On the Gold Coast in the 18th century trading for gold gave way to trading for slaves. The Akwamu tried to stop the raiding but eventually engaged in it themselves. The Akwamu were disliked for robbing Akyem and Fante traders and selling them to the Dutch as slaves. By 1706 English ships had transported more than ten thousand captives in the last thirty months from Cape Coast. In 1726 a Dutch employee wrote that gold had become so scarce that the Gold Coast should be renamed the “Slave Coast.” In 1730 a conflict between the Akwamu king and his maternal uncle provoked rebellions among the Akwapim scarplands. The Dutch supplied the Akwamu with muskets, cannons, and ammunition; but Akan chiefs in Akyem, longtime enemies of the Abrade, sacked Nyanoase and killed the king, causing the Abrade royal family to take refuge in different directions.
By 1750 the British Parliament was paying £13,000 a year to maintain the forts. Rev. Thomas Thompson arrived from America in 1752 to propagate the gospel. He studied the Fante language but was only able to baptize eight people before he left in 1756. He did arrange for a few boys to go to London for an education. Philip Quacoe returned in 1765 and for a half century taught children at Cape Coast. During the Seven Years War, France tried and failed in 1757 to capture Cape Coast. Two British warships failed to take Elmina in 1780; but the next year Captain Shirley took the forts at Mori, Apam, Kormantine, and Beraku from the Dutch. A joint British military operation also captured Kommenda; but in the 1783 peace treaty of Versailles the status quo was restored, though the one fort at Sekondi taken by the Dutch had been destroyed. In 1792 the Danish governor at Christiansborg asked Osei Kwame for Asante mercenaries to fight the Fante. The British tried to stop this war between Asante and Fante, but the Asante warriors went to the coast. By then the Danish governor had died, and his successor paid the Asante to go home. Between 1750 and 1807 the British exported to West Africa 49,130,368 pounds of gunpowder and exported from West Africa slaves valued at £53,669,184.
In 1772 Granville Sharp helped a former slave from the West Indies to keep his freedom when his former master tried to claim him in the Somersett case that went to England’s Chief Justice Mansfield. Sharp befriended Africans who had been in America and persuaded the British government to let them move to Sierra Leone in West Africa in 1787. Most were Christians, and they named their province Freedom. Temne’s chief King Tom made a treaty with the self-governing citizens; but when he died, the Koya Temne regent Naimbana could not read a new treaty that granted the newcomers claim to the land. When the settlers and European slave traders opposed Tom’s successor King Jimmy, he burned their town in 1789. Two years later the Sierra Leone Company financed the venture. A thousand former slaves from Nova Scotia arrived in 1792 and built Freetown. Governor John Clarkson promised them free rent; but he left that year, and the Company demanded a small quit rent. Religious Zachary Macaulay was an effective governor and resolved this crisis; but when he left, armed rebellion broke out in 1800. A British ship arrived with troops and 550 new settlers, and they helped suppress the revolt. In 1807 the British ended their participation in the slave trade by making it illegal.
Three former slaves from West Africa wrote books about their experiences that were published in England. The Letters of Ignatius Sancho (1729-80) were published by Joseph Jekyll in 1782. Sancho was born on a slave ship on a voyage to the Spanish West Indies on which his mother died and his father committed suicide. Sancho was only two when he was taken to England to be a servant for two sisters. In 1773 he married and started a small grocery store. He recommended reading the Bible and believed that blessing follows virtue. His letter to novelist Laurence Sterne asked him to support the anti-slavery campaign.
Quobna Ottobah Cugoano was born in a Fante village about 1757. He was kidnapped by Africans about 1770 and sold to Europeans, who transported him to the West Indies. Taken to England in 1772, he became the servant of painters Richard and Maria Conway, who introduced him to prominent people such as William Blake.
Cugoano worked with Olaudah Equiano to oppose slavery, and in 1787 he paid for the printing of his own Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species. Cugoano argued that since God created all the races, none is inferior. Although Christianity advocates duties to fellow humans, he noted that this religion has been used to dupe innocent natives. He held that those enslaving humans could not be Christians. He suggested abolishing the slave trade and enforcing it with British ships. He hoped that the British could help improve Africa, and in exchange Africans could supply labor for industry and defense. He lamented the villainy of chieftains who cause the common people to suffer because of their wars and feuds. He wrote that any robbery is wrong, but stealing people is the worst.
But the robbers of men, the kidnappers,
ensnarers and slave-holders,
who take away the common rights and privileges of others
to support and enrich themselves,
are universally those pitiful and detestable wretches;
for the ensnaring of others,
and taking away their liberty by slavery and oppression,
is the worst kind of robbery, as most opposite
to every precept and injunction of the Divine Law,
and contrary to that command which enjoins that
all men should love their neighbors as themselves,
and that they should do unto others,
as they would that men should do to them.1
Olaudah Equiano wrote that he was an Ibo from the Niger region and that when he was twelve years old, he was abducted and taken to America, though some research indicates he may have been born in South Carolina. He served in the British navy during the Seven Years War. By trading and saving, Equiano bought his freedom from a sea captain in 1766. After a shipwreck near the Bahamas, he helped save the crew. When a captain died, he was able to take over and sail to Antigua. In England he worked with abolitionist Granville Sharp on establishing the Sierra Leone colony; but he criticized the corruption that siphoned off the needed funds for the provisions he was employed to purchase. Although the Navy Board defended him, Equiano was fired.
In 1789 his Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano was published in London. During the middle passage he remembered the slaves’ agonies, but he also observed a white sailor who was flogged to death and dumped overboard. He reminded the Europeans that their ancestors had once been uncivilized like the Africans. He blamed European traders for causing many tribal wars between Africans. He was proud that the Ibos were hardy and intelligent with integrity and zeal. The main purpose of his book was to persuade people to abolish slavery. In addition to the obvious human rights violations and the cruelty he witnessed, he argued that the slave trade was not economically viable. Equiano promoted his book and the abolitionist cause by going on lecture tours throughout the British Isles. His book was a financial success, and he married an Englishwoman in 1792. John Wesley liked Equiano’s Narrative so much that he had it read aloud to him on his deathbed.
When Ntim Gyakari demanded tribute from Asante, Chief Osei Tutu declared war in 1699. The Asante won the battle of Feyiase and captured Ntim Gyakari, whose successor Boadu Akefun swore to serve Asante. Then the Asante invaded and took over Denkyira territory. The Akyem had fought as allies of Denkyira and lost 30,000 men, becoming tributaries of Asante. The Elmina fortress, which had passed from the Kommenda to the Denkyira, was now controlled by Asante. In 1717 the Asante went to war with the Akyem Kotoku and killed their chief Ofosu Apenten; but Osei Tutu died also.
Osei Tutu was succeeded by his grandnephew Opoku Ware, who extended Asante territory to the Volta River. During this war the Sefwi raided the Asante capital at Kumasi. After his mother was killed, Opoku Ware sent Bantama chief Amankwa Tia, who defeated the Sefwi army at the Tano River and executed their ruler Abirimuru. Four years later a quarrel with the Wassaw resulted in their king dying too. The Asante army defeated Bono in 1723, threatened the Fante in 1726, and invaded Gonja in 1732. The Asante attacked Gyaman in the northwest and killed their ruler Abo Kwabena. Between 1742 and 1744 Opoku Ware’s Asante armies invaded Akyem Abuakwa, Accra, Adangme, Akwamu, and Dagomba. Na Garba was captured and was released when he promised that Dagomba would send 2,000 prisoners annually to Kumasi. This caused Dagomba to engage many warriors in man-hunts within its own territory and in Gonja. By 1745 the Asante kingdom stretched from the Comoe River in the west to the Volta River in the east and beyond the Volta in the north. When Opoku Ware died in 1750, the Muslim chronicler al-Hajj Muhammad ibn Mustafa in the Kitab Ghunja criticized him for harming the people of Gonja by oppressing them and robbing their property, complaining he ruled violently as a tyrant and noting that people all around feared him greatly.
Opoku Ware was succeeded by his uncle Kusi Obodum (r. 1750-64), who was remembered as “the chief that never killed a man if he could help it, but always commuted the death penalty to a fine.”1 His nephew Osei Kwadwo (r. 1764-77) invaded Banda and Wassaw, and he punished Denkyira and Gyaman for having helped them. During a Dagomba succession dispute about 1770 the Asante used firearms against their spears and arrows to occupy their capital Yendi. Dagomba’s Chief Garbia agreed to pay a tribute of 200 slaves annually, and the tribute continued until 1874. Osei Kwadwo continued the fighting against the Akyem, Akwapim, and Assin, even paying the Fante not to help their Assin neighbors. When the Fante broke their promise, Osei Kwadwo swore revenge; but he died. His successor Osei Kwame was only a boy, and for a decade a regent ruled Asante. No major wars occurred, and he prohibited the selling of his Asante people; but Osei Kwame was eventually deposed by the council of chiefs. His brother succeeded but died after a few weeks, making another brother, Osei Bonsu, Asantehene (Asante king) in 1801.
In 1801 the Gofan army conquered Banda and invaded the Asante, but they were defeated by the Asante’s general Amankwa Tia. Asantehene Osei Bonsu continued the reforms of his predecessors by appointing officers based on merit rather than heredity. In 1805 he tried to mediate a dispute between three Assin chiefs; but when his messengers were executed, he marched against Kwaku Aputae and Kwadwo Otibu of the Assin Atadanso and defeated them. They fled to the Fante, whose council refused to surrender them and killed the Asante messengers. The Asante invaded Fante territory and defeated their army at Abora in May 1806. While the two Assin chiefs escaped and took refuge with British Governor Torrane at Cape Coast, the Asante occupied Kormantine without Dutch resistance. Torrane decided to help the Assins and Fante, either by mediation or force. Fort William’s commandant White at Anomabu tried to mediate with the Denkyirahene, who commanded the Asante at Kormantine; but he refused. So White had people of Anomabu attack the small Asante post at Egya. In response the Asante army assaulted Anomabu as two thousand people entered the fort. White had only 25 soldiers, but their artillery killed 2,000. Torrane decided to hand over the two Assin chiefs. Kwadwo Otibu was tortured and killed, but Kwaku Aputae escaped. Torrane also gave up half the refugees and allowed Assin people to be enslaved, and he recognized the Asante conquest of Fante territory.
After suffering smallpox and dysentery in 1807, the Asante army went home. In 1809 the Fante army attacked Accra and Elmina but accomplished little, and in 1811 Asantehene Osei Bonsu sent an army to each place to defend them while treating the Dutch and English as neutrals. However, Asante’s ally Atta Wusu Yiakosan and his Akyem Abuakwa joined with the Akwapim and declared war on Asante. This prevented Appia Dankwa and his 4,000 Asante from relieving Accra. This Asante army fought a battle at Apam against the Fante army in which losses on both sides were heavy. Atta Wusu joined the Akyem with the Fante army; but before he could carry out his plan of attack, he died of smallpox. In 1814 the Asantehene sent his main army led by Amankwa Abinowa against the Akyem and Akwapim army, defeating them but not decisively. Asante pillaging alienated their Accra allies. During the chaos of these wars, the British had been trying to abolish the slave trade since 1807, but the English and Americans continued to run slave-ships under the Spanish flag.
In 1816 British Governor T. E. Bowditch made a treaty with the Asante recognizing the rents the British paid the Asante for the forts and the British right to protect natives. Asantehene Osei Bonsu complained to Bowditch that the Fante debased the pure gold the Asante sold them before selling it to the Europeans. In 1818 the Asante went to war with the Gyaman again and killed their chief Adinkera. The British put the Gold Coast settlements under Sierra Leone’s Governor Charles McCarthy, who arrived in 1822. After an Anomabu policeman abused Osei Bonsu and was put to death by him, McCarthy persuaded Accra to send their militia and not support Asante with munitions. In 1824 the Asante army surrounded the British and killed 178 of 250 men; McCarthy was wounded and committed suicide. Captain Ricketts agreed to an armistice, which frightened the Fante, Wassaw, and Denkyira allies that they might be surrendered. Asantehene Osei, who was called Bonsu (Whale) for having conquered to the sea, had died on the same day as Governor McCarthy and was succeeded by his brother Osei Yaw. Between 1823 and 1825 the British sent 1,554 soldiers to West Africa, but more than half of them died.
In 1826 the Asante army invaded Fante, and near Dodowa they faced a slightly larger army of 11,000 allies that included Accra, Ga, Fante, Denkyira, Akyem, Akwamu, and a few British troops. Finally the British use of Congreve rockets caused the Asante army to break and flee. The Asante had seventy commanders killed; hundreds were captured; and Asantehene Osei Yaw was wounded. After this battle of Katamanso the English no longer paid rent to Asante for their forts. During peace negotiations the Asante released their captives; but they complained that their prisoners were still detained at Osu, and they criticized the allies for attacking Elmina. In 1828 the British decided to abandon the Gold Coast but yielded to the merchants’ desire to maintain forts at Cape Coast and Accra, for which the Government granted £4,000 per year.
In 1831 the new Governor George Maclean persuaded the Asante and the allied chiefs to accept a treaty. Asante deposited 600 ounces of gold and two princes as security for six years, and trade (except for slaves) was to be unrestricted. The former subjects of the Asantehene became independent but were forbidden to insult him. Any violations of the treaty were to be judged by the Governor of Sierra Leone or Cape Coast, and anyone refusing to accept this would not be protected by the allies. The Juabenhene refused to come to Kumari for a year, and so in 1832 Asantehene Osei Yaw attacked Juaben, forcing them to migrate to Kibi. Methodists arrived in 1833 and evangelized the Fante country. Maclean arbitrated disputes between Wassa and Denkyira in 1833 and between Akuapem and Krobo in 1836 and 1838. In 1834 Denkyira’s King Kojo Tsibu complained that Maclean fined him £200 for sacrificing humans after his sister’s death, and in 1835 Maclean invaded Nzima to stop its king from raiding and slave trading. Maclean and a member of his council watched local trials, criticizing native customs that were inhumane. He helped Asante princes get education and took two of them to England in 1836; at the request of the Asantehene they returned in 1841. Kwaku Dua succeeded Osei Yaw as Asantehene in 1838, and after much fighting he with help from Maclean and the Dutch persuaded the Juaben people to return to Kumasi in 1841. Their Queen Ama Sewa rebuilt the town of Juaben and was succeeded by her daughter eight years later.
Under Maclean’s wise rule exports from British forts went from £90,000 in 1830 to £325,508 in 1840, and imports in the same period increased from £131,000 to £422,170. Cowrie shells replaced gold dust as currency, and much palm oil was exported. Maclean married a popular poetess, who wrote as L.E.L.; but her sudden death brought scandal and criticism. In 1843 the British Crown resumed control and sent Commander R. M. Worsley Hill as Governor, though Maclean was appointed Judicial Assessor. Hill made an agreement with Fante and other chiefs called the Bond of 1844, which outlawed human sacrifices and panyarring (selling debtors into slavery) while recommending the principles of British law. Maclean died in 1847, but the Judicial Assessor continued to be assisted by a panel of chiefs who applied native customs.
In 1851 a British anti-slave-trade squadron bombarded Lagos, which became a British consulate in 1853 and was annexed as a colony in 1861. The British and the Dutch were unable to cooperate on customs duties. So in 1852 an assembly of elders and chiefs passed a poll tax of one shilling for every man, woman, and child in the territory south of the Asante. This tax was resented by the people, especially since the British spent most of it to pay their officials’ salaries, and only 8% of it went for education and roads. In 1853 they collected £7,500; but in 1854 and 1857 tax collection provoked rioting. By 1861 they collected only £1,500, and the tax was eliminated three years later. Cotton growing was tried in 1850, but farmers would not do plantation labor. The British would not allow them to hire pawns because it was too much like slavery. In 1858 British Governor Richard Pine introduced the Municipal Ordinance that allowed towns to elect a council from chiefs and merchants for local government with courts for civil litigation and criminal misdemeanors.
An intrigue between another Assin chief named Kwadwo Otibu and the Asantehene Kwaku Dua that started in 1853 aroused the gathering of an Asante force of 6,000 led by Chief Akyeampon. In reaction the Fante arrested four hundred Asante traders while the British levied the Fante army and sent for reinforcements from Sierra Leone. Orders from Kumasi caused Akyeampon to withdraw across the Pra River, and the allies beheaded Otibu. Kwaku Dua ignored the incident, and peace was kept until 1862. Then a slave boy escaped from his Asante master and fled to British Governor Pine. An embassy from Kumasi complained, and the Asante began buying munitions from Elmina. The British gathered 400 men and levied 15,000 allies. Major Cochrane shocked the allies by retreating. Unfortunately the British had not maintained an ambassador in Kumasi for negotiation. Pine wanted 2,000 troops to invade Asante territory, but London restrained him. Lt. Col. Conran brought 700 men of the 4th West India Regiment, but they began dying of malaria, yellow fever, and dysentery. Kwaku Dua kept the Asante from invading in 1864 and sent an embassy the next year, but Col. Conran insulted the Asante by announcing they were suing for peace. Asantehene Kwaku Dua broke off negotiations and died in 1867. Meanwhile the Anlo army fought the British in 1866.
The British implied that the people on the coast would have to defend themselves. John Aggrey acted as the king of Cape Coast by refusing to surrender prisoners or allow appeals of his judicial sentences to British courts and by inciting a chief to make war. In 1866 Lt. Col. Conran deposed Aggrey and banished him to Sierra Leone. Gold Coast chiefs sent protests to Governor Pine that their rights were being violated by civil servants. In 1867 the Dutch and the British made a treaty in which they traded some forts so that they were no longer intermingled. The Denkyira and Wassaw had been allied with the British and mistrusted the neutral Dutch. The Kommenda people rejected the Dutch flag even after their chief changed his mind. This broke out into war, and the Kommenda plundered Elmina villages. Next the Fante army blockaded Elmina. Two Cape Coast chiefs joined the blockade and were outlawed by British administrator H. T. Ussher. Arthur Kennedy arrived from Sierra Leone; but when he could not get Elmina to sever their tie with Asante, he approved the Fante action against Elmina.
After Kwakua Dua died in 1867, the Asante general Asamoa Nkwanta resented that his nephew was killed with the royal attendants who were to accompany the Asantehene into the next world. This delayed Kofi Karikari being enthroned on the golden stool as Asantehene. The Asante force in Krepi led by Nantwi was increased to 30,000, and Adu Bofo was sent to command the Elmina army by way of Krepi. Their leader Dompre appealed to Akwapim, Accra, and his Akyem people, stimulating W. H. Simpson to try to intervene diplomatically. The Akwamu arrested him for five days until Adu Bofo persuaded them to release Simpson so as not to provoke war with the British. In June 1869 two German missionaries were captured and taken to Kumasi, but in October Krepi inflicted a defeat on the Asante and Akwamu, encouraging the Akyem, Akwapim, and others to join them. Asantehene Kofi Karikari ordered Adu Bofo to abandon the Krepi war; but the general persisted, and the Akwamu ambushed and killed Dompre a year later. Hennessy sent Plange, a former Dutch envoy, to Kumasi to negotiate, but Adu Bofo wanted 1,800 ounces of gold for the captured missionaries.
In 1869 the Dutch began negotiating their cession of forts to the British; but the treaty was not signed until 1871. Elmina had been paying the Asante rent since 1702; but in 1872 it was turned over to the British as its chief Kobina Edjan was deposed. Hennessy promised Asantehene Kofi Karikari that the British would double the payment, and he reopened the roads to Asante.
Meanwhile the Fante chiefs met at Mankesim in 1868 to form a confederation under a constitution. Ussher warned them the British would not support them in a war against Asante. James Africanus Horton of Sierra Leone had just published his book, West African Countries and Peoples, in which he suggested self-government under British auspices with a Fante kingdom and a republic of Accra. Methodists and school-teachers were also influential in the constitutional movement. The Accra Native Confederation was formed in the eastern region in 1869; but it failed because it did not gain the support of local chiefs. The Mankesim Constitution was completed in 1871 for the purposes of uniting the Fante chiefs and improving the country, specifically the roads, schools, agriculture, industry, and mineral resources. Education was to include training in crafts and schools for girls. Each chief in the representative assembly was to be accompanied by an educated person. Administrator Salmon was so upset that the Fante did this without British authority that he had the three officials bringing him the document arrested but later released them on bail. The British lost an opportunity to encourage self-government when they neglected to support this constitution. Instead, in July 1874 they included Lagos and established the Gold Coast Colony.
Early in 1873 the Asante army of about 15,000 or so crossed the Pra River and defeated the Assins, who were reinforced by Fante and Denkyira allies and British troops totaling about 25,000; but they were defeated again at Dunkwa. A letter from Asantehene Kofi Karikari claimed that the Asante were fighting not only for Elmina but also to regain authority over Denkyira, Assin, and Akyem. After the Asante, led by Amankwa Tai, won another victory at Jukwa, thousands took refuge in Cape Coast. Eight days later the British bombarded and destroyed Elmina. While people in Cape Coast starved, the Asante army suffered smallpox and dysentery. The Asantehene refused to let them come home, saying that the chiefs had wanted the war. Major-General Garnet Wolseley arrived in October 1873, and the conflict became known as the Sagrenti war from the African version of his name. His letter to Asantehene Kofi Karikari was intercepted by Amankwa Tai, who replied with the same claims. He attacked the British at Abakrampa and then began a retreat back to Asante, fighting rearguard actions.
The Asantehene thought the war was over. However, the 1st West India regiment arrived from Jamaica, and the Europeans had 2,500 men. Garnet sent a message to Kumasi, demanding all prisoners and 50,000 ounces of gold, but the Asante had no large reserves of gold. The British had superior rifles to the muzzle-loading guns of the Asante, who had no cannons. After the people of Kumasi departed, the Fante prisoners looted and set fires. The British then blew up the palace and burned Kumasi in February 1874 before marching back to the coast. The Asantehene’s envoys overtook General Garnet to accept his conditions, giving him 1,040 ounces of gold as the most they could gather. Gonja and Dabomba rebelled against Asante, and the Brong Confederation became independent under the spiritual leadership of Krakye Dente. Gyaman, Sefwi, and Adansi also threw off Asante rule.
Asantehene Kofi Karikari signed the Treaty of Fomena in July, but he was deposed that summer for having stolen buried treasures of his predecessors. His successor Mensa Bonsu (1874-83) had Kumasi rebuilt and reasserted his authority over rebellious tribes, though the Juaben killed Kumasi traders. In October 1875 a Kumasi army attacked Juaben, and hundreds of Juaben captives were sent to Sefwi. Others from Juaben took refuge in the British Protectorate known as the Gold Coast Colony. The Asante only paid 4,000 of the 50,000 ounces of gold promised to the British in the treaty.
The British offered Gyaman a protectorate, but they declined. When Kwadwo Oben died in 1875, the Adansi were in conflict over choosing his successor. They asked the British to arbitrate, and Governor George Strahan sent Captain Moloney, who settled the dispute. In early 1876 Nkansa Berofon became King of the Adansi, and they decided to be independent of the Asante. In 1876 and 1883 the British passed the Native Jurisdiction Ordinance giving the chiefs and their councils judicial, executive, and legislative functions subject to the Governor’s approval. In 1878 Asantehene Mensa Bonsu informed Gyaman that the Queen of England had given their country to him, but the British Governor at Cape Coast sent an officer to tell them Mensa’s claim was false. The Asantehene was trying to win over the Adansi, and in early 1879 Nkansa Berofon appealed to the British Government. Captain Hay went to Kumasi and insisted that Mensa Bonsu respect the Fomena Treaty.
In January 1881 Owusu Tasiamandi, a Gyaman prince, came to Elmina for protection, and the next day an embassy from Kumasi demanded he be surrendered. Kokobo was intriguing to have Kwadwo Agyeman deposed. Governor W. Brandford Griffith said that Owusu had committed no crime and was under British protection. The Asante wanted him kept away from Gyaman, and the Governor believed the Asante might invade Assin. The Asantehene sent four embassies saying he did not want war. The new Governor Samuel Rowe (1881-84) arrived in March, and he continued military preparations. Asantehene Mensa Bonsu finally surrendered the golden axe and promised to pay an indemnity of 2,000 ounces of gold, but he was humiliated. Owusu committed suicide. In 1882 Captain Lonsdale was sent to mediate the conflict between Asante and Gyaman. The Banda people had been attacked and appealed to Gyaman and were given land, but then they turned to Asante while keeping the land. Lonsdale postponed the fighting and on the way back to the coast gained the allegiance of the Sefwi. Mensa Bonsu was disliked for his greed and lust with men’s wives, and he was deposed in February 1883.
Two men and a woman competed to be Asantehene for a year. Kwaku Dua II was enstooled in April 1884 but died of smallpox in June. Manso Nkwanta defeated Kumasi, which was deserted. In October the Queen Mother Yaa Kyia came to Kumasi, and she chose her cousin Kwasi Kyisi and sent to Governor Rowe for confirmation; but he sent no one. During this interval the Adansi moved south of the Pra River and began robbing. In early 1886 they massacred 150 Asante traders. Bekwai’s Chief Karikari attacked the Adansi with his troops and killed 65 Adansi traders in reprisal. The Adansi appealed to their British protectors, and Governor Griffith sent Firminger to the Adansi at Prasu in March. He sent a message to the Bekwai, who asked for the Governor to arbitrate. While waiting for a response the Bekwai had a skirmish with the Adansi, who believed they had won a victory. Adansi’s King Nkansa Berofon then invaded Bekwai territory and made an alliance with Dadiase. The Asante responded by persuading the Dadiase to join them in an attack on Adansi, and in June they drove the Adansi nation of 12,000 back across the Pra to their British protection. In 1887 fighting went on between Bekwai and Kokofu, and the next year the war receded and was ended by British mediation.
In March 1888 Yaa Kyia’s 16-year-old son Prempeh was enstooled as Asantehene Kwaku Dua III. He quickly asserted his sovereignty over the Asante empire by going to war against the Kokofu with aid of the Bekwai. Then he crushed revolts in the north by the Nsuta and Mampon. Others were brought into his alliance by diplomacy, but the British alienated him by offering refuge and protection to tribes. In 1889 the mulatto clergyman, C. C. Reindorf, published his History of the Gold Coast and Asante. In December 1890 the British offered Asante protection, but Prempeh declined. Nkoranza had declared independence, and the Asante attacked and defeated them in August 1892. The Nkoranza got some gunpowder and fought back but were destroyed in June 1893. The Atebubu were alarmed and appealed to the British who warned Prempeh they were sending 300 police under Col. Francis Scott to Atebubu. In 1894 the Trade Roads Ordinance authorized chiefs to make people work for up to six days each quarter. In June Prempeh was enthroned as Asantehene on the Golden Stool. The British asked him to accept a British Resident in Kumasi. Prempeh used a tax to finance sending an embassy in March 1895 to London, where they were ignored. Governor William Edward Maxwell (1895-97) arrived in April and sent a letter to the powerful Samory warning him to stay away from English territory.
Joseph Chamberlain became Colonial Secretary in July 1895. An expeditionary force of 1,300 was sent, and a thousand Hausa troops and 800 levies increased the army. Major Baden-Powell occupied Bekwai on January 5 1896, and twelve days later the British army led by Francis Scott sacked Kumasi. They demanded £175,000 from Prempeh. When he could not pay, he was deported to Sierra Leone with the Queen Mother and other chiefs. In 1896 the British made separate treaties with Bekwai, Agona, Ofinsu, Ejisu, Nsuta, Mampon, Kumawu, Bompata, Abodom, and Kokofu.
In 1895 opposition grew to the Land Bill vesting waste lands, forest lands, and minerals in the Crown and then to the 1897 Land Bill vesting the Government with administrative rights over all Colony land. That year the Aborigines Rights Protection Society (ARPS) was founded to protest these bills. After a deputation went to meet with Chamberlain, he withdrew the latest bill.
On March 28, 1900 Governor Frederick Hodgson met with the chiefs at Kumasi and demanded that the Asante hand over the sacred Golden Stool to him. On April 25 the telegraph wires were cut, and Kumasi was surrounded. Thirty British were dying per day in June. On June 23 three officers and 150 made a sortie and managed to escape. Governor Hodgson reached Cape Coast on July 10. The British sent 1,400 troops from other parts of Africa, and the Asante’s nine-month struggle for independence failed. In March 1901 Governor Matthew Nathan visited Kumasi, and he deported 16 Asante leaders and imprisoned 31 at Elmina. The people were disarmed, and only licensed hunters could carry guns. The British annexed the Asante confederacy as a Crown Colony and did not allow chiefs to rule in Kumasi until Prempeh became Kumasihene in 1926.
In 1907 gold exports surpassed £1,000,000. The ARPS also successfully stopped the Forestry Bill of 1910. The Gold Coast Methodist Times warned the ARPS that to achieve the highest good they should agitate constitutionally. Cocoa was introduced to the Gold Coast in 1879. In 1895 they exported thirteen tons, but in 1911 they exported 40,000 tons of cocoa, revolutionizing the country’s economy. Chief Amoako Atta II ruled Akim Abuakwa 1888-1911, and he was succeeded by his secretary, Ofori Ata I (1912-43), who extended his state and revenues to take in gold mines and cocoa farms. The ARPS sent Casely Hayford and other lawyers to London, and in 1912 the Colonial Office began an inquiry into land rights in the Gold Coast. In 1914 cocoa exports reached £2,200,000. Between 1905 and 1913 the importation of cotton goods doubled, and the cigars and cigarettes imported multiplied by fifteen.
The four British colonies in West Africa were Gambia, the Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. In 1912 Casley Hayford and Dr. Akiwande Savage conceived the idea of a United British West Africa, and in 1919 they founded the National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA). That year there were strikes by dockers in Lagos and by railway workers in Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The Gold Coast Independent called Marcus Garvey’s Back-to-Africa movement a “great Negro awakening” and connected it to the NCBWA, which had its first conference at Accra in March 1920 with delegates from the four colonies, which each formed branches. In order to provide a connection between the NCBWA and the West Indian and American Pan-African movement, Ladipo Solanke and Herbert Bankole-Bright founded the West African Students’ Union (WASU) based in London in 1925. In 1927 Solanke published his United West Africa at the Bar of the Family of Nations to promote universal suffrage. In 1929 Solanke went to West Africa and spent three years there raising money for a hostel and founding branches of the WASU. When its president Casely Hayford died in 1930, the NCBWA faded away.
The Gold Coast’s Governor Gordon Guggisberg (1919-27) worked to develop the railways and a deep-water port at Takoradi. A modern hospital opened in 1923. He increased government grants to schools, and he founded Achimota College in 1927. By the end of his term the Gold Coast had 3,000 more miles of motor roads. On January 29, 1921 the Gold Coast Independent sided with the Congress and criticized the chiefs as “uneducated and illiterate fetish rulers.”3 In 1924 there was a strike in the Asante goldfields. That year Prempeh was allowed to return to the Asante people, and he became Kumasihene in 1926.
The Gold Coast was given a constitution with elective representation in 1925, and six of the fourteen unofficial members of the Legislative Council were Africans representing the Western, Central, and Eastern provinces. The three municipal members were elected from Accra, Cape Coast, and Sekondi by citizens with houses worth £6. The constitution was amended to provide for the election of the municipal members in 1927. That year the Gold Coast Leader criticized the Native Jurisdiction Ordinance for increasing the power of the autocratic chiefs. In 1929 the barrister and newspaper editor, Dr. J. B. Danquah, organized the first meeting of the Gold Coast Youth to work for more representation and equal opportunity in the economy. Winifred Tete-Ansa tried to get Congress to promote the cocoa-growing regions of Nigeria and the Gold Coast, and 45 farmers’ unions promised support by 1930 in order to secure a higher cocoa price for farmers; but they lacked capital and went bankrupt twice by 1932. John Ayew kept organizing, and in 1937 the farmers organized a cocoa holdup that had a major impact on the price.
In 1932 the asafo companies deposed all the chiefs in Akyem Abuakwa and the Omanhene himself, Nana Sir Ofori Atta, after they tried to impose a levy. In 1934 Governor Shenton Thomas used the Sedition Bill to suppress criticism and banned the Negro Worker. In 1935 the British restored the Asante confederacy and recognized Prempeh II as Asantehene. That year I. T. A. Johnson met Nnamdi Azikiwe, and they founded the West African Youth League to work for freedom. The next year both were arrested for sedition, this time for criticizing Christianity and imperialism in the African Morning Post. In 1938 Danquah organized the Gold Coast Youth League. Governor Arnold Hodson (1934-41) had an administration with only 842 people to govern nearly four million. In 1943 the Government ceded back to the Asantehene all the lands in Kumasi they had previously annexed.
In the Gold Coast’s 1946 constitution under Governor Alan Burns (1942-47) the Legislative Council had eighteen elected members, including four Asante members elected by the Asante Confederacy Council. The Executive Council was still controlled by the Governor’s appointments. The Governor could also nullify any bill passed by the Legislative Council, but he had to give a good reason. Danquah led the opposition party which was called the Gold Coast Convention. In December 1946 the Joint Provincial Council of Chiefs of the Colony met with the Chamber of Commerce and complained about the high prices which caused a black market.
In August 1947 Danquah and professional men founded the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) to protest the 1946 constitution and to demand self-government as soon as possible. Many peaceful demonstrations were held. Kwame Nkrumah became general secretary of the UGCC in January 1948. Accra’s Chief Nii Kwabena Bonne III led a movement to boycott all European imports, and the boycott began on January 26. Nii Bonne and other leaders attended a Government meeting with other representatives on February 11, and they agreed to reduce the 75% profit margin on imported textiles to 50% for three months as a trial.
A march by ex-servicemen on February 28 was joined by many people and deviated from the approved route by heading toward the Governor’s Castle. Police stopped them, and several were injured by stones. Superintendent Imray ordered tear gas used, but it had little effect. The police fired, and the foremost leader and another were killed. After the police were reinforced, the crowd dispersed. Rioting broke out, and the prison was broken open, releasing the inmates. The Government allowed looting, but riots went on in Koforidua, Kumasi, and other places, and by March 9 another 29 people had been killed with 237 wounded.
Danquah and other leaders called for a constituent assembly to form an interim government; but the Government arrested Danquah and five of his colleagues even though they had not organized the protests. The Government in London appointed a commission to study the causes of the disturbances and reported in June that the most important issues were the following: ex-servicemen had grievances on pensions and resettlement; the Burns constitution was inadequate; Europeans and Syrians held economic power; prices were too high; consumer goods were unevenly distributed; destroying diseased cocoa was a problem; the Cocoa Marketing Board was too centralized; and there was a housing shortage. The Governor appointed a Commission of Enquiry with Henley Coussey as chairman, and the Coussey Committee proposed major changes to the constitution with a bicameral legislature in which most were to be elected by all the taxpayers over the age of 25.
In June 1949 younger and less educated people founded the Convention People’s Party (CPP), and they were more militant and energetic than the UGCC. The Coussey report was criticized by the CPP, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), and other nationalists. On January 6, 1950 the TUC declared a general strike against the colonial Government. Two days later Nkrumah announced that the time had come for “positive action,” and he called for a civil disobedience campaign using propaganda, strikes, boycotts, and nonviolent noncooperation. The Governor declared a state of emergency on January 11, and within a week all the main towns had imposed a strict curfew. TUC and CPP leaders were arrested and charged with promoting an illegal strike to coerce the Government. Nkrumah was sentenced to twelve months and others to shorter prison terms.
In 1698 Allada citizens appealed to Oyo when the basorun (leader) was ruling for the young Ayibi. When his messengers told the king of Allada to put his kingdom in order, the king had them killed. This outrage provoked another Oyo invasion, though the Allada king escaped. Whydah was the most important slaving port in the region and was used by the British, Portuguese, Dutch, Brazilians, and the French. In 1703 the Europeans signed a treaty making the port neutral so that it would not be attacked because of European wars, and two years later Allada and Whydah agreed to let each other trade with the Europeans. Unfortunately when Whydah’s King Aisan died in 1708, European traders enthroned 13-year-old Huffon (r. 1708-27) in violation of the Whydah constitution, causing a trade war with Allada. In 1712 a Dutch ship attacked a Portuguese trading vessel in the Allada harbor, and the Portuguese declared war on Whydah. The next year Huffon dismissed his advisors and turned to foolish young men, and the war dragged on for a decade.
In Oyo the basorun Gaha (r. 1754-74) favored military expansion; but the Alafin kings, backed by wealthy traders, wanted to exploit the domestic economy. The Oyo army fought off an attack by 2,000 Asante warriors in 1764. The Gaha faction was stronger until the trader Abiodun became alafin (king) of Oyo in 1770 and overthrew Gaha four years later, increasing the export of slaves. Within two years Porto Novo had become the leading port for the slave trade. Abiodun kept Oyo free of foreign wars and domestic conflicts until the Bariba subjects revolted in 1783. He sent Kpengla to suppress rebellions and died in 1789. Abiodun’s successor Awole (r. 1789-96) also promoted trade; but new revolts broke out every other year. Oyo lost sovereignty over the non-Yoruba provinces in the north after being defeated by Nupe in 1791. When the Oyo army mutinied, Kakanfo Afonja joined with the Basorun and war chiefs to compel the Alafin Awole to commit suicide. Two Alafins failed to gain the throne in 1797.
In the 18th century more than 1,200,000 slaves were shipped from the Bight of Benin. To the east of the Gold Coast and west of the Niger River the old Oyo and Benin kingdoms declined in the 19th century. The next two alafins Adebo and Maku had little power, as provincial chiefs acted independently for the next twenty years. Afonja controlled Ekun Osi and Ibolo until he was destroyed by the Muslim jihad. Some of the Yoruba recaptives who returned from Sierra Leone were Muslims, and they encouraged Muslim slaves to revolt as free men, forming a force called the Jama’a. Afonja refused to become a Muslim and was killed by the Jama’a. His successor Toyeje of Ogbomoso tried to reconquer Ilorin but failed.
After the charismatic Muslim priest Alimi died, his son Abdul Solagberu kept Ilorin independent and expanded Muslim power, being recognized as emir by the Sokoto caliphate. As Oyo control faded, Owu traders tried to stop the kidnapping and riots. Ife challenged Owu but was defeated. Then Ife joined with Ijebu to besiege Owu for the first half of the 1820s. In this Owu war the Ijebu used muskets for the first time in this region. Owu was razed and not rebuilt. About 1830 Sodeke led Owu and Egba in founding a new capital at Abeokuta. Prince Atiba rejected Islam in Ilorin and went to the village Ago-Oja and renamed it Oyo as the war chiefs appointed him alafin about 1835. The warlord Kurunmi took over Ijaye in 1829, and thirty years later he had at least 300 wives and more than a thousand slaves.
Many of the ex-slaves in Sierra Leone were Yoruba, especially Egba, and in 1838 some returned, having learned English and Christianity. Ibadan gained strength and took on Ilorin at the battle of Osogbo in 1840, using muskets to defeat Ilorin’s cavalry. Christian missionaries began arriving in the area. In 1841 the African Samuel Ajayi Crowther led the Niger Expedition to spread Christianity in the interior. Many Europeans on this mission died, but in 1854 Dr. William Balfour Baikie led a more successful expedition by using quinine to prevent malaria. In 1842 the Church Missionary Society came to Badagry and in 1846 to Abeokuta, where they were joined by the Wesleyan Missionary Society. The American Southern Baptist Mission came to Abeokuta in 1850. The Presbyterian Church started a mission at Calabar in the 1840s. Crowther brought the Church Missionary Society to Onitsha in 1857. Five years later he was made the Bishop of Niger. Crowther translated the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer into Yoruba, and he compiled a Yoruba dictionary and a grammar.
The demand for slaves decreased after Brazil banned importation in 1850. In the early 1850s Ibadan used armed force to take over towns in Ekiti and Akoko. In 1850 the British consul John Beecroft made a treaty with Eyo and Archibong I, banning human sacrifice. In December 1851 Beecroft used military force to bombard Lagos and help the Egba prince Akitoye to overthrow King Kosoko. The Egba were surrounded by enemies and welcomed the missionaries for protection. During a blockade of Ibadan, British merchants in Lagos encouraged Remo merchants in Ikorodu to smuggle arms into Ibadan. In 1853 Beecroft deposed King Pepple of Bonny for having started a war against Elem Kalabari. When Old Town sacrificed slaves in 1855, Beecroft destroyed the town and forced the king to ban human sacrifices before rebuilding. In 1857 Macgregor Laird started the first steamer business on the Niger River.
In 1860 Adelus succeeded his father Atiba as Oyo alafin, but Ijaye’s Kurunmi refused to recognize him. Ibadan’s armies helped Oyo besiege Ijaye into starvation in 1862. Kurunmi died that year, and Ibadan took over Ibarapa and let Oyo have the Upper Ogum. While Egba was fighting in the Ijaye war in 1861, the British captured Lagos and annexed it as a colony. Ibadan’s expansion to the east further shrank the kingdom of Benin, which suffered a civil war from 1854 to 1880. In 1865 the British defended Ikorodu and slaughtered the Egba army. In 1863 the French had declared a protectorate over the kingdom of Porto Novo, but they abandoned it in 1868, the year they made a treaty with Glele. In 1869 Chief Jaja broke away from Bonny and founded Opobo. In 1871 Momoh Latosisa became Ibadan’s first Muslim ruler. In 1863 the British and French had divided this coastal region at the Yewa River. In 1872 the British helped open a route through Ondo to Okeigbo, Ife, and Ibadan. In 1879 the acting consul Easton appointed Olumu governor of the river at Ebrohimi by the mouth of the Benin River, and he competed with Warri. In 1883 Olumu was succeeded by his illustrious son Nana.
In 1877 the Ibadan military leader Are Latosa started a war against Egbas and their ally Ijebus, and the next May an Ibadan ajele provoked Ekiti and Ijesha country. They organized an armed confederacy called the Ekitiparapo. When Ilorin intervened, two large camps of nearly 100,000 men began a war in 1880 that continued until 1886 with rebels in Ife joining in 1882. The Ekitiparapo Society in Lagos provided breach-loading rifles paid for by selling palm products, cloth, and captured slaves. Captain Cornelius Alfred Moloney governed Lagos 1878-80 and again 1886-91. He was praised by the secretary of the Aborigines Protection Society for being a man of peace and justice. He argued that the old Yoruba kingdom had been upset by Ibadan using imported firearms, military aggression, and slave-trading.
The Egbas and Ijebus wanted to dominate the importing of arms. So Moloney urged the British to blockade the import of all arms into Yoruba country through Lagos, Porto Novo, Benin, and Nupe, but Samuel Rowe, the Governor-in-chief of the Gold Coast Settlements, did not approve it in 1881. Moloney sent two African clergymen, Samuel Johnson and Charles Phillips, to the Ibadan and the Ekitiparapo to try to mediate peace terms, but the peace agreement was not worked out until June 4, 1886. In 1883 Moloney published West African Fisheries, recommending fish to improve diets and industries for fish and guano. He encouraged Africans to develop their resources but warned against ruining the forests by felling and burning, publishing a paper on forestry in 1887. That year a Botanical Station was opened, and he experimented with growing eucalyptus trees.
In 1879 George Goldie started the United African Company by persuading four trading companies to merge under his leadership to lower prices and share profits. In 1881 to meet the objections of the British government he increased the capital from £250,000 and changed the name to the National African Company. In 1882 Goldie was concerned about competition from Count Semellé’s Compagnie Française de l’Afrique Equatorial and Verminck’s Senegal Company. He attended the Berlin conference on West Africa in 1885 as an expert on the lower Niger. The Niger coast was put under British protection, and in 1886 Gladstone’s government chartered Goldie’s company as the Royal Niger Company to administer the Niger basin. Adamawa’s Emir Zubeir signed a treaty with the Company in 1893 but did not allow them to construct buildings for three years.
G. L. Gaiser developed the palm kernel trade in Lagos, and E. R. Flegel went to work for him in 1875 after exploring on the Benue and in the Sokoto empire. In August 1884 he made an appeal from Lagos to Germans interested in trading in Africa. Gaiser hired young Germans drawn there by the treaty in January 1885 that ceded Mahin beach to Germany, but which Bismarck later traded away to Britain. In 1887 Vice Consul Johnston alienated Nigerians by promising Jaja safe passage and then arresting him and sending him to Accra, from which he was deported to the West Indies after Prime Minister Salisbury failed to overrule him. In 1888 the Governor of Lagos made a treaty with King Alafin of Oyo.
In the Niger delta Ogio was the tenth king of Nembe and began his reign about 1639. During the reign of his son Peresuo, tribes developed the House system. Becoming a member of the sekiapu society depended on developing talent in music, dance, drumming, and understanding drum language. Sekiapu helped administer justice by enforcing a code of conduct on their members, collecting debts, and punishing offenders. Others who punished were the peri ogbo warriors, who had slain an enemy, taken a captive, or killed a dangerous animal. Nembe society divided in two in the mid-18th century when Mingi feuded with his cousin Ogbodo and took his throne at Ogbolomabiri. Ogbodo simply moved across the river and set up his kingdom at Bassambiri. Mingi gained wealth by smithing, farming, and trading slaves. He was succeeded by his three sons Ikata, Gboro, and Kulo, who was said to have ruled until 1830. King Ikata got help from Okpoma’s ruler Goli in his war against the Kalabari of Bile.
In the mid-18th century Okrika’s King Igo attacked and devastated Amakiri’s city but died. After Elem Kalabari was burned down, wealthy Amakiri of Endeme led the restoration effort. He traded for slaves to restore the population after the war with the Okrika. Amakiri’s diplomatic methods of expanding his influence were in contrast to Agbaniye Ejike of Bile. On the shore the Bonny were ruled by his son Perekule and his grandson Opubo. Wars could be provoked by piracy, head-hunting, and slave raids. The Nembe, Bonny, and Okrika each had a war god; but the primary deity of the Kalabari was peaceful. The Kalabari Ke used religious sanctions to make peace in the 19th century, letting the British consul be the arbitrator. The Kalabari turned to slave trading to replenish their manpower and used the Koronogbo system to assimilate slaves faster. Delta states trading slaves to Europeans became distribution centers for European merchandise. Tribes gained arms for slaves and became dangerous to their neighbors, who often armed themselves in self-defense. Salt cakes and metals were also highly valued.
In May 1891 Acting Governor Denton of Lagos visited Ijebu Ode to discuss trade, but they would not agree with what the English called “open roads.” Justifying it by a trade treaty, British went to war, and in the battle of the River Yemoji on May 19, 1892 they defeated Ijebu, killing seventeen chiefs and about a thousand warriors. That year the kingdom of Benin signed a treaty of protection with the British. Also in 1892 Governor Carter of Lagos sent a thousand men with repeater rifles and cannons to destroy the Ijebu army of nearly ten thousand men, and the next year Yorubaland finally accepted a British protectorate. The British accused Nana of breaking his treaty and dealing in slaves. In August 1894 the acting Consul-General Ralph Moor attacked Nana and the Itsekiri trading empire, but the British did not conquer them until September. Nana escaped to Lagos, surrendered, and was deported to Calabar and then Accra for twelve years. He had used many slaves as porters and canoe men, and the British who bought palm oil from him were nearly ruined; but six years later the House Rule Ordinance went back to accepting the servile transport system. On November 12 the British bombarded New Oyo to bring it under their colonial rule.
In 1894 Lugard of the British Royal Niger Company won a race to Nikki against France’s Decoeur and signed a treaty with the Imam Abdullah. The French arrived five days later and rejected that treaty. On December 29, 1894 King Koto of Brass with a thousand soldiers destroyed the Royal Niger Company’s headquarters and port at Akassa. The Royal navy retaliated by destroying Brass’s capital at Nembe and port at Twon, driving people into swamps where they died of starvation and smallpox. Egba remained independent until 1897. The French and British avoided conflict over Borgu by signing a treaty on June 14, 1898, giving Buss to Britain and Nikki to France.
The British tried to establish their government between 1893 and 1899 with the Niger Coast Protectorate and between 1900 and 1905 with the Southern Nigeria Protectorate. In 1897 workers in Lagos went on strike for higher pay. Frederick Lugard organized the West Africa Frontier Force. The English army invaded Benin with 1,500 men, and most of the chiefs fought back; but the British defeated them and then burned and pillaged the capital. The British supported Goldie’s Royal Niger Company with military forces that captured Ilorin and Bida. Samuel Johnson was an Anglican priest of Oyo origin, and he completed the lengthy History of the Yorubas in 1897, but it was lost and published after his death by his brother Obadiah Johnson in 1921. Also in 1897 Governor MacCallum tried to reorganize the conciliar government of the Yoruba aristocrats in the Lagos Colony and Protectorate. When William MacGregor succeeded him in 1899 he extended the experiment to Yorubaland. Western Igbo communities joined to defend themselves as Ekumeku, which attacked the Royal Niger Company in 1898 and won concessions. They rose again in 1900 and were defeated in 1902. Ekumeku revolted again in 1904, but in 1909 the British destroyed them.
Lugard became High Commissioner at the beginning of 1900 as the British abrogated the charter made by Goldie’s company in 1886 and made Northern Nigeria a protectorate. In November 1901 the Governor established the Central Native Council in Lagos to get their advice. The Village Native Council was responsible for settling local disputes. The Aborigines Rights Protection Society (ARPS) also became active in Lagos. Lugard established his headquarters at Jebba, and his forces used Maxim guns and artillery to conquer Bida, Kontagora, and Yola in 1901, Bauchi in 1902, and Kano, Burwuri, and Sokoto in 1903. After the battle on March 15, Sokoto’s Caliph Attahiru Ahmed fled, but he was killed in the decisive battle at Burmi on July 27. Lugard had conquered the Sokoto empire with 3,000 soldiers, and only 150 of them were Europeans.
In 1902 the Native Courts Proclamation established the legality of the emirates’ native courts in Bornu, and in 1904 Lugard simplified the tax system with a single tax. They developed a Native Treasury which became official in 1911. The Emir of Kano tried to maintain his absolute rule in his domain. Nigerian railway clerks went on strike in 1902 and 1904. In 1903 the British removed the independent Emir Aliyu and replaced him with his brother, Abbas, and the next year they reorganized the territories into eight districts with a headman in each. Nigeria squelched criticism of the government in 1903 with the Newspaper Ordinance and in 1909 with the Seditious Offenses Ordinance. Lagos and Southern Nigeria were united into the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria in May 1906. That year only two emirs in Northern Nigeria supported the Mahdist uprising at Satiru that was crushed. Northern Nigeria had only one British administrator per 100,000 Africans. Lugard left Africa to become governor of Hong Kong in 1907.
H. R. Palmer governed Northern Nigeria 1906-11 indirectly using the Hausa and Yoruba government and Islamic judiciary accepted by Lugard. For the Ibo, Tiv, and others who had no authorities, they created chiefs to govern. In 1908 the British Resident himself replaced the Emir’s court. However, when C. L. Temple became Resident of Kano the next year, he restored the Emir’s judicial council and appointed a free man rather than a prince. After the Lagos railway was extended to Kano in Hausaland in 1911, peanut exports went from less than 2,000 tons before 1911 to almost 20,000 tons in 1913. In the Northern Territories chiefs were given 5s for every man they sent to work in the colony’s gold mines. When this incentive failed, district commissioners used coercion.
Lugard came back to Nigeria in 1912 as Governor-General of the two protectorates and merged the Lagos and Northern railways into the Nigerian Railway. The two protectorates were amalgamated into the Colony of Nigeria in January 1914. That year the Yoruba elite formed the Christian Reformed Ogboni Society to counter the Europeans’ Masonic Lodge in Lagos. After the death of a native leader in prison in 1914 the Egba rioted, and the West African Frontier Force (WAFF) shot and killed seven leaders and 29 others. Herbert Macauley, the grandson of Bishop Crowther, led protests against the Lagos Water Rate and the alienation of land in Lagos by the Crown. Starting in 1914 Lugard began introducing into the south the native courts used in Northern Nigeria; but the Obas and Warrant chiefs had more power than was traditional and alienated their councils. Lugard imposed direct taxation on Benin in 1914.
In 1915 Lugard asked Eleko, the hereditary ruler of Lagos, to urge his people to pay the unpopular water rate, but he refused. Macauley helped Chief Oluwa to bring a test case against the Nigerian government before the Privy Council’s Judiciary Committee, which sided with Chief Oluwa. The Government was ordered to pay £22,500 as compensation for the land, and Macauley won popular acclaim. Also in 1915 Garrick Braide inspired the Christ Army Church with his faith-healing and preaching against alcohol, modern medicine, and native witchcraft. When he predicted German liberation from British rule, he was put in prison, where he died in 1918.
In 1916 the Iseyin-Okeiho rebellion was quelled, and eight anti-British leaders were hanged by Lugard’s orders. That year the British introduced paper currency in Nigeria. Introducing direct taxation into Yorubaland provoked riots in Oyo in 1916 and in Abeokuta in 1918. The Egba’s treaty was abrogated, and in 1918 war chiefs led 30,000 Egba who tore up the railway, cut telegraph lines, and marched to Abeokuta. About 2,500 WAFF troops suppressed the revolt, killing about a thousand rebels. The influenza pandemic took 250,000 lives in Nigeria by 1919. After leaving Nigeria that year Lugard wrote a manual for colonial rule entitled The Dual Mandate in Tropical Africa that was published in 1922. The Lagos Weekly Record was the newspaper of the Jackson family, and from 1890 to 1930 they promoted self-determination for Africans.
In 1920 J. K. Coker wanted to encourage a Christian movement in Egbaland, and he urged a Christian to take the throne of Abeokuta. That year in Lagos the alliance of the House of Docemo led by Herbert Macaulay gained recognition from the Privy Council in London that land is a right of the community. The educated turned against the Congress and supported Macaulay’s Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) that was only in Lagos, but the Congress had four branches in southern Nigeria. In 1922 Nigeria was given a constitution, but Macauley could not stand for election because of a previous prison sentence. They wanted self-government for Lagos, more higher education, schools for all children in Nigeria, more Africans in the civil service, and free and fair trade. Nigeria had no modern secondary schools until Katsina College was founded in 1922.
The NNDP won the elections of 1923, 1928, and 1933. The Igbo formed many unions in Ibadan, Abeokuta, and Lagos. In 1925 in Nigeria 38% of the 12,500 working on railway construction were forcibly recruited by the chiefs. In the early 1900s Nigeria exported an annual average of only 475 tons of peanuts, 132 tons of cotton, 305 tons of cocoa, 53,729 tons of palm oil, and 120,778 tons of palm kernels; but in the late 1920s Nigeria exported an annual average of 109,068 tons of peanuts, 6,038 tons of cotton, 45,483 tons of cocoa, 124,716 tons of palm oil, and 255,469 tons of palm kernels.
The population of Lagos went from 42,000 in 1901 to 126,000 in 1931. In 1929 an attempt to take a census of taxable adults in Eastern Nigeria provoked the Ibo Women’s War that lasted into 1930. That year English was made compulsory in middle schools, and Arabic was included in the curriculum two years later. The Kano Law School taught Islamic culture. By 1932 Nigeria had 1,903 miles of railway compared to 311 in Sierra Leone and 510 in the Gold Coast. The Depression caused the value of Nigeria’s exports to drop from £17,000,000 in 1929 to £9,702,000 in 1938. Governor Donald Cameron (1931-35) tried to reform indirect rule by developing the institutions. The pay for unskilled workers in the Nigerian tin mines fell well below one shilling a day. In 1933 Lagos faced a police strike, and many of the Kru from Liberia were dismissed. In 1912 Nigeria had 184 primary schools for 36,670 students, but in 1937 they had 4,072 primary schools with 238,879 students. Enrollment in secondary schools increased from 67 students in 1912 to 4,890 in 1937.
In 1930 Isaac Wallace Johnson organized the first trade union in Nigeria, the African Workers Union in Lagos, and he edited the Negro Worker. In 1931 he went to study in Moscow. In 1933 the Nigerian government deported him for union activity, and he went to the Gold Coast. He praised the Communist government of the Soviet Union, and the colonial government passed the Sedition Act, which prohibited his writing in the Negro Worker. In 1933 Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe became editor of the African Morning Post in Accra. In 1934 Iyo Ita organized the Nigerian Youth League in Calabar, and the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) began in Lagos. They demanded universal suffrage, more Nigerians in the civil service, fair African participation in the economy, and even outlined a five-year development plan. The Lagos Ibo Union was organized as a federation in 1935. In 1937 Azikiwe came back to Nigeria and began publishing his West African Pilot. He supported the Nigerian Youth Movement, and in 1938 they won the elections. However, Macauley’s NNDP soon returned to power and won the elections in 1947.
The English novelist Joyce Cary (1888-1957) served in the administration of Northern Nigeria from 1913 to 1920. He found that the British method of indirect rule often allowed native chiefs to become more autocratic. Four of his novels are set in northern Nigeria. In his 1936 novel, The African Witch, Cary portrayed how the educated African elite can exploit the uneducated. In 1939 he published his most famous novel, Mister Johnson, which was made into a movie in 1990. Johnson is a young Nigerian who works for the government and spreads his infectious joy. He persuades his boss to use deception to get a road project, and then he gets a British boss who is an alcoholic and an abusive racist. When Johnson stands up to him, he gets fired and faces declining prospects that lead to his undoing.
In 1941 Cary wrote The Case for African Freedom for George Orwell’s Searchlight Books. Cary saw the faults of European conquests in Africa, but overall he believed that they did more good than harm to Africa. He commended the British government for spending millions after the Napoleonic War to outlaw slavery and help free the slaves. He argued that modern government which is democratic enhances the freedom of individuals. Thus he worked toward the goal of self-government in Africa. He found that in Nigeria where the British applied indirect rule the tribes were in various stages of development from naked cannibal pagans on the Bauch plateau to the great Islamic kingdoms in the north ruled by emirs and sultans and the ancient empires in the southern forests of Benin and Yorubaland. He urged education for women and observed that African women thought with their feelings in what he supposed was the original method.
During World War II the Royal West African Frontier Force was increased from 8,000 to 146,000. Northern Nigeria without using coercion provided the most soldiers, and they played an important role fighting in East Africa against the Italians. In 1940 the Colonial Development Fund began spending £5,000,000 a year, ten times as much as before the war. The British navy blocked exports and imports going to and coming from French West Africa before the Allied invasion in 1942. That year Lord Cranborne approved the unofficial appointment of Africans to the Executive Councils of Nigeria and the Gold Coast. In 1944 Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti organized the Abeokuta Ladies’ Club which became the Abeokuta Women’s Union in 1946 and the Nigerian Women’s Union in 1949.
At the Yalta Conference in February 1945 US President Franklin Roosevelt and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin demanded that the British convert their empire into international trusteeships. Prime Minister Winston Churchill said “Never,” but he lost the election that year. Before the coalition Government left office, they passed the Colonial Development and Welfare Act which appropriated £120 million to help the African colonies’ economic development and social services. In 1945 the African Civil Service Technical Workers’ Union demanded a 50% increase in pay, and 30,000 members went on strike for 37 days, getting the Government to agree to address their concerns.
Nnamdi Azikiwe led the nationalist movement in Nigeria, and he had invested £6,000 in Zik’s Press Ltd. When Zikists mounted a campaign in the 1940s, he accused them of “youthful impetuosity.” Chief Obafemi Awolowo also opposed the use of violence and became a national leader. Azikiwe organized the National Convention of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), which was supported by trade unions and the leader Nduka Eze. In 1945 when a general strike swept Nigeria, the NCNC was the only party to support it and gained popularity. By 1946 Nigeria had 121 trade unions with 52,000 members. That year Governor Arthur Richards (1943-48) introduced a new constitution that proved disappointing.
In October 1948 the Zikist Osita Agwuna called for revolution against British imperialism in Nigeria. In February 1949 Herbert Macaulay’s son, Ogedengbe Macaulay, called for dragging the government down and seizing power by force. The Zikist president, H. R. Abdallah, agreed with Nkrumah’s positive action to end British rule. The Government arrested ten of the leaders, charged them with sedition, and sentenced them to prison. On February 18, 1950 a Zikist leader tried to assassinate the Government’s Chief Secretary Hugh Foot. More Zikist leaders were arrested and imprisoned, and in April the Zikist Movement was banned in Nigeria.
The Gambia River was dominated by the Soninke people in the 16th century, but it was raided and invaded by Moroccans and Portuguese. The Portuguese claimed the area, but in 1588 the Prior Antonio of Crato sold the trading rights of the Gambia River to the British. In 1618 King James I granted a charter to an English company for trade in the Gambia and the Gold Coast. Duke Jakub Kettler of Courland in Polish-Lithuania bought it in 1651, but ten years later the English recaptured it. The French explored and occupied the region around the strip along the Gambia River in Senegal. In April 1826 Captain Alexander Grant led an expeditionary force from Gorée that took over Banjul Island and named it St. Mary’s. The settlement was called Bathurst after the Colonial Secretary. In 1831 the British Parliament divested the Company of Merchants of its power in Gambia and the Gold Coast.
In June 1843 Gambia became a separate colony with an Executive and Legislative Council. Governor Richard MacDonnell (1847-51) favored the merchants and abandoned the Malfa Lock project and was blamed when most of Bathurst was flooded. The Liberated Africans Providence Doyery and Reme Lome led the Committee of Black Inhabitants which submitted a petition. MacDonnell defended the merchants against the tribes who attacked the trading posts and French traders at Albreda. Liberated Africans also criticized him for introducing a tax on property in 1850. Governor L. S. O’Connor (1852-59) did more to promote the interests of the Africans by distributing land to small farmers. In 1856 he banned the sale of gun-powder, a lucrative trade on the river. Governor G. A. K. D’Arcy (1859-66) once more favored the great mercantile interest with new ordinances. For the first time a tax was imposed on the importation of kola nuts which affected the African traders and their commerce with Freetown. In 1863 an ad valorem tax on all duties was replaced by an export duty on peanuts and hides which affected French merchants.
The Executive Council was abolished in February 1866 when the British West Africa Settlements centralized the four colonies Gambia, Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, and Lagos under Sierra Leone’s Governor Samuel Blackall as Governor-in-Chief. In 1870-71 and again in 1876-77 the British seriously considered transferring isolated Gambia to France, but they could not agree. In July 1874 Gambia continued under Sierra Leone, but Lagos was put under the Gold Coast. Finally in November 1888 Gambia was separated from Sierra Leone. The next year its borders with French Senegal were established, and the Gambia became a British Crown Colony. R. B. Llewellyn began administering Gambia in 1891 and enacted the Protectorate Ordinance in 1894 and the Yard Tax the next year. The Muslim Fode Kabba, who ruled Niamina and Casamance in Gambia, led a rebellion from 1898 to 1901.
At the beginning of 1901 the administrator George Denton became the governor of Gambia. Elections to Gambia’s Legislative Council were held every five years. The African trader Samuel John Forster became one of the richest men in Bathurst. He was influential for the merchants, and his son of the same name was also prominent between 1900 and 1920. In 1905 Governor George Denton (1901-11) reappointed the elderly Forster without consulting the local community, and the next year he appointed his son on a provisional basis. The younger Forster served on the Legislative Council until his death in 1940. The Legislative Councils of Gambia and Sierra Leone did not have an African member until 1913. Many Africans returning from the chaos of the European war had difficulty adjusting to the Protectorate.
In early 1919 E. F. Small founded the Gambia Native Defensive Union (GNDU) to expose the errors of the Government. In February 1922 Governor Cecil Armitage (1921-27) toured the Protectorate to learn the views of the chiefs on the coming election. Christians objected to the Muslim Ousman Jeng, who was appointed to the Council by Armitage. Finally he announced he would recommend that in March 1927 the African member of the Council be elected. In February 1926 the Gambia Representative Committee (GRC) was established with John A. N’Jai-Gomez as secretary. They endorsed legal reforms, improved roads, and more schools, but unlike the Congress (NCBWA) they did not demand the franchise. The legal status of slavery was not abolished until 1927. That year the League Against Imperialism (LAI) was founded. In 1929 when the non-Communists resigned from the LAI, it became more radical. Small supported the LAI and the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUC-NW).
In May 1929 E. F. Small helped organize Gambia’s first trade union, the Bathurst Trade Union (BTU). Momodu Jahumpa was one of their leaders, and Muslims were split by a conflict between Jeng and him. In 1932 the Government replaced Jeng with Sheikh Omar Fye. In July those critical of Forster joined with Small to found the Bathurst Ratepayers’ Association (RPA) in order to work for municipal elections. However, Governor Herbert Palmer (1930-34) and the conservative GRC prevailed, though he did agree to let judges draft a Criminal Code and a Criminal Procedure Code based on those in Kenya. Small opposed it because it would add new offenses and penalties. Palmer passed the Licensing Ordinance and the Trade Union Ordinance to weaken Small’s influence. In 1936 Jeng won an election to a seat on the Bathurst Advisory Town Council (BATC), but in March 1937 the Governor re-appointed Fye again.
Governor Thomas Southorn (1936-42) wanted to introduce the franchise but could not do so during World War II. As late as 1945 the Gold Coast (Ghana) had only 614 educated members of local government out of 2,471. The Bathurst Young Muslims Society (BYMS) had been founded in 1936, but it was revived as a political organization in May 1946 by Jahumpa’s son, Ibrahima M. Garba-Jahumpa. Governor Southorn had appointed him to the BATC, and in 1942 Garba-Jahumpa became secretary of the Gambia Labour Union (GLU). He and two others from the BYMS were elected in 1946 to the BATC. The first election for the Legislative Council was in November 1947, and Small got the most votes, followed by Fye and Garba-Jahumpa. Governor Percy-Wyn Harris (1949-58) proposed in May 1950 that the elected members of the Legislative Council be increased to three, and his proposals were accepted in September.
In 1787 the St. George’s Bay Company took some poor blacks from London and founded Province of Freedom. The Sierra Leone Company was established in order to settle former slaves (1,200 from Nova Scotia) on the coast of Africa, and in 1792 Thomas Peters founded Freetown. Blacks voted in elections in the 1790s. Because the Company would not give them freehold of the land, they revolted in 1799; but 500 Jamaican Maroons arrived by way of Nova Scotia and helped the English suppress the rebellion. Thousands of former slaves were brought back to Freetown, and most chose to stay in Sierra Leone. They were called Creoles or Krio people. The Temne ruler Pa Kokelly took the title King Tom and demanded a new treaty because the Sierra Leone Company had claimed the land and would not pay him rent. When British soldiers arrived, King Tom attacked their fort in 1801; but they counter-attacked and burned his towns. The Temne rulers were thus dispossessed and agreed to a treaty in 1807. That year the British Parliament outlawed slave trading, as the Danes had three years earlier. The United States prohibited the slave trade in 1808, Sweden in 1813, the Dutch the next year, and France outlawed it for the second time in 1818.
The British government made the settlement a colony in 1808 because the Sierra Leone Company was bankrupt. Freetown became the capital for the British governor and the anti-slave-trade courts. A naval squadron based there captured slave ships and liberated the Africans, who were called “recaptives.” When the Napoleonic wars ended in 1815, the navy was no longer allowed to capture non-British ships. So the British made treaties to be able to continue this, though France and the United States used their own navies. Despite these efforts, the slave trade had doubled by 1840. From 1825 to 1865 the British navy used twenty ships to arrest 1,287 slave ships and free about 130,000 slaves; but during that period about 1,436,000 African slaves were transported to America.
Author Thomas Buxton proposed a humanitarian expedition up the Niger River to teach agriculture and Christianity in 1841; but British public opinion was shocked when all 48 Europeans lost their lives. The British law-courts decided in 1848 that slave traders could be dispossessed. Brazil stopped importing slaves in 1850, and the emancipation of slaves in the United States brought an end to most slave trading in West Africa by 1866. The British began exporting timber from Sierra Leone in 1816; but by the 1860s the available forests had been cut. Children of the recaptives were mostly Christian and were called Creoles. Church missionaries established a grammar school at Freetown in 1845 and a girls school in 1849. In 1850 the Gold Coast became a separate government from Sierra Leone, and that year the British bought all the Danish forts for £10,000. In 1855 the Creole William Drape founded the weekly New Era, the first African newspaper in Sierra Leone.
James Africanus Horton was born near Freetown in Sierra Leone on June 1, 1835. He was well educated, learning Greek and Latin at the missionary grammar school. He studied five years at King’s College in London and earned his M.D. at Edinburgh University in 1859. He served as a doctor in the army for twenty years in West Africa, retiring as a lieutenant-general. He published several treatises on Africa and medicine, including The Diseases of Tropical Climate and Their Treatment in 1874. In his 1868 book West African Countries and Peoples he refuted the fallacious doctrines of anthropologists about Africans, discussed conditions in the various parts of West Africa, and recommended self-government and specific improvements. He quoted the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson who said in 1818, “Africa ought to be allowed to have a fair chance of raising her character in the scale of the civilized world.”4 He argued that differences in cultures arose because of external circumstances. He believed that Africans would improve and become prominent in the civilized world.
Horton found that Christian ethics, science, and literature were being taught in Sierra Leone. For that country he recommended a constitutional monarchy with an elected assembly and a senate. On the Gold Coast he observed that domestic slavery caused laziness and immorality. He advised monarchy for Fante but a republic for Accra. Horton noted that among the Ibos women had a superior social status, though a large sum had to be paid to raise an Ibo to a higher social rank.
For Sierra Leone he recommended extending the franchise, improving education and making Fourbah Bay College the University of Western Africa, forming a municipal council, establishing a health officer, extending British protection to merchants up the rivers, abolishing the sending of liberated Africans to the West Indies and re-introducing apprenticeship, improving the water supply of Freetown, introducing new plants and encouraging agriculture, raising money for health and industrial development, enrolling a militia, forming a national bank and a post office, legislating vaccinations, supplying medical doctors to villages, and creating parks. Concerned that Muslims had gained supremacy in Gambia, Horton advised strengthening British authority there. For the Gold Coast he suggested convening a congress of kings at Cape Coast and at Accra, a resident consul at Kumasi, improved education including an industrial school, the abolition of slavery, and improved law and order.
Well-off Creoles had founded the Sierra Leone Mercantile Association in the mid-1850s, and in 1872 it became the Sierra Leone Native Association before growing into the Sierra Leone Association for the Improvement and Defence of Commerce, Agriculture, and Industry (SLA) in 1884. In 1878 Sierra Leone’s Governor Samuel Rowe increased tension by occupying Melakori. The British and French agreed on the Scarcies River as the northern border of Sierra Leone in 1882. Dr. Bayol became lieutenant-governor of the Riviere du Sud, but in 1884 Germans led by Gustave Nachtigal tried to take Dubreka. Bayol occupied Conakry in July 1885. After a dispute the border with Liberia became the Mano River in 1886. In August 1889 the Riviere du Sud colony was separated from Senegal, and the border was defined in 1890. That year Sierra Leone’s Governor James Shaw Hay favored accepting Samory’s request to be under British protection, but the British government did not want to risk a war with France. Also the British authorized the Sierra Leone Frontier Police for direct control.
On August 31, 1896 Governor Frederick Cardew (1894-1900) proclaimed Sierra Leone a protectorate with the hinterland and deployed armed police. That year the Shipping Ring forced African merchants to pay ten percent more than Europeans to obtain shipping space. In 1898 Temne’s Chief Bai Bureh in northern Sierra Leone refused to pay the Hut Tax, and police began shooting his people. He attacked the police without hurting civilians, but the militant Poro in the Mende tribe waged total war against anyone connected to the Freetown Government. The Creoles were attacked by Europeans and Africans, and more than a thousand men, women, and children were killed. Bai Bureh was tracked down and captured in a swamp on November 11 and was deported. Carew only hired Englishmen to administer the interior, and this policy spread to the other British colonies. In the 1890s many Lebanese and Syrians started coming to Freetown.
By 1900 Sierra Leone had 34 newspapers. That year the new assistant bishop of the Niger Delta, James Johnson, argued in the Sierra Leone Weekly News that Yoruba should be allowed to use Krio as a language for learning English. Sierra Leone had about 12,000 settlers and 60,000 Africans who were expected to learn English and accept Protestant Christianity to become assimilated. In 1901 the Protectorate was divided into provinces and districts, and the native chiefs were recognized as judges in 1903 and lawmakers in 1905. The Government paid the chiefs 5% of the house tax as commission. Wallace-Johnson directed the West African Youth League in Freetown with the goal of self-government for Sierra Leone in a West African federation. Presidents Arthur Barclay (1904-12) and Daniel Howard (1912-20) used indirect rule to control the hinterland. In 1909 the urban elite founded the first Ratepayers’ Association to contest elections to the Freetown Municipal Council which had been electing African members since it started in 1895. Violence and scab labor was used to break strikes, and workers were fired on during a railway strike in 1911. In 1915 there was a major revolt by the Kru. Sierra Leone had only five administrative officers for a population of more than one million.
In 1919 the Aborigines Protection Society, the Sierra Leone Bar Association, and the African Progress Union were founded. That year frustration of the unemployed in large towns of Sierra Leone led to protests against the high price of rice and attacks on Syrian and Lebanese traders. The looting and riots spread in July from Freetown to Moyamba, Kanga-hun, Mano, Boia, Makump, Bo, Bonthe, Mange, and Port Lokko. Sierra Leone had two railway strikes in 1919 and then by the Railway Workers’ Union in 1926 and 1931. In 1922 the Committee of Educated Aborigines (CEA) drew up a declaration of aims as an address to welcome Governor Alexander Slater and became the Protectorate’s first political group. In 1923 the Congress (NCBWA) met in Freetown. That year Governor Slater began reducing his European staff by appointing Africans to senior positions.
In 1924 Sierra Leone was given a new constitution that increased the Legislative Council from six official members and four nominated unofficial members to twelve official members and ten unofficial members including three elected Africans. In March 1925 some liberal Africans in the CEA joined with Creole intellectuals to form the Sierra Leone Aborigines Society (SLAS). From 1926 to 1931 strikes and riots broke out in Freetown. Sierra Leone’s exports were only £290,991 in 1898, but they reached a peak of £1,600,000 in 1927. The Young People’s Progressive Union (YPPU) was organized in 1929. By 1937 Sierra Leone’s exports were back up to £2,843,540, and the imports were £1,839,582. The Tribal Authorities Ordinance of 1937 gave administrative authority to “the Paramount Chief, the Chiefs, the councilors and men of note elected by the people according to native law and custom.”5
Haidara was a marabout from the Senegalese Mouride sect, and he came to northern Sierra Leone and instigated poor peasants to revolt in 1931. On February 16, 1934 the Government sent troops who killed Haidara while his forces killed the British commander. Congress (NCBWA) was used as a political party in Sierra Leone during elections until 1938 when Isaac Wallace Johnson came back to Sierra Leone to create a political force of wage laborers and the unemployed to overthrow the colonial system. He founded Youth League branches in Freetown and Bo and started the newspaper, The Sentinel. At the beginning of the war in 1939 Johnson and his colleagues were interned until 1944, and the Youth League was banned. In 1939 the Marxist Sierra Leone Youth League (SLYL) helped organize the Mabella Works strike that turned violent. Sierra Leone had twelve registered trade unions by 1942. In 1943 the constitution was changed so that two Africans could be appointed to the Executive Council, one from the Colony and one from the Protectorate.
In 1946 Dr. Milton Margai, his brother the lawyer Albert Margai, and Siaka Stevens founded the Sierra Leone Organisation Society (SOS), and they opposed violence. The Protectorate Educational Progressive Union (PEPU) was formed in 1929, and Milton had been a member from the beginning. In April 1951 it merged with SOS to become the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) with Milton Margai as national chairman. In 1946 a Council was established in each of the twelve Districts to advise the Governor and the Chief Commissioner. The Protectorate Assembly that was set up by 1946 was also dominated by elites as 26 of its 42 members were paramount chiefs. Only 20% of the two hundred or more Paramount Chiefs were literate, but half the Chiefs in the Protectorate Assembly were literate. The 1947 Constitution established a new Legislative Council, but the Executive Council was not changed. In 1948 the SOS called for a revision of the 1947 Constitution, but the British ignored their petition. The Creoles in the Sierra Leone National Congress and the Sierra Leone Socialist Party opposed the new Legislative Council, and they recommended that only literate people be allowed in the Council. In December 1948 Creole pressure forced the Legislative Council to defer introducing the new Constitution for six months. In 1950 the Creoles formed a common front against the British Protectorate.
The American Colonization Society was founded in 1816, and three years later the United States Congress appropriated $100,000 to return illegally imported slaves to Africa; but the Society had to buy the land. In 1820 a US Navy vessel shipped 88 immigrants to Sherbro near Sierra Leone; because this settlement lacked fresh water and was infested with malaria, they soon moved to Fourah Bay. In 1822 a US Navy ship forced the rulers of Mesurado to cede some land. In December native chief Sao Boso agreed to this in a peace treaty, and he provided them with a trade route through Bopolu. As settlements extended along the coast, slave traders had more difficulty. Immigrants believed they had the rights of United States citizens; but the settlement was governed by the Colonization Society, and riots often caused the white agent to flee.
In 1824 a Colonial Council was established, and the settlement was named Liberia with the capital Monrovia. The white Jehudi Ashmun governed the colony from 1822 to 1830. By then the United States had spent $264,710 transporting 260 rescued slaves to Africa, but in 1834 the Jackson administration reduced the budget. Colonization societies from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Mississippi contributed to the effort. The first general elections were held in 1834, though Africans from Brazil complained of discrimination. Two years later the Society affirmed the citizenship of these New Georgians, but native Africans still lacked their rights.
In 1838 the Commonwealth of Liberia was based on a constitution, though the Maryland Society declined to join. The white Governor Thomas Buchanan was replaced in 1841 by the mulatto Lieutenant Governor Joseph J. Roberts. On July 26, 1847 the Republic of Liberia declared itself an independent nation with a constitution written by a white Harvard law professor. In January 1848 Roberts became Liberia’s first president and served for eight years. The new nation was made up of 80,000 natives, 7,000 immigrants, and 15,000 rescued slaves. Liberia signed a friendship treaty with Britain on November 21, 1848. On February 26, 1853 President Roberts prohibited exporting Liberian laborers to the West Indies by Hyde, Hode and Company because the $10 reward offered to the chiefs was what had been formerly paid for slaves. The Maryland settlement declared its independence in 1854; but after they were defeated in a war by the Greboes two years later, they joined Liberia. Franchise was given to residents who had lived there for three years in a “civilized Western” way.
The United States signed a treaty with Liberia on October 10, 1862, and President Abraham Lincoln promised not to interfere with its Government. That year Liberia College was founded, but the emphasis was on politics rather than on economic development. Edward Blyden led the first immigration from the West Indies in 1865. The opposition True Whig Party lost every election until 1869 when they elected the wealthy African Edward J. Roye as president. That year law and taxes were extended inland under a new Department of the Interior. The Republican Roberts became president again in 1872 until 1876.
Christian converts organized the Grebo Reunited Kingdom in 1873 because they felt they had lost trade and too much of their land to immigrants. The Greboes, Kru, De, and Bassa formed the G’Debo Reunited Kingdom and had an army of 7,000 equipped with rifles, and they defeated a thousand Liberians in 1875. President James Spriggs Payne (1868-70, 1876-78) appealed to the United States and complained that the Christians’ missionary efforts had made the Greboes hate Christian civilization. Missionary education had only made them more capable of mischief, and in retaliation he revoked the privileges of the missions not to pay duties. This third tribal war led to more liberal laws for African tribes in Liberia. In 1876 the USS Alaska arrived to help the Liberians because of the treaty Lincoln had signed. A treaty that year gave the Greboes equal rights as citizens.
Edward Wilmot Blyden was born in the Virgin Islands on August 3, 1832. After living briefly in Venezuela and the United States, he emigrated to Liberia in 1851. He became proficient in all the romance languages, plus Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, and several West African dialects. His 1856 pamphlet A Voice from Bleeding Africa called for “immediate emancipation” and described the accomplishments of thirty Africans and Afro-Americans. In 1857 he wrote Vindication of the Negro Race to refute theories of Negro inferiority and promote African independence, praising the Mande and Fulbe Muslims. In an Independence Day address he criticized the Liberians for being too much in a hurry to become rich and indulge in extravagance. The next year he was ordained a Presbyterian minister and became principal of Alexander High School in Monrovia. He visited the United States in 1861 and 1862, urging Africans to come to Liberia because they would not be treated equally in America. He was appointed professor of classics at Liberia College, and from 1864 to 1866 he also served as Secretary of State, arranging for 346 skilled Barbadians to emigrate to Liberia; but lack of funds prevented other West Indians from coming. He designed reforms in 1870 for President Roye to reconstruct Liberian finances and promote general education, but the £100,000 borrowed from England had very high interest.
Blyden clashed with mulattoes because he believed they did not identify with the Negro race. His black Whig party challenged the mulatto Republicans led by J. J. Roberts. In 1871 he went to Sierra Leone for two years and promoted Liberia, hoping they would unite. He urged the British to protect West Africa and prophesied that colonialism would be temporary. He led official expeditions to Falaba and Timbo. He believed that African Muslims usually had greater self-esteem, and he encouraged Muslim-Christian cooperation. He advised the teaching of Arabic to African Christians so that they could understand Islamic culture and communicate better with other Africans. He was proud of Negro history and promoted pan-Africanism. He recommended an independent non-denominational church for Africans and a secular West African university. He founded a weekly newspaper in Freetown in 1872 and a monthly journal two years later. His writings condemned slavery and encouraged Afro-Americans to emigrate to Liberia.
Blyden served as Minister of the Interior 1880-82 and as president of Liberia College 1880-84. From 1901 to 1906 he directed the education of Muslims in Sierra Leone. His most important book, Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race, was written in 1887 and persuaded many Africans and later African-Americans that Islam is a more unifying religion for sub-Saharan Africans than the religion of their European colonizers. Blyden wrote a letter to Booker T. Washington commending his work in 1895 before Washington made his famous speech at the Atlanta Exposition. In his address to the Africa Society in London on June 26, 1903 on “Some Problems in West Africa” Blyden hailed the rapprochement between England and France, and he hoped they would guarantee the peace, freedom, and prosperity of the natives. In 1908 during a lecture in Liberia he described the three needs of Liberia as emancipation, illumination, and harmonization. Blyden also wrote West Africa Before Europe in 1905, African Life and Customs in 1908, and Problems Before Liberia in 1909.
In 1877 the True Whigs won the elections and continued to do so for many years. When Hilary Johnson (1884-92) was elected, he removed the Republicans from the civil service. In the 1880s and 1890s the Grebo fought wars for independence. In 1884 Johnson allowed groups who paid extra tax to send members to the House of Representatives, but only the Kru and Grebo were rich enough to do so. Liberia lost its northwest territory in a dispute with the British trader, John Myer Harris, and the interior lands claimed by Benjamin K. Anderson were recognized by the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 and were disputed by the British and French. Some African chiefs sold their land or put it under protection more than once. The United States State Department urged the Liberians to accept whatever the colonial powers claimed, and on December 8, 1892 the frontiers with the French were settled by a treaty.
The United States Navy protected the Liberian coast until 1916. Liberian coffee scions were taken from the American Fair of 1876 to Brazil, ending Liberia’s monopoly on the best coffee. In 1889 the Protestant Episcopal Church founded Cuttington College and Divinity School in Cape Palmas. It closed because of the Depression in 1929, but it re-opened in Bong County in 1948. About two-thirds of the schools in Liberia were run by missionaries. President Joseph James Cheeseman (1892-96) introduced the first Liberian currency. A treaty in 1895 established Liberia’s border with the Ivory Coast. In the 1880s and 1890s a world-wide recession proved ruinous to Liberian exports of palm-oil, raphia, coffee, sugar, and camwood. In 1900 representation in the national legislature was extended to those who could pay an annual registration fee of $100, but still only Krus and Greboes on the coast could afford to do so from trading income. Better coffee from Brazil caused the price of Liberian coffee to fall sharply in 1898. The Liberian government borrowed $10,000 from the German Woerman Company in November 1896 and $15,000 from the Dutch Oost Afrikaansche Cie in February 1898 in addition to £100,000 they had borrowed in 1871 from the British and Europeans.
In 1896 the British colony of Sierra Leone annexed the hinterland including the Kanre-Lahun territory of Chief Kai Lundu, who had made a treaty with T. J. Alldridge and the British in 1890. A British force occupied Kanre-Lahun in 1900, but the Liberian government sent a native administration with a military unit there in 1907. Concerned President Arthur Barclay (1904-12) went to London and Paris to ask for guarantees of Liberia’s sovereignty; but they refused, and the French took more territory. The British decided they wanted Kanre-Lahun and sent troops under Major Le Mesurier, who told the Liberians to leave. Finally in January 1911 they agreed on a treaty that gave Kanre-Lahun to the British in exchange for land between the Morro and Mano rivers and £400 compensation. In 1907 the Ditchfield v. Dossen case granted Africans the rights of full citizenship.
The influence of West Indians reached a new level in 1904 when Arthur Barclay was elected president. In 1906 he negotiated a loan of $500,000 from the British; but $150,000 went directly to foreign creditors, and the Development Company never accounted for nearly $200,000. In 1907 he accepted a loan of $100,000 from Harry Johnston in exchange for rubber concessions and British control over the Liberian Frontier Force, customs duties, and other things. Loans were given to Liberia reluctantly with high interest. When they imposed a hut tax, riots and rebellion against the Government erupted. In 1908 Barclay made the Government indirect by appointing clan and village chiefs to collect the hut tax, recruit labor for road construction, enforce the labor law, and maintain law and order. However, the Frontier Force provoked resentment in 1909, and troops from Sierra Leone led by Major Cadell staged a coup d’état. Booker T. Washington persuaded US President Theodore Roosevelt to intervene and forestall Cadell. Although Barclay recognized Africans as citizens, they were not allowed to vote until after World War II. In 1911 Liberia’s borders with the British and French colonies were established. In 1912 Liberia received an American loan of $1,700,000 and had to submit its customs receipts to international receivership because of its foreign debts.
President Daniel Howard (1912-20) had to accept American protection. In 1912 a Labour Bureau was created under the Secretary of the Interior. A treaty Liberia made with Spain on May 22, 1914 regulated how recruiting agents were to be provided by governments to secure workers for Spanish Guinea. In this era Liberia faced rebellions from the Kru often, especially in 1915-16, as well as from the Grebo in 1910, the Kpele and Bandi 1911-14, the Kissi in 1913, the Gio and Mano 1913-18, the Gbolobo Grebo 1916-18, the Gola and Bandi 1918-19, the Joquelle Kpele 1916-20, and the Sikon in 1921.
By 1914 German ships were two-thirds of those using Liberian ports. After the Great War started, President Howard proclaimed Liberia’s neutrality on August 10, 1914; but the British navy cut off the German trade. The United States Navy intervened against the Kru in 1915. On August 4, 1917 Liberia formally declared war on the side of the British, French and the United States. In 1919 the Liberian Supreme Court ruled in Ballah Karmon v. John L. Morris to abolish the dual rule between county and province, thus applying the 1847 constitution to the hinterland as well as the coast.
Marcus Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica in 1914 and the New York division in 1917. He led a Back-to-Africa movement and by 1923 claimed to have six million members in the UNIA. He suggested that the former German colonies be given to blacks from the western hemisphere. He called for the recruiting of a Black army and sent a mission to Liberia to negotiate for land where African-Americans could settle. The colonial powers warned Liberia not to cooperate with Garvey. Mission churches in Lagos would not allow UNIA meetings in their buildings, and the Gold Coast banned Garvey’s book, Philosophy and Opinions. Herbert Macaulay and the American intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois were critical of Garvey, but his militancy inspired others such as Nkrumah. Some believe Garvey’s movement collapsed because of the influence of European diplomats on the United States.
Liberia became a member of the League of Nations in 1919 and of the Anti-Slavery Convention in 1926. In 1924 only 9,000 children were in school in Liberia, and 7,000 of them were taught by American missionaries. The Firestone Rubber Company leased a million acres of land in 1925 for 99 years and the next year loaned Liberia $5,000,000 at 7% interest. The British resented the loss of their monopoly on rubber.
In 1928 the People’s Party complained that the elections were won unfairly by the True Whig Party, and President Charles D. King (1920-30), advised by the United States, asked the League of Nations to intervene. In 1930 the League Commission found that the Government of Liberia had never authorized the Frontier Force to recruit labor, but the governments of Spain, Portugal, and France had done so with its help. After receiving their report, King and Vice President Allen Vancy both resigned, making the secretary of state, Edwin James Barclay, president (1930-44). He persuaded the United States to recognize him and ended a rebellion by the Kru in 1931 when they surrendered their arms. That year Liberia requested help from the League of Nations. An International Committee was formed, and Liberia accepted the recommendations with modifications. Liberia rejected judicial changes as domestic policy, but they accepted the recommendations on administrative, financial, and health problems. Finally on May 18, 1934 the Council of the League withdrew the League’s plan because Liberia did not accept it in toto.
Also in 1931 President Barclay appointed Col. T. Ellwood Davis of the Liberia Frontier Force as Special Commissioner to the Kru Coast to investigate and settle unrest in the hinterland of Maryland County. Liberia was widely criticized for mistreating the rebellious Kru; but a Commission that Barclay appointed found that the foreign press exaggerated the problems. Most of the 81 men, 49 women, and 29 children died when the huts were burned because the soldiers found it too dangerous to search them. The mission learned that the fighting had ended and that two of the four tribes driven into the bush had returned to their lands. In the 1930s an uprising in Sasstown caused diplomatic missions to withdraw from Monrovia. In 1932 Barclay increased the presidential term to eight years. A Sedition Act was passed in 1934 to stop criticism of the Government. In 1934 Nnamdi Azikiwe published Liberia in World Politics.
In 1942 US President Franklin Roosevelt visited Liberia, and they made a Defense Areas Agreement. In 1944 representation in the House of Representatives was extended to the hinterland. That year William Tubman was elected president for eight years, and he allowed for re-election for four-year terms. His policies encouraged thousands of Liberians to migrate to Monrovia from rural areas for industrial jobs. Tubman extended equal rights to all citizens and thus ensured political stability. In 1950 the Kru Didwo Tweh founded the Reformation Party to fight for the Kru land lost during the building of the Free Port of Monrovia, and he became the first African to run for president. Tubman continued to serve as President of Liberia until his death in 1971. Liberia’s yearly foreign trade increased from $3 million in 1925 to $45 million in 1950, and the Government’s annual revenue went from $500,000 to $10,000,000.
1. Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery by Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, p. 11.
2. Quoted from Adansi oral history in A History of Ghana by W. E. F. Ward, p. 137-138.
3. Quoted in The History of West Africa ed. J. F. A. Ajayi and Michael Crowder, Volume 2, p. 578.
4. West African Countries and Peoples by James Africanus Horton, p. 24.
5. Tribal Authorities Ordinance, No. 8 of 1937, sec. 2 quoted in Political Change in a West African State by Martin Kilson, p. 22.