PROBLEMS OF EMPIRE IN WEST AFRICA
An Address by Dr. Tom JAYS, of Nigeria, before the Empire Club of Canada, on November 23, 1911.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to come here today, and to tell you something about the British Empire in West Africa. It is a privilege and also a responsibility to tally to you about that part of the world to which the globe trotters do not come. Because of the deadly swamps, West Africa has been shunned by our people in the past, but it is a mistake to think that the whole of the West African possessions are as deadly as certain portions on the coast. There is a great healthy section in the interior and, as the country develops, it will become a big factor in the work of the Empire.
I want to talk to you especially today about the situation in the interior, and first I want to point out on this map the portions of the Empire which we call West Africa.
You see this small land right at the Gambia river; it contains only about four square miles of territory, brut it is alongside a very fine river, and has one of the first harbours as you come down from the north; and further along here, we come to what is a branch of the Niger River. That four square miles has done, in the course of a year, trade to the extent of $2,980,000.
Here is Sierra Leone, distant about 180 miles south, and this is the hinterland of Sierra Leone, about 12 miles by 22 miles, something like a small peninsula. This peninsula is pretty nearly the only possession which Great Britain has, which she paid for in solid gold; we have got that to our credit. Years ago our forefathers paid for that piece of land, and I think it is as much to our credit that we are holding it, as it is to the credit of our fathers that they bought it.
Twenty-five or thirty years ago we had only three or four little pieces of land in that district-Gambia, Sierra Leone Peninsula, and the Gold Coast towns on the coast. We never troubled about the people in the interior as long as they were peaceful, but of course there were constant disturbances in there. We had to go in and punish King Prempe for his fearful cruelties; for the murders and the human sacrifices were perfectly appalling. The slave trade was carried on in the Nigerian district and of course we had to put a stop to that. We put another king in Prempe's place, told them to behave themselves, and left them, and there was no further disturbance.
The French went in here, and when they went in, they stayed; they did not really police the country, and they did not develop it as they might have done, and we had, for the protection of commerce, and I think I may say for the good of the natives, to go in there and, claim a protectorate over the whole of these portions that are shaded red on this map.
The consequence is that this country has gone ahead in a wonderful way, and I must give you a few statistics to show this. In 1890 the revenue for the whole of our possessions was £317,000; in 1909, £2,800,000. The expenditure in 1890 was £267,000, and amounted two years ago to £3,300,000. The imports in 1900 were only f £1,700,000; last year £8,700,000; the exports were £1,600,000, and last year they were £18,200,000. The increase in the trade of these districts has come through our going in there and helping the people to develop the trade of their country, especially in the gathering of palm oil and palm kernels, and rubber and such like goods, and establishing security for property.
These people are just the typical negro people, and we are very apt to think they are not a big factor in the world's history; but out in West Africa one realizes that the country cannot be developed without the negro, that only as we develop the negro can we get the wealth out of that country, and that only in that way can we develop the whole country and use it as an integral part of our Empire.
They are a people that go in for agriculture, are splendid farmers, and grow magnificent corn, and large patches of yams. There are people there who have been able to smelt iron, and to make razors. I have been shaved with one of these razors; you sit down on the ground and a man sits down behind you, and goes over your face, and in a way picks the hairs out one by one and so you get shaved. (Laughter.)
People who can be developed so as to make steel, undoubtedly are a people of a good deal of brain power. I do not think the negro has as much brain power as the white races; yet upon him the prosperity of the country depends, for we have very few white men in these districts. There are only about 1,300 white men in the whole of that territory, and there are £13,000,000 or £14,000,000 of people at the very least; so that whatever advance has come, has come because of the natives. We hear a good deal in the United States about the negro being deficient; it is simply because he, has not had his chance; he ought to have it. It has been known for a great many years that the negro in West Africa is not lazy; he used to be lazy, because he had just to do enough work to get his skin full, and with a little, a very little, piece of cloth to cover his body, his needs were satisfied. The average Government official would dub him as a lazy man and the people who write at homer in' armchairs about sociological problems would also put him down as a lazy person, and naturally so. The real reason why the natives in West Africa-the place I know-were lazy, was because they had no security for property. A man will not toil and sweat if he thinks that at the end of ten years somebody will come and take all his property away. That is what has been happening out there for generations past; and now over the whole of these districts there is security for property, and prosperity is going forward by leaps and bounds, and we only want successful government in that country to see it advance in a manner we cannot conceive of at the present time.
Two years ago, in one of the Government blue books dealing with the colonies in West Africa, appeared a statement about the laziness of the negro, and one of the chief rulers of one of the big districts objected to it, and said that the negro was not lazy. I was very glad to find that my own opinion of two years before was confirmed, for now that there is security for property, these people will work. I have got here some statistics with respect to the advance in southern Nigeria. In the year 1905 the revenue was £180,000. In 1909 £11,300,000. In 1905 the expenditure was 880,000; in 1909, 1,640,000. The imports-and these are mainly of course at present from Great Britain-were 2,900,000 in 1905, and in 1909, 4,900,000. The exports were 12,800,000 in 1905, and 4,16q,ooo in 1909. You see these figures are really very wonderful in the matter of increase, and this has been brought about by the opening up of the country, by the bringing in of the railway, by policing the country and giving security for property, by establishing schools for instruction in the elementary subjects. In these ways a wonderful revolution has been wrought throughout that country. I think we missionaries can claim a great deal for bringing forward the industrial side of our work; the missionaries started many years ago to develop that country, and since the government took over that part of our work and followed in our steps with greater powers and with greater resources there has been much development.
As empire builders-and one is rejoiced to find that we are looking at the empire as a whole these days, and not just centreing ourselves in ourselves-(applause), we have got to remember that in dealing ,with these people we have to treat them at present to a great extent as child races; they are grown up children and the consequence is that, if we put temptation in their way, they are going to succumb to it very rapidly.
They are wonderful imitators. There was a certain kind of waistcoat in use in West Africa when I arrived. The news had got to West Africa that--these waistcoats had been worn in the English House -of Parliament in x896, and the men had gone in for them, and wonderfully gorgeous affairs they were.
They are also wonderfully quick in imitating us in our drinking habits-imitation that is really appalling. Unfortunately, we, in the past, have given them opportunities that are reprehensible in the highest degree. In the year 1895 I attended a meeting in Grosvenor House in London, when I heard a great English statesman speak, on this subject. He was not talking as a teetotaller; he was talking as a statesman; and he said if we allowed drink to come into that country, that it would destroy the people and destroy legitimate trade. For every pound of drink that is brought into that country we lose the sale of three or four times as much cotton goods, and he showed very clearly that, if we allowed traders the opportunity to bring in gin, it would mean the destruction of legitimate trade very speedily.
As a doctor I have seen the evil effects of it. The gin of the trader is the most appalling stuff; it is full of fusil oil, and is absolutely poisonous; so that, if people become intoxicated with it, the intoxication takes the form of madness. It acts as hasheesh does in the East. These people have no control of their appetite for drink; if they get a bottle or two, they sit down and drink it all; they have no idea of moderation. I remember one boy tried to get outside of two gallons at one time, and I had all I could do to keep life in him.
In 1900 the total revenue of Lagos was £57,000; last year it was £100,000, but there went into Lagos not less than £280,000 worth of spirit, and that spirit would be the cheapest kind that could possibly be made-and of course this is figured at the importing price, not the retail price. The consequence is that the working men who get money are the only people who can buy it, and it is these men who drink it. The result is that their bodies are destroyed very rapidly, their commercial 'wealth dissipated, and finally, they become a harm rather than a help to the country. The working man's money is paid out in this way, and the buying of clothing, machinery, and hardware all comes to a stop. We are simply destroying the heart of the country in allowing a thing like that to go on.
Of course we have had a good deal of trouble between the liquor traffic people, the traders, and the Government officials in West Africa. I will just simply tell you the , facts and you can draw your own conclusions. A a medical man I have known drink to rot the inside of a man. I remember an educated young man, the son of a great chief, who at eighteen years of age came into his father's place and office, and with his wealth was able to buy unlimited liquor. He came to me and I said: "it is white man's gin you have been drinking." That fellow was dead in the course of a month, and I could tell you many such cases. These people have a naive for that gin; they call it "the white man's curse."
In 1909 the imports of hardware, machinery, and tools were £230,000, and there was brought into Lagos that same year £280,000 worth of spirits. You see what a problem it is in that country where the people will drink in that way, and how it will destroy legitimate trade and the advance of the country.
That country has made good headway, and the facilities for legitimate trade are going to be greater. Railways have gone across there; we have a railway running from Lagos about 300 miles up to Jebba, which is on the borders of the Niger River, and beyond that it goes on 400 miles up to Zungeru. The branches run up into these districts and this part of the country supplies us with palm oil and palm kernels to a great extent. Of palm oil 1,400,000 worth came through Lagos last year; 1,800,000 worth of kernels for special oils for various purposes; and 109,000 worth of rubber. People in the Ashanti, who had learned to work rubber, came into this district a few years ago and gathered the rubber by chopping down the trees. They cut down tree after tree because they knew they were going back to their homes in a few months, not to return. In that way they destroyed a tremendous amount of rubber-producing plants. Cotton is grown here very largely, and pretty soon we shall have here a huge (cotton-producing country. Last year there were 100,000 worth of cotton sent home, and there will be a million pounds' worth in a few years. And very soon we shall be able to produce from our possessions out there a very fair proportion of the cotton needed for our Empire. (Applause.)
This cotton growing has been brought about by the British Cotton Growing Association, which, though it is in a measure a business concern, is actuated to a great extent by philanthropic motives. Now you see what a big future there is before that country, and how bright the prospects are.
That most valuable metal, tin, is produced here. There is alluvial tin and ore tin as well, and the wealth in these nobody knows, nor how much can be found. There is also rich iron ore, which of course cannot be developed yet, because we have no big coal deposits, but I was told recently by a prospector that there is coal in that region, and as soon as coal in quantity is found, we shall have a great iron-producing region in that country with the linking up of these two great industries.
Notice that Great Britain has the entrance to the Soudan. Soudan simply means, "black man's country." We get to the north and east-this way (pointing to,the map), and to the south and east this way, and then directly to the west lies this great territory here. Now, realize how enormous is the responsibility we have with regard to the development of Africa. There are from 6o to 70 millions in the whole of this district who have absolutely beer. untouched by outside control. The wise man bath said: "Righteousness-right doing -exalteth a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." We have got to send out there men who will go, as many men have in the past in the most wondrous way, at the cost of life itself; for thousands of lives have been laid down there by men in the Government service as well as, in 'other service. They went there with a high sense of duty, and we men, in these days, enter into the heritage of their self-devotion to duty. May God give us grace to be faithful to that heritage!