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siderable obscurity. Various traditions exist respecting both the time and circumstances of its origin. The most probable opinion would seem to be that which represents the Ashantees as part of the great negro emigration which withdrew from the mountains of Kong before the Mohammedan invasion. Here they have maintained their independence, and have successfully resisted the progress of the Moslem faith. From their earliest history the people have been distinguished by their military prowess, which has rendered their influence paramount throughout an extensive range of country, and made them the terror of their weaker neighbors. In the commencement of the last century their power was greatly extended by Osai Tutu, whose sagacity and courage secured for him the epithet of the Great.' * To the excellencies of this monarch,' Mr. Beecham informs us, 'the Ashantees advert with a national satisfaction. They say * he was the Good as well as the Great, for in his reign justice
was ever on the alert, and the claims of his subjects were * listened to without distinction of rank or title.' Cape-Coast Castle was the nearest British settlement to this formidable power, and some misunderstandings having arisen, an embassy was sent to the Ashantee monarch in the spring of 1817. We find it happened in this, as it has too often done in similar cases, that our countrymen showed little respect for the rights of the half-civilized tribes in their neighborhood. The king was evidently anxious to avoid a rupture with the English, and did every thing in his power to prevent it. Several embassies were sent to Cape-Coast Castle to enforce a performance of the existing treaty, but without effect; and when Mr. Dupuis, who had been deputed as British consul to Coomassie, had succeeded in effecting a pacific treaty with the king, the local authorities at Cape-Coast Castle refused to ratify the same. Affairs were brought to a crisis by the injudicious conduct of the new governor, Sir Charles M’Carthy, who took the command of the forts on the Gold Coast in the spring of 1822. Ignorant of the character of the people with whom he had to do, and despising the power of the Ashantee monarch, he hastened on the rupture which had long been pending. The policy of Sir Charles was not to be mistaken, yet the king still hoped that he would see reason to adopt a different course, and therefore delayed for a considerable period the commencement of hostilities. This moderation was mistaken by the governor for fear, and the most fatal consequences resulted from his error. Sir Charles fell in battle, and his troops, together with those of the native chiefs who sided with him, were utterly routed. Various reverses attended the subsequent progress of the war, which was finally concluded in April 1831, by the reestablishment of friendly relations.
The government of Ashantee is despotic, though the will of the monarch is somewhat controlled by that of his captains.
• The king of Ashantee (As-hánti), although represented as a despotic monarch, having the lives and property of his subjects at his absolute disposal, is not, in all respects, beyond control. He is placed in a situation somewhat similar to the kings of the ancient Medes and Persians; among whom it was a principle, that what had once passed into law, the power of the sovereign himself could not change. The imperative mandate of Darius was quite sufficient instantaneously to consign to the jaws of the lions all the individuals, and their wives and children, who had been the occasion of procuring the decree for the ruin of the prophet Daniel ; but the utmost power of the king could not save the prophet himself from its operation. Now, the king of Ashantee is under a somewhat similar obligation to observe the national customs which have been handed down to the people from remote antiquity; and a practical disregard of this obligation, in the attempt to change some of the customs of their forefathers, cost Osai Quamina his throne.
• The caboceers and captains, moreover, claim to be heard on all questions relating to war and foreign politics. Such matters are considered in a general assembly; and the king sometimes finds it prudent to yield to the views and urgent representations of the majority. Four individuals, representing the general assembly of caboceers and captains, signed Bowdich's treaty at the same time with the king him. self, after it had been agreed upon at a full meeting of the caboceers, tributary princes, and captains. And Dupuis states, that the treaty which he afterwards negotiated at Coomassie (Kumási) was criticised and scrutinized by a full court of the principal nobles and captains, and was the subject of a most laborious discussion, before it obtained the royal signature. The Ashantees advocate the participation of the caboceers and captains in the consideration and management of war and foreign policy, on the principle that it makes the nation more formidable to its enemies, who feel that they cannot offer provocation with impunity, where there are so many guardians of the military glory.
But while the caboceers and captains, in their collective capacity, possess considerable influence in the management of questions relating to foreign policy, as individuals they are subject to the most despotic authority, and frequently become the victims of the jealousy or displeasure of the king. A few cases of recent occurrence will sufficiently illustrate the temper of the chiefs, and the character of the Ashantee government. When the king of Ashantee conquered Wassaw, he placed the king, or principal chief of that country, under the care of Aprakú, the captain of Bantama ; and the captive chief so ingratiated himself with his guardian, or keeper, that he obtained permission from him to return to his own country. It was presumed that, in the lapse of years, the captive was almost forgotten, and that his withdrawal would not even come under the notice of the king; or that, should he become acquainted with the transaction, it would not call forth any serious
expression of dissatisfaction. The event proved the fallacy of the hopes which were thus entertained. The king was immediately informed of what had happened, and required from Aprakú an immediate explanation. But the answer of the guardian chief, so far from being deemed satisfactory, was regarded as wanting in due respect for che king's authority ; and his life became the forfeiture of his two-fold offence.'—pp. 90–92.
The usual arts of European statesmanship are known and practised by the African chief.
• The king of Ashantee maintains such an efficient system of espionage, that it is difficult for his subjects to speak or act in any manner derogatory to his authority without his being made acquainted with the offence. He employs a number of clever boys, trained for the purpose, who are placed as spies upon the conduct of the great men, and convey to the king a report of all they see and hear. While Mr. Freeman was at the frontier-town of Fómunah, waiting for permission to go up to the capital, some of those boys were in attendance upon him. When he was at meals, one would enter, and, placing himself at a distance, would silently mark all that passed ; and wherever Mr. Freeman went, he had reason to believe that his proceedings were subject to their scrutiny.'--pp. 93, 94.
In common with the other nations of western and central Africa, Ashantee abounds in slaves. Every caboceer, or noble, is the possessor of thousands, and the inferior chieftains of a less number in proportion to their dignity and wealth. The lives of these wretched beings are at the absolute disposal of their masters. A
kill his own slave with impunity, and is subject only to a pecuniary fine in case of his killing the slave of another. Degraded and miserable as must be the condition of a population thus subject to the caprice and insolence of brutal power, the slaves of Ashantee are not entirely without hope, as were those of our own colonies. Vestiges of patriarchal times may now be discovered in the wealth and influence to which some of the slaves attain. Mr. Beecham remarks on this subject,
• Humiliating as is that state of dependence in which the life and services of an individual are at the absolute disposal of another, the treatment of slaves in Africa is not uniformly harsh and severe. In Ashantee (As-hánti), a slave sometimes succeeds to the stool and property of his deceased master; which custom may serve to illustrate the circumstances of Abraham previous to the birth of his son Isaac. * Behold,' says the patriarch, to me thou hast given no seed ; and lo, one born in my house is mine heir.' Was not this presumptive heir of Abraham the son of one of his own domestics, and may it not be concluded that the Ashantee custom has thus descended from remote antiquity?
In many instances, slaves rise to power and office. The case of
Barka Gana, mentioned by Denham, affords an apt illustration. This individual was the general of the sheikh of Bornou, and governor of six large districts. He had a considerable number of slaves of his own, and enjoyed, in a high degree, the favor of his master. This, however, he forfeited by an act of disrespect. The sheikh, having inadvertently presented him with a horse which he had promised to some one else, sent for the animal back, which so offended Barka Gana, that he returned all the horses previously given to him by the sheikh ; declaring that in future he would either walk, or ride his own horses. On receiving this message, the sheikh immediately summoned him to appear, and, reminding him that he was only a slave, caused him to be stripped in his presence, and ordered that he should be immediately sold to the Tibbu merchants. That this order was not ultimately carried into effect, was solely owing to the returning kindness of the sheikh,
"Sometimes slaves acquire such power as to become the objects of the sovereign's jealousy. The king of Ashantee (As-hánti), in conversing with Mr. Hutchinson, advocated the slave-trade, for the reason that the slave-population in the country was too numerous for the public safety; and to show that his apprehensions were not groundless, he instanced the conduct of a number of slaves who rose against him in the Buntuku war, and joined the standard of his enemies. He said, he had at that time one slave who had a thousand followers at arms, and expressed his fears that he might disturb the public peace like Kujoh Kuma, who was a slave of his when he revolted, and who, independent of runaways, had at his command a force of ten thousand men. When Clapperton was passing through Yarriba, he found that there had been a servile war in that country. The Hausa slaves, encouraged by the Felatah invaders, had risen against and murdered their masters; and, after a severe struggle, had secured their independence.'-pp. 116–118.
Polygamy prevails to an astonishing extent throughout the country. The law is said to allow the king of Ashantee 3333 wives, and our author informs us that this number is carefully kept up. More than six seldom reside in the palace at the same time, the remainder live at the country residence of the king, or in the two streets of the capital which are specially devoted to their occupation. They rarely go abroad, and are attended on such occasions by a great number of boys, whose province it is to lash all who do not immediately turn out of their way. It is stated that their appearance in the more public parts of the city occasions great confusion, caboceers and captains, as well as ' slaves and children, are seen tumbling one over another at their • approach. Three hundred of the wives of the king of Ashantee were present at the signing of Bowdich's treaty, and more than double this number were seen by Mr. Norris at a public entertainment given by the king of Dahomy. The usual consequences of such a state of things are visible. Deprived of
her just rights, and degraded below the level of her lord, the wife becomes the slave rather than the companion and solace of her husband. Little regard is paid to the feelings or wishes of the female sex in domestic arrangements, which are formed either by their parents or their husbands. The following extract may well teach the women of England what they owe to the humanizing influences of the Christian faith.
"The number of wives which caboceers and other persons possess depends partly on their rank, and partly on their ability to purchase them; for the practice which prevailed in the remote ages of patriarchal antiquity, is perpetuated among the descendants of Ham. With them also, it is the rule that the parent receives a sum for his daughter, instead of giving a fortune with her, as is the practice in European countries; and it consequently follows that a large family of daughters is a source of wealth to an African father. Nor has the husband cause to complain that he is required to pay for every wife; for in Fantee (Fánti), and the countries near the coast, if a man can only obtain six or ten wives, the fruits of their labor are sufficient to enable him to lead a life of indolence.
• In the affair of courtship the wishes of the female are but little consulted; the business being chiefly settled between the suitor and her parents. No Ashantee, however, compels his daughter to become the wife of one whom she dislikes : but if she refuse to receive as her husband one of whom her father approves, he instantly withdraws from her his support and protection, and prohibits her mother also from affording her any aid or countenance whatever. It is not unfrequently the case that infants are married to each other, to promote the connexion of families; and infants are also frequently wedded to adults, and even to elderly men. In such cases, the husband sends a present to the mother, who brings up the child for him, until she is old enough to be removed to his own house. The Ashantee caboceers speak of this as a good plan for a man who wishes to get gold; for the most innocent freedom, when the girl become ten or eleven years old, proves the occasion of a serious palaver with the husband; and as these marriages are not generally known, it happens that such palavers frequently occur, and a person has to make compensation for taking liberty with a wife when he supposed that he was only playing with a child. It is, moreover, a custom in Ashantee (As-hánti), to contract for a child before it is born. When a man takes a fancy to the wife of a caboceer in a state of pregnancy, he consaws the infant in the womb, by the payment of a sum, varying from two to ten ounces of gold ; and should the child prove to be a girl, she is brought up for him as his wife.
• The domestic arrangements, in places where polygamy prevails, are formed on a different principle from that which regulates an English domicile. In Ashantee (As-hánti), Fantee (Fánti), and the neighboring countries, the husband lives separate from his wives, who dwell in houses or sheds built contiguous to each other, in the form of a square; and in some cases they continue with their mothers. They