Sidor som bilder

increase the county representation, and enable us to remedy the only defect in our present county elections. Yorkshire might in this manner be gradually divided into three or four separate districts; Lincolnshire, Devonshire, and other large counties into two; and some additional scot and lot boroughs might be created in large unrepresented towns. By this operation, the independence of the House of Commons would be gradually improved, at the expense of that part of it which is most under the influence of ministers. The electors of the disfranchised boroughs, who were not disqualified by their participation in acts of bribery, might be declared freeholders of the county.

4. Close Boroughs, the members for which are returned by one or two individuals, without assistance from government, and without the risk of a contest. Against this description of boroughs, the strongest prejudices in general prevail. We are far from considering them the worst part of our representative system. The members for close boroughs are often the men of greatest talent and independence in the House. There is one advantage attending their situation, which belongs to no other description of persons. Firmness to oppose the People, is sometimes as necessary a quality, as independence to resist the Crown. But the members for close boroughs are the only persons in the House who stand in awe neither of the Crown nor of the People. County members are in constant dread of their constituents; and though this is on the whole a salutary terror, it prevents them from resisting popular clamour, when the clamour of the people is unfounded and unjust. The proprietors of close boroughis are, in general, party men, and dispose of their seats to persons of the same way of thinking with thei:iselves. This, however, is not universally the case. There are instances where close boroughs are made objects of traffic at the Treasury, by persons who have no party connexion with the existing administration. But if the lists of the House of Commons for the last forty years were consulted, we should find that a large proportion of the steadiest advocates of the people have been members for close boroughs.

On Triennial parliaments, we have only a few words to offer. We doubt whether frequent elections are favourable to the independence of the House of Commons. We fear the tendency of short Parliaments is to increase the


government, by breaking down and destroying all independent opposition. Let no one imagine that by penal laws, or other devices, he can prevent the expense of elections. While a seat in the House of Cominons is an object of desire, it will be an object of expense. But the pecuniary cost on such occasions is, in general, grcatest


on the side of Opposition. The friends of Ministry have the aid and influence of government patronage in support of their pretensions; and the more frequently elections are repeated, the greater is the amount of this advantage over their opponents.Short Parliaments, it must be owned, would lessen the terrors of a dissolution, which, after the examples of 1784 and 1807, must have great effect in destroying the spirit and independence of the House of Commons. The advisers of these two measures may be justly reckoned among the men who, in our times, have done the most irreparable injury to the constitutional liberties of their country. *

While the preceding sheets have been passing through the press, some additional authorities have occurred to us in support of the argument stated above, that the suitors of the county courts, and original electors of knights of the shire, were freeholders of all descriptions, whether holding in chief of the King, or of a subject superior.

In the rolls of Parliament (I. 15.), there is a grant of Richard I. to the Bishop of Coventry, and his successors in that see,-" ut omnes homines sui-in perpe“ tuum liberi sint et quietide sectis Shir' & Hundr'. Among the Placita in Parliamento 19. Edw. I. (Rolls, I. 69.), there is a case between William Martin and William de Valenciis, which proves that subtenants owed suit and presence in the same courts; and there is a question between the Crown and William de Breouse 50. Edw. I. (Rolls, I. 148.], which proves the same.

Art. V. The Narrative of ROBERT ADAMS, a Sailor, who was

wrecked on the Western Coast of Africa in the Year 1810; was detained three Years in Slavery by the Arabs of the Great Desert; and Resided several months in the City of Tombuctoo. With a Map, Notes, and an Appendix. 4to. pp. 272. London, Murray. 1816.

WE E have more than once had occasion to suggest, that the

accounts received from persons accidentally led to visit the interior of Africa, might possibly afford that information regarding its great towns and rivers, which the enterprize of professed travellers has hitherto failed to procure; and we have hinted, that the regular journeys of the caravans for commercial purposes, might furnish an opportunity of sending some African of intelligence from the neighbourhood of the coast, to the most inland parts, and of learning through him the state of those distant and interesting regions. It still remains unexplained, why no such means of investigation have ever been attempted. There must surely be negroes of sufficient information in the colony of Sierra Leone, if no Moor should be found irustworthy for the proposed undertaking. To join one of the VOL. XXII. No. 52.


regular caravans would be no very difficult matter; and, engaging in traffic, like the rest of the company, would both facilitate and conceal the object of the adventure. Two most praiseworthy voyages of discovery have, in the mean time, been fitted out by the English government, one of which is to proceed up the Congo, in the expectation that the theory explained in a former Number may prove well-grounded, and the Niger be found the upper part of that great river. Every thing that could be contributed to the success of these plans, by careful and liberal preparation, with the fullest information to be had upon the subject, has been wisely bestowed by the Administration, and the friends of science look forward with new hopes towards the solution of some of the most important problems in geography, as well as in the moral history of the species. The work now before us contains some very valuable information, obtained from the accidental source above alluded to, supposing always that its authenticity may be relied on; to which material point we must begin, by directing the reader's attention.

At the beginning of last winter, Mr Cock, a gentleman connected with the African Company, having accidentally heard that a poor American sailor, of the name of Robert Adams, was begging in the streets, who represented himself as recently returned from many strange adventures in Africa, he made it his business to find him out, and proceeded to enquire into his story, which he told with much frankness, in answer to the questions which were put. He very properly took 'notes of the statement made by Adams, particularly as to the places he said he had visited, the distances mentioned by him, and the directions in which he described his journeys to have been made. He then gave him a trifling sum to relieve his immediate wants, and desired him to return in a few days. The man did not come back for nearly a week, and then repeated the same answers, nearly in the same words, to the questions again put. A favourable opinion of his veracity being thus formed, Mr Cock resolved to take down in writing his whole narrative, Adams himself being wholly illiterate. For this purpose, it was necessary that he should be supported while here; and he was promised a remuneration for his trouble, in attending daily to have his adventures recorded. There was considerable difficulty, however, in getting him to remain ; he was impatient to return to his own country, and wished to embark in an American transport which was then on the point of sailing. Having by promises been prevailed upon to stay, he was seen by a number of gentlemen, who repeatedly conversed with him; and, it deserves to be added, that he never was known to ask money from any

of them. During the examination, by which his story was drawn from him, and which occupied some hours daily for a fortnight or three weeks, above fifty persons saw and interrogated him; nor was there one of those who was not struck with the artlessness and good sense of his answers, and with the conviction that he was relating the facts to the best of his recollection.

After his examination was concluded, and before leaving this country, he was seen and interrogated by several persons well known in the political and scientific world. The general impression made upon them was perfectly favourable to his veracity, although two of the number, Sir Joseph Banks and Mr Barrow the traveller, had at first entertained partial doubts of his accuracy. These doubts were grounded upon the contradiction which his narrative gave to all the former reports of the extent and magnificence of Tombuctoo, and upon certain mistakes which they supposed him to have made in matters of natural history. With respect to the first ground of hesitation, we confess, that with us the discrepancy of Adams's account with the incredible stories formerly told of the size and grandeur of Tombuctoo, operates in favour of his accuracy; not only because his inventing a story about Tombuctoo presupposes his having heard of these stories, and makes it probable, that had he been fabricating a tale, he would have adapted it to them; but also because it is exactly in the course of other improvements in the knowledge of distant places, long familiar to us by name and by report, that the first authentic information should diminish the wonders related and credited during the period of ignorance and vague reports. Mr Barrow's own account of China, furnishes a remarkable example in support of this observation; nor have his numerous books of travels rendered any one more valuable service, than their enabling us to view the Chinese in their natural colour and dimensions. With regard to the supposed inaccuracy of Adams upon points of natural hisa tory, a few more particulars must be adverted to. He mentioned dates, pine-apples and cocoa-nuts among the fruits of Tombuctoo. Mr Dupuis, our vice-consul at Magadore (of whom we shall again have occasion to speak) states, that he never heard of the two former fruits from the natives of Barbary who had visited the interior. Mr Park, however, mentions dates repeatedly in his travels; and, though he says that the pine-apple does not grow in the interior, yet Mr Cock obscrves, that it flourishes upon the Gold Coast and in the Bight of Benin. The cocoa-nut tree is supposed not to grow at a distance from the ses; and Adams, it seems, could not describe its appear. But Mr Dupuis admits that the natives of Barbary who have visited Tombuctoo, mention this tree as growing there; and, as the Editor well remarks, a person in the situation of Adams was more likely to observe the fruit than the tree, or he may have confounded the shell of it with that of the calabash, Again; he described a young elephant as twenty feet high, with legs as thick as his body, and four tusks. That he did not observe the animal with the accuracy of a naturalist is quite clear ; and the examination as to the number of his tusks having taken place after an interval of four years, it is not surprising that he should have made a mistake upon a matter which at the time could not have attracted much of his attention. Lastly, he describes a new and strange animal in the following manner. • Besides these, there is in the vicinity of Tombuctoo a most o extraordinary animal named courcoo, somewhat resembling a • large dog, but having an opening or hollow on its back like “a pocket, in which it carries its prey. It has shoré point• ed ears and a short tail. Its skin is of an uniform reddish• brown on its back, like a fox, but its belly is of a light-grey • colour. It will ascend trees with great agility, and gather 6.cocoa-nuts, which Adams supposes to be a part of its food. • But it also devours goats and even young children, and the ne

groes were greatly afraid of it. Its ery is like that of an owl.' (p. 30.) As Mr Dupuis never heard of this extraordinary animal, these particulars may appear somewhat suspicious; but the following note of the editor seems to us fairly enough to remove the difficulty.

• It would be unfair to Adams not to explain, that, when ques• tioned as to his personal knowledge of the courcoo,' it ap

peared that he had never seen the animal nearer than at thirty • or forty yards distance. It was from the Negroes he learnt • that it had on its back “ a hollow place like a pouch, which “ they called coo,” in which it pocketed its prey; and having

once seen the creature carrying a branch of cocoa-nut with its fruit, “ which, as the courcoo ran swiftly away, seemed to lie “ on its back, Adams concluded of course that the pocket • must be there; and further, that the animal fed on cocoa-nuts,

well as goats and children.-In many respects Adams's de• scription of the animal, (about which the Narrative shows that • he was closely questioned), answers to the lynx.' p. 109.

We do not, therefore, consider the mistakes as to these points, of any material importance in estimating the authenticity of Adams's narrative; or rather the very small number of them ap- • pears to confirm it; and especially we hold this opinion respecting the story he tells of the Courcoo; for, if it had been a mere

[ocr errors]


« FöregåendeFortsätt »