of bees, though much less serious than the present, was witnessed by Park in his journey with the caravan of slaves from Kamalia to the Gambia, and is described in his Travels, p. 331.]
On the 28th of May, Park arrived at Badoo, where he mentions having had an opportunity of sending two letters to England by way of the Gambia. These letters were addressed to Sir Joseph Banks and Mrs. Park; and are as follows.
To Sir Joseph Banks.
Badoo, near Tambacunda, May 28th, 1805.
“A Slatee is going from this place in a few hours for the Gambia, and I have hired him to stop his asses till I write a few lines. We have had as prosperous an expedition thus far, as I could have expected; a short abridgement of our journey will serve to shew where we are.
[Here follow the names of the places where the caravan rested each night; the particulars of which are fully detailed in the Journal.]
“We are going this evening to Tambacunda. You must not imagine, my dear friend, from this hasty sketch that I have neglected astronomical observations; I have observed the latitude every two or three days, and have observed three eclipses of Jupiter’s Satellites, which settle the longitude, by the help of the watch, to the nearest mile. I saw plenty of Shea trees yesterday for the first time since my return to Africa, the fruit being not yet ripe. The course of the Gambia is laid down on my chart too much to the south; I have ascertained nearly its whole course. I find that my former journeys on foot were underrated; some of them surprise myself, when I trace the same road on horseback. Sibikillin is 36’ East of where it is laid down on the chart. I propose sending an abridged account of my day’s transactions from Baniserile, to Lord Camden; but I request that nothing may be published till I return to England. A short time will decide the matter.
“I expect to reach the Niger on the 27th of June. You must excuse this hasty scrawl, as it is only meant to let you know that I am still alive and going forward in my journey. Please to let Mrs. Dickson know that I am well.”
To Mrs. Park,
Badoo, 29th May, 1805.
“I am happy to inform you that we are half through our journey without the smallest accident or unpleasant circumstance. We all of us keep our health, and are on the most friendly terms with the natives. I have seen many of my old acquaintances, and am every where well received. By the 27th of June we expect to have finished all our travels by land; and when we have once got afloat on the river, we shall conclude that we are embarking for England. I have never had the smallest sickness; and Alexander is quite free from all his stomach complaints.
“The bearer of this to the Gambia is waiting with his asses for a few minutes only; you will therefore inform all friends that we are well and going on prosperously. I see no reason to think that our stay in the Interior will be longer than I first mentioned.
“We carry our own victuals with us, and live very well; in fact we have only had a pleasant journey, and yet this is what we thought would be the worst part of it.
“I will indulge the hope that my wife, children, and all friends are well. I am in great hopes of finishing this journey with credit in a few months; and then with what joy shall I turn my face towards home! The Slatee is impatient for the letter; and I have only time to subscribe myself, &c.”
Notwithstanding these letters, it is evident from Park’s Journal that his situation was now very critical. The tornadoes had begun to be frequent; and a few days afterwards it became quite apparent that the rainy season was seriously setting in, before the journey to the Niger was more than half completed. The effect produced on the health of the soldiers by a violent rain on the 10th of June, was almost instantaneous; twelve of them at once were dangerously ill, and from this time the great mortality commenced, which was ultimately fatal to the expedition.
At Shrondo, in the kingdom of Dentila, where the caravan shortly afterwards arrived, there are considerable gold mines; and the journal contains a minute and interesting description both of the manner of collecting the metal, and of the country in which it is found.
After quitting Shrondo, Park mentions that on the 12th of June, in consequence of a very sudden tornado, they were forced to carry their bundles into the huts of the natives, being the first time that the caravan had entered a town since leaving the Gambia. Considering the climate and season, this slight circumstance is alone a sufficient proof of the hardships which must have been sustained by Europeans during such a journey.
At Dindikoo beyond Shrondo, Park was much struck with the beauty and magnificence of that mountainous tract of country, as well as with the degree in which it was cultivated and the comparatively happy condition of the inhabitants. Proceeding a little farther, he quitted the track he had hitherto followed, by which he had formerly returned from Kamalia to the Gambia; and directed his course towards the north-east, with a view probably of avoiding the Jallonka Wilderness. But the difficulties of travelling were now become extreme; partly from the nature of the country, but principally from the increasing prevalence of the disease produced by the continued rains.
On the 4th of July he was near losing Isaaco, his guide; who in crossing a river was twice attacked by a crocodile, and saved himself by extraordinary presence of mind, though not without some very severe wounds. This accident detained the caravan several days, and added to the numerous delays which had so unfortunately impeded the expedition.
Several of the soldiers had died during the course of the journey; and on the 6th of July the whole number of persons composing the caravan (except one) were either actually sick, or in a state of great debility. Yet he still had considerable difficulties to encounter, in traversing a country, where he was obliged to be constantly on the watch against the depredations of the inhabitants, and occasionally, the attacks of wild beasts. Under such circumstances it is not wonderful that the few soldiers, not disabled by sickness, fell back; and it was with great difficulty that any of them could be prevailed on to continue their march. After a series of dangers and sufferings, such as have been experienced by few travellers, he at length reached the Niger (at Bambakoo, where the river begins to be navigable) on the 19th of August 1805.
This was more than seven weeks beyond the time, upon which he had calculated when he quitted the Gambia; and the effects of this protracted march, which had carried him far into the rainy season, were unfortunately but too apparent. Of the Europeans who composed the expedition, consisting of about forty at the time of quitting the Gambia, there were now only eleven survivors. Of these the principal persons, besides Park, namely Mr. Anderson, Mr. Scott, and Lieutenant Martyn, were all more or less affected by the disease; the two former very seriously, and Mr. Scott, in particular, to so great a degree that he had been obliged to remain behind, and died shortly afterwards without reaching the Niger.
It was fortunate that Park’s health had hitherto been very slightly affected, since the whole burden of the expedition evidently rested upon him. He not only directed all the great movements of the caravan, but superintended its minutest details, and was foremost on all occasions requiring physical strength and great personal exertions. In these arduous services both of body and mind, Mr. Anderson and his other associates, who might have been expected to share in his labours, were incapable of rendering him any useful assistance; and by their continued ill health, contributed in no small degree to the anxiety and embarrassments attending the expedition.
Being thus arrived at the Niger, he embarked upon that river on the 21st of August, and the following day reached Marraboo; from whence he shortly afterwards dispatched Isaaco to Sego, the capital of Bambarra, to negociate with Mansong the sovereign, for a free passage through his dominions and for such other facilities as might enable him to prosecute his journey into the interior. He remained at Marraboo, waiting Isaaco’s return; and in the mean time was seized with the dysentery, which had been fatal to so many of his followers; but saved himself by a bold and vigorous course of medicine, which, aided by the great strength of his constitution, restored him to health very speedily.
After much negociation and many difficulties with Mansong’s ministers, he was at first permitted to go to Samee in the neighbourhood of Sego, and afterwards to Sansanding; in order to build a vessel and make preparations for his voyage down the Niger. In this negociation, which is fully detailed in the Journal, Park appears to much advantage. His speech to Mansong’s messengers, explaining the purpose and objects of his expedition into Africa, is distinguished by great propriety and good sense; and affords a very favourable specimen of his talents for such transactions. [Footnote: Journal, p. 151.]
It may be recollected that when Park arrived at Sego during his former journey, Mansong sent him a present of five thousand cowries, but refused to admit him into his presence, and gave directions that he should immediately depart from that city. [Footnote: Park’s Travels, p. 199.] This conduct in a sovereign apparently tolerant and liberal, was very reasonably attributed by Park to an apprehension on the part of Mansong, that he should be unable to protect him against the inveterate malice of his Moorish subjects. There is every reason to think that Mansong, on the present occasion, was actuated by similar feelings; since he neither saw Park, nor expressed any desire to see him; and his whole conduct, both during the negociation and afterwards, indicated great coldness and reserve. It appears also that many rumours unfavourable to the mission were industriously circulated; and that great jealousies, stimulated both by religious bigotry and the apprehension of commercial rivalship, were excited against Park among the Moorish inhabitants of Sego and Sansanding.
The anxiety and suspense produced in Park’s mind by these rumours, were in some degree removed by the arrival of Bookari, the singing man or bard of Mansong, with six canoes, being commissioned to attend him to the neighbourhood of Sego. Under this escort, he embarked at Marraboo on the 13th of September; and notwithstanding the unsatisfactory state of his affairs, his mind was sufficiently at ease to receive great delight from this short voyage down the Niger. “Nothing,” he says, “can be more beautiful than the views of this immense river; sometimes as smooth as a mirror; at other times ruffled by a gentle breeze; but at all times wafting us along at the rate of six or seven miles an hour.” [Footnote: Journal, p. 148] After the indifference shewn towards him by Mansong, he thought it not prudent to visit Sego; but went on to Sansanding, a place a little eastwards of Sego on the banks of the Niger, containing about ten thousand inhabitants. Here Park remained the greater part of two months, and traded to a considerable extent; and as this was the first African town distant from the coast, at which he had an opportunity of residing, he had the means of obtaining much information; which if it could be communicated to the public, would probably form an important addition to our knowledge of the internal state of Africa.
Fortunately the information thus acquired has not been entirely lost to the world; a few particulars, the fruit of his active and intelligent curiosity, still remain. The view which Park has given of the trade and population of Sansanding, must be considered as the most original and valuable part of his Journal. The information which he has collected concerning prices, is new in its kind, and in several points of view, highly curious and important. But there are other circumstances, which must strike every intelligent reader as being more peculiarly interesting and instructive; the existence of regular markets; the division of labour, appearing from the establishment of distinct branches of trade; the variety of articles exposed to sale; and the great extent of commercial transactions. These facts imply that industry is protected, and property in a certain degree secure; and fully confirm Park’s former statements with regard to the comparative civilization and improvement of the interior of Africa.
One of Park’s principal objects at Sansanding was to provide a proper vessel for his farther navigation down the Niger; and it was with great difficulty that he procured two indifferent and decayed canoes; from which by the labour of his own hands, with some assistance from one of the surviving soldiers, he constructed a flat-bottomed vessel, to which he gave the magnificent title of His Majesty’s schooner the Joliba.
Previously to this time, Park had received intelligence of the death of Mr. Scott, whom he had been obliged to leave at Koomikoomi, on his march towards the Niger; and now whilst he was employed in building his vessel, he had to lament the loss of his friend Mr. Anderson, who died on the 28th of October, after a lingering illness of four months. He speaks of this severe blow in his Journal very shortly, but in a strain of natural eloquence, flowing evidently from the heart, “No event,” he says, “during the journey, ever threw the smallest gloom over his mind till he laid Mr. Anderson in the grave; he then felt himself as if left a second time lonely and friendless amidst the wilds of Africa.” [Footnote: Journal, p. 163.]
Fancy can hardly picture a situation more perilous than that of Park at this time, nor an enterprise more utterly hopeless than that which he was now to undertake. Of the Europeans who had accompanied him from the Gambia, Lieutenant Martyn and three soldiers (one of them in a state of mental derangement) were all who now survived. He was about to embark on a vast and unknown river, which might possibly terminate in some great lake or inland sea, at an immense distance from the coast; but which he hoped and believed would conduct him to the shores of the Atlantic, after a course of considerably more than three thousand miles, through the midst of savage nations, and probably also after a long succession of rapids, lakes, and cataracts. This voyage, one of the most formidable ever attempted, was to be undertaken in a crazy and ill appointed vessel, manned by a few Negroes and four Europeans!
On the 16th of November the schooner being completed, and every preparation made for the voyage, Park put the finishing hand to his Journal; and in the course of the succeeding days previous to the embarkation, which appears to have taken place on the 19th, he wrote letters to his father-inlaw, Mr. Anderson, Sir Joseph Banks, Lord Camden, and Mrs. Park. Those addressed to the three latter, being the most interesting, are here inserted at length, and cannot be read without considerable interest. They all of them bear strong traces of that deliberate courage without effort or ostentation, which distinguished his whole conduct; and his letter to Lord Camden breathes a generous spirit of self-devotion, highly expressive of the character and feelings of the writer.
To Sir Joseph Banks.
Sansanding, November 16, 1805.
“MY DEAR FRIEND,
“I should be wanting in gratitude, if I did not avail myself of every opportunity of informing you how I have succeeded in this enterprise. I have sent an account of each day’s proceeding to Lord Camden, and have requested his Lordship to send it to you for your perusal.
“With respect to my future views, it is my intention to keep the middle of the river, and make the best use I can of winds and currents till I reach the termination of this mysterious stream. I have hired a guide to go with me to Kashna; he is a native of Kasson, but one of the greatest travellers in this part of Africa, having visited Miniana, Kong, Baedoo, Gotto, and Cape Corse Castle to the South, and Tombuctoo, Houssa, Nyffe, Kashna, and Bornou towards the East. He says that the Niger, after it passes Kashna, runs directly to the right hand, or the South; he never heard of any person who had seen its termination; and is certain that it does not end any where in the vicinity of Kashna or Bornou, having resided some time in both these kingdoms.
“He says our voyage to Kashna will occupy two months; that we touch on the Moors no where but at Tombuctoo; the north bank of the river in all other places being inhabited by a race of people resembling the Moors in colour, called Surka, Mahinga, and Tuarick, according to the different kingdoms they inhabit. I have as yet had only two conversations with my guide, and they were chiefly occupied in adjusting money matters; but I have no doubt that I shall find him a very useful fellow traveller.
“I have purchased some fresh Shea nuts, which I intend taking with me to the West Indies, as we shall probably have to go there on our way home. I expect that we shall reach the sea in three months from this; and if we are lucky enough to find a vessel, we shall lose no time on the coast. But at all events you will probably hear from me; as I mean to write from Kashna by my guide, and endeavour to hire some of the merchants to carry a letter to the north from that place. With best wishes for your health and prosperity I am, &c.”
“P. S. Have the goodness to remember me most kindly to my friend Major Rennell.”
To the Earl Camden, One of His Majesty’s Principal Secretaries of State, &c. &c. &c.
On board of H. M. Schooner Joliba, at anchor off Sansanding, November 17, 1805.
“I have herewith sent you an account of each day’s proceedings since we left Kayee. Many of the incidents related are in themselves extremely trifling; but are intended to recall to my recollection (if it pleases God to restore me again to my dear native land) other particulars illustrative of the manners and customs of the natives, which would have swelled this bulky communication to a most unreasonable size.
“Your Lordship will recollect that I always spoke of the rainy season with horror, as being extremely fatal to Europeans; and our journey from the Gambia to the Niger will furnish a melancholy proof of it.
“We had no contest whatever with the natives, nor was any one of us killed by wild animals or any other accidents; and yet I am sorry to say that of forty-four Europeans who left the Gambia in perfect health, five only are at present alive, viz. three soldiers (one deranged in his mind) Lieutenant Martyn, and myself.
“From this account I am afraid that your Lordship will be apt to consider matters as in a very hopeless state; but I assure you I am far from desponding. With the assistance of one of the soldiers I have changed a large canoe into a tolerably good schooner, on board of which I this day hoisted the British flag, and shall set sail to the east with the fixed resolution to discover the termination of the Niger or perish in the attempt. I have heard nothing that I can depend on respecting the remote course of this mighty stream; but I am more and more inclined to think that it can end no where but in the sea.
“My dear friend Mr. Anderson and likewise Mr. Scott are both dead; but though all the Europeans who are with me should die, and though I were myself half dead, I would still persevere; and if I could not succeed in the object of my journey, I would at last die on the Niger.
“If I succeed in the object of my journey, I expect to be in England in the month of May or June by way of the West Indies.
“I request that your Lordship will have the goodness to permit my friend Sir Joseph Banks to peruse the abridged account of my proceedings, and that it may be preserved, in case I should lose my papers.
“I have the honour to be, &c.”
To Mrs. Park.
Sansanding, 19th November, 1805.
“It grieves me to the heart to write any thing that may give you uneasiness; but such is the will of him who doeth all things well! Your brother Alexander, my dear friend, is no more! He died of the fever at Sansanding, on the morning of the 28th of October; for particulars I must refer you to your father.
“I am afraid that, impressed with a woman’s fears and the anxieties of a wife, you may be led to consider my situation as a great deal worse than it really is. It is true, my dear friends, Mr. Anderson and George Scott, have both bid adieu to the things of this world; and the greater part of the soldiers have died on the march during the rainy season; but you may believe me, I am in good health. The rains are completely over, and the healthy season has commenced, so that there is no danger of sickness; and I have still a sufficient force to protect me from any insult in sailing down the river, to the sea.
“We have already embarked all our things, and shall sail the moment I have finished this letter. I do not intend to stop or land any where, till we reach the coast: which I suppose will be some time in the end of January. We shall then embark in the first vessel for England. If we have to go round by the West Indies, the voyage will occupy three months longer; so that we expect to be in England on the first of May. The reason of our delay since we left the coast was the rainy season, which came on us during the journey; and almost all the soldiers became affected with the fever.
“I think it not unlikely but I shall be in England before you receive this — You may be sure that I feel happy at turning my face towards home. We this morning have done with all intercourse with the natives; and the sails are now hoisting for our departure for the coast.”
Here all authentic information concerning Park unfortunately terminates. His letters and Journal were brought by Isaaco to the Gambia, and transmitted from thence to England. For some time nothing farther was heard of the expedition; but in the course of the year 1806 unfavourable accounts were brought by the native traders from the interior of Africa to the British settlements on the coast; and it was currently reported, but upon no distinct authority, that Park and his companions were killed. These rumours increasing, and no intelligence of Park being received, Lieutenant Colonel Maxwell, then Governor of Senegal (at present Governor of Sierra Leone), obtained permission from Government to send a proper person to ascertain the truth of the reports; and he was fortunate enough to engage Isaaco, Park’s guide, to go upon this mission.
Isaaco left Senegal in January 1810, and was absent about twenty months. He returned on the 1st of September 1811, with a full confirmation of the reports concerning Park’s death. As the result of his enquiries into this subject, he delivered to the Governor a Journal of his whole proceedings kept by himself in the Arabic language, including another Journal which he had received from Amadi Fatouma, the guide who had accompanied Park from Sansanding down the Niger. A translation of this singular document was made at Senegal by the directions of Colonel Maxwell, and transmitted by him to the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department.
On the subject of this Journal, so far as it immediately relates to Park’s death, very few remarks will be necessary. Being originally written by a native African, and translated by some person who probably had but a moderate knowledge of the Arabian dialect in which it is composed, it is far from being always clear or even intelligible; and in the state in which it now appears, it is open to much observation. Neither indeed can it be considered in itself as a document of a very authentic or satisfactory description. But the account which it gives of Park’s death appears on the whole to be probable and consistent; and is so far corroborated by other circumstances as to leave no reasonable doubt with regard to the fact.
[Footnote: The genuine travelling Journal of a native African Merchant may in some respects be considered as interesting, simply from the circumstance of its singularity. But it must be acknowledged that for the mere purpose of gratifying curiosity very few specimens of Isaaco would have been sufficient. The sole reason for publishing such a document at full length, is the circumstance of its containing the only direct evidence of Park’s death. In every other point of view it is wholly destitute of interest, and cannot even be read through, without a strong effort; being inconceivably tedious, and having all the dry minuteness of a log book, without its valuable precision. There is great confusion as to places and times; and it is possible only in a very few cases, to identify the former by reference to the names of places given by Park. Incidents the most trifling are related exactly in the same tone and manner as those of the greatest importance. The account of Park’s death is given with more details, and the story is not ill told. But some of the facts are very questionable; and the circumstance of Park and Lieutenant Martyn leaping hand in hand with the soldiers into the river, is much too theatrical to be literally true. — What is most incredible, is the description of the place where the event happened, which is stated to be an opening in a rock “in the form of a door,” forming the only passage for the water; a fact so strange, that (if it were worth while to conjecture) one might suspect an error in the translation.]
It is true that the proof of Park’s death according to this Journal, depends entirely upon the statement of Amadi Fatouma; but the nature of the case admits of no other direct evidence; and some regard must be had to the opinion of Isaaco, considered by Colonel Maxwell as a person entitled to a certain degree of credit, who, after full investigation, was satisfied as to the truth of Amadi’s account. It may be observed also, as a circumstance which gives additional weight to Isaaco’s judgment, that being well acquainted with the anxiety of his employers respecting Park’s safety, he must naturally have been desirous of discovering reasons for believing that he was still in existence; and was therefore unlikely to admit the fact of his death upon any ground, short of his own positive conviction.
But the principal and decisive circumstance in this case, is the length of time which has elapsed without any intelligence being heard of Park, since his departure from Sansanding in November 1805. This can only be accounted for, by supposing either that he is actually dead or detained in Africa as a captive; and when we consider the nature of the enterprise in which he was engaged, his personal character, and the resistance he was likely to make in case of any hostile attack, we must acknowledge that of the two suppositions, the former is by far the most probable.
To this it may be added, that since the time of the original reports respecting Park’s death in 1806, no circumstance has occurred to bring that fact into doubt; if we except a few transient rumours relative to white men stated to be in remote parts of the interior of Africa, which have led some persons to suppose that Park may be still in existence. Several surmises of this kind (for they are entitled to no higher appellation) have from time to time been circulated, and have found their way into newspapers and public journals; although the slightest enquiry would have shewn that they were entitled to no credit or attention. They would commonly be found to originate from loose and indistinct communications received from some of the settlements on the African coast, to which very slight and insignificant circumstances might originally have given occasion. A Moor or an Asiatic, the colour of whose skin differs by a few shades from that of the native Africans, would be described by them as a stranger or white man. The hearsay accounts of the appearance of such a person in the interior of Africa would afford ample materials for credulity and exaggeration; and might easily give rise to reports and assertions the most unfounded and extravagant.
Upon the whole there seems to be no reasonable ground of doubt with regard to the fact either of Park’s death or of its having happened in the manner described in Isaaco’s Journal. The first of these may be considered as morally certain, the latter as highly probable. But the exact time when this event took place and the circumstances attending it, are left in great obscurity; partly from a general want of distinctness and precision in the narrative; but principally because the particulars related, depend altogether upon the unsupported testimony of a slave, (represented as the only survivor of those who were with Park at the time of his death,) from whom the information was obtained at an interval of three months after the transaction. It is obvious that no reliance can be placed on a narrative resting upon such authority; and we must be content to remain in ignorance of the precise circumstances of Park’s melancholy fate. But that he was attacked by the natives on his voyage from Sansanding eastwards, that he was overpowered by numbers, and that he perished on his passage down the Niger, cannot reasonably be doubted.
The leading parts of Mungo Park’s character must have been anticipated by the reader in the principal events and transactions of his life. Of his enterprising spirit, his indefatigable vigilance and activity, his calm fortitude and unshaken perseverance, he has left permanent memorials in the narrative of his former travels and in the Journal and Correspondence now published. In these respects few travellers have equalled, none certainly ever surpassed him. Nor were the qualities of his understanding less valuable or conspicuous. He was distinguished by a correctness of judgment, seldom found united with an ardent and adventurous turn of mind, and generally deemed incompatible with it. His talents certainly were not brilliant, but solid and useful, such as were peculiarly suited to a traveller and geographical discoverer. Hence, in his accounts of new and unknown countries, he is consistent and rational; he is betrayed into no exaggeration, nor does he exhibit any traces of credulity or enthusiasm. His attention was directed exclusively to facts; and except in his opinion relative to the termination of the Niger (which he supported by very plausible arguments) he rarely indulged in conjecture, much less in hypothesis or speculation.
Among the characteristic qualities of Park which were so apparent in his former travels, none certainly were more valuable or contributed more to his success than his admirable prudence, calmness and temper; but it has been doubted whether these merits were equally conspicuous during his second expedition. The parts of his conduct which have given occasion to this remark, are, his setting out from the Gambia almost at the eve of the rainy season, and his voyage down the Niger under circumstances so apparently desperate. On the motives by which he may have been influenced as to the former of these measures, something has been said in the course of the foregoing narrative. [Footnote: See p. lxvi.] With regard to his determination in the latter instance, justice must allow that his situation was one of extreme difficulty, and admitted probably of no alternative. In both cases our knowledge of the facts is much too imperfect to enable us to form a correct opinion as to the propriety of his conduct, much less to justify us in condemning him unheard.
In all the relations of private life, he appears to have been highly exemplary; and his conduct as a son, a husband, and a father merited every praise. To the more gentle and amiable parts of his character the most certain of all testimonies may be found in the warm attachment of his friends, and in the fond and affectionate recollections of every branch of his family.
There are some moral defects very difficult to be avoided by those persons, who from a situation comparatively obscure, rise to sudden distinction and celebrity. From these failings Park was happily exempt. He was a stranger to all vanity and affectation; and notwithstanding his great popularity and success, appears to have lost no portion of the genuine simplicity of his character and manners. This simplicity originated perhaps in a considerable degree from a certain coldness and reserve, which, as was before remarked, rendered him very indifferent, and perhaps somewhat averse, to mixed or general society. It was probably owing to the same cause that his conversation, for a man who had seen so much, had nothing remarkable, and was rarely striking or animated. Hence, although his appearance was interesting and prepossessing, he was apt to disappoint the expectations of strangers; and those persons who estimated his general talents from his powers of conversation, formed an erroneous and inadequate opinion of his merits.
In his person he was tall, being about six feet high, and perfectly well proportioned. His countenance and whole appearance were highly interesting; and his frame active and robust, fitted for great exertions and the endurance of great hardships. His constitution had suffered considerably from the effects of his first journey into Africa, but seems afterwards to have been restored to its original vigour, of which his last expedition afforded the most ample proofs.
Park’s family consisted of three sons and one daughter, all of whom, together with Mrs. Park their mother, are now living. He also left a mother, four brothers (of whom one is lately dead), and three sisters.
In the death of Mungo Park we have to lament not only the loss of the most distinguished traveller of modern times, but the failure of an expedition, honourable to Great Britain and highly interesting to humanity and science. For a time this unfortunate event has had the effect of damping the ardour of geographical enquiry, and of discouraging all ideas of farther endeavours to explore the interior of Africa. But we may hope that the publication of Park’s Journal will revive the attention of enlightened men to this subject; and that the prospect of future discoveries in that quarter of the globe will not be hastily abandoned.
It has been seen that Park’s failure was entirely owing to the improper season at which his journey was undertaken, and that this circumstance was occasioned by a series of unforeseen delays arising from a great variety of causes. A slight difference in some of those accidents which retarded his progress to the Niger, might obviously have had a most material influence on the ultimate success of the expedition. Thus, for example, if he could have sailed for Africa immediately after receiving his official instructions, if his passage had been quicker, if fewer causes of delay had occurred on the coast and afterwards during the journey, and finally, if the rainy season, which is subject to some slight variations, had commenced a little later; — he might perhaps have been able to reach the banks of the Niger in good order, and with a loss comparatively small; and in that case might have proceeded on his journey eastwards at the conclusion of the rainy season with some prospect of success. But the safe arrival of Park’s expedition at the Niger, which was only just possible in the actual circumstances of the case, would have been morally certain provided he had sailed from England (as he ought to have done) before the month of October, and had been ready to take his departure from the Gambia towards the interior at the end of November; from which time there is always an uninterrupted continuance of fine and healthy weather during a period of five months.
Hence we may safely conclude that, supposing all reasonable precautions to be taken, an expedition similar to that of Park, may penetrate to the Niger and along the banks of that river as far as the eastern frontier of Bambarra, in good order and with very little loss; and this most important fact is justly considered by Park himself as being fully established by his own disastrous expedition. [Footnote: Journal, p. 140.]
In what degree it is practicable to penetrate beyond Bambarra yet remains to be ascertained; since it cannot be said that this question is determined, or even materially affected, by what took place in Park’s expedition. No general inference upon this subject can be fairly deduced from an extreme case, such as Park’s evidently was; nor does it follow, because a small party consisting of four Europeans and a few Negroes, was attacked and overpowered, that an expedition well appointed and properly organized, would experience a similar fate. It may be observed also that, ill provided as Park was with the means of defence, he was able to proceed in safety beyond Tombuctoo, where the Moors are most numerous, and would in a short time have reached a country beyond the Moorish territory, where the danger would probably have been much diminished. [Footnote: See letter to Sir Joseph Banks (ante p. lxxviii) in which Park says “that, according to the information of the guide, they should touch on the Moors no where but at Tombuctoo.”] Neither is it altogether certain that his death was not one of those accidents, to which such enterprises are peculiarly liable, but from which no general conclusion can be drawn.
[Footnote: Such, for example, as Captain Cooke’s death, which certainly affords no argument against voyages of discovery. It may be observed that the statement in the note annexed to Amadi Fatouma’s Journal (see p. 213) gives some countenance to the supposition mentioned in the text. From this note it appears that certain presents which Amadi had delivered from Park to one of the chiefs of Haoussa for the use of the king, were with-held from the latter in consequence of the chief’s being informed that Park would not return; and that the king’s resentment, occasioned by his receiving no presents, was the cause of Park’s death. — It may be proper on this occasion to apprize the reader that the notes to Isaaco’s Journal (except in one instance, p. 181) are all of them printed from the manuscript of the translation, and appear to be parts of the original document transmitted from Africa. They seem to have been inserted by the translator; and in several cases, apparently, were added from information which he received from Isaaco.]
It will appear, upon a due consideration of these circumstances, that reasonable and sufficient inducements still exist for attempting farther discoveries in Africa; and that nothing really unfavourable to such undertakings can with propriety be inferred from Park’s late failure; but on the contrary, that the events of that mission furnish additional grounds of encouragement and new prospects of success. The proper mode also of conducting such discoveries in future, may now be considered as ascertained. Before Park’s late Journey, the important question whether an expedition of this kind should be accompanied by a military escort, was involved in some difficulty. Apprehensions might then be entertained lest the appearance of an armed force passing through the country might alarm the jealousy of the natives, and produce hostile combinations, by which any small body of European troops would sooner or later be overpowered. It might also have been doubted, and with great appearance of reason, whether it would be practicable on such a march to obtain proper supplies of provisions. The history of Park’s expedition appears to furnish a clear and satisfactory solution of both these difficulties; and experience having shewn that large tracts of the African continent may be traversed in safety by the aid even of a small and ill organized force under circumstances the most unfavourable, the question as to the expediency of a military escort may now be said to be determined.
The sufferings of Park during his former journey, and the melancholy fate of Major Houghton, Mr. Horneman, and other travellers distinguished by their enterprise and ability, demonstrate the utter hopelessness of such undertakings, when attempted by solitary and unprotected individuals. Even if the two schemes of discovery were equally practicable, the military plan (supposing always that the force employed is strictly limited to the purposes of security and protection) would on several accounts be entitled to a decided preference; inasmuch as it affords more ample means of observation and enquiry, as it is calculated to inspire the Africans with a greater respect for the European character, and as it may be rendered far more efficacious for the purposes of friendly and commercial intercourse.
[Footnote: If the practice of sending out single individuals on journies of discovery into Africa is still to be continued, it would be better perhaps to employ Mahometan travellers, who might accompany some of the great caravans. The dangers, to which European adventurers are always exposed, from the ferocity and intolerance of the Moors, would thus in a considerable degree be avoided. There is reason to believe that individuals sufficiently intelligent for an expedition of this kind, and whose constitutions would also be well suited to the climate of Africa, might be found without much difficulty among the Mahometan inhabitants of Hindostan. If a fair judgment can be formed of this class of the British subjects from the Travels of Abu Taleb (the genuine and highly interesting production of a native Mahometan of the East Indies), a very favourable opinion must be entertained of their intelligence and general information.]
The scheme of an expedition into the interior of Africa, formed upon these principles, has lately been proposed from high authority, which holds out a considerable prospect of success. From the quarter in which the suggestion has originated, a reasonable hope may be entertained that this plan, of which the following is a short outline, will ultimately be carried into effect.
[Footnote: The particulars of the projected expedition here alluded to, which are given in the text, are extracted from a very interesting communication lately made to the African Institution by Major General Gordon, Quarter Master General of the British Forces.]
In the Royal African corps now serving at Sierra Leone there are three companies of black men, enlisted from the slaves obtained from the numerous slave trading vessels which have at different times been condemned as prize upon that coast. Among these there are several natives of Tombuctoo, Haoussa, Bornou and other countries even more distant; some of them having been brought from parts of Africa so remote as to have been two, three and four moons upon their journey to the coast. Most of them have acquired sufficient knowledge of the English language to express themselves so as to be understood, although they retain their native languages, which they still speak with fluency.
These men, having been trained and disciplined with great care, are become excellent soldiers, and are spoken of by the Governor of Sierra Leone in the highest terms of approbation for their obedience, steadiness and general good conduct. They are of course inured to the climate, are accustomed to hardships and fatigues, and capable of the greatest exertions. They are at the same time courageous and high spirited, feeling a pride and elevation from the advantages which they enjoy, and the comparative rank to which they have attained; and they are warmly attached to the British Government.
It is proposed that a proper and well selected detachment of these troops should form the basis of the intended expedition; and that, besides the person having the immediate command, one or two other leading persons should be appointed, each properly qualified to assist in the direction and management of the principal concerns, and (in case of emergency) to undertake the sole charge of the expedition. The number of the troops employed would of course be regulated by a due regard to the probable means of subsistence; but it is proposed that they should be sufficiently numerous to enable the leaders, in cases where it might be expedient, to separate with small detachments, taking distinct lines of march as local circumstances and other occasions might require.
[Footnote: The writer is well aware that, in some of the opinions which he has expressed with regard to the black troops of Sierra Leone, he can hardly expect the concurrence of several excellent individuals, among the best friends of the African cause, who are known to be averse to the employment of Negroes in the military service; and he is ready to admit that the practice which has prevailed of enlisting captured Africans is liable to some abuse. Let such abuses be anxiously guarded against by all the means which legislative wisdom can devise; let every charge of misconduct in this respect be rigorously investigated; and if it should appear to be well founded, let it be pursued with the utmost strictness and severity. But let not occasional abuses be urged as valid arguments against the practice itself, if it should be ascertained to be, on the whole, beneficial to the Africans. It has been stated by enlightened and benevolent persons, who have witnessed the state of slavery in the West Indies (and the assertion has every appearance of probability) that the embodying and employment of black troops has had the happiest effect in elevating and improving the Negro character, and in giving a greater degree of importance to that oppressed race. In the instance of Sierra Leone, to which these observations more immediately relate, compare the situation of a captured Negro, when rescued from the horrors of a slave vessel with that of the same man a short time afterwards, when serving as a British soldier! The ordinary condition of human life has nothing similar to this change; it is a transition from the most abject misery to ease, comfort, and comparative dignity. — Add to this, the extreme difficulty (which every unprejudiced enquirer must admit) attending the management and disposal of great numbers of these captured Negroes in a small colony like Sierra Leone; and the utter impossibility, considering their savage ignorance and total want of habits of industry, of providing all of them, or even any tolerable number, with agricultural establishments.]
The principal objects of this expedition would be similar in all respects to those of Park’s last journey — to ascertain the course and termination of the Niger, to acquire a geographical knowledge of the countries through which it flows; and to procure all possible information relative to the condition of the inhabitants, their commercial relations and their general state of improvement. With a view to the attainment of these objects of practical and scientific enquiry, the leader of the expedition would be enjoined in the most strict and positive terms by his official instructions, to avoid all acts of aggression towards the natives, and (except in cases of absolute self-defence) to abstain from every species of violence. He would be farther directed to use his utmost endeavours to establish a friendly intercourse and communication with the inhabitants; and for this purpose to employ the most intelligent of the black troops, in all cases in which it might be practicable, as interpreters of the expedition and messengers of peace and conciliation.
By the plan which has thus shortly been described, every disadvantage which attended Park’s mission, would be avoided, and all its defects supplied; and there seems to be every reasonable assurance that an expedition, formed and conducted upon such principles (with a due attention to the proper season for travelling), would be attended with ultimate success.
It would be difficult to anticipate the full extent of those beneficial consequences which may ultimately be expected from the successful result of such an expedition. We may perhaps be justified in expecting that the intercourse, thus formed with the interior of Africa, will eventually open new communications of trade, and possibly create new markets; that a certain portion of that vast commerce, which is now carried on with Tombuctoo from Morocco and the shores of the Mediterranean, may be diverted to the western coast; and that great quantities of European goods, now conveyed through other channels, may be transported into the centre of Africa through the new route of the Niger.
But without speculating too confidently upon commercial revolutions of the nature here alluded to, which are for the most part very slow and gradual, and seldom effected without much difficulty; we may safely conclude that any rational and well concerted expedition to the interior of Africa must be of great efficacy in promoting and extending the legitimate and beneficial commerce with different parts of that vast continent, which has been rapidly advancing since the Abolition of the slave trade. [Footnote: See Appendix, No. VI.] We may also reasonably expect that such enterprises, judiciously conducted, will have important effects upon the civilization and general improvement of Africa, by exciting industry and diffusing useful knowledge among the natives; and that some portion of these advantages may, in due time, be extended to those remote and sequestered countries, which are at present excluded from all intercourse with Europe, and abandoned to hopeless ignorance and barbarism. Let us hope that the honour of passing those barriers, which have hitherto separated Africa from the civilized world, is reserved for the courage and perseverance of that nation, by whose enlightened and disinterested exertions so much has been effected in modern times, for the advancement of geographical knowledge. The voyages of discovery which have been undertaken by the command of His present Majesty, unstained by the guilt of conquest, and directed exclusively towards objects of humanity and science, have conferred a lasting distinction on the British name and character. The attempt to explore the interior of Africa, dictated by the same generous views, is in no respect less interesting, nor does it promise less important results, even than those great undertakings; and it will be peculiarly worthy of an age and nation, rendered for ever memorable in the annals of mankind by the Abolition of the African slave trade.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:12