"From heaven did the Lord behold the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to loose those that are appointed to death."--Ps. cii. 19,20.
On Friday, the last day of October, 1851, an interview took place, between two individuals, at the Church Missionary House, Salisbury Square, which will not soon be forgotten by those who happened to be present. One of the two was an English gentleman, of middle age, whose calm and dignified look and manner well accorded with the fact of his being a Christian sailor, long accustomed to command. The other was a younger man, one of the sable sons of Africa, in whose intelligent countenance, and manly yet gentle bearing, might have been read a tale of wonder and of mercy, at which angels had rejoiced. This last was the Rev. Samuel Crowther, a native of Yoruba, once a slave boy, but now an ordained minister of the Church of England. The other was Sir Henry Leeke, an admiral in the [1/2] British navy. The pause of sudden feeling, the eager grasp of the hand, the inquiring look of glad recognition, and the hasty question and reply, "Do you remember me?" "Oh! indeed I do," told of some previous meeting, of no common character, and of no very recent date.
And so it was. In the year 1822, Sir Henry Leeke, then in command of H.M.S. "Myrmidon," was cruising in the Gulf of Guinea, when he fell in with and captured a Portuguese slaver, in which Mr. Crowther, then a lad, had just been embarked to be borne across the Atlantic. He took him, together with some other boys, on board his own ship, and after a two months' further cruise, landed him in freedom at Sierra Leone. Mr. Crowther was, at that time, thirteen years old, and since then they had never met, but twenty-nine years had not effaced from the recollections of the grateful African the lineaments of his deliverer. Often, when musing on the past, had he recalled them to his memory, and when, in 1841, he accompanied the expedition up the Niger, he delighted to trace, or to fancy he could trace, a likeness in one of the officers on board the Soudan, to him to whom he owed so much. And now, when he met him once more, hand to hand, and eye to eye, and recognised the same warm manner and kindly look that had won his heart on board the Myrmidon, the events of the intervening years [2/3] crowded fast upon his memory, and a flood of mingled feelings passed across his soul, that well-nigh overwhelmed him.
The interview was necessarily brief, and again they parted--the one to take the command of the Indian navy, the other to return to the work of an evangelist in his native land.
We have placed this little incident thus early in our narrative, that we might at once introduce our readers to the name of Crowther, which will very frequently occur in the following pages, and we will If now proceed to a more connected history.
Hi It would be beyond our purpose were we to enter into any history of the slave-trade--of its abandonment on the part of our own country in the year 1807, or of the endeavours made to prevent its continuance by other nations. The names of Clarkson and Wilberforce are still too dear to the memory of Englishmen to need our mention of them; and the details of their persevering zeal, and of the success with which it was crowned, may be read elsewhere.
We will only glance at the state of things since that period, in order to make our succeeding pages more intelligible.
Even the youngest of our readers will remember the form of the western coast of Africa; how, when beyond Cape Verde, it follows a south-eastern direction [3/4] for four or five degrees, how the encroachments of the Gulf of Guinea then force it into a course due east, for several hundred miles, till, after yielding to two smaller sweeps of the sea, the Bight of Benin and the Bight of Biafra, it turns abruptly to the south, and scarcely varies its direction till it reaches the equator. Along the whole of this coast, an extent of nearly 2,600 miles, the Spaniards and Portuguese, notwithstanding their treaties with Great Britain, continued to pursue the hateful traffic with unremitting activity. Nearly seventy ports were open to their slave-ships, and tens and tens of thousands were annually shipped off to supply the markets of Cuba and Brazil. Oh! could the walls of those dismal factories and barracoons relate the scenes of sorrow and suffering, of cruelty and despair that have taken place within them, we believe we should find that in the annals of the whole world no page more dark with crime and misery has ever been looked upon by God's All-seeing Eye.
Africa had indeed become "one universal den of desolation, misery, and crime." ["When we look on Africa, does not the scene that we behold approve itself to our sympathising hearts as more deeply needing, than any other region under heaven, that message which can light the eye with the beaming smile of joy? Joy, of all blessings, is the least known in Africa. To bid the African go on his way rejoicing is a task too little tried; for ages and for centuries sorrow has been the heritage and portion of the sons and daughters of Ham."--Sermon by the Bishop of Sierra Leone, at Carfax Church, Oxford, Oct. 31, 1852.] A fearful waste of [4/5] human life was incurred in the seizure of the slaves for the market,--in the hurried march through the desert to the coast, under a blazing sun, with a very scanty supply of water,--in the detention at the ports, where hunger, disease, and despair carried off their many victims. Those who survived these accumulated sufferings, pressed down for weeks between the decks of the slave-ship, had to endure torments that cannot be described. Scarcely even can the mind realise the horrors of that voyage--the sea-sickness--the suffocation--the terrible thirst--the living chained to the dead--the agony of despair. Many perished on the voyage, and the remnant were sold as slaves, to endure the frightful cruelties of their Spanish and Portuguese masters. [That this is no exaggerated or overcharged picture, we have unhappily abundant evidence; and as late as 1839 Lord John Russell, in his letter to the Lords of the Treasury, proposing the Niger Expedition, says--"I find it impossible to avoid the conclusion that the average number of slaves introduced into America and the West Indies from the western coast of Africa annually exceeds one hundred thousand, and this estimate affords but a very imperfect indication of the real extent of the calamities which this traffic inflicts upon its victims. No record exists of the multitudes who perish in the overland journey to the African coast, or in the passage across the Atlantic, or of the still greater number who fall a sacrifice to the warfare, pillage, and cruelties by which the slave-trade is fed. The whole involves a waste of human life and a state of human misery, proceeding from year to year without respite or intermission, to such an extent, as to render the subject the most painful of any which, in the survey of the condition of mankind, it is possible to contemplate."]
 Thus did this hateful trade continue for more than 30 years after its abolition by Great Britain, depopulating the countries, and demoralising both the captors and the enslaved. Sierra Leone indeed was a haven of refuge to those who were re-captured by our cruisers; but the hundreds, or even thousands, that were thus annually rescued bore a very small proportion to the mass of sufferers. The whole of this part of Africa, with the exception of Liberia, was in apparently [In the three years preceding 1838, 13,000 recaptured negroes were brought into Sierra Leone and set free.] hopeless darkness; liberty, whether bodily, mental, or spiritual, was unknown, and the eye of pity sought in vain for any gleam of better things.
But in the year 1839 the faint streaks of a brighter morning appeared; and, since that time, thanks to the unconquerable spirit of a few British and Christian philanthropists;--thanks to the far-sighted benevolence of our rulers in entering into treaties with the more friendly tribes, and to their steady firmness in maintaining the cruising squadron to check the trade where it could not be eradicated;--above all, thanks to Him who not only thus guided [6/7] the minds of his servants, but ordered the events of his Providence to the same end--the slave-trade has gradually diminished. In 1851, the nearly seventy-three ports were reduced to three: Lagos, Porto Novo, and Whydah, all in the Bight of Benin; and now, in 1853, Lagos is taken--Porto Novo and Whydah are no longer able to continue the traffic--Brazil itself has denounced the trade, and the slave-trade is, we hope and believe, extinct.