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Alexander Gordon Laing


Alexander Gordon Laing LAING, ALEXANDER GORDON, whose name is so mournfully connected with the history of African discovery, was born at Edinburgh on the 27th of December, 1793. His father, William Laing, A.M., was the first who opened an academy for classical education in the new town of the Scottish capital; where he laboured for thirty-two years, and was one of the most popular teachers of his day. His maternal grand-father, William Gordon, was also a teacher of very considerable note, and is known in the schools as the author of a system of geography, a treatise on arithmetic, a translation of the first six books of Livy, &c.

With such a parentage it might naturally have been supposed, that the subject of this memoir was more likely to have spent his days amid the quiet pursuits of literature, than in the bustle of the camp, and amid the din of arms; the appearances of his early years seemed to favour the supposition. Under the tuition of his father, young Laing received the elementary education that was necessary to prepare him for the university, and he was enrolled in the Humanity class at the early age of thirteen years. Previous to this he had acquired a very considerable knowledge of the Latin language, of which he was passionately fond; and the appearances he made in the class then taught by professor Christison, were of so marked a kind as to secure him the very flattering notice of his preceptor; he was held up as a model for the imitation of his fellow students, and, there were but few who could entertain any hope of excelling him.

At the age of fifteen Mr Laing entered on the business of active life, having engaged himself as assistant to Mr Bruce, a teacher in Newcastle. In this situation he remained only six months, when he returned to Edinburgh, and entered into company with his father, taking charge of the commercial department of the academy, for which his beautiful penmanship and other acquirements singularly qualified him.

But the time was fast approaching when the subject of our memoir was to exchange the ferula for the sword. In 1809, volunteering was very general in Edinburgh, and, young Laing attached himself to a corps then forming. In 1810, he was made an ensign in the prince of Wales’ volunteers, and from that period the academy had no more charms for him. In his eighteenth year he abandoned the irksome duties of teaching, and set off for Barbadoes to his maternal uncle, colonel, afterwards lieutenant-general Gordon, through whose kind offices he looked forward to an introduction into the army. At that time colonel Gordon held the office of deputy quarter-master-general in Barbadoes, and on his nephew’s arrival he gave him a situation as clerk in his counting house. In this situation Mr Laing repeatedly came in contact with Sir George Beckwith, then at the head of the command of the military on the station, who was so much pleased with the young clerk, and took so deep an interest in his fortunes, as to secure for him unsolicited an ensign’s commission in the York light infantry.

But we must hurry over the first years of Laing’s service in the army, in order that we may have space to detail the more important passages in his history. Having obtained the ensigncy in the York light infantry, he immediately joined his regiment in Antigua; in two years he was made a lieutenant, and shortly after, on the reduction of the regiment, he was put on half-pay. Dissatisfied with the inactivity consequent on such a measure, as soon as the necessary arrangements could be made, he exchanged into the 2nd West India regiment, and proceeded to Jamaica. Here over exertion in consequence of his discharging the duties of quarter-master-general caused him to suffer much from disease of the liver. He retired to Honduras for the recovery of his health, where colonel Arthur, appreciating his excellence as an officer, detained him with another division of the regiment, and appointed him fort major. His distemper, however, which at first seemed to yield, in Honduras, returned with increasing violence, and compelled him to seek relief in the air of his native land, and the sympathies of his relations.

During the eighteen months he remained at home, the division of the 2nd West India regiment to which he belonged, was reduced, and he was again put on half-pay. Restored, however, to health, he could not remain inactive. Towards the end of 1819, he went to London, was sent for by the colonel of his regiment, the late Sir Henry Torrence, received many flattering compliments for his former services, and having been appointed lieutenant and adjutant, he proceeded to Sierra Leone.

From the beginning of the year 1822 his history as an African traveller may properly be dated. In January of that year he was despatched by Sir Charles M’Carthy, governor of Sierra Leone, on an important embassy to Kambia and the Mandingo country, where he collected much valuable information regarding the political condition of these districts, their dispositions as to commerce, and their sentiments as to slavery. Having so far achieved the object for which he set out, he crossed to Malacouri, a Mandingo town, situated on the banks of the river Malageea. There he learned that Sannassee, the chief of the district of Malageea, and a friend of the British government, had been captured by Amara, the king of the Soolimas, and was about to be put to death. Well knowing the unrelenting disposition of Amara, Laing, although labouring under a severe attack of fever and ague, resolved to go to the Soolima camp, and intercede for the life of the unfortunate Sannassee.

With this view he crossed the Malageea near its source, and after experiencing many difficulties in meeting with Soolima guards, he at length reached the camp. Having witnessed the feats of warlike exercise, the dancing, and the music exhibited by Soolimas, Bennas, Sangaras, and Tambaccas, he was invited to a palaver with Yarradee, the general of the Soolima army. This officer received him with much kindness, and with many protestations of friendship. Subsequently he was introduced to, and had a conversation with Amara himself, and having obtained an assurance that Sannassee would not be put to death, he retired to Sierra Leone, where he arrived on the 6th day, exhausted by the fatigues of his journey and continued illness.

Scarcely had Laing recovered, when a report at Sierra Leone that his mission had been of no avail, induced the governor to send him on another embassy for the same object. Having once more visited the Soolima camp, he was assured indeed that Sannassee had been set at liberty, but he also learned that his town had been burned, and his property plundered or destroyed. Of this conduct he expressed in the name of his government the most decided reprobation; and after a journey of six and a half days, during which he had never for a single hour been under shelter, he once more reached Sierra Leone.

It was now that lieutenant Laing assumed the character of a volunteer traveller. Having been led to believe during the last embassy that the Soolimas were in possession of considerable quantities of gold and ivory, he suggested to the governor the propriety and probable advantages of the colony opening up a commercial intercourse with them; and the suggestion having been approved of by the council at large, he left Sierra Leone again on the 16th of April, 1822, with the view of furthering such an object, accompanied by two soldiers of the 2nd West India regiment, a native of Foutah Jallow, eleven carriers, natives of the Jolof district, and a boy a native of Sego.

When he set out upon this journey little was known of the Soolimas except the name; they were said to be distant from Sierra Leone four hundred miles to the eastward: it afterwards appeared that Falaba, the capital, is only distant two hundred miles. They were represented as a powerful nation, rich in gold and ivory; but this also turned out not to be the fact.

On his arrival at Toma in the country of the Timmanees, our traveller found that no white man had ever been there before him, although the town is situated only sixty miles from Sierra Leone. His appearance, as was to be expected, excited no little astonishment—one woman, in particular, stood fixed like a statue gazing on the party as they entered the town, and did not stir a muscle till the whole had passed, when she gave a loud halloo of astonishment, and then covered her mouth with both her hands. Of the Timmanees he writes in his journal very unfavourably; he found them depraved, indolent, avaricious, and so deeply sunk in the debasement of the slave traffic, that the very mothers among them raised a clamour against him for refusing to buy their children. He further accuses them of dishonesty and gross indecency, and altogether wonders that a country so near Sierra Leone, should have gained so little by its proximity to a British settlement.

From the country of the Timmanees lieutenant Laing proceeded into that of Kooranko, the first view of which was much more promising--he found the first town into which he entered neat and clean, and the inhabitants bearing all the marks of active industry. It was about sunset when he approached it, and we give in his own language a description of the scene. "Some of the people," says he, " had been engaged in preparing the fields for the crops, others were penning up a few cattle, whose sleek sides denoted the richness of their pasturages; the last clink of the blacksmith’s hammer was sounding, the weaver was measuring the cloth he had woven during the day, and the guarange, a worker in leather, was tying up his neatly stained pouches, shoes, and knife-sheaths; while the crier at the mosques, with the melancholy call of ‘Allah Akbar,’ summoned the decorous Moslems to their evening devotions." Such were our traveller’s first impressions of the Koorankoes; but their subsequent conduct did not confirm the good opinion he had formed of them.

On approaching the hilly country, lieutenant Laing informs us that nothing could be more beautiful or animating than the scene presented to his view,—well clothed rising grounds, cultivated valleys, and meadows smiling with verdure; the people in the different towns were contented and good-humoured, and, in general, received the stranger with very great kindness. In illustration of this he has given us the burden of the song of one of their minstrels:— "The white man lived on the waters and ate nothing but fish, which made him so thin; but the black men will give him cows and sheep to eat, and milk to drink, and then he will grow fat."

At Komato, the last town of the Koorankoes, on his route, our traveller found a messenger from the king of Soolimana, with horses and carriages to convey him to Falaba, the capital of that nation. Crossing the Rokelle river, about a hundred yards broad, by ropes of twigs suspended from the branches of two immense trees, (a suspension bridge called by the natives Nyankata,) he proceeded to that city; and having been joined by the king’s son at the last town upon this side of it, he entered Falaba under a salute of musketry from 2000 men, who were drawn up in the centre of the town to receive him.

Not long, after reaching Falaba, lieutenant, now captain Laing (for about this time he was promoted,) was seized with a fever which brought on delirium for several days. While in this state he was cupped by one of the Soolima doctors, and that so effectually as to satisfy him that it was the means of saving his life. The operation differed in no respect from ours, except that the skin was scarified by a razor, and the cup was a small calabash gourd.

Our traveller enters, in his journal, into a long detail of the habits and manners of the Soolimas, with which he has made himself fully acquainted during his three months’ residence in Falaba. To give even a short abstract of this, would he inconsistent with the limits assigned to this memoir. Suffice it to say, that the main object of his mission failed. The king all along promised to send back with him a company of traders; but when the time of departure arrived, these promises ended in nought. Although within three days’ journey of the source of the Niger, he was not permitted to visit that often sought spot, and deep was the grief which the loss of such an opportunity cost him; by measuring, however, the height of the source of the Rokelle, which he found to be 1441 feet, and by taking into account the height of the mountains in the distance, which gave rise to the Niger, he calculated, (as he himself thought,) with a tolerable degree of accuracy, that that river which has had so much importance assigned to it, has an elevation at its source of from 1500 to 1600 feet above the level of the Atlantic. We cannot resist quoting here the testimony of an eminent writer in the Edinburgh Journal of Natural and Geographical Science, (June, 1830,) more especially as the measurements of captain Laing have been rather lightly spoken of in the Quarterly Review, (we believe by Mr Barrow:) "Major Laing," says the Edinburgh Journalist, "assigned the position and the elevation above the sea of Mount Loma, from whence the Niger takes its origin: and he first traced on the map the first part of its course towards the north for an extent of about twenty-five leagues."

On the 17th of September our traveller quitted Falaba, accompanied by numbers of the natives, who escorted him to a considerable distance, the last to leave him was the king himself. Of his "adieu" the captain speaks in the most affecting terms. On returning, the route of the party was nearly the same as that by which they set out. The conclusion of the journey we give, in the traveller’s own words, in a note. [‘"We left Ma Koota at six A. M., and after a fatiguing march of twenty-five miles over a vile Timmanee path, we reached Rokon at four P. M., where I rejoined my party, which had arrived a few hours before. At six I embarked in a canoe, with an intention of pushing direct for Sierra Leone, but perceiving a small boat at anchor off the small town of Maherre, I went on shore, and in a few minutes had the gratification of shaking hands with Senor Altavilla, Portuguese commissary judge at Sierra Leone, and captain Stepney of the 2nd West India regiment, who, on hearing of my approach had gone so far on the way to meet me. About midnight we were joined by Mr Kenneth Macauley, when we all embarked in his barge; and proceeding down the river, arrived at Tombo to breakfast, where I deprived myself of £he decoration of my face, now of seven months growth, and by the help of some borrowed garments effected an alteration in my appearance which was very requisite. Leaving Tombo after breakfast, we proceeded down the Rokelle, on a fine calm morning, and at two P.M. I had the satisfaction of being welcomed by my friends at Sierra Leone, so many of whom, so much esteemed and so highly valued, are now no more."]

Before our traveller’s return, hostilities had commenced between the British government and the king of the Ashantees—the consequence was, that no sooner had he tasted the comforts of a British settlement, than he was ordered to join his regiment on the Gold coast without delay. Having transmitted details to his friend, captain Sabine in London, of the geographical determinations of the latitude, longitude, and elevation of the places he had lately visited, he hastened to obey the order he had received. On his arrival on the Gold coast he was employed in the organization and command of a very considerable native force, designed to be auxiliary to a small British detachment which was then expected from Britain. During the greater part of the year 1823, this native force was stationed on the frontier of the Fantee and Ashantee countries, and was frequently engaged, and always successfully, with detachments of the Ashantee army. On one of these occasions the enemy was completely beaten, and the fame of the victory spread over the whole coasts; in so much, and so effectually, that Sir Charles M’Carthy received the allegiance of most of the Fantee tribes. On another occasion captain Laing made two gallant and successful attacks on a larger division of the enemy; and entering into the territories of the king of Ajumacon, who was suspected to be friendly to the Ashantees, he compelled that prince to place his troops under the British command.

On the fall of Sir Charles M’Carthy, which took place in 1824, lieutenant-colonel Chisholm, on whom the command of the Gold coast devolved, sent the subject of our memoir to England, to acquaint government more fully than could otherwise be done, of the state of the country, and the circumstances of the war. He arrived in England in August, and immediately afterwards obtained a leave of absence to visit Scotland for the recovery of his health, which had been seriously affected by so many months of constant and extreme exposure in Africa. In Scotland, however, he did not continue long. In October he returned to London, and an opportunity having unexpectedly presented itself to him, of proceeding under lord Bathurst’s auspices, in the discovery of the course and termination of the Niger, an opportunity which he had long and anxiously desired, he gladly embraced it. It being arranged, that he should accompany the caravan from Tripoli to Timbuctoo, in the ensuing summer, it became necessary that he should depart early in the year from that father land, which, alas! he was destined never to revisit.

Our traveller, now promoted to a majority, left London for Tripoli, in the month of February, 1825. While in the latter city he had occasion to have frequent intercourse with the British consul, Mr Warrington; a close intimacy was formed between them, and the bond was strengthened by the major’s marrying Emma Maria, the daughter of the consul. This event was celebrated on the 14th of July, 1825; and two days after the marriage the major proceeded on his pilgrimage to Timbuctoo.

He left Tripoli in company with the sheik Babani, whom he afterwards discovered to be no less a personage than the governor of Ghadamis. The sheik engaged to conduct him to Timbuctoo in ten weeks; the wife and the family of Babani resided there. The travellers proceeded with their koffila by the route of Beneoleed, the passage by the Gharan mountains being rendered unsafe, in consequence of the turbulence of a rebellious chief in that district. On the 21st of August the party reached Shaté, and on the 13th of September, after a tedious and circuitous journey of nearly a thousand miles, they arrived at Ghadamis, Already had the major experienced much to vex and annoy him; his barometer had been broken; his hygrometers had been rendered useless by evaporation; the tubes of most of his thermometers had been snapt by the warping of the ivory; his glasses had been dimmed by the friction of the sand; his chronometer had stopped (in all likelihood from the insinuation of sandy particles); and in addition to this lengthened list of mishaps, his rifle stock had been broken by the tread of an elephant.

Our traveller left Ghadamis, where he was treated with the utmost kindness and hospitality, on the 27th of October; and on the 3rd of December he arrived at Ensala, a town on the eastern frontier of the province of Tuat, belonging to the Tuaric, and said to be thirty-five days’ journey from Timbuctoo. Here as in Ghadamis, he experienced the kindest reception, and he did all he could to repay it, by administering of his medicines to the diseased.

From Ensala he wrote the last letter to his relations in Scotland, which they ever received from him. As it is a document of great interest, and, in some passages, highly characteristic of the writer, we shall present a considerable extract:

"Ensala in Tuat, December 8, 1825.

* * * *

"I arrived here in the afternoon of the 2nd instant; and the curiosity which my appearance among these people has excited, is not yet nearly allayed, insomuch that I am beset during nearly the whole day with myriads of wondering spectators, who flock to the house which I inhabit, and stare at me with about as much curiosity as you would at the great lioness in Exeter Change, which whelped three young lions, and condescended to suckle them herself. The natives of this place are of the tribe called Musticarab, and live under no law or control. They do not employ themselves either in trade or cultivation, but, like a set of outlaws, roam about the desert, robbing and plundering kafillas wherever they can fall in with them. There has been murderous work among them this year,—more than half a dozen fights of one kind or another, and between two and three hundred slain. I shall quit them, please God, in seven or eight days more, as I accompany a large kaffila, which proceeds on the 15th instant towards Timbuctoo, from which I am now only thirty days’ journey. Every thing appears to favour me, and to bid fair for a speedy and successful termination to my arduous enterprise. I am already possessed of much curious and valuable information, and feel confident that I shall realize the most sanguine expectations of my numerous friends. I shall do more than has ever been done before, and shall show myself to be what I have ever considered myself, a man of enterprise and genius. My father used often to accuse me of want of common sense; but he little thought that I gloried in the accusation. ‘Tis true, I never possessed any, nor ever shall. At a very early age, I fell in with an observation of Helvetius, which pleased me much, and chimed in with my way of thinking to the tenth part of a second. ‘A man of common sense is a mania whose character indolence predominates: he is not endowed with activity of soul, which, in high stations, leads great minds to discover new springs by which they may set the world in motion, or to sow the seeds, from the growth of which they are enabled to produce future events.’ I admit that common sense is more necessary for conducting the petty affairs of life than genius or enterprise; but the man who soars into the regions of speculation should never be hampered by it. Had I been gifted with that quality which the bulk of mankind consider so inestimable, I might now have been a jolly subaltern on half-pay, or perhaps an orthodox preacher in some country kirk, in lieu of dictating this letter to you from the arid regions of central Africa. This is a long rhapsody, but you must just bear with it patiently, as it is not every day that you can hear from me.

"I hope you have written to my dearest Emma, the most amiable girl that God ever created. She is, indeed, such a being as I had formed in my mind’s eyes but had never before seen, and has just as much common sense as has fallen to the lot of your most worthy elder brother." * * *

He quitted Ensala on the 10th of January, 1826, and on the 26th of the same month entered on the cheerless, flat, and sandy desert of Tenezaroff. Hitherto neither his enthusiasm nor his health had failed him; the people had all been friendly and kind to him, the elements only had been his foes; but in the desert he was to enter on a different course of experience, and bitter assuredly it was. The Tuarics attacked, and plundered, and most cruelly mangled him. The following letter, written by himself, and addressed to his father-in-law, discloses the amount of authentic information concerning this barbarous outrage.

Blad Sidi’ Mahomed, May 10th, 1826.

My Dear Consul—

I drop you a line only by an uncertain conveyance, to acquaint you that I am recovering from my severe wounds far beyond any calculation that the most sanguine expectation could have formed; and that tomorrow, please God, I leave this place for Timbuctoo, which I hope to reach on the 18th. I have suffered much, but the detail must be reserved till another period, when I shall "a tale unfold" of treachery and woe that will surprise you. Some imputation is attachable to the old sheik (Babani); but as he is now no more, I shall not accuse him; he died very suddenly about a month since.

When I write from Timbuctoo, I shall detail precisely how I was betrayed, and nearly murdered in my sleep. In the mean time, I shall acquaint you with the number and nature of my wounds, in all amounting to twenty-four; eighteen of which are exceedingly severe. I have five sabre cuts on the crown of the head, and three on the left temple; all fractures, from which much bone has come away. One on my left cheek, which fractured the jawbone, and has divided the ear, forming a very unsightly wound. One over the right temple, and a dreadful gash on the back of the neck, which slightly scratched the windpipe, [It should be the Spine.] &c. I am nevertheless, as already I have said, doing well, and hope yet to return to England with much important geographical information. The map indeed requires much correction, and please God, I shall yet do much in addition to what I have already done towards putting it right.

It would appear from this letter, that the major intended on the day after he wrote it, to set out for Timbuctoo. The intention, however, was frustrated. The illness, and subsequent death of Sidi Mahomed Mooktar, the marabout and sheik of the place, together with a severe attack of fever in his own person, detained him for two months longer. By this distemper he lost also his favourite servant Jack, to whom he was much attached. We can easily enter into his feelings when, writing again on the 1st of July to his father-in-law, he concludes the epistle by saying, "I am now the only surviving member of the mission."

On the 18th of August he arrived at Timbuctoo, and from the following letter, which he left behind him there, which was afterwards forwarded to Tripoli by the nephew of Babani, and is the last that any of his relations ever received from him, we learn only enough to deepen our regret that he should have perished in the hour of success, and that his valuable papers should have been lost to the world.

"Timbuctoo, [In this letter the major always spells the name of the capital Tinbuciu.] September 21, 1826.

"My Dear Consul :—A very short epistle must serve to apprise you, as well as my dearest Emma, of my arrival at and departure from the great capital of central Africa; the former of which events took place on the 18th ultimo, the latter, please God, will take place at an early hour to-morrow morning. I have abandoned all thoughts of retracing my steps to Tripoli, and came here with an intention of proceeding to Jenne by water; but this intention has been entirely upset, and my situation in Timbuctoo rendered exceedingly unsafe by the unfriendly dispositions of the Foulahs of Massina, who have this year upset the dominion of the Tuaric, and made themselves patrons of Timbuctoo, and whose sultan, Bello, has expressed his hostility to me in no unequivocal terms, in a letter which Al Saidi Boubokar, the sheik of this town received from him a few days after my arrival. He has now got intelligence of my arrival in Timbuctoo, and as a party of Foulahs are hourly expected, Al Saidi Boubokar, who is an excellent good man, and who trembles for my safety, has strongly urged my immediate departure. And I am sorry to say, that the notice has been so short, and I have so much to do previous to going away, that this is the only communication I shall for the present be able to make. My destination is Sego, whither I hope to arrive in fifteen days; but I regret to say that the road is a vile one, and my perils are not yet at an end; but my trust is God, who has hitherto borne me up amidst the severest trials, and protected me amidst the numerous dangers to which I have been exposed.

"I have no time to give you any account of Timbuctoo, but shall briefly state, that in every respect, except in size, (which does not exceed four miles in circumference), it has completely met my expectations. Kabra is only five miles distant, and is a neat town situated on the margin of the river. I have been busily employed during my stay, searching the records in the town, which are abundant, and in acquiring information of every kind; nor is it with any common degree of satisfaction that I say my perseverance has been amply rewarded. I am now convinced that my hypothesis concerning the termination of the Niger is correct.

"May God bless you all! I shalt write you fully from Sego, as also my lord Bathurst, and I rather apprehend that both letters will reach you at one time, as none of the Ghadamis merchants leave Timbuctoo for two months to come. Again may God bless you all! My dear Emma must excuse my writing. I have begun a hundred letters to her, but have been unable to get through one. She is ever uppermost in my thoughts, and I look forward with delight to the hour of our meeting, which, please God, is now at no great distance."

The following abstract of the testimony of Bungola the major’s servant, when examined by the British consul, gives the catastrophe of this melancholy story:

When asked if he had been with the major at Mooktar’s, he answered, Yes.
Did you accompany him from thence to Timbuctoo? Yes.
How was he received at Timbuctoo? Well.
How long did he remain at Timbuctoo? About two months.
Did you leave Timbuctoo with major Laing? Yes.
Who went with you? A koffle of Arabs.
In what direction did you go? The sun was on my right cheek.
Did you know where you were going? To Sansanding.
Did you see any water, and were you molested? We saw no water, nor were we molested till the third day, when the Arabs of the country attacked and killed my master.
Was any one killed beside your master? I was wounded, but cannot say if any were killed.
Were you sleeping near your master? Yes.
How many wounds had your master? I cannot say, they were all with swords, and in the morning I saw the head had been cut off.
Did the person who had charge of your master commit the murder? Sheik Bouraboushi, who accompanied the reis, killed him.
What did the sheik then do? He went on to his country; an Arab took me back to Timbuctoo.
What property had your master when he was killed? Two camels; one carried the provision, the other carried my master and his bags.
Where were your master’s papers? In his bag.
Were the papers brought back to Timbuctoo? I don’t know.

Thus perished, a few days after the 21st of September, 1826, by the hand of an assassin, one of the most determined, enthusiastic, and thoroughly accomplished of those daring spirits who have periled their lives in the cause of African discovery. The resolution of the unfortunate Laing was of no ordinary kind; his mother has told the writer of this article, that years before he entered on his last and fatal expedition, in providing against hardships and contingencies, he had accustomed himself to sleep on the hard floor, and to write with the left hand; yea more, with the pen between the first and second toes of the right foot. It is melancholy to think that he should have perished unrequited by that fame for which he sacrificed so much, and undelivered of that tale of the capital of central Africa, which he had qualified himself so well to tell. In any circumstances the death of such a man had been lamentable; but it seems the more so, inasmuch as the result of his successful enterprise is likely for ever to be unavailing for the benefit of the living. Many years have elapsed since his melancholy murder, and there seems not the shadow of a hope that his papers will ever be recovered.

But we cannot conclude this memoir without adding a few sentences regarding these important documents. Facts which were established at Tripoli during the year 1829, and established to the entire satisfaction of the consuls of Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Sardinia, develope a system of treachery and plunder regarding the major and his property, which almost amounts to the incredible. It seems to have been fully made out, that the very guide (Babani,) who set out with the traveller from Tripoli, was under the secret direction of Hassunah D’ Ghies, son of the prime minister of the Tripolitan bashaw, and the conspirator against the major’s life—that by his (D’ Ghies’) instructions the ferocious Bourabouschi, the eventual murderer, was appointed to be the conductor of the major from Timbuctoo, and that into his (D’Ghies’) hands the major’s papers (fourteen inches long by seven thick,) were put by another of his emissaries shortly after the murder. In short, it was afterwards fully ascertained that this packet was secreted in Tripoli in the month of July or August, 1828.

The most amazing part of the tale of treachery yet remains to be told. It would further appear that the documents referred to were given by D’ Ghies to the French consul at Tripoli, the baron de Rosseau, and that during the greater part of the major’s journey this official from France had been in secret correspondence with the conspirators—that he exerted himself in securing the flight of Hassunah D’ Ghies after the treachery had been discovered, and gave protection to, and tampered with his brother Mohamed, who made the disclosure.

It were out of place, in this memoir, to detail the strong chain of evidence by which these allegations are supported. A masterly summary of it will be found in the Quarterly Review, No. 84. Suffice it to say, that neither M. Rosseau nor the French government did anything to acquit themselves of the fearful charge there preferred against them. Till removed, it must stand a foul blot upon their national honour.


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