BISHOP H. M. TURNER, D.D. LL. D
PUBLISHED BY HIS CONSENT
PUBLISHING HOUSE A. M. E. SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION
Steamship “City of Paris,” October 15, 1891.
I am out on the ocean sailing–or rather steaming–to all human appearances to the unknown. Where?
I left the great city, New York, yesterday about two o’clock, with peculiar sensations.
I had long contemplated a trip to Africa, the world’s future paradise, but had never realized what it was to start. I never dreamed that it would take the starch out of a fellow as it did me.
The hurly-burly of preparation and the desire to leave absorbed every faculty of my soul; but when I mounted this mighty sea craft and looked down upon the faces of Rev. Theodore Gould, Dr. Derrick, the presiding elders, Morgan and Israel Derricks, and several other ministers who stood with upturned faces–also Mrs. Dr. Derrick, Mrs. Bolden and a number of ladies, all of whom waved handerchiefs at me as the ship steamed out–I began to realize that this was more than an ordinary trip to some portion of our common territory.
Mrs. Dr. Derrick touched me when she raised her handkerchief to her eyes; but the thought rushed to me, That is womanish, and I tried to dismiss it. But in a moment my eyes fell upon my son, David M. Turner, who had come from Washington City to see me off, despite the fact that I had told both sons to attend to their business, and not spend money to bother after me. David, however, ignored my order and came anyhow, and as I espied him looking up wistfully and then dropping his head, my emotions reached their culmination, all my manhood succumbed, and tears suffused my face. I loved David as I never dreamed of before. The other children appeared before me in detail, and this thought rushed upon me, Mother is gone, wife is gone, and now possibly children are gone. My mind flashed through the Church, and an inkling of dislike here and there
I had indulged, owing possibly to misunderstanding in most instances, all fled, and I found myself loving everybody I had left behind. I never loved in all my life as I did then, and do now, and expect to while I live.
Some four hours after we left New York, one of the ship’s officers appeared in my state-room, and told me to follow him. He led me to a saloon state-room, which he told me was to be mine alone. It possessed every comfort the mind of man could conceive.
Its furniture and conveniences looked to me to be too superb to be risked upon the water; but I thought that it was no more valuable than the thousand or more persons on board–not the one millionth part so valuable.
The ship rocked and rolled a little last night, but not from the effect of any wind that blew. The sea-swells were the result of a gale which had soon subsided. Many persons, however, cascaded a little, but it only sharpened my appetite.
This morning at the breakfast table, a gentleman in my front called my name in a clear voice and said, “Good morning!” I looked up and it was H. I. Kimball, the man who built the great Kimball House in Atlanta, Ga. Mutual congratulations were passed at meeting at the same table at sea, if not on land. Much of the day has been spent in conversation with this great financier. He paid many compliments to Bishop Gaines, Alexander Hamilton, the famous house-builder, William Finch, tailor, and a host of colored men of Atlanta.
About two o’clock to-day our ship overtook the steamship “Germanic,” which left New York four hours ahead of us yesterday. We ran side by side for some time, but the “Germanic” had to yield to the great speed of this large ocean greyhound.
Elder Geda, who is with me, and is in another cabin not quite so well furnished, has made more acquaintances than I could make in a week. He disregards introductions, knows everybody because they are human, and everybody knows him
The ocean, which has behaved so well ever since we left the city, is being lashed into fury by a rising wind; but the ship runs steadily, and before the big waves come I will go to bed.
The breeze calmed down last night, and I slept like a log. This morning the sun is shining in his splendor, and while the ocean surface is throbbing with the pulsations of life, the mammoth ship made its way like a thing of life. Two steamers bound for New York appeared in the distance, one in the forenoon and the other in the afternoon.
Yesterday, up to twelve o’clock, we had come 312 miles, and to-day up to the same hour, 427 miles. Some of the officers are mad because we did not make 500 miles.
I had a long talk with Col. Jas. D. Patterson, of Richmond, Va., to-day. He is a rich tobacco merchant. He paid Dr. Derrick a marvelous compliment, and poohed at the idea of any one attempting to criticise him while at Richmond, Va.
About one o’clock a school of porpoises or cetaceous sea-hogs appeared near the ship, and leaped and frolicked for an hour. All eyes were fastened upon them till they disappeared in the distance. Shortly after, a flock of what are called Mother Carey’s chickens flew along just above the water surface, and many predicted a storm; but no storm has arrived up to ten o’clock to-night.
A gentleman from New York, said to be worth one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, is a steerage passenger, and has dressed himself quite coarsely to keep from attracting attention; but some of the saloon passengers know him, and such a cursing as he gets is non-repeatable. A gentleman said, he loved money too, and was almost a miser, but such miserliness as that was a shame to humanity.
It has been very warm, but it grows chilly as we approach the Newfoundland coast.
This morning was chilly and misty, and the sea a little rolling, but everything is pleasant and inspiring. Congratulations upon such a fine trip so far are abundant. The ship is so long and reaches over so many of these short waves that no one realizes that the sea is not smooth when inside.
A whale was seen in the distance this morning, rising up and spouting water, but soon disappeared.
At twelve o’clock to-day we had come 437 miles since yesterday at the same hour.
A little before midday four small boats, said to be fishing crafts, were passed, floating around in the ocean, yet hundreds of miles from the banks of Newfoundland. I would be afraid of those little boats on the Potomac River, much less on the great ocean.
Rev. T. R. Geda has made an ocean of acquaintances, and an Englishman offers him a position in the Salvation Army in London. He leaves it with me as to whether he shall accept it or not. I told him I would not release him from accompanying me to Africa, unless they wanted him to beat the drum for the army.
We have had a delightful trip up to the present, but the wind is rising, and to-morrow is predicted a bad day.
The wind is blowing stiffly and the ship rocks lively. The whitecapped waves chase each other grandly. Divine service was called at 10:30 o’clock, but nothing was done or said, save the captain reading the English prayer service. The writer did not think he could stand to speak intelligently while the ship was rocking; the other ministers thought the same. “Oh, ye of little faith.” At 12 o’clock we had come 436 miles.
The wind increased yesterday afternoon and last night. A mighty wave dashed over the lower pass-way of the ship at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and knocked down a dozen men and five ladies, and drenched them from head to foot. Some time after, I went strolling back to the upper deck of the second cabin, to view the sea from the rear of the ship, when a giant wave swept over with a vengeance and I escaped by jumping behind the kitchen house. Some of the officers of the ship made me hustle back to the saloon, as I came within an inch of being washed overboard in mid-ocean. A terrific sea struck the ship about 7 o’clock and she rocked as though every moment would be the last. I leaped to my feet frightened. The passengers laughed by the scores and tried to comfort me by telling what sights they had seen and passed through safely. I tried to make out that I was not much frightened, but I believe I was. I sat about with my
heart in my mouth, and finally went to my stateroom and committed my all to God. I told the Lord if my trip to Africa was in keeping with his will, to remove this fear and put me to sleep. I had hardly arisen from my knees when all fear was gone, and, notwithstanding the gale that blew and the creaking of the ship’s timbers, I was scarcely in bed before I was asleep.
This morning, when I arose at 9 o’clock, I knew the ocean was rough, for the ship seemed to be laboring for life. I dressed and went out, and, oh heavens, what a sight! As far as the eye could scan, mountain waves were rolling in matchless grandeur, between which great valleys lay, more or less undulating, till another surging billow rolled across the plain and sent its spray skyward. Old “Neptune,” the ocean’s god, had been using wind withes to lash the blue waters, and they were churning out foam jewels as ornaments to his brow, and throwing misty vesicles to weave rainbows to crown it; for they were abundant in the north-east. But the scale turns to-day. Yesterday, when I got frightened, several passengers laughed, but nearly every one of them is scared or sick. I am neither, thank God. Some are saying the ship can’t stand it; others say nothing, but are fearfully alarmed. I feel to be in God’s hands and am cool, cheerfu and happy. Indeed, there is no time to be frightened when such superb grandeur meets the eye in all directions. Up to 12 o’clock to-day we had come 421 miles–marvelous running for such a gale; fortunately, however, the wind and mighty waves were mostly in our rear. But this mighty ship is 580 feet long 62½ feet wide, 2,000 horse power, 10,500 tons burden, and has on board 1,225 persons. A ship passes on the left, going to New York, but she is small, light, and rides the mountainous billows like a duck. The captain of our ship comes into the smoking saloon and sits down. A number gather around him and inquire about the possibilities of the storm allaying; he tells them it will increase for some hours yet, but laughs at any one apprehending danger. He says that this little shake-up is mere child’s play; that the ship is built with twelve compartments and any one or even two might full up and the ship could not sink. The ladies of the saloon cabin go to state-rooms, the ladies of the second cabin sing, the ladies of the steerage sing; the men of the steerage play
cards and sing some of the sweetest hymns I ever heard. I never knew before that men could gamble and sing so solemnly. Nearly everybody is inclined, more or less, to some kind of game on ship.
Last night, as the captain said, the wind got worse and worse, till about 11 o’clock, when it blew terrifically. I think it must have blown 70 miles an hour. I looked out upon the fearful face of the great deep, and the scene beggared description; but our Herculean vessel was riding like a master. Some said they had crossed the ocean dozens of times, but had never seen anything like this. Elder Geda, who had been to Spain and had seen such mighty seas, had to give it up. A gentleman who had gone with General Grant around the world, had never seen the sea worse. But the more it blew and raged, the more contented I felt. I tried to get up a scare once to make me pray more earnestly, but could not for my life. I went to bed quietly, slept like a log, awoke this morning, the sun was shining, the winds had stopped, the ocean was calming down and the fuss all over. Everybody was out for breakfast, and congratulations upon our safety were mutual.
I have had no sea-sickness whatever and have always been ready to eat; yet many have cascaded fearfully.
The negro question has been discussed in all forms since we left New York. The mark of Cain, the curse of Noah, the color of the devil, the negro in history, his place in science and philosophy, the unity of the human race, his future in the South, his status in the nation, and all such subjects have been dissected. God has helped me to make some of our learned American wiseacres laughing-stocks in the eyes of Englishmen. It is astonishing to see how little some of our would-be great and wise white men know about the negro, his ability, his progress, his books, newspapers, churches, home tastes, etc. Mr. Kimball makes the negro of the South a mighty man. He puts it on thicker than I can. When he starts, I hold up; he needs no help.
We are fast approaching Queenstown, where I may mail this letter. Old ocean is as quiet as a lamb. All the decks and walks on the ship are crowded with gentlemen and ladies, pacing backward and forward,
resembling a picnic festival. Bishop Tanner and the late Bishop Campbell are the most frequently inquired for.
The rise and progress of the A. M. E. Church, as given by the writer from time to time, is an item for much comment and high congratulations. Our bishops, general officers and ministers would be gratified to hear what is said complimentary to our ecclesiastical independency, even by members of the M. E. Church.
Bishop Arnett’s great speech at Washington was the subject of many compliments, also.
Steamship “City of Paris,” October 21, 1891.
LAST night, after closing my other letter, a Chicago gentleman, who had watched the meteorological changes with cautious interest, came and sat down by my side and said, “We are all to go down tonight.” I asked him, Go down where? He said to the bottom of the ocean; that he had just looked at the barometer and it was very low. He was terribly excited and tried to excite everybody else; but the passengers laughed at him and called him a crank. Supper being over, the saloon was cleared for a concert, and it was soon packed to witness the display of talent. The actors were improvised, however, for the occasion, yet several were professional singers, readers, speakers, etc. The programme ran as follows: 1st, piano duet; 2d, recitation, by Dr. J. Bradford Slack, B. A.; 3d, violin solo, by Miss Dixon; 4th, song, by Payne Clark; 5th, recitation, by Mrs. A. L. Stewart; 6th, “Emperor ‘William’s Visit to the Vatican,” by Very Rev. P. M. Baumgarten, LL. D.; 7th, song, by Miss Lincoln; 8th, reading from “A Dream,” by Rev. A. T. Pierson, D. D.; 9th, “My country, ’tis of thee,” by Miss Lincoln; 10th, “God, save the Queen,” by Mr. Clark. The whole affair was of a very high order. As for Mrs. Stewart’s recitation, which was novel from the fact it was historical, one cannot tell half of its superbness. She simply beat any thing I ever heard. When she began, I said, “Oh, you go along, Hallie Q. can beat that;” but, as she waxed warm with her subject, I had to say, “Well, Hallie, I fear she has got you.”
But about nine o’clock, as our Chicago weathercock had predicted, a gale struck the ship, blowing seventy-five miles an hour. She careened from side to side for a while. Several looked unusually white, but they sat still. One of the gentlemen cried out, “All’s right, we have one of the best ships on the ocean and one of the best captains to manage her.” I soon left, however, went in my stateroom and
held a private interview with Captain God. The wind howled for a short time and then subsided. I went to sleep and was awakened this morning to look at Queenstown, Ireland. We were safely in the harbor and nothing hurt. Our Chicago man, however, left the ship, and said he would take the cars through Ireland for Liverpool, as he knew another gale would strike us while running down the Irish Sea. He was mistaken, however, as we found the Irish Sea as calm as a lamb. The passengers were all glad when the Chicago man left, and thought if they had thrown him overboard in mid-ocean we would have had a finer trip.
With my large marine glasses I had a fine view of Queenstown, and, during the day, of over two hundred miles of the Irish coast. Queenstown did not nearly meet my expectations in size and grandeur. It stands upon a declivitous elevation not over a mile in length, with one large cathedral, some smaller churches, school-houses and several blocks of antiquely built houses, covered with tiles, etc. But the Irish coast, minus trees, presented a most magnificent spectacle. My glasses brought distant fields and far-off houses and sceneries to view so vividly that it was a charm for me, and I did not wonder that no snake could live there; yet some few snaky Irish have come to America, I am compelled to admit.
Our ship has reached the Liverpool bar, but must wait here till 12 o’clock to-night before she can enter, as the tide is too low to cross. The passengers are sitting out talking, singing, looking at the lights, viewing tug-boats pass, and congratulating each other upon our safe arrival. I am bored with invitations to visit gentlemen and ladies in London, Yorkshire, Cork, Paris and other points. It turns out now, as we are across the ocean, that we had some mighty men on board, but they kept so quiet that no one but the clerk knew it, and he was ordered not to tell. I must go to bed; sleepy.
The ship was in the docks of Liverpool when I awoke this morning. The gong rings, and we are all glad that breakfast will be tendered; we feared that we would get none. We eat like hungry wolves and are arranging to leave the ship. Mr. Kimball passes me and says, “See here, Bishop, you cannot afford to be small over here; you must
give your state-room steward ten shillings, your dining-room steward ten shillings, and the porter ten shillings.” I asked him how much ten shillings were. He said, “Two dollars and a half.” I frowned, but he said, “No use to frown; it counts up, but you must stand it or be set down as small.” I came to time.
Disembarkation soon followed, and we were ushered into the custom-house, where the examination of our trunks took place, and such a scene beggars description. Some laughable things transpired. My trunks were passed by. One man started to investigate them, but another said, “Let him alone; didn’t he tell you he was going to Africa? Let him take anything to Africa he wants; they need it there.”
Elder Geda and myself took a carriage for the Session Hotel, right in the heart of Liverpool. In front, stood the towering monument of Wellington; a little further, the great building known as St. George’s Hall; just to the right, the mighty Art Building; and to the left, the Technological Building, etc. A surging mass of humanity was moving in every direction. The tunic-uniformed and helmet-headed police were plentiful, it is true; but unlike our American police, not one had a club or a billy or a pistol about him. All the use they had for hands was to put them in their pockets. They say the American police are a set of brutes, and I about agree with them.
An English lady, at the dinner-table, became greatly smitten with my hair to-day, stroked it back and said she almost begrudged it to me. I told her thousands of our people in America called my hair bad. She said, “Tell them they are foolish.”
They have the largest horses in Liverpool my eyes ever beheld; they can pull the heaviest burdens I ever saw. Some of their feet look like bushel tubs.
The general intelligence of the people is far ahead of our people, and no wonder; every night there are lectures upon every subject the mind of man can contemplate–astronomy, geology, botany, natural history, conchology, water, smoke, continents, mountains, valleys, clouds, anatomy, physiology, lice, spiders, whisky, eatables, shipping, trees and everything. Elder Geda and I heard a Roman Catholic priest lecture on botany with masterly ability this evening, yet not a cent was charged at the door; all these lectures are free to the public.
I have told our young ministers for years to learn to lecture; that our race will never be anything till they do so. I am now satisfied, as never before, that I was right. These lectures are attended, too, not by the finely attired only, but by the laboring people. But, to cap the climax, after the lectures, theatres and churches close, the people by thousands upon thousands gather in all the large city squares, and, unless too cold or rainy, sing some of the sweetest hymns ever heard on earth. Men, women, children, strangers, all join in, till the melody of the song literally reverberates through the city! They bring organs into the streets and somebody plays while the people sing for about an hour; then all go home to bed. I never dreamed that such procedure existed this side of heaven. I have been preaching for years that the mission of the gospel is the heavenization of earth, and now I am sure my position is correct, if I ever had any doubt before.
Elder Geda and myself went down this afternoon and looked at an African ship which will leave Saturday, 24th inst., for the places of our destination. The ship is called “Roquelle.” We met several native Africans from Sierra Leone, of the Crew or Kroo tribe, who know Brother Frederick, and when they were told by Elder Geda that I was going there, they laughed and shook my hand for joy. They said, “We been look for ze long time.” The Crew tribe seems to be a superior class of men. Their heads are round, symmetrical and frontly high; only one cephalic cranium of the six, and not a receder in the number. The ship “Roquelle” is rather small, but they say she rides old ocean like a duck. At all events we shall try her Saturday morning at ten o’clock. Several white African merchants are here, and I find them a little tainted with color-phobia, as Bishop Tanner calls it. These Africans say, “He not act so in our country.”
I am urged to remain over and speak on the Sabbath, and to visit London and other points of interest, but I prefer to proceed to Africa.
Last night several gentlemen called into the hotel parlors, and we talked till twelve o’clock. We discussed the McKinley bill at great length. They told me how it affected England, and how many manufacturing places it had closed. I gave them to understand that somebody had to be affected, and that free tariff or no tariff would close up our manufactories by the scores, and Great Britain could endure
it as well as we. I never let on to them that I did not care three cents about it, one way or the other; and I do not, as it is all white man anyway. Yet as they thought I was a big factor in the matter, I let it go so.
I have traveled through the city to-day considerably, but to attempt a detailed account of my observations would be an effort of folly. I might as well try to describe creation as to describe my observations to-day, on the docks, the ships, historic halls, monuments, art scenes, relics, books, manuscripts, mementos, furniture, paintings, vehicles, etc.
I looked and reasoned about my race, noted how far we are behind, and the possibilities of continuing there, and got sick, went to my hotel and fell over in bed and dreamed of earthquakes, till my dead wife appeared and said, “Wait, God will wake our people up from their slumbers by-and-by.”
A gentlemen from Ireland wishes Elder Geda and myself to visit him. He said, “We have some colored negroes over there, who are very nice people.” Geda laughed; I winked at him to stop. The man meant all right. I never thought of the term, “colored negroes,” before, but it fits in correctly in many instances, I confess.
Before closing this letter, as we shall leave for Africa in the morning (for I had rather see Africa than London and Paris put together), I wish to express my gratitude to Mr. William Henry Whittingham and his cultured wife, of Skipton, Yorkshire, England, for kind attention and valuable information since we have been in the Session Hotel. They are only stopping here, it is true, but they know all about the country.
Steamship “Roquelle,” October 24, 1891.
When I last night wrote to you, I was in the Session Hotel in Liverpool; now I am crossing the Irish Sea, inclining southward, bent upon Africa as my point of destination.
The ocean is quite calm and the hope is we may have a quiet sail, notwithstanding the gales which ships have encountered for the last three weeks. One African ship which left Liverpool some days ago, had to return, owing to the unusual winds and heavy billows.
I had some long interviews with the leading merchants of Liverpool, and with men who manage iron ships by the scores, and the Lord Bishop, as the writer was called, was heard with great eagerness. What may follow I dare not indicate at present, but the writer is offered more than he would think of accepting.
I am cabined with a regular African, and without doubt he is one of the most learned men I ever met. His name is Matthew Thomas, of Lagos, West Coast; black as ink, reads and talks English, French, German, Italian and Spanish; reads Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Syriac and Arabic, and virtually talks Latin. He took up the New Testament this afternoon, and found out I had been reading some Latin, and he read it awhile and quoted so much scripture in Latin and Greek that I had to go to nodding to get him to stop. Talk about the African being ignorant! Here is one who has no superior for book learning in our country, yet he is only 37 years of age. Everything involving book learning he seems to be the master of. If it were not for my knowledge of science and transcendentalisms, I would be afraid of him; but while he runs away from me in books, I can hold him a little in theories. But for the fact that he takes his today when he feels like it, I should urge that be invited to a chair of languages in some of our colleges. He however holds a commission in his pocket which might prevent him from accepting.
I am surprised at the number of African ships running out of Liverpool, yet they cannot accommodate the trade and passengers. This ship is crowded to density with passengers.
They are building a number of other larger ships for trade. The African Steamship Navigation Company, of which the Roquelle, (this ship) is one, has fifty-three steamships in the African trade, besides what Germany, France, etc., have running there.
Europe has about eighty steamships hugging the African coast the year round, yet our country cannot find employment for one. But English merchants soon will if contemplated measures are not foiled.
This is Sabbath again and I am out on the deep blue waters. Divine service was held to-day at 10:30 o’clock. Elder Geda and myself took part. The sun shines with splendor and the ocean is quiet. We are verging the Bay of Biscay; some fears are entertained of a little rough weather, but the captain says not. Elder Geda sang a number of old-time hymns this evening to the pleasure of all who heard them. Rev. John Edmond Sedgewick, D. D., of the English Church, is a passenger to one of the islands; he is a man of rare learning in theology, yet he is high church to kill. Edwin Bergstrester, M. D., of Abilene, Kan., United States, is also a passenger on the ship and is en route for the Madeira Islands.
The wind rose last night and the sea was quite ugly this morning. We were almost to the Bay of Biscay and considerable uneasiness existed as to the possibilities of encountering a gale while crossing that rough arm of the ocean, for the Bay of Biscay is always disorderly at best. About 12 o’clock we entered the bay. Elder Geda suggested that we go and pray for God to quiet the winds. We went. Shortly the wind quieted down. Whether God heard his or my prayer I cannot tell. The captain said that after 12 o’clock the winds would calm any way. The ocean is somewhat undulating, but this is said to be indigenous to the bay.
Dr. Sedgewick, after scanning cursorily “Methodist Polity,” thinks the A. M. E. church has the best machinery for the African mission work of any Church in Christendom. He is amazed at such a
church among the people of African descent. He is also surprised that the author of the work on the “Relation of Baptized Children to the Church,” (by Dr. L. J. Coppin) should be a black man.
I am becoming accustomed to ocean life. At first the rocking of the ship was rather annoying, but it is now pleasant; one can sleep so comfortably in the rolling cradle of the sea. They all say I am a fine sailor, but had they known my fright at first, they might not have been so complimentary. I was quiet, but looking heavenward in earnest.
We had a grand time last night. Right in the Bay of Biscay everything was as calm as any one could wish; all day we have had the same. There was a considerable sensation about 3 o’clock, when the engine stopped and smoke was seen rushing out of the engine room. But it turned out to be only a hot shaft, which was soon cooled off.
A small boat passed us to-day with two little sails, skipping nicely over the water, a thousand miles from land. Several birds came last night and took up their abode upon the ship and have remained with us all day, flying off and on again. A pet goat is on the ship, which is the playmate of every one; his instinct about gales and storms is better than the captain’s barometer. Dr. Stephenson ought to be here to direct his morals. When I reached Liverpool I found that Philadelphia time was five hours behind; as I move southwestward I see another change is taking place.
The ocean is smooth as glass. Our ship glides along like a creature of life. The passengers sit on deck, read, sing, play the piano and organ, talk, walk and sleep.
We are gradually approaching the Madeira Islands, which is a great health resort; there are people on the ship from various parts of the world, bound for these islands for the benefit of their health. As we approach the south the sun becomes more vertical in the heavens, and new stars appear which I never saw before. I have not seen the Southern Cross yet, a sight I have desired to see for many years; it cannot be seen from the United States.
To-day at 12 o’clock we were in latitude 39 degrees, 44 seconds north,
and in longitude 13 degrees west; so you see we are a long way from home.
I have not had the least seasickness yet; they say my stomach is ironclad.
I had a hearty laugh at an African to-day, who bought a new pair of pants and tried to put them on while lying down.
Elder Geda has opened a school for the seven illiterate Africans on the ship.
The ocean is still quiet; scarcely a ripple can be seen upon the great expanse of the deep waters, except what is made by our ship as she curls the waters behind her.
About 10 o’clock to-day an American steamship from New York passed us, going to somewhere, but know one knows where. I was glad to see our flag, while I knew that there was not a star in the galaxy that recognized the manhood of her black inhabitants.
I overheard a conversation to-day going on between a number of whites, English, Welsh, Portuguese, etc., and they all decided that Africa was forever doomed; that white men could not well live there and the black man, whether in Africa or elsewhere, was a failure. They could not understand why God should give the negro the richest spot on earth, and that her people should be the poorest specimens of humanity in the world. They reasoned the negro out as fit for nothing but to play, drink whisky and steal from the white race. After they had concluded I stepped out and met every argument advanced, and told them what I had seen black men do, and while they might steal from white men, they did not steal from each other in Africa, as the whites who lived among them in Africa had to admit.
Mr. Matthew Thomas holds that all races started black, and presents a powerful argument in the maintenance of his position. I told that the learned Professor Winchell had been dismissed from Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, for advancing that doctrine. Mr. Thomas sprang to his feet, and with many gesticulations and, indeed with some genuflections, exclaimed, “Winchell is right; right, I say. Yes, he is a scientist and a philosopher of the first type.” Mr. Thomas reasons
so masterly upon this ethnological postulate that I am almost a convert.
One of the native Africans employed on the ship and the chief cook (white) had a big row to-day. The cook struck at the African twice, but the African did not dodge worth a cent. He stood cool and awaited the blow of his assailant, which was not given. The African said, “Tu lu shu sa moot boo.” I asked one who could speak English what he had said; he replied, “He said that if that man struck him he would throw him in the ocean.”
The days and nights are almost equal in length here; one or two more days’ sail and they will be equal. We are overtaking the sun, it seems.
We are now one hundred miles from the Island of Madeira, where I shall mail this letter; so I close, and will let you know about the island in my next.
Funchal, Madeira Island, October 30, 1891.
I closed my third letter last night when within a hundred miles of the Madeira Island, where I mailed it this-morning.
Early this morning Elder Geda called me and said, “Get up and see a sight.” I feared it was something of a distressing nature, as the tail end of a heavy squall had struck the ship at four o’clock, but reposing in the consciousness that I was in God’s hands, I had fallen asleep again. I got up, however, and walked out upon the deck; and such a scene as met my eye no pen can picture! Thirty miles in front stood the Island of Madeira, with its sunlit brow reaching 6,000 feet into the heavens. All around the ship was still dark; the god of day had not thrown his fiery beams upon the waters about us, but had passed over our heads and was penciling the summits of Madeira with hues of liquid gold. The peaks and splits on the top, and the clouds which floated around the caps of the lofty elevations, all gilded with the varied tints of the sun, imparted a novelization to the sight in mid-ocean, that ecstasized every fiber of my being.
Several days had passed since anything had saluted our eyes but other vessels bound for the ports of their own choice; and here is terra firma again. But it looks like the harbor of heaven itself.
This island, thirty-eight miles long and fifteen miles broad, with a population of 140,000 inhabitants, belongs to Portugal.
As I drew near to this odd projection, towering out of mid-ocean, dotted with houses on its craggy sides, with vineyards and trees all abloom with beautiful and fragrant flowers, I naturally asked the infinite past how long or under what circumstances this babe of nature had been born. I involuntarily exclaimed,
Great granite monster, whence thy birth?
What power upheaved thy giant form?
Why has the rent and laboring earth
Disgorged thee bare to sun and storm?
However, while it presented the appearance of gray granite at a distance, a closer inspection revealed the fact that it was a dark basaltic stone with several precipitous elevations resembling the Palisades on the Hudson River. I do not remember of ever seeing anything answering to it, except between Sherman and Ogden on the Northern Pacific Railroad. As I realized that it was a product of volcanic action, I asked Dr. Sedgewick, how old he supposed it was. He said twenty million years. I told him I was about to hypothecate five million. He thought that would call for aqueous deposits, which did not exist there. But learned as this English prelate is, I think his reasoning faulty. But as your readers may be more concerned about the other phases of the island than its scientific side, let us proceed.
About a mile before we reached Funchal, the principal city, where the ships stop to discharge their cargoes, several small boats with two boys in each met us; one with a shirt off and the other doing the rowing, and such jabber in Portuguese you never heard, begging the passengers to throw money over into the ocean, where the water is five hundred feet deep. Several did so, and they would leap out of their boats and under the water they would go. But in a few moments they would come up with the money in their hand. Dozens of persons threw money in the ocean, but the boys caught it all, and such a babble when they would rise with it! When the ship anchored, for there are no wharfs, then came another bedlam–custom-house officers, quarantine doctors and boat-rowers to carry you ashore for a shilling. The captain said the ship would remain here twenty-four hours.
A missionary stationed here from England, Rev. William G. Smart, came aboard and took Dr. Sedgewick and wife, Elder Geda and myself ashore, and treated us with marked consideration. He showed his mission buildings, gave us a fine dinner, had his school sing for us, etc.
The knives here are sharp on both sides, and as keen as a razor. I cut my mouth with them twice, and for once had to eat with a fork. Fruits of all kind were upon the table, but the passion-fruit beat anything I ever saw.
The Roman Catholics have the island in their clutches. They have here one bishop and 155 priests. They call a Methodist, Baptist,
Presbyterian–or any other Protestant–“an imp of hell.” Priests walk the streets in their robes in all directions, and everybody pays them homage.
You see nothing on wheels; everything is on sleighs pulled by oxen–not horses, mules or asses–yet these oxen, unlike ours, move as fast as our horses. The sleighs glide over the smooth stones as easily as over ice. I saw only one horse on the island, and he was being ridden. It is a mark of distinction to have a horse.
Rev. Emanuel Melin, formerly of Jacksonville, Ill., near Springfield, called upon me, and when I told him I had visited Jacksonville in July, he almost went frantic with delight.
The representative of our government, whom President Harrison has sent here, is an ass, and ought to be moved from here at once. He has not the respect of the rabble, much less the better class. He is an Irish Catholic bigot of the baser sort, and a regular rough besides.
Here is where the celebrated Madeira wines are made, and I find all nations are grabbing for them.
I did not see a colored man on the island; but the Portuguese themselves are yellow people; some have hair quite curly.
Another island juts up out the ocean some 23 miles northeast of Madeira, and is called the Porto Sante Island. Here is where Columbus studied out the route to America. It is now inhabited by only 1,850 persons; the highest point reaches 1,666 feet toward heaven. It, too, is the result of volcanic action. About 11 miles southeast, Desertas Island also lifts a rugged head above the waters, 1,610 feet. It is six miles long and one mile broad. The only inhabitants living upon it are goats and rabbits. The eagles repair there at times to build their nests. There are no snakes upon any of these islands. A legend relates that a man once upon a time started there with some snakes, but a storm sunk the ship and all on board were lost, and no one has tried the experiment since. How the goats and rabbits got upon the barren island no one can surmise. They were said to have been there when first discovered at least 2,700 years ago.
The Madeira Island has a variety of mineral springs, which draw health-seekers from England, France, America, Spain, Italy, etc. But
enough for this island, as the half could not be told of its grandeur, beauty and fertility.
After resting at anchor all night and discharging the remaining cargo this morning, our ship steamed away for the island of Teneriffe this forenoon at 10 o’clock. The wind was a bit brisk and the sea a little undulating; but in a short time all was still and the ocean seemed to get too lazy to move. The day was rather monotonous as some of our passengers had left us at Madeira. We have 255 miles to go before we reach Teneriffe.
Early this morning I arose, dressed and came out to take observations.
The sun while not up, was throwing his illuminated plumes upon the upper atmosphere and floating sheet clouds were fulgent with the glory of his radiant beams, and gray dawn was succumbing to the majesty of his revolving approach, and all the east seemed to be aglow with the imperious hippodrome of concentrated splendor. A short while passed and a crescent oriole oscillated above the ocean’s pulsation, a fiery wheel rises from the depths, and the scene becomes a halo of indescribable grandeur. And then, as if conscious of his matchless majesty, he seemed to look down upon the face of the sleeping ocean, and threw his vermilion tinge with such force that the blue waters themselves vesicated, and to my eye were check-colored for several minutes. But this did not obscure the surface of the seemingly sluggish waters, which were as still as death, for they reflected the prismoid tints of old Sol, till the ocean appeared to be aflame itself. As far as the eye could skirt the blue waters, they appeared to be on fire. I said to Elder Geda, “Great heavens, the ocean is burning!” He laughed and I resumed my balance. I never saw such earthly splendor in my life. I can never see a sight more soul-ravishing, if I live a thousand years; yet they tell me sun-rising in Africa can beat that; but I cannot believe it, as in fact we are now within seventy-five miles of Morocco, Africa, while it will take us some days yet to reach Sierra Leone.
When I had gotton through with sun-rising and its supernalness Mrs. Dr. Sedgewick called my attention to the other side of the ship, as she had been watching for the peak of the Island of Teneriffe. There another scene of huge and rugged majesty met my eye. Teneriffe is about 6,000 feet above the ocean surface, with a massive circular cone extending heavenward 14,000 feet, from the summit of which steam and smoke issue. I had never seen a live volcano before, and, as you judge, it was a novel sight. Geda and I looked on with amazement. As we neared the island you could see sheet clouds mantling it about midway. But, oh, such a sight! It is worth all the travel itself. Teneriffe Island is 61 miles long and 37 miles wide, with a population of 106,000 persons. It is principally composed of volcanic scoria and slag petrescence, with a large number of small cones, slits, gulches and gorges and the mighty peak which can be seen two hundred miles at sea. The early Spanish settlers, for Teneriffe belongs to Spain, called this peak the “Mouth of Hell.” The ancients, you remember, called it the “Abode of Hesperides” and 1,400 years before Christ the peak was called the “Throne of Jupiter.” If I were at my library in Atlanta, I could give you the history of the island, but I have no books here on the subject. I think that Hercules had something to do with this place. I am afraid to quote doubtful history; but I am sure that it was called the “Island of the Blessed,” while it contained the Mouth of Hell. And it is a grand spot. This being Sabbath, and the ship having to remain twenty-four hours or more here, I said to Elder Geda, “Let us go ashore and visit some church.” We did so and fell into a Roman Catholic cathedral. We witnessed a baptism, a funeral, and heard and saw much and understood nothing we heard, for it was all in Spanish. But the dress, looks of the people, beautiful streets, horses, carriages, fine houses, and all told us we were in the midst of excellent people.
The Spanish island has a superior class of people upon it to those in Madeira. I have not seen a black face upon either island, however. The weather is similar to our June here at present. It is quite warm. This morning another fight was on the ship. Three white sailors got in a fight with an African deck hand. They fought till I went after the captain to stop them. The African faced the three as bravely as
a lion, and every time he struck either of them the blood flowed like water. But the three white sailors never drew a drop of blood from him. The captain parted them and took sides with the African. The African said, “Has sa kee foo buer se de hoo,” which means, “I can whip a dozen of such dogs.”
I must close this letter without beginning to describe the many things of interest about Teneriffe. As in fact we are at the Island of the Blessed. Outside of that smoking mountain I have never seen any place that looks more inviting. Yet the mountain has not erupted in one hundred years. We will leave some time to-morrow for the Grand Canary Island–sixty-five miles southeast. I shall mail this letter there.
To-day at 1 o’clock our ship weighed anchor and we started for the Grand Canary Island.
The ocean looked like a great basin of oil or molasses; not a ripple upon the surface. No wonder the people are said to be lazy in this region of the world, for the waters of the sea are too lazy to move; they scarcely want to move when the ship passes through them. The ocean seems to be a huge pond with no life in it. They say it takes a regular toruado to move it. As we steamed out from Teneriffe, and looked back, the volcanic cone lifted its cloudless brow skyward in awful majesty. All eyes were riveted upon the mighty peak, but no steam issued from its summit as we saw yesterday morning. In front stood the Grand Canary, with peaks 7,000 feet high, apparently ten miles off instead of sixty miles, and a placid ocean to pass us safely on.
A gentleman tried to show me a portion of the Saharan Desert in Africa, but I could not see it, nor do I believe he did, though we are on the African coast. They tell me I will see the canary birds flying around wild, for here is the place of their origin.
These islands look grand beyond estimate, and while our ship wastes a sight of time at them, passengers have an opportunity to go ashore and take in the marvelous sights.
The days are two hours longer here than they are at Liverpool, and the weather is quite warm. Nature is all in bloom and flowers are fragrant and sweet.
We reached Grand Canary at 6:30 o’clock this evening, and will remain here at least twenty-four hours.
Geda and I will go out sight-seeing in the morning. Geda says it is the garden of Eden or paradise.
Las Palmas, Grand Canary, November 3, 1891.
After spending twenty-six hours at this magnificent island the ship raised anchor at 7 p. m., and we are just starting again for the remainder of our trip. Early this morning I arose, and, after eating breakfast, Elder Geda and myself went ashore and rode around a crescent-shaped peninsula which joins the larger and smaller islands together, and began to take observations. I soon discovered that the Grand Canary Island was by far the most thrifty place we had visited. There were more ships in the harbor, more evidences of business, and a higher taste for the beautiful and ornamental, but an attempt to describe the museum, concrete pavements, squares of flowers and many other things would be useless.
Extinct volcano craters took up a large share of my attention, with their slag twisted into a thousand singular and unique forms, stalactic in appearance, quite often, and frequently univalvular in shape.
But the most imposing sight, so far as human art extends, was the great Roman Catholic cathedral, a giant building itself, and possessing valuables incalculable. Hearing so much on the way about it, we resolved to see it. About 10 o’clock a boy became our conductor, and proffered to show us in and outside the object of our desire. He led and we followed. As we stepped into the great auditorium the sweetest music conceivable saluted our ears. We sauntered around for a while and stepped into a small room where there was an open door, and where, the boy told us, we could go without violating any rule. In a few moments a priest came in and seized the boy by the ears and knocked him about fearfully, for being in that sacred place. But he said to us, “You are all right; look on, look on.” We were too glad to escape like punishment. The priest then became our conductor, and in broken English began to explain the wonders in view. He had at least a dozen keys, and after showing us the silver altar, which
cost thirty thousand dollars alone, and other golden utensils, diamonds and gems, which must have cost enormous sums, he showed us several old books written upon parchment long before the art of printing was discovered. He showed us a religious work in Latin, written in the year of our Lord 261, making the book 1630 years old. The backs of the books were made of boards, an inch thick, and they were bound with rawhide. Other books were 1300, 1200 and 900 years old, yet the letters were large, well made, and displayed care, neatness, patience, and a particularity that did credit to the scribes of the olden times. Some of these old books were about a yard long, and 20 inches wide, and from 6 to 8 inches thick. I could scarcely lift one of them.
The sight of these old volumes, and the struggles and revolutions which they had witnessed, and the nations they had existed through the rise and fall of, the men they had seen (metaphorically) born and disappear as vapor before the gale, gave me such a respect and admiration for them, that I went before the altar of the cathedral, fell upon my knees and thanked God for the honor of touching these old religious volumes, much less seeing them. One of these volumes contains the gospel by St. John, alone, in Latin, and another the Acts of the Apostles. It is thought that during the wars and revolutions in Europe and Africa, hundreds of years ago, these old manuscripts were sent over to these islands in the ocean, to be protected by these sea girt asylums. Who knows but what God had the sibilant and irritating fires coursing through subterraneous vaults millions of years ago to hurl these islands up to preserve certain records from the ruthless hands of wicked men? Records, too, that would have made his church a virtual nonentity if they were wanting. For, while the Grand Canary, and indeed all these islands, are upon the African coast, they are nevertheless in accessible proximity to Europe. So there is more to be seen here than scoria, slag, cinderated basalt and igneously constructed valves. Let us return, however, to our priest-conductor.
After concluding our observation here, he led us into the rear and down-stairs rooms of the cathedral; each door he would come to had to be unlocked and then locked again behind us. As we descended
into the basement compartments, with massive iron doors and heavy stone walls, Elder Geda, for once turned white, for he knew no cry of of alarm would ever be heard from those cryptic cells. I felt a bit weak in the knees, but neither of us let on. The priest showed us strange sights, but we were too scared to remember much. We were anxious to get out; we did not like those doors being locked behind us.
In process of time, however, he retraced his route, and door after door was unlocked and relocked, till we were in the main auditorium. Oh, what a relief it was! I gave him eight shillings, or two dollars. Elder Geda gave him one shilling, and the priest bowed “Good day.” He was the most obliging priest I ever met.
A novel fact about Grand Canary island, which is thirty-eight miles long, thirty-six miles wide, and some four or six thousand feet high, is the fact that at a certain point, covering several acres, a mysterious quantity of sand is accumulating and thickening all the time. It has killed out or submerged all the vegetation which grew there, and the surface is being raised and arid, but where it comes from no one can tell. They say it does not rise out of the ocean, nor could it be conveyed from any other portion of the island. The conclusion, therefore, is, that it is blown from the Saharan Desert in Africa, some sixty miles away. Yet no one can assert that as a fact. Its increase, however is creating some concern.
Strange to say, no one thinks about Elder Geda and me being colored men on any of the islands–I mean at Madeira, Teneriffe, or here at Grand Canary. Anybody not purely black is no African with them. I told some I was a negro; they said, “No, no!” Yet they do not care about color, for there is no prejudice. Messrs. Thomas and Sams, both dark as men can be, meet no repulsiveness.
I have looked in vain for a site to establish an A. M. E. Church mission on any of these islands. I would like to see a church of ours on one or more. But these people, I fear, would not join, owing to Catholicism. The peak of Teneriffe is so plain here that it scarcely looks ten miles off. We will now stop with the islands; the ship has started for Sierra Leone again.
We had a pleasant sail last night and to-day. The ocean is quite calm and respectful. All the ladies left the ship at Grand Canary, and our companions are now men, bulls and cows, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, geese, cats, dogs, and a few rats; all except the rats run around the ship at liberty. The sand-mounds of Sahara, on the African coast, can be seen occasionally. Flying-fish every once and awhile spring up and fly for a hundred or two yards and plunge under water. The constellations, Orion, Andromeda, Hercules, and the Dipper, seem located in the heavens a little differently from the way they appear in America.
November 5 and 6.
We have reached the trade-wind region, but they, too, are quiet. So everything is dull and calm. The men sing and walk around, play games of various kinds, nod and read and talk about everything in creation. I went after the captain to run the ship faster–ten miles an hour being too slow, when he could make several more. He said, “The colored people of the United States throw enough money away yearly for whisky to build fifty ships that could run twenty miles an hour, and you had better get them to save their money and build a faster ship.” “Englishmen,” he said, “were slow, but sure.” He also said, “The United States has no African steamers at all–neither fast nor-slow.” I had no more to say.
Mr. Matthew Thomas, the great scholar, read the prize essay of Miss Elizabeth Jackson, of Wilberforce, on Africa, to-day, and became so infatuated with her that he said, “She must be my wife.” He asked me what I would charge to court her for him. I told him a thousand dollars, and she was worth a hundred thousand.
Mr. William Roberts, the second officer of the ship, at my request, measured with his instruments to-day the distance from New York to Liberia, Africa. The distance is 3,720 miles. From New York to Liverpool is 3,115 miles, and from Liverpool to Liberia, Africa, is 3,250 miles; so, coming to Liberia, Africa, by way of Liverpool, makes the distance 6,365 miles. Had we a steamer from New York to Africa, we could save 2,645 miles travel, and save 300 more from Charleston or Savannah. This ship skirts the coast of Africa about 3,000 miles and returns.
The captain took his map and showed me, a few moments ago, thirty-nine mission points where, to his knowledge, a missionary is now needed, and 152 other points where he is almost certain missionaries would be permitted to live. Gracious! the work here is soenormous that its ponderosity frightens me. Bishop Taylor’s self-supporting scheme is severely criticised by all the shipmen, traders, and merchants now on the ship.
We passed a vast African promontory to-day, and the forest upon land, as revealed through my large eye-glasses, was simply massive.
The ship put on a new dress yesterday; vast stores of everything that can be thought of were opened and arranged for the natives to purchase when they began to land along the coast where the people are most numerous. Not less than six magnificent stores are now in full blast; all kinds of dry goods, musical instruments, trinkets, and everything except books and papers; yes, and a few Bibles and hymnbooks. They sell these goods to the natives for three, four, and five times their value in Liverpool; but, after all, it is doing good, for several natives are going to Liverpool and London, and are learning to speculate themselves. Mr. Thompson says, “If our brethren will not come from America and make themselves immensely rich by traffic, as they might do in a few years, we natives will do it ourselves; white men shall not always be getting rich off of us.
We anchored in front of Iles De Los, sixty miles from Sierra Leone; but I have seen the high mountains of Sierra Leone through my large glasses, which appear awfully sublime. I had no idea that such a mighty range of mountains ran along the coast here as I see lifting their mighty summits skyward. I have been ashore and trod the African soil at last, and nature here is lavish with her stores. True, the weather is quite warm, the thermometer at 76°, but I have felt it twenty odd degrees warmer in America. The ocean has been remarkably quiet ever since we left the Bay of Biscay; but they tell me they never have storms here to last over two hours. The ocean is nearly always calm, and fish sport in the waters. I had heard so much since I left Liverpool about the laziness, stupidness, and worthlessness
of the native African, that I had almost become disheartened, and was about to think my expectations would be a myth; so to-day, as we steamed up here to this French port (as it belongs to France), I saw two pilot boats pulling to meet us, with dressed men in the rear. and four seemingly naked Africans bending to the oars. One had a black pilot, the other a white one. The black pilot beat, and took our ship in charge. He was dressed, but barefooted; the white pilot had on shoes; the rowers or oarsmen were all naked except about the waist. I said to Geda, “Things look gloomy here.” Geda shook his head and dropped it. Finally the cannon was fired, the anchor let down and the ship stopped.
Then from the shore came the oar-boats in large numbers, for all the freight had to be boated from the ship to the shore, there being no wharves here. But the scene changed. Here came native Africans by the score, nearly all decently dressed, some finely attired, others with only shirts on, some with only pants, only a few with waist napkins. They literally thronged the ship from end to end, and began to unload the ship and carry the freight ashore as actively, as aptly and as intelligently as I had seen anywhere since I left New York. Their head men understood running the steam machines, gave intelligent orders, and beat the Portuguese at Madeira all hollow in managing affairs. These Africans are men, naked or clothed. Some are members of Frederick’s Church, at Sierra Leone, and were enraptured when told we were parson Frederick’s missionaries. Some said, “Daddy Frederick been look for ye long time; you be welcome, welcome a heap.”
I was amused to see a half nude African and the ship clerk get into a dispute in running up some figures about the freight he took in his boat. The African told him, “You no understand arithmetic.” The clerk insisted he was right. The African snatched the clerk’s book out of his hand and ran over the figures, pointed out the mistake, and told him to go to school again. Several African ladies are on the ship, and I never saw hair fixed up as finely as two of theirs was. It is rolled like watch-chains. But I am so near Sierra Leone I will close this letter. Geda is pleased all over with the African, and I am crazy with delight so far. I do not know what is ahead yet.
Freetown, Sierra Leone, Africa, November 12, 1891.
I arrived here a few days ago after a rather tedious jaunt from Liverpool. The ship could run fast enough, but the captain would not let it.
My reception here was indescribable. The ship came into port late at night, but I awoke early in the morning and looked out upon the city and saw a place much resembling Vicksburg, Miss., except that the mountains rose in the rear of the city much higher than the lofty bluffs of Vicksburg. Upon the inclinations or declivities of the receding elevations a city of 30,000 population stood in surprising majesty–surprising by reason of the wide streets and stately two, three and four-story buildings which stretch along the streets for a mile or two. I had looked for no such place. I thought it was a low, swampy, lagoony town with narrow, muddy streets, as filthy as a cess-pool; but cleanliness, pavements, sidewalks, rock sewers and decency everywhere met my eye. But when I pointed this and that fine building out, and was told that they all belonged to black men, I was surprised more than ever. Again, when I inquired about the great cathedral, with tower and clock, and other large churches, with spires, domes and steeples, and was told they were all black people’s churches, I had to say, “Thank God for this sight!”
Shortly boats came to the ship in scores, and the ship was crowded with black men. All had clothes on and some were finely clad. Every officer was black, and some were haughty and dictatorial as lords; a few a little too much so, I thought; but when I discovered the downright villainy of some of these English officers, I saw the point.
However, while standing upon the ship, noting things as they transpired, a gentleman from the wharf walked up and said, “Are you the bishop of Mr. Frederick?” I replied, “I am Bishop Turner.” He said, “Give me your card for him, as he has been looking for you
several days.” I gave him my card and he disappeared. In a short time Elder Frederick and Mr. Bowser, the representative of the United States Government, a noble-looking, brown-skinned gentleman, formerly of Ohio, came on board, accompanied by some more prominent gentlemen. The salutations’ were cordial; Frederick and Geda hugged each other, etc.
In a few moments more we were en route for the wharf, where I expected to kiss the ground of my first proper disembarkation; but as I set my foot on shore, a waiting multitude of men and women rushed upon me and shook my hands and exclaimed, “Glory to God, Hallelujah!” etc., till I was melted with tears. I never witnessed such emotions of thankfulness in all my life; but the scene beggars description.
Elder Geda, myself and trunks were conducted to the custom house. Every custom house official was black; the collector-in-chief was intensely black. All trunks were examined except mine and Geda’s. The collector told his officers not to touch our trunks, but he asked me a few questions as to their contents, and ordered them passed through the custom house. Frederick thanked him and marched them off to the Lady Huntington A. M. E. Church.
As we filed along the street for some four squares great crowds stood out and looked on with much eagerness.
The church was ultimately reached–an edifice corresponding to our church in Richmond, Va., except that it has only one aisle, in the centre. As we entered, the packed house, up and down stairs arose and sang “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,” in a most solemn and pathetic manner. Geda and I were conducted to the altar, and Elder Frederick gave out page 252, “We bid thee welcome in the name,” which was sung, and prayer was offered to heaven for us. I was then presented to the people in an able speech by Elder Frederick, but I could not speak; I was completely broken down. When I saw the emotions of gratitude, not to me, but to the church I represented, I cried like a child; I would have given my life could all the bishops have been present. While it is impossible to picture the scenes in words, let me say, the joy of those people–I mean our people–at the presence of a bishop was simply overwhelming. They had been
told so often that no bishop would ever come from our church; that the African colored bishops did not care if they all were lost, etc.; and, strange to say, too, they were told this by white missionaries, so that when one did come their joy knew no bounds. Gracious alive! how white people have misrepresented the A. M. E. Church and her bishops in Africa. I hate to say some of them were white bishops, too, but it will have to be said ultimately.
This morning at 10 o’clock we opened the First Annual Conference of the A. M. E. Church in Africa, in the Zion A. M. E. Church formerly known as the Lady Huntington Church.
As Elder Geda is so well pleased with the possibilities of Africa that he is going to remain here, I have transferred him from New England to the Sierra Leone Annual Conference, which gives us at present five members of our Annual Conference; but as two learned Wesleyan preachers may join the church to-night, it is likely we will soon have seven members. Our session to-day was watched with much interest; the term “African” to our church is a magic word.
There is no church on earth that can grow like ours if we will half work. The heathen kings will drive out other denominations, so I am told, and declare our church the church of their kingdoms.
But as I must close this letter, as the mail will soon leave–in one hour from now–I beg to say, the three days I have spent here have been fine. I am no more alarmed about sickness than I would be anywhere else. I may get sick and die, but I feel fine now. Geda says he is not scared worth a cent.
Sierra Leone is about like Memphis, Tenn., Helena, Ark., Vicksburg, Miss., or Baton Rouge, La.
I saw a white girl who came here from Ohio three weeks ago to marry a fellow; she is fourteen years old. She looks well enough.
I believe many of the European and American white people’s deaths here at Sierra Leone are due to liquor drinking; most of them who come here are whisky sots.
I may be sick here, but I shall not believe it till I feel it.
Geda declares he feels better; yet from nine till one it is quite hot, but I have felt it much hotter in America.
I will write much more in my next letter.
Freetown, Sierra Leone, Africa, November 16, 1891.
In my last letter I stated the impressions and circumstances of my arrival at Sierra Leone. Before proceeding further on that line, permit me to state a fact that some of our learned men may philosophize upon in some of their leisure moments. I find that the waters of the ocean here are more salty, dense and heavy than the waters of the same ocean about New York and Liverpool and in the Northern Hemisphere. They are harder to raise into waves and billows and hence are far more pacific than our section of the same ocean. The quantity of water that will weigh two pounds at Liverpool or New York will weigh two pounds and a quarter here, and sometimes a half ounce more. I confess it is a puzzle to me; and all I have asked–sea-captains, doctors, engineers and mineralogists–have failed to explain this secret of nature. Will some of our learned professors at Wilberforce, Paul Quinn, Allen, Morris Brown, Kittrell or some of our other centers of learning tell us the reason?
But let us return to Sierra Leone. I find the mountains, which rise up in the rear of this city, are all of volcanic origin; a blue granite, which is the youngest of the granite series, if the learned theories are correct, forms the substratum and glides into the ocean; but over that is a thick layer of porous rock (we will call them), tinged heavily with iron, which is compounded with a basaltic feldspar. The old geologists would call it “Titanic iron base.” This condition runs, subject to undulations and horizontals, from the ocean beach to the top of those 3,700 feet mountains. The English government has a fort that overlooks the city, and a hospital upon the mountain-top, only for soldiers, however. All the troops here are colored–West Indians–except the officers, who are all white.
Freetown is at the mouth of the Roquelle River, which higher up appears to be the recipient of two or three others; this makes Freetown
quite accessible to large regions of the interior by the agency of small boats and canoes.
But why waste time and space with the topography of the country? Your readers will be more concerned about the people, their habits, customs, manners, etc. I find about everything here common to other cities. House builders, rock blasters, lime burners, stone chiselers and polishers, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, painters, whitewashers, tailors, watch-makers, jewelers, finest kind of bootmakers, dressmakers, glass polishers, boat caulkers, engineers, storekeepers, doctors, lawyers, judges, druggists, postmasters, custom house officers, schools, seminaries, colleges, cathedrals, publishers, editors, bookbinders, medicine makers, chemists, scholars and everything except horses and mules. Yes, I hear there are a few jackasses about–four-legged I mean. We can find two-legged assess anywhere. And what is grander to me than anything else, is the fact that the trades-people are black men and women. Mixed bloods are not excluded, however. They have a share in everything. Several white men from England and some from France, Germany Italy and America have come here and married black women and raised up families of mixed blood. Some have lived with colored wives awhile and left them several children to look after, and disappeared; so mulattoes are not absent at all. But other white men have lived with their colored wives right along and died with them. A few black men have also gone to England and elsewhere, and married white ladies, and they have children, etc.
All the ministers here, except the Baptists, wear robes–the Catholics, Mohammedans, English Church, Wesleyan Methodists, Free Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and African Methodist Episcopal. Elder Geda looks grandly in a robe, and the people here thought he was used to it. I smiled, but said nothing. Of course, I was at home in my robe. The Catholic and Mohammedan priests wear robes all over the city.
The dress of the people is not uniform at all. Some are dressed in fine broadcloth, some in silks, bonnets, jewelry, and in the fashions; others in cheaper style; others in shirts, gowns, wraps; others almost as God made them. The old settlers are the bloods or dignitaries; then comes in the tribal part, according to grade. Tribal prejudice
runs high in many cases. The bush crowd are the servants and domestics.
The bush or native heathen Africans do all the drudgery work, such as pulling and pushing the carts, wheel chairs, sedan chairs, hammocks, hearses; carry all boxes, barrels, stones, mortar, bricks; row all the boats on the river, etc. The people are peaceable; I see or hear of no fighting; shooting is never heard of. Sometimes an African king may come from the bush, or country, and kill some runaway wife; then he is arrested and banished to some island, and made to work the balance of his life; but if a king comes to the city and kills a decent wife, he will likely kill himself before he will be arrested.
Elder J. R. Frederick is a great and good man; he has done a noble work here. While I have found fault with Bishop Payne for ignoring the missionary channels and sending his missionary money directly to Brother Frederick, I am prepared now to say, Bishop Payne deserves the gratitude of our church; the reasons why I hope to give in the future. The ladies of the Mite Missionary Society also have done more good than they have any idea of. God bless every one of them!
I have received two able ministers from the Wesleyan Church and have entered them into our itinerant work; one is very learned. I have preached or exhorted every night since I have been here, and most of the time presided over the Sierra Leone Annual Conference of the A. M. E. Church, four hours each day, and feel as well as I ever felt. Sierra Leone is far healthier than Memphis, Tenn., Pine Bluff, or Helena, Ark. No one coming from Memphis would ever notice anything but a favorable change.
We will have two or three churches here soon–possibly before I leave–besides what we have up the rivers. The A. M. E. Church can be the Continental Church of Africa, if it will hear me when I reach home.
I learned that Bishop Crowther, of the Niger, has not been treated right somehow by the Church of England, and he and his ministers are about to set up an independent apostolic denomination. I am urged to go and confer with him, but the object might be misconstrued, therefore I shall not go. I do not blame the bishop for kicking, if what some of his ministers tell me be true.
White men and their wives are coming here from New York State, Ohio, Indiana and Iowa and going one hundred miles in the country and settling among the heathen, preaching, teaching school and training the black children.
Rev. J. M. Johnson, of Iowa, came in this morning from over a hundred miles and related his labors, and his wife’s labors, and told me of others out there, etc., while we are evading Africa as a deadly viper.
These whites say the interior is cooler than Texas and far healthier than Houston, while iron ore stands in mountain heaps and the finest wood on earth is boundless.
A singular fact is, that anybody, white or colored, from America is welcomed out here in Africa, either on the coast or back in the interior, while Englishmen, French and Germans are mostly hated. The kings hate them, especially about robbing them of their lands. The French are hated as the devil. Americans are looked upon as the guardians of Liberia and the friends of her black, and it modifies the prejudice somehow. I do not understand it yet. France is more intolerant in her claimed possessions than England it seems, and far less compromising, while the Mohammedans abominate Germany about the shiploads of rot-gut whisky they land along the coast to ruin the more heathen African. The English ships despise the German ships about the same; nearly every time they see a German ship at sea the entire crew will curse it about shipping poisoned liquor to Africa. The English ships carry a good deal, too, but they ease their conscience by saying, “Our whisky is all first-class. It is inspected before we leave Liverpool and London.”
The “Galaxy,” containing the bishops and their wives, is a great treat to our members here and the people in general. I wish I had 10,000 of them instead of 40 copies. The preachers and people want them for the interior by thousands, for kings and their judges and big men.
The African ladies who come in the city from the bush, for hundreds of miles, have to buy white doll-babies for their children. They want black, brown and yellow dolls. If some of our people will engage in their manufacture they can sell millions of colored dolls. England,
France, etc., only send out white dolls. The black merchants out here (and they are plentiful) are crazy for a line of steamships to America, like England, France and Germany have, so they can deal in American goods, medicines, etc.; so the merchants can come over in ten or fifteen days and return in haste–the sail vessels are too slow.
I find people here 75, 80, 90, 100 and a few 112 and 117 years old, about as old as some of the who are afraid to visit Africa. I do not think Rev. J. W. Randolph, D. D., is much over 117 years old.
I took some observations this afternoon in the rear of this city. I find millions of dollars of iron awaiting the hands of industry. I am told silver mines abound not far from here. I was surprised to hear them singing gospel hymns in the Roman Catholic Church. I see white Sisters of Charity here, moving around as in other cities. Yesterday they marched at least a hundred young ladies up the street, of all colors and shades, neatly dressed, and the young ladies did look grand. The priest in charge has been here forty years, and says he would not exchange Africa for the world–white as he is. He is assisted by three other priests.
This morning I had a grand treat. Two of the great granddaughters of Rev. Daniel Coker, of Baltimore, one of the chief organizers of the A. M. E. Church, called upon me to inquire about their relatives in Baltimore. It appears that when Rev. Daniel Coker came here, sixty odd years ago, he brought a son with him, a young man. Rev. Daniel Coker died about 1846; his son (Henry) died some years ago. Henry had a son, whose name was Hillery T. Coker, who died in his fifty-sixth year in February last, and was buried by Elder Frederick, as he was his member. He leaves a wife and two daughters, Jane Coker, twenty years of age, and Susan Coker, near eleven years, two beautiful ginger-cake-colored children, and very smart and bright.
Miss Jane Coker is the interpreter for the United Brethren of America out among the Sherbro tribe. They preach and talk to this tribe through her. She is proud of her ancestry and feels she is of no common blood; she is pretty, modest and thoughtful; she wishes to visit Baltimore, but money is wanting. I told her if she dared to visit Baltimore, Philadelphia, or anywhere the A. M. E. Church existed, she would never get back; that the people would feast and honor her to
death, because she had the blood of Daniel Coker in her. Little Susan Coker is anxious to come back with me, and her mother is willing. She wishes the child highly educated; she has a bright intellect and a fine head phrenologically, and could be made a great woman. I may or may not bring her. It appears that Rev. Daniel Coker and his son had a number of the Akoo tribe placed under them for training and they all took his name, so that the Cokers are very numerous. One of the preachers I have admitted on trial in the traveling work is a Coker. He says Daniel Coker was his grandfather’s master–a term here which means boss.
These black Mohammedan priests, learned to kill, walking around here in their robes with so much dignity, majesty and consciousness of their worth, are driving me into respect for them. Some come for hundreds of miles from the country–out of the bushes–better scholars than in America. What fools we are to suppose these Africans are fools!
Freetown, Sierra Leone, Africa, November 18, 1891.
The Sierra Leone Annual Conference is over. Thursday, November 10, the following ministers met in our church here: H. M. Turner, J. R. Frederick, T. R. Geda, H. M. Steady, David B. Roach, Matthew Newland, and organized and went to work. The same evening I took into the church, among twenty-one others, George D. Decker and Isaiah Coker, two preachers from the Wesleyan Church; one very learned and popular, the other very strong, and posted in the Timnee language, the language of the greatest tribe in the vicinity.
The boundaries of the conference include all the territory of the leading tribes for three hundred miles, viz: the Timnee; Casso, Akoo, Ebo, Sherbo, Mendi, Mandingo, Fullah, Limba and Yennie tribes. The king of each has welcomed our church, and the king of the Timnees has declared our church the church of his nation.
The conference remained in session from Thursday, the 10th, until Monday night, the 14th. We were busy all the time. Our property here amounts to about $10,000, and membership, including the probationers, to 405; our prospects, to millions of members and property. By taking up two local preachers we had ten ministers to whom I gave appointments. We ordained three deacons–I was willing to ordain more, but we did not think it wise to be too merciful at first–those we did ordain stood a fine examination.
A long discussion arose over the name of the conference, some fearing if we called it the Sierra Leone Conference, the country kings would rule our church out, as some hate Sierra Leone, because it is an English colony, and that England is a usurper to claim territory in Africa. The African kings are willing and are glad for their black and yellow kinfolks to come home from America, and teach, preach, work and marry their women; but they want nothing to do with England, France or Germany. We named the conference the Sierra
Leone Conference, nevertheless, hoping to explain away all grounds of fear or apprehension to those royal heads of the millions of our people. For every ten thousand dollars the A. M. E. Church could send here, from seventy-five to a hundred thousand dollars could procured to our church.
Elder, now Presiding Elder, Frederick, has some of the most awful church deeds I ever saw. What I mean by awful, is in size and weight; some are four pages of parchment, two feet by twenty inches. Strange to say, too, some of the African kings have signed their own names. On one of the deeds I see the name of Scipio H. Robertson. That must be our Scip. of Georgia. When did he slip off and come over here?
Last Sabbath was without doubt the grandest day I ever beheld. There must have been three thousand people in and around the church; hundreds went away for want of out-door room; many of the colored dignitaries of other churches were present, civil and military, as well as the heathen themselves. Love-feast at 6 o’clock in the morning–the church was crowded by 5 o’clock. The experiences given were familiar and unfamiliar. Some expressed themselves in good English, some in broken English, other in this and that language. Some twenty languages were used in giving the experience. But a large number would understand everybody and responses would come from all over the church, and tears would be shed. Never were more languages used in one love-feast since time began; never were more terms used to express approval. Great heavens, how white people on one hand, scullion negroes upon the other, have misrepresented Africa! Some who got up in that love-feast to talk were what they called heathens, right from the bush, with a mere cloth over them, and while I could not understand a word, you could see they were full of the Holy Ghost. I tried to preach at 10:30 o’clock, Elder Geda at 3 o’clock, and I again at night. I ordained three ministers, took twenty-seven into full membership. Put my hands on their heads, too. Confirmed them, if you chose to call it, and took some forty in on probation. We gave the Lord’s Supper to 500 persons. Every minister was robed and that alone was glory enough for me. But I cannot picture the day and the scenes. I never expect to see the like on earth again.
Alpha Mohammed San u Si, one of the Mohammedan bishops, called upon me at Presiding Elder Frederick’s house, to pay his respects; he speaks English, Arabic, Timnee, Akoo, Su Su, Mandingo and the Fullah languages. He came in his splendid robes and looked grandly. He is a man of rare learning and his bearing was kingly. I tried to look big, but felt small, in his presence. He resembles Bishop Gaines in color, stature, beard, features and walk–maybe a bit taller; but he is another Gaines; he is about as proud as Bishop Gaines.
Yesterday afternoon, to my surprise, Dr. J. H. Cold called upon me (with horse and buggy). I did not know there was a horse in the city; he drove me away out in the country. It was a regular African horse, too, fat as a butter-ball. Such sights as I saw I will never forget. I went among some country natives and looked at their thatchcovered huts, and to my surprise, in some I found looking-glasses, chairs, clocks, furniture, etc. I saw some nearly naked men and women out on the road, but in town they live nicely at home. Another sight which I had to admire was the erectness with which these men and women stand.
The native African has no fear, no cowardice, no dread, but feels himself the equal of any man on earth. The land, as far as I went, is rich, water streams in abundance, fruits of every kind, flowers of every beauty, and while I saw many doing nothing at all, I saw many hundreds at work, and hard at work, too. They need skilled labor, however, skilled farmers. Since I found out more, I find horses will live here and be fat. Dogs are like ours in every particular. The dogs, roosters, goats and sheep all talk like ours. I told the doctor they were all I could understand. I could not understand the people, but he could.
I have just had the honor of my life. King Kobbena Eljen, of the Kromantic tribe, a powerful tribe on the Gold Coast, who was captured in the late war with England, and who is here as prisoner-of-war, called to pay his respects, through me, to his race, as he says, “over the sea.” He means in America. I kissed his hands a dozen times, and would have kissed his feet, had he not said, “No, no.” The king is 64 years old. He is tall, erect and majestic, and is deeply
concerned about the colored people in America. He wanted to know when we were coming home.
During the great Ashantee war he was captured by the English army, and England tried to get him to sign away his territory and his people’s land. He refused to do it, and they brought him to Sierra Leone, as a prisoner, to be held until he signs away his kingdom. The king says he will die first. If he would sign the documents, England would send him back at once in a man-of-war. The African kings and nobility will make me hate England, grand as old England is in many respects. The king walks about town, but cannot leave. He is loyal to his race and to his people. He will give his kingdom to his children in the United States, but not to England.
Well, the ship has arrived which is to carry me to Liberia, and having completed my work here, I must close this letter and begin to pack up. I have not written half, but all I could find time to write.
Neither Geda nor I have been the least sick yet after eleven days hard work, but I have a little headache to-day, for coming home last night out of a hot church and sitting in a draft, when I was begged not to do it. The weather is fine and pleasant for summer. Off for Liberia.
I neglected to say, the ministers of the Church of England have called upon us as other ministers, regardless of all sacerdotal considerations.
Steamship “Mandingo,” West African Coast,
November 21, 1891.
After I closed my last letter at Sierra Leone, I called upon His Excellency, Gov. James H. Hay. I was kindly received, and was introduced by Presiding Elder Frederick, who has the respect of His Excellency. He gave me much information about the colony, and showed me the falsity of the deathly and sickly reports current about Sierra Leone, in presenting his own fine-looking, healthy and corpulent person, which several years’ residence here had not intercepted. He told me a vast deal which I have no time nor space to write at present; but the whole was full of information, and shows progress all along the line. His mansion is magnificent, overlooks the city, flowers of every variety, shades, walks fountains, etc.
The governor is down upon African slanderers, white or black. He says if we had skilled labor and civilization here, Africa would be the mistress of continents.
In speaking about black men representing the native African as so low and ignoble in other countries, because they had acquired some intelligence from being brought in contact with the whites, the governor said, “How foolish they are. Don’t they know if the black men are nothing here they are nothing everywhere; that nothing must proceed from nothing; that if the original stalk or trunk is nothing, the offspring or branches will be nothing, too?” He says, “Every black man who berates Africa berates himself.”
The funniest thing that has come under my attention is the criticism of Dr. Randolph’s “Criticism of Bishop Turner,” published in the Christian Recorder of October 15, by a native born and raised African. He read it and commented most severely, yet in the most courteous language, which showed his high literary culture and refinement, until I told him that Dr. J. W. Randolph was a great linguist, scholar and a D.D. Then he opened the vials of his literary
wrath. He took up his sentences, analyzed them, denied that he understood the English language, pronounced his argument coarse and illogical, and pitied the college that would conter D.D. upon such a poor scholar. The use Dr. Randolph had made of the term “nonsense” seemed to fire every fiber of his soul. The house roared with peals of laughter, so I need never reply to the doctor. Africa has replied in full.
Several white American missionaries called upon me before I left Sierra Leone, and gave me some missionary items I did not know. Those who called upon me consisted of men and women from Wisconsin, Nebraska, one was from Ohio–a young, beautiful white lady.
I find the following to be the result: From Nebraska there are five missionaries here; twenty-seven more coming. From Kansas there are nine here, and fifteen coming. From Minnesota there are ten here, and eighteen coming. From Ohio there are twelve here. From Illinois there are four here. A majority of these missionaries are white ladies. But what beats all is, they tell me 128 are now being trained, mostly in Chicago, to follow these. Almost every steamer is bringing more missionaries, teachers, preachers, dress-makers and tool users. I had been told by the ship’s captain of this, coming out from America, but did not know the extent until now. The singularity of this movement is, that all these missionaries should come from the West. Outside of middle New York state, I find no Eastern, Northern or Southern whites out here as missionaries. The present program of the missionaries from the West is to establish a line of mission centers back into the interior for 400 miles, with mission houses and schools erected every fifty miles along that line, so that native runners can carry letters from one camp to the other. To extend 400 miles from the sea interiorward will require eight mission camps or centers. Travelers can find resting places for this 400 miles, every fifty miles on their route. They say the African kings bid them welcome when they are satisfied they are not Germans, French or English. They think Americans will not bother with their territory or slaves. While the Germans and French do not meddle with their slaves at all, they wish to gobble up their lands and mines. The English, on the other hand, are more reasonable in regard to territorial
possessions, but will free every slave and wife they can. I find that wherever England holds possessions in Africa there is another Canadian asylum for the slaves and oppressed–the same as our American Canada used to be when slavery existed in the United States. The Germans and French often return slaves and wives to their claimants; but England, never. When a slave or a wife gets into her possessions the whole military and navy protect their liberty. And another thing that England does that Germany and France do not: If England captures a king and holds him as a prisoner of war, she treats him royally; she allows him to walk about, gives him from five to ten dollars a day, and provides a place for him in keeping with his status; if he is an imperial king, ten dollars a day, is allowed; if a large tribal king, five dollars; if a petty king, three dollars. But all do nothing but sit and walk about; no shackles, handcuffs or prison cells. God save old England, is my prayer!
I am told the Liberians do about the same in regard to slaves and wives. But as I will be in Liberia in a few hours, I will learn more about it.
It is marvelous how white men bow, bend, lift hats and smile around colored ladies out here–I mean the dressed, civilized and cultured ladies. They walk, sit and talk with them, and do all the honors they do to white ladies, and seem to be as natural about it as if they were raised at it. I believe several of these African ladies rather prefer the white fellows, too. Don’t matter, however; the colored gentry have a nice time with the white ladies, also, when they are about.
I have seen the beauties of nature in its varied tints, colors and shades. I have looked on and admired the artificial as well as the permanent formations, but I have never seen anything to compare with the ocean here along the African coast after night. The waves produced by the ship, which roll off on either side, appear to be studded with millions of glittering gems; the waters at times would seem to be on fire, yet the fire does not seem to resemble the fires of earth. I am told if one bathes in the waters and stands in the dark he will glitter from head to foot. The waters are full of phosphoric animalculæ called “Medusæ,” and their beauty and splendor in the ocean is literally indescribable.
Rev. Herbert H. Richmond, LL. D., the district superintendent of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, has been reading “Methodist Polity” for two days, and congratulates the author in high terms. He is going to try to have it made a text-book in their theological seminaries. The doctor is on his way to Lagos, where he has not been in twenty years. He does not want the A. M. E. Church to go where the Wesleyan Church is, and he says, “Two churches of the same order and faith confuse the African kings, and they will get mad and drive both out of their kingdoms if our preachers should get to disputing over the respective churches.” He thinks the A. M. E. Church and the A. M. E. Zion Church should unite before we come to Africa.
Before I reached Africa proper some English sailors were telling me about the limited ability of the native African, stating that they could not learn this or that, viz: they could not learn to be engineers, not even firemen, and such stuff. I told them black men could do anything that white men could do in the Southern States. But since I have reached here, I see native Africans running engines, manning oar and steam boats, and what is more, here on this steamship, the “Mandingo,” are two black ocean pilots, and another black man measuring the depth of the ocean and guiding the ship amid the dangerous points.
Poor black man, how the world tells lies about you! Well, we are at Liberia at last. I will close this letter.
Muhlenberg, Liberia, November 29, 1891.
I am here in Liberia, and have been for over a week, and have had a grand time of it. I landed at Monrovia, where I was met by Rev. S. J. Campbell and Clemmons Irons, of Charleston, S. C., and conducted to the splendid residence of Gen. R. A. Sherman, the General-in-Chief of the Liberian Government, where a grand welcome was accorded me. But as the little steamboat was awaiting me, I soon left the city and proceeded up the St. Paul River, a river that corresponds exactly with the Ohio River between Louisville, Ky., and Cincinnati, Ohio; if anything a bit wider, and, in the main much deeper, for the St. Paul River at places is ninety feet deep. But, unfortunately, the rapids set in about twenty-five miles above Monrovia and stop all decent navigation; only canoes can be pushed and pulled beyond the rapids, and that at great labor. Yet, when the rapids are passed, the river is navigable by small boats to a long distance. The sceneries along this river are prodigious; the trees of every kind for miles are so interwoven that they constitute a matted texture, with an occasional intermediary elevation or hill, just high and frequent enough to break the monotony and afford beautiful building sites, where exuberant farms can be cultivated and the horticulturist can spread himself. All along the river sides, after leaving the inundated portion, beautiful two and three-story brick houses, covered with zinc roofs, with dormer-windows often projecting from the top, and a number of small adjacent houses meet the eye. I was certainly surprised to see the comfortable and excellently constructed homesteads which dot the river banks in all directions.
As you ascend the St. Paul varied settlements can be seen, bearing principally American names, where houses, streets and town clusters are visible. The towns and settlements between Monrovia and the rapids are called by the following names: New Georgia, Caldwell,
Upper Caldwell, Virginia, Brewersville, Clay Ashland, Louisiana, New York, White Plains, Millsburg, Harrisburg, Muhlenberg and Arthington. Indeed, Arthington is above the rapids, and is the principal seat of the Azor emigrants, who came out here twelve or thirteen years ago. The conveniences for settlement along the St. Paul are far better than along the Savannah, Chattahoochee, Alabama, Tennessee or Gunpower rivers of America. The Delaware River itself has nothing to boast over the St. Paul; minus the Palisades, the Hudson River has but few advantages over the St. Paul.
I had the pleasure of meeting and riding for several miles with Mr. Jesse Sharp, of Columbia, S. C. I used to board with his mother and smile at his beautiful sisters. Mr. Sharp is about the richest man in the country. His brother James, from whose house I was married has been dead, he says, many years.
The steamer went ashore at Mrs. Johnson’s fine residence, to allow me to shake the hand of Dr. Edward W. Blyden, who will soon be Secretary of State, if reports are true. The doctor looks well and is growing corpulent.
When I disembarked I was met by Mrs. L. Bibbs, recently of St. Paul, Minn., Wm. Patterson, James Slocum and Stephen Ficklin, recently of Morrilton, Ark.; also by G. S. Daniels, Abraham Tyler and M. S. Stephens, recently of Barnsville, S. C., and others. Mr. Ficklin has a brother, Samuel Ficklin, a deacon in Beal Street Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn.
I spent the night at the well-furnished home of Clemmons Irons. Elder Geda went to Rev. S. J. Campbell’s. Next morning, quite early, it was announced to me that Brother Campbell had a conveyance at the door for me. When I came down stairs, lo and behold! four men stood with a fine hammock to trot me over to breakfast at the residence of Brother Campbell. It is marvelous what strength these native Africans have. But they will not have it long unless the Mohammedans come to their rescue. Christian France, Germany, England and Boston are distributing too much liquor or rot-gut whisky among them. I had no idea that Boston, the citadel of freedom, was sending so many hundred thousand gallons of poison rot-gut to this country.
The son of the late Rev. A. L. Stanford, M. D., once a famous preacher in our church, but who died out here some five years ago, as one of the judges of the Liberian courts, has grown up to be an industrious and bright young man. His name is Willie Francis Stanford. But it is useless to mention names, as I find bushels of Americans here. Therefore, let us talk about this beautiful country.
Liberia is one of the most paradisical portions of earth my eyes ever beheld. Any person who cannot live here with reasonable health cannot exist anywhere. True, there is an acclimating change most people have to pass through. Some do not; if they do, they are unconscious of it. But nature is lavish here with her stores. I have noticed the following things growing here in great abundance: coffee, sugar, ginger, ground-nuts, palm oil, cocoa, rice, cotton, indigo, pepper, corn, ochre, turnips, beans, cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce, sweet potatoes, oranges, grapes, lemons, citrons, squashes, and heaven knows what else. Also, cows, tremendous oxen, hogs, sheep, goats, deer, horses, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, rabbits, dogs, raccoons, honey bees, fish without end, eagles, parrots in groves, hawks, but no buzzards, and but few snakes. The native heathen and an ant called the “driver” leave nothing for the buzzards; so they, like many human buzzards, have all left and given Africa a bad name. How under heaven some negroes can come here and after remaining awhile, go back to America and give this place a bad name I cannot understand, unless it be for the reason that they do not find scullion employment or some white man to curse and kick them around. Lazy sloths! they could hibernate six months annually and then live, so far as the bounties of nature need operate as a factor. I grant, however, that persons coming here ought to have a little money to start with, and a good-deal of self-reliance, a decent amount of race pride, and considerable common sense. This is no place for the mere kitchen pimp, nor for the Congo negro. Those who are here from the Congo are ignored by the native heathen, much more by the regular Liberians. They sustain the same relation to the higher African tribes that they do to us in the United States. I find that they are the lowest of the African races. I mean all that that word implies, for there are distinct races here. The Mandingo, Vey, Pessa and
Golahs are far above the Congo, Boozie and others I might name. The Pessa ladies are the most beautifully-built of any I ever saw–full limbs, round and large chest, plump all over, indeed; small feet, neat fingers, as though made for the piano, and are the most industrious possibly of any on the coast and the most easily civilized.
Natives do all kinds of work, and do it for twenty-five cents per day or five dollars per month. Show them once or twice anything you want done and they can do it as well as you. I believe most of them could learn to set type in a day and the next day print a newspaper.
The man who buys the African heathen for a fool is a bigger fool than he is.
I dare also to utter another thing, at the risk of being branded as the victim of superstition. While the white man deals with the visible sciences, the African here deals with the invisible sciences; while the white man manipulates and utilizes forces the black man knows nothing of, the black man controls forces that the white man is ignorant of. I believe that the black man is acquainted with secret agents in the realm of nature that the white man has never dreamed of, and will offset any telegraph, telephone or phonograph ever invented by white men.
This is the only country I have ever seen where everybody could have a stream of water running through his yard. It is the most perfectly watered region I have ever witnessed. The water, too, is clear as a crystal, and rapidly flows wherever seen. The water-power is inestimable–enough to run the machinery of the world! O that my race here had the skill to practicalize it. But that time will come in God’s own good time–for come it will if revelation be true.
I thought when I came to Africa I would see snakes without end, but I have seen none yet. People who have been through the woods in all directions tell me that they have not seen a snake in ten years, some say fifteen years, others say five years. I have traveled by water and land for miles upon miles, and have not seen one yet. People from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, say they could see fifty snakes there to one here. People here, fifty years old, never saw a boa constrictor; yet, there are some
all concede; nor have I seen or heard a mosquito, though I expected to be almost eaten up by them.
If some of our rich colored men in the States would come here and open up the coal mines at Carrysburg, they would be worth millions in a few years. The steamships would buy the coal by millions of tons. The coaling stations at Grand Canary and Sierra Leone, now supplied with coal shipped from England, would be transferred to Liberia, and wealth untold would be the result. They have coal, marble, silver, gold, tin and diamonds, all in Liberia. I never had over-much admiration for Liberia until since my arrival here. I thought it was a second-class portion of Africa, but it is the richest region of the globe I ever saw. There is no place in the United States that will begin to compare with it. Any man who will run down Liberia, so far as its natural resources are concerned, is a fool and an ass. I am not talking about what I have heard, either. I am speaking of what I have seen with my own eyes, and handled with my own hands.
I have seen three armies of the little ants called “Drivers,” which travel through the country and destroy every insect, snake or animal they catch. I unsuspectingly walked into their ranks, while prowling around in the woods, inspecting things in general. But gracious! did I not run, jump, dance and get out of my clothes in a hurry! I was soon as clothesless as a native African, and indeed more so. But the Drivers are the friends of the country, and I admire them for many reasons.
The Annual Conference of the A. M. E. Church, known as the Liberia Conference, has been organized and has been in session three days. The prospects for our church are grand. The joy of the ministers and members is too ecstatic for description. Ministers of other churches have called and make mighty speeches of welcome.
Muhlenberg, Liberia, December 4, 1891.
I have just strolled as far out in the direction of Boporo–the Eden of West Africa–as my strength and convenience would permit. I have seen the African in his native town and hut, rather dwellings, and I have just had a long weep or cry at the grand field for missionary operation here, and that I am too old now to engage in it. But if there were roads cut through the country and bridges for horses and wagons, I would try it, as old as I am. I am sure I could not stand the hills and valleys of this rolling country traveling on foot, at my age, and then the hammock system of travel is too cumbersome for regular locomotion. But Africa is the grandest field on earth for the labor of civilization and the Christian church. There is no reason under heaven why this continent should not or cannot be redeemed and brought to God in twenty-five years–say thirty at most. Note the reasons:
First.–The African can beat the world in learning to speak the English language, in which all religious terms are found to convey Christian ideas.
Second.–The young African can come out of the bush, and in a few months at most, sing and play upon the organ any gospel song in print, even before he learns to wear clothes.
Third.–The Africans are the most honest people on earth. Where I am stopping at present, at the Training School of Rev. David A. Day, scores of wild and partly civilized Africans gather and sleep all about the yards as well as on the piazzas; not a door or window is shut all night, unless it is raining or windy.
Fourth.–The African is not a pagan, but a child of superstition; he worships no wooden or brass god, but believes more strongly in the invisible forces than we do; so it is an easy matter to have him transfer his faith from superstition to Christ Jesus the Lord.
Fifth.–And here is the crowning phase of this question: The Africans will give the god-man or god-woman millions of children to be instructed and trained to read, write, work, sing, pray, farm or do anything that will make them useful. When you approach the older ones, and begin to tell them about the benefits of a civilized life and the virtues of Christianity, they say: “You no change me now; take all my pickaninnies (children) and teach them, make them wise and great; not me, I be too old.” And they will give you all their children, and frequently come once a week and bring food for them to eat. It makes one feel singular to see the almost naked native African father come out of the bush, and sit around the Training School, and watch their sons as they walk the yards in decent dress, and read, write, sing, march, use tools, etc. They are so fond of their children. Finally, they will walk off home, possibly having not uttered a word to their child or any one else. The African father seems to be soliloquizing thus: “Well, I suppose that will be the order of things in the future; my day will soon be gone, and another dispensation will be ushered in.”
One thing stands to the everlasting credit of the African; he is anxious to learn; a seeker after knowledge; to-day he is the most susceptible heathen upon the face of the globe. He is ready to lay down any habit, custom or sentiment for a better, or have his children do it, which is the same thing. It is said, that often those that have been trained at schools, will return to the bush and strip off their clothes and go around like the others. That seems to be true from what I have seen in some cases. But what is the result? These very young men become the leaders and general instructors of their people; they do not forget their training by any means. They often become the diplomats of their tribes and negotiate with other tribes and civilized nations. Their education is not lost, if they go as naked as a “skinned coon.”
The Conference has been organized and named the “Liberia Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.” Our session has been grand in every particular. Rev. S. J. Campbell, our chief representative here, is all that constitutes goodness and greatness. He brought nine preachers to the Conference and they were
very decent-looking men. They have some stereotyped modes of expression and ways of doing things, but we believe that will be overcome. The reception tendered Elder Geda and myself was superb. Elder Campbell and Rev. June Moore, of the Baptist Church, made the speeches, and Campbell felt himself upon his own ground, and he literally roared. I had no dream when he was in America that he was so eloquent and masterly. He has the respect and confidence of the whole community and lives in a three-story brick house, with plenty around him. His wife is a perfect lady and fills her sphere with all the grace that her position demands. God save Campbell and Frederick and their wives!
Rev. June Moore is an able and powerful speaker and a noble representative of the race.
Rev. David A. Day (white), of the Lutheran Church, with whom Geda and I are stopping, is one of God’s noblest men. He and his wife have been here eighteen years; he has built five large houses and teaches a large number of native children. One house is his residence, containing many compartments; then a church and a school-house together; then a workshop and machine shop; then a sleeping house for the students, etc. He has trained a host of heathen children, who are doing much for the enlightenment of their tribes. He has immense coffee farms, and the school is self-supporting. He has solved many problems and has the confidence of the heathen for a hundred or more miles back in the country.
Mr. Day would have Elder Campbell use his church and buildings for Conference purposes; so that the bishop would have every convenience in meeting the Conference without much walking, and the Conference would have all necessary committee rooms. People came in from the country every night to the Conference by crowds and droves. Some were dressed in fine order and others almost clothesless; but they sang with a vim and listened with great attention. It certainly looks peculiar to see people praising God with a bare cloth around their waists. It only shows that the soul is in the body and not in the garments.
Rev. S. J. Campbell was elected a delegate from the Liberia Conference to the General Conference, as Elder Frederick was at Sierra
Leone. He got every vote except one, which he cast by himself for another.
I never saw such rejoicing over the presence of a bishop as there is in Liberia. The preachers seem to have forgotten God and gone to bishop-worshiping. I have reproved them repeatedly, but it does no good. The ministers of other churches have shown us marvelous respect. I have ordained six deacons. Brother Campbell is hard at work on his hundred-acre coffee farm; has several thousand coffee trees set out; and, if we will stand by Africa a few years, the coffee farm will support the whole business. I wish our church in the United States could see the coffee farm Brother Campbell has now growing for our church. If Campbell had $5,000, after five years he would send our missionary treasurer $50,000 yearly.
Oh! how the people of Liberia want a steamship directly to America. England, France, Spain and Germany all have scores of steamships laden with goods and whisky at fabulous prices; and Yates & Porterfield send only one or two sailships from New York, and they will ship nothing for the people unless they themselves are the purchasers. Elder Campbell wanted to ship a thousand pounds of coffee to Mr. W. H. Amos, of Philadelphia, but could not. If the moneyed colored men of America would band together and go to England and purchase a second-hand steamship at one-third its price and start a trade between here and the United States, they would be worth millions in a few years. It is a shame before high heaven that we are such consummate fools. The national government of Liberia is also unwise for not doing it. The custom house revenues of the Liberian government amount, at least, to $300,000 a year, and might do it easily enough. But she is so American in her ideas that she thinks it beneath her national dignity to engage in commercial enterprises; and here we all are fools together, while England, France, Spain and Germany are reaping untold millions that black man ought to have. I get mad and sick when I look at the possibilities God has placed within our reach, and to think we are such big blockheads we cannot see and utilize them. I have long said that the salvation of the black man was in connection with this country; I see the wisdom of my position now as I never dreamed of before. If the black man ever rises
to wealth, he will either do it in Africa, or as he operates in connection with Africa. He will never do it trying to be white, or snubbing his native country.
Mrs. Phoebe Corzan, formerly Mrs. Phoebe Brown Deputie, late of Philadelphia, a lady of marked intelligence, tells me that a few miles beyond where I am at present, in the Gibby mountains, about sixty miles from Monrovia, the water is so cool that it chills one’s hands to put them in it, and if people coming here would leave the coast and go back there, they would never have any acclimating change at all. Even where I am now I do not believe I would be sick in forty years, although I may be mistaken.
The Conference here has ten mission points, and three to be supplied–making thirteen in all. One point is named after Bishop Campbell, another after Bishop Shorter and another after Bishop Cain. Elder S. J. Campbell fought till he got one point named Eliza Ann Turner Mission; I objected but the Conference overruled me. Our membership here is a little less than three hundred and fifty.
Rev. S. J. Campbell is appointed Superintendent of Missions and chief of the coffee farm and industrial department of the Liberia Conference, and Rev. T. R. Geda is appointed Presiding Elder.
Had Geda not come with me I do not know what I would have done; he has been of incalculable use to me. On committees, especially, he has been a great guide. He has demonstrated superior business tact and a fine judgment.
Our Conference lasted seven days; indeed, it virtually included two Sabbaths, and we have certainly had a big time. All kinds of resolutions of thanks have been passed to the bishops and Mother Church for sending me here.
Quite a settled African lady came out of the bush, with portly limbs, massive head, all bare except a cloth around the waist, hair done up in the most ornamental style, pure silver cuffs, leopard teeth tied and dangling to the elbows, fetish balls fastened to the rear part of the head, beads strung around the body, dressed to death after the fashion of the Gollah tribe. She was introduced to Geda and me, having learned that we had come from big America. She was mistress of the Greggree Bush and counsellor of the big chiefs of her people.
The woman looked frightful and pretty too. She sat with me on the piazza for some time, then she walked into my room without an invitation and talked with me through her interpreter. She never complimented Geda a bit, but she said I was “a good man and nice heap much, and pretty all over.” Of course, I was glad to hear it, for I had not heard it before. Her name is Blarbubber, and she is known as the Queen of the Greggree Bush. But I must close till I visit Monrovia, which I will do next week, when you will hear from me again, God willing. Elder S. J. Campbell disapproves of the way I knock around and the little care I take of myself. He thinks if I should get sick from any cause it would be charged to Liberia.
Brother Campbell and wife tendered Elder Geda and myself a superb dinner a few days ago. Several of his most prominent neighbors were present–ladies and gentlemen–and the time passed off grandly. I never saw so much to eat for the same number of guests.
Monrovia, Liberia, December 5, 1891.
I have descended the St. Paul River and am now in Monrovia, stopping in the beautiful three-story brick residence of General R. A. Sherman, general-in-chief of the Liberian armies. Everything is superb in and outside of this spacious and finely-furnished palace. I would wager anything that General W. T. Sherman never lived in more style, and I am sure he never possessed anything like the social graces of the Liberian General Sherman. The general somewhat resembles ex-Senator B. K. Bruce in stature, color, hair and demeanor. He was born in Savannah, Ga., is about fifty years of age, and has been here some thirty-seven years. He has fought many battles, has been wounded repeatedly, and his name is a terror to the native heathen for hundreds of miles in the interior.
I have seen many sights of interest in the city. Dr. Blyden carried me through the Kroo Town, introduced me to the king, with whom I had a long talk. I was surprised at his intelligence and general information. He was dressed as a gentleman and very polite. His subjects, or people, treat him with great respect. The city is laid off in streets and squares, but not equal in extent; sometimes the streets curve and, in other cases, they so intersect one another as to form a triangle.
The houses are built of platted sheets of bamboo, which they plat upon the ground with taste and skill, and in some instances with peculiar art. Then they are set up and fastened to timbers, and rooms, kitchens, palaver halls, sitting-rooms and such like are made in the same building.
It is useless to talk about the African having no taste and pride.
I have found out another thing since I have come to Africa. I have traveled scores of miles through the interior and noted the tact,
taste, genius and manly bearing of the higher grade of the natives. I have found out that we poor American negroes were the tail-end of the African races. We were slaves over here, and had been for a thousand years or more before we were sold to America. Those who think the receding forehead, the flat nose, the proboscidated mouth and the big flat-bottom foot are natural to the African are mistaken. There are heads here by the millions, as vertical or perpendicular as any white man’s head God ever made. A straight rule laid upon the face of three-fourths of us in America will touch the nose and mouth only; here are native Africans, without number, whose nose and chin the rule would touch without touching the mouth, which is always indicative of the highest type of intellectuality. Some of the most neat and concave feet are found upon thousands of these Africans. I have seen specimens of 19 tribes, and I have not seen over 100 of them constructed on as low scale as I have seen in America. An African said to be 108 years old, said. “We no used to sell ‘big blood’ African to white man, except we capture him in war.” I believe this old man tells the truth; that during the times of the slave trade there were no “big blood” (first class) Africans sold to the white man, unless they were war prisoners.
Monrovia far exceeds my expectations. Instead of being low, swampy and alluvial, it is on an elevated cape, three sides laved by the ocean and fanned by her breezes. It will average about 150 feet above the sea-level, I think. In the main, the houses are excellent, two, three and a few four-stories high, with sidewalks very good, but the streets proper are grassy and not kept in regular order. As they use no horses and wagons, the streets are not needed; but they are far superior to hundreds of streets I have seen where horses and mules are used.
In the rear of Monrovia, however, where a branch of the St. Paul River, called the Stockton Creek, and the Mesurado River form a confluence, there are some large mangrove swamps, alluvial, soft and lagoonish, which evidently emit a great deal of malaria and are highly productive of fever germs when the wind is blowing from the land side, just as we have in thousands of places in the United States. There is no remedy for this, for God is making these two rivers cart
dirt from the high lands to fill up the low; the debris is gradually doing its work, and the people must await his time.
The Liberia College is situated on the side of Mount Mesurado; the curriculum is high and the teachers are well informed. Two more learned professors are being looked for daily. The college is a credit to the government of Liberia, for its is a national institution.
I have had the honor of visiting the executive mansion of the Liberian government, was received with marked consideration, and the president, who is polished scholar, paid me special attention. I had seen nine presidents in the United States, but a real black president was to me a delightful sight. This administration is praised and blamed by friends and foes, just as is the case with our presidents. The Liberian government is in the hands of the following, who form the executive department: His Excellency H. R. W. Johnson, President, born in Liberia; Secretary of State, Hon. E. J. Barclay, born in Barbadoes, West Indies; Secretary of Treasury, Hon. H. W. Travis, born in Liberia; Postmaster-General, Hon. H. J. Moore, born in Liberia; Attorney-General, Hon. W. M. Davis, born in Philadelphia, Pa., Secretary of the Interior, not filled. The Secretary of the Treasury, for the present, does the duties of the War and Naval departments. Chief Justice, Hon. C. L. Parsons, born in Charleston, S. C.
The president-elect, who will take his seat early in January, 1892, is Hon. J. J. Cheeseman of Grand Bassa, born in Liberia; vice-president-elect, Hon. W. D. Coleman, born in Kentucky. Mr. Cheeseman is represented as an able man with progressive views.
I visited the Monrovia cemetery a few days ago, and was pleased with the tombstones, slabs and shafts I saw commemorating the dead. I counted nearly a hundred, some of which cost over a thousand dollars. I saw the grave of my aunt, “Hannah Greer,” who died about the same time my mother did, some three years ago. She was about ninety years old. She was my oldest aunt of five, and the people here say she was a grand woman. I hope to send or bring her a marble head and foot slab from America. I visited also the graves of Hon. M. A. Hopkins, Hon. and Dr. Henry Highland Garnett, Hon. Alexander Clark, and Mrs. Mary Garnett Barboza, the distinguished
daughter of Dr. Garnett. Hopkins, Garnett and Clark were the three American Ministers of State, who have died here. There is not a stone, or a shingle, at the foot or head of the grave of Dr. Garnett,–a shame, a shame, upon us American negroes!
For forty years before Mr. Lincoln issued his proclamation of freedom, Dr. Garnett fought for his race as no other man could, except Douglass, when the lips of the Southern negro was sealed and he was gored by the slave-masters to the verge of death. Dr. Garnett periled life and everything for his freedom. Now for us American negroes to allow his remains to lie here, as though he was a dog, is enough to make God blast the whole of us. As I looked at his grave I wept, and asked God if there was any hope for such an ungrateful people. If we do not send a tombstone here to mark his grave, the whole negro race in America deserves the contempt of perdition, to say nothing of heaven.
Hon. C. T. O. King is the agent of the Colonization Society here. He is a man of excellent parts and evidently understands himself. Mr. King thinks that some improvements could be made in the reception of emigrants from America, and I think so, too. But as I will speak about them at the proper place if I live, I will only say at present, that any persons coming out here should not come as paupers. While Liberia is the easiest place to make a living on earth and is the most paradisaical spot in the world, all things considered; yet, there is a climatic change which most people must pass through (many do not), and while they are passing through it, they need rest and fresh food, which the Colonization Society does not provide, nor can it without steamships. Hence they need money to purchase the the necessary food and often some medicine. Persons should not come here and expect to be hirelings; for the native African, stands ready to do all kinds of work much cheaper and better than we can, except skilled labor. They till the ground and raise all the produce for twenty-five cents per day, or five dollars per month. A man coming here with two or three hundred dollars and good sense may be rich in four or five years. But this is no place for fools and paupers. The oldest man in Liberia at present is only one hundred and twenty-seven years; the oldest woman is one hundred and twenty. A young man
twenty-seven years old has a wife seventy-two years old, and he is jealous of her and another fellow twenty-four years old.
The ministers of Monrovia are as follows:–Rev. Garrison W. Gibson, of the Episcopal Church; Rev. Henry Cooper, M. E. Church; Rev. Robert J. Clark, Baptist Church; Rev. J. B. Perry, Presbyterian Church. All these ministers treat Geda and me with great courtesy. The Episcopal minister could not offer me his church to preach in, owing to the canons of his connection but he urged me to lecture in it. The M. E. Church pastor appropriated our service. He is a Christian and a gentleman of the highest type. Everybody seems to be overjoyed at the presence of the A. M. E. Church in Liberia. The welcome appears to be universal. Many desire that it shall be the National Church, others declare it will be the Continental Church. They have come after me to organize in Monrovia at once, but for reasons that I shall tell the bishops, I will not.
A minister of the A. M. E. Zion Church, who had united with us and claimed to be ordained by one Elder Cartright, maintained that his orders were valid, as Brother Cartright was superintendent of the church here and had been authorized by Bishop Hood to ordain. I denied the right of Bishop Hood to confer any such authority upon an elder and rejected his ordination. I ordained him a deacon, however, after due examination. I am sure Bishop Hood never did it.
The people here think I am a “rough,” because I will sit in the draught, eat all kinds of African food, sleep with the windows open, walk around barefooted, etc., preach or speak every night. But I believe some people die here because of particularity. I never felt better in my life; but I cannot say how long this will continue.
They say Hon. Alexander Clark, who died here, had passed through the acclimating fever and would have lived easily enough had he not refused to eat food that would strengthen him; he confined himself to American hog soup, when the doctor and all begged him to eat other things. The people here say stinginess killed him. The report, however, that strong drink killed him is pronounced a base falsehood. People here say he was purely temperate.
The nights and mornings here are as cool as in Washington City in November. This morning a drink of water chilled my teeth. But from 11 o’clock to one it is certainly hot. I have met no hotter weather here, however, than I have in the United States.
Monrovia, Liberia, December 7, 1891.
The hospitality of the Liberians has no limit; the social forms here, however, partake largely of those in vogue among the English. I infer this from what I have read and heard of English customs more than from any personal knowledge. Politeness, style and dignity are by no means wanting, yet the cast of the American order is not prominent. But we Americans have no social standard. In Liberia break-fast receptions at 10 o’clock in the morning are the rule for distinguished guests.
It would seem, from all I can learn, that Rev. Daniel Coker played a prominent part in the early settlement of Liberia. The first Methodist Church established here was the African M. E. Church; but by whom established I cannot say. Tradition says it was afterward sold out to the M. E. Church. Besides the probability of Rev. Daniel Coker’s having established our church here, he also played a mighty part among the early settlers of Sierra Leone. His children and grandchildren are found there to-day.
President-elect Hon. J. J. Cheeseman will take his seat early in January, under very encouraging circumstances. The Kroo tribe, the most important along the African coast, by virtue of its maritime character and without whom the ships could do nothing in commerce, has sent him an address expressing its loyalty to the Liberian republic and its desire to co-operate in the maintenance of his administration. This tribe will be a mighty support to the new president; the more so as it is beginning to realize the treachery of some of the European nations toward Africa. The Mandingo, the chief Mohammedan tribe, has also sent the new president an elaborate communication of congratulation, assuring him of its support. This is one of the most mighty and progressive tribes in Africa, and extends back for hundreds of miles into the interior. Mr. Cheeseman has everything
to hope for, provided he fills the bill of public expectation, as everybody believes that his administration will inaugurate a new deal.
The eight years’ administration of President Johnson, while not marked, as I am informed, by many brilliant exploits, has, nevertheless, held things in such a statu quo that the new administration can enlarge, if so disposed.
One of the chief deficits of the Liberian republic is the absence of a bank. Sierra Leone has at least two banks, and from the income of Liberia she could have a bank easily enough if I have been properly informed; but it is presumed that they understand their business better than I can. Things may drag along somewhat, but Liberia is destined to play a grand part in the future. Her natural resources are too infinite to remain stagnant forever; if there has been any jack of foresight in the past, the remedy will come in God’s own time.
Rev. James H. Deputie, of the M. E. Church, a most polished and Christian gentleman, welcomes the A. M. E. Church to Liberia as heartily as any of our own ministers. His kindness to me personally and his congratulations in general to our church secure our gratitude.
Bishop William Taylor, D. D., is not just as popular as I expected to find him among the members and ministers of his own church. They say he realizes himself as white, and does not fail to let them know it, and often gives out utterances from the pulpit not appreciated by any means. When, in one of the M. E. churches, I spoke of the bishop as being one of the grandest divines on earth, I noticed that many frowned at the expression, and some took me to task about it after services were over. I did not recant, however.
Yesterday I received an invitation, through Dr. Blyden, from Mrs. Jennie Sharp, to visit the female department of Liberia College, established in 1883. Mrs. Sharp, formerly Miss Jennie Davis, teacher at Webster Grove, Mo., responded to the call of Dr. Blyden in 1882 for teachers for the college. She went to work, not even waiting to be acclimated, and using the material she had, organized the school, and has continued teaching ever since with marvelous success. Many a young wife, now an ornament of Liberian society, has passed
through her hands. She has nearly fifty girls, both children of the colonists and of the natives from the interior. There are about ten interior girls, one a Mandingo and the others from far beyond the Mandingo districts. These, Mrs. Sharp thinks, belong to the Wahoma tribe in East Africa. While these interior girls are pure African, they show to a demonstration, that all Africans are not black. Some of them are as light as mulattoes, with silky hair. Astonishing sights will some day be revealed from Interior Africa. Mrs. Sharp deserves great credit for her zeal and enterprise in securing and keeping these children. She supports a number of her pupils at her own expense. I would commend this institution to the generosity of all friends of female education in Africa. Any books, clothing or money sent to Mrs. Sharp will be worthily bestowed. She and her children attend the Presbyterian Church at Monrovia. Mrs. Sharp came to Africa, I believe, at the same time Professors T. McCants Stewart and H. Brown did. She is now the wife of that great business man, Mr. Jesse Sharp, referred to in a former letter as having come from Columbia, S. C., forty years ago.
[Since Bishop Turner left Africa he has learned of the death of Mr. Sharp.–ED.]
A CHANGE OF BASE.
Since writing the above I have left Monrovia and am now in Sierra Leone again. Dr. Blyden and myself took a German ship, which carried us eighty miles up the Sherbro River; so I have been eighty miles in the interior in another direction, up to a place called York Island. What an immense river this Sherbro is! The inlets to African cities and towns are innumerable. But of all the places I have seen in Africa, this is the most unhealthy region. Eatables are incalculable in variety; provisions of every kind are abundant; yet, I would not advise any new-comer to settle up the Sherbro River. White men and ladies, however, are here apparently reasonable healthy, acting as ship agents and school teachers.
Dr. Edward W. Blyden, who traveled with me for six days, is a marvelous scholar; when he meets an African of whatever tribe, or a German, Frenchman, Italian, Spaniard or Portuguese, he talks
right along in their native tongue, as though he were speaking English.
Since I left Monrovia, I have learned that certain African kings from the Pan Pedro River–the southeastern boundary of Liberia–have visited Sierra Leone to protest to the British government against the occupation by the French of their territory contrary to their will and without their consent. They claim to be part of the republic of Liberia, and decidedly prefer Liberian rule to French.
One of the most outrageous things of modern times is the way the French, because they possess the might, have seized upon over a hundred miles of bona fide Liberian territory, under the iniquitous regulations by which the European nations have agreed to partition out Africa, and under which atrocious arrangement the French are threatening the “Hinterland” of Liberia. The following notice appeared in the Sierra Leone Weekly News, December 5, 1891:
“The British Commissioners for the delimitation of the English and French frontiers arrived here on the evening of December 2, 1891, by the steamship Kinsembo, Capt. A. H. Kenny, R. N., and a detachment of Royal Engineers, Surgeon Major J. J. Lamprey, Army Medical Staff, and Mr. Scott Eliott, attached as botanist to the commission, from the Royal Gardens, Kew. “The French officers who form the French Commission are M. Lamadon, Principal Administrator of the ‘Rivieres du sud,’ Lieutenant Bransoulie, 15th de Ligne, and Docteur Bonnefoy, French Navy. They arrived in Freetown from Marseilles on Saturday morning, per steamship Tiflet. “The object of the Commission is to define the limits of the French and English territory to the north of the colony of Sierra Leone, and to establish with geographical precision the delimitation already agreed upon by the two governments.”
The Commissioners have been to Sierra Leone and arranged for an exploring journey, by which they will parcel out other people’s country–tribes unwilling to receive them and with whom they have no quarrel, but whose territory they covet. Will not the God of Naboth visit these powerful European nations for these things? Will not the United States government interfere to prevent Liberian territory from being gobbled up by the French? Has not the American government the right to help a feeble nation, founded partly under her patronage;
and when she has in her domain millions of the descendants of Africa, many of whom are looking to the same Liberia as their future home or the home of their posterity?
I believe the Judge of all the earth will do right. He will overrule the cupidity of man, in the interest of the negro, in this instance as he overruled the slave trade. Europe thought she was serving herself by enslaving Africa and her people. Twelve millions of us in the Western Hemisphere have been brought in contact with civilization and Christianity, and are being prepared to take intelligent possession of our fatherland.
Upon my return from Liberia I found Rev. J. R. Frederick, Presiding Elder of the Sierra Leone Conference, quite sick with fever. He is in bed at present, but better, and will be out in a few days.
Our American representative here, Hon. Bolding Bowser, is a grand man and fills his station with consummate ability. His wife, Mrs. G. E. Bowser, is a lady of fine attainments and uncommon sense. Mr. Bowser lets no interest of his government suffer. He proves beyond all question the ability of the colored man to look after the interests of our great nation, even though the nation cares but little for him.
York Island, Sherbro River, Africa, December 9, 1891.
I have left Monrovia and am now some seventy-five miles up the Sherbro River, interior-ward from the ocean. The native towns and vast population of our people living on each side of this river, and all through the bush, is simply wonderful. As you ascend the Sherbro, every now and then, small inlets can be seen flowing in from the land, while trees lock their branches across them, and flower-bearing vines festoon them with garlands of fragrant drapery. But, reverberating through and under these over-arched inlets, you can hear the voices of scores of natives, as they chant their rowing songs; for the native Africans sing as they work, especially as they row their boats, till they burst from under the green sceneries with small canoes laden with all kinds of fruit. Often a Mohammedan priest sits in front, gorgeously robed, as though he was on watch for whisky; as the sixty millions of Mohammedans in Africa hate whisky as they do the devil himself. Say what you please about the Mohammedans and their plurality of wives (which of course no Christian can endorse), I verily believe that God is holding these Mohammedans intact, and that they will serve as the forerunners of evangelical Christianity; in short, that the Mohammedan religion is the morning-star to the sun of pure Christianity. I have not spoken on any occasion against liquor-drinking in Africa but some Mohammedan has come and shaken my hand after service, and thanked me for fighting whisky. One thanked me “for cursing liquor,” and said, “Our church and religion all curse it, too; it be our greatest foe.” God save the Mohammedans, is my prayer, till the Christian Church is ready to do her whole duty. Beyond the fact that the Mohammedans allow more than one wife, they are as upright in conduct and civil behavior as any people in the land.
I regret to say what I am now going to write, but I promised to do it, and I suppose I had better keep my word.
The leading men, or a large number of them in Liberia, are disgusted with a majority of the representatives that our government sends over here. They say if our government cannot find sober, coolheaded, dignified and intelligent representatives of our own color to send here, ask the president to send white men. Dr. Henry Highland Garnett is the only man sent here, whom all join in complimenting, for many years. They say Dr. Garnett was a gentleman and a diplomat of high order. They also speak kindly of Hon. Alexander Clark, so far as his sobriety and morality are concerned, but say that he had no knowledge of diplomacy. Some of our representatives have so far ignored the rules of diplomatic dignity or decorum that they have tried to force themselves into the President’s Cabinet meetings. But I will tell no more, as I dislike gossip in any form; yet they prefer a white man to some of our colored men whom the presidents have sent here.
It appears that the American minister is the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps at Monrovia, and in any formal meeting or reception he is the presiding officer, as he ranks the representatives of all other nations; therefore he should be a model man in every respect.
Liberia, as I have said before, is a most beautiful country, and nature has supplied it with all that heart could wish. I never wanted to be a young man so badly in my life. I would come here, and, if I had half as much sense as I have now, I would be worth a fortune in ten years. Nevertheless, as I have said before, I would advise no one to come here without a hundred or two dollars. This is not the place for any one to come without money. Well, if he is a mechanic, viz., carpenter, blacksmith, painter, tailor, watchmaker, or professional, as a doctor or a lawyer, he might do well enough; but a mere laborer should bring some money, for the native African stands ready, ten thousand strong, to snatch up all the mere common labor to be done, at twenty-five cents per day, or five dollars a month; and two native Africans can do more hard work in one day than five of our ordinary men, such is their strength and vigor.
As for the acclimating process, nearly everybody must pass through
it, yet all do not have the fever. Men, and women too, who have been here ten and fifteen years, tell me they have never had anything like fever. But if a person comes here, young or old, with any chronic disease lurking in his system, Africa is apt to purge it out, or kill the person in the process of purgation. At all events, the party will get better or worse. But if a person comes here healthy, sound and sober, there is no more danger than in any other change of climate.
One thing the black man has here–that is, manhood, freedom, and the fullest liberty; he feels as a lord, and walks and talks the same way.
I notice when the English, or even the cultured Africans, speak of the colored people coming here from America or elsewhere they do not use the terms “emigrate,” or “African emigration,” as we do in America; but, instead, they invariably say, “repatriate,” or use the term, the “repatriation of the black man,” or, as some say, the “negro;” nor are the terms “emigrate” or “immigrate” used, even among the common people, as they say, “coming home,” or “When are you all coming home?” The native African, from the kings down, cannot realize that the black man in America is at home across the sea.
Out of the many receptions given in my honor, or the honor of the church, and the eloquent addresses delivered upon the occasions, I will send the two following, they being the only ones which have fallen into my hands in manuscript. I failed to get the others by reason of having to leave so soon. The first was delivered by Rev. June Moore, of the Baptist Church, the great friend and comrade of Rev. S. J. Campbell, at the opening of the Liberian Conference; the other at the 10 o’clock breakfast tendered to Elder Geda and myself at Monrovia, which was read by Hon. H. W. Grimes.
ADDRESS OF REV. JUNE MOORE TO BISHOP TURNER
AT THE OPENING OF THE LIBERIA CONFERENCE,
A. M. E. CHURCH.
RT. REV. AND DEAR SIR:
It becomes my duty, in behalf of the ministry and members of the A. M. E. Church, whose invitation to visit Liberia you have so kindly accepted, to extend you a hearty welcome to our shores. I have often heard and read with much interest, pleasure and thankfulness of your devoted labors and zeal for our common race, as well as of your desire and untiring efforts to impress the negro of America with a strong and clear sense of his obligation to God and his race.
I am thankful, too, to our common Father, that your labors have met with so much success, and I hope that your visit to Liberia may be of much interest to you, and that your short stay here may encourage us in the great and grand work which lies before us; believing that on your return to our brethren in America, you will be better prepared to lay before them the true condition of Africa–the Old Homestead of our fathers, as you now see it.
We are again thankful to our Gracious Father for the gifts and graces with which he has endowed you. He has evidently set you forth as one of the leaders of our race, to mark for us a line upon which we are to work.
It affords me much pleasure to say that it is becoming clearer and clearer to the minds of the leading men of our race that we have a distinct work to do for God and the race, which no one can do but ourselves. May your life be spared for the great work in which you are engaged!
It is not until we have gotten these grand principles of self-respect implanted in our hearts, then, and not until then, shall we demand respect from all nations. Again I welcome you to the shores of Africa. Look to the north, south, east and west, or as far as Africa extends–foreign nations boast in their scramble for Africa that they have divided it among themselves. Yet we believe that when we
shall have gotten right with God and with ourselves, all these powers will give way for the peaceful possession of it by the sons of Ham.
May the blessings of God rest upon you and the dear brethren in your present work and may the standard of Emmanuel which you are planting here, rise higher and higher, until the millions that are now sitting in darkness catch the bright rising of the Sun of Righteousness.
Monrovia, Liberia, December 5, 1891.
To the Right Rev. Henry M. Turner, D. D., LL. D., Bishop of the A. M. E. Church:
RT. REVEREND AND DEAR SIR:
We feel that it would not be fitting for you to leave our shores without our putting on record the feeling of gratification with which we have seen you among us.
Some of those who are allied to us by ties of blood, but who are divided from us by the misfortunes which have crushed out of them race pride and self-respect, have from time to time come among us and left among us sad impressions of the tidings and feelings of our brethren in the United States, and taken back to them evil tidings of this little republic, like the ten spies, filling the hearts of the people with fear and dismal foreboding, and making wider the chasm which divides the scattered children of Africa from their fatherland.
In you, however, we rejoice to meet a man of another stamp, and great as is our pleasure to greet you as an eminent theologian, a profound scholar, a true Christian and the honored representative of a church which has peculiar claims upon our interests and sympathy, we are yet more pleased to greet you as one whose race instincts are unimpaired, and who, seeing the weaknesses and shortcomings of your people, can look beyond them and perceive the elements of greatness which exist in them, and believe that God, in his wise providence, is fitting them for great things.
To many of us you are personally a stranger, but to none of us are you unknown. We have heard of your battles for Africa, and the
noble efforts which you have put forth to open the eyes of the descendants of Ham in the United States to their duties, responsibilities and privileges as such as to induce them to lend a helping hand to us in Liberia, who are, as we believe, the pioneers of that mighty host of Africa’s sons whose blessed privilege it will be to break the chains of sin and ignorance, with which Africa’s millions have been bound, and win this grand continent and its magnificent sons for Christ.
We bid you God speed as a bishop and trust that the seed sown by you during your visit may spring up, bear abundant fruit for Christ and for Africa, and that the small beginning which you have made, may, under the fostering care of the Almighty, grow into a powerful African church.
We bid you God speed as a man who loves his race and trust that you may be spared to return to your people, encouraged and fortified and bearing to them glad tidings of great joy, and that you may live to see some of the fruits of your labors in Africa and for Africa.
We trust that it may be our privilege to see you among us again; but should this privilege be denied us, we assure you that our hearts go with you and our prayers shall ascend for you, as for all with whom–although separated from them by leagues of sea and land–we are co-workers, striving to attain a common goal.
To those of our brethren in the United States who are, like you, lovers of Africa and their race, we beg you to convey our greetings and assure them that there is room and work for them here and that should they come among us they will find a hearty welcome and a home.
We beg, Rt. Rev. and Dear Sir, to subscribe ourselves your friends and servants.
HIS EXCELLENCY H. R. W. JOHNSON, President of Liberia.
HON. H. W. TRAVIS, Secretary of the Treasury.
HON. H. A. WILLIAMS, Mayor of Monrovia.
REV. G. W. GIBSON, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church Monrovia.
EDWARD W. BLYDEN, D. D., LL. D.
HON. W. M. DAVIS, Attorney-General
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